Authors: Mia Caldwell
you sure you have to go?” I asked him, trying to give him my best pouty face
possible. Even I knew Julien wasn’t going to fall for it this time.
sighed, giving me the look that told me that maybe I should drop it. I knew he
felt guilty enough as it was, but I just hated the fact that he had to leave.
know that I would stay there if there were any other way around it.”
knew it was only going to be a two-night stay in London, but I hated it still.
It seemed like every time I turned around Julien had been pulled away from me
for one reason or another.
that I was thirty-six weeks along, I actually needed help every now and then,
and without Julien there to provide assistance, sometimes I didn’t always get
a few more kisses and hugs goodbye, Julien headed out the door. I wrapped my
arms around myself, already missing him. I just didn’t understand how military
wives did it. I hated being away from him even for a day or two. Months or
years would have killed me…
wasn’t long before I was pouting in the kitchen. Gervaise was a smart man, and
as soon as he saw me walking in with the huge tears in my eyes, he quickly
prepared a bowl of my favorite flavor ice cream — butter pecan.
I finished up, I made my way outside, desperate for some fresh air. One of my
bodyguards followed along. They were never far away, especially when Julien was
gone. I glanced back at Rafe, who kept his dark eyes trained on me. He said
nothing, and just waited for me to proceed.
stopped for a moment when I felt the baby begin to turn over, stretching out
his legs before beginning to hiccup. I couldn’t help but giggle at him, fondly
rubbing my belly and feeling his movements underneath my skin. The idea of
growing a human being used to totally freak me out. It was different now… Soon,
the baby would be here and I already knew I’d miss these little moments when it
was just the two of us…
caught sight of Alain coming up from his small workshop by the gardens carrying
something rather large in his hands. I couldn’t tell right away what it was,
but as he got closer a big smile cut across my face.
hope you don’t mind. Found it in a storage room. It was Julien’s. I tried to
fix it up, give it some new paint for baby,” he called out to me, holding up a
newly varnished wooden rocking horse.
gasped. It was intricately carved around the edges, with a roped mane, and
glass eyes. It was simple, sturdy, and beautiful, just how I liked things.
he set it down at my feet, I squealed and practically ran to him, throwing my
arms wide around his neck before kissing his cheek. “It’s wonderful! I can’t
believe you did this for us! Well of course I can, but this is so much. It’s
beautiful, Alain. It really is. Thank you so much for this.”
gave me his best smile, clearly proud of his work. “I carved this for Julien
when he was baby. I’m surprised to see it was in such good shape.”
because it’s your handiwork. You’re like magic,” I laughed, pulling away from
him to look at it some more.
nice,” Rafe chimed in from behind us. I looked back at him and smiled in
agreement. I loved handmade gifts like this, but this was even more sentimental
to me because it used to be Julien’s.
better get back to work,” Alain said, gesturing for Rafe to carry the rocking
horse for me. “
gave him a stiff nod and the two of us walked back up to the château.
Où dois-je dire?
Ah, where . . . ?” Rafe
began, holding up the rocking horse.
Um, how about in the nursery? Um . . .” I replied, realizing he didn’t know
what I was saying. I beckoned for him to follow me, heading down to the main
foyer so that we could go up to the second level.
placed the rocking horse gently down beside the crib, standing back to take a
good look at it. “
grinned at me, giving me the okay symbol with his fingers.
,” I agreed.
rest of the day was less eventful. I was just glad that it was over, even if I
couldn’t sleep… It wasn’t the nightmares anymore, it was this belly of mine.
groaned when I rolled over to my side in bed, still not able to get
comfortable. If there was one thing I would be thankful for after this was all
said and done, it would be to lay down however way I wanted to. Usually I was a
stomach-sleeper, so pregnancy had taken that away from me the last couple of
months. As I shifted the baby shifted too, giving me a nice jab in the bladder
just for good measure.
are a naughty boy to your mama,” I mused, shaking my head at him. He wasn’t
even born yet and here he was already giving me grief.
stomach growled in response. “Yeah . . . I guess you’re pretty hungry too, aren’t
you baby boy? Let’s go see what we can get into.”
heaved myself off the edge of the bed, pulling myself by holding on to the
giant bedpost. Everything was harder now, even getting out of bed!
looked down the hallway I groaned to myself. Maybe I should invest in an
electric wheelchair or something. Surely anything would be better than all
these hallways and stairs.
I did finally make it back to the kitchen, I was almost completely out of
shook his head at me slowly, as if I were small child. “Use phone,” he chided
did have a good point though. You would think after months of living here I would
remember that there was convenient room service for me, courtesy of the chef
himself. But I hated being such a bother to him as it was, and let’s face it,
pregnancy brain does not make for good remembering. Or much else, for that
winced as I took a seat at the table, giving him an apologetic smile in return.
“Would it be too much to ask if you could make me some of that yummy mashed
potato and beef pie stuff? What’s it called again?”
snorted to himself. “
Like English shepherd’s pie.”
clapped my hands and pointed to him “That would be the one.”
took no time at all to begin preparing my delicious lunch, and all I could do
was sit there and try to hold back the drool as he began cooking the beef in
went back to the book I had been carrying around with me everywhere—What to
Expect When You’re Expecting. I had just made it to the third trimester portion
of the book when I heard voices carrying down the hallway. I looked up at Gervaise
before I closed my book and set it back down on the table.
both stared at each other for a moment, clearly trying to understand who was
yelling up and down the hall. My eyes widened as I heard heavy footsteps
running down the hall towards us in the kitchen. I froze, paralyzed.
burst through the kitchen door, his face drained of all the color. But more
importantly was the vivid red that was blooming through the center of his crisp
white shirt. It was slashed across his chest in an ugly way.
jumped up immediately and ran over to him while Gervaise grabbed two huge kitchen
knives from his collection. He tried to pull me away from Alain.
waved away my help, trying to say something in between his gasps for breath.
have to go. Two men are here for you.
ne sais pas
. . .
. . .
Rafe est mort,”
he wheezed, blinking at
Gervaise who was right at his side.
Rafe est mort.
My blood ran cold right there in
Rafe is dead.
—follow him. Go now,
can’t just leave you here!” I whispered hysterically. I tried to crouch down to
put pressure over his wound but both he and Gervaise smacked my hands away.
What the hell was wrong with them?
shook his head at me. “No, no. You go—now! Take care of the baby. I wish I could
have seen him. He will be beautiful part of the family,” Alan whispered back,
eyeing my round belly. I glanced down, watching as the baby’s foot grazed across
the underside of my belly. He could tell something was wrong, I just knew it.
grabbed my upper arm, hard. “They coming. We go now!”
let out a sob as Alain slumped against the wall away from us, slowly sliding
down it until his body hit the floor with a loud thump. He looked up at me one
last time before his eyes went out of focus, the hand that he was trying to
push up with falling limp at his side.
shook my head. There was no way this was really happening. All the times that I
had imagined things going south like this, it never involved the rest of the
people around me. It was always the Mafia coming for me, just me. But now that
they were here… I saw what the real problem was.
All the people that cared about me and
this child. The people I loved… They were in danger.
wanted to reach over and give him one last hug, but Gervaise stopped me yet
again, pulling me back. He took my hand and wrapped it around one of the large
knives he had grabbed.
were more loud noises coming from down the hall, and I could tell someone was
struggling while someone else was quickly heading towards us.
one last look at our fallen friend, Gervaise pulled me along after him out the barely-used
utility room entrance from the kitchen, to where the large deliveries were
usually handled for the château.
was hard to hear anything past the blood that was wanting to rush to my head,
my ears feeling as though they were filled with cotton. I still hadn’t fully
processed the fact that Alain was dead, and that possibly we might be next.
my head I sort of separated the incident back home from my real life, trying to
compartmentalize everything in my head and make it easier for me to deal with
everything. This though… There was no separating this. The men had come to my
home, and now it was personal.
with the fear that was invading my every thought, there was also a tinge of
rage flooding my vision. I was angry as hell, and I knew that there was no way
I was going down without a fight this time. I was tired of running, tired of
living a lie, and it only took one of my close friends dying for me to realize
shook my head as Gervaise and I crept up against the wall, ducking under the
windowsills as we passed each one, hoping to God no one would see us.
way,” he hissed under his breath, pulling me along. I didn’t know where we were
going, but I hoped that everyone else inside the château had found a similar place
to hide as well.
rounded the back corner of the château’s east wing when I realized there was a
small metal door in the ground not too far from our feet. How had I not noticed
looked around, scoping out our surroundings before hunching over and yanking at
the door. Before he had a chance to open it up, however, we heard more yelling
from alongside the front of the château. Someone was coming our way again, and
even though we were around the corner, Gervaise peeked his head around to see
if he could see who it was.
gunshot ricocheted off the wall only a few feet shy of him, and he whipped back
around, pure terror in his eyes, before yanking the door open with all of his
might, this time finally succeeding. One of them had spotted us.
he demanded, gesturing for me to quickly go in front of him.
could feel anxiety creeping in on me once more. I had no idea what was down
there, but I could only hope that it was safe enough for us both.
the steps as quickly yet carefully as I could, trying to make sure that I did
not slip on each small ladder rung. It was a short way down, and it smelled
musty and dank. Once Gervaise had lowered himself down to the floor next to me,
he reached around a wall before flipping on a small light switch that lit up
were six wide aisles filled of empty wine cellar racks, the cobwebs creeping down
each aisle, and mold clearly setting in on the wood itself. It wasn’t exactly
healthy for me to be breathing in the air down here, but it was damn sure
healthier than getting kidnapped and killed.
quietly reached up to pull the door shut over top of us, making me feel as if
we were walking ourselves into a prison cell.
in the dim light I could see his fear, carving out the features on his face.
His eyes were wide, and his pupils were dilated. He held the knife close to
him, and tried to breathe in deep breaths. It did not make me feel much better
to know that this man was just as scared as I was.
outside we could hear people yelling to each other, including what sounded like
Marie, but I couldn’t be sure. I didn’t want to go down that road, and I knew Gervaise
would be adamant against us opening the door to check on her. I was actually
surprised no one had tried the door yet, and wondered if maybe it was hidden
well enough that nobody would see us. I had a bad feeling though that I wasn’t
quite that lucky.
of a sudden more shots rang out, and I clutched my belly, wishing I could
shield my baby from all the noise. Even though we were down in the Earth, away
from everything, it was still so loud. I began to shake violently, my mind
reeling and trying to take me back into the clutches of another nightmare. I couldn’t
handle it, and had to steady my breath before I started to hyperventilate.
,” Gervaise mumbled to himself,
keeping a tight hand on the doors’ latch. I wasn’t sure if him holding onto it
would work if there was somebody on the other side of it trying to get in, but
I certainly hoped it would.
breathing was so erratic that it started to freak me out, making me worry not
for myself but for my son’s sake. I had to make sure that I calmed down, and
had to keep quiet. I needed to go to that place in my head that I didn’t want
to go. That place that I was always worried I would never come back from.
my mind’s eye I saw myself from the outside looking in, noticing the tension in
my face, and the way I repeatedly squeezed my arms around my belly, as if I
were offering extra safety that way.
of me wanted to scream at myself, part of me wanted to leave this place and
make sure everybody else was okay. And still another part of me wished I could
crawl up into a ball and forget any of this ever happened.
was torn emotionally and had no words of encouragement to offer Gervaise who
looked just as terrified as I felt. I wanted to thank him somehow, but no words
was quiet now outside, and dread was starting to settle down even deeper in my
Why is it so quiet?
wished Julien was here holding my hand, rubbing my back and telling me that
this was all just a dream I had woken up from in the middle the night again. I
could hear him now, whispering to me in my ear that I was safe. That he would
make sure nobody was going to get me. It was nice hearing it all those nights,
even though it was no longer true anymore.
then I actually heard him from somewhere, calling out for me. At first I
thought it wasn’t real, that it was all in my head. But then Gervaise whipped his
head back and looked at me, clearly hearing it as well.
lurched forward towards him, ready to push him out of the way and look above
this hellish hiding hole, to see if I could see Julien. Gervaise pushed me
back, clearly not letting me go that easily.
“Amira! Please baby, where are you?”
gave me the most solemn look ever, practically begging me not to call out back
to him. Tears welled up in my eyes as I clawed at him, trying to move him out
of my way so that I could reach Julien somehow. I had to see him, had to know
that he was okay.
if they found him before he did? There was no way he was just standing out
there armed and ready for these bastards that had come after me. And why was he
here? What had happened to make them come home?
slowly shook his head at me again, as if he could hear all of my thoughts in my
climbed back down the step, pulled me in for a hug, patting me awkwardly on the
head before climbing up the steps again, very quietly. He looked down at me one
last time. “I find him. You stay.”
with that Gervaise creaked open the cellar door, looking through the slant of
light that was flooding in, before peeking his head out above ground. After
what felt like forever, he finally stood up through the hole, letting the door
go very quietly back into place.
shivered to myself, trying to keep it together as I realized I was all alone
once more. The thoughts that ran through my head scared the shit out of me, and
I moaned to myself, trying to think of my baby. I couldn’t go out there,
couldn’t risk it. If I got hurt he was hurt, and I wasn’t sure I could take
that risk. Gervaise would find Julien. I just knew he would… At least I hoped
set of new footsteps came running toward my hiding space, and I climbed behind
the furthest set of wine racks that I could, crouching down low so that no one
would see me in the dark corner. I didn’t know if anyone had seen Gervaise pop
up out of the hole, and I didn’t know whether whoever was trying to now open
the door was a friend or foe.
tiny bit of light that backlit the man’s shadow that came in down into the
cellar flooded in, making me hunch even more into the corner. I clutched the
knife in my hand, ready to strike out if the person got too close to me.
man’s figure stood in the doorway, climbing down the ladder carefully. The
first man stepped into a patch of light, catching my eye when I saw the way his
light brown hair curled slightly around his ears.