I kept hearing Cody’s words echoing in my head. Something. Such a mundane word. Something happened to people every day. We woke up. That was something, right? We went to work, had sex…all something.
Why this something?
And why to Edward?
“Mrs. Bouvier, I’m going to have to insist that you sit down and be quiet before I have you removed from the premises,” a loud, commanding voice said, breaking the monotony of my thoughts.
Cody groaned. “Why the hell did it have to be Edward who got taken hostage? He’s the only one who can talk her down. She’s going to get everybody killed.”
Cody yelped and I jerked my head up just in time to see Flynn lowering his hand.
I hadn’t even seen him come in. He wasn’t looking at me though. He was staring at Cody with a look I’d never seen before.
His voice was sharp. “You think that’s what anybody needs to hear right now?”
“Hell, Flynn.” Cody rubbed the side of his head. Then he sighed. “No, it’s not. You didn’t need to smack me upside the head though.”
“Why not?” Flynn lowered himself into the vacant seat across from us and folded his arms over his chest. “You’ve had more than enough fun doing it to me. Nice to be on the giving end for once.”
Cody flipped him off. Then they both turned their gazes to their mother, their bodies radiating with the same tension that was coursing through me. And their mother wasn’t helping matters much.
Claire Bouvier wasn’t a woman used to being denied and she was in a stand-off with one of the security guards who’d been assigned to watch over the family members who were waiting for news.
Security guards. My throat knotted up as I tried to swallow. I rubbed my engagement ring.
Approximately ninety minutes ago, Edward had been about to close on some deal when armed men had rushed into the bank. They’d taken everybody hostage, including Edward.
We sat with the other families in the lounge of the business office half way down and across the street, staring through the sea of spectators. I didn’t know why I kept staring. It wasn’t like I could see anything. This was as close as they were letting us get. And that was probably a good thing. The way Claire was behaving, I could just see her storming out into the street and demanding to see the man in charge of holding her son hostage.
That would go over well.
A weird, strangled sound left me. I don’t know if I was near hysterical tears or laughter. Tearing my gaze away from Claire, I focused on the ceiling.
“He’ll be okay.”
At Flynn’s low voice, I lowered my lashes and tried to pretend I wasn’t there. I was anywhere but here. Edward and I were back at the lodge in the mountains. We were making love. He slid his hands up over my breasts and kissed me, then slid them back down and kissed me again…
A hand closed over mine.
Sparks shot through me and I jumped. Opening my eyes, I found myself staring at Flynn.
He’d left his seat to kneel in front of me, his face only inches from mine. There was no lust or even a hint of desire there. Only concern.
“He’s going to be okay,” Flynn said again, his voice gentle. “Edward has the most level head of anybody I’ve ever met. He just might be able to talk his way out of this and convince all those guys over there into giving up their guns and turning their lives around. You’ll see.”
Convulsively, I nodded. I found myself gripping his hand so tight it hurt.
I don’t know what I would have said, but Claire’s strident voice cut through the air again and I sucked in a breath. “Can either of you make her stop?” I asked, my voice quiet.
“No.” Cody shook his head.
“If I even tried to get her to settle down, she’d get ten times worse. The only voice she’d hear right now is Edward’s.” Flynn’s voice was casual, like he was discussing the lack of rain.
“Fine.” I let go of his hand and stood up. Cody caught my arm as I stepped past him.
“What are you doing?” He stared at me.
“You know what? There are some jobs that it just takes a woman to do.” That said, I gently tugged free of his grip and strode over to where Claire was standing.
Two cops stood outside the door. Two security guards mirrored their position inside while two more waited further inside. There were two more along the outer exit and yet a fifth guard who was dealing with Claire and while she looked like she was going to blow a gasket, his face was impassive. So far, he hadn’t even raised his voice.
He needed a medal.
I stopped behind Claire and made eye contact with the brave security guard.
The young man went quiet and cocked his head, lifting an eyebrow.
Claire glanced behind her. Her shoulders went rigid. “Have a seat, Gabriella. I’m dealing with this.”
“No, you’re not,” I said quietly. I knew I didn’t need to raise my voice. In fact, I needed to stay calm at all costs.
She turned to face me. “Excuse me?”
Once her blue eyes were focused on me, I took another step, lowering my voice so that she was the only one who heard. I hated airing dirty laundry in public. My mama had raised me with manners, after all. It didn’t matter how much I disliked her. I was marrying her son and that meant she was family. I protected my family as much as I could.
“You’re making yourself look like a fool. You’re distracting these men when they’re here to protect us and make sure there aren’t any other dangers. You’re demanding to be taken closer to Edward when anything unplanned will only endanger him.”
“Oh, do be quiet.” She sniffed and made a fluttering motion with her hand, her perfectly manicured nails too close.
I batted her hand out of my face, fighting to keep my annoyance under control.
“You’re being a menace. They’ve already told you that if you persist, you’ll be locked up, and what good will that do?” I hardened my voice. “Now let me tell you something. If you do one thing that endangers Edward or anybody else in that building, I will personally kick your ass.”
She sucked in a breath, the intensity of my voice finally penetrating that thick veil of privilege that was wrapped so securely around her. “You insolent little bitch!”
“You arrogant cow!” I cut her off, pointing toward the building. My voice was rising and it took almost all of my self-control to keep it level. “Your son, my fiancé and eighteen other people are being held in that building. One of them is a young pregnant woman and she has her two year-old son with her. Did you not hear that part? But all you can think about is the fact a Bouvier is over there and nobody treats the Bouvier family like this! But that’s not what’s important! Now let the cops do their job so they can bring Edward and everybody else out alive!”
One of the cops came into the room just as Cody and Flynn flanked us. Cody took Claire and Flynn caught my arm.
“Wow. That’s some pre-marital drama you two have going,” Cody said, forcing a laugh. “I guess those seating arrangements this morning didn’t go well, huh?”
He guided Claire to one side of the seats while Flynn took me to another. He all but had to push me down into it. I was still drilling holes into Claire and she looked like she wanted to rip holes in me.
A dozen other people were giving her the same angry look as I was though. As she noticed it, she started to calm. She huffed out a breath and crossed her legs, staring stonily ahead while Cody spoke quietly to her. Whatever he said, didn’t get a response, but she’d at least sat down and shut up, so I wasn’t going to complain.
Flynn and I didn’t speak. I didn’t know if I could have said anything more at that point anyway. I felt more drained than before.
My phone chimed. Numb, I pulled it out of my bag and stared at it, confused for a moment. After a moment, I realized I had a message. It was Kendra.
I got your message. I am so sorry. Have you heard anything? Is he okay? I’m waiting down by the coffee shop at the corner, but they won’t let me come to where you are. It’s family only right now. Please text me back.
I tried twice to answer, but my hands were shaking.
“Here,” Flynn said softly. “Let me.”
I didn’t think to argue as he gently tugged the phone away, taking great care not to touch me. He tapped something in and then showed me the message.
Hi, Kendra. It’s Flynn. Cody and I are here with Gabriella. She’s pretty upset but holding up. We haven’t heard anything new. We’ll let you know when we do.
“Is that okay?”
“It’s fine. Thank you.” Then I folded forward over my knees and tried not to cry. How could this be happening? Why was it happening?
“Please be okay,” I whispered. “Please…”
“Here’s your phone.”
From the corner of my eye, I saw strong, lean fingers drop it into my purse. “I’m going to get you some water, okay?”
I started to tell him no. I didn’t want anything. But I didn’t bother. It didn’t matter. From the corner of my eye, I saw him stand and I looked away. Somehow, I knew this was all my fault. If I hadn’t slept with Flynn, hadn’t worked with him, kissed him, let him kiss me, none of this would’ve happened. I knew it made no sense, but I thought it just the same.
I barely heard it. The noise was faint from in here. From so far away, I almost didn’t register what it was, not at first.
Somebody else did though.
And through the rising screams and confusion, I started to panic.