My Cruel Salvation (Fallen Saint # 3) - J. Kenner Page 0,1
who have wronged us?” The Wolf asked.
“We teach them a lesson, Father.” Alex’s voice sounded dull to his own ears. He hoped his father couldn’t hear the fear that he was trying so hard to bury. Fear and loathing. He hated this man. But he knew that he couldn’t let it show.
“Yes. Yes.” Alex could hear the pride. It made him feel sick. “That’s my son. Now you show me how to teach that lesson. The man who wronged you is right there, looking at you across this field. Are you going to let him diminish you?”
“Then lift your weapon and show me what you can do.”
Alex did as he was told. He lifted the handgun, working hard to keep his arm from shaking. He aimed the way he had been taught. His father wanted him to hit the target’s red eye.
Precision and accuracy, Alejandro. That is what I require of the men who stand at my right hand. You are my son, but you must earn your spot. Precision, accuracy, and the utmost loyalty.
Alex had been working for weeks to be able to hit the target from this distance. It was far for such a small target—twenty yards—and his father expected him to work his way up to at least forty, then move on to practicing with a rifle. He drew a breath, gave himself a moment to study the wind, then gently pulled the trigger.
He felt the blast in his arms, and his ears rang despite the plugs his father allowed him to wear while training.
And then he went completely cold.
He had missed.
Those two red eyes were both still intact. But there was a hole between them, a black splotch against the white paper.
The target would be dead for sure. But that wouldn’t be enough for his father.
“I thought you said you had practiced.” Disappointment colored The Wolf’s voice. Disappointment laced with fury.
“I did, Father.” He heard the shake in his voice and wanted to cry. Tears pricked his eyes, and he knew he was the biggest baby in the world.
“You did not practice enough. Look at me, boy.”
Alex turned slowly, then tilted his head up. His father scowled at him, his hard gaze taking in his face and then skimming down his skinny body. The disappointment wasn’t just in his voice now. Alex saw it all over the man.
“You must be better,” The Wolf said. “Tell me, boy. Who is your father?”
Alex swallowed. “You are.”
“And did you make me proud?”
He forced himself not to wince; he knew what was coming. “No, Father.”
Slowly, The Wolf nodded. “It is good you know this. Now,” he added as he lashed out, the cold steel of his pistol connecting with Alex’s jaw and knocking his head back, “now you will remember.”
Alex staggered, his knees like spaghetti. But he didn’t fall. Falling would only make it worse. “Yes, Father.”
He held his eyes wide, his chin steady, and he repeated the words in his head. It didn’t hurt. It didn’t hurt. It wasn’t his face that felt shattered and on fire. It was someone else’s. He was fine. Fine. Fine.
He bit back a whimper because the mantra that his stepmother, Aurelia, had taught him wasn’t helping at all. He wanted to press his hand to his face.
He wanted to cry.
Instead, he stood like a statue. He had to. If he didn’t it would be worse. Much, much worse.
Years passed in the next few seconds and still he stood frozen.
Finally—finally—his father put his hands on Alex’s shoulders. “Look at me, boy.”
Alex tilted his head back and once again met his father’s eyes, their dark cruelness softened now with something that The Wolf might actually believe was love. “I do this to make you a man,” his father said. “I do this so that when you grow up to take what is yours, you will be respected. Feared. Your lieutenants will fight for you because they will know that you are strong. That you will lead them. And that if they betray you, you will hunt them down like the dogs they are. Do you understand, boy? Do you understand that all that is mine will one day be yours?”
“And can you run our empire if your men do not respect you?”
“How will you earn their respect?”
“I will excel, Father. I will be the best at everything I do.”
“Including striking down your enemies?”
“If you cannot aim your skill with razor-sharp precision at your target, you will fail, boy. Not just at