My parents would still be dead after Keiran was behind bars…
When did I become so cold?
* * *
The restaurant where we had agreed to meet was just outside of town to avoid detection. It wasn’t until I made it just outside of Six Forks that I realized my gas light was on. I had no clue how long I’d driven with it on so I decided to stop. Being stranded on the side of the road was not my idea of a good time.
I filled up the tank and went inside for a pack of gum. I immediately regretted it as soon as I emerged from the store with my pack of winter fresh in hand. Two men were standing next to my car, which would have seemed normal except it was the way the men stood around my car as if they owned it. Instinct told me they were waiting for me.
A well-dressed man in his early to mid-fifties in a dark gray suit and a man dressed in all black typical of a bodyguard screamed trouble, and trouble found me.
“Hello,” the suit greeted when I reached my car. His dark brown hair was expertly styled. He wasn’t much taller than I was with his average build. He shouldn’t have been a threatening presence, and on a normal day in a normal life, he wouldn’t have been.
I took in the expensive looking watch while I nodded my head in greeting and waited for him to move. He didn’t. He was blocking the driver’s door, and though he attempted to appear casual, I knew he was purposely blocking me.
“Can I help you?”
“Might I say you are much more beautiful up close.”
“Um… I think I should go.” I took a cautious step back but stopped retreating when I remembered I was moving in the opposite direction of my car. I was trapped without actually being trapped.
“Why? We’ve only just started talking. I’ve been looking forward to meeting you for some time now.” His malicious grin spread wider with each word he spoke. “I’ve heard a lot about you.”
“Oh, yeah?” I managed to speak over the nervous flutter in my stomach. “From who?”
“Let’s just say I like to keep an eye on my interests. Some are more valuable than others.”
There was only one person who could be the cause of this meeting.
“Keiran,” I guessed while hoping it would somehow summon him magically. Funny how my once tormentor became my unforeseen knight in all black armor. The man’s eyes twinkled at the mention of his name.
“Yes, Keiran. I’m very fond of his… potential, if you will.”
My mind furiously attempted to connect the dots, but I couldn’t figure out who was standing before me. “I’m sorry. I didn’t catch your name?”
“I’m Arthur Phalan.”
“Arthur Phalan?” I repeated.
“In the flesh.” He spread his arms wide in a magnanimous gesture, but when I continued to watch him silently, his arms fell. “I see he hasn’t been any more forthcoming with you than he has been with me.”
“I don’t know who you are so why are you here?”
“I believe you bumped into me, young lady. It is a mere coincidence we met here today.”
“Somehow I doubt that. I meant, why are you here in Six Forks?”
“Ah, well. I came here to collect. I paid a very fine price to get your little boyfriend out of a sticky situation.”
“What do you mean?”
“It was you who was going to testify against him for the murders of your little classmates, was it not?”
“You got him out jail?”
“That is correct.”
“Why? How?” I stumbled over my questions and each word came out harsher than I intended but I was stumped. Why would he help Keiran?
“Which answer would you like first?” He chuckled.
“Any,” I snapped. I didn’t miss the brief flicker of anger in his eyes or the way his jaw had clenched before he settled himself.
“I got him out because he promised me a valuable service. It was easy, although costly, to do considering I had to lace a lot more pockets than I cared to and call in a few favors. The thing about government and the law is it is very easy to corrupt.”
“What was his promise?”
“His servitude, Miss Monroe. And his undying loyalty… well, until he dies. The work can be a little… tricky… at times. There are a lot of risks and—”
“He’s going to kill for you,” I whispered. “Again.” I’d already pieced together exactly who this man was and what he represented.
“Yes, and I have the feeling he’ll be very good at it. He showed much promise as a child. I remember him most of all.”
“And Lily? What about her?”
“Who?” His brow rose in question at the mention of the little girl who suffered gravely.
“Lily. The little girl you were planning to turn into a whore before she even had the chance to learn what love was.”
“I’ve turned many little girls into whores, young lady. Their names don’t always resonate in my mind or matter.”
“You’re a sick fuck,” I spat.
“I’m a very rich fuck. Speaking of which… I am so glad I ran into you. Saves me the trouble of having to do this the hard way.” He signaled for someone in the distance and a burly man with a grim expression came forward.
“What—what are you doing?”
“Your little boyfriend has yet to deliver himself to me. I am tired of waiting so I’ll just have to find payment another way.” His leer as he stared at me and licked his lips was sickening. “You, my dear, can also provide a valuable service.”