I paced the bedroom, probably wearing the floorboards loose. I needed to apologise to Alex. I had really gone too far. I went downstairs to get my ipad and charger. I unlocked it and as I went to click his name, an incoming video call stopped me. Sweaty hands answered the call from Alex. What a coincidence.
I let out a quiet breath to prepare me for the incoming conversation but as I drew my breath, Alex spoke first.
“Lo, I’m sorry.”
“What? But I was calling to apologize to you.” He let the very corners of his lips give into a smile.
“Look, I know Howie and I can be overbearing sometimes and it seems our redundant answer is always that we want to protect you. But it’s the truth. It’s the truth because you don’t need to know what we do to keep you safe. What dad did. I made him a promise. Keep you close and to make sure that no man hurt you. God damn it, I’m trying. But I feel like I fucking failed you. I let Johnathan get too close to you and I put up with him too long once I knew the level of scum he really was. But I thought you were happy and that I could keep you safe. It’s all I’ve ever wanted for us three.” I held back a sob and covered my mouth with my hand. I could only nod as he went on.
“I have killed for you. Shamelessly. I would do it over and over because I don’t regret it. I’ve tortured people for the sake of my family. Ronan is dead. Howie and Joseph are working on the leads we have now. I just want you to understand why... blood will always be on my hands because you don’t deserve it on yours. Dad would want better for you Lo. Howie and I surely do.” My hands shook as peace came over me. He in that very moment was a spitting image of our father. His big eyes looked back to me for a response.
“I don’t blame you at all. I know you’re doing all you can for us. I should have respected you. You let me push you to your limit all the time. I say things to you that I would have never said to dad. You are this family’s boss and I will promise to always respect that.” He nodded and cleared his throat. His eyes wandered to something off screen. I could see a glimmer of tears in his eyes.
“I will call you in the morning. I know it’s late now and I have a bit more work to do.” I nodded and wished him good night as we ended our call.
“Loreina, care for a night cap?” Shamus had a bottle of Redbreast again and I nodded as I took a stool at the kitchen bar. A short round glass slid down the marble countertop and I caught it, slamming the shot back without missing a beat. “How was your day dear?” I daydreamed into the bottom of the tiny glass before answering.
“Well. Alex called and we apologized for our argument.” Shamus smiled and sat next to me. Leaving an empty seat between us so there was space to face me to talk.
“It takes a lot for a man like him to run this kind of business. But his men value and respect him because they see him do the dirty work. He doesn’t have to hide the bloody scary bits. As for his family, that’s a different story. He has to find the balance of keeping them at a distance that’s safe without pushing them away. Sometimes it can feel like one when he means the other. Just give him support. You don’t have to discuss it, just acknowledge that he is giving his life to keep the ones he loves safe.” Shamus was the one lost in the bottom of his glass now. Everything he said seemed rehearsed. Like he had said it all before. Maybe to himself.
I twirled my braided hair in my fingertips as I replayed our conversation in my head over and over. How he said he blamed himself for my pain. How he had killed Ronan for a lead to find Johnathan. He let that monster out a little longer each time, and each time it took longer and longer for it to retreat. I shivered and hoped that Neil would never feel like he needed to do that for me. God I missed him. I smiled at Shamus and kissed his cheek before heading upstairs to take a shower. I wanted to sleep in Neil’s hoodie that he “accidentally” left here. He wore a suit for our date but just happened to have a sweatshirt in tow.
A smile framed my face as I snuggled down into the oversized cotton shell and my nose filled with his cologne. It was faint, probably just from being in his possession, but it made the stress melt a bit so I could ease into sleep.
I drew the covers up to my waist as I sent him a text.
If you think you own this hoodie after this, you’re dead wrong. Xoxo
I didn’t get a reply before I drifted into a dream filled sleep.
Banging on the door downstairs followed by commotion snatched me away from my dream of the sunset on the beach with Neil, walking on the sand, wind to our backs. Surfers on the water, catching the big waves that kept me asleep with their peaceful rhythm.
I grabbed my phone and saw it was five a.m. What the hell was going on? I could hear familiar voices raised in frustration and anger.
“He knows she’s here. He tracked her iPad. I don’t know how long it will be ’til they storm the property but it won’t be long now. There’s only so many houses in the woods here.” Howie ran a hand through his greasy hair, his eyes had bags from another sleepless night, no doubt. Shamus let out an exhausted chuckle.
“Tracked me? But you said Joseph had all my devices protected…” My voice snapped the men’s eyes to me as I came down the stairs, rubbing my eyes. He joined me by the banister and smiled.
“The fight came to you. Don’t let him win. We have plenty of men to help me keep you safe. Neil and Alex are on the way.” I nodded and held out my hand. Howie looked at my empty palm perplexed.
“Where’s my gun?” He grinned wide and I heard a cheer from over his shoulder.
“There’s a good lass!” The irish man clapped his hands together and rubbed them vigorously as he went off to grab his weapons.
Howie directed his men to post up around the outside of the house. They all scatter after the quick briefing. I take this time to run upstairs to change into jeans and some sturdy shoes. This is in fact my first rodeo but I’m not a moron. Running shorts aren’t going to do me any favors tonight.