“Yeah, but don’t worry. I can take the pain,” he whispered seductively.
“Don’t get too excited. I want a dance out of you first.”
He groaned, and for the first time, Keiran pouted. It would be really interesting to see Keiran dance. “One dance and then I get to have you.”
“Sure. So can I see it now?”
He released my hand and held my gaze as he slowly unbuttoned his shirt. Covering the remnants of how I almost lost him was a tattoo mimicking my handwriting that read ‘Forever, Lake.’
Now I knew why he mysteriously had me write the words on a sheet of paper a few weeks ago.
“I couldn’t take seeing the look in your eyes every time you looked here. It’s not a memory I want you to carry. When you look at me, I want you to see forever. I want you to remember our promise to each other.”
“It’s beautiful. Did Keenan do this?”
He shook his head, and then kissed me, but I think it was more to distract me.
“What are we going to do? Mitch is still out there, and Arthur could get out at any moment.” It was a wonder he hadn’t already, but there were so many fingers pointing and evidence uncovered, including dozens of children found in Canada in a compound like Keiran had described who were finally set free. Arrests of police officers, judges, and nearly all of Arthur’s workers were also made.
“I have something to show you.” He pulled out a sheet of paper, and for a moment, I experienced déjà vu. Was it another letter from his mother?
She took the paper from my hand, but I sensed her hesitation. She turned it over and slowly began to read it. I could see the confusion in her eyes and the way her body tensed. I received the letter today and must have read it over a hundred times. The words were burned into my memory:
Every warrior knows how to fight, but a smart warrior knows when to survive. If you are reading this letter, then I can only assume you are the latter.
I have one question to ask you and that question is simple.
Do you believe in fate?
My daughter came to visit me yesterday. I have you to thank for that. You protected mine without anything in return, so I only felt the need to return the favor. You never know what can come from trusting someone with your secrets…
Two nights ago, I met a powerful man named Arthur. He offered me a great deal in return for protection.
I accepted, but with the price of a secret. A secret much like yours.
He’s no longer a problem.
“I don’t understand. Who is Rufus?”
“He’s an old inmate I met the last time I was in jail. Two years ago, he came looking for his daughter, who was being beaten by her husband, but she couldn’t get out. He confronted her husband, but they got into a bad fight. Unfortunately for him, the husband was a cop and he was an ex-con with a criminal record.”
“The woman… She was Trevor’s mom, wasn’t she? And he’s her father?”
I nodded my head but said nothing.
“Is Arthur really dead?”
I nodded again.
“Did you know Rufus before?”
“No. It was some fucked up coincidence. I don’t even know what made me help her. I just did.”
“Maybe it was your own mother’s past. You said your father abused her.”
“I didn’t know it at the time I helped Trevor’s mom, though.”
“Well, then you know what that means, don’t you?
She leaned close to me and wrapped my arms around her. “It means you’re a hero.”
I swallowed hard against the onslaught of emotion, but mostly for the small ounce of insecurity that I couldn’t be what she needed. “Is a hero what you want?”
She shook her head. “You were born out of greed and you were raised out of greed. You lived your entire life being who someone wanted you to be. Who do you want to be?”
“I want to be yours, but are you sure you can live with a broken love like ours?”
“I think it’s been proven I can take whatever you throw at me. Love is much more powerful than fear.”
I couldn’t deny what we had was born out of darkness, but instead of pulling her into my dark world, she led me to a light I wasn’t sure I even deserved.
I may not be a monster, but I am still anything but a hero.
“I love you, Keiran.”
Still… forever was a long time for change.