Chapter 8, Flowers
[BY AMBER MARIGOLD]
“Got it. I hacked into their recent emails. It seems that Southern Sterling is throwing a party amongst themselves to celebrate their merge,” Xavier says as he walks into the living room that’s still uninhabitable thanks to all the wedding supplies.
Nessa and I have been going over which flowers to use for the wedding, but I can see that she’s not herself. She’s just not as... controlling anymore. She’s lost her dramatic touch since worrying over Owen. I’ve been lacking sleep myself thanks to the possibilities of what’s happing to Blake and Owen haunting my nightmares, but for the sake of the gang, I’ve kept a strong front. It’s been another three days since Nessa came back with the news that Owen along with Blake is captured. In those days, I’ve not only had to keep a brave face amongst my friends but business partners as well. Isabella has had plenty of lesser gangs and illegal companies visit her since my wedding with Xavier was announced.
“A party ye say? That’s the perfect time for me to infiltrate and find out where their keepin’ mah Man Candy,” Nessa says - suddenly full of life again and completely ignoring my flower suggestions.
I can’t blame her, I forget about it as well. “Won’t it be too dangerous?” I ask my fiance.
“It’s this weekend so we have plenty of time to plan. Unfortunately, I cannot risk Amber or I attending something like that - even while disguised. If Nessa wants to go, that’s her choice. And we will help where we can in the shadows,” Xavier says.
“Oh, I’m goin’. Let me go check on mah poisons and I’ll come up with a plan to present to ye,” Nessa says before she disappears to the basement - leaving me to figure out flower choices on my own.
With the rest of the gang out to sneak in supplies into the house, it’s just Xavier and me. “I see what you’ve been doing,” Xavier says as he walks up to me amongst the piles of boxes and dresses.
“Oh really? Because since Nessa’s been unavailable, I’ve had to figure out most of this wedding by myself. I know what food could work, the cake is death by chocolate with a local baker handling the detailed frosting I sketched for him. But the flowers I still have no idea about. I’ve been reading flower meanings in my spare time and I don’t want to pick one just because it’s pretty. Then again, I don’t want to put so much damn effort into a simple flower,” I rant.
Xavier stops me by taking my head in his hands - forcing me to calm down and look into his eyes. “I see what you’re doing,” he repeats. “You can’t handle knowing your friends are in trouble and there’s nothing you can do about it. You’re distracting yourself if those thoughts by drowning in these wedding plans. Marigold, you know you can talk to me.” I let Xavier’s kind eyes calm me down and for a few moments, we speak in silence.
“I don’t want them getting hurt,” I admit with heartbreak, “And I can’t show that because for the first time, I know what it means to be a gang leader. It means I have to seem strong, even when I’m not.”
“You don’t have to pretend in front of me,” Xavier reassures as he envelops me into a hug. I take in the smell of him and let it soothe me like a little child. “Your friends, whether it’s Blake and Owen or someone else will get hurt. It can be today, tomorrow or in fifty years of old age. Hurt is unavoidable. All we can do is make sure it doesn’t break us too thoroughly.”
I close my eyes and let his words sink in. “You always know what to say,” I smile.
When we finally let go, it’s my turn to look at Xavier with concern. “But the same applies to you, Xavi. You don’t have to pretend in front of me,” I say. Because I know I can’t be the only one with worry. I know how much our enemies are keeping Xavier up at night too.
“Come, let me help you with this mess,” Xavier says and gestures to all the wedding stuff.
I let Xavier change the topic of conversation and let out an exasperated sigh as I pick up a flower book from the coffee table. “Well, right now my dilemma is picking a flower for the wedding. I was thinking about just using those dark red roses in the garden maybe? They’re so lovely and well, it won’t be necessary to ship any other flowers in,” I suggest.
“Those are nice,” Xavier says. “But maybe some marigold flowers to join the mix?”
I snort. “That’s a bit too cliche for my taste,” I say.
“And roses aren’t?” Xavier asks smugly - an annoying eyebrow raised.
“Well, at least red roses mean ‘I love you’. Did you know that marigold flowers mean cruelty and coldness due to jealousy? Does that ring a bell? I’m sorry but I don’t want to be reminded of Jane on our wedding day,” I scoff.
“Marigold flowers also mean remembering and celebrating the dead. It would be nice to honor those that have fallen for us to get where you are... And of course, it also means winning the affections of someone through hard work. I can’t think of anyone that’s worked harder for this than us,” Xavier says and he actually has a point.
A Marigold is more than just a symbol for cruelty, wealth and loss. It means creativity, remembrance, and hard work. Just because something has a bad side to it, doesn’t mean we must ignore the good. If that was the case, Xavier wouldn’t love me the way he does and I wouldn’t have looked at him twice.
“Fine, we’ll have red roses and marigold flowers at the wedding,” I give in.
Xavier smiles as he comes to kiss me on my forehead. “I always get my way,” he smirks.
“Don’t make me change my mind,” I glare jokingly.
The weekend is finally here, along with the possibility of our mission going horribly wrong and Nessa either getting captured or killed. Nobody in Isabella has gotten any sleep. The twins are asking more ridiculous questions than ever, Paul has spent all his time potty training pollock (it’s still a work in progress), Daniel has had multiple women visiting him and Nessa doesn’t even have the care to rob him of them.
At night, I find myself wishing Xavier was in the same bed as me. I end up crushing the life out of the pillows and feeling sorry for Xavier the day he replaces said pillows. I just hope I don’t crush him to death on the first night.
Since we’ve all been unbelievably busy with business, Xavier has hired several cooks once again to make sure we all remember to eat. I’m not complaining because I remember how lovely their food was - back from when I hated Xavier and he forced me to have dinner with him. Only Paul seems to make special requests, God knows how, for the kitchen to make him weird foods like broccoli pie.
But with the rescue mission being tonight, none of us really have much of an appetite. I’ve resorted to not even getting myself thirds. Shameful.
“Wow, you really do look different,” I tell Nessa upon entering her room. She’s in front of the mirror in a stunning black dress with a black wig to cover her usually red hair. The wig looks pretty real - kept in a low bun while she has dark makeup on to try and change her look. All kinds of people will be showing up at the party and we must hope they don’t question Nessa. Let’s hope the fake invitations that Xavier got looks real enough.
“I’m wearin’ black to mourn whoever hurt Owen because you can be reassured they’ll end up dead,” Nessa says.
I look down at my own outfit. It’s nothing special. Just my usual sneaking around black attire. I’ll be the getaway car, so being dressed ready for anything, is a must. “I almost feel sorry for whoever that is,” I say.
I feel relieved to have Nessa be in charge of tonight’s mission. If there’s anyone that could look out for Owen as much as I wish I could, it’s Nessa. He’s safe in her manicured hands. As for Blake... I can only hope that where Owen is, Blake would be as well. I need both of them alive and safe.
“Meet you downstairs,” I say before leaving her.
I go down to the foyer just as Paul and Pollock come in after a walk. I crouch down to greet my slobbering pup and hug him as if my life depends on it. “You be a good boy,” I tell him before getting back up. “Make sure he’s safe while we’re out,” I tell Paul. The silent giant nods his head before he walks away.
Making sure everyone is ready, I switch on my walky-talky. “Ryan, Bryan, you two have everything you need?” I ask over the device.
“Yeah, we’re good. Xavier helped us hack into the venue’s security system so we’ll be the ultimate eyes and ears, over,” Bryan reassures me.
“Good. Keep me updating on things,” I tell them.
“Copy that, over,” they end with before I tuck my walky-talky back into the strap by my belt. I go outside where Xavier and Daniel are already waiting. Daniel will be Nessa’s date for tonight so he’s in an elegant enough suit while Xavier has an outfit more similar to mine - save for the maroon watch he has on.
“What we waiting for?” Daniel asks.
“Nessa is just finishing up. She’ll be down soon,” I reassure him.
I walk up to the limo and take the chauffeur hat and blazer that Xavier hands me.
“You sure you’ll be fine on your own?” I ask my fiance.
“Of course,” Xavier answers, “I’ll be in my car, waiting for word from Nessa and if she finds out where Owen and Blake are, I go rescue them. Are you fine with being alone? You’re the one that’ll be doing the racing if this goes badly for Nessa and Daniel.”
“Don’t you worry about my racing,” I smirk.
“Well if you drive that limo the way you drive me insane, I have no worries at all,” Xavier teases before kissing me.
“Urgh get a room,” Daniel says next to us.
“Jealous, Dany?” Xavier asks, “Didn’t I get you a blow-up doll for Christmas some time ago?”
“Oh shut up,” Daniel fires back.
But as he says it, we do shut up, because Nessa comes walking out of the front door like death incarnate. Black definitely suits her and with the dark sunglasses, she looks like a widow that just poisoned her rich husband. I’m suddenly very relieved that we have Nessa on our side.
“Let’s go cause drama,” Nessa says as she struts past us and gets into the limo.
I look over at Daniel that regains his normal functions again and quickly follows Nessa inside. With everything set and all the walky-talkies working, I give Xavier one last kiss goodbye and hold him like we might not make it back tonight.
“Please survive. At least until the wedding,” I ask him when I’m pulled back.
Xavier winks at me. “Oh I plan on staying alive until that honeymoon of ours,” he says - leaving me with a smile before he heads to his classic Ferrari.
I stare longingly after him. There’s just one more week left until we get married. There’s no way anything can stop us from getting to that point. I refuse any other outcome. More reassured, I put on my blazer and hat and go to the driver’s seat of the limo. I start the engine and make my way down the driveway and out the large gates - towards enemy territory.