The Angel,The Devil,The Nerd

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Chapter 63 - Fair Enough

a/n: sooo...I don't know how many chapters are left,but the end is near,hehe :D

let me know what you think :)

p.s. there's an...inedited POV here :P

CHAPTER 63 - FAIR ENOUGH

ERIC'S POV

I'd just convinced Natalie to go have some rest, so she'd just left, well, after we'd lingered in a few more of our moments, almost unable to part our lips, needing the contact with each other as much as we could, with view to such an empty future, which had her also complain that she'd been remaining on the chair beside me till now, she may as well do the same, so that we could exploit every single moment available, but I argued that she couldn't leave Noah alone tonight too, she retorted she didn't want to leave me alone either, to which I half chuckled, pointing out that I'm a grown man, I can remain alone, she didn't reply, just ogled my injuries, so I added that, if anything, I had nurses to call if I didn't feel well, there was no need for her to stress that much.

In the end, she agreed, but promising to be back in the early morning, after all, she said, Noah wakes up early too and she was certain he'd first of all want to come here. I retained myself from asking if she was changing her mind about telling him the truth about me, conscious that she might do exactly that, which could only be hurtful for the kid, so I resorted to simply giving her a small smile and we parted, me watching her walk through the hall, at least till I heard a knock on my door.

Confused, I welcomed whoever it was, part of my trained senses already in alarm, though a hitman wouldn't knock, informing me about his presence, would he? In fact, the sight that welcomed me was completely different, though I can't say I wasn't expecting this visit.

"Hello." The dark blonde man in his thirties greeted as he came in, closing the door behind him. Now that I took a better look at him, he seemed more than fit, actually, I'd dare say that if he wasn't in any military force, he's surely used to fighting. You see, in my line of work, you learn to spot the right person in the middle of a crowd, to read someone and presume his nature just by perusing him for a few seconds.

It's kind of like Sherlock Holmes' deduction theory, though much less romanced. I mean, knowing your enemy is the first step to winning the war, so every operative needs to have a very careful eye that would allow him to spot a killer among white collars, so I've been taught to spot the poisonous flower among roses, to perceive people's characters from afar, nothing too deep, but enough to let me have the upper hand.

Hence, I could clearly see that the man in front of me wasn't exactly common. Actually, he struck me as someone with a past that might be just as dark as mine. To a distracted eye, his commonly North-American features, only slightly harsher and definitely more aged than mine, being, as I suppose he is, at least 10 years older than I, the only peculiar aspect being the hazel-green of his eyes, not truly common around here, especially not that shade, all of this wouldn't really catch attention, well, except for the female one, I guess, but to a trained eye like mine ... the man hid something, maybe something buried in his past that doesn't hinder his present, not much anyway, but he did give me the idea of being more than what the eye met. There was something in his stance, something that might have not reeked of military service, but certainly he wasn't ordinary.

Anyway, I was sitting up as he came closer to the bed, perusing me with a careful eye just as much as I was to him. Natalie once mentioned that me and him might have some traits in common, apart from being both blonde, tall and well-built, that is, though she told me this when she first told me about him years ago, so she didn't know details, just that there was something in his past that wasn't all too cheery.

He gave me a tight smile as he stretched his hand to introduce himself: "Nice to finally meet you, Eric. I'm Jake. Natalie's cousin."

I barely nodded, not even shaking his hand, so he retrieved it, stuffing them in his pockets as he gave me another tight smile. I can already tell he doesn't really like me, does he? It's fair, I guess. In his eyes, I'm that jackass that hurt his cousin so much.

"Natalie just left." I informed him, just to say something, but he nodded, pointing out: "Yeah, I know. That's why I came. I figured we'd need some privacy."

I arched an eyebrow at him, confused. Privacy? Oh. "Let me guess, you're gonna warn me not to hurt her more? You got it wrong, buddy, I ..."

"I know you'd never want to hurt her, Eric." He paused, though starting to pace around the room, hands always stuffed in his pockets. "Actually, I know you've sacrificed your own dreams to protect her, which, believe me, I can understand all too well."

I frowned, better perusing him as I better adjusted myself on bed while he kept pacing around the room, as if he was reckoning it, which is what a military would do, but I guess he was doing that just because, no reason behind it ... maybe. God, my damn job has made me even more paranoid.

Speaking of which, I haven't even seen my partner. Last time I saw Heather, she was trying to keep me awake after I'd been shot to cover her, but Kyle told me she was here too, healing from her wounds, yet when he went to her to tell her I was awake, she was gone.

It's typical of her, doesn't stand emotional moments, I bet she returned to the base, but I just wish she'd left a trace or something, just to let me know she's fine. I know she can take care of herself all too well, in these years she's become even deadlier, but still, we're friends more than just partners, I am allowed to worry about her, aren't I? I thought I'd call my boss to know about her as soon as Natalie left, but now here I was, waiting for her cousin to spout the toad.

Jake turned to me, hands always stuffed in his pockets, standing at the end of the bed, and explained that he knows all too well how it feels like to sacrifice your own heart for the sake of your beloved one: "There was a time when I thought I didn't deserve my wife either, hell, I'm still perfectly aware that she's much beyond my league, but ... that doesn't mean we can't be together."

Interesting, really, but I highly doubt we can relate, not entirely anyway, yet he proved me wrong: "You and I both know what it's like to face demons much bigger than us, Eric. And we both have been lucky enough to find that one person that saved us." He let out a sigh as he leaned his hands on the balustrade of the bed, watching me carefully.

I would have wanted to argue he has no right to inquire on our story, but he's practically a brother to my Natalie, so I guess I should at least listen to him, especially considering that he seems to know everything already. Hence, I only leaned against the pillows, to rest my back that damn hurts. Jeez, I'm a freaking wreck.

"Now the thing is, I've let Silvia ... fix me, so to speak, but you, on the other hand, have picked the opposite direction. And that's about the only difference between us, I think."

I frowned, arguing: "You didn't have a whole bunch of scumbags wanting your head, Jake. I don't know what was your problem, but sure as hell we can't relate."

"You think?" He scoffed, cracking a small smirk as he clasped his hands together, leaning in. "Eric, tell me, what have you done in these seven years?"

My frown deepened. Like I could even tell him. I haven't told Natalie, why would I tell him? The jobs I did are secreted, it's obvious that I can't talk about them, I pointed out, but Jake smirked wider as he argued he didn't want to know the details, just the general lines, namely, in what consisted my job exactly.

Reluctantly, I briefly explained as best as I could, but without giving any kind of detail, considering that our peculiar organization might not be secret service, but it's certainly as secret as CIA and things like that, if not even more, considering we're not even entirely legalized.

Once I was done, Jake nodded, then asking about the other part of my life, the one I never told Natalie. I argued that I never talk about that and I was about to do it with his cousin, who's the only one I'll tell, considering it's not necessary for everybody to know what a shitty life I've led, but he retorted that Natalie would tell him anyway, be it only because he'd push her and I gave him a dirty look he smirked at.

"Eric, let's make it clear." Jake stated, staring straight into my eyes, in a business-like tone. "Natalie is a sister to me. She's my family. And I take it very seriously when it comes to protecting my family."

That sounded like a threat, but I let him keep going: "Don't take it wrong, I'm not here to give you the speech. But I care for Natalie and I want her happy, something she hasn't been able to be fully these years, not even after she got Noah. And it's only because she misses you in her life. We can agree to that, can't we?"

I nodded, though only because he was staring at me, expecting a precise answer, so he nodded too and went on talking, explaining that: "I know as well as she does that you left for her own good, but it hurt her nevertheless."

"I had no other choice."

"And that's where you're wrong." I frowned as he held up his index finger, like a teacher, which irked me already. Who does he think he is to come here and talk about my life as if he knew it? Sure, dad too wondered if I really had to do what I did, when I explained him why did I leave, but he's my damn father, this guy is a stranger, he has no right to inquire on my life. Then again, he's like a brother to Natalie, so I guess I'll have to listen. It can't hurt, can it?

"You know, Eric, my wife had a car accident seven years ago." I frowned, confused as to why did he change subject all of a sudden, but he knew where he was headed, I guess, so I let him talk, though I did notice his features getting gloomy at the memory.

"She was on a coma, just like you. And I did the exact same for her as Natalie did for you. I kind of got sick while watching over the one and only love of my life." I nodded, but only because he paused, as if to be sure I was listening. "When she woke up, Silvia didn't remember anything. She'd practically deleted two years of her life. She'd deleted me and our love from her memory."

Ok, that's tough, I'll give you that. Jake sighed, lowering his head, I guess the memory being all but pleasant for him, which is perfectly understandable.

"It's not really ... nice to look at the one and only girl you love and see nothing but confusion in her eyes, it's not good for a lovesick heart to be sure she doesn't have the slightest idea about who you are while you're there, foolishly in love with her. And if you add that even in her haze, she remembers her ex but not you, you can understand. I mean, you and I can relate at least for when it comes to being two lovesick fools for our girls, can't we?" I nodded again, though this time more convinced. I guess he's right, there are common traits between us.

As he explained, we've both lived through darkness, we both have or used to have demons deep inside us that caused us to hurt even those people we cared for. I would have argued that was more him than I, but it wasn't entirely wrong, I mean, after all I did hurt people with my stunts.

He didn't give me details, but mentioned that, before meeting the one who's now his wife, he'd been down the deepest gutter, had done very bad things he's never forgiven himself for, just like me, he's faced death more than once, but the difference his, mine was, he assumed, involuntary and forced, his was ... just unconscious.

He never openly let himself acknowledge he craved the ultimate end, but he did seek it, even if indirectly, better said, he sought the most dangerous and chaotic experiences that would make him feel alive by bringing him closer and closer to the grave.

"The funny fact is that right when I didn't seek it, I went as closer as ever to it." Jake told me, recounting me of an accident he had with his motorcycle years ago, which didn't cause him a coma, but gave him a cranial trauma nevertheless.

Sighing, he admitted: "My wife doesn't know, nobody except for my best friend knows, but the surgery I went through, it saved my life, yes, but it also inevitably damaged my brain. Nothing much, I just ... lose sense of direction sometimes. That's all. It's no big deal, but I didn't tell my wife, not to worry her, so she doesn't know that I'm almost always using the GPS only to avoid getting lost in such a familiar city as Boston is for me."

I blinked my eyes, dumbfounded, but he kept going: "That's not the point, though." He passed a hand over his face, restarting to pace the room, though he stopped to face me as he spoke: "The point is, Silvia didn't remember anything about me, but it was temporary, though I didn't know it was, so ... I disappeared from her life, not wanting her to regain her memories of me."

I frowned. "Why would you do that?"

He sighed, once more leaning on the balustrade of the bed, hands clasped together, gazing at the sheets, seemingly lost in thought for a long moment before replying: "I blamed myself for what happened to her."

Well, ok, that took me off guard, but he wasn't done talking: "I always thought that with my past, with my demons, I could only hurt her, and when she had that accident and she ... miscarried, I thought that was only the demonstration."

"Of what?"

He looked up at me, dead serious. "Of the fact that I was a curse for her. That accident was a reminder of how entering her life had been an awful and selfish idea. It was only the demonstration that she'd be better off without me ... does it sound familiar?"

My mouth hung open at the surprise and I had no idea what to reply. I mean, I did the exact same as he did, just in a more chaotic and permanent way. Sure, his story isn't parallel to mine, but there's no doubt we can relate. I guess that's what Natalie meant when she mentioned she thought her cousin and I were kind of alike.

Jake went on telling me that his plans were spoiled because his wife had recovered all her memories and she faced him, angered, because he'd left without a word, but ... "More importantly, Silvia made me realize that we were meant to be together. Better said, she confirmed me that while she'd been uncertain for a moment, she knew she was destined to me, and when I admitted I feared hurting her, she quite simply retorted that it was inevitable. It's part of life. We all get hurt at some point."

He cracked a bitter smile as he apparently reminisced something, in fact: "In the beginning of our thing, it was her to hurt me, she reminded me. Actually, she pointed out that she'd been the selfish one between us, but she had no idea what I hid behind the label of "just past". Yet even when I told her, she was understanding. I always feared she'd leave me, but she stayed. She endured everything with me. Because I gave her a chance to choose."

Ok, now I saw where was he going. Actually, if I hadn't been sure about it, I would have even thought he'd eavesdropped me and Natalie talking about it. Well, more like Natalie telling me off for my having been selfish, as she put it, but whatever. Maybe she's right, I should have given her a choice, but how could I ever ask her to leave everything for me?

She had dreams and ambitions, she's always been so smart and amazing, I was sure she'd have a bright future, which was true, I mean, as she told me, she's co-director of the publishing house she started working for only four years ago, she graduated in advance in History and Literature, she even published books ... in a word, she's been having great success professionally, and I knew she would, because she's made for that.

But if I'd remained with her, we would have had to be on the run, I'd have spoiled her every chance at a bright career. Maybe I was indeed selfish, but only because I knew she might decide to follow me, and I couldn't let her spoil her life like that. Not for me.

"I let my wife be the savior I needed. Since Silvia entered my life, I changed. Be it only because I felt the strong urge to be a better man, only for her." Jake admitted, I would have sworn, with a brighter smile caused by the thought of his wife. He must love her deeply. Well, he admitted that. That's where we can relate more, as he said. We're both lovesick fools when it comes to our girls.

Letting myself half smile, I stared at my hands on my lap as I admitted: "Ever since Natalie entered my life, I found light."

I looked up at him, serious, though with a hint of a smile, the one my princess always causes to erupt, even though, in these years it's been very much bittersweet, because of the mix of memories and nostalgia.

"Actually, she's always been the only light in the middle of all that darkness my life was surrounded with. If I kept fighting, it's only because I thought of her. She was my reason to keep going." I admitted and Jake gave me a full smile as he nodded, admitting he knew all too well what it felt like: if he'd resisted, it was only because he forced himself to think that his sister needed him. So we both have the same weak point: our girls.

Hence ... "You can understand why do I have to leave again." I stated, returning serious. "There are people that want me dead, no matter what, and if I stay, they're gonna target Natalie, not to mention Noah. I've screwed up their lives once, I can't do it again."

Jake nodded, seemingly understanding, as he came to sit at the edge of bed, arms crossed, his expression serious, gazing at the floor as he asked for details. I argued I'm not allowed to divulge such things, but he once more pointed out he didn't want details about the jobs I've done, just about these people that want my head.

I protested that it was better not to know, for anybody, but he argued that: "Eric, if you trust me, I can help. But you gotta tell me everything."

"Why should I trust you?"

"Because Natalie does."

Ugh. That's a blow below the belt. Of course, if she trusts him, I can't doubt about his intentions, well, I could, but then he pointed out that if I tell him everything, he might be able to help me stay with Natalie and our son, I argued that no one can, but Jake grinned impishly as he admitted he might just have the right resources and know the right people.

I frowned, confused, so he reminded me of how big his company is and that there's this friend of his and Natalie's that's even more furnished when it comes to useful resources, so they might be able to help. I gotta collaborate, though.

Maybe I was blinded by the distant chance of things being settled by this deus ex machina, maybe it was the guy's secure stance to deceive me, but I let myself believe that maybe, just maybe, there could be a solution to this never-ending spiral, so, inhaling deeply, I better leaned my back against the pillows and started talking.

***

JAKE'S POV

I listened carefully to everything Eric had to tell me, kind of feeling like a priest listening to a confession, and too mental notes about every single name he gave me. He started from his remote past, telling me about how his stepfather abused him and tortured him, which was just the tip of the iceberg, because the guy apparently was part of a vast and sustained criminal organization Eric, going undercover for FBI, was able to dismantle in a few years. And he was only a teenager.

But that was nothing. His stepfather was only a small fish, there were bigger sharks in that sea and those got just a little bit pissed when they lost their guinea pig. You see, Eric's stepfather was useful because he was responsible for laundering their money and selling their shit to unconscious people, losing his branch of the organization, they lost many, many millions. That's why they've been so adamant on having Eric's head on a silver plate. He said he was able to bring down part of them, but there are still some left, not to mention there are other bad guys he pissed with this job he's been doing these years.

Most of all, there's this ... Armorer, from Chicago, embedded in the illegal gun trade. Eric treaded on his toes when he made him lose 27 millions, by posing as transporter, replacing the guy that he'd been sent to help.

Eric admitted that was one of a very few good missions he was sent to accomplish, considering that his boss was hired by the usual transporter's sister, who'd been contacted by her brother because of doubts he had about what was he transporting; said he was sure the thing stank, but the woman was able to convince him not to do anything, waiting for someone competent to intervene, though not police, because it'd be only worse, and because the woman had heard about this ... peculiar organization, she called them, so Eric and his old partner were sent.

They were only supposed to save the guy, but Eric went out of his way and dumped the truck with the guns. He justified it as payback. For what, he didn't want to tell, claiming it was too personal, though he did mention it had to do with his old partner.

Now, it's been five years but this Armorer guy is still after him. And that's just the most aggressive one. There are at least other three or four resourceful criminals he pissed off with his job and that now want revenge. Two of those, his boss sent them off track, so in the end we've got three very bad guys after him, plus one highlander from his stepfather's organization.

It's worse than I thought, I'll admit, but I don't to be negative. Maybe we can do something about it. I mean, come on, I don't have all this damn money for nothing, have I? And I guess that, if things really go south, that's one last chance that's called Dimitri. The guy doesn't like me and I don't like him, he responds to my uncle, not to me, and I never liked his methods, so I'd rather not involve him, but if I have to, I will. It's for Natalie's sake after all.

I'll admit that in the beginning I was willing to help Eric only because for my cousin's and her son's sake, because she loves the guy and couldn't endure another wave of depression if he was to leave this world for real, Noah too needs his father, but as I talked to him, I realized that Eric isn't really much different from me. One might think he made all the wrong choices by thinking he had to face his war all alone, but I can fully understand the will of taking everything on his shoulders not to risk hurting the people he loves.

So I can understand him and I can relate, that's why I don't blame him anymore. He seems to be a great guy, was just caught up in the wrong world. He's suffered even too much, it's only due that I try my best to help him out of this mess. But ... I'm gonna need support.

Hence, once I'd heard the whole story, I nodded and promised to do my best, but then excused myself and went out of the room to make a phone call. It's midnight here, so there it must be 2 am, but I can't do else. So, reaching the vending machine, I listened to the phone ringing, till he picked it up: "Grant."

He answered a bit groggily, which had me half grin, though I apologized: "Hey, man, sorry about the late hour, but I need your assistance for something big."

I heard him shuffling, he probably sat up on bed, just hope I didn't wake up his wife too. I've met them four years ago, since Natalie moved to New York, and they've been great with her, Sam has been an amazing boss and an incredible friend for my cousin, her husband too, I knew about him because my uncle had some business with him years ago, when Lukas' company was at its dawn, and uncle Keith, who's normally not at all easy to get along with, told me great things about the guy, which I could confirm by myself when I met him in person.

We've even been tightening the bonds our companies have, though while both our board councils kind of throw there the idea now and then, we're never gonna merge the two, be it only because, for respect to my grandpa, I ought to keep the Watson Enterprises just the way they are. Better said, I can engorge the company and everything, but it has to remain in the hands of my family.

Although, if Silvia is right and there's this ... peculiar sympathy between Richie Grant and our Leanne, I guess the two families will merge at some point. For me and Lukas it's a bit silly, they're just kids, but our wives like to think it that way, so why should we contradict them? Also considering that my wife's an angel, yeah, but really, she's not at all nice when mad, you know.

"Jake? What's wrong?" Lukas asked me, his voice a bit more awake, though I could hear Sam in the background asking the same to him, but he didn't reply, so I gave him my explanation: "It's about Natalie."

"Natalie? What is it? Is she okay?" You understand why I like this guy and we've become such good friends? He's been treating my cousin like family since always, just like his wife has, and now I could hear the anxiety in his voice at the mere mention of something wrong concerning our Natalie.

In the background I could hear some more shuffling and then Sam's voice panicky asking what happened to my cousin, so I calmed them down: "She's fine, don't worry. It's about that issue of hers ..."

Yeah, ok, it's not exactly nice to talk about Eric as an "issue" to solve, but in these years we've been avoiding to say his name in front of Natalie or Noah, to avoid her the painful reminder and to avoid the kid asking questions. So it's common usage, therefore Lukas got me all too well: "Ok. What is it?"

I explained him everything about Eric and the people wanting him dead, giving him all the details the boy gave me, and Lukas agreed with me that we need to do something, be it only for our Natalie's sake, not to mention Noah. They both need to have their Eric back after all.

And the guy himself has been through too much even, my own troubles mixed with the ones Lukas went through for his wife's sake being nothing compared. Well, after all we never had multiple dangerous criminals after us. I just happened to be born under an unfortunate star and Lukas, well, poor Sam, fate didn't exactly play nice with her either.

You know, if I think about it, I can't help but get the idea that everyone in our group has been through troubles, smaller or bigger, but we all have, and I guess that's one thing that strengthens our bond too. Although, truth to be told, if I've gained a friend such as Lukas, it's via Natalie. I mean, like I said, I met him and his wife because my cousin came to work for Sam and they became friends.

Then there's the other Lukas and his Tara, they're younger eggs, along with Natalie, but they've had their share of pain as well, not as enhanced as ours, honestly, but they have. I mean, take me, my family was cursed since the beginning, and my wife ... well, let's just say Silvia had a good reason to escape from Italy, just like Sam had, the only difference is that, lucky for us, Silvia's demon didn't pop up from nowhere to ruin her new life.

Well, he didn't because he couldn't ... long story. Just know that I don't go nicely on people that mess with my beloved ones, and my wife has always been a very raw nerve since I met her, just as much as my sister, and now I also have our kids to worry about.

Ah, Leanne and Mike are the best that could happen to us, I swear. Well, I can say the same about my angel, Silvia, but since they came into our lives, I don't know, they only made it better.

Anyway, Lukas agreed with me that we need to take action, as soon as possible, so first of all he proposed we recollect all the information necessary. I offered to do that myself, after all, from Denver to Chicago, it's nothing, if we wanna start from the bigger fish, but Lukas, being the calm and posed strategist he is, especially if compared to the hot-heads me and the other Lukas are or have been, assured me he had a quicker way to gain what we needed, so he hung up, saying he'd call me as soon as he had news.

LUKAS GRANT'S POV

As soon as I hung up, I dialed a precise number, knowing exactly what to do, but before I could, Sam pressed me to know what was all the matter.

I was a bit reluctant about telling her, I mean, first, these are very delicate things that have to be kept as secret as possible, the least people know, the better, then ... well, given her conditions, I didn't want to upset her, but of course, my lovely wife gave me a disbelieving look as she pointed out: "It's been seven years and nothing's changed, Grant. You still awfully suck at lying."

I half smiled. "Look who's talking."

She only snorted, crossing her arms over her chest, already getting mad. Oh, Jeez, we've been through this twice and I still can't get used to her mood swings, I swear. And they seem to get always worse. I guess it was a good idea after all kind of ... eliminating the chance to restart all over again for a fourth time. We can afford it, yeah, but neither do we want a soccer team to be invading our house, as Sam put it. The vasectomy was pretty painful, though, I can't deny, but worse would have been facing my angered wife, believe me.

In this Jake and I can relate, we both have proud and very ... not so angelic wives when they get pissed. We joke that it's their Italian DNA to cause that, which always gains us such a glare that doesn't really keep us from laughing, but has us need to mend before Hell breaks loose. Well, marriage isn't always all roses after all, is it?

Anyway, to calm down the dragon my adorable wife turns into when she's pregnant, because of her moods, I snaked my arm around her, placing a kiss on her cheek as I cooed that I just didn't want to upset her, but she reminded me that it was about her dear friend Natalie, so she needed to know, besides: "When will you realize I'm no fragile kitten? I can handle a bit of stress."

I rolled my eyes, slightly pulling back, but pointing out that: "You're entering the fifth month, you need to avoid stress as much as possible. Your doctor agrees."

She snorted, pointing out that taking care of our children isn't exactly devoid of stress, but I bit my tongue not to restart the argument about, one, hiring a full time babysitter, two, about her doing too much overtime lately. God, you can't imagine how stubborn my Sammy is. But, it's part of that amazing mix I've been loving since years and will never quit, so ... well, I can only budge more often. Especially because, I've learned, it's not really sane to contradict a pregnant woman.

Hence, even if reluctantly, I explained her the situation, but leaving out names, just to keep a bit of safety. These are really bad guys, it's not safe even to know their names.

Once she knew, Sam asked what would we do, so I told her about Jake and I taking care of it and she wanted to be updated, better said, she made me swear I wouldn't keep her out of this. Once I agreed, I finally got to make that phone call.

"I hope you've got one hell of a reason, Billy Boy." He grumbled as soon as he took the call.

I could hear female voices in the background, so I can only guess ... "Uh ... sorry if I spoiled your threesome, Vince, but I need your assistance."

In response, he growled: "Can't it wait till morning?"

"No, it's a pressing matter."

He snorted, arguing: "It always is with you."

I half smiled. I owe him much, but he keeps reminding me that he owes me his life, so his debt will never be paid off and he's willing to do everything and beyond if I only ask. Don't worry, I've never asked him to do anything bad, everything he ever did for me was always on the edge of legality.

Well, except for the issue that concerned my wife, but that's past. It's been seven years, we've all moved on. Sam and I are happily married, we have our children and she's expecting our fourth bundle of joy, my company goes with flying colors, same goes for her publishing house ... we seriously couldn't be happier, also having such a great group of friends.

Though I haven't forgotten about the old ones: I still see both Kayla and Drew, especially considering they got married only three months ago. It wasn't that much of a surprise when my best friend came up to me and admitted she was in love with my vice, even while having been, all her life, a convinced lesbian. I only pushed her into his arms, perfectly knowing he was in deep for her. And I was right.

But anyway, Vince is an old friend, he has been by my side for years, since I saved his life, and every time I need help in a ... let's say not entirely legal matter, I call him. Lewis still doesn't quite agree, but we manage. I know I can trust Vince, well, François, as only Sam and I know him, blindly, he'd never betray me. Hence, I know I can entrust him with such a delicate mission.

I gave him a very brief explanation and asked him to collect info about this Armorer and some others. He surprised me, though, saying he already knew everything and would send me his file in the early morning.

"But why are you interested?" He asked me. "Don't tell me you've decided to deviate in the end." He mocked and I rolled my eyes, though gazing at my wife, who was still there, intently listening.

Ah, if she knew I've been having Vince tail her since a couple of weeks ... don't worry, it's not because I don't trust her, it's only because I've been much busy and Lewis was always with me, but since I've received some minatory letters, nothing out of the ordinary, a company like mine can't be appreciated by everybody, so being worried about her wellbeing, I've put a body guard on her tow, without telling her because I know she wouldn't agree.

I told Vince about the reason why I needed such info and he took me off guard by laughing out loud. "You kidding, right? I don't know if anybody knows his real name, but there's a pretty juicy bounty on a John Riley's head." Vince told me.

I frowned. Now that's a complication. "How much?" I asked. "20 million dollars, no less. The kid's pissed off the wrong people. For as much as I know, the Armorer is the one that put the bounty, and he wants him dead, though there's a 10 million bonus if you catch the guy alive. So maybe he's lucky."

I reproached my friend for such thoughts, especially as he defended by saying he'd thought about joining the hunt as well, though he then mended by saying that he knew his billionaire friend would be disappointed, so he didn't accept his pal's offer about splitting the bounty.

This bounty complicates the things, though. It's gonna take much more than I thought. But ... if we put together my and Jake's resources and acquaintances, we can see to fix this problem, I'm sure. If everything goes south, the kid can always start a new life out of the country, maybe Europe, or why not, Australia. With Natalie and their son, obvious. We're going through such lengths to keep the three together after all, not just to save the kid.

But ... we'll see not to reach such extremes. There's really nothing that the right amount of money can't achieve, believe me. Both Jake and I are gonna need to soil our hands, though. Well, fair enough. For a friend like Natalie, this and beyond.

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