Hushed Guardian - Shandi Boyes Page 0,1

mundane task he required me to do. Tobias milked it for all it was worth, and in all honesty, I hated him for it. My girlfriend had left me, my brother had supposedly killed himself, and my father won his bid to become the District Attorney of New York.

My life was shit, but Tobias never gave me time to dwell on it.

Grayson didn’t fare much better than me. At Tobias’s request, he was transferred to work under his father’s division of the Bureau. It was a temporary, six-month rookie exchange, but to Grayson, it was more punishment than cleaning up after men who ate way too much fiber.

We were both in the shit—literally.

Grayson sucked it up, portrayed the ideal agent, and was returned to Tobias’s team as a new man within four months.

It took a shit ton more effort for me to get on Tobias’s good side.

Keeping my head down and my mouth shut added a handful of murmured merits to Tobias’s daily grunt regime, but it was only after he walked in on me packing up after his team at a firing range did he add sentences into the mix.

While Tobias’s crew washed off the lead burning their skin from target practice, I coated mine in it. It had been over a year since I had held a gun, so I was more than eager to discharge a few rounds, and perhaps some of the anger I was still harboring over Joey’s death and Melody’s affair.

The fifteen bullets in the gun’s magazine made the paper silhouette’s head non-existent, and the one in the chamber ensured even if the target had survived fifteen kill shots to the head, he would have wished he was dead because I shot him right in the cock.

Thinking back now, it seems a little immature, but at the time, it felt fucking good to disperse some of the rage festering in my gut.

I looked into Melody’s claims she had slept with someone the instant I was out of Tobias’s idea of lock-up. I went through the belongings she had left in her room in my family’s mansion, interviewed her friends, and I even sat through several of her lectures to see if anyone gave off any indication they were missing her as much as I was.

I found nothing, not a single shred of evidence to corroborate her claims. It was as if she hadn’t lied until I went to supervise the removal of the old oak tree between Joey’s childhood bedroom and mine.

As I sat at the window watching the arborist cut down the tree that had destroyed my family, I thought back to the many fond times I had looked at it. In particular, the last time Melody had climbed it.

For the first time in weeks, I smiled.

My happiness didn’t last long.

With one set of memories instigating the wish for more, I dragged an old shoebox full of photographs from the headboard of my bed to my desk. The six-strip of condoms my mom had snuck inside the day after Melody and I had given each other our virginities had been reduced to five, and an empty package was sitting in the waste-bin under my desk.

I’ve never once in my life craved a violent, all-in rage as I did that afternoon. I wanted to demolish my room as the arborist was doing to the oak tree. I wanted to smash every piece of furniture I owned before dragging my mattress outside to set in on fire. I wanted my room to feel as bare and as hollow as I felt, and I was willing to lose everything to do it.

But instead of doing any of those things, I shoved the box of pictures under my arm, paid the tree chopper the exorbitant fee my father negotiated to have evidence of Joey’s death removed from our lives as soon as possible, then left my family ranch without so much as a backward glance.

I’ve never been back since.

It was that afternoon that Tobias caught me expelling my rage on a defenseless paper target. I was in the process of reloading the Sig Sauer P226’s magazine when Tobias said, “Liam always recruited the best officers, so how come he never mentioned you?”

Unaware his question was rhetorical, I replied, “The Bureau requires a degree. I was also too young.”

Tobias smirked a smug grin before he turned away and mumbled, “I wasn’t talking about the Bureau.”

His reply stumped me for days. I was truly lost. It was only while