“I’m awake. You can leave now.”
I swallowed past the lump in my throat and asked the only question I could manage. “Why?”
“Because you don’t belong here.”
“But you’re here because of me.”
“Don’t flatter yourself.”
“I was there, Keiran. You saved me.”
“No. You almost got me killed. I wouldn’t have been shot if you weren’t in the way.”
My heart was grasping at straws as I tried to come to terms with what he was saying. I was smart enough to know it was all an attempt to protect me, but it didn’t lessen the pain.
“Keiran, don’t do this. I know you want to protect me, but this isn’t the way.”
“Protect you? I needed you out of the way. You suddenly decided to grow some self-respect and started talking to the cops. Lucky for me, you proved to be just like every… other… braindead female. All I had to do was show you a little attention, get you to spread your legs, and then you gave in.”
“I wasn’t the only one who gave in, Keiran. You aren’t immune to me.”
The door opened and John, Willow, Dash, Sheldon, and their parents all poured in.
“Maybe not, but I am bored with you. Gosh… even your parents couldn’t get away soon enough. They practically committed suicide.”
The final blow to my heart was exacting. I stumbled back while he continued to assault me with his icy stare. I looked for a break in his demeanor or a sign that this might be a ruse after all, but none came.
“You sorry son of a bitch!” Willow growled. She started forward, but Dash quickly grabbed her up in a desperate attempt to restrain her.
“You don’t ever disappoint, do you?” Sheldon sneered with hatred spewing from her gaze.
He didn’t flinch. Not even a flicker of acknowledgment or remorse.
When he lifted his chin and indicated for me to leave, I finally found my voice.
“I spent my whole life afraid of you. You were the monster under the bed and the devil who stole my soul.”
Everyone was silent as all eyes remained on us.
They would all know. They would all see.
Don’t think. Just feel.
“From the moment I met you, you did everything you could to hurt me. You pushed me, you ridiculed me, you isolated me. You used me to fight a ghost instead of fighting your demons like a coward.”
I balled my fists at my side in anger. I wanted to hurt him. I wanted him to see what it felt like to be hurt by someone who counted.
“You’re weak, Keiran. And now you’re the one who is afraid.”
“We have history. A tragic love story that should never have began. But it did. And it started the summer I lost my parents, and then I found you instead. For ten years, I told myself they abandoned me. Deep down, I knew they were dead, but it all still felt the same. And I hated them for it.”
“I guess that’s something we have in common. We both learned how to hate before we knew how to love.”
My eyes were glued to his although my vision had long since blurred as I allowed my tears to fall freely.
I can do this.
I repeated it to myself, but it became harder and harder to speak.
“You aren’t the guy you think you are. You are so much worse. To make me fall in love with you and then run away—” I took another deep breath. “You wanted to destroy me, Keiran… Well, you have. You broke me just like they broke you.”
I turned my back on him for the last time and took a deep breath. “I heard you… before you left. I heard you, and now I see that you were right. You don’t deserve to love me.”
I walked out on the last person I would ever risk losing.
“You’re about as stupid as they come,” John scolded as soon as the door closed. Willow and Sheldon had already run after Lake. The Chambers chose to wait outside but not before shooting me a disapproving look.
I sunk down in the bed to sulk. “I’m not in the mood. You guys should leave, too.”
“Or what? You’ll break our hearts, too?”
I rolled out of the hospital bed holding my chest. Luckily, the man who shot favored his aim to the right of my heart, but the steady throbbing came from my left and had nothing to do with the wound.
“What’s wrong?” Dash asked. “Is it your wound?”
“It’s all my wounds, man.”
For once, the two of them decided to shut the fuck up. I sat on the edge of the bed, gripping the railing to keep from running after her.
When I woke up and saw her lying there sleeping peacefully, all I could bring myself to feel was relief that she wasn’t hurt. She clung to me in her sleep as if she needed me. I was content to just sit and watch her sleep, but I needed to know she was safe.
I called Quentin, who had been waiting outside. As it turns out, he was the one to kill the man who shot me while Dash pulled Lake to safety, both risking their own lives and their freedom for her… and for me.
They had been there the entire time waiting in the sound room and recording every moment of the meeting. I hadn’t gathered all the evidence I had wanted, but there was enough to put them both away for a long time.
The only hiccup was that Arthur was never meant to walk out of the gymnasium alive. He was too connected, and in a matter of days, he would be out of jail and free to come after us. Mario was supposed to kill Arthur and to be caught red-handed. The plan was doomed to fail from the start, but it was the only option. I was supposed to be the only one at risk. After planning everything out, I gave Quentin and Dash the strict instructions to keep filming. No matter what happened, I was not to be saved.