We will not fulfill any book request that does not come through the book request page or does not follow the rules of requesting books. NO EXCEPTIONS.

Comments are manually approved by us. Thus, if you don't see your comment immediately after leaving a comment, understand that it is held for moderation. There is no need to submit another comment. Even that will be put in the moderation queue.

Please avoid leaving disrespectful comments towards other users/readers. Those who use such cheap and derogatory language will have their comments deleted. Repeat offenders will be blocked from accessing this website (and its sister site). This instruction specifically applies to those who think they are too smart. Behave or be set aside!

Phantom: Act 4 – Scene 32

HE DECIDED HIS FATE

Scarlett

Sol pauses outside a steel door in the underground tunnel and takes a deep breath before looking back at me. Concern wrinkles his unmasked brow. Even though it’s only been mere hours since we made up and my brand still stings under the bandage Sol tended me with, my lower belly flutters at the intense look in his midnight eye.

“You really don’t have to do this. You don’t need to see—”

I’m shaking my head before he can finish. “No. I’m here with you. You know my darkness.” I reach for his free hand and squeeze. “I can handle yours.”

“But my darkness—”

Speaks to mine,” I interrupt. “The moon can’t glow without her night, Sol.”

“And now my night will never be so dark again,” he murmurs before pulling me in and kissing my head.

He swipes his phone and shoulders open the newly unlocked door. Cool air blows my hair back from my face and I’m grateful Sol had a long-sleeved black sweater, jeans, and tennis shoes for me to wear instead of my ripped dress. Evidently, he’s been compiling quite the collection of clothes for me over the past several months.

The room is dark with stone walls and floors. Next to the door is a large iron cage full of weapons. Along the right side is one of the runoff channels, although this one sounds faster than the others. This room is the closest to the Mississippi, Sol had explained, and I’m sure that open pipe is where the phantom breeze blew from when we first came in.

As soon as we step down the stairs, Sabine and Jaime stand from their chairs on the opposite sides of the room.

“Leave us,” Sol commands in a low tone.

Sabine’s lips barely lift at the corner as she walks past us. “I think the way I left him is poetic.”

Sol rumbles a laugh. “Quite the Shakespeare.”

Before Jaime follows her out, he hugs me. “So glad you’re safe, cher.” He pulls back with a smile. “Beignets, soon. Yeah?”

“Yeah.” I nod, matching his grin.

“Go,” Sol orders and Jaime drops his embrace immediately with a mock salute before meeting Sabine at the door.

When she closes it behind them, a loud clang reverberates off the walls and into my chest, making the hair on the back of my neck stand on end. Sol steps to the side, revealing Rand. My eyes widen at the sight of him.

His mouth is duct taped and he’s tied to a chair in the center of the room, still fully clothed in his now ruffled red suit. Blood dampens where Sabine stabbed him with her dagger, but the injury doesn’t look lethal. Though the same can’t be said for the anger that blazes in his blue eyes as they track Sol across the room.

When I step forward, his gaze leaves Sol and lands on me. Even with the duct tape over his mouth, I can easily see the disgust marring his features.

Sol strides across the room and rips off the tape. Rand grunts before sneering in my direction.

“I should’ve known you’d go back to being the Phantom’s whore—”

Sol’s fist crashes into his face and the crack of knuckle against jaw bone makes me want to wince. From Sol’s hesitant glance back at me, he expected me to, but I keep my face carefully neutral.

I told Sol I love all of his darkness, and I meant it. He’s taken off his mask for me, bared himself fully, and I’m not running away this time.

He nods once at me before placing his hands on his knees and leaning into Rand’s face.

“You don’t get to manipulate Scarlett any longer. You will only speak to her if she wishes. You live if she wishes. Do you understand?” Rand’s angry eyes face him and Sol yanks Rand’s blond hair up and down, forcing his head to nod. “Good. Glad you understand.”

“Fuck you,” Rand spits back at him, but Sol takes a step away and casually walks to the steel cage near the door. He opens it with an antique key and hands it to me before casually walking inside the cage and calling over his shoulder.

“Choose your weapon, Chatelain.”

“Sword,” Rand growls.

Sol laughs harshly. “Typical. You always did like challenging me in fencing class.” He lays his phone down on a display of weapons before removing two swords from a rack and walking out of the cage.

“Weapon?” I ask, my voice pitching higher with alarm.

“Everyone who finds themselves in this chair fatally injured a Bordeaux, a shadow, or schemed to. I told you they either swim or fight down here, but I always give my opponent their choice of weapon.”

He uses his sword to point at the opposite corner where a desk with paper and pen sits alongside an old-timey telephone.

“This time, I’m giving you another option. Dictate your confession, tell me where my shadow is and who you’re working with, or decide your fate by physical means.”

“Like I said.” Rand narrows his eyes. “Sword.”

Sol chuckles harshly. “I’d say I’m impressed with your courage, but I’ll hazard a guess that it’s your pride, not your bravery, that’s fooling you into believing you can beat me in a fight.”

“So you don’t just… kill him?” A sick, twisted sense of disappointment mixes with the uneasy feeling in my stomach.

“No,” Rand answers. “The Phantom of the French Quarter likes to torture—”

No, I don’t,” Sol hisses and tips Rand’s face up with the sword to meet his eyes. “Your brother taught me the importance of a fair fight. Only cowards harm the defenseless.”

“Let me guess, true torture is fighting for your life and losing.”

“No. That’s the last victory and redemption you’ll ever have,” Sol answers. When Rand opens his mouth to argue, he slides the blunt side of the sword up to Rand’s eye. “Torture is never getting the chance to fight.”

Before Rand can retort, Sol speaks again. His voice starts off low, as if he’s thinking out loud, but it rises as he addresses Rand directly.

“I was tied up just like this.” He grazes the blade underneath Rand’s eyebrow. Rand shudders, but no blood seeps out. “Do you know what it feels like to have your eye plucked out by a dagger, Chatelain?”

My stomach drops and vomit threatens up my throat again, but I swallow it down. Meanwhile, Sol doesn’t wait for a response as he traces Rand’s eye.

“Thankfully, your brother decided to stab through the sclera. Apparently the iris and pupil are more painful. That’s what the doctor said anyway. And there’s not as much blood as you see in the movies. The blade slid into the white of my eye as easy as softened butter. Then he plucked it out and I felt my eyeball plop onto my cheekbone, right before your brother severed it from my eye socket. A nearly surgical removal, as if he’d practiced it before. He then privately shipped a fucking eyeball to a goddamn teenager backpacking through the Alps on spring break. Ben hadn’t even been told our father was dead yet. He found out after opening his package at base camp. But do you know the worst part of your brother’s torture?”

Rand doesn’t answer, and my lungs seize. I stopped breathing while I listened.

Sol inhales a deep breath. Rage shudders through his frame on his exhale.

“It wasn’t even when Laurent skinned me alive, piece by piece, to send to Ben, and then lit me on fire, all for his sadistic thrill.” Sol jabs his finger toward his unmasked face. “No, the worst part happened after I twisted his own rope around his neck, strangling him. It was the feeling of power and vindication I felt over his death. Before that, I’d never liked violence or death. My father’s business was his, and I didn’t want anything to do with it. But Laurent changed the way my mind worked, transforming me into something that enjoys the thrill of the hunt, and the high of the kill. And that was the worst thing he could’ve ever done to me.”

“Laurent’s torture has nothing to do with me,” Rand claims.

I open my mouth to tell Sol about how Rand said Laurent was a genius on the roof, but Sol beats me to it.

“Now, there’s where you’re wrong. You see… after you taunted me with Scarlett… I decided to look into you. You were, what, sixteen when you were self-proclaimed childhood sweethearts? She was twelve. Now I don’t know if anything actually happened between you. Those aren’t questions I’m going to force her to answer. But that phrase alone makes me want to forego my usual punishment and kill you right here and now.”

My stomach knots itself while warmth blooms in my chest. A mixture of shame and gratitude. I’ve never told anyone about the way Rand touched me. I was too embarrassed and confused then, and I’ve tried to just forget it ever since. For the first time, it feels like that twelve-year-old girl inside of me is finally getting justice when I’ve been too ashamed to stand up for it myself. Sol is taking that burden and doing it for me.

“And it got me thinking. If you were a goddamn pervert at sixteen, I’d had no idea at the time. You hid it well behind your charming facade. If that was the case, then what else did I miss? That’s when I decided to look into the facts of my case a little more, too. Specifically, the videos.”

I have no idea what he’s talking about, but Rand pales at the last sentence. Sol steps forward and lays the tip of a sword on top of one of the ropes securing Rand to his chair.

“Scarlett, lock yourself inside the cage. The key works from the inside and my phone is in there, too. Call Jaime if things go wrong.”

“But, Sol—”

“Please,” he whispers harshly before pleading with his midnight eye.

Nodding slowly, I do as he says and scurry toward the iron cage. The door squeaks as I close it, but the antique key turns easily in the lock. I hold his phone for good measure, ready to call my friend, and hoping like hell I don’t have to.

Sol cuts the ropes on the other arm of the chair before tossing the sword at Rand’s feet. Rand shakes himself free and snatches the sword off the ground, lunging at Sol. There’s a clash of steel as Sol easily swats the blade away while his other arm is tucked behind his back. Rand looks much less polished than Sol as he tries to find an opening, but Sol is defending himself confidently—and patiently.

“I had the pleasure of meeting one of your loyal men last week,” Sol says, his back tensing.

My heart pounds against my chest as he finally attacks, feinting a swing at Rand’s leg and forcing him off balance. Sol’s phone creaks in my hand, so I put it back on the display table to stop myself from breaking it.

“He mentioned I should ‘watch the videos again,’ referring to all the home movies your brother made while I was under his dutiful care.” Sol bounces on the balls of his feet, on the defensive again as Rand throws himself with uncontrolled swings. “Imagine my surprise when I got my hands on the encrypted video footage from back then. I was able to watch them this week, and come to find out… while my other eye was blindfolded, you were actually the one who set me on fire. You made me burn while your brother laughed.”

Sol lunges again, sending Rand stumbling backward and closer to the channel’s edge. Rand’s clear-blue eyes widen with terror.

“He… he made me!”

So swiftly I almost miss it, Sol’s sword is somehow under Rand’s chin. “Do. Not. Lie. To. Me. I saw the glee on your face. You only second-guessed yourself when you idiotically set my ropes on fire and I was able to get free. What is it like to know that your stupidity got your brother killed?”

“What’re you talking about?” Rand asks, attempting in vain to harden his voice. His fist tightens around the sword’s grip.

Sol twists his and Rand hisses as a drop of blood falls down the center of his neck. “I’m talking about how I was able to choke the life out of your brother with my own rope because you burned it. Funny thing is, even after you foolishly set my binding on fire, if you hadn’t been a fucking coward and fled, you could have saved Laurent. I barely managed to finish him off with just the two of us. What if you had stayed and saved your brother?” Sol’s words drip with venom. “Maybe the Chatelains would’ve ruined New Orleans, after all.”

Rand’s shout is his only warning as he flings himself at Sol. My hands fly to my cheeks and I barely resist the urge to cover my eyes entirely. Enraged tears run down the cracks between my fingers, but I don’t make a sound, afraid Rand will get the best of Sol somehow. With every word out of Sol’s mouth, my anger at Rand boils and boils under my skin. I even look around me to see if there’s a weapon I can take to finish the job, but I know Sol would never forgive me.

Rand has taken my father, but he tortured Sol, and schemed to take down the entire Bordeaux family and empire. And now he’s threatened to do it all again. This is Sol’s vendetta, and I am at peace with whatever happens to the man who betrayed me.

A curse pulls my attention away from the weapon rack and back to the combat as Sol stumbles over one of the discarded ropes. Rand leaps at him and stabs frantically. Sol lands in a roll and yanks one of the ropes at Rand’s feet. The move sweeps Rand’s legs out from underneath him. He falls much less gracefully, while Sol ends his own in a backward roll that nimbly returns him to his feet, sword in hand. Before Rand can get off of his knees, Sol is on him, blade poised at his throat just above his Adam’s apple.

“Wait!” Rand cries out just as another trail of blood drips from the new paper-thin slice on his neck. “W-wait! I’ll confess. I’ll do the confession instead.”

“It’s too late for that—”

“No, please! I’ll do it! Y-your shadow! He’s at the bottom of the Mississippi!”

Sol’s face morphs into pure rage. “You motherfu—”

Rand shrieks and ducks away. His high-pitched scream cuts off as he tries to bargain with my demon. “Stop! I-I can tell you who I’m working with, too!”

I can see the full breadth of Sol’s emotions thanks to his face being laid bare, the confusion, the sympathy, all still mixed with the well-earned hatred I have seeping from my own skin as well.

Sol flicks his gaze to me. “What do you say, Scarlett? I said earlier it’s your choice, I meant it. Death or confession—”

Rand swings his sword wildly.

“Sol, look out!”

My blood runs cold, but Sol is too fast. He leans away from the reckless attack as it cuts a thin nick on his arm, but his own blade slices through his attacker.

There’s a sickening thump as Rand’s head lands on the ground. It slowly rolls away from his body until it comes to rest face up, a look of horror forever frozen in his features.

Like he’s seen a ghost.

Or a phantom.

I cover my mouth to quiet my shriek. Sol’s chest heaves in his blood-splattered white dress shirt. He swallows and looks back at me. “Are you okay, Scarlett?”

“Am… am I okay?” I sputter. “Are you okay?”

I unlock the door and sprint toward him. As soon as I get within a few feet of him, Sol wraps me up in his embrace and I cling to him. My hands worry over his clothes, but he seems fine.

“Don’t worry about me, little muse. I only have a scratch.”

The air caught in my lungs escapes me slowly as I inspect his arm, confirming that the blade only grazed him. I glance at the severed head, screaming in silence at our feet. My stomach lurches but I swallow back bile to focus.

“What if I’d lost you, Sol?”

Jamais, mon amour,” he answers swiftly and kisses my head. “You’ll never lose me. I’m the shadow that will protect you always.”

We stand in silence for a moment with only the water rushing by us at the edge of the room. The hammering pulse in my ears almost drowns out the sound. When my heartbeat finally slows, he loosens his hold on me.

“He’s really gone, huh?”

“Dishonorable cowards always decide their own fate. Rand Chatelain chose to follow in his brother’s footsteps. Death by the Phantom of the French Quarter. It’s… it’s finally finished. The Chatelains are no more.”

I grab his free hand and meet his sparkling midnight eye. “What do we do now?”

“Now?” He inhales and exhales one slow, deep breath, as if the weight of his past has finally been lifted. A small, peaceful smile slowly spreads over his lips, lifting even the right side of his face. “Now I can give you the sunlight.”


Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Options

not work with dark mode
Reset