“Fuck you.”

“Those words again.” I tsk and then add, “You do owe me.”


“I don’t owe you shit. The person who killed my sister owes you, not me.”

With her raised voice, the tension rises as well until I tell her, “Three hundred thousand dollars.”

“I don’t… my sister…” She struggles to finish her sentence, choking on her words, letting the number hit her. Three hundred thousand dollars.

That’s more than she’ll make in five years of working her ass off at the mental health hospital. I know what she makes, and every cent she has to her name was in the file Seth gave me.

I can see the way number piles on top of her; the very idea that she would have to pay that amount suffocates her. Stealing the life from her for only a moment before she tries to back away from me, but there’s only the wall behind her. Nothing more, and nowhere to go.

“You have no choice.”

“Jenny couldn’t have…” It’s not the debt that causes grief to settle in the depths of her eyes, it’s the very idea that her sister owed that much money to men like my brothers and me.

“You have questions and want answers. I want my bar to be free of your bullshit.” Although my words are harsh, my voice is calm, as soothing as it can be given the situation.

Her gaze whips up to mine, and she battles the need to hold on to the anger as my eyes roam down her body. The sleeve of her shirt is ripped, probably from her own doing. Her nails are chipped—again, probably from the way she’s struggled in all of this and then destroyed everything she could get her hands on.

“You have aggression and you need a release; I can give you that.”

She breathes a little heavier then says, “I want to leave.”

“I want an answer.”

Silence.

“You have a debt, an inherited debt and I’m giving you a way to pay it, free and clear.”

“I don’t owe you shit,” she whispers, her pain laced in between each word, woven in the air between us. But more than that… I can hear the consideration evident by the lack of her animosity.

“It’s your house, Thirty-four Holley Drive? Your sister was on your deed, wasn’t she? I’m guessing she helped you get the loan before she fell down the path that took her away from you?”

I’m an asshole, a prick. I’m going to fucking hell for this. With every second that passes, Bethany struggles more and more to fight, because she can barely hold herself together. “She used your home as a marker for this loan. It’s going to be paid.”

It’s cruel how I stand here, watching these words strike Bethany over and over. Each time taking a larger piece of her sister’s memory and changing it. Changing how she remembered her. And how she feels about her now.

I am the devil she thought I was.

“It’s not about the money for you though.”

My statement brings her gaze to me as I add, “And I’m not interested in taking from you what you don’t want to give.”

Her lips part, bringing me closer to getting what I want.

“You want to do it, Bethany. You will do this. The curiosity will win out. And if you don’t go through me, if you go back to pounding down doors and calling the police…” I let the unspoken threat dangle in front of her, allowing her to come to her own conclusion. “I’m a powerful man, but even I can’t save someone from themselves.”

My words seem to strike a chord with her, stealing what’s left of her composure.

“I just want- “

I cut her off and say, “I can give you what you want. And you can give me what I want too. Or you can pay me three hundred thousand by the due date, which is in…eleven days.” I make up a date, and then regret the fact that I didn’t say tomorrow.

Bethany

I don’t know how long I’ve sat here, wondering why he let me go. I know I should be dead after what I did. He’s a criminal, and he could have done whatever he wanted with me. Before or after I shot that gun. He’s strong enough to, and he has the means to do it. I’ve learned that much.

The sun’s gone down, leaving my small living room bathed in shadows. My eyes burn, and my left ankle is numb from sitting on it for so long.

There’s a bus that runs from the next block over all the way to Jersey City. I’ve been thinking about that too. And whether or not I would be able to use my credit cards, or if he’d be able to track me. I don’t have enough cash to live without cards. I barely have any cash, in fact. There’s a lot of debt in my name if I were to run and somehow try to come up with a fake ID.

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