Gunner: The Truth
I smile at Ethan. He doesn’t give in, not at all. I sit back on the chair with the dagger in my hand. I throw it and watch as it lodges into his leg.
“All I want you to answer is why. None of this she asked, or because you needed money. It was a foolish move, even for money. Do you like her?” I pick up the other dagger and twirl it around my fingers. He keeps going back to the same reason. For the money, yet his eyes tell a different story, and he has money already. I raise my hand.
“Okay. Fine, I will tell you.” I smile and stand. Walking towards him, I hold the blade against his chest.
“The truth or I will carve my name into your chest.” I smile, pushing the blade against him.
“I have known her for years. The bar she usually hangs out in. I worked there for a while. I saw her for years, years of wanting to have fun and everyone stopping her. I watched as she was slowly drowning beneath the restrictions. I saw the pain and hurt in her eyes when no one would sit with her and drink.” He shakes his head.
“The club tonight, that wasn’t Emmi. That was her releasing herself. Someone said they were calling Jamie, and she flipped, she started beating a guy, and of course, others tried stopping her. She threw a knife, and it stabbed a guy. She had them believe it was the plan, she stayed calm, but I had got so used to her. I saw the pure terror in her eyes, realising what she had done. She wanted freedom, and briefly, she got it. Yet her eyes were a pool of sorrow. She has never lived in her life, not really. Never had a chance to gamble in a place, to drink past the limit unless she was home in her room hiding. She has restrictions on how much she can drink. I felt sorry for her. She looked lost. The 10k was purely to hide that fact because I couldn’t make myself look weak in the city and doing it for free would do that.”
I stand looking at him. His statements are true. I can tell that.
“You like her.”
His eyes widen and he shakes his head. “No, as I said, I saw her for years. She’s a friend at a distance because men weren’t allowed near her. Everyone has their freedom, Gunner, and she had nothing. She wanted to live, and I wanted to try to give it to her because who the hell wouldn’t when you see the tears in her eyes and know she is hurting?”
Well, he doesn’t like her, which is good to know. So, while I want to keep going because he went against the rules and behind our backs, he was doing it for her.
“The arrangement is fucked up. She was brought up to know that she was to be given to your lot at any time after she turned eighteen. I considered how that would feel, growing up just waiting for the day you were taken for a deal.”
“The deal is void.” My words are quiet, and he looks up, confused.
“Then why the hell are you still doing it?”
“Our father tried stopping it. He had told her family it was a foolish deal to make. I guess them finally having Adelia, their own child, their daughter opened their eyes. Even after her death, they tried to pull out of the deal. The fact is her family don’t want her.”
He looks up at me, shocked. “No, they’ve been protecting her.” He seems so sure I am wrong.
“Protecting her or controlling her? You see, her parents wanted a boy. Just a boy and they got twins, one of each. To them, she is a burden. A boy can take care of their city, a girl can be hurt, pulled into traps. When we refused, they said if we didn’t keep the deal open and take her, they would just dump her in the city. My parents hated that. We were all adopted because they couldn’t have kids. When Adelia happened, it was a miracle, and they realised that even girls are valuable. Her family don’t see it that way. Her restrictions are not to keep her safe, but to try to stop the amount of work they would have if she had freedom.” My head falls at the thought of Adelia, our beautiful sister. Jamie made us aware they want it done now. Apparently, Emmi has become wilder, making it harder for them to protect her.
“Well, now you know the truth. You can stop torturing me and just end it.” Ethan looks at me, waiting for the final blow.
“I need to speak to Bear. Stay where you are.” I turn to the door.
He laughs. “Like I can get anywhere, Gunner, you have me chained up.” He is right.
Bear is outside the room with Emmi, her eyes full of tears. Why is she crying?
“Why are you crying, little lamb?” Bear asks, waiting, and I see pure pain in her eyes.
“Ethan doesn’t deserve to die. He doesn’t deserve any punishment you put on him. He was the only one to help me get some freedom. The only one to give me the freedom to live. Do you know how it feels?” She looks up at him, forcing more tears to roll down her cheeks and my eyes stay fixed on her face.
“How what feels?” Bear asks.
“To have lived for twenty-four years and never have fun? Never have a night out drinking and partying, never have the freedom to just walk in and out of shops, any shops you want? To be restricted so much that you only get to see around five places in your own city. To realise soon, you will be sent to another family expected to marry one of them while knowing that for your whole life, you have seen and experienced nothing?” Her words hurt me. We stayed out of it. We tried putting this off, over and over, but her mother refused. We keep out of the city’s business, especially when it comes to their lives. I can’t say I would have had I had known how strict they were with her, just to keep their work burden less.
“I don’t know, but what does that have to do with Ethan?” Bear asks.
“Because he is the one person who cared enough to risk his life to help me get that freedom. You may disagree, but he wanted to help me. He was giving me the freedom I wanted, and not even my family would give. He doesn’t deserve death because of me! I don’t want that guilt, not when he did nothing wrong and nothing to hurt me.” Her head falls forward.
“It is too late. He is with Gunner now.” Bear looks at her, and I move forward. I won’t kill him. She looks up, now noticing me, and I watch as pure hate fills her eyes. She screams, fighting against Bear to get to me. She screams insults at me as she cries and thrashes about in Bear’s grip.
“He is alive!” I shout at her, and she stops for a moment. “He is alive and will heal. I won’t kill him, for you, little kitten, I will spare him. I will spare him because he tried helping you when no one else did, but you won’t see him again.” She stays crying, Bear’s arms dropping from around her body as she calms. His eyes are on me, clearly telling me I am wrong. Maybe I am? Yet seeing her cry, I feel bad. I watch as she rushes to me. Here comes the smack. I get ready for it and feel her arms wrap around me instead. What the? I look down at her, confused, as she sobs against my chest. So not hitting me for hurting Ethan?
“Thank you. I’m sorry, I saw the blood and thought you had killed him.” She moves back and then walks off.
Bear stands staring at me. “You soft fucking fool.”
Maybe I am. “She was crying, plus his side matches hers. Ethan didn’t even want the money. He did it so no one would think that he was weak. He did it for her.” I can’t kill him for that.
“Make him aware he keeps quiet. He speaks nothing of her, this, everything. He stays away from her, Gunner. I don’t care. Tell him I will have someone else do his job. He stays out of this city.”
“Consider it done. I will finish up, then get some sleep.” I walk back down to the room and through the door; Ethan raises his head and looks at me like he is ready to die. He should be, but my little lamb just saved him.
“Here is the deal. You stay out of this city, Ethan. Bear will find someone else for that job you do. You will not speak to her again, and you will not mention the truth about the deal our families made.” I look at him as I pick up the dagger.
Pushing it against his side, I smile. “She saved you. Just now, her words saved you, so you owe her life. If I hear one word about you talking, Ethan, this won’t be the last time these daggers are used!” I push it forward, and he screams.
“No speaking, okay. Fine, I won’t fucking speak.” He looks at me. Then I see something click.
“What have you realised?” He looks at me now like he is debating telling me. Then, moving, I twist the knife causing him to scream, which just makes me smile.
“She was on a call. Some guy was bribing her. I think it was she gives him 40k, and he flies her out of her city and away from everywhere, so she was free.”
I turn the knife more. “Is that all?”
He nods, crying. “Yes, she was 5k away from doing it. She needed money for a place for herself and to start over. 5K and she would be going.”
“A name?” I need a name.
“She didn’t mention it. She called him from her phone, though. So, his number is on there.” Well, that will help me find this guy. I remove the chains and he falls to the floor. I throw him his clothes.
“I don’t care who it is. You do not mention her family and the deal. No good can come from her knowing her parents didn’t want her burden.” She doesn’t deserve that.
“I won’t,” he says, and I watch as he finishes getting dressed. Opening the door to the tunnel, I step out the way and place a stack of money on the side. He looks at me, confused.
“She made a deal with you, and she is our burden, so it is paid. Take the money and leave, pretend the deal went ahead. Anyone who was there knows not to speak.” He nods before taking the money and disappearing.
Walking to the door, I lock it before turning and walking back through the house. Tonight was calm, and I don’t understand why. Usually, I have some sort of crazy music on and the coloured lights flashing while I give out punishment, but I didn't because it was for my little kitten. It was all seriousness. I walk to my room, step into the shower, and watch as his blood runs free. She will never know. I won’t let her feel that pain of her parents not caring. Maybe it is Adelia? No woman has been in this house since her. We all failed her, all of us, including our father, for not seeing that snake in our lives. I close my eyes and see the rage, the blood, everything. I felt everything slip that night, I became Gunner, and there is no going back.
There is no going back for any of us. Which fucked us all over and fucked us all up. She will be one of the most protected women living here because there is no way I am risking it happening again. No one will survive if it happens again. Falling back onto the bed, I see her in my mind. She is so fierce. Even tonight, while crying, I saw pure fire in her eyes. She is a fighter and no doubt that is because she had to be, in her city. Breaking down would confirm her family’s worries that she is weak. She isn’t weak. She is stronger than Jamie, they just don’t see it. Or maybe they do see it but don’t want it known?
“You let him live?” I look at the door. Dante is stood there, staring at me. “Since when do let people fucking walk who weren’t meant to?” Oh, now he is angry over this?
“He did something for her that no one else could. Speak to her, Dante. She has no idea the truth behind this deal, or about her mum. She has had no life while we were here knowing her fate and did nothing to ensure she had a life before getting locked in this city.” I won’t argue over my choices. “If he turns up dead, it will kill her, so leave it. Now can I sleep, please?” I look at him, waiting. Not long after, he walks away.
She leaves tomorrow only to come back the day after. After finding her little escape friend, I think I will make sure her room is done nicely. I would say just like at her own home, but maybe she doesn’t like that if her parents choose everything for her? Maybe she wants to choose her own? I fall asleep with the thoughts in my mind of making her smile and be happy here, even if she refuses us all in the end.
When I wake, I walk out and sit with my brothers. We eat and talk. While Dante still refuses to accept that she will live here, we still have to make plans. I hear her movement and turn to see her walking into the room. She is different today. She has lost that fire, the edge. She looks defeated, and I don’t like seeing that look on any woman, but her? Somehow, it hurts more than seeing it on anyone else. She shouldn’t feel like that.
Emmi: Brutal Reality
My head hurts, I drank too much last night, more than I have ever drunk before, and I guess that was my way to cope with the facts of everything. The party is tomorrow night, and I know I can’t escape now. I know that once I get home, there will be no freedom. My mum will be getting me ready for this party. I want to fight and scream against her, because why should I be the perfect bride (or almost bride)? After getting showered and dressed, I walk out, unsure of what mood these four guys will be in this morning. I can only hope for good ones. I see them sitting together, eating, and talking, all falling quiet as I step through into the room.
“Come eat, little lamb. Then we will sort out a way to get you back home.” I nod and walk through, once again taking my seat next to Bear. I eat quietly as they talk, but it is as if they have changed the subject now that I’m here. They seem to be trying to avoid anything business or personal. Which leaves nothing. They don’t trust me, and I don’t blame them. My parents could be doing this to get information to take over the city.
“So, little lamb, who was your friend on the phone?” I turn and look at Bear, confused. “No playing dumb, Ethan was too eager to tell me about the guy was wanting… 40k, wasn’t it? To get you out of the city?”
Well, shit, now everyone is looking at me, and I know this was discussed as they don’t look shocked. They all knew.
“You’re going to kill him, aren’t you?” I look between them. Of course, they are. I don’t care, though; I have given up on caring right now.
“He was going to steal you,” Bear explains, but he is wrong.
“He wasn’t going to steal me. He was helping me escape. Risking his life to help me. You let Ethan go.” I turn and look at Gunner. He let Ethan go, so he could leave Paul alone.
“One, this guy isn’t doing it to help you. He is doing it through greed and to get money to run. Ethan did it purely to help you. The money was nothing to him. He has money, little kitten.” Gunner looks at me. Ethan didn’t do it for money? Surely that is wrong. Ethan doesn’t care about me. He did it to get money. He needed money, didn’t he? I look at all of them. So, Gunner let Ethan go because he didn’t need the money, which means he was helping me? Maybe they will realise Paul is doing it to help me? I don’t care either way.
“Paul, his name is Paul Wickins.”
I hear a snort of laughter come from Zane. Everyone is smiling and laughing slightly, but I see the pure anger in Bear’s eyes. Do they know him?
“Why do you all look so smug, and why are you laughing?” They do. They have a look of ‘I told you so’ on their faces.
“Because the little weasel knows us, that is why, sugar. Even we know the money was part of it, yes, but Paul’s main goal was payback. You would never have made it there alive.” Dante explains
I look at them, confused. How can they just assume they know I would be dead? “You don’t know that.”
“We do, Emmi. He is known in both cities, and it isn’t the first time he has done the wrong thing. He made it known to your family and ours he would take us down. He’s nothing big, with not much money, so he wasn’t a threat. We heard he had a plan to ruin both cities two or three years ago, but we waited, and nothing happened. But now we know that plan. He wants revenge, and you were nearly it,” Zane explains.
So, I was just a pawn? Paul was not going to free me. He was going to use me, take the money, and ruin the cities? I should feel mad, should hate him, should want revenge. But I don’t care. Right now, I don’t care about anything.
“It was three years ago he approached me with the proposal. He said he wanted to escape the city, and if I could get him 40k to restart his life, he would fly us out of the city and away from here. He gave me ideas on how to get the cash, considering my family never gave me more than needed. So, buying clothes, then returning them a week later for a refund. The dresses my mother expects me to wear are not cheap.” So, one every month, I would buy two or three and return one.
“How much did you save up?” Bear looks at me, a glint of interest in his eyes.
“Just under sixty thousand. I had nearly raised it all. I started buying four dresses and taking two back.” I had, but it wouldn’t have helped if what they were saying is true about Paul. Maybe I am just unlucky, and the course is set for my shitty life?
“Right, I have something to sort. So here you go, little lamb.” I watch as Bear places down the dagger and pick it up. Then, moving, I slide it into the holster on my leg. “Gunner will take you home. We will all see you Saturday, tomorrow night.”
Bear says ‘all’ like he is making Dante realise he has to come as well. “You don’t have to. Isn’t the party just so you can meet my family and them hand me over? Just send a car to collect me.” I won’t fight, this is set, but I will get answers from my mother and from Jamie. I will find my freedom in my own way.
“Not a chance. It would be rude and ignorant to ignore the party and just send a car. But, on the other hand, it will be good to see your city again, for Dante, that is. He hasn’t left our city for years.” Bear laughs, looking at him.
“I need to leave.” Dante stands and walks out, clearly still fighting against me. No one speaks. We just sit in silence for a while.
“We need to leave, Zane,” Bear explains, and he stands up. “See you tomorrow, little lamb.” Bear smiles and the two leave. I stay sitting and look at Gunner. He is crazy. That is the only word I can say. He is crazy.
“So, straight home or fun first?” His smile widens.
“Home. I guess if this is going ahead, I need to get ready.” I need time to speak to Jamie and my mum.
“Okay, little kitten, let’s go.” Standing, he grabs his jacket. I walk out with him, watching as he uses the card to go in the lift. In the car, I sit and stay quiet, everything swarming in my head as he drives. “So, you like daggers?” He grins across at me.
“Depends on the dagger, to be honest,” I explain.
“Open the glove compartment, little kitten. You can choose any of them you want.” He nods towards it.
I open it slowly, unsure of what to expect.
“How do you have a dagger, little kitten? It is not something I would expect your parents to give you or allow you to have.” He looks at me questioningly.
I stare at the daggers. How many does he have in the car and why? Laughing, I pick one up, my eyes assessing it wearily. “I stole it. Not exactly stole, I told the guy if he didn’t give it to me, I would get my family to pay him a visit. So, I have kept it hidden for two years now.” I don’t know why but I like my dagger. It helps me feel safe among the crazies. “I like this one, but I have nowhere to hide it on myself, so you can save it for me.” I can’t hide two; one is fine, but two?
“Not a problem, little kitten. What are your plans for tonight?” He smiles at me, and I realise I have no idea. I just know I need to talk to Jamie and my mum and try once more to get all this stopped. “It’s hard to believe, you know?”
I turn to look at him, confused. “What?” Is he on about me not having any idea of my plans for tonight?
“That you haven’t been with a guy.” He glances at me. Great, so we’re back on this topic? “Makes me wonder, that’s all.”
“Hmm?” I wish he would drive quicker so this conversation would end.
“Just curious how you managed for so long. Did you never try to get time and privacy with a guy?” he asks.
“I tried, but it never happened. Those willing to risk it were scared off quickly, and those I tried with often refused through fear. There is no place to hide in the city. Everyone knew me. Even at school, people wouldn’t come near me. I don’t understand why you are all so surprised.” Hell, the way Ethan acted clarifies that even those in this city who knew of me were afraid to touch me.
“A shame, that’s all.”
His words confuse me as he stops the car. “What’s a shame?” I feel my eyes rolling. He has a lifetime to talk to me, and he chooses now?
“The fact that you have never had a chance to be pleasured in that way, that you haven’t experienced it many times. Fingers, mouth, a cock.”
I feel my face flush. What the hell?
“I can solve that for you. No one will dare to stop me.” He leans closer, his mouth near my neck.
“I am not having sex with you.” Is he fucking crazy? I laugh at myself. He is. I know he is.
“I never said sex, little kitten. I just meant pleasure you, give you a mind-blowing orgasm.”
My body is trembling, but that is the signal for me to leave. “Thanks for the ride home. I am going now.” I don’t give him a chance to talk. I just get out of the car and walk inside.
My mother is stood there, waiting.
“Your dress for tomorrow is upstairs.”
I walk past her and nod. “Oh.”
“Oh? Is that all you can say? Oh? When I bought you the dress because you weren’t home to get one yourself?”
What does she want? A thank you, mum, for getting me a new dress that I will wear while you give me away? I just want to rush to my room and hide away.
“I have also booked for you to have your hair and makeup done.”
I continue walking up the stairs.
I turn, hearing her shout. “Would you be throwing yourself down to say thank you if your parents pretty much sold you off and forced you into an arranged marriage?” I stare at her, waiting.
“You were not sold. It was a deal. The Wolversons helped us gain control of the city again. In return, we promised you would marry their son.” She looks at me like I have It all wrong.
“You may not have sold me for money, but you gave me away to cover the debt. You are still giving me away when you don’t even know the family!” I feel my frustration rise.
“I know the Wolversons well, Emmi. I know they run their city like we run ours. I know the brothers are well-loved, respected, and some of the most sought-after men between both cities. Yet they hold more power than I do.”
She doesn’t know them. I want to tell her what I saw, but at the same time, I don’t want to. I don’t want her making out like they are monsters when she allows the same things to happen in this city, just behind closed doors.
“Where’s Jamie?” I want to speak to Jamie. I will fight her on this tomorrow.
“In his office, knock first, Emmi. He may be busy with a client.” She looks at me. “Why do you want Jamie? He agrees, Emmi.”
“He may agree, but that isn’t why I’m speaking to him. If I’m getting sent to live with them tomorrow, I'd like to speak to Jamie before then.” Turning, I walk to his office, not knocking because they never knocked for me, hence the lock. He doesn’t even look at me as I walk in.
“Make sure he gets the message. Tell Bear I’ll get someone to find him and bring him to the checkpoint. He’ll collect Paul from there.” There is a short pause. Standing, I wait to see if he notices I am here. “Yeah, it needs to be done. But honestly, it will be so much easier after it happens.”
I move further into the room and shut the door, watching as he spins around to look at me.
“I need to go. I will get that message sent and have him found.” He hangs up, clearly sending a message. “What is it, Emmi?”
I walk further into the room and sit down. “Who am I to you, Jamie?” I look at him, waiting.
“My little sis, why?” He is looking at me like I’m crazy.
“I’m not your little sis though, I was born a good fifteen minutes before you. I want to know what you see me as.” Not what the world tells him he is.
“Your size, lack of adult personality, and actions deem me older. Either way, you’re still my sister.”
“You see me as your sister but are not doing anything to stop this? You took over, so why not refuse?” I look at him, waiting and hoping.
“The deal goes ahead, Emmi. I follow Dad’s rules, which Dad put in place. You going to the Wolversons is part of that.”
“You know who they are and what they do, and you don’t care? How can you say I’m your little sister and then agree to that?”
I wouldn’t. I’m the one trying to save him. He has more power than me. He can make a new deal! I’m kept out of everything.
“It will be good for you, sis. Get you to grow up. You will need to become an adult to fit into their lives. It will make you useful to the family in some way.”
“I have grown up! I got a job, Jamie, which you made them push me out of. Maybe if I’d had freedom, I would have got further in my life?” How could he not realise?
“Emmi, the fact you were planning on leaving and getting into a plane with a guy proves you didn’t grow up. That and the fight in a biker club and sneaking past the checkpoint.”
“They told you!” I honestly thought they wouldn’t. Why would they tell him?
“The Wolversons didn’t. I don’t need them to tell me things, Emmi. I found out about Paul myself after I found money in your room. The fight and sneaking over the border, I also found out. Nothing stays hidden. Your behaviour is why the party was moved forward. We can’t protect you when you break the rules.”
So, they didn’t tell him? The Wolversons had been telling the truth when they said they weren’t going to tell him, but someone did? So, me trying to break free means they pulled the date forward?
“You’re going to let them take me? Come on, Jamie! This won’t solve anything.” Why can’t he just make a new deal?
“No., Emmi, you need to grow up and fast because you’re going tomorrow. You were restricted to keep you safe, the money is gone, so there is no getting out of it. I have guards on all exits, so you can’t leave.”
“You know if I refuse, they take you, right?” I look at him, watching as he nods. “I refused to fight this to save you, Jamie! I know. Everyone knows that you’re soft. You act like Dad did, but you do nothing at all to get your hands dirty. How can you tell me to grow up when you act like that and hide the truth?”
“Enough! You are going, Emmi. You can fight and scream, but you are fucking going. I don’t care what I have to do. Even if I have to tell them to tie you up and kidnap you, you’re going. Now leave. Nothing you say will change this.” He turns his back to me. There is something else. I don’t know what, but I feel like there is. I walk out and go to my own room, locking the door behind me. He’s been checking, everything is open, he was searching for something, or maybe just checking to see if there is anything and he found the money?
Closing my eyes, I fall back onto the bed, my mind instantly going to the car, to Gunner’s lips so close to my neck, to Bear’s hand wrapped around my throat. I’m crazy, so fucking crazy to even be getting slightly turned on by them!
I spend the day hidden away, the door locked, refusing food, refusing to talk. Refusing everything. I met the Wolversons, and somehow, they know more about my family, this city and me than I do. How is that possible? How is it possible for my family to do this and no one step in? The whole city knows, including the police, but they’re still doing it?
I wake up and keep myself hidden away. The noise of everyone getting ready for the party becomes louder and louder as the hours pass by. I should be getting ready. My mum has knocked several times today trying to get my attention, and I know soon she will give in and just get Jamie to unlock the door.
I found out quickly having a lock fitted made no difference. My mum and Jamie just got a copy of the key. Everything I have in this room which locks, they can get into. Maybe going to the Wolversons will give me more freedom? Sure, I have to marry one of them, but that doesn’t have to be tomorrow, right? I hope not anyway.
“Emmi! This is your last warning. The party starts in half an hour.” Groaning, I climb out of bed and walk to the door. I unlock it and watch as my mum walks in, her eyes widening in shock. “Shower now! You look awful.”
“Does it matter? Why have a party, mum? To celebrate that you’re getting rid of me? You can just send me there with one of the guys. It saves you money.” So why does there need to be a party?
“The party is to show both cities the deal was upheld. Some from this city and theirs will be here. All major deals are done in this way with some sort of party to make the cities people aware. So, get showered and ready.”
I give in, all the while hoping the Wolversons don’t show because surely I will get left here? I’ll find a new way out, even if it means hiding in a van, anything, I don’t know. I know, though, nothing I do will stop this happening. Maybe escaping the Wolversons’ city will be easier? Not many know me by face there.