“Which one was it?” she asked quietly, watching his reaction.
“Your grandfather. It must have been before you were born. Five years, maybe ten. I’m sorry, Beth, I’m so sorry, I...”
“You killed my grandfather,” she whispered in realisation.
“Effectively,” he muttered. His voice was rough and hoarse.
“After he attacked me, I collapsed. The poisons of the elder tree stake were destroying all my muscles, my mind, my entire rationale. The last thing I remember before waking up six months later was Isabella attacking him.”
“The assassin and the ex-demon.”
Beth thought for a minute, wondering whether she should pursue that line of conversation. She decided against it.
“What happened to my grandmother?”
“The first thing I did, once I’d woken up, was go to see her, to apologise. She said it wasn’t my fault, and we became... friends, for want a better word. It was sad when she died.”
“You were at the funeral,” Beth whispered.
“Yes,” Robert said quietly.
“Why did you apologise to her, when it wasn’t your fault?”
“Isabella is my oldest, closest friend. She’s practically my sister. If you thought Jack was about to die, what would you do?”
“Attack his killer. Vengeance.”
“Thing is, I could have avoided the whole issue by changing their memories. But I didn’t.”
“You can do that?”
He shrugged. “I could. I don’t know if I can anymore.”
Robert was gritting his teeth and frowning as if in pain. He pulled over and dropped his head into his hands.
“You okay?” Beth asked worriedly.
“Sorry if this hurts,” he whispered.
Beth suddenly felt something wash through her mind like a tidal wave. Accompanying it was a short, sharp pain, making her cry out. It went as quickly as it had come.
“What was that?” Beth asked breathlessly.
“Me, telling Alex to leave me the hell alone. He’s been trying to break through my defences to contact me. He’s probably just collapsed.”
“What exactly did you do to him last night?”
“You want the complete list? In short, I shattered his shins, his wrists, and his cheekbone, broke his femur, his nose, his arm and gave him six aneurysms.”
“That’s the short list?”
Robert grinned at her. He was obviously quite pleased with himself.
Beth peeked through the slightly open study door. Robert was sat at the desk, writing. It was about three o’clock in the morning and Beth had woken up to find Robert gone from the bed. Light from the lamp on the desk was spilling into the living room.
Robert’s back was bare but he was wearing sweatpants—black, unsurprisingly. Beth walked into the room. If Robert knew she was there, he gave no reaction.
Beth noticed something on Robert’s back that she’d never noticed before: layer upon layer of scars. The most obvious ones were five parallel lines. To Beth, they looked like the result of fingernails. Beth traced them with her own nails absent-mindedly. Robert tensed; he hadn’t noticed her presence.