Behind His Eyes
Consequences - 4
Thank you to everyone who has made my story real! Thank you for your support and devotion. I’m constantly awed by your dedication to Tony and Claire. If it weren’t for your questions and messages, I would never have continued with these reading companions.
Thank you for encouraging me to experience the other side of the Consequences!
The CONSEQUENCES series contains dark adult content. Although there is not excessive use of description and detail, the content contains innuendos of kidnapping, rape, and abuse—both physical and mental. If you’re unable to read this material, please do not purchase. If you are ready, welcome aboard and enjoy the ride!
Note From Aleatha
Before purchasing, please understand that this is not a standalone book. It was not meant to be read independently of THE CONSEQUENCES SERIES. It was meant as a companion, to be read following the experience of the ENTIRE CONSEQUENCES SERIES.
This was not designed as a retell of the entire novel CONSEQUENCES from Anthony Rawlings’ perspective and as such, will not make sense on its own. It was meant to share significant scenes and behind-the-scenes information.
Therefore, after you have completed CONSEQUENCES, TRUTH, AND CONVICTED, please join me for a dark journey into the mind of a man who believes that he controls everything and controls nothing.
Join me for an insight into the man who …
Once upon a time, signed a napkin that he knew was a contract. As an esteemed businessman, he forgot one very important rule—he forgot to read the fine print. It wasn’t an acquisition to own another person as he’d previously assumed. It was an agreement to acquire a soul.
—Aleatha Romig, CONVICTED
This companion centers on CONSEQUENCES and includes chapter references to that novel. The end of this companion also contains a glossary of characters and a timeline of significant events in CONSEQUENCES. Soon, BEHIND HIS EYES—TRUTH and BEHIND HIS EYES—CONVICTED (The missing years) will be available. The glossary and timeline will grow with each companion.
Thank you again for your support!
Before the beginning - fall 2004
Men may know many things by seeing; but no prophet can see before the event, nor what end waits for him.
Anthony Rawlings’ private jet soared east toward Indiana. Looking around the cabin, he took in the empty seats. It wasn’t often that he flew alone. Most of his travels were business-related, and he had assistants, negotiators, and legal counsel who usually accompanied him. This trip was different—sudden, unexpected, and confidential. The only person who knew of this trip was his pilot and trusted employee, Eric. He wouldn’t discuss the business of this trip with anyone; of that, Anthony was confident. There were other aspects of the journey that didn’t leave him as secure.
Throughout the years, Anthony had become a public figure and had a reputation that needed to be upheld. To that end, he surrounded himself with the best—the best people, business decisions, and belongings. Rarely did Anthony Rawlings act impulsively. Every move was considered, debated, and evaluated—yet this trip could qualify as impetuous. He never considered flying to Indiana until he received the phone call informing him of the automobile accident claiming the lives of Jordon and Shirley Nichols. Truthfully, even now, the trip wasn’t necessary. He’d told the private investigator who’d called to attend the funeral and take pictures; nonetheless, as he hung up the telephone, Anthony knew that wouldn’t be enough.
He’d been observing Claire Nichols from afar for over a year. Enjoying the freedom that comes with seclusion, Anthony leafed through the most recent report from the PI for the umpteenth time. It contained pictures of Claire—lots of pictures. He couldn’t pinpoint his curiosity regarding this girl; after all, she was just a child—merely a sophomore in college! Catherine called it an obsession, and more than once, she claimed that it was unhealthy. She reminded him that the names on their list needed to remain just that—names, not people. That sounded good in principle, and for most on their list, it was possible. Claire Nichols was different. He found himself drawn to her, wanting to know more; however, Anthony wouldn’t classify his interest as an obsession—it was more of a diversion.
In real life, he had a lot on his plate. Rawlings Industries was doing well, very well. He had more than enough to keep him busy. Claire Nichols was something of a fantasy, his distraction, like an exhibit at the zoo. Perhaps that was a bad analogy. Animals at the zoo can only be watched. At first, that was what he did with the Nichols girls: he watched. Then, with time, he experimented. What good is having money if you can’t use it to your enjoyment? He wanted to know if he could influence the lives on their list. Emily Nichols didn’t hold the draw that, somehow, her younger sister possessed; therefore, he made a few calls and learned some information. With his connections, it wasn’t difficult to take that information and change the course of history. A call here, another there, and suddenly, Claire’s suitor had an amazing intern opportunity across the country. It was exhilarating and proved that Anthony could manipulate Claire’s world. She was young, vivacious, and attractive; he doubted that his impact thus far would prove significant, but it proved that without a doubt, he could influence the course of her life. That knowledge was intoxicating and addicting. He continually wondered how far he could go.
As the saying went, knowledge was power, and Anthony Rawlings thrived on power. In everyday life, he had the power to change lives—those of employees and the futures of companies. Claire Nichols was unlike those decisions made from behind the desk as a CEO. Altering her life was done covertly, without Claire’s knowledge. The risk of discovery added to his elation.
Placing the most recent photos of Claire into a file folder and securing them in his briefcase, Anthony closed his eyes. The ever-present voice that worked day and night pushing his inner drive for success began to fill his thoughts. There were times that Anthony yearned for the real live, breathing mentor who’d influenced his life in such a dramatic way, but that wasn’t possible. His grandfather, Nathaniel Rawls, had been taken from him and from the rest of his family by the workings of seemingly inconsequential people—people who had changed the Rawls family forever. Not only did they change it—they eliminated it. The name Rawls ceased to exist.
It was a favor Anthony Rawlings intended to return.
Nathaniel’s voice echoed in his thoughts … words that Anthony would never forget, words that were aimed toward both Sherman Nichols and Jonathon Burke. Not just them—hell, no. They took away my world. They took my family. Their damn kids, their kids, and their kids’ kids … they’ll all face the consequences of their actions!
That promise was spoken by the once powerful entrepreneurial giant who’d been reduced to nothing more than a common prisoner. Nathaniel’s threat repeated as a constant cadence in Anthony’s life, often accompanied by the shame now associated with his birth name. Public shame—failure for the world to see, all of it brought on by those individuals. Anthony had been born a Rawls—Anton Rawls. He longed for his current success to honor the name his grandfather wore proudly as a soldier and a businessman; however, that homage would never be. Each time he penned the name Anthony Rawlings on a contract, a completed business deal, or a monumental acquisition, he’d recall his grandfather’s words, and the roots of Nathaniel’s final desire would plunge deeper into his being. Those roots were now so ingrained and intertwined that they completed one another. He didn’t know when it had become so consuming, yet it filled so much of him—had pushed away other desires and feelings—until Anthony couldn’t imagine his life without the vendetta. It wasn’t debatable; Nathaniel’s wish would be fulfilled. Without fulfilling Nathaniel’s wish, Anthony Rawlings would be incomplete.
Anthony didn’t ask for the rewind reel of Nathaniel’s voice, which continually ran through his subconscious, and he didn’t need it. No, he had an everyday living, breathing reminder of his obligation—his grandfather’s second wife. Perhaps, without Anthony realizing, she was wise with her words. She never told Anthony that he failed his grandfather; instead, she’d subtly remind him that he had yet to succeed. Although her impatience grated on him, she was one of the few people Anthony allowed to fully voice her thoughts—especially when it involved his decisions. He overlooked her redundancy, because she too had lost everything. Anthony knew that if it weren’t for him, she’d have lost more, but the truth stared at him with steel-gray eyes almost every day. It was his failure in controlling his father’s vengeance that cost Nathaniel’s wife dearly.
Overlooking her reminders was Anthony’s penitence. He’d promised Nathaniel that he would look after Marie. If he’d succeeded in stopping his father’s retaliation, things could have been different. When Marie lost her last name, Anthony failed Nathaniel. He also failed his parents the night they died. He wouldn’t fail Nathaniel again.
The way Anthony reasoned, his planning, or procrastination as Marie called it, regarding the vendetta had paid off. Although he allowed her prompts for retaliation, he also reminded her that Anthony Rawlings worked on his own schedule and towards his own goals. Their list of children had grown shorter by the day through natural attrition. Jonathon Burke and his wife, Sherman Nichols and his wife, and now Jordon Nichols and his wife were gone. The original two and their wives passed away of natural causes. He had provided the funds to watch their health fail from afar, but his true interest lay in observing their children and their children. The PI explained that wet leaves were believed to be involved in Jordon and Shirley Nichols’ automobile crash. Anthony didn’t care about the cause, as long as he could cross them off their list. Now, his concern centered on the next generation.
As the plane touched down, his anticipation built … instead of pictures and reports, he would, for the first time, see Emily and Claire Nichols in person.
In an effort to minimize his visibility, Anthony dressed down and walked to the back of the church’s sanctuary. It didn’t take long for him to realize he could easily be lost in the crowd. The Nichols had been well-respected members of their community, and the church was overflowing with mourners. He’d never been to a funeral with so many people willing to speak. Apparently, Jordon had been a first-rate policeman; the church was wall-to-wall with uniformed officers. Shirley had also been a well-loved teacher. As the afternoon wore on, Anthony couldn’t help but watch Claire. She was seated next to her sister, and often, the two held onto one another’s hands. That wasn’t what captivated him. What caught his attention was how Emily had the man to her left. Anthony knew he was John Vandersol, Emily’s longtime boyfriend. Occasionally, Emily would break down and John would console her. Claire, on the other hand, remained steadfast. The pain was visible in her expression, yet only occasionally did she bow her head or wipe her eyes. Her stoic veneer fascinated him. Was she truly that strong? What were her limits? Could she be broken?
Anthony assumed that if he hadn’t lured Simon Johnson away to California, the young man would be present to offer Claire his shoulder. That had been Anthony’s first attempt to manipulate her life, and it had been too easy. He would continue to look for more opportunities.
The preacher spoke, countless people gave their condolences, but Anthony’s mind was on Claire’s future. As he watched her, he thought about all he knew. He didn’t know how long her future would last; however, he did know that it was now at his discretion, and in some way, he would be a part of it.