“I wasn’t afraid. I didn’t show fear.”
“But how much did you let them take from you?”
Quentin was actually older than I was by two years. Without medical records, we were able to lie about his age. Somehow, even then, we knew the significance of staying together. Q spent months in foster care while the agencies and local law enforcement attempted to track down his parents, but after nearly a year, no one stepped forward to claim him. He was eventually taken into the care of a couple. We’d never spoken about it before, but I knew he had possessed a small ounce of hope that he would find his parents. The parents who likely sold him to buy a hit or a beach house in Malibu. It just all depended on how much they thought he was worth.
“You were there, man. You did the same as I did. You made the same sacrifices.”
“And when I was finally free, I was able to let go. Can you say the same?”
Letting go… I kept hearing that phrase. It’s like everyone got together to figure out how the hell they could get me to let go.
The last person to tell me to let go was Dash. I knew what to say to get him off my back, but this was Q. He knew what it was like and based on the story he had just revealed, he knew a hell of a lot more than I did. Mario had turned him and his daughter into child prostitutes. I swallowed down the bile and whatever feelings I had about the past. I dealt with it how it suited me, and all the Dr. Phil’s of the world could go fuck themselves.
“You said it yourself, right? I was in too deep, so there’s no salvation for me.”
“You know that’s not what I meant.”
“It doesn’t make it any less true. Now answer my question.” When he raised his eyebrows in question, I asked, “Why do you think Mario trusted me with his daughter knowing you were here?”
“Anything Mario is into right now, he’s thinking he could suck you into it. He’s going to try because if someone like you isn’t with him, then you’re against him.”
“I already know he knows I’m a threat.”
“Then what are you doing dealing with him?”
“I’m selling my soul to the devil.”
Quentin left to pick up his foster sister from dance practice, leaving me alone with Diana. I found her in the bathroom primping for some unknown reason.
“Are you hungry?” I gruffly asked. My reluctance to be hospitable was apparent.
She turned from the mirror to face me. “Wow. For a second there I thought I would have to ask.”
It was the first word she’d spoken since seeing Q again. Talk about a fucking blast from the past. Thinking about what Mario had done and all the lies he’d told and clever tricks he had pulled resulted in a lack of patience.
“I’ll be in the kitchen. Hurry up.”
I went back downstairs and prepared some steaks before throwing them in the oven. My uncle would be home soon, and I needed to prepare myself mentally for the confrontation that was sure to come.
Diana came downstairs ten minutes later just as my uncle walked through the door.
“I don’t know what you boys have been doing around here, but shacking up with girls in my home is out of the question.”
“My, my,” Diana purred. “Now I see where you get your firm hand.”
“Shut the fuck up, Diana.” To John I said, “She’s a guest. I’m doing a favor for a friend.”
His eyes narrowed suspiciously, and for a second, I thought I was looking at my father. I wondered if he was faced with the same problem when he looked at me. Is that why he could never look me in the eye for long?
“One of the guys from the team. Her parents kicked her out, and his parents don’t have room in their house. As Captain—”
“You aren’t on the basketball team anymore so are you referring to the same team that kicked you off?”
I ignored his blatant attempt to remind me that I had screwed up. At least in his eyes I had. I didn’t care that Trevor and Anya were dead, and it was amazing anyone could expect me to be after they both set me up. It wasn’t exactly a secret after Trevor attacked Monroe in the gym bathroom. “I told him she could stay here and she will.”
I watched his jaw work. I was challenging him, and he knew it. Common sense told me to stop while I was ahead, but my anger toward him wasn’t going away anytime soon.
“I want her gone.”
“Fine. If she goes, then so do I. Have fun explaining to the authorities how you helped me become a fugitive.”
“Are you threatening me?” He took a menacing step forward, but as usual, I held my ground.
“I’m simply reminding you that after all the strings you pulled keeping me out of jail and in school, I’m sure it wouldn’t be easy to prove your innocence. I mean… why wouldn’t you help your nephew disappear? You did it before.”
Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed Diana perk up at my admission. I needed to remember to censor what I said around her. She could very well be a mole he put in place to keep eyes on me, as he was known to do with Arthur. Mario and I were cut from the same cloth, which meant we didn’t completely trust each other.
Trevor and Anya died while in Mario’s care. Even though I gifted them to him, it was with the strict instruction not to kill them. Simply disappearing was cleaner than killing them. Killing them left a body to be found, which is how I landed in jail.