CHAPTER FIVE – LAST CHANCE
Scott grimaced as he turned to see Jordan Fraser, Alric Koenig’s personal secretary, standing in the doorway. Scott swore softly. Interrupted a second time. Great, this must be a record, he thought sourly.
He gave Jordan a tight smile, which the secretary did not return. Definitely hates me tonight. Can’t say I blame him. Jordan looked like a lean greyhound dressed in his discreet gray suit and icy white shirt with a gray overcoat slung over his arm. In this light, the scars that raked down his left cheek stood out lividly. Jordan would never say how he got them, which was just one of the many mysteries surrounding Alric Koenig and his staff.
“Hey, Jordan,” Ethan said, smiling wanly, but then he was looking past the man to see if anyone else was standing behind the secretary. “Where are Father and Wulf?”
Scott wondered the same thing. Alric should have been rushing directly to Ethan’s bedside. He was nothing if not a doting parent. Cold and ruthless to everyone else, but loving and warm to his son, Scott mused. Wulf von Wenzel was Alric’s bodyguard. He was the size of a small mountain and was also a mute, but his deep affection for Ethan was apparent for everyone to see even if he did not have the words to express it. Wulf went wherever Alric did, otherwise he, too, would have been here already.
“Thankfully your father is currently speaking with your doctors and the police. Wulf is with him,” Jordan responded, his British accent softened by years of living in the States. He walked swiftly into the room and stood by the side of Ethan’s bed, edging Scott away from the other boy.
“Why thankfully?” Scott asked.
Jordan’s pale blue eyes stared at him so long that Scott found himself shifting under that unforgiving gaze. What had Jordan seen? And, more importantly, what had he guessed about Scott’s closeness to Ethan at that moment?
Instead of answering, Jordan said, “Could I speak to you outside for a moment, Mr. Westmore?”
“Mr. Westmore? That sounds awfully formal, Jordan,” Scott said, dryly.
“Whatever you have to say to Scott you say in front of me, Jordan,” Ethan said, his lithe body suddenly tense, a frown marring those pretty lips.
“Master Ethan, I think you’ve had enough excitement for today. Please let me speak to Mr. Westmore – Scott, alone,” Jordan said, his expression warming as he looked at Ethan’s prone form.
“E, its fine. Just sit back and relax, okay?” Scott said, concerned by how worn Ethan was looking. He knew he was about to be bitched out. He’d rather it happened out of Ethan’s earshot.
The other boy’s gray eyes bored into him before he gave a curt nod. “You will tell me what he says later.”
Scott gave a mock salute to the order. Ethan’s muttered curse followed Scott and Jordan out into the hallway. Jordan motioned for Scott to walk with him down the hallway. Jordan linked his arms behind his back.
“So what is it you want to say to me?” Scott asked, his gut tightening at how stony Jordan’s expression was.
“Can’t you guess?” Jordan asked, his voice crisp.
“I don’t do guesses. Just tell me. You’re dying to anyways,” Scott said, crossing his arms over his chest.
Jordan let out a hiss of air before he launched into a speech that Scott was sure he’d been working on for some time. “That you would be so insufferably foolish and thoughtless as to take Master Ethan out on the coldest night of the year for an illicit purpose is beyond even my low opinion of you.”
Scott’s shoulders tensed. He knew that a bitch-out was coming, but somehow hearing it still put his back up. “You took me out here to tell me how stupid I was tonight? Newsflash, Jordan, I already know.”
Jordan stopped in the center of the hallway. Scott stopped opposite him. They were far enough from Ethan’s room that he couldn’t hear what they were saying.
Jordan’s pale face flushed with anger, making the scars more visible, as he said, “You know?You know? Truly? Yet, this knowledge didn’t stop you from doing it, did it?”
“I didn’t think--”
“You never do and that is the problem,” Jordan hissed. “Don’t you realize how fragile Ethan is? The slightest push and we could lose him.”
Scott gritted his teeth at Jordan’s words. “I know! I’ve lived it, too, Jordan. I’ve helped clean up enough of his vomit and then watched him refuse to eat for days on end to get the picture. I’ve held him when the fevers have been so bad it feels like he’s on fire. I know. I just don’t treat him like the only thing that defines him is being sick!”
“Such easy words. Blythe and ignorant,” Jordan sneered. “You haven’t lived it. You are not his father. You are not his family. You can leave when things get too difficult.”
Scott felt a knife-like pain in his gut when Jordan said he was not family. Ethan was the only family that Scott really had. But Scott knew how to flame-throw hurt with the best of them so he hit back with the same that he’d gotten.
“You’re not his family either, Jordan. Despite your attempts at playing the noble, loyal retainer of yore, you’re just a fucking employee. I don’t get paid for caring about Ethan!” Scott was almost daring the other man to come back at him with something worse so he could escalate this into a fistfight. The desire to pound on someone for the evening’s events flowed up into him. Squeaky’s death. Ethan collapsing on the floor. All his fault if Ethan got sick again.
“If my payment to care takes the form of money, what form does yours take?” Jordan asked suddenly, his gaze taking on a strange intensity. “Is it something to do with the scene I walked in on?”
“Scene? I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Scott said, firming his expression to hide the hint of anxiety that crawled up from his gut. So Jordan had seen them. How long was he listening?
“You were going to kiss Ethan. Have you in the past?” Jordan asked quietly.
Scott gave out a sharp laugh. “None of your damned business.”
“We’ll see about that,” Jordan remarked, softly, then squared his shoulders as he said, “But you’ve gotten me off task. I’m actually here to give you a message from Herr Koenig.”
“So you’re only a messenger boy, now? That’s a step down,” Scott mocked, but his stomach churned at the fact that Alric had sent Jordan specifically here to tell him something.
Jordan pointed a finger at the center of Scott’s chest. “Herr Koenig wishes me to tell you that this is your last chance. Cause Ethan even a hangnail’s worth of harm one more time and you will not see him again. Understood?”
Scott’s mouth went dry at the thought of being barred from seeing Ethan even as anger bubbled under his skin. “Why doesn’t Herr Koenig tell me this himself? Why does he send a lackey like you to do it?”
Jordan gave a snort of laughter. “You aren’t worth his personal time, Scott. But you should be grateful that he is still taking enough of an interest in this matter to give me instructions on how you should be dealt with.”
“Oh, and why is that?” Scott asked, crossing his arms over his chest.
Jordan leaned into his personal space, the scars on his face gleaming under the harsh fluorescents. “Because, if it were up to me, you wouldn’t get another chance.”
Jordan turned on his heel and stalked off down the hallway back towards Ethan’s room. Scott was shaking. He tightened his arms around his chest, trying to stop the quivering. The gall, the nerve, of that fussy British prig made his blood boil, but a small part of him felt sick and uncertain. It wasn’t news that Jordan thought that Ethan would be better off without him.
The problem was, for the first time, Scott feared he was right.