Oliver and Betty went back to the house next door after the afternoon snack to prepare for our hot spring trip before sundown, but I already felt that something wasn’t right. Oliver and Brandon were troublingly quiet during our snack, exchanging odd meaningful gazes as if they were hiding something. Betty didn’t seem to notice since she was busy talking about her.
I also overheard that Cassius was coming, too, but I didn’t hear the rest. Why would Cassius come here? I thought Brandon and Cassius didn’t get along? Was that why his mood changed? I thought this was supposed a vacation.
I followed Brandon upstairs and he was still silent. He took off his shirt in annoyance I knew he was keeping inside. He sighed softly as he sat on the edge of the bed. I sat next to him then stared at his stoic face.
“Hey…” I mouthed, then I touched his knee.
He forced a smile, “Hey.”
He held my hand then brought it to his lips. “Nothing,” he uttered. He looked into my eyes then stared at me as if it was going to be the last time we’re going to see each other. He seemed troubled by something I couldn’t understand. But I couldn’t ask him for I knew he would refuse to tell me he was thinking, but I was beginning to feel the frustration.
“I think I need to pack for our girl’s bonding time this afternoon,” I said.
Brandon didn’t answer, but he pulled me to him instead, crashing my body against his. “I love you, Alayna,” he whispered out of the blue. His breath on my shoulder was warm and so as his skin. I gasped as I felt my heart beating increased by his words. I still haven’t told him that I love him yet, but I do love him.
“Brandon…” I breathed out. “What’s going on?”
Brandon his lips touched my shoulder. “You don’t know just how much…” he mumbled. Was that what it was this all about? He wasn’t sure about my feelings for him?
“Hey… you know what I feel for you—” I caressed his back.
He stopped me with putting his thumb on my lip. “I know. I just realized how pathetically I lived my life without you the past few years…” he chuckled, “When I met you, you brought me back to life. I just can’t imagine myself without you…”
I pulled away from his embrace a tad, gazing up at him. “Where else will I go? You know I’m not going to leave you, right? I’m not capable of leaving you anymore…” I shook my head, “Unless you told me to.”
“I won’t ever,” he smiled weakly, “except for this afternoon with Betty. I will come in the evening, I promise. I’m afraid I have to tell you to pack all of your things because we’re not going to stay here tonight.”
I frowned. That was a surprise. “What? Why not? This place is amazing.”
“Yeah, something came up. I just can’t tell it to you right now, but we’ve got to stay somewhere else. I knew a place. I’m sorry. It’s not how I planned it,” he explained, his eyes in visible agony.
“Is that about the job? Things you left to do I Manhattan?” I asked curiously. Too bad I wouldn’t even experience slumbering in this gigantic bed. I stroked the bedsheet under my palm. He noticed my gesture.
His throat let out a low vibration. “Don’t worry. We could still go back here.”
“Then, I need to pack and then enjoy the rest of the day tonight,” I sighed.
“Do you need help?”
“Of course,” I smiled.
I dejectedly packed my personal things back into the luggage, trying not to show my disappointment to Brandon. How badly I wanted to stay. I was looking forward to spending the night with him and even imagined myself in every corner of the house.
I knew from the very start how secretive Brandon was. What did I expect? I als0 didn’t want to pressure him to tell me everything. I mean it was his choice. I was the kind of person who wouldn’t nag things to his boyfriend as long as he was not cheating. We stayed in the penthouse for another hour, then we were ready.
Brandon looked at his watch. “We still have time,” he said. “Why don’t you come with me for a moment?”
“Just come.” He grabbed my hand, twining my fingers with his, Brandon took me to another stair, but it was narrower and a bit dimmer. It seemed to be leading in the attic, I guessed.
“Where does this leads? Hogwarts?” I joked.
He laughed, “You’ll see.”
The stair wasn’t long until we reached another small white door. Brandon opened it with a key from his pocket then he slowly pushed the door.
Gee, I felt like dreaming the moment I saw the most gorgeous garden I ever laid eyes on. No, it didn’t seem to be just a garden, it was a field of beautiful assorted flowers with the amazing view of the ocean. At the other side, there was a swing inside a small glass shelter.
I gasped in admiration. “Wow, this is amazing…”
“This was my mother’s sanctuary. This was where she played guitar and where she wrote stories. It is well maintained until now. I didn’t want to abandon what my mother cherished when she was still alive.”
“It’s a paradise,” I breathed out. “It’s like another dimension from the fairy tales,” I said in all honesty.
“Do you like it?” he asked, smiling.
“Of course! I love it, Brandon. I don’t understand why you want to leave. You could stay here forever.” I looked up at his perfect unmasked face. I could tell that in his eyes, he wanted to stay so badly, but still couldn’t. I felt like I’d met her mother after seeing every part of the house. I squeezed his palm tight.
“Someday,” he promised then he looked back at me, his eyes were sincere. He put his arm around my waist. “Will you come back with me here?” He kissed my forehead.
I smiled back, “Yes. I would love to.” I rested my head on his chest. How lovely it was we were standing before his mother’s sanctuary and we only had pure thoughts about being together. I had fallen for this man in every way. I heard Brandon hummed in my ears. I tucked myself in his chest sniffing his natural scent.
“Alayna, I have to tell you something later.”
“Hmm... okay. I am not allowed to ask what is it, then, hmm?”
“Yes, something important that I needed more strength to say or show.”
I exhaled out sharply. Okay, maybe that was it. This was what’s bothering him, but I knew I needed to be more understanding. I decided to keep the question for later.
“Okay, maybe later in the hot springs.”
“That’s the plan…” He was abruptly interrupted when the bell chimes echoed. “Is that yours?” he frowned.
I pulled out my phone from my pocket and I already got a missed call from Betty. “It’s Betty, she was calling. I’m sorry, what are you saying again? Oh, wait—she sent a text.” I pressed open and read the message. I read it out loud.
“Sorry, Alayna. Change of plans. I need to go to the town first. Is it okay if we could just meet there? You know the place, right? I’m sorry. I asked John to drive you there.”
“Well…” I sighed in frustration. “I don’t want to go.”
“She didn’t tell you if she’s with Oliver?” he looked at the message again.
I shook my head, “No.”
“Okay. It’s time to go then.”
I sighed, “Can you just come with me?”
“I can’t. I will call John to get your things ready. I’m so sorry. Wait for me there, okay?”
I nodded. “Okay.”
“Come on, let’s go downstairs.” He said and kissed me again on the cheeks.
I contacted Cassius immediately the moment Alayna drove out with the car with John. As long as she was with the two, she’s safe.
“Where are you now Cassius?” I asked.
“I took an immediate flight. Expect me there in ten hours. How’re the girls?”
“Alayna’s going to the town now.”
“Good. What you need to do now is to wait before coming out. I already told Oliver to call for a security to escort you there and make it sure that you’re with John.”
“Yes, but right now she’s with Alayna.”
“Then you’re alone?” he sounded worried.
“Yes. I’m fine, Cassius. I won’t get harm from my mother’s house.”
“Don’t be so assured, you still need to be cautious. The security will be there in an hour. Did you tell Alayna?”
I paused for a moment.
“No,” I answered.
“What!?” he hissed, then let out a sharp breath. “Okay, there’s nothing we can do now. Stick to the plan. Don’t go out alone. Do you understand? All of you guys are going to give me a heart attack!”
“Thank you, Cassius.” I finally said, thanking him after our cold war.
“I’m so sorry, Brandon. I really don’t mean what happened that day.”
“I know,” I admitted. I was just so maddened back then.
“Thanks,” I heard him chuckle then we hung up.
I was about to go back inside when I spotted Oliver walking to my direction. “Oliver?” I asked in surprise.
“Hey, did you hear anything from Cassius?” he asked.
“Yes, but I thought you’re with Betty?”
He frowned, “Why won’t I be with Betty? Betty’s inside.”
“W-what?” I mouthed.
“What’s wrong?” he asked, confused.
“B-Betty’s there?” My eyesight darkened. My body rapidly agitated, my muscles abruptly stiffening.
“Yes. I came here because I was looking for her phone. I think she left—Brandon, are you okay?” Oliver touched my shoulder.
I pushed his hand away, staggering back steps. “Alayna…” I breathed.
“Why? What’s wrong with Alayna?”
I clenched my fist in fury. My knees failed me, falling down the gravel. My chest was suddenly throbbing again, just like how it normally felt for the last decade. My wounds were aching as my face scorching. I groaned inwardly as my palms touched the ground.
“Brandon!” Oliver quickly appeared on my side.
“Oliver,” I swallowed hard. “they’ve got Alayna.” Unfortunately, I was beginning t0 feel nauseous.
“What? And you let her go?”
“Goddammit!” he cursed. “Is she with John?” he freaked.
Oliver swiftly stood then immediately drew out a phone then pressed a speed dial. I waited for him to speak, but John didn’t seem to answer. What am I doing? I should be running. I should go follow them. Why couldn’t I feel my legs? Why am I so weak? I battled with myself.
“John,” Oliver finally said, his voice hyped. “Where are you? Are you in town already? Good. Stop there right now and wait for us. Stop the car!” he shouted. “Don’t ask, just stop the car. Don’t tell Alayna and tell her to stay with you, do you understand? Good. Yes, yes, no, John please, just take care, both of you. Don’t leave Alayna.” He ended the call.
“She’s still safe. Wait for me here, Brandon. I’ll just call Betty.” Oliver jogged back to the next house.
I stood faintly, my knees quivering. She needed me. Alayna was out there and she was in danger. But damn it, my chest was killing me again.