Wednesday, 8 October 2014

A Reluctant Love Ch 08 


Chapter 8: Throw Back Thursday


Emily didn’t think life could get anymore perfect than it was.  The passion she felt in Cullen’s arms was like nothing she could ever have imagined. They couldn’t seem to get enough of each other, spending as much time alone as they could.

Dorian had known immediately that their relationship had progressed and he had approved wholeheartedly and begun to treat Emily like an adored younger sister.

Emily was busy at work, having completed her audit review at Cullen and Cross and had moved onto their subsidiaries. Her relationship with her PA Alice had blossomed into a strong friendship and when she wasn’t with Cullen or Dorian, she was at Alice’s house having some quality girl time. She had never been happier.

Emily was coming back from a meeting out of the office when she suddenly felt a sense of foreboding. She shivered slightly as she made her way to the elevator, trying to shake the feeling. She felt a threat to her happiness, something she couldn’t quite put a finger on.

She exited the elevator and was astounded to see Liam towering over Beth.

“I MUST speak to them instantly!” he said coldly to Dorian’s PA.

“They are out of the office at a meeting,” Beth said, her voice quivering slightly. “They cannot be reached.”

“Liam?” Emily called, a question in her voice. “Can I help you?”

Liam spun around, his beautiful face cold, his eyes flashing with anger.

“Get me Cullen,” he snapped.

Emily almost took a step back from the vampire. He had always been cordial and friendly to her whenever she attended Karpathia’s with Cullen, especially since her relationship with Cullen had developed into something deeper. His coldness surprised her.

“Why don’t you join me in the Boardroom?” she said carefully, immediately walking to the room and hoping that he was following her. He did and she closed the door behind them quickly.

“What are you doing?” Emily hissed, trying to keep her voice down. “Cullen and Dorian will not be pleased that you’re risking their livelihood by throwing your weight around here, Liam.”

She didn’t see him move but suddenly he had her by the throat up against the wall, his black hair swaying wildly about his face. His eyes looked murderous and it was only complete, utter surprise at his actions that stopped Emily from crumbling into a nervous wreck. Instead she held his gaze with a calmness she didn’t feel inside.

“Are you so weary of having your head on your shoulders, Liam?” she said softly. “You know Cullen and Dorian will be most displeased if you do anything to hurt me.”

Liam’s mouth suddenly quirked and he released her slowly.

“I dare say they would be, little Emily,” he sighed. “As would I once my temper had cooled. Forgive me, child.”

Emily rubbed her throat lightly and prayed it didn’t bruise. Cullen would go mental if she was marked in any way.

“Sit, Liam,” she said. “Tell me what’s so urgent. I want to help.”

She walked over to a secret panel in the wall and clicked it open. She dialed in code and a small refrigerator opened. She pulled out an opaque bottle and glass and poured some blood into the glass. She handed it to Liam.

“A drink usually helps Cullen maintain a certain amount of control,” she smiled softly. “Be quick, in case anyone comes in to see if you’re murdering me.”

Liam swallowed the contents of the glass and passed it back to her. She put it back and then closed the concealed panel again.

She sat across from him and waited for him to speak.

“Someone is trying to break through the firewalls at Karpathia’s,” he finally said, his eyes sparkling with fury. “We have no idea who but they are persistent. It had been going on for the last three days.”

Emily gasped in shock. Someone knew about them? How was it possible?

“You’re certain it’s a concentrated attack?” she asked quietly.

Liam shot her a withering look and she sighed softly. It probably was a stupid question.

Emily took out her cell and sent a quick text to Cullen. It was one word, lavender. Their secret code for if she should need to speak to him urgently. She knew Cullen would be able to read the message unobtrusively and extract himself from his meeting to call.

Less than ten seconds later her cell rang.

“Emily, what’s wrong?” Cullen asked anxiously.

“Liam’s here,” she said quickly. “Someone knows about Karpathia’s. Their firewalls are under attack. You two need to get back here as soon as possible.”

“Let me speak to Liam,” he said and she passed the cell to the vampire.

Emily borrowed a notepad and pen from Beth as Liam and Cullen talked. She couldn’t hear a word they were saying anyway so she wasn’t missing anything by leaving the room.

Liam had completed the call by the time she returned. “They’re on their way,” he told her.

“While we’re waiting, can you talk me through the sequence of attacks? So I can see the timeline?” Emily asked.

She scribbled on the pad as Liam talked it through. She was frowning at the pad when Cullen and Dorian walked in half an hour later. She looked at their serious faces and shivered. Cullen smiled at her and kissed her lightly on the head, his hand stroking her back soothingly.

Liam filled them in on what was happening. Out of respect for her presence, he spoke slowly enough for her to be able to understand. Dorian asked a few questions as Emily continued to read through the sequence Liam had given her. She finally threw her pen down in disgust and jumped up from the chair and began pacing the room.

“Emily?” Cullen asked, surprised by her annoyance.

“It doesn’t make sense,” she growled in frustration. “There’s no pattern to the attempts on the firewall. Something has to be missing.”

She waved her hand at the pad.     “I need to see the computer logs,” she said. “No offence, Liam, but second or third hand data isn’t good enough to establish a pattern.”

Cullen frowned at her, “You expected to see some kind of pattern?” he asked, surprised. “It’s not a number problem for you to solve, Emily.”

“It is a number problem,” she said. “Computers are numbers, they’re binary numbers. All 1’s and 0s. If I can see the logs then I should be able to discern the pattern. Once I know that, I can reverse the movements and hopefully track down the person doing it.”

“Do you really think you could?” Liam asked, his interest piqued.

“I’m almost certain,” she answered, her eyes fixed on Cullen’s set face.

His expression hardened and his frown deepened. “You’re not getting involved, Emily,” he said firmly. “This is dangerous. I don’t want you being anywhere near this if it blows up in our faces.”

Emily sighed at his over protectiveness. “I’m already involved, Cullen,” she said softly. “Anything that threatens you or Dorian threatens me too. You’re my family now.”

“It’s worth a try,” Dorian said suddenly. “We need to know as quickly as possibly who this threat is so we can counter it.”

“Please let me try, Cullen,” she pleaded.

She saw a muscle in his jaw twitch and then he finally nodded. But his look told her they would be having serious words later on.

They headed down to Karpathia’s. Liam had the log print outs ready for them when they arrived.

It felt strange to Emily to be in a high tech computer room at the club. It was completely different from where she usually went. Plus the vampires seemed different too. She didn’t know if it was the severity of their current situation, but she felt slightly frightened of them. Even Cullen and Dorian felt a bit remote to her.

Emily searched the logs for half an hour and then her instincts kicked in and she began scribbling equations on the page. She could feel the eyes of every vampire in the room on her . She turned to Alfred, their technical guru, and called out routes for him to type into his tracking software. The program sprang to life and within moments it had narrowed down the search, finally coming to a stop at a location.

Emily was looking over Alfred’s shoulder when the software finally tracked the location.

“It can’t be!” she gasped, her voice tortured. Her face lost all colour and for a moment she thought she might pass out. Cullen was at her side immediately.

“Emily, what’s wrong?” he asked anxiously.

She looked up at him, her eyes full of fear. “Alice,” she whispered, her voice full of pain. “That’s Alice’s home address.” She knew it well as she was round there often enough.

Cullen and Dorian both repeated “Alice!” in shocked tones.

“Who is this Alice?” Liam said loudly, his tone furious.

“My best friend,” Emily said quietly, her face worried.

“She works for us as Emily’s PA,” Dorian elaborated, his voice sounding colder that she had ever heard before. “Emily is particularly fond of the girl, though we now have to wonder if Alice has fostered this friendship to try and get information about us.”

Emily stared at him in shock. His face was hard, his eyes unforgiving. She turned her gaze to Cullen and shrank back from him as she saw his expression mirrored Dorian’s.

“I don’t believe that, Dorian,” she said, her voice wavering slightly. “There has to be another explanation. She has to have a reason for trying to hack into Karpathia’s computer system. Alice doesn’t have a deceitful bone in her body.”

“You don’t think trying to hack our system is in anyway deceitful?” Liam asked harshly, his eyes flashing angrily.

Emily struggled not to flinch away from the fury in his voice.

“Let me talk her,” she said, her voice holding a hint of a plea.

“Emily, you can’t fix this.” Cullen’s face had softened slightly as he looked at her, and she saw regret in his eyes.

“What do you mean, Cullen?” she asked, her voice sounding harsh. “What are you going to do?”

“We will do what needs done,” Liam said coldly. “We must protect ourselves.

Her eyes flew to his and she shuddered at the coldness she saw there.

“Define what needs to be done, Liam,” she pushed, a feeling of cold dread coming over her.

“We will find out what she knows and then we will make the problem go away,” Liam answered. “Do you wish me to say the exact words, Emily?”

Emily shook her head in denial. “No,”  she whispered, her voice raw with anguish.

Her eyes sought Cullen’s. “Don’t hurt her,” she begged.  “Please don’t hurt her, Cullen. I love her.”

His eyes were tortured as he looked at the anguish on her face. “Emily, I can’t stop this,” he groaned. “It’s what has to be done, to protect ourselves.”

“Can’t you do your mind thing instead?” she cried, clutching at straws. “Cullen, you and Dorian keep telling me that my instincts are uncanny. I couldn’t love Alice the way I do if there was something inherently bad about her. I’m sure there is a reason for her actions. Just give me time to find out what it is. Please!”

“You can’t fix this, Emily,” he whispered harshly.

She spun round, her eyes welling with tears as she saw the sad resignation in Dorian’s eyes and even a touch of pity in Liam’s as they looked at her.

“You can’t do this,” she cried. “I won’t let you kill Alice!”

“Emily,” Cullen groaned, his expression tortured. He reached for her but she flinched back from him.

“I’ve done this,” she moaned, her body wracked with pain as her part in it hit her like a ton of bricks.  “I handed her to you on a plate.”

Emily looked around the room frantically, her eyes pleading once more with them as the tears spilled down her face. She saw their fixed expressions, the deadliness in their eyes. For the first time she saw the monsters they all were deep down inside and she shivered.

She finally turned back to Cullen and her heart silently broke as she saw the look in his eyes. Her body felt numb as she looked into his beautiful face and didn’t recognise him.
There would be no amount of begging or pleading that would convince him that Alice should receive any mercy.

“If you do this I will never forgive you, Cullen.” She didn’t even recognise her own voice it sounded so cold and hard.

“Or you, Dorian,” she continued, turning her accusing gaze on the blond vampire.

She looked at each vampire one last time and then she slowly wiped the tears from her face as she felt her heart harden.

“I’m going home,” she finally said, her voice lifeless and cold. “I have some blood to wash off my hands.”

“Emily,” Cullen said softly, his hands reaching for her.

“Don’t touch me, Cullen,” she said, her voice dripping with distaste. “The very thought of your hands anywhere near me makes me want to throw up.”

She wanted to hurt him so badly. She wanted to break his heart in just the way he was breaking hers.

“Today I finally see the monster you really are,” she continued coldly. “Today I also see the monster I’ve become too. To protect you, Cullen, I’ve handed my best friend over to your brand of justice. I’ve murdered Alice as surely as if I’d put a gun to her head and pulled the trigger.”

She turned to leave. “I’m assuming I am allowed to leave?” she said, her voice flat and hard. “Or will I become subject to your justice as well because I know too much about you and what you’re about to do?”

“I’ll take you home, Emily,” Dorian said, his voice gentle. “You know we would never harm you.”

“No, Dorian. I don’t want to be with you any more than I want to be with Cullen. And you are harming me right now.” She turned to face him. “I was right the first time, I went from one nightmare straight into another. I wish I’d never met either of you.”

She walked out the door without a backward glance. She didn’t see the agony in Cullen’s eyes as she walked away from him. She knew he would be suffering but she didn’t care. What he was feeling was nothing compared to the way she felt.

She dialed Alice’s number but it went to voicemail. She didn’t leave a message. Slowly she walked through the streets, wandering aimlessly. She tried Alice again and it still went to voicemail. She finally called Beth to be told that Alice had left the office with Dorian a while ago.

Emily found a bench and sat down and cried. Her heart ached for her friend, and her guilt at her part in the whole thing threatened to engulf her completely.

She finally pulled out her cell again and dialed a number she hadn’t called in a long time.

“Anton, I want to come home,” she said quietly.

“Emily, you know you’re always welcome here,” her brother answered. “Where are you? I’ll charter a jet for you. Are you okay, Em? You sound so strange.”

“I’ve done such a terrible thing, Anton,” Emily sobbed as her brother’s concern washed over her and triggered the heartache she felt deep inside.

“I find that hard to believe, Em,” her brother said quietly. “I could believe it of anyone but you. Come home, baby girl. We’ll work through it together. Just tell me where you are.”

Three hours later, Emily was in a private jet headed to Europe. She hadn’t gone back to the apartment. She’d stopped long enough to pick up a new cell so she could dump the old one. Cullen had been calling almost constantly and she didn’t want him to be able to reach her. She had wiped the memory of her old cell and dumped it in a trashcan.

She planned what to do next as the jet came to land at the private runway belonging to her family home in Spain. She knew Cullen would try to track her by having her debit and credit cards logged for movements. But she had her family accounts to draw from. Something  no one knew apart from herself and her family.

She had never told Cullen. Not because she had deliberately hid it from him. It had just never come up. He had never asked her about her family, not once since she had known him.

Anton was waiting by his car when she stepped from the jet. Her big brother, all lanky six foot of him, leaning against the bright red Ferrari he loved so much. They looked nothing alike, they had the same father but different mothers and Emily favoured her mother. Anton had their father’s deep chocolate coloured hair and big brown eyes. He held his arms open and she ran into them sobbing.

“Shhhh, baby,” he crooned softly. “It’s okay now. You’re home with me.”

He drove quickly to the house, his eyes deeply troubled by the sobbing woman beside him. Her pain was wretched to listen to.

He handed her a whiskey once they were inside, telling her to drink it all down in one go. Then he held her as her tears began to ease.
“Tell me everything, Em,” Anton said gently.

Emily hiccupped and tried to think how she could explain it to him without mentioning vampires. There just wasn’t any way to do so. She considered lying but her brother had always been able to tell when she lied to him. So she took a deep breath and blurted it all out, her voice rambling on as her story was interrupted by fresh tears.

“Vampires,” he said quietly when she had finished. “I’ve always wondered if there was any truth to that myth. Guess I now know.”

He hugged Emily and handed her another tissue to blow her nose with.

“Are you sure they meant to kill Alice?” he asked gently.

“Their meaning was pretty clear,” she said forlornly. “I couldn’t sway them, Anton. I tried so hard to but they were set on their course of action.”

She held her glass out for more whiskey and he poured a liberal mount into the glass.

“You would have loved Alice, Anton,” she sighed sadly. “She was so spunky and fun and full of life. And I led them right to her.”

She started crying again, her misery having no ending.

“What about you?” Anton asked, concerned. “Will they try to hurt you, Em?”

“I don’t think so,” she shook her head. “I don’t believe Cullen or Dorian would allow that to happen. I’m the lucky one,” she snorted. “They  both love me.”

“But will they look for you?” he persisted.

“Cullen most definitely will,” Emily said softly. “He was phoning my old cell constantly. That’s why I ditched it and bought a new one. Dorian will look for me too but they don’t know the truth about me.”

Anton relaxed slightly. “They don’t know you’re a Mackenzie?”

Emily shook her head numbly. “I was still using mum’s name.”

“So they can’t tie you to Mackenzie Petrochemicals in any way?”

“I said they couldn’t,” Emily grumbled sourly. “Dad concealed my relationship to him very well when they divorced. I’ve never told anyone who I really am. “

“That’s a blessing in disguise,” Anton said. “You’ll be safe here, Em. I’ll place a trusted team on Cullen and Cross to keep an eye on their movements. It’ll be so discrete they won’t notice it, don’t worry.”

“Be careful, Anton,” she said worriedly. “They have almost two thousand years of experience over you.”

“I’ll be careful, baby girl,” he smiled reassuringly. “The most important thing to me is keeping you safe. To do that, I need to know what they’re doing and if they’re getting close so we can move you somewhere else before they find you.”

“I’m sorry, Anton,” she whispered.

“For what?” he asked gently.

“For staying away so long,” she sighed. “I should have come home more often.”

“It doesn’t matter, Em. You came home when you really needed to. That’s all that matters, that you still view this as your home and a place of safety. I’ve missed you, Em.”

“I’ve missed you too, Anton,” she whispered and began to cry again.

When Emily fell asleep, her brother got on the phone and quickly implemented a watching brief on anyone searching against Emily Mackenzie. It was unlikely to happen but he wasn’t willing to risk it.

He then set his private security firm to do a covert investigation into Cullen and Cross. He wanted to know everything about them. He also asked them to keep a daily check on any news concerning Alice Matheson. If they did indeed kill Emily’s friend, her body would have to show up at some point.

Satisfied he had done all that he could, he put some classical music on and poured himself a scotch. He sipped slowly as he waited for Emily to awaken.

Emily sighed and tried hard not to scratch at the wig on her head. Anton was really taking this protecting her seriously. He refused to allow her to go into town unless she put on the black, bobbed hair piece. She couldn’t fault his logic. Her hair was very distinctive and hiding it was for the best. She had considered cutting it short and dyeing it but had balked the day before her appointment. Her vanity just wouldn’t let her get rid of what she thought of as her best asset.

At least Anton was letting her out of the house now. Okay, she had to take two private bodyguards with her but still, after a month of being stuck in the house, it was worth it to get out and about and do some shopping.

Naturally she wasn’t using any of the funds she had acquired as Emily Swan. Instead she was using the money she had under her real name. Her eyes had almost popped out of her head when she had seen her bank balance. She knew she was rich and that Mackenzie Petrochemicals was worth billions and she owned half of it. But she had no idea that she had thirty six million in hard cash sitting in her Spanish bank account.

Anton was also insistent that she speak only Spanish when she was out or if anyone visited the house. He had smiled broadly when she had told him that neither Cullen or Dorian was aware that she was fluent in Spanish, French, German and Italian. It was another mask to hide behind. Between the dark wig and her perfect grasp of the language, she could pass as a native born Spaniard.

Emily checked daily to see if there was any news about Alice but nothing ever came up. She still cried every time she thought of her friend and what had happened to her. Guilt ate at her very core and sometimes Emily wondered if she would ever fully recover from Alice’s death and her part in it.

She also told herself daily that she hated Cullen. She stood in front of the mirror and said the words out loud, as if doing so would make them true. But each night her dreams were filled with his beautiful face. His laughter surrounded her. His golden brown eyes haunted her and she woke every night with tears on her face.

The first few weeks, Anton came to her at night and held her as she cried. Finally she asked him to stop, seeing the dark circles around his eyes as he was deprived of sleep. She took to muffling the sounds of her crying so he couldn’t hear and sighed with relief when she saw him actually start to believe that she was slowly coming to terms with things.

Emily was surprised and concerned with the number of vampires that lived in Spain. She could spot them a mile away. They were all just so incredibly beautiful. She avoided them like the plague. Terrified that they were looking for her.

Anton had sat her down last week and told her that a detailed search was being done against Emily Swan. His contacts had told him that her cards were being tracked by an anonymous source but they both knew who it was. She wondered when Cullen would give up. Would he ever give up? Would she be in hiding for the rest of her life?

Inevitably, Emily quickly grew bored with her life of leisure and she started going into the office with Anton. It had taken some persuasion but finally he had agreed if she promised to keep a low profile and her disguise in place.

Weeks moved into months and finally Emily was finding that she could sleep through the odd night without dreaming of Cullen. The pain was still there but it seemed more manageable. Being able to work in the accounts department helped. It wasn’t on the level she was used to and she had to work hard to downplay her knowledge, but it was better than sitting in the house all day long.

When Emily saw an impossibly beautiful man at the reception desk one day, her heart almost stopped. She didn’t know him but she knew what he was. She quickly turned and hurried into the nearest office, which was thankfully empty and closed the door. She hid inside until he was gone.

She quizzed Anton about him later on and was told that he was a prospective new client. She told him that he was a vampire and her brother quickly severed all contact with the man. It wasn’t as if they really needed Carter Long’s business.

Life seemed to fall into a familiar pattern so it was a massive shock to Emily when she bumped into Dorian one day when she was visiting a subsidiary in Brussels with Anton.

He was sitting in the reception area, waiting to attend a meeting with someone. She spotted him before he saw her and quickly turned and walked back into the office she had just come out of, praying he wouldn’t see her.

He stopped her closing the door easily and entered the room behind her.

“The hair threw me for a moment,” he said quietly. “But your scent is unmistakable, Emily.

She shuddered at the sound of his voice. It was so familiar. It made her want to turn around and throw herself into his arms. She wrapped her arms tightly around her body and kept her back to him.

“Emily, love, we’ve been looking everywhere for you,” he said gently.

“What do you want, Dorian?” she replied.  She kept her voice cold and hard.

“Some time,” he breathed softly. “To talk. I swear I won’t tell Cullen you’re here, Emily. I just want to talk to you. To make sure you’re okay.”

She turned around. “I’m perfectly fine,” she said not meeting his eyes. “Did you think I’d crumble, Dorian? I’m much stronger than that.”

“I know, Emily,” he sighed sadly. “But you were hurt so badly, love. We never meant for that to happen. You know we love you.”

Emily sighed too and shook her head. “I’m not coming back, Dorian. I don’t want to be part of that life again. I became someone I didn’t recognise. I lost myself. It’s taken me so long to find myself again.”

“We need you, Emily,” Dominic said softly. “I don’t just mean myself and Cullen, though God knows, Cullen needs you more than anyone does. I mean ‘we’ need you.”

She looked at him then, knowing he was talking about a collective we, as in his kind. His beautiful blue eyes were full of pain as he looked at her

“That day,” Dorian explained. “What had to be done seemed so clear.”

Emily swallowed and closed her eyes. “Alice,” she breathed miserably.

“You have to understand, Emily. We need to protect ourselves. There has always been a set way things were done to ensure our secret was never revealed.” Dorian’s tone was pleading.

“I don’t know when we lost our humanity, love. Somewhere along the way we did, in our battle for self preservation. And then you came into our lives and suddenly everything wasn’t so cut and dried anymore. When you left that day, the look on your face, the pain and the anguish and then finally the life draining out of you so completely. It was more than Cullen and I could bear. Even Liam’s heart was touched by your pain.”

He paused and searched her eyes intently. She nodded to him to continue even though her heart felt like it was breaking all over again.

“We brought Alice back to Karpathia’s. The girl was terrified out of her wits. Some of my kind wanted instant justice but some of us reasoned calmly to see why she had done what she had done.”

Dorian groaned,  “She was just looking for her brother, Emily. It turned out he was one of us and she had turned him away when he had revealed himself to her. Her love for him was strong and she wanted to find him to beg his forgiveness. If your plea had not stayed our hand, love, we would have done a grievous wrong not only to Alice but to ourselves too.”

“Alice is alive?!” Emily whispered in shock.

“Yes, love,” Dorian said gently. “She’s safe. You got through to us. Made us stop and think before we acted.”

“Really, Dorian? Alice is really safe,” she whispered and then she burst into tears. He was at her side in an instant, pulling her into his arms and holding her as she wept tears of relief.

“I swear to you, Emily,” he said gently. “Alice is safe and well and missing you almost as much as we do. You saved her, love.”

“All this time I thought I’d killed her,” Emily sobbed. “I thought it was my fault.”

“We couldn’t find you, Emily,” Dorian groaned. “We looked high and low but you seemed to have just vanished from the face of the planet. We were frantic looking for you, love. Cullen is a complete wreck. I think somewhere deep inside he feared that we couldn’t find you because you were no longer alive.”

“Cullen thinks I’m dead?!” Emily’s voice came out in a startled squeak. She pulled back so she could look into Dorian’s eyes.

He smiled sadly at her. “He’s never said it out loud,” he told her. “But I know how his mind works. He is so sure he would find you if you were still alive. We almost thought we had a while back. One of our friends had a lead on a girl called Emily who worked in the accounts department at Mackenzie Petrochemicals but it turned out she was the daughter of the man who founded the company and her name was Emily Mackenzie”

“Carter Long,” Emily breathed softly. “I knew he was bad news. I talked Anton out of doing business with him.”

Dorian started when she said the vampire’s name, then he looked at her perplexed. His expression was so confused that she couldn’t help but laugh.

“Neither of you ever asked me about my family,” she said pointedly. “My parents divorced when I was two and they agreed I should use my mother’s name for protection. I am Emily Mackenzie.”

Dorian stared at her incredulously and then he suddenly laughed. “Serves us bloody right,” he finally said. “No wonder we couldn’t find you.”

“I didn’t want to be found, Dorian. I’m still not sure how I feel about it now,” Emily admitted. “I’m glad in one way, because I now know that Alice is safe. I’m unhappy too because now you know who I really am and I no longer have a safe place to hide anymore. Anton is going to be gutted if I take off again and vanish from his life.”

“Anton?” he queried, his eyes still sad.

“My brother,” she replied. “We’re half siblings really but I think of him as my full brother. I’m all he has and I stayed away a long time after my father passed. I was happy staying out of the limelight and Anton was happy running the company. But he missed me terribly. I didn’t realise how much until I came back into his life.”

“You don’t need to run, Emily,” Dorian sighed. “I won’t reveal your identity to anyone, not even Cullen. We’ve done you so much harm already, love. It’s the least I can do for you.”

“Thank you,” she whispered, relief in her eyes.

“Oh, Emily, I’m so sorry about everything,” Dorian groaned and hugged her tightly again. “I hope one day you can find it in your heart to forgive us.”

Emily felt tears threaten to overcome her again and she hugged him tightly.

“Emily,” she heard Anton shouting outside and then the door pushed open and he was rushing inside.

“Get away from her,” he growled at Dorian, his face contorted with fury.

Dorian released her immediately and stepped back.

“I’m sorry, baby girl,” Anton said, crossing to Emily and taking her in his arms. “I just heard that he was here. I hoped to get to you before he did.”

“It’s all right, Anton,” she said quietly. “He wasn’t going to hurt me.”

“You trust too easily, Em,” her brother said, glaring at Dorian. “Why can’t you leave her alone? Is it not enough that you’ve almost destroyed her once? Are you back for a second attempt? I’d advise you re-think if you are because I will not let you or anyone else hurt her again.”

“It is not my intention to ever do anything to harm, Emily,” Dorian said. He kept his tone neutral so Emily couldn’t tell if Anton’s anger had annoyed him or not.

“Anton, Alice is alive,” Emily said gently, turning his head to look at her. “They listened to me. They took time to discover her reasons. She’s safe.”

“You believe him?” her brother asked doubtfully.

“Dorian has never lied to me once, Anton. If he says Alice is safe then I believe him.”

“I meant what I said,” Dorian said softly. “We need you, Emily. Cullen, his melancholy pierces my heart. He spends more time trying to find you than he does working. The light has gone out of his eyes and he never smiles anymore. His mood only lightens when Alice is around. He smiles for her but it never reaches his eyes. He protects her and cherishes her as if hoping that if he takes good enough care of her, you will somehow know and come home to him. He is lost without you, Emily.”

“Dorian,” she groaned pulling out of Anton’s arms so she could face him.  “I’m sorry Cullen is hurting, I really am. But I’m not about to come running home just because he feels bad. He ripped my heart out that day and handed it back to me in pieces. I don’t think I could ever go through that again. I barely survived this time.”

“I understand, love,” he said gently. “Just think it through though. Take as much time as you want. I’ll keep your secret, I promise. He won’t suddenly turn up on your doorstep.”

“I promise I will think about it, Dorian,” Emily said. “I’m not promising anything else though.”

Dorian nodded and smiled sadly.

“Can I at least tell him I saw you, that you’re safe?” he asked, hopefully.

“Yes.” She found herself agreeing almost immediately. “You can even tell him you met me in Brussels. I’m leaving in a few hours anyway. I don’t live here. I move around a lot.”

“I hope you can forgive us, Emily, and you come home to us,” Dorian sighed. “Thank you for at least listening to me. It is more than we deserve.”

“I’m glad we had this time to talk, Dorian. Tell Alice I send my love and I hope she is happy.”

Emily hugged Dorian one final time and then she turned and walked out of the room with Anton, without a backward glance.



To be continued...