CHAPTER TWENTY FOUR
I am absolutely livid. That bastard threatened my wife. And as much as I don't want to, I know I have no choice. I'll have to sign over the company to that little prick. Nothing is more important than Kate.
I watch as he leaves through the glass doors of the balcony, wanting nothing more than to punch him in the face. I know that won't do any good though, he has so many judges and high end officials in his back pocket it's not funny. Instead I turn around and bring Kate into my arms. I can feel her body shaking slightly so I hold her tighter and kiss the top of her head.
“He won't hurt you baby.” I tell her. She doesn't say anything, just wraps her arms around my waist and squeezes me tight. The door on the far end of the balcony opens and I see dad, Ryder and Verity rush through it.
“Was that James?” Ryder asks, anger in his voice. I simply nod my head.
“He didn't hurt her did he?” Verity asks as she takes in Kate’s shaking form in my arms. I shake my head.
“He didn't touch her. But he threatened her.” I say. I can feel the anger build up further as I say those words.
“What did he say?” Ryder asks, his voice matching the fury I feel.
“I give him the company and he will leave her alone... if I don't...” I close my eyes and clench my jaw, I don't even want to think about what he would do to her.
“That fucking prick.” Ryder growls. Ryder looks like he's about to punch something, I can practically see the rage coming off of him. Dad puts a calming hand on his shoulder.
“Let’s not talk about this here. Let’s go back to your place Chase and talk about what we are going to do.” Dad says. I clench my jaw and simply nod my head. There's nothing we can do. I know he will follow through on his threat to Kate if I don't give him what he wants. I know what he is capable of, and I won't let Kate get hurt. Dad, Verity and Ryder leave the balcony, presumably to go out to the cars. I lean down to whisper in Kate's ear.
“Let’s get you home.” She simply nods and releases her arms from around me. I look at her beautiful face, there's no tears like I expected there to be, but I see fear, pain and anger in her eyes and I wish I could take it all away. I take her hand in mine and lead her back into the reception hall. We get stopped a few times on the way to the limo, but I politely say my goodbyes until we are finally free. I stop just in front of the doors that lead us outside and turn to Kate.
“The press is going to be out there still.” I tell her. She looks at me and takes a deep breath, releasing it she places a smile on her face. I grin and cup her cheek. “That's my girl. Just focus on me.” She nods and I let go of her hand to wrap my arm around her waist and we make our way out the door and into the waiting flashes of cameras. I ignore them all, guiding Kate to our waiting limo, I help her inside first then slide in after her. Once the door is shut I grab Kate by the waist and pull her into my lap.
“Talk to me.” I say, carefully watching her. She looks up into my eyes, a sad smile on her lips.
“Maybe I should go back to Perth...” she says quietly. I shake my head and pull her tighter to me.
“No.” I state. That’s not an option, and I hate that she thinks it is.
“Chase...” she says softly but I cut her off.
“No Kate... I can't lose you... I can't.” I say. I bury my face in her neck, trying to calm the panic I feel at the thought of her leaving me. She runs her fingers through my hair.
“You can't give him the company Chase.” She whispers. I lift my head to look at her, realizing in that moment that she has no idea what she means to me, what I'd do for her.
“If it's a choice between you and the company then I choose you Kate... I will always choose you.” I tell her. I run my thumb down her cheek as tears well in her eyes. Fuck, I hope they are happy tears. She leans in and places a soft kiss on my lips, then rests her forehead on mine.
“We need to find another way.” She says. I close my eyes and hold her tighter, not saying anything. I know what James is capable of, I know the power he holds, I honestly can't see any way to keep Kate safe other than to give him what he wants.
“I don't think there is another way.... financially we will be fine, I have a lot of side ventures that aren't related to the company, we probably wouldn't even notice the loss.” I say. Kate shakes her head
“You know I don't care about that.” She whispers. I smile and lean in to press my lips to hers.
“I know.” I reply. The limo pulls into the underground garage of our building and a moment later the driver opens the door. I slide Kate off my lap and get out of the car before helping Kate out.
We're quiet on the elevator ride to our top floor apartment, Kate's small hand grasped firmly in my own. Dad, Ryder and Verity are waiting outside our door when the elevator arrives. We enter the apartment and Kate lets go of my hand.
“I'm going to get changed.” She says. I simply nod as she looks to Verity. “Do you want some clothes to change into Verity?” Kate offers.
“Yeah, that'd be great.” Verity says. Verity and Kate disappear into the guest bedroom and I collapse onto the couch, loosening my tie. Ryder hands me a glass of whiskey and sits down in one of the armchairs with his own. Dad nurses his own glass of whiskey and stands by the bar. None of us speak, each of us lost in thought as the mood of the room remains sombre.
Kate and Verity walk back into the lounge room, Verity detouring to the kitchen and returning with a couple of beers. She hands one to Kate as Kate sits down beside me. I take in Kate, in simple yoga pants and a sweatshirt, the makeup removed from her face and her hair unpinned. As much as I was looking forward to ripping that dress off her body, I prefer Kate like this. Natural and comfortable. There's never been a false air around Kate, which is one of the reasons I fell in love with her. She is who she is and she makes no apologies for it. Not that she'd need to, she's perfect.
“So what are we going to do?” Ryder breaks the silence in the room and we all look at him.
“The only thing we can do... give him the company.” I say. My minds already made up on this, but I know it affects everyone, even Verity who would have to work with him.
“Chase...” Kate says softly.
“Kate.” I say, my tone telling her that this is not negotiable. I look at my wife, I won't budge on this, not when her safety is concerned.
“Who’s to say he won't come after me anyway once he has the company?” she asks. I clench my jaw. She's right, he's not exactly a man of his word, but like hell I would let him near her.
“I won't let him touch you Kate.” I state through clenched teeth. She sighs and reaches up to cup my cheek.
“I know you won't. But giving him your company would just make him more rich and powerful. What about all the other women he's hurt? Or that he will hurt?” she asks. I swallow the lump in my throat. I don't know how she knows about James's past, I'm assuming Ryder told her.
“Kate's right Chase... he's gotten away with a lot of things too long.” Dad says.
“Why don't we go to the police? He threatened Kate, surely they'd arrest him?” Verity asks. Dad sighs and shakes his head.
“Unfortunately he has the chief of police in his back pocket, not to mention a lot of high ranking cops. If he can't buy them he blackmails them. The only powerful people he doesn't have aren't exactly law abiding citizens... honestly, I've been waiting for him to go after the wrong person and for them to take him out.” Dad muses. A silence falls over the room as we all take in what we are up against. Kate's the one who breaks it.
“Maybe he just did...” Kate says softly. All eyes fall on Kate, a mixture of confusion on our faces. Kate fiddles nervously with the bottle of beer in her hand. “I don't know if he can help us... but I know someone in the Italian mafia in Australia.” She continues. My eyes widen as I take in Kate. She's involved in the mafia?
“You know someone?” Ryder asks, seemingly as shocked as me that the sweet and innocent Kate would have such connections. Kate nods her head slowly.
“The entire family actually...” she says. I shift in my seat to look at her.
“And how exactly?” I ask. Kate bites her lip, obviously thinking over how much to tell us, she sighs after a moment.
“My friend, Nicole, her father is the head of the Italian mafia, in Australia at least... I've spent quite a bit of time with him, and her brothers.” She says.
“You're involved in the mafia?” Verity almost sounds excited by the news. Kate shakes her head.
“No. Rafael never wanted Nicole to be a part of it, so none of us are involved... but he has said that if I ever needed him I could call him... I just don't know about the jurisdiction issues, given he's Australian and I'm here.” She says with a shrug.
“Call him.” Dad says without hesitation. Kate nods and gets up from the couch to retrieve her phone. Ryder leans forward in his seat, looking at Dad.
“You realize you are talking about putting a hit out on your nephew?” he asks. I look to dad. I honestly couldn't care less. James deserves whatever is coming to him. But dad and his brother were close before he died. I have very vague memories of my uncle, being only about 6 when he passed away, but I remember him being a lot of fun. Unfortunately James was raised by his mother’s side of the family with a heavy influence from our grandfather.
His mother’s family aren't the best people. Stuck up snobs who don't give a shit about anyone else but themselves. James got whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted and only ever learnt that consequences of his actions could be paid to go away
“He may be my nephew, but he won't stop until he is stopped. I can't just sit by and watch it happen any longer, especially if I know there's a chance I can do something about it.” Dad says. I simply nod. It can't be easy on dad seeing his brothers’ legacy be tainted.
Kate returns, texting on her phone, as she goes to sit down beside me I pull her into my lap. I can't seem to go 5 minutes without touching her, but she doesn't seem to mind as she snuggles into me.
“I've sent a message... I guess we just wait for a response.” She says. We sit in a comfortable silence, each lost in thought about what we are about to do. I have no reservations. He may be my cousin but I've seen what he's done to women, I've seen the aftermath that they live with, I won't let that happen to Kate.
“Happy birthday Chase.” Verity says after a while, breaking the silence. I look up at Verity and then over to the clock on the wall. It's close to 1am. Kate sits up to look at me.
“Happy birthday.” She smiles bright and places a soft kiss on my lips before whispering in my ear. “I'll give you your present later... when we have some privacy.” My cock twitches at her words and I look at her with my eyebrow raised.
“Now I'm intrigued.” I say quietly. She bites on her lower lip and looks up at me beneath her lashes. Fuck she's sexy.
“Oh I know you'll love it.” She replies seductively. I groan and bury my face in her neck, cursing my family for being in the room. Kate lets out a little giggle. The little minx knows exactly what she's doing to me.
“Happy birthday bro.” Ryder slides a fresh glass of whiskey across the coffee table and I lean over to grab it, raising it up in thanks.
Dad disappears into the kitchen and returns with replacement beers for Kate and Verity. He pours his own glass of scotch and raises his glass.
“A toast to my son on his 30th birthday.” Dad says. I grin and hold my glass as Kate leans forward to grab her beer from the coffee table. “I'm not sure how you survived the last 30 years without me killing you. You've been a royal pain in my ass, but I wouldn't have it any other way.” He states. I let out a chuckle.
“But now I hand you over to Kate, may you survive another 30 without your wife killing you.” He tells me. Kate laughs as dad raises his glass and drinks his whiskey, we all follow suit. Kate snuggles into me.
“I promise I'll try to keep my sanity.” She says. I shake my head and nibble on her neck.
“I think you've already lost it dear.” I tell her.
“Probably.” She giggles. I pull her tighter to me and can't help but smile. Despite the shit show tonight, and the cloud that lingers over our heads, I think this is the happiest birthday I've ever had.