SarEr sat in the back of the black Mercedes counting back from a hundred. His temper was running high and the need to lash out was strong. He hated it when his father pulled him back home this way. Treating him like a child when he clearly wasn’t. Humiliating him in front of all those people, what was the need of such a show of power? One bodyguard would have been fine. Ten men! Closing his eyes, he took in a deep breath and restarted his counting.
The car made a sharp turn making him open his eyes and reach for the door handle to keep steady. The fact that he needed to hold on at all should have clued him in on the danger he was in, and how fast the car was going, but he didn’t want to think about it. All he knew was that they had pulled him back from a place he enjoyed. Being with Zun and Xiao Wei was like going to paradise. Shaking his head, he glared at the approaching high black gates. Five armed guards prowled the gates, their eyes watchful. The moment they saw the entourage of cars, the black gates slid open smoothly to reveal pristine manicured grounds.
When he’d been five years old, he’d looked forward to coming back home each time his father would take him out on an outing or even just a short walk to the town. But now that was gone. His mother had been alive then, and the excitement of telling her everything he’d seen had been a highlight in his life. She’d loved laughing at his tales. The sound of her laugh still lingered in his memories. It had been infectious and lively. An image of the slender, elegant Ariel Nan flitted in his memory and SarEr shook his head to send it away. He really didn’t want to think about his mother right now. There was always a very dark void surrounding her in his head. All he remembered was one day she’d been planning a birthday party for him and the next he’d been standing beside his father at her funeral holding her picture. Frowning, he took in his surroundings with a resigned attitude.
The Nan Estate was no longer a home but a gilded prison to him, designed to keep everyone out as much as keep those inside in. Build on ten acres of land on the outskirts of the little rental city, the westernized mansion was built by the beach and equipped with all the modern security gadgets that technology could offer in this century. As though the master of the estate didn’t trust the technology, men were posted around the place to guard the gates and the house. SarEr always felt like he was walking through some barracks instead of his home. His father’s paranoia seemed to have escalated after his mother’s death since she’d been killed in the house, a gunshot to her back. After her funeral, Choi Yang Nan had turned his house into a fort.
The black Mercedes drove up to the main entrance and stopped by the stairs. A guard immediately opened the door for SarEr and he got out with a grim expression. There was no point asking why he was home. Obviously, someone had rung in another death threat. The story of his life, he scoffed. Storming up the steps, he walked into the already open front door and through the foyer. The butler, who was also another bodyguard, indicated the office his father used. SarEr headed for the double doors with determination, not bothering to knock, he pushed the doors open with restrained violence.
There were three men who sat around his father’s desk in deep discussion. They all glanced up when they saw him. Keeping his gaze firmly on his father’s unaffected one, he crossed his arms against his chest.
“Leave us,” SarEr said quietly to the three men. Now that he was here, his blood was boiling at a very dangerous temperature. He was tired of this, tired of being tied down by who he was and the people his father worked with. He deserved a free life.
The men glanced back at his father for confirmation. Choi Yang nodded in agreement and the men got up and left the room without another word making sure to close the door. SarEr glared at his father from where he stood. He feared if he moved even an inch he might start ranting wildly.
“Are you going to spend every day of your life angry with me, SarEr?” Choi Yang asked in a deceptively gentle tone.
SarEr was momentarily taken aback by that tone. He hadn’t heard it in ages, and hearing it now was not helping the situation. He didn’t want his anger diluted. He needed for them to have a shouting match about this. It couldn’t keep happening. He was twenty years old, and life had to be more than death threats and bodyguards.
“Take it away,” SarEr said through gritted teeth. “Stop trying to control me, I really hate it. I’m not a child anymore.”
Knowing exactly what SarEr was talking about, Choi Yang leaned back in his chair and shook his head. “No.”
“Father, you have to free me sometime. I can’t live like this forever,” SarEr said frustrated by his father’s continued calm composure. He was starting to feel like an idiot with all the anger boiling inside him. “Stop punishing me this way.”
“I am not punishing you. I’m keeping you safe. People want to hurt you to get to me, and I won’t allow it. Besides, look at you right now? How can you tell me you’re not a child when you look like that?”
SarEr glanced down at his shorts and sleeveless top. He was in disarray, sweaty and the dressing down made him look younger, but that still didn’t mean he should be denied his free time.
“I was playing a game with Zun. You allowed that, don’t take it away.” SarEr shook his head unable to understand why he had to keep suffering for the sake of the Yang Nan business.
“I won’t, but you have to take the security. Remember, give and take, SarEr. That is how we compromise; you need to keep your end of the bargain.” Choi Yang shrugged and swung his chair gently from side to side. “You’re important to me, I can’t lose you.”
“I don’t want to live like this anymore,” SarEr protested. Damn his father and his deals. It had taken quite a bit to reach that stupid compromise to have it thrown back in his face now. He shook his head and ran a hand through his hair. That feeling of being in prison returned and he let out a harsh breath hoping for salvation. Suddenly he didn’t care who wanted him dead. If they were going to try then he was giving them permission. Just so that it would be over and done with. He would do anything to get away from living like this.
“You are who you are, SarEr, you can’t escape it no matter where you go. Isn’t that why you got those tattoos on your wrists? You’ve even branded yourself that you’re my son,” Choi Yang said firmly. “Accept it and stop fighting it. This will all end up being yours anyway, you should start preparing for it.”
Turning his wrists over, SarEr stared at the tattoos on his inner wrists. They were kanji symbols of his name and his father’s name. His father had been furious with him when he got them. It had been a rebellion of sorts after evading yet another kidnap attempt. His father had called it a crime against his body. Looking at his father now and that stable firm gaze, he understood one thing. No matter how much he raged or yelled, the bodyguards would remain, they would even increase if things got worse. There was nothing to be done about that. Sighing, SarEr capitulated.
“What happened this time?” he asked with resignation. He wasn’t even sure he wanted to know. He already knew the drill. Having too much money and power in the right places also meant carrying around burdens of unsatisfied business partners, jealous people and sick psychos who just wanted to kidnap for money.
“A report came from the security team, they got some threatening letters from someone unknown,” Choi Yang explained quietly. “I think the investigation into your mother’s death is prompting the letters. I’m afraid we have a problem within the organization itself.”
SarEr winced. He’d almost forgotten about that. His mother’s murder was still not solved. His father kept overturning stones that sometimes meant threats to stop probing for the culprit. It scared him to think about it. He wished his father would stop looking into it. But how could he tell him? His mother deserved justice. Swallowing hard, he asked quietly, “Do you have a suspect?”
“The investigators are saying she would have known the person. Otherwise, the entire estate would have been alerted if it were someone we didn’t know. Whoever it is is also aware of my investigations and I’m afraid it’s putting you in danger as well.”
SarEr shook his head. He always tried not to ask about the details, because when he did, the answers made him angry. He didn’t want to imagine that someone he knew had killed her. Cursing under his breath, he ran a hand down his face. Damn it, how he hated the reality of dealing with his mother’s murder. It hurt to think about her. It hurt more to watch his father try to get justice for her. “I’ll be in my rooms.”
“Don’t leave the estate, SarEr. Don’t give Han a hard time today,” Choi Yang warned.
SarEr glanced at his father for a moment, noting the frown on the older man’s forehead. His father was a handsome man, in his mid forties. He had an arrogant tilt to his chin and his eyes were sharp under the reading glasses that were resting on the bridge of his nose. He wore his hair long, and in a queue at the back of his head. SarEr remembered playing with it when he’d been young and Choi Yang had carried him. Those days his father’s smile had come readily, now the man’s lips were always set in a grim line. He missed his father’s smile as much as he missed his mother’s laugh. Judging from the recent events, he doubted he was going to be seeing it any time soon. Giving a shrug, he bowed slightly to his father and turned heading for the door. So much for his anger, he thought as he closed it. He’d get a shower and go to sleep, tomorrow he had two hours with Zun, he could hold on until then.