The sky looked like a bruise. At least that was how Nolan Ross looked at it. He kept his eyes to the sky, the clouds shifting like a storm was coming. He half expected a chasm to open up and tear him off the earth for helping out the little blonde vixen that really wasn't little at all. Emily Thorne was tall and lithe with strength in her bones. Underneath her strength there was certain vulnerability though, and behind the fire in her eyes was a wading pool of regret. There were no regrets behind her dark eyes today, only flames and smiles that were a long time coming.
She had told him she would meet him on the beach, and that she wanted to go home for good. He had no disagreements even though it wasn't the safest place in the world right now. With her cottage overlooking the Grayson Manor he assumed she wouldn't want to be there right now. Emily had made the point that this place was her home, no matter what house she saw in the distance, looming over like a shadow. She would look at the Grayson home and feel so many things but in her house would be what really mattered, family, or at least a sense of family.
Nolan had told her that they could go to Pennsylvania to stay with his Aunt Carole but she kindly declined that offer. She had been hiding all her life; it wasn't time to hide, not anymore.
He stood in a dark navy blazer, a honey colored polo underneath as he waited for her to arrive. He felt like the prince waiting for Cinderella only she wasn't coming in some sparkly pumpkin carriage, just a jaguar. If he had told Emily that, she would have just laughed. Emily would have said he was enough Cinderella for the both of them.
The sun began to set, falling low in the sky and he remembered the day before hearing that the moon was going to be big and full tonight. He would have welcomed it; it would give him something to fix his eyes upon instead of Emily Thorne. He was overjoyed, but more for her sake.
Emily Thorne sat in her car only she wasn't driving it. She had hired Nolan's body guard, Big Ed to be her chauffeur for the day. She was paying him well and tipping just the same. She didn't want to drive today, her head in the clouds, her heart not in the game. She thought she would feel relieved but she still had so many thoughts jumbled and bouncing around in her head. She watched the trees pass in the window, pine and oak. She could smell the lemon zest air freshener she had put in the car a day earlier, before all this had happened, before the Grayson family crumbled beneath her feet.
She thanked Ed for driving her back home and for taking her bag out of the trunk. Nolan walked over to them both; staying quiet and much to her surprise he hugged her, arms around her waist. Taking a breath, her body stilled against his and she relaxed. She was exhausted mentally and physically so she wasn't going to struggle against his touchy motion.
"Whatever happened to baby steps Nolan?" she asked him, her chin resting on his shoulder.
Nolan smirked, his lips curling up. "I think today you can afford to say "To hell with the rules."" he purred.
Emily shook her head. Sometimes he could be utterly ridiculous but that was what she loved about him. "Fine…you earned it champ."
Nolan laughed, his body erupting into laughter, making him double over. "You just called me champ."
Emily rolled her eyes as she rolled her bag away from the car so that Big Ed could drive away. "Don't make it into a big thing. Come on…"
Walking to the front porch with him she lifted her bag up the few steps and he helped her carry the rest, seeing she was worn thin. He watched her unlock the door but before she could go inside Nolan lifted her up as if he was cradling her. She didn't think he was strong enough to do so but it was a good surprise.
"Nolan, what the hell are you doing?" she asked as she clutched his shoulder, scared he was going to drop her. She didn't know his physical strength even though the two had been peas in a pod for five years, living between The Hamptons and New York City.
"Welcome home…." he stated simply as he spun her around slowly before setting her down on her own two feet.
"Thank you…but this has always been my home," she murmured.
He nodded, pacing against the wood floor "Not like this…not with everything you've done."
"It isn't over yet…" she reclaimed as she took out her infinity box, the main content in her suitcase. Placing the box down on the coffee table she removed the white sheet from the couch thus showing how they hadn't been here for quite some time. Sitting down she motioned for him to sit next to her. She let her fingers move over the double infinity engraving her father had carved in prison for her. Her eyes moved to reach Nolan's gaze.
"Do you two need a moment alone?" he teased to which he got an elbow in the stomach for saying.
He watched her remove her red sharpie marker, slowly unhinging the cap. He felt a little out of place, like he didn't belong there. Like this was some intimate ritual of hers. It was, but she was letting him in on it, she trusted him.
Laying the cap down on the table he kept his eyes fixated on it for a while as he watched her take a deep breath as if she were expelling everything from her body, breathing in and breathing out. She exhaled and he knew she was about to begin. She took a picture from the box, one of Victoria and Conrad Grayson looking happy and peaceful together. He wondered how long she had had that picture, just waiting to use it. Setting it down on the table she let the red strike the film, leaving two X's across their smiling faces.
Emily let her eyes follow the red lines on the thin paper trying not to let anything faze her, trying not to let the thought of Charlotte and her misery get in the way of her happiness. Leaning back into the couch, sinking back into the cushions she looked over at Nolan who had just turned 40, his birthday close to hers.
"Have you been doing this the whole time?" he asked as his body prepared itself in the very way Emily's rested.
"Doing what?" she asked, confused by his question but it was still early, and she was obviously tired after everything.
"This…this sharpie thing," he almost asked, his brow raised and his hand on his stomach making her wonder for a moment if he was hungry, or pregnant. The idea of being pregnant scared her, especially because Daniel had almost talked her into it on the fourth year of their marriage. A marriage she chose to have just for the sake of the mission. A wedding Nolan Ross did not approve of and did not attend.
"It gives me closure…" she murmured, keeping her eyes from him like she didn't want to be judged but she had nothing to worry about, he would never judge her.
"Understandable…" he purred, in his usual Nolan-esque voice that no one could seem to impersonate. There could only be one Nolan Ross.
"So, how do you feel?" he asked as he fought for control of his limbs, as if he was still learning where to place them. Even after all this time, part of him always felt entangled in something, a weight pressing down.
"How can you even ask me that?" she asked as she crossed her arms, a stable act of defiance.
Nolan sighed and leaned forward, his elbows resting on his knees. "After everything, now's your chance to be blunt, you don't have to play coy anymore. Let your hair down Ems…"
"Easy for you to say…" she said as she stood up, putting things back in their box. "I still have Charlotte to think of, her pain."
Nolan curled his tongue against his teeth and cocked his head, about to disagree with her. "True enough babe but Charlotte's not a little girl anymore."
Emily moved her body, positioning herself toward him. "Age doesn't mean anything Nolan."
Nolan smiled softly, he was with her there. Although he was older than her he still felt that he was the same age, if not younger.
"Well you can take it easy…er, easier…" he said as he stood up, brushing his shoulders off.
"Can I?" she asked, the words flowing rather quickly from between her parted lips.
With Nolan sometimes it was easier to talk, she didn't have to mask her feelings and keep them inside, and she didn't have to think before she said anything. He knew her as Amanda Clarke, he knew her as Emily Thorne and he knew her as the mix in between. He was drawn to her from early on mainly because she was related to David Clarke, a man he valued, but also because he knew her story and he wanted to take care of her.
Over the years he had seen her grow, and when they paired up as partners in crime, there was no looking back. He had grown quite fond of her. To say it was love was an understatement. He had loved her from very early on. While he hadn't lusted after her publicly, he may have had a soft spot for her, a piece he tucked away even from himself. Things were complicated and he knew there would always be something in the way. A lot of things had gone wrong along the way just the same.
Her secret identity had recently come out and it had destroyed everything. The Graysons had finally learned that she was in fact Amanda Clarke and Emily would never forget the look on Victoria's face when she learned to truth. Victoria was bewildered but also not shocked as Charlotte, Conrad and Daniel were. So much shit had gone down in her family over the past couple of years that she wasn't surprised her daughter-in-law was the renowned Amanda Clarke. Daniel was also shocked and almost immediately called for a divorce, Emily didn't argue. He did warn her years before that he didn't like lies in a relationship. He was also a hypocrite.
The Grayson family was like a joint group of blood sucking parasites, everyone except for Charlotte. Sometimes the young girl would sink under and feel crushed beneath the weight of her family obligations but sometimes she could shine and even do favors for Emily without her even knowing it.
Nolan sauntered into the kitchen, removing his blazer and hanging it at the back of one of the stools. "So…how's Daniel taking everything?"
"As to be expected…we're separated and the divorce papers are being made up as we speak but, no shock there…" she murmured as she followed him into the kitchen. Standing by the stove she smiled at the thought that her infinity box was right on the table and she didn't have to worry about leaving her things out anymore. Her gun could be out in the open, her box, her files, because everything was out in the open. Almost everything was put to rest.
"Was it weird sleeping with the enemy?" Nolan asked as he poured himself a glass of iced tea, and some lemonade for Emily. "It's very movie trope cliché."
"Shut up Nolan…" she said as she moved near him just to smack his shoulder making him snicker. He loved it when he could strike a nerve. Emily and Nolan could always twist and bend each other's wills and hit a nerve with ease. They could make each other cry because they knew each other well enough and they could make each other burst out laughing just the same.
Things over the years had changed, she started out cold to him but like everyone Nolan Ross came into contact with, they warmed up to him sooner or later. While he was very well known to the world by name and face, he was able to keep his business life separate from his personal life, although Emily Thorne was a good mix of both business and pleasure.
"What do we do now Ems?" he asked her, the question being one that was lingering in the air for quite some time now.
She thought to herself, clutching the ice cold glass of lemonade and pressing it to her lips, to give herself more time to think. It was an excuse, a prop to give her more time. Why did she always have to have the answers? While he had helped her many a time over the years he still followed like her trained soldier, waiting for orders. She wished he would have the answers or plans or ideas but he waited on her because he thought that was what she wanted. If he could read her mind, things would be a whole lot easier for the both of them.
"We wait…" she said as she walked toward the porch, needing a second to breathe, air to fill her lungs.
He followed her, hips swaying as he moved like a tireless predator.
"We wait for what?" he asked, needing to know, needing to be informed. He couldn't read her mind after all, much to her dismay.
"For things to heal, for the salt in the wound to stop hurting," she said as she sat down on the porch swing, the one her father had made for her, and the same one that Jack had moved to the spot where her father had always meant it to be.
People took care of her in little ways, made her feel closer to what she wanted to be, what she wanted to have. Now with everything said and done, the Grayson family in imprisonment sans Charlotte and Daniel, she wondered what she was without all that, without the side of her that needed Revenge which was most of her. What was she underneath it all? Who was she when she was stripped bare for the world to see?
Chapter 2: Curiouser and Curiouser
Daniel Grayson's hand came down on the counter, almost angry enough to crack the marble beneath his fist. He had seen Nolan Ross carry Emily Thorne or Amanda Clarke rather, through the threshold of her cottage and it had sparked something in him. He was married to the woman for almost five years. He had almost talked her into having a baby with him and he told her he loved her every day, and this was how she wanted to pay him back? Daniel was furious, some rage inside of him coming alive. The taste of rum stuck to his tongue and made him think of the beach, a place he would often go to with Emily Thorne considering they lived on one. One of their first dates was on the shoreline at sunset.
He needed something stronger.
Not only did she lie to him about her name, she had kept enough secrets for a life time. Who does something like that? He thought. She must have been messed up from the start if she was able to use him like a pawn for so long without giving up or giving into his way of life. He wondered if she ever really loved him at all.
Taking a swig of straight vodka he heard a voice behind him, a familiar one, his sister, Charlotte Grayson.
"You're skating on a thin line Danny…going down a dark road untraveled…" she said shaking her head.
"You'd know all about that, wouldn't you Charlotte?" he said, crossing his arms and bringing up her past drama with her pill addiction. He wasn't in the mood for small talk or anyone second guessing his actions.
Charlotte pouted, shifting her feet almost awkwardly. "I just want you to be okay…"
Daniel let more of the strong clear liquid travel down his throat, leaving a burning sensation that would travel to his stomach and would later make him feel like it was tearing him apart. He hadn't drunk so much in a long time, not since college. Not since he and Tyler had hung out on multiple assorted occasions.
"Well that's not going to happen…I lost someone I loved, you gained someone…" he said looking at her like a lost puppy searching for his home. The house was quiet, too quiet.
"Are you kidding me? What about mom and dad and Grandpa? They're in jail right now and the company's gone to crap and all you can talk about is Emily?" she asked in a bitter, sharp voice.
"Amanda Clarke," he said as he let another round of vodka take away the taste of regret. "It's Amanda Clarke now…or all along I guess…" he said with a little laugh, sounding like a mad man. The mad hatter.
"Daniel…what are we going to do?" she asked as they walked out onto the terrace, a place where Victoria Grayson once stood.
Daniel shrugged, maybe one day he could find it in his heart to forgive and forget but right now a fire burned in his chest, and it hurt.
"Five years Charlotte…" he managed to get out with a broken voice. "She lied to us, all of us for five years."
Charlotte took a breath, trying not to hate Emily, or Amanda or whoever she was since they were family, or maybe they were just blood. It was too soon to tell. "I know."
Daniel leaned into the railing, hearing a creak and for a second, Charlotte was scared that the railing was weak and could not support his weight. She didn't need to lose anyone else.
She had lost too many people over the years, Declan as a boyfriend, Adam when he overdosed, her Uncle Maverick who had turned up dead, and her horse Leopold that she used to ride when she was a child, a bit further upstate.
"Careful…" she warned him as she looked down at Emily's cottage, the sun fixating on it and giving it a warm glow she was jealous of.
Her home, now that she had graduated college was cold even in the summer and it felt neglected as Ashley had stopped working for them and the maids and help sort of just disappeared. Daniel had probably taken care of all that but still. She didn't know what she was going to do with her life now, maybe go to law school to help her parents, but were they really worthy of her help?
She really needed to talk to Emily, and soon. She needed to get the facts straight and she could take it from there.
Another passion of hers was to work with children, she had known the ups and down of good and bad parenting and thought it would be good to start there. Maybe she could look into being a social worker, getting an associate's degree in psychology to add to her bachelors in criminal justice at Yale. If she were to go to college again though she would go somewhere closer, somewhere where she could keep an eye on Daniel, on what little family she had left.
"I saw her with Nolan…" he said as his words and syllables almost hissed because his jaw was shut tightly.
He needed to show resistance with her, he still viewed her as a teenager. He would always view her as this young thing that needed to be taken care of. Now she definitely needed a good role model with their parents locked up.
"They're friends, what's so weird about that?" Charlotte asked with a hint of sadness in her voice.
Part of her knew that soon she would be losing her friends in addition to her parents. Sure they weren't real friends anyway if they just liked her because of her money but they were something. She hoped the friends she made at college wouldn't judge her because of her family's company and her loss of status and wealth. Someone there had to be level headed and smart. Someone had to like her as a person instead of just her designer clothes and Prada pocketbook.
"He sticks around after everything…?" Daniel asked in an almost muted whisper.
Charlotte turned to him and raised a brow, curious about what her older brother was saying. Even after everything she still found herself able to be confused and surprised. "You sound suspicious."
Daniel almost smirked in a way that made him look much like his father. "I am…" he husked.
Something, a light, glimmered in his eye and for a second Charlotte was scared of what he was becoming. It was almost as if Daniel was traveling down a very narrow rabbit hole that would only lead to pain and more destruction and she felt like she had to stop him.
"Stop it, stop acting like nothing matters!" she said almost pushing him, using all her might not to get physical with her kin.
"If it didn't matter then I wouldn't be suspicious at all. Don't you think it's a little weird that Nolan Ross out of everyone is the one that sticks by her? He what, just doesn't care that she's not who she claimed to be? He must have known from the very beginning." Daniel murmured as he began to pace the balcony, hoping to spot something, even a glimpse.
Charlotte almost sounded like her mother when the next words came out of her mouth, "That's absurd."
Daniel gripped her shoulder, squeezed maybe a little too hard and it made her pull back with a flinch. "Think about it."
Charlotte rolled her eyes and crossed her arms as she looked down below, a whole world down there. "I am."
"Not reasonably. He knows her; he's been working with her. That's gotta be what was going on. He was over way too often for them to be just friends."
"What? You think Emily's plan was to get your money? Doesn't she have enough as it is? She doesn't seem like the gold digger type to me…"
Daniel shook his head. He was married to her for almost five years; he knew she didn't care about money all that much but then again, if she lied about her name, who knows what else she lied about? She was not the woman he married, not even a sliver.
"That's not like her, there's something fishy going on…and I'm going to find out what…"
He couldn't take his eyes off her, he just couldn't. Over the years he had grown to respect her more and more and his admiration evolved and bloomed like a garden in a sea of sand. He didn't think it could grow but it did. Even though her choices could also be harsh and not part of the road he imagined she would travel, he went along with her every step of the way. If he couldn't talk her out of something, which was usually the case, at least he could help her achieve her goal and keep her safe. The one thing he didn't want was for her to get hurt.
Nolan watched her shift around the apartment, and for a second he could have sworn he was on speed. She moved quickly as if she was waiting for something to spring out and attack her. She was always on guard and he wished she could just finally relax. Even with the white haired man dead and the Grayson family mostly imprisoned she still couldn't feel as if she could rest. Her work was never done.
"Do more people have to pay for their sins?" he asked with a purr, pretending to reach for an invisible cross against his chest, dangling like a rosary.
She shook her head and paused for a moment, thinking of Daniel. Did he have to pay? How far and deep into the company did he really go? He always said he wanted to make it better, that he wanted to fix what his father had broken but she knew even those wishes and goals could be corrupted with just a little bit of pulling strings.
Anyone could just turn Daniel Grayson into their puppet. If Tyler Barrol could do it five years ago, anyone could. Even though she liked to think that being with her had made him a stronger willed individual, she wondered just how much had really sunk in. If her words had meant anything at all or if familial bonds were just too strong to ignore.
"Depends on if anyone else gets in my way," she stated as she hung her head.
Emily Thorne was ready to inflict pain upon anyone who got in the way of her final moments of pure vengeance and or happiness. She would kick anyone's ass if they decided to hurt Nolan or Jack just the same. She wouldn't think twice.
"What are you going to do? Beat them with sticks?" he asked as he crossed his arms, trying to find a suitable position for his very important limbs.
Emily gave him a look, one of those looks where she was banking on him being sporadically insane.
"Sticks?" she asked, entertaining the thought for his amusement and then it hit her.
He amused her... She liked to entertain him for not only him, but also for herself. She could let Amanda Clarke shine through with him, she could be herself. She could act like a teenager and not get scolded for it even though she was 31.
"Yeah, go all Bruce Lee; Enter the Dragon on their asses…." He husked.
"Did they use sticks in those fight scenes?" she asked as she leaned against the doorway, catching the cool drift of the ocean's currents, the scent of seaweed skirting under the door.
"Probably. In those movies, what doesn't the master use as a weapon? I bet you saw a lot of that during your time in Japan with Satoshi Takeda," he said as he leaned on the other side of the frame, their legs close.
"A fair share," she stated as she eyed his strong face, the cheekbones prominent in the different lights filtering through the house that desperately needed some spring cleaning.
"Well…you know what they say. Everybody loves Kung Fu fighting…" he murmured, getting a smile out of her. "There she is…."
Emily swatted his arm as she let him lean alone. She was always so bipolar in the way that one moment she would be all smiles and in on the joke and the next she would be inside herself, internalizing even those simplest of things. He never knew with her, but it also kept him guessing which he kind of liked.
"So, what's next Emily Thorne? Or should I call you Amanda Clarke now?" he asked, a deep and tough question coming out.
Emily pulled out a chair, taking the white sheet off of it; things around the room starting to look less and less like comical Halloween ghosts. "I've been living as Emily Thorne for so many years, might be hard to go back to Amanda."
"But that's who you are…" Nolan said, walking toward her.
"I don't know how to be Amanda Clarke anymore."
Chapter 3: With Words
Through the blistering heat, Jack wiped the sweat from his brow, in desperate need of a shower and he knew it. He was trying to keep himself busy and with Declan living in Brooklyn he didn't have his younger brother to lean on for support. Sure it was not a long drive but he didn't want to nudge his way into Declan's life with his problems. Declan would have been supportive but things just weren't the same. Things changed, new chapters, all that. This was definitely a new chapter in his life, one that was all about truth and origins.
Finding out Emily Thorne was actually Amanda Clarke was both a gift and a curse. For one thing he couldn't stop thinking about the night that they had kissed, the night that Sammy had passed away in their arms. Emily had let her emotions get in the way and to be honest, so did he. He knew she was with Daniel and he crossed the line because he was upset, because she was there to comfort him, and sometimes comforting got confusing when emotions got high.
Everything he thought he knew about Emily Thorne was a lie and everything he thought he knew about Amanda Clarke was as well. Years ago he had spent time in a stranger's bed. While they had dated for some time and he learned who she was as a person, she still wasn't who he thought she was and it changed a lot. He didn't like being lied to; he shared that with Daniel Grayson who was betrayed even more than he was. Daniel was married to Emily after all.
Letting his old wash rag move across the bar the counter space become smooth once it was rid of all the empty peanut shells people had crushed under their fingers and removed with their nails. Jack probably should have switched to chips or pretzels but pretzels went too fast and peanuts took effort. It kept bored people busy and in the bar longer. He had learned little tricks from his father who had showed him how to man a bar at a very young age, perhaps too young.
Nothing was holding him back now, nothing was keeping him from leaving and finally going off to Haiti or wherever else his help was needed. He heard a ring at the door where he had placed a bell years before. Looking up he spotted a familiar face much to his surprise. He was just grateful it wasn't one of the remaining members of the Grayson family; he didn't think he could handle that right now.
Ashley Davenport looked fresh faced as she paraded herself into The Stowaway, a place she only seemed to frequent when she had a spare moment which was rare back in the day. He wondered why she was back but he didn't have to wonder for long.
"Hey you…" he said as he threw his rag down, almost spilling a half empty beer that a customer had left on the table.
In her English accent that had since become more subtle she threw her arms up, eager to hug the man even though they were never exactly close. They were only close because Emily seemed to fancy him and she once fancied Emily. "Long time no see, Jack…" she purred as she clung to him.
He released her and nodded, his hair almost in his eyes. "Pardon me, I'm a mess…"
Ashley scoffed, "Let's not prattle on about all that, I'm just pleased to see you. It has been a long time."
"What have you been up to?" he asked, always ready to ask someone else their business before talking about himself.
Ashley sat down with a menu, eyes skimming over the cheeseburgers and heading straight to the salad with the cranberries and walnuts. "Nothing's changed."
Jack laughed. "You mean in reference to my menu? I know, Hey, gotta stick to the classics, plus I'm too lazy to teach the few chefs we have anything new."
Ashley pointed to the salad, and he remembered she liked it with balsamic vinaigrette dressing. He placed the order and returned.
"So what has changed?" Ashley Davenport asked as she brushed her shorter curled hair behind her ears. She looked like a silent 1920's film star, very Vaudeville.
Jack leaned in, elbows on the bar, "You haven't heard?" he asked, an eyebrow rising as he spoke. She was the gossip queen, if she didn't know what was what around here then things were very wrong with the world.
"Oh I heard, I didn't even want to touch that with a ten foot pole till later…thought we should catch up on the small things first but if you insist…"
Jack put his hand up, "Wait wait, we can sweat the small stuff…tell me where you've been Ashley."
Ashley, the middle child in her family needed a lot of attention, when she stopped getting it in The Hamptons; she moved onto NYC, trying her luck there but the city was too big for her. "I've been in Chicago doing some theatre work and fashion design actually. I can't pin down a career just yet. I might go into party planning for good out here. I've come back to finally decide and then I hear all this. You know, I'm not surprised, I was always suspicious about Emily."
Jack eased back, trying to look disinterested so it didn't hit him again that he had all these questions to ask Emily when they finally talked again. "Really?"
"Sure…" she said as she watched him pour her a glass of white wine in a nice rounded glass, the glass looking like a rounded tulip.
"How come?" he asked. It would be nice to know other people's perspectives. Maybe they could sway him one way or the other.
"When she first arrived she seemed like she had it all together. We were friends even; I showed her around a bit but it looks like she knew exactly what she was doing. She didn't need me at all. She probably didn't need any of us."
Jack sighed, checking in on the progress of how Ashley's salad was coming along. It would be ready soon. Salad was easy, and so was soup. He had gotten a routine down over the years and had loyal chefs.
"She was really good to me over the years," he said, letting Ashley know his feelings.
"The role she played," she stated simply as she dug into her salad starting with picking out the cranberries, liking to eat them separately.
"Or maybe she just had a soft spot for you…"
The click click clicking of heels against the granite floors were hard to miss. Daniel always kept his eyes peeled and his ears open but he could have heard Marjorie Blaisson from miles away. Everyone always knew she was coming. The curvy and stylized woman was well known for her job and well known for being a friend to the Grayson family. When things went down she went into hiding and turned on them for her own benefit as many did. Daniel didn't mind, all that mattered was that he had the best.
With Marjorie, he did.
In her peplum red dress that hugged every inch of her and pushed her bust into a tiny space she smiled as she held a slick black briefcase in her hand. She smiled, her pearly whites looking like a shark's grin. "Daniel Grayson, a pleasure…"
She extended her hand and Daniel took it. "Thanks for meeting with me ."
Marjorie nodded and kept her eyes on his, as if she was trying to read him. "I hope there are no hard feelings between the two of us Daniel. Business is business, this time it wasn't personal. I needed to save my own hide so I shed myself of your family like a snake and its skin."
Daniel listened to her words, she would never plead with him to forgive her but she wouldn't have to. "I understand, the past is the past."
"But not when it comes to your wife I imagine," she cooed in his ear like the serpent once did to Eve in the Garden of Eden.
"Ex-wife," he stated, making it all very clear.
"Mmm yes, I imagine she would be… No man likes being lied to, especially about who he's sleeping with. Do you think of yourself as sleeping with the enemy Daniel?" she purred.
"I don't know what to think. I was hoping you could help me finalize the divorce." He said as he leaned against the wall in the office building that was placed on the upper east side of the city.
"That isn't all you called me here for," she exclaimed, knowing he had other motives up his sleeve. The Grayson's either spoke bluntly or had secrets hidden up their sleeves. The family was never really all that stable.
"No…let's talk…" he said, pulling her aside.
"It's what I do best…"
Emily sat on Nolan's couch like she were frozen in time, body stiff and making Nolan worry for her mental well-being.
"Earth to Ems?" he asked as he snapped a finger in front of her face. "Don't go all catatonic slash Sybil on me. I need you to be with me here."
Emily rolled her eyes and made a little tsking sound to assuage his pain. "I'm here Nolan, what do you want?"
"To talk maybe?" he said, questioning her, not wanting to say the wrong thing. "That's why I brought you here."
She was feeling rebellious. She didn't want to talk just because he told her to. She gave him orders; it wasn't the other way around.
"I didn't come here to talk Nolan, hell, I don't even know why I bothered at all," she barked as she got up and put on her oatmeal colored cardigan to put over her yellow dress that reminded him of a sour lemon. She was being a sour lemon.
"Someone woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning…" he husked as he stood up, trying to keep her to stay.
"I didn't sleep at all…" she seethed as she grabbed her pocketbook, slinging it over her shoulder.
"Makes two of us, let me make you some coffee. I can put it in a travel mug if you really want to jet set out of here."
He went into the kitchen, knowing she couldn't say no to tea or coffee. Following him, Emily sighed, her bag going straight back onto the couch and falling into mountains of pillows. His home was usually modern but he had made it homier with some throw pillows in different patterns and some candles to light at night. He just had to be careful around her; he knew she was somewhat of a pyromaniac.
Making her a cup of hazelnut coffee with his Keurig machine that he valued more than a lot of any of his other objects, he sat on the stool in the kitchen, eyeing her. He knew he had her where he wanted, a little mouse in a trap.
"You need to talk to Jack," he stated as he leaned into her, not smiling, letting her know he wasn't joking around, not this time.
"Why would I do that?" she asked, knowing things were ruined between them. A lot of things, and relationships ruined.
"Because you care about him, you owe him an explanation," he said as he listened to the coffee brew in the near distance.
"I've ruined everything I cared about Nolan to get my revenge, do you really think Jack's going to want to talk to me after everything?" she asked, making it sound like she knew the answer already. She often spoke in a way that made her seem like she knew everything already.
"I think if he cares about you he will. He loved Amanda Clarke and he loved Emily Thorne. Same goes for me…" he said in a soft voice. "He'll talk to you."
Emily's eyes went soft as she looked at Nolan. How could she not see it before? He was in love with her but still routing for her to be with Jack because he was such a good guy. He always wanted the best for everyone except himself. He had told Ashley to follow her dreams with fashion and traveling. He had told her to get out while she still could. He had told Jack to do what made him happy and he had helped Declan find a job in Brooklyn. Nolan always thought about everyone else first and it often got him into some trouble.
"Do you want me to talk to him?" she asked as she got herself the coffee, not wanting him to do anything else for her. The man had done enough over the years.
"I want you to do what will make you happy Amanda…"
Teeth clenching at the use of her name, she felt her hand curl into a fist. Nolan knew how to get to her and hit her where it hurt or burned rather.
"I don't know if it will Nolan…" she almost scolded. "I'm sick of everything being so complicated. It's like I'm living in a mathematical puzzle and everything has to be exact or the equation falls apart."
"I think you're confusing how things used to be. You can focus on you now," he said as he handed her some milk and sugar, not knowing how she wanted it.
Sometimes she took her coffee black and sometimes very sweet. He didn't know her mood today. It was the same with how sometimes she acted a bit reckless like Amanda Clarke and others, level headed and focused like Emily Thorne. She needed to learn how to be a good blend of the two.
"It still doesn't feel over…" she said as she sipped her coffee, making it black with two sugars.
"It may never…everything leading up to that moment was so climactic but then the big reveal, it can't be perfect…" he said as he put away the milk, admiring the little cartoon cow on the label.
"I want to tell Jack why, but it's hard…I've been so selfish," she said as she drank her coffee quickly, almost burning her throat.
"Slow down there, easy tiger. He'll forgive you. He's Jack," he muttered as he took her mug and put it down, trying to be her guardian for a second. He didn't want her to spill or hurt herself.
Handing her a chocolate donut, he tried to get her to stay with an offer of food. Nolan watched her pace a bit, her finger at her lip. He knew she was trying not to bite her nails but might give in at any second. It was nervous habit she had that started when she was a child. She had since put a lid on it but every now and then it would come out and her freshly manicured nails would get ruined.
Ruined like everything else.
"What happens after the storm Nolan?" she asked him as she turned to him, her eyes almost wet like grass in the morning covered in dew.
"You take away the umbrella and you see what's left. You process the damage and you repair….you start fresh," he murmured as he held her hand. "I'm here for you…" he said, unclear of what his place would be after she figured everything out.
Chapter 4: Fading Voices
"All alone…all alone…." The voice rattled in his head as he tried to sleep. If he had told people he was hearing voices they would have said he was crazy but he knew he wasn't, he was half asleep anyway. Sometimes you could have this thing called lucid dreaming where you were half awake and half asleep but traveling to the REM world. They say dreams only lasted a few seconds but Nolan Ross swore that his were infinite.
Waking up in a sweat he sat up dramatically like they did in the movies and rubbed his eyes. He went to reach for his phone at the end table but stopped, just choosing to lie on his side instead. Bare skin against the sheets he realized he was getting too hot so he kicked them off to the bottom of the bed where a dog would be if he had one. He never was an animal person, or a baby person, he liked people. He was a people watcher.
An image of Emily Thorne skittered through his head as he shuddered, needing closure of his own. She had sworn to him that she was going to talk to Jack but even though he routed for them all along, he also wanted a piece of her forever to himself. He didn't want to keep her from anyone; he just wished he had more time to spend with her, time without stress.
Taking a breath he went to his safe and punched in the number. His safe used to be in his office, but now it was in his room, a more intimate place for an intimate personal item. Nolan Ross had an infinity box of his own only it wasn't engraved, nor was it made of wood.
His box was sturdy steel and it had his last name on it. Inside was a picture of David Clarke, one of Amanda from when she catered the New Year's party on 2002 and his whale cam, one his many with important documents on them that could change many things if he put them to use. He needed something to fall back on of his own, names, faces, a reason to be mad or a reason to go on even without Emily if she chose to cut him out of her life.
He needed to make preparations in case things failed or went horribly wrong. If he didn't have plan b's he would fall apart and start to crumble like a cookie in the fist of a toddler.
Attempting to reach for his phone again he was surprised when the phone rang first. He picked it up, seeing that it was his Aunt Carole. He felt relieved; she always knew how to make him feel better. "Hey Aunt Carole,"
"Nolan Ross, this is Officer Donaghy of the Southern Lancaster Co Regional Police Department…I regret to inform you that your Aunt Carole Miller has been found dead in her home as of 10:15 this morning. I saw you were the only contact in her phone. We would like you to come to the station and we'll take it from there….are you okay sir?"
Nolan almost laughed at her question, was he okay? No, no he wasn't. He was anything but okay.
"Yeah…uhhh that will be fine….I'll get there as soon as I can…" he said hanging up the phone and not needing to wait for a response.
Putting the phone on the bed he realized his hands were shaking and he still hadn't exhaled. Doing so, his chest hurt like when you cough so much your back and ribs start to ache. Not sure whether to stand or sit he dialed Emily's number and listened to her answer the phone. He needed to hear her voice, to bring him back to earth.
"Hello? Nolan….Hello?" he let her call out his name a few more times until his subconscious heard the worry in her voice.
"Emily…" he replied in a sullen voice.
"Nolan, what is it, what's wrong?" she asked, concerned about where his chipper tone had gone off to. "I'm coming over…"
Emily had been cleaning the house when she got Nolan's phone call. The two of them had their phone call camaraderie down from very early on. Nolan often called her to wake her up because she once told him she didn't trust her alarm clock. He told her to trust technology because it never let him down but that wasn't the case and they both knew it. He also liked to hear her voice first thing when he woke up, to make sure she had made it through the night. Sometimes they would even go as far as to tell each other their dreams or nightmares. He could comfort her in a flash with some smart ass remark and she could comfort him by giving him an order or by being mean to him. She was never actually mean to him, not anymore, unless he got in the way which these days, was rare.
When she heard his voice she knew something was off. Setting down her broom she pulled on jeans in her room, everything a blur until she could get to him.
Grabbing her keys from the kitchen that she kept in one of her infamous blue mugs by the potted fern she often forgot to water, she locked the door and set out to drive to his place which was fifteen minutes away.
Finding the door to Nolan's place unlocked she called his name, scared he was taken again. Almost five years ago he was taken by the White Haired Man as they first called him before they knew his name. When she arrived five years ago to his place once he hadn't contacted her in a while, his door was left open just like this and that scared her. She didn't often get scared but when it came to people she cared about her heart would beat faster and her skin would crawl as violent disturbing images filled her head.
"Nolan!" she called out, looking around frantically. Going to his office she found nothing but thankfully she found him moments later in his bedroom, still in his white t-shirt and pajama pants that were striped like candy canes only a sea foam green color.
"Nolan thank god… what are you doing?" she asked. She had never seen him so still and motionless and for a second she thought he was dead, his eyes fixated on the ceiling.
"She's dead…" he murmured in a cold voice.
"Who?" she asked, walking toward him but approaching carefully knowing that something within him was fragile and needed quiet.
"My Aunt C…Carole…" he said, his voice quivering and breaking.
Emily put her hand to her mouth; she had grown close to the woman over the years thanks to Nolan's relationship with her. Carole Miller had raised Nolan when his father had abandoned him and his mother had left without a care in the world. Emily, Jack, Nolan and Declan all had something in common, they were orphans. They didn't have a lot of family; they were each other's family. Sitting on the bed with him, feet hanging off the edge she leaned into him.
"When, how?" she asked, questions coming to her.
Nolan blinked, his eyes filling with tears. "This morning…I don't know how…I have to go to the station to….claim the b…body…" he said with his lower lip quivering. The last thing he wanted to do was see her like that. She was his only family, the one who cared and raised him.
"I'm so sorry Nolan…" she said as she ran her fingers through his hair.
Sitting up he hugged her and began to cry softly into her shoulder, he needed someone and she knew him best of all. They had both seen each other cry before; it was just part of life.
"I'll come with you," she said as she clutched the back of his head with one hand and rubbed his back with the other. She could feel the wetness of his tears on her t-shirt, the old one she had used for cleaning up around the house.
He pulled back from her touch and wiped his eyes. "You'd do that?"
Emily nodded "I haven't got much else to do, I think it's time I take care of you for a change. I loved her too Nolan, she was a great woman," she said, wiping her own eyes. "We can do this, together, okay?"
Nolan nodded and moved around his room, his head hung low as he tried to keep on going. "We need to pack."
Emily smiled softly and pulled him to her, holding him close, and silently letting him know it was going to be okay. "I can do that…"
"I can't do that," Daniel stated, looking at Marjorie Blaisson who was wearing a sleek business suit, gold buttons down the front along with fading pinstripes.
Marjorie Blaisson, state attorney, twisted her hand over the top of the glass that was holding gin and made a circle on the dark cherry wood end table her drink rested on. She looked up at Daniel Grayson with doe eyes. She looked like a little cartoon as she waited for him to back down. He didn't. That caught her out of the blue but she was ready to argue her case. Either way though, she was getting paid, she just wanted to have some fun with everything. She never got to have fun and it made her bitter.
"You can too…She ruined your life didn't she? She held you back from being who you're meant to be Daniel."
"Who am I meant to be?" he asked, leaning forward, interested.
"That's for you to decide champ," she said as she took a sip, her throat burning but it felt good, something she had decided on in college.
"I don't want to hurt her," he stated, making that all very clear.
"Why not? She hurt you, sticks and stones darling…" she said as she opened her briefcase, sliding him the divorce paper work.
Daniel shifted in his seat, he would have found her attractive, but now she reminded him of someone. "You sound like my mother," he said with a scoff. "Have you been spending time with her?"
Marjorie scoffed "Hardly…I'd rather glue my eyelids shut and chew on nails."
Daniel laughed, liking her honesty. "That can be arranged."
Watching him sign legal releases, Marjorie played with the feather part of her pen. Her pen looked old fashioned, the way she liked it, retro all the way.
"Don't make promises you can't keep," she said in a playful tone, eyes bouncing back and forth between him and the papers. His signatures were precise and fluid as he had done a million times before from working at the company his father built for him.
"All joking aside, I am looking forward to working with you further. Have you thought about my offer?" he asked as he pushed the papers toward her. She tidied them up before placing them back neatly into the briefcase that her father had bought her for her 30th birthday.
Marjorie cocked her head, licking the lipstick off her lips which made her wish for a stronger lip stain instead. "I haven't had much time to think it over."
"The clock's ticking," he said as she snapped her briefcase shut. She didn't like time limits and she never figured herself for working better under pressure.
"I'll have my people talk to your people."
"I just want the truth…." Daniel murmured as he fixed the tie around his neck, loosening it a bit but straightening it while his digits were there.
"Then you'll have it."
"Truth be told, I didn't know her as well as I thought," Nolan said as he watched her drive. He had tried to drive even though he didn't like driving but Emily talked him out of it. He was in no state to be doing much of anything but mourning.
Emily gripped the steering wheel, as they drove down the express way, the trees turning from oak to pine. "She raised you Nolan, you knew her."
He sighed, burying his face in his hands. He looked like crap and he knew it but he didn't care. Even his clothing took on his mood, a dark polo shirt with black slacks and sneakers. At least his belt was brown, a sign of hope.
"She had her secrets…" he proclaimed to which Emily quickly replied.
"We all do Nolan; some just hide them better than others."
Nolan looked over at her, wiping his eyes, sleep still in them since he didn't have time to wash his face or shower, nor did he care to today. His hands still shook. "What are your secrets?"
"They wouldn't be secrets if I just told you them…" she murmured, trying not to snap because he needed comfort, not someone else pushing him away.
"True…" he said as placed his hand at the nape of his neck, looking out the window, everything going by so fast and she wasn't even speeding. He felt like he was in a portal only he didn't know if he was going backwards or forwards in time.
"Maybe you'll learn some of them, one day…you're nosy enough," she said with a hint of a smile.
"Gee, thanks Ems," he muttered as he took a sip of water, offering her some.
Taking a swig she felt a bit replenished but not enough. She didn't like long car rides but she was getting used to them. She preferred when they were fun but at least she was with someone she liked. She remembered being in the car on her way to the Allenwood Juvenile Detention Center. It was a long ride and everyone kept staring at her, waiting for something to happen, knowing her anger could come out very suddenly, like she was the hulk or something.
"I'm here for you Nolan…" she said under her breath, eyes on the road, careful not to show too much affection. She never truly got too close to anyone.
Nolan smiled softly. Even the death of his aunt couldn't keep him from smiling at Emily Thorne's words to him. After a long moment of silence he decided to give in and talk. He couldn't stay quiet forever, that wasn't him.
"License plate game?"
Chapter 5: Family
Marjorie had come a long way from home. Sometimes she felt like Dorothy in the Land of Oz, more importantly, the Emerald city. Growing up on a farm wasn't easy; a lot of the attention was put on the animals and the crops instead of her. As time went on and her parents had hit it big when the Go Green campaigns began in their town in Wisconsin she received what she needed. Her parents began making more money and were able to afford to send her to two top Ivy League schools. She was the first to go to college of her family, or at least a college away from home. She had gone to Columbia and finished off in Stanford. She eventually left the farm life behind, finding it hard to visit her family except for on holidays.
Somewhere along the path she had gotten mixed up with The Graysons and now here she was again, back at square one with them, or so Daniel thought. Sitting across from Victoria Grayson in the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility she stared the older woman down. Victoria wore a stale blue-grey jumpsuit along with matching loafers. Everything was very void of color and there was no life to her face. No rosy cheeks where she once preferred rouge. Victoria Grayson looked older, crow's feet now visible because botox was hard to get a hold of in prison. Her hair was pulled back in a low ponytail, her grey's showing, and this was just the beginning of her downfall.
"Ms. Grayson," Marjorie murmured with a simple formal greeting.
"Marjorie Blaisson, what a sight for sore eyes you are," she said as she tried to put on airs which was hard to do in her current position. "Is it safe to talk?"
Marjorie nodded, clicking her feather pen and placing it down on the table. "No one's listening to us. This blocks out interference."
Victoria Grayson raised her eyebrow and looked at the pen, suspicious of it.
"It's classy isn't it? I'm often impressed myself. We haven't got much time so start talking sugar mama," Marjorie said as she picked at her nails.
Victoria leaned forward, keeping a watchful eye on the guards who were strict with her because of her class and role in society and all the money she had, or once had. Word was that her mansion in The Hamptons, the Grayson manor was soon to be going into foreclosure, even Daniel couldn't afford to keep it. How he evaded prison was unknown to her.
It wasn't like she could ask someone; the outside world was rare to come by and he wouldn't take her calls. Marjorie was the middle man and she was getting paid double, Victoria using her last savings to pay for her help even though the two didn't see eye to eye.
"Have you spoken with Daniel?" Victoria asked, his name cold on her tongue for the time being. She was still bitter.
Marjorie nodded, "He's since signed divorce papers from Emily Thorne, or shall we say Amanda Clarke."
Interrupting her, Victoria spoke. "Amanda Clarke has something to do with all of this, every bit. I know it; I knew she was no good from the very start. She was never good for Daniel, trying to rub off on him."
"You could say that, even with your history with David Clarke?" she asked, curling her tongue against her teeth, curious of what the ice queen would say.
"David Clarke was a simple man, everything about him was simple and that's why I fell in love with him. Amanda Clarke was never in the equation, she's simple in a bad way. In a way I don't want my family involved."
"Obviously she's not very simple if she "Destroyed" your family Victoria…" Marjorie stated as a matter of factly as she wiggled her finger at her.
"I am not paying you to disagree with me …" she said with a scoff. "My savings can easily go to someone else."
Marjorie shook her head "I wouldn't do that if I were you…Daniel's so close to breaking, just as you asked."
Victoria clutched her hands, almost as if she were praying to some god or deity. "Is he angry with her?"
Marjorie smirked, finding it funny, everything so obvious to her. "Of course he is, he's been lied to. He's been lied to all his life so he seems to be settling into it well. He doesn't seem to be one who hold grudges, whereas you…you're another story."
Victoria smiled, hate in her eyes for this woman. "Thank you Marjorie…you know what to do."
Marjorie got up, tucking papers away and clicking her pen off. "Enjoy the prison food, I hear it's excellent," she said in a smug voice.
Charlotte packed boxes, the remaining things in the Grayson Manor needing to be sold, donated or stored somewhere. She was sick of seeing boxes, sick of moving around. She felt like an army brat, moving place to place. It was as if her parents were divorced for real. While they were separated they tried to stay together for the sake of her issues as well as the family name. Everything was all about the family name.
Victoria and Conrad were split at the end but they never had the time to legalize the end, things were always on and off with them. One second they were yelling at each other, cheating on one another and the next they were screwing like bunnies, disgusted with each other. Their relationship was never a healthy one and she never really thought they were in love at all. Conrad seemed to be more head over heels with Lydia Davis than her own mother and Victoria always seemed smitten with everyone that wasn't Conrad. While she wanted to see her parents, to make sure they were okay in their new environments, parts of her were fuming with hatred and she wasn't sure she could talk to anyone about it. Who would understand? For a second she thought about going back to therapy but she had been going to therapy for years now to get over her pill addiction. Why they didn't send her to rehab, she would never know.
Looking around she saw the boxes were labeled. Some of the handwriting was hers; some of it was Daniel's. All in all, packing up the manor was not just a two person job but they were all each other had anymore. They had to rely on each other to get the job done. She couldn't search for a job or travel until her work here was done, cleaning up her family's mess.
Taking a box off the giant glass table that needed to be handled carefully she ripped the tape with her nails, nearly breaking one. Reaching inside the pulled out a photo album and sat on the floor with it. Seeing the pictures of Daniel and Emily's wedding she sighed, thinking about that day. It was lavish, more lavish than Emily wanted which confused her but now she knew why. Amanda Clarke was trying to keep a low profile. She didn't want her face planted everywhere in case someone recognized her. Now they all recognized her.
She had a half-sister and she still had questions, questions she wanted her mother to answer. Picking up her phone she called the prison only to find that her mother had already had her visitor for the day.
"May I ask who visited my mother?" Charlotte asked as she leaned against a large box, holding clothes she thought, Victoria's clothes that she was going to donate or sell on eBay, she hadn't decided yet if she wanted to make the bank with her mother's old belongings.
"A Miss Marjorie Blaisson…"
He walked with a heavy feeling in his heart and a lead foot, as if something was keeping him from going into the station. His body tingled, pins and needles throughout, but the arm linked with his kept him going. He didn't know what he would do if he didn't have Emily there with him. If he didn't have her as a friend he wouldn't have anyone. She introduced him to people after all. He would be going through this alone, no other family or friends to count on. He wouldn't have even become friends with Jack without her help.
His brain told him ((I can't do this, I can't do this)) but having her there leading the way kept him on top of the game, one with the world and not an absolute mess. Aunt Carole was basically his mother; she had raised him since he was 14 years old, and told him to believe in his dreams no matter the cost. She had told him to take risks and was supportive of his sexuality, something his verbally abusive father never was.
"Nolan…I can take care of it," she said as she held his hand, letting him squeeze it.
He pulled back with a little gasp as if her offer made him nervous. She could see the vulnerability in his eyes, a frightened child. "I can't let you do that Amanda."
She had seen enough dead bodies, one more couldn't hurt. "It's fine Nolan. You don't need to remember her like that."
"Thank you," he said as he found the closest chair he could find, sitting down with an exasperated sigh, his eyes red and bloodshot from crying on and off in the car. He felt dizzy.
She hadn't seen many men cry; only Nolan and Jack but something felt right about that. Men were equal to women, everyone needed to cry, that was natural, human. She had seen both strong sides to Jack and Nolan but also the more emotional ones. Nolan wore his emotions on his sleeves along with his heart, Jack kept his inside but when they came out they were genuine.
"You just take care of the paperwork," she said as she gripped his shoulder.
Biting his lip he looked up at her. "Find out how she passed…away…" he said through grit teeth, the words hard to get out since everything was still tender.
"I will. Whatever you need," she said as she went toward the morgue with a balding man who held the paperwork including her autopsy.
"Why was the autopsy already done?" she asked, finding it all a bit suspicious as they walked down a dimly lit hallway that looked like it should, almost a blue light to it, the palette all off.
The balding man whose name tag read Dr. Baskowitz looked down at her, his glasses slipping down his face. "In her will she had a legal statement signed saying she didn't need a family member to approve her autopsy. It seems she didn't want anyone dealing with all of this…"
"I would like to take a look at that if you don't mind," she said as he opened the door for her, the door to the morgue.
He sighed and brought her over to the body, covered in a sheet. Carole Miller like this reminded her of one of the pieces of furniture she would cover for the winter. Some part of her hoped once the blanket of white was pulled back that it would be a dresser drawer or a living room chair, not the woman she once knew, a woman she liked. Looking down she could see a toe-tag and realized the reality of the situation.
Doctor Baskowitz shook his head slowly as he pulled the cloth back revealing Carole's body, blue lips, graying skin, a scar starting near the collarbone. "Are you family?"
Emily bit her lip, teeth pressing hard and almost causing her to bleed. "Yes…I'm family…"
Nolan paced in the hallway after he signed papers and looked over Aunt Carole's will, she didn't have much, just some money saved, some jewelry, a few horses and money, none of which Nolan needed. He decided he would keep her house since it was her pride and joy and donate the rest since Carole liked to be helpful in the neighborhood mainly before she moved to Lancaster, before she started working for Grayson Global. Back then she didn't have to hide; she could put herself out there and help others. When things went down with David Clarke she reverted back into herself like a turtle in its shell and kept quiet to keep her secret identity under wraps.
Waiting for Emily he ran his fingers through his hair, his hair slightly oily from doing so all day. He didn't care that he needed a shower, he didn't care that people from work, employees depended on him to answer their emails, he didn't care that his outfit was dark and his socks didn't match. He only cared about the fact that his Aunt was dead and he would never hear her sweet voice again.
Emily joined him soon after. Watching him bite his nails she took his hands from his mouth and sat down with him. "Hey Nolan, how are you holding up?"
Nolan looked at her, ignoring her question about his sanity. "What did they say?"
"They say she had a heart attack…" Emily said as she put his hands in his lap, but that only made his knees bounce.
"Her heart?" he asked, his hands shaking again, causing her to take them in her hands to calm him. "She never had heart problems, she was healthy, I made sure she was healthy," he said as his eyes filled with tears. She could see in his face that he was overthinking, that he was trying to find reason to blame himself, and he was.
"Well maybe if I had taken her to the doctors more often, or bought her more vitamins, and if she ate more garlic…" he hyperventilated; sweat forming at his scalp, face looking pale. He looked like he was going to be sick.
"Nolan, even the healthiest people die of heart problems, Olympic runners…it's not your fault," she said rubbing his back. "Come on, we're going to get you home…you need to relax, you're going to make yourself sick and you'll be the one cleaning it up," she said sarcastically, trying to get him to slow down and take a breath or he would throw up.
Sniffling Nolan nodded and rose to his feet, pulling her with him, her frame standing tall against his. She was a tall woman.
"Where are we going?" he asked like a little boy lost and looking for his mother.
Emily paused for a minute before handing a woman behind a desk the paperwork. "Back to the house, you can show me where Carole spent her time, where you visited her… say your goodbyes."
Nolan took in a little air, making a sound like he was scared to enter the house, scared to go back, scared to disturb anything. "I don't know how to do that, with mom and dad it was easy, they just left, I was bitter and angry but also relieved. Aunt Carole was the only one that believed in me besides your father, she was like a mother to me. I don't know how to say goodbye."
"Well this isn't the end yet, we still have a funeral to plan Nolan. This is the first of many goodbyes but you have to figure out in your own way how to do that. I know from experience with my father. It took a long time for me to deal with his death," she said as they walked out of the station together.
Going back to the car he leaned on it and wiped the sweat off his face, his body bending so his head almost went between his legs like an ostrich in the sand. He groaned and she rubbed his back, knowing he liked physical contact even if she didn't.
"Does time really heal all?" he asked as he looked up at her.
"I don't know Nolan, I don't know…"
Chapter 6: Boxed In
A tarnished tea cup, a lipstick stain, a squeaky mattress, a gold locket, picture frames on the mantel, photo albums, documents sealed with a kiss, Anne Rice novels, Unopened boxes of fruit cereal, a horse statue with a broken foot, and far too many flannel shirts…
These were some of the things that were in Carole Miller's home as Nolan and Emily went through them, putting things in boxes. Emily watched him, the man seemingly taking a while to mourn over each item, admiring it. She stayed silent as she watched him put the items away, things he probably grew up with, things she loved, things they may have both loved. She had observed Nolan and Carole for many years and while the two weren't all that intimate she wanted to do everything she could to give him advice if he needed it. She wasn't good at giving advice, she was good at lying. Emily Thorne put on a front and was able to sweet talk her way out of anything, she was able to act in a demeanor that made her seem all knowing but Amanda Clarke was far from all knowing.
Amanda Clarke knew little about the world, she had grown up too fast, never getting much of a childhood. Amanda Clarke didn't get to experience prom or eat family dinners or go shopping with her friends, she didn't have friends. At Allenwood she had people she would consider acquaintances, Emily Thorne being one of them. They were all trapped there together, they had no one else. Some got to leave sooner than others and some seemed to stay there forever. She thought it would be forever for her but it wasn't, Nolan met her on the other side.
She had lied to him to make him feel better but she was honest when she had said that she didn't know if time would heal things. She was obviously still bitter, bitter beyond belief even with Victoria and Conrad Grayson in jail and countless others put away, lives changed for the worst. Even with everything said and done she still wasn't over her father's death. She would never just forget about David but mostly because she never got a proper goodbye. She knew what Nolan was feeling.
Nolan watched her fiddle with things and let his eye line travel to hers, expecting her to pick up an item so he could determine what box he wanted to put it in, but this time there was no item in her hand. "What's up?" he asked, his face still sullen and his clothes not nearly as groovy as they often were.
He was keeping it simple; he had no one to impress here in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, no one to talk to besides Emily, investigators and movers. He wore a grey t-shirt with a forest green Adidas hoodie over it even though it was warm. He rolled the sleeves up anyway. For once he didn't take notice of what Emily was wearing.
"Nothing, just, getting things done," she murmured as she bit her lip, calmly wrapping mugs in tissue paper and putting little pieces of masking tape around it to keep them secure. They might be traveling a long way in the future depending on what box they were placed in.
"You stopped, and you sound all…."
"All what?" she asked, eyeing him, challenging him.
Nolan crossed his arms and his hair flooded his face, strands out of place. "All, well you paused, you sound reluctant to say anything to me."
She crossed her arms, staring him down and almost as tall as him with her heels on, heels she had bought in a little market this morning. They were nothing name brand but comfortable for heels. She had gone shopping in town in an attempt to rid herself of his mourning. She loved him dearly but she could only take so much, she had been in mourning her whole life. She took a breath, bought a pair of sensible heels and came back, fresh faced with a sandwich for him, knowing he wasn't in a cooking mood.
Nolan was the type of man where his clothing and his activities would match his mood. His clothes were colorful and so was he in the kitchen. Today he was glum for good reason.
"It's hard for me to tell you what to do," she finally said as she tucked her hair behind her ears.
"Why?" he asked, leaning in, getting an earful.
"Because I don't know what to do myself in this instance," she said with a little pout, not liking that she had given herself up so easily and not stood her ground. He was piercing her veil.
"You're helping and I appreciate it Ems…" he purred.
She shook her head "No, I mean. I don't know how to make you feel better, how to make things better. If I knew I would tell you, but nothing's instantaneous. We've grown close over the past few years."
Nolan quickly interjected, needing to get his words out too. "I'd say."
"But I'm still not able to tell you what you need to know, not everything," she said as she put some mugs in boxes along with some silverware, little spoons mainly.
"Obviously," he said as he shook his head. She didn't need to explain anything but he had to admit, he liked to see her squirm. Five years later and he might have been able to say he was under her skin. She was definitely under his from the very start, a connection he wanted to cherish forever. He didn't have much but he had her, the question was, for how long?
"Why do I bother?" she asked with a little smile, calm, cool and collected.
Nolan's face lit up just a smidge, if anyone could get him to be his usual self it would be her.
"Because you adore me," he said in a sing-song voice.
Rolling her eyes she walked away, taking herself out of the situation and also to check her emails on her phone.
Nolan's voice stopped her though; she had made it to the arch going into the den where an old fashioned television remained. It was old fashioned for Nolan at least. It was a very square hulk of a television set from the 1990's.
"You could stay here with me you know, you wouldn't have to face anyone, give any explanations. I'm putting the offer on the table."
She continued to walk away, disregarding his statement.
Declan had a girlfriend when he had first moved to Brooklyn but it didn't last long, she said he wasn't good at communicating and talking about his feelings. Ever since Charlotte had ended it with him, he had had a hard time with things. She was his first love after all, and five years later, things still hadn't changed. He still cared for her, checked up on her and when all this stuff with Emily Thorne went down, he was tempted to call her.
She had strung him along for a while but he wasn't holding a grudge. He was the fool and she was the girl with the pill addiction. While she had weaned herself off pills, he hadn't weaned himself off of her just yet. Jack said it was unhealthy but what the hell did he know? He had been harping over Amanda Clarke since he was a little kid. That was unhealthy.
Speaking of Jack, Declan picked up the phone and decided that a phone call between the two couldn't be held off any longer. He missed him. They had been through a lot of shit together, including their mother abandoning them as Nolan's father had abandoned him. Maybe both were for the better though.
"Dec?" Jack asked as he quickly made his way to the phone, straight out of the shower.
His ringtone for Declan was the Looney Tunes theme and he had heard it in the bathroom. Towel wrapped around his waist even though he was the only one living above the bar at this point, he waited for Declan to answer.
"Hey Jack, howr'you?" he asked with his slight accent, an accent that always made Jack smirk. Sometimes the boy had a Brooklyn twang, even when he was a kid/ Now that he was living in Brooklyn, it made sense and came out a bit more.
"I'm good man, what have you been up to? You just caught me in the shower…." He said as he shook his head a bit, water getting all over the floor and dripping off the wisps of his hair.
Declan paused before talking again. "Oh, do you want me to call back later?"
Jack shook his head but it wasn't as if Declan could see his motions. He missed that. Now everything was words, before the two could almost talk by making hand signals or just by giving each other a look. He practically raised Declan since dad was drunk most of the time or busy working. The family was always working, that was part of why Jack thought his mother had left them, the stress, the barely staying afloat. ((We'll manage…)) Carl would say, and for the most part, they did.
"No no it's cool, stay. I'm just sitting for now, what's up Dec?" he asked as he leaned forward, legs lying on the coffee table in front of the small couch they had near the kitchen.
Declan shrugged, he didn't have much to say, he was still scouting for a better job, something in communications instead of working in a coffee job and bartending at night, just scraping by. He had a degree; he just had to find a place to put it to good use. He was worthy.
"I just wanted to see how you were doin, yah know, about the whole Amanda thing," he said as he cleared his throat, trying not to make this awkward.
He wanted things to be as painless as possible but he also wanted Jack to be able to talk to him like they used to. For the longest time they didn't talk about their mother but when they finally did, years of buildup came out, especially for Jack. Declan hardly knew his mother when she left, he was young and didn't remember much. At this point, all there was were pictures. At least Emily/Amanda could remember David's face, his voice and countless other memories that made her emotional.
"You mean the whole Emily thing?" he asked, still not ready to let it sink in that Emily Thorne was the girl he spent all that time with all those summers ago.
Declan shifted in his seat, the small apartment feeling empty because his roomie was home for the weekend. Things were too quiet even with the city life sheltering him outside. "Yeah, whatever, that. You know what I mean Jack. Don't change the subject."
"I'm not Dec; it's just a sore spot right now. I just want to talk to her, get things straight but I haven't seen her since the big reveal…" he said, trying not to snicker at his little quip. He had to make light of it at this point or it would suck too much.
He wondered what ever did happen to Amanda Clarke or the real Emily Thorne rather. There was a time when he cared more than he could say but then Emily put a wedge between him and his love for Fauxmanda and things were never the same since the night Sammy passed away. Things were getting confusing.
"The name game, gotcha. Well I'm okay here Jack, just makin rent but I'm good…"
Jack smiled, holding his towel to him, the color light against his skin tone. He had gotten tan from the summer sun already, shucking oysters out back behind the bar with Bull's help. Bull was a good man and worker, still loyal to him, loyal as long as he got a paycheck every week.
"Good to hear. Sorry I didn't ask sooner, my heads in the clouds. I miss you Dec."
"I miss you too Jack, I'm gonna come down for a weekend I swear, when things start bein so hard, I'm taking a train," he said to his older brother as he got himself a beer from the fridge.
Little did Declan know, Jack was doing the same thing only he was still dripping water on the floor. He'd let it evaporate. "Things are always tough Dec…."
Charlotte never expected to see her mother in prison, she never expected to see anyone she loved in prison, but here she was, a young girl, just out of college and everyone in her intermediate family had been in jail. She had been arrested twice, once for driving over the speed limit and once for possession but she couldn't hold a candle to the rest of her family's crimes. While the Grayson family was once famous, now they were infamous, and not in a good way.
This was the first time she was going to visit Victoria in prison. She had almost made it to Conrad but had to back out last minute. She had questions that she wanted to answers to and this time she wasn't going to wait until her mother decided to open up. She had waited long enough to know about her biological father, and her half-sister
Victoria came out and for a second Charlotte was ready to yell and to ask about what she had up her sleeves when it came to Marjorie Blaisson. She had heard the Blaisson name thrown around the house near the end when she happened to be home so that too sparked questions, but first thing was first.
"Hi mom, and onto the subject of fathers…." She said, quickly cutting to the chase, no time to kill.
Victoria did not raise her daughter to be so glib and blunt. She shook her head, still trying to mother, still trying to be smug and better than thou. She wouldn't go down with a fight, she still had some fire left in her and it was about to spread if Marjorie did her job in getting Daniel to exact deep revenge on Amanda Clarke. She didn't even know why she wanted revenge on her at this point; all she could think of was David's disappointment in her. David had gotten her into this mess to begin with though. Her feelings strung her along and she didn't know which way she was being pulled, it was the same with her marriage to Conrad. One minute they were yelling, the next they were screwing. She had never had very good history with men; her track record was splotchy to say the least.
"Charlotte….not even a hello? I didn't raise you to be this way…" she said as she placed her hands before her, palms on the table.
"You didn't raise me at all…you had a lot of help, didn't you…" she said, more telling than asking a question.
Victoria already knew the answer because a slew of nannies helped her turn Charlotte into the girl she was today. She couldn't take the credit for her good attributes, only her failures. While she loved Charlotte, there was a lot of backstory there.
"Charlotte…please talk to me, I'm going to be here for a very long time. We can at least be civil, can't we?" she asked, Charlotte's eyes almost sinking into her head.
"How long?" she asked, realizing deep down that she was scared to be alone. She was too young to have both of her parents taken from her, as much as she couldn't stand them right now. The worst part of it though was that they were so close yet so far away, attainable but not.
"I'm not sure. I'm just trying to be realistic. It's all your father and I can do right now…" she murmured as she cocked her head.
Charlotte looked around before speaking. "I want to know about David Clarke. I know he's just my blood, but it's important to me….I've come to terms with it but I need to know how this all started."
They always did…
Chapter 7: Pawns
Lydia Davis felt like Conrad Grayson's ward. While they had no more business affiliations as he once had with Ashley Davenport and even once had with Lydia herself, these days it was strictly sexual. Lydia came to the prison to visit Conrad in something far too revealing for such a place. While she should have dressed modest, she knew her role and she liked it. He never went through with the wedding plans but they were engaged for quite some time. Now there was no shot and she was wondering how long he could string her on the ropes for. How much could she take?
Sitting behind a wall of glass she pressed her hand to the bulletproof material as he picked up his phone. She did the same and kept it to her ear, careful of germs. She wasn't built for a place like that and thankfully Emily had let her alone, she had suffered enough, both her and Nolan agreed on that. Now Lydia Davis was broken, a shell of what she once was. She wasn't strong anymore; she simply waited for things to happen. Now, not much of anything was happening anywhere, at least when it came to the Grayson family. The business had crumbled and everything they worked for was dead. She had no reason to hang on anymore yet she couldn't seem to let go. Why did Conrad still have so much power over her, even behind bars?
"Lydia, you came," Conrad said, looking happy to see someone. He hadn't been getting many visitors besides men in suits with their flashy ties and their happy go lucky smug little smiles. He too had been one of those men, but his story had changed.
"I promised I would, I always keep my promises, unlike you," she replied, anger in her voice but hidden under politeness.
"Are you talking about the wedding?" he asked, his phone tight to his head as if he was losing his hearing.
"It's not like it matters much now," she said as she tapped her freshly manicured nails against the counter between them. The glass that separated them made everything worse and brought her already low spirits even lower. Some people got to touch their love ones but not her, especially since they had no legal ties any longer.
"Lydia, don't be like that. It would have happened. You know the divorce with Victoria was going to take a while," he said with a sigh. They had had this argument too many times before.
"It's not like you ever pushed for us to be together. When it came to sex sure, I was there on my knees as soon as you asked but when it came to a white wedding, everything else was too important. Your business was too important. You never cared about my needs Conrad. You put Victoria before me."
"That succubus? Lydia you are off your medication if you think I would choose Victoria over you. I would take the scum on the bottom of my shoe before picking Victoria for anything," he said with a sigh.
"You asked her to marry you, you went through with that. I know, things were good but what wasn't good about us?" she asked, nearly in tears. She had lost so much to this man already and everything was still falling into his lap.
"Everything was good about us Lydia, but I was focusing on my family…" he said as he leaned back in his chair, not a care in the world at this point. He was pissed off and beginning to not give a fuck.
"I could have been your family Conrad. I love you…" she said, one last plea.
Conrad smiled softly, eyes glazed over. "I love you too…"
She could tell he was being insincere; she didn't need anyone to point it out anymore. She could see through him. Maybe for once, Victoria Grayson, her former friend was right about something. Victoria Grayson was right about him.
"I'm leaving Conrad…" she said in a cold voice.
"Leaving? But you just got here," he stated, his eyes looking concerned. It was sinking in; soon he would have no one to visit him.
Conrad Grayson was running out of friends. He had ran out of people to trust and then employees, friends and now a remaining person, a lover, even his children were wary to visit him after they learned he had pinned everything on David, at least Charlotte, Daniel already knew. Daniel and Conrad were mostly glad and shocked that they could keep secrets so well from Charlotte who had gotten nosier with age.
"I'm leaving Conrad, and I'm not coming back… I can't do this with you anymore, I just can't. I'm tired… and I respect myself too much to be your little patsy…" she said shaking her head. "You have your children for that…"
Leaving one last biting remark she hung up the phone, turned on her heels and left the building. Conrad Grayson was left with an open jaw and a shaking hand. He didn't know whether to feel hurt or angry. He was feeling a bit of both. This was just not his year.
It wasn't Nolan's year either.
Nolan and Emily arrived back from Lancaster at dusk. Lights were setting in the sky as they cut through the city, visiting old places they used to travel, especially Bryant Park. For some reason Bryant Park was one of their favorite places in the city. At the park they would read and play chess and drink coffee and do business, they would do whatever needed to be done. They were close to Times Square too so they would often pretend that they were tourists.
Emily dropped him off at his place and helped him get his bags out of the car; they had dropped the boxes of things to donate in the city, whatever they could. There were some bigger things that would need to be moved later on but he was keeping a lot of the furniture in the house. Watching him go inside she drove off but three minutes later she received a phone call from him. Pulling over on the side of the road she answered his call.
"Nolan, what is it?" she asked, needing a break.
"Someone broke into my place…" he sputtered out, he didn't need this. He thought his alarms were set and all the security systems were in place.
"Oh god, I'll be right over, call the police," she said. Before when things were still at high red levels with the Grayson family she would have told him to leave it but now they could afford to be civilians.
Nolan listened to her voice on the phone and it instantly calmed him. He went upstairs to check his office and realized things were taken from there, usb drives with important material on them, material about Emily and their past together. Sinking to his knees against the wall he moved his hands over his face and waited for Emily to arrive. She knew just where to find him; she always did at this point. If he wasn't in the living room he was in his bedroom and if he wasn't in the bedroom he was in his office.
Crouching down next to him she gripped his shoulder. "Did you call the police yet?"
Nolan shook his head and she knew not to yell or question him, he had been through enough this past week. Aunt Carole didn't even want a funeral it turned out. She just wanted to be cremated and have her ashes spread at sea near Nolan's place or by David's place which was now Emily's. Nolan brought her ashes home with him; right now she was resting on the coffee table in the living room. Would someone come in and steal that too?
He looked up at her as she dialed 911. "This is bad Ems…"
Taking a walk throughout the Grayson Global building that was under investigation, Daniel brought Marjorie along with him for the ride. Papers were littered across the floor, printers were unhooked, decorative plants weren't being watered. They too were dying with the company.
"Love what you've done with the place…" Marjorie murmured as she looked over at Daniel who was holding something in his hands, a little piece of metal. She knew what it was, all plastic, metal and wiring. It was funny how something so small could do so much damage.
"Yeah, it's really coming along," he said sarcastically before skipping to why he brought her here in the first place.
"As you can tell, I'm not overly ecstatic with my life, my business failing didn't help. Someone has to pay," he said, using Emily's words and philosophy and not even knowing she had once said that about him and his family.
"So, what do we have here? I see you took my advice, became proactive," she said as she moved her finger across a copier machine and finding dust on it when she removed it her hand.
Daniel held up the little thing that was very thin and light but held so much. "It's probably some very important information, besides someone had to."
Marjorie smiled, Victoria would be proud that he was stepping up and taking action instead of just drifting through life.
"I like the way you think. Did you sneak a peek Mr. Grayson?" she asked, curious to know if he knew more than she did at this point. If she did she might have had to sway her tactics.
Daniel shook his head "This is fresh…I've had it in my possession for less than a day, was waiting on you."
She pressed her hand to her heart, pretending that she was touched, feigning extreme happiness, although to be honest, she was relieved.
"I'm honored, well…let's see what we have here, shall we? Do you have an office we can sit in or did you have to sell the furniture for rent money?" she asked, being snarky and sassy because she simply could.
Daniel rolled his eyes and brought her toward his office, what used to be his father's office. "Right this way."
Emily followed Nolan throughout his modern mansion as he cleaned certain things up and tried to remain calm. "You have to tell me what was taken Nolan, the police will be here soon but we need to access the damage."
"Oh it's assessed Emily…it's, everything's just peach pie…" he said, sounding a lot like her but in his own Nolan-esque way, their roles reversed. For once she was the one asking question, two steps behind.
Spinning him around as he got into the living room she looked into his baby blue's with her darker pair. Their gazes were both intense toward each other. "What was taken Nolan? What was on that drive?"
Nolan sighed, his lip almost quivering.
Emily paused for a minute, words not coming out. "My…story?" she asked, her mind jumping to an image of Nolan recording a video blog about her and the past five years or Nolan writing some masterful book where he would later change the names.
Nolan nodded, scared for his own physical being. "Information about you, about the things we've done. I mean it's not in written form but there's evidence, enough to bring the whole house down."
Emily felt rage burrow inside of her body but she realized she wasn't angry at Nolan, neither of them expected this to happen. If it had happened before she had her revenge she would be angrier but there were ways out at this point. She didn't have to transfer her anger to Nolan anymore. Not today at least.
"What are we going to do?" Nolan asked with a guilty sigh as he checked his alarm systems and called Big Ed for back up. He sent him a text instead, not wanting to bother him if he was with his family or in church. He could wait, the police were on their way anyway.
Emily kept her hands steady on his shoulders, eyes glassy. "You lay low, I'll join you once I talk to Jack…we lay low and we figure out a plan."
Nolan nodded, agreeing with her, they needed to keep quiet and figure out a game plan, they didn't plan this far in advance, they figured there would be little hiccups.
"You're really going to talk to Jack?" he asked, wondering her motives and if she were ready to give her closing statements.
Emily nodded, she couldn't be scared anymore. "And Charlotte, it's time we bring them into this."
Chapter 8: The Telling
He had an escape plan but he never wanted to use it. Nolan had a way out but he never thought it would come to that. He had once considered it, years ago when his Aunt Carole had gotten involved. She had gone in too deep, poked around where she no longer belonged and it put her in harm's way. He tried to stop her but she refused help. She told him he had done enough for her and she was the one who was supposed to be taking care of him. Their love had gone full circle. She had raised him as a teenager until he went off to college and even then she was still sending him money to eat and clothes to wear. He had gone through a grunge phase but that was mostly to save money so he could spend it on things for his computer. When he found out she needed help when everything went down with David Clarke, he was there for her in the blink of an eye. She had tried to help him again but he was stubborn, he could afford to be with her. He did not fear her as he first did with Amanda.
Okay he never exactly feared her but she was definitely a wild card.
Hiding out at her old cottage in Lancaster, a place he was not raised but visited often once he moved her there in the 1990's, Nolan found himself incredibly bored and once again lonely. He had gotten so used to calling Emily at night or in the morning and seeing her throughout the day for a meal or two or just business talk. They had used each other for an assortment of things over the years, everything but sex, obviously. Nolan found himself less desiring of sex once he had met her, not because he wanted only her and was waiting for her to come around but because the life she led was exciting enough. She kept him busy and he had made friends, he became exceedingly useful. Now he wasn't so sure.
Sitting in the heat he fingered the remote, fingers cascading over the raised buttons. Turning the power on he put on the news where he caught a glimpse of a familiar face, one Jack Porter had seen at his bar, just days ago. Ashley with her shorter new do, once again flocked to the spotlight. She had a natural and clear speaking voice and being English didn't hurt. Everyone from the states liked accents and it made her memorable as The Grayson media consultant over the years. It had also made her not very well liked, not the accent but her attitude in general, but she made the whole opportunistic bitch thing work for her.
"What are you going to say this time?" he purred to himself, wishing he had something other than an urn filled with ashes to keep him company.
He suddenly missed his Aunt even more now, looking over at the urn and the TV, the urn and the TV. His eyes darted back and forth but finally settled on the television screen, the news blaring in New York. He never thought that the Hamptons were anything special, but ever since Emily Thorne blew into town, they were.
Emily woke up from her slumber to a phone call, surprised it was even ringing. She had told Nolan not to call for a while, to lay low but she knew he wouldn't obey. He couldn't hold back when it came to her even though she had trained him to withhold his emotions. He just couldn't. It was endearing. Turning over she rubbed her eyes quickly, the sand crumbling from eyelids. She picked up her smart phone, a gift from Nolan, or Nolcorp rather.
Voice garbled almost, the sound on her phone bad, or maybe she was just tired, she heard her name. She was also a little out of it since she had drunk too much wine by herself last night. "Hello? Nolan?"
"Turn on the news…" said the voice she knew very well.
"My Television set isn't up and running yet…" she replied. Since she had moved most of her stuff from the city in, but hadn't set it up. She wasn't a big television person, she was more about the internet, but even her Wi-Fi had been wonky as of late.
"Too bad, your little friend Ashley Davenport has a lot to say…." He murmured.
"What? Is she writing a memoir and I'm featured in it?" she asked with a hint of a smile, a sleepy one, creeping up on her face. Sometimes she amused herself. "Also…I told you not to call."
Nolan had something to say to this. Sometimes he couldn't take her demands. "Well sometimes I don't do as I'm told. I have been known to take charge of my own life. I know, hard to believe."
She rolled her eyes as she rolled out of bed, taking some of the sheets with her and watching them slide to the floor. She would worry about them later. Laundry was the last thing on her mind. She didn't have time be domestic, not anymore.
"You're the one who got us into this mess Nolan," she said with a scowl and he could almost hear it over the phone.
"What's my fault now?" he asked in a little sarcastically defeated voice. He knew it was coming; there was always something she could nitpick with him since she had no one else to pick at. Sometimes she had to pick at other people's flaws so she never had to focus on her own.
"Why did you have a USB drive with all my information on it?" she asked, "Were you looking to write a memoir?"
He laughed "You've got to be kidding me Ems…I'm no writer, not by a long shot. You're giving me too much credit," he said as he shook his head. Sometimes she was impossible and even she knew it.
"What's Ashley saying?" she asked anxiously as she stood on her heels.
"One second, I'm listening…." He murmured as they stayed on the phone for a while together in absolute silence.
Ashley flipped her bob and smiled, fashionable bangs sweeping across her face, big brown bambi eyes making her look vulnerable and also wide awake.
"Working for the Grayson's was a tiresome experience but the news is thrilling to say the least as I always believed there was more to the story. News that Conrad and Victoria Grayson's sentences were shortened brings me a sense of relief. They will pay for sins but there are two sides to every story and I believe their side hasn't been told just yet, not completely."
She cut out or rather Nolan clicked her off, not even waiting for details. He knew Emily would look on the computer soon for information but what he did know is that she would not be pleased.
"What is it Nolan?" she asked, trying to evade the real issues so she could focus on something else but her brain always went to the worst place.
"Victoria and Conrad Grayson, their sentences were shortened."
Amanda felt rage in her body, blood boiling, and madness pumping through. Her body twitched and felt as it did when she sometimes just fell asleep and her body would wake itself up with the false act of falling.
"Thank you for letting me know," she said in the coldest tone he had ever heard her utter.
It was almost as if her soul was gone and the words cut like a knife. He was glad he wasn't there when this news was announced but also upset that he couldn't be there to comfort her, however that may be. He had seen her in an array of circumstances over the years and he had seen her handle different topics. He had seen many emotions in the great book of feelings and he had held onto her coattails the entire ride. He heard the click of the phone and set his down just the same. He knew she needed time to stew, her cocktail not needing any more mixing made by him. He'd leave the bar-tending to Jack.
Looking at the urn he lay his legs on the table, stretching his body out as he often did, his bones always needing a rest as they held up his tall body, the man more toned than he looked. He had some strength and fight in him too, especially after getting some training by Satoshi Takeda in Japan with Emily for a week one summer. Daniel was away at a business conference in Greece anyway so it didn't much matter that they did while he was gone.
"What have I gotten myself into?"
He waited for an answer back, her voice in his head.
The Stowaway had a certain scent to it today. Usually it smelled like beer or peanuts or hard liquor but today the air was clear, the scent of the ocean and seaweed drifting throughout the establishment.
Jack usually had little curtains over the windows to block the sun that might shine in a customer's face, also to mask what time of day it was. It was like a mall in that way. In a mall there are no clocks because people wanted you to lose yourself there. They wanted you to spend the day there shopping and spending money. Jack wanted the same, he needed their money to stay afloat and pay for Declan's education. Sure they had gotten the loan and Declan had even gotten a scholarship for two semesters but every scrap counted. Nolan of course had offered to pay for Declan to go to college but Jack politely declined. It was nice knowing he had something to fall back on but he didn't want Nolan Ross's pocket to be his first option.
Maybe he had too much pride, or just enough.
Emily sauntered in and before Jack knew it, he was face to face with her, their eye lines different since she sat herself on a stool but it was nerve-wracking just the same.
"Amanda," he stated flatly, almost as if he had been rehearsing that in front of a mirror.
"Emily's fine Jack," she said as she set her hands in front of her.
"Hard to tell these days," he said. The two of them were clearly trying to still be friendly but it wasn't working just yet.
It wasn't clicking; they had been through a lot. She had almost told him the truth five years ago but Fauxmanda showed up with a bun in the oven and ruined a lot of things. Turned out the baby was Tyler Barrol's. The two of them had hooked up once they had turned on Emily. Everything happened very fast and Jack had never even gotten the chance to meet his would be child when the real Emily Thorne left town never to come back. She had moved to Houston last Emily heard.
"I know, I…I don't know how to do this," she said.
Clearly she had not rehearsed, she was banking on the adrenaline she had gotten from the bad news earlier today to shine through but it just didn't. Her body had failed her again.
"Me either, but we should head upstairs…" he said looking at her.
Emily shook her head "How about the beach? Where it all started," she said and he listened obediently.
Telling Bull to keep an eye on things, Jack and Emily walked down the boardwalk together, silent for a long time before they made it to the water, sitting down and cradling themselves.
"I'm surprised you wanted to talk at all," Jack said, making her skin twitch. He had doubted her.
"Of course I wanted to talk Jack, it's you…" she said shrugging.
Jack almost interrupted her, passionate and quick to let things come out, he had made that mistake time and time again with women.
"How could I have been so stupid?" he asked as he ran his fingers through his dark hair, a healthy and thick mane that made Emily think of horses. She had learned to ride a horse after she got out of Allenwood, part of her "high in society" training.
"You're not stupid Jack," she said quickly, wanting to be the guilty one. Jack had nothing to apologize for. He was always actively, a good guy.
"Blind then," he murmured as he kept his eyes to the grains of sand as if he was counting each one individually.
"I didn't make myself known for a reason Jack. I had work to do, emotions got in the way from the beginning," she said with a sigh. "You were there, you know what they did to my father, what the Grayson's got away with. You saw it first hand; you heard the stories and the rumors. I had so much hate that there was no room for love, just revenge."
Jack took a breath before nodding, agreeing that he could understand where she was coming from. "I get that but you lied…to me," he said in a small voice, feeling rejected.
"I lied to everyone," she said as she bit her lip.
"Did you know Charlotte was your half-sister?" he asked, curious about the big picture but also a lot of little things along the way.
"Not at first, then I did and then it was too late, Amanda was already taking over the role, only not really," she said as she pressed her hands to her face. There was a lot to remember and to explain, in due time all things would be explained. "She knows now. We haven't talked yet…"
Chewing on the inside of his cheek, almost tasting copper in his mouth, his teeth nearly creating a hole, he stopped. He pulled himself together.
"What are you going to tell her?"
"Same as I tell you," she said as she turned to him, body more open and inviting, trying to get loose and candid with him.
"What are you going to tell me?" he asked as he leaned in, ready to hear her side, ready to hear her story.
Chapter 9: Not a Moment's Rest
Charlotte used to think she only saw in black and white, partly because of how she was raised and who she was raised by. Things changed but now it was like she was seeing in thermal, the colors bursting at the seams and harsh against her eyes. Easing back she sat against the park bench, the summer heat already making her flushed. Emily sat next to her, keeping her eyes to her knees as if she were ready to be punished or scolded. At least that was how it seemed to Charlotte who had to make her own assumptions up to now.
"Charlotte I'm so sorry…" she said again, her voice almost wavering, the second time she had said it in the past few minutes. She was beginning to lose hope. Jack had forgiven her rather quickly but things were still tense. She didn't know what would happen with Charlotte.
"Okay so you're officially Amanda Clarke," Charlotte said as she looked rattled, everything a bit bruised. She had been feeling this way for a long time, she was probably clinically depressed but she had to stay away from medication, strong ones at least after she had overdosed a few years ago.
Conrad Grayson, her father had told her that that was the scariest moment of his entire life and his own life flashed before his eyes. He was a good father. It was only when Charlotte entered high school that things started getting cold and distant between him and Victoria and she started to notice a pattern in them. She noticed their changes and figured her mother was just menopausal or something, or that he was having a mid-life crisis.
Looking at Emily she glanced over before remaining with eye contact as best as she could. She didn't think they had similar features but then again she never thought she looked much like Victoria. Emily's mother must have had blonde hair.
"Yes, officially, that was the name I was born with. Charlotte you have to understand, I thought your parents ruined my life, I mean they did but it was bigger than all of that. They were pawns but they chose their own path…" she said as she picked at her cuticles.
"I know," Charlotte proclaimed with almost a snap, not wanting to back pedal.
"Someone had to pay," she said with a sigh. "I was a little girl and my father was taken from me. I was locked up and trained, brainwashed to not love my father anymore. What kind of sick people do that?"
Charlotte shrugged, she didn't know how to answer her but she was glad that Emily or Amanda was opening up to her and not being cold and distant as usual.
"Did you really go to Juvie?" she asked her half-sister as she looked into the older woman's dark eyes that were once hell bent of destruction.
Emily nodded and took a deep breath. Exhaling, her shoulders sank with the weight of her breathing patterns. "I did… after I got out of the brainwashing trials I was moved from foster home to foster home like dead weight. The last foster home I was at, I was…16. I burned the place to the ground, no one was inside but I wished he was."
"Who?" Charlotte asked, making the wrong choice.
"The man who…." She gulped before saying anything else. "He deserved it."
Charlotte bit her lip, knowing what Emily meant, not needing details.
"I was locked up once again and labeled a sociopath. I stayed at Allenwood Detention Center for two years, made connections and learned how to take care of myself."
While Emily/Amanda had been locked up for only two years, she was locked up her entire life and still was. Things were clearing up though with time. Telling people who she really claimed to be was a big step in her recovery.
"And then what?" she asked, curious to know more details. She had missed so much in her sister's life.
"And then I met Nolan, he brought me a box my father had saved to give to me. Inside the box were details about your family, names, connections, and ways to prove he was innocent. I thought my father was a bad man, but when I learned he had been killed in prison I also learned he was good and remembered my past. I remembered being brainwashed and the people that had hurt me."
Charlotte bit her lip, thinking of David's face. Pictures were all she had. "Oh god…"
"Nolan set me off on the right foot. He gave me part of his business, said since my father invested part of it was mine. I was set, I had money but I used it all wrong. I partied too hard and got drunk too fast."
Charlotte nodded, she could understand that rebellious way of thinking. She had been very rebellious as a teenager. She dated the boy her mother would have never approved of, she got addicted to prescription pills, she became a giant bitch like some say her mother was and she broke up with the one person who understood her. There were countless other things, too many to name, especially when she was high.
"I got on the right track thanks to Satoshi Takeda and trained with him in Japan, I learned how to fight a bit more…Well with precision," she said softly.
Charlotte wondered what that was like. She wondered what Japan was like but more what dealing with a sensei was like, if she could even call him that. She knew him mostly as a business man but there were obviously many sides to a person. Emily was an eight sided die.
"After I trained with him I went to school, normal old college and got a degree in literature, I used that knowledge to later bond with your brother, to get him to fall in love with me."
"You used him," Charlotte said with an eye roll. "Your whole marriage was a scam"
"At first yes, but I did love him. Don't get me wrong, he was very good to me even when things went down with Grayson Global. Yes, at first he was a pawn, you're right Charlotte."
Charlotte closed her eyes for a moment, caught between a rock and a hard place. "You don't regret anything you've ever done, do you?"
Emily heard a twinge in Charlotte's voice. The girl was more telling her than asking her a question.
She turned to Charlotte, that passionate heated fire in her eyes, the kind that told a story. It was the kind of look that showed she was always going to trust herself first before anyone else.
Charlotte watched Emily go her own way, still finding it hard to call her ex-sister in law but actual sister Amanda. She had been Emily Thorne for so many years now. Everything would take a lot of getting used to.
Moving into an apartment she was going to be sharing with Daniel until they could figure some things out, everything very temporary, Charlotte curled in front of the television until he got home from work, and by work she knew he meant cleaning up their parent's messes.
The apartment was small but compared to New York City apartments it was giant and by the beach still so all was okay for the summer. They would take the rest one day at a time.
Charlotte thought about her half-sister, saying her name both ways. Amanda sounded weird against her lips especially since she thought her half-sister had had Tyler Barrol's baby and moved to Utah or wherever it was she moved to with her unborn fetus at the time.
Daniel walked in, the door slamming behind him and making her jump from the sudden noise. She thought she had the new apartment to herself for a while but that was not presently the case.
"Danny!" she said as she leaned against the back of the couch, her stomach pressed to it, clutching the top like a perching owl.
"This place looks a little neater," he said as he tossed his brief case down.
"I had a lot of cleaning up to do," she stated simply in reference to her life, Amanda and cleanliness in general.
"Oh, well you did good," he said as he roamed into the kitchen to pour himself a glass of ice water.
Charlotte followed him and he poured her a glass, still wanting to take care of her even though she was past college age. He wanted people to take care of him still; in fact he once had someone to do so but she was gone. They both were gone, his mother and Emily. He still hadn't taken off his wedding ring. He had let go but he was so used to it being on his finger. Looking down he noticed it and played with the white gold. It was almost stuck on his finger, perhaps he had gained some weight over the course of the five years, a lot of it stressful, more stressful then he would have liked. Twisting it off his finger he set it aside and let it look back at him.
"I talked with Emily," she said looking at him.
"You what?" he asked, getting a little huffy at her name, his life in shambles because of her. He had been betrayed and now his life was delayed, he wanted to have kids by this age. That was always the plan.
"She wanted to talk to me, I mean we are half-sisters as weird as it is to say that," she said
Daniel's hands shot up, "Yes it is weird, it is very weird…I can't wrap my head around anything anymore, so let's just not. Okay?"
Charlotte's head shook almost before he could finish his sentence. "No, not okay, we need to get past this. At the clinic we learned to make apologies and she made hers to me and I forgave her, you need to do the same."
"Easy for you to say," he scoffed, wallowing in his own despair.
"No, it wasn't easy. She lied for five years, you were married to her. You shared a bed with her, I get it but you know what…Mom and dad are good at making anyone crazy and that's what they did to her," she said with a sigh and Daniel pulled back, staying in the room, one foot out the door.
"It was part of something bigger; I'm not buying into all of it. There's a bigger picture, there always is…"
Crossing her arms she plopped back on the couch, eyes looking pensive, "That's what mom seems to think. She hired this woman, Marjorie something to help her out with something. Who knows what? The "Bigger" picture probably." She said in a mocking tone.
Daniel's eyes popped out of their sockets almost as he walked to her, almost gripping her shoulders. "What? Who is she working with?"
"Umm, some Marjorie woman. What's your problem Daniel?" She shrugged him off and he moved away, going into the dining room, a room they didn't need at this point since they had little to no friends left.
Daniel left the apartment and went out onto the porch, Charlotte was tempted to follow but she knew when he got in moods like this that she should just stay away and let him cool down.
Looking at pictures of David Clarke that Emily had given her right before they parted ways she looked for resemblance of herself in his face. She had thought they had similar eye shapes but she was trying to stretch, trying to think of him as a likeable person.
Out on the porch, Daniel paced like a mad men, fumes bursting from his ears like in the cartoons. Even his face was red but that could have been from the heat. Taking off his suit jacket he tossed it on the railing and rolled his sleeves up, everything sticking to him. Fabric stuck to his skin and beads of sweat got caught in his eyebrow.
"Damn…" he muttered to himself as it went to voice-mail. He knew exactly what was going on, he didn't even have to ask Victoria or Marjorie. He knew people were playing him again. Daniel was always a pawn in a much bigger game and he was getting really sick of it. It came to an end this instant.
Hearing the beep to send a voice-mail, Daniel spoke into the phone. "Marjorie, I just want to let you know that you will not be needed any longer. Your services are no longer required. Enjoy your time working with my mother, let me know how that works out for you," he said in a smug little voice.
Hanging up with a frustrated click he fought the urge not to throw his cell phone into his water and if it wasn't expensive and a pain in the ass to get a new one and set it up he would have thrown it straight into the ocean.
Picking up the pace, her heels on the concrete adjacent to the dirt and gravel she tried to stay on course, not getting distracted by her cell phone.
Sitting across from Conrad Grayson, a man she had hardly seen over the years but had mainly talked on the phone with, she admired him behind the glass. He was a handsome man and she could see why Victoria shacked up with him, same as socialite Lydia Davis, who hadn't been all that social as of late.
"Conrad Grayson…." She purred voice thick and rich as she flirted her way to the top through the glass wall.
"Marjorie Blaisson…just the girl I wanted to see…" he husked right back, not afraid to get down and dirty.
"I'm here to make a deal Conrad, nothing more, nothing less. I have a physical statement from a Miss Lydia Davis claiming she has affiliations to your little friends from Iraq because of a mishap with David Clarke all these many years ago. I don't think that looks good for you, your fiancée friends with terrorists, you might as well be Hitler. Either put on your little black mustache or shave." She said as she pointed at him, finger tapping against the glass and she basically told him his options.
"You're blackmailing me…" he said, not surprised and almost impressed. He leaned back in his chair and preferred the silence as she kept eye contact. She had been through so many job interviews that she nailed those stoic silent moments when nothing much could be said.
"Yes…I do believe you're on the right track. A cookie for you …"
"What kind?" he asked, enjoying the banter, at least he had that.
"Chocolate chip, without the chips…" she replied with sharp wit, quick to answer the man.
"Where did the chips go?" he asked as he toyed with the phone cord wondering if anyone had ever tried to choke themselves or someone else with one of them before.
"You earn the chips," she said as she stood up. "Name your price…what do you want most of all?"
Conrad took a moment to think, he had one feisty blonde in mind.
"I want Amanda Clarke taken out, once and for all…." He said, needing a sense of revenge of his own. He had a broken family, everything about him was broken. He had scruff on his face for god sakes and he never had scruff, not for 30 years or so.
"That can be arranged…" she said with a little smirk, creeping over her face. She had her own ulterior motives that would take a while to come out. Like Ashley Davenport, she too was opportunistic.
A banging and a whooshing sound came from downstairs as Emily woke up, back and body straight laced and nervous. It was hard enough for her to sleep without the problems of the loud noises and nearby construction.
Walking down the stairs Emily reached for a gun but was struck in the face with her fireplace poker. She could feel the blood spraying from her nose and it made her body almost curl into a feared position. Once she made contact with whoever was attacking her she could beef up and hand them the works Amanda Clarke style. Seeing a generic looking man in dark clothing who also looked like a stereotypical dark figure she fired the gun at him but missed as he leaned in to take it from her. He did not hesitate and nor did she.
They both still stood but he swept her to the floor, her body and mind still tired from sleep. He was large and powerful but also slick with his graceful motions.
The two fought for control and throughout the fight the power dynamic shifted multiple times. Losing the upper hand she fell to the ground and he rose what looked to be a shovel he had picked up by the front door. It was the shovel she used to clean up snow in the winter but the winter was long over by now.
She had left it there when she was in the city, she must have unless he was snooping around her home for a while. The shovel's head was aligned with her stomach and all she could think was to save herself. At this point in time Amanda Clarke did not want to die, she did not want to submit.
"Stop no please!" she begged…. "I'm pregnant."
And with that…he lowered his weapon.
Chapter 10: Comforting Ways
Emily Thorne had seen herself as settling down one day, maybe getting married to the right person, for the right reasons but the Amanda Clarke in her could never fathom such a thing. She wouldn't have been a good mother since Nolan mentioned to her once before that she was still a child herself. He was right. She had grown up too fast but there was still an innocent layer to her being. The same applied to him. Both blondes had had a tough go at things and life didn't throw them a lucky penny. They always landed on tails and they never made it in a wishing well.
Nolan's father was verbally abusive to him and his mother when he was growing up. All he remembered about him was the pain he would endure. His father would come home reeking of vodka and clothes smelling like smoke. The man spent most of his time in a bar living it up and complaining about his fruitcake of a son. Nolan never outright told him he was bisexual, but his father had his suspicions. His suspicions were enough to divide a barrier between them that would never be repaired.
Emily sat in her room in bed, blankets curled around her like a white igloo, she usually woke up early but today she was treating herself. She thought about last night, the unidentified man slowly lowering his weapon and the vulnerable look in his eyes as he realized he couldn't kill a pregnant woman, that wasn't part of the plan. She had watched him go and took a breath, hands shaking and a feeling of nausea radiating off her body and enveloping her. It was not like her to back down from a fight, but now she was thinking about someone else's life…Nolan's.
No. Emily Thorne would never let herself get pregnant nor would Amanda Clarke. She had practically bought packs of birth control pills by the gallon, stocking up for the months to come. Near the end, when everything started to come undone and unraveled as it needed to, Daniel and Emily weren't sexually active anyway and a lot of the times she told him to wear a condom.
Pressing her hand to the belly she thought about what it would be like to hold a life inside of her, to have to worry about someone else but then she realized, she did that every day. She was always worrying about other people. It hadn't started out like that at first but when things went down with The Initiative she had to start taking people under her wing to make sure there was no collateral damage.
Brushing the thought away she picked up her phone and dialed Nolan's number, over the years he had become her number one priority mainly because he was her best asset in the field and the home station. He knew both her personas, he knew every stepping stone and he was all in all, her best friend.
Hearing his voice on the phone she heard a sigh before he picked up, his sigh one that automatically told her it was hard for him to talk to her because he missed her face too much. She imagined that Nolan had feelings for her, and she wasn't too sure that she didn't have them back. After everything, it was hard not to.
"Emily…" he bellowed and she heard some disappointment in his voice.
"Yes Nolan?" she asked as she wondered what was going to come out of his mouth next.
"How are you.?" He asked, his voice lingering in the air, he always seemed to hold out certain words or statements, it was just part of his suave dialogue.
"Pregnant." She said to which he spat out all his water he was drinking. It happened on television shows a lot but this was serious, this was real.
"Excuse me, what?" he asked, his heart pounding, his head spinning. He was scared she would be trapped in a bad situation although he knew she was pro-choice. "Is it mine?" he asked with a little laugh, trying to make things light and fluffy.
"Don't worry, it's what I like to call a false alarm…someone broke into my house last night, they attacked me."
"What? Are you kidding? I'm gone for a week and you're "pregnant" and attacked by a hoard of assassins?"
"Not a hoard Nolan, just a one sympathetic man who let me and my unborn child live…"
"So you're not pregnant then…"
"No and it's not yours you fool. I noticed you worked that in there…" she said with an eye roll.
Nolan shrugged "It couldn't be mine anyway, I'm sterile. I'm not a big on the kids/white picket fence philosophy. I surround myself with what makes me happy, technology, bright colors and you."
"Well I'm sorry for your scrotum Nolan, that would have been tragic if you were kid crazy," she said with a little laugh. "Although you could adopt, or well there are options."
The two of them used to some witty banter by now, it had started that way too. When she first met him, in the car she was cold and sarcastic and he decided to be just the same. She thought he was annoying at first like most people did but he grew on you like a very tasty mushroom fungus.
"Thank you for the advice Emily but I have done my research. Who came after you Ems?" he asked, a little perturbed that all of this shit wasn't over yet. He just wanted her to get some peace and mind but it went on and on and cycled and shifted.
"Good question, it's something I'd like to know. I'm certain I'll find out soon because there is no way that they're not coming back for more."
Nolan wished he was home, Emily did too.
Word traveled fast in the Hamptons especially between the Grayson family, prison or not they still had connections, The news of Emily's pregnancy was like the shot heard round the world, mainly for the fact that all eyes were on her as of late, the media had even got hint and news that she was Amanda Clarke and were pestering her for interviews and firsthand accounts of things that had happened in her childhood. The news went from the dark clothed man to Marjorie to Conrad to his lawyer to Daniel to Charlotte to Victoria. Victoria was outraged at Amanda for everything and now here she was pregnant with her grandson or daughter.
"Well it's early, she's not even showing yet…there's time," Victoria said in response. Things would have been easier that way.
Charlotte blew her off and knew what she had to do. Sitting in her apartment, Daniel talking to his lawyers and not home she picked up her phone and called the only number she could think of at a time like this. She was going to call her sponsor but his voice wasn't friendly. She thought an old friend might be ready to talk.
Declan was at a local Starbucks when he got the call, Charlotte's number wasn't even in his phone anymore. The number came up as restricted. Writing a piece for a local sports radio station that he might broadcast later he sipped his caramel Frappuccino finding it entirely too sweet. Hesitating to pick up the phone because he was in a writing flow he let it ring before picking up. "Hello?"
"Declan," the voice concluded and he knew right away it was Charlotte. To him she had a distinct voice and to her he had one just the same but everyone always thought that about Declan.
"Charlotte?" he asked, just wanting to make sure in case her voice deepened or something over the few years they hadn't seen each other.
"Yeah Dec, it's me…" she said in a soft voice. "Is that okay?"
Declan nodded, leaning back in his chair, his chest in knots as he wondered why she had decided to call all these years later.
"Yeah Charlotte, its fine. What's up? Is…is everything okay over there?" he asked, ready for the worst.
"Where are you right now?" she asked, curious about where he had gone after school had ended. She thought she heard Jack say the city but she could have been wrong. She tried to stay away from Montauk; she didn't need to trip down memory lane.
"I'm in Brooklyn right now in a Starbucks, you know how it is…one on every corner,"
"Oh, what are you doing in Brooklyn?" she asked, maybe he had actually made something of himself, different from her. Hey at least she made it through college.
"I have an apartment here by Prospect Park with this guy and I do some radio stuff for a sports station, trying to get into communications. I do some bartending, gotta keep it in the family, you know?"
"Well I know all about keeping it in the family…can't escape them. I'm happy for you," she said sweetly, trying to bring kindness to her voice.
"I'm happy for me too; it's nice being out here. I like the independence. So, still can't escape the Grayson family? I heard about your parents….along with Emily."
Charlotte nodded, getting up to make sure Daniel didn't sneak in at some point; she wanted to keep the Amanda/Emily talk very nigh around him.
"Yeah, Daniel's a mess and I kinda am too, but you know me, I've always been a disaster."
"You're not a disaster Charlotte; you've just been through a lot. Your world turned upside down," he said as he clutched his phone.
"Are you taller now?" she asked, breaking the silence with a giggle.
Declan laughed "A little, I'm able to grow a beard now too but I don't recommend it," he said with a smile.
She walked out onto the porch to look at the ocean, she remembered swimming in it with them and how when they were together nothing else mattered. When she was with him her family wasn't an issue, it was just them against the world.
"I just thought, well I needed someone to talk to, I know I don't deserve your attention or anything. I was a real bitch," she said as she sprayed herself with some sun screen, rubbing it in and putting him on speaker phone. She wondered if he had air conditioning in his apartment and if he was hot.
"You were high back then, on a shitty path. I forgave you a long time ago, I just couldn't deal with it back then," he said with a sigh. "Are you okay now?"
She nodded "Four years sober, I don't drink anymore either, I don't want to be caught up in that rich party girl lifestyle anymore."
"So what are you all about?" he asked.
"I got a degree in criminal justice, now it's just…do I want to be a cop or go to law school?" she said shrugging. "Or something entirely different, I just want to help people. I haven't figured it all out yet, I just got the degree because I got an A in crim in high school and actually paid attention to the teacher even when I was high. I like all those Law and Order, Castle, police show type things…."
Declan smiled, proud of her. "I remember…"
Charlotte licked her lips, finding them dry, actually finding her whole mouth dry. "We had some good times, didn't we?"
Declan nodded, "Maybe it's not over for us yet. I'm coming to see Jack soon probably for a few days, we should catch up."
Charlotte felt all tingly when he said that, now she had a chance to gain the redemption she needed and to apologize in person. "I'd like that."
Declan looked at his watch and figured they could talk later about everything. "Charlotte listen I want to keep talking but I really have to get some work done before tonight. Can I give you a call later or tomorrow?"
Charlotte nodded and then remembered she had to say words "Yeah…that would be great."
Declan picked up his drink and took another sip, the cold sweet stream forcing its way through the straw and against his tongue. "Bye Charlotte…"
Before he could hang up Charlotte stopped him. "Declan wait…I thought you should be the one to break it to Jack…Emily is pregnant."
Sitting in the little white room together, Marjorie Blaisson sipped her coffee and looked at her watch, the thing new but a little too big on her wrist. It slipped down, loose on her arm like bangles.
The man from the night before, the dark figure waltzed in the room, his head hanging low.
"You idiot!" she said, throwing her phone at him. "You were only supposed to scare her, not try to splice her in half!"
"I'm an assassin Ms. Blaisson but I happen to be one with a heart of gold. I'm a father; I'm not going to kill a pregnant woman."
Rolling her eyes, Marjorie played the villain as she stood up to meet her maker, or vice versa. "Who hired you?" she asked, cocking her head.
"Conrad Grayson," he said confused as to why he was asking her a question she already knew the answer to.
"Good boy, now go." she said shooing him away and as he left the room she called the authorities and clicked her recording device off. Conrad and Victoria Grayson would be in jail for longer than they imagined with the information she had on them. Hopefully they would be put in separate white little cells with no windows or natural light and be forced to stew in their own juices.
She would soon have a lot of explaining to do and she was going to welcome it.
"You're welcome…" Emily said with a little laugh as she looked over at Charlotte, the two of them meeting at The Stowaway in a little back table. A red light was shining on them, it was dim but swanky.
"Thank god you're not pregnant, I mean you and Daniel are like totally divorced, it would be a little tense…" she said softly. "More than a little."
"Well, I had to say something; I didn't want to get cut in half like a worm so that popped into my head. I'm lucky he had sympathy."
Jack saw them in the back and the muscles in his jaw began to tighten, why did they have to come here and throw it in his face?
He had to pretend he was happy for her, ask her if she needed anything. He thought back to years ago when the same thing had happened to him when Amanda Clarke showed up, the fake Amanda. He imagined he felt as Emily had felt and he fought off tears when Declan had told him on the phone. Going over to them he walked slowly but then sped up, wanting to get it over with.
Approaching them he was able to look into Charlotte's eyes but not Emily's. "Congratulations, "he muttered to her as he handed her a menu. Emily quickly spoke and grabbed his hand as he pulled away.
"Jack wait…I'm not pregnant. I was attacked last night and almost killed, I told the man I was pregnant to survive and apparently nothing is a secret private matter in this place," she said as she squeezed his hand.
"You're not pregnant?" he asked, his voice almost cracking.
"No, I'm not pregnant," she said with a little smile.
"You were attacked?" he asked as he stayed close, "My god Emily, what, when?"
"Last night and I'm fine Jack, I have Nolan working with me to figure out who was in my home as well as the police," she said softly. "I'm okay."
"That puts me at ease; I worry about you living alone…"
"Is that an offer for me to move in?" she asked with a little smirk, letting herself come out of her shell.
"You need a place it's yours, but I have a feeling you want to stay where you are," he murmured, his dark eyes warm and soft. He had such an inviting face that made her feel very nostalgic and the same sweet smile.
Emily Thorne nodded and made him join them at the table, the three of them smiling and patient, ready to listen to one another.
Chapter 11: All These Parts
There were so many things to say, so many words left unspoken. Ever since Daniel came home from school things had been tense and Victoria Grayson had tried to mother him in a new way that turned out horribly wrong. She had tried to subtly control him and in that tornado she had forgotten about Charlotte who needed more help than Daniel ever did. Both Grayson children had problems with substance abuse. While Charlotte took comfort in prescription pills, Daniel took comfort in alcohol. It had gotten him into trouble a few times before and Tyler Barrol was never a supportive good role model for the tall dark and handsome man with the eyes of a puppy. The Grayson family kept too many secrets and didn't talk about much of anything besides their money, art, how the weather was and when they would gossip about other people. This kind of talk didn't bring them closer. It was no surprise that both Victoria and Conrad had cheated on each other multiple times.
It was no surprise that everyone was in a mess of their own, especially the leaders of the Grayson clan.
Daniel looked over at his mother who looked weaker and a bit frail, her blue jumpsuit baggy on her and making her look smaller. She didn't seem so intimidating anymore but he knew that under that horrid blue outfit was a bitter and broken soul. He was pissed at her, for everything she had done but she had been begging him to see her, pleading from behind bars. She wasn't one to plea, but prison was wearing her down. He wondered if it could break her and if she would be a better person after she was broken down completely. Would she see things from a different perspective?
"I'm sorry to hear about Emily Daniel. That is some news…" she said in a quiet voice. "Are you going to keep it?"
Daniel eyed his mother and crossed his arms, leaning back ever so slightly. "That's really not up to me is it…."
Victoria shrugged "Her body but you should talk about it, have you even talked to her about it Daniel? You'd think if you were married to someone for almost five years that talking wouldn't be an issue, although she's not really the person you thought you married so I see where that might be a problem."
"Don't rub it in Victoria…."
"What did you just call me?" she asked in an angry almost motherly voice which surprised him and came out of the blue. Who was she to act like a mother now?
"You'll earn the title of mother when you start acting like one," he said with an attitude.
"Daniel that is no way to talk to me. How am I supposed to prove myself to you and Charlotte behind bars?" she asked as she flipped her graying hair over her shoulders.
"Help me then, tell me what to do. What the hell do I say to her? Sorry my parents destroyed your father and ruined your life, better luck next time," he said as he leaned into her.
"Don't be so overdramatic Daniel, we didn't ruin her life," she said in a cool tone.
"OH so what do you call it then? You take away her only parent and put her through foster care; she gets molested by her foster father and arrested for fighting back. That's not ruining someone's life?" he asked, knowing more about Amanda than Victoria ever would have guessed.
"Molested?" she asked. Victoria didn't really know what Amanda had been through, nor did she ever bother to. All she cared about was getting rid of her.
"You left her like she was nothing and you let these vultures feed on her. She was just a little girl. She needed guidance and you took that away from her. You took away her innocence," Daniel barked as he glared into her eyes.
"I didn't know Daniel and if I had I wouldn't have stood idly by," she said as she let it slide off of her.
"Would you have? Because last I remember you just throw sexual abuse out the window like Mardi Gras beads at a parade. You told me David Clarke raped you, who knows what you would do these days? You're disgusting…" he said with a vile tone to his voice, angry but also like bile was shooting through his stomach and into his esophagus.
Victoria's face went blank and she bit the inside of her lip, nearly tasting copper. She had gone too far and things were beginning to weigh on her.
"What? No witty comeback?" her son asked as he heard a television blaring in the background.
Victoria eyed him and held back her tears, eyes glassy nonetheless. "Daniel stop it," she said only once as he began to not pay attention, choosing to listen to the television instead. "I just wanted to keep my family together."
"Well you did a great job," he murmured as he stopped paying attention to her. She didn't deserve his attention and respect; she was no longer worthy of it.
Watching the news he saw Ashley Davenport on screen giving an interview. Standing, he approached it trying to get a better glimpse of it. He read the screen saying Victoria and Conrad Grayson would go to trial once again. (Breaking News) it said and then Ashley spoke.
~~~~"They're saying that Victoria and Conrad Grayson are the Hamptons' version of Bonnie and Clyde. Well I say to you that that's entirely impossible without a third party working as a middle man between the two. Someone else is involved and that someone else must have been the anonymous caller who brought attention to the fact that Conrad and Victoria had been planning the assassination attempt on Amanda Clarke. I believe this was either a set up or a manipulation, perhaps a big misunderstanding. I personally have worked for Conrad Grayson and Victoria Grayson in the past and they never would have gone that far with their need for vengeance. I think that they're all about money. It wouldn't have surprised me if they had wanted to bankrupt Amanda Clarke but to kill, no; they were never out for blood."
The interviewer asked Ashley another question, hindrance in his voice, "If they were able to pin acts of terrorism on David Clarke, don't you think they would have been able to kill his daughter?"
"I think they might have thought her being dead was easier for them and since she was the one to put them in prison in the first place, sure, but I still think they're the type of people who might use another way to get back at her. They'd want her to suffer the way they suffer as we speak…but I could be wrong, I apparently don't know who I used to work for…"
Ashley left the podium "That will be all…" and Daniel had an out of body experience, blood like fire in his veins and bubbling to the surface. He couldn't control himself any longer.~~~~~
Lunging for Victoria he gripped at her throat, squeezing hard and not caring if she lived or died at the moment, all he could think of was Emily in pain and near death and he realized he still loved her. He realized his child could have died that night by the hands of his parents. Victoria gasped for air as she struggled with her son, hands clawing at his face, body almost in shock.
The guards seemed to wait a little long to pull him off. At least that was how it seemed from Victoria's perspective.
"What did you do?" Daniel asked in a loud booming voice that echoed throughout the prison. He could not physically hold back any longer and it served her right, she had slapped him across the face more times than he could count.
The guards pulled him off of Victoria and she sputtered for air, letting it fill her lungs once more.
"Don't you ever speak to me again! You're dead to me…" he hissed, the sound coming from him like thunder even through a dangerous whisper as they pulled him out of the room.
The sun was bursting through the walls of his glass house and it filled it with light, something he needed since he was feeling rather gloomy as of late. Urn in hand he thought himself crazy for he had been speaking to his dead Aunt the entire ride home. He also found himself listening to pop music that had forcibly gotten stuck in his head, a lot of it being Katy Perry.
Placing his Aunt Carole's ashes down on the table he plopped on the couch, tired from driving. He really should have gotten Big Ed to pick him up but he didn't want to bother him and make him drive out of his way to pick him up with a different car and then have to get that car shipped later. Nolan just drove slowly on the way home. He had been listening to the radio on the way home and it was revealed what the Grayson's were planning and how they had failed. Amanda Clarke was also revealed to be Emily Thorne, something she had been hiding from the public. He imagined she was a very busy girl at the moment with no time for him.
Walking into his office Nolan gasped, shocked to find Marjorie Blaisson sitting there, her red hair like flames and her eyes a bright blue. She actually reminded him a lot of Joan Holloway from Mad Men but he didn't know who the hell she was and why she had broken into his house.
"Who the hell are you?"
Marjorie spun around in his chair and smiled softly "Before you pick up that little smart phone of yours you should listen to me. I have some wonderful things to say Mr. Ross."
Nolan let his phone rest in his pocket but he was not afraid to use it, he let her know that with his eyes.
"Go on…" he murmured, his voice always lingering in the air.
Sitting across from her, now at her level and on the same playing field he took in a breath before she told her side of the story.
"I'm the one that broke into your home, on behalf of Daniel Grayson," she said as she looked at him, with steely eyes.
"Oh, really…well that makes things easier. I want back what was taken from me,"
"Oh you're little whale cam? I don't think Daniel would like that plan but you're lucky I don't work for him anymore. If you want to get it back you have to go to the source."
"Daniel doesn't owe me anything although he is a thief and a former jail bird so maybe he will feel inclined since he knows I could put him back in Rikers with a snap of my fingers."
Marjorie smiled and bit her nails. "I like your enthusiasm Mr. Ross… I'm here to let you know that my loyalties are...flexible." she purred, her head slightly cocked and her lips slightly parted.
Nolan did not buy into her flirting, he had seen more subtly on an escort.
"Good to know. How did you get into my house? It's got security through the roof," he muttered in a hostile tone.
"All things can be broken into, especially when you're me…" she said in a sly and slick voice, her body language confident but darkness behind her eyes just the same.
"You look familiar," he said as he made a face, trying to place her.
"I used to work for Conrad and Victoria Grayson, and countless others in their inner circle," she murmured as she got up to move her fingers over his physical files, things he didn't keep on drives. All of it was Nolcorp stuff anyway, things she weren't interested in. "You must have seen me a few times at gatherings and galas. I was always the best dressed besides you of course."
"Why would you work for those despicable people?" he asked as he joined her on his feet, watching her carefully and trying not to make any sudden moves.
She moved like a shark, smiled like a piranha and could bite like a lioness protecting its cubs. "I didn't have a choice, I was born into The Initiative," she said as she eyed him, her face turning a sallow color.
She cut him off, knowing she had some explaining to do. "My mother worked for a company opposed to Grayson Global's shall we say "Exports". When certain employees were pulled into the fold to join The Initiative my mother went undercover and Victoria and Conrad Grayson took her under their wing. Much like they had with Amanda Clarke's mother. Amanda Clarke wasn't the first person that was negatively affected by the Grayson family and the Initiative. I was too."
Nolan put his hand to his mouth and shook his head. "How am I supposed to believe you?"
Marjorie Blaisson zipped down her dress to reveal old bullet wounds and scars near her navel, years old by now. She was a bit older but The Initiative had been decades old.
"Believe this, believe I too want to make sure that the remaining members of the tribe are taken down which included the Grayson family. They were pawns on a chess board stretching miles wide but they were part of so much damage. If Emily Thorne couldn't put them down like dogs for good, I sure as hell was going to do something about it."
Nolan carefully approached her and admired the scars, leaning in and she let him, not afraid. She was done being scared. "How did you get these?" He asked as he looked up at her, on his knees before her like she was an altar.
It made her feel like a sacrifice and maybe that was what she was.
"How do you think?" she said rhetorically, not needing to spell it out for him. "I got too close to something," she said, a pain in her stomach where she remembered getting shot years ago.
"Why haven't they killed you?" he asked as he sauntered toward her once more, trying to comfort the stranger. No matter who it was, he always wanted to help and he now could see the same pain he did in Amanda's eyes when he met her outside of Allenwood all those years ago.
"Death is on my heels Mr. Ross; I haven't a clue why they're keeping me alive…some part of me thinks it's because they're sadistic. They like toying with people like us. We're the mice and they're the cats. We're toys to them…"
"We're?" he asked as he pulled back, her dress zipped back into place, no longer exposed to him.
"You don't think Amanda and I are the only ones do you? They're many of us scattered across this earth. There are men and women everywhere who have been ruined by this company. It's like…it's like a world divided."
Nolan bit his lip, listening to her story. He had no idea it stretched this far and wide, no one had seen that coming.
"There were seven devils around us but I've just taken care of two hence why I came here but there are five more. Five much harder agents to kill," she said as she looked at him, Nolan trying to take everything in.
"Do you have a plan?" he asked as she looked out the window, always a bit shifty and panicked underneath all that confidence. After coming so close to death she didn't fear it anymore, the only thing she feared was failure.
"I need your help Nolan; you have more power than you even know…" she said as she turned to him. "But first…"
Nolan smiled softly, the smile more a nervous, overwhelmed one.
"Yes?" he asked her as he grabbed his laptop, ready to take notes even though he was dead tired.
"But first, I need a drink."
Chapter 12: Game Change
Charlotte didn't have the time to tell Daniel that Emily wasn't pregnant, and to be honest she assumed he knew. Sitting in Jack Porter's bar she had reclaimed this place her hang out spot. She liked driving into Montauk and having a change of scenery. The boardwalk was a good place to do it, more local people, fisherman, regular middle class people who weren't featured in New York Magazine and talked about on local radio shows. She had grown up with all of that her entire life and it was always getting to her then, now it was even more so. After everything she had gone through with Daniel in jail, her grandfather being arrested, her parents imprisoned and her pill addiction publicized, she never wanted to be in front of a camera again and there was less of a chance of that in Montauk. She had always felt safe in the presence of the Porter family. As small as their family was, they had a strong bond that was hard to break. She wished her family could have been like that.
She wished she had someone to fall back and it used to be Daniel but lately he had been sucked into the web of their family's lies and schemes. He wasn't exactly the same person anymore and even if Emily hadn't come out saying she was Amanda Clarke they probably would have broken up anyway. They had been fighting a lot lately, everyone was.
Turning to Declan Porter for comfort just like old times only there were much less carefree and reckless she picked up her phone as she watched Jack behind the bar. He noticed Charlotte and his face seemed to light up. Jack was glad that people he knew were coming in, most people who came in every day were usuals but never wanted to talk, only drink.
Looking at her phone she viewed some old pictures from college as Jack walked over to her, dish towel in hand. He usually had an old rag for cleaning in his hand and a glass in the other. "Good to see you Charlotte."
"Hi Jack, how are you?" she asked, curious about him just as much as she was about Declan.
"I'm okay, hanging in there. You spend any more sisterly bonding time with Emily…or do we call her Amanda now?" he asked, still confused about the logistics.
"I guess we should ask what she would prefer. She's been Emily for so long it's probably going to be hard to transition again. She's like a superhero or something, with a secret identity," she said as she drank a glass of water.
"Can I get you anything?" he asked, doing his job first and talking second.
"Not yet but maybe a screwdriver later," she murmured and Jack smiled softly.
"So hard for me to picture you drinking, I mean I know you're past your prime but I still think of you and Dec as kids. Time flies," he said as he handed her a menu just in case.
"Tell me about it, it's been a rough and exciting few years," she said as she pinned her hair up, the heat getting to her.
"You got that right…Gotta get back to work but you let me know if you need anything, it's on the house," he said, knowing for once in her life she was low on cash.
Charlotte flipped open her phone and dialed Declan's number, she waited for him to answer and once she heard his voice on the other end she grinned enthusiastically and knew she looked like a goof from other people's perspectives.
"Guess where I am right now…"
Declan took a moment to answer, thinking "In a Starbucks?"
Charlotte laughed and shook her head, either way he couldn't see it. "I'm at The Stowaway," she said as she listened to his breath. "Looking at your brother."
"Oh yeah, how's he lookin?" Declan asked, as he walked to the grocery store.
"He's looking handsome and a little worn thin, but that's the usual for him I think," she said softly.
"I know what you mean, plus this heat is getting to people. I keep seeing people buyin ice, the stores are all out," he said as he fanned himself, sweat dripping down his chin.
"Yeah it's hot, I'm wearing shorts but still sweating like a pig," she said as she held the phone to her ear but even that too was getting hot to hold. The Stowaway's ac unit was down for the day but people came anyway for the cheap liquor.
"Does a pig sweat?" he asked with a hint of sarcasm in his voice.
"Smart ass," she replied making him chuckle, and missing that sound.
"When am I gonna see you Char? You're all talk and no game."
Charlotte kept her eyes to the walls and looked up as the fans swirled above her, swishing the air around and trying to keep the establishment cool.
"When do you want me?" she asked as she bit her lip. What they were doing sounded a lot like flirting.
"Whenever, wherever, just wanna see your face. Such a tease just talking over the phone," he said as he shuffled into the market, grabbing a cart.
"I do need to get away," she stated briefly as she heard people talking over his phone.
"Where are you?" she asked.
"At the supermarket. You want any food?" he asked as he went to the produce section browsing through a selection of carrots and squash.
"You know what I like," she murmured and he nodded to himself.
"So I'll see you soon?" he asked as he put some eggplants into his cart. He would make eggplant parm for her and try not to burn the kitchen down this time.
"You will what Nolan?" Emily asked as she leaned into him, drinking the brandy he poured her just moments ago.
"I will fill you in on everything but you have to trust me," he said as he fiddled with his fingers.
"I trust you Nolan but not when you keep things from me. I don't like secrets," she said as she eyed him. She loved secrets, who was she kidding? What she didn't like was when he knew something she didn't and then kept it from her.
"Do you Ems? Because every time I bring you into the game you act like I'm the worst person ever, like I'm Stalin after he just killed a puppy," he said with a moody face on.
"I trust you Nolan, what I don't like is when you come to me after everything's already said and done."
"Nothing is said and done Ems, nothing is set in stone. I talked to Marjorie Blaisson that's all…"
"I'm sick of that name…what's her deal?"
"You better sit down for this one," he said as he looked at her, needing a drink himself.
"I am sitting," she said in a cool tone.
"Well you better get comfortable, sink back and enjoy the ride," he replied as he licked his lip, the rum he chose becoming a gloss for them.
"Spill," she said with urgency in her voice.
"Remember when you said that the Initiative was taken care of? Turns out some of the members are still alive. Marjorie Blaisson is one of them but she's undercover and once they learn she's a double agent, she's dead meat in a bad way Ems…"
Emily looked into her lap and thought to herself, "But she worked for the Graysons."
"All part of her cover apparently. They already hurt her once and her mother just as they hurt your family. They compare her to you all the time. She says hundreds of men and women were affected just like you were. This whole thing is like a monster," he said as he clutched his glass in his hands, watching her eyes and her mouth.
Her face became sour and it looked like she was sucking on a lemon.
"I need to talk to her Nolan," she said as she looked at him. "Can you contact her?"
Nolan nodded and slipped his phone from his pocket.
Sending her an alert they waited.
Stretched out on the floor surrounded by files, photographs, maps, evidence and the like, Marjorie Blaisson took a break and leaned back into the mess. There was a lot of work to be done. Catching a glimpse of the morning sun, not realizing that a new day had begun she reached for her cellphone seeing a text from Nolan Ross explaining that he needed to see her.
Ignoring it she took pictures of every piece of evidence she had against The Initiative and the branches that had already been taken care of. This was about slaying the demon, not just paralyzing it. She wanted the other soldiers in this battle to be prepared for the battle. She was prepared to fight the good fight, she always had been. From early on she began to see that her mother was in danger working for The Initiative and when she was recruited she did her best to stay on top of the game. Sometimes it got her in trouble and she knew that the bullets in her stomach were her last warning signs.
Pressing her hand to her stomach she remembered the pain and the surgery. She remembered waking up midway through and looking up to see Andrew Black standing over her in a suit with that stupid crooked grin as he told her she would be okay. He was the one who had shot her and she couldn't say a word. She had had him killed in a parking garage weeks later without the Initiative knowing with the help of another affected person named Thomas Lee who had also perished since then. Death was all around her. She didn't want to bring more people into the game but they were already in the little glass encasement, just on the outside looking in. Now they had to look inside and finish what they started.
"Nolan," she said out loud. She had forgotten what it was like to say such simplistic things, a first name. She had forgotten to stop and smell the flowers and she had forgotten what it was like to feel relaxed.
Pushing all the papers together she rolled them and tied them with a rubber band, putting a red ribbon around it she locked it away in her safe and locked it all up tight, including her apartment that was much more like a motel room with those stupid tacky landscape paintings on the wall of sunsets and beach front properties. She didn't have time to decorate, that shit on the walls was there when she moved in and she never bothered to take them down. Every time she looked at them they made her angry but that was good, she needed to keep that fire brewing inside of her, churning.
For a second she wished she had a cat, something to say goodbye but then realized, it was easier this way.
Meeting him outside of his apartment felt just like old times, falling into his arms she smiled, wondering if he had actually grown in height or she just felt small in his arms. Maybe she would ask later. It was nice to have someone to say hello to, a real genuine hello.
"Hi Declan," Charlotte said as she pulled back, looking into his face, seeing eyes with more of a story behind them. They both had had a lot of different experiences. A life worth lived.
"Hi Charlotte…" he said as their gaze lingered, a silent moment between them of forgiveness. What could be forgiven would be. She was not the same person anymore and neither was he; she wanted to see what had changed about him and vice versa.
"You look good," she said happily and he just grinned like a fool.
"Do you want me to show you around? You can put your bags down. You get the bed tonight; the couch usually has my name on it anyway. I stay up late."
Charlotte shrugged "I'm good with whatever, just glad to get out of the Hamptons; it was really driving me crazy. I had to restrain myself with knitting so I wouldn't have to get too crazy. Part of me wanted to go out and party but I'm stronger than that now. Just so you know," she said as he led her upstairs.
"I'm proud of you Char, don't worry we're not going to be going to any parties, I'm party free too since college, I've had my fill of frat boys and sorority sisters," he said with a smile as they walked up one flight. "There elevator's busted so it's a couple of flights for us,"
"This reminds me of walking up the statue of liberty. I went when I was little with mom and dad and Danny, It's a big memory. Thinking about it now, it's so weird that mom and dad weren't put off by the whole tourist scene."
Declan nodded in agreement as he slung her bag over his shoulder like he was one of Santa's helpers.
"That is pretty amazing for them, maybe things were easier back then," he said as he looked back at her.
"Maybe…maybe what?" Emily asked Marjorie as she flooded the woman with questions. Nolan had to nearly hold her back.
"Maybe there isn't an easier way to do this…I can't see past what they've done to me. I know you may have taken the moral high grounds here Miss Clarke but the only thing these men and women deserve is a little slice of death pie."
Emily looked over at Nolan, eyes glossed over "Nolan, tell me not to do this. You told me five years ago that I shouldn't play god and I listened to you and now you're gung ho about me going in there guns a' blazing?" she asked him as she rolled her eyes.
Over the years she had gotten better morals somehow pushed onto her by Nolan who was her steady stream of consciousness when she went into her dark places. He was the light.
Nolan looked at Marjorie and then back at Emily. "I think it's time we change the rules. They've drawn blood. It's time we raise the stakes."
Emily sighed and nodded, the three of them making a silent agreement. It was time to arm themselves and exact vengeance upon those who deserved it.
"You're right, the both of you… it's time for a game change."
She could see clearly now. She knew what she had to do.
Chapter 13: Human Nature
((Florence and the Machine's "Seven Devils" lyrics are used in this chapter as to keep it current with the finale and because I thought it would be a nice choice. Enjoy! Read and Review))
"Seven devils all around you
Seven devils in your house
See I was dead when I woke up this morning,
And I'll be dead before the day is done
Before the day is done"
Andrew Black stood very still in his pressed suit. Everything about him was stiff but he was also very smug in his face. His teeth were slightly crooked as if his wisdom teeth had never come out and squished everything together, his mouth not wide enough. He was soft spoken and he always smelled like fig newtons. Marjorie awoke to a pain in her gut that burned and seared through her body, causing her limbs to spasm and feel very cold and numb. Her circulation wasn't as great because she had lost a lot of blood.
Eyes glazed and heavy she tried to sit up but Andrew stood over her, swinging a pocket watch in her face. This brought her back to the surgery before she had fallen unconscious. She remembered hands of blue and a light swinging back and forth in her eyes like some kind of anglerfish. If Andrew Black was any animal it would have been an anglerfish. He was cruel but also wise in his ways. That was what made him scary; he was the light at the end of the tunnel and not in a good way.
Looking up at the pocket watch she groaned involuntarily as the pain rocketed through her body. Even her teeth and gums hurt. At this point it was really what didn't hurt on her body. Reaching for the morphine button Andrew took a hold of it and placed his finger on it.
"Too much of this stuff isn't good for you…" He wanted her to feel the pain that he caused in the first place.
"Please…" she begged as she placed her hand to her wound, stiches almost popping as she tried to ease the intense pain in her belly.
"Marjorie darling, too much of this is a bad idea…" he said, increasing the uptake to a dangerous level, her body feeling good but it would kill her if he didn't put it down. She couldn't move her limbs anymore. All she could do was to just revel in the tingling feeling.
"You will not say anything," he said as he eyed her, eyes furious and dark. "Clear?"
Marjorie nodded, her jaw clenching as a result of the morphine overdose. Easing back on the uptake he put it to a normal level and her head hit the pillow.
Waking up from the nightmare, Marjorie gripped her sheets and remembered the day that everything had went down, from bad to worse.
She had been warned.
Even with Andrew Black dead she couldn't rest because there were more after her, or they would be once they realized what she had done and what she was planning on doing. She had been discreet up until this point but times were changing.
Breathe in, breathe out.
She pressed her hand against her stomach and lifted her shirt up looking at old wounds. She had to remind herself that it wasn't a nightmare. That all of this in fact did happen to her even though she wished it were just a dream.
She thought about Amanda Clarke and what she had been through as well as the countless others. This life was wearing down; she was ready to escape it all. She didn't have a plan, not anymore, just information that she had found to be useless. She wasn't ready for the fight, not as much as she thought she would be. She was scared, that was it.
She was scared.
Sitting with Declan, Charlotte, Nolan and Jack, Emily enjoyed the fact that they were using a round table, it felt very much like a group meeting and perhaps that was what it was.
They all looked to Emily for guidance, for information. Everyone wanted something different from her, Declan wanted to hear her side, Charlotte wanted a sister, Jack wanted a lover, and Nolan wanted…well he wasn't exactly sure what he wanted. He was in love with her but he knew her feelings for Jack.
Nolan watched Emily who seemed to have fear in her eyes, she was good at lying but she couldn't lie anymore and he could see it made her tense.
Standing up he stood beside his partner in crime. "I just wanted to say that I've known Emily for a long time, before she was ever Emily Thorne. I met her as Amanda Clarke; you guys should have seen her. She had this Elvira hair going on and these terrible band shirts straight out of Juvie. She was a walking talking Hot Topic ad."
Emily smiled and clutched Nolan's hand "And you looked like Kurt Cobain's little brother."
Nolan nodded and looked back at the group. "I was good friends with David Clarke; he invested in Nolcorp before it was Nolcorp, when it was just a small business. I was straight out of MIT and needed to find someone to listen. He listened and in return I listened to him about Amanda."
Emily stepped forward, silently thanking Nolan for getting her into the swing of things. "Charlotte, I don't want to hurt you but you need to understand that I felt the need for payback from very early on. I grew up with Jack on this beach and everything was taken from me, I had no one to blame but your parents who were the reason my father was in jail and killed. I can still remember the day the swat team burst into my home." She said as she looked at Jack who was there the day after everything had happened.
Jack looked somber, his eyes dark and full of sympathy.
"Nolan gave me a box that my father had composed, inside were the people that made my life a living hell. My father gave me a choice to start over or get revenge, I couldn't start fresh."
The Initiative was spread out as Amanda Clarke and others had torn them apart for the time being and with the fall of Grayson Global, their main source of income, they had shifted responsibilities and organizational issues had come to a low point. Forced to break apart they kept in contact with each other and employed agents to do their dirty work. Andrew Black was one of those agents but he had gone missing years ago and his body was never found. There were rumors of course that he was "taken care of" but no one knew for sure.
"And now all your love will be exorcised
And we will find you saying it's to be harmonized.
And it's an even sum
It's a melody
It's a battle cry
It's a symphony"
Marjorie wiped the tears from her eyes, her eyeliner running and clinging beneath her eyes to make her a look like a raccoon. Another uncle of hers was killed; she really was surrounded by death. Biting the inside of her lip to keep from crying again she took out the evidence, all her files in their little bow like a diploma.
It was time to graduate and make something of herself. She couldn't bear to see anyone else die, she needed to live her life and take control of her own future. It was time she passed the cap over to Amanda Clarke and let her take the role of head mistress. She had more of a future in this than she did, Marjorie felt like she was getting old. Everything hurt, even her bones were tired.
She had done questionable things in her time and she felt like she was going to hell in a hand basket either way. While Amanda Clarke often went with the warm soup approach of Revenge, she always went for the cold dish.
"They can keep me alive
'Til I tear the walls
'Til I slave your hearts
And they take your souls
And what have we done?
Can it be undone?
In the evil's heart
In the evil's soul"
They said she was a shark but it was time she showed them she was just a little fish who wanted to swim away.
"What do you want us to do?" Jack asked as he tried to understand everything, there was still so much left unsaid, so many questions. Amanda Clarke had lived a questionable and mysterious life and he felt very out of the loop. He felt out of the loop the more she said, her morals were all over the place but at least she was being honest.
Emily shook her head "Nothing, this is my fight, I just want to keep you all safe," she said as she eyed Nolan who cocked his head, almost eye fucking her as she spoke.
"Do you want me to take Charlotte to stay with me in Brooklyn?" Declan asked as he looked at Emily.
Charlotte turned to him with a little scoff of disapproval, "Declan, you don't even ask me what I want to do?"
Declan shrugged "I'm keeping you safe, so don't argue…if we're in danger here then we're not going to be here, simple as that."
That shut Charlotte right up. He was right even if she wanted to be in control of herself, he made valid points. She wanted to stay alive and not get hurt so that was her taking control of her own state of being.
Jack eyed Emily and looked over at Nolan "I'm not leaving…I'm not taking off, I've got to help."
Helping was in his nature, he didn't know what he could do at this point but there was no way he was turning his back and letting the two blondes take things on by themselves.
"There has to be something legally we can do," Jack murmured as he refilled their glasses with ice water.
Emily shook her head as she drank her water slowly, mouth no longer parched from speaking. "This is past legalities; it's past the law,"
Nolan nodded, lips wet. "We have to find a new way to infiltrate, whether that's through hacking or going undercover or bribing and blackmailing, we don't know yet…" he purred, his voice lingering in the air and pulsing through Jack's head.
Charlotte looked worried, Declan pat her thigh under the table. He wasn't sure what they were but all he wanted them to be was friends for now. They had a lot of repairs to make before they tried to rekindle a romance from years ago.
"We need a plan," Emily stated as she crunched on an ice cube, needing to stay cool and calm. She was usually so ahead of the game but she was off her game as of late. Things were being thrown at her all at once.
"Let's make one…" Jack said as he sat back down with all of them, everyone looking to each other, hoping someone would come up with master motives.
They didn't, not that day. A master plan would take some time.
Time they didn't have.
When Emily arrived at her little cottage, her once and always home, she arrived to find Marjorie on her porch sitting on the swing her father had built. She watched Marjorie's red nails dig into the grooves of the double infinity that was carved into the arm of the swing. This was the same swing that Jack had moved to where her father always intended it to be.
A lot of things had symbolism in her life; the double infinity was one of them. She wondered if Marjorie had something like that, some symbol or possession that meant something to her.
She wondered if she had anyone, friends included or family she could turn to. Who was left?
Walking up the steps she looked at her and made a face. "Marjorie, what are you doing here?"
Marjorie stood, surrounded by suitcases. "I'm leaving, I can't stay. Not anymore."
"We need you," Emily said as she brushed up next to the woman, trying to think of a reason to keep her around but she knew what it was like, the feeling where you want to take charge but where you also want to run for your life.
She could tell that Marjorie wanted power and control but she couldn't find it in the way she wanted it. Things had shifted within the woman, it gave her hope that maybe one day it would in her as well. Maybe one day she wouldn't need to get revenge and fuck with people's lives but until then…
"Well you can't have me…but you can have this…" she said as she handed Emily the files wrapped up like a Christmas present. "This is all that I have…and now it's yours."
Emily gripped it in her hands and kept her eyes on the woman, her blue eyes reminding her of Nolan's.
"Thank you Marjorie. What are they?" she asked as she slowly unraveled the scrolls and files.
"A mess of things, documents, notes, you'll know what they are when you read it all…" she said as she shook her hand. "Be careful."
"You too," Emily murmured as she put the papers in the pocket of her beige windbreaker.
Marjorie began to lift her bags up to take back to her car; she didn't even know why she lugged them up in the first place. She thought it was just because she wanted to make it clear to Emily that she was leaving for good but didn't want to say it. She didn't want to verbally say she was giving up. She liked the sense of subtext. At least she had some pride.
Pausing, Marjorie stopped Emily who had her key in the door, about to turn it. "Daniel was the one who broke into Nolan's place. He hired me to do it but I thought you should know. He wants to see you suffer…he loves you but he doesn't want you to be happy," she said eyeing her.
Emily bit her lip; she should have seen this coming.
"He still thinks you're pregnant, but that baby is the only thing keeping him from going off the deep end on you. He's seen the evidence; he's seen everything you've done. He plans to use it against you. I hope you can get it back."
Emily sighed and eased the key from the door, not needing it to open at the moment. "Did he make copies on his computer?"
Marjorie shrugged. "I wouldn't be surprised. I'm not sure though for certain, I guess that's for you to find out," she said as she stood tall in her red heels that matched her lipstick.
Emily took note of Marjorie's attire, everything was a bit harsh on the eyes but she understood why Marjorie needed to keep herself bright and almost unappealing even though she was a true beauty. She didn't care about love or laughter, she just cared about living.
"It's time we have a talk…" she said in reference to Daniel Grayson.
Marjorie Blaisson nodded, gripped her suitcases in her hand and watched the sun set. "I'd say…"
"Seven devils all around you
Seven devils in your house
See I was dead when I woke up this morning
I'll be dead before the day is done
Before the day is done…"
Chapter 14: Life's Little Memories
The Hamptons 2013
"Always the bridesmaid never the bride," Ashley Davenport bellowed in her luxurious buttercup colored bridesmaid dress across the table from Emily Thorne who was wearing a Vera Wang dress straight off her spring line. The dress had almost a mermaid shape to it by the way it clung to her body and hugged her hips. An ivory sash rested at her waist, pulling everything tightly together like a corset and giving her ample cleavage. Her breasts sat in a sweetheart top covered in diamonds and tiny flowers made of lace. The buttons at the back were pearls and she chose not to wear shoes since they were getting married on the beach. In the sand Ashley took off her kitten heels and chose to be barefoot as well, everything freshly manicured the day before.
"It will be your turn soon Ashley, as long as we can find you a man, someone brave enough to put up with all of your English sass."
Ashley smiled softly and let her glass clink against Emily's.
"You know me too well Miss Grayson," she said, already throwing the Grayson name around even though Emily chose to keep Thorne as her last name for legal reasons and because being a Grayson on paper made her skin crawl.
Over the past year Emily had reacquainted with Ashley in an attempt to learn everything she needed to about the woman. She needed to get on her good side. She needed to get Ashley to trust her so the girl wouldn't cause her any more problems. She had enough problems to deal with; she didn't need a nosy former friend poking around in her business as well. Emily also wanted to keep her friends close but her enemies closer. She needed information to blackmail Ashley with in case she ever got in her way.
Charlotte looked gorgeous in her yellow dress, she top a bit lighter than the bottom which was cut at the knee so it showed off her legs but was still modest. She had gone to rehab but had come home in time to attend the wedding of her brother and unbeknownst to her, her half-sister. Declan and Jack Porter did not attend. Victoria Grayson made it very clear that they were not welcome, not after everything.
Emily thought it was a good idea they didn't come either, it just would have been a distraction with Jack being there since she would have preferred the groom to be him instead of Daniel. She knew she was marrying Daniel for the wrong reasons and it had taken a lot of healing between the two to get him to give her the ring back.
While the ring looked good on her finger, Jack looked better on her arm.
She invited Nolan who also wasn't pleased about her choice of who to marry but he made it as Daniel's best man even though the two weren't close. Daniel didn't have many friends left after his time in prison and Tyler was dead so that was out. Nolan wore white slacks with the buttercup colored suit jacket provided to him. Underneath he had a white dress shirt with a baby blue bowtie and the same colored dress shoes. Emily thought he looked very posh, it was all very him. He looked good in her wedding photos. The man happened to be very photogenic as if he were a model or something. He did have the height and body for it.
Catching Nolan's eye from across the room she glanced at him and he waved at her, his wave a mixture of The Queen's wave and almost looking like he was trying to catch a bug in his hand via slow motion. No matter what, she liked it, it was unlike any other.
She liked that about him, unlike Daniel Grayson, Nolan Ross was his own person. Nolan didn't have to look to other people to see how to act and behave. Nolan was a leader and Daniel was a follower.
Looking back to Ashley she already saw Ashley peer over at who she was looking at. "Nolan Ross. Brightly colored per usual…" she said as she reapplied her lipstick.
"Mmm," was all Emily could say without sounding like Nolan Ross's biggest fan. He was her best friend after all even though she wouldn't ever tell him out loud. She imagined he knew how much he meant to her.
"The ceremony was fantastic by the way; Daniel looked stunning in his suit. I've never seen him look better and I do believe I've seen him in a lot of suits, even in pictures," she said as she tucked her makeup in her clutch bag.
"He does look nice," Emily said, not one for small talk.
Usually everything she talked about, there was a purpose behind it. Today she had no purpose except to have fun and mingle with the rest of the Grayson family, people who were not immune to her lack of kindness. Half of them would succumb to her trail of terror in the next few years. Everyone needed a little bit of punishment, especially if they had harmed her or anyone in her family.
Finding out her mother was alive was a big shock to her, the biggest.
She knew somehow the Grayson family was tied to her disappearance as well, everything was linked and she was ready to find out how. The best way to find out what she needed was to marry Daniel, to get closer to his family. As his wife she would have more legal rights and ways in to certain accounts, trusts, numbers, files etc. and thus Nolan could take it from there.
"I'm glad Charlotte could make it here," Emily said to Ashley as she sipped her champagne, watching her new husband chat with his guests.
Her guests were…well she didn't have any other than Nolan which everyone found odd but she didn't have time to throw together people to pay to come to her wedding. It was too risky.
Ashley nodded, watching the girl talk to her grandfather, "As am I, she looks happy, what a relief. Too many teens around here are getting addicted to drugs. If they're not popping pills then they're shooting things into their arms or up their nose."
"It's a shame…" Emily said as she got up, leaving Ashley to mingle herself.
She had a family to charm and win over despite Victoria Grayson's wishes. She could tell Victoria hated her, every time she glanced over at Victoria she received a death glare with vacant eyes and a cold smile that made her spine tingle in a bad way.
She expected nothing less though.
The wedding in itself was a lot to digest. Half the people there couldn't stand her existence and they didn't even know she was Amanda Clarke; the other half may have liked her but kept quiet per the ice queen's request.
She was suddenly feeling very lonely.
Standing next to Daniel she linked her arm with his. At this point in their relationship she truly thought he cared about making his family look good than his marriage with her. It hurt but it also made things a lot easier.
She could learn not to love him. She could take pleasure in his sex, in his kind words, but she knew how to keep her emotions at bay now. The mission mattered. That was it.
"You look beautiful…" Daniel murmured as he admired her body in full, whisking her away from people and wanting a moment alone. "Like a poem…"
Emily smiled as she put her hands on his shoulders, "Which poem?"
"Robert Frost's "Love and a Question" of course…" he said as he leaned in to kiss her sweet lips that tasted like cherries according to him. He would tell her later on their honeymoon in France.
"Oh yes of course…" she said with a little smirk, petting his hair, taking pleasure where she could get it.
"The bridegroom came forth into the porch
With, 'Let us look at the sky,
And question what of the night to be,
Stranger, you and I.'"
Daniel recited part of the poem for her as he slow danced with her to music in the distance they could both hear if they really listened. He was pretty sure it was Etta James.
"I love you…" he cooed as he swayed with her under a weeping willow tree twinkling with little white lights as the sun went down.
"I love you too," she replied as she closed her eyes and let all her worries and fear wash away.
This feeling didn't last for long.
"Did you love her?" Emily asked robotically as they spread his Aunt Carole's ashes by the sea.
Nolan sighed and cocked his head, questioning her word choice but understanding her. She didn't know what love was, not anymore. Or she did but she couldn't explain it in words.
She didn't like words, she preferred actions.
"Of course…" he chimed as he watched her ashes move against the ocean's currents. "This is what she wanted…" he said as he put the urn into the sand, an eternal resting spot. He would have his memories and those were enough.
"It's nice…it's nice just you and me here," she said, able to rest her mind for a little while as she mourned with him.
His Aunt Carole liked things to be easy and simple. She never wanted him to worry or fuss over her. She wanted him to be happy and have peace and he was getting it. He hoped to. She wanted what was best for Amanda Clarke as well since she had known what the girl had been through.
Turned out, this was only the beginning.
"To Aunt Carole," he said as he popped open some champagne for the both of them. Taking a swig from the large bottle he handed it to her and she drank.
"To Aunt Carole…" handing it back to him, they shared the bottle until there was not but a drop left.
They watched the sun set and she remembered doing the same with Daniel at her wedding. This was years later and somehow she felt more beautiful here with Nolan than she did in her wedding dress years earlier.
This wasn't about her though, it was about him.
It was always about him and his family. For years they were the center of attention and Emily Thorne wasn't about to end that. She focused herself on their success; while they thought she was helping them she was actually hurting them. Amanda Clarke was ratting the Grayson family out to the Initiative and watching each family member burn for helping them. They didn't know how deep they were in, no one did. Emily still didn't realize how far everything branched out.
Daniel welcomed her into his home which was nothing like it used to be. He was living with Charlotte in a small apartment near the beach but it was nothing like the manor. It was two bedrooms, a living room, one bathroom, a kitchen and a tiny balcony. He didn't have much to offer her, not anymore.
"It's time we talk…" he muttered as she helped herself to sitting on one of the chairs between the living room and the kitchen.
Emily looked over at him and nodded "So talk."
Daniel almost laughed as he sat next to her, pulling a chair close to her. "I was hoping you would start, you're the secretive one…the liar."
Emily brushed his comments off her shoulders and cocked her head slightly, her lips parting. "You lied just as much as me. You turned your back on me and chose your family."
"Isn't that what family is supposed to do?" he asked, choosing blood over love very clearly.
"You can be loyal without betraying your wife time and time again" she said as she glared at him with her killer eyes.
"You betrayed me Emily…you lied about your identity for years. You came up with elaborate stories about your life, you hired relatives, you made up friends, and you chose to spend your time with Nolan Ross over me. You're just as lonely as he is. You're perfect for each other."
"I didn't choose Nolan, Daniel, I chose you," she murmured, trying to give herself some credit.
"I was a game to you, one piece on a giant board. You didn't think I would figure it out but I did. I figured you out. It was only a matter of time," he said as he crossed his arms.
"Don't look so smug Daniel. I let myself get figured out. Staying married to you was a chore. You're right…I wanted someone else to clean up my mess and I got you to do it."
Daniel pulled back and bit his lip, shifting in his chair. "Look, I don't want to be petty…I've had about enough of that. Remember when we were happy?"
Emily looked into her lap, thinking back. "Sure…but happiness for me is fleeting Daniel. That's something no one could understand but me."
He nodded, his eyes squinting as he tried to understand her and really listen. Maybe he hadn't listened enough to her during their marriage. "We could be happy again…"
Emily laughed, she actually laughed as she leaned into him. "You want to re- marry the woman who imprisoned your family and everyone you've ever loved? Do you really want to be with Amanda Clarke?" she asked.
Daniel shrugged "I'd do it…for the baby,"
"More lies," she said as she smiled inside, he still thought she was pregnant, sweet delicious karma was on its way.
"What do you mean?" he asked as he looked at her, keeping his eyes to hers.
"I mean you're just ready to live more lies for the sake of a child…" she said as she crossed her legs.
"Emily I still love you…I love this baby no matter what…" he said which made something in her break and snap. She felt anger in her veins, in her bones. It hurt.
"If you loved me then you wouldn't have tried to destroy me. You wouldn't have broken into Nolan's home and taken what you did. You never would have looked at those tapes and read those files," she said as she shook her head.
"Are you kidding me Emily? You've videotaped us making love, you've destroyed my entire family, you've gone above and beyond to ruin me and my name," he said shrugging. "Forgive me for wanting some of my own…control."
"No one controls me." She said as she stood up, looking angered and as strong as an amazon.
""I'm not trying to control you, I'm trying to love you…work with me here," he said as he clutched her hand, kneeling before her.
"Your family started this whole thing…"
"My family, not me Emily…" he said as he looked up at her.
"My name is Amanda Clarke…" she said with conviction.
Daniel stood up and held her hands, looking into her eyes. "Amanda…we can make this work…"
"You wanted to hurt me, you wanted to hurt my friends…even you are not immune from me Daniel. No one is going to get in my way…"
Squeezing her hands he tried to talk her through her pain. Now she knew what being betrayed felt like, at least in his eyes. Leaning in to kiss her he clutched her face and let her fall into him.
"I want this baby more than anything…" he said to which she quickly replied.
"I'm not pregnant…I was never pregnant."
Daniel pulled back and she could see the misery panning across his face. She knew she had really hit a nerve.
"What?" he managed to wheeze out.
"No child of mine will ever be a Grayson…" she said as she pulled back from him, walking toward the door. She didn't want to be his trophy wife or his vessel. She just wanted to be her.
The mission was what mattered.
Turning to face him, the puppy of a man looking neutered she was prepared to become a viper. She had to give her final blow.
"Payback's a bitch Daniel."
Chapter 15: In the Distance
Lancaster, Pennsylvania 2000
Nolan could hear the tea kettle going off in the distance and if his predictions were correct then it was the tea kettle that looked like a rooster on steroids. He liked it because the thing's eyes were comically large and unsettling. His Aunt Carole approached him as she swept her blonde hair out of her eyes. She was born blonde and stayed that way until she reached age 40. When she started going grey she decided that she would dye her hair every once and a while. Even Nolan had dabbled in hair dye, his hair so many different shades of brown and blonde that at this point he couldn't remember what his original hair color even was. What shade was he?
"So what are you going to do?" she asked as she sat down with him, hearing the tea kettle squeak but not yet moving to get it.
After it drove them both crazy she got up to turn the flames ignited underneath it off. Pouring them both cups of tea she let it cool down before offering it to him, knowing he would try to drink it anyway because he often thought he was invincible. She knew he would burn his tongue and then whine about it later.
Nolan followed her with his eyes before answering her question with another one. "I don't know, what do you think I should do?"
Carole Miller shrugged, her shoulders going a bit limp. "I think you should get involved."
"I can't, it would bring too much attention to me…" Nolan proclaimed as he reached for the tea but was stopped when she swatted at his hands.
"Nolan, you love attention…" she replied as she handed him the mug but pointing at him, letting him know to wait a while before trying to drink. She still felt the need to baby him and he didn't mind. He didn't have that kind of unconditional love growing up so he would take it now.
"Not this kind Aunt Carole…it's unwanted. If I get mixed up in her business it could drastically change the outcome of things later. All I can do right now is wait and send her little perks in the mail and simply hope for the best…" he said as he nibbled his finger nails.
Carole nodded and shook her head. She was still finding it hard to believe that Amanda Clarke had gone through so much and she was so young. "Do we have any connections in the juvenile detention center she is staying at?"
Nolan shook his head "Not yet, but I plan to. If I try to cuddle up to Warden Stiles there might be something she could do."
"Cuddle up?" his Aunt asked with a question mark floating around her head.
"You know what I mean, talk to, bribe, flatter…get what I want," he said as he sipped the tea, finding it hot but not too hot for his liking.
"Yes dear, I know what you mean…but I never do know your type," she said with a little smirk in reference to his sexual orientation which she never had any problem with. She just wanted him to find someone who made him happy.
"Do you think she'll be okay?" Nolan asked his aunt as he thought about Amanda Clarke, a woman he had not seen or heard from in years. In fact he thought she was dead until this very moment and it had haunted him that he could not help more. Now he would dedicate his life to helping as much as he could.
"Her whole life has been a prison, this is just the physical realm of that word…" she replied as she sipped her tea, liking hers with honey.
"It won't be forever and when she gets out…I'm going to be there for her. I'm going to be her confidante, her conscience."
His Aunt Carole laughed into her hand and reached over to cup his face. "You are too sweet my boy. You live with your head in the clouds. You're a dreamer…."
He nodded "But my dreams come true…I make it happen. Amanda is going to have dreams one day too, and it will be my pleasure to take care of hers."
"Now now, isn't she lucky…?" Carole said rhetorically as they drank their tea together.
"Luck has nothing to do with it Nolan. Everything I do branches out from something else I've done. It's like playing jenga but with people as the blocks."
Nolan watched Emily and shook his head, she was an interesting woman. "Alright, it was just a theory."
"Well zip it on your theories…you have work to do," she said as she pointed to his computer.
Nolan looked back to his computer screen and typed a few things in before making a clucking sound with his tongue.
"What is it now Nolan?" Emily asked as she paced behind his office chair, trying to decipher it was he was doing.
"I lost my internet connection," he said with a sad voice almost like a teenager who didn't get a kiss at the end of his first date even though he liked the girl a lot and thought she liked him too.
Emily playfully gasped; they had played this game before. "You! How on earth did you let that happen? I thought you were king of computers."
Nolan smiled a bit and looked back at her, "Sassy little thing aren't you?"
"And all the more power to me," she said as she sat next to him. "How long do we have to wait?"
"However long it takes…I'm not a psychic," he said as he rested his face on his hands as he propped his elbows on his desk.
"I hate waiting…" she said as she tapped her foot impatiently. She was tired of waiting, she was waiting her entire life for things to happen and she was sick of just sitting around. Emily Thorne/Amanda Clarke wanted results.
"So, how's the Grayson boy?" he asked as he sat down at her desk again with a smug smile on his face, papers pushed aside making her desk more just a table.
He kept getting up and then deciding to sit back down. It wasn't as if she did much work on paper, everything was through the computer and he would have to make sure she worked on safe programs that no one could get to. He had made a mistake keeping things in his home. He really needed a safer spot although it didn't really matter at this point.
"Daniel's just fine. Battered to pieces over the loss of his "child" but other than that…let's put it this way, we aren't on speaking terms," she said as she nearly sat on his lap, trying to get a better look at his computer's screen.
"That's how it should be, cut the ties that bind," he said with a hum to his voice as he let his hand skirt over hers as she tried to toy with his wireless mouse that made it easier for him to control the system.
"I know you're happy about the lack of contact between me and the Graysons…"
"Well…duh, they're sneaky bastards and Daniel was never good enough for you…" he said as he clutched her hand, letting her know he had this down pat and she didn't need to baby him. He was done being treated like a child.
It was time for Nolan to grow up.
"Who is good enough for me Nolan?" she asked as she flipped her hair over her shoulder, the length cascading down her back since it had gotten long over the years.
His voice feigned sincerity as he took a breath in "Maybe no one. Maybe you're all you need…"
"That's what you always say about you but it's an excuse. You don't want to be alone forever," she said as she saw he was back online.
"Don't act like you know me Amanda…you don't even know yourself…" he said in an angered tone, letting some of his issues with her come alive.
Pulling back she stood up and looked down at him, taking the superior role once more and reminding him who was the dominant one. "Get to work Nolan…" she said with a sigh as she walked into the next room, letting him think she had gone home.
Running her hands through her hair she got herself together as his words rang in her ears like a whistle. He was right, she had lost herself and it was hard to find. Who was she to judge or give advice to anyone? She was a mess. She was a little lost girl looking for something or someone to cling to.
Turning back to catch a glimpse of him working she could tell he was frustrated, both the heat and the lack of true conversation between the two was getting to him. It was getting to her too but she couldn't show weakness.
Emily Thorne had a routine, one that involved doing things Amanda Clarke would have never done like getting a manicure or waking up early in the morning just to go to the fish market. Amanda Clarke didn't care about routines or fresh fish. Amanda Clarke would sleep late, party, and buy shrimp from a local market and call it a day. She might not have even cooked it, she might have bought it pre-cooked and just eaten it from the container with her fingers. Emily Thorne liked things precise and perfect, she needed the structure. Emily now felt stuck between two worlds. She now chose to cook but sleep late; she would paint her own nails but not pay for someone to do it.
Now she had a new routine.
Stepping out of the shadows and into the natural light she let her skin catch some rays, knowing she needed the vitamin D. She had been spending too much time inside. Out on the porch where Marjorie had left for good she sat on the steps of her porch that led to the beach. Unpeeling the documents that seemed to stick to each other, the ones that Marjorie had given her all wrapped in plastic and ribbon she smiled for this was a lot to go through. More was always better than less. While it would take a while to go through everything, the more information she had that she could poke at, the better. She would be able to keep Nolan busy and she knew he got cranky when he had too much time for himself. While he had work at Nolcorp to do, he always chose her as a priority which was both flattering and annoying.
Picking up the phone she let her eyes skim over the documents, she had gone over them a million times before. Since she had received them she had not let them out of her sight. Every chance she got to read them, she would take it.
She had work to do.
This weather was the perfect kind to go out on his boat and Nolan needed a break and knew where he would be. Jack polished the outside of his little ship after washing it and scrubbing too intensely over the letters. A.M.A.N.D.A.
Standing on the dock, Nolan watched him wipe down the exterior with an old rag. He always seemed to have a ton of those just lying around. Nolan missed Sammy all of a sudden and how the dog used to always be at Jack's side, his heavy tail thumping against the ground. One time Nolan even got to watch the old man jump in the water after belly flopping, creating a large splash. The dog was old but he had fire in him then, he had such motive to live and he gave a new meaning to the word doggy paddle. Some of Jack Porter had died along with Sammy but Nolan saw a new spark in the man when he learned that Amanda Clarke was Emily Thorne. Nolan wondered if he had suspicions about her all along but he wouldn't ask.
Approaching Jack, Nolan noticed the eldest Porter slightly jump as he realized the tall billionaire was cradling a bouquet in his arms and standing next to him. Jack looked over and gave a soft smile to his friend, calmed to see it was him and not some unwanted guest. Jack had been a bit anti-social since everything with Fauxmanda had gone down and that was years ago. It caused a lot of tension between him and Emily. They both knew they liked each other but the fake Amanda Clarke put distance between them. Even after she was gone things weren't the same and it was hard to get all that back. He didn't know what he was to Emily Thorne anymore or what he could be. He did care about her though and he wanted to help her out as best as he could to his ability.
"It's you…" Jack murmured as he eyed the bouquet that made Nolan look like Miss America or a prom queen.
Nolan scoffed "Best greeting ever, thanks buddy."
Jack shrugged, a hint of a smile tugging at his lips that were feeling dry from the heat. There was just no cooling down this summer. There was no relief.
"So Captain…how goes it?" Nolan asked him as he kicked a bucket full of water a few inches to the left.
"It's going…" Jack stated simply as his eyes shifted, like he was trying to make an exit.
He fought back his urges to run away and knew he should talk to Nolan Ross; he was his best friend after all. Over the years it seemed Nolan had become everybody's best friend. People who used to think he was a pain in the ass liked him, one of those being Ashley Davenport.
"You sound thrilled with your life right now," the blonde said sarcastically as he took the hose in the corner and rinsed off the boat, doing as he had seen Jack do a million times before each summer. He set the flowers aside and noticed Jack looking at them.
"What are those for?"
"Those are for you…" he purred, pretending to flirt.
Jack raised a brow and crossed his arms, curious to hear what Nolan had to say instead of putting it off entirely. "Are they now?"
"They're from Emily…but if you rather they be from me, I can work something out…let's see if I shift things around on my busy schedule we can have dinner Wednesday night. Italian…" he husked as he leaned into Jack, pretending to get all worked up and hot and bothered.
"Amanda Clarke got me flowers?" he asked as he looked at them, picking them up and admiring them.
"She picked them and yes, don't ask me…She usually isn't this sentimental. I think she was possessed by a pod person or whatever," he said shrugging as he set the hose down, examining his handy work.
"What are they for?" Jack asked as he stopped to literally smell the roses.
"A thank you…" Nolan purred as he watched the look on Jack's face. "For everything…for not hating her pretty little guts."
Jack smirked, not knowing what else to do with his face. "I could never hate her…I just want to understand her. I guess that starts with flowers."
"And maybe dinner," Nolan suggested.
Nolan Ross both wanted Jack and Amanda to work out but also wished there were room for him in their circle as well. He wouldn't mind being part of a love triangle. He liked the attention and he did love her. He was beginning to see that more clearly. All in all, he just wanted Amanda to be happy because that was what David Clarke wanted.
Jack nodded, taking in Nolan's worthy advice. "I'll start small."
Nolan smiled softly, boarded the boat and looked over at Jack who was still standing on the dock, holding the flowers and looking all out of sorts.
"Come on sailor, show me a good time!" Nolan called out to him, needing a break from this reality.
They both did, even if it was just for a little while.
Chapter 16: Subject Change
This was better than a cramped cell or a stuffy office but it still wasn't perfect. Charlotte and Daniel Grayson watched Ashley Davenport talk to the news again, the young girl getting a lot of screen time and attention.
"Victoria Grayson will be staying at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility for women for an undetermined amount of time at this point. Of course when her new trial begins we will know more and I will be here to give an update and my feelings on the whole event as it takes place…" she said with determination on her face, her bob blowing in the slight summer breeze.
The two siblings watched the TV but Daniel quickly turned it off. He just didn't care about anything anymore.
"So you've been spending a lot of time with Declan Porter, does that mean the two of you are back on?" he asked as he tried to change the subject. He didn't want any more emphasis on his life.
"I'm not sure, we're taking it as just friends for now but I am open to the idea, what do you think?" she asked, wanting his opinion and knowing he needed to feel like he was a part of something.
"I think he's good for you. I never had a problem with him even if our family did because of his social position. Besides, the porters probably have more money than us now," he replied as he sat in a little boutique with her, watching her try on dresses that she probably couldn't afford.
"Probably…" she said as she returned to the dressing room stall. Coming out a few minutes later in a hot pink ruffled dress that stopped above her knees she did a little twirl for him.
"How's this one?" she asked, again, wanting him to feel like he was a part of something.
"It's nice, very umm flirty I guess…are you going to wear it for Declan?" he asked, not really knowing what to say. He didn't know much about fashion. That was Nolan Ross's thing and Ashley Davenports. He didn't much want to talk to either of them for a long time. He knew he needed to start fresh and look for a new job; it was just hard leaving his old life behind.
"I would if I could afford it…I'm just having fun today, looking at the nice things I can no longer have," she said as she went into the dressing room, pulling the curtain back so she could change into the clothes she came in.
"Sounds depressing…" he murmured as he twiddled his thumbs, wanting to get lunch or a coffee or something. He was hungry and tired, most nights he stayed up just reading or trying to make contacts in the business world.
"Kinda like your life Danny…" she teased as she came out in jeans and a yellow tank top that looked designer but it was just a knock off brand. She couldn't believe she was wearing knock offs, her mother would have had a fit if she knew.
"Funny. Thanks Charlotte. Knew I could count on you to cheer me up today," he said as he wrapped his arm around his little sister, the two going out onto the boardwalk.
Wanting a Popsicle of some short, Charlotte kept her eye open knowing a coconut bar would cheer her brother up, or a slice of apple pie, or maybe even a fried Oreo
Charlotte paused on the boardwalk and tried to catch a glimpse of the ocean through the overbearing crowd. "Daniel, what happened with mom?"
Daniel sighed and rubbed his eyes, trying not to get angry at her question. She had a right to know. "Charlotte, you know what happened…I'm sure mom told you all about it."
"You tried to kill her Daniel. You choked her…you choked our mother," she said, trying to make him show the reality of the intense situation. "That's not normal."
"I know, but our family isn't normal Charlotte. It's all lies, I'm sick of living a lie. I can't escape any of it…" he said as he rubbed her shoulders. "I freaked out."
"You sure did…you're lucky she didn't press charges. She probably could have," she said as she turned to face him. Taking his hands she pushed him aside. He couldn't touch his way out of this one. She didn't want her brother's comforting contact, not right now. She wanted to let him know that what he did wasn't okay but it wasn't getting through to him.
"She wouldn't have," he replied as he played with a splintered piece of wood on the railing of the boardwalk.
"But she could have which is my point. You like actually lost your mind…" she said as she made eye contact with him. She could still see a soul in there so that was good.
"You should have heard the things she was saying Charlotte, I just can't take her anymore. I've tried; we've done this dance a million times before. You know how she is," he said as he bit his lip.
"And this all has to do with Emily?" she asked as she crossed her arms, needing to know his thoughts on certain things because she wasn't a mind reader.
"Doesn't everything have to do with Emily?" he asked as he looked at her. "We both know how she's touched our lives."
"Are you still in love with her?" Charlotte asked, knowing she was always crossing the line on this subject.
"Isn't that the question of the day," he stated apathetically as he began to walk further down the boardwalk.
"Well, is it true? Do you love Amanda Clarke?" she asked, following him and on his heels.
"I love Emily Thorne. I've met Amanda Clarke recently and she is not a nice person," he said as he looked at his baby sister who was a baby no longer.
"So what are you going to do about her?" she asked as she pointed to an ice cream cart, now intrigued by the idea of a strawberry drizzle cone.
"I think it's time for me to move on…."
Nolan sat across from Ashley Davenport who had her legs crossed as she showed him a booklet of her fashion designs she wanted to get made and he was overall quite impressed. He didn't know much about women's fashions besides what he liked on certain people. He could tell though that these were nice, these were good. She looked more mature and less haughty. He knew she was a social climber but he wondered if she had learned her lesson over the years. Any lesson would have been a good one.
"So…I hear you've made a name for yourself Ash…" he said as he half grilled the girl, wondering if he could squeeze her for information.
"Not a big enough one…" she said as she kicked her feet, her heels half sliding on and off of them.
"Maybe we can change that…." Nolan purred as he leaned in, knowing he could find out things through her. He could use her to his advantage.
"What ever are you on about now Nolan?" she asked, wanting to get straight to the point. Like Emily Thorne, she also did not like waiting. Time was flying so fast for her and she had so many aspirations.
He cracked his knuckles, the air popping making a sound that echoed through the room. "I need you to use your English charm to make a friend and then chew her out for information on anything and everything. I'll pay for your expertise and discretion," he said as he gave her the most serious look he could devise.
Seeing the seriousness of the situation, Ashley straightened up her frame and created a new stature for her body, one that spoke of business and determination. "Who is it?" she asked, already ready to take on the job. She couldn't refuse him or his offers; he was Nolan Ross after all.
It was hard to say no to Nolan Ross which made him lucky but he also didn't know when he was being used.
He'd see how this would pan out; all she had to know was that he had the control in this situation. She was his employee, not the other way around.
Looking around The Stowaway, it looked like a completely different place in Amanda Clarke's eyes. Jack had kicked it up a few notches with some new lighting fixtures, a different wall color and for their dinner date he put candles everywhere and the whole place smelled like honey.
She was impressed.
Wearing a little black dress she sat down at a table and waited for him to come out of the back of the kitchen. He did, only this time with a plate of vegetable lasagna and red wine, both of which she would definitely not refuse.
Pouring her a glass he smiled at her, feeling a bit more at ease with his actual childhood sweetheart. Even if they were too young to know what love was back then, he knew now.
"You look great, I swear you don't age…" he said nervously and she laughed, remembering how they used to talk when they were little. They both said they never wanted to grow up but soon after they parted she was forced to grow up.
"Thank you Jack…that makes me think of a long time ago, you used to tell me I would never age, that I would stay the same forever…I changed more than I would have liked."
Jack nodded as he sat across from her "Everything about you changed, I couldn't recognize you but now I can…I wasn't expecting you to grow up I guess and then you come back as this whole different person."
"Unrecognizable…" she said as she sipped her wine, letting the strong juice travel over her tongue. "That was the point."
"I wish you would have been able to trust me to keep your secret…" he said as he reached over to hold her hand.
Almost pulling back but then taking it she nodded "Jack I couldn't trust anyone. I didn't want to burden you and I've hurt you enough, I didn't want to put anyone in danger. If you were in danger then Declan would have been in danger and I couldn't have that on my conscience if something had happened," she said as she felt his hand squeeze hers.
His face was so genuine it made her want to cry, almost how she felt when she saw him on New Year's Eve in 2002. It was so weird seeing him then because a part of her expected him to still be a little boy but he was all grown up, long hair, backwards cap, slightly awkward. It was endearing to her though and her heart skipped a beat when she saw him. It was like everything was in slow motion.
"That's all understandable; I just wish you could have. I wished things would have turned out differently," he murmured as they both poked at their food.
She decided to change the subject.
"This smells amazing," she said as she looked down at her food, cutting it with the edge of her fork.
"The key is to use three cheeses and fresh basil," he said as he shoveled some into his mouth which made her happy because she liked a man with an appetite.
It was always fun to watch Nolan eat; he could eat a horse and not gain a pound. He also always made a mess and she would clean it up to show her thanks but that was it. That was all he got.
"Oh I see," she said as she eyed him, trying to fall in love right then and there but Nolan's voice kept coming into her head. It was hard to trust anyone who wasn't him. He had pierced through her veil and she was drowning in him. Things made themselves even worse when she looked over at her phone to see he had texted her.
Looking at her phone briefly she saw him say he was ~With Ashley~ and somehow it made her jealous. Jack watched her check her phone and perked up. "Nolan?"
She nodded "Yeah, he's with Ashley Davenport of all people."
"I spoke with her not too long ago, it was nice to see a familiar face," he said as he finished his first glass of wine. He would stop at his second. Even though he worked at a bar, he wasn't a big drinker; he never wanted to end up like his father.
"Not a familiar face I care for very much. She's so manipulative. Everyone here I, even I was…" she said as she munched on a piece of fresh basil, learning it really was the key to a healthy plate of lasagna. It made the meal feel so much fresher.
Jack poured himself a second glass and added to hers. Raising it up he smiled softly and caught her vision with his own. "To new beginnings."
"I'll drink to that," she said as she let her glass clink against his, a proper toast.
Sharing beers in his childhood bedroom with Charlotte Grayson felt very surreal, things seemed to be good even though the beer was stale and the room was a little cool for summer.
She sat on the bed and he sat on the floor, his head leaning against her calf.
The nostalgia in the room was unbreakable.
"Are we preventing my sister and your brother from doing the nasty if we're up here?" she asked with a giggle as she sipped her beer. She didn't drink often but with him, in a simple environment she would break her new year's resolutions.
Declan laughed and almost pulled his hand up to his face because she made him laugh so hard. It was nice being with her again in this sort of setting, the walls coming down between the two after so long. It was almost as if no time had passed at all.
"I don't think so, I think if they got to a point of being so hot and heavy, us being here wouldn't stop them."
"You're right," she snickered as she slunk down to the floor with him, letting her bottle tap against his, her grin infectious.
"I missed this," Declan murmured as he gazed over at her smile. Everything seemed to perfect, he could smell a storm on its way. It was just something in the air but as long as he had Charlotte in his sights everything would be okay.
Everything was right with the world, at least for a little while but Declan was right, a storm was coming.
Chapter 17: Past Land
As a young girl she never meddled, she never stuck her nose where it didn't belong and she didn't prey on the weak like some of her peers with money had done. David said they learned to bully from their parents and he would always try to keep her away from all that. David didn't like disharmony, not for himself or for Amanda. After her mother had "passed away" she needed to have an amazing childhood to distract from her sadness. All he wanted to do was to provide her with that.
He wasn't given much of a chance.
Nolan didn't want to take over David's fatherly role. He wanted to be her friend; he wanted to give her the love she deserved. Even though Nolan knew that Jack could love her, he would never know exactly what she had been though.
He had seen the files; he had heard her cries at night. Even when she thought he didn't know her or understand, he was right there with her. Amanda Clarke had been hurt and the man that hurt her, well his name was in Marjorie's little black book.
Flipping through page by page of well put together documented information had made her skin crawl and she had a list of names to look into. She nearly jumped out of her skin when she saw his name on the paper, Champ Williams.
Champ Williams had the charisma of a used car salesman but the looks of a sleazy grease ball businessman. As a child he took care of her personal savings accounts and he was the one who kept her from the outside world. He kept her tied off from humanity which was why Nolan couldn't find her until she turned 18. Just for that Nolan hated him, but there were plenty of other reasons to want him dead.
He had checked into the Delminten Inn on a Thursday, it was Saturday before they had received news that he was in town, but not their town of course. The dynamic duo had to do some traveling but it wasn't the first time and it wouldn't be the last. The Delminten Inn was a little bed and breakfast in Cape Cod, Massachusetts and Nolan made sure that Champ didn't have his flunkies surrounding the place.
While Emily Thorne was a lot like batman, she was only one person. While she was a superhero in his eyes, she was all human, all bones, all flesh, all blood and he didn't want to see a hair on her pretty little head harmed because he didn't do his part of the job. That was something he promised David Clarke that he would not let happen, but that promise was getting harder and harder to keep.
The little bed and breakfast seemed to go with a pineapple floral theme. It was almost as if they were trying to do a Hawaiian theme but lost hope and chose to go with floral patterns and prints instead. Nolan deemed it all very cheesy and overall a big failure. He was glad they weren't staying there. Even the pillowcases made him want to gag for they were a pepto bismal pink.
Emily Thorne stood outside of the inn, her hair encased in a wig that made her look like a natural redhead. It was almost as if she was channeling Rita Hayworth in her disguise. Wearing heavy lipstick and a power suit with giant costume jewelry and heels she couldn't walk properly in she made her way inside. Just knowing that Champ was in there with those same grubby hands made her want to punch holes in the walls and holler like a two year old or a heroin addict without a fix but she had to keep a level head or nothing would ever get done.
With Nolan on coms she felt safe and knowing he was outside in that sleek black van of his didn't hurt either. She could take care of herself but it was nice from time to time to have someone to fall back on. She told him he couldn't be the getaway driver because under pressure he would be all over the road like it was his first time behind the wheel.
Clicking at her ear she heard the crackle of the technology Nolan swore to her would work, there was crackle of some sort so that was a good sign. She was surprised how quiet Nolan Ross was managing to stay.
"I'm in," she whispered as she took in her surroundings and approached the front desk. The woman behind it was older with a chip in her front tooth and a dye job that made her look like she was from the future. The tint was almost a blue-black color but faded out like a past memory or like she was born with it. The curls to her hair made Emily think about herself, would she look like that when she got older? Would she even reach that age?
Nolan listened to her voice and nodded to himself from the confines of the vehicle. "Work your magic."
"How can I help you?" the woman asked behind the desk, her hair looking almost electric as the sun hit it. She had a cranky tone and an accent that Emily couldn't place.
"Excuse me, do you have a restroom I can use?" she asked, looking around herself to pretend urgent. "I'm a slave to my bladder," Emily said, playing the role of whoever she was wearing.
The woman didn't seem to care who she was, this was a place out of the way from everything else. The Delminten Inn wasn't beefed up with security which made things easy for Nolan and Emily. She pointed to a hallway to the left of them; her hand shaking like it was hard for her to keep her arm up.
"It's right down there…"
Emily silently thanked her before making her way down the corridor. Finding the bathroom she slammed the door behind her before standing on the sink. Stretching, she carefully lifted the ceiling tile up and reached for wires. Wearing gloves she clamped on the auto-put and placed it onto the wires and spoke into her earpiece.
Nolan nodded before he made sure everything was up to date. He then shut down all the security cameras in the allotted location. "Proceed…"
Emily hopped off the sink with the grace of a ballerina before exiting the lavatory. Walking out of the bathroom she waited till the hallway was clear of civilians before pulling the fire alarm. Agent Thorne as Nolan playfully called her a few times before stood outside of Champ Williams hotel room and watched him leave. Knowing his key would be in his pocket she bumped into him and swiped it from his pocket. He went outside and that gave her enough time to do her dirty work.
Entering his room which looked like a coconut wonderland she found his computer and put in the disc which Nolan had created to upload pornographic viruses without having to even log in to his name. That would come in use later.
She didn't want him dead, she wanted him to suffer.
Easing the disc out she set it aside and put the computer back where she found it. Leaving the room Emily Thorne went outside and slipped the key back into his pocket after making another distraction, something that could easily be done. She would check on her progress with him later.
He would not get away this time. No one would go untouched by her vengeful designs.
Making her way back to the van she set her eyes on Nolan who had decided to sit in the driver's seat, his hands ferociously gripping the wheel. Shaking her head she tapped on his window, almost scaring the man. She could see his body jump but he quickly rolled the window down.
"If you're not selling Girl Scout cookies then I'm not interested…" he purred, his head cocked, hair sweeping over to the side.
"You're sitting shot gun Nolan," she said pointing to the passenger's side.
Looking at it he rolled his eyes and bit his plump lower lip before trying to get in the passenger's seat without getting out of the car. Watching him move she crossed her arms as he rolled and tried to bend his legs in ways she didn't think possible. She pulled her wig off and tossed it into the back, some of her yellowed hair going with it.
"You're absolutely ridiculous," she murmured as she squeezed in, trying to help him get settled. She gave him a (Why do I put up with you?) look before starting up the van. "Did it work?"
"It's all uploaded. Now it's a waiting game," he said as he turned to her, watching her drive and trying to name the trees they passed in his head. It would have been a little weird if he had just started spewing tree types, oak, pine, apple, weeping willow.
"Life is a waiting game," she said simply as she palmed the steering wheel, turning on the road ever so slightly.
Keeping his eyes ahead, a little scared she was going to take the speed demon route after her brush with Champ; he spoke to calm her nerves or his. "I'll be standing by you during the long haul."
"I know you will. Thank you Nolan," she said as she looked over at him.
Eyes back on the road they felt safe and secure but it didn't last for long because a truck decided to sideswipe into them, pushing their van off the road and giving them quite a tumble.
Nolan could feel every roll, every crush to the metal frame beneath him, every sound and Amanda's very real screams. They didn't sound scared, more frantic and overwhelmed. He could feel everything yet his body seemed to go into shock. He didn't say a word, he just held on for dear life, the problem being, he didn't know what to hold onto.
Everything happened so fast and Emily swore the van had rolled at least three times before coming to a stop. She could hear oil dripping in the engine when it came to a halt, their bodies suspended upside down. She could hear a hiss from beneath the hood and smoke began to steam up around them, making her cough. She looked over to see Nolan who had fallen unconscious. She saw blood on him but didn't check to see if she too was stained. She touched her head and felt woozy because there was a gash there and she realized the blood was hers. While she had managed to get a cut, he had managed to get crushed since the truck had hit his side, not hers. Gasping for air she unbuckled her seat belt, falling head first like a sack of potatoes onto her seat.
"Nolan?" she cried out, shaking him and trying to get his attention but he did not wake. She thought of her fairytales and wished she was prince charming and a kiss would wake him up.
He did not open his eyes.
Scared the car would light up and go up in flames she unbuckled his belt the best she could and carefully let him fall into her. Cradling his head she kicked backward into the window to create a small space for her to crawl out of. It was a tight squeeze but she managed it. Reaching her arms in she saw that they were in a ditch and the only other person who had seen the crash was the truck that hit them and she had no idea where they were. She didn't have anyone else to rely on and she had to save his life.
Adrenaline kicked in.
Reaching her arms into the small sacred little space she tugged his shoulders and tried to pull him through the small space but his legs were stuck.
Looking to the front of the truck she saw flames begin to catch and she knew her time was limited. Usually she liked fire but not in this case. Crawling back through the hole, the other window crushed too far down to get through, she lay on top of him and made sure he was breathing. She then tried to pull his leg out from under the dash. With all her strength she broke the bone in his calf, making things easier to bend. Broken bones were the least of their problems, what mattered was his life. Able to pull him through the small hole she dragged him to a safe haven.
Out of breath herself she checked for her cell phone. Calling an ambulance she watched the van light up like a barbecue pit. Continuing to drag him from the area, the large BOOM was enough to wake him up.
Turning to his side he held his leg as he cried out in pain, sounding like he was in hell. His head was pounding and his vision was fuzzy but he saw the golden hair before him, moving and he knew that Emily was okay. Thank god she was safe. She had saved him.
"Amanda?" he asked as he reached for his leg again, the bone feeling splintered, like it was poking through the skin.
"It's me Nolan, you're okay. An ambulance is on its way," she said as she laid his head in her lap.
"How did it come to this?" he asked with a little wheezing sound shooting out from between his cracked lips. The smoke had made them thirsty and even her eyes burned.
"I don't know Nolan…I just don't know…"
His eyes were bright, brighter than he thought they would be. Nolan Ross had a deep voice on the phone so for some reason David Clarke was expecting an older man with dark eyes and perhaps a shadow underneath them. Nolan Ross was the opposite of what he expected. The younger man had dark hair with tints of blonde, his eyes were a piercing blue and he had a very pretty face for a man. He looked young, almost as if he would never age.
David thought about Amanda aging and what he was missing out on, every smile, every dance class, every soccer game.
David had met with Nolan a few times and had agreed to invest in his company as long as Amanda was a part of all of it. He needed to know that she would have something and someone looking out for her. He needed to know she would be financially secure since he knew Champ Williams was going to come in and take everything from her.
"Good to see you old friend," David said to Nolan as he held the phone to his ear, the two always meeting with a bulletproof glass sheet between them.
According to some, David was very dangerous but Nolan knew better. He could read people.
"You too David, so what's on the agenda today?" he asked, the two needing to get straight to business as their time together was always limited and it seemed to get shorter as time went on but that was probably because they clicked so well. Nolan could cheer David up when he was in the worst of moods which made time travel a little faster.
"People are going to be after Amanda from now until, well probably forever and it's all because of me," he said, sounding a bit choked up. He was having a bad day.
"David, you can't blame yourself, that, you just can't…" Nolan said, choked up just the same.
Each time David seemed a little bit more gone and not like himself. Prison was getting to him and even Nolan couldn't fix him. Nolan loved to fix broken things but he could only reach out to David Clarke so much. If he couldn't fix David at least there was Amanda.
They would later fix each other or at least try.
"I've made something; I want you to give it to Amanda for me, when the time is right. When she's older," he said looking at him. "I can't give it to you now but it's a box."
"A box? What's in it?" he wondered as he asked out loud, needing a bit more information. He hoped this wasn't some cryptic thing.
"Information, Amanda can choose what she wants to do with it but she needs to know that it's there for her. That I was there for her," he said, his hands shaking a bit, his face a bit pale and sticky.
"She knows and I know I've got a million stories from you to tell her. I'll remind her how much you care for her…once she's of age she can see you. Right?"
David Clarke shrugged, shaking his head as he looked into his lap, feeling surrounded by darkness and often finding it hard to breathe. All these small spaces weren't doing wonders for him. He needed air, a little outside time.
Little did he know that that was where he was the least safe since there were fewer cameras on the outside and more space to let things happen, less people were watching.
"I don't know Nolan, I really don't know…"
Chapter 18: Broken Things
Somehow his hair looked healthy against the faded white pillow case he laid his head on. His skin was a bit pale and his eyes remained closed in a deep sleep. Emily didn't take her eyes off of him.
She always used to think he would end up in the hospital because something she had done, but what got them here was a simple car crash. Moving a hand through his hair she moved it off his face and was careful to avoid his bruises and scrapes. She had a bandage on her head and needed a few stiches but she had made them perform the light procedure in the room with him.
When they got to the hospital they had to re-break his leg but in a different position to tailor the bone. She hated seeing him in pain so she made sure they doped him up good. He also managed to have a few broken ribs on his right side.
Hand over his, she watched him sleep but every time he tried to roll over his body realized he couldn't do it with his leg propped up and in a cast.
In her other hand was a phone and she used it to call Jack. She told him they had gone on vacation and had gotten into a car accident and that they were in the hospital. Naturally he asked to come and she refused him, not wanting him to lose business at the bar but he was stubborn and when it came to his friends, he would be there with them.
She couldn't say no at that point.
Waiting on Jack she realized she had time to talk to Nolan, practice time as he slept.
"Nolan, the other night when I had my date with Jack, I wasn't thinking about him. I was thinking about you…" she said as her breath hitched.
His did too.
"You've been through so much with me Nolan. You've always been there for me and I can't thank you enough, dad would have been proud of you," she said as she thought about her father and wondered what their relationship was like.
Before she could say another word Nolan opened one eye and gave her a smug little smile that made her hit his arm. Expressing pain he pouted.
"What was that for?" he asked as he hissed, trying to sit up.
Pressing his shoulders to the bed she let him know he shouldn't try moving around just yet.
"You know damn well what for…" she murmured as she set her phone on the end table, getting ready to help him if he needed it. She could play nurse.
"I was listening," he murmured as he eyed her, not knowing what to say but he appreciated all of it. "I always think about you Amanda."
Emily crossed her arms and looked away, obviously not so good at making eye contact. When she was playing the role of Emily Thorne that was a different story entirely but when it was just him and her and he knew her as Amanda Clarke then things were different. He would know if she was putting on a show and acting like she was born on the stage.
"You need to rest Nolan. Your boyfriend's on his way," she teased in reference to Jack.
He perked up a bit "What did you tell him?"
She shrugged, checking his vitals which all looked good. "I told him we just needed to get away for a while which is true. Nothing has changed; a broken leg isn't going to take you down."
He nodded, knowing he had to suck up the pain to finish the mission and do the work. "The hospital took my usb drive with what we need on it. You need to fetch it Ems," he said in a serious tone.
"I hate it when you tell me to fetch things, it makes me feel like a dog," she said with an eye roll.
"But you're my number one bitch…" he said playfully as he squeezed her shoulder. "We all know you're my master if anything…I fully admit to that," he purred as he reached over to chew on some ice chips.
"Careful you'll break your teeth and you don't need to get hit by the ugly train a second time," she said playfully, a bit of Amanda Clarke coming through with her insults. Sometimes she lowered down the iron gates and felt youthful enough to joke.
Nolan pointed at her and spoke with the solidified water in his mouth "Watch it Thorne…" he said as he lay back against the bed, feeling weak and almost a bit nauseous. "Is your head okay?"
She nodded, reaching for it, almost forgetting she even had the wound in the first place "I'm fine and I'll be right back. I'll retrieve what we need and we'll see how fast we can get you out of here…hopefully tomorrow night."
Nolan nodded before he closed his eyes again, having trouble keeping them open.
A deep sleep was in order. She was right, he needed his rest.
Jack had made it while Nolan was still hospital bound. The two talked about their past misadventures with hospitals where Emily learned that Nolan had needed stiches when he was 16 after being bullied in high school and Jack had broken his arm climbing a tree when he was 14. Nolan had never broken a bone before this one but luckily in a few months it would all be a distant memory.
The three of them spent their time there learning the ins and the outs of the hospital without getting in anyone's way. They commented on the poorly made hospital food which Nolan claimed was better than airplane food.
He took a fancy to the green jello.
The three of them drove to the hotel that Emily and Nolan were staying at and Nolan paid for Jack to have a room even though he offered the man to snuggle up with him. While Jack was flattered he graciously accepted his own room.
"Your cast is taking up half of the bed. There's no room in there for me Nolan," he teased as he bid them adieu and called it a night.
Nolan and Emily were left in a room together but neither minded, that was the plan after all from the start.
"Did you get it?" Nolan asked, finally finding some time for him and Emily to talk about conspiring plans.
"Of course I did, I wouldn't be this calm if your work had gone to waste," she said as she slipped the whale-cam to him. Some things never changed.
Admiring its little whale body he pointed to the new computer she had purchased earlier that day to replace the one that had gotten more than squished in the wreck. Pulling it into his lap he hacked into security feeds, updated software and slipped the whale cam drive into it like warm butter. Uploading all the files and patching into different police station feeds he began to uplink the files and on goings of what they had done to Champ Williams computer just a day earlier.
"What we're doing isn't morally right…" Nolan said having to play her conscience and giving her a chance to back down only she usually never did. She did once when it came to the White haired man but that was because she wasn't ready to kill yet. Things might have changed since then.
"He deserves it Nolan, he might as well be a pedophile, so let's make him one. He needs to pay for his sins against me and others like me. I'm not going to second guess myself on this one, just do your job," she said, not wanting to be tested and he could see that she was all business through those sharp eyes of hers.
"Well let's see what we can do about that hmm."
Curling his tongue against his teeth he let her baby him as he did his work. She didn't have much else to do but wait at this point so she spent her time reading and fetching him anything he needed. She told him she would help him re-dress his wounds and if his leg got itchy she would find the nearest pencil to stick underneath the cocoon like plaster.
"His square ass is ready to be kicked. We've got this down pat…" he hummed as he laid his head back, his neck hurting from the position.
Watching Emily plump his pillows and take one from her bed and put under his head he smiled softly, enjoying how she took care of him. Their relationship went from hardly touching at all to the occasional hand holding and silly little insults. He could get behind all of that and he never wanted it to end although with Jack in the picture he knew their romantic relationship if any could never hold. He always knew he was going to get burned because that was what happened when you stood to close to an open flame. Her heat and warmth might've killed him if nothing else did first.
One Week Later
Everything had bubbled to the surface in the past week, emotions were high. It seemed that all of a sudden everyone wanted to know about everyone else all of the time. This made Nolan Ross and Emily Thorne a bit uncomfortable. Putting everything out there on the table, all the cards was hard for them, unless they were playing poker in which case things were easier because Emily knew how to play and Nolan knew how to cheat.
Jack sat at the back table, watching everyone around him work or play pool or clean. He spotted Emily enter with Nolan who looked like Tiny Tim except he was nowhere near tiny. He sported crutches to help him walk around and even though his doctor insisted he was bed ridden or at least meant to stay inside the house, he couldn't pass up free booze and good company.
"Evening Jolly Green Giant," Jack said as he walked to the team of blondes.
Nolan saluted his friend before sitting down at the bar, trying to get comfortable on the tall stool. Even if it wasn't tall for him, it was still a pain to sit on with cracked ribs and a broken tibia. Nolan poured himself a glass of wine, deciding to be fancy as he watched Emily communicate with Jack. He imagined they were saying simple things; nothing masterful so he remained on his stool since getting up and walking around was a difficult task.
Taking out his Nolpad he turned to the evening news to see if anything had popped up on the radar. He always wanted to be the first to know.
Emily brushed her hair behind her ear and sat down with Jack, the two needing to catch up with what the week had brought them. They couldn't see each other every day considering he was in Montauk and she was in The Hamptons and the two were at least a half hour apart by car.
"So what's going on with Charlotte and Declan?" she asked, wishing she had a tighter relationship with her half-sister but not pushing it considering she had lied to her about them being related for years.
Jack smirked, he felt like that was all people ever asked him about lately because they had given up hope on asking him about women. "I never know with those two, sometimes they're up, and sometimes they're down. Let's just say they're in between for now."
Emily nodded knowing how young love was, or she did through magazines and the internet. She never exactly experienced young love before, or any love for that matter. She had never been in love but she had loved and cared for people around her. She cared for Daniel although she was not madly head over heels in love with the man.
"Ah I see…." She murmured, not really knowing what else to say.
"So, how are things with you and Daniel?" he asked, not really knowing the status of the once married and reasonably happy couple.
"Well as you know it is all over. I bet it was all over the news as well…"
"Not so much, I feel like Victoria Grayson's excellency faded over time, much like her good looks," he replied as he folded his little wash rag before tucking it into his pocket, really crumpling it to make it stay. It was a tight fit.
"We haven't spoken in a while, and that's for the best as you can imagine," she said as she folded her hands neatly into a pile in front of her.
"My priorities no longer lay with the Grayson family. They're a thing of the past thankfully," she said as she tapped her fingers against the table, not even realizing she was doing so.
Reaching over the table, the small gap between them, Jack steadied her hands with his. Both he and Nolan were trying to learn how to comfort her. She was their priority.
About to say something Jack was interrupted by Nolan who hobbled over with his Nolpad in Emily's face. "We've got an elsewhere to be Jack, very important Sherlock and Holmes business that must be attended to…."
Jack's breath caught in his chest and he gave a silent nod, he wasn't one to argue. He let Emily go.
Sitting in the car with Nolan, Emily snapped her neck toward him, eyes bulging and a bit wider than usual. "What is it Nolan?"
"Oh Ems, tell me you didn't see that…" he said showing her again, the headlines big on the breaking story. (Champ Williams Arrested for Child Pornography.)
Emily paused, her entire face changing from cold to proud, pride definitely creeping to her face. This was a big moment for her, she was getting some closure.
"We did it…" Nolan exclaimed, scared she was either going to burst out in tears or want to read article after article about his body and friends all in disarray.
"When did this break?" she asked as she held the Nolpad in her grip, reading things and witness statements. They had done a good job setting him up with their reliance on technology and friends in high and low places.
Nolan had done a good job executing the plan while Emily had created it. She felt like a god in this moment.
"A few days ago but it's just getting to me now, my hacker friends tell me the story got to the police three days ago but he was charged two days ago…" he said as he squeezed in next to her, trying to see what she was seeing.
"We're getting closer to something…we need to manage our devils list. Seven devils and we've since trapped three. No more Victoria and Conrad Grayson, no more Champ Williams, that just leaves…4."
Nolan Ross nodded "Malcolm Holden, Fiona Lockland, and two unidentified names but not for long. I promise you."
"Thanks again," she said, realizing she was saying thank you a lot more these days. She had finally learned to appreciate people to the fullest. It only took five years but it was easier to say thank you now than it was then.
"You are always welcome Ms. Clarke," he said softly as he pried the Nolpad from her fingers, her grip reluctant but finally giving in.
Not knowing what her brain and body was doing she gripped his popped collar and pulled him into her, letting her lips brush against his. Thanking him with a genuine kiss she pulled back as she saw a flush rise to his cheeks. He didn't know how long he was waiting for that kiss but he was floating on cloud nine.
She imagined her cheeks lit up just the same, her face did feel warm but that feeling of slight school girl embarrassment went away when his hand cupped her cheek and made her worries dissipate.
"Can I come over?" he asked. She knew he didn't mean any funny business, he just wanted to spend time with her and the parking lot wasn't the most romantic place to talk. "I'll drive…" he said as he slowly pulled away, her face then feeling absent of his touch.
The ride was overall pretty quiet as she sifted through news stories about Champ on the Nolpad which brought her much joy. Nolan drove slowly because he always played the game of life safely, or as best as he could with her around.
As soon as they got out of the car their fingers clinked together and then they were holding hands and standing on the porch. They looked over at the double infinity engraved on the bannister railing and he pulled her to him, his hands sprawled across her waist.
Their lips met and the two blondes kissed deeply until she opened her front door, the key almost getting stuck. His hands back onto her, she helped him walk, his crutch getting in the way but she knew she wanted to take him upstairs. She didn't know what would happen but she wanted to show Nolan that she trusted him to be in her bedroom with her. Helping him up each step, he looked at her with such eyes. Eyes filled with adoration for her and she blushed again, feeling strangely rejuvenated.
"You okay?" she asked as he made it to the top step.
"More than…" he murmured as she opened the door to her bedroom.
He expected a simple room that would be almost beach themed, sand dollars on the walls, the fresh breeze of the sea coming in from her window, but instead they were met with the smell of copper.
Nolan could hear Amanda gasp as she covered her mouth in shock.
Looking to the bed they weren't met with more kisses and squeals of delight. They weren't met with warm blankets and welcoming fluffy pillows. What they were met with was the dead body of Marjorie Blaisson with a bullet between her eyes.
Chapter 19: Down Below
Watching medical examiners sift through her things was invading enough but she could care less about all that, especially with Marjorie in her room, her lips blue and her eyes vacant. She hadn't cried. She was too in shock, too filled with anger that this had happened. Watching Nolan who wasn't very good with death at all, especially not since his Aunt's passing she spotted him moving items throughout her home, something to distract his mind.
Police men kept asking her questions but she didn't know what to tell them besides the fact that they were friends. Some fucker had come into her home and either killed her there or just dropped the body off there as a present. She didn't know which would be less terrifying. How could she ever sleep in her room again? She would have to make it an office, a place of unpleasant things, not one where dreams occurred.
Approaching Nolan she took the apple from his hands and set it aside. "Are you going to eat that?"
He shook his head and she knew he was just trying to hold on to things. Losing his aunt might had given him some abandonment issues.
"Then I'm taking it away, it's for your own good," she said as she crossed her arms, pacing before him like a walking talking metronome.
I don't understand…" Nolan said as he looked up at the stairs, knowing what was going on in her room. He was just waiting for that body bag to be carried out and he was imagining his aunt in the same one.
"They left her here as a gift…" she said as she clutched his hand, needing something to ground herself to this world, he was her anchor.
"Who?" he asked as he kept his eyes on the railing of the stairs near the top, waiting to see black dress shoes parade down the steps with the black plastic casing.
"I'm not sure, but we're going to find out and they are going to pay," she said eyeing him. "This was a warning."
The room was quiet for a moment until Nolan gasped out loud, his voice quivering as he spoke.
"It could have been you…" he said in a barely there whisper.
"What?" she asked, not sure she heard correctly since her house was loud at the moment.
"It could have been you," he said more sharply. His voice clear as crystal recently polished. "Oh god…" he said, needing to sit down.
She let him sit, she obliged, especially with his cast and broken ribs.
"But it wasn't…" she said, trying to keep him in the present. She didn't need him thinking about what could have been. That was no way to live.
"If you were in the house…we have to check this place for…" he leaned in close and whispered in her ear like a true paranoid person. "Bugs,"
She shook her head "It's not bugged, I have…let's say a bug repellent. No one is listening in, you can be sure of that. If we can be sure of anything than it's that."
Seeing the body bag being taken downstairs it all hit them both again as they held hands, their grips tight. Their hands were both red from how tightly they were squeezing.
"I'm going to take care of this, will you call Jack?" she asked as she looked up at him, not having to by much since she was pretty tall herself.
"What do you want me to tell him?" Nolan asked in a sweet and quiet voice.
"Tell him to run."
Walking along the docks Jack could oversee fishermen on their boats trying to catch crabs. He was never very good at it himself but he could do it if he needed extra income. Hearing his cell phone buzz in his pocket he reached for it and checked to see it that it was Nolan.
"You okay?" he asked since they just saw each other, he was scared he had forgotten something in the bar. He hoped whatever it was that it didn't get stolen although Nolan would just buy another one.
"You need to run," was all he said, too frightened for Jack's well-being to think of anything witty to say.
If someone could break into Emily's place and get to her then they could easily get to Jack or Charlotte or Declan.
"What?" he asked as his body froze on the boardwalk.
"You need to take Charlotte and Declan and run, use cash only and limit your cell phones to emergencies…" he said as he tapped his fingers quickly watching Medical examiners load the body bag into their truck.
"Nolan, man, what's going on?" he asked, his heart pounding in his chance. "Is Emily okay?"
"She's fine, she's with me," he said in a confident voice before looking to the woman as she talked to the police and took down numbers as well as giving them her contact information and statement so she didn't have to do it down at the station.
"What's going on Nolan?" he repeated as he ran a hand through his hair, spinning in a circle as he looked around him. It always was so fascinating to him that whenever something bad happened to someone and their world stopped, no one else's did.
"Something's happened, I can't tell you what's going on right now, you just need to get away," he said, hoping his pleas wouldn't have the opposite effect on Jack Porter.
"Where do you want me to go?" Jack asked in a patient voice, knowing he could trust his best friend.
"Anywhere that's not here, close the bar for a while, I'll help you catch up on cash if you need it."
Jack nodded, his eyes scoping over The Stowaway which he could see in the distance.
"Whatever you need."
Something inside of her felt like she was drowning and being tossed by the waves. She felt submerged under water and unable to break through to the surface. It was like she had fallen through ice and a layer of new fresh ice was forming at the top, breaking her re-entry into the world.
Washing her face she took a deep breath before wiping her face clean with a soft almost too white towel. She heard a knock at the door and she let it squeak open to face Nolan.
"Is he going?" she asked, worried for Jack's future as well as her sister's and his brother's.
"He is…he knows better, not to mess with this guy," he said as he pointed to himself in an attempt to make her smile but they were way past smiling. "I made your bed…they took the sheets and blankets obviously, everything is clean."
"I don't want to sleep in there. I don't want to be here…" she said looking at him.
"We'll go to my place, I've got plenty of rooms…" he said as he handed her a light windbreaker to wear outside.
"Appreciated," she said in a cold tone, trying not to stutter. She felt like things were crashing down and she was just waiting for the next blow.
Lying in bed and unable to sleep, Emily Thorne tried to make out the numbers on her little gold watch in the guest room since there was no alarm clock provided for her. She imagined it was 4 in the morning and wished she could enter REM but she knew that was nowhere near possible at this point. Hearing a clinking sound in the next room and then a thud she sat up, hoping someone didn't break into Nolan's home.
Scrambling out of bed in a white camisole and grey pajama pants she grabbed the first thing she could find which was a lamp and held it up, waiting to clock the intruder. It was only Nolan, his hands holding up his Nolpad like it was Simba and he was in the Lion King.
"Nolan, what are you doing?" she asked as she rubbed her eyes, letting them adjust to the light in the hallway.
"Saddle up kitten, it's time to play with the big boys…" he said as he pulled her close.
"That sounds downright pornographic, what are you talking about?" she asked as she viewed his Nolpad and he clicked the play button on the video, the screen widening to show a familiar face.
The White Haired Man.
"James Ferry or as we call him the white haired man, yes…" he said as he eyed her. "You don't think he was the cause of…M…Marjorie's death, do you?" Nolan asked as he let her hold the tiny video screen in her hands.
"He's connected somehow; otherwise this video wouldn't have been intercepted around the place that Champ Williams was staying at. See if he's visited him at the prison."
"Already on it," he said, usually ahead of the game. He had to keep up with her quick pace from now on; she was a fireball heading toward earth.
Nodding she went back into her room to suss out the problem in her own head and at her own pace.
Charlotte, Declan and Jack sat huddled together in a cabin in the middle of nowhere just as he was told to do. They had gone upstate and oddly enough it was snowing which was weird because it was so warm everywhere else. The weather had been off for a while now and Declan couldn't stop talking about global warming the whole way there until Charlotte covered his mouth and told him to shut up.
Jack laughed even through the pain of not knowing what was happening to his friends.
Declan approached his brother and pulled him into a hug. "Feels like I haven't seen you in forever man."
Jack nodded "Well you've been busy cozying up to the youngest Grayson again, how could I have seen you? Didn't want to butt in on the flirting corner you got going on at your place."
Declan smirked, looking over at Charlotte who was painting her nails and filling the whole cabin with the strong stench but bigger things were on their minds. They could handle the smell as long as it kept her distracted from asking questions they didn't know the answers to.
"Yeah well….you know how we are, The Hamptons very own Romeo and Juliet hopefully with much better results…"
Jack laughed, "Yeah tell me about it…all I hear about is you two. I'm kinda jealous,"
"Why are we here Jack?" Declan interjected, interrupting the brotherly moment to get a handle of why they were all of a sudden on vacation in the snowy mountains or hills or whatever.
"Thought we all needed some time away from The Hamptons," he said, trying to love his way out of this one.
"Jack seriously. Don't lie to me. If you're in trouble I gotta know so I can help," Declan said, fighting for his right to hear the "Grown up" talk.
"We're in trouble Dec," he said as he pulled him aside, further from Charlotte. "Nolan and Emily got themselves tangled in something and they haven't told me what but we need to stay warm so to speak. Let's just enjoy ourselves and stay off the radar."
Declan nodded, eyes sinking into his head as he took in the information. "This reminds me of when Dad would take us out to that Cabin on Lake Ronkonkoma in Long Island and we'd camp in the woods there."
"He said the lake was haunted, I remember…" Jack said as he sat down on a bench outside with his brother, the two of them looking at the pine trees and Declan thought about making a fire pit for them to enjoy as a little family or group of friends, whatever anyone wanted to call it. He didn't care for labels too much.
"He said there were ghosts…you can't always chase ghosts…you can't escape them either."
"You can run but you can't hide…" Emily shouted as she moved through the empty warehouse in Florida, almost gliding across it with her kick ass boots that could do some serious damage. They did as a matter of fact. Her face was bloody but you should have seen the other guy.
The other guy was James Ferry aka The White Haired Man and now he was literally running for his life. Amanda Clarke hadn't decided what she would do with him just yet.
Nolan set up a chair and ropes and chains, whatever else she would need to interrogate the man as he once tried with him. When Nolan was taken it ended up with him getting beat up and the white haired man getting to live. He hoped this time things would be different. Maybe he could pack a punch too.
Nolan could practically hear the clock ticking and time would stop for nobody. It was time to beat the clock and disarm another face of evil.
Chapter 20: The Scales
He swore he could feel his pulse racing and his sweat dripping down his clammy hands. His heart pounded in his chest and he never thought himself to be overly religious but now he found himself praying. There was nothing like a woman scorned.
Emily Thorne otherwise known as Amanda Clarke and Nolan Ross otherwise known as the genius billionaire had found him in Florida where he worked out of. The warehouse he rotted in now was a front. He let people believe he had retired since that was where most old people went but the reality was he didn't consider himself old, but he did still consider himself a hit man. If the right people could get to him about the right job and had the money to show he would come out of retirement every now and again.
He had come out of retirement and on his way to a hit he was intercepted by the dynamic duo of young attractive blondes which made him feel like he was on a reality show and he was part of the cosmic joke that the audience was in on.
Being thrown to sit onto a metal chair wasn't the most fun he wanted to have on a Saturday or a Sunday for that matter. The chair made a clang as it slightly lifted off the ground and then slammed back into the concrete with the weight of his body on it.
He was too old for this shit.
Looking up into Amanda Clarke's eyes all he could see was fury and hatred, there didn't seem to be a warm bag of blood in her. Most likely she ran cold like a fish but he imagined that he was a part of her downwards spiral when he stabbed David Clarke in the belly and gutted him like a wounded animal needing to be put out of its misery.
This rang true for her, all of it. He had made her a much colder person.
Before she learned David was dead she had been stuck in this brainwashed rebellious world thinking her father was a traitor on American soil. She grew to hate him as she felt he abandoned her in foster homes just so he could destroy the United States but when she learned the truth she had hoped she could forgive her father and speak with him. The White Haired Man ruined her chance and for that she despised him. He had also known and worked with her mother at The Initiative years ago, but that was a whole different story. She tried not to think of the past but it was all very harrowing.
Both she and Nolan had a run in with him before and it did not end well for either parties as her act of kindness, by letting him leave with his life, did not warm his heart and make him change his ways. Little could. After losing his son to yellow fever on their vacation to Ghana in 1991 he wasn't the same man. He did a complete 180 as a person since then.
"Speak," Emily said to him as if he was a dog and she was trying to train him. If he was bad she would hit him with a rolled up newspaper.
Nolan tightened the ropes, his hands tied behind his back and then knotted to the chair. Nolan Ross was a boy scout so if there was one thing he could do it was trying ropes. Getting out of them was harder, but again, that was a different story.
"Well well, we meet again Amanda Clarke…" he said as he gazed up at her. It was almost as if he was longing to see her again. As if all the other times weren't enough.
"I assume you knew Marjorie Blaisson…" she said as she opened her bag of tricks provided to her by Nolan. Taking out a scalpel she just toyed with it, letting it slip through her fingers and dance on top of them like some kind of vaudevillian magic trick.
"Knew? You make it sound as if she were dead…well…that's good, I did find her rather unpleasant. The same went for her mother, I seem to enjoy this mother daughter team thing very well…" he said, making him sound like a regular serial killer.
"She's dead, don't act like you don't know who's responsible," she said as her grip tightened on the slim silver that could do much damage with just the right amount of pressure.
"Maybe I don't. I'm in Florida; I'm out of the loop Amanda. How could I know when I spent most of my days at Disney World? Look at this old face, I just love Mickey Mouse," he wisecracked making her punch him hard across the jaw.
Feeling blood in his mouth he wiggled his tongue around, finding a tooth loose at the back. As he got older his teeth just didn't like to stay inside, mostly because of past mistakes and also his gums were receding much like his hairline.
"Tell me what you know," she said as Nolan circled him like a hawk, knowing this man could have been the end of him all those years ago. He hated when people had the upper hand thanks to their physical strength, it pissed him off. He had been bullied enough to know what that was like.
"I know a lot of things," he said in a smug fashion, loving to play the game. Usually he was the one in Amanda's position but he figured if he was on this side of things he wouldn't make it easy.
Nolan crossed his arms and heard the pitter patter of the rain from outside of the abandoned warehouse. He figured that Mr. Ferry had used this place as a front for something and wondered if his Florida home was kept by a sweet middle aged woman who would be his wife. Maybe they lived with a bunch of cats and she gardened. Maybe he liked fresh tomatoes and made the best pecan pie in his neighborhood.
None of that mattered. They would probably never know what he was like as a person because for this man what came first was his job.
He had a lot alike with Amanda, though neither would ever admit to it. He too had a story.
"You better answer or she's going to give you one hell of a knuckle sandwich," Nolan said as he stood behind her, as if he was her bodyguard or something.
If anything she was Nolan's bodyguard and that was how he liked it. He liked being protected but he would also take care of her if she asked. Sometimes he would surprise her. He still could and that was something.
"You know the story, you were there. For five years you've tormented me…haunted my work, I kept getting wrapped up in your storyline. I moved away to get away from The Graysons but it seems I can't move far enough," he said as he leaned back, trying to break the chair with his weight, wishing it would snap like a twig.
"Forgive me if I don't want to talk much right now, I'm focusing on the fact that you killed Marjorie," Emily said in reference to his little, well she would consider it monologue since he never talked for that amount of time.
"Why do you think it was me? Do all signs point to yes?" he asked, testing her patience.
Nolan shrugged and cocked his head like a newborn puppy trying to figure out the world. "Just a hunch."
"People get imprisoned for just having hunches, or because other people have hunches about them. Innocent people," the white haired man replied, the top of his head thinning with age.
"But you're not innocent. You have blood on your hands," Emily said as she took the scalpel and pushed it underneath his finger nail, the thumb.
Hearing a pained cry, Nolan turned around, always a bit squeamish even though he shouldn't have been at this point. Nolan spoke, trying to distract himself.
"A stain that will never come out," he said taking a breath and turning back to him.
"I…The Initiative is down to a final few, you've gotten some of the members. After you took down Champ Williams I was given a hit," he said as he looked around, trying to find a way out but realizing it was useless. He wanted out on the game anyway, it was time for him to retire but perhaps the damage had already been done.
"You killed her…" Emily said as she shook her head, pushing the scalpel deep under the nail and making the man scream and twist in his chair.
"I'm not surprised…" she said with bitterness in her voice that was indescribable.
The genius tech savy billionaire shook in his boots so to speak as he watched darkness consume Emily's face.
Mr. White as they sometimes called him had gone too far this time.
"I did what I had to," he said as he looked the ties of his work boots, the pair made for construction but he was never very good with wood or DIY projects. He had always hired people to work on his home. While he trusted himself with tools during torture, he wasn't very good with a hammer otherwise.
"And you had to accept the payment too I wonder?" she said rhetorically as she listed to him pant and digest his misery beneath her.
Moving to the next nail she smirked and looked back at Nolan who kept his arms crossed, his foot tapping like he was waiting for something to happen. Anticipation filled the room.
"This little piggy...went to market," he murmured with a hiss like a serpent wrapped around a ruby red apple.
Emily went to yank a nail off like it was a scute on a turtle's back but the white haired man spoke again and they listened like he was some wise all telling owl on the tree of knowledge. He may have had what they needed which was confirmation about the list, the things written in the little black book.
"I'm out, she was my last mark…" he said with honest eyes but Emily shook her head, quick to dismiss him.
"It's too late for apologies. Your last minute, last hurrah in the business won't go unnoticed," she said as she cut him with the scalpel, letting the blood run across his face, his cheek primarily. That would leave a scar, it cut deep.
The main part that scared her about this, about torturing a man was that she enjoyed it. Inflicting pain on others gave her a strange sense of satisfaction. Maybe Nolan was right, maybe she was a sociopath and things were becoming clear to her with each slice, each tug, and each pull in the wrong direction. Or was it the right direction? She didn't know.
"Why do you think I came here? I was hiding, laying low. I'm done with this business. It's been too long…" he said eyeing her.
Gripping his throat she squeezed and listened to the guttural sounds easing out from his voice box. Her handle on him elicited quite a reaction and Nolan had to fight his limbs to keep from pulling her off of him.
"You slaughtered my friend!" she said as she let him choke and push into her, his eyes bulging and his face flushing.
"You…have…no friends…" he said, his voice holding back.
She released him and cocked her head, curious. "What the hell are you talking about?"
"These people you pal around with, do you really think they'll accept you once they learn what you've done?" he asked as he eyed her. "You're not like all of them. They can never know what you've done…"
Emily rolled her eyes but bit her lip, her face twisting as she didn't know what she was thinking or feeling.
"You shouldn't act like you know me, or anyone for that matter. All you know is the sound of a gun and the feel of a trigger. All you are is death… my mother warned me about you. She trusted you and you betrayed her," she said as she handed the scalpel to Nolan who kept his eyes on the crimson covered the shiny metal.
Taking out his gun, the silencer fastened on she closed her eyes for a moment.
"You'll live if you can confirm the remaining members of The Initiative. Victoria Grayson, Conrad Grayson, Champ Williams and you…that leaves a grand total of three," she said as she pressed the gun to his head, working her way up to things.
"I don't know their names…" he said, clearly lying.
"Anonymous be damned…" Nolan murmured as he shook his head not believing that this man wasn't ready to give names. The white haired man seemed to flip flop in his own head. Did he want to stay or go? No one had time for him to make up his mind; he had enough time to choose a side. Even sitting in this chair was long enough. How desperate was he?
Emily, angry by his refusal stuck him in the gut with the scalpel she pulled from Nolan's hands. Twisting the knife she listened to him cry out. Nolan was shocked as he watched blood spill and the gun fall to the floor.
Picking it up he remembered what it was like to pull the trigger. The noise was always so loud, louder than most people thought they were. It left a ringing sensation in his ear after but he had heard it enough after meeting Amanda Clarke and all their allotted time together. It was heavier than he always thought it would be as well, his memory blanking out the feel until his steady hands reached for it again.
"Malcom Holden!" he cried out, giving her a name and she looked to Nolan so he could check to see if it was on the list. Before he could she remembered and shook the tall blonde off, letting him resume his gun swaddling. "I owe your father that."
"That's one…" she said with a smirk, pleased with her progress. The little things in life had to do it for her.
"Winner winner chicken dinner," Nolan said in response to the truth peeking out. They were close to a full list. Two names left.
"That's all you're going to get from me…" he responded, his voice sounding parched but no one had water. They would all have to suffer.
Throwing the scalpel down she sighed, hardly thinking but also thinking quite a lot. She was reckless and controlled by her anger but she could see through him. She could see he was telling the truth. He could withstand torture and this could virtually go on forever.
She didn't have forever; she was at her wits end.
Taking the gun from Nolan she didn't think twice before shooting him the chest, right through the heart. It was a clean shot; she knew where the vital organs were. It was easier to do on a piece of paper but she managed.
"You don't owe my father anything…" she said in a cool tone before tossing the gun down and heading toward the big warehouse door.
Nolan was left to clean up the mess. He could take care of it since he knew the right people. He felt like he was part of the mob sometimes with her but this was just the way some things had to be.
She kept telling herself that this was the way things had to be, making it a mantra in her head. Whole Nolan had cleaned everything up by talking to the right people; both of them were feeling guilty. She made the mess but he cleaned it up. She pressed her fingers to her temples, massaging the pain away, the sound of the gun still ringing in her ears and giving her a migraine.
Both she and the white haired man had blood on their hands now. They were both stained.
Sitting in the square hotel room in Florida with the palm trees swaying in the wind and the air cool from the rain she ran her fingers through her hair, finding it course. Her hair was usually so soft so she suddenly felt grimy even though she had already showered and scrubbed till her skin was raw. Nolan could tell because when she exited the bathroom her skin was almost blushing under the natural light.
At first he thought it was beautiful but then he realized it was a mistake, a design flaw on her point, much like depressed birds, how they would pull their feathers out when they were stressed, heartbroken or feeling not quite like themselves.
Something was awry. Nolan could feel it clinging to the air, the heat not helping. He heard a sniffle from across the room and first assumed it was his allergies because he was allergic to pollen and dust. Approaching her slowly, afraid to scare her like a wild animal in the forest, perhaps a bunny he almost nearly crouched.
"It's okay Ems…" he said as he pat her knee, not sure of what comfort would float her boat.
"No it's not Nolan, I killed a man and I liked it…" she said as she wiped her eyes, looking as lost and lonely as ever. He couldn't compare, he was just the cleanup crew.
"He deserved worse," Nolan said as he moved his head about, trying to crack his neck and feel human again. He was a bit stiff and not in the fun places.
"I pulled the trigger too soon," she said as she rubbed her eyes, the lids dry of tears. Her makeup was semi smudged but most of it came off in the shower anyway. The only thing that stayed on was some light eyeliner.
"Yeah well then I had my crew work too fast," he said shrugging his shoulders. "Well that was the first time and the last, we're at home base," he said as he tried to relate life to something many Americans enjoyed, baseball.
"I'm not done yet Nolan, this is only the beginning…"
Chapter 21: Off Peak
"My chips are down…" she murmured to him as she set her eyes upon the clock in the corner of the station. He told her he would drive but she said she would prefer to travel by train. Something about the rocking of it on the tracks often settled her and made her feel safe. She always felt safe with Nolan even though she was the muscle and he was the meat. Even though the man could barely hold his own or a gun for that matter, she knew he would protect her till the end. The hands on the clock seemed to take forever to move, as if they were frozen in place.
Nolan looked around the station, finding it retro. It looked like it hadn't been update since the late seventies, early eighties. They must have had budgetary problems or they were trying to be indie and hipster. He couldn't tell which.
"Are we talking poker or metaphorically?" he asked her as he let his eyes fawn over her, the two getting closer since their shared kiss and their time in different hotel rooms together. They were sharing towels and ordering room service, bacon piled high.
"Metaphorically. We are not talking about poker right now Nolan," she said as she held her ticket in her hand, letting it flutter and tap against her slim fingers.
Nolan nodded as if he knew what she was talking about, but his mouth was slightly agape and he looked ponder some. "Oh…" he said in a rather sing-song voice.
She wondered if he was mocking her but then realized he knew better. "I just feel down for the count," she said as she looked up at the big board with all the many numbers and trains going to some places she hadn't even heard of.
She still felt like she had much to learn. While she had had some schooling to be educated, it was not nearly enough and geography always boggled her. The world was just so big and there were so many countries and cultures.
"How so?" he asked, wanting her to share and be open with him. If she couldn't share with him then she couldn't share with anybody. Well at least now she could try to start with Jack and Charlotte but it would still be hard to put into words. They would sympathize with her too much and she hated getting people's pity. She often didn't feel worth it after years of abuse and mental torment from authority figures.
"I was in the wrong, I went too far," she said as she looked into her lap, seeking for truth and answers.
"I was surprised you didn't kill him years ago. You gave him more time to redeem himself. He didn't. You're like the grim reaper. It was his time to go," Nolan said, trying to make her feel better, start light.
"Years ago, the old Nolan I knew wouldn't have said that. You told me then that my father didn't want any of this, that I shouldn't become death and play god," she said, pausing as she looked at him for answers and his defense.
"People change Amanda, he killed Marjorie, your father, and countless others….we couldn't have waited for a trial. He's squeaky clean, he would have gotten out anyway and all eyes would have been on you. If I could pull a trigger, heck I would have gone Rambo on him too," he said as he squeezed her hand, their fingers lacing like strings were tied around their digits to keep them together.
Nolan kept talking, voice low. "I would have killed him just because he killed your father. I cared about David. Even behind bars he made me feel more loved than my father ever had."
Emily leaned her head on his shoulder. "You make me feel loved," she said, changing the subject, murmuring as she watched the board light up with their track number but it wasn't a rush. Usually there was no time, today there was.
The train was a bumpy ride, the shadows of the trees creating a strobe effect against the light streaming in from the windows on the floor. Emily spent most of her time watching them and trying not to nod off. She hadn't been getting a lot of sleep lately and there was black around her eyes. Nolan called her a raccoon when they woke up. They shared a room for safety measures. At least that was what they said it was for but they slept in separate beds obviously. She threw a pillow at his head.
"Earth to Amanda…" he murmured as he waved his hand in front of her face, a friendly reminder to keep awake, work was still yet to be done.
These past few days had been a whirlwind of emotions and much heartbreak but together they were fearless and unstoppable. Even as she doubted herself he did what any friend would do and told her she did the right thing. If she was having a mid-life crisis full of moral dilemmas she was going to have to do it later when other more valuable lives weren't in the balance. His ass included.
"Hm?" she asked as she looked to him, coming out of her internal shock system, her system rebooting itself like a cable box or a robot's hard drive.
Robots always fascinated Nolan while Amanda found them creepy. He remembered her telling him that a few hours after she got out of Allenwood but then things switched on her and over the years she formed a robotic shell to protect herself from more harm. He was slowly breaking through. While he once saw her as metal or stone, now he viewed the shell like a chocolate coating to ice cream, maybe tartufo.
He'd break through with the spoon of his intellect and compassion.
"We're almost there," he said as he pulled out his Nolpad, seeing if he could get service because before it had gone out when they first entered the train even though his system for Wi-Fi was the strongest.
"Almost where?" she mumbled slightly, clearly needing a red bull to give her wings or just a large cup of steaming coffee, maybe iced.
"To Jack Porter's new deluxe lumberjack cabin. I wonder if he grew a big mountain man beard. I would wonder the same for Declan but can the boy even grow a beard?" he asked as he thought about it.
"Can you?" she quipped as she trifled through her bag pulling out sunglasses just to keep people from staring at her bloodshot eyes as they would think she was incredibly high on something and she was sick of judgments. Her whole life was full of them as she carried around the infamous last name Clarke.
Nolan nodded "Actually I can, it's not pretty though…" he said as he shook his head. "I was in college during my experimental phase. I tried drugs, grew a beard, fooled around with some men totally out of my league at the time I might add. Take that for some Ross swag…" he said as he grinned.
"Drugs? What kind?" she asked, curious as to what her friend once did recreationally.
"Cocaine. Like Sherlock Holmes himself I too couldn't resist. A genius needs his white powder," he said as he shrugged.
"Why did you do it?" she asked as she learned some things about the pretty much self-made billionaire.
It was nice to know him even more personally. They never really talked about him even though he knew most everything about her from her strawberry allergy to her favorite dress, the pale pink lace one that was open in the back.
"To stay awake mostly, I needed to study and get work done and since I was going to school too and working and trying to have a social life, key word trying. There wasn't enough time to do what I wanted so I snorted some of my weekly paycheck up my nose but look, lucky for me it paid off," he said as he recanted his past.
"Great Nolan, aren't you just a little walking billboard ad for white rabbit," she said with a smirk.
"No, I would never tell anyone to do it. I only made it out alive because I'm me, anyone else would have had a heart attack and ended up in the big house. I kept the doses minimal and kicked the habit after I got Aunt Carole to help me out financially."
"How come she wasn't helping before?" she asked as she looked at him, watching the train stop at another station.
"Didn't have the money, she started working for Grayson Global and so it begins so I guess in a weird way I sort of owe them…" he said with a wagging movement of disgust sweeping across his visage.
"Nolan you don't owe anyone anything…not anymore," she said with a sigh. "Not even me…"
Looking out the window he shrugged "I like owing you, I like being a part of your life even if the way you usually need me is hmm shall we say I'm your whipping boy…"
She bit her lip and looked a bit ashamed, everything sinking in on how she used to treat him. Her emotions were heightened; she was realizing her past flaws and instincts. "More like your whipping post..."
"Maybe that too…" he said in a dull voice, everything now feeling very monotonous.
"I'm sorry…" she said as her eyes rimmed with tears, almost stinging from how sensitive they were from summer allergies and lack of sleep. Everything was sinking in, Marjorie's death, Aunt Carole's death, how she killed the white haired man and most of all her life choices. She could see the big picture and she didn't know how much she wanted to remember but deep down she did.
She didn't want to remember the destroyed lives when this was all over, she wanted to remember the good times with Daniel, those rare moments when Nolan made her smile, Charlotte growing up and overcoming her fears, Declan being able to stand up for himself, those small but brief moments with her mother, both times, Sammy and Jack Porter, everything about Jack Porter.
Was it possible she could be in love with two men at once?
She brushed off the thought.
Nolan gave a hint of a smile, held her hand and they both looked out the window as the sun began to set, another day on ending and a new one soon to be on its way. Things were happening so fast.
"We're almost there…"he repeated.
The view from the cabin was amazing. It was a small miniscule thing made of logs making it looked like a stacked Lego sculpture of some sort but the entire thing smelled like pine. Surrounded by woods Nolan took in the scent and found in masterful, there was nothing better than fresh nature. He liked the woods since he grew up in a woodsy area, a lot of trees stretching from far and wide.
Jack wore flannel and Declan wore a shirt that was Jack's, plaid and too big for him. He hadn't packed enough clothing and was too lazy to do laundry. Charlotte wore a simple pair of jeans and a red sweater, she told Declan she would help with the laundry later as in tomorrow. They had to hand wash everything in tubs and then hang it, but what was more important was Emily.
Jack clutched Nolan and pulled him into a hug and Declan did the same. Everyone knew Nolan was a fan favorite.
Emily stood with Charlotte as stars began to twinkle and the night sky bloomed with the fire millions of light years away.
"Look at them…" Charlotte said as she shook her head, in awe by all the stars out here. Every night she was amazed by how you could see every little dollop. In the city you could hardly see anything but this sky was crystal clear. She never thought she would like being this close to nature because she liked action and life but this was something else.
Emily didn't respond, she didn't know what to say.
"Amanda?" Charlotte asked as she let it sound on her tongue. She wanted to see if it had a good fit since it was the truth.
"Yes Charlotte?" Emily said as she looked to her, ready to answer any question. She owed Charlotte Grayson that much.
"Did you love Daniel?" she asked, thinking of her brother's recent pain.
Emily nodded "In a way, yes."
Charlotte kept to herself before asking another question, tucking her wavy hair behind her ear. It was a bit frizzy because she didn't pack a blow dryer and they had to save on electricity anyway.
"How many times did you want to tell me who you were?"
"Every day, all the time…" she said looking at her "It killed me to think you'd never know but it scared me, I didn't want to burden you with my troubles and now here I am…doing just that."
Charlotte interrupted Emily's pity party. "What's going on Emily?" she asked, still forgetting to call her Amanda. She had gone five years as Emily, it would take some getting used to for everyone except for Nolan, he had it pretty much down pat but he still liked to call her Ems for continuity's sake.
"You're in danger. I've opened Pandora's Box and now I have to kill the monster," she said with a gentle sigh.
Charlotte bit her lip, teeth pressing there until she found her words. "Who's the monster?"
"I have a hit list…" she seethed, realizing her metaphorical words were very literal. Amanda Clarke was dressed to kill.
Charlotte looked to Declan, Nolan and Jack fooling around and teasing each other as boys often did. She often forgot they were men since they were so goofy when they were together, a big happy family.
Emily decided not to sugar coat anything anymore, she was never very good at that when she wasn't playing her role. "Kill."
Pulling himself away from Jack and Declan, Nolan got an email and opened it up; glad he had at least two bars to read the simple thing from a simple program. Seeing it was from Ashley Davenport he felt intrigued and wondered if she had played out her archetypal character she probably stole from another important piece of media. The only original ideas she seemed to have were about party planning and fashion, both which he used her for also and helped her with even though she had had a falling out with Emily years ago.
Using his middle and pointer finger to enlarge the email on the screen he read it.
"Your target is Fiona Lockland and she will be at New York Fashion Week. I don't know why you wanted to know about her but that's where she'll be. We made friends as you asked. If you want to set up a meeting, I'll have my people talk to her people…"
Nolan turned off his phone and walked over to Emily who was watching Charlotte chop wood for the fire. She looked good with an axe.
"Looks like we're going to a little fashion show…suit up Amanda Clarke…"
Chapter 22: Damages
Every time she closed her eyes she saw his face, the white haired man staring back at her, the back of his head shot out. It was weird but she knew it was a dream. She hadn't seen the back of his head. She didn't want to access the damage but she knew it was there. She imagined what it would look like, the hollowed out place in his skull where his brains once were. She imagined the color, the squishing sound a medical examiner would make during his autopsy, but if Nolan had taken care of it as he said he did then there would be no autopsy and this man would haunt her.
The truth of it was though that she wasn't done and they both knew that. There was blood on their hands and the bodies were going to pile up, but it was killed or be killed at this point. They hadn't backed down when it came to Marjorie, and they wouldn't back down with them either. She stayed with Nolan out of convenience or at least that was what she told herself. They stayed together to keep safe, they weren't better off alone, not this time.
Trying on a red dress with a plunging neckline she looked ready to cause some damage and that was what she was going for. In order to just get through the day she had to play the cold hard bitch that didn't care about morals or life or death. She had to act in another role, the role of a ruthless killer.
Life was like a play, and this fashion show was going to be their stage.
Coming out of the bathroom, the white tiled walls changing to the champagne colored ones she eyed Nolan in his suit, the top two buttons undone.
Nolan caught an eyeful of her and his jaw dropped so she took that as a good reaction.
"That good?" she asked as she spun around for him. She had done the same at her wedding to Daniel when she saw him before the ceremony.
"Better…" he murmured as he handed Emily her silver clutch bag. "The car's waiting."
Walking out the door with him she turned off the lights and took a breath as they walked to the elevator, potted ferns leading the way and then the numbers of each floor lighting up in gold.
"So how did you find out about all of this?" she asked as she raised a brow, keeping her clutch tight to her chest as if it was her beating heart.
"I have my…sources," he said cryptically as if he was James Bond or something to the equivalent.
"Nolan…" she said with an exasperated sigh, "We can't keep things from each other…"
Nolan scoffed "Says the woman whose middle name is secret. Amanda Secret Clarke…" he said as he crossed his arms before walking off the lift with her.
Opening the car door for her instead of the driver, not giving the man a chance he watched her get in and then squished next to her. "The car ride won't be long…" he murmured as she put her clutch in her lap.
"You didn't answer my question Nolan… she hissed, her voice rattling like a snake with a shaker at the end of its tail.
Nolan knew her tricks at this point, she didn't scare him much even though she knew how to handle a gun and end a life.
"Didn't know it was a requirement…all good things come in due time young grasshopper…" he said as he waved his hand in front of her "These are not the droids you are looking for…"
Putting her hand up she rolled her eyes "Too many pop culture references in one sentence…pace yourself," she said as she looked out the window, pretending she could see the same stars as Jack. Technically they were the same stars but not the exact, not down to a t.
"We're doing a lot of traveling," Nolan murmured as he moved his fingers through his hair until he felt he was properly primped.
"Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth"
Emily recited Robert Frost's "The Road not Taken" and looked over at him for a smile but she remembered that was Daniel's thing. Nolan smiled anyway and gripped her hand, a silent retreat into the verses.
Music blasted through the large octagonal sphere of fashion, colors from different cultures lighting up the room as well as the actual large lights and open windows doing their design trick. You could tell before entering the building that a lot of money was put into the show and its environment. He didn't feel out of place here because he looked as fashionable and as tall as the models. The way people looked at him he even got mistaken as one, not that he minded. Some knew who he was since his face was still plastered on billboards and online ads but some just assumed he was a good looking face even though he was past forty years of age which was usually old for a model. He didn't look old though so he could pass. To him, age was just a number anyway.
Keeping his eye on Amanda and her plunging neckline he could smell the pungent aroma of caviar and oysters and he knew he was not heading to that table. He preferred lobster puffs and pigs in a blanket.
Emily and Nolan caught the show and during it they toasted to a nice evening but kept their eyes peeled for Fiona Lockland whose face they had googled recently. As it turned out she was a clothing buyer and had to attend many shows like this. Another face appeared in the crowd before hers did.
Emily pointed out the face and bit her lower lip, tasting cherry lip balm. "Oh my god, is that Lydia Davis?"
Nolan squinted, he had a slight astigmatism. "Yeah, I think so. What the hell is the Queen's ex bee doing here?"
Emily shook her head, "Catching a dinner and a show it seems."
He cocked his head and watched her take out her cell phone. She texted someone and looked very demure. She hadn't aged as well as she could have. Her break out with Conrad probably wore her thin. Being attached to the Graysons seemed to do that to people naturally. She was probably all grey now but kept her hands close to a bottle. She could afford salon care though, lucky for her.
She wasn't all that lucky but she still had money.
"I'm going to find Fiona Lockland. Keep an eye on her Nolan. Track her if you have to. This isn't a coincidence…" she said as she got up, sticking to the shadows cast from the people in the crowd.
Years ago she had poisoned Conrad Grayson so he would have an upset stomach triggering heart palpitations so he would think he was having a heart attack. This time things were different, the vial she held was toxic and it was lethal. She wasn't afraid to use it.
Even holding it in her bag made her feel like Snow Whites' wicked stepmother armed with a poison apple.
Her goal was to find Fiona Lockland so she kept a sharp ear and scanned each room, each corridor for those familiar almost gray piercing eyes. They were even more silver than grey, like she was some supernatural being and she must have been to do the things she had done in her lifetime. Story out on the street was she even knew Rita Clarke, Amanda's mother and had betrayed her years ago.
For that and her other crimes she would pay.
Nolan had once asked her why not just shoot her between the eyes as she had with Ferry and wondered if it was because she was a woman. She replied saying she had enough gun play for a while and wanted to keep things quiet. This solution she had was quite untraceable and if Nolan played his cards right he could shut down the security cameras long enough to give the woman a chance to die.
"Is it like mustard gas?" he had asked earlier in the day before she had even picked out which dress she was going to wear.
At the time she laughed and shook her head. It was no laughing matter but he could bring it out in her at the most inappropriate times. He had made her laugh at funerals but of course most of the funerals she went to were for members of the Grayson family so she was never that sad to begin with. Daniel did have a cousin, Claire who had died of leukemia and she was saddened over that. She liked Claire, Claire was innocent and soft spoken but when the two were alone they would gossip and be just as vulgar as any man. Claire was a full-fledged feminist and she thought it was stupid that society place gender norms upon people. If girls wanted to curse like a sailor and talk about sex more than humanly possible, they should and she certainly did until her very last day.
"No Nolan, it's not mustard gas. She won't take this and then spit out a lung but it will attack her nervous system. Everything shuts down and her heart won't take it, end of story…"
But it wasn't the end, not yet and the moon was waning in the sky.
Turning a corner she heard Fiona's name spilled over someone's brightly pink colored lips. The models lips looked like they were made of bubblegum. Emily was just as tall to be a model but she couldn't talk to anyone since it could make her seem suspicious later on. Nolan kept an eye on her with a little spy cam he had placed in her clutch and when she needed a camera shut down, he would do it with the blink of an eye.
Each camera she walked past he would turn off and then turn on when she was out of range that way no one would think anything of it.
Nolan sprawled out on a lounge chair facing Lydia Davis who looked content with her life, possibly finally content with what Conrad Grayson had done to her. She had broken it off and it was for the better. She needed to focus on herself.
Lydia spotted him and made eyes with the man before escorting herself away. He followed her.
"Lydia! Hey Lydia!" he said, calling to her and people could see she was ignoring him and she noticed this so of course she turned around to please others.
"Nolan what are you doing here?" she asked as she nervously tucked her hair behind her ear, the mane longer than he last remembered it.
"Could ask you the same question," he countered as he put his hands in his pockets.
"You could…yes," she said with a soft yet diluted smile spreading across her lips.
"I'm enjoying the show, tell me…have you happened to see Ashley Davenport here tonight?" he asked since the girl wasn't answering his texts.
Watching another camera go off, the blinking light now dark, Emily continued to travel through the maze like halls of the events large building and main frame. Tunneling through she waited for another camera to go off before finding Fiona's dressing room. While she was just a buyer she still needed an office and with the right amount of money you could have anything. Knocking on the door with the poison in a glass of white wine she waited for Fiona to open it.
A few seconds later she did only she nearly slammed it in Emily's face. Emily fought to keep the door open as she snaked her way inside. Cornering the woman she set the drink down.
"Get out of here…" Fiona said as she waved a claw like finger at her. Her hands were an obvious tell of her age. She was about 60 but you couldn't tell from her botox grin.
"Do you know who I am?" Emily said rhetorically.
"Amanda Clarke…yes, I've been following you. I knew your mother," she said casually as she tried to send a message.
"Put the phone down or I'll slice you in half…"
Fiona tossed the phone away on the table and leaned against the wall. "Just what is it do you think you're doing?"
Amanda smirked "I'm here to drink with you…"
Fiona laughed and walked across the room like she owned the place. "Do you honestly think I'm going to drink that swine?"
Fiona reminded Emily a lot of Victoria which was good; she wouldn't feel bad about her untimely demise.
"I don't think, I know…" Emily muttered as she handed her the glass. "Here, take it…"
Fiona shook her head "I'm not drinking this…I'll spill it out all over the floor…"
"You spill it out and you'll be eating the carpet…" she said angrily. "I know what you did to my mother; I know what you've tried to do to me. I know you conspired against David Clarke and I know how you made the call to kill Marjorie Blaisson."
"That's nice dear, quite right but I'm still not drinking any concoction of yours," she said as she crossed her arms, looking very pleased with herself, her brow slightly raised.
This was going to be fun.
Walking with Lydia and eating cream puffs on the way, Nolan sipped warm champagne and made a face. "This champagne is definitely not what I signed up for…"
"You never get what you signed up for Nolan…" she said shaking her head "I learned that lesson with Conrad Grayson…"
"What was it like, being with him?" Nolan asked as he looked at her, wanting to learn her secrets. She was elusive as much as she was not a nice person. While she was off Emily's radar when it came to revenge, she was still part of the story.
"You never knew who he put first. It was the same with his ex-wife. I hear that's why they broke up. He put work first…" she said as she gave a silent toast to the jail bird.
"Who was he married to?" Nolan asked, wanting to hear the story and Lydia was so pleased that someone was paying attention to her she would tell the whole story.
"He was married to Rebecca Evans and before that she was married to Michael Evans."
"Michael Evans the billionaire?" he asked as he nibbled a mozzarella stick filled with the fresh warm cheese.
"The very same…only when they were married he was skin and bones. No financial meat on him," she said shrugging. "They married for love."
"And then what happened?" Nolan asked as he licked his lips in an attempt to clean himself off.
"Then he changed as all men do. He became too involved in his work and things got dark."
Nolan thought to himself, Michael Evans' name was on the list of possible people involved with The Initiative.
Amanda was right, this was no coincidence.
Chapter 23: Spoils of War
As far as coincidences went, this was one that could not be made up. Everyone was coming together and things were happening. As they said in show business, the show must go on and Emily Thorne was about to put on a hell of a production.
Fingers laced together she watched Fiona Lockland quiver beneath her own weight, now afraid of the absolute loneliness that the two of them in the small cramped room brought. There was nowhere she could go now and no way to call for assistance. Her phone was across the room and her thoughts were scattered, her pupils shone as if they were searching for an emergency exit.
She deserved this and she knew it, Emily Thorne or rather Amanda Clarke was an avenging angel sent from Lucifer to do his bidding, or maybe it was the other way around. She wasn't sure.
"Drink it…" Emily said as she stood there like they were in some kind of Alice in Wonderland world, only when Fiona drank the concoction she would not grow nor shrink, she knew this.
""How does it work?" Fiona asked as she eyed the glass in Amanda's feeble hands.
"You take a sip and then you keep drinking. It targets your nervous system and begins breaking it down nerve by nerve, cell by cell. You'll lose control of all your motor functions until you lose your ability to breathe or have a heart attack. We'll see which happens first in your case."
Fiona shook her head, almost in a motherly sort of fashion. "You've lost your ability to feel anything, haven't you?"
"I'm done sugar coating things. If you wanted an easy life you wouldn't have joined The Initiative. You wouldn't have stayed…."
"How do you think I'll die?" Fiona asked as she eyed the rim of the glass, knowing it was a death omen, her last drink.
"Well I would say your heart but you haven't got one…" she said as she eased the glass toward her. "Drink it."
"Or what?" Fiona asked as she tried to back away, finding no space, little room to breathe as is. She was surrounded by nice things, at least there was that.
"Or the same drink will be given to your husband and your children and we all know that hard working men and rebellious teenagers can never refuse good liquor, or bad liquor for that matter," Emily said in one breath, sounding very serious and strangely calm.
This was an act too, she would never really hurt innocent people but if a mother loved her family enough, she would do anything to protect her kin.
Fiona's hands shook; she knew she deserved this fate. "You're bluffing…"
"Do you care to take that chance? Do you want to wager with their souls?" she asked as she gave the glass to Fiona who now gladly accepted it. "You see, everyone keeps forgetting where I come from and what I've been through. They second guess me and don't think I'll do what I have to in order to rid the world of evil like you…drink it."
Fiona didn't need another reason. Bringing the clear almost yellow liquid to her lips she drank deep and in second she began to lose her breath, her throat closing and everything in her body feeling tight.
"That was for my mother…" Amanda murmured before leaving her. She wouldn't give her the satisfaction of another human's hand to hold during her final moments.
In the end you're always alone.
Making her way camera to camera back to Nolan she ran into him with Lydia and pretended to be shocked that she was there.
"Oh my god Lydia! Hi!" she said as she pulled her into a stiff hug. "You're here…you look great," she said as she sat next to Nolan and stole a sip from his now warm champagne.
Nolan looked annoyed, he didn't like sharing his food or drinks. He always got cranky if he hadn't eaten a full meal.
"I'm going to go get more appetizers….the ones with my name on them…" he said as he slinked away like an alley cat.
Lydia made a face and Emily laughed "He's serious; they actually do have his name on them. He donated to the fashion company tonight, it's why we're here…He's very charitable and profitable… I think they're tea cakes with the Nolcorp logo on the top in chocolate icing…" she said thinking to herself.
"I'll have to find myself a few to covet…" Lydia said as she looked from waiter to waiter. "It's been years... I hear you're not going by Emily Thorne anymore…"
Emily sighed, the secret out. It always made things a bit more difficult especially when she was trying to complete a masterful mission.
"It's Amanda Clarke now…so you've heard," she said looking at her.
"There's not a lot I don't hear. Even though I no longer take up residence in The Hamptons I still frequent the gossip. Word travels fast, especially word as infamous as your word. I'm so sorry for how I was involved with the David Clarke trial…with your father's trial," she said as she pressed her hand to her heart, looking genuinely sorry.
As cold hearted as she was like the rest of the Hamptonite groupies and followers of Queen V, she was still genuine in her apology and also a victim.
"Conrad was able to talk me into testifying against your father. He used my love for him to make me turn on David. I was weak. Strange how I was in love with Conrad and Victoria was in love with David. I broke up with Conrad to try to gain a semblance of myself back from him. I hope it's working," she said with a soft sigh from her parted lips.
"Well you apologized which is more than I can ever say for Victoria or Conrad. I don't expect one from them nor did I from you but…it's nice to hear," she said as she leaned into her chair, finding it lounge friendly. "The next stop of any apology is a bread basket…" she teased.
"So many carbs…" she said with a gentle smile.
"I'll work it off…I always do…"
Nolan found the tea cakes and shoved two into his mouth at once. Going for a third he heard commotion and screams in the background before nearly choking on the sweets. He managed to get them down with a glass of water as he saw people talk and rumors spread. He liked being part of the action.
"Oh my god, Fiona…"
"I hear they found a body."
"What's going on?"
"Who is it?"
"I think she's a buyer for the shows…real high end stuff…"
Nolan heard a lot of things being tossed about from person to person and model to model. People who worked catering were talking, as well as people who came to see the show. It was like a giant game of telephone and messages were being jumbled and mixed around. He didn't know what to believe. Even though he knew the end game it was still hard for him to fully comprehend. He felt like his brain was cut off from the rest of his body and now everything was rushing to his head like a brain freeze.
He wondered what Emily was thinking and feeling and if Lydia Davis was proving to be a strong distraction from her own demons.
Even though he couldn't pull the trigger himself, he understood her methods when it came to murder. The organization, the past crimes and vendettas would be too much for the police to handle. At this point it was all them, they were the law.
Following the scent so to speak of the murder and the chatter, he wanted to see what was going on and to make sure everything had gone according to plan. He knew the signs and what to look out for. He could keep a keen sharp eye when it came to planning and organizing.
Making his way through the crowd he finally found Ashley Davenport gossiping in the crowd, her light and short hair bouncing with the commotion. She spotted him first and practically pulled him away from the array of people by his ear and into the next hallway which was empty of people and surprisingly quiet.
"What did you do?" she asked as she almost shoved him against the wall with what little strength she had. She leaned into the front pads of her feet instead of digging her heels into the floor.
"Nothing you can prove…" he purred as he eyed her, his baby blues piercing and his scowl a sour one.
Ashley scoffed and shook her head, sick of this game. She had figured it out long ago thanks to her spying and conniving themes. "Where is she Nolan? What did you have me do?"
Nolan shrugged "I told you, I wanted you to make friends so we could see what we were dealing with."
Ashley bit her lip and clenched her fists, knowing she owed him one and couldn't do anything about it. He had helped her years ago so she would have to keep quiet. "Where is she?"
Nolan played dumb and shrugged, his shoulders moving with his rather loud exhale. "Who?"
Ashley let her accent become a bit more rich and deep and it made everything sound darker and more threatening or intimidating to say the least. "You know who, Emily Thorne or should I say, Amanda Clarke?"
"Ah…she's with a certain miss Lydia Davis. The two seem to be….hmmm…catching up."
"Bring her to me…I want explanations. If you won't say a word, I want to hear it from her. You owe me that."
He smirked and let a belly laugh ripple through him. "It's always about the payback isn't it?" he said to himself before turning around. "I'll fetch her, stay put Fido…" he said as he gave her a coy smile before going to get Emily.
When Emily saw him from across the room her heart almost skipped a beat at the sight of him. It wasn't because his tall stature stood well next to her or his personality made her feel cheerful, it was because the look on his face was one of urgency.
Leaving Lydia behind but with her contact information she walked over to meet him. "I was working business Nolan…what is it?"
He shrugged and pointed to where the hallway was "Ashley Davenport is in the house and she knows the rama lama ding dong…."
"The what?" she asked as she sometimes got lost in his lingo or movie references.
"The plan, she knows what you…hmm "accomplished" shall we say…"
Emily put a hand to his chest telling him to stay close but not follow. She looked angry, pissed and red faced beyond belief. He knew the motion by now so he waited and stood guard. Turning the corridor she found the young English woman waiting for her with bambi eyes.
"It's you, you're doing all of this… "She seethed.
"What's done is done…" Amanda muttered as she handed her a paycheck.
"I don't want your money…" Ashley said with disgust in her voice, feeling like a cheap hooker.
"But you'll take it…" Emily said as she watched Ashley scoop it up. "Let's call it a convenience fee."
"I slept with Daniel," Ashley blurted out, trying to get under Amanda's skin.
"How nice for you," Amanda murmured as she tucked her fancy ink pen away in her metallic clutch bag.
"It was right after you broke off the engagement."
"You gave him comfort…" Emily said as she watched Ashley's face blush a bit.
"Yes…" she said softly as she almost looked like a child trapped in a woman's body.
"That wasn't comfort Ash. That was Daniel Grayson thinking with his cock, it's what he does best…" she said crossing her arms. "The man doesn't have a brain on him. He's sweet, he loves the written word, but his own plans, his own decisions, forget about it."
Ashley crossed her arms and rolled her eyes looking more like a catty teenager now. "How would you know?"
"I was married to him for almost five years, if anyone would know it's me. Before I got involved with him, I practically studied the man like a science project."
"That's not normal…" Ashley stuttered. "I tried to help him, make him see the light."
"Didn't do much good since he married me and not you," Emily stated and Ashley sighed, falling into a destined depression.
"What did you do to Fiona?" she asked, just letting everything balance out in her life through this one conversation with a former friend.
"You know what," Emily said before going off her own way. "Goodbye Ashley…"
Ashley wouldn't say a word, not if it meant getting two old friends in trouble. It was time to move on.
The whole way home back from the event, the blonde partners in crime did not speak to each other. Nolan wanted to but every time he opened his mouth he was interrupted by her little hushed whisper, a Zip It sound. He wondered what was keeping her from speaking, her own demons or a mix of his.
When they got back to his large penthouse, the one she stayed in more than enough times to know where everything was, she slammed him against the wall and thought she heard his neck crack. He wondered if she was out for blood now or if he was the problem.
"Why did you involve Ashley?" she asked as she gripped the lapels of his suit.
"You told me to get the work done, you didn't say how exactly…" he said, his breathing increasing. He was almost panicked. He wasn't scared but he hated getting her upset. Sometimes when she was with him, her sadness turned to moodiness and got them both down and in a rut.
"You know my feelings for Ashley…" she growled, wanting him to apologize.
"I don't know your feelings about anyone!" he replied in an almost even angrier voice than hers. He would not apologize, not this time, not when he went above and beyond to get the job done and to always please her. It was time he got credit where credit was due.
"What about my feelings for you?" she asked with a fed up sigh, pushing him harder against the wall to make him know his place. He understood her better than anyone, the need for power and control when earlier in life she had none.
"How should I know?" he said with a shrug. "I don't hear your inner monologues, as much as I would like to…" he said as he gulped, relaxing against her forced touch which was now straining. She was giving in and getting softer.
Moving her lips close to his she parted hers slightly and kissed him, just a peck. Nolan didn't know how to react but she let his collar go and gave him his hands back. For once, she wanted him to touch her, and not in a friends only type of way. This was progress, big progress and she needed him.
Nolan nearly squeaked into her mouth. He almost cried out loud with a confused sense of joy and he tried to keep it all inside, scared she would back away with regret all over her stunning visage.
Leaning in again she cupped the back of his head, his golden halo soft in her hands and he did the same, gripping a little tighter. Fingers caressing the nape of her neck he let her kiss him and then he kissed back, lips teasing and teeth tugging her lower lip. He could smell her scent, the one he loved, apricots. She could smell his deodorant or cologne and it smelled like cinnamon candies.
The apartment was dark but all the technology and appliances gave it a blue glow. They could see each other just enough. Hands in new places, hips and ribs and arms, they touched. Nolan moaned into her mouth and the kiss deepened. She tasted ripe like fruit and whatever fizzy champagne she was drinking. Her tongue entered his mouth and they dueled very gently, more a dance of tongues than anything else.
Easing back he saw the darkness in her eyes fade away for a few moments, he could see her honest desperation and need. Nolan Ross didn't know whether to worry or to be aroused by her sudden need for physical affection, especially from him.
"I'm sorry…" he murmured, remembering what had caused them to fight and then kiss in the first place.
"Sorry means…you'll never do it again…I don't want you to be sorry…" she said as she clung to him, his body still pressed against the wall.
"We're not talking about Ashley, are we?" he asked with a little smirk on his boyish face.
"No Nolan, we're not…for once in our lives we're not talking about business arrangements. For once in my life, I don't want to do any talking…" she said gripping his hair so his neck was displayed for her.
Tongue striking his skin she tasted him, the slight saltiness of his skin turning her on. "I just want to kiss you…"
Nolan nodded, bringing his hands to her hips, not afraid to touch her now. He knew how much they meant to each other, he knew she wasn't just using him, he knew she wasn't scared. Not today, not right now. This was about them and what they needed. Five years as best friends and partners, now they were going to take things to a new level, at least for a little while. If things didn't work out, it didn't matter. He would always love her and he would always look out for her.
"Come here…" he said as his lips ghosted against hers, his hands moving along her thighs and then going to her backside. She was toned and firm but also soft in all the right places. She was better than a dream.
It didn't matter that he often seemed to be a playboy with different genders going in and out of his home at weird hours. It didn't matter that he couldn't shoot a gun and she could. It didn't matter if her father didn't intend for this to happen. Neither did she, but with him she felt like she was a real person. She wanted him, simple as that.
People just didn't understand what they had gone through over the years, this was going to make things right. This would wake them both up and let them see what life was worth living for, just for a little while.
"Yes Amanda?" he asked, head slightly cocked, lips slightly curled into a smile.
"Take me to bed…"
Chapter 24: Places I've Never Been
She felt like the grim reaper and everyone she touched was an inch closer to death or knocking on death's door. As she looked over at Nolan who had shifted from his stomach to his back in his large bed she smiled softly and didn't think about death anymore. With Nolan Ross she thought about life, maybe he wasn't the one or marriage material but he made her want to be a better version of herself and he made her see things in a different light.
Rubbing his eyes he woke himself up, an internal alarm clock in his head going off and somehow he remembered in REM that he was next to her, Emily Thorne, Amanda Clarke.
Turning to her his legs almost cramped when he stretched. He wrapped his arm around her, her shoulders wrapped in a lavender colored lace robe.
"I don't recognize this ensemble…" he said with a grin.
"What are you now Nolan? The fashion police?" she asked with an eye roll, a bit sore from their romp. He was a heavy hitter and she liked it that way.
Sitting up with her he rubbed her shoulders and made her moan some more. "Maybe, maybe not…" he purred.
"Good comeback," she said with a little hmmph sound slipping out from between her lips.
"So, you couldn't sleep I take it?" he told more than asked as she leaned in to kiss along her neck, lips moving over recent love bites he stained her skin with.
"You're right…" she said as she turned to him. "I'm just…thinking about everything…"
"I thought our uhhh time together would calm those gears in your head for the night," he said as he licked his lips, wishing he had a giant glass of ice water.
He would go downstairs but it was so far away, down stairs and away from Amanda whom he liked to shared his bed with. She kept it warm with her body and they smelled like sex and apricots. Everything smelled like her and that was how he wanted to keep it. Even if they weren't in love or together, he would always keep her in his life anyway he could.
"It did for a little while but the moment you closed your eyes, everything rushed back to me, what I've done…what I'm willing to do…" she said as he pulled her closer.
"Well, remind me to never sleep then. I have to distract you and I have my ways from A to Z. I've done things…." he said looking at her with a shrug.
"You did them for me…it's hard for me to process that…" she said as she squeezed his hands.
"I didn't though…not just for you. They were for Marjorie, for my Aunt Carole, for our friends, for our safety…we're like spies and it's about to get messier…"
"Nolan no, I can't take messy…" she said as she leaned into her pillow.
"Babe you already did…" he said with a little cheeky grin. "But really…it is…as you've said from the beginning, this isn't the beginning. We're going on a little trip, you and me and a plane built for two…" he said pointing to her. Nolan Ross was a sly dog.
"Where are we going?" she asked, wanting to be clued in on what he knew and she didn't.
"Belarus, it's kinda bordering Russia. To Russia with love my dear…" he said with a gentle nod.
"It's From Russia with love…" she said as she corrected him. She remembered David once watching that on TV once when she was just a girl.
"Give me some credit…" he teased as he pulled her into a slow kiss. Pulling back she bit her lip.
"We can't do this…"
"We already did…" he stated as it was a fact.
"I know, it's just…everything is too complicated…" she said as she ran her fingers through her hair. "Nolan I love you, you're my best friend…and I mean that…"
"I know it's genuine, I can hear it in your voice…" he murmured as he tucked her in, knowing she needed to get her sleep. "We don't need to label anything Ems…it is what it is…same goes for what we've been doing, our dirty little secrets. Don't think about it too much. Don't let the guilt wrack up, it will drive you insane…" he said as he laid her on her stomach, massaging her back.
"Belarus, okay," she stated plainly as she waited for him to give her details. "What's in Belarus?"
"More like who's in Belarus…" he said as he realized his sheets were moving low on his hips, not that it was a big deal, she had recently seen it all. Hitching the sheets up a tad he leaned in to her.
"I've been doing some research as have my hacker friends. I got a girl in Prague but she's traveling to Belarus for the occasion; she's a regular Lisbeth Salander. She's cross referenced the remaining names on our list…trying to scan the big old globe to see who's where…we got a hit," he said as he took out his Nolpad, the latest generation, and tapped the little keyboard with super speed.
Pulling up some information he showed her a picture of Malcom Holden, international businessman and well known villain. In their world they saw things as black and white; there was no grey, not right now.
"Malcom Holden, name sound familiar?" he asked her as he got up, pulling the sheet with him and leaving her with a pillow case across her thighs.
"How did this get here?" she asked in reference to the pillow cases off the pillow.
"What do you think I tied your hands with?" he said with a little smirk as he poured himself a drink at the little bar he had in the corner of his bedroom.
"The name's on the list, Holden's…good work," she said as she eyed him.
"Would you like a drink?"
"Yes I would."
An hour later they were blitzed off their mind on cheap and expensive vodka and he was singing folk songs to her with an invisible guitar.
"Can you even play?" she asked as she raised a brow, the two of them needing this night before the battle to relax.
"Beats me…I ordered the tickets, Belarus here we come…" he said as he walked around in deep forest green pajama pants, his bulge noticeable through the thin material.
"What can you play?" she asked him as she hiccupped and tried not to think of her mother who David once told her could play guitar and piano. Amanda had no musical talents of her own, she couldn't even hold a tune or note.
"Poker." Nolan stated simply as he wrapped his lips around the bottle once more.
"You got a deck of cards around here? I can show you how to count em…" she said as she stood up stark nude to take the bottle away from him.
"Already know how, how do you think I paid for my cocaine back in college?" he laughed.
"Alright alright but seriously…this is the last one." Taking the bottle she poured them each two shots so it would finish the vodka off, one bottle at least.
Raising her hand she let her glass clink against his, a gesture of the beginning of an era and the end of an old one "To revenge…"
The winter weather was harsh and their pale skin seemed to look even whiter against their dark thick layers of clothing. Nolan looked almost like a character straight out of interview with a vampire and she didn't even have time to compare herself to anything, she'd leave that to Nolan but right now he helped her carry her bags to their exclusive hotel room he had booked under the name Burt Simmons.
Snow began to fall and she thought about how when she was young she and David would vacation in upstate New York and build snowmen together and go sledding. She would sit in his lap and they'd go down the hill together but neither of them much liked walking up the hill with all their bulky clothing and equipment. She always helped as much as she could and he called her his little trooper.
"You pack enough clothing for three people," he snorted as they walked off the elevator and headed to their room. They were getting used to all the traveling together but home was starting to feel less like home since all their friends were gone.
"You have to be prepared Nolan…" she said as she glanced his way, using her keycard to open the door. He dragged the bags inside and let them fall to the ground with a thud.
"Well aren't you a little girl scout…" he murmured as he checked his phone. "I'm getting a phone call from an undisclosed number…it says restricted."
Nolan took her advice and answered the phone promptly.
"Nolan, its Jack…" the man on the other end said, his voice somewhat booming.
"Jack, where are you?" he asked as he saw Amanda's face light up.
"We're in town, the receptions bad at the cabin so we went on a little outing. Figured I'd check in, didn't want you worrying."
"Thanks for giving me a heads up. How's Charlotte?" he asked, knowing that Amanda would want to know how her half-sister was doing.
"She's okay. She's asking a lot of questions, things I'm not sure I know how to tell her. I don't even know the answers to them myself…" Jack murmured, trying to keep it quiet as Declan and Charlotte were food shopping on the aisle over.
"Well what's the biggest question on your mind Skipper?" he asked as he sat down next to Amanda who was biting her nails.
Telling her to cut it out with his eyes, Nolan sighed and it felt like all the air had just exited from his body.
"When are you coming home? When can we?" he asked as he paced down the aisle with the cereal. He always enjoyed the healthy stuff but all the really sugary ones made him feel nostalgic and like he was at Amanda's beach house with her when they were kids.
"I'll have to call you back on that one…or until it's safe to hire security to protect your places…I'm sorry Jack, Amanda is too…"
"We're calling her Amanda now?" he asked as he ran a hand through his hair, his face slightly scruffy. No one shaved everyday anymore, they were all trying to save water.
"Yeah, I think we are…" he said as he looked over at her, she reached for the phone but Nolan had already hung up.
"We're going to a night club…" Amanda said as she read an email, "I had your little hacker friend's email address forwarded to me so everything she sends you, she sends to me…"
Nolan raised a brow "You did some hacking yourself, I'm impressed and a little turned on…" he said as he looked at her computer screen, knowing that this laptop was on its way out. It would be a simple fix and purchase though. He just had to make sure all the information was removed from it first.
"I can see that…So nightclub, tonight, downtown."
"Be there or be square…" Nolan said as he rolled his eyes.
"What?" she asked, seeing disapproval in his face.
"It's the Goth scene, we have to play dress up or we'll stick out like sore thumbs," he muttered as he reached for her pocketbook. "Which means its eyeliner for me and extra for you…"
Amanda laughed and fell back in her bed. "Oh my god, the lengths we will go for a mission…"
"Tell me about it," he said as he held her hand lovingly, the two enjoying a moment before business resumed and they both sat up.
It was time to go deeper than they ever had before.
The lights were pulsing and beating down on them as they made their way through the gothic cyberpunk club in Belarus. The club was called "Disruption" which seemed fitting because Amanda knew that's what she was there for, to disrupt the output of gothic connections and input her own common sense into the situation. They weren't there to dance and bump and grind to the almost rave like metal music, they were there to exchange information.
Nolan recognized his pink haired hacker friend, although friend was a loose term, she was more part of an allegiance of tech junkies. Lucky for them she spoke English. Amanda knew a few languages besides English, mostly Spanish and Japanese but a little light Russian. She was nowhere near fluent in the language so she wouldn't even attempt to speak it.
She wore leather along with Nolan but hers was navy and his was black. The friend, "Linx" as she went by wore a long velvet dress that was tight against her skin, her complexion very pale. Computer people didn't get out much, all they needed was just a finger click away.
She had a rich accent and it was hard to hear over the music but Nolan was able to read her lips and Emily did not shy away.
"I thought you would want to do this in person, to make sure the information is correct. I have Malcom's exact location but I can't guarantee he will be ready to face you…but I am sure he knows who you are. He must…the man is not stupid…" she said as she handed Nolan a card with braille on it.
"This will keep things safer, I know you know how to read it…"
Nolan nodded "Never cared to learn French, I figured Braille and Morse code would make more sense to learn for me."
"Where's my money?" she asked as she eyed him.
"You'll get it…" he said as he looked over at Amanda who didn't like the scowl on the girl's face.
"You promised it to me tonight…" she said with eyes that spoke paragraphs filled with hateful words.
"I'm good for it…" Nolan purred as he tucked the card away inside the pocket of his leather jacket.
"I want it now…" she said as she gripped his jacket, wanting to throw him into the roaring crowd that looked like they were about to mosh.
Before she had the chance Emily had her on the floor, pinning her like they were in the WWE championship.
"You'll get your money now lay off," she barked, feeling like it was 2002 again when she was all into the NYC club scene.
Getting off of the girl she rolled her eyes and let her languid tongue turn solid to speak to the attractive blonde in the leather jacket. "Nice friends you got there Nolan…"
"She's more of a frenemy," he said as he went to the bar. "Come on, I'll buy you a drink."
"Make it an appetizer and I'm your girl…"
"So Malcom Holden owns a library…" she said thinking to herself as they ate appetizers from the club in their hotel room that was decked out to look like an ice castle.
"Librarians being scary, it's all the rage. It's all very Stephen King if you ask me…" he said as he chewed on a cold mozzarella stick, wishing for marinara sauce.
"Says here he isn't just a member of The Initiative, he's a founder…" she said as she thought about Conrad Grayson and the power he once had. Turned out he was just a lower fish on the food chain waiting to be eaten.
"Crazy…" Nolan muttered with a full mouth.
"Looks like we're going there in the morning and we're not going empty handed…" she said as she took out a map, blueprints of the surrounding area.
"Saddle up cowgirl…"
The library was quiet in the morning as the sun filtered in and no one was there yet to take out books, the place almost looked abandoned, like it was a cover for something bigger.
She half expected for a wall to move from touching a candelabra and the whole room would shift to show a big scientific laboratory or something straight out of Scooby Doo or Indiana Jones.
Walking through the stacks with Nolan and a gun at her hip on a custom made holster she let him survey with his eyes things she couldn't see because he was taller.
"We're clear…" he said as he took out his mac, the one for this kind of work with a built in highly formatted camera and speaker system that could be plugged into anything to anywhere.
Setting up cameras and a system around the library to learn the way he ticked she rubbed her hands together as if she were washing them of her sins.
Hearing a large boom they both turned to see the two large doors open to the library, the bright sun blinding them momentarily before a large swat team of about ten people with guns blazing entered, the guns now pointed at them.
"Put your hands up!" they roared and Nolan and Emily were forced to comply.
They had no other choice.
Chapter 25: Natural Born Survivors
The room fell silent which made sense since they were in a library. Nolan and Emily propped themselves up on their knees and looked up at their swat gear covered captors. They tried to speak through their facial expressions and piercing gazes but everything felt foggy especially because of the language barrier. They didn't know what they were saying or how they should respond. The Swat like team only knew a few phrases and words in English but they keep using the word "Americans".
Before she knew it, Nolan was placed in a chair and handcuffed to the back of the metal thing that was more like a contraption; both were cold against his skin. The library was pretty warm compared to the weather outside. Emily looked frightened for his sake; she knew he wasn't good with interrogation and torture. He would either not know what to say, say too much or make some insult or pop culture reference they wouldn't understand.
"I can hold my own Ems…" he reassured her as keys jangled in the door and it opened to reveal a bald man with a little extra weight and muscle to him.
Nolan laughed, "Great I'm about to get tortured by Mr. Clean…"
Emily leaned forward in her seat, knowing it was Malcom Holden himself. "Malcom Holden."
"In the flesh," he quipped before leaning over to stroke her face. "Amanda Clarke, how are you? I knew your mother."
"Seems like everybody did, she got around…" she said with a scoff. "Let my partner go and we'll leave in peace."
"Does this look like a peaceful situation to you? You broke into my library, you second guess my motives… you search for me and come to my country."
"I did what I had to, you left me no choice…" she seethed and he did the same, his teeth clenching together and his jaw tightening.
""I left you every choice, run, hide, flee…" he said as he moved to the leg Nolan had broken a while back. He was still limping when he walked and when they were in the house he would use a cane or crutches to lean on and Amanda would call him Tiny Tim.
"Those aren't choices…they're too persuasive. I won't be manipulated," she said as she watched Malcom grip Nolan's leg, digging his fingers against his knee to make him squirm.
"Oh won't you?" he asked before bending down, preparing himself to use his man power to snap Nolan's leg, re-breaking it but the wrong way.
"Don't" Nolan yelped as his leg began to bend and the bone was feeling a lot of pressure. His leg was already sore and he could feel the muscle begin to tear which made him cry out in pain.
Emily would be manipulated by Nolan's pain. She wished it was her in the situation but it was him and she owed it to him to save him from physical pain again.
"What do you want?" she asked in a cool tone as if her words were blue and deep, serious and understated. The way she said the words, it was as if those words were never spoken before and the whole room cowered from the lackluster way she asked him what he wanted. It was like she cared too much and then didn't care at all.
"I want nothing; I want you and your boyfriend to leave well enough alone. I want to be at peace with my library and my home."
"He's not my boyfriend, he's my associate," she replied, ignoring the rest.
"Gee thanks Ems…" he said as he sighed, his head shaking. They had done this dance before, he wasn't even offended. He didn't take her words too personal when they were in situations like this. It wasn't the first or last time.
"Take your associate and go…" he said eyeing her.
"How can I? We're strapped to chairs" she retorted in a mocking tone.
That was when he let his anger come out, his hand striking hers. It was a backhand to the face actually and it made her cry out with a wince although she had been hit before in fights with Satoshi. It reminded her mostly of her time in foster care which was no picnic.
Darkness was born there and it stayed forever. Foster care had turned her into a sociopath, most things in her life had. A few of the parents had shown her kindness but at that point it was too late, she was rebellious and antisocial. She didn't fit in and was deemed and outcast much like Nolan growing up only he was an outcast because he was smarter than everyone else and perhaps too giving. He let people walk all over him and she never let anyone walk all over her. He would get pummeled, she would hit back.
Nolan bit his lip as he watched her get hit. He could see her fists clenched as if she wanted to do some damage herself. Her lip was now split but she held her tongue like a good little girl. She was no good girl, her morals were askew but she did things for the right reasons at least. They both did.
Nolan wanted to play martyr, it was time he stepped up and showed her he wasn't afraid but before he could sacrifice himself for her he was stopped by the loud sounds of blaring guns, guns like giant screaming alarms.
Blood splattered the walls as every single person fell to the floor, their corpses riddled with bullets. Even Malcom Holden fell and only two people were left standing, a young Middle Eastern man with dark gelled back hair and a middle aged strawberry blonde woman with a mole above her lip.
They held their machine guns tightly and Nolan held his breathe, afraid they were the next targets. Amanda was surprised. She didn't plan this nor did she see it coming. She was usually two steps ahead and she even looked to Nolan just to see him ponder if she had planned this out all along. She shook her head and he knew she was in the dark with him. They were so much so in the dark that they were practically underground.
"Ems…" he wheezed as he regained feeling in his leg.
Knowing he was fine she looked to her new captors, both of them approaching with their guns pointed.
"Don't move…" the man said as a dark strand of his hair fell into his face, covering the right eye. Brushing it aside he listened to Amanda speak.
"I don't think that's going to be an issue for you…."
The strawberry blonde leaned in and Amanda even held her breathe, hating how claustrophobic this was. She didn't like being tied up unless Nolan had a handle on the ropes because she knew if she could trust anyone than it would be him and Jack.
She thought she was going to get shot in the stomach but her arms were not restrained any longer and she began to regain the feeling in her wrists.
"Who are you?" Amanda asked as she rubbed them, the redness there but mostly her joints were aching from the pressure that was once positioned upon them. They released Nolan who eyed the suave man in the black army gear.
"Taryn Clarke…" she proclaimed as Amanda's ears perked up, her pupils dilating. "Your Aunt…"
Amanda felt like she was living a whole new world, not only was she once presented with the notion that her mother was alive but now she was presented with her Aunt in the flesh. She didn't even know her father had a sister.
"This is my lover, Ajat Rafiti," she said presenting the darker skinned man who wore tiny glasses that framed his face. He had a small patch of fuzz at his chin and a toned upper body. He was considerately younger than her Aunt who had crow's feet around her eyes and grey roots in her full head of strawberry blonde hair. She didn't look a lot like David at all, but for now she would trust the woman that just saved her hide.
Ajat smiled softly at them and dialed a number. "We've got a 584 on a 3 point 8 section. We're going to need a 782," he said, speaking in code. It was safer that way.
Taryn Clarke looked cold, just as cold if not colder than Amanda. She had ice blue eyes but they weren't warm in any way shape or form. "You have no idea how long I wanted to do that."
"Then why didn't you before today? Amanda asked as she stood up to meet her aunt's height, they were about the same although Taryn was maybe an inch shorter.
"All good things come to those who wait," she replied as she watched Nolan Ross scan Ajat with his eyes. "Who's your friend?" she asked Amanda, wanting to hear it from her. Of course she had known that the billionaire had been helping her for years but she wanted to get things in her niece's words.
"He's Nolan Ross, but you already knew that. Cut the questions, who the hell are you?" she asked, wanting to upper hand.
She was the one who was lied to, who was never told of this woman's existence. To be honest she wasn't so sure this woman was who she claimed to be. She would need proof that they were blood but that would be easy to get, a little hair, a cotton swab to the mouth.
"I already told you who I am Amanda, I'm your father's sister," she said softly.
"Where have you been all my life then?" she asked, feeling stiff and like she couldn't trust anyone. She looked to Nolan who was looking through Malcom Holden's pockets. He took his cell phone and decided to copy the information onto his with a very thin grey wire.
In an Uzbekistan prison…" she said looking at her "Do you think David was the only one who was persecuted? The members of the Clarke family have been scapegoats for crimes since evolution itself. Why do you think David was involved with the Graysons the first place? He started working with them to help me because I got mixed up and the same thing was done to him…"
Amanda bit her lip and looked away. So this was the circle of life she had to look forward to?
"I met Ajat there, he was my executioner…" she said as she looked at him, a bit of warmth seeping through.
"How did you manage to survive?" she asked as she went over to Nolan, wanting to keep him close.
"Well that's another long story for another day…" she said. "You should get out of here before the police show up…I'm a fugitive, we both are…" she said glancing to Ajat who was looking out the window, one of the very few.
"Will I see you again?" she asked, still in shock from everything that had just occurred. Everything seemed so…fleeting.
"I'll touch base…the last name on your list, its Salvatore De-Ammici," she said softly. "I believe you know him as the ex-husband of Conrad Grayson's first wife, Susan."
Emily blinked once and then twice, letting everything register. Coming to terms she gripped Nolan's hand so hard he winced. "Let's go…we're done here…"
She looked back to Taryn who crossed her arms, not giving her any semblance of emotion or the familial love she desperately needed. They weren't capable of it, the Clarke women turned out to be cold as ice but not my choice. They did that they had to in order to keep going.
Taryn trusted Ajat and Amanda trusted Nolan.
"We're going to need an army…it might take a while," she called to her niece."
"We don't have a while," Amanda replied, going through the back doors and not looking back this time.
Nolan looked at Amanda in the car, his face an enigmatic icon. "Well that was all very anti-climactic…"
"Yeah until my long lost Aunt came in to the picture. Did my dad ever mention anything to you about a sister?" she asked.
Nolan shook his head as he gripped the steering wheel. Sometimes he just didn't trust her around vehicles. She liked to speed and weave through lanes and it always made him sick to his stomach.
"Not a snippet…" he replied as he tried to figure out the roads in Belarus again. He wondered how long they would stay. He wanted to go home. They could handle one guy, couldn't they?
"Well then, it just means he lied to the both of us…"
David Clarke hadn't lied per say, he had just kept things from them both and maybe it was for their own protection. He never intended her to actually travel down a road paved with vengeance; he had hoped karma would take its turn.
Back at the Stowaway Nolan had called for the gang to come home so everyone seemed to pile into one place at once. Free drinks were served and continued to go out, people smiled and laughed but Amanda seemed to perch in the corner like a bird away from its nest.
Jack spotted Emily in the corner and sat down next to her, offering her some Jamison. She took a sip and let it burn her throat. "I prefer the blueberry port…" she said in a sullen voice. He put his hand on her knee and she almost gasped not expecting his hand there and forgetting she was wearing a dress.
"You don't look so good…Wanna talk about it?" he asked as he removed his hand.
She nodded and he helped her to her feet. "Let's go outside…" he said, leading her to the back.
Standing in the humidity she knew it would be a few minutes before she started getting overheated. August heat was the worst.
Autumn was close; she loved autumn, the smell of the leaves, the holidays, and the air.
"What really happened where you were Amanda?" he asked as he watched Nolan interact with Charlotte and Declan inside.
"I have an Aunt I never knew about, I've said to hell with the rules and we have a battle to fight…one we might not make it back from and I've dragged Nolan into it and he doesn't belong there…he's going to get hurt..." she said softly. "I've hurt enough people for one lifetime. I just want it to all be over."
"I don't want you to get hurt either," Jack said as he looked into her dark eyes with his own pair.
"That just has to be part of the equation," she stated definitively.
"Let me help you, you should have to fight this war alone. Remember when we were kids and we used to play with those toy soldiers I had and you would always plan the battles? You had these strategic plans laid out like you dreamt about them. You're so smart, smart enough to know that you don't have to do it alone…" he said as he cupped her face.
She found warmth in his hands, like she was linked to the past before everything went to hell.
She just wanted the world to stop, even if it was just for a minute.
Taking her into his arms he pulled her close, their hips touching.
Lips pressing against hers he didn't care to take his time. He kissed her deeply and she fell into his heated kiss, her hands on his shoulders as if she was trying to brace herself. She got lost in those lips, his facial hair rubbing against her upper lip, his stubble at her skin.
His hands were workers hands, a bit rough to the touch as they held her blushing cheeks.
Through the window Nolan saw the whole thing.
Chapter 26: Diaries
(Author's Note: If you couldn't tell we are coming to an end, Probably one or two chapters left at this point. Keep reading and reviewing, I hope you enjoy the conclusion and this very fragmented chapter I wrote to get inside the characters' heads as everything comes to a high point.)
"Ingrid Berman once said that "A kiss is a lovely trick designed by nature to stop speech when words became superfluous."
She was right. When your tongue succeeds your mind's ability to process words then you tend to find comfort in the physical. People tend to trust what's right I front of them when their mind fails. They like the warmth and they're drawn to it like a moth is to a flame. I'd kissed Jack before but it wasn't like this. Before it was out of grief but this was out of desire. I needed to feel as I once did, nostalgic for the past. I couldn't fight a war if my heart wasn't in it.
When our lips parted I turned my head to see Nolan standing on the other side of the window, a barrier between us. We were a world apart but he just smiled approvingly since the man would do anything to make me happy. I told him later I didn't choose Jack over him, that it was just a kiss but we were two stones now set on opposite sides of the pasture and we had to find our way back."
Emily could see Nolan's face change through the window. He stilled for a moment before turning his frame back to Charlotte and Declan as if they needed him urgently. He didn't know what to do and there wasn't much he could say. There was no written word that said they were a sure fire sealed deal couple and he knew her feelings for Jack, as she had once told him to tell Jack she loved him. That was years ago before everything happened with the real Emily Thorne. He imagined that those feelings weren't yet gone. They were just buried for Daniel's sake and now they had resurfaced.
He felt little hope for himself but whatever decision she made, it had to be her own and he had to deal with it. He could spout off his epic speeches to her and show her entries on his livejournal to prove his love for her but what would it really change?
When it had all ended, everyone headed upstairs to their own places. Emily caught up with Nolan who was heading to his place, his car keys jangling in his hand.
"Surprised you didn't bring Jack here with you…" he said in an almost bitter tone. Even though he didn't have the right to be bitter it still hurt and Emily understood that.
"Nolan, don't be like that, please…" she said as she followed him.
He turned around quickly and pointed at her "Don't…don't do that. You can tell me how to act and what to think and what to do in any situation but don't tell me how to be when it comes to this…when it comes to you. I can't be censored because you're feeling insecure or afraid."
"I am afraid…" she said simply, letting him know her feelings. She had been trying to open up more with people and it started with him.
"Don't be. I'll come back. I always come back," he said as he brushed her off and headed to his overly large truck.
Emily watched Nolan head to his car until all she could see was different shades of darkness. Hearing an engine roar and a car squeak and then take off, she sighed but was startled by Charlotte Grayson's presence in the darkness.
"Hey…" she said softly as she looked the girl over, clutching her pocketbook in her hand. Nolan needed time and she would give him that.
"Are we safe?" Charlotte asked as she looked at her older sister, something she never thought she could say she had.
"I think so…I've got one more person on my list….and once he's taken care of its time to start fresh, for all of us…"
Charlotte sighed, hating the fact that her sister was defined by her blood wrath. She wanted it to be over as much as Amanda did.
"Is it dangerous?" she asked, already knowing the answer.
Amanda nodded and stood silently with her, not answering. Charlotte got her answer.
"I won't let you do it. Neither will Jack…" Charlotte threatened, hanging on to a little string that mounted her to the real world. She had lost enough people and she didn't want to lose her sister too.
"Charlotte as much as I've grown to love you over the years, I'm not about to let anyone get in the way. You're my sister but I'm my own boss…" she said as she tweaked a loose curl, letting it spring back into place.
And that was the end of that, story over, sisters and their quarrels, the older one winning.
"My social skills are still more than a little rusty, even after all of these years. Nolan once called me a rose trapped under glass and maybe that's what I am. Let's see who can break through first. Who can release me from my mortal dilemmas?
I don't want to play games with people's hearts, I've played the game and won against Daniel and it only ended in betrayal and heartbreak. I don't want to choose between Jack and Nolan because I love them both, in different ways, ways I still can't describe because love is a word I can only understand of family. What is the difference between love and being in love? There's such a fine line.
I'm not sure if I can trust my heart or my mind. Which one is stronger?"
"Kissing Emily Thorne was one thing, but kissing Amanda Clarke, the real true Amanda Clarke was life changing. I felt like I was at home again, like we were ten years old picking out sea glass with the sounds of the ocean as our backdrop. There's a certain heat between us that there wasn't with the real Emily Thorne, that feeling of knowing. I tried to push myself to feel things for her but with Amanda I don't have to because I know she's real.
I don't know what's going on with her and Nolan or the full story of what happened to her marriage with Daniel Grayson but there's a lot I don't know. I think I can deal with that, maybe she'll tell me with time. We can go out on my boat which desperately needs some repairs but she's never been out on it before, only stood on it in the dock. It's time we go out to sea together. We can be pirates, sailors, mermaids, anything we want.
I'm thinking ahead and I know that, but I've waited so long for this. I'd be happy with anything as long as she's my friend again.
Honore de Balzac once said "A woman knows the face of the man she loves as a sailor knows the open sea."
"Emily Dickinson said "For love is immortality" and I think that's true, I mean what do I know? I know computers and codes and how a gun works but not how to pull the trigger. I know Amanda Clarke inside and out and without her I have no meaning.
David Clarke told me to protect her when he couldn't and I stand by my promise but how can we keep going on living like this? I feel like a ragdoll being pushed and pulled and all I want is to hold her, keep her in one place. I don't know what she needs anymore or what she wants?
These moral battles full of revenge I can understand because we've been at it for years but what happens when or if we win the war?
What happens after?"
Nolan drove home to an empty house, sheets on things like unfinished paintings waiting to be unveiled. Taking off sheet by sheet he wallowed in self-pity before picking himself off his feet. Picking up the phone he gave Ashley a call, knowing she would probably be available to talk.
He didn't even want her to hear his story; he just wanted to hear hers.
"Ovid said "If you want to be loved, be loveable." But I am not going to change who I am for people to worship me.
I've done what I could to climb the corporate ladder. I've been interested in fashion, business, journalism, party planning, I just can't choose. I'm a girl with many ambitions but fewer needs for change. I'm not going to change who I am to please others? That's exactly what I told Victoria Grayson before I decided to quit working for her for good. Sure the money was fantastic but money doesn't buy me happiness. I wanted to make a name for myself and I still do.
I want to be the daughter my parents can be proud of. As long as they don't ask how I made it to the top we'll be okay because I'm well aware I can be quite the bitch. I whole heartedly believe that you'll get what you want with more spice and less sugar. People who are all sugar get walked all over with four inch heels. I want to be the one wearing the heels instead of being stomped on. Love is second nature for me, I work and play hard and that's what I want.
I'm sorry I'm not the girl you wanted me to be. I'm sorry you think I'm a manifestation of evil and all I care about is me me me but someone has to. I wasn't born into a family with money. We had nothing. We had a little town and we grew berries in the backyard. We had to walk everywhere but now, I've got a sports car and I can have all the berries I want, an unlimited supply.
Supply and demand, that's what I always say to my customers, to the people I work for or with.
I'm not going to say sorry, I'm just going to be me."
A man named Eric Hoffer said "It is easier to love humanity as a whole than to love one's neighbor."
I had no problem loving my neighbor. He was a man named David Clarke and he had just moved in with his young daughter that summer. His wife, they said had recently died. I would later know better. Things were complicated from the get go, it didn't help that I was already married to Conrad who gave me the Grayson name.
I was born a Harper but knew I needed to become something greater. With Conrad I could have a name for myself, for my family. So I did it and he succumbed to my every desire.
I never hated David Clarke's daughter, not as a girl but when Conrad arranged everything with David, with Flight 197, I had to think fast, and act fast for the sake of my family.
I chose my family over one girl's childhood. I would have done anything for my family, I still would. I'm just not sure how grateful they would truly be."
Daniel Grayson sat down at the desk to his home office. At his desk he wrote in a small moleskin journal. He had been keeping a journal since he was a boy and documented many events in his life, things with Tyler, things with his mother, things with Emily, or Amanda rather. That journal was taken from him by the police as a way to get evidence and to press him for details. He cursed himself then, realizing he should have updated everything online.
Now he wrote in his journal in codes, in things only he could understand; little references and secret names but he knew what they meant. It didn't matter if things weren't clear; the point was that only he would be reading this new one.
Journal Entry 302, August 25th 2017
"I haven't heard from Emily in a long time, not since the "misunderstanding" we had at my apartment. I don't know when I'm going to be able to forgive and forget but I'm trying not to formulate plans to ruin her life as she did mine. Mostly for Charlotte's sake since she always wanted a sister and terrible things were done to Amanda by my parents. I get that although what I don't get is why she had to drag me into her vendettas against them.
Charlotte's been bonding with her but she's hardly home anymore either since Declan keeps stealing her away to Brooklyn where she's learning to live like a middle class citizen. It's probably for the best.
I'm in the running for a new job in the city so I might move there for good; I think I've grown out of The Hamptons for good. I know I've been saying that since I was a kid but…it's time."
My father says I need to spread my wings and finally fly on my own, he's probably right. Even behind bars and with every shitty thing he's done. At least he's right about that. Maybe one day I can forgive my mother but that will be a long time coming. Maybe love really does conquer all."
"One must not trifle with love…" Nolan told Amanda as she sauntered throughout his home. He would scold her in his own way.
"I'm not trying to "trifle" Nolan…I'm here to pump you for information, and that's it…" she said as she crossed her arms.
"What do you want Ems?" he asked, taking her usual role of asking what he was doing where she was. Now it was his turn to poke and prod at her just to piss her off ever so slightly.
"Any word from Taryn Clarke?" she asked, being formal with him, not by choice. She would have much rather have taken him into her arms and tell him she loved him but was conflicted with all her feelings and how everything was piling up all at once.
Nolan shook his head "Not as of yet but I'll have you know I am building a legend sized army. I'm talking world of warcraft epic…" he said as he poured himself a glass of water, knowing if he touched whiskey it would become the blood to his body.
"I don't know if that's good…" she said, not knowing much about the subject of computer games.
"It's good depending on your guild. We'll have a good guild of people going, plus any other friends from David and your other hidden family members."
"Do you think there are more?" she asked as she perked up, looking like she had just swallowed a gallon of coffee or code red mountain dew.
He shrugged thinking about everything all at once.
"Could be. I'm not playing Judge Judy and ruling it out of the court…" he murmured as he watched his pop culture reference create a smile on her face. He could only be so mad for so long. Love made him do the wacky.
"We'll see…" she said as she sighed, pouring herself a drink, something more alcohol based. "We're going to be okay Nolan…"she said reassuring him and herself for that matter.
"I know…" he said as they both sat across from each other, knowing this could be their last drink together. Things were shaping up to be intense; they didn't know what to expect either. It was a shot in the dark, a stab…
Hearts beating they just kept quiet, soaking each other in.
"Bruce Lee said "Love is like a friendship caught on fire. In the beginning a flame, very pretty, often hot and fierce, but still only light and flickering. As love grows older, our hearts mature and our love becomes as coals, deep burning and unquenchable."
I don't want to choose.
The mission is what matters.
This is the final countdown.
The end is nigh.
Chapter 27: Inside
Salvatore De-ammici was on her wish list and she called it a wish list because her few wishes in life all had to do with revenge. Although things had turned out bigger than she had planned, she always took the "There's always bigger fish to fry" approach. She made people like Salvatore De-ammici pay for their sins as she was the angel of death, a blonde halo and a baby face. Due to his involvement with her mother which led her father into everything, especially because of Taryn Clarke whom Nolan verified as her aunt, Salvatore was next to be slain. Even if her mind had told her to stop at this point in time, it was her body that would not give out. She was the little train engine that could and she was not veering off the tracks anytime soon.
Pacing the grounds of the old Grayson manor she thought about everything that had transpired over the years and how it had affected her and the people around her. She couldn't even remember all of it, even though she claimed to never forget. What she didn't forget about was the pain and the anger around her growing up and the despair and feeling of hopelessness in her teens. What she didn't forget was the look on her father's face as he was dragged from his home in the middle of the night. What she didn't forget was Sammy's cries and whimpers as she too was manhandled, the night traumatizing them both.
Ever since learning about Taryn Clarke's existence Amanda wondered if David was half expecting everything to go down like it did when she was a child. She wondered if it was inevitable even if David hadn't met Victoria Grayson.
Maybe it was time to pay the woman a visit.
Victoria Grayson sported salt and pepper hair, her once long healthy and luxurious hair now frayed at the edges much like her dull cotton shirts. Her hair was shorter, at her shoulders where Emily's was closer to the top of her back. Victoria was confused as to why Amanda Clarke wanted to speak with her but she would welcome the visit. She hadn't been making friends in the inside of a prison cell which was ironic because it was where she once bloomed.
Upon seeing Amanda's face the queen gave a hearty chuckle. "Ah Amanda Clarke, the woman who burned my castle down…"
Amanda sat across from her and folded her hands in her lap to remind her to keep a civil tongue. The woman had helped her on occasion and had tried to turn a new leaf but was only met with false hope when she had chosen other things over Emily's benefit. They had both kept Daniel in the dark when it came to Emily's mother and the events with the initiative but he did know what Conrad had done to David Clarke. He thought it was a scorned lover type of deal though so he didn't question it much.
"Victoria, a pleasure to see you," she said in an almost sarcastic tone that Victoria could easily pick up. Obviously Amanda was not pleased to see her, anyone could tell her that but she would just put her hand up and politely tell them to shut the hell up.
"Oh I'm sure," she said with a little snarky smile. "Tell me what you've come here for."
"Because you're very busy planning charity events in here?" Amanda quipped wanting to know what the rush was for, although she knew there was limited time slots with the prisoners when it came to visiting.
Victoria shook her head "You look so much like your father, it's his eyes. I see it now. I don't know why I didn't before but I always suspected there was something different about you. You were never quite there. You put on a good show but I could see right through you, it's how I knew you weren't good for Daniel."
"Well apparently we Clarke's aren't good for anybody. We just cause problems and start trouble," she said with a shrug, being honest and candid with the former queen of the Hamptons.
"Well, being with David certainly didn't improve my lifestyle but it didn't hurt either. I loved him and in return I was given Charlotte who was quite the blessing. I was told I wouldn't have another child after Daniel."
Emily shrugged as she placed her fingers to her temples as if she were holding a headache inside. "You gave me a sister and I thank you for that. It's nice to know I have some family after your husband decided to have my father killed thanks to your torrid love affair…" she said with a scoff. "I hope he was worth it."
Victoria sighed and tucked her hair behind her ears. "What is it you want Amanda that you have not yet taken from me?"
Emily Thorne shone through, the business woman side of her still there as she kept both personalities to balance her out. Amanda Clarke was a wild card but Emily Thorne was more reserved which was funny because the real Emily Thorne who had taken her identity back was always the more wild of the two. She always called herself Faith from Buffy the Vampire Slayer whereas Amanda was Buffy, also because she was a natural blonde.
"Do you recall the name Salvatore De-ammici from your initiative days?" she asked as she leaned forward, the two needing to be a bit more quiet if they wanted to converse about such things. The same went for Nolan who always tried to talk about graphic sex in public.
He didn't have a barrier sometimes, the words often flowing quickly from his tongue like a waterfall and it was always too late when Amanda had tried to stop him.
"The name sounds familiar, but I'll have you know, back then I let Conrad handle most things even though I was more than capable. I wanted to give him a purpose and I often let things escape me for the sake of sanity. Salvatore De-ammici might be one of those names.
"Do you know anything about him Victoria?" she asked as she took a breath, wanting inside info.
"He's bad; a typical crime boss only he has intelligence and technology, something most of them don't."
"So he's like Frank?" she asked, remembering the man that the real Emily Thorne had slain after he had thrown Lydia David off of a roof.
"Uglier," she said and for a brief second she got a smile from Amanda Clarke and she could see David in the warm gesture that moved across her face.
It made her miss him. It made her miss when things were simple.
She had a lot of time to look back onto the past, more than enough to pay for her sins. She wouldn't trade places with anyone, she knew it had caught up to her.
Sitting in a little coffee shop they both liked, Nolan chowed down on a cannoli with extra chocolate chips melting inside, and Amanda chose a blueberry scone with little powdered sugar crystals on top. It made her feel like she was eating rock candy. David like rock candy although he knew it was bad for his teeth. The man liked cotton candy and gummy worms too. He used to tease Amanda with the gummy worms and would make them dance as if they were alive and thriving.
"You did WHAT?" he asked as he shuddered, rocking back and forth in his seat that wasn't a rocking chair.
"Relax…I spoke to Victoria to get details on Salvatore. She was useless…and it ruined my day," she said with a sigh as she bit into her scone, almost finished with it.
She wanted more and Nolan would buy her another if she asked but she had had enough calories for a week earlier that day after visiting Victoria in Bedford hills. After visiting the ice queen she had gone to Dunkin Donuts and treated herself to chocolate munchkins and cream filled donuts. Normally she wouldn't care about calories but she needed to stay healthy with Salvatore on her heels.
"You were trying to get the inside scoop on Victoria Grayson? Girl you crazy…" he said as he licked his fingers, too lazy to reach for a napkin.
"I know…it's why you stick around…you like the danger," she said as she handed him a napkin so he could wipe his face.
Accepting he cleaned his face like a preening hamster. "I stick around because I like you," he said shrugging.
"Nolan…we need to talk about what you saw, with Jack," she said as she crossed her arms.
"No need to explain. I know what happened," he said as he tossed the crumpled up napkin like a ball into the waste bin Michael Jordan style.
"Oh? What happened then? Explain it to me because I don't even know," she said as she sighed, slurping her iced coffee through the straw that looked too small for the cup.
"You love him; he makes your heart go aflutter. You want him in your pants. I get it, hell if I could I would…if he swung that way, I would swing," he said with a simple shrug.
"I do love him but I'm not sure how anymore…and I feel like if I take even a second to measure up my feelings that I'm going to explode…" she said as she rubbed her head.
"Stay-Puft Marshmallow man style…" he said as he leaned back, almost hitting the ground in his chair, not being careful when he lifted his tall frame off the ground like a human rocket.
"Right," she murmured as she tossed her empty iced coffee cup into the trash but missing the shot.
"You have time…" he said as he buried his hands in his pocket, giving up on the physical comedy with the chair. It wasn't cheering either of them up.
She skittered out of her chair to throw away the garbage, not wanting to be a litterbug at a place she often frequented during the warm months.
"The clock's ticking my brother…" Declan stated as he started to hum the jeopardy theme music.
"I feel like we've had this conversation before," he said as she gave his brother the stink eye.
"Yeah so let's déjà vu this… we're havin it again; deal with it…" he said as he threw empty peanut shells at his brother, some of them hitting Charlotte.
"Careful, you're getting shell in my hair!" she warned her boyfriend.
(Boyfriend) was a nice word to use again for him. It felt right, like it was meant to be all along and all they needed was some time and to do some growing up.
"Sorry Char, my bad…" he murmured, knowing she would kick his scrawny ass if he didn't apologize and the girl packed a punch.
"Alright alright…" Jack murmured as he looked over at Charlotte who was becoming a quick friend the more she would come around. She began to take Jack's side and the two would playfully team up against Declan.
"Alright so here's the story…your whole world got turned upside down when Amanda was taken and now she's back, the real one, for good and you just sit on your ass…" he said as he squeezed lemon into his water, wishing it was lemonade.
"Yeah sure, I've played this game before though, I tell her how I feel and there's someone else. To be honest I don't know if Emily Thorne or Amanda Clarke completes me. She's my best friend, I don't want to ruin that and there's something going on with her and Nolan. I don't want to get involved between their sagas," he said, talking it through with the two young adults.
"So she's your friend and that's it?" she asked looking at Jack, scared he was holding back because they had some sisterly blood bond that meant everything she heard about her sister she would tell her. "Jack I'm not a human recorder. This convo stays between us…it's like what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas."
Jack listened to her and knew he could trust her. Maybe he was too quick to trust and that was his problem but his father had raised him to wear his heart on his sleeve and trust everyone until they prove not to be trustworthy. He wasn't so sure that was the best moral code to live by.
"Until she says different and even if she doesn't, I think I'll be okay with that…As long as she's in my life in some form then that's all I care about. I keep clinging to the past but she's not the girl I knew. We grew up," he said, finally letting it all sink in and coming to terms with it.
"Why did you name your boat The Amanda?" Charlotte asked as she brushed her hair with her fingers, finding it slightly knotty from the wind when she was outside. The air had a nice brisk chill to it but it was still quite warm and would be for all of September. That was what the weathermen were predicting, a late summer.
"Because I lost her, I thought it would help me cope…" he said to them both, glancing over the menu and re-evaluating some of his food choices.
Maybe he would revamp that too like he did with the apartment a year earlier. Amanda and Nolan had helped him paint but more paint got on them than it did the walls.
"Coping mechanism, we get that…" Charlotte said, answering for both her and Declan. It saved him trouble of thinking of things to say when he had her around because she usually said what he was thinking. She was a smart girl, very smart.
"Well I'm glad my love life or lack of one is here to entertain you…at least I bring something to the table…" he said with a smirk.
Declan punched his shoulder. "Hey, you bring a lot more than just your stupid stories. You're my brother…" he said in a casual voice but the words hit home.
The two boys who grew up together and spent most of their years in tight spaces with each other working on one business to keep them afloat were now apart. Whenever they reunited they got a tad bit sentimental but not outwardly so, things were usually said through subtext. This however was more in the stream instead of through the trees.
Jack and Declan stilled for a minute, quiet as they had a brotherly moment. Breaking the moment first was Jack who looked to Charlotte. "So Charlotte, how is it having a sister?"
"Well…you ask the tough questions Jack…" she said in a silly voice as if she was a newscaster being interviewed live. "I've always wanted one. I mean Daniel's great, always keeps us guessing and riding on his coat tails but I think every girl wants a sister, or a lot of them do…someone to relate to who isn't your mother. Someone who goes through the same stuff you do, boys, menstruation…"
Declan held his hand up with a smirk "Yeah okay we get it…you can stop anytime…." He said as he played the stereotypical man who couldn't hear the word period without making a face. He really could deal with it though as long as there weren't graphic details because he was pretty sure no one wanted to hear about that.
Charlotte shrugged "While Amanda has her problems, she's still pretty great. She's strong and brave and smart. She's quick witted and funny and has great style…which is probably why you fell for her," she said nodding.
Declan held an uncut lemon in his hands and played with it like a ball as Jack got up to clean out the cash registrar to see how much they made for the day before the night rush came into town.
"David Clarke must have been a great guy because he gave you girls a lot of personality," he said as he wrapped his arm around her.
Charlotte kissed her boyfriend and nodded "He must have…thank you."
"Don't thank me…it's just the truth," he said with a chuckle as he got up to help his brother. "Jack needs my help; you know he's not very good with the numbers."
Charlotte nodded "Yeah, we're lucky he's able to count to 100 on his own…"
Jack glared at them from across the room, his ears like a bats. "I heard that…"
The truth was that David Clarke was a good guy; he had just gotten a little lost along the way. It was the story for many people who came in and out of the Hamptons and the world itself.
Amanda Clarke had gotten lost, now it was time for her to find her way back.
Chapter 28: Best Laid Plans
My Dearest Amanda,
~My only goal in my life once you were born was to see you grow another year older, and another after that and so on but that wish…the gift of you was taken from me very early on. I became involved with some very bad things as you probably already know, that is if you opened the box I left for you. Revenge is a path I do not want you to travel but I know it might already be too late as Nolan tells me you are a stubborn girl as he's heard this from your warden. It pains me to know that you and I are locked up at the same time yet different places. I would give anything just to see you again but if you ever do get this letter, it will be because I have died. I'm sitting here thinking about what wisdom I can bestow to you. I should be used to grand speeches and teaching you about morals but through everything, I never got the chance. I hope someone has taught you or that there is a place in you that still wants to learn some. If Nolan has come to you with the box it means he can help, the boy is always so eager. I'm aware that this letter is so formal but I'm not sure how else it can be at this point. Whatever you decide to do with the information you have now if your choice. I trust you to make the decision that's right for you. I can't tell you what to do, I never could. You were always such a brave and strong little girl and you always did what you believed in. If vengeance is something you believe in then I know you will succeed but if it is karma you seek, I hope you have a friend in Nolan Ross and your Aunt Taryn to help you through the wait.~
Looking at the letter, Amanda felt tears begin to well at the rims of her chocolate eyes. She thought she had read every piece of evidence and love her father had ever left her but she was wrong. Sitting across from Taryn Clarke who turned her narrow nose up like she was suffering an allergy attack she took a deep breath before asking a question.
"How long did you have this for?"
Taryn shrugged, not sure of the exact date. "A long time, I think he wrote this a week or two before he died but he didn't write down the date. He had Nolan pass it along to me but he never knew what was inside the envelope or where it was going to. All he got was an address and he couldn't look me up at the time. He didn't exactly think he should."
Amanda looked to Nolan who was talking to Ajat about computer codes and nicknames for thing, internet jargon.
"I've been holding onto this. The thing's been burning a hole in my pocket for years. I'm glad you finally got to read it. I had it in a safety deposit box since we move so much and since I too was imprisoned. I think that's why your father never mentioned me, he didn't want you to grieve for a woman he was sure you wouldn't be able to meet."
"Thank you for holding onto it, it was very…insightful," she said as she rubbed her hands together, not liking that they were back in the cold weather when it was so warm in The Hamptons and so nice by the water. She hadn't had time to swim as much as she would have liked this summer.
"How was it, meeting your mother again?" she asked but Amanda didn't say much. She didn't like to talk much about that since it was still a touchy subject. Everything was still a bit raw.
"It was, well she's certainly something. The jury's still out…" she said before snapping her jaws shut like a clam.
Taryn didn't press the issue; David never wanted to talk about his wife after she left their presence either.
"So are you ready to meet your army in full?" she asked as she looked at her young blonde niece who had so much life still left in her and that in itself was a miracle.
Nolan sauntered over like a jungle cat, intrigued by the word "army". He pictured thousands of little green army men or civil war re-anactors waiting for them. He liked the sound of this, especially if they were going to take on members of the mob.
"We're like the Untouchables…" he said as he sat next to Amanda, taking the letter from her hands to read it, knowing she would let him. "Oh man David was totally spot on. I am eager and you do have a friend in me, a very best…" he murmured.
Amanda rolled her eyes and shooed him away, folding the letter and putting it in her pocket. "Nolan if you start singing anything from The Lion King, we're gonna have an issue. I swear to god."
Nolan smirked and the blonde duo stood up to follow Taryn who was taking them to the field room as she called it.
Her heels clicking through a hallway they all took her lead and it was nice to see a woman in charge for a change, especially in the business of killing modern day gangsters with weird corrupt governmental ties.
"Follow the leader…" Nolan hummed as she looked around the empty walls, just keeping a keen eye as always and thinking of ideas and subjects that needed to be brought up in the coming hours.
Taryn looked back to them before opening a large metal door with a keycard. "This is an old asylum so if you see a ghost or two, don't say I didn't warn you."
Nolan nodded "Got it, Fort Bedlam…" he said as he squeaked, an actual army of people in black gear staring back at him as the doors opened with a large metallic clang and a ringing sound when the key code went through.
"You wanted an army…" Amanda said as she went to the large round table set in the middle, the four of them weaving through willing able bodied men and women who were ready to fight for the people they lost and the people they still needed to save.
Taryn looked to Amanda and smiled softly, pleased to see her niece in good spirits and who wouldn't be when they saw the army she put together.
"Would you like to address your army?" she asked her but Amanda only shook her head.
"They're not my men, they're yours…"
"You kidding me? These people are here for you; they're here for us and thank you Nolan for providing us with the best IT people out there. They will come in a lot of handy and thankfully most of them won't have to be in the field."
Nolan nodded, searching the room for his fellow tech geeks. He hoped they would be easy to pick out of a crowd but no one was a stereotype here. "No problemo."
Walking around the glass table, the room like a conference room for fancy lawyers but in a warehouse setting, Amanda read random post it notes on the glass and everyone seemed to chatter to themselves or keep their eyes on her. She didn't want to be the leader, but everyone knew her story and how far she had come.
While everyone else, all the other people affected by The Initiative personally were more army based and better trained, she still was at the core of the group with her spiritual knowledge and since she had trained with Satoshi Takeda, a well-known name in the circle. While he was a bit of an ass and she couldn't trust him completely anymore, he had given her the world when she got out of Allenwood. He had given her another chance.
Her chances were running out though.
Satoshi Takeda watched her bow and gave his attention to her 100 percent because that was all he asked in return. If things got out of hand or if she disrespected him he would punish her, whip the bottom of her feet with bamboo and call her a stupid girl until she learned what respect was, until she remembered. She learned honor and patience with him, something she never really had before.
"Amanda…you must focus," he told her as the sun began to set and the hills looked edible in the distance, like two mounds of gummi bears.
Listening to him she wiped the sweat from her brow, her body weak. As exhausted and thirsty as she was, she still powered through her training and rituals.
"Through blood sweat and tears you will be whole…" he said as he eyed her but she almost glared angrily. Sometimes she thought he could be a slave driver but she knew it was all for a good cause in the end, at least that was what she told herself at night.
"I know, it's just hard…people my age are at school and with friends and driving around cross country eating at cheap taco stands and drinking at happy hours at bars…I'm in Japan doing yoga and practicing my sai techniques…" she said as she put down her walking stick that also served as a sparring weapon.
"You prepare for battle as your father commanded," he said with a stern face.
"He didn't command. The last time he ever demanded me to do anything was when he was teaching me to walk…"
"Then he was a fool…you need discipline. You went to jail because of no discipline."
Amanda shook her head "I went to jail because my foster father abused me and I burned the place down, not because my father didn't yell at me enough as a child…" she said eyeing him, feeling the blood pump through her veins.
"You must win more battles in life…" he said as he went to fetch her some tea. Coming back with a little mug of oolong tea he watched her watch the leaves stir at the bottom of the cup.
"My entire life has been a battle," she said shrugging.
"It isn't going to stop," he said, something that would haunt her forever, words that would stick with her.
"You're not a psychic…you don't know what the future holds for me…"
Looking around this room was like looking into a window to the past thought Taryn Clarke as she remembered years earlier when this had happened before right as she was entangled in the business with The Initiative and its startup, before it was linked to terrorism.
She looked to her niece who she hoped would find words when they were necessary. This was her army, yes but it was also Amanda's fight.
Amanda looked to her and then to the people willing to die for the cause. She was at a loss for words. For a moment she hoped Nolan's love for the written word would rub off on her, that his big words and pop culture references would transfer to her and slip off the tongue bur she knew that wasn't the case. As close as they had become over the past five years, they still were yet to achieve a telepathic link. She was on her own when it came to addressing her union but what could she possibly say to make it all better and to pump them up. They were fighting this war with The Initiative and Salvatore's crime family years before David Clarke even got involved. She wasn't the leader and their guiding light; she was just a girl from Allenwood's cell block D.
Taryn took a breath before addressing the men and women there who were shortly about to go off to battle crime bosses, mob leaders and terrorists. Luckily a lot of them would be in one building for their annual meeting which she had had spies go undercover during to learn when and where everything had taken place.
"You all know Salvatore De- ammici's crimes; you all know how he has affected you and my family. If those memories aren't enough to make you want to tear his head off with your teeth, then I don't know what's going to do it."
The battle was ready to be won and if they didn't win, at least they would fight.
"If you know the enemy and know yourself you need not fear the results of a hundred battles" -Sun Tzu
The room began to swallow them and she had that weird feeling like when she walked into a church and they expected her to pray. While she should have been at ease she knew what was coming and it hung on the tip of her tongue creating a bad taste in her mouth. The way she felt inside was as if paranoia was bubbling under the surface like an omen. She spoke with Nolan who she thought would be able to calm her nerves but in the long run it only made her more anxious, like she was leaving something behind.
"You didn't freeze; you just didn't know what to say. There's a difference…" Nolan said as he tried to comfort his confidante. "You know what is freezing? This room."
Amanda shivered and stepped closer to him, repairing the damage through physical affection. "I know what you mean…"
Lips curling up Nolan grinned and wrapped his arm around her, the two looking at stolen artwork to pass the time. "We've been through a hell of a lot, haven't we?" he said rhetorically.
"I hear what you're saying…" she smirked as she looked into his piercing blue eyes that could illuminate a room. The way she said it was almost as if she had made it through sensitivity training.
"We should get our gear on… we get to go all NYPD blue with these bulletproof vests…" he said as he pointed to them across the room on a desk chair.
Looking at the bulky life-saving contraptions she had tunnel vision before looking back to the taller blonde man before her. "I don't want you in the field…" she said honestly. "You could get hurt."
"What about you?" he asked cocking his head. "You think I want you in there? I'm coming and I'll see you safely home like birds of a feather would be."
"Alright…let's get dressed…" she said as they approached the chair.
"Time to get all dolled up…" he murmured as he lifted the vests off the office chair. Amanda took them both from his hand and set them on the ground. "What are you doing?" Nolan asked as he watched her hands.
"There's something I have to do first…" she said as she pulled him into her. Kissing him slowly she let her mouth meld to his as she let almost coerced him into sinking into the office chair with a broken wheel. She straddled him to keep up appearances before standing in front of him. Amanda Clarke kept kissing him and before he knew it he was handcuffed to the chair.
"What the hell Ems?" he asked as he struggled against the restraints. "If you wanted bondage fun all you had to do was ask…"
"You're not coming with me Nolan, I want you to live…even if I'm gone you need to keep up that immortal status of yours…" she murmured as she watched him struggle and writhe.
"This isn't funny Amanda, let me go…" he whined as he pulled and tugged the metal cold against his wrists.
"Nolan, don't make it harder than it already is…" she said, her voice cracking.
"It doesn't have to be this way, let me fight by your side…I'm the Batman to your Robin, the Bonnie to your Clyde…the…"
"Stop," she said as she felt tears rim her eyes. She felt like she had been crying so much lately but this hurt the most. She wasn't sure if she would see Nolan Ross again and she knew that he thinking the same thing. She knew he'd probably die of a broken heart if she was killed so that was motivation to stay alive.
"I can't…" he pouted as he watched her face change.
"When it's the end of the day and I have to choose… you're the one I want by my side Nolan."
Nolan nodded, wishing he could reach for her.
"Just not this time…"
Turning on her heels she listened to him move against the chair, the metal clanking. He called out her name and she could hear him with the door closed and all the way down the hallway. His desperation was just as heartbreaking as her need for revenge.
She remembered the words of wisdom Satoshi Takeda had taught her, she remembered advice from Nolan and wishes from her father from very early on. She remembered what her mother had said when they were reunited and she remembered the one time she had met Steve Buscemi in the street and he called her a very bright girl. All these things had led to this, all these moments, and now here she was fighting a war bigger than herself.
Lambs heading out either to pasture or to slaughter she piled in with the crew including her Aunt and her exotic lover who was mixed ethnicities and had traveled quite a lot in his time. Taryn Clarke exchanged the orders taking charge like a true military woman but the rest of the ride to the building was full of blank stares, empty faces and tribal chants from people who clearly had a military background. Some of the soldiers were former marines, some were former cops, there were a few firefighters thrown into the mix and ex-militia. Each person was his or her own, they all told a story.
Amanda liked stories as a young girl, David would tell her the very best ones but this story, her life she didn't want to tell her children if she ever had any, but that was unlikely. After everything the idea of raising a child and settling down just didn't appeal to her. She didn't know what appealed to her though because she never really thought about life after her Revengenda was completed. She had always seen it as long term and part of her wanted to keep it going forever just so she didn't get depressed when she felt like she had no purpose. Nolan told her she could go to school again after, pick a major and he'd help her out but she didn't know what interested her anymore and she was already educated enough. Her streets smarts held more for her than her scholarly knowledge anyway.
He said "Work a full time job" and she scoffed knowing she would find it all very dull. She needed a passion and she hoped one day, if she was given a "one day" that she would find out what it was.
Getting out of the truck she felt light in the wind like a stray piece of loose leaf paper and there was this sinking feeling like a shadow was covering the building like a blanket. A dark cloud hung and she waited for the rain. The swat team raided the building but she was told to keep back. There was only so much she could do with the kind of training she had. While she had trained to fight and take people down with Takeda, this was much different. This was something she could not do.
Nolan used to call her the perfect person. He knew she was fucked up in the head but he thought she balanced everything pretty well or at least acted like she did. In 2002 not so much but she had had some time to figure it all out and put on a good show that resembled sanity.
Clock ticking she went with a group of people not including Taryn and Ajat. They were the lead-ins and didn't have time to stick behind with her. Family didn't mean you had to slow down. She understood that best of all, the mission before anything else.
Heading into the building just as raindrops began to fall she kept her eyes peeled and her gun at arm's length, ready to fire at any given moment. She felt like she was with the CIA and she wouldn't have been surprised if someone came out saying they used to work for the Central Intelligence Agency at some point in their lives. It would also put her mind at ease as the thought of having someone on the team who knew how to properly take out a large group of high level threats.
Nolan struggled in his chair as he prayed for a god to bless him with hulk like powers and abilities. He needed to hulk out of the chair to get to Amanda who needed his help. He was on tech and wished he could be on coms with everyone else in order to relay messages and shut down security systems. They all had blueprints of the building but he was scared that the wiring was off and they would need his assistance with underlying arch's.
Arch's was what he called a large grouping of wirings that were undetected by electronic forces even though they were there and only he knew how to find and tap into them. He didn't want people seeing Amanda Clarke and co. on an undetected force field because it would have meant that they had the upper hand.
Looking around the room for a way out or a way to contact someone else to help him Nolan spotted a stray blackberry on someone's desk. Inching over with his chair, using his legs and hips to move the broken thing to where he wanted it, he turned around and used the wire strip at the end of his cuffs to knock the blackberry off the desk but it fell to the floor instead of his hands.
Using his body to parallel him to the floor in the right position that happened to be on his knees he bent backwards to dial Jack's number, the only number of his friends from The Hamptons he really knew by heart.
"Jack it's me…"
"Nolan? Whose number are you calling from? Where are you?"
"I'm in Chicago…I need you to call a friend, I'm in a bit of a sticky situation…" he said on speakerphone as his leg began to throb, the one he had broken and his arms felt sore.
"Shoot…who am I calling?"
"His name's Robert Amnell and he's an old fling…he lives in Chicago so he might be a bit bitter because of our last session but tell him it's a 911 for sure…his number's at my place. There's a key under the mat in the back near the dolphin statue and his phone number is in my little purple book by the fruit bowl in the kitchen. My address is 361 Old Newlins Street in Rockwell Crossing. I'm in; I think the room number is five but it could also be fifty five. "
"Got it…" Jack said, leaving the bar to bull as he hurried out the door with his keys, knowing this was urgent from the desperate pleading sound in Nolan's voice.
"You're a champ. Thanks man…" Nolan hung up the phone and so did Jack. Now it was just a waiting game.
She waited and it dawned on her that she had no control over the situation. Making her way through an ocean of bodies and blood splattered rugs and walls she nearly vomited. She had never seen so much quick carnage in such a small location before. Hallways were strewn with bodies and her ears had gone deaf from the heavy sound of bullets whizzing past her head. Getting grazed by a bullet she looked to see if anyone was defending her from the stream of bullets but she was alone, her group had gone ahead and lost track of her.
She didn't mind this. While she didn't feel safe, she felt like she was being punished for all her sins and the punishment felt good. It felt the same to those who needed to be spanked if they were feeling bad. It was a good release and this was thrilling.
Reloading her gun she shot the man firing at her but the bullets either embedded themselves into the walls or bounced off of them. Most of the wall would crumble when hit and she made note of their shoddy craftsmanship.
Shooting again she took the man down, another one for her hit list but before she could turn around she felt a stinging sensation in her back and her ears were ringing from the sound of the gun. All she could feel was the pain and her finger on the trigger as she fell to her knees. Letting her mind register what had happened she took a split second before spinning on the ground, falling on her back which was a big mistake, and shooting the mobster with the big Mario mustache.
Watching him fall like a beached whale but looking more like a Walrus with that mustache she forced herself to get on her knees because lying on her back was excruciating. Feeling blood mat the small of her back she sighed.
Great, another scar.
Nolan took a breath as he watched the door open and he hoped it was Robert Amnell, the familiar face he once made wince in pain and smirk in pleasure. It was.
Thank the big man upstairs.
"Robbie…" he said as the man rushed over to him. He had aged, but then again they both had. Robert's face always reminded him of a little possum only cute and not rat-like. His features were very narrow and his eyes were so dark they were like raisins that were out in the sun for too long.
"Nolan, what the hell are you doing here?" he asked as he helped get him out of the cuffs. It wasn't the first time.
"Getting some deep dish pizza, what do you think?" he asked with a smart ass remark. He didn't have time to explain but he also didn't realize he was being rude to an old friend that he had no right to be rude to in the first place since he broke it off with him.
"I can't stand the snark right now Nolan, I don't see you for 8 years and then you pull this crap? Let me guess, it has to do with that mystery woman you always were so gaga for…" he said more than asked.
Things had never worked out romantically with Nolan because of Amanda Clarke being in his life. He was always so hung up on her that it couldn't work for him and anybody else. The same thing happened with Mary Louise Bourne.
"It's about Amanda…yes…" he said as he watched Robert perk up, the man did recognize the name after all.
"How can I help?" he asked, not wanting to free the man and then just leave.
Nolan looked in his pocket and realized that Amanda had swiped his personal Nolpad which was a new generation and everything. "Sneaky little fox…" he purred to himself as he looked to see that Robert was carrying a messenger bag. "Why don't you let the cat out of the bag just this once…" Nolan murmured, needing the computer he knew was in it.
If Nolan couldn't be in the field he needed to help shut down the security archs and at least triangulate Amanda's location so he could find her. He knew the building obviously but where in the building was a whole different story. He was just lucky she didn't find the tracker he had put in her jade necklace that Satoshi had given her as a graduating present. Even though the two were no longer friends, she still often wore the necklace for good luck and as a reminder that she could kick some ass.
She could and she would kick some ass.
Chapter 30: No Escape
An alarm blared in his head as the rush to find Amanda Clarke began. His entire world was spinning and it was if he was waiting for a piano to fall on his head. He has that sudden feeling that he was waiting for something terrible to happen.
No one should live life like this.
He looked over to Robert Amnell who was busy hacking the computer's main feed, trying to overpass the system but without the correct codes. That was where Nolan had to come in. He pulled enough strength together to come out of his catatonic like state to push the key codes into the computer and find Amanda's tracker. He watched the screen blink in a stagnant spot and his heart pounded in his chest. A stagnant spot meant that Amanda wasn't moving and something screamed in his brain that she was dead.
"Come on, come on, come on…" he begged the gods and mumbled her name in a mantra as if she could hear him and would start to move.
When she did finally gain the strength to move he felt like he could almost cry, but just because she was moving on the screen didn't mean she was alive. Someone could have moved her body or she could have been near death, which is why the race was still on and his heart still pumped like it was a human heart no longer.
"You bugged her?" Robert asked as he watched the screen with much intent, not sure of the exact mission since he just happened upon this location moments ago.
"Tracked, yes I'm tracking her. I bugged her, whatever…" he snapped, worried for her safety. He promised David Clarke he would keep her safe and if he didn't, if she died he was surely going to go down with the ship.
"So what are we looking for?"
"We have to tap into the archs…" he said as he looked at blueprints.
"I thought we already did that…" Robert said as he shifted the weight from one foot to another.
"We tapped Amanda….ahem…we found out where she is but we still have to find out where the stray cameras are so we can black them out making her travel through the building more able….Safety first soda pop."
"Alright James Bond…"
"Q….I'm the Q to Amanda's Bond…." He said as if his reference truly meant something. He was scared that one day, sooner rather than later that he wouldn't be able to make pop culture references about the two of them and what their friendship meant again.
"Alright…well let's get this done…"
Nolan shook his head "Just in case, is everything backed up on your computer?" he asked, not wanting his ex to lose valuable information.
"Yeah I backed it up onto a hard drive"
"Good…" he murmured as he brought his eye line back to the screen, clicking things and typing like a mad man.
"Do you think my computer is in danger?" Robert asked as he brushed his brunette hair out of his eyes. Half of his head was shaved as the other half fell to one side of his face, straggly and not as Nolan remembered him. Time changed people.
"No, but I think you are if you stay with me…" he said as he looked up for a moment, knowing Robert was owed that at least.
"Oh I see…trying to get rid of me again…" he said in an almost bitter tone, as if he still clung to the past.
"Yeah well…I'm good at getting rid of people…they don't normally stay either…" he said as he looked away, caring more about the archs than Robert's feelings. That was just how things had to be. There was no future for them, especially not when his hair looked the way it did.
"To keep me safe?" he questioned as he began to bite his nails like it would save him.
"Yes, to save your life I need you to go and don't look back. Don't tell anyone you saw me. Don't get help…just go."
Robert nodded knowing not to try to argue. Even though he could take Nolan in a physical fight, he knew Nolan was smarter than him and if he stayed the man would find a way to get rid of him with his intellect.
"Keep my computer…" he said shrugging. "I know you'll find me and send me a new one anyway…"
"I'll probably send you five…or one for each day of the week," he murmured, wanting to let Robert know that he appreciated his help and that he did find some worth in him after all.
Watching a smile dart across Robert's lips was electrifying and it sent a shiver down his back. He felt much like a superhero and knew the things he had been doing were morally right, at least in his eyes they were, in this moment. Regrets would come later and confidence was a key player in getting his friend back. Everything Nolan Ross had done in his life was about helping people.
Robert headed out the door and did not look back, just as Nolan had asked.
Somewhere, Amanda Clarke dreams of the life she could have had. She usually never wastes thoughts on things like these but as she bleeds out from her wound these images flash across her consciousness.
She's wiping mashed peas from a bib, she's wearing a wedding dress, she's going on a vacation in Rome, she's walking the beaches of Cape Cod, she's buying a hut in Hawaii, and she's eating a blueberry SnoCone at a carnival. It's the little things that get her to tear up. She thinks about Charlotte's smile and Declan's loyalty. She thinks about meeting Jack and then reuniting with him years later. She thinks of puppy Sammy and how he remembered her when she came back. She thinks of her father's warm eyes and crooked bowties. She thinks of Nolan's soft hair and how she wants to run her fingers through it one more time.
"One more time…" she murmurs as she gets up, feeling powerful and strong from her rest. She picks up the gun and fills it with stray ammo she finds. A girl could never have too much ammo and it was best to load up on it now.
She staggers like a wounded deer down the hallway, blood droplets like Pomegranate seeds falling to the ground behind her as she stays upright. Her muscles are tense and she's cold but it could be the air conditioning. She prays that's what it is. She couldn't be near death when she had come this far. She learned a lesson in all this too, don't stray from the crowd.
Taking out another man with a dark complexion and eyebrows that were too thin she watched him fall to the ground as she kept her eyes moving back and forth to stay on top of the game. She didn't need to be snuffed out by yet another bullet. While she wore a vest, it didn't stop her from getting hit in the back since this vest had more focus in the front.
She thought of how they should make better body armor but then wouldn't that just make things too easy? She let another fleeting thought cross her mind and that was that if the criminals had them on it would make things harder for her. She didn't know which she preferred, the thrill of the hunt or the ease of the kill.
Killing is never easy.
She hoped someone; one of the tech geniuses who were probably whiz kids like Nolan had taken down the arch mainframe system, leaving their attacks more spontaneous.
Nothing was for sure though.
Powering through a flight of stairs she kept her hand tightly knit against the railing as she used it to help herself up.
Turning the hallway she found Ajat cradling a body and she recognized it instantly without seeing her Aunt's blonde hair matted with blood. She knew it was her from the way that he held her, from the way that he cried. Kneeling next to them she cradled Taryn's head and pulled back to see blood. She could feel the hole that had been made, the back of her head shot out and the brain smattered upon these brightly colored walls. There was no need for this but the lamb was led to slaughter and slaughtered it was.
She didn't tell him she was shot, there was no time to repair her anyway and he wasn't Geppetto. There was no time to whip out a first aid kit and kiss the boo boos until they were better.
This is the big league kid, you made it this far.
Again, she has a flash but now it was of her Aunt in all those memories with her. She could see her cold smile warmed up and more friendly and approachable but she quickly snapped back to reality. That was a dream and this was real. It was getting hard to differentiate between the two, especially with her mounting blood loss.
She felt dizzy too but mostly nauseous from the sight of a dead family member. She wondered if her father looked as pale as his sister when he died, if he had lost all that blood just the same. Ajat's thighs were covered with the sticky crimson that poured from the gaping wound.
Helping Ajat lay her Aunt down she looked around. "Who did it?"
Ajat pointed to a man across the hall slumped over with a hole in the same place. Ajat pulled out his phone and spoke into it making Amanda listen as well as the so called soldiers who were fighting in the Clarke name.
"Pull back! Pull back!" he yelled out of anger and frustration. Amanda knew instantly he was giving up after losing Taryn but she wouldn't, they were too damn close to ending this.
If not today, then when?
She didn't want to have to hide those she loved from the dangers of the world forever. When she knew Salvatore was in the building she remembered why she would not leave that easy. She wasn't going down without a fight. She wasn't going to wait anymore. A five year gap of Revenge was enough; it didn't need to be spread out any longer.
Fuck that, this is happening…here and now.
"What the hell are you doing?" she asked as she plucked the walkie talkie away from his grasp.
"We're pulling back. We're done here."
"Do we look done? Just because we lost a few soldiers, doesn't mean we lost the battle…they would want us to keep going. Taryn needs closure…" she said looking over at the woman, hoping she would get up to reply or agree.
"Taryn's dead! Now she doesn't need anything!" he barked, his rage setting in. The five stages of grief were bound to happen all at once in a matter of minutes.
"We're too close to bail now…" she said as she yelled into the phone as he did. "Stay, we're staying…"
Ajat shot a man who was out to kill behind them, the goons seemed to keep coming and the talkie was a focal point now in their relationship. It seemed whoever held the Walkie talkie held the power.
"Give me the device…" he stated calmly but when she didn't his voice became more of a growl. He repeated himself with better delivery.
"No…" she stated before the two struggled against each other like children fighting over the same toy.
It isn't supposed to be like this.
She knew Taryn would not like the fighting in the group, she probably would have found in disrespectful as David was always all about manners and kindness which he said he had learned from his father.
There wasn't anything they could do now as limbs entangled and her body seized against his. As strong as she was, with a bullet in her she was not 100 percent. If she fought any longer with the man he would become her executioner and have more blood staining his hands and pants.
He could see now that she was shot, feeling warmth at her back. He felt pity for her and knew he owed it to his love to let her niece go with a warning. He would help her as much as he could but he was pulling out with his team once the destruction was determined.
"You can find the surveillance room but the likelihood is that the cameras are already down."
"I need to find him, that's why we're here…I need him dead and buried…"
"He could be already…."
"I don't live by could be's and what ifs…I'm done when I see a body…" Emily replied as she glared at Ajat, knowing she would probably not see him for a very long time after they parted ways in this maze of a building. Either she or he would die, that was her take on the whole thing.
"Don't you think we've seen enough?" he asked whole heartedly as he looked at the destruction around him. It was ironic for an executioner to be talking about dead bodies and maybe it was finally hitting him that there were other options than death.
Life was precious, Taryn had taught him that.
Taking in his face which was more delicate now since it was full of sorrow she tried to remember his scar and his eyes because he was all that was left of her Aunt now. Sighing she moved from him and said her silent goodbyes.
Finding an empty room down the hallway, one that looked like an old chemistry lab she peeled her armor off and lifted her shirt up. Finding some water she cleaned herself off, hissing in pain. Searching for bandages she found a first aid kit behind some old beakers and found just enough gauze to wrap tightly around her body just one time to stop some of the bleeding.
Holding her side with one hand as if she were trying to keep her organs from spilling out she realized that the pain from her back was giving her side cramps. In her other hand was her gun and she kept it held high, ready to pull the trigger at anything that got in her way. She heard chatter and movement a floor below and knew everyone was retreating with Ajat's orders.
Thankfully Nolan had turned off the arch system so Amanda had a shot to be a ghost. It was a shot in the dark but it was better than nothing.
Finding the Surveillance room through building blueprints she had to get on her hands and knees to manually link the wires to see fuzzy camera versions of things. Nolan could see someone was bypassing his system but never in a million years would he think it was her. He then looked at her tracker. Helping her out he sent her an undisclosed link through their computers from his which let her know where people were, the basement.
Running to the elevator, guns blazing she was relieved to find it was still working. Going down the doors opened to Salvatore De-Ammici standing face to face with her, the both of them with guns pointed at each other.
He was a rough man with a slight Italian accent although it also sounded like he was from Boston. He had a mixture of voices. "I had help too…"
"Then you would know you shouldn't be here…you should have run while you had the chance…" Amanda threatened him.
"Your men deserted you…" he said with a snicker.
"And your men are dead…so we're both alone."
"As it should be…other people, get in the way…" he said with a scowl.
"How are we going to do this?" she asked as the two of them had a showdown. Amanda stepped out of the elevator and the doors closed behind her. Their guns were pointed and aimed between the eyes on each.
" However you want…" he purred, so confident in his abilities and power. No doubt this was a power trip too for him too but she would come out on top this time. She would make sure of that.
Now she wanted it all to end, she wanted to rest with her feet up and not have a worry or care in the world.
Before they knew it an explosion ruptured through the building sending them falling into opposite walls, the plaster and sheet rock cracking around them and crumbling like a breadstick in the hand of an infant.
Amanda had no idea who had set off a blast of C4 explosives in the basement but she could tell that Salvatore was just as surprised as she was by the look on his face. She could also see that her gun had gun off during the blast and had ripped open the side of his head near his sideburns but had only grazed him sadly.
The two of them got up and didn't even bother to look for the guns, they knew it was only a matter of time before the building capsized and took them with it. Amanda followed Salvatore as he went down a flight of stairs that led outside. What came next was the entrance of a parking structure where he had parked his car. Seeing he was headed for his car she quickly broke a window to the first vehicle she could find and hotwired it to follow him, bleeding all over the leather interior. She was lucky he was slower from the aftershock of the C4 quake so it made things easier and on the streets she didn't lose him either.
She could keep up with the best of them, and now here she was keeping up with him. They chased through the streets and swerved through other vehicles until she saw where he was headed, the Chicago River. Turning his car he swerved to turn into a side street but she slammed on the gas pushing his car on its side and tipping it over as it fell into the river with a splash, the problem was that her car was going so fast she couldn't hit the brakes and she went into the river headfirst, her air bags deploying.
Thankfully Nolan had been tracking her in his own car, one he found at the impound lot near the Clarke base. He too had to speed and it was the craziest thing he had ever done. Ever since he met Amanda Clarke he had learned new definitions of insane.
As the water began to fill her car Amanda unbuckled her seatbelt and tried to break the window with her elbow but it was too hard and she was too weak from the impact of the explosion and the bullet still lodged in her body. The river water stung her wounds and she knew her body would be full of bruises in the morning if she could only get out of this car. The airbag was in the way of things and it was an overall nuisance but it had saved her life.
The water filled the car up quickly and Nolan held his Nolpad on his lap whilst driving to see where she was. It was then that he pulled off and realized she was in the river. Slamming on the brakes he got out of the car, leaving the door open and ran to the edge. Looking down he saw the bubbles and the outline of her car. Not thinking twice he grabbed a crowbar near storage containers from the shipping yard and jumped into the water, a long way down.
Swimming down down down as fast as he could he looked into the window to see Amanda, out of breath, the water fully taking over. She was holding her breath and struggling with buttons and for air. She saw him and her eyes lit up like he was a miracle and perhaps today he was.
Gesturing for her to shield her face she did so as he broke the window open and pulled her out, the two swimming to the surface.
Coming up with large gasps of air the two used their legs to stay afloat until help arrived.
She needed help.
THREE DAYS LATER
The hospital gown they had put her in was an off-white color with little cerulean blue flowers on it but Charlotte concluded that they looked more like speckles or messed up stars. Jack, Charlotte and Declan practically held a candlelight vigil by her bed as she came in and out of consciousness. She was able to talk to them but she was always so tired when she did.
Jack held her hand and told her Nolan would be back soon, he was getting information about the event as they called it as well as covering things up. Everything was on the news, well the explosion was but no details about Amanda being involved, and they were just called mercenaries for now. There were cover ups with that too but the Chicago Police force were very grateful that someone had taken care of the street gangs and the underground mafia systems.
When Nolan arrives he comes with a giant bouquet of colorful tiger lilies and sets them across the room so she won't sneeze from the pollen. He knows she is somewhat allergic to pollen and deathly allergic to strawberries. He'd already lost her enough.
"Ems…" he purred as he pulled up a chair and sat next to her, everyone else leaving them the room to talk business.
Amanda sat up and turned to face him, her face worn and tired from surgery and all of the emotions and loss.
"You saved me once; I just returned the favor…" Nolan said as he moved his long fingers through her hair, moving it out of her face so he could admire the woman he loved and cherished most, his best friend and partner in crime.
"Thank you…" she wheezed, collecting her breath.
"You're gonna have some really neat scars…" Nolan added, loving to keep things light especially because it was what she needed."
"They say they build character," she murmured as she moved her hand to caress his ever so slightly.
"Well I don't think you need much more of that, you're already chock full of it…" he laughed.
"They say he's alive Nolan, that they didn't find his body," she said, rearing it back to business.
"Ajat says that that's most likely true," he said as he handed her a cup full of ice chips, knowing she needed some time to recover before trying anything.
"I'm gonna find him Nolan, this isn't over…" she said as she held the cold cup in her hands like a little squirrel with its most prized nut.
"You need to rest," he reminded her.
"Well when I'm 100 percent you find him, you find his people and you tell him that Amanda Clarke is coming for him…"
Chapter 31: Epilogue: Everything Ends
The end to a very long fic.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
One week later and he's worn to the bone, his fingers sore from clicking away on the keyboard, his tongue numb from talking too much and he didn't think it was possible. He had tracked down Salvatore De-Ammici during his time off from work and Nolan Ross had stayed with Emily Thorne as her nametag read in the hospital during her recovery, never wavering from her side. During this time she had learned who her real friends were. Friends were made and conversations were had and they both learned they didn't like the yellow jello, besides the fact that it rhymed.
He says he is coming with her and this time she doesn't argue. As her warden once said "Strength comes in numbers."
It is two weeks later that she finds him again and its four weeks later when she gains her strength, collects it and harbors it like a sea captain and his ship.
Nolan set his eyes on her from across the room and he sauntered over with as much swagger as a man could have in his position. Amanda drank from a large mug that she needed to wrap both of her tiny hands around.
"It's good to see you up and about and not stuck in bed like a turtle flipped over on its big honking shell…"
Amanda made a face at him before spilling the rest of the coffee down the drain. "What are you even talking about? You make no sense sometimes…" she said with a hint of a smile breaking across her face, the bruises now gone but she was sure that more were to come. "I was lying in bed like a person; you could have just said that…"
Nolan shrugged, sometimes he liked to make things more complicated and she knew that, he had his own way of speaking. They both had their own ways of doing things.
"I found him…"
"I know…" she replied as she looked over the documents. "And you've been tracking him?"
"Correct," he confirmed as he went to the sink to wash her mug manually, he didn't want to get lazy just because they had a washing machine available to them.
He watched Amanda skim over the papers before she settled in front of her computer, using the whale cam usb drive to get the program he had on his computer that tracked Salvatore to her computer so she didn't have to call him over every time she wanted to be kept up to date. He watched her like she was something precious and to him she was, she was his everything. She was his purpose, not the technology and the groupies and the conventions he got to talk at or the money he made. David Clarke had believed in him and then his daughter did too.
He came close to her and handed her the infinity box her father had left for her, she gladly accepted it and forgot about the computer in front of her just for a second as she offered him a seat. She sat the box in his lap and used him as a table. Opening it up they both peered inside and she let him explore, he had seen it all before but this time he could tell it was different. She was letting him in.
He picked up a picture of her when she was a girl, a sweet little thing with a missing tooth in front. He smiled and held it between his pointer and middle finger. "She never knew what was coming…"
"No she didn't…" she said with a sigh.
"Do you have any regrets?" Nolan asked as he picked up a picture of David and stroked the man's face, the man who was like a father to him.
"I've got a whole box ton, but this box, this one's sacred…" she said softly as she let her eyes move back to the screen.
"Mmm" he replied, just watching her, letting time pass.
"Most of my regrets come from the shoeboxes upstairs, you've seen my obsession, you know…" she smirked, making a joke.
"Oh I know, you never shop on sale days…" he grinned as he looked at a picture of her mother. "Since when did she appear in the box?"
"Since I wanted to remember how things used to be. She wasn't heartless in this picture," she said as she sighed.
"She looks a lot like you…" Nolan said breathlessly.
"I wonder why…" Amanda smirked as she moistened her lips, enjoying the fall weather.
Nolan closed the box and placed it on the empty spot on the couch next to him, as if David had a seat with them. He looked at the infinity symbol tattooed on her wrist and stroked her skin there making her gasp ever so slightly, forgetting intimacy altogether.
Nolan feigned innocence and pretended he didn't know that the little touch would send shivers down her spine. It wasn't even because it was sexy; it was just a powerful symbol that meant everything. He didn't want to talk dirty to her or seduce her, he just wanted to sit with her and figure this out, put an end to her troubles.
"What are you going to do? I mean, how are you going to do it?" he asked.
"He's going to burn…"
"Mmm fire, a girl's best friend…"
"Better than diamonds..."
It didn't take long to finally track him down when push came to shove. This time she didn't want to talk. She didn't want his apologies or to hear all about everyone he had hurt. She knew the damage he had done and now it was time she did some damage of her own.
Smoke filled the room as she watched him burn, fire creeping up his skin as the sounds of his pained screams ricochet through the building's interior. She could smell the flesh sizzling off his bones and melting away, the fabric of his suit doing the same. Nolan couldn't watch, it made him queasy but he stayed close, humming the national anthem to distract himself from the scene in front of him.
He waited outside but heard the destruction move through the walls of the empty building. He'd make sure his body was never found, he had people ready to spread fires all throughout the building, make it look like all that ever happened was a fire. Salvatore De-Ammici was no longer and Amanda Clarke's essence was in the flames as it always would be.
Nolan watched the door open, the smoke slipping under the crack. There were no more screams but there was still pain, he could see it in her face. She needed to be extinguished.
She was pale, her face blank like she was deep in thought but also lost. The lost little lamb needed to be corralled back into her home and he was the shepherd who could do the deed and get the job done.
"I'm here…" he said as he stood across from her, giving her some room, some space.
After a few seconds she began to fall to pieces and he was ready to piece the puzzle back together. Tears falling from her eyes everything rushed back to her, her father's face, Sammy's bark, her mother's eyes, Charlotte's smile, Jack's admiration…everyone who had hurt her, everyone who had gotten in her way, everything she could have been and everything she was and had left.
Falling to her knees Nolan caught her in his arms and held her up, letting her lean into his frame for support. There wasn't much to him but he was strong for her. She had been strong enough, it was time she got to sob and break down.
"It's over…it's okay…it's okay Ems…"
And the rest was history.
Jack Porter introduced her to his new golden lab puppy, Jake who Declan had actually found at the adoption center with Charlotte and they couldn't say no. They knew that Jack needed a friend until a lady came along.
Emily and Jack sat with Jake whose tail thumped against the porch, the two of them on the swing.
"Jack and Jake huh… I see you went with a human name…" she teased.
"Seemed fitting after you named Sammy one," he said as he swung with her.
"It is…" she said, and Jack knew by the look on her face and the anxiety gone, just by the way that she sat, that she was at ease. Her shoulders were relaxed and she was finally safe and that was all he ever wanted. He wanted his friend back and he wanted her out of harm's way and he got it.
Getting up he let his fingers move across the double infinity symbol as he sighed, remembering David Clarke and how he was a good man, not what everyone had said about him. They knew the truth.
"Want to take a walk on the beach?" he asked and she nodded.
"I'll race ya!" she exclaimed and the two played like kids, Jake running after them. The three of them made it onto the sand and they caught up with Declan, Charlotte and Nolan. Charlotte pulled her sister into a hug.
"Do you like him? Isn't he precious?" she asked as Declan and Jack threw a ball to Jake who was learning the little game and how to play fetch.
"He's the sweetest. Very hyper and has a lot of life in him. I'll bet he's going to live forever…" she said thinking about Sammy who had almost made it to forever. This was a new chapter in her life and it started with a new puppy.
Nolan watched everyone play and laugh and smile as it should be and walked next to Amanda, bumping her shoulder with his, making her walking slightly askew for a moment.
"Hey you…" he purred as he settled his eyes on her gaze.
"What do you want Nolan?" she asked pretending to be her old self, the way she was when she was Emily Thorne, when she first arrived back home after all those years.
He smirked, playing the game with her but to his own accord. "Oh me? I'm just enjoying a nice stroll Miss Thorne, care to disagree? Want to beat me up again?" he asked as he flipped his hair, the breeze making it slightly go into his eyes.
"You wish," she said with a little chuckle as she tapped her shoulder against his. Taking a sigh he gripped her hand as they walked.
"Happy?" he asked, just wanting to keep her calm from now until the end of time.
"Looking forward to the future, whatever that may be."
Leaning down Nolan picked up a stick and drew a double infinity symbol into the sand, Amanda kneeling with him.
"Do you know how much I love you Amanda Clarke?" he asked, with devotion in his voice as well as confidence. He could see in her eyes that she felt the same; that she loved him back and just once, everything was perfect, beyond perfect.
"Infinity times infinity…"
Authors Note: (So this is it, an epilogue to a very long story that I never intended to go this far but ah! Inspiration struck me as time went on and things got more developed. I hope this satisfies you, I'm satisfied also it's my 22nd Birthday as I post this so go easy on me, haha. Enjoy and keep your eyes peeled, I'm sure i'll write some more Revenge fics in the future only shorter because goodness...Thanks and read and review please.)