Chapter 13

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“We grew up in the outskirts of the city,” Nole divulged, “so there wasn’t much to do.” Reminiscing about that time felt bittersweet. Although that part of his life was the last time he could remember being happy and completely carefree, it was also the time when he learned what devastation truly felt like. Olivia hadn’t meant to expose these personal details from him, just like he hadn’t meant to bring up the death of her brother.

In that moment, he realized that the entire goal of not asking about anyone’s past was silly. Speaking with someone about the most trivial of details can ignite a chain of memories tracing back to their history. “My dad was a childish kind of guy. Up until I was six, he’d challenge me to fights just for the fun of it. If anything, he taught me how to watch for openings and weaknesses, and use them to gain the upper hand. Even though I wasn’t very good at first, all that fighting at such a young age helped me improve over the years.”

Giving his father credit felt wrong. The man didn’t deserve any praise, not after leaving them so abruptly after their mother was killed. Recalling his father’s absence at the burial alone made Nole’s blood boil. In a sense, they had lost both parents in the same day.

Sitting beside Olivia in that moment, clenching his fists until his knuckles turned white, he realized that it was still something he couldn’t forgive. As much as he tried to forget the past, it just kept smacking him in the face. Both the anniversary of his mother’s death, as well as Olivia’s question, were clear signs that there was no forgetting the past. “I picked up on the analytics myself, and it’s stayed with me up until now.”

That was as concise of an answer as he wanted to give. He expected her to leave it at that, however she didn’t.

“Six years old,” she repeated. “That’s a long time ago. How did you end up in the city?”

“I brought Caden and Suri here after the gangs took over,” he answered. “We’ve been living on that rooftop for the last year or so.”

He didn’t mention his mother’s death. Olivia may be comfortable sharing such personal details with him, but the feeling was not mutual. Even though he had grown to trust her much more than he did at the beginning of the day, Nole didn’t want to tell her about how his mother was murdered, or how his father had disappeared soon after.

When her questioning ceased, he realized that she had gotten the hint that he was finished sharing intimate details. Her original inquiry was answered after all, so there was no need to press for more.

As if to mark the end of the conversation, she laid on her back, using the knapsack as a headrest, and analyzed her newly acquired Enforcers baton. Although it had been hanging from her waist the entire time, he’d nearly forgotten her new weapon, as well as his own. Retrieving the switchblade from his pocket, he marveled at the craftsmanship of the handle.

The black metal-edged handle had a crisscrossing pattern. He casually flipped the blade, the sound catching Olivia’s attention. Shrugging his shoulders at her quick response, he watched her until she resumed her handling of the baton. The curvature of the knife’s jagged side hypnotized him. He’d never been prone to using weapons his entire life, not even after moving to the inner city.

He gripped the handle to get a feel for it, but couldn’t imagine actually wielding it during a fight. Then again, if he became angry enough, he didn’t know what he’d do. Recalling his behavior in front of Murphy’s shack, he trembled at the thought of almost killing the Pent member. The fact that his anger could have so much control over his state of mind scared him.

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