Then You Look At Me

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We'll Die Together Then

~You are not hidden. There’s never been a moment you were forgotten. You are not hopeless, though you have been broken, your innocence stolen. I hear you whisper underneath your breath. I hear your SOS. I will send out an army to find you in the middle of the darkest night. It’s true, I will rescue you.~ Lauren Daigle.

Chapter Theme Song: ‘Rescue’ by Lauren Daigle.

••

Rainey

“I am so sorry…you were so young.” My tone is hemmed with sympathy as Ansel and I lie onto our stomachs, our faces just inches apart while our fingers are interlaced together.

He shared with me the details of the past dilemma between his dad and Ron Moretto, and what had started the never-ending rift between them. I have come to learn that Ansel was only seven when his uncles were killed and my heart aches at how hard it must have been to witness something so tragic at such a young age. Despite this, he seems to be coping well with the trauma, and it makes me wonder how he manages to repress such painful events.

Maybe we are not so different after all. We both tend to hide our true feelings behind this unphased façade. Fearing what? That we will be unsheltered from our cocoons to the open injustice of people who are just searching for our weaknesses to use as their weapons.

When I first met Ansel, he was like a puzzle; mysterious and quite difficult to solve. But now as we lie together like this, under the glow of the candlelight, I can easily see the hurt embedded in his eyes; his beautiful, unrestricted eyes that can easily see through my soul. Now it all seems fair because I am finally able to see through his too.

“Do you think of them sometimes?” I whisper, staring at his perfect fingers as they curl between mine, our promise rings glistening amidst the dark.

“Yeah…I was particularly close to Uncle Ashton. He would take me to see baseball games, drive around town. He looked a lot like my dad, you know?”

I smile. “You look a lot like your dad too.”

He smirks, his once doleful eyes lighting up and I feel my body gradually relaxes. I was unaware of the strong impact his sorrow has on me until now. When he smiles, it always tends to set my soul at ease. Someone with such beautiful dimples and white perfect teeth should always be happy. I will ensure it.

“I think Alaric more looks like my dad.”

“Mm…” I crinkle my nose pensively. “I honestly can’t see the difference between you all. Like it just feels like your dad was the original document and God just decided to make several copies of the same file, maybe to make his work a lot easier; I don’t know. Copy and paste.”

Ansel laughs deeply, and I smile at how the bed vibrates as he does. “Ah, that’s…partially offensive.”

I giggle. “Why?”

“I don’t know, I guess I just wanna be different in your eyes.” He says softly, bringing my hand to his lips. I watch as he places a kiss there and my stomach forms a small knot.

“You are,” I whisper, meaning every word. “No-one could tear my walls down. I mean, they couldn’t even come close. But you did…effortlessly.”

He smiles at me then lets out a heavy breath, a passionate look passing over his face. “I won’t let anyone hurt you. I will protect you from Ron Moretto, even if it means dying in the process.”

Dying in the process? The statement rises heavy anxiety within me and my forehead wrinkles disapprovingly. Why would he talk so…fatal?

“Don’t talk like that.”

“How?” He looks genuinely confused and I sigh.

"Dying in the process. I don’t like it…”

“But we all have to die one day…don’t we?”

My brows pinch together in a tight frown and I subconsciously tighten my hold on his hand. “Yeah…but you won’t be dying anytime soon.”

I wouldn’t be able to live without you.

“If it means saving you then—”

“No, Ansel,” I interject, my voice slightly breaking. “I would never allow you to die…especially because of me…”

I can’t understand how he can speak about death so casually. The thought of losing him is far more painful than the traumatic memories of my past.

“What if it can’t be helped?” He says, staring me in the eyes. “What if that’s the way it has to be to protect you?”

The seriousness they hold makes my stomach lurch and I blow out a painful sigh.

“Then we’ll die together…”

And I mean that. I have never been the dependent type and I’ve lived so far on my own, but now my existence makes perfect sense because of Ansel and if he won’t be here anymore, what purpose is there?

He studies my countenance, noticing the strong melancholy within my eyes. My glossy orbs have now outshone the glistens of our rings, and he gently pries short strands of hair from my face as he exhales.

“I am sorry, I’ll stop talking like that. I won’t die anytime soon, and you won’t either. We’ll be okay, yeah?” His comforting voice offers no relief to my racing thoughts.

I know Ansel by now and because he harmed two men, placing his future and life on the line to defend me, I know he may potentially put himself in danger to protect me. I don’t want him doing that; I have done caused him enough problems. If he somehow gets fatally hurt because of my battles I would never forgive myself.

“I can’t believe your mom knew about everything though…it’s messed up to choose a man over your child.” He tries to change the topic.

I half-shrug, lowering my eyes. “What can I say? Everyone loves who they love. I’ll move past it.”

“You will, I’ll ensure it.”

I nod. “But you’ll have to stay alive to do that…”

Ansel slightly titters, and I raise my eyes to look at him. He is so beautiful; I am not sure how I’d be able to live without him.

“Look who’s talking about it now.” He trails a palm down my hair, his lips quirking in a lop-sided grin. “I like your haircut. It looks badass.”

Though my heart is still unsettled, I manage a small titter. “Thanks…”

As he smiles, my eyes observe his pink lips, immediately noticing a small red bruise on his lower one. My mind flashes back to the intimate moment between us earlier, during which I had accidentally bitten him upon reflex. My cheeks flame up instantly.

“I am sorry about your lips; I didn’t mean to bite you earlier.” Concern surfaces my face as I grip his cheek in my hand, my thumb gently pulling down his lower lip to scrutinize the bruise. “It’s not big but I think you’ll still need an ointment. Does it hurt?”

I lift my eyes for his response, only to find him gazing at me with heart-melting bedroom eyes. They appear hazy with a lust-filled glint in them and I slightly squirm in agitation.

I know Ansel by now to know what that look means.

“I will check to see if there are any ointments in the bathroom…” I begin to move off the bed when two strong arms wrap around my waist, pulling me back down and in between his thighs. Holding me against his hard chest, he buries his face into my neck as the pleasant smell of his hair caresses my nose.

“I honestly wouldn’t mind you biting me again, Rain.” He whispers, and my breath traps in my throat. I can feel his heartbeat against my back, and it is just as irregular as mine.

Letting out a sexually-perturbed breath, he presses his face into my hair.

“I want you.”

His tone drips with a deep yearn and desire, instantly exhilarating my already unusual heart rate. Though inexperienced, I know exactly what those three words mean. I have never slept with anyone before, so the thought is somewhat nerve-wracking. Uncertain of what to say to his seductively bold confession, I begin to jabber a nervous response.

“Uhm…uh, I—”

“I want you, but I’ll wait until you’re ready to take that step, alright? It’s no rush, we have forever.”

Forever. Does that mean he will not be embarking on his planned suicide mission to protect me? I hope. I cling on to the small assurance the sentence offers as I smile, nodding against him.

He kisses me on the neck— the place that never ceases to turn my brain into a glob of mush— before pulling away and rising from the bed.

“I’m okay though, I don’t need an ointment.” He smiles and extends a hand to me. “Wanna go see what the other photocopies are up to?”

Chuckling, I put my hand in his as he pulls me up. “Yeah.”

We move over to the door and as soon as Ansel pulls it open, two figures sprint away down the dark hall leaving behind a frozen Alex, who apparently failed to run on time and is now smiling bashfully while rubbing his neck.

“W-were you guys seriously eavesdropping…” Ansel is lost for words as he stares at his brother dumbfoundedly.

Seemingly, his brothers were at the door attempting to listen in on us. I try not to think about how long they’ve probably been there and what they may have potentially heard.

Yeah…I really shouldn’t think about it.

“Eavesdropping?” Alex laughs nervously, fanning us off. “What? Pfft. No way…well, Aiden and Arden were but I was just, you know, dropping by to get something…did you perhaps see my phone in there?”

Instantly his cell dings from his pocket, undoubtedly ruining his enactment. I chuckle softly while Ansel glares at his untruthful brother in amusement.

“Well look at that, I had it the whole time.” Grinning wryly, he holds it up then proceeds to check his messages.

“Yes! Riley is at the door.” He announces, a buoyant grin on his face as he quickly dashes down the stairway, similarly to shoppers in the give-away hall of a supermarket. Ansel and I chuckle to ourselves as we make our way down after him.

His brothers are something else, which is exactly why I love being around them.

••

“It is time for…horror stories!” Aiden grins, switching on a flashlight beneath his chin as it illuminates his smiling face. Riley cringes as she scoots closer to Alex, who smirks and wraps an arm around her.

Two things that Riley hates: Sex talks-where she is the center of attention and Ghost stories. It will be quite interesting to see her curling up next to Alex. I smile in advance while taking a chip from the bag of Lays sitting in the center of us.

The electricity is still out, and we all are sitting on the living room floor while the twins keep us entertained. The rain has still not taken its leave, now accompanied by heavy winds.

“No, seriously, there are no lights. I cannot manage horror stories when the place is this dark.” Riley complains as Alex simpers, pulling her into a side hug.

“Just stay close to me, babe.”

“Don’t worry Ry. Trust me, Aiden’s horror stories are normally very soft.” Ansel has a lop-sided grin on his face as he reclines onto his palms.

Arden nods his head with a smirk. “Exactly, you’ll manage.” He then looks at Ansel and the two share a coded chuckle.

“Now let’s get started.” Aiden smiles devilishly as he rubs his palms together and I snicker softly at how Riley’s face is already laced with horror. This shall be fun to watch.

“There was this man…”

Ansel sits up attentively while Arden rests an arm on his shoulder, the two watching the words as they roll off Aiden’s tongue.

“He has this son, right? Now every time he tucks his son into bed, he is always saying… “daddy there is a monster in my closet…there is a monster in my closet.”

Riley scowls as she slides closer to Alex, now leaving no space in between, and Alex side-eyes her with a large grin plastered on his face. Feasting on the cheesy snack, I earnestly listen as I am quite a huge fan of horror stories.

“His Dad would always say, “No…there is no monster in your closet, son. Go to sleep, you play too many video games."

I smile.

“But then one particular night, the son says “daddy, please, believe me, there is a spooky monster in my closet.” Aiden glances at Riley, smiling in amusement as he continues. “So, the dad says: “Alright son, I am going to check what is in your closet.”

My eyes go wide in enjoyment as Riley’s brows pull together in worry. “This won’t be good…”

“Oh, it will be…” Alex bites back a grin, earnestly waiting for the moment that she will chuck into his arms out of fright.

“So, the dad moves over to the closet. Slowly. Tap, tap, tap…tap, his feet hit against the hard floor. He grips the handle of the door...and swings it open.”

By now the Lays is the least of my concern as all my attention is pulled toward Aiden’s storytelling.

“Then guess what he sees?” Aiden’s voice drops as he dramatizes the look of horror on the protagonist’s face.

“His wife making out with his neighbor?” Arden jokes and Ansel laughs, shoving his hand off his shoulder.

“There he is, his son; another him, sitting in the corner of the closet, quivering…shaking…he looks up and says…“daddy…there is a monster lying in my bed.”

“Fuck.” Alex’s eyes go wide. “That’s creepy as shit.”

“So, the man narrows his eyes and looks behind him, to find that that the bed he had left his ‘son’ in is now empty. Fearful, he looks back to the closet…” Then Aiden makes a look of complete horror as he stares behind Riley, pulling our gazes in her direction as well.

“W-what…?” She slightly squirms, severely creeped out at the sudden attention.

“Riley…” Aiden points above her head with wide eyes and she freezes, fearful to look behind.

“What…is something behind me…?”

Arden and Ansel begin to play along, staring behind her with slack jaws, and I am enjoying this too much to still her dread.

“There he is…the monster is right behind you, Ry, run!”

Riley screams, jumping on top of Alex in a flash as everyone pops up with laughter. Ansel and his brothers double over against the floor with tears springing from their eyes and I try to suppress my chuckles but fail miserably.

Encircling his arms around a shaking Riley, Alex smirks with satisfaction. “Yes. This is exactly what I have been waiting for all night.”

She frowns against him then wheels herself out of his grasp, finding her spot again with embarrassment etched on her features. The brothers continue their series of guffaws; the sounds of their laughter booming off the walls with a much more dominant pitch than the heavy thunders roaring between intervals.

“Wow, I haven’t laughed so hard in a while. Thanks for that, Ry.” Aiden’s face is drenched in tears as he finally sits up, and I glance around at Ansel and Arden to find the two still dying of laughter on the mat.

“You guys do know the myth, right?” I plan to give them a taste of their medicines, swinging them all a sweet smile while leaning back onto my palms.

“What myth?” Arden gets up, drying his eyes with the hem of his grey tank.

“If you tease someone about ghosts…then it won’t be long before you boys see one for yourselves.” I smirk.

Aiden smiles. “Can’t prank the prankster, love.”

“Where did you hear that?” Ansel is wiping his eyes, his face red from his series of chuckling.

“It’s a well-known myth…” I shrug. “So, any minute now, a real-life ghost will be walking through that door.” I jerk my head in the direction of their dark front door, elements from the outside forming shadows there, making it appear a whole lot creepier.

The boys follow my gaze apprehensively, then look back to me in a state of denial.

“What-nooo.” Aiden laughs, shaking his head. “You can’t. You can’t scare us.”

“I won’t be the one scaring you…” I give them my best straight face. “The creature that will be coming to scare you, will be here any minute…”

“Chill, Rain…” Arden cringes a little. “You’re kind of being creepy right now.”

“I think I should start counting down.” I coil my legs beneath me, keeping the ominous expression on my face. “He’ll be here in ten…nine…”

Their faces are becoming more dreadful at every passing second and I inwardly smile.

“Eight…”

“Stop counting…” Alex begs.

“Seven…six…five…”

“Someone please stop her.”

“Four…three…two…”

Surprisingly, the door to the room plunges open and the boys all scatter in a swift, leaving behind a grinning Ansel as Alaric breaks out of the darkness, a look of confusion forming his face. Riley and I burst in laughter as we fall over against the mat.

“What’s up with those three idiots?” Closing his dripping umbrella, Alaric crinkles his forehead at his brothers who are now at the opposite corner of the room. Aiden has his arms around Arden’s neck as if he were about to climb onto his back, while Alex is gripping his chest with eyes of dread.

“Apparently, they thought you were a ghost.” Ansel laughs.

Arden shoves his brother’s arms from his neck and fixes his tank top, shooting him a flat gaze. “Were you about to climb on to my back? How would that even help you? Such a weirdo, dude…” He begins moving back to our corner of the room, gazing at Aiden as if he were crazy.

“God, my heart almost fell out.” Alex frowns, plopping down onto the long couch as the twins sit next to him with uneven breathings. “Remind me to remind Aiden that no more horror stories. Especially without electricity.”

Riley grins sweetly. “Nice to know we are finally on the same page.”

“Your home early, what’s up?” Ansel narrows his eyes as Alaric finds his seat on one of the single couches.

“Well, I didn’t have many clients to take care of.” He breathes. “And…I have something to tell you guys. I’ve been thinking about it and I think I should come clean.”

The brothers pull themselves at the edge of their seats attentively and judging by the grave look on Alaric’s face, this has got to be serious.

••

“You fucking sneaky bastard.” Alex’s jaws drop.

“Hold on.” Aiden shuts his eyes. “So, the whole time, you have been stealing from Ron’s drug truck?”

Alaric nods, rubbing his calloused palms together with a skeptic look on his face.

I have come to learn that the entire time Alaric has been gathering his drug supplies by having some of his men steal from Ron’s drug truck. Brave is an understatement. He has big guts to do something that dangerous.

“I knew it! I knew it!” Arden slides to the edge of his seat as Aiden pulls his earlobe painfully, causing him to wince audibly.

“You didn’t know shit, Arden. The last time Ron was here you were on Instagram the whole time. I doubt you heard half of the discussion we all were having.”

“No, I had a feeling, Aiden. Didn’t you see the smug look on Ric’s face while Ron was speaking?”

Alex blinks his eyes thoughtfully. “Uh, technically Alaric always has a smug look on his face.”

“So, wait, is this why you’ve been dealing with Bee?” Ansel squints his eyes and Alaric nods.

“Yeah, to get information on the drug truck. It is also through her that I learned Ron would be coming in town to look for Rainey.” He glances at me.

“Damn, but this is good right?” Aiden says. “You should tell Sam. I am sure she’ll understand.”

Alaric shakes his head in disapproval. “I don’t think she will.”

“She would.” Ansel aids. “All she wants is an explanation. If you give her that, I can assure you that she won’t feel so bad anymore.”

Alaric considers what his brothers are saying, then blows out a sigh of agreement. “Alright, she’s bringing Anthony over tonight, so I’ll talk to her then.”

“Great. So that is settled. I don’t understand though, why didn’t you tell us?” Aiden narrows his eyes.

Alaric runs his hand through his hair, exhaling deeply. “I just didn’t want to get you guys involved in something so dangerous. If anything happens, it is all on me. I don’t want you guys to get hurt.”

“What do you mean, Ric? We are all in this together.” Ansel says. “We always have your back, so you won’t be facing anything alone.”

Alex nods. “Yeah, let’s just say we all raided the drug truck.”

“Exactly.” Aiden shrugs, and Alaric shakes his head in disagreement.

“No way. Stay out of it, guys. I mean it.”

The king brothers have strong loyalty for each other. So, knowing their nature, I am almost positive that they will not be following that instruction.

~


~There is no distance that cannot be covered over and over. You’re not defenseless. I’ll be your shelter; I’ll be your armor.~ Lauren Daigle❤

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