“The only thing you gave me was a wasted existence.”
I jammed my finger on the end button and sent out a quick text to Monroe all the while weaving in and out of the thickening five o’clock traffic: Where are you?
Just a couple more miles, and I would be able to calm my racing heart and still the pounding in my ears. My phone flashed less than a minute later with an incoming text: Shouldn’t you be practicing?
As I turned onto her street, I replied with one word: Mitch.
Seconds later, I was in her driveway and exiting the car just as her front door flung open, and she exited with a bewildered look. I wasted no time bounding up onto her porch and whisking her back inside.
Monroe fired off endless questions filled with panic as I quickly checked the windows and doors of her house.
“Will you stop for one second and tell me what is going on?” She wore a crazy look on her face as she followed me into her aunt’s bedroom. I didn’t give a fuck about intruding on a stranger’s privacy.
“Mitch called me about you.”
I heard her suck in a breath before she asked, “When?”
“A few minutes ago. I think he was watching us.” I exited her aunt’s bedroom and took her hand in mine, leading her into her bedroom. I sat on the edge of her bed and pulled her down onto my lap. I couldn’t explain the strong, unfamiliar emotion I was feeling, but all I knew was I needed to hold her close. She didn’t object to my handling. Her gaze was fixed on my face, and I could tell she was overwhelmed. “Will your aunt be home soon?”
She blinked a few times, seeming to come out of her trance and shrugged. “She’s usually home by now, but she may be out with Jackson.”
“The PI guy she hired to investigate my parent’s disappearance. Remember?”
I’d forgotten all about her aunt’s bogus book tour.
I shed my jacket and brought her down to sit on my lap. She looked panicked again as her eyes searched mine. “What?”
“My aunt saw the papers. She won’t like you being here.”
“I’m not about to leave you alone, baby.” Her aunt would have to deal.
She shot up from my lap and fisted her hands on her hips. “This is getting out of hand. You need to go to the police about your father.”
“What?” My fists clenched in my lap from the need to touch her and drag her back into my lap. The only thing keeping me sane was her.
“Your father is trying to kill you, your brother, and your uncle for inheritance money. Don’t you think it’s time you do something?”
“Mitch will be taken care of.”
“So you are going to chance going to jail again?”
“I didn’t realize you cared so much.” I smirked up at her. The fury in her eyes danced and blazed brighter.
“You don’t seem to care enough. What if he comes after me again?”
“I’m here, aren’t I?” My voice lowered dangerously.
“Yes. You are here, and he’s still out there.”
“I’m doing what I can, Lake. At some point, it’s going to have to be enough!”
I didn’t mean to snap at her, and judging by the hurt look on her face, I knew I had fucked up.
“I think you should go.”
I stood up, ready to apologize, but when I reached for her and she moved away with a cold look in her eyes, I felt my own anger flare.
“Fuck this,” I spat.
I had noticed her flinch before I stormed out. I thought to wait outside so she wouldn’t be left unprotected and would feel safe, knowing I was still here, but I wanted to punish her, so I got in my car and pulled out of the driveway to park down the street.
Just as I left the driveway, another car I recognized as her aunt pulled in. I watched as she passed, and when we made eye contact, I didn’t miss the icy glare she shot my way.
* * *
Saturday morning practice required me to be up at six a.m.
I didn’t need to drag myself out of bed because I stayed in my car the entire night staring up at her window. I knew the exact moment she went to bed, and it was all I could do not to climb through her bedroom window and make her forgive me.
I rubbed the sleep from my face and reached to turn the ignition when an unexpected knock sounded at my window. I tensed but relaxed infinitesimally when I saw who was standing outside my car.
I rolled down the window and took in the older, near replica of Lake. “Ms. Anderson?”
“I need to talk to you if you don’t mind.” I studied her carefully before climbing out of the car. I could tell by her body language that whatever it was wouldn’t be good. I slid my hands into my front pockets and assumed a casual stance against my car door.
“How do you know Mario Fulton?”
I’m not sure how much time had passed with me standing frozen. Being who I am there wasn’t much that surprised me, but hearing my former mentor’s name come from her did the trick. When I said nothing, she pressed further.
“You have had numerous dealings with him over the past few weeks, none of which I’m sure were legal.”
It felt like a slap in the face to realize I wasn’t as careful as I thought. “And you know this how?”
“Let me just get to the point. I want you to stay away from my niece.”
“And somehow your niece has something to do with Mario? What would that have to do with me?”
“I know you having dealings with him, and I know you were the one to murder those poor kids.”