Twelve months earlier...
“So you have returned.” My grandfather, I had talked to him over the phone, but we never met once in more than ten years. The memory I had of him was limited. His blonde hair had turned gray—he was old, weak, and his once powerful voice had changed into a quiet hoarse voice.
My grandfather might be old, but his eyesight and his memory was clear as crystal, “My grandson,” he called, as he looked upon me. He was sitting on his favorite padded wooden chair.
I stood in front of him. “Yes, I have, grandfather.” My respect for him did not change. He was the only person who favored me in the family.
“Yes, yes.” He forced a smile. “You know that I’ve been waiting for you to accept what’s rightfully yours finally.”
“I did not come here for that,” I said. “I came here to regain my old self.” I wasn’t interested in his fortune. I came here to make everyone pay and to bring back who I really was. I was my mother’s son and a brother to my sisters. “But, I do have one request to make.”
“Yes, yes. What is it? I’ll be happy to do anything to repay my failure as your grandfather.”
“I need your help—your power… your voice. I know that you still have it in you. I have a plan.”
He sighed heavily.“I heard a woman made you come back home. Is this true?”
I clenched my fists. “I-I wanted to protect her, but I decided to come back here.”
“Our family have become greedy. I still believe that one of them killed your mother and I did nothing. I was blind. I’m going to throw everyone who will get in your way.”
I shook my head. “They won’t stop until they don’t see my dead body.”
“This is my promise to you. I’m going to protect you with everything I got. Your request is granted, my grandson. Do whatever you think is right.”
“Thank you, grandfather.”
“Alayna? Alayna, it’s Cassius! It’s Cassius!” Casey sprinted towards the door, excited to see her brothers. My heart was pounding abnormally just by hearing Cassius’s name. It means he was here too. My Master… They had announced that he would return today. I should be excited—thrilled… but instead, I was afraid.
I weakly followed after Casey, but my knees felt like they were about to fail me. Then suddenly, Oliver squeezed my shoulder.
“Alayna?” he mumbled, his eyes were worried. “Are you okay?”
“Oh, yeah, I am fine. I’m good.” I lied. I don’t think I would ever feel good.
“You look pale.” Seeing Oliver like this had always comforted me. I would never forget how he was always here for me.
When he broke up with his girlfriend for some reasons, he didn’t tell us, Oliver b he took care of the household. He was always there when I was crying at night while I fought against my nightmares. He waited until I fall asleep. He never left.
“I’m okay, really.” I faked a smile.
“No, you’re not okay. You’re bothered. We still don’t even know what’s going to happen.”
“Oliver, you knew exactly what happened that night.” I hugged myself as I was trying to stop myself again from crying. I am getting tired of it. It’s like the massive pain in my chest never left.
“Don’t overthink for now. He’s finally here. You can be together again. You should be happy,” he said then smiled weakly. “Now, shall we go and greet the Master?”
I nodded. “Okay.”
“Good. For now, let’s welcome him.”
A white Ashton Martin stopped in front of the mansion. Then, in a couple of seconds, Cassius stepped out of the car. It had been half a year since I last saw him. Casey instantly ran towards his brother then jumped onto him as she enveloped her arms around the neck. Cassius flashed out a wide grin, accepting Casey with his arms. Even if I was lonely as hell, I couldn’t help but smile at the sight of them.
“Look at you! You gained weight,” Cassius joked.
Casey scowled at him. “You’re a bad, bad brother. You didn’t even come home for a year, and that’s the first thing you’re going to say to me?” Oliver was laughing at my side as well.
“Case! You didn’t even nag me like that when I was away,” Oliver complained. She glared at Oliver.
“Oh, stop, Ollie. You never left. Cassius didn’t even come to see his siblings.”
“Oh come on, you knew how busy I was.” Cassius scratched his head. “Why don’t you give me something to eat now? I’m starving.” He wandered his eyes around then our eyes met. His expression abruptly turned serious. Then, realization took over me. He was not with the Master. He came back alone.
I heaved out a sharp breath then shut my eyes.
“Where’s Brandon?” Casey asked the question in my mind instead.
“Can we just go inside first? I’m so drained, Casey.”
She frowned. “What? I just asked where Brandon is,”
He shook his head. “He’s not here, Casey.”
“Why do mean he’s not here? Where is Brandon?”
I grabbed onto Ollie’s arm. I suddenly couldn’t feel the air in my lungs.
“Casey…” Ollie called out. “Let’s see if they’re done preparing lunch.”
She shook her head, and her apologetic eyes averted on my side. “Okay…”
“I’ll give you two space to talk,” Oliver mumbled in my ear. “You should talk to Cassius.”
I nodded. “Thanks.”
Oliver ushered Casey back into the mansion. Cassius stood still by his car. He looked tired, and his eyes were weary—just like the last time I saw him.
“Hey,” he greeted.
“Are you okay?”
“Same…” I shrugged. “…and you?”
His lips curved into a half smile. “Good.”
“He’s here. He’s back, but he went to the office first.”
My shoulders fell. He didn’t want to see me after all. My intuition was right. I wasn’t his priority. It was just like six months ago when I went to Athens to see him. He didn’t want to see me. I was sure that it was him. He didn’t have the mask on anymore. Hewas like another person, but he ignored me.
I began to cry. Again. For the millionth time. No words spoken. “Come here.” Cassius spread his arms then he pulled me against him.. “I’m sorry, Alayna.”
“But he’s coming here tonight. This is his home. We just have to wait for a little more hours. You’ll get to talk to him again.”
“Oh, God. I don’t know anymore, Cass.” I buried my face even deeper into his chest. “Why is he-he-d-d-doing t-t-this to me?” I stuttered.
“You didn’t know just how much he went through. Maybe he just need some time—”
“T-time? I-I-I’ve given him e-enough t-t-t-time b-but--” I swallowed. “Y-Y-you knew what happened Cassius, y-y-you were there…”
“Stop thinking about what happened to Athens for one second. You are not even sure if it was him.”
“I-I-I was s-sure. You c-c-checked it out y-y-yourself.”
Cassius cupped my face then wipe away the tears on my cheeks with his thumb. “Listen to me, I don’t want to see you like this.”
“T-t-there’s something y-y-your, not t-telling me!” I exclaimed.
“Shh…. Please calm yourself, Alayna. He’ll come home tonight. Ask him whatever you want to ask and if you are right, just give me a call, or tell Casey. We are here for you. But please do remember that Brandon’s still hurt and lonely. He just went through a lot the past year. You don’t know how much how he longed for you. It’s too early to doubt him now.”
I shook my head. What he said just forced me cried harder. “You d-didn’t u-u-und-d-understand.”
He frowned hard. “Alayna, you need to calm down. I’ll take you to my clinic. You don’t sound alright.”
“N-No. I-I-I’m alright…” I didn’t know what happened next. Everything turned out into darkness.
The place I called home become unfamiliar to me. A lot of things have changed. The light was too bright; it almost hurt my eyes. I walked to my living room, turned off the lights then sat for a little. My back and my neck were killing me. It was funny I barely wanted to step foot into this house anymore when I couldn’t even come out before.
I heaved out a sigh as I leaned on the couch. It’d been a long day, and I still got a jet lag. I shut my eyes to get a bit of relief, but the lights were abruptly turned on.
“I see now that you’re here.”
“Cassius?” I squinted my eyes.
“Yep. Where were you?” he asked, his voice flat.
“Can you please turn off the light? Why are you still here?”
“I’ve been waiting for you. Where the fuck have you been?”
I cocked my head. “I don’t think I like the sound of your voice.”
“Can’t you see yourself? Is this what you want? You’re turning back to your old self?”
I sat down and glared at him. “Where is this coming from? Isn’t this what everyone wants from me? My old self?”
“But not the asshole teenage boy!” he shouted this time.
“Whoa! What’s wrong with you?”
He shook his head. “I’d rather have your burned face than your attitude.”
“Ah, I know what the fuck is this about.” I smirked. “It’s about Alayna. For goodness sakes.”
“I don’t know what’s wrong with you or what did Alayna did to you. You stood her up in Athens, and now you are ignoring her? Why don’t you just tell her that you don’t want anymore?”
“Will you stop?” I bellowed. “Did you turned into her knight in shining armor now? Then why don’t you just take her yourself? Don’t worry, I don’t mind.”
Everything was so fast, Cassius’s fist landed on my face. I fell on the ground. I couldn’t fucking believe this.
“I know that you suffered, but she suffered too, Brandon. You’re supposed to act your age, not the teenage boy I know before everything of this happened.”
I smirked. “Back to the teenage boy again? Did you have a problem with that?” I pulled myself up.
“Yes. I’m giving you a chance, Brandon.”
I laughed at what he said. “I get it. After all this time, you are still rooting for Alayna!”
He brushed his fingers over his scalp. “I don’t know what you are talking about. I just wanted you to talk to her. Don’t mix things up. I don’t know what the hell is wrong with you or maybe you are also keeping a secret from me. Something’s up with you.”
“I don’t want to talk about this anymore.” I raised my hands in surrender. “I’m leaving this house anyway, so all of you can do whatever you want.”
“I told you… I’m giving you a chance. One last chance, Brandon.”
My chest tightened. He was serious. He wanted Alayna for himself. I always knew this, but I wouldn’t be able to do anything about it.
“Chance? Oh, please don’t give me. Just go and do it. Is she here? She upstairs, right? Shall we wake her up?”
Cassius’s jaw and fist clenched in unison. “She’s not here…”
“Where is she?”
“Took her out of here. She lost consciousness.”
I frowned. “Where did you take her?”
“Somewhere you won’t find her. We’ve been together for a year but why didn’t I see it? Why didn’t see I what an asshole you’ve always been?”
“I won’t ask again, Cassius. Where did you take her?”