Then You Look At Me

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Hang On

~This city’s gonna break your heart; it’s gonna leave you colder. Bright light’s tearing us apart; it’s gonna hurt all over.~ Kris Allen.

Chapter Theme Song: ‘Out Alive’ by Kris Allen.

••

Third-person Pov

“Ry, honey. What you’re doing right here can be very dangerous, sweetheart.” Robert groans, threading his fingers through his tie and loosening the suffocating material. “Keeping secrets never amount to anything good.”

Riley tenses. “What makes you think I am—”

“You keep fiddling with your clothes, dear.”

Instinctively, she quickly releases her garment, and Robert suspires in impatience. “Just tell us.”

She chews on the inside of her cheek as Austin and Melissa inspect her carefully. Glancing down at her wristwatch, she realizes that she has less than a minute until she’s allowed to reveal their whereabouts. She is beyond relieved. The teen has never been a fan of falsity and having to sit here and whopper to three sharp-witted adults is like being mercilessly sentenced under the law of perjury.

Clearing her throat, she smooths out her shorts with her hands as she nervously jiggles her feet. 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2—

“Uhm...actually, they are at Freetown.”

Robert’s head jerks back at the information, as his face scrunches up. “Freetown? What-why are they there?”

“Did they go after Ron Moretto?” Austin questions with wide eyes, and Riley nods.

“It seems so...”

“Oh my God.” Melissa pushes her hair back, pulling at the strands as she does. Riley gazes at Robert guiltily as he shakes his head in disappointment.

“Ry, why did you take this long to tell us something this important?”

She opens her mouth to give an account, but Austin speaks first, causing her lips to tug upward culpably.

“We’re going over there right now; these boys never listen.” He hastily crosses the room to collect his brown jacket from the coat rack while Robert arises from the couch to accompany him.

As they stalk out the door, Riley sinks into her shoulders as a heartening Melissa sits next to her, offering a soft smile while rubbing the girl’s arm comfortingly.

••

"Rainey, Rainey, Rainey.”

Ron’s menacing tone sears through the air as he is stooping in front of the traumatized teen, his grey icy marbles drilling through hers. Grasping a portion of her short hair, he roughly tilts her head back; her chin elevated while her empty orbs glazes at him. Her eyes are now a black mirror of his, having no trace of life or vibrancy.

“Don’t touch her. Take your hand off her!” Alaric warns him, but that only earns a short chortle from the man. His deep, sinister voice reverberates with such control and dominance. Certainly, he does not have to take orders from a young adult who is currently bounded. He has the upper hand; the ball is lying in his court, and that reality feeds his ego a bellyful.

The King boys are sitting on blistered knees, their hands tied behind them whilst men stand above their heads with loaded rifles; waiting submissively on Ron’s permission to shoot. Rainey is the first in line and Arden is next to her. Aiden is in the middle, and Alex is right next to Alaric who is last in line. A few of Ron’s men, who Max had attempted to keep off, have by now arrived at the cliff with a beaten-up Max and his companions lying limply on the ground.

“Rainey Slate; I must admit. I like you.” Ron muses. He twists her face from side to side as his hold on her cheeks grows stronger, causing her red lips to jut out. Blood dribbles down her mouth, tenuously diluted by her saliva. “It’s a shame. If you were not connected to these King boys, I would have taken you under my wings.”

“Take your hand off her, are you deaf, you son of a bitch?!” Alaric is pulling against his restraint whilst his twin brothers quietly mourn, embedded in a state of incredulity.

Their brother just got shot and fell off a cliff and there is no way to tell if he’s still alive. The precipice is high up, and if the bullet to his chest was not enough to terminate him, the force of falling into that heavy body of water might have.

Rainey weakly turns her head to the cliff once more. Her eyes dampen a fresh, but she is unable to speak as if the trauma of this plight has disabled the cerebral part of her brain.

Ron strengthens his hold on her hair, hauling her face back to him. She doesn’t grimace or flinch even though the man’s thick fingers are delving into her scalp. “See, I would have been thrilled to watch you jump off that cliff after your soulmate; your little show of unconditional love was interesting, really. But you don’t die unless I say so. You die by my order and my order only.”

“You filthy psychotic asshole!” Shrieks Alex, his bloodshot eyes red and wild. “I swear I’m going to cut you up and rip you apart again and again for doing that to my brother! I am going to skin your flesh piece by piece!”

Ron lets out a dark humorless laugh. “The bromance you all share is quite heart-touching. It manages to move my abominable heart; I almost feel guilty.” He releases Rainey and her weak body collapses onto the floor as salty liquid leaves their sources. She is traumatized and broken at this point; unable to feel or hear anything.

“Alex...” Ron exhales, adjusting the cuff of his sleeve. “For being the youngest one, you sure use your mouth a lot. I also happen to have heard that you were the one who beat my best man-Hitler-to a blob the other day.”

“He fucking deserved it. What did he expect to happen after touching my girlfriend? He’s damn lucky the cops came before I killed him.”

Ron respires loudly, squatting in front of Alex and gripping his face into his hands. He cocks his head to the side.

“Should I just cut your tongue out?”

“Don’t you dare touch my brother,” Alaric growls, and darkness takes governance of Ron’s face. He drags his gaze to the oldest of the siblings, and a powerful dominance radiates off both males like two Alpha wolves combating for rulership.

“Someone can’t seem to wait his turn.” All malicious joviality has left as he stands up, shoving his hands in his pockets while he steps in front of Alaric. The boys watch him carefully as he glowers at their brother with strong resentfulness. “I was going to get to you in a minute, Alaric. But aren’t you one impatient son of a bitch.”

Alaric smirks daringly, and Ron copies the action, half his lips stretching up.

“Alaric King.” He lets out a breath, tilting his head to the side. “You think I don’t know that you’ve been fucking around with my woman, Bethany Finn?"

The twins’ eyes enlarge but Alaric’s expression doesn’t falter one bit as he leers at the man fearlessly.

“Do you think I’m stupid? Stealing from my drug truck; thinking I wouldn’t find out. I have men watching Bethany twenty-four-seven. You should have known that.”

Alaric’s shoulder raises in a nonchalant shrug as his brows arch up carelessly. “Oh. Maybe I knew and just didn’t care.”

Ron smiles. “If I were you, I would have cared. Lucky for her, the only punishment she received was being shipped to a prostitution trafficker in Mexico. But as for you...I was waiting for this very moment to give you what is overdue. I sat back and watched you played your little game; stealing from my drug truck, fucking with my woman, and I let it all go just for this very moment.”

“Well, here we are.” Alaric grins. “The grand-fucking-finale.”

Ron cackles sinisterly. “Indeed. Now tell me, Alaric. What should I do with you?”

“Stay away from him,” Aiden sneers.

Ron casually turns away, as if he is leaving, then whirls around and kick Alaric straight in the face. Blood spumes from his mouth as his brothers’ eyes widen defensively. They begin to wrestle with the ropes on their wrists, trying to break free as Ron Moretto delivers another hefty kick to their older brother’s face.

“Everyone who knows me, knows I hate people touching what belongs to me! And you Alaric, seems to like touching what’s mine!” The sole of his Oxford shoe connects with Alaric’s jaw again, and his head bobbles on his body as his lips feebly pull in a bloody smile.

“Go ahead...give it your best shot, Ron Moretto. You have been waiting for this moment since forever, weren’t you?” He spits out a glob of blood, and Ron clenches his jaws, crouching down to grip his face in his hand.

He sinks his thumb into Alaric’s bruised jaw. “You’re lucky the only woman I love is your mother, or else I would have cut your throat in the blink of an eye. Since Bethany didn’t mean shit to me, I have some time to spare...to torture you and watch you savor in your last moments.”

Alaric smiles weakly, a swelling already forming above his left eye. “Glad I could entertain you.”

Half of Ron’s face twitches at his conceitedness and he stands up irrevocably, nodding to the men standing above Rainey and the boys.

“Get ready to kill them,” he says, locking Alaric’s brave stare.

The eager group of men obeys, lining up the rifles at the back of their heads. Rainey is still lying on the ground mentally out of it when one of the men aims his gun over her body in anticipation.

Ron smirks, his palms grounded in his pockets while he cockily lifts his chin. “See you all in hell.”

Alex suddenly lets out a loud laugh, causing everyone to turn bemused gazes in his direction. A hawk-eyed Ron stares at him in amusement as the teen shakes his head, a smile dangling on his face.

“What the hell is so funny?” Snarls a cop with a crooked mustache, “he’s about to die and he’s snickering like he’s The Joker or something.”

“This motherfucker is losing it.” Fred narrows his eyes.

“It’s just that when he said, ‘see you in all hell’, it reminds me so much of one of those action movies.” Alex slants his head to gaze at his twin brothers. “I watched this mafia series once, and the villain had four guys kneeling in this very position, then he was like ‘see you all in hell’ before he blew their brains out. It’s just cool to feel like I’m in a movie.”

Aiden smiles. “Are you talking about Reborn of the Mafia Lord?"

“Fuck yes!” Alex titters as Arden joins in.

“That show was dope.”

Ron watches the boys in bewilderment as they continue to babble on.

“I watched up to season 4, after that I couldn’t stand the male lead, he got super annoying,” Arden complains.

“I hate to watch him in movies.” Alaric spits out blood again, grimacing at the insipid taste in his mouth. “But Ansel likes to.”

Moisture forms in Alex’s eyes. “Do you think Ansel’s dead?”

Aiden sighs. “I don’t know. He’s a fighter; he’s not one to die easily...but he got shot in the chest, so I have no idea....” A tear glides down his cheek, and he swipes his face onto his shoulder as he snivels.

Arden’s head is hung as he sobs softly and Alaric grounds his jaws to suppress tears of his own. “Honestly, if he’s dead...I wouldn’t mind dying right now. I prefer being wherever he is.” He slopes his head to look at his brothers.

“Me too...” Alex nods with drenched cheeks. “I wouldn’t be able to live without my brother.”

“We’d get to see him again,” adds Arden wistfully. “He’s probably waiting for us. Knowing Ansel, he’s most likely wearing his glasses in heaven, reading a book while he waits for us to show up.”

Alaric chuckles. “Yeah...he’s probably working on some Algebraic expressions up there.”

The boys burst out in a fit of sad laughter while Ron Moretto watches them in amazement. His eyebrows tightly furrow before the creases between his forehead slowly smooth out. He has never seen a group of people this...interesting. The way they manage to uphold their loyalty and stick together in the worst times is beyond him. Austin and his brothers had possessed these same qualities, and Ron is hit with a dejavu feeling as if he’s reliving the past.

“What are you waiting for?” Alaric glares at him, snapping him from his inspection. “Our brother is waiting for us so just kill us and get it over with.”

Ron swallows, clearing his throat before nodding to his men. The boys close their eyes in acceptance, awaiting the moment firm bullets will meet their heads. They love their brother to death and if he isn’t alive, they don’t deserve to live either.

Suddenly, the ground begins to tremor as if the earth is being met with a strong earthquake. A rush of hot wind and an ear-splitting chuff sound, that is certainly not the sound of bullets, causes the boys to open befuddled eyes and lift their heads toward the sky. A helicopter is descending toward them, a loudspeaker sounding above the slapping blades.

“Drop all your weapons, now. This is the chief of police, I repeat, drop all your weapons now.”

Arden squints his eyes from the glare of the sun, ogling the flying chopper. “Am I dead? Is that God?”

“What are you all waiting for?” Fred barks, shoving one of the standing men in his chest. “Shoot after it, now!”

Ron’s men begin to open fire at the incoming aircraft, and it sways in the air whilst the inhabitants begin to fire back concurrently.

“Cover Ron!” Fred orders, as two of the men positions themselves in front of the drug lord, sniping rapidly at the invading skyhook.

“What the fuck is this?!” Ron demands as Fred quickly reloads his rifle. “These sons of a bitches must have called someone!” he responds, as the brothers exchange ignorant gazes. Nope, they did not.

The chopper comes to land on the left side of the cliff, and eight cops in blue along with one in a brown suit emerges, taking cover while shooting at the men. Now Ron Moretto’s men have finally met their match; the legal team is just as skilled in Marksmanship, giving the perpetrators a run for their money.

Austin, Marco, and Robert quickly jump out of the helicopter, ducking their heads toward the captives. Ron Moretto’s vigilant eyes positions on Rainey’s dad and his brows shirr in a tight frown. He knows everyone in this town, but he has never seen this man before. He doesn’t like new faces.

“Oh my God, Rainey.” Robert mewls, gently lifting her arm so she sits upright. Her eyes are lifeless and void as she gazes at her father. Her lips tremble as tears form pathways along her cheek. She attempts to speak but it’s as if her brain is unable to form dialogues and so she repeatedly opens her mouth and closes it as if she’s chewing on air. A tear streaks down Robert’s face as he presses her bloody face to his chest. “Jeezus.”

“What the fuck did you boys do?” Austin breathes heavily, quickly untying his oldest son first. His eyes stalk among them. “Someone is missing; there are five of you, where’s Ansel?”

Water wells in their eyes and his father squint his anxiety. He looks back to Alaric. “Where is your brother, Ric?”

Arden bursts in tears. “He fell off the cliff.”

“What?” Robert’s eyes tear open while Austin pales.

“What the fuck did you just say, Arden?”

“He got shot and fell off—”

“FUCKING HELL!” Their father springs up, pressing a hand to his mouth as the brothers weep softly. “HOW THE FUCK DID YOU GUYS MAKE THAT HAPPEN—SHIT!”

“Marco! Search the bottom of the cliff, now!” Robert orders.

Alaric quickly unties Alex with teary eyes, looking just in time to see Ron safely escaping amidst the intense shootout- Fred and another guy covering his back.

“The son of a bitch is escaping, shit...” Alaric jolts up and Alex follows behind him as they quickly grab their guns from the ground, hurrying through the green woodland. They dash through trees, thoroughly numb to the scratches of jagged branches and sharp thorns.

Making it back to the dusty landscape where the vehicles are parked, Alaric quickly hops around the wheels of the van while his brother gets in next to him. There is a loud knock to Alex’s window, and he looks with furrowed brows to see his father there, gesturing that they wind the window down. His forehead smooths out as he obliges.

“I need to come with you guys.”

Alex sighs. “Dad—”

“Scoot over, boy. And don’t backtalk me.”

He reluctantly slides over as his father opens the door and gets in. Alaric starts up the engine and they quickly propel down the dirt road.

“Aiden, Arden, and Marco went to look for Ansel...” Austin mutters, his eyes limpid. “Hopefully, they find him alright. I just couldn’t go...I couldn’t bare witnessing if he’s— Fuck, I sound like a weak son of a bitch.” He runs a hand over his face.

Alex sniffs, wiping his face onto the sleeve of his T-shirt.

Fresh anger boils within Alaric—like dark, searing coal—and he steps on the gas, tightly gripping the steering wheel with steely concentration. The van is now going at the speed of light as they turn onto the mini highway. At this rate, they will catch up to Ron Moretto in no time.

The familiar black car comes into view and Alex points it out. “There he is, that BMW up ahead.”

Alaric sinks his foot on the gas pedal, and Austin reflexively grips the top ledge of his window while Alex presses his palm on the ceiling. A few passersby on the sidewalk watch with agape mouths as the speeding vehicle flies past, and Alaric dodges sluggish drivers through the traffic as Austin grabs Alex’s gun, sticking it through the window as they get closer to Ron’s vehicle.

“Shoot, dad.” Alex urges as Austin opens fire repeatedly, bullets smashing the back-window glass of the BMW. The vehicle sways at the sudden attack, and people on the sidewalks begin to scream and scatter as Austin shoots again, his jaws clenching tight at each bullet that dents the car.

“More gas, Ric,” he orders, and Alaric adds more pressure until the vehicle is practically flying. A head pokes out from the front seat of Ron’s car as Fred grinds his teeth, shooting back at them with blood in his eyes.

“Shoot his head off. Little big head son of a bitch,” Alex hisses as his father presses the trigger rapidly, causing Fred to hurriedly push his head back in as the car speeds up.

A bullet hits the back of the brothers’ van and Alaric sways as he glances through his rear-view mirror. “No fucking way...” He sucks his teeth.

Looking behind them, Alex frowns. “The fuck? There is a car chasing behind us, shooting at us.”

“What do you expect? Ron owns this town. He probably always has men on standbys. Wind your windows up.” Austin orders and Alaric obliges.

The bullets hit again, followed by a loud boom as the ride becomes bumpy, half of the van slumping. A whooshing noise reverberates as the sound of rubber flapping resonates among them. Austin rolls his eyes. “Shit, they shot one of the tires.”

Due to the deflated tire, the van is unable to speed and so they have no choice but to slow down. The vehicle from behind swings in the opposite lane and overtakes them, driving way ahead then turning into their paths, blocking them away from Ron’s BMW.

“Sons of bitches.” Alaric frowns as he presses the brake, grabbing his gun from his lap.

“Stay in the van, there’re only two guns,” Austin tells Alex, who gapes at him defiantly.

“But dad—”

His father shoots him a look, to which he shuts his mouth lividly, rolling his neck.

As Austin and Alaric get out of the vehicle, two muscular men emerge from the unknown Subaru, smirking haughtily. Austin and Alaric waste no time to open fire on the men, who shoot back simultaneously whilst seeking refuge at the sides at their vehicle. Ron’s BMW had stopped and so amidst the battle out, Fred covers the slippery drug lord and ushers him from the damaged vehicle and to the brand-new Subaru from the opposite end.

Alex sees and presses the horn of the van repeatedly, sticking his head through the window. “He’s getting into the Subaru; he’s getting away!”

Austin begins shooting at the car as the two muscular men abandon the battle to quickly get into the vehicle. The car reverses in a rush, overtaking the abandoned BMW before escaping down the street.

“FUCK!!!!” Alaric kicks the ground furiously, quickly whirling around to head back to the van. “I am going after them, I have to kill that son of a bitch today!”

Austin grabs his arm and he shrugs it off, earning a grim glare from his father.

He buries his face in his hands. “Sorry, dad.”

“Live to fight another day, our tire is flat, and we are still in his territory,” Austin implores. “Going after him with just two guns is silly, Alaric.”

A soft sniffle from his son causes his gaze to soften. Alaric quietly cries into his hand, and Austin rubs his back, his own eyes forming puddles again. “It’ll be alright, Ric. We’ll get our revenge. I promise you that Ron Moretto is a dead man walking.”

Alex watches the two emotional men from the front seat and his throat burns again as he drops his gaze to the floor.

~

~I’m searching for the sound of your heartbeat; I’m looking for a sign of life. And I can hear it fading out. Lost my strength when you lost your fight.~ Kris Allen.

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