Revenge was a futile goal.
One that ended in disappointment and more pain, Talin thought.
He'd loved Gabriel as a husband should: as a lover, and as a friend. He'd thought he knew everything about Gabriel. Every single secret, his nature, his heart…Talin closed his eyes.
He loved Raphael too, like he would his own brother, because Raphael was Gabriel's twin.
How could it be possible not to know everything about the people he'd loved all his life? How could it be possible?
They'd hidden so much from him.
Gabriel had built a company for him, trying to keep him away from the corrupted side of his life. Now, Vlad, the corrupted of them all, wanted that company, and had threatened his life to get it.
Was it for Raphael?
"Perhaps," Talin whispered into the silence of the bedroom he was borrowing at Raphael's house. It was hard to trust Raphael's motives. Gods, the thought made him sick. Raphael was family to him.
Talin paced the length of the windows. Running a hand through his hair, he wondered what should be done now.
The door opened, and Dimitri walked in closing the door behind him with a slam. His pale blue eyes took him in, sliding over him with worry, probably gauging how ill he was.
Talin wrapped his arms around himself.
"Are you okay now?" Dimitri asked, standing by the door, not making an effort to approach him.
"For what?" Dimitri asked. "Leaving me at the restaurant?"
Talin looked away.
"For dragging you into another mess, when you have Vlad hounding your every step. You should go back to the marina."
"Don't piss me off so early in the morning."
"I know you're hurting. I understand grief, I've felt it but I refuse to let you wallow in it."
"I'm not wallowing in anything." Talin turned away from Dimitri's gaze. "I've had a rough night."
"We've all had a rough night."
"You should head home and check on Lukas and Kat. They must be worried."
"About you too," Dimitri said. "Talin, look at me."
Talin shook his head, not ready to. Once he did, the reasons he should do his best to walk away from Dimitri would disappear. He'd get greedy and want to keep him when he had no right.
"Talin," Dimitri said and Talin heard him walking toward him. His boots rapped a beat on the hardwood floors.
Talin closed his eyes when Dimitri touched his shoulders.
"I love you."
Talin opened his eyes and stared at their reflection in the windows. Dimitri stood behind him, his warmth seeping into his body.
"I know it feels like it's too soon to say that to you." Dimitri gave a nervous laugh. "I've watched you too long, Talin. Waited on the sidelines, worried if I made a move you'd get hurt, or you'd reject me. Now that we're together—," Dimitri broke off. "I don't want to waste time. So, don't run away from me, Talin."
And then there was Dimitri, Talin thought.
This man who'd broken into the cage he'd carefully built. If it weren't for Dimitri, he'd still be oblivious about Raphael. Would have never met Vlad…to think his interference with Ilia had led to Dimitri's relationship with Vlad hurt.
Dimitri stepped back, his hands dropping from Talin's shoulders.
Talin turned then and grabbed Dimitri's left hand. He met hurt pale blue eyes.
"I can't say the words back, yet," Talin said.
Talin nodded and pulled Dimitri into his arms, holding him tight.
"I won't run away again."
Dimitri pressed a kiss on top of his head.
Talin stared at the blue shirt Dimitri wore, rubbing his fingers over the soft fabric.
"Do you feel okay?" Dimitri asked. "Does anything hurt?"
Talin took in a deep breath. He had a mild headache, but that was expected after all the crying. He had also only slept a few hours.
"I'm feeling fine, Dimitri."
"You're not lying to me, are you?"
"I'm not lying."
"Good, Raphael has a doctor coming. Since you don't want to make a deal with Vlad, we need to find an antidote."
Talin bunched Dimitri's shirt tight sure the next few days were going to be the hardest he'd had yet.
"Gabriel's husband is playing hard to get. He has no idea the pain that poison will cause him. He'll come here begging for the antidote."
Vlad paced the length of her living room, her arms crossed against her chest. She glanced at Lucian, noting his pensive expression.
"Where is your head, Lucian? I need you here."
Lucian moved to sit in an armchair.
"Talin is not easy. Our best bet is Dimitri convincing him to cooperate."
"Where is Sedlackov?" Vlad scoffed. "I didn't like his attitude at the restaurant."
"We need him for this last shipment to go through without a hitch," Lucian reminded her.
"You get softer everyday," Vlad said, stopping to study him. "Are you still thinking about your brother?"
"Ilia made his choices. He deserved what he got." Lucian rolled his shoulders as though he didn't care.
Vlad didn't listen to his words, no, Lucian's truths were in the way he sat, his shoulders hunched. She'd trained him not to think of love, or allow it to rule his life.
It seemed she'd failed.
He grieved for Ilia.
Useless emotion, she thought.
"Pajari Industries has incurred losses since Ilia disappeared." Vlad moved to sit on the couch across Lucian. "I need Pan Limited to hold it up."
"Why Pan Limited?" Lucian asked. "There are many other companies you can acquire."
"None as pure as Pan, there is no dirty money there, sales increase daily, the company is a powerhouse. Plus, I want to get back at the Yuns' for rejecting my offer."
"Must we go after Pan Limited?" Lucian asked. "Nicolae—
"Don't speak of Nicolae to me," Vlad said, hating to even think of her brother in-law.
Nicolae Petrov lived in a world where women couldn't do much more than give birth and clean the house. She wished he could die fast, but he'd managed to turn into an untouchable bastard.
"Nicolae," Lucian said, "wants us moved out of Colston, and back in New York. This small town has too many curious eyes."
"I haven't forgotten the plan," Vlad said hating Lucian's ability to withstand her temper. "Once the shipment is clear, tie up all loose ends, and we're done."
Vlad gave Lucian a smile, knowing it was going to annoy him.
"You do know what I mean by loose ends, don't you?"
Her smile widened when she saw Lucian clench his jaw.
"Sedlackov knows too much," she said. "So does his family."
"You can't wipe out the whole family."
"Burn the house down. Call it a freak fire," Vlad glared. "I don't like it when you question me. Katerina, Lukas and Dimitri are liabilities. No matter the agreement, they can't be left alive."
"Will die off when they're no longer there," Vlad said with a shrug.
"You're cold." Lucian got up and adjusted his suit jacket. "Fine, the faster we get this done the better. Colston is starting to weigh on me."
"Find Sedlackov," Vlad said. "Make sure he's making arrangements to escort my merchandise to shore without a problem. Do start thinking on how to get rid of him too. It's good to plan ahead."
"What about Talin?"
"Leave him be for now," Vlad said. "The poison hasn't started working yet. Let them scramble trying to find a way out. They'll come to me sooner or later."
Lucian nodded and started out the door.
"And Lucian," Vlad said when he reached it. "About your brother."
Lucian paused, his shoulders tense.
"I'm sure he's in a better place."
Lucian didn't acknowledge her comment. He left the living room in long strides that made her smile harder. He was such an emotional child.
"You're not where you're supposed to be."
Dimitri winced at Lucian's greeting.
"Are you at the marina?"
"I'm with Talin."
"He's not at the club, or at the loft. Don't tell me you're trying to sneak out—
"Jeez, Lucian," Dimitri sighed. "Why would I leave my brother and his wife to you?"
"Tell me where you are and I'll not jump to conclusions."
Dimitri glanced at Talin. They were in Raphael's living room. Talin sat in an armchair, looking away as the doctor Raphael had called drew his blood.
"You won't like it."
"Spit it out." Lucian warned.
"Raphael is trying to help Talin."
Lucian cursed. "You're at the Yun house?"
"Where else do you think I'd be?"
"Get to the marina, Dimitri."
Dimitri started to protest but Lucian had already ended the call.
"Something wrong?" Talin asked, when he tried to redial Lucian.
"Lucian is at the marina." Dimitri shook his head. "He wants me there to deal with arrangements for Vlad's shipment."
"Don't aggravate him. I'll look after Talin," Raphael said, coming in from the kitchen holding a mug of tea which he took to Talin.
Talin refused to look at Raphael, and only took the mug because it would seem rude to the doctor.
Raphael sat on the coffee table watching the doctor stow away Talin's blood samples.
"How fast can we get the results?" Raphael asked.
"I'll have a clear diagnosis by tonight." The doctor stood up, taking his briefcase. "Once we know what we're dealing with, we can find a way to counteract the poison."
"She gave us three days," Talin said in a low tone. "We're twelve hours into those three days, doctor."
"I understand the urgency, Talin." The doctor squeezed Talin's shoulder. "Try not to panic."
Talin nodded and they all watched the doctor leave the living room in quick steps.
"Do you think he can do it?" Dimitri asked Raphael.
"He has no choice but to do his best." Raphael stated in a hard tone. Dimitri was afraid to ask what would happen if no results were forthcoming. "Talin please put away your anger. Your boyfriend needs our help. We need to work together."
Talin sipped the tea Raphael gave him.
"Has Himura done what he promised?" Talin asked.
"Yes, he flew in last night," Raphael said.
"Who is Himura?" Dimitri asked Talin.
"Someone with a sick sense of humor," Raphael said. "Don't worry about him. We need to find a way to take out Vlad."
"She has no weakness." Talin glanced at Dimitri. "We need a serious weakness since she has ours so tightly in check."
"Do you think we can find one?" Dimitri asked.
"Maybe," Talin said with a shrug, his gaze on Raphael. "Maybe not. Raphael, why would Vlad want Pan Limited, is she doing this for you?"
"For me?" Raphael's eyes widened. "Really Talin, you keep hurting me with your words."
"She would do it for you," Talin said, his tone accusing. "You get the company your brother kept away from you; she gets the alliance with your family."
Raphael wiped a hand down his face.
"I suppose I deserve that comment."
"Raphael." Talin prompted.
"I would never do this to you," Raphael said then, and Dimitri could swear he read unconditional love in Raphael's green eyes. "If you don't believe anything else, at least remember that I always want to keep you safe."
Talin placed his mug on the coffee table and got to his feet.
"I should head back to the club."
"No way," both Dimitri and Raphael protested.
Talin shook his head in amusement.
"Are you going to duct tape me to a chair again if I insist?"
"I might," Dimitri said. "You can't work right now. Anything that will make the poison work faster is out. In fact, you should lie still."
"No way," Talin said shaking his head.
"Yes way," Dimitri said.
"Ah...I'm getting jealous," Raphael said. "Talin, I thought you only argued with me?"
"Stop joking around," Talin scoffed. He smelled his shirt and groaned. "I need to take a shower."
"I do have water in this house, and clothes you can wear." Raphael glanced at Dimitri. "You should clean up too. It might convince him to stay."
Dimitri winked at Talin and was glad when a smile tugged Talin's lips. He was glad he could still get Talin to smile.
Talin left Dimitri in their borrowed bedroom. Adjusting the black sweater he wore, Talin went down the stairs heading straight to the basement. Raphael had told him where to find Ilia. Opening the first door he met in the corridor downstairs, Talin stared at the man he'd once blamed for Gabriel's death.
Ilia Pajari sat on a cot in the corner of the room. His blonde hair disheveled. He looked tired; it was obvious he hadn't slept. The bruises on his face were enough evidence that Himura hadn't been gentle. Ilia glanced at him.
"You broke your promise," Ilia accused.
Talin closed the door and leaned on the wall.
"I'm going to die if they find out what I did."
Talin shrugged. "We're all going to die. I met your brother."
"Lucian?" Ilia gaped in shock. "You've found out who Petrov is."
Talin scoffed. "I suppose you can say that. She wants something precious from me."
Ilia shook his head. "Don't fight her. She gets what she wants no matter what. If you refuse, she'll kill you."
Talin crossed his arms against his chest.
"Shouldn't two dead men help each other?"
"I helped you once and you've backstabbed me."
"Don't be angry, Ilia," Talin said. "If we can manage to crash Vlad, you might live."
"Might being the key word here," Ilia scoffed.
"Come on, Ilia. You don't want Himura to keep you company." Talin cajoled.
"He needs anger management lessons," Ilia said. "You're as unkind as he is, Talin. Himura is your product."
"Himura is a good man." Talin pushed off the wall. "I want to know about Vlad."
"There's nothing to know."
"She's what, in her fifties?" Talin said pacing closer to Ilia. "She can't have lived that long without getting juicy skeletons in her closet. Come on, Ilia. Cooperate."
"What do I get from it?"
"You and I, we are in the same boat. Bringing Vlad down will set you free. I thought living would be incentive enough."
Ilia stared at him for a moment, then touched his bruised jaw.
"I want to meet Lucian."
"Why?" Talin asked.
"He's my brother, Talin. Make that happen and I'll give you what you want."
"Is it possible?" Raphael asked Talin when he came out of the room they were using to hold Ilia. "Lucian is hard to get to."
"He's always at the marina lately," Talin said. Glancing at the man standing behind Raphael, Talin continued. "We'd have to take him with the least bit of force. We can't put Dimitri's family in more danger."
"I'll follow you to the marina," Himura said.
Talin nodded and turned to Raphael. "What if Ilia is playing us? He's not played it straight either."
"We don't have the luxury to wait around, Talin." Raphael started to head down the hall but then he stopped. "Are you going to tell Dimitri about Ilia?"
"Of course," Talin said with a frown. "Don't you want me to?"
"I'm not sure it's the right thing."
"I'll be the judge of what's right, Raphael."
Raphael shrugged and walked away.
"I'm ready when you are," Himura told Talin. "I'll wait outside."
Talin headed back upstairs with an uneasy feeling crawling through him. Ilia's demand to see Lucian was perfectly reasonable. After all, Ilia hadn't seen his brother in years.
Talin came up to the front hall in time to see Dimitri come down the stairs.
"Are you ready?" Dimitri asked, zipping up the leather jacket he'd gotten from Raphael.
"He's occupied," Talin said heading to the front door.
Outside, he went straight to Katerina's car. Opening the driver's door, he paused when he saw the keys were missing.
Dimitri dangled them on his finger.
"I'm debating whether to give them to you."
"Katerina will need her car," Talin said. "We can't trust Raphael to bring this down to the marina."
Dimitri threw the keys and he caught them.
"Drive straight to the marina, Talin. Remember your promise not to run."
At the marina, Talin parked Kat's car right next to Dimitri's. He got out slowly, his gaze sweeping the main road, in time to see a white van drive past on the main road at a slow pace. Himura would find another way into the marina.
"I'm sure Katerina will be glad to see her car back," Dimitri said motioning for him to follow into the marina's office.
Talin hurried to Dimitri's side, taking his hand wanting a connection. It felt like a lifetime since he'd felt Dimitri's touch.
"Are you okay?" Dimitri asked as they went up the short steps.
"I'm fine. Please stop asking me that question."
"I can't help it." Dimitri opened the front door and entered into the main office.
Talin almost bumped into him when Dimitri stopped abruptly. Talin looked around Dimitri to see what had his boyfriend so surprised.
It was surreal to see Lucian Pajari seated behind the reception desk as though he belonged there.
"Morning Dimitri," Lucian said with a smile. The gun on the desk did nothing to soften his presence. "I'm so glad you could make it."
"Lucian." Dimitri reached for Talin's arm, holding him in place. "What's with the gun?"
"Think of it as motivation," Lucian said, picking up the 9mm to study it with admiration. "If you don't work fast enough, I'll show you how fast I can empty it into your family members."
"What has you so angry this early?" Dimitri asked keeping his cool.
Talin hated the fear already crawling through him. He wondered if Katerina and Lucian were alright. Did Lucian have them hidden somewhere?
"Look, you brought me your lover," Lucian said. "I heard what Vlad did to him. Talin, I wish we'd met under better circumstances. Did you know Dimitri and I were lovers?"
Talin glanced at Dimitri in surprise.
"Fuck you, Lucian."
"Been there, done that," Lucian said with a grin. "It was real good, until your father killed my brother. Then it just wasn't the same."
Dimitri clenched his fists and Talin took a step toward the desk to stop him.
"What if you're wrong?" Talin asked.
"Wrong about what?" Lucian asked with a sneer.
"Wrong about your brother's death," Talin said.
"Talin," Dimitri grabbed his left arm.
"Control him, Dimitri. I'm already in a bad mood. Don't test my temper."
"Your brother is alive," Talin declared.
Lucian got up and came around to where Talin stood.
"If you don't shut up, I'm going to shoot you right now. I don't care that Vlad needs you for her petty schemes. Don't say another word about my brother."
Dimitri tightened his hold on Talin's arm. Talin glanced out the window for a moment, then because he needed to save Dimitri, he met Lucian's icy stare.
"Shoot me then," Talin said. "But if you do, you won't get to meet Ilia."
Lucian raised his left hand to hit Talin. Dimitri caught it before Lucian could touch him. Pushing Lucian back, Talin gasped when a single shot went through the window, and Lucian fell on the hardwood floor.
Talin stared at Himura standing a few feet outside the office.
Afraid that Himura had lost his mind, Talin rushed to push Lucian to his stomach, and sighed with relief when he saw the tranquilizer dart lodged into Lucian's shoulder. Pulling it out, he grinned and held it up to Dimitri.
"You and him?" Talin asked. "Really Dimitri? The ice lord?"
"You almost got shot, baby. Lucian is not one to make empty threats," Dimitri said taking Lucian's gun.
"Don't change the subject," Talin got to his feet, and threw the dart on the table. "What the fuck did you see in him?"
Talin says - "I can't believe we have to work with your ex!"
Dimitri says - "I'm sorry, babe."
Talin fumes to the side.
Sui - hides behind the couch in the corner when Dimitri glares at her.
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