You asked, and you shall receive 😉
He wasn't a hero.
Anyone who looked at him would know instantly that he wasn't the type of man who rescues a woman. He was the type of man a woman was being rescued from. Mason Campbell was every bit the villain everyone thought he was, and he would not apologize for it. Nor was he ashamed of it.
But there were certain things he was ashamed of, one of them being the very thing that stood between him and his wife's happiness, a secret so frightening and shocking he feared would only build more bridge over a relationship he never knew he could come to cherish. Little things didn't tend to hold importance to him, but the vows he had shared with Lauren to the moment she looked at him and blamed him for her father's death were far greater than anything he had ever encountered.
Pain, he was accustomed to. He knew pain. Pain knew him. They were old friends, but there were different kinds of pain in life and they came in different shapes and form.
And maybe if his father hadn't called him and told him that he had a nice chat with Lauren, Mason would have torn apart England to look for her, and it wouldn't be the first time he had done that. He understood her pain. She was grieving, and people tended not to know what they were doing when they were grieving.
Mason Campbell was sitting behind his desk in his office in Campbell Industry, the curtains closed shut as he sat in darkness and quietness, his head leaned back against his leather seat as he contemplated his next move. But a call came for the devil in form of a short rap on the door that made him leaned forward and picked up one of Lauren's hairpin, drawing it between his fingers and thumb as he gave himself a few minutes of silence before he had to step forward and face the past that was tangled with his future. He doubted he was capable of separating the two. Mason rested his chin against the tips of his fingers.
It was that realization, perhaps, that led him into making an uncharacteristically impulsive decision, one that would either hurt him by hurting someone he cared about. Things were already starting to get heated up, and sooner or later, the secret he had been trying to hide was going to resurface. It had already begun and he had no control over it, but he could control how much Lauren was going to know. He had to, somehow, find a way to minimize the damage that would be brought upon himself, because he knew, without a doubt that he was the villain.
No one, but him. A villain. The devil everyone whispered about.
He adjusted his seating as he pushed a hidden button under his desk, hearing a clicking sound and his head moved toward the sound, and at the corner of his office, dim lights provided him enough to see as he stood from his seat and walked toward the secret door that was hidden behind the wall of his office. No one knew about it. Not a soul, except for him.
Mason strode down the tunnel, his quiet footsteps bringing solace and his fists clenched at his sides. When he came to the end of the tunnel, he stopped in front of an iron door, and on the wall was a high-security keypad that he punched five buttons before it opened itself.
The room he entered smelled of a bad stench. A room with concrete walls, no windows and was cold, with only a bright light that touched the room. Two heavily built men dressed in black clothes nodded once at him before they stepped out of the room through another door, leaving him to face the man in front of him, who was tied in a chair, his hands and legs secured with chains. The man's head was down and his hair was hanging over his face. On the table not far away from Mason were torture weapons that were shining under the light, as if begging to be used, begging for blood to be spilled on them.
When the man groaned a little, Mason's head swung back to him and he moved to sit on the chair situated in front of the man. Or his prisoner. He was in bad shape. As he should be. He had been in here for so long, ever since that night the man had tailed his car the day of his charity event, and he had caught and kept him here. But this was the first time he came in front of him. This was the first time Mason was allowing himself to interrogate the man, even though there was nothing to interrogate when he knew why he was here.
What brought him here.
The man lifted his head up and even though there were no bruises or any sign that he had been tortured, it didn't mean that being in a dark room with no windows for so long wasn't torturous enough. A small, satisfied smile graced the man's lips when he saw him sitting there, but Mason never made a move to talk.
"I was wondering when you'd show up."
Mason surveyed him and allowed himself a brief, faint smile, taking his time to inhale and exhale deeply as he rested his arms on the armrest. "I hope I didn't keep you waiting," he replied in a casual tone, hearing the huff that escaped the man's lips as he threw his head back and let out a hoarse chuckle.
He smiled crookedly.
"No, you didn't." His voice deepened. "If anything, the wait was as satisfying as it would be watching everything you love gets taken away from you."
"Is that so?"
"Do you ever doubt it? Then I don't think you're the boy I used to know. Did wearing expensive suits and bossing people around turned you soft? Made you think you're untouchable?"
A bitter curve to his mouth, Mason's retorted flatly, "Sitting here, I don't believe I'm a changed man. I don't have to do anything to prove it to you, Diego, and that's the beauty of this whole thing." Carelessly, he added chillily, "You still don't know who I am."
No one really did. He had known Diego since he had been a teenager, and the man had always disliked Mason because he couldn't figure him out. Mason wasn't like the rest of the people he had worked with, and that had always bothered him. The hatred intensified when he announced that he was done with the lot of them.
"I wonder, will people still feel the same about you when they learned what you are? Will your wife?"
It was a nasty threat.
He didn't mean for his blank face to falter for a few seconds to spare a frustrated and angry look in Diego's direction. "Everyone has a past."
"Your past is still your present."
From the looks of it, Diego had the strange impression that his words didn't surprise Mason, that he was prepared for it. His voice cool and undisturbed, Mason asked idly, "Is that what he sent you to tell me? Remind me that I'm still part of it? Does he not know that there's nothing tying me with him anymore?"
Everything he had done was to wipe his name from the people he had worked for years ago, a past that he was fully ashamed of and hadn't thought about the consequences years ago. He hadn't known that it wouldn't have been easy to escape something as terrible as Anthony's network that was called Omens.
"Don't be absurd, Mason. You will always be a part of us. You don't get out unless Anthony wants you out."
Mason's eyes sparkled with self-righteous satisfaction. "The thing is, I'm already out and Anthony can't do anything about it." Almost purring, he went on, "You all know why that's not possible. You have something over me, I have something of his."
Brown eyes flashed with hatred and contempt, Diego raised himself up. Oblivious of the chains that held him prisoner, he ground out, "I've always known you were a bastard, Campbell. Anthony shouldn't have trusted you. I knew a bastard when I saw one, but he never listened to me. He should have thought twice before letting you into Omens."
He glared at him, but Mason met his stare unflinchingly. "When I step out of here, my men will see to it that they get you out of here safely, and when you do, you tell Anthony that he and I have nothing to do with each other again. The only one he has to watch out for is Ginny Hart–or Huddleston as she goes by now. Tell him there is nothing more dangerous than a woman with vengeance. She has come back to settle an old score." He didn't need to mention that she was out for his neck as well.
Diego was stunned for a few seconds at the news before his face transformed. "That treacherous bitch," he spat out.
A sort of grim amusement danced in Mason's eyes.
"Oh, so she's been keeping quiet about her return. You didn't know."
His face was a picture of rage and hatred.
"Well, after what she did, I didn't think she would dare show her face again, but I think there are old messes we have to clean up." Then, wearing a smile of smug satisfaction, Diego surveyed his masked expression. "Or maybe we shouldn't. We should just sit back and enjoy the show."
Mason, who had remained silent spoke up. His voice was cool and confident, he stated bluntly, "Is that what you think is a good idea?" His words were mystifying and Diego's eyes narrowed.
"She was your old partner. If she has a score to settle with us, don't you think you'd be the first person on her list?"
"But the problem is, she hates Omens more than she hates me."
He gave an ugly laugh, shaking his head. "No, I don't think so. You're trying to get us to fix your problem, Campbell." He appeared to be enjoying himself as if he figured out everything on his own. "Because you know you fucked up Ginny, not once, but twice. You took her goods."
Mason's breath drew in sharply, a savage light flickering in his eyes. He hesitated only a second; then his hands gripped the handles of the chair tightly. "It wasn't hers in the first place."
"She's not yours either."
"I beg to differ."
There was something he remembered, as he sat in his study at home, long gone from his company and away from Diego, something someone had once said to him. He couldn't recall the day, but he could recall someone cursing him that he would find love in the place he least expected, in the place that would hurt the most. He had shrugged off the curse, because, at that time, he thought himself incapable of love.
He had ever only loved someone who had broken his heart, but right now, he didn't think he had ever loved Chloe. He was positive he had not loved the woman. Because what he was feeling now was different from what he had felt then. It was not the wisest thing he could have ever done, and he had sworn violently to himself the split second it registered in his brain. After all his plans, he hadn't thought it would turn out this way. Somehow, he wasn't all that surprised. In spite of everything,
He loved Lauren Hart.
Maybe he may never say the words, but he felt it in his heart. In his gut. In his body. He loved her, and he wanted nothing more in the world than to have the right to cherish her, to renounce their vows and never let go of her. But he wasn't sure she would still hold onto him when she learned the truth. Of who he was. Who she was. He wasn't sure she could handle it, not just after her father had died.
Mason could never truly be at ease if he didn't tell Lauren the truth before she found it out from someone else. The truth that he was the devil in disguise of an angel, and that the guilt ate him up. It wasn't something he could very well explain to anyone; it was just there, a part of him, one of the inherent qualities that made him Mason Campbell.
It was the sound of his phone that was buzzing in his pocket that got him back to reality. When he fished it out, his eyes narrowed as he peeked at the screen, and when he saw the name scrawled upon it, he considered not answering because he wasn't in the mood to talk to anyone. But the sensible part of him told him to answer.
"Are you home?" It didn't take him a second to register the firm voice and it didn't help that she sounded frantic. "Is Lauren with you?"
That made him straightened up. "She's not. What's wrong?"
"I don't know where she is. She left me a voicemail an hour ago that she was coming to you, and I tried calling her a few times but she didn't pick up." Her voice was shaking and she had to take a deep breath to continue, "And now, the phone is completely switched off."
That got him out of the chair fast as he yanked the door open and walked out, not bothering to close it. He didn't even bother to change before he grabbed his car keys from the table and walked out of the house.
He ran a hand over his face as he went straight up to his car. "Calm down and listen to me, Beth. Keep trying her phone." Mason was completely calm and focused, and it helped to keep the worry that threatened to spill over him. He could feel it crawling at the corners of his mind, trying to take over everything and he couldn't allow for that to happen.
"What are you going to do?" He heard her ask just as he turned on the engine and made a sharp turn, speeding out of the gate and almost knocking over his security guard.
"I'm going to look for her."
"Everywhere," he breathed. Lauren had to be fine. He had to repeat it to himself over and over again. Mason wasn't entirely sure what he would do if she wasn't fine, and he knew it would involve him killing anyone who may have laid a finger on her. Just the thought of something happening to her made him felt empty inside. It shook him to his core.
He wasn't even sure where to start.
Beth started to speak again. "I should come with you—"
"No," he cut her off, sharply. "You need to come to the house in case she goes there. It might not even be something. She may have forgotten to charge her phone." He was trying to calm her down, but he knew Lauren should have made it home by now. His father told him she had been on her way home to him and Beth said the same thing, so what could have stopped her?
"Lauren does that, but this feels different," Beth pointed out and he narrowed his gaze at the road.
It took him a moment to realize he was gripping the wheel a little too tightly before he loosened his grip.
"Come to the house and stay there. Call me if she shows up. Beth, are you listening?"
"Yeah, I'm just leaving now."
"Okay. Talk to you soon." His mind was racing and he could feel himself starting to spiral. What if Anthony had gotten to her? The panic started to rise. He could feel it building from his core as his heart rate began to quicken. On the surface, he kept trying to tell himself that it wasn't possible. Anthony had so many chances, a lot of chances to take Lauren from him, but he had never once touched her or attempted to make contact. But he never did, because he knew the consequences.
And what if it wasn't him? What if she had just been hit by a car? He really was spiraling, and Mason willed himself to calm down before he, himself got into an accident before he found Lauren. He didn't usually panic. He didn't usually do this. He could barely remember the last time he spiraled, it was so long ago when his brother, Tom met with an accident. When Lauren came into his life, he had found himself doing things or feeling things he had never imagined he would ever do.
The thought of someone taking Lauren, the thought of her being hurt or worst, dead made him feel sick to his stomach. It ripped at every inch of him. He didn't even want to think about her being dead. It clawed at him. He could already feel his chest constricting and he was finding it hard to breathe. Every part of him felt like a live wire. Never in his life had someone gotten under his skin in the way that Lauren did. It wasn't supposed to happen. It wasn't meant to be like that. It was him he had to worry about, not Lauren. Especially not Lauren. She was collateral damage, a means to an end.
His phone vibrated as the screen lights up with an incoming video call. Ginny. He didn't want to pick up. He didn't want to speak to Ginny right now. Not right now. It wasn't the time. And yet, it felt like it was the right time. So, he touched green.
"Ginny, I don't have time—" His words died in his throat when something came up on the screen, something that had him hitting the breaks so fast he almost hit a lamp post. He grabbed the phone with his hands and stared at what he was being shown on screen.
Lauren was tied up in a chair with her mouth duct-taped. He could see the rise and fall of her chest, but she wasn't moving and his heart lurched. He blinked when the phone was taken away from her face and Ginny appeared on his screen as she flashed him her twisted smile.
"Tick, tock, old partner," she sing-sung, nudging her head at her watch. "Meet me where it all began; you, me and our little puppet. I think it's time to let the cat out of the bag, don't you think?" She raised her brow and ended the call.
Mason's breath came out harshly and he gripped the wheel so tightly his skin might rip from the hold.
I’m coming, Lauren.