Meeting eyes that now seemed strangely tormented, as if my fear truly would bother him, I said, “You broke into my apartment.” And it had no doubt been a breeze for him, since he’d helped his cousin install my alarm system. He’d known what model it was and where all the sensors were.
“So that you’d know I was close and that I’d protect you. You were so stressed out by this fucking idiot writing that story, and it made you paranoid.” He tossed Ricky a withering look, but Ricky didn’t appear chastened; he glowered. Reed ignored him. “I needed you to know that someone was close, you were safe, and that you didn’t need to be so worried.”
How could he not see that it had had the opposite effect?
His expression darkened as he added, “Running into Blake’s arms was a mistake. He’s not good for you, Kensey. People like me and Blake and Ricky, people who like to cause pain … we’ll never be normal. We’ll never get to lead normal lives. Don’t you want a bit of ‘normal,’ Kensey? Cade would be better for you. Not assholes like Gage—fuck, Kensey, what were you thinking when you dated that guy? I couldn’t believe it when I followed him to that bar and found him all over that redhead who’s got a hard-on for Blake.”
One thing I didn’t want right then was Reed to be pissed off, and that obviously meant moving him off the subject of Blake. “I saw your altar and candles. I didn’t know you were religious.”
Reed snorted. “Religion is a fucking joke. My mother used to go to a church like this every Sunday and pray and sing hymns and light candles. Then she’d take me home and—” He inhaled sharply, looking vulnerable all of a sudden.
“What did she do to you, Reed?”
His eyes hardened. “Nothing I didn’t do to her with the strap-on she liked to wear so much. Either my dad didn’t know or didn’t care what she did—he was too busy playing with the dead. She was my first kill.” His eyes settled on the body at the end of my pew and I realized that, oh God, it was his mother. “Can you tell me she didn’t deserve what she got, Kensey?”
“I believe in an eye for an eye.” It didn’t really answer his question, but he seemed pleased.
“I knew I could make you understand. I mean, you love Michael, despite what he did. You know things aren’t black and white.”
Ricky made a sound of utter derision. “She’ll say anything to make you free her. You can’t honestly mean to let her go!”
Reed glared at him. “Are you going to kill her?” He sneered when Ricky didn’t answer. “No, I didn’t think so. You’re only good for helping me snatch the women and set up the altar. You won’t do the real work yourself.”
I looked at Ricky. “You were the one who held me at knifepoint, weren’t you?”
Ricky flushed, embarrassed. For me, that night had been frightening. For him, it had been a failure at being what he wanted to be.
“Did you stab Linton too?”
“He was watching you, and that wasn’t good for me and Reed,” said Ricky. “It meant he could see something he wasn’t supposed to see.”
Like Ricky ramming his truck into my car.
“You were supposed to kill him,” Reed reprimanded. “Ricky paid for scarring you, by the way, Kensey.” Reed tossed him yet another hostile look, but Ricky still didn’t cower. In fact, he looked even angrier than before.
As for Reed … he looked his normal, usual self. He didn’t look crazy. Didn’t act crazy. And that somehow made this whole thing scarier. Sure, there was nothing ‘sane’ about his actions, but they were entirely logical to him. He believed in what he was doing. I doubted that there was a single thing that anyone could say to him that would make him question his actions.
“I wasn’t ready back then, but I am now,” Ricky insisted, clenching his fists. “You said it yourself, Reed, it’s about time I popped my cherry. What better person to start that with than her?”
Reed did a slow blink. “Did you not hear anything I said? She’s special to Michael. Hurting her would hurt him.”
“And he doesn’t deserve just a little pain for snubbing and rejecting me?” Ricky demanded, spittle flying everywhere. “She knows what it’s like. Her dad didn’t acknowledge her either. She knows how it feels; she should have been a little fucking sympathetic to what I was going through! But no!”
“Get a damn grip, Ricky, I’m not spending hours calming your ass down again.”
“You can’t really mean to let her go! She’ll go to the cops the first chance she gets! And if she doesn’t do it, her boyfriend will. Then it’ll all be over. Reed, man, I know you don’t want to disappoint my dad. But he’ll thank us for killing her in the long-run, when he’s thinking straight again.”
“I won’t kill her.” Reed rubbed a fist over his mouth, frowning thoughtfully. Then his eyes lit up. “I’ll keep her instead. My basement … yeah, she can stay there. There’s plenty of room. Hell, I think my old bed is still down there. And people like Blake can’t get to her then. She’ll be safer.”
Oh, the fuck, no. No. I’d be damned if I’d be anyone’s captive.
Ricky gaped at him. “Man, why do you give a rat’s ass if she’s safe?” Then his mouth formed an ‘O’ shape and he burst out laughing. “You want her, don’t you?” Again, he laughed. “She’ll never want you back, Reed.”
Cheeks reddening, Reed landed a hard slap on Ricky’s face that echoed throughout the church like a clap of thunder. The laughter cut off. Reed jabbed a finger in his face. “I told you, I don’t like anyone laughing at me.”
As they proceeded to argue, my eyes darted to the thick wooden doors. I wondered if just maybe I could run outside while they were busy having a standoff. Reed had said he didn’t want to hurt me, and I believed him. But he also said that he wanted me as his captive, and there was just no fucking way I’d let that happen.
On a good day, it would be easy to outrun Reed. He wasn’t exactly fit. But although my legs weren’t quite so shaky now, my body still pulsed with pain. And I’d seen Ricky run in the parking garage two years ago—the little shit was fast.
No, I had to be practical. Fleeing wasn’t practical. Not yet, especially since it would also spur them into uniting to work as a team to catch me. Right now, they were at loggerheads, and that was better for me. It made more sense to stay still until an opportunity to run came my way. In the meantime, I’d allow them to think I was totally defenseless. The truth was … I wasn’t.
Still clutching my pendant, I flicked the hidden clasp at the top of it to separate it from the chain. Busy posturing and arguing with each other, they didn’t notice as I spread the thick angel wings open wide … exposing the partially blocked wing that was actually a concealed blade. Slightly curved, it was no longer than a paperclip, but it was razor sharp.
Firmly gripping the blunt wing—which was actually the handle—I put my fist beside my thigh and slid the bladed wing beneath it.
“If she accepted and loved my dad like you say she does, she’d see him a fuck of a lot more than twice a year,” said Ricky.
Reed snorted. “Well of course she doesn’t go see him more than that. How would it look to others if she did? You’ve never cared about fitting in and not attracting attention. The rest of us do.”