"Sweetheart, forget all that other shit. No one and nothing can take me away from you. Nothing. Do you hear me? No more being scared. Will you marry me?"
I pop up from my bed in a cold sweat, again. It is the same dream over and over again. Gideon is purposing to me on the dock and as soon as I tell him yes, he disappears. It has been two months and although I have made it very clear to Taylor and Sawyer that I do not want to have any contact with him, I figured he would have at least tried to find out how, Charlie and I are doing.
I slide out of bed and step into the bathroom. As I look into the mirror I see the effects the past eight weeks have had on me. My swollen belly is much bigger at this stage, then when I was pregnant with Charlie. The dark circles under my eyes, due to lack of sleep, are the only color I have on my pale face, and my hair is a dry, frizzy mess. This pregnancy is definitely taking a lot more out of me then I anticipated. Top that off with an absent father-to-be, and you get the ghoul looking back in the mirror.
The separation has been hard on Charlie, too. She keeps asking for her daddy and I am running out of excuses to give her. I don't know how to explain to a one year old that the only man she ever knew as her father abandoned her because he wasn't prepared to commit to me. I just can't believe he would leave her like that. He did so much to be a part of her life and just like that, he's done. I mean if he didn't want to be with me I could handle that, with time I guess, but to completely cut out Charlie…
"Fucking, coward." I tell myself as I squeeze toothpaste on my brush.
Two months. Two months and no one knows where Ana could be. All the money I pay these dumb fucks and they can't find one woman and a child. I mean seriously, where could they have gone.
After my mother released me from her hotel room in Vegas I hopped on the first flight home to Ana. By the time I got there the house was empty. I called the Greys, but they claim they have no idea where Ana and Charlie ran off too. Not that they were too pleased with me to begin with. I tried to tell Carrick that it was all one big misunderstanding but he hung up after telling me how disappointed he was in me.
Join the club.
I am disappointed in myself. How could I let this situation get so messed up? How could I let Ana and Charlie get mixed up with this mess? It was my job to protect them and I let them down. If I ever do get the chance to make it up to them, I wouldn't blame her for telling me to go screw myself.
For now I just need to know where they are. I need to know that my girls are safe. Marco can't get even get a lead on them, not that I trust him all that much. He is my mother's right hand man so any interest he has in finding her is strictly so I can get rid of Taylor and Sawyer.
My phone rings in my pocket. As I glance over at the screen I swipe it off the polished oak table in a huff. Speaking of the devil herself. "What?"
"Now is that anyway to speak to your mother."
"What do you want?"
"It has been weeks Gideon. I want to know what you are doing about completing the job you were told to do. I want Jason Taylor and Luke Sawyer dead, and I want it done soon. Surely, it can't be that difficult to locate two men. Have you tracked down Ana? No doubt they will be where she is."
"No mother, I am working on it."
"Well work harder, before I change my mind and add your little tart to the mix. Get it done, Gideon. That's an order."
"Don't threaten me, mother. I will get it done as soon as I can. But if you harm one hair on Ana or Charlie's head, I will add you to the mix."
I hang up my phone and slam it on the table in front of me. Where could they all have gone? Pascale tells me that they had someone on the inside who was tracking them, but that person has gone MIA as well. I don't know what is going on but I am seriously getting worried.
I slip into the old servant quarters and see Madeline sitting on the bed reading a book; still shackled to the footboard. It has been a few days since she has begged to be let go. She just keeps reading one of Charlie's fairytale books, over and over again.
I am waiting on Welch to get me a 20 on Elizabeth Vidal. If what Madeline Carter says is true, and I know it is, then we are all in a lot of trouble.
The day Ana left for Texas:
I take the back elevator up to the penthouse in Escala. I don't want to risk running into the paps in the front of the building or the garage. I need to make the travel arrangements for us and tie up some loose ends before I leave. As I enter the kitchen I hear a soft female voice whispering. I hide behind the far wall and listen as the young woman in the living room speaks.
"I know what I have to do. Elizabeth already gave me my instructions…No, no one suspects anything… As soon as I am moved, I will call you and let you know where we are… Please don't worry about me, daddy. Tell Anthony I love him, please…..yes, yes...I know…I have to go. I will call you soon."
They woman I do not recognize takes a deep cleansing breath then stands and walks into the kitchen. When she sees me she belts out a scream and drops her cell phone, shattering it to pieces. I put my hand over her mouth and bend her over the kitchen island using my body weight to hold her in place. With my other hand holding both hands behind her back she kicks and flails about, but I tighten my grip on her.
"Who are you? What are you doing here?" I grunt out as the bitch bites into the skin on my fingers.
The Penthouse is soundproofed so when I release her mouth and she screams I am not worried that people can hear her. I grab a kitchen towel from the side drawer with one hand and stuff it in her mouth when White, rounds the bend.
"Taylor, what the hell are you doing to Mrs. Carter?" White asks.
"Cuffs. Now." I demand.
White tosses me his handcuffs and helps me wrangle the crazy bitch to the ground. I order him to get some zip ties from the utility closet. He is back in a flash and helps me tie her to the bar stool by her ankles. Just as we finish, Sawyer enters through the foyer.
"T, the fuck man? What are you doing to Madeline?"
"Sawyer, who is this woman?"
"Her name is Madeline Carter. She hired me last week. Ana said she could stay at the Penthouse. Why are you tying her up?" Sawyer questions as he moves toward Madeline. I step in front of him and he cocks his head in confusion.
"This woman was just on the phone with someone. She told them that she would tell them where you were taking her. She said she had gotten instructions from Elizabeth." I turn to the woman seated behind me. "Elizabeth who? Vidal? Are you working for Elizabeth Vidal?"
Sawyer steps next to me and I can tell from years of working with this man, he is not happy with her right now. "Answer," he tells her as he yanks the towel from her mouth.
"Sawyer, thank god you are here. This man assaulted me and tied me up. I don't know what he thinks he heard but I was talking to my father. This is all a misunderstanding. Can you please let me go?" Madeline whines.
Sawyer knows me well enough by now that he knows I don't do anything half assed. If I believe there is a security breach, then there is a security breach.
"No. Answer the question. Who are you working for? Is it Elizabeth Vidal?"
"I don't know an Elizabeth Vidal. He is lying, Luke. You have to believe me." Madeline pleads as she tosses him the saddest puppy dog eyes I have ever seen.
"White, you stay with her. Don't let her out of your sight." I motion for Sawyer to follow me to the library. There is something seriously wrong here and I intend to find out what it is. I didn't for a second believe that Gideon would up and leave Ana like that, so I need to know what this bitch has up her sleeve and how this Madeline woman is involved.
Sawyer closes the door behind him and we both take a seat in the high wingback chairs near the fireplace. "Talk to me Sawyer. Why didn't I know this woman was here?"
"There was nothing to know. She is a client that I was hiding from her deranged husband. She hired me last week and said she was in fear of her life so I asked Ana if I could keep her here. She agreed. I was going to bring her with us to Texas and leave her there until I got the paperwork for the restraining order in place."
"Did you do a background check on her?"
"Yes, her name is Madeline Carter. She is clean. No family. Married some asshole two years ago. He has no family to speak of."
"You didn't think the lack of information was odd?"
"Not really. I had no reason to suspect that she-what exactly do we think she is doing? Do you really think she was talking about Elizabeth Vidal?"
"I don't know but she is coming with us until I figure out what is happening here. I want everyone packed and ready to go in two hours. That includes the Grey's and Mia. No one gets left behind. Tell them it's a vacation, I don't care. Just make sure everyone is on that plane."
"Ok. T. Look man, I'm sorry. If I had any idea she was pulling something, I would have never brought her here."
"I know, just make sure everyone is ready. We may be gone a while. I will inform Welch of the intel I have. Something doesn't feel right and at the moment I don't know who we can trust so no one but us are to know what is going on. Got it."
With a nod, Sawyer stands and walks out of the Penthouse without another word said. When I walk into the kitchen the towel is back in Madeline's mouth and she is shaking her head erratically to wiggle free.
"White. I am going to need a large dog kennel. I will be back within the hour. Keep her tied up until then. Also call Reynolds and inform him I need him to help me with her transport. I want her on the plane before the others arrive. "
"You got it, T." He tells me as he flips out his phone.
I can get a blindfold, gag, and restraints from home when I gather the troops. The GEH jet has a cargo area where Mrs. Carter will be very comfortable. Once I get her to Texas I will have Welch help me drag the truth out of her. A dose of truth serum should do the trick. If not, this may get ugly. It is not always my first resort to hurt a woman, but if that woman is looking to hurt my friends and family, then so be it.
Today is the day. The day we head back to Seattle. There are so many working parts to this plan I don't know how we are going to pull it off. But we have to. We have to get back and execute our plan. We have to face it all and protect Charlie and Ana from Elizabeth and her homicidal family. I can't keep my wife and my in-laws in the dark forever. The less people to know what is happening the better, but we have to do this now. We have to have all of our ducks in a row or Taylor and I are toast.
When I step into Madeline's room I watch as Taylor walks her through the script. Even though Madeline has agreed to help us, she is not to be trusted. She could tip off her father as soon as she gets on the phone and that would not be good for anyone. Hopefully she has had time to think about the ramifications of her actions. When she told us the whole truth, not that she had a choice, she seemed sad after. Madeline doesn't strike me as a vindictive person, just a scared girl. If I were to guess, I would wager that she is doing this for all the wrong reasons. Everything else aside, the bruise on her face the day I met her, was very real.
"Let's go through this one more time. You make the call to your father. You, do not improvise. You keep to the script. If at anytime I think you are being less than cooperative, I will cap you right here. Then I will go after your father. Are we clear?" Taylor says.
"Yes, Jason. We are clear. I told you already, I am not going to do anything wrong. I just want to go home. I want this all to be over. I understand what I did was wrong. I just need-I want to go home. Please."
I pull out the burner phone and dial Pascal's number. When I hear the first ring I put the phone on speaker and lay in on the desk next to the bed.
"Hello." Greets a man, with a thick Italian accent.
"DADDY! Oh, Daddy thank god." Madeline yells. I nod my head assuring her she is doing well so far.
"Maddy? Maddy is that you. Where are you?"
"I am on a plane; in the cargo area. One of Ana's guards heard me talking to you the day we left. They have held me captive. They have me in a crate but I don't know where we are going. I did hear Sawyer say something about moving me back to Escala. Daddy they are going to hurt me. I hear them say that after they get Elizabeth they will kill me. Please. You have to help me."
"Shh. I will. No one is going to hurt you. How are you calling me?"
"I lifted one of the guards cell phones when he was loading me up. I can't talk much. The plane is going to take off soon. But, Daddy. I heard one of the guards say that Elizabeth wants me dead. He said that she sent one of your men to find and kill me so that I wouldn't reveal to them too much. I didn't tell them anything except that I was supposed to keep tabs on Ana. They don't know anything else, I swear." She lies. I have to say, she is very good.
"What?! When did this happen. What man did she send?" Pascale questions.
"I don't know. They tortured him. I could hear him screaming from the other room. He said that Elizabeth sent him to kill me. Daddy, I'm scared. Please help me."
"Shhh. Calm down. I will get to the bottom of this."
"Daddy, they just want Elizabeth. Maybe if you give her to them, they will let me go. Please daddy you have to help….daddy…no." Madeline shrieks on cue as Jason takes over the conversation.
"Quiet bitch! Who are you talking to, huh?" I slap my hands together near the phone and Madeline screams as if I have slapped her.
"STOP! You motherfuckers lay one more finger on my daughter-"
"Who is this?" Jason asks.
"This is Pascale. Madeline is my daughter, but you know that already. You have no idea who you are fucking with here. Let her go and I will let you live. If you touch her again you will bring down a war upon yourself that you will never win. Do you hear me!"
"Yeah, I hear you. Now you hear me. I want Gideon and Elizabeth at Escala unarmed at 0700. You hand over Elizabeth and I will give you Madeline. If you come armed, the girl is dead. If you try anything funny, the girl is dead. I mean it. Dead."
I slap my hand again and Madeline smirks at me as Taylor presses the end button. "You think he bought it?"
"Oh, yeah." Taylor says wearing a confident smile.
My phone rings with a number I do not recognize. I am reluctant to answer it but knowing I have contacts from all over the country looking for Ana, I need to. "Cross."
"Well, well. Gideon Cross. Long time no see, man."
"Taylor! Jason is that you? Where is Ana? Is she okay? How's Charlie?" I yell as I pace the floor of the house Ana and I once shared as a family.
"Both are fine. No thanks to you, and your cunt mother. So I hear you picked up a contract to off Luke and I." Taylor says sarcastically.
"No…I…I didn't. It was my mother. I…hell, Taylor where is Ana? I have been worried sick about her and Charlie."
"You will see her soon. Relax. I know you wouldn't kill us. You wouldn't…would you?" Taylor asks. I would never kill him and Luke. That was never my intention. Those men and they Grey's are my family. More of a family then even my own ever was.
"What!? NO! Jason you have to believe me. I was never going to go through with it. I just need to know my family is safe. We have to do something. My mother is crazy-"
"Gideon. Stop talking. There is already a plan in motion. I need you, Elizabeth, and Pascale at Escala at 0700. No weapons, no funny business. I need you to go into this blind. "
"What plan? Jason you have to tell me more than this."
"I can't. For your own protection. You have to trust me on this. Pascale is going to contact you to get you to go there. It is not a trap. Just do what he asks and no one will get hurt. Except maybe your mother. Are you going to be okay with that?"
"If it means Ana and Charlie are safe you can have her. Just make sure nothing happens to my girls."
"Nothing will happen. Just be there."
The line goes dead and for a moment I just stare into space and drop to my knees. They are safe. "Thank you god, they are okay." I chant as I fall forward with my knees tucked under me and my head on my forearms. Relief washes away weeks of worrying. Worrying if Ana and Charlie are dead or alive. Worrying about what I was going to do once I found them.
A knock at the front door has me on my feet in a flash. Jason wouldn't tell me the plan so my nerves are still a bit on edge. This could all be a set up. He could be planning a hit on me or something. I have to be careful here. I can't let anything go wrong. I can't put my family in any more danger.
I look through the front window to see a black Mercedes parked in front of the house. I move to the front door and as I peek through the peep hole, I see Pascale and Anthony standing on my front porch. Taylor said that Pascale would contact me, but I didn't' think he would show up on my doorstep. Just as I was reaching for the handle one of the two men standing outside pound on the door. I assume it is Anthony with the force that is being used, but as I swing open the door I see a very angry Pascale, with his fist in the air.
"What?" I ask as the two men push past me into the house. I can't let on that Jason has contacted me. I can't give anything away.
"We need to talk Gideon. It is your mother. She has lost it. She put a hit out on my daughter." Pascale inches his face toward me and my dear cousin Anthony pushes my shoulder.
"You know about that? Were you in on it?" Anthony slaps me upside the head and I completely lose it.
I pile drive him into the foyer wall, causing it to crack under our combined weight as I pound my fist into his face over and over. The feeling of his flesh being pummeled under my fist feels good. All the aggression and tension I have had for the past few weeks needs to be released, and this asshole needs to feel my wrath. This whole damn family has turned my world upside down and inside out. My daughter and my fiancé were taken from me; my father rose from the dead and was shot right in front of me, and all at the hands of my own mother. No more. I will not be pushed around. If this cocksucker thinks he is going to come into my house and disrespect me, he is out of his damn mind.
When I feel Anthony's body go limp I register that he is no longer conscience. Pascale is pulling on my arm screaming for me to let him go but I must have blacked out in my fit of rage.
"GIDEON, STOP IT!" Pascale yells again. I release Anthony and he falls unceremoniously to the floor in a heap of limbs and blood. I watch as Pascale steps back and holds his hands up to show his surrender. He just may be next if he doesn't start talking.
I walk into the kitchen and Pascale follows. As I touch the faucet with my forearm, warm water cascades over my bleeding knuckles. While the crimson liquid trickles down the drain I glance over to Pascale who is gathering a wad of paper towels from the roll.
"We need to talk, Gideon." He says as he hands me the bunched up towels and taps the faucet to turn off the water. "It's about your mother."
"Yeah, I got that much. What about her?"
"She is out of control."
"That is what I have been trying to tell you. But no one listens to me. What did she do, now?" I ask as casually as I can despite my anxious jittering.
"I was contacted by my daughter. You see, when this whole mess started, Elizabeth had my daughter, Madeline, infiltrate Ana's security. She was tracking Jason Taylor and Luke Sawyer, and reporting back to us so we could keep tabs on them. So when the time came for you to handle the task you were given, we would know exactly where to find them and what they were doing." Pascale looks almost ashamed as he explains. I knew they had someone on the inside, but I had no idea it was his daughter.
"So where is she. Your daughter I mean. What happened to her?"
"Somehow Jason Taylor figured out who she was. As I said, she contacted me today. She was able to make a phone call to tell me she is okay. She told me that she heard one of the guards say that Elizabeth sent someone to take care of her because she knew too much. I don't know who Elizabeth could have sent but I do know she has contacts all over the world to carry out her dirty work."
"And, I care because…." I make a swirling motion with my good hand. I need him to get to the point. I am worried and restless to see my family and I want to know what the plan is, but I can't seem too eager. Pascale is a smart man and if he thinks he is being played this could all blow up.
"Before Madeline could tell me anymore Jason Taylor found her. He said you, Elizabeth, and I, should be at Ana's penthouse at seven tonight. They are willing to make a trade, Elizabeth for Madeline."
"And you are willing to let that happen. Give up my mother. I mean, I know how loyal you are to her."
"I can't make that decision on my own. She is the head of the family and shit like that doesn't get taken lightly. I spoke to the heads of the other families and they have agreed that since Elizabeth has taken over, shit has gone south. She is reckless and emotional. She is not thinking straight. They said that if they allow the switch, we could merge our operation with another family and allow the casinos to go with it. Gideon I think this is best for everyone. Once your mother is gone, there is no one to take over. You have seen the dumb bastards your cousins are. They just want the power."
"So let me get this straight. You want me to give up my mother and my casinos in exchange for your daughter, whom I do not know. And what do I get out of this deal?"
"You get your freedom. No one but her cared about the men who killed Christopher. Frankly the little fuck was just as crazy as her. I have no idea what anyone was even thinking, considering him for a position like this." He grasps my shoulders and stands taller next to me. "This is what you wanted. This is what is best for everyone. You get your life back and I get my daughter."
He is offering me the same deal that I offered months ago. If he were to just listen to me in the first place, then we would never be here and my father would still be alive. But I can't think about that now. I have to focus on the end game. Me and Ana and Charlie.
"Fine. Make the call. I'm in."