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Chapter 66 : Caleb

Chapter 66 : Caleb
Wednesday, August 25th, 2021

“She’s good?” I ask Alec as he walks into my office at Rush, Xavier already laying back on the long dark couch across from me.

He’s been the one watching her most out of the three of us, and I know he was doing it through other people—the twins in specific.

Relief flowed through me at his satisfied nod, but I knew he was still here to talk about everything else that’s currently going wrong.

Like Xavier warned, I received my assignment this morning surrounding Marcus’s kidnapping, and based on the tension across Alec’s forehead, I knew he had too.

“What are your orders?” I question as I stand from my desk, taking a seat beside Xavier since I knew I wouldn’t be able to work while having this discussion. Mine was simple, but this entire situation made me too uneasy to focus nonetheless.

Madelyn is going to be caught in the middle no matter what angle we come at this at, and that knowledge terrifies me more than I think I’m capable of admitting.

“While you’re working on fixing all of the camera footage, Xavier and I are going to move in with two separate teams as back up. With Xavier’s focus on grabbing Marcus, Vincent suspects the wife will be disoriented and attempt to leave in a panic. My job is to knock her out and bring her back to the Base for information if things go wrong with retrieving the main target.”

Marcus.

The same man our girl adores.

I couldn’t help it as my eyes drifted over to Xavier whose fists were once again curled into tight balls, reminding me of the way he looked two days ago by that elevator.

Vincent was a cruel, cold man, and even though I know Madelyn is under close surveillance in Detroit, I still feel sick at how similar that unconscious girl on the floor looked to her.

At first, I thought Xavier was crying because Madelyn was dead, and it was a moment that left us all shaken up despite the truth that she was safe.

“So what are we going to do then?” I ask the question that’s been going through our minds since we realized our relationship was so much bigger than just sex.

This was all such a disaster, and as much as I hated Madelyn being gone, it was almost necessary for us to work through all of this shit.

Alec ran his fingers through his hair—a nervous tendency of his—looking down at his lap in defeat. It was an expression I mirrored, unfortunately having very little say in any of this.

My rights as an associate limited a lot of options for me, and even though Alec was in one of the highest ranking positions in the mafia, all three of us knew it was Xavier who held the power.

He was the one who had the orders of an engagement. He was the one risking the chance of taking on the title of the Don. He was the one who could make or break everything, and I saw that it was eating away at every part of him.

“I already have a plan.” Xavier says, his tone so numbing I could see him dissociating his emotions from everything else.

I wasn’t sure our stories held a happy ending for us anymore, but there was one’s who still could.

“You’re going to propose?” Alec says with slight disbelief in his voice, but we didn’t judge nor did we interrupt. We simply stayed still, desperate for anything that could shed a little light to this horrible tunnel we’ve trapped ourselves in.

The grim look on his face confirms Alec’s suspicions, and I couldn’t help but feel a little despair because of it.

This was not how any of this was supposed to be.

“In a little under three weeks, I’m going to take Madelyn to Jolene’s for lunch. I’m going to ask her to trust me and say that she needs to help me pretend for a while.”

She’s a smart girl, and I know it won’t take her long to realize this is about something serious.

Madelyn will play along perfectly because she trusts us, and it’s going to make everything that needs to happen afterwards so much harder.

“And then?” I prob, my heart racing at the noticeable clench of Xavier’s jaw in response.

He’s quiet for a torturous moment, and I watch as he shuts everything inside of him down, forcing himself not to feel what he’s about to say.

I used to fear how effortlessly he could do it, but right now, I was envious.

“And then we say goodbye.”

We say goodbye.

“No.” I protest almost instantly as my voice threatens to break beneath the pressure of my fear.

From the corner of my eye, I saw Alec stiffen across from us, but my focus was on the man at my side.

“Goodbye, Xavier?” I challenge, “You think letting her go is going to be safe for her after the entire world learns she’s to be the future wife of a mafia Don? You’ve got to be out of your fucking mind.”

“Doing this is the only god damned way to keep her alive.” Xavier snaps, reaching to the tray on the table across from us to pour himself something strong.

I was too angry to even want to drink, though.

“She’s going to get killed the second she steps out of our protection.” I argue, hating how helpless I feel right now.

I know I was missing something here, but even if we had people watching her for the rest of her life, I couldn’t bring myself to let her go.

Maybe that made me selfish, but I would selfishly be hers until death and then some.

“Not unless the rest of the world believes her to already be dead.” Alec says quietly at my front, but it felt loud enough to ring through me until the truth of its vibrations rattled my bones.

No.

“Why are you both so insistent on pushing her away?” I ask, taking Xavier’s glass from him and drinking it for courage, “Madelyn is strong and can handle this by our sides if we just let her in.”

I knew this, and I don’t understand why they’re all of a sudden acting otherwise.

If I could offer Madelyn a normal life with us, I would in a heartbeat, but that simply wasn’t the way the world worked.

“You really think she’d still want us after we murder her father.” Xavier says, and those few words were enough to piss me off.

“Screw Marcus.” I shake my head, praying to god they had better reasoning for leaving Madelyn than something as stupid as revenge.

Why are we even entertaining the possibility of a break up?

“Xavier, I’m really truly sorry about your mother, but what’s more important here?”

I was met with silence as anger and tension spread throughout the room, but I was so sick and tired of being trapped in the unknown.

I wanted a plan, and I wanted one that didn’t leave all of our hearts broken and lonely.

We were all hurting and struggling to cope with how quickly everything has changed, but there was another solution to all of this, it was just one nobody wanted to face.

“Why can’t we just let him live?”

Why can’t the four of us just be enough?

“Vincent would never allow it.” Xavier tries to shut down my idea, but I know he’s much smarter than that. The only problem is that it would be up to him to initiate.

“But you could.” Alec murmurs, his eyes moving from his lap over to my friend.

As those three words sunk in, I could see the undeniable pain in both of their eyes, mine likely showing the same emotions.

I didn’t blame Xavier for wanting to take the easy way out, but if he didn’t take Vincent’s place, everything would fall apart.

“You can’t kill Marcus and keep Madelyn, X.” Alec tells the ugly truth I know none of us want to face. While it wasn’t my mother who was killed, I’ve still dedicated years of my life to hunting this man down for revenge. Losing the chance of his death is something I’m sacrificing too.

Xavier’s jaw tightened in distress, clearing having to restrain himself from lashing out.

He was mad at the world, or more specifically the fate he’d have to submit to in order to salvage what’s already so damn broken.

“Taking Vincent’s place is the reason we have to let her go.” Xavier surprises us all, his voice full of sorrow and remorse.

He always planned to take his father’s place, and that’s what Alec and I failed to realize.

“On the morning of September 12th, I’m going to propose to Madelyn at Jolene’s. We’re going to walk around and do as Vincent says to give the illusion of obedience, and then I’m driving Mads to Weston’s for the last time.”

Xavier wouldn’t look at either of us as he spoke, and I couldn’t tell whether I wanted to scream at him for his plans or cry because I wasn’t sure that I could stop them.

Weston’s was the loading area where we kept our private jet, and he just admitted he wanted to ship our girl off the day before everything goes to shit.

“Don’t you think she should have a say in this considering it’s her whose entire life is about to change because of us? What you propose strips her of everything she cares about and places her in a situation she’s not prepared for. At least with us, she could understand—”

“Understand what, Caleb?” Xavier cuts me off, “Understand that we’re all monsters in our own fucked up ways. That we enjoy killing people who do horrible things, but still people nonetheless.”

Is it so wrong to believe I think Madelyn wouldn’t judge if we let down our guard a little?

“What do you think the Mafia is, you asshole?”

Though she may seem it, our girl is anything but innocent and does not require to be sheltered. I get that our natural instinct is to protect her from the bad world we live in, but if it came between losing her and telling the truth, I knew what option I’d choose.

“Madelyn’s the best thing to have ever happened to us, and we messed up by dragging her into our problems.” Xavier finishes, but Alec seems to be anything but done with this conversation.

“We messed up nothing.” He says with a quiet certainty that left no room for lies, “Above all of this, nothing can change the fact Madelyn is related to Marcus by blood and mind. If things were different and we never met her at that hotel, Vincent still would have tracked her down eventually. We would have been given the orders to kidnap and torture her as both leverage and to send a message similar to what we’ve been doing now.”

It was like no matter where things took us, it all led back to the one thing we would never be able to move on from.

Her.

“The what ifs don’t change anything.” Xavier argues, and while they maybe don’t, it doesn’t sway from the fact Madelyn was going to be a part of our lives either way.

“Maybe not, but unless you’re dead, becoming the Don is an inevitable part of your future, man. We should at least give our girl the chance to decide on her own how she wants things to be.” I say, yet once again, I’m being selfish.

Mads would never leave us, and it’s going to take dragging her out kicking and screaming to push her away. But, on the other side of things, I selfishly wish I could just lock her up in a life I know could provide security.

“Why can’t you fucking see that I’m doing this for her!” Xavier snaps, standing from the couch and walking away to distance himself from us. “Madelyn is the one thing in this world that cannot die, and I don’t care what it takes to make sure she lives until she’s old and gray. On September 12th, she’s going to be placed in a safe house in Costa Rica and will remain there until things settle down.”

“Why does it have to be goodbye then?” I question, standing up as well, “Why can’t we tell her to lay low for a month or two and then bring her back to us once it’s safe?”

What has changed so much in the span of two days?

The Xavier I knew would fight to the ends of the Earth to keep Madelyn by our side, but right now he seemed to be doing everything but that.

I looked in disbelief at Alec who continued to remain quiet in his own thoughts, but with so much on the line right now, I couldn’t afford to hold back my voice.

“What happened to you promising to be her always?”

It was a low blow, one hard enough to show a flinch in Xavier’s eyes, though I couldn’t bring myself to care all that much when he still wasn’t letting out the whole truth.

Since knowing him and Alec, we’ve only fought once and it was about something none of us could recall now. This, however... I could feel the hostility radiating off of all three of us, and it was a feeling I doubted we’d be able to forget.

“Being Madelyn’s always doesn’t matter much if she’s dead, now does it, Caleb?” Xavier fought back, my patience thinning rapidly from whatever internal self-hatred battle he was having with himself.

If anybody else proposed taking my Madelyn from me, they would already be knocked out on the ground.

I never thought this would be a conversation we’d be having, but there is a lot about today that has surprised me.

“Don’t act like you’re doing this for her,” I spat, walking over to Xavier so he couldn’t continue to shut himself off, “You’re doing this because you’re a coward.”

We were close enough now that all it would take is a single stride before being able to hit the other, but even though I knew I was the weakest one in this room, I would not accept the future they were trying to create.

“A coward?” Xavier says in a tone I’ve seen people piss their pants over out of fear.

Good.

He was finally starting to react.

“I think you’re scared and insecure that Madelyn’s going to finally see every version of you—see you for how you truly are—and cherish all of the things you’ve been brainwashed to hate.”

Alec stood up at this, ready to intervene if somebody chose to throw the first punch. Little did he know I was just as angry at his silence as I was Xavier’s words.

A humorless laugh left the man in front of me, and it was dark enough to have ice licking down my spine.

“Yeah?” He says, tilting his head in irritation, “Like what?”

I saw out of the corner of my eye Alec opening his mouth to stop me from what I was about to say, but he needed to hear this.

I was done hiding behind the barriers of filtered truths and even more filtered lies.

“You’re scared about what Madelyn’s going to think when she learns about how you got that scar.” I say, referring to the night a knife was slashed down his face, just barely missing his left eye.

Everybody who’s a part of the Mafia knows the story behind the mark Xavier has worn since the night of his sixteenth birthday, and if Madelyn were to stay, her finding out would be unavoidable.

Vincent raised his son his entire life to believe scars were a sign of weakness—that if you were truly successful, you never would have earned one to begin with.

Xavier was not an insecure man, but the permanent cut through his eyebrow had him from looking in mirrors because he didn’t want to see that part of himself.

“Don’t talk about shit you don’t understand.”

I hit a nerve with him, and while I may not be able to see things the way Xavier does, Madelyn can.

“You finally found someone who loves you, and it terrifies you that you feel the same way.” I land the final blow, just for the first physical one to be placed.

I’m shoved back so quickly I know the movements were ones of someone who’s been trained their whole life, Alec keeping me upright before slamming Xavier back into the wall.

“I don’t want Madelyn dead anymore than you do, but don’t take your shit out on us when we’re in the exact same boat.” Alec finally cuts in, not allowing himself to fold under the pressure of Xavier’s dark gaze. “All three of us idiots fell in love with a woman who deserves so much more, but you can’t act like she hasn’t chosen us as much as we have her.”

“Letting her go is choosing her!” Xavier yelled, getting under Alec and shoving him away just as he did me. “You weren’t the one to see her dead on the ground, but I did.”

Our chests were all heavy with our erratic breathing, and when I looked at my friend—truly looked at him—I found tears of panic and regret built in his dark eyes.

“I know that girl wasn’t Madelyn, but for five seconds, I thought she was. I saw a bullet wound through the head of the only woman I’ve ever allowed myself to get close to, and those few moments were the longest of my life.”

I watched as he slid down against the wall, sitting on the plush carpet of my office as Alec and I followed in exhaustion.

When I walked into the house those days ago and found Xavier breaking by our elevator, I knew Vincent’s gift was meant to imitate our girl but I never felt the seizing terror that it could actually be Madelyn.

For the other, however, he had known what it felt like to truly lose everything in a matter of a single blink of an eye.

“The thought of saying goodbye has been tearing me apart, but I would rather watch Madelyn grow old with somebody else for a thousand lifetimes than have to relive those five seconds again, knowing I was responsible for it all.”

Jesus Christ.

I wish I could continue to place my anger on him, but I couldn’t. Not when I had been so fucking blind to believe he was sending her away because it was the easy choice.

Letting go of Madelyn was the decision that would ensure things could never be the same— the one that would make everything fall apart.

“She deserves an explanation.” I say, trying to hold back my sob and nearly failing.

Neither Alec nor Xavier disagreed with my statement, and I almost feel as though that made things worse.

Madelyn deserves the choice of being able to decide how she wants to live, but we have a choice too. We have the choice of keeping her alive, and just because she’s willing doesn’t mean she should have to die by our sides because of the future we’ve been promised to.

This world is unfair and we can only try to make it through each day, saying goodbye being the price of caring for someone so much you’d let them go.

I never used to believe in the kind of love Romeo had for Juliet and Noah had for Allie, but that was until I met my own love story, my Madelyn, my darling.

“Costa Rica?” Alec whispers as he hangs his head against his propped knees, a tear that mirrors my own slipping down his cheek.

Those two words felt like acceptance, but I don’t think this was something I would ever come to terms with, even if I understood.


- End of Chapter 66 -

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