Ruthless Saints: Chapter 19

CARSON

It’s been over a week, and every day Hailey forces herself out of bed. She’s getting stronger, and it makes my panic grow. We removed the IV a couple of days ago, and she’s been against taking anything for pain.

She still refuses to talk to me, but she seems better with Alexei. She’s not as afraid of him as she is of me.

He didn’t break her heart with lies.

When Alexei gets up and walks to the bathroom, my eyes snap to Hailey. “Can we talk?”

“No.”

“Baby, please,” I plead, moving up onto the side of the bed. “Don’t do this.”

“Do what?” she snaps, her eyes colliding with mine. There’s no sign of the love she had for me, and it guts me.

“Let me explain.”

Hailey pulls herself up into a sitting position, and this time she doesn’t even wince.

“Explain to me why you just sat there while they hurt me. You hardly blinked.” The sting of betrayal is in every word.

“They would’ve hurt you much worse if I had shown any kind of reaction,” I reply.

Her face distorts with heartache. “You just sat there, Carson! I saw you take down nine men in a matter of minutes, and you just sat there while they almost drowned me.” She turns her face away and places her hand on her chest as she takes a couple of breaths.

“I had to wait for Admir to leave. I couldn’t take him on along with the other nine. I couldn’t risk your life.”

Her eyes swing back to me. “You did risk my life! I almost died because of you. Would you have even cared?”

‘Of course!” I exclaim. “Keeping you alive was my only goal.”

Hailey lowers her head, then shakes it. “Because of you, they beat me. You just sat there with no emotion. How… even?” She gives me an incredulous look. “If you love me, how could you show nothing?”

Christ, I wish I could make her understand.

“They would’ve ripped you apart had I shown emotion. It took every ounce of strength I had. It fucking killed me, but I had to buy us time so Alexei could get there.”

She lifts her head and pins me with a glare, the fear that’s been trembling in her eyes gone. “You killed them all before Alexei got there.”

“There were more men outside, Hailey. I’m good, but I can’t take twenty-three men at once.”

“You started fighting before Alexei got there,” she says again.

“Because they were going to kill you. I was out of time,” I reply, desperate to make her understand. “Admir gave the kill order, and I didn’t hesitate after that. Keeping you alive was all that mattered.”

My words seem to start to get through to her, but then her features turn hard again. “It doesn’t change what you are.”

I take a deep breath. “Being an assassin doesn’t change who I am with you.”

“How do I know any of that was real?”

My desperation takes over, and my hands fly to her face. I crush my mouth to hers, and for a moment, Hailey lets me in. I get to taste her again, but then she yanks away from me, covering her mouth with a trembling hand.

“Don’t,” she gasps, shaking her head wildly. “Don’t touch me.”

“Oh, come on. I can’t take a piss without you upsetting Hailey,” Alexei snaps. “Get away from her.”

I tighten my hands into fists as I get up. “We need to fucking talk.”

“Fine, but you can do it sitting your ass down on that chair,” he nods at the chair next to the bed.

I drop down in it and stare at Hailey. “Everything we had was real. It still is.”

She covers her face with her hands.

I lean forward, resting my forearms on my knees. “Your light shone so brightly it lessened the darkness in my life. Your smile. Your bubbling laughter. It means everything to me. The flowers you brought me were the greatest gifts I’ve ever received.”

Hailey drops her hands to her lap and lifts her gaze to mine.

“I tried to stay away,” I continue. “Christ, I tried.”

She swallows hard. “Is any of what you told me the truth?”

“Everything but what I do for a living.”

“Why do you do it?”

I glance at Alexei, who lifts an eyebrow at me. Turning my attention back to Hailey, I say, “It’s all I’ve ever known.”

“What does that even mean?” she sighs, the fight tiring her out.

“I was raised to be an assassin.”

Her eyes dart to mine, then she glances at Alexei. “Really?”

He nods. “We come from a long line of assassins.”

She looks at me again. “Did you have a choice?”

Did I?

I shrug. “I never thought of it. I grew up in that way of life. It was normal.”

“It’s not,” she cries. “How can you think it’s normal to just go around killing people for money?”

“Hailey,” Alexei jumps in. “It’s our normal, but we have a code we live by. We don’t kill innocents.”

“Kill is kill,” she snaps at Alexei. My girl is growing braver.

“It’s not,” Alexei argues. “The people we kill are the same as the ones who tortured you. You don’t want them dead?”

When Hailey just looks at him, Alexei continues, “We kill drug dealers, flesh peddlers, arms dealers. We kill the scum. People like you pretend they don’t exist, but they do. They’re everywhere. In the war zones supplying arms to fucking kids. In your fucking schools, getting you addicted to heroin. That’s who Admir and his family are. Drug dealers. Albanian fucking cockroaches.” Alexei leans back in his chair, giving Hailey a look of warning. “I won’t lose a second’s sleep over killing any of them.”

She throws the covers back and climbs out of bed. “I want to leave. Now.”

Alexei gestures to the door.

My heart clenches with panic as Hailey walks to the bag I brought her and goes into the bathroom with it.

“She’s not ready to leave,” I say, the panic clear in my voice. “And you pissed her off more than I did.”

Alexei takes a deep breath then he pins me with a dark look. “Hailey will never understand what we do. You need to stop hoping you can change her mind. She’s going to leave at some point.”

Getting up, I throw the chair back in anger. “She won’t be safe out there!”

Alexei stands up. “You think I don’t know that?”

“Then why did you gesture at the fucking door?” I bark at him.

“She can leave St. Monarch’s, but it doesn’t mean we’re not going with her.”

My heart stutters with hope.

More time. I just need more time.

“Where are we going? Croatia?” I ask.

“Your place. It’s the safest right now.”

Home.

“I’m not going anywhere with you,” Hailey bites out from the doorway. “I’m going home to my parents.”

“We have to make sure the problem has been dealt with,” I say. “You’re not safe out there on your own. If you go to your parents, it will put them in danger as well.”

Her eyes dart between Alexei and me, fear making her pale. “How many of these guys are out there? Will I ever be safe again?”

“You will,” I say. “Let’s first clean up this mess. It will give you time to heal as well. You don’t want to travel with the bruises.”

I walk toward Hailey, but before I can reach her, she holds up her hand to stop me.

“Hailey,” Alexei says to get her attention. When she looks at him, he continues, “You’re free to go, but you won’t make it far. We only took out the two cousins. We need to make sure there’s no one left to come after you because they will use you to lure Carson out. It’s just how things work in our world.”

“I’m sick of your world,” she mutters, clearly not happy. “For how long?”

“A couple of weeks,” I answer. “I swear I’ll give you my private jet to take you anywhere in the world. Let me just ensure you’re safe.”

“Of course, you have a private jet.” Hailey rolls her eyes as she walks toward the door.

I dart forward and take the bag from her, and then we follow her down the hallway.

“I’ll get Demitri,” Alexei says. “Wait out front.”

When we step out of the front doors, I say, “Thank you.”

Hailey wraps her arms around her waist, glancing over the grounds. “I’m not doing this for you.” She hunches her shoulders as if she’s trying to make herself smaller. “I’m doing this so I don’t get killed by your enemies, and they don’t go after my parents.”

I have to suppress the urge to hold her. I want to assure her something like this will never happen again, but I know she won’t believe a word I say now.

At least I have more time.

 


 

HAILEY

 

My heart is pounding against my healing ribs, creating a pulsing ache in my chest.

I don’t trust Carson, but I can’t risk my life by taking a chance out there, and I sure as hell don’t want to put my parents in any kind of danger. Truthfully, I’d rather face Carson, Alexei, and Demitri than a horde of Albanians.

God, please don’t let this be another stupid decision.

The only comfort I have is that I’ll be back in Saint Luc. I know the code to Carson’s house. And honestly, even though I have a million doubts and fears, and things are over between Carson and me… there’s a small part of me that needs to see if the Carson I knew was real at all.

Heartache squeezes at my insides. I feel lost and miserably alone. I want to crawl into his arms and, at the same time, run as far away from him as I can.

I just need to know it wasn’t all a lie. Maybe it will help restore some of my shattered faith in humanity.

Alexei and Demitri come out, and hesitantly, I follow the men to an SUV. Carson gets in the back with me while Alexei slides behind the steering wheel and Demitri takes the passenger’s seat.

As Alexei starts the engine, Carson presses against the panel by our legs, and then my eyes go wide as saucers. He pulls out one gun after the other, handing two weapons each to Demitri and Alexei.

“W-what are you doing?” I stammer as fear ricochets through me, and a cold sweat breaks out over my body.

Carson tucks one behind his back and sets the other down between us, then he looks at me. “It’s in case we’re ambushed. We need to be prepared. I’d give you one, but I don’t want you shooting yourself… or me by accident.”

I give him a scathing glare then turn my head away from him. Only then do I remember he got shot, and I haven’t even asked him how he feels. Reluctantly, I mutter, “How’s your shoulder?”

“It’s fine.”

Carson pulls the chain I forgot about from his pocket, and when he leans over to me, I snap, “I’m not wearing that. In case you didn’t get the memo, we aren’t a couple anymore.”

“It has a tracking device in it,” he flips the tag over, “and a panic button. It’s so we can find you if you get taken.”

My eyes dart up to his. He gave it to me right before the attack. Was it in case we got separated so he could find me?

There’s no malice in his eyes.

There never has been.

Is he still the man I fell in love with?

My mind rebels against the thoughts because nothing changes the fact that he’s a cold-blooded killer.

I hold my hand out to him, and he drops the chain in my palm. I place it around my neck then stare out the window as we leave St. Monarch’s.

I glance back, taking in the view of the old castle. It’s beautiful. No one would think it’s a gathering place for criminals. I certainly wouldn’t have.

The drive back to Saint Luc is long and painful. I keep changing positions, trying to find a comfortable spot. Painful shivers rush through my body, and I wrap an arm around my ribs.

 “Lie down,” Carson murmurs, patting his thigh.

I shake my head and rest the side of my face against the window, and after a couple of minutes, pure exhaustion makes me fall asleep.

I’m startled awake by Carson slipping his arms beneath me. “I can walk,” the words burst from me.

He instantly pulls back, and taking hold of the gun, he gets out of the car. I open my door, and a piercing ache stabs at each of my ribs.

I glance down the road. “What about the rest of my belongings?”

“I’ll get them for you as soon as you’re settled in bed,” Carson says as he gestures for me to walk to the door.

I hesitate for a moment, glancing back down the road again. I don’t even have enough energy to make it around the bend.

Turning toward the house, I follow the men inside. I walk past them and slowly take the stairs up to the bedrooms. I go to the first guest room because it’s furthest from Carson’s room. The furnishings are sparse. There’s only a bed and one bedside table.

Carson comes in and sets my bag down by the foot of the bed. I watch as he pulls the covers back and positions the pillows so I can lean back against them. Then he says, “Get in.”

I would argue with him if I wasn’t in so much pain. Settling for a scowl, I kick off my shoes and climb into bed.

“Can you bring my phone? I need to call my parents,” I ask, watching his face closely.

To my surprise, he nods before he leaves the room. A couple of minutes later, he comes back with my backpack. He sets it down next to the bed, and opening it, he removes my phone and holds it out to me.

If he was going to kidnap me, surely, he wouldn’t give me my phone?

I check the device and see the battery is dead.

Carson reaches into his pocket, taking out his own phone. “Use mine. The code is nine-twelve-eight-twenty-three.” He sets it down on the bedside table. “I’ll get your charger from your place.”

I give Carson a confused look. I really didn’t expect him to give me a phone. 

“The code is easy to remember. Nine for I. Twelve for L. Eight for H, and twenty-three for W. I love Hailey Welsh.”

My emotions crash through me. Everything that’s happened the past week and a half become too much to bear, and I let out a sputtering sob.

Carson sits down on the side of the bed, and this time when he touches me, I can’t bring myself to pull away from him.

We’ve made love in this house. I was happy with him here.

Another sob bursts from me, and when he pulls me to his chest, I can’t stop the tears. His arms wrap around me, and he presses a kiss to my hair, and it feels so familiar, so good.

I’ve needed this… so much.

With every sob, my chest aches more and more until I feel feverish.

“I love you,” he whispers near my ear. “More than anything. I’ll never harm you, and I’ll kill anyone who tries to hurt you.”

Carson’s words remind me who he really is, and I pull back from his embrace. He moves his hands to my face and gently wipes the tears from my cheeks.

Placing his thumb beneath my chin, he nudges me to look at him. When our eyes meet, he gives me a pleading look, “I understand you need time, but don’t forget how happy we were. It was real, baby.”

I shake my head. “How am I supposed to accept you’re an assassin?” Even though I don’t want to know, I still ask, “How many people have you killed?”

Carson stares at me, the indecision to tell me warring on his face. Finally, he answers, “I think seventy-eight.”

“You think?” I ask incredulously.

“I didn’t exactly keep count when we were attacked.”

I did. “You killed eleven men.”

“Then the number sits at eighty.”

So many lives.

I close my eyes and take a quivering breath. “Please leave.”

Carson gets up from the bed. “Remember, they were all bad.”

“Just like you, but it doesn’t mean I think you deserve to die,” the words tumble over my lips.

“You still think cockroaches and flies have a purpose?” he asks.

Not having an answer, I scoot down and gingerly lie on my left side. I pull the covers up to my neck and close my eyes.

I hear Carson leave, and he pulls the door shut. Burying my face in the pillow, the rampant emotions batter my broken heart. I cry because even though Carson’s not a good person, I still love him.

Even though I’m scared of him, I still want to be in his arms.

I still feel him in my soul.

 

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