Brian Cummings has come a long way from Leicestershire, England. Miles of hard road lay between then and now – hard road he's kept hidden—until the nightmares began again.
Diane Starling loves Brian. If she were not carrying his child, she'd still do anything to make him happy—even letting him go to someone else. Who is the woman in his nightly dreams? Why does she make him scream?
Valerie Leonard, journalist, dredged up history that should remain buried; history that could ruin Brian and hurt the people he loves most. Should Val keep his dangerous past to herself? Doesn't Diane have the right to know the truth about the father of her child?
Brian and Diane fight to overcome the past, embrace the present, and build a future as they travel with ShadowsForge on THE LONG WAY HOME.
Brian assured himself the handgun he’d taken from the pub was secure beneath his jacket at the small of his back. He’d pinched it on the way out the door, and hung around a few blocks away to be sure everyone was gone before meeting with Finn. He didn’t want any witnesses to see him take five years of aggression out on the scum. He didn’t plan to shoot him, but if it came down to that he’d do it. The cold night made his hands ache as he pulled on his gloves. Time to do it.
Brian walked into the dead end alley. Mia knelt on the pavement halfway to the far end. She rested on bare legs, with no shoes. She was sideways to his position; a burlap bag covered her head and shoulders and her hands were secured behind her. Her skirt rode up on her thighs and exposed her knees and shins to the harsh paving. Her blouse was haphazardly buttoned. The misty moonless night made it difficult for Brian to tell if she was injured. If he opened his mouth, he was sure the constricting feeling inside his throat would pop his Adam’s apple out on to the street.
“FINN,” Brian shouted. He took slow steps toward Mia. “I’m here.” His vision swept over the doorways and rubbish bins along both buildings. He narrowed his eyes as a breeze stirred the misty drizzle.
“You showed. I didn’t think you had the backbone.”
Brian tried to locate the owner of the voice. He swept his eyes over Mia.
“Backbone? I’m the one in the open.”
Brian jolted at the clang of the fire escape beyond Mia. Finn dropped to the pavement.
“Okay, I’m open. What do you want to do about it?” Finn kept one hand behind him.
“That would depend on how many of your crew you brought.” Brian scanned the walls and checked windows and doorways. “How many you’re hiding behind.”
“Just me, drummer boy. Now, again, what are you going to do about it?”
Brian nodded toward Mia. “What’d you do to her?” He fought the impulse to run to her.
“Me, Eric…and few of the lads used her a bit. Hope you don’t mind.” A vile grin parted his lips and revealed an uneven row of rotted teeth. “Before you get hurt, you might make sure she still wants you. I think she liked me the best. She didn’t scream any more when it came my turn.”
The hair on the back of Brian’s neck bristled and his stomach churned. He’s trying to push you. Stay calm. He consciously relaxed his shoulders.
Finn smiled. “I knew if she got to know me she’d change her mind.”
Brian moved half way to Mia. Finn stood an equal distance on the far side of her. Brian wondered if Finn was going to let him walk all the way to her. He didn’t have to wonder long.
“You can stop there.” Several strides of his spider-like legs carried Finn to stand beside Mia. Brian waited. “Up on your knees, girl. Like before. You remember.” Finn shook his wet, stringy hair back and wiped the drizzle from his face.
The girl rose up on her knees. Finn placed a leather-clad hand on her shoulder to steady her. His grin faded to a scowl.
“Do you want me or Brian?”
The girl leaned against Finn’s thigh and stroked against him. She nuzzled his crotch. Brian’s stomach lurched. Finn grinned.
“I’d say she saved you a beating.” Finn stroked her head through the burlap and glared at Brian. “You’ve got no more business here.”
The girl sank down on her heels. Her rain soaked blouse was nearly transparent, and her saturated skirt shifted high as she settled herself on the wet pavement.
The increased downpour could not douse the flames Brian felt climb his spine. Anger flared and it carried him forward as Finn backed away a step or two. Brian dashed to the girl and nearly knocked her over as he jerked the burlap off. The girl shook her hair from her face. Her dark glassy eyes were almost closed as she smiled a sadistic looking smile up at Brian.
“You want a piece of me, too then, love?” She laughed.
Brian clenched his fists as he dropped the burlap. “Where the bloody hell is Mia?”
“How’d you know?” Finn smirked as he wiped the rain from his face.
Brian gave the girl a nudge with his knee and pushed her over. She cried out as her shoulder hit the pavement. He jerked her skirt high on her right thigh. “No crest.” As he stood he brought a gloved fist upward under Finn’s chin. Finn staggered backward.
Brian stepped over the girl as he threw one punch after another. He ignored the pain in his already bruised hands as he struck teeth, ribs and jawbone. He didn’t allow Finn an opening. This was the fight he waited years for and he took full advantage of it. When he’d forced Finn against the wall he backed off. His chest heaved; his body and hands throbbed. The rain fell in heavy sheets of icy water as the wind grew and pelted both boys until they were saturated.
“Where’s Mia?” Brian shouted.
Finn leaned against the wall for support as he gulped air through bloody lips. He spit and wiped his mouth on his sleeve. “You stupid bastard. She’s already dead,” came the acidic reply that momentarily stunned him.
As Brian raised his fists once more, Finn lunged. The blade burned along Brian’s ribs as he twisted away from the attack. He grabbed Finn’s arm and turned his side to the thug. He elbowed Finn solid in the ribs twice before he twisted Finn’s arm backward until it popped and the knife dropped.
Brian kicked the blade away as he felt the gun jerked from beneath his jacket. He threw his body against Finn and felt more than heard the crack of bones as he slammed the thin man between himself and the brick building. A rush of air escaped Finn’s lungs and warmth spattered Brian’s cheek. Brian turned to face Finn.
“Too late, drummer boy.” Finn coughed and spewed red. He pushed himself away from the wall and stood, staggered then fell back. Brian backed away as Finn held the barrel point blank against his chest. Finn dragged his sleeve across his eyes as he drew a ragged, shallow breath. Rain poured down his face as he pushed himself from the brick again. He wrapped one arm around his midsection.
Brian gained some distance while Finn was preoccupied with the business of drawing breath. He stumbled over the girl and fell hard on the pavement. His already battered body protested against the shock as the girl cried out.
Finn continued his struggle to breathe as he took unsteady steps. Brian rose to his knees while the girl sobbed where she lay between them. Four feet away, Finn stopped then gasped hard, the weapon wavered as he held it at arm’s length.
Finn sank to his knees, with the gun still aimed straight at Brian’s chest. “You broke me.”
“You killed Mia.” Brian closed his eyes. He knew he had nowhere to go.
“No, you did—today on St. Margaret’s. Stupid bastard. You killed her.”
Brian jolted as the gunshot echoed around him. It rolled on endlessly and mingled with Finn’s words.
You killed her.
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