The Secret is Out
Michaela made it back home feeling drained after a long day of running errands. She wanted nothing else to do than to fill a glass of wine, relax in a tub and let the drink and the warm water work their magic on her depleted self. However, that thought quickly evaporated the moment she stepped into the kitchen to place her grocery bags. There was an empty coffee mug that rested on the counter, and that meant one thing only. Her eyes instantly scanned her surroundings in search of its owner, and she found him leaning against the doorframe to her bedroom. She smiled instantly when her eyes met his.
“You didn’t tell me you were coming?”
He took a couple of steps towards her. “I suddenly had the urge to see you.”
He was smiling. She could see that, but something was off about him. He was trying to hide it behind that smile. Still, it was clear to her that he was deeply troubled by something.
“Are you okay?” She asked, concerned.
He cradled her face in his hands and whispered against her lips, “I’m fine now.”
He kissed her tenderly. His lips slanted against hers over and again before his tongue demanded access. She gave it to him, threw her arms around his neck and allowed her tongue to rub against his. Before the two knew it, they were undressing one another with an urgency they have never known. Chris lifted her up, had her wrap her bare legs around him and carried her to her bedroom. They made passionate love to one another over and again until exhaustion claimed the two of them.
Michaela woke up later that night to Chris’s gentle caresses against her hair. Her head was resting on his warm chest and her slender form was kept securely close to him by the muscular arm that was wrapped around her waist. She lifted her head up to look at him and he smiled as he tucked a lock behind her ear. She smiled back tenderly.
“Hey,” he whispered back. His hand began caressing the side of her face.
“What time is it?”
“I guess it’s almost three in the morning.”
“I didn’t think you’d stay over for this long.”
“I wanted to leave, but…,” he sighed, unable to continue. His eyes darted towards the digital clock on the nightstand. Then he kissed her forehead and got up. “I think I should go.”
Michaela watched him get dressed silently. Something was definitely wrong with him. She sat up. Her back rested against the headboard and she held the sheets to her chest.
“Chris, is something wrong?”
“No,” he smiled after he pulled the shirt over his head and began looking for his shoes.
“Something is obviously bothering you.”
“It’s nothing that you need to concern yourself with,” he said while avoiding her gaze. He sat down on a chair and began putting his socks on.
“You’re not in this alone, remember? Whatever it is, you can talk to me.”
He paused and looked at her. “I don’t want you to worry.”
“I’ll worry more if you don’t tell me what’s bothering you.”
Chris stared at her for a moment. He honestly did not know how he could break whatever he had uncovered to her. For one thing, he did not know how she would react. She was definitely going to feel obligated to resolve the situation. How? He did not know, but there was absolutely no way that she would sit still and not do anything about the problem. Her loyalty to Lesly would not allow her to do so.
If she chose to react the way he expected, he would not blame her. He could barely keep his anger contained himself when he first found out. However, years of experience told him that rushing to resolve the situation could lead to catastrophic consequences. It pained him a great deal to sit and watch how things would play out before he could make a move. That was why he sought Michaela out. He needed whatever comfort and distraction she could offer. He knew she would see through him, but if he had not come to see her earlier, he would have gone mad.
“Chris?” Michaela called him again.
He sighed loudly. “You have to promise to keep this between us.”
“You won’t act on whatever I’m going to tell you. I need your word, Michaela.”
She was suspicious, but her curiosity won, and she offered him the confirmation he needed. “You have it.”
He leaned forward in his seat, rested his arms on his knees and clasped his hands together. “I managed to gather some valuable intel on a certain someone who is of particular importance in the Davis scandal.”
“Who?” Michaela asked.
“A guy who has been leading a double life for quite some time,” Chris answered. “It took me a lot of effort to finally have him figured out. Usually in cases of hidden identities, you discover immediately that something is amiss because of certain missing key elements. For example, you can’t find a trace of them beyond the stage during which they have shifted to a new identity. His was so masterfully done that it seemed believable. If I hadn’t had a hunch that something was off, I wouldn’t have kept on digging.”
She had no clue what he was talking about, but she encouraged him to keep going. “What have you gathered so far?”
“Well, the guy has quite the interesting background. At first, everything seemed normal. His mother died when he was four. His maternal grandparents took care of him next. They were doing well financially, so money was obviously no issue. He grew up in a small town and led quite the normal life. Nothing out of the ordinary so far…until I began looking into the father. Apparently, the father went to great lengths to mask whatever connection he had to his son. The fact that the father was not in a solid relationship with the mother certainly helped. You would assume it’s a typical case of negligence, especially considering the fact that the son was never officially given his father’s last name, but it’s far more complex than that. Apparently, the father was paranoid about something so much that he made sure that his son remained outside of the city.”
Michaela knitted her brows in confusion. “Was he ashamed of him?”
Chris shook his head. “That’s what I thought at first, but no. He did not keep his son’s existence hidden because he was ashamed. It was another reason entirely and a perfectly justifiable one if I might add. I bet those close to the guy thought him paranoid given the extreme measures he took to keep his son away. All it took was one visit to Redlyn to unravel the delicate weave the father had spun for years. His son was abducted and the friend who accompanied him was shot and left to bleed on the scene.”
Things were beginning to make sense to Michaela. “Are you talking about Jacob Lang?”
“We already knew the identity of the man Lesly tried to save. How is digging up info about a dead guy of particular importance in relation to the culprit?”
Chris was hesitant to explain, but he powered through. “Here’s the interesting bit. I was looking into somebody else’s background when I discovered all of that, not Jacob’s.”
The redhead went quite as her head tried to process what Chris had just told her. Her eyes narrowed at Chris suspiciously, “What are you trying to say?”
“Jacob is not dead. He’s still alive.”
Michaela shook her head slowly. “That can’t be! Even Lang’s assistant told Lesly that he was dead.”
“She was lying, obviously,” Chris explained. “He’s still alive and he’s actually doing quite well. I guess whatever Victor is afraid of made him do the impossible to fake his son’s death and to force him to start a new life under a different name.”
“Is Alec connected to him in some way?”
“You can say that,” Chris replied. He ran his hand through his head in frustration. Then he took a deep breath and told Michaela the one piece of info that deeply troubled him.
“Jacob is Alec.”
Michaela’s eyes grew wide in shock. “It can’t be. I’ve met him. He’s…normal.”
“He’s quite dangerous, actually,” Chris corrected.
“He might have been kept away from Redlyn for years. That does not mean, however, that he was not apprised of everything that has been going on. I’ve looked into it. He’s pretty much involved in all the family’s shady affairs. The guy has been perfectly groomed for this purpose. He might seem harmless, but only those who have crossed him know how ruthless he can be.”
Michaela was still in shock. She ran a hand through her hair and tried to piece together everything that she had gathered. She stared at Chris in confusion and hoped he could offer her more answers.
“Why is he working at the DAs’ office? What is he after?”
Chris shrugged. “I can only speculate. Of course, he’s not in the position he’s in for nothing. The guy has an agenda on mind. Vengeance is high on his list, apparently. He still believes that not every single person responsible for the incident was ‘taken care of.’ Given what happened to Lesly recently, he might be right in assuming that.”
The redhead threw the sheets aside and marched towards the closet to get dressed. “I have to warn Lesly.”
Chris immediately got up and went after her to try to reason with her, “Michaela, you need to calm down.”
She was erratic as she got dressed. Her voice was loud as she spoke to him. “How can you sit still like that?”
He held her shoulders and tried to get her to look at him, “Hey, I want nothing more than to get my sister out of there and as far away from that guy as possible. Believe me, but after careful consideration, it might be better to let him handle the matter for now, at least until the fundraiser is over.”
She could not believe what she was hearing. “You can’t be serious!”
Chris’s grip on her shoulders tightened. His voice remained calm as he tried to reason with her, “He won’t hurt her…at least not for now. She saved his life, remember?”
“Hear me out,” he interrupted. “I don’t know why he’s refusing to tell her who he is, but everything he has done for her so far seems to indicate that he’s trying to pay her back. He wouldn’t be alive if it weren’t for her.”
“That’s true, but…”
“Listen,” Chris rationalized once more, “you told me he cares about her a great deal. He’s been helping her for a while now, even before the attack that happened a couple of months ago. Has he given the two of you any reason to think that he might be doing it to get something out of her?”
“Did he ask her for anything at all this entire time?”
Chris gave her shoulders a reassuring squeeze. “They have a common enemy. He wants vengeance. That much I’m sure of. And now that Lesly is involved, he seems to want it more than ever. He wouldn’t give her up or turn against her… I hope.”
“I see that. I do,” Michaela whispered in defeat, “but can you imagine how broken Lesly would be if she finds out? She trusts him. To find out that he’s been lying to her this entire time…”
“I know. I’ll try to take care of it immediately after the fundraiser is over. For the time being, I have to rely on him to keep my sister safe. I don’t want to, but I have no other choice.”
“Still,…” she tried to argue in frustration.
“I’m powerless, Michaela,” Chris interjected in a broken voice.
She stared at him as she contemplated the matter once more. He was right. Lang could do a better job of keeping Lesly safe than the two of them. Still, something had to be done.
“Let me talk to him,” she eventually offered.
“No, you won’t,” Chris emphatically objected.
“We can figure out what to do after I…”
“Michaela, you gave me your word,” Chris interjected.
“What are we going to do then? I can’t just sit and watch.” Michaela asked in frustration.
“Don’t worry. I’ll figure something out,” Chris answered before he walked out.
Michaela followed him and watched him as he put his shoes and jacket on. Something about his demeanor told her that he already had a plan in mind.
“Chris, you’re not keeping something from me, are you?” She asked when he was about to leave.
“No,” he answered without even turning around. That short reply as he avoided her gaze was suspicious enough.
She held his arm and looked directly into his eyes, “Chris?”
He held her hand, gave it a gentle squeeze.
“Take care, Michaela. I’ll stay in touch.”