3. The Grace I've Known Ch. 16-18byinspirixis1©
For some reason Literotica posted chapters 13, 14 & 15 of this story out of sequence. If you are reading this from the 'new' list you probably need to go to my profile page to read 13,14&15 before reading this.
There were so many ways he could have prevented this. If he hadn't have pushed Grace to testify none of this would have happened. If he had have slept in the guest room with her he could have warned her and made her hide in the closet or something. If he had have gone into the kitchen and killed McCarran first she might not have gotten shot. If he had have listened to her and put his dirty teacup in the sink instead of leaving it on the coffee table she might not be lying in the intensive care unit with a million tubes threaded through her body.
Nicholas' brain couldn't help but go over and over again every single way he could have prevented this. All he had to do was to take his damn teacup into the kitchen like she had asked him to do a million times, it would have been so easy that it was excruciating. It was his fault. He was responsible for Grace's safety and he had fucked up and he would always have to live with that.
He was ready to receive Sam's wrath, in fact he welcomed it, he wanted Sam to hit him and abuse him and to tell him how worthless he was, but he didn't. When Sam showed up in the waiting room he hugged Emma first and then he hugged Nicholas and he thanked him and called him 'son'. It was the absolute worst thing he could have said. Nicholas was wracked with guilt, Sam's misplaced gratitude only made him feel worse.
Aunt Julia hired him a lawyer who she guaranteed was one of the best defense lawyers in Massachusetts, and he dealt with the police. They weren't laying any charges against Nicholas yet but the lawyer didn't like how it looked. Nicholas could easily be charged with murder over the first two guys, the ones that he'd taken out with out them even knowing he was there. The only things he had going for him were the fact that a foot was not usually considered a deadly weapon and that he hadn't said anything to the police.
He was so glad that he had called Sam before talking to the police. Davis, the cop who had driven him to the hospital, tried to get Nicholas to tell him what had happened. He was pretty clever in his approach, he put on the whole hero worship act. "Dude, I wish I knew how to defend myself like that, you must be like some sort of martial arts warrior or something," he said. Nicholas didn't take the bait, he just said that he was tired and wanted to see his girlfriend. Thank god Sam had told him not to say anything to the police.
It turns out that no matter how certain you are that someone is in your home to try and kill you or someone you love it is illegal to fight them until the danger is immediate. That means if you kill someone before they have a chance to point their gun at you you've committed murder. So legally Nicholas had murdered two men.
The lawyer was also worried about the forth guy, the one Nicholas beat to death with the broom in the stairwell. Apparently it was significant that the fight had occurred in an area that was technically outside of Nicholas' home. Also the broom could be interpreted as a weapon, but the fact that the other man had discharged his handgun several times, made it unlikely that any charges would be laid in that case.
It was all one big horrible nightmare. He never dreamed that he would be a murderer. The strange thing was that he didn't feel bad about taking the lives of so many. He knew those were the men who had raped Grace. He knew they were in their apartment to kill her and much as he tried, he felt no remorse for killing them, which was disconcerting.
Nicholas had always believed that he was a good person. If he were honest with himself he would admit that being a 'good' person was something that he prided himself on. But did good people murder others? Was his use of deadly force justifiable? He thought so. Those men had come freely to his apartment to kill his Grace. They weren't there to scare or threaten her, they were there to murder her. This wasn't the same as sparring or being in a bar fight. This was kill or be killed.
Maybe one day he would feel remorseful over their deaths but not now. Now he couldn't see how he could have arrived at any other acceptable outcome without their deaths. Maybe if there was just one or two of them he could have used Aikido to neutralize them, but there were four of them and they were all armed. No. The only way to save Grace and Emma had been to kill them. It didn't matter if Nicholas went to prison, so long as Grace was alive and safe he could live with himself.
The only thing that he regretted was how much he had enjoyed killing the last guy. The other three had died quickly and probably close to painlessly, but not the forth guy. The guy in the stairwell had suffered and Nicholas had enjoyed it. Nicholas knew what rage was and he knew that he was not in a rage when he killed that man. He was stone cold sober and 100% in control, and he had enjoyed it. That was the part that bothered him.
That man had to die, but he didn't have to die so painfully. Nicholas had never realized that he had a sadistic streak. Of course most people never would. Most people would never be faced with a situation like that.
Adrian came to the hospital to visit and so did Charlotte. Adrian wanted to know what had happened but Nicholas' lawyer had told him not to talk to anyone about it and so he kept his mouth shut.
"Dude, I'm your friend, you can tell me what happened," he said. He was clearly offended by Nicholas' reluctance.
"Look," Nicholas spoke to him in a hushed tone, "Grace has a gunshot wound to the abdomen, four men are dead and I have bruises on my feet, you put the pieces together. My lawyer says not to talk to anyone about it."
Adrian looked shocked. "You don't think you're going to get charged?"
Nicholas shrugged his shoulders. "I don't know. I hope not, but it wouldn't surprise me.'
Adrian blinked in disbelief and then shook his head. "No. Don't worry about it Nicholas, it wont happen. I'll take care of it."
Nicholas had no idea what Adrian thought he could do about it so he just said, "Okay, whatever."
It was two days before Grace was transferred out of the intensive care unit and into a regular floor ward. Nicholas stood beside her bed for as long the visiting hours allowed. At first she had one of those breathing machines hooked up to her and the steady whir of it and the blipping of the machine monitoring her heart was incredibly reassuring.
Once she left the intensive care unit they took away all of the medical gear and it made Nicholas nervous. How would they know if she stopped breathing? The doctors said she was going to be alright, but how did they know? She looked so frail.
The visiting hours were not very long, which was both a blessing and a curse. It meant that he didn't have to feel guilty for not spending all day in the hospital, but then Nicholas had plenty of time to worry about being charged with murder.
On the fourth day the nurse told them that she had been awake and asking for Kolya. For some reason that made him feel good. He had been the first person she asked for.
She was asleep when the visiting hours started. Nicholas stood beside the bed and took her hand between his and just stood there, enjoying her warmth. She was alive.
Adrian arrived not long after with a big bunch of irises and an older man dressed in a suit that Nicholas guessed must be his father. Nicholas was confused, why was Adrian bringing his father to visit Grace? Maybe she had met him before? He didn't remember if she had.
Adrian introduced his dad to them all, his name was Charles Wheeler, the name was familiar but Nicholas was too tired to try and remember where he'd heard it. Charles' eyes lingered on Nicholas and he could have sworn that the man tensed in fear.
"Can we talk to you privately?" Adrian asked Nicholas.
Nicholas looked down at Grace, he didn't want to leave her to talk to Adrian and his dad, he only got to see her for a few hours a day and she might wake up.
"Nicholas, you want to talk to us." Adrian spoke with such authority, it was weird, usually he was so laid back.
"Okay." Nicholas put Grace's hand down and left the room with them.
Down in the coffee shop Adrian introduced his dad properly, he was the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Attorney General, that must have been how Nicholas knew his name. They had a weird stilted conversation. Nicholas' lawyer's words echoed around his head, even though Charles assured him that they were talking 'off the record,' he still felt uncomfortable, and he got the feeling that Charles was uncomfortable with him too. Adrian kept on shooting his dad confused looks, like this wasn't usually the way he acted.
He asked pretty basic questions. He wanted to know if Nicholas knew the men who had been in their apartment and if he had ever been in any fights before. He wanted to know what Nicholas thought about martial arts and the use of deadly force. And then he did something strange. He took his glasses off and pinched the bridge of his nose.
"I'm sorry Nicholas, I have to ask... Is Gray the name you were born with?"
Nicholas was shocked, what did his name have to do with anything? "No."
"Your birth name...?"
Charles nodded slowly, looking down into his cup of coffee. "You just look like someone I knew once." He looked up suddenly. "Listen, don't worry about this mess from the other night, there wont be any charges laid."
Nicholas didn't know what to say. "Ah... thank you, I appreciate it," he stuttered. He was so relieved. Who would have known that being friends with Adrian would end up keeping him out of prison?
When he got back up to Grace's room she was awake, it was the best moment of his life. He was so relieved about the murder charges and then to see her half-sitting in the hospital bed with her eyes open and smiling at him, it was almost more than he could bear.
"Kolya," she said as she reached her hand out to him. Her voice was grainy and dry.
Nicholas crossed the room to her quickly and took her hand. "Gracie, you're awake." He kissed her hand and held it to his face. "Milaya, I've been so worried about you." He heard his voice crack with emotion.
Grace's thumb stroked the sensitive skin just below his ear. "It's okay Kolya, they say I'm going to be alright."
Oh to feel Grace move, to hear her voice, even if it was raspy. Nicholas was so happy and relieved that tears welled in his eyes. He nodded lamely.
"Come on, give them some space." He heard Emma whispering to Sam.
"We'll come back again tonight Gracie," Emma said. She leaned over Sam, who was at the opposite side of the bed to Nicholas and kissed Grace on the cheek.
"Sleep well baby girl," Sam murmured and then he kissed her on the forehead and he too got up and left.
"How do you feel?" Nicholas asked.
"Kind of spacey. I think they must have me on a bunch of drugs, it aches but it doesn't hurt too badly."
Nicholas nodded. "I'm so sorry Gracie, this is all my fault, I should have known better."
Grace's brow furrowed in confusion and she said, "But mom said you saved us... She said that you stopped him." She cocked her head to the side in question. "I don't understand, what happened?"
Nicholas didn't know how much to tell her. He had just recently learned that it was not a good idea to lie or keep things from her, even if he thought that it was for her own protection, and so he told her the truth. He told her the whole truth, all the way up to what had just happened with Adrian's dad. The only thing he left out was the sense of satisfaction he got from beating the man in the stairwell, nobody would ever know about that.
"Oh baby, come here, lie with me," Grace said gently.
Squeezing onto the hospital bed beside Grace was not that difficult because she didn't take up much room. She was such a small person, not much bigger than a child, but she was his world. She smelled like iodine and burnt matches but Nicholas didn't care, he snuggled in close to her and buried his face into her neck.
"I'm sorry I didn't tell you about your parents Gracie, it was wrong of me."
"Mm," she sighed. "It's okay Kolya, just don't do it again." Her breathing was going deep, she was falling asleep.
"I love you Grace," Nicholas whispered and kissed her on her neck.
Grace sighed again and her hand, which was resting on his arm, squeezed lightly and then she was asleep.
Nicholas went home to their apartment for the second time since the attack that afternoon. The first time had been awful, Grace's blood was all over the place and he could still smell the cigarettes and aftershave. He called the same cleaning service that he had used when Adrian and his buddy had moved out after the summer and when he went back for the second time everything was spotless and smelled like artificial pine scent.
It was better the second time, but Nicholas couldn't see how he could live here anymore, his hair stood on end and he kept on whipping around to see if there was anyone behind him. It was stupid, he knew he was being paranoid, but he didn't feel safe here anymore. He packed a bag full of his clothes and a bag full of Grace's clothes and went back to the hotel that he and Sam and Emma had been staying at.
He called a real estate agent and two days later he had signed the lease on a new apartment. It was in a less convenient location, but it was roomier and it had big bay windows that over looked a pretty tree lined street in the front and it had a small private courtyard in the back.
Nicholas called a removal company and had them pack up the old apartment and move it all into the new apartment. He could tell that Sam thought he was being lazy but the thought of moving everything himself was just too exhausting, even with the volunteered help of Sam and Adrian. Sam was a person who thought each person on this earth should be self sufficient and willing to do everything themselves.
Nicholas believed in paying other people to do things he didn't like doing. Money was just an asset to him, something that could be traded to make life possible, and if you had enough of it to make life easier and better. Nicholas had enough money so he didn't see why he shouldn't trade it to make life easier. Besides, it was good for the economy to pay people to do stuff for him.
The new apartment didn't have built-in bookshelves like the old one did and there was room for another couch so he went furniture shopping and Sam went with him. Despite his disapproval of the use of a removal company, Sam seemed to be back to his usual self around Nicholas. He couldn't be sure, but he suspected that the hostility that Sam had shown him over the summer was just for show.
He found a set of bookshelves and a couch with a pull-out bed that were well made and they fit the requirements that Grace had specified so he bought them. Sam wanted to pay for them but Nicholas told him not to worry about it.
"At least let me pay for Grace's half," Sam said.
Grace's half? What did that mean? "Don't worry about it Sam," he reiterated. "We have enough money for this sort of stuff." Actually they had enough money for all sorts of stuff, Nicholas had put most of his movie money into the stock market and had gotten really lucky with a couple of trades. That cellulose-based plastic cup company had won a contract with Burger King and he'd made thirty-seven thousand dollars on it alone, and he still owned some shares in it.
"You have enough money Nicholas, I'm not sure about Grace," Sam said. Cleary he still thought of them as separate entities.
Nicholas paused. He might as well ask Sam now. He had been planning on asking him soon anyway and he seemed like he was in a good mood. A furniture store wasn't exactly what he had in mind but you've got to take your opportunities when they come.
"Sam... how would you feel if I told you that I was planning on asking Grace to marry me?"
There was silence for a few seconds.
"Well, I guess I'd be happy." It looked like Sam was trying to repress a smile. The corner of one side of his mouth was turned up just slightly.
Nicholas breathed out. He hadn't realized that he'd been holding his breath. "Okay. Can I have your permission to ask your daughter to marry me?"
Sam was smiling outright now, he looked like he was enjoying this. He started laughing. "Of course Nicholas."
Nicholas didn't get it. "What's so funny?"
"I just didn't realize you were so old fashioned. I hope you don't expect me to pay you a dowry," he joked.
Nicholas looked at him completely deadpan and said in a very serious voice, "Sam, I am Indian you know."
Sam stopped laughing and a look of shock passed over his face, his bright blue eyes bulged out of his head and his mouth gaped open.
Nicholas let him suffer for a few seconds before he started laughing. "You should see the look on your face Sam. I should take a photo."
Sam caught on that it was a joke and started laughing again. Nicholas fought the urge to dodge and let him land a punch on his arm.
"So, can I ask you a stupid question?" Nicholas asked.
"Sure, it seems like you're on a roll," Sam teased.
Nicholas smiled and rolled his eyes. "Do you think Grace would want me to choose a ring and surprise her with it, or should I have her choose it herself?"
"Ah..." Sam appeared to be thinking about it. "I know what your dad would say. He would say to surprise her, but I don't know if I agree or not. She is the one who is going to have to wear it and look at it for the rest of her life, I think she deserves a say in it."
"Yeah, that's what I was thinking too. There are so many different styles, I don't know what she would like best."
"Do you know how you're going to ask?" Sam was being surprisingly chatty, he actually seemed to be excited.
"Huh? No. I probably wont do it for ages, I just thought that I'd mention it while I had you here on your own."
"Oh." He seemed disappointed.
"How did you ask Emma?" Nicholas asked. He had heard his mom and dad's story a million times but he'd never heard about Sam and Emma's engagement.
Sam smiled. "We were in Europe, riding our bicycles through the Alps. I am terrible at languages, especially pronunciation, so whenever I needed to talk to anyone I'd just get my phrasebook out and point to the phrase that I wanted to say or point to what I wanted, but Emma wanted to talk. The problem was that as soon as people realized we were American they'd start speaking English.
"Finally we pulled into this tiny little town in a beautiful valley and Emma went into the store to buy food for lunch. I guess there was a kid behind the counter who was more than happy to speak French and she came back out with a paper bag full of food and a huge smile on her face. All I saw was a loaf of bread poking out of the top so I didn't think anything of it, I just shoved it in my pannier and off we went up the side of a mountain.
"Well, we got half way up and decided to stop for lunch at a pullout that had a nice view. We got settled and Emma pulled out the bag of food, but everything was all wrong, she'd bought potatoes instead of apples and some weird crusty cheese that smelled like ass. Instead of cured meat she had bought a brick of lard. The look on her face was priceless and I started laughing, and then she started laughing, and I just asked."
Sam stared off into the distance, smiling, caught in his memories.
"I hadn't planned on asking her when we were in Europe. I was probably going to do something really boring and cliché, I'm not really that creative when it comes to real life, but it was just a perfect moment, you know? She was so beautiful and so happy that I couldn't not ask.