For Ress, survival is a complicated nightmare. Caught between two masters on different sides of the law, his life is falling apart one bad decision at a time. All he wants is to be is a good person, a loyal family man, and a successful metalsmith—a dream he can never obtain while he works for the Shar-denn, the violent gang that plagues the republic of Kattal.
To make matters worse, he works as an informant for the High Council. He scrapes through both jobs waiting for his last breath. As the Shar-denn motto says: the only way out is dead.
No stranger to living complicated decisions, Adren is caught between worlds of cir own. As the child of a Shar-denn faction boss, cir life is a conflicted tangle of expectation and duty. When cir family is arrested, Adren manages to escape, but nowhere is safe. Desperate and on the run, Adren is determined to punish Ress for turning in cir family. No one who betrays the gang can live. Ress must pay the price, even if Adren has to go against everything ce is.
What a waste.
Shuffling down the dark corridor towards the bedrooms, Adren looked at cir grimy hands. Was the more tragic waste taking part in the job or the thief at the centre of the job itself? Dust caked cir skin, the stale scent lingering from the room where the thief had been restrained. His screams refused to stop assaulting Adren's mind. The piercing desperation of the man's terror echoed in cir memories, bouncing from one side of cir skull to the other, tearing holes through cir conscience. Every footstep resembled the sickening thump of the thief's body hitting the floor in his squeaky chair, his dismantled face three kicks away from being so broken, no one could recognize him. His dried blood clung to the creases between cir fingers, as stubborn as the spatter on cir black leather long coat.
Serves me right for standing too close to Tethe—he's never liked a clean kill. Adren peered over cir shoulder to catch cir brother's dark glance. Tethe grinned and winked before blowing Adren a playful, exaggerated kiss, a habit since they were children. His affectionate gestures always increased whenever he owed Adren, but he saved the most emphasized for when he owed Adren for doing something ce hated. Like making a dead body disappear and hiding the rest of the evidence. You're such a bastard, Tethe. Don't think I won't make you pay. You're buying me a new coat, especially if I can't get the smell of dead guy out of this one.
"I don't think A's feeling too friendly right now," Mordane whispered from beside Tethe, lifting the metal lamp in his hand higher. In the candlelight, his dark, water-slicked hair gleamed, the ends curled around his ears to his jaw line. His brown eyes narrowed before he flashed a grin identical to Tethe's. Although short and not muscular like Tethe, their resemblance was undeniable. Like Adren, they wore all black, their shirts and pants covered by long coats that hung to their ankles in typical fashion. "If I were you, I'd sleep with both eyes open."
"If I were me, I'd not sleep at all." Tethe snorted, teasing his fingers through the tail of his shoulder-length hair. Similar to Mordane and their mother, his complexion and hair were dark, contrasts to Adren's light tan skin and long red hair in its tight, braided coil. "If little sis scared me, that is."
Adren stopped and turned, hissing and flicking cir fingers at Tethe. "Dare me, and I will. You've taught me well. Maybe it's time I showed the master exactly how much I've learned."
Tethe beamed. Hand to his chest, he stumbled back a step and sniffled. "She called me Master."
"Ce," Adren muttered, wishing he could get it right after six years. Especially when I'm too exhausted to keep correcting him. "And let me clarify: you put the ass in 'master.'"
Mordane sucked in a breath before laughing quietly. "I'd hate to know where I stand in this."
"The 'Mord' in mortifying, perhaps?" Tethe arched one brow, his slender lips pursed. "The 'dane' in mundane?"
"A's right: you're an ass. And here's my room." Stopped outside of the closed door, dark red wood with an elaborate gold doorknob and knocker that resembled the head of a large cat, Mordane pointed down the hall. "Bedtime, both of you. We've got a meeting with the other faction bosses this afternoon."
"Which explains why it's almost dawn and we're just getting home." Snickering, Adren backed down the hall towards cir room. "How is it no one's managed to teach either of you timing?"
"Oh, ho! Look who's talking." Tethe crossed his arms and rocked on his boot heels. "Being the brat of a Boss swelling your head now?"
"No, just thinking that since you were alive a full seven years before me, you'd have figured it out by now." Adren shrugged. "It might kill you faster than I can."
"Or Mother will do the honours if the two of you don't shut up." Mordane pressed his fingers to his lips before flicking his wrist behind him, motioning to their parents' room. "She's asleep, and so is he. We don't need either of them asking questions."
"One, Father told us to shut this guy up, so his only question will be if the corpse is gone," Tethe drawled. "Two, I'll bet he's sleeping in his study, probably on his work." He squashed his cheek with one hand, contorting his lips. "Likely wearing it, too. Ink's such a pain." As his hand dropped, he rolled his eyes. "I'll go wake him up, tell him to go to bed."
Mordane sighed and craned his neck back. "I'll go with you. If he's too far gone, he'll be as bad as dragging a corpse." He glanced at Adren. "You good?"
Adren pointed to the door to cir left, a match to Mordane's door except for the knocker in the shape of a bird's head. "Fine. Goodnight, then?"
"Yeah, that." Tethe turned and followed Mordane back towards the staircase to the main floor below, waving his hand behind him. "Be at breakfast."
"Of course," Adren murmured, entering cir room. Breakfast was a daily, mandatory family meeting, divulging new information and pertinent warnings before any other meeting happened.