She took off towards the entrance, just barely looking for cars as she wove through the parking lot.
If Moretti’s men didn’t get her, a car sure as fuck will.
Adelaide was a glowing ball of light, her blonde hair streaking behind her as I just barely caught up to her, grabbing her hand and yanking her back. I’d made it this far without losing sight of her today, I sure as fuck wasn’t about to start now. She squeaked as I got a hold of her again, slowing her pace as we reached the doors.
“You were going too slow.” She huffed as she walked through the doors, the sound of children’s screams and laughter assaulting my ears.
I forgot how many schools brought bus loads of children for field trips, as well as parents just trying to get their little ones out of the house. And here I had a full-sized one just as excited about seeing some damn fish in a tank. I could have taken her to the pet store and she probably would have been just as excited.
My patience was already thin as it was on daily basis, I don’t know how I was going to get through today if I had to skirt around groups of little kids all day while keeping up with Adelaide.
“It’s just some fish in a tank.” I said as I laced my fingers with hers.
“It is not! It’s fun. You just don’t like having fun.” She said as I led her around to where the tickets were and paid, taking a quick scan of the area again. So far nothing but a sea of little kids and chaperones, and a few elderly couples slowly walking about. But just because I didn’t see anyone at the moment didn’t mean that I could let me guard down.
“I have fun. Looking at fish just isn’t how I do it.” I wrapped my arm around Adelaide’s waist again and she led me along through the aquarium, stopping every couple of feet to look at the displays of fish bones, life-sized models of sharks and whales, and tanks upon tanks of jellyfish, seahorses, and the strangest fish I’d ever seen.
She was like a kid in a candy shop, her eyes huge in amazement taking it all in.
“It’s all so much more fascinating when you’re an adult and understand what they’re talking about on the descriptions. When I was little my mother would bring my sisters and me and I’d just run from display to display.” She said with a small smile on her face as we approached one of those full-wall sized aquariums that was at least two stories tall. It was dark in the room and everything had turned a shade of blue from the lights in the tank.
“My mother never took us to this kind of stuff. She knew my brothers and I would break something and my parents were more concerned with us training everyday than having fun.” I said as I led her to the back wall so she could see the whole tank. And I could keep her away from the crowds, hiding her at my side. But for now I held her in front of me, her back pressed against my front as I wrapped my arms around her shoulders, letting her relax against me as she watched all the fish and sharks swim in the tank. She had reached up and latched her hands around my arms, leaning her head slightly to the side against my shoulder.
She felt right, against me like this, my arms around her. This felt normal, like we’d always been like this despite the years of fighting and wanting to kill each other.
You’re in way too fucking deep now to get out.
Good going, idiot.
“Training? Like fighting?” She looked up at me with her eye brows bunched together trying to understand.
“Yep. Almost everyday we train unless I’m at your place. You never know when you’ll have to fight so it was better to be prepared. Between my brothers and I there’s been tons of broken bones and concussions.”
“I could fight you.” She said a hint of playfulness in her eye. Even in the dark with the blue lighting I could see that spark in her eye.
What is it about short girls that makes them want to fight? Adelaide was maybe five foot two, maybe three, and weighed maybe 110 pounds, there’s no way she was serious.
“You can try. But you won’t win.” I laughed, seeing that spark turn into a small flame in her eyes. I’d challenged her again and she never backed down from a fight, especially with me. A small smirk appeared on her lips before she turned back to watch the tank.
I took another scan of the room, keeping my hold tight but not uncomfortable on her. Still all I could see was small children running about or squishing their faces up against the tank to see the fish, parents trying to catch the smallest ones from running.
My eyes caught sight of a man who I’d seen wandering around the displays as Adelaide zipped between them. He’d been alone, and a bit older, maybe in his late 40s. He was standing against the wall on the other side of the room, his eyes fixed on the tank.
Something didn’t sit right in my chest as I kept my eye on him, but I didn’t want to panic Adelaide. She was easily spooked and I didn’t need to make a scene if my gut feeling was right. I’d hoped if I kept her here long enough I’d be wrong and he’d leave.
“Is someone always going to be after me even when we’re married?” She said continuing to stare at the tank, her voice a mix of curiosity and anxiety.
“I don’t know.”
Truthfully, I didn’t know. I hadn’t expected anyone now to be after her the way they were but our situation had been very public, almost every family knew about our arrangement not long after the contract was signed all those years ago. Somewhere along the lines Moretti had found out and waited it out until he felt he couldn’t anymore, I guess.
But that was the thing I couldn’t figure out. Why now? Why all of a sudden did he have an interest in her? Why not when she turned 18 and was legally able to marry him? Something had sparked his interest in her and I needed to find out.
“You don’t need to worry about that right now. We’ll figure it out if it happens.” I knew it hadn’t calmed her fear about it but there wasn’t anything I could do other than keep her completely hidden from the world.
“Why do you never come down to the beach when you’re at my house?” She was changing the subject to calm herself down. She could try to hide it from me but I always knew.
“I hate sand. I hate the way it feels on my skin.” I cringed slightly as she let out a small laugh. “That gritty feeling makes me fucking miserable, I don’t know how you could stand to walk or lay on it when you’re out in the sun. It gets on everything and it’s a fucking pain to get it out of my car.” Just the thought of sand touching me now made me want to off myself.
“You’re the most dramatic man I’ve ever met in my life.” She turned to look up at me, her eyebrows raised in amusement.
“That’s rich coming from the girl who threw a literal temper tantrum when she was caught having snuck out.” I tightened my arms around her shoulders, pulling her closer into my. She rolled her eyes.
“We’ve already gone over this. You better get over your aversion to sand because once we’re married I’m buying a house down at the beach and that’s where I’m staying.” She said very matter of factly, like she didn’t need my permission to do anything. She didn’t, but it would still be fun to mess with her.
“Are you now?” I let out a small chuckle. “And whose money are you using to do that? Last I checked, Princess, you haven’t worked a day in your life. You’ve barely lifted a finger for anything.” I reminded her. All she had to do was say she wanted something and it’d always been hers. Maybe that’s where all that brattiness she had came from.
“Yours. Or I guess it’ll be mine too since I’m taking your last name. Isn’t the old saying ‘happy wife, happy life’?” She leaned her head back against my shoulder, acting as if she’d just won an argument. I nudged her face to the side with my nose and slid my lips up and down her neck, planting a small kiss in the crook of her neck that always got me a reaction. I felt her knees buckle as she leaned back into me.
“It’s a little too soon to start playing that card with me, Princess.” I slid my hand down to her waist and wrapped it around, pulling her against me as I pushed my hips into her back. She left out a small gasp, just loud enough for me to hear. “Besides, you can’t behave long enough for me to give you want you want. It takes some coaxing if I remember correctly.”
If anyone was looking at us, it would look like I was just holding her in a sweet embrace, just a couple on a date and enjoying being close to one another. Puppy love even. But we both knew I was trying to prove my point that she wouldn’t always get what she wanted from me unless she did exactly what I wanted. She liked when I challenged her and told her no, but she’d never admit it out loud. But her body language told me enough.
“I think you’re the one who needs to behave themselves right now. There’s people around, or has all the blood left your head again?” She whispered as she tried prying my hands off her and holding my hands down at her sides, making us look even more innocent. I smiled against her neck, planted another kiss on it, and led her out of the room.
She had pulled me all around the rest of the aquarium, looking at some things two or three times over. I think I’d seen more fish than I ever thought I knew possible and I never wanted to look at another one again.
“Okay now I think I’ve seen everything.” She said confidently as we finally made our way to the exit.
I’d take her on a million dates if it meant she didn’t fight me like she didn’t today. Just never ever to the fucking aquarium again.
“Thank fuck.” I said exasperated, slipping my arm around her waist again.
“Oh my god, it wasn’t that bad.” She rolled her eyes as she looked at me.
I took another scan before we walked out the exit, noticing the man I had seen earlier standing near the exit off to the side. If I hadn’t been looking, no one would have noticed him there. He wasn’t out of place but I knew he wasn’t there to see the fish either. He was looking right at Adelaide, his full attention on her, as if he was waiting. I tightened my grip around her making sure if he could somehow grab her, she wouldn’t budge. I picked up our pace as I walked us back to my car.
“What’s wrong?” I heard the slight panic is her voice as she caught on to the subtle pace increase.
“Nothing.” I said probably a little too quickly as we reached my car and I crowded up on her, trying to get her in. I looked around to see the man walking through the parking lot, not too far from us.
I knew this shit was going to happen
I quickly got myself in my car and tried getting us out of the parking lot before the man could see where we were heading but no luck. He seemed to have spotted us and was a few car lengths back, getting stopped by a crossing group of school children giving me more time to get us as far away as possible and him off our trail.
“Luca, what’s going on? Why are we leaving so quickly?” Adelaide said, panic now fully coating her voice.
“Nothing. Everything’s fine. I just want to get out of here.” I said as I pulled my phone out of my pocket and shot a quick text to Park while trying to keep an eye on the guy who was now definitely follow us.
Me — Black BMW. Front light busted out. All windows tinted. Older guy, mid to late 40s. Moretti’s guy?
It wasn’t much to go on but ever l since my father had taken over more of Moretti’s territory, we’d started keeping track of his goons in case there was any trouble, cars specifically. We were always on the lookout for his men driving by our property or around the businesses that we took over, looking to catch one of us off guard and take us out.
Park — Moretti’s. Lower level, more dirty work than anything. If you’ve got Adelaide with you, you need to get her back NOW
I let out a heavy sigh
That’s what I was afraid of
“Luca, what is going on?” Adelaide pressed, her eyes wide and panicked.
“Something you’re not going to like. Hold on.” I said and threw my car into gear, shifting it so I could swing around traffic faster. Luckily we’d made it onto the highway as I got Park’s text which meant I had a better chance of getting rid of this asshole.
Adelaide shrieked as my car picked up speed, throwing her back against her seat as I sped around all the cars in front of us, weaving in and out as I shifted gears, keeping an eye on Moretti’s guy and the other cars. If I could just hop a few more cars ahead and swing through an exit, I’d lose him.
Out of the corner of my eye I could see Adelaide holding onto her seat for dear life, no doubt this is the fastest car she’d ever been in and the first time she’d had to jump through traffic like this.
“We’re fine, Princess.” I said as I put my hand on her leg after shifting again, trying to calm her. Morietti’s man was slipping further and further behind us, probably under orders to just follow and not pursue as Damien tracked her every move now. He probably wanted to be the one to snag her, and that meant he had had someone following us since I took her to the cafe this morning. Fuck
“You can’t tell me that as we’re flying through traffic at 100 miles per hour!” She said completely freaked out. I saw her close her eyes tightly as I slipped between two semi’s, just barely squeezing through as I took us off an exit, fully losing Morietti’s man. I took us on less traveled back roads back to her property, not dropping my speed until we pulled in the driveway and the gates behind us shut. Adelaide was staring straight ahead, basically hyperventilating.
“What the fuck just happened?” Adelaide said, still not looking at me. She was still staring straight ahead, her mind ticking with what just happened, her chest rising and falling quickly as she tried to calm herself.
“Moretti sent someone to follow us. I had to lose him somehow.” I put my hand back on her leg and rubbed it with my thumb comfortingly. She took a few more deep breaths and then shook her head, like she understood.
“So is this going to become a regular thing now when we go on dates, someone following us?” She turned slightly to peek at me.
“Fuck if I know, Princess.” I let out a heavy sigh, wiping my face with my hand.
I fucking hope not
“Are we safe now? Did they follow us here?” She quickly spun around in her seat, looking around wildly. I grabbed her shoulder, gently pushing her back into her seat.
“No one followed us here, I lost them on the highway. But this is why I told you not to go out without me or Marcus. You were somehow miraculously fine last night but Damien isn’t messing around anymore if he’s having you followed with me.” I said I finally unbuckled my seat belt and got out of the car, walking around to her side to let her out. She still looked tense as I opened her door and as I shut the door behind her, she gripped my hand tightly, fingers lacing tight with mine. A spark felt like it shot through my hand.
Now’s really not the time to be catching feelings and playing lovey dovey, moron.
“I need to talk to your father. I think you’re going to have to come stay with me sooner than the end of the week now.” I looked her as I led her inside, instantly feeling sorry that I would be taking her away from her family and friends for the time being but there was no other way. She had to be with me or my brothers in order to keep her safe until Damien could be dealt with.
I also felt bad for ruining the end of our date. This wasn’t exactly how I wanted it to go, but I’d make it up to her. She deserved that at the least for having to uproot her in the midst of all this.
“Find Edie or Hannah and stay with them until I come to get you. We’re going to have to leave tonight.” I looked at her and slid my arm around her back, pulling her against me.
“Luca Katsaros, I swear to God if you don’t get away from Adelaide right now!” Edie shrieked looking like a mess at the top of the stairs. If I didn’t hate her so much, I’d feel a tiny bit sorry for how hungover she still looked. She looked like death. I rolled my eyes.
“Speak of the Devil.” I said under my breath as Adelaide looked up the stairs at Edie, who was now stomping down them coming at us.
“Stay out of trouble.” I said and slipped away to go up the stairs, taking a wide path away from Edie as she looked at me with murder in her eyes.
A/N - So sorry for the delay! I’ve been a bit stuck but we’re back on a roll. Let me know below in the comments what you think!