martes, 24 de julio de 2018

SLADE 13

 “Brother Daily, meet me for coffee in an hour,” he said, still grimacing through the pain. “We need to discuss Laurel Lance.” He cut the connection, then lifted up his shirt, seeing a black bruise already forming on his ribs.
He rose slowly to his feet, knowing what he had to do to ensure that he never again received a house call from Slade Wilson.
* * *
Officer Daily took a sip of his steaming black coffee, followed by a bite of a pastry as Sebastian entered the coffee shop. Daily smiled as he joined him in the booth, but the smile quickly faded when he saw the expression on Brother Blood’s face.
“Laurel Lance needs to be taken care of,” Blood said. “She’s getting too close, and it needs to end… tonight.”
“What do you need from me, Brother?” Daily answered. “I’m here to serve you and the city—you know that.”
“I need you to arrest her tonight in her apartment, on the charge of drug possession and use,” Sebastian replied, his voice low and harsh. “She has been using for some months now. It needs to be visible, but before she can be processed, we need to take her to the Starling City Cannery, drawing out the vigilante.”
“How do you know the vigilante will come?”
“From what I’ve been able to piece together, he keeps an eye on Miss Lance,” Blood replied. “When the vigilante comes to save Laurel, I need you to reveal yourself as the man behind the skull mask.”
Officer Daily paused, took another sip of his coffee, then nodded.
“Anything you need, brother,” he said, “I will do.”
“This mission has to succeed,” Blood continued. “When you reveal your identity to the vigilante and Lance, it will lead them away from me, and thus the brotherhood. After you are revealed, however, it will be in your best interest to leave the city as quickly as possible. Once Laurel Lance sees your face, she will stop at nothing to bring you down.”
“We’ve been through a lot together through the years, Brother Blood,” Officer Daily said. “My best memories of Zandia have you in them, and sharing in this journey with you for the city has been an honor. There isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for you.” He smiled, taking another bite of his pastry.
“Thank you, my friend.”
* * *
Glass shattered as Oliver was hit over the head, and fell heavily to the floor. Out of the shadows of Lance’s apartment, Brother Daily appeared in the skull mask.
“Leave him, he isn’t important,” he said, looking contemptuously at Oliver as two men grabbed Laurel by the arms. “Hello, Laurel,” he said, his voice muffled. “I hear you have been talking about me.” He reached into his bag and grabbed a bottle of chloroform. The rank smell filled the room as he dampened a towel with the sedative. Laurel did her best to try and escape, but Daily managed to shove the towel in Laurel’s face.
Her eyes rolled back into her head, she stopped struggling, and passed out.
“Put her in the back of the van,” Daily said. “I need to leave a message.” The two men dragged her through the door, leaving him alone with Oliver. He went into his bag again and pulled out some red paint, which he quickly used to smear instructions on Laurel’s white brick wall.
Tell the Arrow
Starling Cannery
The red paint dripped down the white wall as Brother Daily smiled behind his mask, finally understanding the power and strength that the mask possessed. He darted out of the apartment to continue his mission for Brother Blood.
* * *
When Laurel regained consciousness, she peeled herself off the concrete floor where she had been deposited and walked slowly around, examining the pipes and debris, looking for the man whom she believed to be Sebastian Blood. Her breath grew short as suddenly a figure emerged out of the shadows in the dark, wearing the mask. He stayed in sight just long enough for her to spot him.
“If that mask is supposed to scare me, all it is doing is confirming what I’ve already known for a while now…” she cried out as he disappeared again. “You’re one sick son of a bitch, Sebastian.”
“Thirty thousand years ago, masks invested their wearer with authority,” a voice said from the darkness. “Like a God.”
“You’re insane!” Laurel screamed.
“I’m not the one making drug-addled, unsubstantiated accusations against Starling’s favorite son,” the figure said as he leapt out again, putting her in a headlock.
Suddenly a green arrow blazed past, grazing his arm.
“Get away from her,” a guttural voice said, “or I will put you down.”
He tossed Laurel to the hard, wet concrete as he reached for something in his pocket. She struggled to get up as the man aimed a gun at the Arrow, but he didn’t get a chance to shoot as the Arrow knocked the gun out of his hands. The Arrow pressed his advantage, punching and kicking him, then the masked figure leapt onto the Arrow’s back, sending him down onto the concrete.
The vigilante struggled to break free, finally pulling an arrow from his quiver, and stabbed it deep into his assailant’s leg. The man screamed as blood began to pour from his wound. The Arrow elbowed him in the face, knocking him off.
There was a moment’s hesitation, and the masked man seized the opportunity, grabbed his gun, and aimed directly for the Arrow…
BANG!
A bullet entered the masked man’s back, then another, and another, and another as Laurel charged him with a revolver. He went down, twisting in uncontrollable spasms, grunts of pain coming from behind the mask, blood appearing from his wounds. The Arrow recovered his equilibrium, bent down, and removed the mask.
Laurel gasped. It was Officer Daily, from her father’s unit. He looked up at her, and smiled. Tears started to well up in her eyes. Then he started to gasp for air, and stopped breathing altogether.
* * *
Sebastian arrived at Slade’s headquarters late at night, flanked by a pair of newly minted bodyguards. He was proud that he had succeeded in his aim of throwing Laurel Lance off the chase. He felt relieved that Slade wouldn’t harm her. And he tried to bury the guilt he felt for sending Brother Daily on a mission that had cost his life.
Another life taken for the cause. He greatly admired Brother Daily for his devotion, and swore that his death wouldn’t be in vain.
“It’s done,” Sebastian said to the figure in the shadows. After his run-in with Slade, he had decided that having round-the-clock bodyguards would help avoid situations like that. “The police think it was Daily,” he announced. “He sacrificed himself for our cause.”
“It’s a good start,” Slade growled, “but the magnitude of your negligence requires a greater sacrifice.” He emerged from the shadows wearing black-and-orange armor. Before they could even twitch, he stabbed Sebastian’s bodyguards and slit their throats as if carving a Thanksgiving turkey.
Sebastian froze, unable to move.
“Your incompetence has now cost four lives, Alderman,” Slade said, holding his sword to his throat. “Fail me again, and yours will be the fifth.” He put his sword back in his sheath and faded back into the darkness.

13

A few weeks later, Isabel Rochev’s black Mercedes Benz roared to a stop at Slade’s headquarters. She emerged, slamming the car door, her anger palpable. The walk to Slade’s office did nothing to diminish it.
“It’s been weeks, and nothing is happening,” she raged.
“These things take time, Miss Rochev,” Slade responded calmly. “We are still on target.”
“You say that, yet the Queens are still out there, scot free,” she countered. “I agreed to work with you, train with you, because you convinced me I would have my revenge, yet months have passed, and nothing.” She slammed a fist on his desk, and he just peered at her in silence. As she began to speak again, he held up a hand, silencing her.
“You are a lucky woman, Miss Rochev—you will get your wish, tonight in fact,” he said, and she frowned with confusion. “And you need wait no longer. Tonight will be the commencement of our plan,” he continued as he rose to his feet. Slade walked to a cabinet, unlocked a drawer, and pulled out a silver briefcase. He placed it on his desk, twirled the numbers on the lock, and was rewarded with a satisfying click.
“Tonight we both will visit the Queen Mansion,” Slade said as he held up a tiny spy camera, an acquisition from his time at A.S.I.S. Isabel approached the desk and saw several such cameras in the briefcase. “With these I will show my support for Moira Queen’s mayoral campaign. I’m going to bug their palace so we can observe their every move. The cameras are so sophisticated that not even Oliver’s dear Felicity can hack into them,” he said as he placed the camera back in the briefcase. “I have waited five years for this night, and I cannot wait a moment longer for the gratification of seeing Oliver Queen suffer,” Slade said.
“But what will I be doing while you’re breaking and entering?” Isabel asked.
Without answering, Slade made his way to a nearby closet. He reappeared with a sealed garment bag.
“You have been most loyal, Miss Rochev,” he began, “devoted to the cause, and you have successfully completed your training.” He hung up the garment bag. “The word ‘ravage’ means to wreak havoc or destruction,” Slade said as he unzipped the garment bag to reveal a suit of armor. A rare smile appeared on her face as she moved closer to admire her new attire.
“Tonight, you begin your career as the Ravager,” Slade said. “I need you to stand guard at the Queen Mansion. Oliver will choose to keep his vigilante identity a secret from his family tonight, which means he will send John Diggle to stop me. I need you to fight off Diggle. There is no need to kill him, though—killing him will come later, but I have faith that you will be able to disarm him.” He placed a hand on her shoulder.
Isabel touched the jumpsuit, which was made of high-quality leather. She ran her fingers over it, admiring the handiwork. Then she picked up her mask, an orange-and-black affair that echoed Slade’s own, though it still showed her expression. She placed it over her head and grinned, eager for the night’s events.
“Thank you, Mr. Wilson,” she said from behind the mask.
Slade gave her a half smile. “Thank me when Queen Consolidated is yours.”
* * *
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Queen,” Slade said, grasping Oliver’s hand as he stepped into the Queen Mansion living room. Oliver’s face went white.
“What are you doing here?” he demanded.
“Mr. Wilson just made a sizable contribution to my campaign,” Moira told him, glaring at her son for forgetting his manners.
Without letting the façade slip in the slightest, Slade explained to Oliver that he had been impressed with his mother’s campaign efforts, and believed that she was the type of mayor the city needed, praising her budget proposals, plans for lowering unemployment rates, and closing wage gaps. He went on to sympathize with what she had experienced over the previous year.
“All I can say is that you and I have something in common,” he concluded. “I know how difficult it is to pick yourself back up after others have written you off.” He picked up a glass of rum, then handed one each to Oliver and his mother, offering a toast to their new relationship. Oliver hesitated, then took a small sip as Slade let his gaze fall on an antique model boat in the Queen living room. While Moira and Oliver sipped their drinks, he took the opportunity to place one of his spy cameras on the boat.
“Does your family get out on the water much?” Slade asked. Moira explained to Slade that after Robert’s death, no one in the family went out on the water.
“Now that you mention it, I remember reading about that in the papers—I’m sorry,” Slade said turning to Oliver. “You were a brave soul—being on that island must have been hell,” he added. In his head, however, all he could see was Shado’s face.
“Are you married, Mr. Wilson?” Moira asked. “Do you have any children?”
“I’m afraid not,” he responded. For a moment, Slade felt his heart ache for how his life used to be—before the island, before meeting Oliver. “There was someone special once, but she died a few years ago,” he continued, picturing Shado in the grass with a bullet in her brain—all because of Oliver. He took another sip of his rum and got up from the couch, stepping over to closely admire a painting hung above the mantel.
“My first husband had a love for nineteenth-century American landscapes,” Moira said. The conversation continued as Slade said he would love to see their full collection, which was hung around the house. Oliver quickly dismissed the idea.
“We have some family business to attend to,” he said curtly as Moira rolled her eyes. She left the room to locate a member of her staff who could show him around to see the paintings. As soon as she did Oliver snatched a letter opener from the desk and advanced, but Slade saw him coming and grasped Oliver’s wrist tightly. Using his mirakuru strength, he forced Oliver to drop the makeshift weapon.
“Not yet, kid,” Slade said, “I still have to meet the rest of your family.” He released his grip as Oliver’s sister came through the front door.
“Thea! What perfect timing!” Moira said, reentering the room. “This is Slade Wilson. I was just about to show him our art collection, but you are far better suited.” The girl looked pleased, and agreed to act as an impromptu tour guide.
* * *
Thea showed great pride as she led Slade around the mansion. He expressed amazement with how many pieces the Queen family possessed, studying several of them carefully, and told her he was impressed with how insightful she was about the art. The tour came to an end, and Slade thanked both mother and daughter for their hospitality. Then he started to make his way toward the foyer.
“Thea, are you home?” The shout came as the group approached the front door.
“Roy?” Thea said loudly. “I thought I was meeting you at Verdant.”
Moira introduced Roy Harper to Slade. The two men shook hands, and Slade smiled, knowing that Roy had been one of the successful test subjects. Judging from the firm grip he received, Slade guessed that Team Arrow anticipated trouble, and that his enemies had made ready to attack.
His plan was going accordingly.
“Ollie!” Sara Lance called out, coming down the stairs, and he strove to maintain his composure at seeing her again so unexpectedly, the girl that Oliver had chosen over his beloved Shado. The two exchanged pleasantries as their time in Lian Yu burned behind their eyes.
“What would you like to do now, Mr. Wilson?” Oliver asked, and he no longer seemed off balance. Slade scanned the room, knowing they were chomping at the bit to make a move on him.
Fools, he thought to himself as he thanked Moira for having him in her home. Oliver offered to walk him out to his car.
* * *
John Diggle shifted slightly on his perch, arranging his sniper rifle, ready to take Slade out as soon as he left Queen Mansion. He spoke into his comm, then he waited.
As soon as he saw Oliver walk out with Slade, he peered through the sight, lining up the shot. Suddenly he was struck in the head, and instantly unconscious. He never heard his assailant approach.
Ravager beamed, pleased with herself, a rush of adrenaline running through her at combat that wasn’t just training. She was surprised how good it felt, and was ready to do it again.
* * *
“Cyrus Gold,” Oliver hissed angrily. “The man in the skull mask, his associates—they all work for you!” As calm as could be, Slade got into his car. “What do you want?” Oliver demanded.
“Five years ago I made you a promise, and I am here to fulfill it. Sara was only the first,” Slade said. “See you around, kid.” With that he slammed the car door, shutting down the conversation, and moments later he was racing off into the night as the moon glistened in his eye, and his heart filled with hate.
* * *
A few days later, shortly before dawn, Sebastian visited Slade’s office. He was wary as he entered the room.
“I have news, Slade, and it’s not good,” he called out.
“What is it now, Mr. Blood?” Slade asked, turning in his chair. “Something more about your inability to follow simple instructions?”
“I’m afraid it’s yours, sir,” Sebastian replied, bracing himself.
“Go on,” Slade said, a hint of humor in his tone.
“My eyes in the Glades have told me that the Russian mob has been looking into your business,” Sebastian reported.
“What do you mean?” Slade asked.
“Someone is looking to label you as the vigilante,” Sebastian said. “From what I’ve been told, they were asking about a man with an eye patch—someone who not long ago arrived in Starling. It could be nothing, but we’re at a crucial moment, and we can’t take chances now.”
“I am impressed, Mr. Blood,” Slade said. “Who do you know who might be involved with this?”
“Alexi Leonov is the head of a business that they run in the Glades,” Sebastian answered. “I believe he would know more.”
“Then I will have to visit Mr. Leonov tonight,” Slade said.
* * *
Dressed in his Deathstroke armor, Slade approached the car shop in which Alexi Leonov worked. As soon as he arrived, he killed the first two men he saw in mechanic’s jumpsuits. Then he powered on through the shop, found Alexi behind a desk, and whisked out his sword from its sheath.
“Who are you?” Alexi asked, his eyes going wide.
“Someone you and Oliver Queen are too curious about,” Slade said.
Alexi tried to get up to defend himself, twisting to reach for a drawer. Slade stabbed him in the back, sending him sprawling to the ground in pain, blood spurting from his body. Then he reached back and pulled an orange arrow from his pack. He stared down at Alexi.
“What have your men found?” Slade demanded.
“I will tell you nothing,” Alexi sneered dismissively. The threat of stabbing him in the leg did nothing to loosen his tongue, so Slade drove the arrow down, feeling the arrowhead puncturing the bone. It crunched again as he pulled the arrow back out. Alexi howled with pain, and when Slade motioned to repeat the process, the Russian motioned for him to wait.
“I gave him bank account number,” he confessed, “that is all. Enough is enough.”
“I couldn’t agree more,” Slade said as he stabbed his orange arrow through Alexi’s eye, killing him instantly.
“Nice try, kid,” Slade said.
* * *
Having thrown Alexi’s body into the back of the car, Slade arrived back at his penthouse office knowing that it wouldn’t take Oliver long to figure out where he was. Smoak would do that.
His mind seethed with anger as he dragged Alexi’s body savagely out of the elevator and into his office, the shaft of the arrow protruding from the eye socket and scraping against the floor. He lifted the body with one swoop of his arm and slammed it into a desk chair, then peered at it in disgust as blood dripped from the wound, already slower than it had been. Slade’s mind raced with memories of his past—his time on the island with Oliver and Shado, waking up in the ocean feeling lost and alone—but the familiar feeling of retribution soon returned.
He went to his filing cabinet, rummaged through a drawer, and returned with a film canister and projector reel. He carefully opened the canister and pulled out a roll of film, then placed it gently on the projector. He started the machine, shining the footage against the wall. He was mesmerized as he watched the footage of Shado—recordings he had stolen from A.S.I.S. She smiled at the camera playfully, her beauty and essence shining through. Her face was as beautiful as ever, her black hair blowing freely in the wind.
The anger dissipated as he watched, attempting to breathe her in, and remembering what it was like to have her alive and close. He imagined a life with Shado, back in Australia, coming home every day to her loving arms. He went to the wall, touched her face, wishing that he could feel her soft skin.
After a moment he stepped back, regained his focus.
Shado was gone.
Shado was dead because of Oliver.
Snapped back into reality, Slade reached into his pants pocket and pulled out his cell phone. He composed a text to Isabel and Sebastian, instructing them to meet him at a storage depot outside Starling City.
Then he placed his phone back in his pocket and grabbed his suit coat off of his desk, leaving Alexi’s body for Oliver to find, hoping that the Arrow would understand the message. He gazed one last time at the footage of Shado, then he turned and left the office—knowing that the yearning in his heart would remain forever.

14

Slade pulled up at Tosca Cartage, a storage depot outside of Starling City. He got out of the car, buttoned up his suit jacket, and entered the warehouse. Blood and Isabel were waiting patiently for him in an office.
“Tomorrow marks the beginning of the final phase,” he began, “for tomorrow the Queens will start to unravel.”
Isabel smiled smugly. This was the moment for which she had been waiting. To her, it felt like an eternity since she had met Slade, that night in the parking garage. She had done her best to be patient, but every day that passed since becoming part of the team had made stronger her hate for the Queen family.
“Here’s how it will go down,” Slade said. “First we will take the adorable Thea, tomorrow night. She’ll be working at her club in the Glades, and snatching her should be simple. Unlike her brother, she has no bodyguard—very sloppy.
“Mr. Blood—I will handle that, then meet you at the location we discussed. Once I’ve delivered her I trust you to keep an eye on her, and keep her safe until I return.” Blood nodded. “Another kidnapping, and the possibility that she might be killed, will destroy Moira’s confidence. She will drop out of the race, leaving you to reign in this city.”
He turned to Isabel.
“As for her loving brother Oliver, well, it’s time for you to do what is necessary to take control of Queen Consolidated, Miss Rochev.”
“How can you be sure this will all work? How can we be certain Moira will just crumble?” Blood asked.
“You will be mayor, Mr. Blood, with or without Moira Queen in the picture,” Slade replied, then he returned his attention to Isabel. “Miss Rochev, please rent a car in my name, to leave some bread crumbs for the vigilante. Make it a Porsche.” She nodded, remembering that Sebastian was still in the dark as to who was behind the green hood.
“Isn’t that giving the vigilante the whole loaf?” Blood asked.
“Exactly my point,” Slade said as he turned on his heels. Finally he was ready—to destroy the Queens, and put an arrow into Oliver’s eye.
* * *
“Your mascara is running,” Slade said, handing Thea a tissue with which to dry her eyes in the back of his black sedan.
“Thank you for the ride, Mr. Wilson,” she said, heaving a deep sigh. “It’s just my boyfriend… ex-boyfriend now. He just ended things—out of nowhere.” She stifled a sob.
“Heartbreak is something I know all too well,” he responded, sounding entirely sympathetic. “It’s not an easy thing to recover from, and sometimes you never do.” The car came to a stop.
Thea looked out the window.
“This isn’t my home.”
“You’re not going home, Thea,” Slade said, and he turned. “GET OUT!” he bellowed.
Terrified, Thea bolted from the car. She looked around, frantically trying to get a sense of where she was. She ran, anxious to get away from Slade and the car, her heart pounding with fear. Stumbling through the shadows, she ran right into someone, bounding off of them and struggling for balance. Looking up, she saw a skull mask, and gasped.
“Hello, Thea,” the man said. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.” He grabbed her arm firmly.
She tried to scream, but no sound came out.
* * *
Hours later the manhunt for Thea’s abductor was well underway. The lobby at Queen Consolidated buzzed with reporters and paparazzi trying to get a statement from any member of the family or staff.
Floors above, Moira met with Detective Lance and members of the Starling City Police Department. She broached the idea that somehow Malcolm Merlyn was behind her daughter’s capture. Oliver watched his mother, his own mind a chaotic jumble, knowing that somewhere, somehow, Slade had Thea.
This is my responsibility, he thought. I should have had her followed.
Suddenly Isabel Rochev knocked on the door, motioning to him. Before his mother could spot her, he excused himself and joined her in an empty conference room.
“I’m sorry to remind you of this now, but at today’s meeting the board nominated new officers,” she started. “Unfortunately, voting has to take place within twenty-four hours, and can’t be suspended. It’s a Securities and Exchange Commission mandate.”
“I don’t give a damn about the rules, Isabel,” Oliver told her. “There are more important things I need to address right now.”
“I’m sorry, but you have to give a damn,” she answered back, an edge appearing in her voice. “You have responsibilities, to your company and your employees.”
Oliver began to pace back and forth. “You have to cover for me,” he said. “It’s my sister’s life we’re talking about here.”
“There’s nothing I can do—I don’t have the authority,” she responded. “Unless…”
“Unless what?”
“No, it’s not a good idea,” she said. She paused, then continued, “You could appoint someone CEO pro tempore, but you would need to choose carefully—find someone who’s qualified.”
Oliver grabbed a notepad, and started scribbling.
“I appoint you,” Oliver declared. He picked up the pad and showed Isabel.
I hereby transfer my authority
as CEO of Queen Consolidated
to Isabel Rochev.
Then he signed it.
“Congratulations,” he said. “You are the new temporary CEO.” There was gratitude in his eyes. “Thank you.”
“You can have Thea thank me when she’s back, safe at home,” Isabel said. Before she could say anything more, Felicity Smoak appeared at the door to take Oliver out of the conference room.
As soon as Oliver left the room, all pretenses vanished. Isabel looked down at the notepad, hardly daring to breathe, astonished that she held exactly what she needed to destroy Oliver and his family. Her shock quickly diminished as her assistant approached her.
“Call together the board of directors,” she told Theodore. “There will be an emergency meeting.” He nodded and rushed away to comply. She looked down at the piece of paper again, fire burning in her heart. The Queens would finally get what they deserved.
* * *
The hostage video of Thea elicited exactly the effect he wanted.
Across town, Slade got into his rental car, knowing that the Queens were spiraling out of control trying to find her. Everything was going exactly according to plan. He drove to a nearby factory, knowing that Team Arrow would have identified his rental car from surveillance video. They would put together the pieces, use GPS to trace the vehicle, and come to find him.
Entering the factory, Slade took a seat in a leather club chair as he waited for Oliver to arrive. While he sat, he reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a picture of Shado. It was torn and cracked from the years of wear, but her beauty still shone. He stroked the photo with his index finger, wishing that she were still alive. Though he knew better, he could almost feel her presence.
He closed his eyes and tried to forget the eternal regret.
Then the sound of a motorcycle appeared in the distance, and he sat bolt upright.
Oliver. It has to be him.
He put the photo back in his coat pocket.
* * *
“Where is she, Slade?” Oliver demanded as he stormed in with Roy and Sara. Slade stood, taking pleasure in seeing his hated enemy squirm.
Roy leapt forward and punched Slade in the face.
“Tell us now, or—”
“Or what?” Slade responded. “What are you going to do, kid? Kill me? Then you’ll never know where your beloved Thea is.”
Harper stepped back, and Oliver grabbed an arrow filled with some sort of liquid, shooting Slade in the chest. He fell back in the club chair, passing out almost instantly.
* * *
The cold marble glistened in the semidarkness of the conference room at Queen Consolidated. Isabel sat at the head of the table going over files. A single LED light shone overhead. She eagerly anticipated the events that were about to unfold.
Theodore pushed open the door and looked in.
“Board members are starting to arrive, Miss Rochev.”
Isabel looked up from her work, rose to her feet, and straightened her coat.
“Please send them in,” she said with a confident smile. She moved closer to the door. Theodore stood to the side, holding the door as each of the ten members filed into the room.
“It’s good to see you, and thank you for coming at such short notice,” Isabel said as she shook hands with each person as they entered, one by one. She remained polite and courteous, offering everyone water, taking their jackets and hanging them on hooks. As everyone settled in their seats, she moved back to the front of the table to gather her material.
“Again, thank you—I want to apologize for interrupting your evening,” she began, “but I wanted to act accordingly, given the dramatic new events that have transpired.” She paused and looked from face to face. “I think we can all agree that, over the past year, Oliver Queen’s involvement with the company has been… well, sub par.”
Murmurs rose, and some heads nodded in agreement.
“As acting CEO, Mr. Queen frequently has been unavailable for meetings or important decisions that have needed to be made. Under Mr. Queen’s leadership, QC has suffered two major break-ins. As you recall, when I first arrived in Starling City, street thugs held us at gunpoint during our first meeting.” She gave a shudder. “I have never feared for my life more.
“As well, a few weeks ago our Applied Sciences department suffered a break-in, also happening under his watch.” More nods. “Now, it could be argued that he and I are partners, but as half of the partnership, I say that this ends now.”
Isabel reached into her file folder, producing the notepad with Oliver’s scrawled message and signature, giving Isabel authority as temporary CEO of Queen Consolidated.
“As many of you are no doubt aware, Mr. Queen has other matters with which he is dealing, so he has appointed me as CEO for the duration. This is why I called everyone here tonight.” She leaned forward, looking again from face to face. “I believe it would be in all of our best interests to take a vote, to see if this appointment should be made permanent.”
She stood back, allowing the murmur of conversations to ripple through the room. Finally one of the board members spoke up.
“Let’s take a vote to it,” he said. “There’s no sense in delaying any further. All in favor of electing Miss Rochev as a permanent CEO of Queen Consolidated—raise your hand.”
As ten hands rose into the air, Isabel took a seat and unbuttoned her black blazer jacket. She sat back and ran her hands through her long brunette locks. Leaning back in her chair, she felt a flood of emotions—finally getting the resolution that had been years in the coming.
I finally did it, she thought to herself.
“Well, Miss Rochev,” the board director said, smiling, “it looks like congratulations are in order.” The men and women of the board rose from their chairs, clapping their hands together, saluting her.
“Thank you very much, that’s too kind,” Isabel said, struggling for breath. “But now we have a lot of work to do. Shall we get started?” She opened up her portfolio and pulled out her agenda. For a moment, however, she thought of the naive young woman who had looked at Robert Queen as if he could move mountains. Now, his company was hers.
* * *
In a dusty interrogation room at the Starling City Police Department, Slade sat handcuffed to the table. The room had just one other occupant, and the surveillance camera had been disabled.
“Why are you doing this?” Oliver asked.
“You know why,” Slade said calmly, content that his plans had played out perfectly. “I tried to let go of the island, but it still has a hold on me. And if that hood you wear every night is any indication, it still has a hold on you, as well.”
“She never did anything to you,” Oliver protested. “Blame me—Thea is innocent. Do you want me to beg? I am begging you. You win!” he cried. “Please tell me where she is.”
Slade just sat back silently, reveling in Oliver’s pain. Without proof of his involvement, they would need to release him, and his alibi was perfect. All he had to do was wait.
* * *
The black car purred through the late-night city streets. It had been child’s play to find the tracking device, and he had thrown them off by cloning the tracking symbol. He looked over his shoulder to make certain he wasn’t still being followed, then made his winding way back to the warehouse.
“She’s still inside,” Blood told him.
“Very good, Alderman—that will be all,” Slade said as he entered. He took a seat across from Thea, and told her that she was no longer a prisoner.
“I only needed you to make a point, and the point has been made.”
“Those guys will shoot me the second I walk out,” Thea said.
“My men’s instructions were to keep you here until I returned. Now that I have, you are free to go.”
Thea stood cautiously, and moved toward the door.
However,” he continued, “if you leave, you will never know your brother’s secret.” He looked her in the eye, enjoying the puzzled look on her face. “Would you like to know what it is?”
She turned around, and took a few steps toward him.
“What is it?” she asked.
“Your brother has known for some time now that Robert Queen is not your father,” he said, suppressing the pleasure he was feeling. “Your father is Malcolm Merlyn.” Her face filled with confusion, even horror. He began to walk away from her.
“No hard feelings, Thea,” Slade said as he exited, slamming the warehouse door behind him.
* * *
Isabel sat at the head of the conference room table, finally feeling at home. For the first time in a long time she was happy—excited and eager to start her new job. The job she was once promised—the one she should always have had. The job she was born to do.
Suddenly, the door swung open and Oliver interrupted her reverie. As he stormed into the room and demanded to know what was happening, she was momentarily thrown off balance. Then she stood up from the chair—her chair—composing herself.
“You are the one that made this possible when you made me CEO,” she said scornfully. “As of thirty minutes ago, your company belongs to me. The directors unanimously voted to make my appointment permanent. I’d say they had lost faith in your leadership, but that would imply that there was some in the first place.” There was an icy calmness in her voice.
* * *
Oliver’s head spun as he walked closer to her. His heart began to pound, and he felt as if the rug had been pulled from underneath his feet.
“Maybe you should have focused a little less on your… evening activities,” Isabel said spitefully.
“Slade,” he growled. “You’re working for him.” His eyes grew wide as he came to the horrible realization.
“I’m working with him,” she replied. “He knew planting me in your family’s business would draw you back to Starling City. Truth be told, I was skeptical.”
Oliver rushed her and grabbed her by the throat. After a moment of knee-jerk panic, Isabel became calm and collected. She had won, and she wasn’t going to let Oliver shake her in any way.
Where is Thea?” he gritted furiously.
This is what you have trained for, Isabel thought to herself. She smiled, knowing that she wouldn’t be giving up any information. She wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of besting her—never again.
“Why are you doing this?”
“I think it’s sad that you don’t know,” Isabel said, remembering the path that had brought her to this moment. “The sins of the father are the sins of the son,” she continued, thinking of her former lover.
Suddenly, Isabel remembered herself, all those years ago with Robert. She remembered the happiness she had once felt, that was built on a foundation of lies and broken promises. Suddenly filled with volcanic rage, she kicked her leg up, hitting Oliver in the side of the head.
He deflected the next strike, but she used the opportunity to spring on top of him, sending them crashing to the floor. She rose first and jump-kicked, but he caught her leg, grabbing her arm, as well, slamming Isabel’s body onto the conference table. Again he gripped Isabel’s neck, the pressure cutting off her breathing.
“Where is she?” Oliver demanded like a man possessed.
He might do it, she realized, and panic welled up in her.
“He’s holding her at a storage depot, just outside the city limits,” she said, barely able to talk. “Tosca Cartage.”
“How do I know you’re not lying?”
That amused her. “It’s cute how you think this isn’t playing out exactly as he wants it to.” She giggled as Oliver released his grip. “And he wants you to come alone. If he even smells your partners, he’ll gut sweet little Thea like a trout.”
He stepped away from her, staring at her as if he had never seen her before. Then he turned to leave.
“It was a pleasure doing business with you, Oliver,” Isabel called out to him. She looked down at her disheveled clothes, and attempted to fix herself. She walked out of the conference room and into the executive office, tucking her blouse back in and straightening her jacket as she reached for the office phone. She punched in a number.
“The location has been given,” she said.
“You have far exceeded all my expectations, Miss Rochev.”
“Your office will be ready and waiting for you,” Isabel responded, hanging up the phone.
* * *
Slade stood on a cold, dark, empty street, wearing his Deathstroke armor. Not a car went down the road. He took the moment to reflect. His plan had taken years to fashion and execute, and the moment of redemption was approaching. Suddenly, in the distance, he saw headlights.
Here we go.
The headlights grew closer, and revealed a bus. Slade stood his ground in the middle of the street as the vehicle came to a slow and cautious stop. Passengers were visible, though only as shadowy figures—prison inmates on their way to Iron Heights. They peered out through the windows, their orange jumpsuits all but indistinguishable. The scum of the city—men who would make fine soldiers.
An officer with a shotgun in tow stepped off the bus.
“Halloween was six months ago, ass hat,” he said. “Now get off the road or get put down.”
A moment later the man was staring at his chest, and the sword that protruded from it. The officer fell onto the cement road, crumbling to his death. Two others, still on the bus, reached for their guns—but Slade won the draw, downing them with just two bullets through the windshield. The inmates, unsure of what was happening, just stared. Slade motioned, and they slowly made their way out, one by one.
“I have a proposal for you men,” he said. “Starling City has turned its back on you. You’ve been called the slime of the city, but you are not. You are exactly what the city needs, you are exactly what I need. Together, you will become an army. With my help you will become stronger than anyone in the world.
“Your one goal will be to destroy the city, and everyone in it. We will take no prisoners, we will stop at nothing, and after we’re done, we will rule the city.”
“What if we don’t want to be a part of no army,” one inmate called out. “What if we just want to make a run for it?”
Having no patience for anyone questioning him, Slade pulled his other sword and lodged it in the inmate’s chest. The man coughed up blood as he slowly fell to the ground.
“Anyone else have questions?” Slade asked as the rest stared at him in silence. Then he glided past the inmates and entered the bus, placing himself behind the steering wheel. The inmates climbed back onto the bus, as well, taking their seats quietly.
He pressed his foot to the gas, and drove the bus into the dark of the night.

15

“How did the hijack go?” Isabel asked.
“Everything has been satisfactory so far,” Slade said, taking a seat at his desk. “Do we have Thea’s status?”
“According to my sources, she hasn’t yet reported to the police, which makes it more likely that she’s shared the news with Moira and Oliver, just as you said she would. It’s just as likely that they’ll want to keep the details to themselves.”
“Wonderful,” Slade said, and he smirked.
“Also, I wanted to talk to you about the boy—the one who follows Oliver around in the red hoodie,” Isabel said.
“Roy Harper. I met him at Queen Mansion—he was a test subject months ago, and was a success. What about him?”
“Tensions appear to be high over there, and it may be in our best interests to keep an eye on Oliver’s little protégé,” Isabel said. “There may be a way to turn it to our advantage.”
At that moment, Sebastian Blood barged into Slade’s office, seething with anger.
“What is it this time, Mr. Blood?” Slade asked without rising.
“Turn on the news,” Sebastian barked.
Slade turned to the desktop screen in front of him to stream the news. A surprisingly chipper Bethany Snow delivered the late-night reports, and he turned up the volume.
“It’s been a wild few hours for the Queen family after Thea Queen, daughter of Moira Queen, was kidnapped and held hostage. At the mayoral debate tonight between Moira Queen and Sebastian Blood, a horrific video played to show Thea’s captor. Then, hours later Thea Queen arrived at the Starling City Police Department, unharmed and claiming that a man named Slade Wilson was the person who kidnapped her.
“On the political front, in what can only be called a ‘sympathy bump,’ Moira Queen has pulled far ahead of Sebastian Blood in the latest poll, conducted over the last twenty-four hours,” she continued, and Blood slammed his fist on the desk, causing the screen to shake.
“This whole thing just blew up in our face,” Blood raged. “How the hell do I get elected now? You said I would be mayor, yet you just delivered the election for Moira Queen—and for what? What is this obsession you have with the Queen family?”
Isabel snickered, but held her tongue.
“You promised me,” Blood gritted. “Where are your promises now?”
“I promised you this city,” Slade said, rising suddenly and charging toward the alderman until they were only inches apart. “I promised you an army with which to take it.” He turned to peer at Isabel. “What is our status?”
“Queen Consolidated Applied Sciences Division is now fully dedicated to replicating a serum based on your blood sample.”
“You see,” Slade said, calm again. “Everything is proceeding as planned.” He grabbed his suit coat, putting it back on, and headed for the door.
“Where are you going now?” Blood demanded.
“To service my ‘obsession’—Oliver Queen needs one more distraction,” Slade said, the ghost of Shado lingering in his mind.
* * *
Sebastian turned to face Isabel.
“I demand that you tell me what is going on with the Queen family,” he said, his voice echoing through the space.
“Excuse me?” Isabel snapped.
“The goal of the kidnapping was to push Moira Queen to drop out of the race and search for her daughter. Yet the entire focus seems to be on Oliver—the one member of the family who at least seems to try to do the right thing. The only one I might call my friend.”
“Friend? God you are a fool, Sebastian,” Isabel snapped back. “Open your eyes, and connect the dots.”
“Just tell me—what is going to happen to Oliver?” Sebastian said.
“Don’t be an idiot, Mr. Blood—it’s going to get you killed,” she replied, turning on her heel and heading for the elevator.
* * *
Slade knocked on the door to Laurel Lance’s apartment. When she opened it, the look of surprise, tinged with fear, almost made him laugh. She immediately tried to slam it shut, but he easily blocked and pushed his way in, sending her back-pedaling into the living room.
“Don’t worry,” he said, pointing a black-gloved finger. “I’m not here to harm you.”
“Go to hell,” she replied.
“All in good time, I’m sure,” he said. “But before then, I’ve come to Starling City to see Oliver Queen suffer.”
“Oliver…?” she said. “What? Why?”
“Because he’s not the man you think he is.”
“And how would you know that?”
“Because I know Oliver Queen is the Arrow.” Slade watched as the revelation landed on Laurel. She gasped, stunned by the information. It was the reaction of someone finally realizing a truth long suspected, but buried deep. Then Slade turned… and left.
He exited her apartment building feeling virtuous. He had dropped a bomb into Oliver’s world, the result of which could only be catastrophic. Slade remembered his first year on the island, and how Oliver had boasted about the most beautiful woman, back in Starling waiting for him. He scoffed at the thought.
Laurel Lance, Shado, Sara… Slade thought fiercely. He takes whatever he can get from anyone. As he walked, he looked up, and froze in his footsteps.
Shado stood before him.
“He never had me,” she confessed to Slade, “I was never his to take.”
Slade squinted at the beautiful woman standing before him. He took a tentative step closer, then relaxed, seeing that his love was in fact real.
“I should have been stronger,” he said. “I should have taken you away from him when I had the chance.”
“You have already done so much for me, Slade,” she answered. “Don’t you see that? You have spent years seeking to get to this moment—and it’s here. I am so proud of you.”
“I have done all of this for you.” Slade reached out to touch her. “It’s always been you.”
“I know, and now you need to finish what you started—what we should have done together back in Lian Yu,” Shado said with a glint in her eye. “Kill him.”
“I will,” he promised. “For you, for us. There are a few more steps before that sweet moment can come.” He took another step closer to Shado, then another, remembering the smell of lilac. He extended his hand, ready to take hers, and she smiled back at Slade—a look both beautiful and devious. Just when Slade was close enough to grab Shado’s hand, take her in his arms, and finally kiss her—
His phone vibrated in his jacket pocket. Involuntarily Slade glanced down, pulled out the phone to check the caller I.D. It was Isabel on the other end.
When he looked up again, Shado had disappeared, a stealthy phantom in the night. He looked frantically over his shoulder, wondering where she went, and suddenly felt more alone than ever.
He jabbed his finger to answer the call.
“What is it, Miss Rochev?” Slade said crisply.
“Oliver’s protégé, the boy in the red hood,” she said. “As we suspected, he has left Oliver and his friends in the dust.”
Slade’s eyes widened at the news—a turn of events that not even Slade could have planned so well. He had to capitalize on it.
“Where are you now?” Slade asked.
“I’m trailing him. He just crossed over the Starling City border—my guess is that he is headed to Blüdhaven,” Isabel said.
“Good. Keep me posted as to your location, and I will meet you.” Then he hung up.
He stood in the street, frozen for a moment.
“Shado?” he called out, hoping she would reveal herself.
His heart ached, and the emptiness there left him feeling insignificant. He let the despair rush over his body as he called out her name again, then again, each time a little louder.
Suddenly Slade’s despair dissipated as it turned into anger, mild at first, then became a boiling rage. He began to walk again, and reached his black Porsche.
Why are you always leaving me? Slade thought as he clicked on his seatbelt.
“Because of him,” Shado replied from the back seat, and he could see her in his rearview mirror. “I have to leave you because of Oliver,” Shado said as Slade pressed his foot to the pedal. The Porsche purred down the road leading to Blüdhaven, where Slade would take someone else away from Oliver Queen.
* * *
Slade exited his Porsche to find Isabel waiting patiently.
“Where are we?” Slade asked.
“A shelter, mostly for broken families that need help. Harper went in about thirty minutes ago.”
“Very well,” Slade said as he approached the building, “let’s go get Mr. Harper to bring him home.”
The two entered the shelter, passing through a lobby, and reached a makeshift living room. There was a mother sitting in a rocking chair, reading a book to her child. There were children playing checkers in the corner, and a group of men sat on the other side of the room playing chess. Slade’s eye landed on a club chair, the occupant’s back to them. He motioned to Isabel, the two approached the chair, and saw a red hoodie.
Slade put his hand on Roy’s shoulder.
“Down on your luck, kid?” He felt muscles go tense, and he stepped around to face the chair’s occupant.
“Oliver Queen is a foolish man,” he said.
“Tell me something I don’t know,” Roy snapped back.
“You are special, Mr. Harper,” Slade pressed. “He doesn’t realize that.”
“Special? Because I have your crazy serum in me?”
Isabel rolled her eyes. “Enough lip.”
Roy stood up, coming face to face with Slade.
“You may scare Oliver, but you don’t scare me,” Roy said. But Slade just smirked, appreciating his boldness, knowing that this was far too easy.
“Well, then,” he responded, his brow raised, “lead the way, Mr. Harper.”
“You’re not even going to fight?” Isabel asked as Roy turned on his heels.
“Why bother?”

16

“Coward.
“What else would you call someone who needlessly destroys Queen Consolidated Applied Sciences division, in which is housed scientific cutting-edge medical technologies with the sole purpose of making Starling City, and the world, a safer and better place?”
“That was the statement made this morning by the new CEO of Queen Consolidated, Isabel Rochev,” Bethany Snow reported, “just hours after their Applied Sciences division was brutally destroyed in an explosion, late last night.”
Slade continued to watch the broadcast, even as Isabel burst into the room, her attitude far less calm than she had exhibited in the news conference.
“I just lost a quarter of a billion dollar facility,” she raged. “How can you just sit there so relaxed?”
“Change of strategy. A minor setback, Miss Rochev. Let them have their glory for a fleeting moment. Because it will be just that—only for a moment. We need to reproduce the serum… again. However, this time we have something we didn’t have before.
“Roy Harper,” Slade said eagerly. “We use Mr. Harper’s blood to replicate the serum—draining him of it in the process.”
“But we still need a centrifuge large enough and precise enough for the process. How and where are we going to find another one in Starling City?” Isabel demanded.
We aren’t,” Slade said. He opened the cabinet that housed his Deathstroke gear.
“What do you mean, Slade?”
“Nothing, Miss Rochev. You may keep doubting me, and Oliver Queen may think he is smarter, but I… always win.”
* * *
Slade looked around the foundry, peering into shadows. He had retrieved the skeleton key he needed, so he could leave well before Team Arrow returned. Yet without hesitation, Slade decided to stay, eager to send a message. He stood in the middle of Oliver’s underground lair, dressed in his Deathstroke body armor. Then he heard the click of a door on the level above.
“I know Slade.” It was Oliver. “He’s not going to stop until—”
“Welcome home.”
Slade relished the look of shock on Oliver’s face. He was with Sara, Diggle, and Felicity. Slade pulled his Glock and opened fire, scattering the team. He had no intention of killing Oliver. The others, however… if they were lost in the crossfire, so be it.
Oliver grabbed Felicity and leapt over the railing. Diggle and Sara raced down the stairs and around the perimeter of the lair. Diggle was the only one holding a gun, so Slade continued chasing him with gunfire.
Diggle hit the breaker box, throwing the lair into darkness.
Almost instantly Sara charged from the shadows, grabbing the metal bar from Oliver’s salmon ladder, then leaping over Felicity’s workstation to attack. Before she could land, Slade caught her by the throat and held her suspended in the air above him.
“Hello, Sara,” he said, then with one smooth motion he threw her into a supply table, her momentum taking her past it and into a support post.
One down.
Diggle, the bodyguard, sprinted out from the shadows, firing his Glock.
“Diggle!” Oliver shouted. “Stay back!”
Some of the bullets struck home, but Slade didn’t flinch. They bounced harmlessly off his promethium-enhanced body armor, sparks flying, until the clip was empty.
“You’re wasting your bullets,” Slade remarked wryly.
Yet Diggle continued forward, using his gun like a club, punching Slade several times in quick succession across the helmet. The blows had no effect, and once he became bored with the man’s efforts, Slade snatched Diggle’s arm and threw him into the glass case that held Oliver’s Arrow suit.
Oliver entered the fray, sprinting over a table and snatching up Sara’s bō staff, wielding it over the shoulder like a baseball bat. He let his momentum carry him, and Slade saw him coming. He evaded the swing, unsheathing one of his tactical swords in the process.
They exchanged a rapid flurry of blows, Oliver splitting the bō staff and wielding the halves like Eskrima sticks, just as they had sparred on Lian Yu. With his enhanced reflexes, though, Slade easily parried his opponent’s assault. Their weapons locked, each pushing into the other, but Oliver was no match for enhanced strength. Slade shifted and pushed the blade into his arm, cutting it.
Oliver bellowed with pain.
Slade flipped him onto his back, then knocked him unconscious with a punch to the face.
“Don’t forget who taught you how to fight, kid.”
Scanning the room, he confirmed that there would be no more opposition. So he exited the lair, leaving Oliver and his team behind—broken, shaken, message received.
Nowhere was safe.
* * *
THWAT!
Slade’s knife penetrated the spine of the S.T.A.R. Labs security guard, and the sound echoed down the hall. He continued on, firm in his resolve. The Arrow believed he had stymied Slade by destroying his centrifuge.
Not this time, kid, Slade thought to himself as he stalked the Starling City facility, decked out in his Deathstroke armor. Superior even to Queen Consolidated, S.T.A.R. housed the most cutting-edge technologies.
He turned a corner to find two startled employees, identified by their security tags as Caitlin Snow and Cisco Ramon. Slade unsheathed his sword and the two bolted, tearing down the hallway, their progress marked by the loud clack clack clack of their footsteps. He followed calmly.
“The longer the chase, the slower the kill,” he called out.
Snow and Ramon ran into a restricted area that was the home to the weapon prototypes. The young woman frantically looked around for something they could use as a weapon, while Slade’s own footsteps drew closer.
“Help me,” she called to Ramon, sweat forming above her brow. She approached a wooden box, opened it, and stared down at the contents, recoiling slightly.
“Please tell me you can work this thing,” she said as Ramon approached the box. He lifted out an energy rifle, hefting it with both hands, his eyes wide.
“I think so,” he responded, “and anyway, it’s our best shot. Get in front of me, so he won’t see it coming.”
Their voices were just murmurs as Slade approached the area, and his heart raced at the thought of killing. As he entered the room, Snow stood before him, unarmed and scared. The puissant Ramon was cowering behind her. Slade stared at her, whipping out his sword, ready to slit her throat.
“I take back what I said,” Slade announced. “I’ll make this quick.” As he took a step toward her, Snow ducked out of the way.
“NOW!”
Ramon was holding some sort of rifle. He pulled the trigger, unleashing an energy blast that knocked Slade to the ground, stunning him. Their footsteps resumed their din as the two ran out of the storage facility, finding safety.
Damn me, that was an amateur thing to do!
As Slade tried to gather himself, the blast echoed in his head. Then he looked up and saw it… the bio-transfuser, a piece of equipment more advanced than the QE centrifuge. Pushing himself to his feet, he eagerly grabbed the machine.
The hell with those two, he mused, his excitement growing. I’ve got what I want—come to Papa, baby.
* * *
Oliver was due to arrive at any moment, and somehow Isabel didn’t think he’d be late today. She sat behind her desk, preparing for the inevitable confrontation, when suddenly she heard a commotion coming from the elevator.
It was Oliver accompanied by Diggle.
She didn’t care to look up, instead focusing on her paperwork.
“Whatever you came here to say, it takes Security about sixty seconds to reach this floor,” she commented, “so if I were you, I’d start talking.”
“Where’s Slade?”
Did he honestly expect her to tell him? She smiled at the absurdity. Yet his response to her silence was… unexpected.
“I just wanted to give you the chance to do the right thing.”
“I’m under 30, and I’m the CEO of a Fortune 500 company,” Isabel observed. “I’d say I’ve already done the right thing.”
“Do you even know who Slade Wilson is, or why he’s doing this?”
“I don’t care,” she replied, still without looking up. “I got what I earned.”
“What you earned? You think that sleeping with my father entitles you to my family’s company?”
“You have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“Wow,” Oliver breathed. “He fooled around with a lot of girls. More than you can imagine. I don’t see any of them ordering hostile takeovers.”
That got her. She looked up at him.
“Fooled around?”
“Yeah.”
“Is that what your mother told you?” She gathered her papers. “Of course she would—she’d write me off as a meaningless affair.” Then she stood, marching away from Oliver and into the conference room. “Slade Wilson put me through hell. His training nearly killed me. Would I put myself through all that just because I was a jilted lover?”
“Honestly, I don’t know what you are!”
“I was your father’s soul mate,” she said. Oliver scoffed, and it infuriated her. “He was going to leave your mother, leave the company, leave you. Our bags were packed.”
“Really.”
“Your sister had to go and break her arm—doing something ridiculous, no doubt.”
“She fell off her horse.”
“We were at the airport when he got the call.” She walked around the conference room table, arranging papers for the upcoming board meeting. “I begged him not to go, and reminded him that Thea wasn’t even his.”
“Are you saying that my father knew?”
“Of course he knew—he was a fool, not an idiot. And like a fool, he loved her anyway. He promised me that we would leave the next day. But instead, my internship was terminated, and he never spoke to me again.”
“Oh, so that’s what this is really about,” Oliver said, his expression mixing understanding with incredulity. “He chose us over you.”
Three security guards pushed through the door.
“Please escort Mr. Queen off the premises.”
“Don’t touch me.”
“He’s no longer welcome in this building,” she said. “My building.”
She watched Oliver exit the conference room, her brave face faltering. He was right. This was about Robert choosing his family over her.

It always had been.

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