When the bullets rang out around me, my body automatically went to ground. It was instinctual and I scurried along the ground to the safety of a booth. I slid as far back as I could and saw others doing the same. Some weren't so lucky, falling after being struck by a bullet before they could get to safety. My eyes scanned the area, what I could see of it anyway, I didn't dare poke my head up. As my eyes went to the left, my heart stopped.
In the middle of the carnage, surrounded by furniture shredded by bullets, stood a little boy, he couldn't have been more than 2 years old. His hands were over his ears and I could see he was screaming his little lungs out, though I couldn't hear him over the sound of the gun. Before I could even think, I found myself out from the safety of my booth, the boy in my arms and scrambling for a booth on the other side of the small cafe.
I hold him close to my chest, his little sobs wracking his body. I check him over quickly, finding no injuries I hug him tight, his arms wrapped around my neck holding on for dear life. I try to cover his little ears with my upper arm and hand, and we sit tight, waiting for the bullets to stop, or for our hiding place to be found. It felt like hours, though it was probably only minutes, when the firing stopped as quickly as it started and an eerie silence descended on the café. No one moved, whether they were able to or not. Everyone stayed in place and waited. For what, I don't know. Our death? A signal that it's safe? Chases face flicks through my mind. What if I never see him again? The thought has me more afraid than the bullets did, and I'm hit by just how strong my feelings for Chase are.
The sound of footsteps has me gripping the little boy tighter to me. He's too little to have to go through this.
“NYPD! Everyone hands above your heads and exit the building.” A voice rings out. I keep one arm wrapped tight around the boy and stand hesitantly as I see others do the same. I put my free hand up and step out from behind the booth. A police officer scans me with his eyes and simply nods, allowing me to carry the little boy out of the cafe.
The world outside is a blur of lights and sirens as we all walk like herded cattle out of the cafe and towards an unknown location. Everyone seems to just stop and congregate in one place so I stop with them. I have no idea what to do or where to go, my mind still lost to the events in the café.
The boy is pulled from my arms by a man and I'm wrapped in a hug by a woman. I watch as the man smothers the boy in kisses, tears in his eyes, and the woman sobs in my arms. I'm trying to comprehend why I'm the recipient of such a hug, but my brain isn't working. The woman lets me go and grabs the boy and I'm locked in the arms of the man. I simply return the hug, unable to do anything else, unable to form words to voice the question of what's happening. It's like everything is moving in slow motion, but I can't grasp onto to anything around me.
The man is speaking, but I can't hear his words. He lets me go, leaving his hands on my arms, a smile on his tear stained face. I find myself giving him a confused smile back. A panicked voice filters through the white noise around me.
“KATE!” I slowly turn towards it, my eyes blinking as I try to see through the haze in my eyes. And there he is, sweaty and breathless as if he just ran from the office. My vision clears and the sounds around me become more coherent.
“Chase...” My voice was soft, but somehow he heard it, or maybe sensed it. My feet moved towards him, slowly at first before breaking into a run. He moved with quick strides towards me, closing the distance between us. When I'm close enough I launch myself into his arms, wrapping my legs tight around his waist and burying my face in his sweaty neck. He catches me, holding me so tight I can barely breathe. But I don't care. In the safety of Chase’s arms, the emotions of what just occurred hit me all at once, and I sob into his neck. He doesn't let me go, keeping his tight hold, he lets me cry until exhaustion takes over my body and the world around us fades away.
I don't know how I heard that sweet voice over the noise of sirens, crying and screaming, but somehow it carried on the wind and I turned towards it. There she was, looking like an angel and it felt like my heart started for the first time. She took a couple of hesitant steps then ran towards me. I closed the distance, meeting her in front of a heap of police cars. It wasn't until she threw herself into my arms and wrapped her little body around me that relief flooded my system. She was ok. She was safe. My angel. My wife. My Kate. Was in my arms and I felt like my world was whole.
The first sobs escaped her lips and I gripped her tighter to me, wanting to take away all of her pain. It was in that moment that I knew I had to stop denying it. I'm in love with Kate. So fucking in love with her, that the thought of her in danger almost killed me.
I sink down onto the hood of a police car and bury my head in her neck, inhaling her sweet floral scent and committing it to memory. I'm not sure how long we sit there for. At some point a police officer comes to get Kate's statement, but seeing the state she was in, handed me his card instead. The media, who I'd not noticed on arrival spotted me and started shoving microphones in my face, I hid Kate's face from view, even though I knew it was futile. They'd get her identity eventually. Especially when they saw we were both wearing wedding rings.
A town car arrived and Ryder pushed through the media, cursing at them, with dad calmly walking behind him. If the people thought I was a prick to the media, I had nothing on Ryder. He hated them with vengeance and wasn't scared to tell them to go fuck themselves. In the Medias eyes, while I was the playboy, Ryder was the bad boy. Which was laughable if you knew Ryder. So I wasn't surprised when he physically pushed them out of the way to get to us.
Dad and Ryder created a barrier between us and the media and escorted us to the town car. I slipped into the car with Kate now asleep in my arms and Ryder slid in beside me. Dad stayed behind, no doubt giving the media a non de script statement that they'd embellish on to make a story. The car takes off and I lean against the seat and close my eyes
“Kate ok?” Ryder asks.
“Physically, yeah, she wasn't hurt.” I tell him.
“Thank god... how are you doing?” he asks, his voice filled with concern. I feel tears well in my eyes like I'm a fucking baby
“I.... I could have lost her.” I say, trying my hardest not to sob. I bury my face in her soft hair as tears escape my eyes. I don't remember the last time I cried. I'm not even sure I cried when mum died, but right now, I can't fucking stop it. I feel Ryder's hand on my shoulder.
“But you didn't... she's here.” He says calmly.
I nod my head and I place a kiss on her neck and hold her tighter, she snuggles into me with a little murmur coming from her lips.
“She's here…” I say, reminding myself that she really is with me. I close my eyes and just enjoy the feeling of Kate in my arms. “The paparazzi is going to be all over this.” I say to Ryder.
“Yeah... we will prepare Kate for them. It was bound to happen eventually.” Ryder says. I nod in agreement. The memory of Kate telling me about her family flashes into my mind.
“Fuck.” I curse under my breath. I look to Ryder who is eyeing my strangely. “Kate's parents.” I clarify. He furrows his brow in confusion.
“They don't know about you?” he asks. I shake my head.
“No, I mean doubtful, she hasn't seen them since she was 14 or something. She said they were con artists, always running some scam to get a quick buck.” I tell him. Ryder sighs and rubs his temples.
“And if they see Kate in the media and realize she's married to a billionaire they are likely to turn up.” Ryder finishes my train of thought.
“Kate said they were violent.” I tell him, holding Kate tighter at the thought of what she went through. Ryder's fists clench.
“They hit her?” he asks. I shake my head
“No, her brother protected her, but it might mean they will do anything to get money, even hurt their own daughter.” I say. Ryder sighs and closes his eyes as the car pulls into the secure garage of our building. We get out of the car and walk to the lift. Kate stirs slightly but her eyes remain closed.
“Well you hid her face so it'll be at least a few days before they figure out who she is. Then the news has to reach Australia.” Ryder says. “If we need to we will look into getting her personal security.” He suggests. I sigh and adjust Kate in my arms.
“Not sure she will like that.” I say. Ryder shrugs his shoulders.
“They can stay close without invading her space.” He tells me. We enter my apartment and are greeted by dad and Verity.
“I'll just put her in bed and be right out.” I tell them. They simply nod and I carry Kate to my room. I lay her in my bed and remove her shoes before pulling a blanket up over her. I take in her sleeping form, her eyes red and puffy from crying, yet still easily the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. I lean down and place a soft kiss on her lips.
“I'll be back soon, I promise.” I whisper. I kiss her one last time before walking back into the lounge room to speak to dad and Verity. The three of them sit on the couch quietly chatting, they all look up as I walk in and collapse on the couch. My body feels utterly exhausted. Ryder slides me a glass of whiskey and I scoop it up eagerly. After the day I've had I need it
“Fuck.” I curse. I place the glass down and run both hands over my face. I look at the three worried faces and elaborate. “The harbinger deal.” I say. I ran out on the biggest deal of my life. Not that I wouldn't do it again in an instant, I don't think my heart would give me the choice. It would choose Kate. Every time.
“He signed the contract straight after you left and caught a flight home.” Dad says. I furrow my brow in confusion.
“He signed?” I ask. Dad nods and takes a sip of his whiskey.
“He wanted the deal, he just wanted to see what type of man you were first. Apparently, running out on a billion dollar contract because your wife was in danger, was all he needed to see.” Dad says with a proud smile. Huh. I didn't see that coming.
“So in other words, pre-Kate Chase would have totally fucked the deal.” Verity says, I flick Verity the bird and she smirks at me. She's not wrong though. There's nothing in this world, besides Kate, that would have taken me out of that meeting. I lean forward to reach for my whiskey again and wince. Every muscle in my body aches.
“Sore?” Dad asks. I nod, I know it was a stressful day but I've never pulled up sore from stress before. “I'm not surprised, you ran down 45 flights of stairs and sprinted 10 blocks. You will feel it tomorrow.” He explains. I stare at dad in surprise.
“Did you forget?” Verity smirks at me and all I can do is nod
“Honestly... yeah.” I say quietly. Getting to Kate is a complete blur, it's only after I held her in my arms that everything comes clear. But I'm guessing that's how adrenaline works, completely numbs your mind and body, giving you tunnel vision. 45 floors is impressive though. I wonder if someone timed it. I shake the thought out of my head.
“We will go and let you get some rest. Take tomorrow off and take care of your wife.” Dad says. I nod. And stand up with a groan.
“Take a bath with magnesium salt in it, it'll help your muscles.” Verity says. I pause and look at Verity.
“Were you just nice to me?” I ask with a smirk. She rolls her eyes.
“Chuck a toaster in too, it'll keep the water warm.” She adds. I can't help but chuckle as I flip her off. Ryder pulls me into a bro hug, deliberately smacking my sore muscles.
“I'll check in tomorrow.” He tells me. I nod my head.
“I'll swing by the cafe and see if I can pick up her phone and purse, they know me there.” Verity offers.
“Thanks, I'm guessing it's a crime scene though.” I tell her.
“Worth a try, if her friends get wind of what happened they will freak.” Verity shrugs, Fuck, I didn't think of tha.t
“Maybe reach out to her writer friend, Lucy someone, to let them know she's fine? She'd have some kind of social media presence.” I suggest. Verity nods in understanding. They walk out the door with a wave.
I lock the door behind me and head back to Kate. She's still curled up in a ball on the bed, although I can see fresh tears on her cheeks. I slip off my shoes and crawl in beside her. Pulling the blanket up over both of us I cuddle up to her from behind, holding her close. She grips my arm, pulling my arm tighter around her and I oblige. Anything she wants, I will give her, freely. I place a kiss on her shoulder and close my eyes. I listen as her breathing steadies and I know she's fallen asleep before the exhaustion takes me too.