Theirs to Claim | 18+

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Chapter 67 : Madelyn

Content Warning: Mentions of both emotional and sexual abuse near the end of the chapter.


Chapter 67 : Madelyn
Friday, August 27th, 2021

I don’t know how I got to this point, but as my feet dragged across the crunch of fallen leaves, I set out to unlock yet another old memory.

I’ve been walking for the last twenty minutes into the forest my mom’s house backs onto, encased in silence and my own thoughts as I approached an old barn-like structure that was even more damaged than I remembered it to be.

The place I trained in growing up had wooden boards coated in peeling red paint, ones that hung in awkward angles just like when my father and I found it years ago.

Snow made things difficult in the winter, but the holes made every other season useful, acting as light sources no matter the time of day.

I’d been trained in all kinds of different conditions as a child, but I remember spending endless hours of the nights with my feet light as they shuffled against the dirt ground of the barn, dodging strikes just to pivot and return them.

I feel as though this is the only part of my life here I would miss, but I think getting to see it one last time makes things easier to leave behind.

Sometimes you need to say goodbye to an old chapter to begin the sequel, and knowing who was waiting for me back home brought excitement over the sadness.

Every day since I left, I’ve been thinking about date ideas for the four of us and how I should tell them the way I feel.

On multiple occasions I’ve caught myself going over the words in my head, planning out the perfect way to string together those four letters that I can only hope they return.

I feel like I know them better than I do myself most times, and it’s a little comforting in the sense it makes me feel safe.

I notice the way Caleb sometimes holds my hand just so he can run his thumb in small strokes against my skin, or how he’ll play with my hair when he’s bored.

Half of the time I swear he doesn’t even know he’s doing it.

And then, of course, there’s Xavier who shows his emotions so clearly in his eyes, I can feel them holding me even when I’m across the room. Though I’m sure he’d deny it, I don’t miss the small glances he always steals when I’m around, watching me even when I’m not doing anything interesting.

I used to take Xavier’s silence for hostility, but it turns out it’s simply the only way he knows how to portray things, something I’ve grown to love about him.

On the other side, however, Alec used his words for almost everything. His quiet whispers in my ears were continuous when I was with him, always telling me how beautiful I looked or how good I was doing.

Yes, a lot of those were similar to things he says to me in the bedroom, but he praises me for everything else too. His gentle words of encouragement were something I never knew I needed until we became so much more, but I planned to tell him— to tell all of them just how much these little things meant to me.

That is, once I was done with Detroit.

Taking my first step into the barn, the first sight I noticed was that most of the space around me was covered in dusty black blankets to conceal whatever objects lined the interior.

My dad and I used to hide a lot of things out here considering nobody really knew of it, and I’m willing to bet the Polaroids I’d taken with my first partner, Alex, were still hidden behind one of the looser wooden slabs of the wall.

I didn’t bother checking though considering that had been years ago.

I had a lot of secrets hidden within the corners of this place, and the reason I was here was because I suspected I wasn’t the only one.

My father can hide better than anyone I know, but everybody has a trail no matter how faint it may be.

With my non-existent hosts still gone, it left a lot of time for me to get in my head and go over every last detail of my father’s disappearance, branching all the way back to when I was eleven.

I had racked my brain over and over again for any clues—anything I might have forgotten or missed that could hint to why he left, but every time I thought about my dad, I thought of this barn.

Being back here may have been yet another attempt at gaining closure for me, but that wasn’t my only motive for this visit.

Taking a breath, I began scanning the area around me. For what, exactly, I wasn’t sure, but walking around here was better than remaining cooped up for yet another day.

I’m giving my mother twenty four hours, and if she’s still a no show after that, then I’m leaving.

I miss my men and Hailey and my life in general.

I kept the thoughts of them close to me as I began digging through my past, an uneven breath leaving my lips.

Starting with the coverings over the odd shapes against the one wall, I pulled until the dirty sheets came off to expose nothing more than old furniture.

Chairs, couches, cutlery sets. There wasn’t a single thing to it other than storage.

I debated the possibility somebody else found this place apart from my father, though crypticity always has been his strong suit.

Moving on from that, I then started looking at the walls, my fingertips dragging across the uneven wood before I stopped and looked behind me.

I saw nothing more than forestry but I knew I was no longer alone.

“I get Alec likes to be a mother hen, but is this really necessary?” I call out, feeling the prickle of eyes at the back of my neck.

I’ve had two shadows following me around this entire week, ones I only noticed that night at the bar a few days ago.

“Good eye.” The girl I’ve learned to be as Imani says from behind me, causing me to spin around for a second time today.

I wasn’t surprised to find her twin Kara right by her side.

Working for what I now know are known as the Night Reapers, I learned they don’t respond to the Mafia but rather the three men who are destined to one day run it.

They are personal to Alec, Xavier, and Caleb, and also known as the Base’s assassins.

“Don’t you think your talents are being wasted on babysitting?” I raise an eyebrow, my eyes trailing over their all black clothing along with their long hair pulled into braids.

Even though they were just standing there, I knew they were fast and precise with every movement they took. All it would take is a blink of my eye, and they’d be able to disappear without a trace.

“We do what we’re paid to do. Nobody touches you except for them, and they aren’t here.” Kara grins from my front, almost hoping someone tries to dare so she can lay them on their ass.

Though I like the idea of privacy, I’ve also liked the twins since I met them drunk when they drove me home from Slash’s place.

Not my finest moment, but an interesting one nonetheless.

“Well I know you’re here. You don’t have to hide in the shadows unless you want to.” I say, and I receive two grins this time.

“If it helps, you can think of us as your body guards instead.” Imani winks, moving to my left, “The angels watching over you until it requires us to be otherwise.”

They undoubtedly had the beauty and grace of angels, but it was the fires of hell that flared within their eyes.

I simply nodded in response when I saw they weren’t going to slink back into the background, taking a step back to the wall to see if anything could’ve been hidden behind it.

The twins had silently moved themselves over to one of the couches, plopping down without me even realizing it.

“You should check these cushions at some point.” Kara points out as I continue my scan of the wooden boards, not even thinking something could be hidden under or within the seats of the furniture.

To say I didn’t know what I’m doing would be an understatement.

“Is that where you would hide something of importance?” I ask, still working along the walls with their eyes on me in mind.

There wasn’t a single breath of mine they weren’t aware of, and that was both reassuring and unnerving all at once.

When no response came, my head turned to where they were sitting, or rather where I thought they were.

The couches now unoccupied, my heart nearly leapt from my chest when I turned back to find Imani leaning at my side, that easy smile of hers still across her face.

“If there was something I didn’t want others finding, I would burn it.” She says before her hand reaches and yanks on the board right beside my head.

I didn’t even get the chance to move before the wood gave under the force, popping loose along with a lot of dust and crawly things that made me jump back in freight.

I hated spiders almost as much as I hated this town.

I spotted Kara shooting me a small smirk at my reaction, but I was more so curious about what had been uncovered behind the board that was now useless as it dropped to the ground.

“Yup, definitely looks like something you—” Imani starts, but stops as her head tilts at the plastic baggy she picked up.

I catch her eyes slipping to Kara, but she doesn’t stop me as I take the item from her to look at what’s inside.

My mouth parts slightly in surprise as I open the top, multiple IDs and passports filling it, all with my father’s face repeatedly across the cards.

Jonathan Barkley. Tobias Adams. Christopher Michelson. Kieran Sharp. Marcus Caddel.

I had to look twice at the last name, seeming familiar but I couldn’t quite pin why.

I can see why the twins’ eyes had widened at this, because it was a discovery I hadn’t expected. My father’s life was always a mystery to me, but seeing how many different lives he’s lived was almost a shock to my senses.

I thought back to all those days ago when we spoke in my car, the phone number he gave me still hidden away back home in a place I was certain no one would find.

His visit was something I was asked to keep quiet about, and I doubted he wanted anybody to find out about this either.

Shit.

“Is this your dad?” Kara asks, appearing at my side as I instinctively closed the bag but didn’t bother trying to hide it.

“Yeah, he’s been missing for a while now. I hoped that maybe I’d be able to find some sort of clues here, but this isn’t exactly a huge surprise to me.” I lie, trying to play things off as best I can. “He’s led a pretty secret life, so a few IDs and passports aren’t exactly far fetched when it comes to him.”

The twins’ identical faces school themselves into neutrality, but I saw the look Imani shot Kara in something that looked suspiciously like recognition.

I made a mental note to ask Caleb about that when I get home.

Feeling the plastic clutched between my tensed fingers, I know there has to be more here. More things that I can’t have an audience when discovering.

Though I may be good at sneaking out of places, these two were better trained than I could ever be and would be tracking me until I’m back in Alec’s arms.

I suppose the real question now is how do I get that privacy another way?

“So which man is the real him then?” Imani asks with a tilt of her head, her curiosity clearly as piqued as mine.

She would catch my lie, so I just prayed this was information safe to speak. “Tobias Adams is the man I know to have raised me until I was old enough to hold my own.” I say, realizing that thinking about my dad made me miss him a little.

It helped to know he was alive, but that didn’t always make things easier.

“This is actually bringing back a lot of hard memories. Do you think I could have a little bit to myself?” At the reluctant looks I get, I try to really play on my sadness. “I know it’s your job to make sure I’m safe, but is there any way you can do it from a distance for a little while so I can get the closure I need?”

I made sure to add just a subtle bit more emphasis on the word closure, knowing it’s likely what Alec told them I was here for considering what I’ve explained so far.

I was betting on the fact the twins didn’t want to feel like they were interfering with the whole purpose of my visit, well aware all three of my men would do what was needed to give me what I came here for.

“We’ll never stray far.” Kara says, and I recognized her tone was one of understanding but also one of hesitance.

With a nod of gratitude on my part, I waited until they were genuinely gone, no longer being able to feel their eyes on me.

My chest grew a little lighter with them gone, but I still didn’t know what to do about the bag Imani found or if I should continue to keep this a secret.

I agreed to silence because my dad asked me to, but that was before I began to trust Alec, Caleb, and Xavier with my life.

They would never betray me, and their resources through the Mafia could help assuming they’d be okay with it.

My father had given me a business card right before he disappeared from my car, claiming it was the number of someone who could help me with my finances and very clearly hinting that there was money left to me under my name.

I’ve been too much of a coward to call, because if it’s as much money as he’s making it out to be, it feels like a goodbye I’m not ready for.

He had wanted to make sure I was taken care of, and I feared that meant he believed there was a chance he wouldn’t be coming back like he promised.

These, of course, were all thoughts I try my best to drown out and shove away, though it makes it hard when my every instinct tells me to dig.

I don’t know how Imani knew which board to tug at, but my memory of Kara saying to check the couches popped into my mind as I stared at the furniture to my right.

It wasn’t a horrible idea, so I moved there next, my footsteps sounding lightly against the cold floor.

Goosebumps had managed to form in a light covering along my arms, but I forced myself not to scream as more bugs scurried away at the tug of the first cushion, quickly tossing it to the floor.

Nothing was under that one so I proceeded to the next one, and the next one, and the next one.

My heart was racing at this point, but each time I pulled away a part of the couch, all I was met with was the dust cover smoothing across the wooden frames that kept it together.

Even now, I didn’t know what I was looking for, however I was hoping for something a little better than this.

I’m tired of being kept in the dark, and I nearly sink to the ground in defeat before I get an idea as the black coloured cambric catches my eye.

It could be a stretch, but there wasn’t much I had to lose at the moment.

Pulling the dagger Jolene bought me as a gift from my jacket, I dropped into a slight crouch in front of the first piece of furniture.

I’ve made good on my promise to her to carry it with me, and I couldn’t be more thankful for it now.

Cutting a precise slash through the fabric covering, my mouth parts as I realize my theory has been correct.

Two dust coverings were built into the deceivingly old and battered couch, the first one being a fake and the second acting as a secret net to hold more things than I know how to process.

If I thought the fake IDs and passports were bad, the sight before me makes those just the tip of the iceberg.

Here, there are contracts, health records, blue prints, and photographs, all things in which shouldn’t surprise me, but do.

I didn’t even know where to begin, so I simply reached out to the first thing I saw: an ultrasound picture dated 1996.

I was born in 1998.

My brows remained furrowed at the image, but there was still so much more for me to look at, putting the photograph in the back of my mind.

Setting it down, I then looked at blueprints to buildings I didn’t recognize as well as a few houses as it seemed as well.

There were a thousand questions spurring in my head right now, however there was one thought that battled out over all of the others—the one fact I wished wasn’t true.

I really didn’t know my father at all.

_____

Though my instinct was to cover everything around me up, I didn’t trust that Imani and Kara wouldn’t come back to poke around in my father’s things.

I like them, but I don’t know who they are or the reasoning behind their reactions when they saw my father’s multiple fake passports in that bag.

I had hidden those back behind the wall considering they already saw them, but everything else was stuffed flush into my coat pockets in a way that made it look like they were empty.

My business here was done, but my guard was up now.

As I stepped out of the barn, the feeling of eyes tingled the back of my neck yet again, but the twins didn’t bother to remain hidden this time.

I told them on the walk back that I had tried tearing open the bottom of the couch but didn’t find anything, and I think I put on enough of an act that they believed my need for silence was due to disappointment rather than millions of questions continuing to form.

There was a lot I needed to figure out, but I could only get through it step by step.

Though my mother’s house wasn’t home by any means, I really just wanted to get into Xavier’s t-shirt I stole for the weekend and curl up on the couch.

Not much was spoken as Imani and Kara walked me back to the road, disappearing the second they suspected people could see them again back into the shadows. I didn’t bother to try and find them this time. I knew they were close.

Walking straight into what could be considered a backyard, I led myself around the house until I arrived at the front door, but the sight of a car parked in the driveway had me stiffening.

They were home.

I instantly felt my throat begin to tighten, but I forced air to pass into my lungs, not allowing me the opportunity to panic or show weakness.

I was so much stronger than the last time I was here, and I refused to let myself be anything but.

Just take it one step at a time.

Pushing every ugly feeling down, I knew the door was unlocked as I walked right in, my heart already racing at the first sight of my mother and stepfather.

Swallowing down my emotions, my eyes glazed over Andrew sprawled on the couch, clearly drunk and getting dirt all over my things.

“Oh, Madelyn.” My mother smiles widely as she notices me, her eyes red and looking even more disheveled than when I last saw her. “I missed you so much, my sweet girl.”

My sweet girl.

The name makes my stomach churn, hating how happy she looks to see me as though nothing was wrong.

It took a few beats before I closed the front door behind me, but the noise seemed to have grabbed the attention of the man currently using my blanket.

“And where exactly have you been?” His words slur as his voice is just as scratchy as I remembered it to be. Just the sound of him speaking has chills running through my body, and it was the kind that made me feel nauseous.

A quiet laugh passed from my chest, even though there wasn’t a single part about this that was funny.

“Where have I been?” I repeated, my voice low yet anything but quiet. “Is that a serious question, because it’s a pretty fucking stupid one if it is.”

Never in the twelve years that I’ve known Andrew have I used this tone with him, especially in my mother’s presence. To be completely honest, if it weren’t for my men’s secret visit last week, I’m not sure if I would have been brave enough to still be standing here.

I waited for the lash back—for the inevitable rage I was ready to face, but none of that came.

Watching slightly off guard, my stepfather’s gaze slipped to my mother’s before sitting up slightly on the couch.

“I told you this would happen, Heidi.” He shook his head slightly as though he were a disappointed dad catching his teenage daughter sneaking back in on a Friday night.

The act appalls me, and I’m already finding myself more and more done with this shitty place.

“Andrew, don’t.” My mom responds with a dismissive, yet lazy gesture, moving over to the small fridge she owned to grab herself a beer.

I still hadn’t walked from the doorway, but the direction I could sense this conversation going in didn’t exactly seem welcoming. Plus, there were no longer many places I could go now that two other people took up the space.

Choosing to lean slightly against the wall instead, I remained tense as Andrew pushed himself upright, the blanket I had been using now half on the floor and half across his legs.

It was not something I would be touching again, I knew that for sure.

“Her neck is proof enough.” My stepfather continued as he shot a disgusted sneer my way, but I let it wash right over me, even though I didn’t know what he was going on about. “I mean look at her. Little miss perfect is whoring herself out for money because her boyfriend probably got sick of the bitch and dumped her.”

“...”

Was he actually insinuating I was a prostitute?

If I thought I was angry before, then the white hot rage pouring through my veins made my previous emotions look like one of a saint.

“Let’s get two things straight here,” I begin, my voice surprisingly steady despite everything else that would make it be otherwise. “One, though it’s funny this is the second time this month I’ve had to explain this, I am not a fucking prostitute.”

I don’t think he was even listening to me, and that only made my irritation burn hotter.

It didn’t take me long to realize his accusation was a result of the fading hickeys across my throat from my last night with Caleb, Alec, and Xavier, but I was almost curious to know how he’d react to learning the men who gave me these marks were the same ones who had him pissing himself in fear.

“And two, if you call me a bitch again, your tongue will be the next thing you’ll lose.”

I could feel my adrenaline surging through me with each passing second, and as I watched the colour blanch from Andrew’s cheeks, I’ll admit it’s satisfaction that flows through me next.

“Madelyn, you apologize right now—” My mother begins, but I cut her off.

I’m so fucking tired.

“Do you even give the slightest shit about me, mom?” I ask, crossing my arms over my chest so nobody could see the shake of my muscles. My body’s response was one of fear, sadness, and adrenaline, and I didn’t want either of them to know I was feeling anything at all.

My question caused her to stumble for a beat, but then she was back to scowling as though I was the one completely wrong here.

“You come into my house and treat your family with such open disrespect. It’s you, my dear, who should be asking yourself if you care for us.”

I didn’t want to cry—I’ve wasted way too many tears on these people who don’t deserve them, but I was afraid my will to remain strong wouldn’t hold up for much longer.

It was at this moment I wished I would’ve put my mindless insecurities aside and invited even one of my boyfriends to come with me, because right now I feel as though I were about to collapse with no safety nets to catch me.

“You’re the ones who’ve been gone for the last five days for the trip you initiated.” I argued, and while Andrew groaned on the couch, my mother took a step towards me.

“You’re stressing out your father right now. Mind your mouth.”

He is not my father, but it was a long lost claim I’ve insisted for years.

I wanted to scream that at the top of my lungs, but it would be childish and I didn’t want to reveal how much these horrible people had an effect on me.

Another humorless laugh left my body, and it hurt as it came out.

“I’m stressing him out.” I say under my breath, forcing myself to hear what she said so I could let it dissolve away in my head.

Of course it’s me who’s the problem here. Sure, my hosts have been gone for nearly the entire trip without a word, but I’m the one at fault.

I’m so done with this place.

“Your father is going through a lot of pain, and—” My mother starts yet again, but I’m so sick and tired of listening to the bullshit excuses that spill from her mouth.

There’s always another excuse—another mindless reason that always makes me feel guilty. But this was not my fault.

If this conversation was happening even a month ago, my responses would have likely been extremely different compared to what I’m about to say now, but I was done rolling over to things I shouldn’t have to shy away from.

I came here for closure, and I was slowly getting it, even if I felt a part of myself breaking in the process.

“It’s funny how you seem to care so much about every goddamned thing in this world except for me.” I cut her off, not allowing either of them to talk over what I needed to say. “Do you not care about how many times this man has hurt me while you were too drunk to help me?”

My chest was constricting inside of me, but I pushed through it.

This was the one and only time I would be speaking these words, so I just needed to be strong for a little longer.

“Don’t talk to your mother like that.” Andrew tried to defend as though he were a loving husband standing up for his wife, but it only made my lips curl with disgust.

“What has gotten into you?” My mom lectures like I was disappointing her—like I had no reason to be upset.

The first tear fell at that, and I hated everything it represented.

I was done, and I didn’t know how to repair those pieces of me that longed for the parent that died a long time ago.

“Why can’t you just fucking love me?” I cried, needing to physically hold myself so I didn’t pass out from the pain. What did I do to become so undeserving of her attention?

“This is ridiculous—” Andrew slurred, and it only made me hurt more.

There was no hiding the painful shake of my muscles at this point, however both of them seemed so drunk that I doubted they’d remember this conversation in the morning.

I felt my mind curl in on itself as my stepfather stumbled up from the couch, and I wanted to throw up as his eyes met mine.

I hated it, but I caved and looked away back to my mom.

“Your perfect little husband broke me growing up, and I came back here to give you a chance to apologize yet you still defend him.”

“Madelyn—”

“Do you not know how scared I always was?” I yelled, “Scared he was going to hit me again, or lock me in a closet and forget that I was there? Do you not understand how terrified I was that he was going to rape me when I was too weak to fight back.”

I was full on breaking down now, but I couldn’t care anymore. Everything inside of me hurt, and I didn’t even try to fight off the signs of me beginning to hyperventilate when I felt them coming.

“You always were such an imaginative kid.” Andrew spits as he walks towards me, my body tightening up as I push my back against the wall.

My hand was already on the dagger in my pocket, but I could barely make out his features through the blur of my tears and fright.

How could I escape this? I just needed everything to stop.

“Get out of my house.” I heard my mother shout from my side, and the tears spilling down my cheeks became a continuous stream.

Did she not just hear a single thing I said?

I’m breaking and it’s as though I’m not even here.

“You heard her.” Andrew comes close enough that I can smell the alcohol pouring off of him, but it’s his presence that threatens a gag from my throat. “Leave.”

I felt a part of my brain shut down a little at that, my body still shaking but not being able to associate the emotions to it. I was simply done.

Pushing off of the wall, I walked past my stepfather, not letting myself feel anything under the smug sneer of his face.

It wasn’t until I heard my mother’s voice that I stopped, my head slowly moving to where her fingers clutched onto the counter top.

“No.” She says, the word rasping as she spoke. It was directed towards me, but it was Andrew she was looking at. “I was talking to you. Go stay at John’s for the next few days and cool off?”

I was still crying where I stood as my mother moved out of the kitchen and over to the couch, shooting me a half sorry, half exasperated look.

She wasn’t sending him away for me, though. She just didn’t want to deal with the conflict.

There was a long moment where I believed Andrew was going to lash out for the demand, but as I continued to hold myself, something flashed before his eyes.

I knew the twins were in the house, ready to step in if anyone tried anything, but based on the way he shifted nervously, I almost wondered if it were because of the message Caleb, Alec, and Xavier had sent him.

They showed him mercy that night, and I had no doubt about it that they would kill Andrew for me the second I gave them the go ahead.

Power flushed through me at that, and I think it was the only thing that kept me standing as the man of my nightmares walked around me.

I didn’t turn as I heard the door slam shut at his hasty exit, nor did I look towards my mother by the couch.

My tears had never ceased, though, and while I felt a weight leave my chest now that Andrew was no longer here, nothing was okay.

My heart had shattered and my mind was overwhelmed, understanding that this was goodbye.

The next time I see my stepfather will be with his life draining from his eyes, my mother hopefully taking the hint to disappear herself.

Nothing could be the same, but I didn’t want to be a part of this life anymore. I wanted to be in the arms of my men, the laughter of Hailey, and the escape of photography. I haven’t been the girl from Detroit in a very long time, and I was sick of pretending there was still something left for me here.

“I don’t want you in my life anymore.” I sobbed as my head hung in defeat, but when I didn’t get any response, my head snapped up to the woman across from me—the woman who was passed out on the couch from the alcohol, not bothered to entertain my visit any longer.

The sight destroyed what was left of my old self, and I felt it as Kara and Imani left to give me my space.

I was thankful for it too, because I could barely breathe as my hand rested hard against my chest, droplets of my tears being blinked from my eyes and down to my trembling fingertips.

The world around me spun as everything came crashing on top of my body, nausea, grief and despair weighing me down like the chains of my past.

I didn’t know how to break out, and with my mother unconscious on the couch, my feet somehow managed to carry me to my childhood bedroom.

The reason I’ve been avoiding the entrapment of these four walls remains the same even after all I’ve managed to face today, but still I forced myself to close the door.

I forced myself to grab the pillow and blanket resting on top of the single mattress bed, just as I then forced myself to the ground, creating a spot for me to sleep now that the sofa wasn’t an option.

The hardwood felt like knives against my back as I settled down, but the one’s stabbing at my heaving chest were way worse.

I was going to leave in the morning—I knew that for certain—but the pain was too consuming to even think about anything other than the reason for my shaking.

My heart was bleeding out slowly with each fallen tear down my face, and it scared me because I didn’t know how to stop it.


- End of Chapter 67 -

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