I round my chin, my breathing getting thicker. “You’re pushing the wrong buttons, bitch.”
“Oh, I know,” she says matter-of-factly and unafraid, “but then that’s the whole point, isn’t it?”
Both of my hands come down on the table, a loud bang resonating within the room.
“Why don’t you just get to the point,” I rip out the words, grinding my jaw. “In fact, let me spell this out for you—I’m not going to willingly start talking about shit in my past; I don’t care about your threats. And I still have no secrets. Shit I don’t like to talk about—yeah, we all have that—but secrets, something I’m supposed to be ashamed of or embarrassed by; there’s nothing.”
“This isn’t all about shame or embarrassment or guilt, Niklas, this is also about pain.”
Suddenly, Nora is no longer the conniving blonde bitch sitting across the table from me; something shifts in her eyes and I can’t help but feel like she’s trying to be…consoling.
But I don’t fall for it.
I get up, pushing the chair back a little across the floor, and I begin to pace. My anger turns to soft laughter.
“You’re a good manipulator,” I say, smiling, “I’ll give you that, but I’m the wrong man to be trying that skill out on.”
“You loved her so much,” she says, ignoring me. “A man who—as astonishing as it is—had a harder time falling in love than even Fredrik Gustavsson. Fredrik, no he sought love all his life. He wanted it because he was alone in his own dark and brutal world, and had always been—that man needs love to survive.” She stands up and begins to walk toward me slowly. “But you, Niklas, you never wanted any part of it. You stayed away from it at all costs, didn’t you?”
“Are you asking?” I say, my angry eyes following her every move. “Is this where you fish for information to use against me, pretending to know, but really not knowing for sure?”
“Say what you want,” she goes on, “but it’s the truth and you’re not denying it.”
Maybe I should’ve denied it straightaway, because now—fuck; she knows what she’s doing.
“Sit down,” I tell her, pointing my gun at her again.
“Oh, Niklas,” she says with a sigh. “I can tell you’re not going to be as easy to convince.”
I step toward her, the gun pointed at her head, but she stands her ground. I swallow down an angry knot, but three more replace it.
“Sit. The fuck. Down.” I press the barrel of my gun against her forehead, pushing her backward toward the table. Her ass presses against the edge of the metal and she can go no farther. Consumed by anger, I close the space between us and press my body against hers, moving the barrel of the gun underneath her chin, shoving her neck back.
“You won’t shoot me,” she says and I can feel her breath on my face. “And you will tell me what I want to hear before you leave this room.”
I shove the gun deeper into her throat, forcing her head back farther. My blood is on fire, pumping through my veins like acid. My teeth hurt; I’ve been grinding them for the past several intense minutes.
I cock the gun, my finger on the trigger.
“Dina Gregory will die if you don’t cooperate.”
“I don’t give a shit—”
“Yes you do,” she says, cutting me off. “You give a shit because you do care about Izabel. And because you care about your brother, despite him being with the woman he loves and you’re left with nothing.”
“Who are you, really?” I ask, glaring into her seemingly unruffled features.
“Don’t change the subject.”
My hands come up and brace her shoulders, shoving her away from the table and pushing her violently against the nearest wall. Her blonde hair falls down around her face. She surrenders to me, raising both arms out beside her, pressed against the painted brick. Her eyes search mine in close proximity, and mine search hers; a strange feeling of familiarity in them.
I shake it off and think of Izabel for a moment, and then the act I’ve been putting on since she officially became a part of our organization fades away and leaves me standing in a puddle of truth.
“So what if I care,” I say icily, my face mere centimeters from hers. “She’s grown on me; what can I say? She fuckin’ hates me because I tried to kill her, but I can’t really blame her for that, can I?” I pause, inhaling her natural scent, not because I want her, but because we’re all fucking animals inside and—OK, I want her, just to prove that she’s not the one in control here. I want to fuck her and then I want to leave her, naked, and bent over the table, just for being such a bitch.
“What do you want to know?” I ask, and then I shove her and step away. I hear the back of her head gently hit the wall. “This is stupid. I have no secrets, just like I said. But whatever you’re wanting me to ‘confess’, just fucking say it. Can’t force me to confess something I have no idea what it is.”
“I want you to look up at that camera,” Nora says in a gentle, intent voice, “and tell them how much Claire meant to you.” My whole body stiffens hearing Claire’s name come out of Nora’s mouth. “Tell them about the day you lost her. And I want to hear the words from your heart, not just your lips. Set the stubborn, loveless asshole aside for a moment to tell them about Claire. The real Niklas Fleischer is your confession.”
Her throat is in my hand before I know what I’m doing; my gun disappears behind the waist of my pants. Flooded by rage, I lift Nora from her feet and carry her the short distance back to the table, slamming her back against it.
“I’ll fucking kill you!” I roar down into her face, my hand collapsed around her throat.
“Do it!” she challenges; struggling to find all of her voice. “Kill me! Do it, Niklas! DO IT!”
The breath in my lungs is as heavy as cement; my eyes wide and feral as I glare down into her pink and purple-shaded face. Both of her hands struggle to pry my fingers away; her long legs are wrapped around my waist, tightening around me like a boa constrictor, but for nothing. Because I can’t be stirred in this moment. She could take my gun from the back of my pants and shove it underneath my chin and I wouldn’t give a fuck—I’d choke her to death before she got a shot off.
Finally, just before she loses consciousness, I let go of her throat and yell something indecipherable into the room; every part of me consumed by rage and hatred.