Talin met Raphael's gaze, wanting to rip him in two. If he'd done anything…anything at all to lead to Gabriel's death, he was going to kill him.
"What did you do?" Talin demanded.
"Not here," Raphael said his gaze pleading.
Talin, aware Vlad was watching them with a triumphant gaze, swallowed back his rage and settled in his seat, but not without a warning glance at Raphael. He was going to find out what Raphael had done.
Raphael sighed and looked to Vlad.
"That's cheap, Vlad."
"You won't tell him?" Vlad asked, her eyes widened in mock drama. "Then I will."
"Keep playing games and I'll kill you right here."
Raphael nodded to the men surrounding the room. He'd come with an army. Vlad was clearly overpowered.
"Kill me, and your precious Talin won't last the week."
"What?" Dimitri stood then, pushing his chair back hard enough to shift Sasha out of his way. His gaze dropped to the glasses on the table.
"The champagne," Dimitri said in shock.
Talin felt too weak with dread to react, a cold stone settled in his stomach.
"Yes. I laced Talin's glass with my special blend. The poison is slow. Talin won't feel anything for three days. The symptoms will show up on the fourth day, starting with a fever."
Her gaze settled on Talin and he felt like he was going to suffocate as she continued.
"Your body's way of telling you major organs are failing, you'll be laid up in bed within hours after the fever starts. Unable to eat, or drink, breathing hard, pain so severe coursing through your body, and then you'll die."
"What do you want?" Dimitri asked, hysterical. "I'll do it. Whatever it is, I'll get it done."
Vlad glanced at Dimitri.
"You're not the reason why I poisoned Talin. Dimitri, I already have your family hostage. You're part of the organization whether you want it or not. No, the reason Talin is in this state is because I want something from Raphael."
"You won't get it." Talin stated getting up slowly. He didn't care if he died. He'd welcome the grave, if it kept her from getting what she wanted. "I won't let him give it to you."
"I'm the only one who has an antidote to that poison racing through your veins." Vlad smirked. "You might have money, but it won't save you on time."
"I don't care." Talin shrugged. "I'll die."
"No." Dimitri moved Raphael out of his way, and grabbed Talin's shoulders. "What are you thinking? Talin—"
"She murdered Gabriel!" The pain in his chest seemed deeper as he said those words now. His own death didn't matter. "I'll never help her, never, Dimitri. I'd rather die."
Glaring at Vlad, he shrugged Dimitri's hands away, pushed past Raphael and left the dining room. He walked down the corridor on shaky legs, noting that now Raphael's men littered the restaurant.
Talin found Katerina seated on a stool in the kitchen. Her eyes were red, her eyelashes clumped with tears and one of Raphael's men stood watching over her. When he saw Talin he gave him a short bow, and moved away, leaving them alone.
"Is it over?" Katerina asked, jumping off the stool and into his arms. "What happened?"
"Nothing," Talin said, holding her tight, not ready to decipher what Vlad had meant about poisoning him. He felt perfectly fine. "I'm hungry. Will you cook something for me?"
"Anything will do," he said, burying his face into her soft hair. She smelled of jasmine, and sunshine. "I want to eat something good."
Katerina sighed and patted his back.
"Okay. Are you sure everything is fine in the dining room. Should I worry for Dimitri?"
"Dimitri will be fine."
Talin let go of her and moved to sit on the stool she'd vacated.
"He'll be fine," Talin repeated, thinking of Dimitri's shocked expression at the mention of poison.
"Well, he's refreshing," Vlad said, staring after Talin.
She crossed her legs and settled in her seat, her gaze moving from Dimitri to Raphael.
"Most people start begging for the antidote right away. Will you both sit? I'm getting a cramp on my neck looking up at you."
Dimitri felt torn between going after Talin and staying to find out what Vlad wanted. Damn it, he shouldn't have brought Talin tonight. He should have exchanged their glasses, or stopped Talin from sipping his.
If Talin died—
He cursed under his breath and took Raphael's arm, pushing him into the chair Talin had vacated.
"Start talking," he said to Vlad.
"Lucian said you're a bulldozer. I guess I can see what he meant. I'm a tad hurt, Dimitri. I thought you'd be on my side on this."
"You've threatened the only man I've ever loved." Dimitri shook his head. "How can I be on your side? What is wrong with you?"
"Love is a weakness. The sooner you realize that, the better for you." Vlad snapped. "Raphael, you know what I want. Talin has three days to get the antidote. The doctor who made the antidote is very specific about the timeline."
"I can't give Pan Limited to you without Talin's consent." Raphael shrugged his shoulders. "Gabriel tied my hands. Pan Limited is owned and controlled by Talin. I can't sell it, or sign over shares without Talin's approval."
"If he dies, you get to take over."
"That's where you went wrong. Talin's next of kin is his father, all the way in Japan. You'll never get to him."
"Fine, then Talin will die in vain," Vlad said with a shrug. "I suppose I'll have to be happy with that."
"There has to be another way," Dimitri said, refusing to imagine Talin dead. It just couldn't happen. Not like this.
He turned to Raphael.
"Convince him to change his mind."
"I'm not the one to convince Talin." Raphael shook his head. "You are, Dimitri."
"You're his brother in-law," Dimitri said.
"Yes." Raphael sighed. "I'm also the person who's stood in his way for the past six years. I'm the one who has stopped him from getting the justice he wants for Gabriel's death. He'll never agree to anything I say."
"Goddamnit, try," Dimitri said. "I can't lose him."
Vlad hissed a censure.
"You don't have time to worry for your lover, Dimitri. Your priorities are with your family. Thanks to you, I have secured a large shipment coming in from Europe. You're going to get bring it in for me."
"You refuse," Vlad smiled, "when Katerina and Lukas are so close. I don't need poison for them. Bullets will work fine. Sasha is a great shot. Lucian as well, should I give him a call?"
He hated the smile on Vlad's face. She was treating them like toys on a mat, moving them this way and that way.
Gods, the death she'd planned for Talin, what were they going to do?
"You're a beast," Dimitri said feeling murderous.
"So I'm told. Prep for my shipment," Katerina said. "Business goes on as usual. Your lover was a mistake to start with. You should have looked deeper into his past before you got involved. I'm saving you, Dimitri. Take it as a gift."
She got up and gave Raphael a mock bow.
"I know you'll work your magic with Talin. Don't look so down. If things don't work out, and he dies, at least Talin will never know that you're the one who wanted Gabriel dead."
With a last glance at Dimitri, Vlad nodded at her men and they left the dining room. Dimitri sat staring at the seat she'd left.
Raphael's men left the dining room too, closing the door behind them.
"You should find Talin," Raphael said. "He is not as strong as he's pretending to be."
"What's really going on?" Dimitri asked. "Did you kill Gabriel?"
Raphael shifted in his seat to look at him.
Dimitri frowned taking in the graceful features of the man seated next to him. If this was Gabriel's face, had he the same hard green eyes? What had Talin loved in such a cold face?
"My brother's death is not something you have the right to discuss."
"Talin should know the truth."
Raphael glared at him.
"Concentrate on convincing Talin that death is not the answer. He can get so morbid sometimes."
Raphael got up.
"I have another appointment to keep. I'll see you both at his loft tomorrow morning."
"What about the antidote?" Dimitri asked. "Talin—
"He's not going to die," Raphael said decisively.
The expression on Raphael's face was almost enough to convince Dimitri. Raphael gave him a short nod before he too left the private dining room.
"Kat, you're truly amazing," Talin said. "Even your spaghetti and meatballs tastes different."
"I hope you mean that in a good way." Katerina joked.
"Don't ever doubt it," Talin said with an appreciative moan.
Dimitri stood at the door into the kitchen watching Talin eat spaghetti with a wide smile. As though nothing was wrong with him, as though Vlad hadn't just poisoned him…Dimitri held on to the doorjamb fighting back panic.
"What's that tang in the back taste?"
"Lemon," Katerina said leaning her elbows on the table. "Talin, are you alright? Should we go check on Dimitri? Those clowns have left."
Talin forked spaghetti into his mouth.
"Mmm…this is really good."
Dimitri stepped back in to the hallway, took a deep breath and forced his fear back.
Talin was trying to be strong, he should be too.
He turned to find Katerina behind him.
"I thought I saw you. Is everyone gone?"
"Yeah," Dimitri said clearing his throat.
"I made spaghetti. You guys didn't get to eat anything after all. What a peculiar woman that Vlad is. If she wanted to have dinner, shouldn't food be included?"
Dimitri followed Katerina into the kitchen.
Talin didn't look up from his food when Dimitri sat beside him.
They sat at Katerina's kitchen table eating, listening to Katerina recount her encounter with Raphael's men.
"Who was the man who walked in with the sea of men?" Katerina asked. "He was like an avenging angel. Came rushing in wanting to know what room to find Talin in. His men made me burst into tears with fear."
"Did they touch you?" Talin asked.
"No, but they shouted a lot. Ordered me not to move, and to stay," Katerina said with a sigh. "I didn't like it at all. I want this to end. Can't it end soon, Dimitri?"
Dimitri stared at Talin who was busy eating as though there was no tomorrow.
He sighed and pushed his plate away.
"I don't know if it will end."
"Why not?" Katerina demanded. "I'm not sure I can take anymore of these visits."
Dimitri wiped a hand down his face and closed his eyes.
"Kat, Talin is going to die in three days. Forgive me for not caring about Vlad's visits to the restaurant. We have bigger problems to worry about."
"Huh?" Katerina glanced at Talin in shock. "You told me nothing happened."
"Are you still not going to help Raphael?" Dimitri demanded turning to Talin.
When Talin kept eating, he grabbed the fork out of Talin's hand.
"Talin," Dimitri demanded. "Will you say something?"
"Like what?" Talin asked. "Vlad probably wants Pan Limited. I'm not moving a finger to give it to her."
"Not even to save your life?" Dimitri asked.
"Not even that." Talin slid off his stool and adjusted his jacket. "You'll have to go home without me. I have business with Raphael."
"He said he'll meet us at the loft—
"There is no us, Dimitri," Talin said then. "Three days is not enough time to fit in the lifetime I'd have imagined with you. Let's end it here; hmm…it will be better for both of us."
Before Dimitri could react to that statement, Talin turned and left the kitchen in quick strides.
Katerina's touch on his arm had him catapulting out of his stool. He raced out to the main dining room, making it to the front door in time to see Talin drive off in Katerina's car.
Vlad - "Mwahahahahaha....'
Katrina - 'Should I stuff noddles down her throat?'
Sui - "Huh? Shh....watching Fuyao right now..."
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