The sun peeked out from behind a cloud and its brief appearance warmed Moody as she moved quickly toward her brother.
Sound carries well in the quiet desert. Moody heard the kill command the woman softly spoke to the huge dog. Jake deserved death by gnawing and gashing. He deserved a terrifying Roman end, limbs tied to four horses.
He deserved a lot of bad things. Death by dog had not been at the top of Moody’s wish list for any of the Sinclair clan. What an interesting way to die.
But . . . it could not end this way. Whatever Jake had done to others, including Moody, she did not want to be at the top of the suspect list when he ultimately bit the dust. It was bad enough she was automatically in the top three suspects with Morris’s demise.
There was another reason she didn’t want Jake dead. It disturbed her to think about it but she needed Jake alive.
The woman Leia wasn’t paying attention to Moody as she watched her dog tear into Jake. Moody picked up a rock the size of an orange and aimed at the dog’s head. She was surprised when the rock actually hit the dog on the nose.
Yelping, the dog jumped away from her prone brother. The woman swung her gun toward Moody. Moody picked up another rock.
Rock, paper, scissors, gun. Moody’s odds were not too great. Reasoning would have to suffice.
The dog had stopped yelping and was looking at its master for the next command.
Moody softly said, “I heard you tell the dog to kill the first time. Don’t do it again.”
Moody looked down the barrel of the gun. If she died, maybe her soul would be redeemed because she would be a martyr for her brother. Of course, maybe this was the universe righting itself of Jake’s evilness.
No matter. She couldn’t be involved in another family member’s death. Not again. Too many deaths in such a short time. She didn’t want to go through another one.
“If you shoot me and your dog kills my brother, you’ll have a lot of explaining to do. Especially when the police get the originals of the pictures you stole from my house.” At the look of dismayed surprise on the woman’s face, Moody said, “Oh! How could you know? You stole the copies.” Moody almost laughed as Leia’s face crumbled. “Do you really think Morris kept his blackmail pictures at his house? The originals are offsite and when his death is official, his lawyer gets them. After that, I don’t know what happens to them but I’m willing to bet Morris has a provision that they go public.”
Moody glanced down at Jake, who was lying still. He must have passed out from the shock of the dog attack. Either that or he really was dying.
Ignoring the woman, gun and dog, Moody bent down and checked to see if her brother was still breathing. He was. Moody’s emotions were conflicted.
She could let the woman’s dog do its thing. She could claim innocence because it was the woman’s dog.
Moody couldn’t let her brother die. Besides not wanting another Sinclair mess on her hands, something was preventing her from hating him enough to want him as dead as Morris.
As she tended to his mangled hand, she knew it wasn’t sisterly love. She needed Jake to live so she’d have a fall guy. She needed him to live because of something else, but the reason was escaping her.
Wrapping Jake’s hand in the shawl she’d worn to fight the evening chill, she thought about life without a Sinclair—besides herself, of course.
It would be more restrictive than life with her father or a sibling. She would be watched and followed for the rest of her life. No one would believe the evil genes from Morris had bypassed his only daughter.
She needed Jake alive to share the heavy load. Having him as a scapegoat was also a perk.
She pulled her cell phone out and tried to find a signal. Looking up, she noticed the woman had lowered the gun. She looked dazed and unfocused.
In a firm voice, Moody barked at the woman, “Hey. Hey! I need to get him help and I can’t get a signal. You need to go back to Rubicon Ranch and call emergency services.”
Without a word, the woman turned on her heel and headed back toward the subdivision. Moody could only hope Leia would do as she was told.
Moody didn’t regret lying to the woman. She had no idea what was in store for any of them when Morris’s death was officially declared. She didn’t even know who her father’s lawyer was. For all she knew, there was no lawyer, no will, no nasty surprises.
Nah. That wasn’t the Sinclair way. Morris loved keeping surprises up his sleeve. He was the master manipulator and instigator—even in death. Moody expected the will, if there was one, would be very bizarre, like Morris.
She waited with Jake for what seemed like an hour before he moaned and opened his eyes. Looking at Moody, Jake’s confused expression turned to comprehension. As a tear dripped down his cheek, Moody almost dropped his head on the hard desert ground.
“You took me off my golden path. Why did you do that? I was ready to die.”
Jake struggled to sit up. Holding his head, Moody watched in amazement as her brother cried. Well, it was more than crying; Jake was lamenting his interrupted demise.
Why did she do that? Morris was only lukewarm dead and Moody was not ready to be alone without another Sinclair. Sinclairs understood one another where the rest of the world did not.
How strange. Moody had been deliriously happy when her father died. The moment she knew he was never coming back, never demeaning and degrading her, never shortchanging her adulthood as he’d done her childhood—that moment was the first time she could breathe again. She was free.
But freedom comes with costs. To never have another who could relate to the Sinclair craziness was scary. She needed a Sinclair who knew what being a Sinclair was really all about.
Not Morris, though. He was the architect of her life and look where that had led her. She was a child murderer and, sadly, that wasn’t the worst of it.
It couldn’t be her other brother, either. She had no way of locating him and had not spoken to him in over a decade. For all she knew, he was dead and buried.
No, she needed it to be Jake. He had come back into her life at just the right time. She needed him to stay for all the wrong reasons.
She watched her brother as he sat on the hard ground and bawled. Her big tough brother with the menacing demeanor was crying like a little girl.
Moody needed him to stick around. Maybe not closely, but he needed to be in the same physical and mental world she inhabited. Being a Sinclair was a tough job and he was the only one around to carry some of the load.
She also needed him around because secrets rarely stay secret. Once something breaks, it’s only a matter of time before secrets catch up with a person.
Jake had finished crying. Now he was holding his mangled arm and moaning softly as he rocked back and forth.
Moody looked around the desolate desert and hoped someone would get to them quickly. She couldn’t leave her brother out here alone especially with a bloody arm. He was going to attract predators soon enough.
The moaning stopped suddenly. Moody turned around and Jake was looking at her with a blank expression. Moody was afraid he was going into shock.
Kneeling down, she started talking to him but before she could finish a sentence, he interrupted.
“I don’t know why you did it. You’ve tried to kill me before. You killed that kid in your practice. Why did you stop that dog from killing me?”
Moody struggled with the answer for a few seconds. Honesty was never a trait to be praised in the Sinclair household, unless one was being honest in order to hurt another. This time, though, she wanted to tell her brother exactly why she had saved him.
“I don’t like you. I never have. But you’re the only Sinclair around to understand. You and I can’t escape what we inherited from Morris. He was pure evil. We’re his diluted offspring. Evil runs in our blood and there’s no one else around who knows what we do.”
She paused as she tried to find the right words. She couldn’t give Jake the upper hand so she chose what she said next very carefully.
“With Morris gone and our dear brother underground for the last decade, there’s no one who knows what we are, what we truly are. And no one will ever understand why we did the things we did. Blood, even wicked blood, is all I am and you’re all I have left. But don’t think I won’t cut you in an instant and leave you scattered like trash. It happened to Morris and it can happen to you if you cross me again.”
Moody looked up at the sound of a helicopter. Finally, someone was coming to rescue them. As it came closer, Jake grabbed her arm with a bloody hand.
“Over there,” he said as he pointed to the ground a few feet away, “Dig up those pictures. That bitch has two strikes against her, theft and attempted murder. I think we’ll be able to come up with a deal if we play our cards, I mean, our pictures right.”
Spoken like a true Sinclair. As she dug up the pictures, she knew no good would come of taking them to the woman. But there were other resources that would be very interested and would pay very well.
As she told Jake what she had just thought, her brother smiled his shark smile and it chilled Moody’s heart. Moody smiled back. Life was feeling normal again.