So I may be writing an incredibly violent sociopath… wait… why am I stating that as though it’s a new thing? Fairly certain I’ve written violent sociopaths before right? (counts on fingers) There was that one Jericho brother. There was Nico–and man was he a dick. There was the asshole that shot Maddox–which really only served to piss me off because WTF? However, there’s a major difference between those sociopaths and this one in particular–he’s the hero. Well…sort of the hero. Maybe hero adjacent? Er…or not. You decide.
“Taras? A word please?”
The rankling sound of his father-in-law’s voice made Taras’ hackles rise. He didn’t want a word. He wanted these people out of his sight, out of his home. He wanted the sickening scent of cowardice to stop tempting his beast into swiping his claws through underbelly after underbelly until there was nothing echoing around aside from screams and…
“Taras?” Nirav ventured again.
Physically jerking, he picked up the glass tumbler he’d practically filled to the brim with something strong and Russian made. The burn going down cooled some of his ire, only enough to keep him from scaring the small man away…for now.
He turned to find the Bangalorean lingering in his doorway, shoulders squared, his wife and son still hovering about down the hall. How nice, they’d remained to tease Taras into a triple homicide. Perhaps taking Asha their lifeless corpses in typical tiger offering would ease some of her utter loathing of him. Taras considered it for all of a minute before shutting the thought down. She’d been so angry about Igor. Murdering her immediate family didn’t seem the best way to gain her favor.
“Was there something you were in need of?” Taras queried finally. “Something not provided tonight?”
“No, no,” Nirav waved his hands and walked further into a study that he hadn’t received an invitation to enter. “Everything has been…quite pleasant. And we’ve greatly appreciated your hospitality. We surely consider you a part of our family now.”
Taras gave the older man a narrow smile. “Please…don’t.”
Nirav didn’t stop to examine those words. He walked closer, shooting a glance over his shoulder. “You must understand how grateful we are. Your choosing to marry Asha despite all of her…differences came as a mild surprise to the rest of us but I suppose I can see the benefit in doing so.”
Stopping mid-sip, Taras swallowed and rolled the tumbler between his palms. “Oh?” He stared down at the floor, feeling his gaze bleed into something far less human. “Differences?”
“Well, yes,” Nirav went on. “You’re clearly very protective of her because you understand the temperamental nature of the females. Felines in particular. If she feels affronted then she is less likely to share information, opinions, thoughts,” the other tiger waved a hand dismissively. “What she didn’t receive in femininity, she gained in intelligence.” He picked up a paperweight on the desk, flexing his fingers about it as he snorted. “The girl is a steel trap of history. Alliances. Rivalries. Businesses. She is good at all of this. Except for knowing her place. Inevitably she will test the waters with you. Of this I am sure. But I have the utmost faith that you will remind her. This is why you were the best pick.” Replacing the paperweight, he turned to Taras, taking an abrupt step back when he noticed how close Taras had quietly moved to stand behind him. A breath fanned out of Nirav in a startled noise and it was like banging a stick against Taras’ cage.
With his free hand, Taras wrapped his palm about the back of the man’s head and pulled him in, fully aware that he was now staring at him through his beast’s eyes. “Speak and I will snap neck,” he softly warned before Nirav could say anything else. “You will stand here and nod with enthusiasm at every word.” Taras squeezed for emphasis. “Understood?”
“Good boy,” Taras praised before saying, “I think you are confused about things, Shankur. I think you believe us to be friends now. But in that assumption, you are wrong. I do not befriend swine. I gut them.” He tipped his glass towards his father-in-law. “And then I listen to squeals. It sounds like music, the squeals. Is sweet, comforting song. One that I have come to appreciate. Do not motivate me to play this tune tonight. The girl—as you call her—has endured enough for today. We would like to rest. I cannot rest if I am having another body removed. I cannot rest if I have to oversee the cleaning of my carpet. So I will kindly ask you to turn around and leave home. Leave and do not return unless you hear my—or Asha’s—voice personally requesting that you do so.” He turned the man toward the door and shoved. In a mocking singsong tone, Taras jeered, “Off you go, little pig.”
Nirav stumbled forward, the smell of fear and rage cloaking him as he went. That was always the difficulty with being weak—anger came but it was never released because self-preservation won each battle. Taras watched him go dispassionately.
The monster inside silenced and he suddenly realized how incredibly lonely that stillness was with nothing to fill it. The lights glinted off the band on his hand, reminding him that he did have something to fill it. But she was unwilling to do so. Yes, Asha was a bittersweet pill indeed.