Kate twisted within herself to be anywhere but the hospital, the sterile white room, and the bed she felt prisoner to. It felt like time had stopped and she was left out of the crucial elements of what was happening beyond the building. She let out a heavy sigh as her head fell back against the pillow and tightly closed her eyes.
"Is this a bad time?"
Kate looked to the familiar voice. Alex stood in the doorway and was almost unrecognizable. The right side of her face was an array of purple and blues, her eye almost swollen shut. She looked defeated and beyond exhausted. Kate tried to sit up as she approached but the tearing pain kept her still.
"Don't," Alex said as she drew near.
"What's going on?"
Alex exhaled and Kate knew the news was not going to be anything she wanted to hear.
Alex looked her over then spoke. "Can you tell me what you remember?"
"What's going on?"
"I need to hear everything you remember. Then I'll explain."
Kate swallowed and thought back. She didn't want to relive any of it, but she knew if it helped she had to delve back into the nightmare. She looked past Alex and spoke. "I had put Tyler to bed then read for a while, cleaned the kitchen, and I went to bed around eleven. Before I went to my room I checked on Tyler. He was fast asleep with Rontu on the edge of his bed."
"Did you have any concerns about anything?"
"Of course I did, but the house was locked up tight, and Rontu didn't budge when I looked in. He barks at every creak. He didn't even respond to me, I didn't think twice about it." She paused and looked away. She tried to visualize the doors, if she had locked them, or closed the windows. She had a set routine every day and night to make sure they were secure and safe. Alex stood patiently for her to continue.
"I was asleep, then he was suddenly over me, I don't know how he got in. I kicked him off and fought. I had started to overtake him, but then I got weak and suddenly I couldn't move."
"Do you know if he drugged you?"
"I don't know. All I remember was not having any control of my body and it was really hard to breath."
"You couldn't move, but felt everything?"
Kate acknowledge her statement with a nod. "I wanted it to all stop, but I thought of Tyler and tried to fight."
"It was Damian?"
Kate looked at Alex she could see her question as a need for reassurance. "It was Damian. It was dark, but the table lamp on my dresser was on and he was over me. He didn't try to hide."
Alex stared at her.
Kate immediately spoke to her silence."But, you're not sure."
"I believe you." Alex's voice was insistent and Kate wanted to accept she had one ally.
"But no one else does."
Alex clasped her hands in front of and her eyes shifted slightly. "Everyone else sees only what's in front of them."
"And what's in front of them?"
Alex hesitated, then let the information out in one breath, "Jeremy, and he's dead, by what looks like a self inflicted gunshot wound. Besides details of drugs that could have been used to sedate and paralyze you, there is a journal that shows he was possibly stalking you."
"No." She didn't want to believe it. "How is this happening?"
"He's been set up, and it's really well done, it's going to be hard to fight, but-"
"Right." Kate interrupted, she didn't want to hear how the truth was being covered up.
"Kate, I'm not going to give up."
"It doesn't matter."
"No, it doesn't. Tyler is gone and nothing you do will bring him back. Sloane's won."
"Don't do that, please."
"Don't what? Just stop, Alex." The situation began to become clear to Kate. Anyone involved had a target on their back. Alex's was getting bigger with her pushing for the truth. Kate wasn't going to drag her down any further. "Want to just reveal Achilles then? That Damian's motive is because of what I did? It's pretty obvious what's happening."
"You know my answer to that. I'm all in here." Alex insisted.
"Then do what I ask. Forget whatever the truth is and don't look back."
"Kate, don't do this."
Alex didn't hide her shock and hurt. Pushing her away was the only way to Kate knew she could protect her.
Before Byron broke the frame of the restaurant door he threw his shoulders back and stood up taller. It was a futile attempt to not appear intimidated by the atmosphere or the man he was about to meet with. As he made his way into the space he saw that Caleb Sloane occupied the table in the center of the otherwise empty room. The surrounding lights were dimmed and a candle in the middle of his table flickered creating an eerie scene. One Byron knew he would use to dominate the encounter. Caleb studied Byron in great detail as he approached and he fought the urge to flinch. He instead stopped short of the table and nodded a greeting. Caleb returned the gesture and pointed to the chair. Byron took the hint and pulled it out to take the seat across from the man. The silence continued to draw out and Byron knew better than to be the one that engaged first.
When the waiter came over to refill his wine glass Caleb finally spoke. "Please pour my friend here some of that Pinot and bring another plate as well."
Byron shook his head a gave a weak smile. "I'm okay, really."
"I insist. No one sits at my table and refuses to break bread with me."
Byron relented and cautiously thanked him.
After the glasses were filled Caleb lifted it towards his guest. "To loyalty."
Byron nodded and took a small sip before he carefully set it down. He still wasn't sure how he ended up where he was. He had never intended for Achilles to get out of his hands and into Caleb Sloane's. He had so many fail safes in place, yet there they were. He was never one to bow down out of fear, but Caleb had him by the throat, and he was somehow doing the man's bidding.
Caleb chuckled softly at Byron's unease. He lifted his knife and began to cut into the steak in front of him. As he took the first bite he chewed slowly, but kept his eyes on Byron. His expression gave nothing away and Byron fought his growing urge to look away.
When he swallowed he pointed the blade towards Byron. "Do you understand why you're here?"
"I'm pretty sure it has to do with Katelynn Quinn and her son."
Caleb nodded and took then a deep swallow of his wine. As he set the glass down he leaned forward. The flame's light created dancing shadows across his features and varied in intensity as he spoke. "Your incompetence has given me quite a mess to deal with."
"How was I supposed to know your nephew was going to be a liability?"
"He's none of you concern. Your's is with Katelynn and Alexis."
"I only have control of so much."
Caleb shook his head. "I have lawyers panicking that there could be a case." He waved the knife again to make his point. "You lost control and it's on you to straighten this out. You don't want me to have to take over. Again."
"You won't have to." Byron promised and knew as he spoke that from that day on that he would never be able to convince anyone he had intended to keep everyone safe. He couldn't control the conviction and determination of Katelynn and Alexis. It was a chaotic mess and he had crossed the line. He would never be able to say that he was on the side of good again.
Caleb took another bite and chewed slowly. He clearly reveled in the uncomfortable air exuded from the man across from him. He found joy in the ability to strong arm any situation to bend his way.
"Eat, friend." Caleb gestured to the plate set in front of Byron. He then took the napkin from his lap and slowly wiped his mouth. After setting the cloth down next to his plate he smiled. "Who could say how many meals like this you'll have in your future."