When the team got back to the house the boys were running all around, suits half on, pool noodles flying between them and a lot of yelling taking place.
Sophie looked at Ale, who was smiling tiredly. The team and Ale found their way into the living room downstairs, Ale looking at them.
"Thank you guys so much for everything you have done. I don't know how I would have gotten through these past few weeks without you. And I can't thank you enough for finding me. Lio wouldn't have been able to live with himself if something had happened to me. I know he died in peace because of you," Ale smiled, handing each of them a wrapped gift.
"I know it's not much, but I thought you all could use something as payment for what you have done. You all accepted me into your little family, and I am so grateful."
"You didn't have to get us anything," Nate said, clearing his throat. "We got our payment from the company when we shut it down."
"The payment you deserve to have is so much larger than that of money," Ale smiled. "Now, I booked your flight for tonight…I know there are tons of other people waiting for your help back in Boston. You have a private plane that will be waiting for you in about an hour."
"You aren't coming back with us?" Hardison asked, the news shocking. In his mind, Ale was going to come back to Boston and stay in Nate's guest room forever.
Nate was disappointed that Ale was not returning back with them. He was hoping she would become a part of the team. He hadn't said anything to her, however, so he knew that it was a far-fetched idea. Ale was the type of girl who felt like a burden unless she was told otherwise.
Sophie wasn't surprised that Ale wasn't coming right back to Boston…she knew that Ale needed some time to find herself again. It made sense. She did have a strong feeling that the girl wasn't going to completely disappear, though.
Parker was a little sad that Ale wasn't flying back with them, but she was excited that she was going to have an excuse to come to Italy a whole lot more—there were great things to steal and she couldn't wait to steal with Ale.
Eliot, however, was upset. He didn't understand how he was supposed to protect Ale if she was a million miles away. He was trying to not be angry, or to miss Ale, especially when they hadn't even left yet, but he couldn't help it…she had found a place in his heart.
"No. I'm not. I have some things to go through here. I have to clean out Lio's room here, and go back to our family apartment and finish going through Mama and Papa and Lio's things. Put them up for sale, finalize the deeds, things like that. Some of my older family members need to be checked on, and the boys here will need me for a while. I will be back in a few weeks. For now, though, I'm needed here," Ale explained, the smile bright on her face. "You guys have my number, though, so don't hesitate to call. I know I can't contact you, since you are all getting new contacts and burner phones since the last job. Once you get settled, though, please contact me. You all mean so much to me," Ale whispered, her eyes filling with tears.
Hardison was the first one to hug her, pulling her tightly into his chest. He whispered something in her ear and then headed up to his room to pack. Sophie hugged her next, taking her and Hardison's gift in her hands.
Parker gave Ale a high five, promising to see her soon. Nate placed a simple kiss on Ale's forehead, telling her not to be a stranger.
Eliot was the last one left, looking at Ale. She looked stronger than when the team had found her in the cell, but her eyes looked sadder. He hated leaving her. He wanted to help her and make her feel something other than sadness.
He couldn't, though. Anyone he ever let into his heart got hurt. He was the reason her brother was dead. He was the reason that so many others were dead. Ale deserved so much better than Eliot.
So instead of telling Ale how much she meant to him, he simply nodded at her and left, quickly packing his clothes and waiting in the car. The more he thought about leaving, the more Eliot wanted to hold Ale close and explain everything about his life to her.
That ship had sailed, however, the minute he left her standing in the living room, alone.
Ale wanted nothing more than to jump onto the plane with the Leverage team. She loved each and every one of them, and they all held a piece of her heart. She couldn't go with them, though. She had so much to take care of here…and she couldn't allow herself to find another family when hers had already gone. It wasn't right.
So instead, she said her goodbyes and gave them their carefully chosen gifts. All of the members had given her the perfect goodbye…except for Eliot. He had surprised Ale.
Ale thought that the two would hug, that Eliot would object to her staying, or would have offered to help her for a while. Instead, he just left.
Ale shouldn't have been surprised…Eliot was the Eliot Spencer. He had thousands of girls after his heart and he didn't have time for a simple girl like Ale. She was just a job to him, and now that the job was done so were they. It wasn't like they had shared anything, either. Just words, smiles, and free rides up the stairs.
The connection she thought they had was a fallacy, something Ale made up to consume her thoughts over thoughts of all she had lost. When Eliot looked at her with nothing in his eyes, she understood. She was just a job to all of them. They didn't need her around and they certainly didn't want her. It was better this way.
Once the team had left Ale joined the boys, changing into her swimsuit and slipping a big sweatshirt over her bikini. She and the boys hopped into their cars, driving to a secret spot they always visited.
Many summer nights had been spent at the spot on the hill, Lio, Ale, Emilio, and all of the boys having bonfires and campouts at the beautiful location. Thick trees parted to make a perfect circle on the edge of a cliff, the sky clear and the air crisp as the trees surrounded them.
The boys, and Ale, all sat around on blankets, telling stories about Lio. Ale found it all to be too much, though, so she walked over to the edge of the cliff, dark water at the base of the precipice.
"I miss you," Ale whispered, looking up at the sky, the stars blinking back as if they were listening.
Ale closed her eyes, feeling one of the boy's arms wrap around her.
"To Lio?" the boy asked, Ale realizing it was Emilio. Ale opening her eyes to see all of the boys behind her.
"To Lio," she smiled, nodding her head.
Ale then took a deep breath…and jumped.
A/N: Thank you for reading!
I know it is kind of a lame ending and leaves many questions…but it is not the end of Ale and the team! The next installment of the Alessandra stories will be called Defender of Men and the first chapter is up right now!
I hope you enjoyed the first part of the series, and I also hope you continue to read about Alessandra and the team as they deal with life and corruption, as well as their own demons.
I have big plans for Ale, the team, and, of course, Ale and Eliot, so stay tuned. Thank you so much!