Strapping on my guns, I take out my cell phone and toss it on the bed, not wanting to be tracked.

I glance around my bedroom, wondering what Paige would think if she saw it. My walls are lined with pictures of her. She coats every inch of space. It’s part of my dirty secret, my obsession with her. Hundreds of pictures that I’d collected over the years act as wallpaper.

Maybe I should be embarrassed, but I’m not. Is it crazy? Yes. But it is what it is. She has fueled my life for the past five years. She’s been my everything, and I’m going to show her how much she means to me. I’ll prove to her that I’ll always do what needs to be done for her, and maybe in the end I can have her.

Chapter Twenty-Five


* * *

MALLORY WRAPS HER arms around me, holding me tightly as I cry on her shoulder. She lets me get it out until no more tears can break free. I want to pull her closer and push her away at the same time. I don’t want to be touched, but I feel like I’m falling apart. My world is slipping away from me.

Maybe this is payback for what I’ve done. I forgot about my mother and tried to have something for myself. All of that has led to everything around me crumbling. Not all at once, but taking me piece by piece until there’s nothing left. It feels like there’s no life inside me, only emptiness. I’m left with an empty heart and hollowness in my chest.

“What happened?” she asks, pulling back and looking at me. Her eyes go to the gun in my hand, and they widen before she can hide her reaction.

“Captain.” I shake my head. “Ryan,” I correct, not wanting to use the silly name we’d given him. “He works for my father.” The last of my words are ripped from me. It’s like I can’t believe them. That they can’t be true.

“No.” She shakes her head, as much in denial as I am.

I turn from her, gripping the gun tighter. I’m not sure if I can use the thing. I’d shocked myself when I shot the wall. That I actually pulled the trigger. Why does this hurt worse than losing my mother? Because I’m selfish. That’s all I’ve been these past few weeks.

“I saw it. All the emails.”

I’d read only a few of them before I pushed the laptop away from me. I didn’t want to look at it anymore. I didn’t want to believe it. I’m not going to be a fool any longer. I put the gun down and pick up the laptop. Then I start typing away.

“What are you doing? Maybe we should call Miles. Or fuck, I don’t know. Paige, tell me what to do. You’re scaring me.”

I ignore her rapid firing of questions and keep typing until I find him. “Got you,” I whisper to myself, picking up the gun and heading to my bedroom. I pull off my clothes and change into black running pants, a sports bra and black hoodie, then I pull my hair into a ponytail.

“You’re doing it, aren’t you?” I look over at Mal standing in the doorway of my bedroom, tears sliding down her cheek. “I know I?I s-said…” She stumbles over her words. “I know I said I wouldn’t stand in your way, but…” Her hands go to her mouth like she’s trying to calm herself so she can get the words out. “You’re my family, and I can’t lose you. I know that’s selfish, but please just, just…” She repeats the word over and over, like she can’t form a sentence or think of how to end it.

I walk over to her and she drops her head, our foreheads coming together. We stand there until she finally looks at me.

“Okay. I know. I know,” she finally says, getting herself together. It helps calm me calm, too, knowing I can’t walk out of here with her freaking out. For so long it’s been her and me.

“I wish I could come with you.”

I shake my head at her words.

“Promise you’ll come back. Promise me.”

“I’ll always be with you, Mal. You’re the only person who’s never used me. All you cared about was being my friend, and you’ll never know what that means to me. The only person who really loved me.” Tears stream down her face. “How could I not love you?” I say, grabbing her and hugging her tight, hoping this isn’t the last time I see her.

“I know you don’t believe it, but you’re the strongest person I know, Paige”

God, do I wish I could believe that. I feel like I could fall apart at any moment. I’m terrified at the thought of going through with this. Of holding a gun to my father and pulling the trigger. I don’t know if I have that in me, but I’m going to find out.