All my fears and anger come flooding back again, the same feelings I felt a year ago, the day I saw Leonardo the last time; as if my body just sent them a blanket invitation. I feel the soft panic that can grow or fade depending on what I do next. But I know I have to listen to Kai. His ideas are sober, logical, smart; and I would just do something stupid, driven by anger and craving for vengeance.
We watched how Leonardo opened the rusty steel door, getting inside of one of those old buildings. We need to follow him, we need to find out what he’s up to and why did Brent always ended up finding him, instead of Avery.
As soon as the street falls down in silence, we make our move. Slowly, silently, not to be noticed. To be able to see every move Leonardo makes, and every word he says.
“We don’t know what is behind that door, so be prepared for anything that can happen.”
I see everyone pulling their guns, knives, daggers out; every weapon they’re the best at using. But no one tries to mask their fear, anxiety. None of us knows where we’re going, and what we’ll see in there.
I just hope to find Avery.
“We need someone to stay outside, in case someone will come.”
“Maybe Kevin and Brooklyn could stay here?”
Kai winks at Kevin and a little devilish smile plays on his lips; but no one seems to notice, except me. If you didn’t know Kai you would think he’s just trying to keep his brother and my sister out of this, but in reality he just wants them to get some time alone.
I know how Brooklyn likes him, and Kevin just tries to find out what he’s actually feeling. I saw their longing looks at each other, how they smile, laugh when they’re together. And there’s Woods blood running down Kevin’s veins, which means he’ll make a move for a woman that he likes, one way or another.
“But what’s the plan? What we’ll do after we see what he’s up to?”
Kai’s eyes lock on me; and I would be lying to myself if I didn’t like him when he’s so serious and confident, looking like a real leader. He knows how to calm down all of us, even if he feels conflicted on the inside. He knows how to make people fight for him, giving them devotion, protection and real friendship in return.
And that always makes me think what a great father he would be.
“It depends on what we’ll see. But I want us to be unnoticed as long as possible. I want him to believe that he’s safe. And when the time comes...” Kai draws his finger down the blade; knowing where he can touch not to get himself cut. Being a professional assassin. “We’ll remind him what he felt last time.”
No one dares to talk back, to oppose and we turn to the big steel door to enter the building. Brent and Aaron gets their guns ready, if someone was right in front of us, trying to get rid of unexpected guests. But as soon as the door opens, no one but a pungent smell meets us.
It’s a warehouse, looking as if it was still in use; but it’s probably just a place for people like Leonardo to take care of his business. The corrugated iron roof is domed some twenty-five feet above us, like a town cathedral. There’s bags of grain, piled high at the far end, lightened up by cheap lightbulbs. And voices, coming from the depth of the warehouse.
With no hesitation we step inside, following Kai’s footsteps, trying to be as quiet as possible; but ready for action. But the anger still burns inside me as soon as I recognize Leonardo’s voice amongst the others, which I haven’t heard ever before.
“Daryl. You’re late.”
I stop behind Kai, hiding behind bags of grain while the others surround the place in case someone would notice us. And there he is. Leonardo, standing in front of the metal table; looking like the same one he was tortured on. So confident and serious, but in reality, I know he’s a fucking coward.
“Leonardo. What a nice surprise.”
The tension starts to grow as the other man starts walking closer to Leonardo, and three other men behind him. But he looks confident, like a leader; tall, handsome, but his eyes are just spurting with evil. I keep looking around, trying to spot more men; when deep inside me I know I’m looking for Avery.
“I brought the money you requested.”
“I was expecting to see Yellow Eye today. Not his... dog.”
“He comes when he wants to, not when you ask him to.”
I cross my fingers with Kai’s, craving for the warmth of his body when I realize I don’t understand a thing. First of all, the Phoenix. And now... who’s Yellow Eye?
Leonardo places the small suitcase on the table, carefully opening it as his eyes are having a fight with the other man’s, Daryl’s. The suitcase slowly opens and I gasp, looking at all the money in there. It could be thousands. Millions.
“How much is in there?”
“I asked for $240,000, Leonardo.”
I look at other men, who’s muscles get tense as Leonardo keeps staring at Daryl. Something inside my guts tells me it’s not going to be good; but after all, Leonardo is a part of the criminal world, and even there he’s just a flunkey.
“You don’t command to him, Daryl.”
“Perhaps $200,000 and your head will be fine.”
Daryl points a gun straight at Leonardo’s face as the men behind him raise their guns, too. I squeeze Kai’s hand in mine, realizing we got into the middle of the shooting; one stupid word from Leonardo’s mouth and he’ll be dead.
I can’t let that happen.
I take one step closer and something cracks under my feet, leaded by Kai’s angry gaze.
“What are you doing?”
I feel my lips arch down when I realize I’ve let my anger to take control of me, I couldn’t just keep watching as the chance to get my vengeance is slowly taken away from me. But I can’t mess up the plan, I can’t let my anger stand between me and Kai. I have to listen to him; no matter how much I want him dead.
I have to keep waiting for Avery.
“Listen to me, you trash. I’m not giving you the item until Yellow Eye comes and takes it himself.”
He presses the cold gun on Leonardo’s sweaty forehead, and then I see the fear in his eyes. Nothing but fear, hiding under that suit and good looks; that man is nothing but a coward, hiding behind someone stronger than him. Someone named Yellow Eye.
“Tell him I want to talk about the Phoenix, and then maybe I’ll give him the item. And I want to see the girl.”
With no turning back Daryl leaves the place, leaving Leonardo standing all alone, scared and with a suitcase full of money. He stares at the spot where the man just was, threatening to kill him; and he did nothing. Like he said, he’s just a dog; but Leonardo doesn’t deserve an animal’s name, because those creatures are loyal. They have hearts. And this man has nothing that you could call humanity.
“What the hell does that mean?”
I whisper to Kai, who still keeps his eyes locked on Leonardo, thinking. I spot a muscle twitching involuntarily at the corner of his right eye, his smooth skin turning into a frown as his mouth formed a rigid grimace. That look is never giving me good news; he doesn’t know what’s going in here either. But one way or another, everything in here is connected. Avery, the Phoenix, Leonardo, and also someone named Yellow Eye.
“I’m not sure. We need more information about this.”
“What are we going to do?”
“Follow him, of course.”
I walk back and forth, waiting for them to come out. The silence is pinging in my ears, from anxiety that something happened, and what is going on inside that building. They should be back by now. What if they’ve been caught, or worse?
The only sound that stopped me from walking around like an idiot was Brooklyn’s voice, coming from behind me. Silent and sweet, but always calming down my mind, like it had some magic in it. I turn around to face her; there’s worry, anxiety in those big emerald eyes, but she still seems to be more relaxed than I am.
“You think we should go inside? To see if they’re okay?”
“No, Kai told us to stay here. What if someone comes and we won’t have time to warn them?”
And deep inside my guts I know she’s right; we all have our places to stand in, and we have to follow the plan, not to mess things up. But sometimes, when Kai leaves me to have his back, to watch if no one unexpected comes I just feel like I’m too weak to fight. That’s why I’m always left behind, maybe because I’m not strong enough to be the one who fights, who kills people.
I feel like a shadow, following my brother everywhere, doing nothing but watching him. I thought that I ran away from my past; but did I, really? It still follows me everywhere I go, and no matter that it’s been a year, they all still look at me like I was the child that needs to be saved. They still look at me like I needed protection, but in reality, I want to be the one who protects people.
I want to be as strong as my brother is, to become a man, not a boy scared boy. And to become one I have to face my fears, to be strong and brave, I have to stop caring if something bad happens to me; all I need to think about is to keep all of them safe. To keep her safe.
I want to be a man that she needs, a man that can give her anything she wants, a man that can protect her, be brave for her; like Kai said, girls like men who know what they want. And I want to be that kind of man, because I know exactly what I want.
And it’s Brooklyn.
My every sense was shut down for a moment and I haven’t noticed two men coming our way; one man is somewhat too tall for his build. He’s all muscle on that tall frame. He has that dangerous look on that chocolate skin, and I immediately realize we’re in trouble.
I kick the door with a loud sound, not to be too obvious that I’m giving Kai a sign that someone is coming; but thinking how to get out from here ourselves.
I need to be a man.
I know there’s no time to think what to do, and two of us won’t be able to run away from two grown men, looking like mountains of muscles. But why are two young people hiding by the old warehouse?
I don’t think anymore, my body does when I grab Brooklyn’s face and slam my lips on hers.
Although I caught the moment to kiss her when we’re in trouble, I immediately forget that two men are coming straight at us as soon as I feel her breathing stop. For the time our lips locked together the world itself ceased to exist: I don’t care anymore about the circumstances as the intensity of the moment brings us to new heights. I pushed my lips in more firmly and the wave that runs through me is intoxicating, making my head swim.
I sweep my tongue inside her mouth, savoring the taste of her sweet lips and the deliciousness of her scent; probably I would’ve hesitated before deepening the kiss, but I cannot control myself, not with Brooklyn, not anymore. I feel her palms on my waist, gently pressing her body to mine, her nails dig into my skin as I feel my brain is on fire, burning every thought I had before.
Kissing her is like heaven, as soon as our lips melted together I felt like wings were starting to grow from my spine, lifting me up and the ground disappeared under my feet. Like our lips were locked together, I pull her closer and closer to myself, deepening the kiss with every moment, our tongues fighting for dominance and my hands everywhere on her body.
I never thought I wanted her that much. But now I know I won’t be able to control myself around her anymore.
When I pulled back her eyes are like every fantasy I’d ever had of her, every moment I wish could exist between the two of us. The kiss, the look, a stolen moment that was set, color-fast, indelible.
“I had to do this a long time ago.”
“Hey, you two!”
I finally release Brooklyn’s face, still shocked, her eyes still narrowed, intoxicated after the kiss; the moment those suited men reached us. I turn to them, feeling a lot more confident, a lot more brave and sure about everything that I’m doing. I got out of my comfort zone, and it feels the hell of amazing.
“What the fuck are you doing in here?”
I put a curved smile on my face, the one like my brother does; feeling all the confidence growing inside of me. Feeling how something inside me changes; and for the first time, I believe that now I can become a better version of myself.
“Sorry, fellas. We needed some privacy."