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Every muscle in his body was screaming at him the following morning, after spending hours in his gym. Thankfully Michael hadn't been around to antagonize him when he'd reappeared upstairs, though the pets seemed more pouty than usual over the silence in the house. Gavin had thrown himself into work the second he'd gotten to his office, informing security that he wouldn't be taking any meetings.
Cassidy was being careful. The server showed no activity out of the ordinary from her computer, and from what the security feed was showing, she'd been napping off her hangover on the godawful chaise lounge by her fireplace.
Gavin's thoughts strayed to Serena quite frequently, though he tried not to fixate on what exactly Owen might be attempting with her. The man was a leech, and clearly didn't take no for an answer. While he knew that Serena was more than capable of handling herself, Gavin wanted to break the other man's neck with his bare hands every time he thought of his stupid smug smirk.
An unsent text waited on his phone, knowing that it was unlikely Serena would have anything but a burner on her. So, he stared at the apology message and read it over to himself until his head began to ache and he called it an early day.
Her parents still hadn't reappeared at his house by early evening. He was two beers into a six pack and his best guess was that her mom was keeping Michael away for a while before the two men killed each other. [b "Hope she punches him in his stupid face. Breaks his damn nose,"] he grumbled, watching some cheesy action movie while talking to Linus. [b "Goddamn Owen, thinking he's god's gift to the world."]
Serena looks back at Gavin. Felt like a hollow something dropped in her gut. In all honesty she didn’t want to leave. Not just yet. But the way her father looked at her told her other wise. He may be enjoying this breakup.
The girl drove for hours. Just to clear her head. Before it dies because of the chemicals to change the color. She’s going to be a ginger. A ginger blonde to be exact. It’s going to suck. She would rather prefer a itchy wig.
It was a pain to do it. The girl had to do it twice. Twice! The second time it burned. Ugh. What bothered her was that her father ended up showing up to drive her to the airport. Joy. All he did was complain about Gavin. How much he wants to shoot him and dump his body in a gallon of chemicals. Fun. Fun.
Owen and her father David [i (Michael)] got her a room. A freaking room! Not a studio, a apartment or a house rental. A room rental! This mission is already killing her. The only thing is the place she’s in belongs to Owen. He lets his girlfriend live there. Did we mention is bugged. Guys what they’re going to be watching her every move. [u Every move.]
David and Kaitlin are going set up computer screens somewhere in Gavin’s house. Kaitlin is going to keep a better eye on Gavin. Especially since she’s not there to protect him from David. Gavin will become a new chew toy for David.
God, her father had the worst timing. Gavin's eyes rolled towards the ceiling and his jaw clenched, forcing a smile. [b "I'll keep an eye on Luna, then,"] he rapped his knuckles awkwardly on the counter.
[i "Not like you're doing anything else productive around here,"] her father snapped.
Instead of rising to the bait for a fight, Gavin contented himself with grabbing another beer and making his way to the living room. At least from there, he could watch her leave without being glaringly obvious that he was hovering. Linus waddled over and helped himself to the couch cushion next to Gavin, leaning against him like his own personal pillow.
[b "I don't want her to go either,"] the man sighed, running his hand through the sheep dog's fur. [b "But I can't make myself look like any more of a jackass than I already have, buddy."]
[i "Never stopped you before,"] Michael huffed from the doorway.
Gavin glared. [b "Excuse me for not being thrilled at the concept of her putting herself in danger. Unlike you, I don't get a thrill from potentially fatal circumstances. Father of the year, aren't you?"]
[i "You watch it boy,"] the older man threatened, fist clenching at his side.
Angry over the turn of events the last ten minutes had taken, Gavin surged out of his seat and stood nose to nose with her father. [b "You're in my home, remember that. You don't rattle me, Michael."]
A rough hand shot out and grabbed him by the throat. [i "She's the only reason you're still alive,"] Michael snapped.
[b "You're free to leave any time. Don't let the door hit your ass on the way out,"] Gavin pulled away, bumping his shoulder on the way past. [b "Linus, let's go."]
A little bit of time punching the heavy bag would make him feel better.
All he did was talk to her. Something she expected but was hoping for something else. A kiss back or something else. Anything else. All he did was speak to her. It hurt her more than it showed. She scratches the side of the bridge if hee noss smiling. [#Af18ae Funny thing is she pretend to be one. Blended it with the hardcore prison guards. But I should go. I’ll take luna another time...] her hands claps down onto her thighs. This thing feels awkward. He cares about her but not as much as he did before. Not with Owen in the picture. Maybe not ever again...
Her father jogs downstairs. Interrupting her from leaving. “You’re on girl. Owen called.”
[#Af18ae Why did he call you?]
“We both knew you wouldn’t answer his call.” He says handing her a bag, “You’re required to dye your hair. This guy is legit.” Serena nods.
[b [center [i [s I’ll be adding more working the day! Just posting it now since I’m on my phone & every time I begin to type a post or disappears
Her comment irked him and echoed in the back of his mind. He'd said a lot of stupid things to her in the past few weeks, but he didn't remember ever telling her he didn't want to be around her, had he? [b "I never said I didn't - "] he began saying, but she cut him off to change the subject fast.
Maybe it was for the best that they didn't broach the subject quite yet. Everything was still going to hell in a hand-basket. There was no time to have in depth discussion about whether or not he was still madly in love with her, despite everything that had happened and his childish jealousy regarding Owen. They would have to wait until the dust settled, god-willing they were both still alive, before they could discuss the matter.
[b "No sweets,"] he agreed. [b "Unless given permission by the Warden. I swear, if she wasn't involved in all this stuff, your mother would have made a great prison guard. I feel like if I stay up too late, she's going to barge through the door and yell at me for wasting sleep."]
The potential crisis had been averted successfully. It was almost progress. They'd jumped right over the inevitable fight, like actual adults. It was sort of peaceful. If things were going to stay amicable like that, Gavin figured he could be okay with only being her friend for a while. Still, he grinned a bit bashfully at the unexpected kiss. [b "Well I'd sound far too desperate if I just begged you to come visit. At least if I use her as an excuse, I can pretend I have a tiny shred of dignity left."]
Gavin would’ve be liked by her father if he was one of them. A con artist. Her father loves a good edible. Chances are her father either ate or or tossed it for sucking so bad. [#Af18ae Well you can continue your booze crusade or go jackpot to pass out.] she says chuckling.
Luna jumps off her shoulder hearing what he said to her. Serena us to pull her back, unsure of what she’ll do to him. [#Af18ae Caredil there buddy. She’ll eat you alive.] she warns him trying to keep the cat in a good mood. Her eyes widens when he said having luna here would give her a reason to come visit. Not that she’s used to her being there or that she’ll be missed. Although it was cute to hear. [#Af18ae Funny. I thought you don’t want me around anymore....] Crap. She’s going to mess up their good vibe! [#Af18ae But that’s good. They say you burn more fat in the morning. Of course having a cup of coffee before also helps...] she says quickly commenting on his answer.
Hopefully it changed the subject and kept the good vibe going. She may have to start visiting him more often. Her mother might be right. They’re being stupid and childish. A chuckle escapes her. [#Af18ae Took her this long. I never had sweet until a month before meeting you. I had to like a few things to seem compatible. Dating you i gained weight. Now that I’m older I know how to balance everything out. You’re slowly going to learn that too.] Serena sets the cat on the floor before she could do anything toward Gavin. Rubbing her chest she walks up to Gavin to kiss him. [#Af18ae For the record I miss you too. Don’t use the cat to have me come over.]
Gavin frowned, looking down at the half-eaten brownie. [b "Well now I'm disappointed,"] he dropped the traitorous snack onto the counter. [b "I was looking forward to unwinding with that."]
He must have breathed wrong, the way Luna hissed at him. [b "Watch it, little lady, I'm the one who bought you those expensive treats you like,"] he aimed a warning finger at the cat. [b "I'll take no back-talk from you."]
Gavin might talk tough about the cat, but truth be told he was glad to have had her. It was a small way to keep part of Serena around. Even if the fuzzball turned on him since she'd been gone, it was slightly comforting to know she was still in the house. [b "You don't have to take her, if you don't want her to kill the bird,"] he fiddled with his hands. [b "I mean, I've kind of gotten used to her. And Linus has, too. He'd miss his buddy."]
It was a pathetic, half-assed excuse. [b "Besides, gives you reason to come visit,"] he finally pulled his head out of his ass and looked at her.
Training was a safe change in topic. His chest puffed up a bit with pride that he had, in fact, been working out steadily on his own. [b "It's probably not as intensive as you would like, but I'm downstairs in my gym every morning. I've lost most of my gut,"] he lifted his shirt a bit to show the lack of beer belly he'd sported previously. Now it was flat, with the faintest hint of abs that would eventually get defined. [b "I started a kickboxing routine that's helping my hand-eye coordination. Nowhere near what you're capable of, but it's a start."]
He'd had to force himself to keep going with the training, at first. Every morning was a pain in the ass to haul himself out of bed, but eventually it got easier. Like clockwork, he'd roll over at the first alarm and get his gear on, covering Linus up under the blankets since the pup refused to rise so early. A solid two hours later, Gavin would be pouring sweat by the time the sun came up and it was time to go to work. [b "Your mom hasn't let me have much sweets, aside from the brownies. She said it'd be pointless to work out if I was going to sabotage it with chocolate. She actually emptied my entire pantry of snacks while I was at work. I nearly cried."]
[#Af18ae I’ve had edibles and that’s not it. My mom probably tossed it. It’s warm so she just made it. If you want a real food edible ask my dad to make you some. That thing would have you in another planet and thing you’ve been gone for five years or something like that...] maybe her dad ate his special brownies. If they were from the same lifestyle they would be best buds.
Her mind was quick to change its focus. He said he regrets how things happened! But wait, what things? Them? How he handled things with his sister? What things! It did ache her heart when he agreed on what she said about being on the run. Damn her for making sense and him for using those words that came out of her mouth against her.
Serena finishes her meal. She tosses everything out. [#Af18ae Well it’s whatever you want to do until things get hairy...] he may have to leave his home at some point. They know he’s back. He will be targeted again. Soon, judging by the crap she heard today. It’s a good thing that her parents are staying. Luna hisses towards Gavin. She kisses the cats head. In return she runs her face against hers purring. [#Af18ae She’s sweet hurt. Funny thing is I’m not really a cat but she’s one of a kind... hopefully she’ll get along with Rocky and Rocko...] her uncle Emilio has her dogs since he has his own garage. They’re his protector. His dogs are killers. Literally. Vicious. But they come in handy. They’re well trained for her lifestyle. The girl laughs hearing what her father did. [#Af18ae That’s a good sign. The scar i have on my right him was from him tossing his pocket knife at me for turning off the TV when we were getting ambushed. Shots being fired. If I didn’t run he possibly would’ve shot me because they shot yo the TV...] Serena picks up the cat to allow her to sit on her shoulder like a parrot. [#Af18ae Ill leave soon. Promise. I also don’t know when I’ll be back. Luna will be gone too. Hopefully she doesn’t eat my bird. It’s lonely where I’m at so I got a bird...] she says with a weary smile. [#Af18ae Are you keeping up with the training?] Serena wants to know it all. Mostly if he misses her. She misses him. Being near him... ugh. They need to figure all of this out. Soon. Hopefully. If they can even have another
Civilized conversation. She should warn him that she’ll punch him in the throat if he mentions Owen.
He snorted, pulling the dish of brownies towards himself. [b "I'll have you know that nothing is better at the end of a fucked up day than gorging yourself on triple fudge brownies. Plus, these are laced with some weed, so you might feel a bit chilled out in a few minutes. It's been helping me sleep the last couple of weeks."]
Gavin took a brownie for himself, content to know that he'd feel remarkably more relaxed soon. He took his time eating it, contemplating how to answer her question. [b "I regret the way things happened, but I know it was right to come back. You said it yourself; a life on the run from constant threats of death wasn't realistic. We were playing a fantasy that if we hid long enough, we'd figure it out. But I don't want to hide, and I don't want to worry that we'll have to leave a place the second someone is on to us."]
Being home at least gave him the opportunity to face things head on. He wouldn't have to pretend he was someone he wasn't, and he wouldn't have to worry about keeping his lies straight. Showing up to work and being around familiar people meant that if he were to disappear suspiciously, it would be noticed. If he was in the middle of nowhere on the run and was killed, no one would notice.
[b "Luna's yours, you're allowed to come visit her if you're lonely. I think she misses you. She spends most of her time hiding out under the couch, or waiting to trip me on the stairs. It's safe to say she likes you better,"] he admitted. [b "Plus, a change in company would be welcomed. I can't take any more of those movies your dad watches. I tried to change the channel the other day and he actually threw the lamp at me,"] he gave a small smile.
[#Af18ae We can put you in a medical induced coma. Keep you hidden. But it may make things worse.] she tells. Serena digs in the bag for a napkin. [#Af18ae Terrible. I would as you the same thing, but it seems like I may know the answer to it.] Her eyes finally met his.
Are they really having a civilized conversation? It’s been a minute. For a moment she thought it would’ve been like their gun blazing breakup. Chewing, she pushes the bag of food towards him. Assuming the meal that’s in there is for him. [#Af18ae Those brownies must be for you. Super sweet and full of chocolate.] she makes a disgusted face for a few seconds. Her mother isn’t the best at baking. Let alone cooking. It makes Gavin look like a professional.
[#Af18ae Do you regret coming back?] she asks him. Part of her regrets agreeing to his stupid plan. They could’ve been happy still. In a foreign country with fake names and a fake marriage. Although their beautiful tropical home is slightly destroyed. That reminds her. She needs to send people she trust to get it fixed. [#Af18ae I have to say it’s weird being alone. Pet free. Sugar free.] she adds a bit embarrassed.
His sister hadn't stuck around for much more of the spontaneous interrogation. [i "This family has enemies, Gavin,"] she spat, rising from the table and putting her sunglasses on. [i "I suggest you don't find yourself on the wrong side of things. I've lost one brother to this business; I'd hate to lose another."] Her tone was dripping with sarcasm, but her final statement caught his attention.
[i I've lost one brother.]
So she thought Luke was dead. Oddly enough, it didn't appear that she caught her own damning slip up. Evidently, she knew that whomever attacked Luke was there with the intent to kill him. What she didn't know was that the attempted murder failed. Another card to tuck away in his back pocket for evidence.
Back at his house, he was entirely prepared for the verbal lashing he received. Kaitlin was at least mildly forgiving about the matter. David, however, had unloaded on him the moment he walked through the door. [b "I get that you think I'm dumber than a sack of bricks, but let me clarify again that she slipped up and gave up that she had a hand in the attack on Luke. We've been looking at the wrong target this entire time, and now we have proof of it."]
Gavin was exhausted and disheveled with his hair in wild curls and shirt sleeves rolled to his elbows; tie hanging loose around his neck. [b "Maybe I should have just gone with your way of handling things, and shot her on the spot,"] he snipped at David until Serena intervened.
Ugh, go figure his lawyer was another of Cassidy's pawns. [b "She's probably a walking venereal disease at this point,"] he grabbed a beer from the fridge.
There was a moment of merciful silence when her parents finally left them alone. He could hear Linus panting at the doorway, waiting for Kaitlin to come back. [b "You say that like your father is a man who will tolerate being ignored. He'd probably suffocate me in my sleep."]
He polished off half of his beer before finally collapsing onto one of the chairs at the kitchen island. [b "Honestly? I'm about seventy-five percent sure that Cassidy is going to put another hit on my head within the next few days. Twenty percent of me is willing to set the building on fire so she can't have any of it. And the last five percent just wants to sleep until all of this is over."]
He tried to catch her eye, seeing as it was the first time they were alone together that wasn't under secrecy in the last few weeks. [b "How are you with everything?"]
Her plan worked. She got the hanging out that his workers go too. Four of them is within five miles. There’s only two that’s further away. Twenty miles. Surprisingly. She sent her mom to three of them. Turns out they all have security cameras. It was easy for them to place a bug get access to the cameras.
Serena and her mother went out to eat. To catch up. Considering Serena isn’t with them at their safe house or at Gavin’s. Her mother is also calling her stupid. Obviously he cares about her and is worried that Owen is going to take her away from him. Even after hearing the bullshit that come out of his mouth. He was just reacting to what he was feeling without thinking it over. It may be her only way to get out of their lifestyle and live a normal life. Be happy. Genuinely happy and in love. Her mother added extra crap into her head. Great.
At the end of the day, Kaitlin was Gavin’s. So was David. “For the record we caught everything she said. Cassidy. I also baked brownies with chocolate chips in them. I’m not much of a cook so there’s takeout.”
“You’re an idiot boy. She can be on to you now. You should’ve played stupid. It shouldn’t be hard considering you are. You’re such a disappointment.” David says angrily.
[#Af18ae Stop. Relax. He did the right thing. She drove to the glades and guess who was there.] she says handing her father a camera. [#Af18ae Also, you’re going to need a new lawyer. She’s sleeping with him as well.] Luna was quick to climb on her. It hurt like a bitch feeling her nails digging into her pants. She cuts a slice of the brownie. [#Af18ae Oh. No. Too much chocolate.] she says tossing her piece out and digs into the bag for some food. Kaitlin and her watch David walk away.
Kaitlin kisses her temple before leaving. Serena places the cat down so she can eat. Whoever had leftovers. [#Af18ae I would say ignore him but that would be asking for too much because it’s hard to ignore him. Where your head at after having the day you had?]
Gavin's jaw clicked under the tension as his secretary interrupted. Go figure Cassidy was going to try summoning him like a dog. His stubborn side wanted to arch his back and flat out refuse, but he knew she'd just come looking for him and cause trouble on his floor. [b "Tell the beast I'll be there in ten minutes,"] he grumbled.
Lucy hesitated in the doorway. [i "Did you want me to call her-"]
[b "No, I don't want you to actually call her that to her face. She'd likely claw your eyes out,"] he sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. [b "Just give me a few minutes, I'll be right there."]
He waited until the door was closed to address her statement. [b "It's best that I see her. Hiding will only make her suspicious. I'll keep up appearances with meetings, for the time being. You know where to find me later for updates."]
Leaving her in his office for Lucy to escort out, he found his way to the conference room where Cassidy was already waiting at the head of the eighteen-seat mahogany table. [i "I don't appreciate being kept waiting,"] her nails tapped against the tabletop.
[b "Sorry Cass, but the world doesn't stop because you snap your fingers,"] he unbuttoned his suit jacket to take a seat.
He could feel her eyeing the lipstick on his collar. [i "And the world doesn't stop for you to get your dick wet on company time."]
Gavin arched an eyebrow. [b "If we're going to keep track of workplace hookups, I suggest soundproofing a little better so no one hears your accountant drilling you every afternoon."]
Her jaw tensed and her eyes grew stormy. [i "Don't test me, Gavin. I don't know if you've noticed, but we're in the middle of a crisis here. I'm trying to clean up Luke's mess since he's decided to fuck off to god knows where, and you're waltzing around here like you didn't have your own months-long vacation. I'm trying to maintain an empire, here."]
[b "Empires don't last, Cassidy. Want me to get you a book on Rome?"] he was pushing her buttons to see how agitated she was.
[i "I'm getting sick of your attitude,"] she kept her eyes locked on his.
[b "Like you were sick of Luke?"] he gave a slight tilt of his head.
Gavin caught the slightest flicker of recognition in her eyes. It was so microscopic he almost missed it, but it was definitely there; a brief glint of fear. [i "You didn't pick a great time to leave. Luke and I were picking up your slack. He's not exactly known for having a good temperament. He said he was going to take some time off to get away from being at each other's throats."]
Ah, there was another hole poked in her story. Gavin pretended to be confused, scrunching his brow. [b "If my memory is correct, you said he took off without warning. Now you're saying you knew he was leaving. Which is it, Cass?"]
Fuck, he hoped that Serena had somehow planted bugs around.
[#Af18ae Sometikes getting overnoke addiction requires another.] Serena grins happily.
Serena may help with the military specialist. She’s heard of a special task force call A.R.G.U.S. of course everything comes with a price. She may need to betray someone to get a favor in. There’s no way to get in contact with them. They find you. If he needs help he can ask. However, he said he knows people. May his people be loyal and easily bought.
His secretary walks in. “Thereyou sir. Ms. Cassidy Rollo wishes for you to meet in the conference room. Should i tell her you’re still in a meeting?”
Serena ran a hand through her hair. Checking out the girl. Sizing her up from a distance. By accident. Maybe. [#Af18ae Your call Gavin. We can meet after hours if anything.] which won’t happen. It was cute how her seized up when she kissed his neck.
When she leaves she’s going to head out. Follow any leads she gets from the documents she copied off his sisters computer. She walks over to window to look out of it. Still all good from what she can see. [#Af18ae All of this has me hungry... I need real food. What’s a place everyone likes going too?] she asks turning around. His secretary was quick to offer to write down a list. Serena grins accepting the offer.
[center Easy as pie.]
Everything about the day was over the top suspicious. Whatever 'fire drill' the person had been referring to, was never cleared by his office. Whoever it was didn't even sound like an employee he recognized. Add it to the growing list of people to watch out for.
[b "Okay, so we're-"] Gavin's sentence cut off when she kissed his neck and collar. Damn her for still getting reactions out of him, even under the cover of work. He could feel the slight sticky texture of the lipstick smudge against his skin. [b "Now they'll think I'm a recovering drug addict with a new sex addiction,"] he forced himself to not wipe it away.
[i Focus, moron!] [b "Let's backtrack a little here. You're going to handle the building shutdown then. You said I won't like how you do it, so I'm just not even going to ask. I'll blindly trust you on this."]
It wasn't like he had much other option. [b "I'll get started on the ID badges. The military has security contract groups, so I'll check there first. Maybe they have some solid tech I can purchase for high security clearance. It'll be more secure than a local company with just run-of-the-mill RFID chips. Stuff they use for embassies and the Pentagon, you know?"]
He was probably getting ahead of himself, but he wanted to be sure that Cassidy and Byrnes wouldn't be able to sabotage the GPS chips. He was willing to pay whatever he needed to in order to keep the advantage over them. Technology wasn't his strong suit, but he remembered sitting in on meetings between his father and military generals, and knew what kind of tech they had available at their disposal.
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