Chapter 26

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The golden sun woke me up early. It was brighter here than it was in the city, but more welcoming too.

I showered and dressed. Clarke was still fast asleep, and even drooling a bit on his pillow. I thought it was adorable.

I had never been in love with a man until I met Clarke. He was so fair and believed in truth. I respected that. My entire life I grew up around lies and threats. Clarke wasn't like that, he only was when he had to be.

Clarke was still in a deep sleep when I went outside.

The thought of escaping galloped through my mind. I'm ashamed to say I considered it for a while. But if Clarke lost his father's leverage, he'd probably kill him. I don't know what kind of monster would even consider killing his own son.

I plopped down by the apple tree, embracing the scenic morning view. The grass was lightly damp from the morning dew. There were only a few scattered white clouds floating in the sky.

In the pasture, a freckle faced woman led the cows towards the barn. She must've been Becca that Eric was speaking of, I thought.

Despite the fact most of the plant life was brown and dead, it was still beautiful. Even endings can be beautiful.

I heard rustling from behind the sole Apple tree in the front yard.

"Surprised you didn't run." Clarke sat down by me in the grass. He wore a big coat over himself.

"Too many lives at stake. For once, I can't be a coward."

I breathed a thick breath of fresh air in.

"You'll live, Will."

"At the expense of my father's demise?"

"Your father knows his crimes. He knows he has to pay for them. He'll show up. For you. The second he does, I'll take you away from Chicago. Once your father is dead, there will be a war. It isn't our fight."

"Will my family ever be safe? Can they ever return?"

"I don't think there's anywhere on earth safe for them."

"What's my best option then?"

"Come with me. After they make the exchange, leave with me. If Liam and Nova were smart, they'd disappear too."

"They would never leave Chicago behind." I pulled strings of grass out of the ground and fiddled it with my fingers.

"Convince them. Once Frank is dead, my dad and Rossi will battle it out to the death. Whoever does will make sure the Merlin's are out of the picture permanently."

He said my father's name lie it meant nothing to him. It stung a little and sunk in that my father could be dead by tonight. Or me.

"Maybe he won't show up. Maybe they'll just kill me."

"I won't allow that. We will get through this, I promise. We'll go somewhere quiet, with a beautiful sunrise like this in the spring time, when everything is lively."

He stood up.

"We'll leave in an hour. Eat. Pee.  Do what you have to do."

He went back in the house.

I absorbed his words and promise in my mind. I was still having trouble wrapping my head around you death. My entire life I had been nothing but a coward. If my life was going to end, I didn't want it to end as a whiny wimp.

I stood up and went inside. I ate lightly. Tank greeted me one final time before we left.

Clarke came downstairs looking fresh. He adjusted his hoodie under his jacket and grabbed the keys. The dangling sound alerted me, realizing the horrors I would soon have to return to.

"Thank you, Eric."

"Thank you."

"All in a day's work. Will you be back soon?"

"No. Probably not. Have a good day, Eric."

Eric gave a friendly nod to us before he shut the door. We made our way down to the rusty, stench filled car.

"Will.. One more thing." Clarke rolled up his sleeve and made a fist.

"What are you doing?"

"We have to make you look more roughed up. Do you think it's going to look legit looking as good as you do? As clean and not hurt?"

I sighed.

"You're right."

"Where do you want it?"

"Surprise me. Just not the nose."

"Trust me. This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you. One.. Two."

I squeezed my eyes tightly and received a hard right hook on my cheek. I grunted out a sound of pain and cupped it.

Clarke was shaking his hand in pain. After all the punches he'd given, I was surprised it still hurt.

"You ready?" He rubbed his knuckles with his fingers on the same hand.

I nodded. The car still smelled like garbage. Clarke hung up an air freshener titled 'new car'.

"I never understood the new car smell. I always thought cars smell the same. Old or new."

He pulled onto the long driveway. I watched paradise disappear though the back window.

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