“What do I get if I win a hand?” I asked.
“I’ll sweeten the deal for you,” she said. “If you can win three hands in a row, I’ll let you go. You’ll get your freedom back. I won’t pursue you.”
“And you’ll give me my car back?” I interjected.
“Don’t get greedy,” she interrupted. “There’s nothing I can do about your car. It’s in impound, and you going there to get it back would defeat the purpose of me letting you go. So, do we have a deal?”
“You win a hand, any hand, and I have to answer whatever question you throw at me? But I have to win three hands in a row to get my freedom?”
“That’s right. Take it or leave it, stud,” she replied with a smirk.
“Deal. I’ll go find the cards.”
I walked upstairs to check first. I knew Jealousy and Hatred were angry, and I couldn’t have them yelling in my head while I attempted to find the deck on the main floor.
“What’s your problem, Din?” Jealousy asked, stepping between me and the first bedroom door I approached.
“I don’t have one.”
“Really? Because it seems to me that you just agreed to play cards with some mortal where you’re betting information.”
“More like secrets,” Hatred said, scowling up at me. “You know what she’s going to ask you, and you’re okay with divulging that information to her, even though it could mean trouble for us?”
“Yeah, because it means that we can get out of here and away from her, like you both want,” I said.
“Don’t pretend that you’re doing this for us, Din,” Jealousy groaned. “I think you want a reason to come clean with her.”
“I don’t need a reason to do that,” I said, shoving him out of my way. “You forget who I am.”
I entered the room and moved to the closet.
“You forget who you are,” Hatred said. “We know exactly who you are and what we are. You’ve spent too much time here.”
I ignored her, moving between the both of them to the desk drawer. I started opening and closing drawers.
“What? Do you plan on bonding with her some more? That’s ridiculous, by the way,” Jealousy scoffed. “We should be on the road, like we were, searching for—”
“Enough,” I barked, interrupting his explanation. “This isn’t up for debate. I’m in charge, not the two of you, so do me a favor and shut up.”
My tone appeared to get through to them. They both bowed their heads and avoided eye contact.
I moved out of the room into the hallway. There were a couple of other bedrooms, but a closet caught my eye. I smiled and walked over to the door. When I opened the door, there were stacks of board games on the shelf and sitting on the very top was a clean deck of cards.
I turned to walk downstairs, and Hatred jumped in front of me.
“I won’t let you do this,” she said.
“Get out of my way,” I ordered.
“No, this is foolish, and every minute you spend with that mortal takes another dangerous step closer to more trouble.”
“Hatred, do as I say. Now!”
“No!” she shouted. “I have to do this for the good of all of us.”
“Are you okay up there?” Samantha yelled from downstairs.
“Yeah, I just found the deck,” I answered, scowling at Hatred.
“Were you saying something?” she asked.
“Just thinking out loud,” I assured.
“Din, I’m scared,” Jealousy said. “What you’re doing puts us all at risk. You don’t even realize that, or you do and don’t care. Either way, it’s not a good look for you.”
“Yeah, so which one is it?” Hatred said. “Too dense or don’t care?”
The laughter bubbled up within me. It started in my stomach and climbed upward into my throat. I stifled the loud noises to keep Samantha in the dark from the conversation I was having with them.
I snatched Hatred by the neck, hoisting her up off the floor. “You dare to call me stupid,” I hissed. “Me? You’re naïve if you think she’s just going to let me walk away. I have to try my hand at a clean break.”
Her eyes turned to terror as she felt my grip tighten. She tried to say something but couldn’t get her voice to work. She mouthed, I’m sorry repeatedly until I released her.
Jealousy caught her, preventing her from falling onto the floor. He peered up at me with shock and disgust in his eyes. She struggled to regain her breath, coughing relentlessly as the air filled her chest.
“What’s gotten into you, Din?” Jealousy asked. “You’re changing into something else, something I don’t recognize.”
“I’m only going to say this one more time,” I said. “I’m in charge, not you two, and I’m the one making the decisions. If you want to stay by my side, then you will get that fact through your stubborn little heads, or I will disappear again and leave you both behind for good.”
I knelt to Hatred’s eye level. “This is not up for debate,” I continued. “I don’t want or need your opinions. If I need something from you, I will give the order. If I don’t, then keep your mouth shut and opinions to yourselves. Do you understand me?”
They reluctantly nodded their heads together in agreement.
“Dinlas!” Samantha shouted. “I thought you said you found it. What the hell are you waiting for?”
I pointed my finger at them to reaffirm my point. They averted their eyes from my stare and allowed me to stomp down the stairs.
When I entered the kitchen, Samantha had lit candles and set them up around the room to provide some much-needed light. There were only two chairs set up at the table. The bottle of whiskey sat in the middle of the table.
I sat down, dropping the deck of cards onto the table, followed by my pack of cigarettes.
“You’re sure you’re okay with this?” she asked.
“Yeah, what’s the worst that could happen?” I said.