Someone is playing a sick fucking joke on me. All day, every time I get close to having Kate the fucking doorbell goes off or the phone rings. I'm about ready to commit murder. Kate giggles and pulls away from me, obviously amused by my frustration.
“I’ll get it.” She says as she climbs off my lap. I grab her hand to stop her from moving to the door.
“I better get it. Just in case a pap made it into the building.” I tell her. She frowns at the thought but nods her head in agreement. They don't usually get in, the building is secure and the doorman doesn't allow ransoms into the building, but it has happened on occasion. And being the only apartment on this floor, it's not hard to find out where I live.
I walk to the door and open it. I'm confronted by 4 rather large men I've never seen before. They don't look like typical journalists or photographers.
“Can I help you?” I ask. The smallest of the bunch standing at the front, although not that small at all, speaks.
“Just wondering if Kate was here.” He asks. The Australian accent is thick and I eye them curiously.
“E!” I hear Kate exclaim. Kate's shriek of excitement catches me off guard and I step aside just in time for her to jump on the guy at the door. He wraps her in a hug and chuckles. I can feel the jealousy rising in my body.
“Good to see you too sis.” The guy says. Sis? That one word drains the jealousy out of my body and I move aside to let them in. This must be the "boys" she's spoken about. They look like grown fucking men to me, 2 of them bigger than a Sherman tank. And while her brother doesn't seem quite as physically intimidating as the others, he's still an army commando who could kill me with a flick of the wrist. Well I assume, are Australian commandos trained like US navy seals? I'll have to look it up.
They file in making my massive apartment feel tiny and take in the bright pink glittery walls. I immediately regret not hiring painters straight away.
“Jesus Kate, what did he do to deserve this?” Sherman tank number 1 asks, looking almost in awe.
“Who says I did it? It could be Chases taste!” Kate exclaims. My eyes shoot to Kate.
“Hey!” I scold. She giggles as I glare her down, but I can't help the smile tugging at my lips. I shake my head.
“Yeah, you forget we know you. I still remember when you replaced all of Brad’s condoms with water bomb balloons.” Sherman Tank 1 says. Kate shrugs her shoulders with a giggle.
“It seemed fitting.” Kate says. I stand awkwardly to the side, watching the interaction. Kate's entire demeanour has changed, she's a lot more relaxed than I've ever seen her, it's like a weight has been lifted from her with their presence. I wonder if it's to do with the stress of not knowing if she will see them again. Kate glances my way
“Sorry! Chase, this is my brother Ethan.” Kate says introducing us. He puts out his hand and I shake it, not oblivious to the extra strength warning he gives in that simple shake. “And this is his team, Seb, Chris and Jordan.” She continues, introducing me to the others. I shake each of their hands, receiving the same warning but with a little less strength. Kate gestures them into the living room and I shut the door and follow them.
“Can I get you guys a drink? Beer? Whiskey?” I offer. They all say yes to beer and I walk to the kitchen, grabbing 6 beers out of the fridge. I know Kate enjoys one every now and then. She's the only woman I've met who’s actually liked it. I walk back to the living room, nervous as all hell, and distribute the beers before taking my seat next to Kate.
“So what are you boys doing here?” she asks. Ethan sits forward in his seat, resting his elbows on his knees.
“We heard about the cafe shooting, we got Tammy's message that you were ok but we wanted to check for ourselves.” He tells her. Kate nods in understanding, but I can't help but feel like there's another reason they are here. To check up on me? Maybe. But I can understand that.
“I'm fine. A little shaken still but otherwise fine.” Kate reassures them. Ethan doesn't take his eyes off her, as if determining if she's telling the truth before he nods his head. Kate did say he was great at reading people. “So what are you doing in the states?” she asks. All 4 men give Kate a look and she raises her hands in defence
“Sorry, I know, you can't tell me and you aren't here.” She says. Sherman tank 1, I think his name was Seb smirks.
“Pretty much. We can't stay too long.” He says. Kate frowns but nods in understanding. I place my hand on her lower back and rub my thumb over her shirt. I'd rather pull her into my arms, but given I've got 4 men who would probably kill me, I restrain myself. Kate gives me a small smile but I can see the sadness in her eyes. I can't imagine what it would be like to go months on end without hearing from my brother, no knowing he's ok.
Kate gives them an update on her friends back home. While she's talking, Ethan catches my attention and gives me a slight nod of the head towards the door to the kitchen. It's subtle, but I get his meaning.
I stand from the couch, my hand not leaving Kate until the last second. I have no idea if I'm about to die in my own home or not. We leave unnoticed from the living room and stand in the kitchen. I grab out another two beers and hand one to Ethan. My nerves are pretty much shot. I lean my back against the stove and Ethan stands against the bench, eyeing me curiously.
“Is this the part where you beat the shit out of me?” I ask. Ethan chuckles and shakes his head.
“Usually, yeah, but there's another reason I'm here, not just to check on Kate.” He tells me. I nod. I figured as much. “I need a favour, and I needed to know if you were the type of man I could trust with it.” He continues. The word favour gets my back up, but something in his tone tells me it's not the monetary kind.
“Ok.” I say. He takes a swig of his beer.
“Has Kate told you about our parents?” he asks. I nod my head, already not liking where this is going.
“A little bit.” I tell him. His jaw clenches just slightly, though he gives nothing away. He's not someone I'd want to play poker with, that's for sure.
“A couple of weeks after Kate came here, they showed up in Perth.” He tells me. I straighten up, taking my weight off the bench.
“A month ago?” I ask. He nods his head.
“It's not uncommon for them to pop up every now and then, they've been keeping tabs on us, I guess seeing if we have something they could use.” He tells me. I clench my jaw. “About a week ago they went by our house, asking our neighbours if Kate and her husband would be visiting to move the rest of Kate's stuff.” He tells me, looking unimpressed.
“So they know we're married?” I ask.
“They're pretty well connected. I'm guessing when they found out Kate went to New York they did some digging.” He tells me.
“You think they will come here?” I ask, the wheel spinning in my head on how to keep Kate safe.
“It's possible. They don't actually have passports, at least not legal ones. They like to stay under the radar. I've got some alerts set up if they get a passport, legal or otherwise, and if they leave the country.” He tells me. I nod my head in understanding.
“What do you need me to do?” I ask. He downs the rest of his beer and places it on the bench.
“Keep Kate here. Don't let her go back to Perth, at least, not until myself and the team are back to protect her.” He says. I nod in understanding. “The press here could be used to our advantage if they do come here, they won't want to do anything that could be recorded... back home, well it's their turf.” He continues.
“So they'd really hurt their own daughter for money?” I ask. I had a feeling they might, but hearing it confirmed makes my stomach turn. Ethan's fists clench.
“Kate doesn't know this... but just before I left to join the army, I overheard them. They were selling her virginity to the highest bidder.” He tells me, anger evident in his tone. My eyes flick up and I stand straight up, my fists clenched.
“What?!” I hiss.
“It obviously didn't happen, I packed her up and we got out of there as soon as I heard, we were due to leave a few days later anyway... but that's the type of people we are dealing with.” He tells me. I take a deep breath to calm the rage that's bubbling inside of me. I won't let them touch her, that's for sure.
“My brother Ryder and I were talking about getting her some personal security after the press showed up at the café.” I tell him. Ethan nods his head.
“As much as she would hate it, it's a good idea, especially if they come to the states.... I know a couple of ex-navy seals that are in that line of work who I trust, I can give you their details.” He says. I nod in agreement. Ethan looks around the kitchen, as if taking it in for the first time. I can see the pain in his eyes as the light bounces off the glittery walls.
“So want to tell me what happened between you two for Kate to do this? This is extreme, even for Kate.” He says. I chuckle nervously. But I figure there's no point in lying. If he can read people like Kate says he can he'd figure that out pretty quick.
“I refused to sign an annulment.” I tell him. His jaw clenches slightly but he simply nods his head.
“Why? He asks, his eyes are narrowed on me.
“My grandfathers will. I needed to be married by the time I was 30 to keep my half of the company.” I tell him. He nods again, his eyes not leaving me. His entire demeanour makes me nervous. I hate the feeling, I'm never nervous. I always have the upper hand.
“You could have easily paid someone to play the role.” He says. I nod my head.
“I could have.” I tell him. A slight smirk appears on his face, breaking the scowling glare he held towards me.
“But you fell for her.” He states. I simply shrug, not confirming or denying his assumption. “Well you're a step up from that douchebag Liam at least.” He mumbles. I can't help but chuckle at that.
“You weren't a fan.” I say, stating the obvious. He shakes his head.
“He was too nice... too smooth. Always said exactly what you wanted to hear.” He tells me. I nod. I know the type well. In business I come up against them all the time, they always have something hidden up their sleeve they don't want you to know about. “I wasn't surprised that they broke up, thought it would come sooner.” He continues.
“I'm not actually sure that they have officially broken up.... I think Kate has just ghosted him.” I say, furrowing my brow in thought. That brings a laugh from Ethan.
“Oh that's rough... I'm guessing he deserves it though? I know Kate won't tell me what really happened.” He says. I nod. If Kate won't tell him, then neither will I.
“Yeah, he deserves it.” I say. He simply nods as we hear laughter coming from the living room.
“We're missing all the fun.” He says. I chuckle and move from the stove. He claps my on the back as we walk to the living room and I'm relieved that I have Kate's brothers stamp of approval. That thought has me shaking my head. I've never needed anyone's approval before. But Kate has me all kinds of messed up. As we step into the living room the other three men stand.
“We better head out.” The tank called Seb states. Ethan nods and they all hug Kate and shake my hand, not quite as hard as they did on greeting. I watch as Kate hugs Ethan, who whispers something to her that makes her smile. They walk out the door and Kate shuts it behind them.
I watch as Kate leans her back against the door, exhaustion on her face as well as a hint of worry. As much as I'd love to just grab her and kiss her, I know that's not what she needs right now. I walk over and pull her into my arms. She doesn't resist, just lays her head on my chest and wraps her arms around my waist.
“Thank you.” She whispers. She pulls away after a short while, too short in my opinion.
“For what?” I ask her, slightly confused.
“The hug. I needed that.” She says with a small smile. I smile down at her and place a kiss on her forehead.
“Anytime.” I say. She smiles and pulls away completely.
“I'm going to bed, night Chase.” She says. I watch as she walks out of the living room, another day over that I haven't made her mine.