Mr. Lewis had the face of a man who had killed, and his steely, silver eyes said he didn’t regret it. His face was used and worn like an old cloth, and the only way you could tell he was under fifty was his jet black hair. His upper lip was hidden by a bushy mustache that intimidated most people, which is why he maintained it so painstakingly. He had been told on one occasion that it gave him a beastly look, like a wolf. It was one of the few things in life that he remembered smiling about. And it still made the corner of his mouth curl.
Nicholas Grace raised his open, sideways-turned palm to the man.
“Hello, Mr. Lewis.”
Lewis’s big, red hand swallowed Nicholas’s in a powerful grip. The inside of his palm was dry and cold. The muscles in Nicholas’s entire arm recoiled as Lewis squeezed. He imagined Lewis’s bicep pulsing like an electric generator, sending a charge of power into the man’s hand and causing it to crush Nicholas’s hand. The pain would certainly be terrific, but the sound of his bones crunching and grinding against themselves would be enough to collapse his mind.
“Pleased to meet you, Mr. Grace.”
His voice was sharp and smooth like the side of a razor blade. It was a voice that could convince anyone of anything.
“Please,” Nicholas said, feeling a little hole form in his chest, “call me Nicholas.”
Lewis’s thin mouth curled up devilishly and his brow sunk around his eyes. Sharp pain radiated from Nicholas’s hand as Lewis tightened his grip malevolently.
“Listen to me, Mr. Grace,” Lewis said, turning the razor blade of his voice against Nicholas’s neck. “Listen very carefully. I am here to cut the head off of the dragon that has been burning my reputation, not to save you and my daughter from being eaten by it. After I put out this fire, I will return home with her. The only reason I haven’t killed you is because I know it would upset her further.”
His grip tightened even more, forcing a yelp from Nicholas that sounded not unlike a dog when its tail has been stepped on.
“Do we have an understanding?”
“Then say it.”
“We have an understanding!”
After another moment that seemed to stretch on for hours, Lewis loosened his grip, then released Nicholas’s hand completely. Nicholas’s chest flooded with oxygen.
“Now,” Lewis said, taking a seat at the table, "let's get this over with."