It all changed when Lake was brought in. My only mission became to save her. I wanted to be the very person I grew up hating. I wanted to be her hero.
A lot of fucking good that did me.
I managed to keep her from harm only to hurt her again, but after finding out from Quentin that Arthur was still alive, I was left with no choice. The further I stayed away from her, the safer she’d be. I would protect her from a distance.
Quentin tried to talk me out of it by pointing out that Lake was taken by Arthur when she had shown up at my house looking for me. Arthur had stopped by looking for a sign that I was setting him up. When she stumbled across them, he decided to take her as collateral instead. John had already been at the hospital with Keenan.
The decision to leave her alone wasn’t easy. In a small space of time, I searched for another way to be with her and to keep her safe but came up short.
Who the fuck was I kidding anyway? Marriage, children, and Sunday morning pancakes weren’t in the cards for me. Eventually, she would want more, and I would once again become the monster that tormented her in high school when I realized I was unable to give her what she needed.
She didn’t need me.
She needed security and someone good.
I gave up on being good a long time ago.
“Are you sure you want to do this?” Dash asked, repeating the question Quentin had asked. I looked up realizing I’d forgotten they were in the room.
“I’m more than sure, and even if I wasn’t, it’s too late.”
“What makes you so sure?”
“Because I know hate when I see it.”
It was the only thing left in her eyes for me when she walked out.
* * *
The detectives finally showed up later that day to begin their interrogation. At the end of it, I wasn’t being handcuffed to the bed, but I was warned they would keep in touch. Dash managed to get them the video of Mario confessing to killing Anya, Trevor, and Lake’s parents, and then Arthur killing Mario’s men. It all looked like a chance meeting that happened while taping my skills for basketball scouts, instead of intentionally setting anyone up to be murdered.
After the detectives had left, I worked up the courage to visit Keenan, but when I got to his room, I was surprised by the sight of Sheldon at his bedside.
Keenan was asleep, and from the way Sheldon held herself, I could tell she had no intention of waking him. I watched her silently cry over him for long moments before she finally noticed me.
“Dash said they had to give him medication for the pain.”
I nodded my head and watched her fall apart. I envied her ability to cry. To openly shed her sorrow, her pain, her fears. I don’t remember ever being able to cry. Not even for my brother, who was dying because of me.
“I know.” My plan to secure a lung for Keenan had failed, and I would live with the guilt and failure long after he was gone.
“You know?” Her eyes turned cold as she glared at me. “Then why don’t you do something?”
“I tried, Sheldon. I thought—”
“But you didn’t think! You always did what you wanted to do because you were the big, bad, Keiran Masters. All he ever wanted was to love you, and you couldn’t even show him just a little affection. His parents didn’t care enough to just be there. And with you, he thought he had a chance, but you just wouldn’t—” Her voice caught, and I could see her tremble from across the room as she hung her head. When she finally met my eyes again, they were full of hatred. “It should have been you.”
TWO WEEKS LATER
Becoming a high school dropout would have never seemed appealing to someone who never met Keiran Masters. More accurately—to someone who had never slept with Keiran Masters. Then to be foolish enough to fall in love with him. School and home were both unbearable. School for obvious reasons. After my aunt found out I had been kidnapped, and almost killed, she pretty much shut the door on trusting me.
After crying and holding me for hours, she grilled me endlessly.
Why was I there?
How did they know me?
How did I know them?
Jackson was there. He watched me lie about leaving my textbook in the gymnasium, and for a moment, I thought he would call me out. When I was finished, he didn’t have to—my aunt didn’t believe a word I said and that’s when the yelling began.
I was grounded indefinitely and only allowed to go to school. I didn’t offer up any typical teenage rejections because being forced to see Keiran in school was bad enough. I didn’t want to run into him anywhere else.
The entire school and the whole town were still alive with talk of what had happened Saturday. This was the most excitement they had ever seen, and it all came from my dark prince.
The entire world was now privy to Arthur Phalan, who had been confirmed as the leader of one of the world’s largest child slavery rings. After the gunfight, an officer lost his life as well as two of Arthur’s men. The other two were facing serious charges, charges they weren’t willing to do the time for. Federal agents were brought in, and in no time, they were singing.
The case against Keiran for the murder of Anya and Trevor was dropped. Keiran held up his end of the deal with the detectives and with a video confession of their murder, his possible involvement was considered inconsequential.
I was both relieved and devastated. Throughout the years, when Keiran became more and more sadistic, I always wondered what would have happened if I had gone to the police. Keiran getting off for a double murder charge quickly reaffirmed my belief that the police would have cared little for a young girl and her bully.