Boyd dimly recalled the sound of wood splintering beneath his hands. His mind was a haze of anger, dread and the feeling of wanting to wreck serious bodily harm on the man that had brought them all to this point. Especially for Erica. His awareness only returned when he felt the ache in his hands.
In the midst of Stiles’ near panic, he tried to pull himself back. He was scaring Stiles, not to mention Erica who looked near despondent by his rage. He needed to fix this! He couldn’t let her think any of this was her fault. She was a victim, like they all were, and Asher Maximilian would pay dearly before it was all over.
He looked down at the table he hadn’t even really considered much until he’d smashed it to bits. But his hand told him he’d done some damage to it. Stupid.
Stiles rushed forward with a cloth to staunch the blood. He’d need to talk to Peter about replacing both table and dishcloth, Boyd thought and exhaled heavily. Stiles was currently breathing raggedly while blotting the blood on his knuckles with a towel he’d hastily grabbed from the kitchen.
“I’m ok, Stiles. You need to calm down. Breathe. Control your breathing,” Boyd soothed. Peter would have his ass if Stiles had yet another panic attack. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have lost my temper like that.”
Erica stifled another sob, avoiding his eyes.
“Erica . . .” he said haltingly, turning to his girlfriend. He could call her that now, right? The time for avoidance and denial had passed. “Baby, I’m not mad at you.”
It was probably the most Scott had heard the man say in one breath. He stood frozen nevertheless, not sure if to move or stay. But the doorbell was ringing.
“Scott can you get that,” Stiles surprised him by exhaling heavily then asking calmly.
“Stiles, let me,” Boyd went to move towards the door, caution and responsibility kicking in.
“Don’t you fucking move! In fact, sit your ass down and let me take care of this. I’m tired of people treating me like I’m made of fucking paper today. I’m not having a panic attack, I’m mad. I’m damn mad and angry.
“Scott can handle it. Besides, the security desk knows better than to allow just anyone up here. Peter made sure of that. Scott, the door,” Stiles instructed, his jaw taking on that stubborn set Scott knew well.
He removed the towel to check the damage and then looked reassuringly to Erica who’d stopped crying but still looked at bit shaken.
Scott moved to obey. He opened the door and froze again. “Sheriff . . .?”
John took in Scott’s red face, looked beyond him and saw Stiles with a bloody rag in his hand, plus a tearful Erica nearby, a smashed table at Boyd’s feet, and the cop in him went instantly on alert. He shoved bodily pass Scott already reaching for a weapon that wasn’t where it normally would be on his hip, but nevertheless readying himself for a battle.
“Dad?” Stiles said baffled, then glanced down at the bloody towel and realised how this must look to his father who had already been anxious enough the night before. “It’s ok dad. It’s just an accident.”
His father still looked uncertain, cautious – ready to protect.
“Sorry, John. This is my doing. Lost my temper,” Boyd said, more ashamed now he was standing before the Sheriff than anyone else could probably have made him.
“What the hell is going on?” John said, face clenched, his hands coming to rest in his hips, now the adrenaline was petering out.
Boyd reached out to Erica, and she immediately skittered across the small space separating them. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.” He said as she buried her head in his neck, his uninjured hand coming protectively around her.
She nodded and kept nodding.
“I’m not mad at you. This was not at you. I’m just so damn angry this happened to you,” He kissed her temple. “John, watch the doors til I get back, will you? I’m sure Stiles will want to start explaining what’s happened. Just give me a few to get cleaned up.”
“I’ll help,” Scott rushed to offer, taking the towel from Stiles as he passed.
To be honest Boyd didn’t really need him, but the look in Scott’s eyes said he didn’t want to exactly be facing the Sheriff now, and with everything Boyd had overheard of the discussion between the two friends, he didn’t blame the man’s interest in self-preservation.
From what Boyd had picked up, a lot of Max’s information, especially about Stiles and Peter’s relationship these past months might have come from Scott himself, however unknowing it might have been at the time. Boyd though, Boyd didn’t think that was Asher Maximilian’s primary use for Scott. He in fact believed the man wanted Scott away from Stiles, and then to watch as they all finally realised how totally he had infiltrated and controlled all the major aspects of Stiles life. What he wasn’t sure of yet, was what the man’s endgame might be. Anyone who knew Stiles, knew the last thing he would want is a man who could do what Max had done to anyone.
Scott had merely been another in the long list of “see how easily I can get to you” tactics. And so far it was all working. Everyone was on edge.
But Erica . . . Erica had been Max’s biggest mistake. Boyd would see to that.
Asher Maximilian loved collecting things.
It didn’t matter whether the thing that caught his eye was legal tender or not. Once it caught his interest, he just had to have it. What gave him an indescribable thrill was when he had to play the long game towards acquiring his current fascination.
And Stiles Stilinski so far was proving to be his greatest challenge and would be his finest acquisition to date. He trembled with excitement at the thought of finally being so close to having what he’d wanted these past years.
He’d seen him from afar numerous times – at events, galas, movie premiers. Each event carefully arranged so he could observe from a distance; and each time one simple thing made him salivate for the star – those fantasy-inducing lips drawn up into the biggest of smiles. The first time he’d seen him was at a theatre production. Stiles had been one of the dozens of celebrities that shown up to support one of their own who was celebrating her theatre debut.
Max couldn’t even remember what he’d been in discussion with the investment banker about when he’d first seen him across the banquet hall – lips stretched wide in a grin as he’d hugged the actress, obviously congratulating her on a splendid opening night. It had been obvious too that they were good, even if not close, friends. It was the way they embraced each other and the animation on both their faces. Max had felt something move in his chest. The blood had begun to sing in his veins. In that moment he’d wanted the girl to stop touching the gorgeous brunette. To stop touching what was going to be his.
He had to find out who he was. He’d immediately put his people to work. He wanted to know everything there was worth knowing about that man.
So over the years he’d watched from a distance, enjoying the manipulation of every aspect of Stiles’ life without his knowledge. Stiles was his, even if he didn’t know it.
The infiltration was slow, deliberate, calculated and satisfying. But he never actually spoke to the actor; just bided his time. He had enough copies of Stiles’ phone calls and conversations to know his voice by heart anyway. It satisfied that unnamed thing deep inside him that craved contact with his Stiles. At least it had, back then.
But then in the streets of Boston one hot, sunny day, it all changed with something as simple as a bicycle accident.
He’d been informed by telephone immediately and still recalled the exact date and time the attorney had struck him with his sedan – a vehicle that he’d more than once since then dreamed of blowing to smithereens. It would have been easier to arrange than the snap of his fingers. After the crash he’d had photos and copies of the witness statements and the incident reports sent to him – and something deep in his bones had shaken, told him this could be trouble.
Thereafter he’d known the exact date and time the attorney had taken him to his bed – had photos of a rumpled and sated Stiles leaving the apartment building next morning. His anger and apprehension had grown then. There was something different in the look in those whiskey eyes that he’d already told himself belonged to him and him alone. But those photos . . . they had captured a particular kind of satisfaction in those eyes that he had never seen before.
Stiles had slept with men before. Of course he had. There had been brief affairs that Max allowed – after all he was young and virile and beautiful and famous. It was to be expected. Max sated his own desires in other ways – some more depraved than others, but all satisfying as he’d waited.
But this Peter Hale thing was different. And the longer it went on, the more agitated Max became.
When the best friends’ rift began, he’d made a move to tighten the noose. Peter Hale’s interference was one thing, but if Scott didn’t pull himself together, Stiles would cut him out of his life entirely, and Max had been rather successful in squeezing a lot of juice from Scott. His jealousy of Peter and anger and infatuation with Stiles made him ripe for manipulation. Max became a good sounding board for his frustrations, and who could be blamed if he planted a few seeds of his own.
Then the nephew got shot and everything he’d been working towards, all his increased efforts, crumbled with two fucking short words – “Marry me”!
The members that had attacked Derek Hale from the damned drug-running gang that caused it all, had been exterminated. He’d seen to it. The ones whom the police hadn’t found – they wouldn’t. All of them were currently food for alligators or fish somewhere, for the mere fact that they had cost Max so much.
Max had reacted harshly and all because he was in a tailspin because of two words. Those fuck-ups had forced a proposal he could do nothing to stop because he’d been on the other side of the world then, dealing with business he couldn’t just abandon.
He’d been forced to show his hand. Forced to manipulate a situation to meet Stiles, but even that had gone to shit. So he’d had to apply more pressure.
Stiles would come to him, of that he was certain. All he had to do was wait.
“Where are you going?” Laura asked quietly as Peter shrugged his way into his coat.
“A meeting uptown. I’ll be back in a couple hours. Keep me up to date on everything.”
Laura noted as he said it he hadn’t looked at her once.
“Peter, where are you really going?” she asked softly.
His shoulders dropped and he exhaled. “I can’t just sit here, Laura. Stiles is afraid to leave the fucking apartment. He won’t answer his phone unless he knows who’s calling; he has Boyd pick his mobile apart every morning and sweep the apartment for bugs. I can’t see him like this and do nothing.”
“What are you going to do, Peter?”
“What do you think I’m going to do?”
Peter stalked out of the office.
Laura twisted her hands together for five seconds before she called Derek.
“Fuck!” Derek exploded as he hung up.
Kira’s head snapped up from her laptop to look at him. They were at Laura’s apartment. Since his release from the hospital after the shooting, he’d been splitting his time between Laura’s place and Peter’s. Both had opened their spaces to Kira as well and she’d stuck close to him.
They’d discussed it at length – the shooting, his brief period in an induced coma, and her feelings about all of it. She’d even attended one of his therapy sessions so they could clear the air. He now knew more about why she was so afraid to lose him and he allowed her worry, as long as it didn’t get out of control. He now understood her abandonment issues that stemmed from a difficult past with her parents. They were dealing with it together, and that sometimes meant constant reinforcement and also allowing her to hover at times. Like she would now.
Now though, now he was fearful for his uncle’s welfare. Max was rich, powerful and obviously psychotic. His uncle was rich, powerful and pissed off. Throw in the circumstances facing Stiles and the fact that Peter would do just about anything for Stiles, and all this was a recipe for disaster.
He quickly called Isaac, conferencing in Boyd. Boyd swore viciously the entire time. Derek’s partner, Isaac, dispatched two cars from the precinct, climbing into one himself and promising to update Derek once they caught up with Peter, hopefully before he got to the Maximilian mansion.
Boyd got in touch with his security team who were supposed to be guarding Peter. If they weren’t still with the attorney they’d better had a good reason why.
John listened. At first he was seated facing his son. As more of the tale tumbled out, especially Erica’s involvement, he could sit no longer still. John began to pace, and continued pacing until Erica finished her side of this continuing nightmare of a situation.
Just then Boyd had re-joined them looking sombre, but simmering with fresh anger, hesitantly trailed by a worried looking Scott, who convulsively swallowed as John’s eyes landed on him.
John wanted to hate him, this boy that had been his son’s best friend for going 20-plus years now. He wanted to lash out but he couldn’t. His own role in these events – befriending the man who had all along been stalking his own son – well who was he to throw a stone. He hated this feeling of helplessness.
He wanted a perp. One he could get his gun and hunt down until said perp was on his way to the hospital or morgue – preferably the latter, in this case. This waiting around to find out what else Asher Maximilian had done, or was gonna do to Stiles was making him antsy.
How could he not have known? All this time. He was a cop dammit. He should have known.
Stiles took one look at Boyd’s face and sprang to his feet.
“Before I say what I’m going to say, none of you are allowed to panic,” Boyd began as he paused part-way between John and Stiles. “We’re handling it.”
“Handling what? What’s ‘it’?” Stiles asked, brow drawing heavily down.
“We think Peter may be on his way to see Asher Maximilian.”
The words hit Stiles like a shot to the chest. His heart began to race, his body went cold and he felt a physical pain he couldn’t pinpoint. In that instant it felt like all the blood was rushing to his head. What the hell was Peter thinking, and without talking to him.
“What do you mean you think?”
“My men went with him to the coffee shop. They stayed by the car to wait, but he never came out. They’d been waiting outside for near six minutes when Derek called to warn me that Laura said she thought he was going to do something like this. He left the office upset and hinted he was going to confront the cause. Apparently he told the guys he just needed a few minutes to clear his head.” Boyd shrugged. “My men are on their way to Maximilian’s mansion now, as is Isaac with some of his team.”
Stiles stood still, brain working a mile a minute. Suddenly he startled everyone by scrambling around the sofa, jumping over a table and racing into his and Peter’s room.
“Stiles.” His dad was puzzled but surged into action. He would physically stop Stiles trying to leave this apartment if necessary.
Boyd was right behind him.
Stiles keyed in the combination to the safe, rummaged around for a few seconds before he swore, vilely. “Fucking shit! Fuck!” he yelled.
“Stiles!” Boyd’s voice rang out. “What?!”
“He took the Ruger.” Stiles felt fear coil in his stomach. “If he kills him it’s premeditated, Boyd. You have to stop him.”
Boyd glanced at the Sheriff. A nod was all it took and Boyd was out the door.
Boyd ran for the elevator, slipping into his shoulder holster as his hand throbbed from the force of punching the button. He listened for the ding and climbed into the box, checking that his own revolver was loaded.
He should have double checked on the weapon this morning. This was on him.
As the doors opened, spilling him into the lobby, he called out to Greenberg who was on desk duty today, alongside two of his own security guys.
“No one gets up without John’s expressed permission, and John’s permission alone!” he yelled back, jumping into the jeep belonging to his firm that was always parked in front of the building.
If anyone was putting a bullet in Asher Maximilian today, it would not be Peter. Boyd had a slug with the man’s name already mentally inscribed on it.
Peter glanced out the back of the taxi yet again. His rear view was still clear of the security team Boyd had tagging him everywhere these days. He was still a bit in awe of how easy that had been. No one had been expecting him to shake his security tails, least of all him.
His hand touched his pocket again. Yes, it was still there.
He swallowed as he felt tension ease up his neck. He was ending this. Today!
With the call from Boyd, Isaac switched on the sirens and blazed through the city. They were still about 10 minutes out.
He just hoped they weren’t too late.
“Let the guest come up, Ray.”
The sound of a voice through the small relay box at the gate took the fight out of the man in the suit with the gun tucked away in a shoulder holster. Peter had been arguing with man from the time he arrived two minutes ago. No doubt that instruction had come from the lord of the mansion himself.
He marched up the long drive, with a hand in his pocket; the taxi having left already. Ahead, the doors to the mansion opened and a man stood there, a small smile on his face.
“Mr. Hale, I presume,” the man’s grin turned wide as he got to the bottom of the steps. “What a surprise. Do come in. You look thirsty.”
The man turned and entered the doorway. Peter glanced around before following.
Stiles shook and paced, mobile clutched tightly in his hand. His father, Erica and Scott watched every step with eagle eyes, none of them sure what to say in this moment.
He’d kill Peter when he got his hands on him for making him worry like this. The thought that he would definitely see his fiancé again was the only thing holding him together.
He had to believe Peter would come back to him alive. Why the fuck would he take such a chance knowing what this man had done to all of them?
He paced some more. Paced and trembled as everyone watched helplessly.
Five minutes. He’d be there in five minutes.
Isaac pressed down harder on the accelerator, pushing the vehicle faster.
“So to what do I owe this honour, Mr. Hale?” Max walked over to the side table where he sometimes kept his favourite liqueurs. He’d dismissed his staff from the vicinity. This was not a conversation for any other ears.
“What is it that you want, Maximilian?”
“Oh, well that’s a loaded question, Hale,” he raised an eyebrow and the decanter offering his “guest” a drink.
Peter ignored the gesture. “What.do.you.want?” he grated, jaws clenching as his hand curled around the hilt of the revolver in his coat pocket.
Max smiled. It was a creepy, cocksure tilt of his lips that only angered Peter more. “It’s simple, Hale. I want what’s mine.”
Even with back roads, Boyd was still too far away. It had taken near five minutes before he had hit the open road. He wouldn’t get to the mansion for another eight, even at this speed.
Dammit, he was still too far away.
“He’s not yours.” Peter’s heart lurched behind his ribs. He felt like his ears were ringing. This felt surreal. “He’s my fiancé, and Stiles belongs to no one but himself.”
“Is that what you honestly think? That you deserve him? That I will ever let him be yours?” Then the fucker looked him dead in the eye and laughed. “Oh Peter, thanks for that laugh.”
“There’s nothing fucking funny about what you’re doing, any of it!” Peter snapped at him.
“What am I doing? Do you have even a shred of proof that I’ve done anything but help an actor’s career, counsellor? Any proof that I’ve done anything wrong?”
“You need to stop. Leave us alone. I’m going to marry him, regardless of what you do.”
Max’s green eyes narrowed into slits. “No you won’t. I promise, you won’t.”
Everything slowed down. In that moment Peter knew Asher Maximilian would never let this go; never let Stiles go. And the most unflappable attorney in the city lost what little temper he had left.
Stiles glanced at his phone for the millionth time. Why the hell had he not heard from Isaac or Boyd yet? He dialled Derek and hung up feeling even more dejected. Still nothing, and Peter had turned his mobile off.
He felt more afraid now than he had when he’d first found the gun missing.
Please come home to me, Peter, please, he whispered into the atmosphere to whomever would listen.
Max saw the hand jerk in Hale’s pocket and he had a split second to react before the man drew the weapon from the depths.
It was pure reflex on his part, but the first blow sent Peter reeling back. The weapon went skating across the floor. The attorney stumbled as he bumped into a nearby chair, surprised by Max’s deft movement. A hard crack sounded as his hip connected with the piece of furniture, and he heard a satisfying grunt of pain.
“Did you honestly think that I’d just stand here and let you shoot me? That I didn’t know what you had in your pocket all this time, counsellor?” He mocked.
Peter swung at him, landing a surprising clock again his cheekbone. Max’s legendary anger surfaced in a flash, but as he moved forward to return the favour – determined to flatten the lawyer where he stood – his door crashed open and two officers burst in.
He stepped back, rearranging the expressions on his face accordingly.
Peter knew he’d fucked up. The moment the man goaded him into drawing the gun, he’d known he’d lost it. And now he was going to be arrested.
He was going to be in jail while this man remained free. He was leaving Stiles unprotected.
And he had no one to blame but himself.
Max smiled as the attorney was placed in the back of the squad car. He would have preferred to have ended it there in his house, but maybe this was better.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Hale,” he heard one of them whisper to the bruised attorney.
Pity, with a little more time he could have done so much worse.
The blond officer, whom Max recognised as Derek’s partner, Isaac Lahey, was still giving him the evil eye. In fact, they all were. But really what could any of them do? The cops’ hands had been tied the moment Hale had lost his temper. The moment Max drove Hale to lose his temper.
He smiled to himself quietly. “I can come down to the station in about an hour to file the report. I just need to get one of my lawyers to meet me there,” he said, his ‘concerned but professional’ persona in full effect.
“Yes, you will need to, unless you decide not to file charges.” Lahey’s voice sounded hopelessly hopeful.
Max just held back the hearty cackle wanting to bubble to the surface. As if?
“Well, Officer . . . uh, Lahey, was it?”
“Detective, actually . . .”
“My apologies, of course Detective Lahey. I’m sure you can appreciate that I was just assaulted, at gun point in my own home. I’m sure you of all people understand how an unexpected gun attack can be most traumatising . . . and by a man I only agreed to see after he caused a raucous at my gates, threatening my security team. I do not like confrontations,” Max lied smoothly.
Truth was, he lived for confrontations. It was just that most people were too chicken shit and afraid of him to challenge him directly. He was tickled pink by these circumstances and could barely hold in his excitement. Blood was pumping through his veins at this mayhem like the true adrenaline junkie he was.
“Nevertheless, I feel like I need to see this through to ensure it doesn’t happen again, you understand,” he continued. “I can’t have people thinking they can just show up and attack me in my own home. I will come down to the station within the hour to file my official report.” He let that sink in as the detective visibly ground his teeth together.
Max badly wanted to laugh. They had played right into his hands. This was going to be even better than he could have hoped for.