I miss Mateo so much.

It’s only the tiniest glimpse of a life without him, and it makes me miserable.

Vince makes it worse, because now I’m straddling him in Mateo’s chair and the bastard leans in and kisses my neck. It’s a fucking mockery. I don’t even know how he knows Mateo’s kisses my neck—maybe he doesn’t, maybe it’s more coincidence than calculation, but it makes me shudder all the same, and not with pleasure.

“How’s it feel, seeing me in his seat?” he asks lowly, in my ear.

“I’ve never been less attracted to you in my life,” I reply honestly.

Fisting a hand in my hair, he holds onto me and gives me another punishing kiss. “Too bad,” he says.

My eyes grow wide but Vince only smiles as a gun is suddenly pointed at his head. He lets go of my hair and I turn my head to look at Adrian, standing beside the chair with a blank look on his face.

“You wanna run down the list of people I’ve killed in fucking chairs, Vince? You wanna join that list?”

Honestly, I don’t even have it in me to feel worried right now. This is somehow the lowest point I’ve hit with Vince so far, but seeing him in Mateo’s place like this, feeling the way he’s making me feel right now, I don’t even have it in me to simply request Adrian not kill him.

It’s not like he will. Not here in the dining room, not right now. At least, I don’t think.

“Mia, get up,” Adrian commands, still with his gun at Vince’s temple.

I do. I don’t even hesitate a second, climbing off his lap and backing up by my own chair.

“We have two choices here,” Adrian says. “I’m honestly partial to the first one, because it saves me a lot of trouble and makes everyone happier, but I’m gonna let you choose. Option one: I shoot you. Mateo has to get the dining room redecorated. We all move on.” He lifts his eyebrows, nodding a little. “Got option one? Okay. Option two: you chill the fuck out. You go back to your own seat and we all get through this miserable goddamn dinner without killing each other. After it’s over, before the dishes have even been cleared, I walk you out to your car and you leave alone. Mia stays here tonight.” Flicking a glance at me, he says, “You can stay in Francesca’s room.”

I nod obediently. I don’t have the textbooks or notes I need for classes tomorrow, and it doesn’t seem like anyone at the house is especially fond of me tonight, but I feel better about staying here in Francesca’s old room than going home with Vince this time.

“Well, with options like that…” Vince trails off sarcastically, unafraid. I tend not to be afraid of Adrian either, but I didn’t watch him shoot my best friend in the head. I would think Vince would take the threat a little more seriously.

Maybe he does. He just doesn’t care.

Dread moves through me. I feel like I’m losing control of him, and staying here tonight probably won’t help that. Maybe it would remind him that I could leave him, so he should keep his head on straight to keep me around. But maybe it only makes him more resentful. Typically if there’s a choice between anything else and growing more resentful, Vince chooses the latter option.

But he gets out of Mateo’s chair.

I don’t feel as much relief as I expect to feel. I’ve gone over Vince’s death so many times in my head, and it’s always Mateo who kills him. If Adrian did, and Mateo didn’t even know because he was upstairs and had no idea anything was happening down here, it wouldn’t be his fault.

It would still be mine though.

I’m still the reason he hates Mateo. I’m still an awful girlfriend. Sometimes I take it in my head to stop, to be better, but it never lasts. I can’t maintain it. My heart just isn’t in it, so it’s always a performance, and like all performances, it has to end.

I’m the reason Vince hates Mateo enough to kill him, and I don’t know how to fix that.

Apparently I only know how to make it worse.

Chapter Six

Meg

Lying in Mateo’s arms, naked and at least physically sated, I wait for the hard part to come. The painful part.

I don’t ask for it. I don’t want to. As long as his arms are wrapped around me, giving me the illusion of security, I’m going to hold onto it.

This is a good sign, after all.

Mateo never bails on his family dinners. He loves his family dinners. But he didn’t want to go without me, even though Mia would be there. He didn’t want to leave me upstairs all night, upset, and so he came upstairs with me. Without a single word between us, he swept me up in him, made me forget.

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