Wildfire

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21.

ADELAIDE

Packing had gone even slower when I was finally alone. I was finally with my own thoughts now that I didn’t have the distractions of someone talking, yelling, or touching me in Luca’s case.

I finally had time to process today, more specifically the second half of the day.

We’d been followed.

We’d been chased.

Someone chased after us to get to me.

Even with Luca I wasn’t safe it seemed. How long had that man been following us? Had Luca known about him and didn’t say anything to me? He had been quiet when got to the coffee shop and when we were at the aquarium but I thought he was just observing, taking it all in since he hadn’t been on a date.

Luca had that way of quietly gathering information wherever we were. He had always seemed to know where to find me at events even if I was never within his line of sight, he always seemed to know what Edie and I were getting into when together, he just seemed to always know. He was smart with how observant he was. And that made him so much more threatening.

But whoever it was that followed us didn’t seem to care that Luca would have been onto him. He had orders to follow from Damien and he was going to follow them without apprehension. What was interesting though was he was clearly out in a public place, no disguise, making no attempt to hide what he was doing. Had Luca not been paying attention, who knows what the man would have done to me or Luca.

But if that man had known where we’d been, that meant he knew where we were from the start. He had to have been following us as we left the property this afternoon. It wasn’t just a lucky guess that they just happened to find where I was and who I was with. But how would he have known I’d even be with Luca today? I could have gone out with Hannah or Edie, and Damien wouldn’t have known that.

Unless...

It wasn’t me Damien was having followed.

It was Luca they were following.

I felt like I’d been hit by a truck, sucking in a quick breath with the realization, my heart suddenly pounding in my chest.

I quickly stuffed the remainder of my clothes and necessities into my bag and took one last glance around my room, taking it in that I was leaving and probably not coming back to this room ever again. I all but sprinted down the hall and down the stairs to the foyer where Luca was casually leaning against a wall, one ankle crossed over the other, looking down at his phone, typing away at a text for someone. Owen had joined him, and was almost mimicking him a few feet away. My parents talking quietly amongst themselves off to the side, keeping distance between themselves and the Katsaros brothers.

I crashed into Luca, my bag falling with a loud thud to the ground. He wrapped an arm around my waist to hold us steady as I gripped his shirt, pulling him closer to me. His eyes shot up to mine as he stuffed his phone in his pocket.

“Easy there, Princess—“

“It’s you. They’re following you.” I cut him off, needing to tell him now before he went anywhere else.

“What?” He looked at me, confusion making him scrunch his eyebrows up.

“Damien’s men are following you. How else would that man have known where we were on the off chance? He didn’t just show up at the aquarium, hoping that’s where we’d be today. They’re following you somehow.” I said urgently, barely taking a breath as I watched Luca’s eyes raise and meet Owen’s behind me.

“The cars.” Luca said to Owen, his hand sliding across my lower back as he turned and went out the front doors with Owen. I followed close behind, needing to know if I was paranoid or if I had figured it out. I stood in the doorway and watched as they ripped through their cars, throwing open all the doors and checking every inch of them from bottom to top.

I heard a roar of frustration from Luca as he got up off the ground, having checked the underside of the car, not caring that he wasn’t in the proper clothes to be working on his car essentially.

“I’m going to kill that fucker myself.” He said standing up and showing a little box with a red blinking light in his hand.

“A tracking device. That’s how they knew where we were. Fuck.” He groaned. “Moretti knew I wasn’t going to let you out alone and probably thought if I was followed, he’d be able to get to you too. That motherfucker!” He yelled, anger searing across his face.

“There’s one on mine too. He probably got us all since he doesn’t know who she’d be with and where at any time. It’s easier to follow us all than just hope she’s always with you. ” Owen said, walking over to us and wiping his hands on his now dusty jeans before handing Luca the tracking device from under his car. Luca threw the tracking device down and stomped on it, smashing it into little pieces until the red light went out.

Not only were Luca and I in danger when we were being tracked, that also meant he had been tracking Owen last night when he was with Edie. My stomach dropped with anxiety as I had unknowingly put my best friend and Luca’s brother in danger now too.

My father had joined me in the doorway, watching Luca and Owen call the rest of their brothers to have them check every car in their property, explaining what had happened. My father was quiet but I felt him tense next to me, he hadn’t moved the entire time.

“If I were you, I’d have Marcus check every car on the property, whether it leaves or not. Somehow his men got that tracking device on our cars, I wouldn’t put it past him to have it on one of yours.” Luca said walking back up to the door and addressing my father. My father didn’t take orders from anyone else, especially not a Katsaros. I felt the annoyance seeping off my father at the fact that he wasn’t the one who was in charge now of what was going on, and in his own home. But how was he going to argue with Luca on something as severe and dangerous as this?

“I’ll see to it that the cars are checked. And maybe you should be keeping a closer eye on your own property, seeing as you put my daughter’s life at even more risk.” My father seethed out, pure hatred now burning in his eyes as I saw him look at Luca.

Luca’s face snapped with rage and frustration, worse than he’d ever shown me during our fights.

“Do you think this is a fucking joke, keeping Adelaide safe? Damien isn’t messing around if he’s having all of us followed. I know you couldn’t give a shit less about your family, especially Adelaide the way you treat her –“ Luca began advancing on my father, seemingly towering as he got closer and closer, fists balling at his sides.

“Luca.” I said quietly as I stepped in front of him, pushing my hands against his chest to stop him and looking up at him, his strong jaw tightening as it did when he was upset. He stopped, but not before crashing into me, grabbing my waist to stop me from falling over. I felt his chest muscles tightening under my hands as waves of anger poured off him. He wouldn’t look at me, his eyes were locked on my father.

“You’ll do right to watch your tongue in my house, Luca.” My father said, the same anger cutting through his voice. “This is my family and I’ll do what I think is right to keep them safe.”

“Then you were right giving her to me.” Luca seethed, tightening his grip he had around my waist. I couldn’t pull away and turn around to look at my father, but I could feel his eyes boring into the back of me as if I had betrayed him by not fighting back against Luca.

“I didn’t give her to anyone, your father stole her from this family, threatening death against me and them if we didn’t sign her away. What kind of man threatens the lives of innocent children for their father’s mistake? And having you be the one that she’s to marry? She’ll never be safe with you and this proves it. Just as arrogant as your father.” My hands tightened against Luca’s shirt, feeling the sting of this revelation. I had already known it, but it didn’t make it any less worse.

“Stop it.” I spun around, finally looking at my father and seeing my mother over his shoulder, her face void of any emotion.

“This doesn’t make this any easier or me any safer. You had a choice and you made it, and now I’m going through with it. You’re not going to talk about me like I’m some kind of object to be passed around.” I said to my father, looking him dead in the eye. He looked back, surprised that I wasn’t taking his side by telling Luca off.

“Demetrios has proven he isn’t going to break the contract and I have no other choice. So you either do what Luca says to keep Hannah, Chelsea, and the girls safe or you can ignore it and hope Damien doesn’t send anyone after them as well.” My father’s eyes narrowed in my agreement with Luca, no doubt feeling that Luca has manipulated me in some way. “I’m not stupid, I know what goes on in your world you’ve tried to hide from me. Damien isn’t going to stop until he has me.” I said holding my ground.

Everyone remained quiet but I could hear my father and Luca’s heavy breathing, both trying to calm their tempers over the situation.

“You said it yourself, Luca had no say in me being sent to his home for protection, which means you did. Arguing about where I’m safer doesn’t keep me safer when Damien was able to have Luca’s car tracked from here.” I was desperately trying to diffuse their tempers and make them think clearly, to see that I might actually be safer away from here. At least with the trackers off the car Damien wouldn’t know where I was.

“She’s smarter than you give her credit for, Gabriel. How else would we have known that he was tracking me now instead of her? I have more security than you’re able to provide here, as well as my brother’s.” Luca said behind me, moving slightly to my side so he was able to lace his fingers with mine without my father seeing. He rubbed his thumb over my hand lightly, as if trying to reassure me. I continued to look at my father with a pleading look, needing him to understand and acknowledge.

I had picked up more about my father’s hidden life than he’d ever given me credit for and I knew what kind of dangerous men he dealt with. Moving me would be the safest option, even if it meant leaving behind my sisters and Edie for the time being, and enduring the other Katsaros.

My father looked as if he was have a battle warring in his head — his face grief stricken from the prospect of me leaving as well as the possibility of my sisters being harmed. Anger also mixed in his face as he knew Luca was right, but we wouldn’t be having this discussion if Demetrios had chosen to get rid of the contract, granting my family freedom from his.

“She will go with you and I will have my home and property searched. You are to give me daily reports of Damien’s movements and we will continue monitoring them from here.” My father finally said, his voice as emotionless as always.

“But if any harm comes to my daughter while she’s in your care before this marriage, I will kill you without a second thought.” His eyes bore straight into Luca’s. I squeezed Luca’s hand that was still hidden behind me.

“Your mother and I will see you soon, I expect before Hannah’s wedding. Now, I have business to attend to.” My father looked at me coldly, as if he was fighting back showing how upset he truly was at my leaving. I quickly glanced at my mother, who had remained in the same spot the entire time, seeing her face still completely glazed over. It had no effect on her that I was leaving and I’m sure she’ll be full of fake emotion when I see her next at Hannah’s wedding.

My father had turned to walk away, my mother accompanying him as I felt Luca wrap his arm around my waist from behind and pull me to him as I watched my parents turn down a hall and disappear. He placed a light kiss on my head, giving me a small squeeze with his arm in comfort.

“We should go.” Luca said quietly, letting go of me to pick up my bag.

“Yeah.” I said quietly back, turning around towards the door as I felt Luca close behind me.

What more could I say at this point? Everything suddenly felt heavy and I felt completely numb, no longer wanting to think about anything.

The sky had darkened some and the air had cooled down, causing me to wrap my flannel tighter around me as a gust of wind blew my hair wildly around my head. I followed Luca to his car as he held the door open for me. I couldn’t look at him as I knew he would be trying to give me a sympathetic look, and right now that isn’t what I wanted.

He leaned down some to be level with me and grabbed my chin lightly with his fingers, turning my head to look at him.

“Are you going to be okay, Princess?” He looked at me very seriously, his eyes shifting around my face as if he was trying to pick up on how I was feeling. I lightly shook my head yes before he let go of my chin, leaning in to kiss my temple.

He shut my door and walked around to get in, starting the car in silence. I turned and looked out the window as he began to drive.

I no longer had any feelings for my childhood home, the home that held so many happy memories as well as sad, mostly revolving around my mother.

I watched out the window for a while, his home only and hour or so from mine, until I was snapped out of my thoughts with the feeling that I was being watched. I turned my head slightly and could see Luca making small glances at me as he drove.

“I’m fine, you should worry more about watching the road.” I said turning to look at him so he’d stop.

“Who says I was looking at you?” He teased back, making a small smile appear on my lips. “I shouldn’t be taking driving suggestions from the girl who’s almost crashed her car, what is it, four times now?”

“I have not! Other people just need to learn to get out of my way and not drive so damn slow. And one of those times was Edie, thank you.” I snapped back at him.

I knew he was trying to keep me out of my head, knowing how anxious I could get if I stayed in there too much.

“Exactly why you’re not allowed to drive any of the cars from here on out. I have enough trouble trying to keep you out of trouble.”

“I stand with what I said earlier, you are the most dramatic man I’ve ever met and I’ve met Liam Blake.” I teased back at him, knowing how much he hated when Liam was brought up.

“I guess that’s one good thing about moving you, I no longer have to worry about Liam Blake trying to get into your panties. Now I’m the one who gets that privilege and we don’t allow the Blake’s on our property.” He put his hand on my thigh again, which seemed to be his signature move at this point. But it was effective.

“And I have the right to take away that privilege if you keep picking at me.” I let his hand remain where it was for once, just enjoying the physical contact.

God, Addy, could you fall any deeper?

“We’ll see.” He said, looking at me and giving me a wink before we pulled up to his property.

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