Rowe’s footsteps padded gently against the carpeted hallway. Gavin walked behind her. Their silence imitated the quiet surrounding them. The deserted corridor stood as a sad reminder of Rowe’s isolation. She felt hollow. Despite Oisin’s alliance with Jace, Rowe did not hate him. He had been a good friend to her. Poor Oisin, she thought.
Rowe quickened her steps. She wanted this to end. Rowe felt she had a slight advantage. She knew this building inside and out. Rowe figured she would find Dahlia soon. A thought occurred. One she had not considered until now. If Rowe did find Dahlia, what would she do with her? Regardless of the animosity between the two, she could never end Dahlia’s life. Rowe had roughed up “clients” of Jace, but never resorted to killing. She was uncertain of whether Jace knew this. He probably did not. Jace never questioned the outcomes of her errands. That was another flaw of his. Jace trusted Rowe. She was the only person he did trust. He did not even trust his own sons.
Rowe was searching the chateau. She wondered where Jace was. She had a brief spat with Dahlia. It was over Jace; in fact, their fights always involved Jace. She could not help it if he loved her and not Dahlia. “Rowena, what are you doing?” She turned around. Jace stood in the hallway. Rowe smiled. “I was trying to find you.” They approached each other. Jace’s smile did not reach his eyes. A sign something was wrong. “Are you alright?” she asked in concern. “How do you do that? Have you been practicing?” he asked. He gently touched her forehead. Rowe laughed. “Not as much as I should. I just know you.”
They walked hand in hand to the courtyard. Jace sat on a bench. Rowe joined him. “Gavin and Aspen are home.” Jace stood to his feet. He ran his fingers through his dark hair. Rowe did not understand why this bothered him. His handsome features appeared tired. Deep lines etched into his once smooth, Adonis face. Rowe decided she would keep the fight to herself. She did not wish to upset Jace any further. He looked at her. “They are hiding something from me. Unfortunately, their defenses are stronger than ever. I am unable to see”, Jace said. “You are the only one I trust.” Rowe stood to her feet.
She did not know Aspen’s secret. However, she knew what Gavin was hiding. Yet, she could not tell Jace. He would kill Gavin if he knew. Rowe disliked his visits, yet she could not condemn Gavin to death. Rowe shuddered. Jace asked, “Are you cold?”
“Are you cold?” Rowe started. Gavin’s question mirrored Jace’s query from her recollection. Rowe did not realize she was shivering. “I’m fine” she answered. “Of course you are”, Gavin responded. “Rowena is never fazed by anything. She is strong and perfect. If my dad had his way, he would have you over Aspen and I or anyone else, for that matter.” Rowe stopped. She turned to him. Gavin’s expression was impassive. “I see things have not improved between you and Jace”, Rowe observed. Gavin gave a curt nod. His and Jace’s relationship had always been rocky. She never knew what the cause was. Rowe placed her hand on his forearm. He looked at her as if he had never seen her before.
“You are wasting time”, he warned. Reality jarred Rowe. She spun around. Rowe marched through the hallway. “What will you do if you find Dahlia?” Gavin asked. They reached the lobby. “I am not sure.” Rowe walked around it. Gavin followed her in uncharacteristic silence. “Will you kill her?” Rowe exited the Lobby.
“Unlike Jace, I do not care for killing.” They entered a spiral staircase. Its steep steps deterred the inhabitants of the Ritz. Rowe overheard many complaints of this in the past five years. Gavin’s footfalls made Rowe edgy. “Would you walk quieter?” she snapped. She worried the others would hear their approach before they even arrived. Gavin did not respond. She looked back at him. His shoulders were slumped forward. “Are you alright Gavin?”
He looked at her. An expression of misery, replaced his usual leer. “Elle shouldn’t have died the way she did.” Gavin’s statement came out of nowhere. The sorrow in his voice, took Rowe aback. “That wasn’t your fault”, she dismissed. “It was Jace. It’s always been Jace.” With her eyes on Gavin, Rowe missed the last step. He caught her before she fell. “Thank you”, she mumbled. Her cheeks flushed with embarrassment. Rowe and Gavin set foot on the second landing.
“My dad had nothing to do with it”, Gavin murmured. Rowe stared at him. She opened her mouth to tell him he was wrong. However, a movement ahead diverted her attention. London walked toward them. Her gun positioned at Rowe. She froze. “Where is Gray?” Rowe asked in a breathy voice. Fear assaulted Rowe. “What are you doing London?” Gavin demanded. His angry tone boomed in the hallway. London neared them. Gavin blocked Rowe.
London shouted, “Get out of the way!” Gavin’s altered behavior not only surprised Rowe. London lowered her gun a fraction. She cocked her head to one side. This man, who had abused and manipulated, womanized and killed. Now ready to sacrifice his life. Rowe wondered what changed in the last fifteen minutes. She placed her hand on his shoulder. He did not budge. Rowe whispered in his ear, “Gavin, it is ok.” She walked around him.
“What did you do with Gray?” Rowe asked again. London sneered. She positioned her gun at Rowe’s head. Her pistol did not frighten Rowe. Worse things could happen. Life had already dealt a hand of cruelty and loss. Rowe approached London. Gavin close in tow. “You don’t think I will?” London asked in a high-pitched voice. “I am finishing what I should have done the day Gray and I found the chateau.” Rowe stood a few inches from the barrel. “What are you talking about London?” she asked.
“You are a thieving witch. Not only did you steal Jace from Dahlia. You stole Gray from me. He loved me. But then he met you”, London retorted. Rowe shook her head. “That’s not how it happened”, she responded. London pulled the trigger. It clicked. However, no shot rang out.
London looked at the gun in surprise. Gavin lunged at London. London and Gavin crashed to the floor. Rowe took her chance. She ran past them. Rowe did not wait to see if the commotion beckoned any curious Ritz residents. She scaled another spiral staircase. The scuffling and thuds faded. Gray must be nearby. He is safe and unfound, Rowe thought. She refused to consider any other option.
Rowe reached the third landing. Running sounded behind her. She looked over her shoulder. Aspen took the steps two at a time. Rowe ran around the corner. She hid. Aspen’s running steps neared. Rowe knew he had a gun. However, was unsure of whether it had bullets. She could not chance what happened with London’s gun to occur again. Jace might have planned that on purpose. Aspen’s steps ended. Rowe held her breath. He ducked his head around the corner. “Found you”, he growled.
Rowe punched him in the nose. Aspen shrieked. He covered his nose. “Why did you do that?” Despite his breakdown over Elle’s life, she did not trust him. Rowe did not respond. She ran from him. He lunged at her. Rowe leapt out of his reach. She laughed aloud. Rowe did not break stride. She neither looked around nor looked back. Her training from years prior proved successful. Survival instincts, as well as guerilla collaborated.
She was unsurprised by the quiet hallway. The third floor housed elite and aristocratic families. This summer season called them away to the Hamptons and vacation homes. She rounded another corner. Rowe began to wonder if she would find Dahlia. She mulled over what she discovered. As with all of Jace’s games, cheating commenced. London and Gavin were fighting on the second floor. This meant Gray was alone. Thanks to her right hook, Aspen was now injured. She was unsure of where he was. However, Rowe knew she outran him for the time being. Moreover, this meant Dahlia was alone too.
She neared an opened door, which led to the roof. Rowe slowed to a stop. This surprised Rowe. The roof door was never open. It required a key only the head door attendant held. Oisin, she thought. Rowe felt her mind work fast. Oisin’s alliance, Aspen and London, abandoning their Sneak duties, and Jace’s acceptance of Rowe’s wager. In a matter of minutes, understanding set in. The reason for these events could only mean one thing. Jace devised this entire plan.
Rowe bolted up the stairs. She yanked the roof door open. “No”, she screamed. Jace stood with a gun positioned at Gray’s head. Dahlia cackled. She stood beside Jace. Rowe felt panic overwhelm. The game, the wager; she was Jace’s puppet in this entire scheme.
Copyright © 2014 SarahHardy. All Rights Reserved.