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52. A Heart Of Gold

“Would you like me to put some music on?” Theo asked politely.

One would think that they were a happy group, driving to some fun destination. In the car, besides Emilia and Theo there was also Kendra, sitting quietly on the backseat, after he collected her from his city house.

“No” Emilia snapped.

“Is that an attitude, little rabbit?”

“If you expect me to be compliant after you blackmailed me into following you, I won’t be able to do that. Not this time”

“I see. You are still mad about that boyfriend of yours”

“Mad is not the right word”

“No, it’s not. You should be alert and frightened. That was my goal, to be honest”

“I’m sure it was. Enraged, is the first word that pops in my head nowadays”

“You have changed” he commented, appearing slightly displeased.

“I had to, don’t you think?”

“I preferred the previous version. Look how quiet and obedient my pet is. You don’t mind joining us, do you, pet?”

“I would have liked it better if you had let me bring my book along” she replied passively. “I hadn’t finished it yet”

“Oh, don’t worry. If everything goes according to plan, you will have plenty of entertainment”

At that, the woman fixed her gaze on him through the mirror but he only smirked and kept on driving.

After that point, Emilia was lost in thought. Even if the car’s doors weren’t locked, she wouldn’t attempt to leave. She would do absolutely nothing that would put her parents, sisters or friends in danger.

That, of course, didn’t mean she wasn’t afraid of her fate. Oh, there was no doubt in her mind that she would die, but it was far better than having to live with the guilt that she was responsible for the death of the people she loved. Her guilt for Miles was heavy enough already.

When the Man had called her around the middle of their trip, Theo had heard it and had pulled over and asked to see who was searching for her.

“The Man, with a capital letter” he had snorted when she showed him. “Text him, little rabbit. Tell him that you’re safe. We don’t need him to come looking for you, yet”

She had typed the message with trembling fingers. Technically, she had done exactly what she was told. Yet, she hoped that in the way she had phrased it he would immediately know she meant the opposite of what she had written.

Emilia had to hold the breath of relief that threatened to escape her, when the Man texted back, moments later.

“Good”

When Theo demanded to know what the message said, she told him. What she didn’t tell him was that the Man never bothered with answering her messages. She handed over the device at him instead, after she switched it off.

She wondered; how long would it take him to find them? Or rather get to them?

The car was nearing the estate and just for a moment she forgot the purpose of her trip here and gazed mesmerized at the lovely scenery. Since she was drugged in her initial visit, this was the first time she was seeing everything. Nobody would believe the awful things that took place amidst such beauty.

However, when they finally reached the house, she came to her senses. None of it matter. She would not see them again, anyway.

“Now what?” she asked as soon as she was in.

“Now, we wait. So you can make yourself comfortable” he said, pointing her and Kendra to the couch in the living room.

“Wait for what?” she asked as she sat. “Didn’t you bring me here to kill me?”

She wouldn’t believe in a million years that she would speak so casually about her own death, but here she was doing it, knowing full well that a grave awaited for her within the premises.

“Yes” he nodded. “But not yet. I want your death to have the desirable impact”

Out of the corner of her eyes Emilia saw Kendra from beside her, shaking her head in disappointment.

“What are you saying? What impact? You searched for me and now here I am”

“I have been searching for you or rather I made my brother did it and he betrayed me” he corrected her.

“What does that have to do with anything? I am here now. You blackmailed me with the lives of my loved ones to make me come”

“I did that yes”

“Then what are you waiting for?” she exclaimed.

“You know” he started, obviously with no intention to answer her question “the funny thing, is that you think you are doing something gallant by sacrificing yourself. In reality, what you are doing, is digging the grave of the Man who has tried his best to protect you from me”

“I don’t understand”

“Of course you don’t”

“Theo…” Kendra whispered.

“Silence” he snapped and then turned back to Emilia. “I am in the mood to enlighten you, little rabbit. But before I do, I have a question; why do you think that my dear brother is protecting you?”

“Because he’s not a psycho like you” she snorted.

The slap was swift and painful but she fought the instinctive reaction to cower back in fear, despite of feeling the blood dribbling from the side of her mouth.

“Quite the contrary” he stated calmly, fixing his cufflinks, frowning as he realized he was missing one. “There are official papers stating that Gage is mentally unstable. In fact, that was the reason of his discharge from the Army. In one operation he lost it and started shooting down his own men, killing three of them.

Of course, this isn’t widely known. To everybody else, he got an honorable discharge after getting injured and returned home like a hero. All because he is our father’s son”

That mocking tone was familiar to her. She tried to remember when she had heard it again and it didn’t take long. It was there the first time Theo had spoken to her about the Man, only more subtle. It had bothered her back then but charmed by him as she was, Emilia had brushed it off. It was also present when she had been introduced to him as well but again she had ignored it, taken aback by the Man’s rudeness that day.

“Why do you hate him?” she asked and he smiled coldly.

“Oh, we’ll get to that. But since we have time and I want to keep the suspense up I will go backwards”

“Backwards?”

“Yes. I will begin by her” he pointed to Kendra.

“Theo, please” the woman spoke again. “Don’t go through with this”

“With what, pet? Exposing you for the whore that you are? You did an excellent job on it yourself”

“You know what I am talking about. Gage is…”

“Silence” he yelled accompanying it by another slap on Emilia’s face, resuming their old routine.

As this was more forceful than the previous one, her eyes blurred and she almost slipped from the couch but gentle hands kept her upright. Kendra didn’t let go after she steadied her. She hugged Emilia by the shoulders and kissed her temple gently.

“I’m sorry” she whispered ever so softly, meant only for her to hear.

Theo’s clap made both women jump back in surprise.

“Such a sweet scene. One would easily mistake you for a loving person, pet” he sneered. “However, you may keep hugging the little rabbit. I want to see her scurrying away from you in disgust when she learns how filthy you are”

“You used to love me”

“And what did you do with it?” he spat.

He then went to sit on the armchair across from them.

“As she said” he gazed at Emilia, referring to Kendra. “I used to love her. I had told you the first night I presented you to her. It was love at first sight. For both of us, I had thought back then.

She was perfect and I knew the moment I saw her that I could never live without her. We were happy together. So happy, that we decided to get married. Yet, as it happens in our circle, a period of engagement must come first.

So, playing by the rules, we threw a glorious engagement party but it was a mutual wish to have a quiet, private wedding. Thus, we kept our wedding day a secret, giving the press a different date.

To make it more convincing, she proposed to organize a bachelor’s and bachelorette’s party a week before the fake wedding. I thought nothing of it and since I loved and trusted her blindly, I agreed.

The following day, she kissed me and when I asked her, she said that she had a wonderful time with a smile on her face. The same evening, I received an email with a video attachment, showing the woman I loved fucking with two guys in a hotel room”

He paused, his face hard and his eyes cold, fixed on Kendra’s face. The woman, had lowered her head in shame, biting her lip. Her reaction meant it was true and yes, as Theo had predicted, Emilia felt slightly disgusted but stayed, even when the other one released her.

“Tell her the bullshit you told me to defend yourself” he commanded.

“I was high” Kendra whispered her eyes brimming with tears as she looked up to her. “I have never been high in my life but I got carried away by the bachelorette act and tried it. Just once, I thought. What could go wrong? I’ll just be more energetic; I’ll dance a bit more… I… I never meant for it to happen. Even when I woke up naked, I had no recollection of the exact events.

In a way, I believed that since I couldn’t even remember the thing, it might as well not have happened. Theo was, is, the man I love and nothing else mattered. When he showed me that video, I wanted to die that very moment”

Emilia studied the woman’s face. There was no doubt that she was telling the truth nor that she had indeed regretted for her mistake. Her enduring this punishment for so long was proof enough.

“I believe you” she said, squeezing Kendra’s hand.

“The solidarity of whores” Theo mocked. “You are all the same”

“I am not” Emilia said firmly. “I have trusted you. Even when you started torturing me, for the first few days, I thought you’d come to your senses and stop. You see, a part of me was still romantic and refused to acknowledge that I had been deceived”

“You’re not as innocent as you want to pose little rabbit” he smiled.

Before she could demand to know what he meant by it, he went on with his story.

“Anyway, when I learned of her betrayal, one could say that I snapped, in some way. Not immediately. At first, I gave the announcement that our wedding was to be postponed. Then I threw her out of the house and then I… how should I put it? I broke down.

I had to be transferred to mental facility until I was better and Gage was notified. It took him one week to come. It was after his discharge and he had all the time in the world, but he still waited for a fucking week.

When he came, I pleaded with him to get me out of there, after I told him everything that had happened between me and her. Initially, he refused, telling me that I needed help to recover.

I told him that I was afraid of mental homes. Besides, I would lose my credibility if it became known that I was ever in one and the doctors had said I had to stay at least two months.

“What am I to do, then, Theo? Stay in your place?” he had asked.

“Yes!” I replied and explained what I had in mind.

Gage would stay, posing as me and I would go out”

“And he accepted?” Emilia gaped astonished.

“Yes. Not without effort, but yes, he did. You see, back then he still thought I was weaker than him. That I needed his protection and support. But the plan I gave him wasn’t the real one I had conceived. As soon as I was out, I made sure to change my name with his in the hospital records”

“Why?”

“Haven’t you wondered, why my brother, goes along with what I do?”

She didn’t reply.

“No? When this all started and the first girl was gone, he told me he didn’t want any part in it. That if I wanted to keep doing it, I would be alone. All I had to do, was simply remind him that out of the two of us, he was the one with an insanity history that included murder. Just like I did with the hospital records I could pin every crime of mine on him with undoubtable proof.

I hold his life in my palm. I can crush it anytime I please”

“Why on earth would you want to do that?” Emilia asked, although the answer was pretty clear.

“I dislike him” he simply said. “Ever since we were children. Our father loved him while he despised me because he was tricked by my mother I to fathering me and marrying her. Not that she ever loved me, but she was a vile woman; she only loved herself and money.

But our father doted on Gage. He was his pride and joy. A lovechild.

My brother was the only one who treated me nicely and I resented him for it. He always gave me his toys, always granted my wishes because he saw that nobody cared for me and felt guilty for being the reason.

A heart of gold, he had. A fucking heart of gold. Big, strong, kind and how easily he gave up his birthright, so I would get what ought to be his”

Emilia had never heard anyone speak with such a mix of disgust and self pride in his voice. He really loathed his brother but still this didn’t explain nor justify his obsession with her.

“What does that have to do with me?”

“Everything. I can’t allow him to be happy when I’m ruined. So, it’s basically, two birds with one stone. I take whom he loves and deprive him of his freedom, letting him rot in the looney bin, paying for my Rebbecas”

“But who…”

“Well, you, of course, little rabbit” he cut her off impatiently. “You”

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