I could see a sweat forming on his forehead and knew he had to be in pain, but he was intent on proving a point.
Well, so was I.
“Are you afraid, Lake?
“Why would I be afraid of you? I’ve learned all your tricks, and I’m no longer impressed.”
“But I think you are. Scratch that…” He ran his teeth down my neck. “I know you are.”
“There’s nothing left between us to make me afraid.” He lifted his lips from my neck so I could see the storm brewing within the depths of his eyes.
“You’re afraid you’ll want it, and you’re afraid you’ll miss it.”
“I’m not afraid of that,” I pressed. “I’m afraid you’ll walk away again. And you will. It’s what cowards do. But you want to know what I do know?” He dropped my legs and stepped back, but it was too late. I wouldn’t back down.
He taught me that.
“I know you were afraid of me, too.”
The room disappeared into a black abyss much like my mood.
“For ten years, you controlled me, hated me, tortured me.”
I clocked every misstep, hitch, and falter as I advanced on his retreat.
Oh, how the tables have turned.
I learned something in what might have been our darkest hour…
“But I was the one who actually held all the power.”
My fearless predator…
“And you knew.”
Was nothing more…
“So what scared you more?”
Than a wounded…
“That you weren’t truly in control?”
“Or that you had no clue of what I could mean to you?”
“You can hide behind your anger and use your past as a shield, but you can never pretend I didn’t know you. You opened the door enough for me to see. I know you, Keiran, but do you really know me?”
That’s what I saw in his eyes. It reminded me of something important Keenan once told me:
“I’m afraid for him because every day, he has to fight the person he is to be the person he wants to be.”
“What happens if he loses?”
“People get hurt.”
“What makes you think I want to know you? I may not hate you, but you’re still nothing to me. Don’t make the mistake of thinking otherwise.”
“I’ve made so many mistakes where you are concerned, Keiran. What’s one more?”
I forced myself to walk away with my head held high.
He wouldn’t get another piece of me.
* * *
There was no better feeling than finally standing up to your childhood bully. When I walked back to my classroom, I was on cloud nine and had chosen to ignore the pull that demanded I turn back.
I should have turned back. I should have gone in any direction other than the one I took.
Instead of taking the shortcut through the gym, I unknowingly took the long way through the hall where no one ever goes because everyone with common sense would have cut through the gym unless there was a class.
I could never make the smart decisions.
Waiting for me had been Trevor’s father and former police officer.
I didn’t have time to scream, run, or fight. A cloth had been placed over my face, and the next thing I remembered… was nothing.
Now, here I was, scared and alone in the hard, unforgiving grip of Mr. Reynolds.
After Trevor had assaulted me in a public bathroom, Mr. Reynolds lost his job thanks to his son spilling the beans of his involvement. The only good that came out of being nearly beaten and raped was finally being able to clear my name and essentially, Keiran’s name.
“I told my son to leave you alone, but he didn’t listen and look where it’s gotten him,” he spat. “Cunts like you are always causing trouble.”
“Mr. Reynolds, please,” I begged for the hundredth time or maybe it was the thousandth. “You don’t have to do this.”
“Shut up, girl.” His hand brutally slapped my cheek, causing me to fall backward. At least, I’m out of his hold. The smell of his rancid breath alone made me want to puke. “You beg when I tell you to.”
“Cecilia! You can come in now. She’s almost ready to perform.”
Heels clicked against the wooden floor, and then the door opened to reveal a blonde woman in a dark blue, expensive pantsuit. My blood felt as if it had been drained from my veins when I recognized her instantly.
“Hello, dear. I’m sorry it’s come to this, but I simply cannot let Keiran Masters go unpunished for what he did to my daughter.”
“Mrs. Risdell, please listen to me. Keiran did not kill your daughter. This is all a misunderstanding.”
“Do not dare lie to us to protect him. It will only make things worse for you.”
She set down the bag she held and pulled out a camera. When she turned it on and pointed it at me, I asked, “What are you planning to do?”
Mr. Reynold’s hand dropped his belt and began unbuckling it. Mrs. Risdell stepped forward with the camera. “You, my dear, are going to put on a show for your little boyfriend, and then we are going to do to you what he did to our children.”
The leers that appeared on their faces made me shudder in revulsion. “And what will you do when I’m dead? Where do you think you will go? There is nowhere you can run and no one who will be able to help you.”