I touch my hand to his face, my thumb smoothing over the fingers pinching his nose, until he lowers his hand and opens his eyes.
“He didn’t rape me. But I was the statutory rape part of his sentence.” I take a fortifying breath. “I was fifteen when we started sleeping together. Paul was thirty.” My gaze lowers. “When Kit and I were babies, we were abandoned, left in the doorway of an old factory building, where we were found by the caretaker. Kit’s name came from the man who found us. My name came from the building—India House. It’s in Manchester, where we’re from originally.”
“Jesus, India. I am so sorry that happened to you and Kit.” His hand curls around mine, squeezing.
“It’s fine. I found my peace with it long ago. I had Kit. He’s the best brother a girl could wish for. But, back then, Kit and I were difficult to care for. We were both angry kids, Kit more so than me. He was always getting in trouble—mostly from defending me. I was a hell-raiser when I was younger.”
“I don’t see that in you.” He smiles.
“I’m different now. I had to change when I became a mother. I became responsible. But back then, I didn’t care about anyone, apart from Kit. So, we never settled anywhere, bouncing from foster home to foster home. It was hard enough to be placed and then add in the fact that there was the two of us together. If they ever tried to split us up, we’d just run away and come back to each other, so they finally stopped trying. Then, we started getting older, and people don’t want troublesome teenagers. Eventually, we ended up in a foster home for wayward kids. We were there when Paul started working as one of the caregivers.”
“He was your caregiver? Jesus fucking Christ,” he grinds out, thumping his head back against the headboard, his hand tightening around mine.
“I was young and impressionable. He spent a lot of time with me, listened to me, made me believe he really cared about me. Back then, I didn’t know he was grooming me. I was fifteen, and I just wanted to be loved. I didn’t realize I was looking for it in the wrong place.” I squeeze Leandro’s hand, which still has a firm hold of mine. “I’d been sleeping with Paul for about two years when I found out I was pregnant with Jett. When I went to tell him”—I suck in a breath at the memory that still gets to me, even now—“I found him in bed with someone else. She was a girl who was new to the home we lived in. She was fourteen, a year younger than I was when he started sleeping with me.”
Leandro lets out a sound of pain. “Fuck, India.”
“This is bad I know. I’m sorry.”
He sits up and grabs my face with his hands. “Don’t ever be sorry. I am just angry that this happened to you.”
“Me, too, but I can’t regret it because for all of Paul’s faults, he did give me Jett.” Tears touch my eyes, surprising me. It’s been a really long time since I cried over my past. “When I found Paul with that girl, I rang Kit and told him everything. He lost his shit. He kicked the crap out of Paul.”
“I like your brother already.”
“When it comes to me and Jett, he’s fiercely protective.”
“As he should be.”
“Someone called the cops when the fight spilled out into Paul’s building. Kit was arrested. Thankfully, he didn’t do any jail time for it, but he messed Paul up pretty bad. To save Kit, I told the police why Kit had lost his crap with Paul—who Paul was to us, about me and him, my pregnancy, and the underage girl I found in Paul’s bed. I needed to protect Kit the way he’d protected me his whole life. Paul was arrested. Somehow, the press got wind of it…and that’s when it got worse.” I close my eyes against the onslaught of memories. “I wasn’t the first underage girl who Paul had slept with, and clearly, I hadn’t been the last. He had a thing for young girls. More started to come forward. Some said they had been sexually abused by Paul. That he had even raped some of them. It went to trial. I was one of the main witnesses. He got sentenced to fifteen years in prison for statutory rape, rape and sexual abuse.”
“Jett knows all of this?”
“Yes. I haven’t kept who his father is from him.”
“Has Jett ever met him?”
“And he’s still in prison?”
“Yes. After he went to prison, I received compensation from the government for what had happened to me. It wasn’t a lot, but back then, it was to me. Kit and I left Manchester and moved here to London. I used the money I received to buy the house we live in and to put me through school. I wanted to start fresh here and give Jett a better life than I’d ever had.”
“You are amazing, do you know that?”
“You are,” he states emphatically. “And your reluctance to be with me makes a whole lot more sense now.”
“I didn’t want to be like him. I wouldn’t want to take advantage of someone in my care.”
“I was never in your care, babe. And you never once took advantage. If anyone did, I took advantage of you.” A sexy smile appears on his lips.
“So, I was thinking that maybe we should keep our relationship on the down-low for now.”
With the darkening of his eyes, I know that he doesn’t agree. “Because of Jett’s father?”
“Because of who you are. Your public profile. For Jett. I don’t want anything coming out into the papers that could hurt him. And also my career. I was your therapist. If the Health and Care Professions Council find that out, my career will be over.”