Zane: Emmi’s Fall
I rush home. I know Emmi will be fine, she has six more guys with her. I step inside and stop. Everyone is looking at me.
“You’re alive.” Dante hugs me, but he looks a mess mentally. I glance at Bear, but he is hiding his face.
“Yeah, how are you three?” I look between them.
“Nothing that won’t heal with time.” His words are quiet as he glances at Bear. “He’s a mess. He feels more embarrassed than anything, though, with Emmi seeing him like this.”
I nod and walk further in.
“Where’s Emmi?” Gunner asks. He looks a mess as well.
“Clearing up. She’ll be fine. I left six guys with her,” I say as I fall onto the sofa.
“This is all her fault. She told her fucking mum everything,” Gunner states, and I nod.
“Which she will regret,” Bear whispers and I want to ask how he is, but I know right now asking him won’t help. In his mind, he will want drugs, but he is fighting it. Sitting together, we discuss the way forward, but my mind keeps going to Emmi.
“She will be fine,” Dante says.
“You don’t know that.” Of course, he doesn’t. No one does.
“She got us out. She’ll be fine. The doctor will be here any minute to check your burns and things,” Dante explains.
He was right. Two minutes later, the doctor walks in. I refuse to be checked. Bear needs checking far more. We have no idea what drugs they gave him. I hear the lift and turn, my eyes widening as I see Ethan pulling Emmi through.
I shouldn’t have left her. We all rush to her as she collapses in Ethan’s arms. I glare at him.
“She showed up in Dean’s bar like this. The guy at the checkpoint refused to let her pass. She mumbled some things on the way, something about a crash, people chasing her. Nothing made sense though. And I know I’m breaking the rules, so kill me.” He steps back.
“You brought her home and saved her, so you’re safe. Leave.” Dante pushes him out as the doctor moves over to her, stitching the wounds and checking her.
“Her shoulder isn’t too bad, but her side is. Along with the cuts along her body,” the doctor explains.
“The shoulder was me.” I turn and look at Gunner. “I didn’t realise it was her. She must have freed me, I just remember waking up hearing her scream. I was holding the dagger in her shoulder.” He looks at us with guilt.
“Not your fault, Gunner, you weren’t there.” We stay quiet, watching as the doctor stitches her up before checking us all. Once the doctor leaves, we place Emmi in bed and sit together.
“We’re getting guards. I do not care how many innocent people we need to kill. We find Candice. We take the city.” I turn and look at Dante as he speaks.
“Maybe not now. Emmi needs us,” I say.
“She needs to be safe. The only way is if her brother and mum are dead.”
“She burned him alive. He’s dead, Dante, it is just her mum,” I point out.
“Either way, we find her tonight. Then when she’s ready, she will be sorry herself.” Dante’s words are quiet. Moving, I walk through to the room, finding Emmi asleep.
Sitting next to her, my hand strokes along her body, seeing the bruises. “You got so many punishments coming, so you better recover. One for telling your mum and her almost winning because of it. Another from leaving when you knew the rules, and another for nearly fucking dying.” I stare down at her for a moment before walking back out to find Gunner and Dante ready to leave.
“You’re staying,” Dante says.
“No way. I’m fucking coming.” I am not staying.
“You need to heal. Bear needs time to get whatever is in his system out. Me and Gunner are fine, mentally, no, but we’re fine. Watch him, Zane. He’s barely spoken or moved.” I look back towards Bear. I don’t want them to go alone, but I also don’t want to leave Bear. So I nod and watch them leave.
Sitting hours pass by. “We should sleep.” We should.
“She will hate me.”
I turn and look at Bear, shocked.
“I was that far gone. I pushed Emmi out the way and just searched for drugs, she gave me them, and I saw the look on her face.” His words are quiet.
I look up, hearing movement, and see Emmi shuffling towards us.
“You need to sleep,” I say as I rush to help her sit.
“If you two come with me.” Her words are quiet. “I don’t feel safe alone.” She looks between us, waiting. “Please, Bear.”
“Fine,” he says quietly as he stands and walks through to her room.
“He’ll be fine. It will take a few days for his emotions and things to settle.” I help her through and watch as she strips again and climbs in bed. Lying between us, I watch as she falls asleep, and soon follow, too tired from the events to even stay awake anymore.
I don’t sleep well, though. Every time I start to dream, it shifts back to the house, the fire. I can’t escape it. I continue to feel Emmi’s hand stroke along my body to calm me, which does help a bit. But I still don’t sleep well. I don’t think I will for a long time now.
Bear: Plagued Mind
I’m amazed that I managed to fall asleep. Although I don’t sleep well, I keep waking. The need is there, and all I want to do is give in to it, but then I see Emmi asleep next to me and fight it off. I don’t want to disappoint her, and I know if I allow this to spiral out of control, I will.
I saw her disappointment when I was searching for drugs. I needed them to wipe out the image of Adelia, to wipe out the feeling of disappointing everyone from being so weak. They were all quiet, and I know why. They’re waiting for me to beg for the drugs, to do anything to get them, and while part of me wants to, I don’t want to be a burden, and becoming that person again makes me one.
I climb out of bed and walk to the gym. Anything to take my mind off it now as all I want is to not see her face, not see Adelia. I hit the bag, unaware of how long is passing by, just knowing I need to feel something. Anything right now would be good. I want to be strong, but being strong isn’t easy. Part of me wants to hold Emmi and say sorry for leaving her. Another part of me wants to hold her and apologise for not having control, to hold her and say how glad I am she is alive. But then part of me wants to scream, shout at her, and punish her for telling her mum the things that will destroy us, for leaving this fucking place knowing she wasn’t allowed to, which only put her at more risk.
“Bear.” My body whips around to see her, hate burning through my veins. “Are you okay?”
“Yes. Now get out.”
“I’m sorry for everything, Bear, I promise I am.” But she needs to stay away from me for now. This, all of it, will push me and make me want to numb it all.
“Fine, now leave.” I look at her, waiting.
“Please, I’m trying to say sorry. Everything that happened was my fault. I know you all hate me right now, but please.”
I step towards her. “Everything is you, isn’t it? Never anyone else, Princess, it’s always you. Whether we hate you or not, that doesn’t matter. What you did was fucked up. Imagine if we went and told everyone your secrets, things you told us and trusted us with. You think this is because of what you did?” I stare down at her, watching as she nods. “Well, you’re fucking wrong! Every time I look at you, I want to scream and hurt you back for making us get hurt, which makes me want to blind myself and numb it all, and right now, it is so much easier to just pick up that phone and give in to the drugs. Now stay the fuck away from me.” Tears start to roll down her face. Maybe I was too harsh, but she needs to stay the hell away from me.
Dante: Pushing Her Out
I leave the building and wipe the blood from my hands. “Take her back and lock her in Gunner’s room. We’ll deal with her later.” I finish cleaning myself up and watch as they drag her into the car. Gunner is sat in the passenger seat, looking spaced out.
“Take a break when we get back, Gunner.” We’ve been out all night and morning. He slipped so many times, he needs to come back to earth.
“I’m fine,” he says quietly as he stares across the road.
“You’re not fine. You had a woman pinned to the wall and threatened to cut her throat because she looks like your mum. Take some time, Gunner. Candice will still be there later, I promise.” I look at him, worried. I can’t believe Emmi told her mum everything. We knew, of course, we did, but I never thought her mum would use it against us.
“Okay.” His voice is quiet as I drive, and something tells me he won’t take time, which means Candice will be dead in a matter of minutes, and we won’t get what we need.
“I get it, Gunner, but maybe now is the time to let someone else take over the torturing and you rest. Just until you’re back.” I smile at him, hoping he will listen. Too many lives were lost today, and soon Solace City will know that we are in charge. Some already know that Jamie was burned alive. After everyone tried protecting Candice through fear, she would order her guards to kill them. Many saw as we relentlessly broke through that building and took her. But no one will dare talk, not until they know for sure which side has won. We have won, though. We always fucking win!
She didn’t even look bothered; her own daughter could be dying. Tonight, both cities learned first-hand of Solace City’s own betrayal of their daughter. Even if we left Candice alive now, she wouldn’t survive long.
“We should visit Dom.”
I turn and look at Gunner. “When everyone is better, that place is packed, and if someone makes the wrong move, it will cause a war. We should introduce Emmi to him.” We should. Dom has known our family since my parents were kids. He owns a restaurant, although it is expensive and high end. My parents bought it for him as a thank you for his friendship.
“If she survives.”
I turn and look at Gunner, shocked. “Gunner. Look at me.” His head snaps around so that he is facing me. “You do not touch Emmi, not until you’re okay and she has healed. You will hate yourself. Yes, what she did caused us all pain, but you don’t want to kill her.” Right now, he would. He would kill her purely to make her feel the pain he felt.
“Sure,” he says quietly, and I know this will take a lot to come back from. For all of us, even Emmi, she just burned her brother alive, even if she says he wasn’t really her brother. That, that never leaves. The first person you kill always stays.
Back home, I watch as Gunner goes to his room, which is a relief because had he got into that room with Candice, she would be dead.
Walking through, I see Zane asleep, but Bear and Emmi are nowhere in sight. I head through to the gym and see Emmi stood crying.
“Everything is you, isn’t it? Never anyone else, Princess, it is always you. Whether we hate you or not, that doesn’t matter. What you did was fucked up. Imagine if we went and told everyone your secrets, things you told us and trusted us with. You think this is because of what you did?” Bear stares at her as she nods and cries. “Well, you’re fucking wrong! Every time I look at you, I want to scream and hurt you back for making us get hurt, which makes me want to blind myself and numb it all, and right now, it is so much easier to just pick up that phone and give in to the drugs. Now stay the fuck away from me.”
I pull her back. “Stay away from him.” She looks at me, then back to Bear. “I mean it, stay the fuck away from him, Princess, from all of us.” Still crying, she rushes away.
“She needs to leave,” Bear says bluntly.
“Okay, let’s just give it a day for everyone to calm down. No one is in the place to make quick or rushed decisions, Bear. Let’s just sort this shit out. Work out, then when you’re ready, go to sleep. Don’t make the call, Bear, promise me.” I look at him, waiting. He nods before turning back to the bag. He can’t go to the club and fight. People close by will have drugs, so for now, the bag is the best option.
Walking back through, I sit at the table and begin to work.
“Candice is in the room; she is asking to talk to Emmi.” Turning, I look at the guard. “She said Emmi is the one in charge of Solace City, so Emmi should talk to her.”
I had hoped to avoid Candice for a few days, but she is already starting. So I walk through and see her strapped up. Cruel, maybe, since she is a woman, but she strapped us all down, locked us in cupboards and tortured us. So why not do it back to her? I don’t do this to women often, usually only as a last resort.
“Candice.” I sit down and face her, waiting.
“I want to speak to my daughter.”
I laugh at her words. “Now she’s your daughter? Before, she was just a pawn to use to bring us down, which failed.”
“Did it, though? From what I saw, all four of you were pretty messed up when you escaped. One issue in the city and you will be forced to react. Will you react in the right way, though?”
“Look, enough, you wanted Emmi. Why?” I won’t get into this with her, not now.
“She is my daughter, and by rights, Solace City is hers. The rules are simple, Dante. She either chooses to hand me over for you to deal with, or she decides what to do. You can’t do anything without her say so. As her mother, I doubt she will order my death, do you?”
Wait, I stare at her, shocked. “You’re really already trying to use Emmi as a way to get free? Even if she says you walk, you’re dead. It won’t be quick either, so get comfy, Candice. You’re in this room for a long time.” I walk out, not bothering to look back at her. I head to the kitchen and cook. Everyone needs to eat, and we all need to talk about the way forward because right now, I’m not sure it is a good idea to keep Emmi here. Not when everyone wants to hurt her.
“Hey.” Turning, I look at Zane as I finish cooking.
“How are you feeling?” I ask.
“Good, burns aren’t as bad. What happened?”
I look at him. “I’ll explain once Bear comes and eats. And I’ll explain what happened with Gunner and me when we went for Candice.” Right now, isn’t the time, as I will need to repeat it all either way.
“I meant with Emmi. She came back to bed but tried sleeping on the chair, refusing to let me near her. She’s a mess, Dante.”
This is why we need to talk; I know it will help Bear and Gunner to keep her out of this place, but Zane has got attached. He’s too soft to let her go. “Bear is on edge; she isn’t helping, so I told her to stay away from everyone,” I say as I carry the food through.
“She can’t avoid us forever, Dante.”
“I’m not saying forever. We sit, eat, and discuss everything. Then we tell her the plan, or you can. Grab Bear and Gunner, please, Zane. We will sit as a family and eat, decide as a family, then tell her.”
I watch the shock on his face. “As a family? She is family.”
“Zane, go get them, please.” I can’t decide with just him. We need to do it together. I watch as he walks off, a few minutes later returning with Bear and Gunner. We sit and eat, but none of us talks, and I know it’s because this mess isn’t easy to sort.
“First, let's catch up. Candice is in Gunner’s room, waiting to see what happens. We had to kill a lot of people to get to her. Now though, both cities know she turned on the only family she had left, and used Emmi to try to gain control of our city. She wants to talk to Emmi, thinking that she’ll save her. Fact is, even if Emmi said to let her go, she wouldn’t make it out of the cities. Too many people know what happened.” I decided to start with that.
“You’re letting Emmi talk to her?” Gunner asks. He seems calm, which isn’t good. There is no crazy in his eyes right now.
“No, I’m telling Candice that Emmi refused and doesn’t want to see her. Then we will deal with her together. That removes the threat.” I won’t let Emmi go in there.
“And Emmi?” Zane asks.
“She told her mum things. Everything that happened is on her. We’re all like this because of her. We knew she betrayed us, but that doesn’t mean this happening didn’t hurt. I feel she would be better off away from us. Then we go from there.” I do, Bear certainly doesn’t want her near him, and Gunner is that close to the edge, one wrong move from her and she is as good as dead.
“She has to stay,” Bear says.
“You told her to fuck off, Bear.” I stare at him, shocked and confused.
“I hate her, Dante, but I still love her. I won’t settle. Even if she’s in the hotel with guards, I will worry. She can stay here.”
I shake my head at him. “Bear, you don’t understand. Her here is pushing you back to wanting drugs.” Has he forgotten that?
“She is also the main thing stopping me. Knowing there is a chance if I do slip, she will see, watch, and know. So, while seeing her pushes me, Dante, every time I consider it, consider going back to the drugs, I see her face. I see her disappointment because even if I tried hiding in here, I can’t.”
I don’t even know now; I thought that her leaving would be for the best.
“You three, I get it.” I turn and look at Zane. “When she released me, I flipped, threatened to kill her. Blamed her, and yes, it is her fault we went through that, but the fact is, we would have been locked up anyway.”
“And what does that matter?” Gunner shouts at him.
“Because they wanted us broken, so yes, Candice used what she had told them but think. Even if Emmi hadn’t told them, we would still be in this place right now. She would have used Adelia’s suicide. She would have used more physical violence towards us. We would have been dead. She wanted us to suffer. Had she not got that information from Emmi, the only way would have been torture, by killing us slowly. So, while what Emmi did caused us more pain, she saved us. She stopped Candice from just killing us. She came there and saved us, risking her own life,” Zane says.
“So, she should suffer the same,” Gunner states.
“She did! Look around you. You’re all so blinded by your own fucking hurt and pain! Dante, you punished her for doing it already. She risked her life, risked getting taken, raped, and abused to save us. She got stabbed, by one of us, threatened by us all, hurt by us all. Then stabbed and hurt by others, but you know what? We may have had to face our biggest demons, but she had to face the fact it was her family. She had to fight against her own blood for us! She killed her brother and still stayed after saving your asses to try to find her mum and end it. Not many people would kill their own family, even if they did what Emmi’s did.” Zane stands up. “She stays. You want to punish her, then punish her. Just look back to that day we got taken. That pure fear in her eyes when you asked her to tell us how she felt. The pure fear that when she admits it, we will hurt her or use her. She hasn’t even told us yet, and we already are.” With that, Zane walks off, and my head falls forward. I don’t fucking know anymore.
“Let her stay, Dante.” I look up to Gunner as he speaks. “He’s right. We’re all so angry at Candice, we’re taking it out on Emmi. Emmi didn’t do this. Candice did.”
“You wanted to fucking hurt her.” So why now have they changed their minds?
“I still do. Zane is right. She risked her life to come and save us. She faced her own family and was willing to take them down to save us. I’m not saying I’m over it, Dante, but we would be dead if it wasn’t for her. I will stay out of her way until I’m calm.” I watch as he stands and walks off.
Turning, I look at Bear. “I know you want her to stay, Bear. I’m just worried her being here will make this worse.”
“No, you’re not. This has given you a reason to push Emmi back out. Accepting you love her means extra pain when something goes wrong. So you want to shield yourself from her. You will still love her, Dante, and if she gets hurt, it will still hurt as much. The difference is if you accept her, you at least get the good parts.” He stands and walks out, leaving me alone. I sit back, my head falling back as I stare at the ceiling.
We should deal with Candice, but that can wait until tomorrow. Today everyone needs to rest and sleep. My mind replays Emmi opening that door, how much relief flooded through me before being followed by hate. She looks different. She had always worn dresses. But to rescue us, she was in a suit almost. Waistcoat and everything. She looked like the female Mafia, ready to kill everyone to save us. I didn’t see that, though; I just saw her mouth opening and heard the words she had told her mum. I stand and walk through to my own room, climbing in bed. I need to sleep, even if it is disturbed by nightmares.