I can’t help myself, it’s like my hands have a mind of their own as they reach out and touch the scars. Tracing the one through my mark.
She jerks away from my touch. “I need to go. I need to leave.” She tries to rush for the door. Bosco and Ricco are there. Blocking her way without me needing to ask. She stops a few feet from them and turns to face Luca who is standing off to the side. “Please let me go.”
His only response is to shake his head. He won’t let her leave without my approval. And I won’t give it.
“What happened that night?”
She doesn’t answer. She looks like she’s holding back tears. Her head is ducked. Her breathing heavy.
“Keira.” I say with force. “Tell me.”
“I went to the lake house. Just like we planned. I was in the kitchen, putting away the groceries I had brought with me. I was going to make lasagna for you.” I loved her lasagna. “When I turned around, there was a man. I asked him who he was. Stupidly I thought it might be your father. He pulled out a gun. Told me that I needed to leave you. That you were meant for someone else.” She must see the confusion on my face cause she huffs out a laugh. “Yeah, I didn’t believe it either. I knew you weren’t always forthcoming with me, but I knew you weren’t a liar. There was no way you were with someone else.”
Not being able to stand the distance between us anymore, I move closer to her. Giving her time to back away. She doesn’t. She stand tall and keeps her eyes locked on mine. I reach out when I get close enough and cup her cheek in my hand. “Never. There was never anyone else. There hasn’t been and there never will be.”
“What?” I can see the hope shimmering in her eyes. “You’ve never…but we weren’t…and it’s been…”
I cut her off with a kiss to her lips. I don’t deepen it. I know if I do, I won’t be able to stop myself. I’ve added seven years to my pent up sexual frustration to my raging libido. And it only has eyes for her. “Never. Even when I couldn’t have you. I only wanted you.”
“I’ve never either.” Her admission shocks the shit out of me and I recoil like I’ve been tased again. She smiles shyly at me like she can’t believe she just admitted it out loud. “There’s so much I need to tell you, but you need to know, I’ve only ever kissed one other person. It didn’t mean anything though. He’s a friend. He’s helped me more than you know.”
I lean my forehead against her. I hate that someone else has tasted her lips, but I trust her. If she says it didn’t mean anything, than I believe her. And if he truly has helped her, than I won’t kill him for tasting what is mine.
“Tell me what happened after that.”
“I told him I didn’t believe him. He told me I was a stupid girl. So stupid that I didn’t realize my boyfriend was in the mafia. Again, I didn’t believe him, but he had pictures. A dozen of them. You were covered in blood. I thought at first they were fake. But then he showed me a video. You were torturing a guy. Pounding nails into his hands, then slicing off his fingers. I couldn’t watch it all. I ran to the sink to throw up. He came behind. Held the gun to my hand and slapped a pen and piece of paper on the counter next to me and told me to write. To tell you it’s over.” Her body is shaking. I wrap my arms around her to keep her steady. Trying to pour my strength into her.
It was Santo. He had had his phone out that night during my initiation. I never questioned it. Never thought he was taking photos and videos. My girl was innocent, and she saw my monster. Fuck.
“I didn’t want to. You have to believe me. Even after watching what you did to that man, I still wanted you. I knew you would never hurt me, and if you were hurting someone else, it was because they deserved it.” Her breathing is choppy, there are tears lingering in her eyes. I can tell my girl doesn’t want to cry. That she’s trying to be strong.
I lift her into my arms and walk over to the bench. I sit with her straddling me. Chest to chest. I place my hand at the back of her neck and pull her head to my neck. “Let it out. Let go sweetheart. I’m here now. I’m never letting you go.”
The damn breaks. Tears pour from her eyes. She struggles to catch her breath as deep sobs wrack her body. I keep a tight hold on her with my arm at her back, and use the other to stroke her hair. Trying to calm her. Over her shoulder I see Ricco and Bosco give a nod then leave the room.
Luca moves to the cabinet along the wall and grabs a towel, then a water from the mini fridge. He brings it over to us. Her crying has seized, her body still shaking. Luca takes the towel and wraps it around her. “Keira.” He says gently as he squats down beside us. He puts himself in her field of view, so she doesn’t need to turn her head to see him. “Did he hurt you?”
She shakes her head. “Not that night.” Instinctively my arms tighten around her. “After I wrote the note, he grabbed my arm and tried to lead me out back. Told me we were going to take a walk. I knew that wasn’t really what he meant. He was going to shoot me and hide my body. As we descended the stairs, I took a chance, I threw myself over the railing. It forced him to let go of my arm. I ducked under the deck and ran as fast as I could. He was chasing me. He started shooting so I ran for the trees. I hid under a fallen tree for an hour while I heard him calling for me. He told me if he found me he would kill me. And if I went to you, he would kill us both. He said he would make me watch while he did to you all the things you did and worse in the video. When I heard him far enough away, I ran back to the house. I hurried inside to grab my keys and purse and drove away as fast as I could.”
Another sob shakes her, and she takes few deep breathes. I do too. My mind is racing. I need vengeance, but the asshole is already dead. The monster in me is close to the surface. I can’t let him out. Not yet. I need to be calm for Keira. I need her to tell me the rest. Then I need to reassure her that she’s safe. And that I’ll never let her leave again.
“I couldn’t risk going back to my apartment. I figured he knew where I lived. I took out as much cash as I could from the ATMs, and the bank the next morning. Then I paid cash for a motel room for two days. I knew I needed to get out of town, but I was trying to think of a way to tell you. To warn you.
“I didn’t get the chance. Two days later I was run off the road. I was brought to the hospital as a Jane Doe and released a day later. A week after that, I was in a drive by shooting.”
I quickly pick her up and pass her to Luca. Once she’s safely out of my arms, I let out the loudest roar I can. I scream at the top of my lungs. “Fuck!” I pull at my hair. I need the pain. How in the hell did I not know any of this? Why did I believe the note? Why didn’t I go after her? How did I not see through Santo’s lies?
It was Santo. Wasn’t it? It’s the only person it could have been.
I need confirmation.
I turn back to her. “What did the man look like?”
“What does it matter?” She extracts herself from Luca’s arms. I can see the walls I tore down being built back up in her eyes. She thinks she still needs to protect me. She’s going to try to run. Over my dead body. “It’s over, I survived. I moved on. And I’d like to keep it that way.” She says to me with bite, then turns to Luca and ask, “so can I go home now?”
I force Luca to ignore her with a glare his way. He puts his hands up and takes a step back. “Was he a few inches shorter than me? Dark hair. All black outfit?”
She looks between the two of us. Clearly not wanting to answer.