I jerk the door open and have one foot out on the pavement even before the taxi comes to a stop. As soon as my shoes touch the cobblestone driveway, I take off running towards the front door. I’m in such a rush to get there that I completely forget I have to pay the taxi driver. It’s not until he starts yelling behind me that I am reminded he needs to get paid. I shove him a stack of bills and resume my haste towards Grandpa’s house. I ring the bell and recite a silent prayer that Aleah will open the door. When nothing happens after a few minutes, I ring the bell again, this time three times in succession. Still there is no response.
It’s only when I’ve rang the bell another ten times and I’m pounding on the door with my fists that it crosses my mind that she may not be here. I turn around and scan the driveway and her car is nowhere to be seen. As soon as the realization sets in, I get a sick feeling in my stomach. If she didn’t come here, where could she have gone? And what does that mean? Could it mean she doesn’t want anything to do with us anymore?
Out of pure desperation I try the door once more, and I’m greeted by more silence. I sink to the tiled floor and close my eyes. As soon as my eyes are shut, the image of Aleah when she took off running for her car this morning and the look I saw on her face flashes behind my closed eyelids. And my heart gets ripped out of my chest for the millionth time today.
I can’t believe I did something that stupid. To know I put that look on her face rips me to shreds. I have to find her and explain everything. The girl has had enough heartache in her life to last a lifetime. I can’t be the cause of more hurt for her. I HAVE to find her.
I count to ten to calm my racing mind enough so I can think about where she may have gone. As soon as I’m composed enough to think, I immediately know the answer. She must have gone to her condo. As understanding comes over, I get a nauseous feeling that this is more serious than just retrieving to her personal space for some quiet time. This suspicion makes me even more desperate to get inside the house. I have to know if she came here first. I curse my luck and almost start pulling my hair out. Why did I have to screw up so bad on a day that the housekeeper is not here? I think about calling her to come let me in, but quickly remember that I don’t have her phone number. Then all of a sudden it hits me. I could call Nick.
Since Grandpa died, he has not been here at the house on a fulltime basis, but he is still responsible for maintaining the property and he will likely have a key. I dial his numbers and he picks up on the second ring. Before he has a chance to say a word, I rush in. “Hey man–can you come and open the door to Grandpa’s mansion for me?”
“Hi, Aiden. What’s going on?” he asks calmly, his calm demeanor agitating me.
“I need to get inside the house now. Can you be here as soon as possible?”
He remains silent for what feels like hours, but in reality is only a few seconds. Just when I’m about to go off on him, he starts. “You can’t stay at that house Aiden. I have strict orders from Lou to let him know if you ever stay there. Why do you want to jeopardize your chances at the inheritance?”
He is starting to piss me off. “I’m not planning on spending the night in there Nick. I need to get in to check something. Instead of arguing with me, just get in the car and drive. I don’t have time.”
“What’s going on, Aiden? You’re starting to scare me.”
I release a tense breath and try to calm myself enough to give him a brief explanation. “I’m looking for Aleah. We…we got into a bit of an argument this morning. I said something I shouldn’t have said that upset her, and she left before I could explain what I meant. She’s not answering her phone and she seemed very distressed when she left. I just want to go and make sure she’s okay.”
“Is she at home? If she’s home then, why don’t you just ring the bell?” Nick asks.
“I don’t know if she’s home or not.” I lie. “She’s not answering the door, but that could be because she doesn’t want to talk to me.”
“Well, if she doesn’t want to talk to you, then you should give her space. You can’t force a girl to talk to you.”
This is starting to really get on my nerves and I’m about to explode on him. I don’t need a lecture right now. I need someone to open this damn door, before I try to kick it in with my legs.
“Nick–you don’t understand the situation and I’m not about to explain it to you. Just get in your damn car and come open the door. If this wasn’t serious enough, I wouldn’t have called you on your day off.”
“Fine, but I’ll go in to talk to her first. If she doesn’t want to see you or talk to you, you have to abide by her wishes.” He says this as if this is his condition for letting me in the house, and right now, I’m not in a position to negotiate, so I don’t argue.
He gets here in less than fifteen minutes and walks straight towards the door. Once he’s at the door, he turns to me with a serious expression on his face. “I’m going in first. Stay here until I come get you. If she’s upset with you, I don’t want to force her to see you.”
I simply nod my head. He unlocks the door and walks in quickly to enter the security code for the alarm system. I take advantage of his momentary distraction and rush in. Before he has a chance to see what’s going on, I’m tearing up the stairs two at a time, and running to Aleah’s bedroom. As soon as I walk into the room, I freeze. The scene in front of me confirms my worst fears.
There are hangers thrown around the room everywhere. A few of the dresser drawers are open and a quick peek inside shows they are empty. Not wanting to believe what I already know is the truth, I walk at a slow pace towards her closet. All of her clothes are gone. It’s clear she left in a rush. I turn around and lean back against the bed, holding my head in my hands.
What have I done?
I hurt her so bad that she didn’t want anything to do with this family or this house anymore.
I tilt my head up and see Nick from the corner of my eye. He is leaning against the doorframe and is eyeing me carefully.
“What the hell did you do, Aiden?” he asks in a tone I have never heard him use before.
“I told you. We had an argument,” I say, my voice almost a whisper. I’m too ashamed to admit what I actually did.
“And argument that made her move out of the house? This sounds like more than a simple argument. I know I’m just an employee here and you think I have no right saying what I‘m about to say, but I’ll say it anyway. That girl has gone through hell and back and she meant the world to your grandpa. If you can’t treat her right, stay the hell away from her.”
I snap my head up in surprise at the vitriol with which he’s talking to me, in time to see him staking towards me. I instinctively brace myself for a battle, but he stops a few steps away. Even from the distance, I can the anger in his eyes.
“I’m serious, Aiden… She’s been hurt enough by the rest of your family. I won’t stand back and watch you hurt her too.”
I raise my hands in exasperation. “Stop. I didn’t hurt her on purpose. My mom showed up and I said what I thought I had to say to get her to leave. I thought it would be obvious to Aleah that I was just saying that to get rid of my mom. I never thought she would take it seriously, or I would have never said it.”
Nick narrows his eyes at me in question. “What did you say?”
I hang my head in shame. There is no way I can repeat what I said to my mom to Nick. Now that I think about, I can’t believe I said it. I don’t know what the hell I was thinking.
I have to get to Aleah.
I can’t imagine what she must have felt hearing me say those words.
I swirl around and rush towards the door. “We have to find her. I have to talk to her. Please help me find her,” I almost beg Nick as I start walking towards the front door. Nick follows quickly in my step.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea. She obviously doesn’t want to talk to you.”
“No. No. No. You don’t understand. I have to find her to make sure she’s okay. You have to help me. I can’t just let her leave like this.”
Something in the way I plead him gets to him. He hesitates for a few seconds but then follows me out the door to his car.
“Where do you think she is?” Nick asks when we get to the car.
I only have to think for a second to answer his question. I should have gone there in the first place. I don’t know why I bothered coming here. “I’m sure she’s at her condo,” I respond. He quickly starts the car and heads that way.
As soon as Nick pulls in front of the residential tower, I open the door and have one foot on the ground before the car comes to a stop. I rush towards the reception area, while already dreading the encounter I’m about to have. The attendant behind the desk is a younger guy this time, raising my hopes that I’ll be able to easily influence him.
“Can you please let me up to the thirty-first floor?” I ask politely.
His facial expression immediately changes at the mention. “I’m sorry, sir. The lady who lives on that floor told me she’s not feeling well and specifically requested that I don’t send any visitors up.”
My stomach drops, but I square my shoulders for the upcoming battle. There’s no way I’m about to give up this easily. I decide to try my charm offensive first. “Yea, she told me she didn’t want to have visitors, but she didn’t mean me. I’m not a visitor. I’m family.” I lie through my teeth. “She’s expecting me. She probably just forgot to tell you that she had an exception for her no visitor rule. Just let me up. I’m kind of running late and she’ll be pissed if she finds out that you held me up.”
He eyes me suspiciously. “I’m sorry, sir. She didn’t mention any exceptions and specifically mentioned that she doesn’t want any visitors. I can’t let you go up there.”
I take a deep breath and try to control my rising anger. “Just. Let. Me. Go. Up.” I say through gritted teeth.
“The only way I could give you access to the elevator is if I call her and ask her if she wants to see you. What’s your name? I shouldn’t do this based on her instructions, but I’ll make an exception and call her for you.”
I cringe inside knowing there is very little chance Aleah would let me anywhere near her right now. If she finds out it is me who wants to visit, she’ll probably tell me to go to hell.
“Nick. My name is Nick,” I tell the attendant. She’s always had a great relationship with Nick and right now, I’m banking heavily on that relationship.
The attendant picks up the phone dialing her number and waits. Just when he’s about to tell me she’s not answering, she picks up the phone.
“I’m really sorry to bother you. I know you said no visitors, but I have a gentleman here who insists the rule doesn’t apply to him. His name is Nick. Can I let him come up?” he asks apologetically.
I nervously await her response. “Of course. Hold on one second.” I hear the attendant say, before he hands me the phone.
“Hello,” I say with nervousness taking over my voice.
I can hear her loud gasp over the phone, but she doesn’t say anything....
LOOK FOR THE REST ON OCTOBER 16th, WHEN REDEEMING LOVE IS RELEASED!
Subject to change prior to publication.
Copyright © 2014 by Ashley Cassidy