T W E N T Y - N I N E
In all these years, my sister’s association with a hospital was synonyms, so much so that it didn’t affect me until today.
Sammy, in a dull-colored hospital gown, surrounded by monitors, with her pale cheeks and blank eyes, wedged a knife into my heart right away. I always used to make fun of her in blue scrubs that she wore so proudly. The truth was, I was prouder as her brother. I might have never told her this, but the blue attire emphasized her eyes prettily too.
I wish I could tell her that everything about her was magic and beyond. But instead, I stood frozen at the doorstep.
Dad sped past me and wrapped her into his embrace while Aurora stood behind, waiting for her turn.
“Paps,” Sammy whispered with a sob lodged in her throat. That was the only word that made it past her lips for a long time.
She was trying, really trying, to be strong for him, but I knew my sister well enough to know that the light inside her died. That her heart was buried deep under the ashes and debris of the wreckage she was forced to endure.
“I am sorry, so sorry, princess,” Dad mumbled—again and again—until he found the right words to comfort her.
Over the years, I heard my father say that his sons were his pride, his strength, but it was always Sammy who owned his heart. So, it was understandable that despair was ripping him apart.
“Don’t be sorry, Paps, it wasn’t your fault,” Sammy implored, her voice weak and broken.
Dad merely shook his head, pulling back away. I could see that he didn’t want to let her go, sheltering her forever, but the more he glanced her wounds, the tighter his chest got.
Aurora rushed in to fill the space, embracing her tightly. Sammy winced a little but I could tell that she was more than glad for the hug. These two, they were the real-life Thelma and Lousie. If one of them committed murder, the other one would happily bury the dead body.
I didn’t know what Sammy whispered into her hair, but Aurora began to chuckle through tears and quickly wiped the salty flow. After long moments of their secret languages and tearful smiles later, Aurora stepped back.
It was then Sammy’s eyes moved across the room towards me, and I realized that I stood immovable all this while. She extended her arm, slowly and invitingly, beckoning me closer.
“Dominic…” I could only see her lips move in a way she pronounced my name.
It was beyond me that I could move at all, despite the pins and needles, but I was by her side in a flash. In two days, the bastard had reduced my sister into skin and bones as I carefully bundled her into my arms.
“We failed you,” I admitted, resting my forehead on her shoulder.
“You all love me and want to protect me; I get it,” she told me, and then her eyes flicked at Dad and Aurora briefly. “But please, don’t make me look weak because I am not. I am hurt—but only physically.”
I cupped her head between my hands, caging her gaze. “I swear this, little sister, I will have every one of those bastards at your feet. I promise you,” I vowed fiercely.
“I know. I know you will, Dominic,” Sammy whispered. “Tell Viktor: I am sorry. I should have listened to him.”
“Why don’t you Facetime him? He’s blasting my phone anyway.” I smiled.
Glassy tears rolled down her cheeks as she mutely shook her head. “I can’t…I can’t, Dominic,” she said guiltily.
“Shh, it’s ok, Sammy,” I soothed, smoothing her hair. “Viktor knows that he has terrible siblings, but he loves us anyway.”
The fact that our brother was looking out for us ever since we were born finally brought a weak smile on her tear-stricken face. It wasn’t only Sammy who has to apologize to Viktor; I was equally guilty as well.
I would have stayed a little longer by her side, but Dad and Aurora beat me to it. So, I was forced to prop myself against the wall until a nurse came in to dress her injuries. The sight stabbed me with such a force that I couldn’t bear to spare a glance at it.
Anger, like a roaring comet and glowering furnace, exploded so dangerously I dashed out of the room without a courtesy. It took a long time to calm my nerves, and after an hour and three phone calls to Viktor, ordering the next course of action did I breathed easy.
But even then, I couldn’t bring myself to enter Sammy’s room and sat outside.
“When I first saw you, I thought you wouldn’t leave your sister’s side. And yet you are sitting outside,” a voice stated as I turned my head. “Did she try to stab you, too?”
It was the younger brother, Xavier… Sauvignon? What was the last name? Damn, these French and their surnames.
“Your brother got lucky,” I smirked. “My sister cuts way deeper.”
His smile faded into a scowl. “Lucky wouldn’t be the word I would use here.”
I stood up from my seat, taking a stroll with him through the hospital corridor. “I believe I didn’t thank you and your brother enough. My family is truly grateful.”
He acknowledged with a reserved nod that only businessmen learned to do curtly. It told me more than I wanted to know about him. “It’s the least we could do at that moment when we found her.”
“You didn’t tell us how you found her,” I probed. Xavier, with a pretention last name, might not be an enemy today, but he could be a potential rival tomorrow. “My family left no stone unturned to track her within hours of her kidnapping. We put in every resource we could…” Torturing and killing every man who could have information on Sammy. “But still we couldn’t—”
“You can say it was luck.” Bullshit, luck’s got nothing on monsters, but I silently listened to the way he sugar-coated it. “Now, I would happily elaborate on the matter if you would come with me and answer a couple of questions to loosen the knots for us. Edward and I think you have the answers to the question we don’t know. So, if you could, in good faith, help us out.”
I changed my mind that moment—either a potential enemy or a potential ally. “Help? And regarding what?” I inquired, halting my steps.
“Please, come with me.”
We took the elevator to our right as he punched a floor number only accessed by his fingerprint and a card that he carefully tucked inside his suit jacket. When the door opened, the view was unlike any other hospital floor but a personalized office.
Scanning around the place, I followed his suit. “This place is exclusively built for the trustees and board members of the hospital,” he clarified, leading his way into a giant office room. The decor was effortlessly Parisian and luxuriously designed with silk, linen, leather, polished wood.
“Mr. Romano,” the elder one, Edward, acknowledged. “How’s your sister doing?” Despite the Frenchness around him, I didn’t know how this man had a sharp British weight to his accent.
“She is…recovering,” I said, putting in mildly. Edward didn’t object but affirmed with a small nod. “I sense a pending conversation, gentlemen,” I reminded, glancing between the brothers. “Can we get on with that?”
A knowing look passed between the brothers, something that Viktor and I have been sharing for years.
“You wanted to know how you could help us?” Xavier began. “Here’s the information we have been seeking for a long time. It’s about the illegal trade transactions of Juan, both in the United States and Mexico.”
The name spiked my interest to the next level. I knew that Juan has everything to do with my sister’s kidnapping, but the knowledge of these men involved in the mess was slightly surprising as well as disconcerting.
“Go on,” I encouraged.
Edward began, “There were only a handful of incidents in the past year when Juan had crossed the border for business. Though more than ninety percent of his illegal business transactions are rooted in America, he prefers to stay off the radar. I believe it has everything to do with Homeland Security scouring for him, but that never affected his illegal trades here.”
Xavier stalked closer with an iPad in his hand, providing me with the necessary details and elaborate patterns of Juan. It appeared they have been hunting him for a quite a long time and quite unsuccessfully so. “We had information that there would be an urgent cross-border transaction for Juan—something big.”
By now, I roughly had an idea, but Edward continued. “So, we followed the trail of information and intercepted the vehicle we suspected, and that is how we found your sister in it—in a wooden crate box. And since your family is distinguished, it didn’t take much time to figure out who she is.”
“What we don’t understand is,” the younger brother, Xavier, piped in, “Why is your sister so important that Juan would risk himself?”
If he was asking how much my sister was worth, he didn’t study well about my family. But I did—about them, or at least had my people do it for me. These men are well-bred in money. Unlike us, they had very least illegal connections, but that didn’t lessen their power in corporate America.
So, I dealt with a need-to-know basis. “Sammy was taken by one of the men, whom we trusted, a mistake we would regret till our last. This bastard, he made a deal with Juan to use our sister to strike a deal with us and to make it easy for Juan to establish the trade and trafficking in Chicago.”
Xavier and Edward exchange a glance, finally filling in the gaps. “And your sister trusted this guy?” Xavier asked as if the fact that my sister could trust a man was shocking.
Immediately, my expression turned truculent. A few hours, and the man thought he knew my sister better? Just when I was about to retort, there was loud knocking on the door.
“Come in!” Edward barked his order, clearly annoyed.
The door opened, and a mousy looking man peeked in. Throwing fleeting glance around the room, he addressed Edward fearfully. “Er…Sir, I am sorry to interrupt, but this is important. Your patient from Room 810 is missing.”
“WHAT?” I yelled. 810 was Sammy’s room.
“What do you mean by missing?” Xavier demanded the man who was ready to high-tail out of there.
Next was Edward, barking swift orders. “Check the camera footage of her floor and all the other exit route of the hospital. And put it on lockdown until I say so.”
I couldn’t one second longer. I stormed out of the room, dialing Aurora and punching the elevator button simultaneously.
“Mr. Romano, wait!” Edward called out from behind, as he strode closer.
“I don’t have time for this shit!” I hissed.
Edward pacified nonetheless. “I assure you, Mr. Romano, there has been no security breach in our hospital; otherwise, I would have known.”
“Listen,” I hissed. “Sammy couldn’t have—”
“She’s in the hospital!” Xavier cut in, rushing towards us, with a laptop in hand. All three pairs of eyes zoomed on the screen. “She is on the fourth floor,” he stated. “She is…checking every room…for…I have no idea about it.”
Neither did I. Sammy was frantic, storming into every private room of the floor.
“I am sorry—I don’t want to be rude, but I have to ask you this,” Edward said, his face all–serious. “Is your sister mental?”
The ding of the elevator chimed right then as the door opened, and we stepped in. “Why don’t you ask my sister instead?” I told the brothers.
And that’s Chapter 29, guys. Dominic and Lilliana would return from the next Chapter onwards, and along with that, some more drama.
Good news! Since this is Christmas month, and I am going exorbitantly slow on updates (Sorry!) due to my health issues, I will try and give you guys a short bonus scene on MARCO & AURORA. I miss writing about them, and a short Christmas Chapter is in order!
It will be a part of the book “Wrapped in Sin” (I will add it shortly) and will have the collection of bonus scenes from the Monster’s Series, especially the MOST-REQUESTED ones.
To the readers, who truly make my day with their votes, comments, and likes—THANK YOU!