“You know I, uh—” He cleared his throat and leaned forward in his chair. I could see him staring at me now through my peripheral. “I never got the chance to thank you.”
“For what?” I asked a little harsher than necessary.
“For saving my kid’s life. I… I know what the doctors might say about him being my son—”
“He’s your son,” I affirmed. “He doesn’t deserve to have someone like Mitch being his father.”
“I haven’t been the best father either. To either of you.”
“I’m not your son.”
“Yes, you are, Keiran. In the only way that counts.”
“Is that why you made Sophia forget I existed?”
“It’s not that simple. At the time, I thought it was the best thing to do to protect the family I still had. I screwed up. Bad. It’s something I live with everyday, and I’m reminded of it every time I look into your eyes because I know what you could have become and what you almost became.”
“You’re wrong. There’s no almost about it. I did become, and it’s staring you right in your face. You’re fucked if you don’t see it.”
“I’m sure you survived something far worse than I would wish on my worst enemy, but you are not beyond saving. You are your own worst enemy now, but I love you despite it.”
“I’ve seen what your love does. No thanks.”
“But you have it anyway. You have it from me, your brother… because he is your brother,” he emphasized when I made an attempt to interrupt him. “You have it from Dash and that girl… the one with the weird eyes.”
“What the fuck do you think you know about her?” My body tightened in defense mode, and I had to tell myself to pipe down. I wasn’t supposed to care.
“Not much. But I see what you refuse to, and I know you will find some way to screw that up because you think it would be better for her. You don’t do that if you don’t care.”
“So maybe I keep her.” I felt my lip curl and eyes burn as I glared at him. “That would suit me best, and I could fuck her over along the way. At least then I could keep my personality.”
“I won’t let you hurt that girl anymore. Sheldon told me what happened, and what you did. I know she was there the night Keenan was shot. What were you thinking?”
“I was thinking I could get my revenge and my rocks off at the same time. I mean… why not, right?”
He looked away from me to stare out the window.
“I guess I can’t blame you. Part of this is my fault.”
I half expected him to lash or demand respect or whatever it is that parents do, but he didn’t. He sat back with a shake of his head and rubbed his chin thoughtfully. I fixed my gaze on Keenan. My cousin, brother, best friend, and the first person who actually gave a fuck about me. I know it may look as if I was the one to give him a chance ten years ago, but it was he who gave me a chance, and I corrupted him.
John spun a tale of how Sophia ran off because she couldn’t handle the pressure of having a kid, and I helped him. It was a seriously fucked thing to do, but at the time, there weren’t two people who hated her more. John, for his reasons and me, for mine. I think he even regrets loving her.
“You did the right thing, you know.”
“What’s that?” I asked without taking my eyes off Keenan. Wake up, man.
“Not telling him the truth about your mother and my part in your disappearance. Thank you.”
“You know the corny line people always hear in movies? I never thought I would use it, but… yeah. I didn’t do it for you.”
“Do you think we made it any better? Telling him his mother was a selfish whore who couldn’t keep her legs closed and didn’t have the maternal instincts of a goat?”
“Watch your mouth,” he barked.
“Oh, that’s right. We don’t tell the truth in this family. We throw money around to cover up our bullshit and step on anyone who gets in the way. You did a fine job of raising us. No wonder our family is dying out. Who would want to be born into a scumbag family like this?”
“Keiran, I’m warning you…”
“At least, I know early on. I guess you can say marriage is out. I sure as fuck ain’t giving some unlucky bitch my seed so she can sprout more evil spawns just like me. I’m cruel, but I’m not that cruel. I guess that’s more than I can say for you and my pussy ass father.”
John was out of his seat with my shirt in his hands before I could fully release ‘father’ from my lips. His eyes were nearly black with rage as he stared down at me, almost lifting my feet off the ground.
“Watch your fucking mouth.”
“Truth hurts like a dick in the ass, doesn’t it?” I grinned at him, and I guess that might have been a mistake because the next thing you know, I was flying across the room, crashing into the door behind me. I watched John’s face redden, and the muscles and veins in his neck pop but instead of charging as I expected, he stood in place.
I let out a laugh that was misplaced.
What can I say? His anger amused me.
My hoarse laugh started to die from the beginning sound of a groan as Keenan woke from his drug-induced slumber. I was completely silent as soon as his eyes popped open and immediately landed on me. Even though he was doped up with drugs and painkillers, his eyes became clearer as they took me in.