I was in that room again.
The room where my father and brother would bring me every time I showed weakness. They didn’t want that. The next leader of the Torres-Shao needs to be strong and ruthless, not like me who was a crybaby and scaredy-cat. I hated hurting people, but I was taught that if I wanted to stay on top, I had to be brutal—to do the inevitable and be feared by all.
But I’m not that kind of person.
I just wanted to be normal.
“Why do you think Tyler’s pushing you to be the heir?”
I could still remember that question as it rang in my head over and over again. It was the same question that haunted me for so many years. It made me realized that my father only needed me for his own selfish reasons. I was someone he could transform into the next him. I was supposed to continue his legacy. He wanted me to bring the Torres-Shao on top and as ambitious and ridiculous as it sounded, dad wanted me to stand and rule; to be the very best.
He spent countless years working his way into the nook and cranny of the Mafia, bribing and dealing with every family he could just to make the Torres-Shao known in the underground world. Dad was a greedy man, and no one could stop him from getting what he wanted.
“You need to be stronger than everyone, Liam. It’s the only way to make him proud of you.”
“I don’t need a son. I need a monster. Someone I can use to get rid of anyone who tries to oppose me.”
I opened my eyes and the darkness that consumed me while I was sleeping vanished in an instant. The familiar white ceiling greeted me, and I could only groan in annoyance.
Don’t tell me…
I managed to run a hand through my messed-up hair. “What happened?” I asked as I forced myself to get up. My body felt like it was made out of lead—so heavy and stiff. How long did I stay here?
“You fainted and I brought you to the clinic.”
I froze as soon as I realized whose voice just talked. I looked at Isaiah with wide eyes. What’s he doing here? No, I vaguely remembered bumping into him while I was walking in the corridor. I couldn’t remember what I said to him, or did we even talk after seeing each other—my memories were hazy.
“I…what?” I held onto my head to try and remember why I fainted. I met with Tyler and he…oh no, Paolo. “No, Paolo. Where is he?” I asked. I couldn’t hide the worry in my voice. I did something so terrible to him that I don’t think I’d be able to forgive myself. I hurt him, again. Someone so precious to me and probably only one of the few people in my life that genuinely cared about me, I had to know he’s okay.
“I don’t know. He wasn’t with you when you passed out.”
I failed to notice the antagonizing tone he had after I mentioned Paolo. I covered my face and grunted. This wouldn’t be the first time that I passed out from exhaustion and stress. The last time Tyler did this to me was when I failed to deal with one of our clients. They were close associates of the Torres-Shao and even after forgiving me for f*cking up the deal that involved drug trafficking and illegal selling of firearms, Tyler still beat me up until I was rushed to the hospital for losing too much blood.
I could only shudder in fear. Not only was my brother good in torturing me he also knew how to f*ck me up—mentally and physically. Tyler knew my weakness. The fact that I’m still able to feel empathy for people whose lives were ruined because of what we do. He always said I didn’t need a heart to become the leader of the Torres-Shao. What he and dad wanted was a robot they could control, someone who’d be able to do whatever they wanted no matter how vile and infernal without restraint—yes, I’ll turn out as a monster for sure.
They already broke me before hence why he was born.
There’s nothing they couldn’t do to me.
“And no one will protect you, Liam. You’re all alone.”
“Damn it, where’s Lorraine?” I asked. I’m sure the nurse wouldn’t be delighted to see me here again after what happened last time. I was brought here too when Paolo and the others thought Lorraine would be enough to bring me back to life. But she could only do so much for me. I was losing blood for f*ck sake, it’s not as if she’s storing a spare here.
That incident brought another issue to life and a lot had been discussed by the student council office in case a situation like mine arise again. Of course, Tyler would do absolutely anything to continue torturing me. If he needed a hospital just for the sake of fixing me whenever he breaks me, then so be it.
“Lorraine?” Isaiah asked.
“Yes, the nurse.”
He looked to the door. “She’s outside. She said she’d take care of you, but she hasn’t come in for like hours.”
I resisted not to roll my eyes after hearing that. Lorraine wasn’t exactly the most hard-working staff here in North Vale, but she does a good job of treating students whenever they get in trouble. I’d say she’s the busiest out of all the medical staff working for the school. Every boy wanted to be near her after hearing a rumor that she’s been having sex with the students. The only that’s stopping them from forcing themselves on her was that they knew she’s under my protection.
No one would even dare to touch a hand on her, of course, except Stephen. That idiot doesn’t care, as long as they have big boobs and nice pussies, he’ll seduce and f*ck them no matter who the woman was. It didn’t help that Stephen was also under my responsibility as his family was affiliated with the Torres-Shao group. And as much as I hated being associated with that pervert, we somehow grew together here in North Vale.
“She’s probably being f*cked again,” I murmured in disappointment. But I couldn’t blame Lorraine. Her job wasn’t exactly rewarding. Though she’s being compensated handsomely, working around with horny teenage criminals wasn’t really the best job out there.
But then again, it’s not as if she had a choice. She was indebted to one of the families that sponsored North Vale.
I snapped out of my thoughts after hearing Isaiah talk. I looked at him and saw the anger flashing in his eyes as the relieved smile on his face turned upside down.
I stared back at him. I’d be lying if I said I’m not annoyed that he was here. I already knew so long ago that whatever blooming relation Isaiah and I had, it’s doomed before it could even start. Paolo’s words resonated in my ears, reminding me of who I am and what I do. Isaiah was all I could think after meeting him. He was my ideal person—strong, confident, and witty. I have met a lot of people in this world who wanted me just because I’m a Torres-Shao. It’s not like I’m the one that mattered. Whoever Tyler chooses for me to be my wife would be the luckiest woman as she’d get the lavish lifestyle, she’s been dreaming of as a mob’s partner.
I refused to drag Isaiah in my shit. Especially now that Tyler’s getting more and more brutal with his punishments. He wouldn’t think twice about hurting the people I care about just to get to me.
He’s that kind of person after all.
I had to push Isaiah away. For his sake and mine.
“What are you doing here, Isaiah?” I asked. I didn’t even try to hide the disappointment in my voice. I wanted him to know that I couldn’t appreciate what he did to me, even if he was the one who found me when I needed someone the most.
Isaiah looked at me in disbelief. And I would too if I hear myself talking like this to him. I’m sure even someone as nice as Isaiah would feel hurt after asking him a nonsense question like what he was doing here. It’s obvious why.
Because he cares about me.
Finally, he said the words I was waiting for, and it hurt to hear them from him. “I don’t know, maybe because you fainted when we met and I’m just too kind not to leave you unconscious on the floor?” Isaiah put a hand on his hips as his glare cut through me. “You know, like what a normal human being with a heart will do if he sees someone who needs help.”
“You shouldn’t have done that.” I struggled to sound exasperated to turn him off even more. It hurt but I had to do it. Isaiah’s better off without me.
“You know that’s not true.”
“So, you’re saying the right thing to do is leave you there?”
I turned away to look at the other side of the room as if something more interesting than Isaiah was happening there. “Yes,” I muttered.
“F*ck that.” I watched him stood up from the couch, his gaze burning me in fury. “I’m so sorry I saved you. Clearly, that was a mistake. I would have thanked me if I were you, but you do you.
“F*ck that,” I snapped all of a sudden. I stood up from the couch and glared at him. “I’m so sorry I saved you. Clearly, that was a mistake. I would have thanked me if I were you, but you do you.”
My body moved on its own, grabbing his hand to stop him from leaving me. If I knew better, it was as if he was the one who tried to stop Isaiah from going.
“I’m sorry,” I said, quickly regretting that I stopped him. It would have been better if he actually leaves me for good. It’d save him from whatever danger he’s bound to face if he gets himself involved with my affairs.
But I just couldn’t let Isaiah go.
He was the one person that I didn’t want to give up. I had lots of things and people that I had to let go of because of who I am, and for a long time, I distanced myself to protect them from my vicious family.
But how long do I need to suffer? Would I still do this until I get old and die without doing anything for myself?
Do I really want to become my father and brother’s robot?
I couldn’t give Isaiah up.
Not him too.
“I just…” I took a deep breath before continuing, “a lot happened, and I don’t want to involve you with my…shit.” I strived hard to tell him why I was acting like an asshole without really saying anything that might expose why I’m hesitant on letting him in my life.
Isaiah smirked. “A little thank you would be nice too.”
My cheeks felt warm all of a sudden as I was embarrassed at how much of a prick I acted to Isaiah. He didn’t deserve that after what he did to me. I would have been found by Tyler’s people and will be tortured again for showing vulnerability.
I averted my gaze off him to hide my heated cheeks. “I-I’m sorry too. For everything, I’m sure I caused you trouble.”
“Sure, you did. I cut class for you. That’s the very first time I did that too,” he informed me, an impish smile appearing on his face.
“What?” I turned to look back at him, surprised at what I just heard. Does Isaiah never cut class? I mean I would believe it if he didn’t look like he wasn’t interested in studying. I wouldn’t say he doesn’t excel in classes, but he looked like the type who wouldn’t bother submitting his projects on time just because he could.
Or maybe that’s just the image I had in my mind about Isaiah.
He looked too cool for school. If I dare say it out loud, I’m sure I’d receive an earful from him as it would make him sound like a douchebag. And I knew Isaiah wasn’t like that.
“Is it really your first time?”
“Yes. I might not look like it but I’m a very studious guy,” he said, grinning at me. “Not because I like studying. I just don’t want to fail any of my subjects.”
That made sense. No one wanted to fail in class, especially if you’re studying in a school like North Vale.
“You’re responsible then, I respect that,” I commented with a shy smile. “I’m sorry for making you miss your class. I can tell your teacher what happened and—” I was about to take my phone out to call one of my guys who might know who Isaiah’s homeroom teacher and let him know why he couldn’t attend his afternoon classes.
But before I could, Isaiah stopped me. “Already did that,” he said.
“How?” I asked.
He beamed at me. “My friend Leander is going to explain why we missed class.”
“Leander?” I asked. I have never heard of that name. Was he a new transfer student who came along with Isaiah? Stephen would know.
“Yes, he’s a classmate. And he helped me bring you here.”
Oh, he’s a classmate. Good. He made friends already when it’s just his first day. “Then I owe him an apology. And a thanks too.”
“You do. But I want to know what happened to you, Liam.” My shoulders tensed. I expected he’d be asking why I passed out like a fragile little kid in the corridor. I’m surprised it didn’t turn him off. If pushing him away wouldn’t do it, maybe I could show him how pathetic I am.
That turned my brother off for sure.
“Nothing happened. I was just…exhausted.” It was a lie, but I’d rather lie than tell him what Tyler did to me. “It was a long night last night, I didn’t get much sleep.”
“Sure, but is being deprived of sleep needs your knuckles to be covered in blood?”
I was taken aback by his question. My heart skipped a beat as I quickly checked my hands to see Paolo’s blood still sullied my hands. I saw the skin on my knuckles peeling from punching Paolo over and over again, as his blood splattered all over—soiling everything as if it wanted to remind me what I did to my friend.
I tried to hide my hands from shaking as I forced a smile at Isaiah.
“No…I don’t remember much what happened. Sorry.”
Please believe my lies.
“You are so lying.”
My body stiffened as I looked at Isaiah, shocked. How did he—I practiced the art of lying. I learned how to mask my emotions as Tyler would always say that I didn’t need it. He taught me how to play with people’s minds, convincing them to believe my lies as it’d be useful when I become the next leader of the Torres-Shao.
But Isaiah managed to break the wall that I tried so hard to build around me, just in a mere second. I could feel chills running down my spine as Isaiah and I stared at each other.
“I’m not lying,” I said. I had to congratulate myself for not stuttering.
Isaiah let out a sarcastic laugh. “Yes, you are, and you just did it again.”
We found ourselves having another staring contest. He could read me like an open book, and I don’t know if I should be happy or annoyed that Isaiah had that kind of power. Over me.
“You’re really something, Isaiah. I like that about you,” I confessed, smiling at him in defeat.
His jaws clenched, his eyes sparkled in glee. As easy as it was for him to see through my lies, I could also tell the happiness in him after hearing me say those words. If only I could tell him how much I liked him and that everything I was doing was to protect him, I would in a heartbeat. But I had to keep in mind that my brother’s always watching me wherever and whenever. I didn’t want to let him know about the budding relationship I have with Isaiah.
I just can’t.
“So,” Isaiah started, masking away the joy in his face as he turned back to his serious mode. He really wanted to get to the bottom of what really happened to me. And I couldn’t blame him for being curious. “Tell me what happened. I heard from the nurse that this was your brother’s work. Was it?”
F*ck. Lorraine just had to open her big mouth and tell Isaiah unnecessary things about my brother. I’ll remember to reprimand her about it, but knowing her nonchalant personality, I’m sure she’d just brush it off.
I inwardly sighed. There’s no use lying to Isaiah. Maybe I could tell him a glimpse of what my brother’s like. That would give him an insight to never cross paths with Tyler. “Yes, my brother. He’s eccentric.”
He raised a brow. “Why? Because he forces you to beat someone up?”
For the nth time, I found myself shocked. How could he even tell these things as if he was there that time? Isaiah didn’t belong to a Mafia family, he had no idea about the burdens I’m carrying as the next heir of my family.
I could only laugh. And here I am thinking I mastered the art of fooling someone. “Are you some sort of wizard that you can see what happened in the past?”
Isaiah shrugged his shoulders. “No, that’ll be amazing if I am but I’m not.” His gaze went down to my hands and his lips formed a straight line. He could only sigh before saying, “It’s not that hard to tell what happened. I just want to know why.”
I bit the inside of my cheeks. Should I tell him the truth? As I said, there’s no point in being dishonest to him.
“My brother Tyler, he…” I stopped for a second. I had to be careful, this was thin ice I’m treading. “He wants me to be someone who I’m not.”
“And he does these things because of that?”
Isaiah’s asking hard questions. Be careful, Liam.
“Yes. I told you I have three older brothers, two of them are managing their own business, the other one, Tyler…” I had to pause. I don’t think I have talked about Tyler to anyone other than Paolo. “He’s the one who…” How do I describe my brother? The epitome of the devil? That’ll be putting it politely. “He’s my guardian,” was what I said about Tyler. “Tyler is very strict. He and my father have high expectations of me to take over the family business.”
Isaiah’s eyes narrowed. “Business…as in drug business?” He didn’t even think twice asking about that and I had to applaud him for being straightforward. He’s Isaiah after all. He’s not afraid of who I am.
But I’m scared of disappointing him though.
“I won’t lie. Everyone in North Vale knows who we are and what we do. Soon, you’ll know too.” There’s a pang in my heart. “You’ll come to despise me too if you knew about what we do. What I do.”
And maybe that’s what it would take for Isaiah to leave me.
“But you’re not like your family, right?”
I swallowed the lump in my throat. Why was he saying the right words that would heal the wounds caused by my family?
Why does he need to make me fall in love with him even more?
“No, of course not. I want a normal life. Not the same life my father and brother want for me. I just want…” I released a frustrated sigh.
What do I even want?
I’m living for someone else.
I had no aspirations, no goals, no dreams.
I’m just the person that my father and brother created.
“I don’t know what I even want. I spend my whole life taking orders from dad and Tyler…I’m not even sure who I am anymore.”
But one thing’s clear for me. I want Isaiah so bad that I’m saying all these things to me, things that I haven’t even told Paolo.
Slowly, Isaiah reached out to hold my hand. It was warm, contradicting the coldness of my skin. I tried to pull away, scared that he might see through me, again. But Isaiah wouldn’t let me. He held my hand even tighter, silently telling me that he’s here for me. “You’re too young to be having an identity crisis, Liam,” he said, grinning.
I cracked and smile and so did he. We laughed out loud like the teenagers that we were. Right at this moment, it felt like I’m just an ordinary boy hanging out with my crush. I’m not a Torres-Shao.
I’m just Liam when I’m with Isaiah.
“I understand that your family matter is very complicated now.” Oh, it’s more than complicated, Isaiah. “And I didn’t get that from the first time we met.” I wasn’t sure if he was being sarcastic or not, but I let out a smile.
“Are you regretting that you’ve met me?” I dared to ask.
I held my breath. Isaiah eyed me and said, “I’m still here.”
And that was enough for me to wash away the concerns I had at the moment. “Thanks. That…you don’t know how much that means to me.”
Isaiah’s hand tightened even more. His warmth was comforting, I didn’t want to let go. If only I could lean my head against his shoulder, this would be really an unforgettable afternoon.
Well, every moment with Isaiah would always be an unforgettable memory.
I was enjoying Isaiah’s presence when he suddenly said, “now, tell me where I can find your brother.”
I looked at him and blinked. “Why?”
Isaiah smirked. “Because I’m going to teach him a lesson.” His voice turned deep, and it sent an electric jolt that went straight to my groin.
Calm the f*ck down, Liam.
Wait, did he just say…? “You’re going to do what?” I panicked when Isaiah made his way to the door. “Wait, where are you going?!” It wasn’t in my nature to yell but watching Isaiah march his way to my brother scared the living shit out of me.
“I told you, I’m going to teach your bastard of a brother a lesson,” he repeated.
I grabbed his shoulders to stop him, but Isaiah was far stronger than I am. It didn’t help that he was taller and bigger than I am. “Are you out of your mind?! You can’t just go to Tyler!”
Isaiah glared at me. “And why not? Is he the damn president of the Philippines? Is he God?” he asked, mocking my older brother.
I tried my hardest to pull him back but he’s easily dragging me outside of the room. “Wait, Isaiah, please—!”
He turned to face me. “I’ll make Tyler kneel in front of you and beg for your forgiveness.”
I flushed. F*ck, that was hot. No! “Don’t you dare, Isaiah. Do you want to die?”
Tyler wouldn’t think twice about putting a bullet in between his eyes. He’s strong but Tyler had means of eliminating people without even lifting a finger.
“Woah, is this a lover’s spat?”
Isaiah and I looked at Stephen who stood in the corridor, smiling sheepishly at us. “I didn’t know you swing that way too, boss.”
I immediately let go of Isaiah. “What are you talking about?” Ugh, of all the people to see us arguing, it just had to be Stephen. “And what are you even doing here?”
He’s also one of Tyler’s spies. He reports everything to my brother too.
“Your brother’s looking for you.”
Isaiah grinned before laughing like an evil villain. “Perfect! I can’t wait to meet the f*cker.”
Stephen blinked, confused. “What?”
“Tisoy, bring me to that Tyler asshole.”
I clicked my tongue and rolled my eyes. “Isaiah, please…” My head’s starting to throb. “Just stop this. Let’s just—”
Isaiah wasn’t listening. He was on his way to Stephen, demanding him where Tyler was. “Let’s go, dorm manager. What’s your name again?” he asked.
“Stephen. Tisoy, for short,” he said, grinning playfully at him.
“Good. Let’s go, Liam.”
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