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Chapter 78 : Alec

Chapter 78 : Alec
Monday, September 13th, 2021

Looking out at the night sky of New York, I couldn’t believe how much of it was the same. The lights of the buildings were still aglow and the dark still brought a peaceful kind of quiet, but it felt like so much had changed for this one thing to remain so constant.

I was supposed to be asleep right now, but I simply couldn’t, my mind too restless to allow me even a minute.

Madelyn was back, but not really.

She was distant and so sad. Watching her break apart in Caleb’s arms earlier made me jealous for the first time in our relationship, because I’ve never wanted to hold her so badly.

She was in pain, and it was our fault.

Being overwhelmed in every way possible, I was on my own until the sound of soft footsteps made me suspect I wasn’t the only one restlessly thinking about the things to come next.

Turning away from the railing of the first floor balcony, I found Madelyn standing quietly at the patio doors, waiting for permission to join me.

She would never have to ask, though. My answer would never change.

My nod was combined with a tired sigh, but I didn’t wait to see if she would act on the action. I already knew she had when I felt the heat of her body move to my side, copying my position and resting her forearms against the glass fencing.

For what felt like forever, we were both quiet, staring out at the landscape yet fully attuned to the other’s presence.

It was she who spoke first, because Madelyn was well aware my silence was me giving her the control as to where she wanted to take this.

If only either of us knew.

“I feel so small seeing the city like this.” She says after some time, brushing back a piece of her hair behind her ear. Not turning my head purposely so I didn’t have to see what she was thinking, I simply listened to the sound of each of her breaths.

We were so close right now her arm was flush against mine and that on its own had my heart racing in response.

“In a good or bad way?” I asked, my voice rough as I spoke.

It sounded as though my throat was raw from screaming, probably because it was. When I could see her shift in movement at the question, it caused me to brave looking over at her. When I did, I found Madelyn’s eyes already on me.

My heart clenched in a way that was proof of how much I was hurting, but I still chose to keep that bit of distance between us. I didn’t have the right to feel bad when I could’ve stopped it.

“I haven’t decided yet.” She admits, looking down at where our hands were nearly touching. The desire to go to her was strong, but I just don’t think her mind was as ready as her heart was.

I didn’t want to push her or make a move to get closer, but at least she wasn’t completely pushing me away. That had to mean something, didn’t it?

“And what about everything else?” I whisper next, willing every ounce of control within me to go at her pace, even though I could see how much it was slowly killing her too.

Madelyn had no idea how much I wished I could lie and tell her everything would be okay between us, but the truth is that I wasn’t sure if that was a promise I could keep.

If she could, I know Madelyn would tell me that she wasn’t bothered by the fact her father killed Xavier’s mom—that she could fully trust us again to not keep secrets from her after promising for a second time we wouldn’t. But that’s just not the way it was, and that was the issue.

“I don’t know.” She shrugs her shoulders helplessly, however it was the response I’d expected all the same. We made sure her father was safe—the price of that is yet to be determined—but even that wouldn’t be enough to fix the things that were already so damaged.

Even though it’s clear Madelyn wants to forgive us, she doesn’t know how to because we betrayed her in a way that isn’t as easy as simply moving on. She just learned she has a brother and a whole other family she doesn’t understand, and while she’s mad at us, I know half of her feelings are directed towards her father too.

Taking in the tiredness of her eyes and the slight trembles of her posture, I could tell this was eating away at her for more reasons than the obvious fact we kept secrets that weren’t ours to keep.

“I know that I need time.” Madelyn says after a small stretch of silence, but I don’t miss the way she turns so she’s facing me more openly.

I would give her as long as she needed, even though we don’t have any left to spare. It didn’t matter. I would give her anything she wanted if it meant soothing the pain I caused her.

Madelyn surprised me when she slid her hand across the railing and slowly intertwined her fingers with mine, but I made no move other than to accept, too afraid to scare off what was happening.

“I know that I’m hurt and angry and sad...” She continued, “But I also know the reason this hurts the way it does is because I still want you three above everything else.”

My heart stopped when her eyes finally looked back up at me, feeling as though the world itself had stopped within a single moment. Neither of us looked like ourselves right now, but we were still us, just a little more complicated.

I completely stilled as Madelyn took a single step towards me, tears beading in her eyes but not falling down the rosy pink of her cheeks. She planted a hand right on my chest where my pulse thrummed nervously, and then she tilted her head up so I could really see her.

I could see the light freckles across her nose only visible at this proximity, and the curve of her jaw I’ve spent hours studying in past times when we’ve cuddled. I look at the slight tint of brown you can see around her pupils before it fades into a bright green, before looking down to her mouth where the dip of her cupid’s bow reminded me of all of the times I’d spent kissing her there.

Madelyn was a canvas of memories I would never be able to forget, and if the time comes one day where she decides she doesn’t want us anymore, I know that won’t change a thing for me. I will never be able to love anybody that isn’t her again.

“Alec.” My name rolls off of her tongue in a current that has the power to bring me to my knees, and when I raise my hand to cup her cheek in the way I’ve been wanting to, she utters the words that tear me apart.

“I still love you.”

I watch as her eye tracks the tear that falls down my face before pulling my head down to hers, resting her forehead against mine as her sad exhale passes across my cheeks.

Like I said, this wasn’t forgiveness, but it was an understanding, one in which that left me both whole and destroyed all over again.

“I love you too, princess.” I whisper against her lips, despite how strained and heartbreakingly mournful those words were. “There will never be a world where I don’t.”

There was a pause. A beat. A second. And then Madelyn rose on her tiptoes that remaining centimeter before her lips brushed against mine, the feather light touch intangible yet so incredibly strong.

She stayed like that for just a moment, and it was then I realized what this was. One more kiss— one last kiss, that was going to destroy me the second she pulled away.

Another tear fell from my eyes as I let Madelyn hold me, but when her’s began to mix with mine, I moved, grabbing her by the waist and pulling her into me until she was clinging onto my shirt as though it were a lifeline.

With our eyes shut in sadness, we seared our time’s end in the same place our story began—the place where she kissed me for the first time and took my heart as her own.

Over and over, we drew ourselves back in as if neither of us were ready to let go; to let go of each other or the mornings spent in the other’s embrace. Of all of the firsts we’d shared and the people we’ve become in the time we’ve been together.

Never in my life have I held onto something as selfish as my love for Madelyn, but I also knew that no amount of pleading could dissolve the distrust my mistakes have left scarred across her beautiful heart.

God, I know she wanted to be able to forgive us, but some things just weren’t that easy.

When the inevitable came and we eventually pulled apart, our foreheads rested together as they had so many times before. Only it was not the uncontained, intimate act it had once been.

This time, it felt like goodbye.

“Please, Mads.” I begged her one last time, but in the end, it only brought us both more pain to hear it. With her hands still clutching tight to my shirt, I cried as she gently removed them, her bottom lip trembling from the unforgiving weight of our end.

Her voice cracking, I closed my eyes as she whispered what I knew was a decision. The last decision.

“I can’t.”

And despite the fact we were still standing together side by side, we both broke apart in each other’s absence.

______

Tuesday, September 14th, 2021
(2:15 AM)

Madelyn didn’t come to bed when she all but pleaded to be left alone on the balcony afterwards.

I could still taste the faint hint of cherry against my lips from the very kiss that in fact drove me to my knees, but it just wasn’t the same knowing it would be the last time I’d experience it.

Since then I’ve been lying awake for hours in my room, debating between whether I should give her the space she asked for or try to promise yet again we could find a way to fix this. That we weren’t over.

Thoughts of if she was still on the balcony flooded my mind, wondering if she was cold or if she needed something. We’d set her up in one of the guest rooms at her request, but what if, what if, what if.

I didn’t need to look in a mirror to know that my eyes were red and puffy, lined with dark circles from my lack of sleep.

I missed her already, and every time I think I can handle the thought of her leaving once the dust settles, my body proves myself wrong.

Please don’t let this be the end. Please let this be some fucked up nightmare I can fix by simply opening my eyes.

Only when I did, everything still hurt.

Giving up on any hopes of finding sleep tonight, I pushed myself up onto my forearms, my denial being my only aid in succeeding in even that.

I was going to go see Madelyn, because I couldn’t live with the idea of her feeling alone, even when it was my fault—

“Alec!” I heard Caleb’s voice yell in panic a second before the sound of something large smashing traveled to my ears, my hand grabbing the gun in my bedside drawer as instinct took over.

The first person I thought of was Madelyn, and I could only pray she’d gone back to the third floor where her bed was for the night. Whatever was happening was from the level below me, and I needed her safe.

There’s no way someone could have gotten into the house, but if it were Vincent, I don’t even think our own wards could keep him out.

“Fuck!” I heard Xavier curse this time, but when I ran down the hall and over to the stairs, all I saw was something in my friend’s hand before the glint of metal caught my eye.

One of the wooden bar stools was broken into splinters on the ground, however the second it was obvious there were no real threats in the house, there was only one other reason Caleb would be looking like he was dying.

In Xavier’s hand lay a metal ring, the one he’d gifted to Madelyn as both a tracker, and an engraved symbol of our power that almost guaranteed her safety from everyone but those foolish enough to cross us.

The only question now was where was she?

“Xavier.” I try to coax as I tuck my gun away within my clothing, moving down the stairs as I then notice the slightly crumpled piece of paper in Caleb’s hand.

Denial clawed away at my mind at what I suspected it to be, but I needed to calm the third of us down before he fell into one of his episodes that took weeks to bring him out of.

“He took her.” Xavier growled as he paced, his hands pulling at his hair so hard I feared he might pull it out. “He had to have. She’s smarter than to leave like this. She wouldn’t have taken this off.”

His thoughts came out as one jumbled stream of words, but all I could think about was the way my throat was tightening and my hands were shaking as I got to Caleb’s side.

He didn’t even look at me, grimly handing over the sheet of paper that had Madelyn’s handwriting on it. I didn’t understand. While we had her car brought to our driveway from Jolene’s, there was no way she could even step foot off of the premises without us being alerted.

Caleb balled his fists as he silently looked at the ring clasped between Xavier’s fingertips, leaving me with no other choice but to read what I already feared.

To Alec, Caleb, and Xavier... I really don’t know where to begin this, but I suppose apologizing is a good start. I know you wouldn’t let me go on my own, and that’s why I had to leave, no matter how much I appreciate the space you were all willing to give me. I promise where I’m going will keep me safe, but there’s too much happening right now for me to stay here.

Clutching the paper between my hands, I looked up to make sure what I was reading was real. That Madelyn had left us and didn’t seem like she was coming back.

Caleb was quiet in the way he showed his fear, but Xavier looked like he was about to tear the world apart to get her back.

I had a feeling that’s what would happen as I looked back down to the letter, continuing where I left off.

The truth is that I have secrets of my own, namely the fact I saw my father a month ago when he snuck up on me in my car. He spoke of a man, one who had been hunting him since before I was born. Now I know that was Vincent. That wasn’t all, however. He also told me to stay with you three, because he knew love when he saw it and trusted that you’d be able to keep me safe when he couldn’t.

But this couldn’t be true. Marcus has been trying to break us down from the inside for decades, and yet he speaks of loyalty. He’s had every opportunity to take Madelyn and marry her off to Lev Ivankov to fulfill his bargain, but he left her with us instead.

I didn’t understand.

Why would the enemy leave his daughter with the man whose mother he killed?

It was then I realized something I didn’t know if Xavier had figured out through all of his frantic pacing, but I did, and it changed this entire game.

He asked me not to say anything, but what much does it matter now with everything so messed up? Madelyn’s letter says, but if she were here I would tell her it matters. That everything that has to do with her does.

Something came up tonight, and I knew I had to go, and not just temporarily. Maybe in another life what we had could’ve been forever, but we live in a fucked up, unfair world. There are some things I need to work out on my own, but I hope you know I will never forget you three. You were the only things I’d ever truly chosen for myself, and I think a part of me—no matter how far I go—will always belong to you. Maybe one day we’ll meet again, but for now, this has to be goodbye.

“Sincerely Madelyn.” I whispered the last two words, urging myself not to tear the paper in two out of sheer and utter pain. I was angry, and hurt, and sad, but above all else, I was fucking terrified.

Fear is an emotion we have beaten out of ourselves from day one in the mafia, but I’m pretty sure I was having a panic attack right now because I quite literally couldn’t breathe.

My instincts told me to fight it—to leave now and track Madelyn down before it was too late, but it had been hours since I last saw her on the balcony. She could be anywhere right now, hurt or even... no. Her being dead would never be an option.

I didn’t realize I was shaking until Caleb clasped a hand on my shoulder to steady me, but still, he refused to look in even my direction.

Was I the ‘something that came up’? Was our kiss the reason Madelyn’s in more danger than she could ever understand?

The thought tore me apart, and I was surprised I hadn’t thrown up yet based on the nausea hitting me like a train.

“What could have come up?” Xavier spits, pulling at his hair again as tears welled in his eyes. “She promised us she’d stay in her room as long as we gave her space. She—”

“Xavier.” Caleb tries to carefully get his attention, sensing the spiral he was going down. He’s been different since Madelyn, but I think we all forgot for a while what this other side of him was like.

It started with the denial, the pain, the panic, and then the rage, and I could tell he was teetering on the edge of the first three. If he gets to the fourth... fuck, he needs to not get there.

I was caught between calming him, and resisting the impending levels of dizziness taking over, but there was only one thing that mattered here and it had nothing to do with any of us.

It hasn’t been since Madelyn walked into our lives, and we risk everything if we cave to the fear eating away at our hearts.

“Saverio, fermati.” I say in Italian, using the name his mother used to call him before she died—a name he hasn’t heard in years thanks to his father. In English, I said, Xavier, stop, but I knew he wouldn’t listen to me otherwise.

His dark eyes connected with mine almost instantly, pure anger swirling within the black irises now focused on me. It was hard because I could see the tears he refused to spill, but we had too much to lose risking all of our energy on our emotions.

I had his attention now, and that was good enough.

“Caleb, we could still find her if she’s with her phone. Look at any texts, calls, or transactions she might have made with it. I’m going to talk to security to figure out why we weren’t notified of her absence.”

It was usually Xavier who called the shots, but I wasn’t letting that happen this time. Not when in this state his only idea would be killing people until we found what we needed.

We all paused for a short second, two sets of eyes staring at me in understanding. We knew that this wasn’t something we could risk fucking up. This was it, and we only had one shot at making things right.

The second Caleb moved, I did, putting Madelyn’s letter on the kitchen counter before gauging all of my options. Xavier didn’t give me the chance to do that, though, before I was suddenly being pinned down by his hand at the back of my neck.

“What did you say to her, Alec?” He asks the second we’re alone, my face pressed against the cold marble countertop with his grip unwavering.

I could already tell Xavier was feeling backed into a corner just by the way he shook, but this wasn’t the first time we’ve fought and it sure as hell won’t be the last either.

“We have more important things to worry about right now.” I argue, trying to hook my leg behind his to catch him off guard but he was terrifyingly focused in his hold.

Feeling his mouth come down to my ear, he gives me the opportunity I was looking for. Using my hand instead, I hooked my elbow around his head to off his balance, pushing away and getting out of his reach in mere seconds.

“You don’t think the fact you were the last one to see her holds any impact on where she might’ve gone?” Xavier growls, coming back to his full height and rounding on me. “Caleb would’ve said something, but I can practically see the guilt in your eyes.”

I couldn’t argue with that, but every second we fought was a second we could be using to find Madelyn.

“You want a lead? Call Hailey. Madelyn can’t make it far without any of her belongings.” I say, trying to distract him even though I’m sure Caleb’s already on it. We were walking a very fine line here, and it was only a matter of time before one of us teetered over the edge.

The other reason that I didn’t want to talk about this is because an even greater part of me feared Xavier was right. That I was the push that drove Madelyn away from us for good.

“If I find out this happened because of something you said, Alec, I swear to god—”

“What, Xavier? What exactly are you going to do?” I shout. “In case you’ve forgotten, none of this would’ve happened if you weren’t so insistent on all of us keeping secrets!”

Only a second passes before I know my words got to him, and it was in a way I already found myself regretting.

I watch as Xavier throws the ring he’d just been clutching onto so tightly somewhere into the living room where neither of us could see the metal anymore. The motion caused a tear to fall from his eye, but I don’t think he even noticed it happened when he shoved me with a force he’s never used on me before.

I didn’t see it coming until my body was thrown to the ground, because I had finally pushed him too far with the blame all three of us bore with great remorse.

My head slammed against the back of the couch before all I could see was Xavier storming out of the house, tense and in so much pain.

He was gone before I could even utter a word, and I feared like Madelyn, this time he would not come back.


- End of Chapter 78 -

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