I grasped the car door’s handle, wanting to go out. I couldn’t be alone with Brandon. Cassius was right. I wasn’t emotionally ready. I pushed the door open to get out, but he stopped me.
“Open the door,” I ordered, shaking the handle but it just won’t open. It was locked. “I said open the door. I need to go!”
He shut his eyes, gripping the steering wheel hard. “Stop. It won’t open.”
“Let me out!” I screamed. “Let me out. Let me out! Let me out!”
“Hey!” he shouted, then caught my hand. “I said stop. You need to calm down.”
I moaned. “Please, please… Don’t do this. Let me out. I… I need to breathe.” Then, there it was again. My chest was clenching. I couldn’t see straight, and the air seemed to have abandoned my lungs.
He shifted his body to my side and grabbed my hand. “Alayna? Alayna, are you okay?”
He cupped my face and looked into my eyes. “What’s going on with you?”
I clenched the fabric of his shirt. “I… I need to… I need to go out. I need to get away from you…”
Unexpectedly, he wrapped his arms around me and tried to rub circles on my back. “Isn’t this what you want?” he mumbled as if he was talking to a child. In my heart, I knew what was happening, but my mind was messing with me. I didn’t know what I was doing anymore.
I sobbed “Let me out, Brandon!” pounded his back repeatedly with my fist. “Let me go!”
“Shh...” he hushed. “Listen to me. Tell me what’s going on.”
I struggled against his arms. “It hurts to be with you. Bring back me to Cassius!” I begged. “Cassius! Save me! Save me!”
But Brandon’s arms tightened around me, pulling me close. My heart knew that I longed from him and how badly I waited for this moment. His fingers stroking my hair. But I knew he wasn’t mine. He belonged to someone else now.
“I hate you. I hate you.”
“Breath, Alayna. Breath,” he whispered, continuously caressing my back.
I let out a sob and began to calm down. The rapid pounding of my heart slowed down. I let him comfort me.
“Good. That’s good.”
I buried my head in his shoulder. I missed him. I badly missed him. But as much as I did, I hated him so much. He did this to me. He killed me. No one had ever hurt me this way.
“Just say it,” I sobbed. “Just say that you don’t want this anymore—that you don’t want me instead of making me wait.” I lifted my head and looked at him. It was almost painful. He was beautiful. He was so beautiful, it hurts. Then, I touched his face. The side where he had the mask. He shut his eyes and heaved out a heavy breath.
“Not today. You need to rest.”
“No!” I cried. “If you can’t, I’ll say it. Let me say it for you.”
“Don’t. You don’t deserve—”
“Stop it! Stop it!” I shoved him away, but he brought me back to his arms. I cried hard and struggled between his arms again. I was tired of waiting. Why couldn’t he just tell the truth? Why couldn’t he tell me that he doesn’t love me anymore?
“I just want this to stop,” I declared. I should have done this before.
He kissed my temple. “I’m so sorry, Alayna.”
“You’re free now, Brandon, but don’t ever think that I’ll forgive you. After this day, there will be no more about us.”
I shut my eyes and succumbed into darkness.
I was in the clinic when I gained consciousness. I clearly remembered what happened, and I passed out. The pain was still here. I doubt it would ever disappear. But it was different now. I ended everything. Now, I knew which path I was going to take.
“That was really brave of you.” Cassius held my face. “I thought I might never see Alayna again. The real Alayna.”
I sat up. “Because you were right. I should have listened to you. It’s over now. I no longer have torture myself from waiting. Thank you for everything, Cassius.”
He flashed a weak smile. “You made worry back there. I thought something had happened to you. Are you okay?”
“I’m okay.” I touched his hand. “Will you come with me?”
“I’ll come with you.”
I leaned on to him, and I kissed his mouth. Cassius’s kiss would never be like Brandon’s—full of love, and passion. But I always knew he would never abandon me.
A few hours earlier…
“Cassius, I need a favor. We are still in front. Come here and take Alayna.”
Alayna passed out, and it was my fault. This was the reason she couldn’t be with me. I was bad for her. I was only going to hurt her more. I destroyed her life and killed her inside. She shouldn’t be involved with my issues anymore.
I had to face my war alone, and she understood me. She ended it herself. I should not be forgiven. At the end of the day, everything was still my fault—just like how I left my family to die because I was busy playing with my life.
Cassius and Oliver came in a flurry. I stepped out of the car and opened the door on the passenger side.
Cassius brushed his hair when he saw Alayna. He rushed onto her and touched her shoulders. “Alayna? Alayna, can you hear me?” He caressed her flushed cheeks with his thumb, but she didn’t respond. “What happened to her?”
I cursed under my breath. I always knew what he felt for her. And if I couldn’t take care of her, it should be him.
“What did you do?”
I sighed. “We never had a chance to talk. She was crying the whole time.”
“God! This is why I can’t let her see you. You just couldn’t until she’s ready,” he snarled and looked at his brother. “You both know it’s not good for her.”
“I didn’t know it was like this,” Oliver’s acknowledged. “But I’m sorry.”
“Alayna?” He cupped her face. “Oh, God. Are you okay?”
“Don’t wake her. She fell asleep.”
“Don’t tell me what to do because you can’t take care of her!” Cassius snapped. “I’m taking her from here.” He enveloped Alayna in his arms and tried to lift her legs, but a painful moan escaped her lips.
I gritted my teeth. “Let her sleep. Take the damn car and bring her back to the clinic.” I threw the keys to him, and he caught it.
“Brandon. Are you sure?” Oliver asked, sounded worried. “Are you going to let it end like this?”
“Take her before I change my mind.”
“Yes! But I will not take her just because you told me so. I can’t believe that after the hardship we’ve been through you’re still the Brandon I used to know. Cold and selfish.” Cassius shut the door close, turned, and slid into the driver’s seat. It didn’t take any more second, he pulled out of the place.
Oliver stepped up. “Are you sure of what you just did?”
“It’s fine, Ollie.”
“It will be a rough ride next time. I won’t even have time for myself. A year ago, I found Alayna because she’s Annette’s acquaintance. I put her in danger, and she had no how dangerous that woman is?”
“Is that what you’ve been doing in Athens?”
“Yes. I found out that she’s our Uncle’s daughter.”
“What? Wait.” He held up a hand. “I don’t follow this. Uncle Alfio’s daughter? I thought she’s Helen’s daughter.”
I scowled at him. “Who told you that? Do you know something?”
“I’ve been researching on my own, Brandon. I even told Casey about it.”
“Casey? Why would you even tell her? I want her out of this.”
“Whether you like it or not, she’s your sister. She’s involved. Listen, Annette cannot be Uncle Alfio’s daughter. She’s his sister, and they’re half-siblings.”
I clenched my fist. “Why are you telling me this just now? Someone is playing with us.”
“You’ve been busy with your own issues, and you won’t even listen. Come with me. I can’t talk about it here.” He observed the place, as if cautious. “Let’s take my car.”
Oliver brought us back to my house and walked into my library. I watched him as he waltzed straight the desk and pulled out some documents from the filing cabinet.
“I have files I’m keeping here.” He placed it over the table. “This is the information about our families, registrations, records that might help us.” I paced towards him and take a look. “Uncle Alfio was the among the Katrakis cousins. You might already know about it, but what I know this might give a difference. This is our family tree.”
“Euricius, Petros, and Helen are the Heads of Katrakis, surely you already knew about that.
“Euricius was the Eldest. He had two sons Carmelo and Constantine. The Twins. They lived inside the compound. You’ll always see them in the family gathering or family assembly. Carmelo and Constantine were married to wealthy women in Athens—so they’re not one of the threats. They have children, our cousins, but you can never hear from them. Since they are the eldest, their family are bigger. We have nieces and nephews that are married. But Euricius transferred half of his fortune to Helen when he passed away. The twins never wanted to take everything. They never wanted to be involved with the family’s fortune—like you, Brandon.”
Petros, our grandfather, the second head of the family but now that Euricius and Helen were gone, he was now the head of the Katrakis. He owned the other third of the Katrakis fortune. Our father was greedy as well in his younger years. He liked to use money on everything, and because of it, he almost lost all his children. He lost Aunt Grethe, because of his greed. I think you know our family’s story, so I won’t explain this much further. This is what you needed to hear.
Helen, the youngest, and his son Alfio was accused of her murder, but was never confirmed.”
I smirked humorlessly. “He’s despicable, and what’s worse is his blood is running through our veins.”
“Listen to this, Brandon—even with a piece of substantial evidence, it’s going to be hard to take him down. He is protected by people from higher societies, politicians, and businessmen. He wanted to take our grandfather’s wealth for his illegal businesses. Drugs, gambling, and sex clubs. He’s a leader of an organization—like a mafia or something. I’m still looking for it. His sons Charlie and Silvanus are helping him.
“And you Brandon, are their greatest threat. You are wealthy even without the Katrakis fortune. Alfio could be one of the reasons for your mother and sister’s death. This is what everyone knows, but refused to say anything. They are afraid of Alfio. He’ll do everything to take you down. So where is Annette in the family tree?
“Betrayal runs in the family. Helen was having an affair, and Annette was her daughter. This is what I found out about her. Surely, Annette is one of the greatest chefs in the world, and there’s no doubt about that. You even found Alayna because of her. Her origin was Greek and French. A long time ago, my father said Annette was invited to Alfio’s second wedding. I got a copy of his marriage registration. And do you know what I saw? Annette’s name was listed as his sister and one of his legal witnesses. She used the Katrakis name on the registration. That’s how I found out.”
Annette is a Katrakis. She was married thrice, and our father is her third. I’m sorry, Brandon. I already have this proof and information when you’re still in Athens. I couldn’t tell you because there are people I needed to protect. If they found out I have information like this, they won’t let it pass. Alfio won’t let anyone know about this secret.
Fortunately, Alayna’s information about Annette is still updated. She was right. Annette isn’t in Italy anymore. She’s still in Paris all this time, and I got the name of the restaurant she owned. I know where to find her now, Brandon. I know where she lives, and she’s with your father. She’s not living a simple life, I tell you and one thing is for sure. Alfio is helping Annette. They’re helping each other.”
I remained silent as I listen to his story. The woman who ruined our lives was now within the range of my reach. And if Alfio was helping Annette, the two might be the culprits.
Six months ago, he showed himself to me in Athens. He acted as if I was his favorite nephew and talked things about business with Grethe and Elga. Never in my life, I’m going to acknowledge him as a family. I promised to take him down—and everyone who caused my family’s death. I was powerful enough to bring him to his knees.
“A few months ago, Pauline came to see me,” I suddenly said, and that got Ollie’s attention. I never wanted to mention her because of Alayna, but I needed someone next to me who I could trust with everything. “She found out that I was alive. She came to me and told me that Silvanus is after her. He was hurting her. I found bruises and burns on her arms and her legs.” I squeezed my forehead. “I can’t ignore, Oliver.”
His shoulders fell. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know.”
“Silvanus is going to hurt her even more, so I took her away. I need to protect her too.”
“Is this why you said can’t be with Alayna?”
“Yes, but it’s not just that.”
“But how about her, Brandon? Are you choosing Pauline now is that it?”
“It’s not like that. Alayna can’t be with me. She’s not safe if she’s with me. I couldn’t lose her like how I lost my family.”
“Then, it’s over?”
***End of Book 1***