Just Another Empty Threat -Bk 3

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Chapter 5

She was safe. He did one more visual sweep of the area. All those who were still living were disarmed and restrained, and all those who were dead were properly dead. Unless there was some threat about to burst through the same doors they had arrived here, the building was secure. And she was safe.

He hated this. He loathed it. It went against every instinct in his body. There was a screaming warming siren in his head that he couldn’t turn off or and was hard to ignore, but he still had no choice. Despite his better judgement and knowing that it was illogical and lacked all common sense, he still complied with her wishes.

She was safe, he reminded himself. It was almost over, and she was unharmed.

He couldn’t help but wonder if she knew his predicament. Did she realize the power she held? He tried not to dwell on it, lest it eat him alive and sour him.

He was highly aware of his situation and the knife edge he balanced on. Every move seemed to be fraught with danger. He tried to mitigate the risks but in doing so he stood the chance of making the situation worse. He needed to make her happy but that held its own consequences. He didn’t know how to do this. He needed her in his life and yet to do that he had to risk not having her in his life. It didn’t make any sense.

It was all because he knew the pain of her leaving. That pain was worse that any other that he had ever experienced, which was saying a lot. He’d suffered severe third degree burns which had taken his leg, his ear, most of his hair and face, and scarred him for life, this was far more debilitating. He’d been shot, stabbed and endured a couple of different methods of torture, but this pain was absolute. He’d felt neglect at the hands of his parents, betrayal from those he trusted most, and he’d been forced to harden his emotions just to survive, but none of that prepared him for her leaving. He knew exactly what lay ahead of him if she left again, and it wasn’t something he could bear.

His whole existence relied on her. He needed her. He’d survived her absence once, but he knew he couldn’t do that again. She’d come back to him, and with that, he’d completely lost his heart to her. He loved her so absolutely that he was acutely aware that he would not survive if parted from her again. If she died, he would have to follow her. Or worse, if she left him again, he knew she would not return a second time. He would not endure that loss a second time knowing that there was no hope.

Knowing that, the voice in his head that advocated for self-preservation demanded that she be locked in the house and never allowed out. That was the only way to ensure his continued survival. But he wasn’t stupid enough to try that again. That wasn’t love. It was his selfish need to have her secure. And it wouldn’t work.

If he was going to succeed in keeping her, he had to make her love him as much as he loved her. And to do that he needed to make her happy. This was something he had no experience in, no reference material to draw upon, and no idea how to achieve. He didn’t even know what this meant. What conditions made her happy? What did he have to do to get this right? All he’d managed to do so far was find out some of the things that made her unhappy. He was finding it frustratingly hard to try to achieve such an elusive goal.

The only way he understood to find out what pleased or displeased her was to force her to communicate with him. And, given his only relationship experience was that of his parents, this meant long and loud arguments. They screamed their unhappiness at each other. He reasoned that if he found out what she hated, then by deduction he could work out what she liked. And unlike his father, he wanted this to work so he knew to avoid the cutting replies, hurtful accusations, and spiteful comments that he had flung at his wife. Similarly, he knew he couldn’t win if he wanted to succeed. He had to embrace losing to win her love.

Thus, he was stuck. He needed to fight with her but do so with no intention of winning. He could pretend to put up an argument, try to convince her to see reason, but in the end, he had no choice but to do as she demanded. He was rendered spineless. He had to let her win every argument and have everything she desired, if he stood any chance of keeping her happy. Even if it was counter intuitive with his goal of keeping her safe.

Which was why he was in this exact situation. She should not be here. This was as far from safe as one could get. He had made a long list of all the dangers that she was in the moment that he’d been forced to agreeing to taking her into this place, and too many of those conditions he had no control over and not ability to influence. Anything from a stray bullet to a dying man’s lunge with a knife to a simple trip up and fall at the wrong moment could end her life, and there would be nothing he could do about it.

She was safe, he repeated. He couldn’t afford to be complacent, but they were through the worst of it, and she was, so far, unscathed.

But it did make him wonder that if she knew his situation, would she use it against him? He was effectively powerless against her, and it would be easy for her to manipulate that fear of his to her advantage. Being unable to risk saying no to her made him vulnerable in so many other ways too. He knew she needed him to appear a confident, strong man but his foundations were crumbling with his inability to challenge her or displease her. He didn’t know how long he would be able to keep this up and that concerned him.

However, that wasn’t a problem for right now. He looked back at her. She was standing over Luis Harbanero and was looking at her shoes. He had no idea what was at her feet, other than the dying man, but her forehead was wrinkled.

In this moment he appreciated Jose. The man might have stuck his penis into the woman he loves, but he also did a good job of protecting her. It was another contradiction though. He needed Jose to stay away from her and stay close to her. He worried that she might still find him attractive and want him sexually again. And yet, as she was distracted by whatever was on her shoes, Jose had his weapon at the ready and was combing the room for potential threats. She needed a good bodyguard and he needed to know that someone was watching her back. As much as he hated to admit it, Jose seemed like the best man for the job. And he really hated admitting that.

At that moment she looked up and smiled at him. His heart skipped a beat. He forced himself to dip his head, giving her a small nod to acknowledge her, and then he dragged his eyes off her and turned into the final room. He wanted to dash back to her. His body was pulling him in her direction, but he knew that was wrong. He had to eliminate all possible resistance, kill them all, and then he could drag her from this building and get her safely home. The more time he lingered the more chances for this go badly wrong.

He instructed his men on what documentation he needed from the offices, put a couple of bullets into the accountant who was wounded but not dead, and went to find her. She was still looking at her shoes in the same place that he’d left her. Jose hadn’t relaxed his stance either.

“What’s wrong with your feet?” he asked.

“Nothing,” she blushed as if caught thinking something she shouldn’t have been, “Are you alright?”

He liked the way her eyes scanned his body searching for any evidence of damage, and how her forehead creased with worry. It made him almost wish a bullet had grazed him, just so that she could dote on him. But he was relieved that he was uninjured. Any wound on his body might interfere with his what he now needed to do. After enduring having her in this threatening environment, he needed to have her in a way where the only threat to her safety involved too much sex.

“Come on,” he grabbed her hand, “We are leaving.”

“But Luis,” she indicated to the man on the ground wheezing blood, “He’s still alive.”

Felix lifted his pistol, fired it, and put a single bullet exactly halfway between the man’s eyebrows.

“Not anymore,” he pulled her towards the exit.

“But,” she complained as she followed him, “I thought you needed to question him? I thought the idea was to have Enrique know Cordoba did this.”

“We have everything we need from the offices,” he didn’t stop, “And trust me, Enrique will know.”

“But Felix,” she complained, “We needed him.”

“No, we didn’t,” he was looking around, “And what I need right now I can’t get from a dying man.”

He exhaled a breath when the men stationed outside gave him the nod, indicating that it was safe for them to leave. He’d worried that they would have tripped some silent alarm alerting his brother Enrique. And there was always the possibility that a well-meaning member of society would call the police. Martin would have warned them if that had happened but that didn’t mean that he was relaxed. Exiting an operation can be just as dangerous and even more dangerous, if complacent, than the initial assault.

There was a car waiting and he wasted no time in encouraging her into the back seat. He followed and was annoyed to see that Jose was joining them, taking the front passenger seat. He needed her out of there. And he didn’t need her chaperoned.

“Why are we the first to leave?” she asked, “Shouldn’t we still be there?”

“No,” Felix said firmly, “We have done what we set out to do.”

“Doesn’t being the first to leave give the wrong message to the men?” she questioned, “It will make me look weak in front of the men.”

“This is not a sight seeing trip,” Felix growled, “And the men will think what I want them to think.”

“I’m sure Jose agrees with me,” she huffed.

Jose’s neck tensed but he didn’t turn to participate in the conversation.

“Jose?” Felix growled, “Jose is your bodyguard, as per your decision, and that means his sole job is to guard your life. He doesn’t side with you or have any opinions other than those on how best to keep you alive. His job is not to come to your aid when you are not getting your way.”

“I am not a child, Felix,” she turned away from him, “Stop treating me like one.”

It took all his will power not to throw ‘stop-acting-like-one’ back at her.

“Emma,” he tried to calm himself, “We succeeded. The job is done and I trust the men to finish up. The longer we linger the higher the chances are that we will be seen by either the authorities or by someone who will talk to Enrique. The object was to implicate Cordoba. We can’t do that if Enrique knows it was me who led this, nor can we do this while incarcerated.”

“Why are you so cranky?” she huffed.

“I am not cranky,” he tried unsuccessfully not to snarl, “I did what you asked me to do and now I need to know you are safe, is that so wrong?”

“What I asked you to do?” she shook her head, “I thought this is what we’d agreed upon.”

“Emma,” he glanced at the two men in front of them who were tense and staring straight ahead, “This isn’t the place for this discussion.”

“Fine,” she tersely replied before turning back to look out the window.

The atmosphere within the car became a heavy silence in which the smallest sound became painful and cutting. He tried to keep his fear in control as he too searched the darkness for the strength to survive this trip. He couldn’t break down in front of Jose and he couldn’t give in to her and sooth her temper in front of these men. The knife he was balancing on was slicing its way to the bone.

As soon as they reached the house, she was out of the vehicle and the door was slammed. He sat there watching her go. At least she was heading inside not away from the house. He would just need to find her within the house to finish this.

“Thanks,” he said awkwardly to the men still looking forward in the front seats, “You did a good job tonight, Jose.”

The man flinched and glanced at him with unmasked confusion on his face.

He was out of the vehicle before Jose had a chance to answer him. He felt that he had to thank the man, that didn’t make them best friends or mean that he didn’t still want to castrate him. He just wanted Jose to know that he appreciated what he’d done and that he might not be thinking about killing him, right now.

He looked at the front door. He pushed himself to head towards a different battlefield. On this one he stood no chance of coming out unscathed.

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