This week’s snippet is from the sequel to What Angels Fear, a work in progress entitled When All’s Said and Done. The story is told from the point of view of Ky Monroe, who escaped the Institute when she was fifteen years old and eventually found her way to Matthew Thatcher, who’s got his own bone to pick with the Institute.
The story of When All’s Said and Done picks up almost precisely where What Angels Fear left off–with an expanded cast and a shift in narrator.
Folks who have read Between Fang and Claw will also notice another familiar face in this snippet below the break.
“I didn’t ask for your help, James,” Matthew said, voice harsh, expression cold. I leaned against the wall just out of his line of sight and eavesdropped unabashedly as he laid into the man in khakis and battered leather jacket—another agent, I guessed, one I’d never met before.
Though he does look a little familiar. I can’t quite place why. I frowned to myself, leaning forward for a better look. He was taller than me, his red hair cropped short and worn tousled, though I couldn’t be sure if that was from activity or design. He had a strong jaw, bright eyes, a nose that was slightly crooked from some fight in his past.
James shook his head. “That’s a lie and you know it, Thatcher. You asked me to get involved three years ago when you were in the city.”
I know I’ve never seen him before—at least not in the last few years. So why does he look so damned familiar?
“And then I told you that I didn’t need any help and that you should stay the hell out of it.” Matthew blew out an explosive breath through his teeth. “Why the hell didn’t you leave well enough alone?”
“Because I don’t take orders from you,” James said. “I stepped back, but once you put me onto this, how the hell could you expect me to step off again? I saw too much and heard too much and learned too much to ignore it all completely. If I’d ignored what I learned, that’d be criminal. I can’t believe you did.”
What the hell is he talking about? I itched to get closer, but there was no way I could do that without alerting both of them to my presence.
Matthew spoke through a clenched jaw. “Dammit, McCullough. I told you to step off and I meant it. It was for your safety and mine. Do you have any idea what could happen to us now?”
McCullough. I know that name.
“What the hell are you—” James stopped abruptly, his voice darkening with anger a moment later. “What did my father say to you?”
My blood went cold. McCullough. The ambassador. That’s why James looked familiar. Now that I thought about it, he even sounded like the ambassador—the one who’d ignored me when I saw him in the lobby at the Institute one day and begged him to get me the hell out of there.
I was ten.
“He didn’t say anything.” Though Matthew said it like he meant it, I knew that he didn’t. What the hell was going on here? What was the son of a man who was apparently in bed with the Institute doing helping us?
“Bollocks,” James said, then started to pace. I knew him because I’d played soccer with him and his brother and sisters in their backyard when I was a kid, before my parents had been killed, been murdered. I’d known him back when I had something close to a normal life.
As I watched him pace, his jaw set and his eyes smoldering with anger, I realized that maybe what he was up to was his way of making up for things that had gone sideways.
But how did Matthew get him involved in anything?
“You might as well come out,” James said. “I’ll tell you what you want to know even if he doesn’t want me to.”
I went very still for a moment, blinking. What the—did he just—?
“You bet,” he said. “Come on out.”
The look Matthew shot me as I eased out of my hiding spot could’ve melted steel. I stared right back at him, chin lifting. “What weren’t you telling me?” I demanded as I joined them. “You asked someone for help and then told them to forget it?”
“You don’t understand, Ky,” he said quietly. “He threatened you.”
“Who did?” I demanded, feeling my stomach give an uncomfortable somersault.
James crossed his arms, frowning. “So that’s what he did.”
Matthew glared at both of us. “Why I turned down the help is immaterial. A promise made is a promise kept. You shouldn’t have gotten involved again, James.”
“I never stopped being involved,” James said. “My father seems to forget that he can’t control my actions and he never could. I’m sorry he sucked you into our little private war.”
“It’s not a private war,” Matthew said. “Not when he threatens the people I care about. Then it becomes personal to me. I told you to stay out of it. Now we’re all in danger because he’s going keep his goddamned promise.” He swore again. “There’s more at stake now, dammit. I could lose all of them. He could make that happen.”
James’s eyes flicked to me, then back to Matthew. “He’s not going to touch you or your family, Thatcher,” he said quietly. “I personally guarantee it. His life will very quickly become very unpleasant if he even so much as tries.”
“I hope you plan on making sure of that,” I said, jaw firming. “Because the last time I tried to appeal to your father, he just looked the other way.”
He startled, looking at me. His eyes narrowed slightly and he swallowed. “Of course,” he said quietly. “Goddammit, of course.” He looked at Matthew. “She was why you asked that day.”
“What?” I said. Matthew tried to wave away the question.
“It was a hundred years ago,” he said.
Not bloody likely. “Matthew.”
“Ky, keep your mouth shut,” he growled.
James threw up his hands. “It doesn’t matter, I can hear what she’s thinking whether she’s talking or not. You didn’t tell her, huh?”
“Tell me what?” I looked between the two of them. “What the hell is actually going on here? Matthew?”
“Nothing.” He just kept glaring at McCullough. “Get out of here, James.”
“Too late.” McCullough squared his shoulders as he turned to me. “A few years back, Agent Thatcher here put a little bug in my ear about strange things happening to people with gifts—gifts like yours, mine, and his. That got me doing some digging. When I told him what I’d learned, he thanked me and told me that I needed to stay the hell out of it because my aid was no longer required.”
“What does that have to do with me, then?” My stomach gave an uncomfortable little lurch. Matthew asked for help years ago and then turned it down when he got it. What the hell is up with that? Whether he was threatened or not, it doesn’t make any sense. He’s the one that said it was more important to take the bastards out than to get what we wanted—what was important to just us.
McCullough glanced at Matthew, then back to me. “He mentioned a senator’s daughter—someone I remembered. At the time, I thought it was strange that someone who’d grown up in the mitten and worked in the mitten gave a damn about Illinois politics. It took a while, but it made sense after I’d thought about it. He talked about it in the context of his own parents getting killed.”
I looked at Matthew. He turned away, jaw tight and shoulders hunched.
“You and I both know that the Institute killed your parents and mine,” he muttered, then tilted his face up toward the sky, toward the trees that brushed up against the walls of the sandstone-colored buildings. “It was after we failed the first time, when I started to realize that we weren’t going to be able to pick up their trail easily again, if we ever could. I didn’t know when or if we’d get another shot. I…I did it for you, Ky.”
“Bullshit,” I whispered. “You did it for you. You wanted blood.”
Don’t miss the first foray against the Institute in What Angels Fear or the first appearance of James McCullough in UNSETIC Files: Between Fang and Claw.
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