“We notified your father of our conditions an hour ago,” Cecelia said. The boy, Alexander Bertram, trembled under her stare. He would have been taller than her, if his broken leg didn’t force him onto his knees that is. “He called the cops.” The widening of his eyes was as entertaining as always. The tears filling them even better. She moved forward a little, knowing that with his eyes blurred by his tears her looming shape would be even more intimidating.

“No.” His voice cracked with desperation. “Please! I don’t want to die!” He looked up at her pleadingly. She didn’t let up on her stare. Every second, he shrunk back more and more. “Please,” he whispered.

Once she was sure she’d silenced him, she leaned back and eased up on her stare. “Well…” she pretended to consider it. “I could let you live I suppose.” She couldn’t suppress a smirk at seeing the hope bloom on his face. “But I can’t just go back on a promise.” His hope died, taking his emotions away right with it. That was no fun.

She gave him some distance. The revolver she’d just been cleaning still laid on the table. She picked it up, revelling in the way the textured leather grip felt in her hand. The firelight caught in the delicate engravings. She made sure Bertram had a good view. The intricate swirls reflected in his eyes. “I think,” she said, “we should get a second opinion.” Something sparked in his expression again. Perfect.

Her gaze flicked to Matt. He didn’t seem to be enjoying this nearly as much as she was. Ah well, not everyone liked mental torture as much as physical. Dismissing Matt, she turned her attention to the dark-haired woman whose arms Matt held in a vice grip.

In their kidnapping of Bertram, they couldn’t avoid a witness. As ordered, her people took said witness with them as well. A woman with dark hair and a sallow complexion. Cecelia didn’t even know her name. Her face was pale and shiny with nervous sweat. Her eyes, previously darting around the room, were rigidly focused on the gun. Cecelia could tell she was shaking from the other side of the room.

With her empty hand, she gestured for Matt to bring the woman forward. Matt had to kick her out of her stupor before she would move. The woman’s gaze didn’t drift from the gun once. Cecelia grabbed the woman’s arm and indicated to Matt to let her go. Cecelia’s grip was harsh, bruising. She leaned in close to her face, so close the woman was forced look up at Cecelia instead of the gun. The woman shook in her grip, unable to utter a word through her fear. Cecelia frowned. Fear was all well and good, but this was too much. This wasn’t fun anymore. She moved back a little, and immediately the woman eyes went to the revolver again.

Cecelia watched her closely, then nodded, decision made. She shifted her grip on the woman’s arm and pulled it to her. In a swift movement, she pressed her gun into the woman’s hand. The woman stared.

She froze completely. Even her shaking stopped. Her eyes, wide with shock, slowly moved from the gun to Cecelia. Cecelia smiled. She didn’t let go of the woman’s arm. Surrounded by her people or not, she didn’t risk the woman taking the opportunity to shoot her. “You have two options,” Cecelia said quietly. “You either shoot him.” She turned the woman so the gun was pointed at the boy. “Or I shoot you.” The moment she said the last word, she cocked the hammer of her second gun and aimed it at the back of the woman’s head.

She was so used to this; the posturing, the intimidating, the ordering people to shoot others or prepare to be shot themselves. She expected the usual crying, whining, begging her not to force them to do this… Instead, she got a second of complete and utter silence, followed by a crack of sound that sent waves of pain straight through her ears. The sound bounced off the walls, the floor, the ceiling. It was like thunder had hit the small concrete room they were in.

Disoriented, she let go of the woman’s arm. She didn’t hear anything over the ringing in her ears, but she saw her revolver fall to the ground, saw the woman sink to her knees, saw her expression morph from fear into abject horror, saw the slumped form of Alexander Bertram reflected in her eyes, blood sputtering out of the wound in his chest.

She didn’t see any regret.

That, above all, made Cecelia immensely curious. Who was this woman? Had she killed before? But no, her inexperienced shot spoke of someone who’d never even held a gun before. She’d missed the boy’s heart by a long shot and punctured his lung instead. And someone who normally killed in other ways wouldn’t be this horrified by a bit of blood…

A grin spread on her face as she realised the real reason for her lack of regret. She could use this. She could use someone who valued their life so much they would do anything to keep it. She just had to figure out how to make sure she wouldn’t run at the first opportunity.

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