His Brutal Heart


A banner with a dark haired man with a scarred face, against a yellow splash background. His Brutal Heart - Feb 23

Extract from His Brutal Heart


He’s even lovelier than I first thought, now that I can see him properly. Back in the warehouse, cowering on the floor, hands covering up his face, it was harder to tell—but when I pull him into the grand salon, the long receiving room that stretches a full quarter-length of the house, and I see this little mouse in better light, I have to force myself not to stare too hard.

“Drink?” I pour him out a bourbon despite his silence, then one for me. He’s standing where I left him, staring around, though he’s stopped shaking now. There’s still dirt and dust smudged on his face, peppering his hair, but he is certainly the most beautiful young man I have seen for a long, long time.

I like blonds. I have a fondness for them, which must explain why I took him, why he is standing here alive, instead of lying in a pool of his own blood on that warehouse floor.

I walk toward him, and he takes a step back.

“Drink.” This time it’s a command. I hold out the glass.

He reaches out and takes it, but his hand is trembling again. I hold my own glass up. “Salute.”

I take a sip, and after he’s watched me swallow, he takes a sip of his own. Then another. Then he drains the glass, gasping afterwards, grabbing at his chest as the fiery bourbon lights him up from the inside. “Another?” I ask, but he shakes his head. “Go and sit down.”

He stumbles to the nearest seat, a high-backed eighteenth-century replica, which I know from experience is extremely uncomfortable. But he sits ramrod straight, clutching at the carved wooden arms as though he’s been strapped into the electric chair.

I stay where I am, allowing him the illusion of safety with distance. “What is your name?”


“T-teddy?” He cringes as I repeat it with the stutter, his spine weakening now as he curls in on himself. Such mockery was a needless cruelty, and I feel a flicker of shame. He’s powerless enough; we both know it. “It suits you,” I tell him. The eyes flash up to mine, confused. “Such a cute little teddy bear, soft and sweet. So tell me: for whom do you work?”

“I don’t work for anyone,” he says, the elegant brows knitting together. “I…I run a website.”

“You run a website.” I almost laugh at the response, but the way he looks at me, bewilderment and fear and…what is that? I can’t place it. “What website?” I come in closer, lean in, put my hand on the back of the chair and loom over him, let him look into my ravaged face. Fear will draw out answers. It always does.

He swallows, and I see his pupils grow larger. 

Desire? Is that what I saw?


I stand back at once. The bourbon must have gone to my head.

“Um,” he’s saying. “It’s called Cute Crims.”

I do a double take. I cannot help myself. “I’ve heard of this website.” He ducks his head, his cheeks staining red like wine spreading through water, and mumbles something. “What did you say, little mouse? Squeak up.”

He stops gnawing on his lip long enough to say, “I said, you’re very popular among the members.”

I study him for a long moment. He is too-obvious bait, designed to appeal to my basest need. Thin and pretty, yellow-haired and young, he is a perfect replica of my usual paid choices.

I try not to hire any one of them a second time. They can fake sexual desire for me well enough once, but I know how they must talk about me afterwards, how they must whisper and shudder about my face. If I were them, I would dread my return. And so my one kindness is to never return twice to the same man.

But in doing so, I’ve announced my taste to the world.

Is this the next attempt by the FBI to break into our ranks?

“I will ask you once more, and only once more,” I say, letting my voice tremble with anger. “For whom do you work?”

Teddy grips the arms of the chair so hard that his knuckles turn white. “I told you,” he says, louder now than he has been this whole time, “I run a website. And like I said back at the warehouse, I can help you—if you’ll let me, Alessandro.” He drops his head again as soon as he finishes speaking, as though astonished by his own bravery.

I must admit, I am a little surprised myself that he had it in him.

I reach into my inner pocket, pulling out the phone I took from Teddy’s hand. “What is your password?” I’ve already removed the SIM card, but it doesn’t really matter if the phone is traced here. No one gets into Redwood Manor without permission—not even law enforcement.

Teddy’s pale face turns pink. “Please don’t look at my phone. It’s private.”

“Oh, I’m sorry. Had I known…” I raise one eyebrow. “Your password. Now.”

“Sandro,” he whispers.

“Don’t try my patience. One way or another, I will see what is on this phone.”

He squirms in the chair, embarrassment flooding his cheeks again. “That’s—that’s my password. It’s ‘Sandro.’ Seven-two-six-three-seven-six.”

My temper rises again. He dares to mock me, after I’ve shown such mercy? I take a handful of his hair, tipping his head back, and lean down over him so that my ruined face is all that he can see. “If I put my own name in, and this phone doesn’t open, I will kill you. Do you understand me?”

Instead of shrinking from me, he glares right back at me. “The phone will open,” he spits out. “If you don’t believe me, try it.”

I’m only half surprised when the phone clicks open. All it suggests is another layer of attention paid to baiting the trap. Appealing to my ego, flattering me… These are obvious ploys. And as I look through his phone, at first I think I’m right. His messages, his emails, his browser history—all filled with Family names, names of men I know, names of men I have killed myself, names that only someone in law enforcement would be likely to know.

But as I read on, look deeper, the context for all these mentions seems…strange. Unless these communications are coded, on the face of them they do seem to match his story: that he runs the Cute Crims website, that he has an obsession with the underworld, that he has a particular interest in…