Chapter Twelve: Her Protectors
“Piccolo, wake,” Sofia said as she gently shook Aurora awake.
Aurora slowly opened her eyes. Where are they?
It was getting dark outside; she must have slept through the day.
“You missed lunch, but I won’t let you miss dinner,” Sofia said as she helped Aurora sit up.
Aurora realized she was lying across the very back bench seat. They must have placed her back here during a stop.
“Come, the guys are waiting in the café,” Sofia said with a smile.
“Wow, I’m sorry,” Aurora said as she looked around the empty van, “I didn’t mean to sleep so much…”
“You needed it, amore,” Sofia said with a smile as she helped Aurora out of the van.
“Where’s Ren?” Aurora asked, then placed her hands over her mouth. She shouldn’t worry about him, not like he’s her…
Sofia laughed, “as I said, the guys are in the café.”
“Right,” Aurora whispered as she slowly nodded her head, then pulled her hands away from her mouth.
“I know, Piccolo,” Sofia said as she moved a piece of hair out of Aurora’s eye, “it is written all over your face.”
Aurora felt her cheeks burn as a flush swept up her neck and into her face.
Sofia laughed, “don’t worry, it won’t leave my lips,” she said as she zipped her lips with her fingers. “You can’t fool me, Piccolo.”
Aurora sighed. Was she that obvious?
“Let’s go,” Sofia said as she took Aurora by the hand and led her into the café.
The food was better than the last café she and Ren had eaten at. But the atmosphere was dark and gloomy. Or was that just how she felt; because she knows Ren could never love her, not the way she loves him. He works for her father, for crying out loud. It had been hard for him to do anything with her because of that. But since they started, he hasn’t been able to keep his hands off her when they’re alone.
Even now, sitting next to each other at the table, his hand was on her thigh, under the table. She didn’t dare put her hand under the table as well, then everyone in the world would know what was going on under the table…
“Don’t look now, but I do believe we have been discovered,” Nicola whispered.
Aurora’s head shot up to Nicola. Where?
“I spotted him when I came into the café with Aurora,” Sofia whispered, “I just hoped I was wrong.”
Nicola smiled as he pulled her against him. “You have good instincts Sofi, don’t ever doubt them,” he said as he kissed her forehead.
“What do we do?” Aurora asked, her voice squeaking at the end.
Ren squeezed her thigh under the table, and she slowly lowered her hand down to his. She didn’t care if the others saw, she needed to touch him. He took her hand in his and held it, squeezing lightly to let her know he was there.
“Finish eating,” Sofia said as she picked up her fork and started on her salad again.
“We will leave, once the bill is paid, and pretend we never saw him,” Nicola said as he picked up his fork and took a bite of his food.
Ren nodded as he picked up his fork with his left hand and started eating.
Aurora stared at them. How can they eat with everything that is going on?
“Don’t want anyone here to get hurt in the crossfires,” Paolo agreed as he shoved a large forkful of food into his mouth.
“Eat,” Ren said as he shook her hand.
Aurora nodded. But she couldn’t seem to get her right hand to co-operate.
“Ren dear, she’s left-handed,” Sofia said with a laugh.
Ren let go of Aurora’s hand, and Aurora instantly missed his touch.
With a heavy sigh, Aurora placed her fork into her left hand and started eating. Though now the good food she was enjoying, now tasted like it had sat too long and rotted.
She sighed when Ren replaced his hand on her thigh. Just his touch kept her calmer than she’s ever been in her life.
“I will pay the check,” Sofia said as she stood.
“No,” Nicola said as he pulled her back down into her seat, “the man pays.”
Sofia snorted as Aurora chuckled.
“He’s just a tad old fashioned,” Sofia said to Aurora as she placed her hand to the side of her mouth to block out anyone else hearing her.
But they all did anyway and laughed.
Aurora took a quick drink of her water as Ren helped her to her feet. She needed the liquid to keep from choking on her fear. Though she should be used to this by now.
You’re kidding yourself, right? She scolded herself. You will never be used to this.
“Ren; keep Aurora at your side no matter what,” Sofia said as they headed to the door.
“Always,” Ren said as he pulled Aurora against his side.
Aurora looked up at him and wondered if he meant that in the romantic sense, or just the, she’s my boss’s daughter, and he’ll kill me if I let anything happen to her.
“Here we go,” Sofia said as they exited the café, and the man they had spotted stood to follow them.
“Don’t let them touch her,” Paolo said as he pointed at Aurora.
“They’ll have to get through me, first,” Ren said with a growl.
Aurora frowned. She didn’t want Ren to get hurt again, protecting her. She didn’t want any of them to get hurt protecting her. Why do they insist on protecting her, like she’s royalty? And what the hell does being the Gem of some Dynasty mean, anyway? Really…
An idea came to her, as she watched her new friends prepare to protect her, at all cost, as they moved towards the van. If she’s not here for them to protect her, they will all be safe, right? She can hide and wait for them to stop searching for her, then find her own way to her father. She knows his name, she can find him, right? And no one has to die for her.
Nicola already got shot once, and Ren got the crap beat out of him.
Her mind made up, she waited for the right moment.
When they got to the van, she leaned up and kissed Ren on the lips. “Thank you for everything you’ve done for me,” she whispered as she let go of his hand. “I won’t let you guys get hurt, or worse, over me,” she said as she looked up into his beautiful dark chocolate eyes.
Ren stared at Aurora, confused. What was she talking about? It’s their job, and she means everything to these people, even him.
“This is the only way for you to stay safe,” Aurora whispered, then took off at a run.
She could hear them screaming her name, and could hear footsteps behind her, but she didn’t stop, she didn’t even look back. She needed to keep going because if she looked into his dark chocolate eyes right now, she would never be able to leave his side again.
Aurora slid behind a dumpster in an alley and collapsed to the ground. She leaned against the wall of the building, her legs under the dumpster. Out of breath, she pulled her purse from her shoulder and placed it onto her lap, then rummaged through it until she found her inhaler and took a puff from it.
Hopefully, that will calm her breathing enough.
She heard footsteps and held her breath. She didn’t know if it was the man who wanted her dead, or the people who would literally take a bullet for her. A tear slid down her cheek, and she let it fall. She had just found out that she has a foster sister.
How had her mother been able to leave her and their father behind so easily?
From what she understood, there wasn’t much of a choice. Her father couldn’t leave his family’s business, and Aurora and her mother couldn’t stay.
It had been to protect them.
But isn’t that what everyone has been saying? I’m here to protect you. But why, what had she done? It was her father…
The word echoed in her mind. Her father had helped Trevisani’s family, escape his clutches. Her father is a hero to those he has helped. But a villain, to those left behind.
“She couldn’t have gotten far.”
Aurora froze, that wasn’t a voice she recognized. There was more than one after her.
She couldn’t hear anything else they said as they went their separate ways. When she heard their footsteps echo down the street, she sighed with relief. If she stays here for a while, everyone will have given up on her, and she would be free to find her own way to her father.
If that was where she decided to go.
She relaxed as she laid her head against the wall and closed her eyes. Just a few hours, then she can be on the move again. Her eyes flew open, and a scream vibrated through her body as the dumpster was shoved away from her. Hands grabbed hold of her arms and ripped her out of her hiding place.
Her scream even deafened her; she didn’t know she could scream that loud.
“Shut up!” The man holding her said as he slammed her against the dumpster.
“Just get it over with,” the other man said as he handed the man a knife.
“Enough of the screaming, your screams won’t save you!” The man holding her yelled as he slapped her across the face.
Aurora stopped screaming as a sharp pain erupted through her face and the back of her head. When he had hit her, it had slammed her head against the dumpster. She has never seen stars like these before, boy was she seeing thousands of them now.
The other man screamed like a girl, which made Aurora and the man who was holding her turn to him. The blade of a sword stuck out of his stomach, and the man stared down at it, dumbfounded.
Aurora studied the sword. Her brother’s training had gotten her curious about anything martial arts and swords was something she had studied a lot on. And if she was correct, that was a lovely Scimitar. Very well made too…
“What the hell?” The man holding Aurora bellowed as he looked back at her.
Aurora looked from the sword, back up to the man, who still held her. He had brought the knife up, ready to stab her with it. She watched in shock and horror as two large hands came from behind the man, and grabbed hold of his head, then quickly turned and snapped the man’s neck.
The sound made Aurora shiver as the man fell at her feet, and she was able to look into the dark chocolate eyes of the man she loves more than anything in the world.
“Ren,” Aurora cried as she collapsed.
Ren stepped over the man’s body and caught Aurora. “What were you thinking, running away like that?” He asked as he held her against him.
“I thought I was protecting you,” Aurora said with a cry.
“Silly woman,” he mumbled as he held her close.
“We don’t need your protection, Piccolo. You need ours,” Sofia said as she pulled her Scimitar from the other man and shoved him to the ground with her foot. The man gurgled as Sofia pushed her weight on his back.
“That’s just it,” Aurora said as she pushed against Ren. “I don’t want any of you to protect me. All it does is get you hurt,” she said with a cry.
“That’s just it, Piccolo. We don’t do this because it is our job. We do it because we love you. You are my sorella. I would do anything for you.”
Aurora cried, and her legs gave out. Ren lifted her into his arms and carried her away from the two men who had attacked her.
Sofia watched them leave, then turned to the man who was still alive, under her foot.
“Tell me what you know,” she said as she dug her foot into the hole in his back.
“Vai all’inferno (go to hell),” the man said with a snarl.
“You first,” Sofia said as she put more pressure on the man’s back.
“Let me,” Nicola said as he passed Sofia.
Sofia grinned as she took her foot off the man’s back.
“So,” Nicola said as he squatted at the man’s head and picked up his left hand. “Where do I start?”
Paolo stopped pacing beside the van when he saw Aurora in Ren’s arms. “Principessa (princess),” he breathed with relief. “She hurt?” He asked as he watched Ren place her in the back of the van.
“No, just in shock. She was attacked…”
“Mama Mia,” Paolo said with a hint of panic in his voice.
“We found her in time,” Ren assured the larger man.
Paolo nodded as he watched Aurora. “Why did she run?”
Ren shook his head. “She thought she was protecting us.”
Paolo sighed, “we protect you, Piccolo.”
Aurora nodded as she smiled at the man. None of them know her, really know her, but they are all determined to protect her.
“Let’s go,” Sofia said as she and Nicola joined them.
“Did you get any information from him?” Ren asked as he pulled himself into the back of the van.
Sofia laughed. “Was there any doubt?”
Ren snorted, “not really.”
“We’re going to have to take a whole different route, Paolo,” Nicola said as he handed Sofia his rifle, “I’m driving.”
Paulo mumbled something Aurora couldn’t hear, but the other three laughed. He must have said something about Nicola…
“Are you okay, Aurora?” Sofia asked as she looked into Aurora’s eyes.
“Don’t ever do that again,” Sofia said as she pulled herself into the van, “I don’t want to have to explain to Papa that I lost you.”
Aurora smiled, “I won’t.”
“He’d kill us all,” Sofia said with a grunt as she pulled the door closed.
“Ain’t that the truth,” Ren said with a nod.
“I have too much left to do in my life,” Nicola said with a grin as he looked at Sofia through the rearview mirror.
“Yes, too many more men to torture,” Paolo said from the passenger seat as he pulled his seat belt over his muscled chest.
“Funny,” Nicola said with a growl.
Sofia chuckled, “it makes me hot to watch you.”
Nicola’s startled eyes focused on Sofia through the mirror, and Sofia smiled at him with a wink.
“Two rooms tonight,” Nicola said as he pulled out onto the street.
Sofia laughed as she sat back in her seat, two rooms sounded good to her.