“Guys, wake up! It’s him. Silvanus is calling now; he’s calling,” Pauline says, and I snap out of my dreamless sleep. I roll onto my stomach and find that my head is still resting on Brandon’s lap.I push myself up and realize everyone is gathered in the living room. Jason, Arianna, and the twins are wide awake.“Damn, Pauline.” Casey rubs her eyes and sits up on the sofa. Cassius is next to her.The twins automatically move to her side and stare at the phone she’s holding. It’s as though I can feel everyone’s tension, and my heartbeat accelerates too.“What are you waiting for?” Constantine asks.“Answer him!” Carmelo says.Brandon and I briefly share the same astounded look.“Put it on speaker,” Brandon instructs.“Isn’t he supposed to talk to Arianna first?” Pauline asks anxiously.“Just answer him!” the twins shout simultaneously.“No, no. It’s fine. She’s right,” Arianna says. “He should hear from me first. We don’t want him dropping the call.”Pauline blows out a sharp breath an
BRANDONI find Cassius holding a glass of bourbon in the dimness of the dining room. He knows that I needed him sober, but the whole plan must’ve gotten into him.Silvanus’s text came in the afternoon, leaving us only the time and a location, a detail favorable for both parties—which was good so Jason and his Wolves can follow their strategy.I guess my cousin will not be very pleased to hear the sudden change Jason has planned.I lean on the wall, slipping my hands into my pocket. “What are you doing?”Cassius frowns. “Don’t worry. This is just to calm my nerves. What’s up?”“Alayna still doesn’t know about Jason’s whole plan yet. I don’t want to surprise her at the sudden change because this involves her family.”He scowls. “What changed?”“This includes you, actually, and I think I need a shot.”He gulps the remaining liquid in his glass and pours another shot, throws in two cubes of ice and hands it to me. “What about me and Alayna’s family?”“Suspicious men are lurking around Ala
BRANDONOne o’clock. Josephine Shaw Memorial Fountain, Bryant Park.From the inside of the food truck facing Bryant Park in Sixth Avenue, Cary and I monitor the satellite covering the front of the memorial fountain. In about three minutes, we should be in contact with Oliver. My left ear gives me the line for Stan, Pauline, and the Wolf; they’re only a few miles behind Pauline as she is getting ready. My right ear offers me Silvanus’s line.In every corner of the streets, people are on standby: walking civilians, a man making out with his girlfriend by a bench, a lady feeding the pigeons, and a man selling hotdogs in a food cart. All of them are Jason’s Wolves in disguise.I tap my earpiece and speak, “Stan, what’s on your view down there?”“We’re still waiting,” he answers. “Oliver should be here in three minutes. I’m looking at Pauline.”I tap another button on my ear to connect with Pauline. “Pauline, do you copy?”“Copy,” she says.“Good. Harry? Can you find Oliver?” I shift my at
A Wolf named Pen unlocks the door, and I finally catch sight of Stan and Oliver. The lower right side of Ollie’s body is covered with blood, and the three men carrying him are sprinting toward us. I rub my face in frustration and fear of losing him again.The Wolves immediately take Oliver inside and lay him out on the stretcher in the middle. Stan gets in after the others and closes the door. Automatically, the Wolves clear the space.I immediately move to Ollie’s side and hold his hand. But my heart clenches at the sight of his face. He has dark bruises and fresh wounds. His left eye is swollen, and his mouth is chapped and bloody. Apart from that, he has lost too much weight, and he is too pale.It’s like what they did to me. The weight of fury oppresses me.“Ollie, can you hear me?” I ask.He responds to my grip and forces his eyes open.“Master Lucien, we’ll take care of him.” Folk, one of the medics, takes charge. “Sven?” He looks at his colleague, who’s already across from him.
ALAYNABrandon’s side of the bed is empty when I wake up. I wanted to think that he’d only gone to his office, but I know today is their operation. I am now sitting with Casey in the living room, watching her brother drag a suitcase in our direction.“Cassius, can you tell us what’s going on now?” Casey asks warily. “Are you going somewhere?”“Not me, we. Pack whatever you can take with you. Clothes, money, passport...” Cassius instructs, and we watch him as he opens his suitcase and shoves some folders into it.“What?!” Casey springs up, shocked. “What’s going on? Where are we going?”“Just do as I say,” he orders.“But can you at least tell us what is going on?” I ask. My heartbeat is accelerating in anticipation. I can’t help but think that this has something to do with Brandon.“Not now. Just do as I say.” He holds up a hand. “We are leaving in an hour.” He speaks to one of the security men and storms out of the house. Cassius is never the kind to rush things, but I can tell that
ALAYNAI wake to a soft voice whispering in my ear. I’m not aware of the time, but I’m guessing it’s already late in the evening. I fell asleep on the couch with my head resting on Brandon’s lap. I gaze up and find Brandon’s beautiful face staring at me. He strokes my hair and kisses my forehead.“Alayna, let’s get you to the hotel,” he says. “You can come back tomorrow. Casey and Cassius will stay with Ollie until tomorrow morning.”I scan the room and find Cassius sitting next to Oliver with his eyes closed. Casey is asleep on the sofa by the door.“Okay.” I cling to Brandon’s waist and try to get up. Enveloping my arms around his neck, I press myself against him for a few more moments. “You should get some sleep too,” I breathe on his neck.He tenderly rubs my back and kisses my jaw. “I will. Come on.”I slip on my shoes, brush my fingers through my hair, and smooth the creases of my shirt. Brandon takes his scarf off his shoulders and wraps it around me. “It’s freezing outside.”I
ALAYNAWhen we return to the hospital, Brandon and the twins visit Pauline’s ward, and I remain in Oliver’s room. I can’t complain about that, even though jealousy hits me every time. Pauline is a human being who needs another human to look after her. It’s only ethical that Brandon would visit her since she almost died, though fortunately, she already passed the critical stage. However, Oliver hasn’t regained consciousness yet, although his doctor has assured us he will wake up soon.I find my siblings in Oliver’s room with Casey and Cassius. I embrace Arianna as soon as I see her. She’s fine, but Jason has a bandage over his left bicep. He’s standing on his own two feet, though, which means he’s okay. His injury doesn’t look very serious, but I can’t help but worry.“I’m perfectly fine, Laynie. It’s just a scratch,” Jason says.I pat his uninjured arm. “We only just met up again, and you’re already jumping on bullets?” I pat him again and again. “Mom’s going to worry.”“Ouch. Your ja
BRANDONCassius returns from the counter with two cups of Americano. We’re now sitting downstairs in the hospital’s coffee shop. He sits across from me and gives me the other cup. I grip the hot ceramic, not minding how it hurts my fingers. I wonder what’s wrong with me suddenly. The way Oliver called Alayna’s name and relaxed in her presence bothers me. It’s not jealousy. I refuse to entertain that feeling; it’s something else... It’s not the right time to be even thinking about that. But I witnessed his pain or heard it.“Not her. No, no, no, don’t, please. Don’t. Alayna!”What was he begging for?“Tell me. What are you thinking?” Cassius asks.“Nothing.” My answer is quicker than the speed of light.“I guess this is where both of us have to stand back. For Ollie.”I frown. “What do you mean?”“Oh, you don’t know.”“What do I not know?” It isn’t a question but an irony. I grit my teeth and drink my coffee. Its bitterness blends with my confusion. “Of course I know it,” I say. I felt