A/N: Hi everyone. It’s been a while so I added a lengthier chapter with a few surprises in store for you; hence, the chapter’s tentative title. Enjoy! 🙂
“They took him,” Tony repeated, catching his breath.
“How? What happened?” Cheska asked. She had witnessed Louis’ skills when he and Tony fought and was astonished at the sudden turn of events.
“We were on our way back when Louis told me that someone was following us. We led them as far away from here as possible. We split up but I got caught. They dragged me to an alley where Louis was fighting off the others. One of them pointed a gun at me, saying he’ll shoot me if Louis doesn’t come quietly with them. He stopped then and they drove off with him.” Tony covered his face with shaking hands. The image of the gun aimed at his head flashed in his mind. Cheska wrapped an arm around his waist and guided him to a chair.
“Did you get a good look at any of them?” Fred asked, leaning forward.
“I don’t remember their faces.”
“The car’s plate number?”
Tony shook his head. “There wasn’t any.”
Cheska was unsure how things worked in Louis’ circle. He didn’t look like an average person. It wasn’t just because of his skills in martial arts, she had noticed small details yesterday: the quality of his clothes and the way he walked, talked (when he was cool-headed), and ate. For a person who looked like he had been living off the streets for a while, Louis had impeccable manners. The only time he was emotional was when it concerned his sister. Fred was another enigma to her. He could be friendly, teasing, terrifying, and caring in mere moments. He and Louis was a complicated bunch.
At the moment, Fred’s head was bowed. His brows slightly furrowed and eyes unseeing, he seemed to have forgotten the two people in the room with him.
“Should we call the police?” Cheska asked.
“No,” Fred said sharply. “It might make things worse for him.” He swung his legs off the bed and stood. Fred instantly regretted his sudden movement as the dull throb in his head spiked momentarily.
Behind the quietness of her voice, Fred sensed her worry. Considering that Louis broke into her house, he was impressed that Cheska cared for his wellbeing.
“His family doesn’t like their personal problems being broadcasted in the news,” Fred added.
“Is he the heir to the Roucan Global Enterprises or something?” Cheska thought aloud, pouring Tony a glass of water.
“Something like that,” Fred answered after a short pause. Thankfully, Cheska didn’t notice his initial shock. She was busy checking on Tony for signs of physical injury.
“What do you propose we should do?” Cheska asked.
“I’m going to see a friend who might help. You can stay here and wait for news or call me when Louis comes back.” The latter part earned Fred a confused look on both Cheska and Tony.
Cheska’s frown deepened as she something nagged in the back of her mind. “You can’t go traipsing off on your own with a head trauma,” she said, blocking the door.
“Tony’s not in the condition to drive and I’m fine already.” Fred smiled. She didn’t have to know about the mild headache he was still suffering from. It would only add to her worries when the symptom wasn’t worth mentioning in the first place.
“Tony can wait here. I’ll be your driver.”
“Wait, what?” Tony said before Fred could protest. “No way. I’m driving.”
“I’m not going to put a scratch on your car, if that’s what you’re implying.” Narrowing her eyes, she placed her hands on her hips.
“Excuse us for a minute,” Tony said to Fred. His initial shock forgotten, he towed Cheska out by the arm and released her when they reached the kitchen. “What’s going on?” he spun to face her.
Cheska glared at him and said, “Really?” She rolled her eyes at him. “A person’s been abducted and we’re having this conversation right now?” She turned on her heel but Tony caught her wrist and wouldn’t let go.
“We don’t know who these people are. Why do you want to help them so badly?”
She closed her eyes and breathed. There were a lot of selfish reasons she wanted to do this but knew only one thing to appease him. Cheska tugged at the arm Tony still imprisoned. “It’s the right thing to do,” she said eventually.
“Yes,” she said, exasperated. “Are we done here?”
Toy’s hand dropped to his side. Cheska gave him an annoyed look and marched back to where they had left their patient.
“I’m still driving,” he called out.
“Are you sure you’re okay?” Concern was back in her eyes.
“Okay.” She gave him a small smile and disappeared into her room. As it clicked shut, Tony shoved his hand his hair and cursed the situation they – she was in.
Cheska was surprised to see the room empty until she heard running water from her bathroom.
“Fred.” She knocked.
The water stopped and the door creaked open. Fred stood before her with his shirt unbuttoned. Somehow her eyes were riveted to the bare flesh peeking through the opening, promptly forgetting everything else.
“Cheska,” Fred said.
“Would you mind if I use the shower?”
She forced herself to look up to his face. Water dripped from the locks by his forehead. Fred was waiting for her answer.
“Yes – I mean, no,” she stammered. Her face warmed with embarrassment. Aware of what her face looked like, the blush deepened. “The towels in the cabinet under the sink, you can use those.”
“Thanks,” Fred said, smiling in relief. He had been looking forward for a bath to rid himself of the stickiness he felt after a fever.
“No worries.” Cheska stepped back. Her eyes darted everywhere but him.
He closed the door wondering what made her self-conscious all of a sudden. Fred regretted teasing her after Tony pulled Cheska aside. He hadn’t been considerate with her feelings after what she had done for him. Then again, he had wanted to distract her from lingering on the fact that her former lover was already married.
I acted like a player to her. Sighing, he ran a hand at the back of his head and winced. The swelling had subsided but it still hurt. Fred took out a large fluffy white towel and laid it on the covered toilet seat along with a fresh set of clothes. He stripped and entered the shower. As warm water blasted from the shower head, his thoughts turned to what he planned to do next.
Fred had sent James a message about Louis. The reply was curt telling him to come to the house as soon as possible. The next problem was Cheska. If he couldn’t dissuade her, he would have to ask her to put on a disguise.
Several minutes later, Fred walked in just as Cheska was putting on a cardigan over her strappy yellow top. His mind came to an abrupt halt at what he saw.
“You’re quicker than I thought,” she said with her back facing him. “I’m just about ready.” Cheska tugged the cardigan in place. “All set.” She turned and bumped her shoulder against a broad chest. Cheska retreated mid-step when she saw the intensity in Fred’s gaze. It was transfixed on a spot in her shoulder. His hand fiddled with the hem of her cardigan. Fred’s eyes flickered to hers, a question burning in his. When she didn’t react, he tugged the cloth aside baring one shoulder. A bruise the size of a finger – his – marred her skin.
“What is it?” Cheska frowned at seeing his face fell. She followed the direction of his gaze and was speechless. Fred retrieved his bag from the bed and returned to her side carrying a small tub of cream.
“May I?” he asked, his eyes guilt-ridden.
He dabbed cream on the bruise and checked the back of her shoulder. Fred applied some more and repeated the whole process on the other side. Cheska watched the careful manner Fred treated it. But what astonished her was the moment the skin absorbed the cream, the discoloration vanished.
The set of Fred’s mouth and the tension in his jaw didn’t bode well for her. “I’m still coming with you,” she said to Fred while he put the medicine away.
A crease on his forehead formed and smoothened in the blink of an eye. What are you doing? You should stay far away, Fred wanted to say, unsure of whether it was directed at himself or her. But he didn’t have the heart to say it nor push her away. He had already hurt her yesterday.
“About that,” he said, looking at her cheek. “It would be best if you wore your sunglasses for the time being.”
Tony pulled over in front of James’ driveway. The hour-long drive had been spent in tense silence. Cheska had tried to make small talk with Fred, who refused to be drawn into a conversation. It had been painful watching her efforts that Tony suggested to play some music. In the end, she retreated into her own little world via her trusty pencil and sketchpad.
Fred got out of the car without talking to Cheska who slipped on her sunglasses and followed him. Tony figured that something had happened as he trailed behind them. They didn’t wait long for someone to open the door. The same ginger-haired lady he had seen during Fred’s first night in town opened it. This time, however, was the first Tony had seen her up close. Curls wildly framed her oval face and her cheeks were flushed after rushing to the door. In her arms, a baby boy looked at them with interest. The woman greeted Fred warmly with the customary kiss on the cheek.
“What brings you here?” she asked Fred. Her eyes wandered to the two people he was with.
“Diana?” Cheska said, taking off her sunglasses.
“Cheska?” Diana’s eyes widened in recognition. They were silent for a few seconds, before they broke into laughter. “How are you? What are you doing here? Are you visiting or staying in town for good? Oh, I’m so glad to see you.” She gave Cheska a one-armed hug, which was reciprocated with equal affection.
“Me, too.” Cheska sighed, taking comfort at seeing a familiar face. Louis’ sudden appearance made her question her identity. What if her uncle had fed her lies? If so, what was his motive? Reluctantly, she pulled back from the embrace. They had to find Louis first before she could start looking for answers about her past.
“I didn’t know you two know each other,” Diana said, looking from Cheska to Fred.
“Same here,” Fred said incredulously. From the corner of her eye, Cheska saw him staring at her in mild curiosity.
“We actually just met…through Tony,” Cheska put in. She pulled Tony nearer and introduced him as a common friend.
Diana ushered everyone into the living room. “Why don’t you wait here while I fetch James,” she said.
“I’ll go,” Fred volunteered. “It seems like you and Cheska have a lot of catching up to do.”
“I suppose it’s alright.” Diana looked at her long lost best friend and made up her mind. “James is in the library.” She jerked her thumb at the direction of where her husband was in.
“Thank you.” He glanced at Cheska before he left. There would be no more surprises. The least he could do for James was warn him about her being the spitting image of Electra.
“Come in,” James’ voice came out muffled from the door.
Inside the library, the curtains were closed. James continued working on his computer. The hologram displayed a map and a blinking red light. It was definitely not what Fred expected to see from a novelist’s computer.
“I traced Louis’ phone signal at his home but it looks like he’s on the move again.” James twisted his chair to face Fred, who stood with his mouth open. “What?”
“Nothing.” Fred clamped his mouth shut and scanned the room with fresh eyes. It still looked like an ordinary library except for one piece of equipment sitting in the room.
James cocked an eyebrow at him. His inspection certainly hadn’t gone unnoticed.
“It’s not like I started as a full-time novelist,” James said with a shrug.
“I thought you didn’t want to get involved.” Sure, Fred had sent the message in advance to speed things up, but he anticipated that his best friend would pass them on to someone who could help them.
“It just so happened that I managed to convince Louis to give me his new mobile number when he came here. I didn’t think I would be using it to track him though.” James crossed his arms. “But I’m not going out of my way to hack into security cams anytime soon.”
“You can do that?”
“My PC’s not fully equipped.” James glanced at the moving dot on his computer. “We’ll just have to content ourselves knowing that Louis is safe from his father’s enemies. What happened anyway?” He gestured at the sofa.
Fred eased a little knowing Louis hadn’t been kidnapped for ransom. He sat on the proffered seat and started, “Louis found someone who looks like Electra.”
“It’s a good thing he led them away from her house,” James said after listening to the events from yesterday up to the present. He paced across the room, peering at the hologram every once in a while until something caught his attention. “Did you say she was staying near Mariana’s Beach Resort?” James stared at the red dot which had paused on the landmark and began its slow progress to a residential home.
“He’s heading to her house. You should warn her—”
“She’s in your living room,” Fred interrupted.
“There isn’t time—” James cut off as he registered what his friend had said. “She’s here?” His eyes widened in shock.
“She wanted to help.” Fred rubbed the back of his neck. “I tried to stop her but it looks like bringing her along was a good idea.”
James strode hurriedly from the room and swung the door wide open. Voices from the other end of the house drifted towards him. Drawn by the sound of laughter, James hung back a few feet from the living room to watch. Diana laughed with the woman whose back was turned to him. She spoke animatedly and tossed her head back with another laugh. Diana noticed him at the edge of her periphery. She glanced at him, bemused at why he kept his distance. Fred stood next to him like a ghost, wan and lost. When it became apparent to her that they weren’t joining them any sooner, she rose from her chair and pulled James into the room.
“James,” she fixed him with a stern stare which told him to stay put. “Remember the girl I told you about, my roommate Cheska in Amsterdam? I’d like you to meet her.”
He sensed movement in the corner of his eye. Reluctantly, James looked down at the woman sitting in front of him.
“Nice to meet you,” Cheska said, her hand outstretched.
Mechanically, he exchanged pleasantries with her. All the while, James studied her face for signs of recognition. None could be found. Her amber eyes strayed to Fred and back at him. Cheska’s smile became a little forced as wariness crept in her expression.
“James, smile,” Diana ordered.
His lips twitched and the corners tugged upward.
“Okay. That’s a little scary,” his wife said lightly. She patted his arm. “Stop with the handshake, dear.” The warning tone in her voice succeeded in snapping him out of his daze.
“Sorry,” he mumbled.
“It’s alright. I’m used to it.” Cheska couldn’t keep the sarcasm from her voice. It didn’t help that her face was warming up. She hadn’t been angry at somebody for a long while. Her ex had become tiresome at best, but Fred was maddening. Why hadn’t he warned her that another person might freak out at seeing her face?
“Please don’t get mad at Fred,” James said.
Her mouth formed a little “o.” Did he read her mind? Cheska dismissed the notion immediately. He and Fred had been holed up in the library for some time, probably talking about her.
The shift in her feelings from anger to curiosity was a relief to James. He could endure a room swirling with negative emotions when needed. What urged him to speak up hastily was when he caught sight of his son David. The boy had been playing colored blocks on the floor with another guest when his face scrunched up without warning. Something had upset him at the same time Cheska’s face turned slightly pink. James shared his wife’s suspicions before, but now it was confirmed: David is an Empath.
“Fred told me about yesterday,” James covered his blunder upon seeing Cheska’s eyes narrow. He wasn’t inclined to share his ability with anyone. Two people knowing it was enough.
“Can you help Louis?” Cheska asked.
He searched her face for clues if there was a different meaning to her words.
“Can you find him?” she clarified.
“He’s in good hands. Those men who took him are his father’s.” James sighed. He guessed it was too soon for him to hope in solving the mystery.
“I don’t understand,” Tony interjected. “Why would Louis fight them?”
“Louis left home.” James took in the appearance the man who had been playing with his son seconds ago. “Tony, right?”
“Louis and his father had a falling out a few weeks ago. The father ordered his people to bring him home. I’m sorry to hear about the encounter though.”
“Can’t he bring Louis back by himself?” Cheska asked, her forehead creased in consternation.
“He could but the security’s been tightened. A month ago, an assassination attempt against him almost succeeded. If Louis hadn’t been there, it might have…” James trailed off, his eyes taking on a faraway look.
“What, is his old man some kind of political figure?” Tony half-joked. His grin faltered when he saw James’ and Fred’s serious expression. “Is he?” he asked, disliking where his thoughts were taking him.
“He’s not a politician. Louis’ father is more than that. If you want figures, he owns seventy per cent of the land holdings in this city.”
“You’re kidding, right?”
Tony gulped when James shook his head.
Copyright © 2014-2016 Cecilia Beatriz. All rights reserved.
A/N: I’ve decided to add a trivia about some of the characters in this part. Let’s start with Fred’s best mate. James’ role is active compared to the original story I wrote ten years ago. In the past, he was just another friend. This time, he’s more of a connection between Fred and Electra. He knows more about Electra and Louis’ family than most, but kept his distance (refer to Chapter 14). James also has secrets that Fred is discovering only now, like tracking Louis’ mobile signal. Would you think that he’s doing it on purpose to let Fred get a taste of his own medicine? Or, is he just naturally reticent?
Stay tuned! 😉
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