The next day, Henry didn’t want Jez and me to go to school, and we complied without asking further questions. The reason was obvious, after all; now that the Moores were in town, we had to be extra-careful.
Henry made a few calls, and my grandmother appeared at the mansion with a suitcase. Apparently, now everyone that was related to the Prestons – and me – in one way or another was in danger. So Gran moved in temporarily, and we had the chance to talk about everything. I told her that I forgave her, that I understood why she did what she did, and now, that Arabella and Willow were out of the mansion and, hopefully, of our lives, I was better.
In addition to Gran, Irie Grace, who’s Ryder’s official girlfriend, moved in too. Not that it was so hard for her, seeing as she had me and Jez, with whom she apparently built friendship although they were as different as heaven and earth, and of course Ryder, with whom she stayed at the same room, of course.
The surprising addition to our mansion, though, was the Montgomery family, which included Chase, his younger brother, Christian, and their parents, Augustus and Peggy. When the family of four entered the mansion, I couldn’t help but think there was something I didn’t know about their involvement in all this.
So I took Gunner for a talk.
He seemed quite guilty when I asked him about the Montgomery family. “I... haven’t told you about them, right?” he asked, hesitant, and I knew there was a final piece he was hiding from me.
I put my hands on my waist to show him I was pissed. “Well, you better start talking, Gunner,” I snapped at him. Actually, it was more than just Gunner keeping things away from me. It was the fact that Chase had been my friend – even if he wasn’t now – and didn’t tell me that his family was involved with the Prestons.
He sighed exasperatedly, like every time he needed to do some long explanation he would rather avoid. Too bad for him that I was budging. “The Montgomery had an eldest child,” he said grimly. “Chance was his name. The Montgomery are old friends of Henry, and when they were under a threat for their lives by the the mafia, the asked him to take care of Chance, because there was a high chance the mafia would go after him.”
He took a deep breath. “Henry took Chance in, but didn’t adopt him like the rest of us. He just gave him protection,” Gunner’s face became sad. “He was my friend. The same age as me, the same personality, we were a good match. I have never had a friend as good as him. But... Calvin Moore was sent to kill him, and Chance was murdered by him with the help of his daughter, Echo.”
Gunner looked away. “The Montgomeries were out for blood. Chase, who’d lost his brother, was the worst of them. He insisted on taking revenge of his brother, and the determination in his eyes, that were identical to Chance’s, and the fact that he reminded me of him so much, let me agree to it. We were both out there at the Moores’ house. We were both the killers of Calvin Moore.”
Understanding dawned on me. “You mean...” my eyes widened. “Chase was there that night? When I...”
“Yes,” Gunner sighed. “He saw you there, but fortunately you could only remember me, not him. After he avenged his brother’s death, Chase returned to his own life, but I knew he would never be the same. I knew it because I, too, was never the same after I avenged my mother by killing John Ayers.”
So many thoughts ran through my head and I felt betrayed by Chase. He knew, all the time, that I’d witnessed him and Gunner killing Mr. Moore. He knew it, and he said nothing.
But first, I had to hug Gunner, who hugged me right back. “It’s not your fault,” I told him, and it felt so natural for me to hold him, to give him comfort like he did to me so many times. “Like everything in your life, nothing’s your fault.”
“I know,” he said lowly, holding me closer. “Doesn’t make the guilt go away, though.”
I knew it would take time for him to completely heal, to think of himself as something else than a killer, but I was willing to wait. I wanted to wait. Because Gunner was worth waiting for.
Afterwards, I made my way to Chase’s guest room. He had some explanations to do, and I didn’t care a bit that he was angry and so-called heartbroken from my rejecting him or whatever. Nothing of it felt real now that I knew the truth.
I knocked on the door and no one answered but oh, I knew he was there. “Open up, Chase!” I shouted. “I’m not going away until you open the fucking door!”
Very well, then. I punched and kicked the door and yelled, “Open the frickin’ door you piece of shit - “
“What the fuck do you want from me?!” Chase screamed at me as he shoved the door open. “Leave me the fuck alone already, you leech!”
I narrowed my eyes at him. “Let me the fuck in, Chase,” I glared. “I’m not fucking joking.”
He didn’t budge, his golden hair messy and his deep blue eyes raging. “What the fuck is your problem, Rae?!” He snarled. “Just go the fuck away already - “
“Gunner told me everything!” I yelled at him, feeling so hurt. Did he fake everything? His concern for Echo? His friendship with me? His feelings for me? It was a helluva act to pull. “I know about Chance and about the fact you know I witnessed Calvin Moore’s murder!”
Chase visibly flinched. “It’s none of your goddamn business, Rae - “
I pushed him into the room and slammed the door shut behind me. “Was everything a lie?” I demanded, looking at him with stormy feelings, my hair frizzlier than ever and tears of anger in my eyes. “Was you being my friend a lie? Were your so-called feelings for me feigned?”
That seemed to seriously piss him off. “I could never fake those stuff, Rae!” he yelled in disbelief. “How dare you accuse me of faking everything - “
“BECAUSE YOU DIDN’T TELL ME A THING ABOUT EVERYTHING CONCERNING THE MOORES!” I screamed so loud I wondered if everyone in the mansion heard me, but I didn’t care.
“I don’t have to explain every fucking thing for you!” he snarled lowly. “You’re not my friend anymore, are you?”
“I deserve to know!” I gripped the collar of his shirt and let him see the fury in my eyes. “Don’t you fucking tell me otherwise!”
He saw that I was fucking serious, and his face became cold. “I could never fake my feelings,” he said bitterly. “I still fucking love you, even after everything you’ve done. Even after you broke my fucking heart.”
I released his collar and just looked at him, waiting for him to continue. “At first I needed an excuse to get closer to you, so I talked about how concerned I was about that stupid bitch Echo’s disappearance. I wanted you close, thinking you’re my enemy since you saw what Gunner and I did to Calvin.” he took a rough breath. “But then I found myself falling for you. When Gunner came to pick you up that day, after I told you I had feelings for you, I couldn’t help but hate him. After all, we may’ve murdered together, but I felt – and still feeling – that Chance’s death was all his fault.” he took a few steps away from me. “I fucking hate that my brother was killed by that bitch and her fucking father.”
“It was not Gunner’s fault,” I snapped at him.
“Doesn’t matter, it feels that way,” he snapped back. “Here, I told you. Now you’re happy? Can you just leave me the fuck alone?”
“No, Chase,” I said, shaking my head, feeling the first sign of dread for what we had. “I want to be your friend again - “
“I can be your fucking friend, Rae,” he sniped. “You’re with Gunner, aren’t you? Then fucking be with him. You don’t need me as your friend anymore.”
Shocked, I just gaped at him. “It’s not true!” I argued. “You were my precious friend until you... you fell for me.”
He smiled and it was humorless, cold smile. “I’m still in love with you, Rae,” he said matter-of-factly. “It won’t just disappear. I can’t be your friend without getting hurt that you belong to another.”
Tears fell from my eyes. “I miss you,” I told him, my voice breaking. “I miss you as my friend, Chase...”
“I’m sorry,” he said brutally coldly. “For my mental health, I shouldn’t be your friend and I wouldn’t. So go on with your life and leave me the fuck behind, Rae. Seeing you makes me remember of why I want you so much and it hurts. I needed to move on, and so do you. You’ve got Gunner, and all the other Prestons. After this whole saga is over, I don’t wish to see you again. At least not until I’m truly over you.”
With those words he backed me out of his room and slammed the door, leaving me behind with my tears and my feelings for him, that could never go beyond friendship.
Dinner had never been as lively as tonight. With so many guests, it was almost like a feast. A long table, like those in the movies, was placed in the dining hall, and I found myself sitting next to Gunner and Jez, while Gran was on the other side of Gunner – purposely. She wanted to grill him and probably threaten him to never hurt me, her precious granddaughter. I decided to leave him with the she-wolf and got a glare of utter mock-betrayal by Gunner. I just grinned at him evilly.
I found myself, though, sitting also in front of Chase’s younger brother, Christian. He was fifteen and on the road to look exactly like his brother. Deep blue eyes, mess of curly golden hair, the same handsomeness. He regarded me with assessing eyes and I could see on his face his disliked me – not that I expected anything else. After all, I hurt his older brother.
“He’s a beast in disguise of a pretty boy,” Jez whispered to me sometime at the dinner. “You should’ve heard him fighting with his parents about staying in this, and I quote, ‘stuck up place’.” She rolled her eyes. “Kids.”
I stifled a chuckle. “He looks like heartbreaker though.”
“Oh, I’m sure he would be one day,” Jez grinned. “Luckily for us to be too old for his charms.”
I rolled my eyes at her and found myself staring another pair of deep-blue eyes that was more familiar to me. I flushed a little and looked away just as Chase’s mother, Peggy, started talking with him about the scholarship he would get in one of the good colleges with him being a great Quarterback.
On the other side of the table, Maddox and Henry got drunk and started fussing all over Evelyn and her being pregnant. The exotic woman was less than impressed but let them touch her belly and even had a hint of a smile on her face. It seemed she was more relaxed now that the Andela sisters were out of the mansion.
At the same time, Danger was teasing Irie about hearing her screaming during sex with Ryder, and the poor girl was a blushing mess by the time Jez went to her rescue and distracted Danger effectively. Ryder shot him a dirty look that made nothing to remove Danger’s shit-eating grin, and pulled Irie closer to him. Irie smiled at that, completely content with her boyfriend that it made me realize that I was actually the one who brought them together. Well, not exactly me, but still.
Meanwhile, Gran was asking Gunner quiet awkward questions, like how many girlfriends he had, when was the first time he had sex and if he thought I was curvy enough. I decided to play deaf, even as I heard Gunner replying her with his usual seriousness and a hint of a smirk. He said I wasn’t curvy, but I had other things to cover for my lack of curves. It made me hit him on the hand with a glare while my Gran just laughed, the witch.
Dinner was actually pretty fun, if a little tense between Chase and me. But most of all I really enjoyed; I had my the most precious people close to me, getting along just fine, and I had the luxury of actually feeling what was it like to have a big family – I considered the guests family, too.
It was really fun. But the fun disappeared the moment dessert was brought to the table and my phone rang. I saw, for my astonishment, that it was Isobel calling me. Thinking that maybe she dialed the wrong number, seeing as we weren’t exactly on the best of terms right now, I clicked “answer” and said, “Hello?”
There was noise on the other side of the line. I frowned, saying hello again, and then I heard someone laughing.
The laugh made goosebumps cover my skin.
“Aren’t you just hilarious, Isy,” a mocking voice said on the line but from afar. I recognized the voice with a shiver. “You actually ask why I do all this shit. Isn’t it just sweet how innocent you are?”
It was Echo. It made me shiver again, earning me a questioning glance from Gunner. But I focused on what apparently went on there.
Echo was with Isobel. Isobel called me, and I had a sudden suspicion she wanted me to hear the conversation and hid her phone, for whatever reason.
“Lower the gun, Echo,” Isobel pleaded, which confirmed my thoughts and made me shiver once again. “Please. Aren’t we friends - “
“Oh, you know nothing about me,” Echo snapped. “You’re friends with the Echo you think I am. But I’m not. I’m Echo Angelica Moore, the proud daughter of Calvin, the hitman of the mafia. Now I’m taking after him, and the first thing I need to do is getting rid of those who know stuff they shouldn’t about me, say like you and Marcus here. Then I need to kill those two Andela bitched right here for doing what they did to my uncle, and then, only then, I can take my revenge of dearest Taryn Torres.”
I could see the scene in my mind now. Isobel standing with Marcus and Taryn, Echo pointing a gun at them, while Arabella and Willow were standing on the side in stupid fear. Oh God, Echo couldn’t pull all of that alone. She probably had reinforcement of her mafia buddies. All of them with guns.
“You’re nuts,” Taryn said with horror. “You’re completely nuts...”
“Oh, you didn’t see me nuts yet,” Echo laughed. “This? This is nothing for me. Killing? Easy as breathing. You just wait, Taryn, for the nutsy things I’m going to do to you.”
“Echo, please reconsider,” Isobel tried, and then her voice got clearer like she was leaning in to the phone so I could hear better. “We’re here, at the school quad in the fucking evening, with you pointing a gun at us.” the sentence may’ve not made sense to Echo, but I understood perfectly what Isobel did.
She needed help, so she gave me the place where they were now.
I clicked the phone shut before I said anything and then I said, my voice towering over the others, “Echo is in the school quad, probably with reinforcement, and she plans to kill Isobel, Marcus, Taryn Torres and Arabella and Willow.”
Stunned silence was the reaction, and then Henry kicked his people into gear. Chairs moved, orders were yelled and everyone took weapons – guns, actually – from the sparring room, then got dressed for whatever the night held.
Gunner tried to make me stay at the mansion with Augustus, Peggy, Christian, Chase, Evelyn, Irie and Gran, but I couldn’t. I told him I needed to go, that I needed to do it for my own release. Reluctantly he agreed, and then I was with Ryder, Jez, Danger and Gunner in Gunner’s slick, black SUV, while Maddox and Henry drove in Ryder’s Mercedes, that was just as quick at our SUV.
Then were out to end the whole Moores Saga for once and for all.