He’d just finished speaking when John violently shrugged him off. Caught off-balance by John’s abrupt jerk, Joseph fell to the floor.
Joseph’s moans of pains mingled with Audrey’s piping voice. Joseph made a great effort to get up, but John cruelly stepped on him, hard, condemning him to lie pinned on the ground.
“You were never a match for me. How dare you touch me? You’re really a worthy sidekick for Ashton! A dog behaves exactly like its master. You’re both pathetic,” John spat resentfully. Every word, though directed at Joseph, was clearly meant for Ashton’s ears.
In one swift motion, John took his foot off Joseph, then spun around and sauntered over to Ashton. Without hesitation, John threw a hard punch in Ashton’s face, then immediately followed it with a flying kick.
Ashton flew backward, landing on the grass patch by the curbside. He struggled to stand, but John lunged forward and wrapped both arms around Ashton’s neck. He strangled Ashton and the latter’s face instantly darkened into a deep crimson. The fall had entirely wiped off Ashton’s earlier dignified manner.
“You didn’t see this coming, did you? I wasn’t able to take Letty with me six years ago. I will now,” John jeered. Through gritted teeth, he continued, “Look at you. You haven’t improved at all. Do you expect to be able to keep Scarlett with you based on that feeble amount of strength alone?”
By then, the servants had all crept out of the main house to watch the scene. They fretted over whether they should intervene but ultimately were overcome by their fear. No one stepped forward.
I, too, was dumbfounded by John’s sudden violence. Recovering, however, I glanced at Ashton’s pale face in worry.
Is John really intending to kill Ashton? I thought, horrified.
It seemed that I had no cause for concern, however.
When Joseph staggered over, however, intending to wrench John and Ashton apart, John had already taken a few steps back and was dusting his hands.
Beside me, Audrey was still singing blissfully. “Jingle bells, Jingle bells, jingle all the way…”
John coolly straightened his clothes, then directed an icy look at Ashton’s crumpled body. John then stepped over to where Audrey and I had been waiting and said tenderly, “Let’s go home.”
He once again knelt down and tapped Audrey gently on her shoulder for her to turn around.
As if rehearsed, Audrey spun around on her heels gladly. She clung to John, babbling eagerly, “Did you win, Uncle John? Did you win?”
John gazed at her soberly, then thumbed her on the nose. “Of course, I won! How can Uncle John ever lose, huh?”
“Hooray!” Audrey cried. It all seemed like a game to her where Uncle John had warded off the bad guys. However, her eyes darted alertly to Ashton, who was stumbling to his feet behind John. Audrey’s little brow furrowed at the sight. She pursed her lips, asking tentatively, “Uncle John, were you fighting that bad man just now?”
Audrey made it perfectly evident that she was rather unimpressed. Her frown had deepened almost into a sulk.
John looked behind him uncertainly. The arrogant demeanor John had been wearing from his earlier victory faded. He suddenly looked rather unsure of himself.
Ashton, to everyone’s surprise, rescued John from his humiliation. “Audrey, it’s all right. Daddy just tripped over and fell. It doesn’t hurt at all!” he said brightly.
One would have almost believed him if not for the bright-red specks of blood around his mouth. His smile was almost a grimace.
As he spoke, Ashton occasionally drew in his breath sharply through his teeth. He was clearly in agony. Looking at the sorry sight he made before us, I felt a surge of pity well up within me.
Ashton, are you sure it doesn’t hurt? I wondered.
Audrey was clearly moved. Her large eyes blinked rapidly, tears glittering in them.
Noticing Audrey’s distress, John hastily picked her up, soothing her. He pressed Audrey’s head into his chest, then turned to look at Ashton scornfully. “I raised Audrey for six years and can count the number of times I’ve made her cry on one hand. Look at her state after just meeting you once. Do you think she’s really better off with you?”
Without waiting for Ashton to respond, John turned to me. “Let’s go,” he said curtly.
Ashton was clearly incapacitated and could not restrain John. I thus followed John out obediently.
John had parked his car outside the villa. Once the three of us had gotten on, he immediately stepped hard on the accelerator. The car flew towards the suburbs.
“Where are you bringing me to?” I asked curiously.
John gave me a look through the rearview mirror. He then said blandly, “To the airport. I’ve hired a private plane for us. It’ll be arriving shortly.”