Usually, Dash was the voice of reason, but what almost happened to Lake had left even the most reasonable person I knew feeling murderous. It only proved that these two needed to die.
“This is all your fault! You made my wife leave me!”
“No. You made your wife want to leave when you and your son chose to use her as a personal punching bag. I just showed her the door.” I still don’t know why Trevor’s mother chose me to help her. Maybe it was out of desperation to tell someone, but I only told her she had two options—to kill them or leave. She chose the latter.
“So who wants to die first?”
The gun was already pressed against Reynolds skull by the time I finished asking the question. Killing them was a no-brainer. I only wished I had the time to do it slow.
My finger pulled the trigger back, but just before I could feel the metallic click, the shed door flung open.
“Keiran!” Lake ran inside with a horrified expression. “Don’t do this!”
“Wait outside,” I ordered without sparing her a glance. I could feel her gaze trained on me, judging.
“The police are coming. I could hear the sirens.”
“Then there is still time.” I stood back further and took aim.
“Don’t do this. This is an execution.”
“Kind of the point.”
“You told me that you once wanted to be good. You have that chance right now, Keiran. You never truly were what they tried to make you until now—if you do this.”
“Why do you want them alive after what they were going to do to you?”
“I want them dead as much as you, but not if it’s going to take you away.”
“She’s right, Keiran.” Dash’s reluctant voice made me look up. In my peripheral, I could see Quentin nod in agreement. “This is your chance, bro. Take it.”
I looked down at Reynolds kneeling before me and at Mrs. Risdell hovering in the corner. On the outside, I was steel and ice, but inside, I battled with the chance at redemption and the need to kill.
When I was a slave, I was forced to kill people who never wronged me. Here I had the chance to actually kill with reason.
I felt like it was owed to me.
To punish those who wronged me.
To protect the ones I loved.
I needed to do it. Isn’t that why I was placed in these circumstances?
I heard her call, but I only shook my head in denial.
“You’re not a slave.”
I’m not a slave.
“Or a killer.”
Not a killer.
“You’re not a monster,” my mother’s ethereal voice whispered.
ELEVEN YEARS AGO
“Now can you teach me how to dribble between my legs like you?”
“You’re still not dribbling right. I told you to use your fingertips more. You’re still using your palms.”
“It’s too hard,” Keenan whined. Anger flared up inside me as I eyed the tears trailing down his face.
“What did I say about crying like a baby?”
He stopped crying immediately and looked up at me with frightened eyes. “You said you’ll hurt me.”
I puffed out a breath from my chest into the summer air and took the ball from him. I started to dribble figure eights from front to back between my legs in a slow motion so he could see. I chose not to talk him through it because I didn’t trust what would really come out of my mouth. I refused to apologize for what I had said because I meant it. I just sometimes wished I hadn’t meant it. I didn’t want to hurt him.
He watched in amazement as I did tricks with the ball. I didn’t have any special training or techniques taught to me. I just did what felt natural when I had the ball in my hand.
After dodging Keenan’s attempt to steal the ball from me like I told him, I positioned my body to make a three-pointer, but the sound of a child’s wail interrupted my concentration. I turned to eye two other boys my age pushing and shoving a smaller kid around. Before I could rethink it, I felt my feet carry me swiftly over until I was running. I didn’t stop once I was on them. I hit the closest with my fist as hard as I could and then planted my foot in the other’s gut, bringing them both down simultaneously.
“I don’t want to talk about this,” I said before they could talk. “Pick up and get lost.”
The collective gasps of shock when I cursed fell deaf on my ears. I wasn’t like the other kids, and I wouldn’t pretend to be. When they scrambled, I turned on my heel without sparing the little boy a glance, and trudged back to my cousin who was watching him with his mouth open.
“Hey, wait! Wait, please!” I heard behind me but didn’t stop. I picked the discarded ball up from the ground on the way, not realizing I had dropped it when I ran over. Just as I stood upright, small sneakered feet came into my vision, and I met the glossy eyes and a toothy grin of a little boy with light brown, curly hair. “Hi,” he breathed.
I ignored his greeting and made a basket but caught the fallen look on his face before he covered it up with another smile. “Can you teach me how to do that?”
“Go away, kid.”
“But you’re a kid, too,” he pouted.
“He’s not a kid,” Keenan spoke up. I guess he was good for something after all.
“Well, what grade are you in?” he demanded. I eyed him in his blue overalls and dirt-smudged face and tried not to laugh as he attempted to stand up to me.