A/N: Due to the hard times my family’s been going through (I lost my sister on the 14th, later hubby and I lost a coworker, and yesterday we lost a dear and close friend) I’ve decided to postpone the launch of The Beast to mid-January. In return for your patience I’m posting teaser chapters for your enjoyment!
There was no chair that could contain me inside that hospital, nor a corridor long enough to stop my pacing. Millions of things were bubbling inside me.
We had all been questioned about the incident but Police Superintendent Rivero dismissed us. He was a good friend of Adrian’s and obviously affected by what had happened.
There was a Christmas tree next to the nurses’ station with colored lights flashing to high-pitched electronic carols. I was making my way towards it to rip it apart when Armand intercepted me.
“Scarlett, you should eat something.” His hand landed on the crook of my elbow, dragging me to a corner with him.
“You shouldn’t be here. I need to get you out of here; take you somewhere safe.”
“Scarlett, calm down.” He held on to my upper arms, leaning over to level our gazes. “There’s nothing else you can do.”
“He saved you.” I still couldn’t grasp what had happened.
“Sit down with me. Let me get you something.”
“He wasn’t the target after all. It was you. It was always you.”
“They’d be very stupid if they tried to get me here with so many cops around.”
There was so much frustration inside me. I knew I had to calm down before continuing the conversation so I shrugged out of his grip and started walking away when Bobby came into sight.
He stretched out a hand to my shoulder but didn’t touch me, only caressed the air around it. I knew that gesture. He used to do that whenever he knew I was in distress.
This particular kind of distress.
“The rifle was remote-controlled. There was no one inside the apartment.”
“Then we must get to that second hotel.”
“No one there either. No documents, nothing. Superintendent Rivero will get us the CCTV videos.”
He glanced at Armand behind me but I pulled him back. “How’s Raakin?”
“Devastated. Mahmoud isn’t exactly cooperating. How are you feeling?”
“I’m not sick, just pregnant.”
“You know what I mean.”
It was starting to dawn on me that I had been exposed to all of them beyond belief. I was feeling naked all of a sudden and there was no amount of clothes that could cover me up.
“Like shooting myself.” I pushed him aside and stormed out of the corridor.
I heard Armand’s footsteps begin to follow me, then stop. Bobby must have been the one to bring him to a halt.
Maybe a walk would help me clear my mind. A walk that, if I let myself go with how I felt, would never end.
I didn’t get far though; Kathy had arrived with Eliza and Oksana and her arms went around me the moment I was within her reach.
“I can’t, Scarlett…” She cried as she buried her fingers into my aching back. “I can’t lose him.”
I wrapped my arms around her and filed my thoughts for later. “It’s all right.”
“He’s going to die, isn’t he?”
I shut my eyes for a second. “I think yes.” I was good at omitting information but never at lying, not in situations like this one.
She trembled and sobbed against me and I couldn’t help but feel sorry for making her go through this.
“Sit down. We’re waiting for the doctors to come out and tell us how he’s doing.”
I gestured Eliza to get her into a nearby waiting room. However, when I pushed Kathy off me, she clasped my hand.
“Don’t leave me.”
Dammit. I obliged. It was the least I could do. Armand was relieved to see me walk into that waiting room and sit next to Kathy, our hands entwined. Eliza sat on the opposite side and took her other hand. Bobby, Armand, Rhys, and Rooney each took a seat at the other end of the room.
I encountered Armand’s gaze the moment Kathy put her head on my shoulder. The amount of love in his eyes made me shiver. How could he look at me after all the shit that had been stirred?
George walked into the room, followed by Larry and, you guessed it, a doctor wearing scrubs and a face of pure defeat.
Everyone stood to hear the detailed explanation of the fatality of Adrian’s wound. I couldn’t listen; as much as I strained my ears no sound made it in. All I felt was Kathy’s hand squeezing mine before going limp and sliding down. I pulled her up with the help of Eliza and George and we set her back in her seat.
Adrian Lang was brain-dead. Breathing with the aid of machines.
A surge of anger ran through me and I tensed under Kathy’s half-dizzy wailing. She was pressing herself further against my chest, her face hidden under my chin and her hands making fists on the collar of my jacket.
I gathered her in my arms. For a moment I wished I could join her, that actual tears were forming in my eyes, but all I could conceive was an immeasurable anger. I couldn’t comfort her. I couldn’t comfort myself. I should’ve felt happy or, if not happy, at least okay with it. But death and murder have one unwavering characteristic: they never feel as you imagine.
The doctor asked if we wanted to see him and, of course, Kathy jumped to say yes.
I didn’t want to see him. I didn’t want to see anyone. Dead or alive.
Armand put a reassuring arm around my shoulders and I had to suppress the sudden need to duck away from it.
We were led into a room smelling of disinfectant. The constant beeping of monitors and the rhythm of the ventilator served as background music. Kathy kept an arm around my waist as we entered together, leaving the rest to watch through a glass window.
Her breathing hitched as we inched towards the man who lay on that bed. His blanched, lifeless face struck me. He looked so peaceful. Not even his signature frown was left.
The crying subsided when Kathy was able to touch him. I studied her profile and she bore no resemblance to the young woman who had sashayed her way around the party the first night after our arrival. No, this was someone else altogether. It was a woman who was slowly landing on the realization that there was an invisible knife stuck in her chest.
“Adrian,” she whispered, her hand sliding away from me to caress his face.
There was movement outside and I saw Jin-Jing pushing through to peek into the room. I shot her a warning look, shaking my head, and she understood that it wasn’t the right moment.
“He loved you.” I rubbed Kathy’s arm.
“I know.” Then she turned to me. “He loved you, too. Even though he wronged you, believe me, he loved you. There were too many conflicted feelings inside him about you.”
I wasn’t catching her drift and, sincerely, I didn’t know if I wanted to.
We’d have a conversation about this later. It’d be more prudent to let the body get cold before we started hashing out truths about him.
I glanced at the window and there was only Jin-Jing now. Kathy saw her and beckoned her to come in.
The small dark eyes framed by the cascading black hair were filled with tears. She took a couple of shy steps then halted, obviously taken aback by the sight of the man lying on that bed. She exchanged a glance with me and I pressed my lips together into a thin line.
Kathy took Jin-Jing’s hand and gently tugged her forward. To this, I stepped back. Not that the latter complained. We were both trying to drop the snideness but failing miserably.
We were sharing a moment of silence when the door opened and a black woman in her late twenties sporting a beautiful mane of curly brown hair peeked in. The moment her eyes fell on Adrian she brought one hand to her mouth, the other to her chest.
Kathy smiled at the weeping woman. “Daniela. So glad you came.”
Reluctant, calculated steps took the woman from the door to the bedside, from where she stroke Adrian’s cheek with trembling fingers.
Bloody hell, you’ve got to be kidding me!