Theirs to Claim | 18+

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Chapter 80 : Madelyn

A/N: Hi everyone! I just wanted to write a quick message to keep you guys informed considering this is the last chapter for “Theirs to Claim.” I’d like to start by saying just how grateful I am to have all of you as my readers. Some of you have been with me from the start in August, and others are some of my newer supporters, but overall it’s been so amazing to have you with me as I wrote Madelyn, Xavier, Caleb, and Alec’s story.

The truth is that the release date of today was no coincidence, and it was actually my birthday yesterday, so I wanted to celebrate with the fact I have officially written my first book!! It’s definitely a huge achievement for me, and I’ve already started planning the sequel “Forever Hers” because I’m so damn excited. The Q&A section will be posted tomorrow where I’ve spent some time responding to the questions I’ve received, and I’ll be responding to anymore that come in the future. The epilogue will also be uploaded tomorrow, in addition to the video trailer I’ll be posting on my Instagram (aurelia.2395).

On February 4th I’ll be uploading the very first chapter of “Forever Hers” before taking a short break (with the promise of my return on the 18th). It’ll only be two weeks, but I want to take the time to both plan out the sequel a little more, as well as just relax.

I hope you all enjoy this final chapter, because as of right now, “Theirs to Claim” is officially a completed story!


Chapter 80 : Madelyn
Monday, September 13th, 2021
- Two Days Ago -

Hailey: Hey, are you okay?

Me: Yeah, why?

Hailey: You just never came home from Jolene’s, so I wanted to make sure you were okay.

Me: Shit, sorry. Things are a little crazy right now. Xavier was waiting for me at the Cafe, and some stuff happened that led to me ending up back at the mansion. I’ll tell you everything the next time I see you. Everything good on your end?

Hailey: Yeah but I definitely think we could use another talk at some point. Things are just feeling off right now.

Me: What’s going on? Do you want me to come back?

Hailey: No, it’s okay. You have enough things to worry about right now.

Me: I’ll be fine, I’m worried about you. What happened?

Hailey: I asked Mila to move in with me over dinner tonight. Turns out she’s moving to Ontario to live closer to her parents and already has all of the documents she needs to get there. She doesn’t want me to come with.

Madelyn: Hails, I’m so sorry to hear that. Are you at the house? I’ll come meet you wherever you are.

Hailey: Yeah I’m home... but I just don’t understand it. I thought she loved me better than that. Do you think we can have a movie night with some snacks? I could really use a distraction right now.

Me: Of course, I’ll be over as soon as I can. I should be there in about 45.

Hailey: Thank you. I really appreciate it.

Me: Like I said, anytime.

And that’s how I got to being in my car, the flash of Xavier’s ring on my finger allowing me right past the guards without a second glance.

I would be back, but I just know Hailey has to be heartbroken. Truthfully, I think I was a little too.

The kiss I shared with Alec tonight nearly killed me, and after I all but begged him to go, I fell apart right there on the balcony until I wasn’t able to cry anymore.

It’s been about an hour since then, and even thinking about it still hurts. So, I just stopped, turning up my radio loud until it was strong enough to muffle the thoughts that tore away at my heart.

I knew I would see Caleb, Alec, and Xavier again soon enough, but I had to be smart about this, not just for my safety but also for my emotions.

I feel like I could fall apart at any moment right now, and I don’t know if they’d be able to save me this time.

With my dagger clutched tight in my hand—the gift Jolene had given me—I parked my car in Hailey’s garage to keep hidden, checking my surroundings before getting out.

I locked up straight from there, not letting my guard down for a second until I was in the house with the door closing behind me.

The first thing I noticed was how dark it was inside, the only light coming in being from the unclosed blinds and the television that was currently aglow. On the couch across from it slept Hailey, her dark brown curls tied up in a bun with a blanket draped over her body.

I’d tried to get here as quickly as I could, but I could imagine she was exhausted from the stress of what I’m assuming to be a break up.

It’s honestly a wonder that I wasn’t out cold already too.

I think I just had too much on my mind right now for sleep.

Giving her a sad smile since I knew she couldn’t see, I grabbed the remote that was on the table in front of her, powering off the TV so she could rest while the night still allowed her to.

My first instinct was to stay on the chair beside her to be there when she wakes up, but the logical part of me tells me I should probably go back to the mansion.

There hadn’t been nearly enough time yet for me to forgive them for the secrets they kept, but I knew being with them was the best thing I could do for all of us right now.

If putting aside my feelings is what keeps us all alive right now, then that’s what I’ll do.

“How did things get so messed up?” I sigh under my breath, walking into the kitchen to where we keep our pens and grocery lists.

I didn’t want her to feel like I didn’t show, but maybe I could come here in the morning with Xavier after his usual workout to check in. I think I might need Hailey just as bad as she needs me right now.

After scribbling out a quick note for her, I tossed the pad of paper onto the counter where she could see it in the morning.

I wished I could stay, but alas, I walked into my room instead to pack some of my personal items I knew I would need to tide me over these next few days.

It was the right thing to do, so making sure I was quiet enough to not wake Hailey, I grabbed my headphones, the book I’d just started recently, and a heavier jacket to keep me warm.

I’m sure there’s more I’ll need depending on how long I end up staying, but this should be good for now.

With the items either in my hands or tucked away in my pockets, I opened up my bedside table for one last thing. Retrieving the box of assorted chocolates I’d bought last week, I made sure the kind Hailey liked most were still in there.

It wouldn’t make up for what I’m sure she’s feeling right now, but chocolate could never hurt.

Slipping on my jacket and glancing around the room one last time for anything I might need, I sighed as I turned back to my door.

I hadn’t even realized having my hands full was a mistake before I saw a flash of black to my right, the figure of somebody large coming up to my back. I spun around instantly as the items from my arms dropped, the sound of chocolates scattering on the floor, but my dagger was in my hand within seconds.

Whoever was in the house very clearly didn’t belong there as I stared into the face of a masked person, and I didn’t wait as I swung out, meeting the abdomen of my target.

The grunt of a man had me darting out of his path as he let out a cry of pain, but my adrenaline had my heart spiking as my hand grabbed out to the handle.

“Hailey, get out!” I screamed, hoping to wake her up, but I wasn’t given the chance to do the same before two more people were advancing on me, another man accompanied by a woman.

“Blyad!” The person I cut shouted, a heavy... Russian accent layering his words?

“Hailey, run!” I tried again as I was forced away from the door, but no matter how good I was with a blade, I was outnumbered and extremely rusty.

My skin prickled as the man clutched his now bleeding stomach, and when his eyes rounded back to me, I was absolutely terrified.

“She’s his, that’s for sure.” The woman spoke, pulling something from her pocket that had me swallowing nervously. With her hand steadily clutching a needle filled with something I sure as fuck didn’t trust, I pulled my arm back with the dagger in hand.

The man beside her was very intent on staring at the ring Xavier had given me on my finger, but I cut him off before he could speak.

“I may be outnumbered, but I won’t hesitate to throw this if you don’t get out of my house right now.” I threatened, my eyes moving from the serum to their friend very clearly in pain. “And it’s going at the big one too.”

I wouldn’t miss, but I never had the chance to anyways.

A deep chuckle came from behind me before I could even realize there was a fourth, the sharp prick of a needle piercing my neck before I could do anything to stop it.

“Why are you laughing, you asshole? This bitch cut me.” The Russian man cursed, but it only made the person behind me appear more amused.

“She’s my sister, Lev. I’d be disappointed if she didn’t.”

Sister?

I panicked and struggled as two arms grabbed at my body, but within five seconds, the injection caused me to be too weak to keep a hold of the dagger.

Three seconds later, I could no longer stay conscious, one last breath leaving my mouth before everything faded to black.
_____

Wednesday, September 15th, 2021
- Present Day -

The first thing I noticed when I opened my eyes was the painful throb of my headache. The next was the fact the dulled light in the room I woke up in felt too obscenely bright, everything around me spinning.

“That will be all, Cameron.” I heard the blurred voice of a man close by, but I was too out of it to depict anything more than fuzzy outlines.

I heard a door click shut only moments later before I was able to tell I was laying down on a white bed with the sheets pulled over my body. My mind urged my hands to move and push me up, but everything felt too heavy and too sluggish to leave the comfort of the warm blankets.

Lifting my head ever so slightly from the pillow it was resting against, I was able to notice the single light above me actually had a gentle flicker to it, only noticeable if you looked close enough.

“You’re awake.” That same male voice from earlier spoke, but this time when I looked in the direction of the sound, I swear my once racing heart stopped beating all together. My body was still coming down from whatever drug I had been injected with, but there was no doubt about who the man in front of me was.

“Dad.” I say, my throat painfully dry and scratchy, but I knew he heard me nonetheless. My father was right in front of me, wearing the same glasses I remember him wearing when I was still young.

“It’s good to see you, kid.” He smiles as he stands from the chair across from me, coming over to sit on the edge of my bed. The entire time I was silent, forcing myself not to flinch away or freak out over the fact that I didn’t feel safe.

For the first time being around my dad, I was scared.

“The dizziness is from the propofol we gave you to get you here. I’m sorry there wasn’t a more... civilized way in such short notice, Maddie.” He—Marcus—says, and instead of returning his grin, I put every single bit of my strength into sitting up in case I needed to protect myself. “Everything’s going to be okay. I’m going to explain everything.”

My elbows almost collapse under my weight as I push myself upright, but I manage, scooching back until I was able to lean against the wooden headboard.

So much has changed since I last saw my father, and while a part of me wanted to go into his arms and hug him in the way I’ve wanted to since he left, I refused to be lied to any longer.

I needed answers and I needed them now.

“Where am I?” I ask as I look around the room now that I’m more awake, noticing for the first time that there wasn’t a single window in this place. There was nothing personalized and no colour other than the red lettering of an alarm clock sitting on the bedside table.

It looked like a cleaner version of a prison.

“We call this the Keep.” My dad explains, opening his arms as though this were a luxury. “You’re free to decorate this room however you’d like once we get you settled in and relaxed.”

Under control and tamed.

I think back to the man—Lev—that I’d slashed with my knife and the detail that my brother was also there. Fuck, he’d been in the room with my father as I was waking up before he was sent away.

I couldn’t explain it, but everything felt off here. Things were more than definitely wrong.

“Where am I?” I ask again, hoping he can tell from my tone his answer wasn’t the one I was looking for. I wanted to know how long it would take for me to get back to New York where I belonged.

“San Diego.” He says, wincing slightly at my tone and sensing he had a lot of damage control to take care of. That didn’t help me to settle in the least. “There’s so much that you don’t know about, but you’re safe here. You’re back home.”

No. My home is in New York, no matter how mad I am at Caleb, Alec, and Xavier. Right now, I would give anything to be with them again, secrets be damned.

“I didn’t realize it took drugging and forcing me to get to a place that’s my so-called home.” I countered as a very obvious frown marked my face, my pulse nervously beating against my chest—against the clothes I’ve most certainly never worn before. “Tell me what’s going on. You owe me at least that.” I say, praying my reactions were just my paranoia talking.

My father’s sigh sent chills up my spine, and not in a good way.

I wasn’t scared of him physically hurting me, but rather about what all of this meant. There’s no way the men back at home would let this happen without some sort of intense form of manipulation involved.

Either way, I didn’t care what my dad wanted to call it. I was kidnapped and didn’t want to be here.

“It’s understandable that you’re feeling overwhelmed. I know this is a lot, but the answers you seek are easier shown than described.” He shakes his head as he extends his hand out to me. It’s a very long time before I accept.

If that’s what it takes to get me out of this room, then it’s an easy price to pay.

“I needed to be able to get you somewhere alone so we could talk without the ears of others around us. Nowhere is safe anymore.” My father says, opening the door into the hallway as the both of us stepped out, halls upon halls of identical entrances lining the pathway. “Well apart from here of course.” He adds at the last second, shooting me a smile I’m assuming that’s supposed to be comforting.

I was pissed though, and nothing he could say could fix that. Not right now at least.

He’s been keeping just as many secrets from me himself, and I’d hoped he’d be able to repair the distrust I now have, but so far he was failing. Because of that, I chose to stay silent and take in my surroundings instead, scanning for any possible exits I can get out of at night.

I still haven’t even processed the fact we were in San Diego, however I don’t exactly have a choice but to accept it right now.

“The last time we spoke, I told you to stay with those three boys you were seeing—”

“Am seeing.” I interrupted, wishing I could just take everything back. All I could think about right now is that I said goodbye to Alec, and now I was trapped here with nowhere to go.

When my father stared blankly at me, I added, “They are my boyfriends, and I plan to see them right after...” I began, but very quickly trailed off when the nervous tick I’d acquired over these recent months was very different from what I was used to. “Where’s my ring?” I ask, trying not to make my voice shake over the fact Xavier’s gift was gone.

All he did was try and persuade me forward, and that made me even more scared.

“Dad, where is my ring?” I repeated, my voice shaking this time as I spoke.

I promised to never take it off. It was the only thing he’s truly ever asked of me, and it wasn’t on my hand.

“Did you know he had a tracker in it?” Is his only response, but it was confirmation enough. Somebody took it, and now the only thing that brought me comfort in this shitty place was gone.

“Yes, I trust him. And even if I didn’t, it’s not your call to take it away.”

I didn’t stop my father as he directed me down the hall by a pushing hand on my back, but the newfound tightness in his jaw told me he was growing tenser by the second.

A lot of things have changed in the six months he’s been gone, and I was no longer the obedient little girl I was before he left. I learned that from the men in my life who bothered to love me the way I needed, and my father didn’t seem to be pleased by it.

“Would you still trust him if I told you he’s now the Don of the Italian-American Mafia?” He says once we’re behind a new set of closed doors, only this room appears to be an office with a computer sitting on a desk.

If it weren’t for his words, I probably would’ve taken the time to look at it. But the only thing I could see was New York and the only thing I could hear was Don.

“What did you say?” I ask, my voice deathly quiet with fear and a shit ton of anger if this wasn’t some messed up joke.

The reality of it not being one was too destructive to even think about.

“I know it’s hard to realize the people who loved you can be—”

“You don’t get to tell me how I feel!” I say, my hands shaking at the thought of Xavier being the Don of the Mafia. This couldn’t be true, because he would never be happy again in a life stricken by forced duty and appearances.

He doesn’t want that future. He never has.

“Xavier killed his father yesterday morning after he and his friends realized you were gone. You would’ve already been on a plane over here with your brother during that time, though.”

A trip I couldn’t remember because I was unconscious at his order. Oh, and whoever this Cameron Monet was, he was not my brother.

I was horrified for Xavier, not even able to imagine how he must be feeling right now. As much as he’ll never admit it and I’ll never say it, I know a part of him has always longed for Vincent’s approval. It was the little boy inside of him who still grieved the life of having parents who couldn’t give less of a shit about you. I know, because I long for it too.

No matter how much my mother has wronged and hurt me, the reason I don’t want her dead like Andrew is because some stupid, minuscule hope of mine is that she’s not gone yet. That there is still some good left in her.

No, I don’t want her dead because I will still grieve her as though she were everything to me, even when I was treated like nothing.

“And whose fault is that?” I accuse after a moment of thinking, walking further into the room for the sole reason of placing some distance between us. I’m not sure if my dad realized it, but he’s hurt me too.

In his own way, he was hurting me now, and I didn’t know what to make of it.

“The Alcaraz’s have been after our family for decades, kiddo. I’m not playing the innocent, but things can’t just stop at Vincent anymore.”

“Why not?” I raised my hands along with my tone in defeat, so exhausted from all of this. I wanted to go back to a week ago when I was still happy. When Xavier, Alec, and Caleb weren’t locked into lives they hated and myself the truths that had me coming apart at the seams.

I stared at the silvering strands of my father’s hair, and the circles under his eyes that hadn’t been there the last time we spoke, and I wished we could go back to when not having him was lonely but manageable.

The sound of his exhale was carried across the room to where I stood, my hands clutching my stomach right over where Xavier’s initials were. At least that couldn’t be taken from me.

“Why aren’t they knocking on this door finding me right now? Why do I feel like if I try to leave this place, you’re going to force me to stay like one would a prisoner?”

He flinched at my words, but didn’t deny any of it, confirming once again that I was right. He wouldn’t let me leave, even if it’s what I wanted.

“Let’s sit and I can show you why you can’t go back to those precious men you think love you.” Marcus practically spits at the last part, and I say Marcus because this was not the man who raised me. No, this person was driven by vengeance and that means something else had to have happened that made Vincent’s death no longer cancel out my uncle’s murder.

“I don’t—”

“Madelyn, sit down.” He demands, and there’s no use in arguing when I’m admittedly feeling sick anyways. Though, his tone did have me on edge either way.

Listening, I sat in the chair across from the office one, my dad occupying that seat once he saw I wasn’t going to try and run.

This entire conversation had me biting my tongue in irritation, but I just wanted answers... and a clue as to how I can get home.

Tracking his movements as he typed something into the sleek black computer in front of him, his eyes met mine, looking just as tired and regretful as I’m sure mine do.

“You’re right.” My father says, nodding his head only once before leaning back slightly. “I can’t imagine how you must be feeling right now, and I’m truly sorry that you got caught in the middle of this disaster. I really did believe Xavier was a good man for you despite his father.”

And that’s the part I didn’t understand. What did he do to make my dad so distrustful of our relationship? I thought having Vincent dead was what everyone wanted.

None of this was voiced however, because I’m slowly learning the less I talk, the more other’s take the silence as an opportunity to fill in the gaps. This time was no different, and instead, it seemed to even calm the edge I could tell we were both on right now.

“You were aware I was throwing a party for the entire organization in celebration of finally being able to make our move on Vincent, but what the Alcaraz’s didn’t realize was that their ambush was essential to that plan.”

I didn’t question how the hell my father knew I was aware of that information.

“I could tell just from those few minutes of watching those men to know that they were in love with you, and I counted on them calling off their assignment on that night of the 13th. However we could’ve still managed if they hadn’t. Either way, it was much easier to handle their stand ins considering we had ones of our own.”

We, as in my father and the wife I had to learn about from Caleb. Was my step brother there too, the one who’s been alive for two years longer than me that I had no idea about until now?

I forced a deep breath in through my nose to calm my senses, because I could already feel myself cracking from the inside out again. There was no way I could risk letting my guard down in a place like this, not with so much on the line.

“Vincent killed the person who was imitating me and kidnapped Natasha while I was trying to get to you, but when he realized we had something that could bring the entire Mafia down on him, he came to us instead. Natasha got away with promises of a deal—we get you in exchange for a kept secret.”

Isn’t that what this whole thing came down to? Secrets.

I didn’t want to hear about the stepmother nobody bothered to tell me about, or the deals that made me feel like nothing more than a bargaining chip.

My ring was gone, and it was he who took it. I couldn’t care less about contracts with Vincent, even though it was my curiosity that kept me listening.

“Pulling back our forces in agreement, we were anonymously contacted about your protective jewelry, and how Xavier, Caleb, and Alec would never believe you left unless it was taken off. We had a professional learn your handwriting so the note looked real—”

“Note?” I cut him off, my eyes widening as my body shot up from my seat. I couldn’t stay quiet about that, because my father was making it sound like I chose to leave them for good. Like they might believe I didn’t want them anymore.

“There’s a lot more you still need to know. You’ll understand why we did what we had to do once I finish explaining.” He tries to defend himself, but this was a line that couldn’t be uncrossed. My dad was speaking like I wouldn’t be going back, and like hell was I going to accept that.

“Explaining what? The fact that the people you look down upon were here for me when you weren’t?” I say, thinking of every moment I had with them that led up to now. “That you took me away from everything that made me happy just to take away my choice again by bringing me here? Why would you work with Vincent anyways if this entire thing is about killing him?”

My dad tracked the way I brought my hands down to rest against the desk, a cover up for the fact I was dizzy from standing so abruptly, but I was too angry to care what he thought.

None of this made sense. I’ve taken care of myself for almost a year without him and now he thinks he has the right to be my father again? To keep me grounded here like I didn’t know what was best for myself.

It was bullshit, and when he closed his eyes to collect himself, I spun on my heel and turned to leave. I didn’t even care that I knew I wouldn’t succeed.

“It was until your boyfriend abused his use of power within minutes of collecting it.” My dad stops me in my tracks by nothing more than his words alone. He was talking about Xavier, and I didn’t care about whatever he did to get on my father’s bad side. I promised to be there the next time he needed an escape, no matter what, and I was currently thousands of miles away.

“Well at least they don’t hold me against my will to make me listen.” I say, tears welling in my eyes but I was too damn stubborn to cry right now. I refused to. “I need to speak to them, dad.” I tip my head, exhausted from recent events. “Just let me make a call to let them know I’m okay.”

Xavier would never believe his ring would leave my finger at my own free will. He had to know something wasn’t right.

The way I left things with Alec was a different story, but I would at the very least say goodbye to the other two as well. I don’t think my heart could handle never seeing them again.

“Would you still want to be with them if I told you they’re the reason your mother’s dead?” My dad questions coldly and then everything goes quiet in my head. The pounding of my headache and the loud scream of my thoughts all ceased, everything channeling into one single statement.

“What?” I say, my voice cracking from the dryness of my throat. His fists shook where they were balled against the table, and the intensity of his expression told me he wasn’t lying. This wasn’t some game to keep me here.

I received a small look of sympathy from him, but my father never was one to soften the blow with me.

I felt like I couldn’t breathe as he typed a few things into his computer before spinning it around to face me on the desk. While I was practically across the room, there was no mistaking the terrified look of my mother’s face partially cut off by the broad shoulder of Xavier’s body.

“No, he wouldn’t do that.” I shake my head as if the action could take the image away. He knows how much it would hurt me for her to die. There’s no way...

“Press play.” My father demands. I wasn’t sure if it was the adrenaline or the denial that made me want to prove him wrong, but my feet were carrying me over to the desk before I could prepare myself for the horrible possibility he described.

His eyes closed with pain as I did as he asked, however mine were unblinking as my finger pressed down on the keyboard to begin the video feed. The quality was awful, but I knew who the two people were just as I knew it was Vincent who was dead on the ground.

“You hurt her.” Were the first words that were spoken through the screen, and if I could see Xavier’s face, I knew it would be guilt I’d be seeing. “You wasted the chances given to you. There’s nobody to blame for this but yourself.” He continued, and a sickening feeling filled my stomach at this.

My father believed these words were being spoken to his past wife, but I knew Xavier better than that. Those words were directed at himself and the regret he felt for hurting me.

I watched through blurry vision as a gun was raised to my mother’s forehead, tears and blood flowing rapidly down her cheeks from where she was held captive.

I waited with every part of me, hoping he would walk away. That he wouldn’t do what my father told me he does.

“Please.” A desperate whisper left the woman’s mouth one last time, and I almost felt relief when Xavier dropped his hand down, the gun leaving with him. The wide frame of his body blocked the sight of my mom from her shoulders down, but I didn’t need to see when I heard the two deafening bangs of gunshots.

I watched as her mouth parted in a shout as her body jolted, and I didn’t look away when Xavier turned until he was looking directly at the camera that captured this video. I looked into the darkness of his eyes before he raised his hand for a third time, aiming directly at the lens before shooting and stopping the feed entirely, my heart along with it.

There was a sharp ringing in my ears as I stood there in shock, but I could still hear him when my father said her body was found this morning, dead from the two bullet wounds to her heart and stomach.

I couldn’t stop myself as I collapsed into the chair I’d previously been occupying, and within seconds, I could feel my panic attack seizing my lungs and ripping at my chest.

Every bit of denial I held had been diminished by a single minute of a recording, and again when I learned Xavier had dumped her body at the back of a hotel—the same one where we first met.

My mother’s death had been a message, but I didn’t know what exactly it was yet.

Was he trying to punish me because he believed I actually left him?

“The plan was always to have Xavier kill Vincent because only he was capable of achieving it, but Heidi was caught in the middle in ways we still aren’t sure of.”

I think I’m going to be sick.

“Where did you get this?” I ask, heaving air into my lungs as my knees curled up to my chest on the chair. Even now, I wanted to refuse to believe this, because this was something I would never be able to forgive, no matter how much my heart aches for the three men still in New York.

“Natasha managed to pull this from their base before it could be deleted from their receivers. To make a long story short, Vincent broke into your friend Hailey’s phone when she was sleeping to get you out of that mansion. I sent a team out to retrieve you while Lev Ivankov, the man you put in the infirmary, took your ring and composed a story that would make it seem like you ran.”

A small bit of pride appeared on my father’s face about the dagger part, but I didn’t seek it out in the way I once did growing up. Now, it was a reminder of everything I couldn’t save.

“With you on the jet over here, Caleb was the first to realize you were gone. He and Alec have been out looking for you ever since, but Xavier is seeking revenge in the form of a rampage. I know this is going to be hard to hear, kiddo, but his true colours aren’t the same ones he showed you.”

And that was the part that kept me from accepting all of this. It wasn’t a mask Xavier wore with me, but he’s so skilled at wearing them to everyone else that that’s all the world has ever gotten to see.

I felt as though my head might explode from the gears turning with this new information, but it wasn’t until I went back to the beginning that I started to question things from a new perspective.

This wasn’t about Xavier and I, this was about his mother and my uncle.

This game of revenge was born of grief, Marcus for the loss of his brother and Vincent of his wife. But then again, why would Xavier kill my mom when this entire thing could’ve just been over?

It didn’t make sense.

Every conclusion I could think of led back to Vincent, so what was I missing from the night his wife died seventeen years ago?

There was one question on the tip of my tongue I’ve been asking myself since I learned that my father was Marcus, and I knew I couldn’t cave to the cowardliness that tempted me to keep quiet.

Too much rode on the answer.

“Did you kill Xavier’s mom?” I asked, my nails digging into the palms of my hands as I awaited my father’s response.

His green eyes held a glint of surprise I was unfamiliar with as the words left my mouth, and when he closed the lid of his computer shut, he touched my arm as he said, “No, kid. I didn’t.”

Just like that, the final piece of a very complicated, very jagged puzzle fell into place.

There was only one other possibility as to how she died, and it had everything to do with the secret my father was telling me about earlier.

“But Vincent did.” I say, my chin lifting to fight against the disgust welling in my eyes.

I didn’t need my dad’s confirmation. His silence was answer enough, because what I’ve failed to realize this entire time is that Xavier, Alec, and Caleb have been living a lie for almost two decades of their lives, their efforts wasted to a man trying to cover his tracks.

“Come in.” I hear my father say over the firm knock at the door I’d failed to hear over all of my thoughts. It didn’t matter because all I could think about was the fact Xavier’s destruction was a closure-less feat now that this revelation had been uncovered.

“Madelyn.” The sound of my name brought my attention back to the man in front of me, my body twisting to see who was currently joining us in his office. “I want you to meet my business partner Alessia Rossi.” He says, but I wasn’t listening anymore.

My body froze as a woman walked in with confident strides, taller than me by a few inches even without the heels she wore now. Not a single imperfection marred her beautiful olive skin, her dark brown hair straight and ending at just above her shoulders.

Everything about her radiated power, her demand for attention clear in the black of the eyes I know I’ve seen before. If I wasn’t already sitting, I would’ve fallen down.

“I don’t understand.” I break out of my stupor just to be met with realization—the kind that rewrote this entire narrative. This woman was the secret powerful enough to blackmail even men like Vincent Alcaraz, and it was clear she’d succeeded just by the lethal smile she wore, identical to the one I’ve already seen on a younger version of herself.

The secret is that Xavier’s mom is alive, and she is currently standing right in front of me.


- End of Chapter 80 -

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