“So why did you do it?”
He looked up and uttered one word.
When I didn’t respond, he ran his fingers through his hair and tossed back his drink.
“I heard your cry. I turned around to question her, but she was already gone so I followed. I followed the sound of your cry, and it led me to her. It led me to you. I stood there watching the both of you. I watched her rock and soothe you back to sleep. I watched her tears fall on your face. I watched her hold you tight. I heard her prayer. I heard her ask how she could save you. It fucking broke me. I went against my instincts. Damn what was right or wrong and damn the consequences. I took you both to my home. When Mitch decided to resurface and pay an unexpected visit less than a week later, we knew it wasn’t safe for you to stay. I tucked you both away in a neighboring town, packed up, and moved here to Six Forks, never telling anyone where or why I had moved. I also never told anyone about you two. Not even our parents. We couldn’t risk Mitch learning of her whereabouts. She was terrified of him. Your father held her prisoner in that house for her entire pregnancy after she tried to break things off with him once he told her about his plans to use the two of you to collect on his inheritance. She had a home birth using an unregistered midwife that he must have paid a lot of money to keep quiet. That’s why there wasn’t any record that you were even born. Sophia moved here shortly before she became pregnant with you. Her father died while she was being held prisoner. It didn’t matter because she never got the chance to tell anyone she was pregnant.”
A natural silence fell between after he finished, each lost in our own thoughts. No matter how many times I rehashed it, I kept coming back to the same question.
“How did you do it?”
His surprised gaze met my unwavering one. “Do what?”
“How did you manage to convince a mother who prayed over her child and was willing to ask a complete stranger for salvation to abandon her child?”
I watched him shift and swallow repeatedly, and I wondered if he was using the time to form a lie.
“Keenan,” he finally answered.
“I convinced her that it was safer to keep quiet about your disappearance because she was still hiding from Mitch and had another child to protect from him.”
“Why didn’t you turn Mitch in for what he did to her?
“Our parents would never have let the charges stick. They would have chosen him over her despite what he’d done. Sophia came from a working class family. She had no one to stand behind her.”
“She would have had you… or would she?”
“It was too risky. My family’s resources far outreached mine.”
“You’re pathetic,” I barked.
“I did what I thought I had to do.”
“Because you thought Keenan was your son and I wasn’t?”
“That’s exactly what it was. You had a choice and you made it. You’re no better than your fucking parents.”
“Making tough decisions in the heat of the moment is not always as simple you think. Choices have to be made, and often it is the wrong decisions that take precedence.”
“So how did my brother convince her to leave me behind?”
He cleared his throat and shifted in his seat. “I promised her that I would find you. I hired some of the best men, but you were fucking gone. Just like that. It was like you never existed. There wasn’t a trace of you left. Weeks passed and your mother became more and more frantic. She stopped eating and she barely held or took care of Keenan anymore. Her suffering meant his and she started to threaten to involve the police. I couldn’t allow that.”
“What did you do?” I growled.
“I threatened to take Keenan from her if she didn’t forget you.”
“You son-of-a-bitch.” I took a step forward threateningly but quickly reminded myself that I didn’t care. “Why?”
“To protect the one son I had left. I loved you, Keiran, and I didn’t protect you. I wouldn’t make that same mistake twice.”
“Did you ever suspect Mitch?”
“He was the first person I suspected. I had him watched for months, but he was never seen with you. He must have—” John sucked in a ragged breath before continuing. “He must have sold you quickly.”
“So how soon was it before you gave up?”
“I never gave up, Keiran. I never stopped looking. I’m not perfect. There were many times I can recall wanting to give up. There were days when it was hopeless. Your mother stopped talking to me altogether. We lived in the same house, but we were strangers. She never forgave me.”
“Why did you get involved with her?” It was a struggle to keep my voice neutral when all I felt was anger. I fucking hated heroes.
“It’s complicated. I didn’t think I loved your mother. I didn’t think I could ever love her, and then one day, I did.”
“So what changed?” I growled impatiently.
“She told me she needed me. She told me she needed to forget. She needed to erase him. I—I wanted to be her hero.”
“Haven’t you ever heard the phrase ‘chivalry is dead’?”
“If that girl ever looked at you and asked you to save her, would you do it?”
“How is screwing my mother saving her?” I asked rather than answer his question. The only person Monroe would ever need to be saved from was me.