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Against All Odds

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Vincent Stafford, a bestselling author and heir to the vast Cyrus International empire, has spent years hiding from the outside world. But his carefully constructed walls crumble when he gets infatuated with a mysterious gray-eyed man named Lucas. Thrown together by unforeseen circumstances, Vincent and Lucas find themselves face-to-face for the first time, igniting a connection that puts an end to Vincent's sheltered existence. Determined to pursue his newfound desire, Vincent begins a journey to an unfamiliar town, desperate to court Lucas and win his heart. However, as Vincent's past resurfaces, long-forgotten incidents threaten to unravel their growing affection, throwing their future into uncertainty. With the weight of his background looming over them, Vincent must confront his demons and fight to claim Lucas as his own before their love is ripped apart forever. TW: R*p*, drugs, etc.

Chapter 1

Vincent POV.

The hotel’s lobby was bustling with people. Bellhops and concierges were rushing back and forth between the front desk and guests. The noise was deafening. For them, I was just another business person going on about his business. Not the owner of this goddamn hotel. It’s becoming increasingly annoying to hide. I want people to see me for who I am.

“Nothing will happen to me, Jake.” I replied, stepping out of the hotel door, remembering Jake’s concern about the upcoming vacation. Those were my famous last words before my car blew up.

*BOOM*

Chaos erupted around me, and Jake, my best friend and bodyguard, yelled orders to the guards. I knew I should head back inside the hotel, where I would be safe, but I found myself trapped in place. All I could see was my car burning at the bottom of the stairs. My mind raced through the possibilities of what would have happened if I had arrived earlier.

I shut out the thoughts and tried to take a breath, but I couldn’t. It felt like something was lodged in my throat, blocking my airway, and keeping me from breathing. I wanted to cough, to clear my throat, to breathe, but I couldn’t. My vision became blurry. My head throbbed, and I felt dizzy. I felt like I was going to pass out.

“Vincent, Buddy,” Jake’s voice cut through the fog in my head, and I saw him standing in front of me, blocking the view of my burning car. He made me look into his deep brown eyes. “Take a deep breath.” I concentrated on his soothing voice and did everything he told me. “You’re gonna be okay. I’m here.” It took a few minutes to calm myself down, and I placed my forehead on his shoulders, closing my eyes tightly.

“Come on, let’s go inside.” He said and guided me to a room. All the way to the waiting area in the hotel, the burning smell of my car lingered. I’ve gotten away far too many times, and I’m certain that one day luck will fail me and I’ll be dead. As we entered the suite, I stuffed those thoughts into my issue closet. I made my way to the sofa overlooking the window. Jake closed the curtains so that I couldn’t see the commotion outside.

The movement made his muscles ripple under the black shirt. His body had always made women and men attracted to him. I’ve never felt attraction toward him because he’s not my type. He paced the room, raking a hand through his dark hair, shooting me concerned glances. It’s best to leave him alone to ruminate, or we’ll be on the receiving end of his wrath.

“Are you okay?” He asked.

“I’ll be fine,” I replied. “It just rattled me.” He nodded and went back to his brooding.

“Perhaps you can kiss it better,” I said, in the most seductive tone I could muster up, and made a kissy face at him. He hates it when I flirt with him, but we both need a distraction, and this is the best one I could think of.

“I’d love to,” He played along, or so I thought until he closed the gap between us. He pulled me to my feet, and I shoved him away before he could do anything. He started laughing as he took in my horrified expression, and then I joined him.

“Now you know how I feel every time you flirt with me,” he said once we finished.

“You did that to teach me a lesson, but it just makes me want to flirt even more.”

We would’ve continued to laugh if it hadn’t been for the arrival of Dad and Viv. As we took in their anxious expressions, our smiles faded. Viv, my half-sibling, stood there watching me while Dad went outside with Jake. They were dressed in a soft cotton blue shirt and black slacks. I extended my arms, motioning them to come over. They came barreling towards me, their blue eyes clouded with fear.

“I am so scared, brother.” They whined, hugging me. Their tears soaked through my beige suit. And they fitted their near-skeletal body into my muscular one as if they were trying to get inside me. Their whole body shook with those awful sobs.

“Shush, baby. I am fine.” I replied, taking off their earplugs. I made them sit properly in my lap, not bothering with the fact that they were a budding teenager, and took their trembling hands in mine. Their hands were too small, and they fit in my single one, and I made soothing circles on their back with the other. “It was just an accident, darling.” I hated lying to them, but the truth would just make their situation worse.

“Is it?” Viv asked, meeting my eyes for a split second before looking away.

“Yes, baby. It would never happen again,” I replied. “Did you plan where we were going?” I changed the subject, after giving them some time to process all this on their own, and ran a hand through their silky, golden-brown hair. We both slightly rocked back and forth. It seemed to calm them down a little. I could feel it in the way their stiff muscles loosened.

“No, brother.” They snuggled closer to me, and I kissed their forehead. I despised watching them unravel. It’s because of you, a voice said. I ignored it and continued soothing my baby sibling.

“Is it wise to go after this?” Dad asked, his mouth set in a grim line. I didn’t notice when he entered the room, much less hear the question I whispered in Viv’s ear. I understand his concern, but it’s been eight years since I went anywhere without being guarded like a valuable dog, and I am tired of that.

“Yes, Dad.”

“But Vince—” He started, but I cut him off.

“Dad, we both know that I am sick of being confined. I need to do this.” I said, years of pent-up frustration creeping up into my voice.

“God, you’re so stubborn.” He replied, rubbing his temples. His wrinkles looked more pronounced than ever. He would literally have a heart attack if I told him that.

“I got that from you,” I said accusingly. Viv removed themselves from my hold and went outside the room, probably to speak with Jake, who hadn’t entered the room with Dad.

“I wish you hadn’t,” Dad muttered. “Come on, I have somewhere to go. I’ll drop you guys at home.” We all strolled past my charred vehicle. Seeing my once-beautiful Maserati turn to scrap was like an arrow through my heart. It was the first vehicle I ever purchased.

It was the car of my dreams, and I’m heartbroken to see it in such a way. I used to take her on my covert night expeditions, but she’s no longer with me. I’m still getting used to the fact that she will not be accompanying me on my next journey. I’m already missing her.

****

After an excruciating thirty minutes’ drive, Dad dropped us off at the major gateway. I looked up at the Crystal Creek Mansion, looming majestically in the center, flanked by woods on three sides. It’s a Georgian-style stone residence built by my grandfather years ago. The entire place was designed by Mom and we named it after her.

When we reached the big tiered fountain in the middle of our circular driveway, Vivian bade us goodbye and headed towards our wood house, between Alice and our house. I waited till they disappeared and asked the question that had been nagging at me since the blast. “Did anyone die?”

“No.” I sighed in relief, then confusion flared in my mind.

“How?”

“Apparently, the guy we gave the keys to wasn’t a valet at all. The car was out there in the driveway the entire time, and no one was near it at the time of the blast.” I took in the information.

“No one noticed a lone car in the driveway for an entire hour.” I asked. Surely someone would have. We don’t hire reckless employees.

“The manager said that he recognized your car and left it, thinking you would’ve parked there.”

“Rubbish. I never do that.” I made a mental note to speak with Louisa, my PA, to warn that manager.

“And you never give keys to valets.” He retorted. Dad and I both don’t like others driving our cars. Today was the first time I gave the keys to a valet, and look what happened.

“I was running late to the meeting.”

“There’s no way I could reason with you when you’re hell-bent on winning and I am in a hurry to visit Alice. Bye, Vince. Stay in the house.” He said and ran away in the same direction. Alice is Jake’s long-time love; I mean very long, like a decade long, and my best friend and her twin, Jamie, was my first and only love. I met both of them when their father joined as a co-partner and co-CEO in Cyrus International, our company, after his father’s death.

The moment our eyes locked, I lost my heart to him. We were barely eleven, and I didn’t even know I was gay. Still, I felt an irrevocable connection to him. We became as thick as thieves and eventually fell in love. His confidence and positivity only increased my love for him. I dreamed of marrying him one day, and I would’ve if not for the freaking incident.

Chapter 2

Vincent POV.

I didn’t remember walking, but the next thing I knew, I was standing in the wooden doorway of Jamie’s room on the third floor. If I opened the door, I’d see him lying there with his black hair spread on the pillow and his rare-violet eyes closed, hooked to a slew of machines that keep him alive. But I’m not yet ready to see him lying there like a corpse. So, I walked over to mine and opened the white door.

Instantly I was engulfed in a familiar carnation and lavender smell, thanks to the potpourri placed in various places. My soft, white bed and gold nightstands were set up facing the glass alcove. I walked over to that wall by the bed and searched for the magical doorway that led to the closet. My mom thought it would be amusing for kids to play with the rotating wall. Finally, I found the wall door and walked through it.

I can mark it with a clock or something, but the fun is in finding it. I once slammed my head against the wall, th

Heroes

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