I couldn’t help but sigh in relief when I saw the clothes were only faded jeans and plain gray tee that was oversized on my slim and short body and reached my knees. Probably a guy’s shirt or something.
When I finished dressing I put on my sneakers, the only cloth I owned here, and when I finished braiding my hair again, I opened the door and stepped out to a hallway you could see only in fancy hotels, narrow with many doors and dimmed lights. Gunner was waiting for me, leaning against the opposite wall and looking all cool and sexy. His eyes flashed to me when I walked out and closed the door behind me. I saw him checking me briefly, as if I perked his interest for a second, but then his eyes lingered on my oversized shirt and the jeans and he smirked slightly without saying a word. Apparently, he didn’t see anything worth his attention. Not that I thought he would be any different than most guys – after all, guys preferred boobs and butt and such – but it still stung. Especially coming from a sex-god like him.
“Let’s go,” he said eventually and started to go along the corridor. I found myself insulted that I didn’t pass his inspection. It wasn’t my fault I wasn’t born gorgeous like Taryn Torres.
I hurried after him, and when we reached the end of the hallway, he ordered the elevator. When it came we entered and he pressed the “L” button, which I assumed was short for “Lobby”. I was proven right when we got out and were in the entrance hall of the mansion, which had marbled floor, tall ceiling with chandeliers like back in the room, and a few couches and doors all around. The entrance door was wooden and very big and old, and when it was opened just as Gunner and I walked toward the center of the room, a shocked gasp escaped me.
Two guys – who were pretty good-looking – escorted an elderly lady inside with a Siberian Husky following her like the obedient dog she was. Tears of relief filled my eyes and before Gunner could stop me – if he even intended to – I ran toward them and threw myself into Gran’s open arms.
“Granny,” I whispered weakly, feeling suddenly younger, wrapped in her arms. “What are you doing here?” I asked, a sudden fear making my eyes widen in terror as I looked at her, inspecting her wrinkled face and brushing her silver hair.
She looked at me through her vivid blue eyes that made me feel like I came back home. “I can ask you the same thing, Rae Marie,” she said, but instead of being angry with me she seemed to be worried and exhausted. I didn’t want her to be like that, but I had no idea what could I do.
I lowered my gaze to the ground and stepped back, letting her breathe. “I was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” I told her quietly, but my voice rang in the hall, seeing as nobody else talked.
“Oh, dear,” she cupped my cheek with her warm hand, smiling weakly. “I understand.”
Did she? I wondered.
“So why are you here?” I asked her again, and then my gaze went to the suitcase next to her. My heart suddenly stopped as I realized it was my suitcase, and my body trembled uncontrollably. “No,” my voice was weak, tears suddenly streamed from my eyes. “You can’t be serious.”
It’s not happening... It can’t be happening...
“They came over,” Gran said quietly, motioning toward the two hot guys. “They told me you... you’re under their custody for now. I’m sorry, Rae,” she tried to smile and failed. “I can’t do anything.”
“They can’t take me away from you,” I whispered, searching her face in a hope that maybe it was all someone’s sick joke, but found nothing. I panicked. “They can’t,” my voice rose, “I’m your granddaughter! They can’t just decided to take custody over me! THEY CAN’T!” I now yelled frantically.
Gran took my hands and squeezed hard. “Listen to me, Rae Marie O’Reilly,” she said in a low, fierce voice, her eyes boring into mine. “Those people are dangerous. They’re practically a mafia group, at least. Do you understand?” Her voice was low so only I could hear, and I found myself nodding barely. “You do what they tell you,” she said warningly. “Otherwise you would find yourself in way more trouble than you’re already in. Am I making myself clear?”
“Yes,” my voice was so quiet, I wondered if she heard.
“Good,” she said, glancing to somewhere behind me. “Now be a good girl and do what your Granny tells you, okay?”
Knowing it was an order, I had no choice but to nod.
“You go and live with them for whatever reason they have,” she muttered. “You cooperate with whatever they ask you to do. You answer their questions and not being stubborn. Stubborn in this situation equals to stupidity. Understood?”
I winced a little as she squeezed harder but nodded nonetheless.
“Fortunately you get to keep Flanny here,” she added, petting Flanny’s head, “so you won’t be alone, no matter what they decide to do with you.”
“I don’t want you to go,” I cried softly. “I need you, Gran...”
“Don’t you dare show them weakness, Rae Marie,” she scolded. “Now I must go. I hope you’ll get to visit me, but until then, do what I told you.”
“Gran - “ I reached for her but she stepped away.
“Good night,” she said louder so everyone would hear. “Can I go back now?”
One of the two guys nodded at her and Gran left in a matter of moments, leaving me here alone, in this nest of killers.
I don’t know how long I stood there, watching at the now closed doors, as if waiting for Gran to return. The tears dried on my face eventually, but it didn’t make me feel less helpless. I should have never walked into the Moore’s house. I should’ve called the police. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be here, in this big mansion, being now under the care of some mafia family and not my Granny.
Flanny nudged my knees softly and quietly, mourning with me. I smiled shakily at her and bended forward so I could pet her head. She closed her eyes and leaned in to my touch, and I wrapped my hands around har furry neck and took some comfort in the act.
I didn’t look up, didn’t let Flanny go. “What?” I asked, my voice accusing, raw from weeping. It was Gunner’s fault for killing Mr. Moore. It was Gunner’s fault I was here to begin with. It was his fault all along, his good-looks be damned. If it wasn’t for him killing Echo’s dad, breaking in the Moore’s house and fucking killing, I wouldn’t be here, saying goodbye to the only family I had without preparing mentally beforehand.
All his fault. His and his fellow killers’.
“Rae,” he said again, apparently persistent. But I didn’t want him push. I wanted him gone right now. “We have to go.”
I closed my eyes tightly, squeezed Flanny, and knew I had to obey. I forced my feelings, my emotional whirlwind, away, so I could concentrate on the matter in hand. So I straightened myself, petted Flanny a little more, wiped the remaining tears on my face and turned around to face the devil in a god’s body.
Gunner’s face was blank, which didn’t really bode well, but I hardened myself, blanked my face too, and nodded in a business-like way. He tilted his chin toward the other two guys and the three led me toward the side-stairs. Gunner was in the lead, the two other guys right behind me, and I tensed, feeling caged. We reached the second floor, which looked pretty much like the first floor only it didn’t have an entrance door and was a little less wide.
We arrived to a living room, with sofas and loveseats, that looked ready to fill at least ten people. Gunner motioned for me sit on one of the loveseats while he stood behind my seat, his mere presence making the skin on my nape prickle in awareness I wanted to be gone, and the other two hot guys sat down on the sofa closest to me. As we all waited for something, or someone, I inspected the other two guys. One of them looked way more criminalistic than Gunner the Sex God. His hair was shaved, his eyes cattish-green, his olive skin covering his tall, overly-muscular body, and he wore black jeans and matching black tee. He had many tattoos on his arms, swirling along his biceps, and his ears were pierced. I wondered if Gunner’s ears were pierced too – I didn’t see since his hair covered them. Not that it should’ve mattered to me, but it did, for reasons beyond my ability to comprehend.
The other guy looked like a typical bad-boy. He had that look, starting with his wavy, shoulder-length brown hair and gold eyes, and ending with his tall and lean body. He had tanned skin and I could see he had a tattoo probably on his chest that ended in his neck. That made me wonder if Gunner had a tattoo I hadn’t seen yet, and I was sure that if he had he would look way better with it than those two guys.
Oh God. I should stop comparing every guy now to Gunner. I should stop thinking about Gunner at all.
The door was suddenly opened and a beautiful girl who could easily rival with Taryn for who’s more gorgeous, even though their beauty was entirely different, entered the room. This woman was tall and her body was all about exquisite curves and golden skin. Her hair was brown so dark it looked black, and it was smooth and silky, shimmering and glossing. It reach her mid-back and reminded me those L’oréal models with their flying hair. Her eyes were the real kick in her beauty; they were blue as light as the sky.
The longer I looked at this exotic woman, the more I realized she was way prettier than Taryn could ever wish to be.
“Jez,” greeted Gunner from behind me, and the girl turned her head to look at him. The way her eyes widened a little, the way her cheeks pinked a bit, it didn’t take a genius to see she had the hots for our lovely sex-god.
“Gunner,” Jez said back, her face brightening as if Christmas morning came earlier and seemed to not notice me sitting right there, in front of her crush. She walked toward Gunner and hugged him tightly. I averted my eyes from the intimacy of the act and instead planted them on the Arabic-styled carpet.
One of the guys cleared his throat – it was the shaved-haired – and he and his bad-boy buddy smirked knowingly at each other. Jez blushed in embarrassment and Gunner smirked a little himself. He was well-aware of her feelings, then.
That was when I realized they were all grown-ups, and I was the youngest. The girl, Jez, looked to be the youngest, probably twenty, and while Gunner was in his mid-twenties, the shaved-haired guy was probably the oldest here, in his late twenties, and the bad-boy one was in his early twenties. They all had supermodel-worthy looks, and all were part of this mafia family, in one way or another. I betted they were adopted or something like that, because they couldn’t be related. They looked too different, from other origins. Jez was probably from some caucasian family, the shaved-haired looked like an European, bad-boy was probably the typical American man and Gunner... well, I wished I knew what was Gunner’s origin, because he seemed to be coming right from the Heavens.
Oh God, now I was thinking about him in poetic words. I should stop drooling all over him, seriously. It was pathetic, not to mention he was a damn killer. I needed to remind myself every time that he was the one who shoot Mr. Moore, or else I would be even more fucked up than I already was.
Jez and Gunner talked quietly among themselves, and when I glanced at them, I saw that Gunner looked at Jez with a brotherly affection. Unrequited love, apparently, and Jez didn’t seem to like it very much. I sympathized; being loved like a sibling from a smoking hot guy like Gunner wasn’t very flattering, especially if you wanted him as a lover.
I wondered how Gunner could be immune to such beauty. Maybe he had already had a girlfriend? It wouldn’t surprise me in the least, because he’s super-good-looking.
After a while, I couldn’t bear the almost silence and the waiting. It was close to two A.M. and I wasn’t keen on staying awake for another hour. I was tired and strung-out from this exhausting day, not to mention that I’d just watched a murder unfolding in front of my eyes by said sex-god. I wanted this day – or night – to be over with. “Who are we waiting for?” I ventured, and tensed when all the four in the room looked at me. Even Jez acknowledged my presence with a frown, like she really had been oblivious to the fact I was sitting right there. So weird.
“Henry,” Gunner replied when nobody else did. Henry? Who the heck was Henry? How did he think I was supposed to know who that was?
I suddenly remembered the puddle of blood and shivered. I pulled my knees to my chest and rested my chin on them, hugging myself against the sudden cold I felt. The shivers continued and another flashbacks from the murder entered my mind. I hid my face in between my legs and chest and tried to stop the unstoppable tremor.
I witnessed a murder. Not even a burglary. A murder. How could I be so indifferent? I saw a person I knew – Mr. Moore, who always half-hugged me whenever I visited Echo and told us all stories about his time as a baseball player – being abused and murdered. How could I be attracted to his killer? How could I just sit around and wait when Echo was probably crying now at the loss of her father?
Why Mr. Moore? What had he done wrong? He was perfectly fine, a good man who loved his wife and children. What had he done to deserve such a harsh judgement? And why did Gunner want to know about Echo? Was she in danger? Was it my fault if she was?
“Rae, look at me.”
Why couldn’t I stop that murder? I could’ve done something. I could’ve acted less like a coward. I could have hit Gunner and his fellow murderer with the bat I’d had in hand. But I hadn’t done so.
I blinked my eyes open, saw I was, for some reason, on the floor, with Gunner dripping water on my face, his sea-eyes staring at me. Beyond him I could see Jez and the other two guys looking at me oddly. “Rae,” Gunner said fiercely, making my eyes snap back at him, “are you with me?”
I shivered, and tears filled my eyes. Gunner cursed and cupped my chin with one strong hand, the other still dripping water on my face. “Rae, I need you to focus,” he said. “Please try.”
Instead of answering his previous question, I needed some answers of my own. “What happened?” I asked in husky voice.
“You had a panic attack,” he replied, searching my eyes. “Are you okay?”
I nodded slowly, and stopped another shiver from taking over my body. Then I looked at Gunner, really looked, and found myself feeling the same knowingness from before, the tug toward him, the yearning for that familiarity I felt when I looked at him. I could appreciate his handsomeness, his sexiness, his god-like appearance, but not the wild attraction I felt before. It was as if the panic attack muted that attraction, at least for now. But I took what I got.
When he stood up and gave me hand, I ignored it and stood up by myself. Then I looked at him, feeling the hatred I should’ve felt before when I saw those mesmerizing greenish-blue eyes. “Stay away from me,” I muttered, saw the slight widening of his eyes, and then sat back on the loveseat.
That was when the door opened and in entered the person we had all been waiting for.