Five Months Earlier...
“Okay, take a deep breath. This might irritate your skin a little, but it’s normal. We have to be really, really careful.” I looked at Cassius’s eyes as he was starting to remove my bandage.
The procedure and the medication took four months. I had eleven operations and three times plastic surgery. Cassius said that my cheekbones were dislocated—the reason why the flesh was always fresh. It got infected because it wasn’t treated immediately. He said I was lucky it did not spread to the other part of my face. I still had more operations to go for my ribcage and the scars on my chest.
“Are you ready?”
“More than ready…”
Cassius started to undo the bandage carefully. “I was waiting for this moment, buddy. All my life. I waited for this,” he said.
“I know, and I’ve been such a prick to you,” I admitted.
He smiled. “Yeah, you are. Heard something from Oliver? Did you talk to Alayna? Did they know about this day?”
“No. I talked to Oliver, and they seemed fine.”
He stopped. “Are you saying you didn’t talk to her?”
“You knew that there’s a threat in her life. You heard what they said. The enemies are smart. We have a grandfather and his fortune, but they are too many.”
He sighed sharply. “It was sickening that I have the same blood. Now that they knew about you being here and doing well. Are you going to show yourself? It’s Aunt’s Agatha’s fortieth birthday next month, and you are invited because grandfather is going as well. There will be a private meeting with the heads of the family. My father is coming. You are the head of your family. I heard they were going to talk about grandfather’s will.”
“Are you coming?”
“Dad wants me to go. Oliver is flying here next month.”
“Of course, I’ll come. I couldn’t wait to see their faces when they see me.”
“It’s funny; it’s a masquerade party.” he chuckled.
“Maybe Alayna was right after all.”
“Right about what?”
She was right that everything was going to change if I take this path and I was slowly changing. This heavy burden I’d been carrying my whole life was changing me. Starting with the justice for my family and the people who wanted me dead wasn’t stopping until they take everything from me. They already took my family’s life. I won’t risk any more lives for me. Not Oliver, not Casey, not Cassius and not Alayna.
“Somewhere safe and a place you can’t find. Don’t worry, Brandon. I’ll bring her back here. She never wanted to leave anyway.”
There was nothing I could do but watch Cassius as he turned his back and headed towards the door. If only I could send Alayna away back to where she came from—to when she didn’t know any of us. We shouldn’t have met in the first place. I put her life in danger because I was weak. Now that I was strong enough to save her, I would do everything to make it right.
All I knew that sending her away was the best decision.
“No. No. Please No.”
“Please come back.”
“Don’t leave me again.”
“Please come back to me.”
“I’m okay with it. Just come back to me.”
“No. No. I’m not a burden.”
“You said you would come back.”
“Brandon, don’t leave.”
“Alayna? I’m here. I’m here.”
“No. You are not.”
“Please don’t be like this, Alayna.”
“Brandon, just tell me you won’t leave!”
“Alayna, wake up! I’m here. It’s Cassius.”
I opened my eyes, and it wasn’t Brandon in front of me, but Cassius.
He sat next to me. “Yes, what’s wrong?”
“I had a nightmare.”
“It’s just a bad dream.” He wiped my tears away with his thumb. “He doesn’t want me anymore,” I sobbed. I didn’t know why I wasn’t getting tired of this. It just too painful. “He’s going to leave me.”
“Shh... He won’t. He’s just in bad shape right now. Here drink this.” Cassius helped me get up then gave me a glass of water and my medicine. My hands were quivering so he helped me drink the water.
I wandered my eyes around the room. I wasn’t the mansion. “Where am I, Cassius?”
“You’re in my clinic. You fainted and you need to rest He put the glass on the side table. “You’ll be staying here in few days. You need some time away from the mansion.”
“I shouldn’t be here. I’ve been—” My chest was getting stormy again. “I’ve been away from him for a long time.”
He heaved out a sigh. “You need to rest, Alayna. This is not good for you. Both of you are just tired.”
“N-No. P-P-Please, take me to the mansion. Please,” I begged, my voice stuttering
“Alayna, please. You’re not in the right frame of mind right now. Do you want Brandon to see you like this?”
“B-but, I-I-I waited l-l-long enough for hi-h-him.”
“Look at you. This isn’t you anymore. Being in that house is not good for you, for now. You need to stay here. I’ll ask Casey to come here if you want.”I shook my head. “I d-don’t w-want a-anyone else!”
“Stop it!” Cassius shouted this time. “Can’t you hear yourself? ” He ran his fingers along his hair. “Please, I don’t want to argue with you.”
Cassis don’t understand. “I need Brandon. I wanted to ask him, to talk to him why he was doing this to me. C-Cassius! You-you, don’t understand! You don’t under-s-stand! You don’t! Just give me back to him! Just send me back!” I screamed out loud, kicking feet. I didn’t have control of my body anymore.
“Oh, God.” Cassius sat on the bed and enveloped his arms around me. I cried on his chest. For the gazillionth time. I felt like I was going to die. “Please calm down, Alayna.”
“Tell me that he still wants me,” I sniveled. “I’ve been dreaming the same dream every night. I went all the way there to see him, but he didn’t want to face me. He saw me, Cassius. He knew I was there to see him.”
“Why didn’t you tell me about these dreams?” he asked softly..”
“I couldn’t tell you.” I shook my head. “You will hurt him if I tell you.”
“Why would I hurt him over a dream?”
"You would. You definitely would.”
"Now, you think I’m some kind of violent bastard. What is this dream about? Tell me.” I shook my head.
“Alayna, tell me about this dream,” he insisted.
I pulled away and looked up at his face. “He was with someone. I was sure that he looked at me. It was him. He looked at me, Cassius”
He frowned. “What? what are you talking about?”
“Promise me that you won’t hurt him.”
“Okay. I won’t. Whatever it is.”
“I was dreaming of our last encounter in Athens. He was with a woman and she was holding him. T-t-they were laughing. H-h-he w-was happy.”
“But that could be his childhood friend—” Cassius stopped, his brows furrowed “That son of a bitch…” he cursed.
“What? What is it?” I searched for his eyes.
Cassius jaw clenched. “What did she looked like?”
“She had short hair, and she’s b-b-beautiful in every way. I couldn’t forget it. It’s making me crazy. I made myself believe that it’s nothing but I can’t.”
He nodded. “I understand. Did you tell Oliver about this?”
“No, I didn’t tell him. He wasn’t with me that time.” “Don’t tell them yet. It’s Pauline. She’s a family’s friend. She’s very close to him.”
“Pauline,” I whispered. “She’s his best friend.”
“Yes. Did you you know her?”
“B-Brandon t-told me about her. It’s the woman he loved.” I looked at Cassius. “Did he forget all about me because he reunited with her? Is that the case?”
“I don’t know. They were best friends, Alayna. We can’t be so sure.”
“You’re his best friend, Cassius. Not that woman. You knew what they were before.”
“Don’t make such conclusions for now. I know Brandon. He won’t do this to you., He misses you even if he doesn’t say it. But if you are right about all of this, I will be the one to confront him. I promise.” Cassius cupped my cheeks. “Now, why don’t you go back to sleep? It’s only past three. My nurse will be here in the morning to help you.”
“Why? Are you going to leave?”
“I need to go home, Alayna.” Cassius looked tired as well. He had already had dark shadows under his eyes and his voice was gravelly. I understand that he needed a rest too, but I don’t think I can sleep alone in this clinic. “Take me with you. Don’t leave me here.”
“I would like to but I can’t. I will call Casey tomorrow, okay?”
“Why not? There’s a woman in your house?” I forced a smiled.
He chuckled softly. “No. Brandon will be furious if he finds out you stayed in my suite.”
“But I don’t want to sleep alone. I don’t want to dream about it again.”
He touched my hair, staring at me “Alright. I’ll sleep on the couch.”
I smiled a little. It was safer if he was here. I lay back on the bed and stretched out my feet then Cassius pulled the blanket over me. “I always you knew that you’re a good person,” I said.
“People tend to judge me by appearance.”
“Are you admitting that you look like a bad boy?”
He grinned. “A very good looking bad boy.”
I bit my lip. “Thank you for being here.”
“You’re welcome. Now, sleep. I’ll be here ’til you wake up.”
I nodded then close my eyes and tried to sleep.