Rolling her eyes, she pushes on. “They told me you were with Charles Townsend, and I remembered the name. A while back I remember them saying he was the man who bid on me against them, and that he had something against Justin. I also heard them say they didn’t understand why Charles wanted to take them down. This all happened so long ago that I’d thought nothing of it until they said he bought you. Not only that, but they were there when he did it! I can’t believe they would do that, just let him take you.”
Her words seem to rain down on me. Each one a blow to my heart. Charles said he’d do anything to have something he wanted. Maybe using me was a means to achieve something. That this all was just another move in a game he was playing with my brothers. One I thought I’d made up in my head. One he told me wasn’t happening. That he had no vendetta against them.
“What does he have on them? What does he want?” I can’t help but ask. What was so important that he’d rip my heart out like this? That he’d work so hard to get close to me? And for what? To use me against them? I told him about my past, something I’d never even told anyone. How could I be so stupid? Everything he’s done for me, with me, it was all so perfect. I should have known a man could never be that perfect. It was all an act.
“I don’t know. I kind of stormed out. These baby hormones are killer,” she says in her own defense.
“I have to get out of here.” The words are ripped from me. “I can’t be here. Please. We have to go before…” I want to say “before I start to cry”, but I can’t get the words out. If I say it, I’ll do it.
“The car is right outside.”
“Can you move fast? He’ll try to stop me. I can’t look at him right now.”
“I’m ready when you are.”
“Go.” Both of us bolt up from our seats, making a dash for the front doors of the casino.
“Mandy!” I hear him yell behind me, “Stop!” I feel my body jerk at his command, wanting to do as he says, and a tear slips free. He’s ingrained himself so deep in me I don’t think I’ll ever be able to get him out.
We make our way past the taxis and Stella jumps into the back of a Lincoln. I follow suit.
The driver pulls out onto the strip, leaving behind the one true happiness I thought would be mine forever.
I bolt out of the glass doors, just as the black sedan Mandy and Stella got in drives off, leaving me behind on the sidewalk. I turn around and see Cupid grabbing a set of keys and tossing them to me. I grab them and go to the car in front of me, getting and in and taking off. I don’t know whose it is, nor do I give a fuck. I’m going after what’s mine.
The tires screech as I floor it out of the casino and I take the first turn. I run a red light, then another, eating up the distance between me and Mandy. I don’t know what Stella said to her, but they’re both crazy if they think they can get away from me. Mandy is mine, and I won’t have anyone trying to take what’s mine.
I round the corner and see the front of the Cortez casino. I have to swerve to keep from hitting an oncoming truck, and I look up in time to see Mandy and Stella rushing inside. I honk my horn and the truck moves, the driver giving me the finger. I pull in and throw open my door, seeing Aaron and Justin exiting a car just beside me. Obviously, they had been following the girls too.
Bolting out of the car, I run to the casino, but the brothers grab my arms to halt me.
“Get your fucking hands off me now. Both of you.” I twist my arms as I try to break free, the strength of my rage helping me in my efforts.
The two of them can’t hold me for long, and they let go, throwing me back and blocking the entrance.
“Calm down, Charles. We want to know what the fuck is going on just as much as you do, but Stella is pregnant, and we can’t have you around her like this. It’s not safe for the baby,” Aaron says, holding up both hands in surrender.
“I came for Mandy. Once I get her, I’m out of here.” I try to push past them, not giving a fuck who sees this. They both hold their ground, not letting me by. “Get the fuck out of my way before I burn this goddamn place to the ground.”
Justin steps in front of me, but I can see hesitation in his eyes. “The only way you’re getting into our casino is if you calm down and come with us. We’ll let you talk to Mandy, but we will be there.”
I weigh my options and don’t see that I have many. I need to take her, and to do that I’ve got to get next to her. “Fine.” The word tastes like dirt on my tongue.
The brothers look at one another and they nod, turning to lead the way. I follow closely on their heels as they lead me inside the casino to a set of elevators. Once inside, I start to work out a plan, and when we hit the top floor, I take a breath to ready myself.
The doors open and we walk into their home. I step inside behind them, and immediately I see Mandy over their shoulders in the living room with her head down. Stella walks in from the kitchen with a glass of water in her hand. She sees the three of us standing there.
“Oh shit, that was fast,” she says, the shock clear on her face. I don’t know why she’s surprised. Like we wouldn’t find them.
I go to move around the brothers to get to Mandy when Aaron sticks his arm out to block my way. “This is far enough.”
Looking over his shoulder, Mandy makes eye contact with me just long enough for me to see her tears. Seeing her like this and not being able to get to her sends me into a rage. I need to go to her, but I look at the guys blocking my way and I know I need to be smart about it. They’re both as big as I am, and getting past them won’t be easy. But anger is on my side.