Escaping the Devil: Chapter Twenty Three

Catch Up!

Content Warning

This story is rated Mature for adult language, sexual content, references to graphic violence, drug, and substance abuse. This means that this is intended for audiences 18 and up.

Trigger Warning: Homophobia, Assault, Domestic Violence

“You planned this,” Landyn seethed, positioned far across from her in the car.

“I planned what, Landyn?” She snarled. “What could I have possibly schemed up?”

“Taking control,” he growled. “You and that… and that fucking rat.” He didn’t have to clarify for her to assume he was speaking about Damien. “When you were leaving. You must have gotten the information to the feds…”

She kept her expression impassive, her head craning slightly to the side. “Let’s say I did rat you out” — he growled — “I was trying to leave you. I was trying to get far the fuck away from you. So how could any of this have anything to do with wanting to take your spot?”

He didn’t like her logic. That much was evidenced by the way he bared his teeth. “You can’t expect me to believe that you never wanted this. Don’t dare tell me that father didn’t approach you about this! This is humiliating.”

Eli rolled her eyes, allowing her head to roll back to brace against the car seat’s headrest. “Your father didn’t say anything to me.” A lie. “This isn’t a permanent thing, Landyn. You’re acting like you’re in exile. You heard your father,” her fingers itched for a cigarette. Typically, she repressed the need to smoke around him, knowing that he wasn’t fond of the smell, especially when it clung to his clothes. But, frankly, she couldn’t bring herself to care.

She produced a cigarette and pressed it to her lips, forcing him to hang onto the silence as she ignited it and drew in the first puff. She had to admit that she did like being in control. Especially over him. 

“This is only temporary until it all blows over. Then, you can come back, and everything will be right as rain.”

“He also said they wouldn’t move against me unless they had good reason to. I’m on the lam, Eli.” He drove his fist into the side panel, causing it to pop out of place. A hideous crack formed, shattering like spiderweb veins across its surface. She swallowed the bile in her throat and repressed the need to wince.

“They wouldn’t,” she agreed, “but it’s not like Nex doesn’t have its way of getting to that information. And making it… disappear.” 

They did, of course. Which was why she and Damien had tried to be as careful as they could about the information they leaked. They had naively hoped that the feds wouldn’t move until they had all of their ducks in a row. But now, the cat was out of the bag. Nex was aware that there was a rat. Aware that someone was leaking information. Once the witchhunt started, there was no stopping it. They would turn over every stone until they got the answers they needed. 

Fortunately enough, she would already be long gone by then. She only had to deal with this for one more night. One more night, and then she’d be free. Free to pursue the life she deserved.

It was a blessing from the heavens that she got to be the Queen in the last twenty-four hours. For once, Landyn would be beneath the heel of her boot. The thought alone was enough to cause a tremble of pleasure to roll up her spine.

Landyn’s eyes hardened as he watched her exhale her cigarette through the window. “You’re pleased with this, aren’t you?”

“What is there to be happy about?”

“That I’m leaving.”

She watched him, her thumb rolling over the paper of her cigarette butt. Her mouth shrugged before her shoulders did. “I don’t think time apart will hurt either of us.”

His gaze darkened as he watched her. “I beg to differ.” 

“I’m aware,” she said, sucking another plume of smoke through her teeth. 

“You’ve given up on us.” A statement. Not a question.

“You haven’t given me much to want to hold onto, Landyn.”

He scoffed as if hardly believing what he was hearing. “After everything that I’ve done for you? After all the compromises I’ve made, they’re still not enough? I’ve been staying with you. I’ve been allowing you your freedom. I’ve been giving you anything you could have asked for and more, and still, that’s not enough for you, Elizaveta?” 

“You shouldn’t allow someone their freedom, Landyn. That should just be a given.”

He chuckled darkly. “Should it? Look at what happened when you have yours.”

“I’m not a pet to be kept,” she snarled, her cigarette clutched so hard between her fingers she nearly snapped it. “I am a person. A person you claim you love. A person who loved you at one point. A person that you’re insisting on making an enemy out of. We don’t have to be like this, Landyn. We don’t have to be at each other’s throats!”

“We do,” he hissed in response. “We became enemies when your true colors showed.”

What true colors?” She hissed in frustration, her eyes wild, her agitation finally bubbling up past the surface.

She felt her sweat trickle between her shoulders, tracing a path down her spine. Landyn was right, of course. She had a hand in this. And now, she was to be left alone with someone she knew had murdered for less. Julian had called open-season on her the moment he gave her the role.

“You. You’ve wanted to take my place.”

Eli scoffed, tapping her ash through the window. “I promise you; there is nothing less in this world that I want to do than take your place. This has always been your dream. Your legacy. Not mine.”

“And yet you’re responsible for everything while I’m ‘away.’” 

“Because I know everything.”

“Not everything,” he smirked. She knew the meaning of his words without having to hear a further explanation. There were things he’d managed to keep a secret — his affairs, for one. And even though she felt no love for him, it somehow still stung. That betrayal still carved itself into the marrow of her bones. 

He hadn’t hit her, but he may as well have for how her head rocked back. How her chin tucked to her chest, temporarily stunned and shamed into submission.

“Elizaveta,” he murmured, something akin to an apology in his tone. “I’m sorry.”

A surprise. Landyn never apologized. Not sincerely, at least. And in his words, she swore she could hear his heart breaking. She swore she could hear the ice around him melting.

But she didn’t want that. She didn’t want a softer version of this man. She didn’t want to be brought in by him again. Lulled into a false sense of security and softened by a quiet cadence and apologetic eyes. She didn’t want to be trapped by him again — she wanted to live a life where the Devil no longer ensnared her. No longer a slave to his ever-changing moods. No longer a captive to his love.

“You meant what you said,” she replied tersely. “You’re right,” she drawled, sucking in her cigarette’s last, sharp inhale. The smoke burned her throat and nearly caused her to cough. It was pride that forced her to swallow it and speak past the gravel in her throat. “I was oblivious to your affairs. I guess I should have had the guards spying on you.”

The car rolled to a stop. She wrenched open the door before the driver could get out. It was impossible to know for sure, but he seemed relieved. She couldn’t blame him. No one in their right mind would be willing to put themselves in their crosshairs.

She stomped across the pavement, carving a beeline straight to the elevators. Landyn shouldn’t have been with her. He had been under strict instruction to get underground. As soon as possible. But his temper was getting the best of him. His ego had been bruised. In the blink of an eye, he had lost everything.

To make matters worse, he knew. While he didn’t have the proof, he knew she had betrayed him. 

Her heart hammered loudly in her ears, her stride hastening as she closed the distance to the elevator. The doors chimed and swung open. Landyn was hot on her tail, so close she could feel his breath hot and putrid against her neck. 

“Don’t you talk to me about that,” he growled as soon as the doors closed, leaving her stranded. Petrified and alone.

“About you spying on me?” 

“I never would have had to if you could be trusted!”

“How couldn’t I be trusted?”

“Oh, I don’t know, Eli,” he snarled. “How about the fact that you were fucking half of the dancers in Vegas?” 

She ground her teeth together; her eyes locked unwavering on his. 

“Yeah, I know,” he growled. “I know about every girl you’ve taken into your bed. I know about the Siren. What’s her name?”

Eli balked.

“Yuina?” His smile grew vicious as he closed the space between them. “Your favorite, isn’t she? She’s the only one you keep coming back to.” 

Her insides turned to water, her eyes stung. “If you knew about all of them, then why…?” 

“Why kill Damien?”

She swallowed hard, nodding. 

“He was going to take you away from here. From me. Your family, your home.” He sniffed, his thumb pressed against his nostril. There was a faint bit of powder there, causing her stomach to flip-flop. “Besides. It’s one thing for you to be with other women. They don’t count. But another man….” 

Her jaw worked, the doors chiming as they opened. She threw herself through them, her long legs eating up the hall as she raced her way to her apartment. 

Tristan eyed them warily, barely able to hide his worry. Fortunately enough, Landyn wasn’t paying attention to her security.  

She pulled the door open, hastily trying to escape the guards’ prying eyes. It was conditioning — she realized it too late when the door closed behind them. She had been trained to expedite the violence. To hide Landyn’s indiscretions. As ready as she was to leave this life behind, it was clear it would take a lot of work to remove the hold he had on her — this vice-grip he had on her self-preservation. 

“Are you saying that I should have?” He smirked when the door closed behind them.

“Should have what?”

“Taken care of Yuina?” He asked, his head tilting to the side, his eyes cold as they locked on hers. “Should I have seen her as more of a threat? I know she was a part of your plans to leave.”

“What?” She hissed, taking a slow, unsteady step backward. Her spine went rigid. Her mouth went dry. The edges of her vision began to blur as panic began to set in.

“Should I have taken care of her, Elizaveta?” He asked, each word punctuated. Staccato. His snarl washed over her, its fingers wrapping around the front of her throat. Landyn pushed her backward until she was braced against the counter. 

“I don’t know what you’re talking about!”

“No? So it must have been someone else I saw that night. The one you told to run.”

Her head shook from side to side violently of its own volition. “Landyn—”

“Go ahead!” He laughed, a madness bubbling past his lips and awakening in the too-wide whites of his eyes. “Go ahead! Lie to me! You’re just so fucking good at it.”

His fingers tangled in her hair, snapping her head back. Pain shot up the back of her neck and cradled the base of her head. He pulled until she was on her tiptoes, bent at an unnatural angle. Just an inch more, and she would break. 

The strain in her lower back caused her to whimper. Her eyes stung as she searched his gaze.

“Tell me the truth, Elizaveta. Should I have been more worried about her than Damien?”

She ground her teeth together, her head sharply moving from side to side. “She means nothing to me.”

“You’re lying.”

“No, Landyn, I—”

He struck her. She saw stars. Her mouth filled with blood.

“Stop fucking lying to me!”

And again. He caged her against the countertop, pinning her beneath his weight. His hand found her throat, his fingers closing around her windpipe. 

She found his gaze, his eyes wild. Mad. She couldn’t look away, not even as he edged her backward — her feet dangling off the ground.

She couldn’t breathe. The edges of her vision blurred, and her lungs burned. Every heartbeat led to darkness. Blackness. Until she felt the static tingles of unconsciousness take hold.

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13 thoughts on “Escaping the Devil: Chapter Twenty Three

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