The Roaring Mouse will be out 12/16! Free review copies will be available soon. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you'd like one.
“You’re an idiot.”
She’s heard the words more times than she can count but never in quite that tone. It’s enough to make her want to open her eyes, to struggle even past that first fluttering when she realizes just the bedside lamp is on and even that light is enough to cut through her mind like a heated knife. She has to blink past three or four such stabbings before she can keep her lids up long enough to have the face come into focus, the dark brown hair falling around her like a curtain now, dimming the golden light, highlighting the strands… and the warm brown eyes.
Maybe even fond eyes.
Her brown hair curtain shifts.
Finch feels at once warm and safe and terrified.
“What are you doing here?”
But Kate doesn’t seem to understand, those brows just lower further, those eyes scan back and forth across Finch’s face, searching for something.
“Don’t you remember what happened?”
“Yes,” Finch sighs, exasperated. “Yes. Which is precisely why I’m asking: What are you doing here?”
For a famed attorney, Kate sure is dense sometimes. Her brows just stay furrowed, her eyes worried, her hand rises to brush through Finch’s bangs, again, again, the way Finch might have imagined a mother would sooth her child to sleep. She has to struggle her eyes open once more.
“I passed out,” she reminds herself, reprimands herself. “So… what are you doing here?”
Finally. Understanding dawns. Still, Kate doesn’t lean back, her hand only moves far enough to continue her caress through the rest of Finch’s hair, playing with the split ends.
“It occurred to me that you’ve saved my life twice,” Kate finally murmurs. “It didn’t seem fair not to do the same.”
“And where are we?”
Kate leans down, smiles, rests her fingers on Finch’s temple. “I believe you requested a shitty room in a shitty motel, didn’t you?”
“Why – ”
Didn’t you call the police?
Are you still here with me?
Aren’t I in some shit hole somewhere just waiting to die in some supposedly freak shanking in the prison yard a few days from now?
“It occurred to me – ” Kate hesitates, seems to be searching for something behind her own
eyes now. “It occurred to me that you’ve saved my life twice,” she finally repeats. “And I think you’re the only one who could.”
Finch can’t do anything but look up at her, admire the strength it took to speak that truth aloud, how Kate has almost, almost managed to keep the fear from her voice, how beautiful she is sitting back in the lamplight now, looking down at Finch with what can’t be mistaken for anything but fondness. The look is soft and filling and it feels like Finch is wrapped in a down blanket in a house with a roaring fire in the middle of a Sakhanan winter. She feels safe.
But then, she knows, you never are really.
“You’ve saved my life twice,” Kate echoes. Then she hesitates, but she forces through it, whispers, “From the same man.”
And. Oh. She’s figured it out, hasn’t she? What’s really going on here. What will happen as soon as Finch gets her money. And leaves.
“He’s not going to stop, is he?”
“She’s not going to stop,” Finch corrects, admits, whatever. Gregor might stop. Finch remembers vividly how he’d pointed a gun at Kate, at Elisabeth… When she thinks of it, she’s pretty sure she’ll be able to kill him if he comes calling again. But Elana? She’s always got another assassin, waiting in the wings. Most of them Gregor trained. Not a one of them isn’t far and away more skilled than anyone else Finch has ever come up against. They just don’t make ’em like Elana makes ’em. The men who serve her are zealous. Religious. Whisper “The Mad Mother” in awed tones. Prostrate themselves. Kill without pity or remorse or hesitation because they simply cannot imagine a world other than this. Most of them have been raised in the barracks. Catch ’em young.
Kate must be able to see some of it in her eyes because her nod is solemn, and sad.
“So I guess we’d rather stay with you,” she finally murmurs. “For a few more days anyway.”
A few more days. Which may be her last. The latter goes unspoken, but it’s there in the tone of it. Kate is buying herself and her daughter just a handful more days. Monday to Thursday to fit in all that’s left of life.
“Niall will protect you,” Finch tries. But it’s feeble. And Kate actually flinches back at it.
“He’ll try.” And then her eyes go dark and distant and she whispers again, “He’ll try.”
He’ll die trying.