Children of Ambition (Children of Vice Book 2)

By: J.J. McAvoy

“She slept with wolves without fear,

for the wolves knew a lion was among them.”

~ R.M. Drake


One day the wolf will dwell with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the young lion and the fatted steer together; a child would lead them all… That is what the church told me. But that time never came and so, when I grew older, my mother taught me to slaughter the wolves, skin the lambs, shoot the leopards and behead the goats. Have the calf for my feast and the lion as my goal. None needed to be together. The child would grow and rule over them all.

All of nature, not just human nature, abided by one law… Rule or be ruled. Which meant to solidify one’s position of dominance was inherent in all things, whether man or beast, because man was a beast.

People were not people.

People were animals.

Beasts on two feet.

Fearsome creatures…and yet so many lived in a perpetual state of fear of themselves and other people. Why? …Rule or be ruled… Many people like to believe they are the master of their own fates, that nothing controls them. But in reality, fear and the need to survive ruled over everything in their lives. Why did people get married? Because they sought to survive loneliness. Why work in jobs they hate? They fear poverty. People even offer a fraction of their freedom to governance, in order to be protected from those who’d tried to rule over them.

Everything in the end came down to surviving. Ironically, at the end of that long or short life, the grim reaper punishes everyone’s efforts with death.

So, there are two truths.

A person will do anything to survive, but will never survive because death will come. When I realized this, when I realized that death was the ultimate ruler, I decided since I cannot be death I would become the bringer of death until death came for me.

My mother used to say everyone is ruthless, they just don’t know it. I say, it doesn’t matter if they know or not, so long as I’m the most ruthless of them all. As long as I am not ruled.

“We’ll be there in four minutes,” Toby said, releasing the secret hatch for the backseat of the Range Rover beside me where a small black box waited for me. It looked like a lunch box…because it was a lunch box, the red metal Mulan box I used as child and spray painted black when I was teenager.

“We don’t have to do this,” Toby added, his brown eyes meeting mine in the rear-view mirror; he was mistaking my hesitation for doubt.

So, I ignored him and took the square box out of its hole, flipping open the tabs and lifting the lid, staring down at the used, scratched, hand-me-down Glock that sat at the bottom, the few old, round-headed bullets with it, and the letter I’d written in anger and had wanted to read aloud during my graduation speech.

“It belonged to your mother, didn’t it?”

“Toby,” I said softly, placing the box on my lap, lifting the gun and ejecting the magazine, “I understand you are trying to make conversation, but I have nothing to say today.”

He nodded like he understood me. I doubted he did, though. Sitting up straighter, I turned to look out the window. Toby Valentino, my elder brother’s childhood friend and my longtime lover. He was stern, emotionless, cold, desperate but had pledged his loyalty to me alone.

He’s not going to be able to help himself. I thought as I loaded the gun. With each bullet I put in place, I couldn’t help but see my brother’s face in my mind.

“We didn’t account for Wyatt coming back so soon,” Toby spoke up just as I thought.

“You and I know both Wyatt won’t do anything to me.” Grinning, I handed him the gun. “You on the other hand…I make no promises.”

He glanced down under his arm, confused as to why I was giving it to him.

“This outfit’s tight.” I shrugged, leaning back in to my seat and tossing the lunchbox into the hole it came from.

“Is white really the best choice?”

“It’s called symbolism,” I said.

Turning from him, I stared at the landing strip, the place my brother—my brothers—would both be momentarily. I wished I felt my heart pounding or my pulse racing, instead I felt still, cold…partially dead inside. My own reflection often gave me a chill. It reminded me of my mother’s… Maybe that’s why they, the Italians who had felt excluded by our family, came to me. They saw my mother’s ruthlessness in me.

A ruthlessness she never even spared me from.


“It hurts.” She wasn’t asking a question. My mom rarely asked questions. She just told us reality…I hated her for it.

Breathing in through my nose, I knelt down beside him.

“Did you let me have Doval just so I’d have to kill him?” I asked, petting the gray-haired hound lying in the green grass in front of me, his chest rising and falling with each pained breath he took, his pink tongue hanging outside of his mouth. Each time I petted him, he let out a soft whine like it hurt him, but each time I stopped he whimpered and looked up at me like he was upset I had stopped.

“A sick dog appeared on our lawn, you fed it, you kept it warm, you demanded we save it. You knew he was sick, you named him anyway. You knew nothing could be done, yet you cared for him anyway. I’m sure he loves you too, that’s why he wants to die with you petting him even though it hurts. You traded your smile for the love of a dying dog, Donatella; was it worth it?”

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