Claiming His Secret Son

By: Olivia Gates

One

Richard Graves adjusted his electric recliner, sipped a mouthful of straight bourbon and hit Pause.

The image on the hundred-plus-inch TV screen stilled, eliminating the unsteadiness of the recording. Murdock, his second-in-command, had taken the footage while following his quarry on foot. The quality was expectedly unsatisfactory, but the frame he’d paused was clear enough to bring a smile to his lips.

The only time a smile touched his lips, or he experienced emotions of any sort, was when he looked at her. At that graceful figure and energetic step, that animated face and streaming raven hair. At least, he guessed they were emotions. He had no frame of reference. Not in the past quarter of a century.

What he remembered feeling in his youth was so distant, it was as if he’d heard about it from someone else. Which was accurate. The boy he’d been before he’d joined The Organization—the criminal cartel that abducted and imprisoned children and turned them into unstoppable mercenaries—though as tough as nails, still held no resemblance to the invulnerable bastard everyone believed him—rightfully so—to be.

From what he remembered before his metamorphosis, and even after it, the most he’d felt had been allegiance, protectiveness, responsibility. For his best-friend-turned-nemesis Numair, for his disciple-turned-ally Rafael and to varying degrees for the Black Castle blokes—his reluctant partners in their globe-spanning business empire, Black Castle Enterprises—and their own. But that was where he drew the line in noble sentiments. What came naturally to him were dark, extreme, vicious ones. Power lust, vengeance, mercilessness.

So it never failed to stun him when beholding her provoked something he’d believed himself incapable of feeling. What he could only diagnose as...tenderness. He’d been feeling it regularly since he’d upgraded his daily ritual of reading surveillance reports on her to watching footage of what Murdock thought were relevant parts of her day.

Anyone, starting with her, would be horrified to learn he’d been keeping her under a microscope for years. And interfering in her life however he saw fit, undetectably changing the dynamics of the world she inhabited. He broke a dozen laws on a daily basis, from breach of privacy to coercion to...far worse, in his ongoing mission of being her guardian demon. Not that this was even a concern. The law existed for him to either break...or wield as a weapon.

But he was concerned she’d ever sense his surveillance or suspect his interference. Even if she never suspected it was him behind it all.

After all, she didn’t even know he was alive.

As far as she knew he’d been lost since she was six. He doubted she even remembered him. Even if she did, it was best for her to continue thinking him gone, too.

Like the rest of their family.

So he only watched over her. As he had since she was born. At least, he’d tried to. There’d been years when he’d been powerless to protect her. But the moment he could, he’d given her a second chance for a safe and normal existence.

He sighed as he froze another image. He vividly remembered the day his parents had brought her home. Such a tiny, helpless creature. He’d been the one to give her her name. His little Rose.

She wasn’t little now and certainly not helpless, but a surgeon, a wife, a mother and a social activist. He might help her here and there, but her achievements had all been ones of merit. He just made sure she got what she worked so hard for and abundantly deserved.

Now she had a successful career, a vocation and a husband who adored her—one he’d thoroughly vetted before letting him near her—and two children. Her family was picture-perfect, and not only on the outside.

Unfreezing the video, he huffed and tossed back the last of the bourbon. If only the Black Castle lads knew that he, aka Cobra, the most lethal operative The Organization had ever known and who was now responsible for their collective security, spent his evenings watching the sister they didn’t know existed, who didn’t know he existed, go about her very normal life. He’d never hear the end of it.

Suddenly he frowned, realizing something.

This footage didn’t make sense. Rose was entering her and her husband’s new private practice in Lower Manhattan. Murdock always only included new developments, emergencies or anything else that was out of the ordinary.

So watching Rose was his only source of enjoyment. But when he’d told Murdock to provide samples of Rose’s normal activities, he’d stared emptily at him then continued to provide him only with what he considered worth seeing.

Had Murdock now decided to heed him and start giving him snippets of Rose walking down the street or shopping or picking her children up from school?

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