"What are you most proud of?"
He was laying on the bed, his hands tucked behind his head as he stared up at the ceiling. I was half on top of him horizontally; my middle pressed into his exposed stomach, the rest of my legs were on the bed, and my elbow was pressed into the sheets as my palm supported my chin. I was completely comfortable in nothing but jeans and a crop top, as I played a game on my phone.
When he didn't respond, I pulled my eyes away from my phone to look at him. He was still staring at the ceiling, his face completely at ease. This was the only time I had ever seen him looked so peaceful. I wasn't even sure he was listening to me, so I leaned down and placed a peck on his bare side, and he responded by placing his hand on my back.
I abandoned the phone and laid my head back down, but I was turned in his direction so I was able to see his face. The only thing I failed to do was get off him. Not that he would want me to.
"Campbell Industry," he finally said, meeting my gaze. "All my other companies. Everything I have ever achieved, Lauren. I'm proud because I didn't use any of my father's money. It was all me, my blood and sweat. I built my companies from nothing."
A smile took over his face, so genuine that I was almost blinded by it. It looked like he was even glowing. "I don't do it often, but once in a while, I would let everyone have a day off just so I could walk around the company, and I would feel like it's the first moment I had seen it. You won't understand how it feels, Lauren, to have something of yours that you started and watched it grow into what it was, without any help. It's bloody amazing."
"Well," I said, grasping his hand in mine. "I hope someday it grows bigger than it already is."
He squeezed my hand with another blinding smile. "And I hope, that someday, you would experience it."
I've always wondered what it would be like if Mason was pushed off his pedestal.
I froze, my mind refusing to believe her words, as I looked at her with disbelieving eyes. "No." It was barely a whisper, but I knew she heard it.
"I don't think that's up to you." Her look grew more venomous, and she instantly glanced at Mason, tapping on her watch. "Clock is ticking, Campbell. And don't waste your time thinking there's a way out of this because there isn't. The only way is you giving up everything you own for the safety of your wife."
I turned to Mason, sending him a look and hoped he received it. There was no way I was going to let him give everything he owned to Ginny. Things he worked hard for. Things he was proud of.
His face was set in a dark scowl, and his eyes told of his cold rage. "No," he answered with a cool tone. It was obvious he was being truthful, and I felt a sense of relief washed over me.
Anger and displeasure were written all over Ginny's face. She must not have thought he was going to say that, but I didn't think she would let it go either. "No? Do you really want to test me?" When she took a step backward, she addressed her men, "Boys."
Before I could wonder about the smirk that was on her face, I felt two set of hands grasping each side of my arms, pulling me away from Mason roughly, tearing us apart, and I quickly reached out to him with a soft cry, "Mason..." And he didn't hesitate to reach for me either, at the same time growling, "Lauren..."
But like the villain she was in our story, she pushed her palm out to stop him from getting to me and rescuing me from the rough hands that were holding me tightly, and like any other villain, she chooses that moment to stuck to her title when she pulled out a gun at that moment and pointed it straight at me.
"Get back," she warned him with a steely look.
"Ginny!" he roared, his eyes sparked with fire that didn't seem to override the concern that flashed through them. His eyes drifted back from Ginny and to the gun that she was aiming at me, almost like he was calculating the seconds it would take for him to snatch it from her.
I felt a tight knot in my throat. I could taste the fear in my tongue, could see my life being dangled between the land of the living and the dead. The thing I thought couldn't get worse had escalated quickly. Now, Mason and I were fighting for our survival, but I would be damned if I let Ginny cut short our lives when it barely started.
"I have a gun and I'm not afraid to use it," she reminded him harshly, and the hand she held the gun at me began to shake lightly. "You ruined my life, Campbell!"
He glared at her contemptuously, his eyes a stormy gray. His playful tone didn't match how he was staring at her like he wanted to be given permission to end her life. "A little dramatic, aren't we? You married a rich man. You own everything he has. What more do you want?"
"I want to be king. I want to know what it feels like to be Mason Campbell, the untouchable." She made it sound as if she was envious of all he had achieved in life, and not the woman who had come here to take revenge on the man who hadn't kept his promises to her. "My battles don't stop with you. I need everything to fight Anthony, so you're going to sign the papers or Lauren here can finally have a chance to reunite with Vincent."
Mason crossed his arms, and I stared, amazed.
"I'm really not quite in the mood to negotiate with a woman who is going to lose, especially one who involves emotion in it. When emotion is involved, you're bound to fail. And I don't quite like sharing my things with anyone."
"You think everything is a joke, huh?"
A smirk was fully not what I was prepared to see.
"I think you're bluffing. If you wanted Lauren dead, she'd be dead. Go ahead, pull the trigger," he replied easily, as though his thoughtfulness should be appreciated by her.
It was her turn to gift him back with her own twisted smile, but her eyes brightened with barely controlled anger. He was right. That only confused me.
"You think you know everything, right? You have everything figured out, is that what you think?" She stretched her hand out behind her. "Give it to me." A phone was placed on her palm before she dialed a number without taking her challenging eyes off Mason before she ordered, "Now."
The phone was on speaker, and the gunshot sound I heard from it was loud and resonated through my ears. My heart jumped in my chest and fear crept inside me. I didn't realize I was holding my breath until I felt my chest start to hurt and I exhaled, wildly looking at Ginny as the pounding of my heart began to intensify. What did she do?
Mason was in her face in a second.
"What did you do?" he stormed. "What did you do?!"
"You know, I never thought you'd let anyone in on what had happened between us. I really thought you were smart, but I guess I was wrong."
His face grew white and taut. Seeing it, Ginny pressed home the slight advantage she had gained. "Your friend Gale doesn't have more than five minutes left before he bleeds out and dies. If you sign the papers, I'd tell one of my men to drop him at the hospital."
I sucked in a breath with a small gasp, still staring at her resentfully, while Mason seemed to make a conscious effort to hold back his temper, expelling his breath so that it whistled between his teeth.
"Now, don't tell me I have managed to frighten you."
He had no time to let the mask drop back over his face before he answered her with a twisted smile curling up one side of his mouth, "I'm going to destroy you for this, and you would not even see it coming."
Ginny grinned under his threatening gaze.
"That's a bit far fetched, don't you think? As far as you're concerned, when you get out of here, you will have nothing. No money. No power. Nothing to fight me with. The least you could do is take your defeat proudly. I know you're good at that."
"I would give you everything, except for my main company. You can have anything you want." His voice brooked no refusal, yet she shook her head vehemently.
"Do you think I want that?" she asked earnestly. "I don't want you in half, Mason, I want you crippled. I want to take away what makes you happy, and you and I both know your companies and properties mean the world to you."
I could see him battling with his emotions, just like I was battling with mine.
There was still a slight tremor in my voice that made him snap his head back to me. "You can't take everything from him. Please, let us go." I knew pleading wasn't going to help me because if Ginny had a heart, she would not have done what she did.
"Shut up! The only person responsible for this is him. It's time he answers to his crimes."
There was something else she was hiding, something else she wasn't telling us, and I didn't want Mason to do anything without thinking about it.
I was looking at him next, my eyes still wavering; I thought I read defeat in his eyes. "Mason, please don't do it. Don't trust her." For a moment, I thought he flinched from my voice.
"Yes, don't trust me. Let the only person who has helped you for years die," Ginny answered readily, knowing the victory was already hers.
Mason's grey deep-set eyes seemed to hold my gaze, as he said softly, "I'm sorry."
"No! You can't do that!" I exclaimed softly, something in his voice sent a tremor up my spine, and it was all I could do not to fling myself into his arms and shake him to not take any more risks than he wanted to take now. "I'm begging you. Stop, don't do it." Because I suspected that there was more to it than Ginny was letting on.
"If I don't do this, Gale will die. I was the one who dragged him into my mess. All he did was helped me find you. I can't let him die."
Ginny cut off impatiently, "Be quick about it!"
With my heart beating, I watched Mason take the papers from her, and I tried to escape from the tight hold I was in to stop him from making the biggest mistake of his life. We would find Gale together. He would be safe. The more I struggled, the harder Ginny's men held me until I felt two hot tears streamed down my eyes when Mason held the pen, took five seconds before he was signing away, losing everything he had.
I felt devastated. Hate was burning inside me when Ginny glanced at my wet face and grinned at me in satisfaction.
"There you go. You own everything." Jaws clenched, lips tightened, he jerked his head towards me. "Now let Lauren and Gale go. You have what you wanted."
She took the papers back and glanced at it with a bright smile. "You have no idea how much I waited for this moment," she released with a loud chuckle that came straight from her chest, filled with delight and amazement. Her head turned to Mason. "You have nothing. I made you nothing."
Whatever sorrow her words might have dealt him was far too quickly masked, except for a brief, sudden flare of white light in his eyes. Then it was gone, and he said indifferently, "Let them go."
"You can't be in a hurry to leave yet. Not until I set my conditions first, then you're free to take Lauren wherever you want to take her."
"Excuse me?" he bit out savagely, his glittering eyes alive with rage.
Ginny raised her brows.
"Oh, you think getting your properties is where I stop? Oh, no, Mason, that's just the first step." She was on the phone again before she could notice the flash of surprise on his face. "Take Gale to Dr. Jameson, see to it that he doesn't die. After that, take him back to his cell."
A look of pained disbelief flickered in my eyes, but my face was otherwise blank as I gritted my teeth.
"You said you would let him go." He lowered his voice to a vicious hiss.
"I never promised you anything. Maybe you should have thought twice before trusting me," she replied with as much contempt as she could manage. "You know, like how I trusted you and you let me down. How does it feel now?"
My eyes widened in panic as her meaning sank in.
"He gave you everything he owns!" I shouted in a demand for her remorse, guilt, anything but the calm acceptance of the unforgivable.
I knew she wasn't going to let Gale go, not before she was satisfied. What more could she want from him? She had already taken everything from him, there was nothing else he had left.
Her expression was not the least sympathetic.
"How unfortunate. I'm going to keep Gale with me for precaution."
"Precaution?" Mason asked.
"I didn't take everything from you just to let you leave with a little hope in your heart. I'm going to diminish it. When you leave here, you're not going to contact any of your friends or your family. You're not going to seek their help, or from anyone. That goes the same to you, Lauren."
Mason glowered at her but remained stonily silent, and his arrogant refusal to submit to his will enraged Ginny yet more.
"I hope you get what I'm trying to tell you. I don't care how you survive now, but you both are going to cut yourselves from everyone's lives. Lauren, I've made sure your bank account is monitored so you don't withdraw any money from it. If you do, Gale dies. You and your dear husband are going to enjoy the beginning of your lives with nothing."
Looking into that harsh, sinister face, I fully believed she meant it. "You can't do this to us," I breathed out, weak in my legs.
She ignored me, adding, "This means that you have to get a job like normal people. It's going to be hard for you, having gone from a boss to an employee," she stated, sparing a quick glance my way. "Lauren is already used to obeying orders, but what about you, Mr. Campbell? You're not used to it. How are you going to work under someone and take orders from them? How would you keep yourself from getting fired with that ego and hot temper of yours?"
I had dealt her shock after shock, and now, capable only of thinking how to strike back at her, "It's none of your fucking business," I spoke, and my voice was a raw whisper, rasping with rage. This rage gave me enough strength to stomp my foot on the guy on my left, causing him to release my left arm and turned to the other guy on the other side, biting hard on his arm before he hissed and let go of me.
I stormed over to Mason to stand in front of him and face Ginny as if I was trying to shield him from her. I had never felt this protective of anyone, and it was really strange.
"Mason can do anything he sets his mind to," I told her in an unnaturally quiet voice. "You think by doing this, that you've scared us? No, Ginny, I hate to break it to you, but this is only going to make us stronger. He has me, I have him, and there's nothing more important than that."
"I love that energy, Lauren. I don't doubt that you can survive through this, but your husband is a little different. He's not used to being a commoner."
"You let us worry about that." I glared at her. "But just so you know, you didn't win anything. Sooner or later, he's going to get everything you stole from him back, and I hope to God when that happens, that you're far away from here. Because I won't hold him back when he comes to destroy you."
Her face tightened before she asked us to move. Mason was the first to walk ahead, and I walked behind him, hating every second that I remembered that he lost his companies that he was so proud of, worried that we would now be homeless, and I was more worried about him than anything. He was silent and stiff, and I couldn't really read him.
We walked out of the warehouse, and the sun was about to set. Two black cars stood outside, and one of the men standing beside the cars was a familiar face that brought a slight smile on my face.
"Coop?" Mason's driver averted his gaze to look down at his shoes and I found myself frowning.
Ginny stepped up beside us, looking at Coop. "Ah, I was just about to introduce you to my new driver. You see, he really wanted to be on the winning side. He didn't want to work for someone who can't afford to pay his salary," she relayed, looking back at us. "And of course, Coop may not be rich, but he's richer than his previous employer now."
Astonishment registered in my face. Now I understood why he couldn't look at us in the face.
"How could you?" I raised my voice harshly, trying to keep the hurt from my voice. "Mason trusted you! He–"
"Leave it, Lauren," Mason's voice as smooth and hard as polished steel. "It's not worth it."
I bit hard on my lip and swung around to Ginny when she started to talk.
"Here you go. Something to help you start over." Her hands carried a roll of cash. "Please, keep in mind to stay away from the mansion. It's mine now, and anything of yours in the house will be donated to charity. The last selfless act of Mason Campbell and your dog will be well taken care of. I'm nice enough to do that."
"No, thank you," I answered, taking hold of Mason's arm. "You'd need it more than us. Come on, Mason. Let's go."
He didn't object before the two of us walked forward, ignoring Coop and everything else. The bottom of my lips was trembling, but I tried to stay strong. We had no money and nowhere to go, but at least we had each other.