Sunday Morning [Part III]
“Ron’s trust issues have nothing to do with me.”
I didn’t remember falling asleep.
The last thought I had before apparently dozing off was to have a short rest before we got back to the city, yet when my eyes shifted to the dashboard I found that the clock read a quarter past six.
I straightened in my seat and rubbed the blurriness out of my eyes. This was getting out of control. “Why didn’t you wake me up?”
I didn’t really expect an answer from Alex without Ron being here to pry it out of him, I had just asked our of concern because he was usually strict when it came to keeping appointments. The fact that he was okay with us being late to meet Antonia had been surprising enough, now he had spent hours just sitting here doing nothing.
It was an unusual thing for someone like him—who planned his life by the minute—to do.
But, Alex has been acting out of character all morning, why am I even surprised?
I took a glance out the window and caught the sun beginning to rise, lightening up the sky with its infant rays.
The buildings around us were not unfamiliar but the alley I and Frank lived in was nowhere around this area. This was the richer side of the Mid District—too expensive for homeless people to trespass without the possibility of being arrested. “Where are we?”
I waited for him to provide a more detailed explanation.
“Your mission,” he added quietly.
I groaned and took my gaze off the window to look at him. “I wanted to see Frank before all this started.”
“It would be best if you had limited contact with anyone you care about during this period.”
I slumped in my seat, resigned to the fact that I couldn’t go anywhere near my home for the duration of this mission.
If the Carmosinos really did end up putting a target on my head, going to Frank would just be giving them ammunition against me. But the man was going to murder me if I took his knife and ran off without saying anything—again. “Can you visit him in my place?”
“Why not her?”
I ignored the harshness of the pronoun as it left his mouth. Instead, I tried to think of a way to convince him to get out of his room and interact with someone other than me. “The boss scares him. If she visits him again, he’ll think that I’ve died or something. He’ll be more comfortable around you.”
Alex stared at me blankly.
“Yes, I know.” I held up a hand just to stop myself from seeing his expressionless face and caving in. “You might be the most feared person in this city but Frank was the right-hand man of the boss’ grandfather. If you’re going to be the boss’ right-hand, you’ll need his advice.”
“Thank you,” I mumbled and brought my hand down, surprised that he had given in so easily. I had expected more of a fight, even with me using the position of right-hand as a bargaining chip. He was usually adamant about not going out unless it was absolutely necessary, and he wasn’t the type to do favors for people.
I should just leave before he changes his mind, I decided and reached down to unlock my seatbelt. My hand had just gotten to the buckle when I realized that Alex was still looking at me, and very intensely at that.
His stare froze me in place, because this time his silence seemed to be a contemplative one.
That usually meant that the conversation wasn’t over yet and he wanted me to keep it going. But there was only one thing left to talk about that wasn’t an absolutely touchy subject.
I pulled my hand away from my seat belt and settled it on my lap.
“What did you and the boss discuss while I was sleeping in your room?”
It was all about specifics when it came to having even the simplest conversations with Alex. Unluckily for me, I had slept so many times today that I was blissfully unaware of any other talks they might have had.
“They. . . She made me aware of the fact that you leaving would not be beneficial to me.” Alex leaned into his seat as a troubled look crossed his features. “You were right earlier. You and Ron are the only people I might have feelings for.”
“I don’t like men,” I told him immediately.
The last thing I needed was to be dragged into a romantic relationship with anyone connected to life I would be free of in the next three months. A miracle conversation with Alex wasn’t about to change that.
“You don’t like labels.”
“I’m surprised that you remembered.”
“It would be too insensitive of me to forget something you say so often,” he said, while running a finger along the wound on his cheekbone. “You don’t identify as an androphile then?”
“We both identify as men, Alex. The term, for all intents and purposes, is gay.”
I wasn’t used to having these sorts of conversations in the middle of winter, at six am and right before I had to be the bodyguard of an entitled rich kid.
“Sorry,” I said a moment later, when the guilt of snapping at hopelessly gender-blind Alex got too much. “That came out wrong.”
“I want to know whether you can be attracted to me and choose not to, or if I’m just not attractive to you because I don’t meet your preferences,” Alex said, dismissing the apology without any sign of obvious discomfort, which was a first for him. Usually, this was where most of our conversations ended. “Having feelings for either of you will only complicate things. If in the end, I hurt either of you, the both of you will hate me.”
“And if you leave,” he said to conclude, “there will be no one in that building who talks to me.”
For a moment, I just processed that.
Alex had dumbed-down this whole relationship thing into a ‘make it or break it’ situation. He didn’t even consider the fact that one day he could have feelings for someone else entirely. In his mind, there was only Saffron and I, and he was convinced that if he didn’t choose right, he would lose the both of us.
Just thinking about it gave me a headache. “The boss will—”
“She doesn’t trust me.”
“If she didn’t trust you, she wouldn’t have let you be our backup in the meeting today,” I argued. “One mistake on your part and we would have died.”
"You would have died, Kayden. The boss only trusts me in situations where your life is connected to her.”
“I just don’t understand.” I tried to keep my voice as low as his despite my mounting frustration. “Why am I the one caught in the middle of your fight? Why am I the one that has to be the pivot keeping you both at equilibrium? It’s not fair that you’re both acting like this. Ron’s trust issues have nothing to do with me.”
“The boss wants you to stay,” Alex said, and when I turned to tell him my opinion on that, he grabbed me by the chin and forced our gazes to meet.
I swallowed my words when I noticed how serious he looked. He was glaring at me but doing it with such care that I was able to look past it and see how much he worried about me. He had never been so easy to read before.
“I wouldn’t mind it if you stayed either but I won’t force you to,” he said, and again, I felt like this entire situation was odd.
If he really wanted me to stay, all he needed to do was not give me all the money I’ve asked him to keep for me. I couldn’t leave if I was just going to end up back on the streets again.
“Don’t let Ron kiss you again. You can’t. . . trust that side of her.”
The moment I was about to ask him why, he leaned forward and pressed his lips against mine.
My first instinct was to push him away but then I remembered that he had watched Ron and I kiss.
I didn’t push her away because Antonia had been watching and doing so would have raised red flags, but explaining that to Alex would take the sort of patience I didn’t have right now.
Just thinking about him giving me the silent treatment for the next three months made the throbbing pain beneath my temple worsen, and when I finally realized that pulling away was still an option in situations like these, Alex decided to deepen the kiss.
He bit hard on my lower lip when I was still in the middle of panicking, then pulled back in the same instance, leaving me a flushed and very confused version of myself.
The hell? It was only now that he was back in his seat, looking as innocent as always, that the reality of what just happened hit me with full force.
He had raked his fingers through my hair, explored every inch of my mouth, bit me, and I let him do it. I let Saffron do it too.
Did I just steal his first kiss? Was it still considered stealing when he practically pounced on me? Did I have to take responsibility for this?
“Don’t let her kiss you again. I’ll do the same every time you do. . . and I won’t be gentle,” he said.
I blinked at him, at a loss for words.
He was using kisses to threaten me? Was that even applicable when I had no intention of kissing either of them? As it stood now, wouldn’t Ron just kiss me again as revenge once she found out what happened here? And wouldn’t that just throw me into a cycle of kisses I couldn’t prevent?
“Ron kisses me all this time. I can’t exactly stop her.” I sucked on the part of my lip that he had nipped and tasted blood on my tongue. “So, are you upset that she kisses me or that I always let her?”
Alex passed his thumb over his bottom lip and seemed to really think hard before answering. “She. . .is significantly more attractive than you.”
“I’m waiting for you to grow,” he said with his classic deadpan expression, and before I could even attempt understanding his answer, he took the key out of the ignition and tossed it on my lap.
“Your target lives at No. 25. Three houses down.”
In a daze of confusion, I watched him get out of the car and only managed to regain my bearings a whole five minutes later.
What was going on with Saffron and Alex today?
What was going on with me today?
I had managed to tempt two of my superiors. . . no, my only superiors into kissing me within a space of four hours, and one of them hated the mere thought of physical contact.
I got out of the car and swiped the car key from my seat before slamming the door shut.
If Ron and Alex didn’t get together soon, they were never going to stop directing their ‘attention’ towards me. It made me feel like a middle man whose only purpose was to make the other party jealous, and that wasn’t a fun place to be at all.
And then there’s that possibility of me actually falling in love with one of them, maybe the both of them if it turns out that they’re more persistent than I originally thought.
What was I going to do if that really happened?
Having both Ron and Alex as lovers was the sort of fate I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, it was a straight-up death wish.
I needed to get the them into a relationship before I ended up losing my mind.