For those who have asked, the "voice" that Adira I’d heard is a character in this work and was absent from the previous work. All will be explained in time. Comment on how you like the chapter (or not, suggestions and constructive criticism is mega important so let me know). Comment Replies are at the bottom!! On with the story!
Chapter 5: Not Anymore
I manage to untangle from Emerson and smiled over at her, "Hi I’m Adir—"
"Did you all finish the food or what?" She was dismissive, upset even.
I pass Emerson a confused look but his jaw was tight, eyes locked on his glass of wine. On the left side of his face a vein stood prominently by his temple, it pulsed furiously even though his face hadn’t given much away. It was interesting the way the mind worked. A battlefield all on its own, a space where trauma is reawakened and weaponized throughout the body.
This vein came alive to me and before I could stop myself, my finger was already pressed against it. His back goes straight and he whips his head in my direction with a speed that made me jump. His eyes were fiery and hard, it all drove fear down my spine. My hands retract to my lap, head pointing towards my plate.
"Sorry for—" He begins with an apology but I stopped him.
"No, no I shouldn’t have touch—"
My words cause him to turn his entire body in my direction. He takes my hands in his own, "You should never apologize for touching me."
My jaw slackens and heat rushes up my neck to my ears resting in the back of my head. He’s pleased by my silence and smirks knowingly but continues nonetheless, "I mean to say that I’m sorry for startling you."
"Sorry for being so... jumpy," I said honestly, still trying to cool my face down.
He nods at my apology, accepting it by the looks of it. I reach for some more vegetables but hissed when a pain in my right rib thumped persistently.
"Ouch," I whispered leaning back into my seat.
I hoped my attempt had gone unnoticed by of course Emerson was already passing me glaces of concern.
"It’s nothing," I assure him.
"We probably should really get those bandages off," Chance says from across the table, "I’ll give you a numbing agent just in case it’s—"
"I actually," I cut him off, "um... took them off this afternoon when I woke up."
Chance freezes for a second, "You... you... took them off?" It didn’t make sense to him, "on your own?"
I nodded, "the pressure build up was—"
"What about the pain?" It was the urgency and concern in his tone that made everyone focus on our conversation. Justine continued eating.
"I just... um bit into a towel when it got bad and took a Lukewarm shower to ease the swelling," I mentioned gently.
He looked at me in complete awe, "Um... okay, well," he was unsure on how to move forward, "H-How are you feeling now?"
I took his question seriously, "It just kinda hurts when... when I breathe."
"Adira, you’ve gotta be kidding me," Emerson’s protest was expected, "Why didn’t you say something?"
I turned to face him, already thinking of how to address the anger in his eyes. Maybe I should explain the level of pain that drove me to the decision, appeal to his reason? It seemed like a plausible plan, until I looked.
There was no anger in the depth of his hazel eyes instead, a comforting concern rested with angst at the thought of my discomfort. Blown away by such an outpouring of emotion I answer with a stupid, "I was hungry."
"At least you’re we’re honest," the voice in my head giggles at my fumbling.
I can’t look away from him, noticing now that his eyes glistened at the sight of... me. It makes me smile, his brows furrow, "Don’t do that," he attempts to be stern, "You’re not taking your health seriously. You should’ve said something."
I knew he was right, but resistance boiled inside me. "I know how to take care of myself."
He opens his mouth but stops almost instantly, clamping it shut and focusing on his plate, "Very well," the words were strained, "Will you allow Chance to do another check up?"
The response was unexpected. Over the past couple of months we’ve had only one serious argument which led to a two-day period of silence. It was torture.
Since then we’ve both made it an effort to express ourselves with as much detail as possible, so his agreeing with me was troubling. He refocused on his plate and the vein by his temple pulses sporadically.
He had to be upset. "Well, we did experience an immense amount of pain." The voice reminds me gently, "And he doesn’t want to see you hurt."
She was right, "Sure," I agreed with his suggestion seeing no real harm in it.
He nods but doesn’t look in my direction. His hands were balled into tight fists breathing labored and far apart. What’s going on—
"So Adira tell me a little bit about yourself," It was Justine’s harmonious voice that interrupts my concerned assessment.
I smiled at the opportunity to change the subject, "Um I’m 21, currently working at a diner just on the outskirts of the ci—"
"How’d you get hurt?" Her question was as sharp as her glare. Green eyes humming with a terrifying fluorescent glow, "Based on what I’ve heard, it must have been quite bad for you to have gotten so many injuries."
Her smile was misleading. She was being both condescending and strict. Porcelain arms cross under a sizable chest. A perfectly done eyebrow arches impatient for my answer, one I should have by now.
"Um…" Slowly my peripheral vision blends to darkness as the memories overtake me, "I… was um... was," I wasn’t making sense but the echoes of my screams pierced the air in my mind, so much so that I felt the voice wince in pain. Intruding memories drowned me. Pressure from my body banging against stairs again and again and again.
I struggle with finding an excuse with the intensity of flashbacks. I felt it all. The clinking of his metal tip boots as they connect with my ribs till a distinct "crack" swims inside. Thinking of ...anything seemed impossible, so I repeat the truth, "I’d rather not say."
"So you don’t planning on sharing details yet you’re living here rent free for... how long?" She asked the right questions, one's I’ve grappled with since I woke up here.
"Justine, that’s enough," Victor comes to my rescue instantly, "How our family decides to treat Adira, as our guest is none of—"
"Exactly," she was brave enough to snap at him, "Your ‘guest’," The word was poison in her mouth, she seemed to beautifully spit it out of her mouth. "A stranger you know absolutely nothing about. Tell me Adira, how exactly do you know Emerson? Huh?"
What was I to say? He showed up in my dreams every night for the past 6 months? That made no sense. I looked at her wondering what lens to approach this question from.
Around us the table had frozen in place, all angry, jaws tight. Why?
"She has no right to ask these questions," the voice snarls in my head, making my head hurt for a second, "Sorry." She apologizes as though it was her fault. "It was. I stepped on a nerve, literally."
What? I asked now concerned.
"We’ll y’all about it after,"
"Justine, chill out," Charice groans in frustration, "They’re together now—"
"Without a bit of confirmation as to whether she is who Emerson feels she is—"
"Stop it, Justine," Gavin says in a threatening tone, eyes now hard, "Before you say something you’ll regret."
"So what? You’re all defending her?! Her?! Really?!" She looks at each person with a fire on her lips, "After a day?!? Not asking any questions?! Risking the safety of your home for some—"
"Watch! It!" Anthony growls this time.
Confusion blended perfectly with the screaming voices, even louder was Emerson’s silence. I looked his way and saw that he pinched the bridge of us nose taking deep breaths.
"Take his hand."
But he’s upset.
The voice stills, "So what? He’s not upset with you."
Well, people act out of character when they’re upset, I don’t want to fuel his anger by—
"A-Are you AFRAID he’ll hurt you?"
This relaxes her.
Well I don’t kno—
"You’ve got to be kidding me! Emerson?! Emerson?! The one who risked his life to come save you from that demon of a father?! That Emerson?!"
Her scolding made me feel guilty, before my defenses built.
I BARELY KNOW HIM!
"You know enough."
This shuts me up. I choose to look outwards and it turns out I was just in time to hear the climax of this argument.
"No," Justine was on her feet now, "You’re acting recklessly! Just accepting it because of a feeling?!"
"That’s what we did when you had a feeling, isn’t it?" Charice’s words lit Justine’s eyes on fire, "In fact we’re never even asked Emerson, just stupidly trusted you and your word."
I didn’t understand the context of the words but saw just how much it made Justine tremble in anger, "Now you’re upset that the correction has been made," Charice finishes off honestly.
"You little bitc—"
"Emerson let’s take Adira to my office for that check up," Chance says with a tight tone already on his feet, walking to the office a little beyond the living room.
Next to me Emerson’s body has gone completely rigid, eyes pointed in Justine’s direction with a glare that could kill. His eyes... glowed much like earlier. He hadn’t responded and instead stared at, through Justine. I’ve never seen him like this.
"Emerson," His father's tone suggested that he understood his son’s plight, "Walk Adira to Chance’s office, then join us back here."
Anger rolled off Emerson’s skin like tidal waves but he seemed to agree. He pulls back, his seat then carefully draws my own, holding a hand out to support me as I stood. He reaches down to lock his hands behind my knees but I stopped him, this forces him to look at me.
"Finally." The voice in my head cheers wildly, "Now take note of how his body responds."
I didn’t understand what she meant until I saw it. His shoulders relax, jaw slackening as the muscles in his arms still against bone no longer desiring to push out of his skin. His entire demeanor changed completely. He releases a gentle breath before nodding to himself and reaching down to lift me.
My hands rest against his chest, one around his neck as he walks us to Chance's office. There some xrays are displayed against a screen, and Chance is reviewing some documents with numbers and notes. He looked more relaxed as well.
Emerson carefully lays me in bed before whispering a gentle promise, "I’ll be back to pick you up when he’s done," despite the improvement in his mood, his voice was still chilling. I knew this anger and had only seen it once before four months ago. His frustration wasn’t directed at me but it was difficult to see him this upset and not do anything about it. I worried for him.
"Just take his hand," the voice pushes with a different level of intimacy in her voice, "He won’t hurt you."
So when he begins leaving, I reach forward to grasp his hand. His body goes straight, so I squeeze and pull his hand until he has no choice but to take a step in my direction, "Don’t be upset," I beg.
My words snap him out of the wonder my touch put him in, "She has no right to speak to you like that—"
"She made some good points though," I say warily causing him to tilt his head in angered confusion, "That’s why I didn’t want to stay," I admit honestly, "Because you guys shouldn’t have to take care of—"
"Adira," It was a warning. This wasn’t a conversation we should be repeating. I said I would stay and that’s that. Folding my lips, I decide it’s better to not provide any further explanation, "I’ll be back to pick you up."
Nodding I release a soft sigh staring down at the white sheets on the hospital bed. I thought he had left so was stunned when I felt a gentle kiss to my forehead, "I’ll be back."
"You said that," I say through red cheeks.
He lifts my face by my chin, examining my cherry face with satisfaction in his gaze, "Cute."
I glare and pulled away from him, "Shut up," I hoped that the warmth which lingered in the back of my head and chest would’ve disappeared by now, but it worsened.
Chance closes the door behind him and proceeds to wash his hands then slips on some gloves. Until now he hadn’t said a word to me but chose to address my concerns anyways.
"It’s not about whether she made sense or not," He says sinking in an office chair next to where I sat, "It’s about blatantly disrespecting the Hunt’s in their decision to care for you. She has no right to speak to you in that fashion."
He was... right. It was something that should have been more obvious to me— the target of her harsh words but instead I remained in her defense. Why? Why was it easier for me to blame myself?
"Nevertheless," Chance sighs, "Let’s take a look at those injuries." He helps me remove my shirt and did an extensive look at my bruises and cuts. By the end of it all he prescribed and filled some pain medications and advised that I stay off my feet as much as possible for the upcoming days.
"Once your hip heals up it should get easier to walk," he says pointing to one of the x-rays further away, "Anytime you feel an extensive amount of pain take one of the pills." I nodded and asked about the ointment he had used on my face.
"It healed my cuts really quickly," I praised.
"Yeah?" He smiles and pulls out an unlabeled tube, "It’s my own concoction, don’t worry it was medically certified a couple years ago."
I laughed and asked if he could apply it for the bruises around my ribs.
"Sure but I’d have to rebandage them, not as tightly this time around though," he states the caveat with caution, "Regardless you must come to me in order to remove them, deal?"
I nodded with an embarrassed smile, "Deal."
He begins applying the ointment and bandaged when he speaks gently, "As your primary physician I am not allowed to speak to other on the details of your medical condition, both current and previous procedures."
My heart raced, "W-What do you mean previous procedures?" I hated the way my voice trembled but Chance ignored it.
"I’ve noticed healed bones and muscles that possibly happened...a little over a decade ago," I stilled remembering each hospitalization like a story, "Signs of cranial bleeding possibly even starvation at some point."
"Oh," I panicked internally. My Palms grow sweaty and throat dries out from the loss of hydration. What do I say now?
"As I said before, I’m your doctor. It doesn’t matter that I’m contracted with the Hunts, all your medical history and results go through you alone," His words stunned me enough to look up at him, the salt and pepper hair bounces as he seals the bandages just under my left side—the one with the least amount of bruises.
"Thank you," I whispered gently.
"And I just want to reiterate that though everything may be overwhelming right now," he locked eyes with mine. His were so dark you’d think they were black, but then the light hits them and a gentle shred of brown smiles at you, "But this is a safe place for you to be, possibly the safest."
His words held a type of truth that I was unaccustomed to, it wasn’t an opinion. It was irrevocable fact. So what else am I to do but nod?
"Emerson should probably be on his way back soon," he says slipping off his gloves and washing his hands.
"I, um, have a question," I say softly. He goes still, but turns to face me, "I’m a little anemic and my menstrual cycle starts soon. I left my pain medication and iron pills at home, do you think I could get either of those here?"
Chance’s eyes shimmer in appreciation, "Well firstly thank you for sharing that with me, and yes I have both," he opens a drawer where several pill bottles reside, "I have seve—"
There’s a knock at the door and Chance calls for it to be opened as I pull down my shirt. The air feels suddenly cleaner as an earthy incense fills the room. Emerson.
He pops his head in and immediately searches for me. It made my stomach do twirls.
"We’re almost done," Chance makes him aware, "Give us 5 minutes."
"Oh okay," he nods and slides out.
Chance refocuses on me and asks a few questions before prescribing iron pills.
"Those pills I gave you for the sores and bruises should also help with menstrual cramps," he said gently, "When is your cycle predicted to start?"
"Next week I think," My answers were honest and quick.
"Well by then you’ll definitely still be using the medication, I’ll refill them as time goes on," I nodded and thanked him, "Anything else?"
I shook my head and he knocks on the door signaling Emerson to enter. He wore a longer sleeved shirt with the same sweatpants, they both emphasized his divine physique with a troubling amount of accuracy.
"Oh, what I’d do to peel those off him."
My eyes widened at the voice in my head, who now cackles breathlessly. Before I can fall even deeper into despair Emerson smiles my way, stroking my cheek tenderly.
"You okay?" His baritone voice made me shiver.
I folded my lips and nodded reaching for my paper bag of medications.
"If you have anymore questions I’m here," Chance adds as we leave the room.
"Thank you," I sing his way. We passed by the empty dining hall and I stayed still as Emerson proceeds to a hall I had yet to go by. It carried the luxury of the Hunt name with the same level of humility and respect. It severs off into three different spaces each closed off by huge double mahogany doors. We entered the first set.
I wasn’t sure what I was expecting but it wasn’t the huge glass windows that overlooked the forest. There was a gentle fire pit in the middle with luscious sofas surrounding it. As we walked closer I noticed it wasn’t an actual first but instead a realistic projection on one and a heater.
There was blankets and pillows scattered all over the ivory decorated space that made it feel homey.
"This is the mountain room," he explains.
"Makes s-sense," I trembled are the level of wealth they had.
He didn’t seem to notice my stumbling of words instead laughing at my dry joke, "I thought we could spend some time here, to talk things through. I know you’re one for details so could imagine the freak out you’re having."
I laughed at this as he gently places me before the heater, "So let's hear the questions," he sighs settling next to me.
My eyes narrow to a glare, "How do you know I have questions?"
He huffs and raises a brow, "Well for one you just asked a question, so…I imagine there’s more. And you told me that questions help you figure the world out," he thinks back to a conversation we had almost four months prior, "Remember?"
I gave a small smile and nodded, "You asked me to think about what my favorite thing about myself was. I said it was my curiosity."
He hums happily, "So again, what questions do you have?"
My first instinct was to ask about why he was so adamant on my staying here, but then I remembered my promise.
"You constantly insist that you don’t know him, here’s an opportunity and you’re wasting it on finding excuses to leave," there she goes with her harsh truths, "I don’t mean to be rude," so she could hear my thoughts—though she herself wasn’t a thought but instead an independent manifestation of… of something, "But you’re not giving him a chance."
Taking her words into consideration I thought about what I wanted to ask Emerson, "When you mentioned taking time off, you said it was more efficient because you wasted time daydreaming about me, what would you think about?"
He seems shocked by the question but considers it, "Honestly most of it was worrying about your health, then there’s the ever-present fear of you running away."
My chest clenched in guilt but I asked anyway, "Fear?"
"I’ve been trying to find you for months, to the. lose you when I just got you would be," he sighs with eyes closed, "Devastating."
I turned on the couch to face him, admiring the structure in his jaw down his neck and broad shoulders, "You’ve known where I lived for a while though."
"True, but convincing my family that you weren’t just a figment of my imagination was the biggest obstacle. They wouldn’t take their eyes off me, scared I’d go break into some strangers home trying to find a girl who, to them, did not exist," I nodded finally beginning to understand the depth of his journey, "At first they ignored me, then they started noticing...changes in how I behaved."
"Like what?" I rested my head against the back of the couch and he turned to face me, mocking my position. It made me laugh seeing his attempt to snuggle his feet on what were normal couch cushions but miniature for a 6’2" giant.
"I wasn’t as hot-tempered, I considered things with more patience. Stopped resisting correction," he states a few, "they saw it at home but the biggest changes were noticed in the boardrooms. I wasn’t snapping at everyone apparently."
Another laugh escapes me, "I got promoted twice, and matured exponentially so much so that after four months they sat down to talk to me about you. About what I was experiencing."
"Ah," I looked over at him, "How did you describe it?"
He huffed a laugh and stretches his legs out facing forward again. I missed the warmth he provided, it penetrates past my skin and down to my... heart? Maybe even deeper. My soul then?
"I told them this sexy chick kept popping up in my dreams and talking to me," his smirk doesn’t stop me from exploding in laughter. I cover my smile with a hand as happiness floods through me, "You think I’m kidding."
I gasped at him giggling a bit when the words, "You must be," leaves my mouth. He gives me a look that should convey seriousness, "Then it’s no wonder they worried for your sanity."
"I explained it to my father afterwards and he just," he shrugs and rubs a hand down his face, "Believed me. Finally, I planned to get you."
"When was this?"
"Four days ago," he said gently, "Two days before the incident," his voice hardens, "If I’d only been quicker he would’ve never gotten the opportunity to hurt you."
I stilled, "Are you blaming yourself?"
"That’s exactly what you do, hypocrite." The voice says truthfully.
"It’s something I regret delaying," He sighs gently turning his head to look at me, "But I try to focus on the good things." He caresses my chin stroking my cheek with a tender swoop of his thumb.
"You think being around me caused those changes?" I ask honestly.
He smirks and nods, "There’s no other reason," he faces me again, reaching forward to pull me closer, "Since you came in my life things—everything got... better."
My face and neck were hot, tongue drying out in my mouth so I gulp. I lean against his arm and he sighs at the contact, "I can’t believe you’re real," I admit with closed eyes, "And here next to me, in your mansion."
He chuckles, "It’s not mine."
I rolled my eyes but found myself moving closer to him, deeper in his embrace. He closes his arms around me and the air around us makes a sudden ‘click’. Inside me the voice sighs a longing sound and relaxes in my mind.
"This feel different," I say gently, "We’ve hugged before," images of me crying in his arms, laughing too, flashes in my mind, "But this," I bury my face in the crook of his neck—Cedarwood and seawater—"this is whole."
He hums in agreement, "It does feel great," he runs a hand up and down my back, "Are you comfortable?" I nodded and noticed him reaching forward with his free hand, stopping himself with fear of moving too fast. He makes a quick fist and returns the hand to his lap.
My chest clenches and without thinking I reach for it. I hold it up against my own noticing the large difference before slipping my fingers into the spaces of his own.
"Any more questions?" His voice was always like a hum of electricity, down my spine.
I folded my lips, "Are you sure that your family is okay with my being here? I mean after all that trouble for you to convince them, and with Justine’s outburst, I don’t want to overstep."
He licks his lips and thinks through his answer before he started, "As I said, convincing them was hard but they see how much you impact me. How...happy I am when you’re around me. That’s all they need. After meeting you they’ve all grown attached—some more than others," images of Charice come to mind, "But regardless you are wanted here."
My stomach twirls and I nod, "And I hope you know that it’s not because I don’t want to tell you what happened yesterday—"
"Adira, you don’t have to tell me anything," He says gently, "Or rather, I want you to tell me when you’re ready to and not because you feel pressured."
I smiled and nodded in his shirt, "Okay," my voice was small, "Last question, can you drive me to the diner tomorrow?"
I feel his resistance immediately, "To work?! You can barely stand u—"
"To quit," I narrow my eyes, "And pick up a couple residual checks I have."
"So you’re finally listening to me huh?"
I rolled my eyes and would’ve shoved him away had I not been so comfortable. He has tried to convince me to leave the toxic work environment for months. There wasn’t enough money in the world that would convince a person to stay there for over a couple weeks. I’ve been there for two and a half years.
"Kind of," I was stubborn to admit his influence on my decision. He laughs and secures his arms around me, "Wait what are we going to do here?"
"I thought that was your last question," he teases knowingly, "What do you mean?"
"I mean, you want me to stay with you for the next couple weeks, but what am I to do here?"
"Firstly," He pulls away and locks eyes with me, pulling me in by the chin, "I want you to stay with me forever. The conditional time frame of two weeks was something you needed.
"Secondly, I do have dates and trips planned for us. I have to treat my girlfriend to the royal experience," he locks eyes with me as the title drips from his tongue. Delicious.
The voice in my head giggles with red cheeks and I had the opportunity to shy away from his advances but something pushed me forward, "That you do."
He smiles, glancing between my lips and my eyes several times, "I’m glad we got that out of the way."
I laughed at this loving the tingling trail that remains as he strokes my back. I lick my parched lips and the action captures his attention.
"So dates where?" I lean against his arm.
He laughs, "That caught your attention huh?"
"The lavish Emerson Hunt taking little ole me out on a date?!" I exaggerate wildly to his dissatisfaction, "I must be dreaming."
"Not anymore," He sighs smoothly.
"Not anymore," I repeated surely.
Butterfly: I hope the note at the top explains the voice. Stick with me though it will (hopefully) make more sense in time. Any thoughts?
Anonymous: Thank you for the kind words! Any review on this one?
Banyana: I could never leave out Justine! I’ll be including her MUCH MUCH MORE... stay tuned.
Anonymous: Your enthusiasm is appreciated!
Anonymous: Drama is essential but this is JUST the start.
As noticed lots of you comment under the name Anonymous lol, I don’t care personally but you could separate your names by adding little symbols like "Anonymous!" Vs. "Anonymous:)" Or numbers in case symbols aren’t allowed. Or keep doing you! Regardless I love hearing from you all so please, please comment!