The time away from my family was supposed to be about finding myself, finding out who I am now that I am free, but nothing in our world is easy and some lessons are the hardest to learn.
I can’t trust anyone.
With two open spots on the Twelve that have to be filled, loyalties won’t just be tested, they’ll be pushed to the limits. No one is safe once they step into the Game.
All of my dreams of leaving high school and my family being free seem like a distant memory now, the shadows of our pasts still hanging over our every move. Sticking together has never been so hard.
But one thing is for sure.
Nothing will ever be the same again.
At the end of ‘All Hail’ Avery finds what she believes is the Crow’s murder board and a man. She’s found out just who is in his basement but now she needs answers as to why her family is on that board.
She’s closer than ever to Aodhan and no matter what she’s not letting go. Whatever relationship she has with Atticus now will have to include the other man in her life. They are so different in the way they treat her, Aodhan gives her the wings to fly and Atticus tries to cage her.
This is a favorite scene.
The fishing docks are enough of a drive away that I can go through the photos again and try to decide what I think is happening. If he can’t explain it to me now then… then maybe it really is time to cut him free.
I can’t bring myself to actually say it though.
When we pull into the parking lot, Atticus’ car is already there waiting. I prepare myself to have to face Luca again, but when the driver’s side door opens, Atticus himself steps out.
He’s come alone.
Aodhan gets out of the car, and I wait for him to open my door for me, specifically because I know it will piss Atticus off and, sure enough, he stares Aodhan down like he’s plotting out his murder.
They’re so different.
Standing this close together here it’s so unbelievably obvious how different they really are and yet I crave them both the same.
Atticus is wearing his usual charcoal suit, pressed and dry cleaned to perfection, with a pair of Hermes leather shoes. The crisp white shirt he’s wearing under the suit jacket covers his tattoos I’ve only managed to get a peek at and he’s wearing, as always, the Rolex I bought for him years ago.
Aodhan is wearing jeans and a tee with a jacket thrown overtop like he couldn’t care less what he’s wearing. With the same biker boots every Mounty I’ve ever met has an obsession for, he looks as though he’s ready to wade into a street fight or a party by the docks, further down the coast from where we’re now standing.
I stay tucked into Aodhan’s side.
Atticus’s jaw flexes as he grinds his teeth. “Avery, I asked to meet so I could speak privately with you.”
Aodhan tenses but I shrug effortlessly, as though this is nothing to me despite my heart attempting to beat its way out of my chest. “You should have been clearer when you messaged; I don’t trust you enough right now to be here alone with you. There’s too many unanswered questions.”
His eyes narrow at me. “You mean other than you disappearing from my property in the middle of the night and then ignoring my calls? I had to call the Coyote to find out that you were safe.”
Aodhan stays silent, thankfully, but the two of them still glare at each other like they’re each waiting for the other person to make a wrong move.
I need answers.
“Why is my brother’s photo tacked to the wall of your basement with his eyes crossed out? Harley, Blaise, Lips, half the O’Cronin family. Illi, Harbin, Roxas, the Boar… the list goes on, Atticus. Why? And while we’re on the subject of your basement, why is Bing down there?”
No one would be able to pick up that I’ve surprised him, but I know him far too well to miss the signs. Once upon a time I would’ve said I knew Atticus Crawford the same way I knew myself, except then I fell down his rabbit warren of lies.
“I’m not talking about this with him here, Avery.”
I huff and squeeze Aodhan’s hand. “Take me home, we’re done here. I’m done. I’m not going to be lied to and manipulated anymore.”
Atticus takes a step forward. “Avery, for Christ’s sake, all I have done is protect you! Everything, everything, I have done since I came to Mounts Bay has been a move to get you out from your father’s house.”
I step away from Aodhan and towards Atticus, my temper flaring. “You bought me, wasn’t that enough? You said you were worried about Ash? Then why the fuck was his photo on that wall?”
“How could you think I’d want Ash dead? You think that lowly of me, that I’d kill your beloved, asshole of a twin brother? For fuck’s sake, Avery!”
Absolutely not, I won’t stand for him using that tone at me. “You stood and watched Lips have her leg shattered to pieces. You told me yourself that you knew all about what my father was doing to Ash. I’m sure that you wouldn’t physically harm me, Atticus, but I’m not sure you have any other lines when it comes to my family.”
It’s bounced around in my head a hundred times since I stumbled across that wall in the basement, but I still haven’t figured out a plausible answer. “Explain to me why Ash’s photo was on that wall. Give me a good reason. And Harley, Blaise, Lips, Aodhan, Jack…these people are non-negotiable to me and you have them pinned up on your murder board with their eyes crossed out!”
Atticus takes a deep, ragged breath and steps forward, his face set like stone. Aodhan steps up to me again, his body slightly in front of mine like he’s prepared to dive in front of a bullet.
Or stop Atticus from snatching me and running.
The look that Atticus throws at him is purely the Crow, the man who walked out of his privileged life and into Mounts Bay to win the Game and become one of the country’s most feared crime lords.
I can’t stick around for this, my heart is aching at how badly he’s ruined everything for us.
I turn away from him, prepared for this to be the last time I ever meet with him.
“Amanda Donnelley has been sending those photos for months.”
I freeze but when I don’t turn around he continues, “She’s either the person sending them to you as well, pretending to be the Collector, or she’s working with someone else. I know you think she’s nothing worth worrying about but, Avery, she’s more dangerous than you’d ever think.”
I finally glance back at him and he’s finally looking at me, ignoring Aodhan altogether. “I’ve done a lot of things I’m not proud of, I’ve become the worst sort of monster, but some things are sacred and you, your family and your happiness included, are one of those things. I don’t care how much he hates me, I would never harm Ash.”
I turn back to the car, ready to head home and throw everything I have at finding and destroying Amanda fucking Donnelley.
Atticus calls out again, “All members of the Twelve have to sponsor at least one person into the Game. If the Wolf isn’t going to come home for the fights then you’ll have to name someone for her. The meeting is in two days, have your sponsors ready.”
I give him a curt nod because I’m well aware of the rules, but Aodhan tenses again, glancing down at me. I shrug at him because we’ll just find him some thug to throw in the same way Illi did for Lips the last time, but he lets out a sigh like the day just got infinitely harder for him.
I know the feeling.
Bree, J. The Ruthless: Queen Crow #2. Kindle Locations (567-617). Kindle Edition.
Things just keep getting more and more complicated as the the games begin.
I love Avery and Aodhan together, and Atticus well…
So much suspicion, so much tension, disrespect and Avery is growing stronger in many ways. Plenty of action, bloodshed and some OMG did that just happen.
The ending has me wishing for a time machine so I can read it now, is it July yet?
5 Contented Purrs for J.
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J Bree is a dreamer, writer, mother, farmer, and cat-wrangler.
The order of priorities changes daily. She lives on a small farm in a tiny rural town in Australia that no one has ever heard of.
She spends her days dreaming about all of her book boyfriends, listening to her partner moan about how the wine grapes are growing, and being a snack bitch to her two kids.
If you want to hear more about all things Mounts Bay then join my readers group! There’s a lot of creative ways to dispose of a body in the Bay so come join the fun.