“Should I take that as a no?”
“You bet your ass,” she snapped.
I rose from the bed to stalk toward her, wearing what I knew was an intimidating expression. While a part of me liked her new defiance, the other half wasn’t willing to give up control. The last thing I needed was for her to think she was free from me. I backed her up until the back of her thighs touched the dresser and then lifted her to sit on the polished top and held her there.
“Your desperate attempt to be someone you’re not is only giving me the ammunition I need to have you at my feet begging for my mercy.”
I took her chin gently in my hand and lifted her face, forcing her to witness the cold manipulation calculating in my eyes.
“You remember what that’s like, don’t you?” A whisper, and then a soft kiss was unexpectedly pressed against her lips. “Only this time, I won’t need to coerce you, force you, or threaten you. You’ll do it for me, baby. Just like you always have.”
* * *
I never thought I’d walk these halls again. Sometimes I thought even I could be a bit dramatic, but the way my already fucked up existence had been spinning on its axis, I was deserving of a few dramatic moments.
The weekend was the longest of my life. It took everything in me to stay away from Monroe. I spent my days dodging Arthur, Mario, and John, while sneaking in and out of the hospital to see Keenan while he was asleep. Not to mention, my unsuccessful search for Mitch in between. For a greedy fuck, he was great at hiding. I guess years of borrowing money from dangerous sources, and failing to pay back what’s due, afforded you particular skills.
“How’s it hanging, man?” Dash greeted as he walked through the front entrance where I was hanging. It was a little early, but I wanted to beat Monroe at her own game. I wanted to know the exact moment when she walked through these doors.
“A little lower and a little to the right…” I stopped short when I realized what I was saying. That was usually Keenan’s line and a standing joke between the two of them. I scowled at Dash, who only smirked at me, unfazed by my anger.
“I miss him, too,” Dash offered.
“What the fuck are you doing, Dash?”
“Not pretending he’s already dead,” he barked.
“Fuck off. I’m not in the mood for your shit.”
“You need to talk to him. You sneak in and out of his hospital room trying to protect him, and yet you haven’t spoken one word to him.”
“How about I put one in your mother’s head and see if you would be ready to engage me in conversation.”
I never saw the blow to my face coming. Hell, I could barely see after his fist impacted with my face, snapping my neck to the right. “Too fucking far,” Dash gritted.
I didn’t apologize. I wouldn’t. He knew that, so I let him have his pound of flesh without retaliating.
“I don’t know what went on in your fucking past, but at some point, you are going to have to man the fuck up and leave it in the past. It’s getting old, man. It’s getting real old. Whoever they made you to be doesn’t have to survive.”
Usually, I didn’t give a shit what someone thought or the invaluable shit they had to say, but he always knew where to strike.
I straightened from the wall and met his eyes, matching his stance. It wasn’t about who the bigger man was. I just needed to see the truth in his eyes.
“How many people have you been forced to kill including your own fucking mother? How many days have you starved? How many nightmares have you had? How many people have you been forced to fuck as a child?”
“None,” he answered in a hard tone. Dash was a hard person to shake. It was one of the reasons why I respected him the most even though I had a shitty way of showing it.
“So, if you ever have to do even one of those things, then you can let me know when it gets old.”
“That was ten years ago, Keiran. If you want to continue to live your life as if you are still someone’s fucking slave, then do so. You’re capable of making your own choices. I’m only allowed to care about you, but at some point, you have to stop inflicting your own personal form of punishment on the people close to you.”
He stalked off and disappeared down the hall.
Dash never usually called me out on my shit, but when he did, it only served to make me angrier. Self-righteous asses like him were what made me hold on tighter to who I was. I gave up on trying to be good a long time ago. It was a hopeless pursuit for people who weren’t born with it. Arthur was the one to teach me that the first time I met him…
I felt like I had bathed in blood. My face, hair, and hands were covered in it, but it didn’t belong to me. The bound, nameless man, whose throat I just cut open, stared up at me with lifeless eyes. Each time I took someone’s life, I would start to feel guilt, and each time, I beat it down. It had been a year now since I made my first kill. I was still considered in ‘training’, as they called it, because of my age and size. Frank said I wouldn’t be ready to be on my own until I was far older, and this was just a mere introduction.
It already felt so very real.
The beginning had been rocky, and I suffered countless beatings. I could never understand what they wanted me to do. Sometimes, even now, it was a little hard to understand. I would do what they ordered me to do when they ordered me to do it.
I didn’t dare tell them about the nightmares. They would see it as a weakness and beat me for it.