“Oh my God, this place magnificent!” I gasped as I entered into the programmed sliding door.
The living room was the first thing I saw when I stepped into the penthouse. The floor space was ridiculously massive. It was ravishing before my eyes. It was so unlike Brandon’s traditional mansion in Manhattan.
The interior looked exquisite and rare because I first thought of a spacecraft—with all the modernity, but all were in accord because of its beautiful architecture and landscapes. I had never been into such a house as this. The walls had curves and shapes as you will only see in an exhibition hall. The gigantic glass walls were very futuristic. From the inside, there was a stunning view of the ocean.
The furniture was just right for the modern house. It wasn’t dark colored like the one he had in his home. It doesn’t have purple draperies but beautiful floral portraits. It was his mother’s villa after all, though it didn’t look like just a villa to me, another man or his family owns. I immediately thought that his mother was a bright and warm person.
Brandon walked to the enormous glass door and stood there, releasing a breath of relief. I noticed the circular stairs that lead to the second floor where John went holding our luggage.
“This place was very different compared to yours,” I said in all honesty. He stood next to me as I stare at the limitless seawater. A smile curved on the side of his lips.
“My mother initially built this for us, her children, so we could live here when we’re older and have a family.” He explained, with his eyes also set in the view.
“Here… It is breathtaking,” I murmured.
“You haven’t seen the whole house yet,” he chuckled. “The bedroom was exquisite, too.”
I laughed softly, “Don’t start with the bedroom.” I looked up at him, smiling meaningfully. “Shall we have brunch, now? I’m famished.”
“Of course. Come. I’ll show you the dining area.” Brandon held my hand and lead the way to another automatic opening glass door.
The dining room was also breathtaking, what did I expect? The architecture was brilliant. The interiors were also made of fiberglass which I could still saw the other side from where I was standing, a couple of small pots of florae placed by the edge to edge sliding window. The chandeliers looked like white umbrellas and there was a long oval shaped marble-white table in the middle with sixteen chairs.
Our brunch was already set on the table. I didn’t notice any housekeeper around, but from the looks of the setting, it seemed to had been prepared several minutes ago. There were toast, eggs, pancakes, slices of assorted fruits, bacon, sausages, and then there was the pitcher of orange juice. It was even attractively arranged on the table.
“Brandon, why don’t you just live here? This place has more privacy and the place is in fact delightful. You won’t see a single person around. You are going to live just like Iron Man in this kind of house,” I said.
He lowered his face. “Hmm, that is a tempting idea, Alayna, but I have a lot of memories here—of my mother and my sister and I’m not ready yet. I wanted to cure myself first and deal with everything before I settle down,” he clarified in all seriousness. “The reason why I brought you here is that I wanted to discuss an important matter with you and I want to show you who I am.”
I looked at his masked face. “We have a long day and I also wanted to spend time with Oliver and Betty. Afterward, we can have each other again for ourselves. Can we just—just eat first before we start with the real drama?” I was nervous about what he said about the ‘important matter’, but I was utterly aware that there was something behind it. He had been silent the entire time.
He chuckled. “Of course.”
We sat in front of the food. I chose eggs and pancakes then Brandon poured me a glass of juice. I didn’t want to ask Brandon during a meal, but I was really, really curious about what he meant by the real him.
I watched him as he ate his bacon and toast and how observed fascinating he was how he chewed his food. Brandon was obviously handsome even it was the only half of his face.
“What?” he stopped.
“You’re not aware how handsome you are, aren’t you?” I rested my chin on my palm, gawking at him.
He smirked. “Of course, I was. I was aware, until this,” he pointed his masked side face. He continued to eat.
“Are you ever going to tell me what happened?” I asked. I was dying of curiousness. I wanted to know him deeper. I knew it wasn’t proper to ask him about it over a meal, but I couldn’t help myself not to find out more about him. Sure I knew tad things about him—stories that came from his cousins but none from him. I wanted to know his side of the story.
I ate the last spoonful of my pancake like it wasn’t a biggie. I was waiting for him to answer. All I heard was his heavy exhalations.
“Are you finish?” he asked, looking at my empty plate soaked in maple syrup.
I nodded, “Yeah. I’ll just drink my juice.”
“Then hurry. Let’s go back to the living room.” He drank a glass of water straight, wiped his mouth with a napkin then placed it back beside his plate. He stood.
“Hey, you’re not done yet.” I noticed a small piece of bacon on his plate.
“I’m full. Come on.” He invited.
I drank my juice fast and wiped my mouth with the napkin as well, then I held his hand again, entwining our fingers. We went back to the living room. He pulled me gently to him and sat on the couch. I sat beside him. Our fingers were still locked.
“Hmm... You want to talk about what happened to me?” he asked, almost a whisper.
“You see, Alayna, I told you that this is one of the reasons why we are here.”
“So, you’re going to tell me now?”
Alright, woo!” I blew out an air. “Right now?”
“You asked me to tell you, yes.”
Okay, he was serious. He was finally going to tell me. Where should we start? Where should we start? Where should we start? I bit my lip nervously.
Brandon chuckled softly. “Alayna, I am the one who’s going to tell a story.”
All right, he seemed relaxed and ready. I think I need to calm myself. “Uh…” I laughed nervously. “Okay, how are we going to start?”
“With the root of all, I guess.” He shrugged, his expression changed. His face turned serious.
“Root? What root?”
“It was greed, Alayna. No one has ever wanted me in the family, except for Oliver’s family and my grandparents.” He began.
Okay, I guess that’s the cue. I thought I somewhat heard that part of the story from Casey, but I decided to remain silent.
“Hmm, why not?”
“I’m the threat to the Katrakis family. Everything you see and everything I have is because of this.” He pointed his temple with his forefinger. “I still haven’t got anything from my mother’s inheritance except the mansion in Manhattan and this villa. I wanted to take care of it.”
“Wait. All your wealth is not from the Katrakis?”
“Yes, everything is my sole property, Alayna. It was my sweat and blood. I worked hard to get all of it, in that room I showed you. I worked there day and night. Grethe and Elga Enterprises is all mine among the group of companies. Oliver said that my property is even bigger than my family’s.” He let out a rough breath, his eyebrows furrowed, his temples were beginning to sweat.
“So, what is it about the properties? Is that their reason
“The Katrakis family consists of twenty-one families with grandsons and granddaughters, cousins, nieces, nephews. All of them are dependent on the Katrakis wealth, except mine and Oliver’s.”
I didn’t want to tell him that I knew a little because of Casey, but I didn’t want to show him that I had a little knowledge so I still had to ask. “Wait, what does your family have to do with all of this?”
“Because they did this to me, because of their greed. I lost my life and it’s because of them, most of them. I cannot think of other people who could kill my family and me.” There was tightness in his words already. He was in deep pain but he was willing to share it with me. It must be so hard for him to remember everything. I squeezed his hand tighter.
“Your Katrakis family killed you?” I whispered but in surprise. “Why? Why would they do that? You don’t have your mother’s inheritance just like you said.”
“I worked hard as a software engineer, programmer, and developer in that room I showed you, Alayna.” There was light in his eyes when he told me about it. “Oliver and I built Grethe and Elga Enterprises together, but everything is my idea. I did not go to the Universities, no, but it doesn’t mean I can’t learn it on my own. That’s also why I had computers. It’s like an IT department, isn’t it?” he smiled.
“Yeah, it is.” My eyes were starting to water.
“Have you heard of M.I.G?”
“Yeah. The one where you can play music on your computer and smartphone? It’s pretty popular—wait…” I was already dumbfounded.
“Grethe and Elga Enterprises own it,” he proudly said.
“Oh my God! I’m not even aware,” I giggled. “I loved the app, Brandon. I can’t believe you’ve been in my ears just right even before we met!”
“How about Air Me call and talk, the social media app?” he asked.
“No freaking way!” My jaw dropped. “Brandon! It’s all yours? It’s viral!” I caught my mouth in astonishment. “Who would have thought that you were the next software genius billionaire?”
He chuckled, “Yes, it’s all mine. That’s how I started with my life and then everything Oliver and I worked for grew broader than I could imagine. Oliver lent me his money and later on, I paid him back. When I got enough money to invest in new things, Oliver helped me build an empire across New York. We started with real estate, clubs, a shopping mall, restaurants—it was hard, but we managed. Oliver was always there for me.”
“Oh my God…” I whispered. “That is why you are a threat they are afraid of you?”
“No, it’s because they don’t want me to have my mother’s inheritance because they believed that a bastard like me don’t deserve it. They killed my family and they thought they killed me, but they didn’t until Cassius found me unconscious on the floor and brought me to the hospital.”
“But you are not a bastard. I can’t believe it! How much money we are talking about here that they had to kill people? Their killed their own flesh and blood.”
“It was billions and yes they had to—seventy-five percent of it—is only was only for us,” he smirked.
“Why don’t they just share it to the whole twenty-one families equally?”
“I don’t know,” he shook his head. “It just happened that way. I don’t know what’s my grandfather was thinking.”
“How did you know that it was the other Katrakis who killed your family?”
“Well, who else? I just know that it was them. I heard it from their own mouths so I made myself successful in showing them that I don’t need it—I don’t need them. They’re not going to stop until they kill me, Alayna. My grandfather is still going to give me my part. He’s even thinking of investing everything in my company.”
“Do you still talk to him?” I asked. It was the first time I heard of him talking about his grandfather.
“Yes, on the phone.
“Just tell me what did they do to you? Is that how you get your scars and your face? Oliver told me that it was another thing? Whose Annette to your life and what did she do to you?”
He gazed straight into my eyes with rage and pain combined. “They murdered my sister and mother in our house while my father was happily fucking Annette. She’s his mistress, goddamn it!” He cursed. “He was supposed to save us, but where was he? He neglected us—abandoned us. While the criminals are stabbing us to death? I watched my family die with own eyes, and I cannot protect them. I couldn’t even tell who they are because they covered their faces.” Brandon’s eyes were starting to water and so I was, but I was holding it back.
I cupped his face and wiped away the tears with my thumb. “Shh… You’re just a kid back then. It’s not your fault.” I told him.
“A week later, I was kidnapped from the hospital,” he continued.
He fixated his eyes on mine. “I opened my eyes and found myself in a dark room, alone and completely naked. My arms and feet were tied, the stitches on my chest were still fresh again from the wounds I got when they stab me in my own house. I didn’t know why and what I was doing there until I felt my face excruciating in pain. I touched it and found that I was severely wounded.”
So that was what happened. My shoulders fell. “Oh, Brandon! You don’t deserve any of this. You didn’t do anything wrong.” I cried, wrapping my arms around his neck then pulled him for a tight embrace, squeezing him so hard. How could they do that to him?
“Until I remember it one day,” he continued. “They left me there because they thought I’m dead. I recognized their voices. It was the men who killed my family.” he sniffed. “They were laughing and they were talking about a woman who asked them to do it. I heard her name. I heard Annette’s name and another Katrakis called Marcus. I know what they did to me. They poured acid on my face and burned me with a lighter. This face.”
He let go of me and looked into my eyes. He touched the side of his masked face with his palm. “No one has ever heard me scream. They let me bleed to death, but I did not die. My uncle, Oliver’s father, found me. I cannot think about it anymore. I can’t—”
“You can’t die because you have to make everything right, again. I’m so sorry for what happened to you,” I sobbed. “I know there’s still a lot to know and I still want to ask you a lot of things, but that’s enough for today. You can tell it to me later.” I smiled bitterly then I kissed his mask.
“I already said that I wanted to show you everything. I want you to see what’s behind this thing.”
Oh my God, was that what he meant? Was he finally going to show that side of his face? He was finally going to put down his mask and reveal everything to me?