“I think I was punishing myself and looking for someone to blame.” That was only partly true, but how did I tell her I had punished her because of a ghost?
“Did you love her?”
What the hell?
It took everything in me not to scream my denial. What I felt for Lily was the need to protect the small light I had in my dark, dark world. What I felt for Lake was… indescribable but I knew without having to define it that it was dangerous.
“Because you don’t believe in love?”
Wrong. It was because someone like me would never be capable of love, but still I asked, “Would you?”
“How did your father get you back?” she asked instead. “Wouldn’t they have killed you when you ruined their plans?”
“I wasn’t killed for disobeying them by a stroke of luck named Mario. It seems his only vice was child prostitution and pornography. He saved me from being killed and severed his business ties with his partner shortly after. However, not before leaving me a way to contact him if I ever needed anything or, more so, if I ever wanted to work for him. I didn’t fool myself to think he cared.”
“And your father?”
“A couple of weeks after Lily died, I was snuck from the compound by one of the runners my father had in his pocket.” It just went to show anyone could be bought for even the smallest of prices. If my father was broke, then I knew what he paid the runner was next to nothing.
“I was with Mitch for a week before Sophia showed up, though. I didn’t know who she was—not at first. He told me who he was right away. I didn’t know who she was until after she died.”
“Did you really kill her?”
“Yes.” I watched the hope die in her eyes and gritted my teeth. She wasn’t supposed to have any expectations of me. I am still the monster hiding under her bed.
“Because she was innocent.”
“Was she?” Lake spent hours with Mitch, and in that time, I knew he talked. At this very moment, I probably knew less about my mother than she did, but it didn’t mean she knew her enough to proclaim her innocence. It didn’t matter. I wasn’t interested.
I cut her off, causing her to jump at my harsh tone. “There is no such thing as innocence. How many mothers do you know who would let their child be taken without even trying?”
“So you killed her because of it?” she snarled.
“I didn’t know she was my mother when I put the fucking bullet through her fucking skull.”
She shook her head and looked away. “Are you even sorry for it?”
“I don’t regret what I can’t fix. She’s dead.” I felt my breathing quicken and my palms grow steady. I needed out and fast. “You don’t come back from that.”
I stood up and rushed for the door. She quickly caught on to my intention to leave and attempted to stop me.
“Where are you going?”
“I’m done talking.”
“But what about Mitch? He knows where you are now. He knows where all of us are.”
“I know.” My hand was on the door, ready to escape, but I couldn’t resist looking at her one more time. “You were almost killed because of me. I do regret that, which means I can fix it.”
“How are you going to fix it?” I could hear the suspicion in her tone.
I opened the door and finally forced out the words that before had been caught in my chest where a heart was supposed to be. “I’m letting you go.”
I quickly closed the door causing it to slam. I wouldn’t be able to look into her eyes and follow through. My fist gripped the doorknob once and finally let go. It was done. I could walk away now.
I should have known she wouldn’t let me.
I was barely five feet from the door before I heard her voice full of pain shout at me.
“So that’s it then?” Those in the hallway, along with time, stopped to watch us unfold.
I reluctantly turned back. It was a mistake I would regret for the rest of my life. When I looked into her eyes, I saw something I hoped never to see—even when I hated her.
“That’s all I’m willing to give you.”
I felt her indrawn breath even from a few feet away. She hardened her jaw but still, the tears glistened, ready to spill over and mark me forever.
“You torment me for ten years, fuck me silly for the past two months, and make me fall in love with you. Then, if that’s not enough, you almost get me killed because of your asshat dad, and you think you can just walk away because you think it’s the right thing to do?”
“I don’t give a fuck about what’s right.” At least that was true. If I cared about what was right, I wouldn’t be having thoughts of running away with her and stealing her future forever. “It’s safer this way.”
“Says my brother who is lying in the hospital fighting for his life because of me!”
Fuck. I didn’t mean to yell at her. I didn’t care that I had just revealed my real relation to Keenan.
I wanted the blow to be as soft as possible. I did enough damage to her.
A part of me knew it wouldn’t be easy, but my mind told me she would only be happy if I were out of her life permanently.
“So you’re going to walk away from him, too?”
No, just you, baby.