“Erin!” He says, following me out the front.
I head down the steps. I just want to go for a walk, let him calm down a bit. I make it halfway before I can't stop the tears & I sit down.
Mark slowly descends the stairs & sits down beside me. We sit in silence for a while, before he finally decides to put his right arm around me. I lean into him, crying as he presses a kiss into my hair.
“Were you ever going to tell me?” He asks.
“What? That I fell madly in love with an idiot named Eddie? Or the fact that he's related to your nemesis?”
“Both,” he replies. “But more the latter.”
I sniff. “I was kinda hoping… Never.”
He rubs my back. “I’d rather you be honest, than avoid the truth. I’d rather hear it from you, than anyone else.”
“Yeah, not my proudest moment,” I reply. “Not telling you and dating that idiot.”
“Just focus on the fact that you're here now. Safe. And so is Felicity.”
I sit up & wipe away tears. “Yeah. Barely.”
“What are you thinking?”
“He's not…” He says, looking at me. “Felicity…”
“God, no!” I reply. “Felicity's dad is another ex.”
“I wish that had worked out.”
“Why didn't it?”
“Ummm…” I sigh. “Jesse was lovely. I thought we could be soulmates. But… I found out way too late that he didn't want kids. Not that I knew that I was pregnant when he told me, but… I was pregnant.”
He rubs my back again.
“I told him & we had a huge argument,” I say. “I think part of him believed that I had intentionally gotten pregnant to trap him. Force him into being a family with me. But I hadn't.” I sigh. “We broke up. I said I wanted to keep her, & he agreed to help pay for things. Help pay to raise her.”
“Does he know about this?”
I shake my head. “Last time I heard, he was posted in Afghanistan,” I reply. “He joined the army when Felicity was a couple of months old.”
“Don't be mad. He's allowed to live his life.”
“While you end up with an abusive idiot related to the nastiest criminal.”
“True. But Felicity has her protective Uncle Markie looking out for her.”
He looks at me, eyes slightly narrowed. “Don't you dare play the cute niece card on me.”
“Well, you didn't know you had one for eighteen months of her life,” I reply. “Gotta make up all the missed opportunities to use it on you.”
“It's good to see you smile again.”
I smile. “Being around you is lifting my spirits.”
“Awwww, did you miss me?”
“Ya duhhhh!” I reply. “I miss the days when you used to solve all my problems.”
“Problems being mostly boys trying to hit on you when you were fourteen.”
“And other stuff.”
He nods. “I’ve missed you too.”
I smile. "There's something else you should know.”
He looks worried. “What is it?”
“You know how Eddie is… Is related to Dennis Dimato?”
“How is he?”
“Dennis is his Uncle.”
"Well... Promise me you won't get too angry at this.”
He frowns. “At what?”
“A few weeks ago…” I sigh. “I met Dennis.”
“Please don't be mad!”
“Went waaaaay past that when you said you’ve met the man who almost killed Paige, our twins & me!”
“Okay, do I get the chance to tell my side of things?”
“How about you start by telling me why you let a murderer near Felicity?”
“That's unfair cause I didn't know who he was back then!” I reply. “I didn't know that your Dimato was my boyfriend’s uncle! Do you realise how many people there are in the world with that surname?”
“Alright,” he says, calming down a bit. “How did you figure out who he was?”
“He recognised a photo of you.”
He stares at me. Knowing his anger is brewing again, I grab his hand in both of mine, a tactic I figured out when we were younger to keep him focused on me.
“I wasn't there when he did,” I say. “He saw one when he was at Eddie’s home. I don't even know if he knows that Eddie told me about it.”
“But Dennis knows you're my sister.”
I nod. “Yeah,” I reply. “Eddie said Dennis recognised you, Tyler & Aaron in a photo with me. According to Eddie, he called Tyler ‘an old friend’.”
“Did he say anything about us to you?”
“Don’t call him that!”
“Fine, Dimato didn't say anything about any of you to me,” I reply. “In fact, I met him before he knew who I was.”
He nods. “Did… Did you ever happen to… Overhear them… Discussing anything?”
I sigh, tilting my head to the side. “I knew you'd go there,” I reply. “Good on you for lasting as long as you did.”
“I think less like a cop & more like a protective older brother with you.”
I smile. “Your children are going to be lucky to have you.”
He smiles. “I’m lucky to have them.”
“So… Uh… If I was… Able to… Help you get Den- uhh Dimato…”
He shifts closer. “You will be helping a huge amount,” he says. “So you did you overhear them talking?”
I hesitate before slowly nodding.
"Tell me everything.”
“I don't know,” Erin says, as I follow her back inside.
“Just take a while to think about it,” I reply, shutting the front door.
“Think about what?” Aaron asks from the lounge.
“I told Mark that I overheard Eddie talking with his Uncle Dennis about stuff that Mark wants to use to put him behind bars.”
“Wait,” Tyler says, frowning. “So our sister dated the nephew of our worst nightmare?”
“Yes, but like I told Mark, I didn't know that until recently!” She replies. “And now I’m being pressured into testifying against the most powerful member of probably the biggest criminal family in Australia that's not behind bars. Despite the fact that I’ve just moved interstate to escape them!”
“Erin, I get that you're scared. I really do,” I reply, stepping closer to her. “But putting Dimato behind bars is worth the risk. He's created so much pain & destruction, to the community but also to all of us.”
“I’m lucky the worst Eddie did was give me a black eye,” She replies. “You haven't seen him when he's angry, Mark. You don't know what he’ll do if he finds out that I’m testifying against his Uncle. The pressure from Dimato on Eddie to hit back will be so massive, Mark! And it's not just my life at risk! Like I said before, Felicity will always be my first priority. What you're asking me to do, will put a massive target on my back! Felicity's already growing up without her father. Do not ask me to risk making her motherless!”
I put my hands on her arms, trying to calm her. “I would never put your life at risk without having a plan in place,” I reply. “Agree to this, & the police will ensure that you're safe.”
“What if that's not enough?” She asks, fighting back tears. “What if they can't keep me safe?”
“You're forgetting that I will be there,” I reply, bending my knees so I’m level with her face. “I will always have your back.”
“You're gonna be my bodyguard twenty-four seven?”
I smile. “If that's what it takes… Yes.”
She hesitates. “I’ll think about it.”
I pull her into a hug. She wraps her arms around me tightly, resting her head against my chest.
I’m on my way to my bedroom from the bathroom when Erin slips out of her room, quietly shutting the door behind her.
"I'm glad I caught you," She says, softly.
“Oh? Why?” I reply, softly.
“While I was sitting with Felicity, waiting for her to fall asleep, I’ve been… Thinking.”
“About my offer?”
She nods. “Yeah.”
She sighs. “I kept going back to the same point,” she says. “That even if I refuse to do it, eventually it will come back to bite me. All I want, is for Felicity to be safe. I don't want to spend the rest of my life, looking over my shoulder, fearing whatever retaliation they’ll eventually take.”
“So you’ll do it?”
“I realise now, that taking a stand right now,” She says. “That's the best choice. Face them head on. Eliminate them.”
I smile. “You're doing the right thing.”
“Just make sure we’re protected.”
“Of course, baby sis,” I reply. I reach out to her. “Come here.”
She steps closer, arms wrapping round me as mine wrap around her.
“I’m proud of you,” I whisper, before kissing the top of her head.