Chapter 16 ~ A Promise Kept
It had been two weeks since that night of harrowing consequence, with all apologies left without reply and all letters I had hand written returned to sender without being opened. I had promised the only woman I had ever truly cared for, that I would never let her go, instead, I had severed any tie to her by my actions, now I remembered why I had not let ‘drunk me’ out for a long time. ‘Drunk me’ was a foolish idiot that done more damage than good.
Coming to a place that held such vividly strong memories was beyond emotionally difficult for me and as I sat in on a meeting between LMPT and Tri-Star Global, listening to Bryce waft on about the raise in finances since the company’s sale, I noticed the build-up of flower arrangements around Tri-Star’s boardroom. It was only Dad, Pierre, Harmon, Blade, Bryce and I in the room and the burning question of why so many bouquets needed to be answered.
I cleared my throat, having not said anything for the past two hours gained the attention of all the men, “why are there so many floral arrangements?”
Bryce sighed heavily and then flopped down into his seat, all excitement clearly zapped from his body, “they have been coming in thick and fast since the news broke.”
I could see an unfamiliar sadness cross him as he fixated on the brightly coloured boxes. “News?” I pushed, “what news?”
He glanced at me awkwardly, “how do you not know? Have you not seen the briefs? Watched the continuous exposé playing out as entertainment? Read a fucken paper?” His tone suggested anger at my question.
“No, I would know obviously if I had,” I bit back with just as much force, affronted and taken aback by Bryce’s sudden switch in attitude.
“Son, I was hoping to get through this meeting first, before we told you.” Dad pushed back his chair and rounded the table, repositioning himself next to me with a gentle hand on my arm.
“Dj, yesterday Tritium Xeal passed away…” my eyes flittered around, surveying the faces to see if they were joking, what stared back was guilt, everyone in this room knew apart from me. I didn’t hear anything else Dad said, I leapt to my feet and raced out the door, not even bothering to slow and wait for the elevator, no. I thundered down those stairs at an incredible rate, flight after flight had my muscles burning and my breathing laboured. My mind exploding with the memory of the day Tim and I had met for the first time.
“… So I’m going to upfront with you and I want you to be honest, we find ourselves in an unusual situation and if circumstances were different, I am more than convinced, it would have been impossible for you to have obtained her attention so easily. So, Dante James McCarlock, are you in love my wife?”
His forwardness floored me, “I am, she means everything to me.”
“Will you love her even when she pushes you away?”
“I will love you until my last breath,” I replied without hesitation.
He smiled unnervingly, “good, then I ask a few things of you and I will not have you deny me. I need you to back off…”
“I can’t do that,” I cut in, but he raised his frail hand to stop my protest.
“Back off, not extract yourself entirely. I want to enjoy my last moments on earth with my wife and having her disappear when she presumes I am sleeping is hurtful, despite my willingness for her to find sexual relief from another. I also want you to promise me you will never hurt her, cherish her always and love her the way she deserves. Build a life with her with children and more happiness than she has ever known. Can you promise me that? Can you promise me that she will be the most singular important thing in your life?”
“I can promise I won’t hurt her intentionally, I can’t promise I won’t hurt her ever, but as for everything else, yes, I can and am willing to do that, to make her smile always and to be the most loved and cherished woman to have ever lived.”
“Your statement is bold Dante, I admire your admission and believe your promise whole-heartedly, but there is one more thing. I know her, I know she will do anything to keep her heart guarded, if she hadn’t have found out about my diagnoses I doubt she would have ever had the strength to admit her feelings for me. So I need you to promise that when I pass, you will be there for her, to comfort her, build her back up and remind her of all the incredible things about her that makes her so unique, even if she resists you, Can you do that?”
“I promise to be there, no matter what, to build her back up when she is broken, to love her beyond comprehension, to give her a family filled with so much love and happiness, yes, I can promise you that.”
He smiled and gave a curt nod, “then I approve of your relationship with my wife.”
I jumped into a waiting taxi even though it was occupied by an old couple, I offered them a fifty each if they allowed me their cab, both of them agreed eagerly and exited the moment the money exchanged hands.
Pulling up to the front of Quinn’s house was chaos and pandemonium, every major network in the country would have had to have been there, squawking away like the vermin they are. I paid the driver and exited, pushing my way through the clustered crowd that surrounded the front gates, even elbowing a few that dared to get in my way and standing on more than a few toes.
I spotted Bricker and Harry as they guarded the gates, barking orders at the extensive array of hired muscle struggling to keep the hectic congregation at bay.
“Bricker?” I called, his eyes scanned the crowd for the culprit that called his name, spotting me and his face contorted to disgust.
He strolled over, “what do you want Mr McCarlock?”
“Jesus Christ, could you greet me with any more contempt? I need to see her.”
His jaw clenched, “you need to go home, she is not seeing anyone.”
“Well too bad, let me in.”
Harry made his way over flanking the rare of his security partner. “Don’t you think you’ve done enough?” Harry spits out, “do you know how much she has suffered because of you?”
“You don’t understand Harry, I made Tim a promise.”
They looked at each other with wariness and confusion, “what kind of promise?”
“A promise I would be here for her when he passes, a promise to back away from her to allow them their proper goodbyes.”
Bricker clicked his tongue, “fuck, Angelique was telling the truth.”
“It doesn’t matter now,” Harry shook his head coldly, “it’s our job to protect her and protecting her from the likes of you is what’s best for everybody. We’ve tailed her every time, watched as she’s walked away from you in tears, she won’t survive anymore heartache.”
“It’s not your choice, you are hired help,” I bared my teeth in frustration as my temper flared and I began to shake with fury.
“Harry, your feelings towards her are inconsequential, she’ll never see you as anything more than her security detail.” Suddenly I realised his resistance, he was in love with Quinn. How many years had he been in love with her? Watching her from afar and yearning for someone who would never return his feelings?
“Let him through,” A deep voice boomed from the inside of the gate. There stood a shorter man with greying hair and light brown eyes. His broad shoulders and taut tailored suit suggested he hid a muscular structure below the straining material. He held an air of authority about him as if he were their superior. Harry begrudgingly stepped aside, his face paling under the presence of the older man.
Bricker lifted the steel-fenced section out of the way and allowed me access, the older man unlocked the gate, ushering me through and re-locking it behind me. “Mr McCarlock, it’s nice to finally meet you in person, however I should have liked to have met you under different circumstances.” He held out his large hand for me to shake which I clasped eagerly, “my name is Arid Striker, I was Tritium’s person guard for the past fifteen years, he told me you might show up.”
“Thank you for rescuing me, I have a feeling Harry was about to throw down,” he laughed as we climbed the front concrete steps.
“Harry has been removed from Quinn’s detail as his feelings significantly impair his judgement and ability to do his job. He’s only here because of the amount of paparazzi.”
I was surprised that once the front door was securely fastened behind me, the sound of the chaotic crowd melted away. “How is she?” I requested, feeling highly protective and concerned for her wellbeing.
“She’s seen better days. Unfortunately, she is the one to have found him bleeding out of his ears and nostrils.” I winced at the horrifying thought of what she discovered.
“What happened? He seemed so vibrant and full of life.”
“He suffered a Pulmonary Embolism, as you are aware, he suffered four different types of cancer and blood clots in his legs broke away and travelled to his lungs, his entire body shut down on him. Anyway, he was a brilliant man, one I respected greatly, he shared the promise you made to him with me and I am happy to see you are holding up his wishes.” We came to a standstill at the top of the stairs, outside her closed bedroom door. “She is not herself, I feel I must warn you, she is broken, distraught and unable to function, she may even not recognise you or your presence.”
“That doesn’t matter, she needs me.” He smiled kindly.
“Then I wish you good luck,” he shook my hand gratefully and left.
I took a deep inhale before turning the handle and sliding open the door. The bedroom had been torn to shreds, clothes and pictures littered the floor, glasses and bottles had been smashed against the walls, the evidence of such blunt force stained the room where they had connected. The strong smell of whiskey perfumed the air, clearly the whiskey is what had been hurled at the innocent and unsuspecting walls.
Lying in the centre of the bed, surrounded by tissues, photographs and what I presumed were Tim’s clothing, was her small sleeping frail form. My heart clenched seeing her this way, though understandable, it was still hard to see the devastation left behind.
I kicked some clothing aside, releasing my tie and removing my jacket, dropping it into its own pile at my feet beside her bed. Undoing my shoe laces and slipping my sock covered feet out, I cleared some space before lifting the blanket and sliding in, she subconsciously turned into my warm embrace and whimpered, her tears fell even in her slumber. I maneuvered my arm under her head and pulled her flush with my body.
She buried her face into my chest and let out a small cry of pain, “Dante?” she breathed.
“Yeah baby, it’s me, I’m here.” She did not open her eyes but I felt her tense rigid body relax in my protective hold as I pressed my lips against her forehead.
In that moment, no words were needed, just my strong hold to keep her safe. She sobbed some and let out small agonising whimpers of harrowing pain before slipping into a nightmare filled snooze.
We lay there for what seemed like hours before I too, fell into the darkness of exhaustion, with my greatest love securely between my arms. Exactly where she always belonged.