Brothers Forever

GENRE: Crime Drama, suitable for 13 and up

Synopsis

Charles Livingston spent years putting his old life in Chicago behind him. Trying to forget the merciless man he used to be when he was on the streets with his ‘brother’, Dimitri Komarovski, the future head of the Komarovski family. Their friendship shaped his entire life but everything changes when he falls in love and then finds out that he’ll be a father. He trades in his old life for a new one, a respectable one, leaving behind his ‘brother’ as well, someone he vowed to always protect. Years later, when his own son is put in harm’s way, he is forced to become who he once was, a man with no fear, a man capable of anything, and a man willing to kill. Now he must enlist Dimitri’s help to ensure his son’s safety but will he give it or do some wounds never heal? Can they get past the hurt they caused one another and remain ‘brothers forever’?

Chapter 1

Looking out onto the city from my large panoramic window, I am faced with conflicting emotions. A part of me is afraid of the man that I am becoming again, yet another part of me relishes his return. Since the incident with Dante, I have had many thoughts of my previous life, the life I had with Dimitri before Michael was born. I run my hand over my shoulder. I can feel the distinct bump from where the bullet entered me. It has healed well, much better than the first time I was shot.

“Mr. Livingston, you have a call from Mr. Elkins on line one,” Janel says over my intercom.

I take a deep breath and walk over to my desk, sitting in my high back leather chair and tapping the button on my intercom.

“Thank you, Janel.”

Benny Elkins has been on Sonya’s trail since everything happened a few months ago. I still can’t believe that she got away from him. Twice. Of course, the first time was at the condo when everything went down with Dante so I suppose I can’t really blame him for that one. The second time happened three weeks ago in Texas, and while that situation was not completely his fault, I’m still extremely upset about it.

Sonya has proven to be a lot more resourceful than Elkins or I had anticipated. Dante apparently had a lot of money stashed away, which she had access to. After she left Sacramento, she went to Arizona, withdrew all of Dante’s money from his safe deposit boxes, and took off. Elkins just missed her in Arizona and now she has been moving in such an erratic fashion that it’s been hard to keep track of her. Elkins also found that a lot of her history was fabricated, which made it even harder to figure out her plan. Of course, this has made Elkins even more determined. He has never been foiled by anyone, so he’s on his own personal mission to find her. With that in mind, it didn’t surprise me when he was able to gather some legitimate intelligence on her, which is how he tracked her to Texas where the second slip occurred. She made it across the border, having convinced some idiot she was probably having sex with to help her escape, citing that she had an abusive ex that was following her. When Elkins showed up asking questions about her, he was carted off to the police station for questioning. The whole thing was a complete mess. Elkins was irate and now all he keeps talking about is nailing Sonya to the wall. If he wasn’t determined to find her before, he certainly was after that.

“Did you find her?” I ask abruptly as I tap the speaker button on my phone.

“Yeah, I got her,” Elkins says with a tone of indifference. You would think he would be happy but then again, Elkins has never been a ‘happy’ kind of guy.

“Where are you exactly?”

“Acuña,” he growls and I hear the disdain in his voice. “You know I hate this shit town.” Ah, that explains the attitude.

“Yeah, I know.” I run my hand through my hair. “Just don’t draw any attention to yourself.”

“Like I don’t know how to do that. Do you think I’m a damn amateur, Charles?” he asks bitterly and I can almost picture the veins in his forehead popping out.

“No, calm down. I just know you have history there. I don’t want this more complicated than it needs to be. We don’t want witnesses that can identify either of us.”

I hear a stream of profanities explode out of his mouth and I can tell that he is pacing around the room. Then a door opens and there’s a loud noise on the other side of the phone. God, I thought I was paranoid, but Elkins far exceeds me in that department. I need to go down there. I must handle this myself. Elkins is excellent at tracking and getting me the information I need, but he can’t do what I can do. And right now, I need to take care of Sonya. I can’t have her deciding later that she wants to seek revenge on Michael or Rachel. That simply cannot happen. I also know that if Sonya is out there that Michael will be anxious and nervous. I will not let that happen. He will lead a happy, normal life with Rachel, providing she’s capable of that. I shake my head and smile. Those two have been intense from the very beginning.

“What do you want me to do?” Elkins asks calmly, disrupting my thoughts.

“Keep an eye on her. I will ready my plane and be down there tonight. I need to pick up my things at your place and then I will head out.”

“Are we going after her tonight?”

“Yes. You’re sure she’s secure?”

“Yeah, she ain’t going anywhere. I could have taken her down earlier but I know you want the honors.”

“Damn right I do! Give me your location.”

I proceed to write down the address of the motel he is at and then hang up. I have a lot to do. I take a moment to think about what the plan is and then send a quick text to Estelle to let her know I will be leaving this afternoon. I then call my pilot to have him prepare my plane. He tells me it won’t be ready for a few hours and that if we leave by 1:00 or 2:00 p.m. we will arrive this evening. I stare at my phone and sigh. I better let Michael know what’s going on. If he finds out I have left town, he will worry. Of course, that is nothing new for him. He worries continuously.

C: Can we meet for lunch?

M: I am available between 11:30 and 1:00 and then after 3:00. Is everything alright?

Oh for crying out loud, Michael. I frown at my phone. I don’t want to tell him through a text because I need to assess his body language and facial expressions. Otherwise, I won’t be able to diffuse any of his concerns.

C: I will pick you up in the east parking lot a 11:30

I pocket my phone then roll my shoulder, which tends to get stiff more frequently now thanks to Dante. If Rachel hadn’t stabbed him, I would have killed him myself. In fact, I wish I’d been the one to do it. I glance around my office, not seeing anything I will need, and head out into the reception area.

“Janel,” I say firmly, catching her off guard.

“Yes, sir,” she answers quickly, slightly panicked.

“Cancel the rest of my week. I have unexpected business that will take me out of the office. I will be back on Monday,” I say crisply, not wanting to have any dialogue with her.

“Yes, sir,” she replies flustered, pulling up my schedule as I walk away.

I look at my watch as I enter the elevator, 8:18 a.m. Alright, first things first, I need to go to Elkins’ place and pick up my briefcase. Then, I will need to go to the house and pack some clothes. After that, I will meet up with Michael, have lunch, and go see Estelle at her office before heading to the airport. With the time zone change, I’ll need to be in the air by 2:00 p.m. at the very latest in order to get there by early evening. This will be taken care of tonight.

Chapter 2

Generally speaking, I don’t have my driver take me to Elkins’ place but there is no easy way around it. I have far too many things to do today to drive myself. I trust George enough; he has been with me a long time. He is sworn to secrecy and I believe he has enough fear of me not to disclose anything that he might see or hear. If not, well, that can be taken care of. The ride to Elkins’ house doesn’t take long, and once we arrive, I sit in the car for a moment, gathering my thoughts, before reaching for the door.

“I won’t be long. Keep the car running,” I say as I step out of the vehicle.

Although this is Elkins’ place, almost everything in here I have supplied. It is very convenient for me as I use one of the spare rooms to house the many items that I do not wish to have at my residence. Although it is rare that I need to utilize anything here, I like knowing that it is easily available to me should I need it. I walk into ‘my’ room and go to the closet, tapping some buttons that are camouflaged on the sidewall. The back-wall slides open, displaying rows of shelves with various items on it. I pull out a briefcase from the top shelf and bring it to the desk in the room. Now this is not your typical briefcase. It has been designed specifically for me and my needs. It is made of bullet and fire proof material, and inside it is custom fit to house all the items I might need, safely tucked underneath a hidden compartment. In addition, if it were to be x-rayed it would not reveal the actual contents of what’s inside, but instead would only display the boring things that most businessmen carry. It cost me a half million dollars to design, but it was well worth it. I set it down and open it. I remove the legal pad and manila folders, setting them to the side and allow my fingers to tap on the two buttons that must be pressed simultaneously to reveal the secret compartment.

  • Glock 21, with silencer, loaded, extra magazine
  • Hunting knife
  • Rope
  • Gloves
  • Binoculars
  • Taser
  • Passports
  • Cash, $100,000 US currency

I stand and walk back to the closet, glancing at another bin before bringing it out. I flip through the many bags of cash within it, bypassing currency from Russia, Japan, France, the United Kingdom, and China until I find what I want. I thumb my finger through it. There is around 100,000 Mexican Pesos here. Hopefully, I won’t need more. I throw it in the briefcase and glance at my old knife. I sigh and pick it up, tracing my fingers along the flat side of the blade and over the engraving, remembering the first time I used it versus just playing around with it.

FLASHBACK

Bolʹshoĭ!” Dimitri says, hitting the back of my head with his hand.

“What the hell did you do that for, Mladshiĭ?” I ask through clenched teeth.

“Just screw the girl and get it over with. I need you here focused on what we need to do, not thinking about some piece of ass,” he says laughing, much to the delight of Stephan and Viktor.

I step in front of him with my hands balled at my sides. Everyone stops laughing and watches us. No one steps up to Dimitri like I’m doing. They all know that he is destined to lead the family, but screw it. We have been friends since we were eight and I can say anything I want. Well, at least I hope so.

“Вы хотите бороться мне, брат?” he asks calmly, not bothering to look up.

Do I want to fight him? I unclench my fists and run my hand through my hair. Damn it! What the hell am I doing? The reality is he doesn’t understand any of this. Of course, I don’t understand it either, but Estelle is different. The minute I saw her in the diner last week, I wanted her. I needed her in a way I had never experienced before. I have already been running around, following her and gathering intel on her movements, but I haven’t approached her yet. Dimitri has not been pleased with me, even though I haven’t let my activities or my pursuit of her interfere with my obligations to him.

“She’s just a girl, брат! You have lots of women to screw around with. What’s so special about this one?” he asks, bringing his drink to his mouth.

I step back from him and look at the ground, trying to get my act together. “I don’t know,” I say, letting out a deep sigh. “It feels… different.”

Fine, fine. After tonight, you go and find her. Go have sex with her, get it out of your system, and then come back. I need you here with me. We have business to take care of.” He then takes his hands and holds my face, bringing his forehead to mine and looking at me intently. “Do not let her come between us. Do you understand, брат? She’s just a woman, but you and I? We are brothers.”

“I know. I know.” I swallow hard, afraid to meet his eyes, knowing that I can’t take his warning lightly. “My first responsibility is to you. Always,” I finally say quietly.

God! If I thought I could avoid her I would, but I just don’t think I can. I already need to see her and I have a bad feeling that she is going to be my undoing. Maybe Dimitri is right. Maybe if I just have sex with her I can quit thinking about her. I’ll find her tomorrow. I’ll make my move then.

“Good!” he says, bringing me out of my thoughts. He then smacks my face lightly on each side and laughs. “Do you see this, boys? Bolʹshoĭ is trying to fall in love.”

Stephan and Viktor proceed to laugh heartedly with him. I take a deep breath as I walk to the bar and down my drink. As I reach behind the counter to grab the bottle, I see four guys in the mirror as they come into the bar. They look like a bunch of wannabe gangsters. This is going to get messed up fast. They stroll over to us and, as usual, Dimitri shows them absolutely no fear. If anything, he looks at them with disdain.

“What do you want?” he asks with an air of intimidation about him.

“Give me your cash, Comrade,” Gangster Wannabe One says, glowering viciously at him.

Dimitri smiles and waves his hand. Stephan and Viktor step in front of him while I come up next to him and shove him behind me. This is nothing new. A lot of people come in here thinking they can start trouble with ‘the Russians’, but they don’t realize how ruthless they can be. Dimitri is as much my brother as any real brother could be, but I know he wouldn’t hesitate to kill me if I crossed him. I don’t plan on ever letting that happen though. Since we were young, I have protected him, and now that we are older, it is my job to make sure that no one ever gets close enough to touch him and I do my job well. Very well.

“Boys, it looks like our comrades here don’t want to play nice,” Gangster Wannabe One says with a laugh. “Well that’s fine by me.”

He sneers at us and then motions to his companions who proceed to attack Stephan and Viktor, while Gangster Wannabe’s One and Four come towards me and Dimitri. I don’t let them get too close before I throw my first punch, landing it right across Gangster Wannabe Four’s face, dropping him to his knees. I don’t hesitate or stop at all as I bring my foot up and proceed to stomp his face with the sole of my boot. I watch as he falls to the ground with a thud, blood spilling out of his mouth. I smile and bring my boot to his gut, kicking him several times and watching as each blow causes blood to propel out of his mouth. In the meantime, Gangster Wannabe One strides towards Dimitri who doesn’t move at all. Dimitri is watching him with indifference, almost daring him to try something. I reach into my boot to grab my knife. I come up behind him and put him in a chokehold while I bring my knife to his throat.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” I hiss in his ear.

I hear movement behind me and quickly shift my position so that I can see what’s happening. I then press my knife into his neck so that blood starts to pool around the tip of the blade. I see Gangster Wannabe Two and Three staring at me with panic in their eyes. Yeah, you should be panicked. You came into the wrong damn bar!

“Back up or I will kill him right now.”

 I slide the blade down his neck a little more, feeling the blood as it drips down my hand and onto the floor. They stop moving and Gangster Wannabe Three leans down to check on his friend on the floor and then helps him stand up. Dimitri casually strolls over to us and looks at Gangster Wannabe One with malice written all over his face. I’ve seen that look before. He wants to prove a point.

“You come in here starting trouble,” he says, as he gets very close to the man’s face, close enough to feel his breath. “Do you see now that you cannot touch me?”

I can feel the fear emanating off the man I am holding. He clearly didn’t know what the hell he was doing when he decided to start something with us. He is standing there, shaking, as he stares at Dimitri. No doubt he’s worried that Dimitri is about to take his life. And to be honest, I am a little worried about that as well. He is frozen in fear, so I shake him slightly knowing that Dimitri wants a response from him.

“Answer him,” I growl in his ear and push my knife further into his skin.

“Yes,” he says, barely audible.

“Do not approach me again,” Dimitri says coolly as he takes a step back. He then gets a wry and evil smile on his face, “And to make sure you don’t forget this, Bolʹshoĭ here will leave you with a little reminder,” he says to him and then nods at me.

I am not sure what he means and then suddenly, realization kicks in. It all happens quickly after that as I bring the knife to his face, pushing the tip into his skin and proceed to cut him from his cheek to his ear. He squirms and I let him go, hearing him scream on the floor below me. I step away from the writhing man and walk towards Dimitri who hands me a rag from behind the counter. I wipe the blood off my hands and then swipe the cloth over my blade, making sure it is clean before sticking it back into my boot. All the while, the four wannabe Gangsters hurriedly leave our bar, licking their wounds, and at that moment, I know that things have shifted for me and that my life is now on a very different track.

END FLASHBACK

I shake my head, dropping the knife back into its position in the case. I wash my hands over my face a few times and roll my shoulders. That knife became my calling card. It got around quickly what I had done. Even Dimitri’s father had called me in to thank me and tell me how he wished I had been born Russian. I rub my temples trying to get some bearings but I just can’t. I know that Sonya cannot be permitted to live, not after what she did to Rachel and Michael. I won’t allow someone to hurt my family, and at that moment, I realize without a shred of doubt, I will need to kill her. That is the bottom line. She will not live to see the next twenty-four hours and I need to be okay with that decision.

Chapter 3

My driver pulls up to my home and I let out a deep breath. I will need to make one more stop before I leave. I absolutely need to see Estelle before I go. I run my hand up and over my face and then over my shoulder again. If something happens… I can’t even allow myself to finish that thought. When you start worrying about dying then you will die because that’s when mistakes happen. It’s inevitable.

“I won’t be long,” I say to my driver as I step out of the car and head for the front door.

I make my way up to my room and immediately grab one of the carry-on bags from the closet and toss it on the bed. I don’t think I will need much. I look at my suits and grab my navy one along with a dress shirt and tie. I lay it on the bed and then walk back in the closet. Bringing my hand to my chin, I debate what might transpire when I get to Mexico. With a heavy sigh, I grab two pairs of jeans, a couple of shirts, and a sweater, and I toss them on the bed as well. I walk to our bathroom to get my toiletry bag that is under the sink and begin tossing in the necessities. I start carefully folding my suit so it will fit neatly in the overnight bag. I am so lost in thought that I don’t hear anyone approaching.

“I bet you wish you had your shit-kickers, don’t you?” Estelle asks from the door.

I couldn’t erase the smile on my face if I had tried. I know she is referring to my steel toe boots I used to wear in Chicago every time I left with Dimitri. She hated those boots with a passion and when we hastily left, they did not come with us. I glance over my shoulder and see her leaning against the doorframe. She is wearing a sharp A-line skirt with a silk blouse and is just as beautiful now as she ever was. She has a smile on her face but I know her well enough to see the worry that is there as well.

“I thought you hated those boots?” I ask with a smirk.

She lets out a deep breath. “I did hate them, but…”

She hesitates for a moment, walks over to the bed, looking at the clothes lying there and immediately starts to neatly refold them. I don’t say anything. I have learned to just stay quiet until she is ready to say what she needs to say. She is silent for several minutes as she folds and refolds my clothes.

“But there was always an odd reassurance that you would come home when you had those boots on. I know that probably sounds strange.”

I quickly pull her into my arms. I hold her tightly, then bring my lips to hers, and can feel the tears streaking her cheeks. I know this probably brings back all sorts of bad memories for her. Until we left Chicago, I often left her alone, overcome with worry for me. At the time, I didn’t see how the things I was doing with Dimitri were affecting her. Maybe that’s the reason Michael worries so damn much; she spent most of her pregnancy afraid that I would never make it home, that she would get that dreaded call saying I had been killed. Well, that nearly did happen.

“Es, I love you so much. But I need to do this. You understand that, right?” Estelle, please tell me you understand, I think to myself.

She nods and takes a deep breath before resuming her folding.

“How did you know where I was?” I ask curiously.

“After I got your message, I figured you would need to come to the house so I cancelled my morning. I needed to see you,” she says, not looking at me.

“I was going to stop by before I left,” I say, trying to reassure her that I wouldn’t have left without seeing her first.

She nods and then asks quietly, “What do you know so far?”

“Just that she is in Acuña.”

She nods again but doesn’t say anything else as she listens to what I know, which isn’t that much. She folds the rest of my clothes, fitting them neatly in my bag and then sits on the edge of the bed looking at her hands, which are clenching around one another.

“I am going to meet with Michael for lunch. I want to fill him in on what’s going on.”

She turns and looks up at me. “I don’t want him going along,” she says adamantly.

“Oh God no. There is no way in hell he is coming with me again. I just want him to know. He asked me to keep him informed.” I pull her back into my arms. “I know that it is hard enough for you having me be in danger. I won’t put you through more by having Michael in danger as well,” I say kissing the top of her head.

She nods against my chest and I can tell she is crying again.

“I will end this, Es. She is the last link, the last tie to Dante. I won’t let her linger out there with the potential to harm either of them. I will finish it. I promise.”

She looks up at me, her eyes red and swollen from her tears, but there is complete love and devotion reflected in them as well. I inhale sharply and then glance at the bed, shoving my bag on the floor and lifting her onto it. She brings her hand into my hair, pulling me into a kiss that sets my body on fire. I shift my hips against her, hearing her moan at the feel of me pressed against her. I pull away from her, breathless, staring at her loving and beautiful face.

“I love you, Es. I will be back. I swear to you that I will,” I say with determination.

She nods and brings her hands to my shirt, slowly unbuttoning it and pushing it off my shoulders. She gently runs her fingertips along my scar on my chest before moving her hands to my pants. I bring my mouth back to hers as my hands work to unzip her skirt. Every time we make love it is perfect. No matter what Dimitri thought, she was it for me before she even uttered a single word. I don’t know why I fought Michael’s love for Rachel so much in the beginning. It’s clear to me now that they love each other as much as Estelle and I do. She pulls away from our kiss and looks at me with an intensity I haven’t seen on her face in a long time, not since Chicago.

“Come back to me, Charles. I can’t…” She closes her eyes and shakes her head, unable to voice her fears.

“I will, sweetheart,” I promise, tenderly kissing her again. “I’m invincible, remember?”

She smiles, giggling softly as she leans up to kiss me again. She is my heart and soul, and I know that I am that for her. I make love to her knowing that this could very well be the last time we are together. If this thing with Sonya goes badly, then at least we both could touch one another once more before it was over.

Chapter 4

After making love, Estelle and I sat and talked about what the possibilities might be. I know that she understands what I need to do but that doesn’t mean she likes it. When I finally left the house, I told George to take me to the university. We are now waiting in the parking lot outside of the English building. I glance up and see that Michael is walking towards the car. He already looks nervous and worried. I sigh as he gets closer and I can clearly see that he has been anxious since I called earlier. My phone buzzes as George gets out, getting ready to open the door for Michael. I look down to see I have an incoming text from Elkins.

B: Is everything lined up?

C: Yes. I am having lunch with Michael and will be leaving Sacramento by 2:00, should put me there around 7:00

B: You’re not thinking about bringing Junior are you?

C: No. I am just informing him about what’s going on

B: Good, we don’t need him messing this up

C: Watch it, Elkins

B: Fine, fine, fine. I have verified her presence. She has been staying inside until night time so I suspect she is still sleeping her pretty little head off

C: Alright. I am with Michael. I will text you when I know my exact arrival time

Elkins blames Michael for me getting shot and for Sonya getting away. He feels that he was impulsive and that he put us all in danger. He and I have gone rounds over this. I can admit that Michael messed up. He shouldn’t have barged in like he did, but would I have done anything different had it been Estelle inside? I doubt it. Of course, I would have gone in with my Glock and just shot both of them outright before anyone else could get hurt. But that isn’t Michael nor do I want it to be. I run my hand through my hair and then set my phone down just as Michael slides in next to me. I turn to him and smile, trying to relieve some of the stress and anxiety I see on his face.

“You look good, Son. How do you like teaching?” I ask, trying to keep things casual.

“I love it. Teaching three classes is definitely difficult but so far it is going well.”

“Good,” I say with a nod. I am glad he chose teaching; he seems extremely happy with the decision. “That’s good to hear. I’m glad you’re doing something you enjoy. Do you have a preference for lunch?” I ask him with a smile.

He is just staring at me, a worn expression on his face. God, I wish Estelle was here. I always tend to make him more upset rather than less. She is much better at diffusing his anxiety than I am. I frown, trying to figure out my next move.

“Just tell me what you need to tell me, Dad. The suspense is killing me,” he says quickly.

“Poor choice of words, Son,” I say as I arch my brow at him. He stares at me blankly and I just let out an exaggerated sigh before continuing, “Fine. Elkins found Sonya. I’m leaving this afternoon to meet up with him. I thought you should know.”

“You found Sonya?” he asks, furrowing his brows. “What’re you going to do to her?”

I look at him for a moment and then smile as I turn to the window. What am I going to do to her? Torture her? Perhaps. Kill her? Most definitely. She was an active participant in Dante’s plot to kill my son. That cannot go unpunished. I know Michael thinks of her as a victim but she is clearly not. She had a choice to betray Rachel. She had a choice to continue her involvement even when it was clear that Dante was insane. I don’t care that she ended up helping Rachel in the end. That doesn’t entitle her to a free pass.

“She deserves to pay for her part in all of this,” I say coolly, while staring out the window.

I hear him inhale sharply, which forces me to turn around and look at him. I can see the panic and sadness in his eyes. Up until everything happened he had never seen me like this, brutal and merciless. But now? Well, now he knows what I am capable of, which, to be honest, I am not comfortable with. In hindsight, I shouldn’t have let him see me like that but at the time it seemed like the right decision.

“You are NOT coming with me this time,” I say adamantly and then soften my tone, “I just wanted you to know that I was taking care of it. I didn’t want you to worry.”

“What if something happens to you?” he asks meekly, he reminds me of my little boy right now, not a grown man.

I smile and tap his shoulder. “Son, nothing is going to happen to me.”

He nods but he doesn’t look convinced. And I see him glance at my shoulder, then look down and away. We ride in silence for a moment before he turns back to me.

“Is it okay if I tell Rachel?”

I shrug. “If you must. I’m not opposed to her knowing if you think she will be okay with it.”

“I’ll tell her. I don’t want to keep this all to myself and I don’t want to keep secrets from her,” he says looking down again.

I nod my head in agreement and then pat his shoulder once more. “Son, don’t worry. I should only be gone for a couple of days and after this, it will truly be over. I won’t allow anyone to hurt either of you again.”

He nods at me and I am sure he knows that he cannot talk me out of this or try to reason for mercy for Sonya. That woman deserves what she has coming.

“How about Shultz’s?” he finally asks quietly.

I laugh and tap him on the shoulder again. “I haven’t been there in ages.”

He smiles at me and then turns to look out the window. His body heavy with worry and concern. It’s the same feeling I have gotten from him since everything happened. He carries it all, always has. I don’t know what to say to assure him that I will be okay, especially since it is not a guarantee, yet I feel that I should say something, anything.

“Son?” I say, watching as he slowly turns to me and I can tell that he is holding back tears. “I need you not to worry. I know how to take care of myself. Nothing will happen to me.”

He takes a deep breath and turns in his seat to look at me. “How do you know that, Dad? The last time…” He pauses and glances at my shoulder. “You have already been shot because of me.” His chest heaves as he continues, “If something else happened…”

I raise my hand and he stops talking. “Son, I am prepared. I will be able to handle anything that might come up.” I put my hand on his shoulder and lightly squeeze it.

“Dad, you can’t predict everything. No one can. I…”

“Son, please stop,” I say with a sigh. “You need to trust me, trust that I know what I am doing and that I can protect myself.”

He takes a deep breath and frowns before turning away from me and I know he isn’t buying into this. He is still worried and upset.

“Michael, look at me,” I say firmly and he turns to me. “I will be fine, and damn it, if I say it will be okay, it will be okay. Do you understand?” I ask with an expression that I normally reserve for those I am trying to intimidate.

He frowns slightly and I sigh. This isn’t working! I run my hand through my hair and let out an exaggerated breath.

“Ya know, Michael, I have already promised your mother that I will be home and if I’m not she will wring my neck and well, that’s not something I want to have happen,” I say with a chuckle, trying desperately to lighten the mood.

He tries not to laugh but he can’t help it, then smirks as he shakes his head.

“Let’s eat, Son,” I say as we pull up in front of Shultz’s. “Tell me how things are going with you and Rachel.”

The minute I mention Rachel he gets this wide grin and his eyes sparkle again. Yes, I will keep him talking about Rachel. That will lift his spirits and hopefully ease some of his worries and fears. If I wasn’t sure before I certainly am now. I won’t let Sonya interfere with his happiness. Whatever it takes!

Brothers Forever is available on April 25th

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