“I wasn’t missing. I was busy.”
“You told me you would be at the hospital. I expected you here.”
“Are you actually trying to be a parent?” I smirked despite the fact I was a hundred miles past pissed off.
“Keiran, you are trying my patience—”
“Then leave,” I interrupted. It’s what you’re best at, isn’t it? You run and you hide. You aren’t a parent, and you never will be. Keenan and I take care of each other.”
“Is that why he’s lying in a hospital bed? Because you took care of him? You protected him?”
“No,” I growled, feeling my blood run cold. “He’s lying in a hospital bed because you didn’t protect me.”
That wasn’t supposed to happen.
I wasn’t supposed to care.
John had gone still along with everyone else in the room. I felt a pull that couldn’t be mistaken, and when I looked at him, I met darkened eyes much like mine.
Keenan was awake.
The last time I saw him awake, there was hatred, but with hatred came anger and pain. Pain that I had caused.
It wasn’t new to me, but I’d never done to anyone I cared about.
I blamed him.
He was the one who made me care when I told him repeatedly it was a mistake. A mistake that I knew he now regretted.
“What are you doing here?”
His voice was raspy from sleep or from not being used. Knowing Keenan, he’d already befriended all of the hospital staff and made them love him.
He was always best at that.
I had been a coward before today, not wanting to face him or relive the very look he was giving me now.
I guessed I deserved it. It was the same look I used to torment Monroe for ten years.
“We need to talk.” I silently communicated to him that it was bad, and it was necessary. He wouldn’t talk to me otherwise.
I shook my head, but then remembered what else happened that night. “I’m not sure yet.” I made sure to make eye contact with Dash as well.
“What have you done?” John spoke up. I’d forgotten he was in the room when Keenan woke up. “What are you up to?”
“I’m cleaning up the mess you and my mother started. Someone has to do it since you’ve been a coward the last ten years. Your decisions have come back to bite you in the ass. It’s coming for your son next, so if you want to be a father for once, you’ll stay out of my way.”
“Keiran, I could help you. I want to help, but you can’t keep shutting me out. I know what I did, and I know nothing can change the past, but I can do something about tomorrow. My brother may be greedy, but he isn’t stupid and right now, I am the only person you have who knows him.”
It never occurred to me before John would be exactly what I needed to draw Mitch out. The fact of the matter was I didn’t know my father. I was only with him for little more than a week, and in that time, he barely spoke to me. Food was shoved in my face, and I was kept isolated in a barren room of a small shack that was likely loaned to my father by an acquaintance.
“He’s right,” Quentin said.
He was right, and I knew it.
“I don’t trust him.”
I stared into my uncle’s eyes as I spoke so I didn’t miss the glint of pain before it disappeared.
“I’m sorry to hear that, son, but as the adult I have to step in. I can no longer overlook your indiscretions.”
Disbelief and anger flared inside me. My feet brought me closer to my uncle until my chest brushed his. I was ready to threaten my own uncle if need be, and Keenan must have known because his voice cut through the thickening tension.
“You should leave.”
John’s head, along with mine, snapped to face Keenan. He was struggling to sit up so Dash rushed over to help him. Keenan begrudgingly accepted his help, but I could tell his pride wanted to push him away.
I wondered who he was speaking to until his hard gaze landed on John.
John noticed as well and started to protest. “Son—”
“I think that’s a little misleading, don’t you think?”
“What are you talking about? You are still my son.”
“But you’ve never been a father.”
After a few moments of glaring, John finally stormed for the door. He opened the door to leave but stopped to direct his threatening glare on me. “I want you home straight from school tomorrow. We need to talk.”
He left without an answer, which was just as well because I wasn’t about to give him one. After a beat, I nodded to Q to make sure he was gone. My uncle wouldn’t give in to anyone so I knew there was a reason he did now.
“All right, what the hell is going on? I’ve never seen you afraid before.”
“I’m not afraid. I’m worried.”
“So what’s up?”
“This.” I threw the now crumpled photo on the table near Keenan’s bedside. Dash grabbed for it first and cursed before passing it to Q, who clenched his jaw and finally handed it to Keenan.
“Son of a bitch.” He finally looked up at me after staring down long and hard at the picture. “Who?”
“Who else? It had to be Mitch. It seems to be his M.O. He left Monroe the same thing on her birthday—a card with a picture.”
“Have you heard from him since it all went down?”