Chapter 59: Inescapable
Unravel Him Playlist on Spotify.
Song; (Adam Jensen- The Mystic) & (Bohnes- Raging on a Sunday) & (Atis Freivalds- Still here) & (Atis Freivalds-Passion) & (Eternal Eclipse- True Love’s Last Kiss) &(Tomme Profitt- Enemy)
Days had passed, weeks, months, a year.
He suddenly shows up, he suddenly appears, he suddenly thinks it’s alright to hand the reigns back to him.
As though all that time away hadn’t mattered.
In my mind, I can see it all.
All those days of sleepless nights, all those weeks, spending time with the others, all those months, planning to take down Aitenev.
How could he know any of it?
The frustration, the pain, the absolute loss.
Everything is at the surface, everything is in reach, I feel myself sinking underwater, my hands are afloat, my eyes are watching the shinning reflection from beneath.
Then everything goes red.
What does it mean to see red?
Is the meaning as obtuse as it sounds?
Will, you metaphorically see red, or will you physically see it?
Then I realize something.
I don’t give a fuck.
All senses of the world disappear without a word as I’m reduced to nothing but the sheer need to fight tooth, and nail.
If there was ever a documented moment in time of a predator before it lunges, you can say this would be it.
This would be the moment.
I want to rip him to shreds-
A hand grasps my wrist from my right, pulling hard.
I don’t pay attention.
Another hand reaches for my wrist, now I’m being held back on both limbs.
They pull hard, hard enough that I have to acknowledge the discomfort and refocus on the surroundings before me.
For half a second I’m blinded by the fury, blinded by the rage, but its halted by how the grip around my arms tightens.
Then the anger disappears, evaporating in a flash just as fast as it comes.
When that happens, I can finally see who had been the one to hold me back.
Jared first, Mason second when I catch his light brown hair from the corner of my eye.
Both males have secured their holds, effectively trapping me from doing any further harm.
It would seem they’ve anticipated this reaction.
Good thing too, because any further delay, and I would have been too lost in my anger. It would have been a catastrophic mess.
I don’t even realize I’m panting until Mason lifts his free hand to rub my back, a silent motion to let me know he was right there by my side.
“I’m okay,” I don’t sound okay. My ears are popping and prickling, my heartbeat is fighting in my chest.
I try my best to tame it, but the earlier rush of adrenaline that flooded my system would make anyone woozy.
This time when I speak, it’s much more controlled. “Jared, Mase, you can let go.”
Jared peers at me with dark eyes, unreadable and true.
“I’m alright,” I reaffirm him.
He nods once, then let’s go, retreating just a step but not any further, ensuring he was positioned right behind me.
Mason is the one who doesn’t let go. He’s taken to stay beside me.
I realize indefinitely in the silence that follows, that the others in the foreground are as triggered as I am.
Victor is leaning against the couch, standing.
Elios has angled his body, broadening his shoulders.
Evan and Zanthus are both side by side, unmoving as their stares direct themselves to Thomas.
I hear the tell-tale sound of a dagger being thrown up and down and knew it was Matthew.
“Hmm...” The heir of Graymoore takes a step forward in our direction, his gaze sharp to our stances and how we’ve perceived him a threat. “I’m an outsider now?”
Nobody responds to him.
Perhaps its because we’re not sure ourselves.
We’re all too used to each other that it feels as though the heir of Graymoore is a stranger, albeit he was part of the group before.
To have him challenge us like that.
To have him claim his spot on the throne...
It throws us off our game.
How does anyone expect us to break out of routine? How do we naturally converse with Thomas after a year of his absence?
Eventually, our long harrowing silence is broken by Elios.
He’s stood up from his position and is keeping his hands busy by rearranging the straps around his waist.
A closer look and you’d know he’s trying to control himself from lashing out. “We brought you here not to start a fight, Thomas-”
“Doesn’t seem to be the case,” Thomas scans each and every one of us with neutrality. “You all look like you want to kill me.”
“With that attitude, can you blame us?” Zanthus chuckles dryly without any real humor. “I want to punch your lights in.”
“A blade would suffice,” Matthew added, twirling the dagger around his finger.
Beside him, Evan nods in agreement, neither happy nor appreciative of this situation.
“You’ve never hesitated before, what’s stopping you now?” Thomas raises a mocking brow at the three. “Don’t tell me you can’t do it because deep down inside you know you need me?”
The insult pours oil into the growing fire.
I feel the tension in the air crackle and flourish.
At this rate, my anger is the least of my worries. Not when I have seven other men who are on the brink of an explosion.
“Thomas,” Elios inhales sharply, his fists clenching behind his back. “You’re outnumbered here don’t push it.”
“If you’re still pissy about what happened-”
“Seriously?” Evan fumes as he cuts Thomas off and crosses his arms across his chest. “Screw this, we don’t need him, who said we needed him?”
Several heads nodded at that.
“We need him.”
My head snaps over to the heir of BourneFell’s unblinking stature. His words had cemented the atmosphere, deflating the others who huff with irritation but do not argue back.
He is the last person I expected to say something like that.
Why would he?
As far as I remembered these two could never see eye to eye.
So what was this?
Mason is staring at Thomas with an expression I do not understand but it is one the heir of Graymoore meets head-on.
His gaze slowly trails down to Mason’s and I wrapped hands. The corner of his mouth twitches with displeasure.
“If I knew how close both of you were, I would have kicked you out of my house.”
“Scared I’ll steal her away?” Mason smiles and flicks a mocking salute. “Good luck trying to get rid of me, Tommy.”
“Call me Tommy, one more time,” The heir of Graymoore’s features twist with malice consequences. He’s seething, his teeth gritted so hard, I can hear the rattle from here. “Do it... do it, I dare you-”
“Can someone tell me what the hell is going on?” I demanded, at a miss as to what is happening. I think I sounded a bit more hysterical then I’d like.
The group doesn’t answer.
They’ve all gone quiet.
Irritated, I slip my hand away from Mason and push his chest so he’d look at me in the eye. “What is going on, Mase?”
I thought he’d ignore me with how preoccupied he is but eventually, the heir of BourneFell breaks eye contact from Thomas to meet my gaze.
He releases a sigh.
“The night the building burnt down, my Dad was home, I couldn’t bring the others to my house,” The two men exchange glares. “So while we were figuring out where to hole ourselves up, guess who we found trespassing outside?”
“You done talking shit?” Thomas berates.
“Oh, I haven’t even started.”
That meant the phone call I had with Jared happened while they were staying with Thomas. It made sense as to why they were hesitant to answer me over the phone.
So they knew? They knew he’d come back?
Yet they didn’t say anything?
I felt betrayed.
But that would make me a hypocrite.
I was the one that didn’t tell the others about him in the first place, so what gave me the right to feel like that?
“Vanessa,” Jared voices from where he stands. He’d been watching my ever-changing expression over the past few minutes with caution.
“I don’t understand,” I turn to him, leaving the others behind as they bicker back and forth. “What is he doing here? Why, is he here?”
“You asked us to find a solution.”
Oh hell... no.
This was it?
This was their plan?
“No,” I shake my head.
“I knew you’d say that.” He grimaces.
“Well, congratulations-what the hell did you expect?”
They went behind my back, to ask Thomas for help? The, Thomas, that left without an ounce of explanation?
That’s almost the same thing as disclosing a secret to an outsider.
“He left for over a year, Jared.” My hiss is as sharp as my glare.
“We didn’t want this either,” He retorts, matching my frustration with his own. “Thomas was our last resort, if it was up to us you think we’d want to involve him? Especially after what he’s done?”
“Then don’t! We don’t need him!”
“Talking crap behind someone’s back? It seems you’ve picked up some bad habits, Ginger.”
The metaphorical clock in my system is ticking.
I feel Thomas’s gaze on mine, hot and burning. It made me want to reach over and gouge his eyes out.
The worst part is he knew exactly what he was doing, he knew exactly what buttons to press and as the corner of his mouth lifts and a ghost of a smile spread across those lips, I instantly knew when that asshole switch flipped on above his head.
The edges of my vision are starting to blur. “My bad habits don’t concern you.”
“Lying isn’t something you’d usually do, either.” He muses.
I turn on my heel, feeling my fists clench by my sides. He looks the same as he was the night of his bachelor party.
Styled hair, fitted suit, looks that can kill and a gaze that can cut.
What an eyesore.
“The adults are talking, sweetie,” I raise a finger up at him and smile condescendingly. “Why don’t you wait in the corner while I ask the others why the fuck did they think it was a good idea to bring you in?”
His nostrils flared, unamused. “I don’t think I heard you correctly... are you telling me to wait?”
“Yes,” My nod is curt. “That’s exactly what I mean.”
“So that’s how you want to play it?” He wonders out loud, unconsciously unbuttoning his topcoat so it revealed the full scope of that cloth beneath.
My gaze shot down to his chest near his neck.
There’s a small dark imprint underneath it.
Purple and blue.
My head is tilted, my shoulders are stiff, my jaw is clenched. Every part of me is now on attack mode.
“You gonna try, telling me what to do Thomas?” I bite my lip in an attempt to stop myself from asking where the hell that mark came from. “Last I checked you weren’t one of us anymore.”
“You’re talking awful big for someone who ran when things got tough,” Thomas exclaims haughtily, uncrossing his arms so they laid flat against his sides. “Do I need to remind you that you were the one that left when I told you to stay?”
My temper goes termo-nuclear.
“Piece of shit-”
“Wait, hang on!” Mason wrapped his arms around my shoulders, jerking me back as my feet carry me forward.
I’ll be content just punching Thomas two more times.
Two more times, that’s all I’m asking for.
“Here we go,” Elios sighs unhelpfully.
“We might as well wait.” Zanthus nudges at Evan to sit down as the others agree and retreat to the background.
“Let it go,” Mason hold on me is still tight but he’s slipping from how hard I’m struggling. “Vanessa, he’s just riling you up, calm down-”
“I’m going to make you wish you never came back!”
Just when Mason loses his grip and Thomas is about to meet my hands, a shadow silently inserted himself into the conversation, halting my abrupt moves.
His fingers are cool against my wrist. It’s neither demanding nor forceful.
Just gentle and callus.
“You said, you were willing to listen,” He levels his gaze, leaning forward so our faces are inches apart. “Do not break your promise.”
Our earlier promise rings at the back of my mind as my breaths escape me in harsh pants.
Why did he have to be right?
Why did this have to be so difficult?
Of course, I couldn’t be selfish, it wasn’t just my life that was at risk.
“Both of you,” Elios gestures us to sit down, his dark eyes shifting between me and Thomas. “Just sit down alright? Before you all bite each other’s heads off.”
That sounded appealing.
Before I can do it, Victor drags me towards the couch, gently pushing me to sit down where I inwardly curl in on myself.
The straps around my shoulders are uncomfortable but I don’t fix it. I’m seething too much to care.
My imagination is running wild from all the scenarios I have about murdering a certain heir.
Something else was missing here, too.
He would have never passed the chance to snap at Thomas but where was he? I did a scan across the club, realizing he’s not in the vicinity.
Where did he-
“Thomas sit, come on man.”
The heir of Graymoore gazes at the others pensively and full of distrust before eventually doing as he’s asked, following Elios’s pleading.
He sat at the other end of the couch, so the middle remains empty between us.
A reminder where we stand.
It feels like a wall.
It feels like a breakable wall.
I hate him, I hate him, I hate him.
Unconsciously, I swallow a mouthful of saliva and fisted my palms, feeling antsy and uncomfortable.
I hate him.
Yet, I cannot resist glancing over, hitching in a breath when our eyes meet. His eyes, his lips, the lines of his face, the power in his gaze.
His expression says it all.
He’s starving for my touch.
“Now that we’re all settled in.” Elios clasps his hands together and exhales loudly with trepidation, unaware of the tension between us. “Matthew, mind taking the floor?”
“What?” The silver-haired male gape in alarm as he tucks his dagger back in its holster. “Oh hell no, I’m not getting in between Mom and Dad, this is something Mason can handle.”
“Mason would make it worst, he’s Thomas’s competition.” Evan quips in true uncanny fashion.
“There is no competition,” The heir of Graymoore scoffs. “She’s still mine.”
“You weren’t the one that slept by her side all these months now were you?” Mason tilts his head at an angle and mocks a pout.
Thomas shot back at Mason with an equal amount of sarcasm. “I was the one that slept, inside her.”
Digging my nails into my forehead, I covered my face with the side of the couch and release a groan.
Will this dick measuring contest be over soon?
“Get to the point already, I want to go home,” I complain. There’s still a best friend I need to apologize too. “Explain to me why we need Thomas.”
“Because this Aitenev problem is getting worse?” Evan muttered with a pout.
“Again, why, do we need Thomas?”
“Vanessa, this whole Aitenev thing is partially because of him.” Elios comments from beneath his breath, fingers pinching the bridge of his nose.
“You know we were involved with them before you were officially in the group.”
“And I also know it hadn’t mattered because Aitenev had been targeting me from the beginning. Starting from that Karen incident at the party.” I reminded the older Vinyl, bringing back the fact that we still couldn’t find the connection I had with it.
With the others it had been straightforward, they were involved with Aitenev because of some bets and fighters.
Mine was a bit more complicated.
Aitenev recruited Travis in which he got Karen to terrorize me, then when that didn’t work, they recruited Veronica.
It only made things worse when I found out Jonas was also involved with them.
It was like they were watching my every move from the shadows.
“You’re going to launch into an essay of why it won’t matter if we include Thomas aren’t you?” Zanthus mutters mournfully.
“Prove me wrong then, Vi.” I cross my arms over my chest.
“We can’t protect you, when there’s seven others to look at too.” Matthew cuts in, giving Zanthus a look as the other male was about to open his mouth. “Contrary to popular belief there are two rulers on the throne. A King and a Queen.”
Was he suggesting...
“One to fuck things up and the other to un-fuck things up.” Zanthus smiles, raising a finger in the air with pride.
“You want us to work together?” I question with delayed confusion. “Do you know what that sounds like? You’d be putting your faith in us and last I checked, I don’t even have faith in us.”
“Vanessa you’re too involved in this now,” Mason slips both hands into his pockets and leans back on his heels. “We stand by you, even more so than Thomas-don’t look at me like that you’ve been gone for a year.” He added when the heir of Graymoore flashes him a deadly expression.
No, they clearly hadn’t thought this through.
If we decide to lead this group together who’s to say we won’t butt heads? Who’s to say nothing will blow up in our faces?
Two different opinions leading one team, the chaos that will ensue would be terrible to imagine.
I hated this idea.
I hated this plan.
It’s a definite no.
“We’re not doing this, it’s a no,” Sitting up, I place a hand on the table before me and didn’t move. “You all seem to forget something, so let me remind you, it won’t be long until Thomas leaves again, are you willing to risk it?”
“He won’t leave-” Evan throws his hands out, desperate to hold onto this thin momentary alliance. “Come on, reassure her, tell her you won’t go.”
The heir of Graymoore is staring at me, giving nothing away.
I see several flashes of emotions in his gaze.
I knew the moment he lied.
“I won’t leave.”
Standing up, I walk to the other side of the couch and collected my bag. “I’m not doing this.”
“Evan, you can all continue to play house with a liar but I won’t.” Just because Thomas was once their leader didn’t mean they should excuse his pathetic lies.
Going home and sleeping the rest of the day off sounds like a pretty good idea at this point. “Come back to me when you figured things out, I’ll be heading home,”
“Goddamnit.” Elios slaps his forehead.
Zanthus make a half-hearted attempt to block my way but I’m quick to avoid it. “Vanessa come on-”
“You’re not going anywhere.”
“Get out of my way Thomas,”
He’s determined to get me to stay this time and even if I tried to run, I know he’d catch me.
It doesn’t mean I’m going down without a fight. “Final warning,”
He doesn’t move even as I get up and close with him, my gaze never leaving the collar of his shirt where that purple mark still resides.
Did his fiancee give it to him?
“Stay,” He voices, sounding both deep and raspy. “Don’t run away again.”
I let out a snort. “I guess I am a coward,” This time I raise my head. “Because I’m running away-”
Brushing past his shoulder my bag is abruptly tugged by his grip, forcing the strap around my shoulder to jerk.
“You need my help, Ginger.”
I, needed his help?
Where was that a year ago?
We’re suspended for several silent seconds, a thousand things running through my mind.
Perhaps he’s holding onto me because he wanted me to apologize for what I did to him that night, to forget about it all and welcome him back with open arms.
After all, he’s come back, right?
Absentmindedly, I turn around and look down to his hand, to the ring glinting back at me.
I feel my heart clench.
There’s a fine line, between staying calm and letting it all implode. I am on the chasm of both.
“You talk as if you understand what went through my mind that night, Thomas Moore.” My solemn voice carries across the club, echoing further into the empty space.
I’m shaking, shaking with absolution.
The building burning down.
Aitenev knowing our names.
All of it.
“How could you know? You weren’t there, you know nothing, so don’t pretend you do.”
“I know you were promptly kicked in the ass, I know all your names are exposed.” He lists with astounding accuracy, without a doubt getting all this information from the others beforehand.
“I know you’ve been struggling to find a solution and there’s isn’t any-”
“So what?” I cut him off, digging my nails into my palm and using it as an anchor to keep me steady. “You’re going to come back in? Take over the role of King? Lead the group again?”
“I need to be here, Ginger.” Thomas is serious, his blue-green eyes filling with depth and meaning. “I know I’ve been gone for a while, but don’t expect me to give this up so easily.”
At the back of my mind, I know what he’s trying to say.
This group was not created by me, it had been created by King himself.
It’s his right to ask for it back.
So why was I delaying the inevitable?
My men’s faces came to mind.
He didn’t know what happened to them after he left, they were practically ghosts of their former selves.
Scoffing, I snatch my bag away from his grip and let it hang from my hand. The audacity of this bloodsucker. “You’re an idiot if you think, I’ll let this easily go either.”
He skirts dangerously close to my vicinity, palms out as though to handle a wild animal. “I’m not asking you to let this go.”
“So what do you want?” I let out a hysterical chuckle and rub my face. The heat is starting to get me, my head feels like it’s going to explode. “You want things to go back to normal? You want me to pretend you don’t have a fiancee waiting for you at home?”
He flinches, the comment stinging more then he’d physically show.
Thomas could hide all he wanted under that facade, but we both know we could never hide from one another.
We saw right through each other.
“I told you I am going to get out of it.” He mutters lowly, causing strain on my ears from having to decipher what he’s trying to say. “I told you-”
“Lying isn’t like you, Thomas.” Holding my arms to myself, I fisted at my sleeves, suddenly feeling vulnerably exposed. My words are an echo of his earlier comments. “Say it again, louder, tell me your father won’t oppose it.”
His shoulders roll back, his head straightened and his glare turned glaze-like.
I’ve grazed a touchy subject.
Even the others have gone quiet, staring at each other with wide eyes.
Yet nobody says a word.
Nobody defends anyone, nobody corrects me, nobody does anything and I know it’s wrong, I know it hurts him.
The part of me that shares Thomas’s pain is screaming inside, however, instead of apologizing, instead of backing down, instead of sweeping it under the rug, I decided to just rip the band-aid.
If we continue to hide the problems that made this happen in the first place, what would happen?
We’d be running in circles.
There be no end.
He wanted the reason, he wanted the truth, well here it was.
His father, Harrison Moore isn’t the type to tolerate disobedience. If the many stories of Thomas who had been physically and emotionally abused by his own father weren’t obvious enough.
My men had come to the conclusion a couple of months ago that Thomas’s sudden engagement is probably his father’s way of getting him in line.
The only way to fix this doesn’t come from me or the others, it had to come from him.
Thomas has to come to terms with it, but he hasn’t so why is he back?
Why did he come back when the matter hadn’t been resolved?
He’s making a mistake.
“Why did you come here?” I whisper, the temper inside me slowly melting away to give way for something else.
“Why did you come here, if you knew there wasn’t a way?” By conversing with the others, meeting with them, he’s given them hope.
Why did you give them hope?
It would have been better if he stayed away.
“It isn’t like that, Ginger.” He raises both hands and runs it down the side of his head, fluffing up the sandy blond strands.
Frustration is evident, his exhaustion is obvious.
“If you become the King again Thomas, what will happen then? You’d help us? Take down Aitenev? Then what? What happens after? Will you leave again?”
There were so many questions, so many he couldn’t give an answer too.
Because the truth is, he didn’t know either.
“Why did you come here?” I repeated, hoping my voice didn’t give way to the fact that I was seconds from crying. “Why, Thomas-”
“You think I want this?” He demanded, pointing a finger at himself as he scans across the room for anyone that would come to his defense. “You think I wanted this ring on my damn finger?”
A year ago, they would have willingly jump through fire for him.
A year ago, they would have done anything for him.
But that was a year ago, and the time for excuses is over.
“Why did you come here?!”
“Because of you, goddamnit!” He bellows, his whole body shaking as the force of his emotions finally tip him over the edge.
“I wanted to see you, I wanted to talk to you, because if I did, maybe I’d still have the strength to continue on, maybe I’d still have the strength to wake up in the morning because god knows I dread it, I hate, waking up to this life, my, life.”
Its the first time I’ve seen him reveal his feelings like this.
Thomas isn’t trying to claim his spot on the throne.
This runs deeper, heavier, much more complicated.
He’s usually so discipline, so straightforward, never letting an ounce of emotion to show because it’s who he is, but at this moment, at this second, he’s showing me what’s tormenting him inside, what he’s hiding all these months.
He’s showing me a man that is deserted on a desert, starving, thirsting, for even the slightest drop of water. He’s begging me to reach a hand out. He’s begging me not to leave him behind.
“-What?” He raises his head, perplex, at my sudden trajectory change.
Sometimes you just can’t stop the heart from doing what it wanted and I’m just... drained.
Drained, beyond measure.
I hate feeling this way, I hate feeling so torn, so used, I just want things to go my way for once, I just want things to settle down, I just want to be happy.
And I want him to come back to me. I’m not afraid of feeling it neither am I afraid of denying it, I want him back with all my heart.
But sometimes a dream is just a dream.
“426 days, is how long you’ve been gone,” I say, with as much confidence as I can muster.
“Vanessa-” Mason tries to say something but I don’t let him.
“I stopped counting after day 104...” Laughing softly, I sniffled and wiped under my nose. “-but isn’t it funny... that I can remember all the details? Right down to the dot?”
The others hadn’t known I’ve been keeping this to myself. That I’ve been listing the days, the months, the year.
I’ve been keeping track long after he was gone.
“Ginger, I...” Thomas blinks slowly, uncertainty flooding his features.
His fingers are trembling too, why? Because he’s guilty? Because he didn’t think it been that long?
Sighing, I folded my arms onto myself and look up to the ceiling, to the Skuro emblem, unlit. “Why didn’t you tell me that night?”
This was one question that bothered me the most.
Every night when I sleep, the images playback, our conversation repeats like a loop, taunting me of all the times he could have said something.
“I... couldn’t.” He inhales, speaking softly, the cracks in his facade slowly breaking. “Even if it killed me.”
“You’d rather make love to me, whisper sweet promises and oaths, give me false hope, that’s what you’d rather do?”
“I didn’t want to leave you!” He snaps, now agitated, his temper rising like a storm. “I didn’t want any of this to happen, it isn’t as simple as you think, we’re-”
“Different.” I cut him off.
He freezes, startled by how quickly I’ve picked apart his reasons. “That’s not what I meant.”
Then, what else did you mean?
Shrugging mindlessly, I smile a sad smile.
I should be understanding, I should be patient, I should let it go, but I was just, so, tired.
Damn, I’ve always imagined how’d this conversation would go when we’d have it. It wasn’t difficult, I suppose you could say I had a lot of time to practice in my head.
Hailey said the night I asked for the break up hadn’t counted because I ran away.
Does this count now?
“It’s alright, I came to that conclusion on day 216. You’re an heir to a billion-dollar company, I’m Vanessa Vail, the nobody who made a name for themselves when the sun goes down.”
“You know that’s my life too, Ginger.”
“It hasn’t been, for months.” My statement must have struck something in him because he doesn’t defend himself, he doesn’t do anything, he just stands there, silent.
I’ve hurt him.
I should apologize.
I should extend an olive branch, but I can’t.
I can’t ignore Thomas for leaving, I can’t ignore Thomas for going with another woman, I can’t ignore him for leaving the others.
I’ve only known him for a couple of years and it already hurts so much, the others share a bond with him for far longer than that, I can only imagine how they’ve managed.
What can I do?
So much has happened in so little time.
Is there a light at the end of the tunnel?
Will there be peace?
“Stay,” He pauses mid stride and holds out an open palm. He’s appealing to my buried affection towards him, hoping it would spark something I hadn’t felt in a while. “Just, stay alright?"
Doubt is swirling in Thomas’s iris, so is pain, pain for being the cause of both our agonies.
It almost got me.
It almost made me give in.
But then I remembered it shouldn’t be this easy.
Dropping my voice to barely a mumble, I made sure my next words are only for the both of us. “If you came to ask for forgiveness, don’t. You’ll have better luck with the others instead, that is, if they believe you.”
“You turn my own friends against me?” He withdraws his hand, letting it fall to his side, shakily.
“You did that yourself, Thomas, when you cut off all contacts and left them in the dust, I wasn’t the only one that got hurt.”
“I’m here aren’t I?”
“No,” I shake my head. “They deserve more than that after the shit you did to them, did you even apologize? One year in another country and you’ve forgotten what they’ve done for you.”
The Thomas Moore I knew, would have never forsaken his friends. The people he grew up with, the people who stuck with him through thick and thin, they were waiting for him now.
He couldn’t make things right with me, but he can still make things right with them.
I tug my bag and this time he lets go. I use the opportunity to leave the club.
“Oh no, you don’t-” Evan snatches at Thomas suit and shakes him. “Go after her!”
“Dad go fix Mom, we’re not handling your mess anymore.” Matthew.
The others are all voicing their displeasure when I reach the door and push it open.
I’m immediately overcome with strangers as they pass. The streets of New York are busy and if I join the crowd I can see myself forgetting this whole thing as I blend in.
So that’s what I did.
I start to walk, falling into line with passerby and strangers, taking in the smell of the city and what it had to offer.
It be nice to get away from all this metal. I’d like to see nature one of these days.
However, I can’t do any of that as long as I live this type of life.
What a cruel joke.
Sometimes I wished I could run away.
What was I still doing here? Why did I have to take in all this burden? I could just let it go, drift away from everyone, and find my own happiness.
I should stop lying to myself.
There’s nothing out there that guarantees my happiness.
So even if I leave, there was no point.
No one’s waiting for me.
The light ahead turned red at the intersection, forcing the crowd to halt as cars zoom by. I watch the passing vehicles with grim interest, hoping it would take my mind off things.
So many sounds permeate the air.
Car honks, loud sirens, engine rumblings.
The city is practically bustling.
“Move, out of my way-”
A voice captures my attention.
I glance behind and cursed out loud when I spot a head of sandy blond hair.
He won’t let this go.
“You couldn’t wait a damn second, Ginger?” Thomas huffs as he finally makes his way to my side, his suit all wrinkled and sweat beading down his brow from having to catch up.
“I have nothing to say to you.” Is my response.
“There’s no point being stubborn.” He snaps. “You won’t win.”
“Go to hell,” As the lights turned green and I kept walking, he finds it irritating that I hadn’t so much as given him a glance.
“For fucks sakes, you can’t fight this!”
“Did you sleep with her?” The words are out before I can stop them, the core of my anger flooding out of my mouth like a dam.
I can’t stop thinking about that goddamn hickey.
“Sleep with her?” He furrows his brow, confused for a moment, but he surprises me when he glances at his collar and tugs at the shirt, revealing the love mark. “Oh hell, this isn’t what you think it is-”
Thomas pulls at my arm, stopping me from going any further as we finally reach the other side of the road. “I don’t know where you got that idea from but get it out of your head, Ziarah didn’t give this to me.”
“Then who did?”
“Fucking Evan, that’s who!” He snaps. “That asshole fell asleep on my bed, next thing I know I wake up with his mouth sucking the living daylights out of my shoulder!”
Scoffing, I move to turn away again but he grips me tighter, ceasing me still.
“Look, just lay it out on me Ginger, yell, scream, hit, do whatever, but don’t turn your back, not when I’ve finally returned.”
“I don’t know what you expect from me Thomas.” I speak indecerously and filled with resent. “Can’t you see you’re making things worse?”
“I’m trying to fix things to the way they were before,”
“The way they were before? Do you hear yourself? You’re engaged! There’s a ring on your finger!” As a point, I grab at his wrist and shook it in front of him.
He tore his arm away and grasp for the ring. The jewelry didn’t even have a moment’s notice before he’s taken it off, throwing it to the ground where the silver band scraps against the pavement.
I look down at his finger, then back at the ring that is no longer there, instead simply lying on the ground a few meters away from us.
“That ring doesn’t mean anything.” He reaches for my upper arms, pulling me to his chest where his blue-green eyes glower with warmth. “You know that, so why push me away?”
I don’t want to push you away.
I don’t want to give up on us.
But I’m tired of holding onto the hope that things will finally go our way.
“I’m scared you’ll leave again,” I say as honest as I’ve ever been. “If I open my heart will you break it once more?”
Police sirens blare past us, distracting my thoughts for a moment as I watch them race down the intersection and turn right. A red firetruck is right behind them.
The noise makes my ears ring.
However, that does not stop Thomas from lifting his fingers, gently cupping my face in his hands. “I told you I’m not leaving.”
“And I told you to stop lying-”
“Listen to me, Ginger.” He grazes the sides of my cheeks his index finger, his breath fanning my hairline. “It’s true, I don’t know what will happen in the future, I don’t know if I can stay with you when all this is over.”
I inhale shakily at his confession, not feeling an ounce of relief from his truth.
“But I won’t give up on you, even if you give up on me.” He vows with determination. “So let me stay by your side until I can’t do so anymore.”
Its all lies.
But for the first time in a long time, I felt something blossom in my chest.
A sweet ache that spreads out to my veins and tingles my fingers.
What was I doing, giving myself hope?
This is delusional.
There are no happy endings.
But just this moment, just this second, I allow myself to feel his hands and how warm they are. I allow myself to close my eyes and breathe in his scent.
It smells like Thomas.
It smells like home.
It smells like smoke.
I snap my eyes back open, my nose catching that tell-tale smell.
“Smoke,” I muttered out loud, distracted.
Images of what happened at Manhattan filtered through my brain almost instinctively, stemming from the trauma of that night.
"What is it?" He questions, confused.
Thomas and I had stopped by the side of the street earlier and were too deep into conversation that we hadn’t noticed the crowd around us rushing to and fro.
Something's wrong with this picture.
What was it?
An ambulance blare past us, the siren loud and shrill.
I had ignored it earlier, thinking nothing of it, but I don't have to strain my ears to know they are close-by.
“Ginger?” Thomas is frowning at my features, leaning forward so we’re inches apart and I see my reflection in his iris.
“We know... all about you.”
I go pale.
Why was I thinking of Blondie?
This feeling, this... fear.
Where did it come from?
I grasp at the sling of my bag and threw it off, not caring that the contents ended up spilling by the side of the street.
The extra weight would only get in my way.
My feet take me forward, further around the corner, my pace increasing with each step I take as my breathing grows harsher and harsher.
New York is filled with tall buildings. If you were walking beneath it, you wouldn’t be able to see what’s happening on the other side.
I don’t know when my fast pace switched to running.
I’m suddenly running with all my might, running with the wind whipping behind my back and my hair blasting against the sides of my head.
My gut is twisting in my stomach and my throat is turning dry.
“Where you live... your faces... right down to your goddamn names.”
Where I live.
Where I stay.
A puzzle piece put to place.
I’ve made a mistake.
There are street signs placed all across the intersection, as I passed them in a mess of blurs. They’re there to direct people where they need to go, should they be lost.
Why would I need that when I know this route? I know this road, I’ve memorized it to heart, I ride my Ducati here every day.
This is the way home.
I can smell the smoke escalating, I can hear the sirens as they grow louder, I can see black soot as it permeates the blue skies.
There’s a crowd.
There’s always a crowd when something is wrong-BOOM.
An explosion rocks the world.
The abruptness of it caused me to crouch low, taking cover from the falling debris as glass windows are blasted and cars and trucks swerve out of control.
People are screaming.
Everything is disorienting and tilted. I cannot tell where things ended and begun, but just beyond the blockade and panicked civilians, I see something.
A hand graps hold of mine.
He’s pulling at my arms, shouting, yelling, doing anything possible to get my attention as his mouth moves but I hear nothing.
A sound is stuck at the back of my throat. I cannot speak nor hear, when I see it.
Orange and red flames.
Heat and unspeakable fury.
The top floor of Mazereen Apartments is on fire.
“We know everything about you! We know who you are, we know your names!”
It’s ringing at the back of my mind, it’s echoing in my horrified soul.
It can't be. It can't be, there's no way, there's no way-
Thomas shakes my shoulders, hard, bringing me back to the now, breaking the trance, shattering this inescapable reality and whatever monstrosity it brings with it.
I made a mistake.
The sound in my throat dislodges.
That’s when I scream.
END BOOK 2