“How could you?” I ask him as the first tear rolls down my cheek.

The confidence I’ve found over the past few years, my goals, my purpose, my fucking reason for breathing, it was all a lie.

A fucking lie.

And recognizing it breaks something deep inside me. Shatters it to pieces.

“How could I what? How could I fucking protect you?”

“You let me believe…” I trail off, laugh bitterly, and shake my head.

He let me believe I was making a mark on the world. Oh, I’ve made a mark alright. I’ve painted a large swath of blood across it.

“Yes, I let you believe that a beautiful woman like you can live and prosper in this world without a man to protect her, and I regret that. I regret that my indulgence has brought us to this moment. But it’s time to put an end to this, Meredith.”

Thank god he didn’t give me a gun, because I think at this moment I could fucking kill him.

“Why?” I reach out and grab his hand as he starts to turn away from me. “Why did you do it? Why did you fucking indulge me?” I ask, my tear-blurred eyes searching his face as I continue to struggle with the destruction of my existence.

Matthew looks me hard and deep in the eyes and something flickers inside them. A warmth I haven’t seen in what feels like forever. A warmth he hasn’t shown me since I ran out of that basement screaming.

He squeezes my hand as he answers, “Because you’re my sister.”

God help me, when he says it like that, I want to forgive him. I want to put everything in the past behind us and start over fresh again.

But I can’t sit here and be a part of a man being tortured. I just can’t.

“Matthew, please,” I plead, squeezing his hand back. If he cares about me, truly cares about me as he claims, he won’t put me through this. “We don’t have to do it like this. We don’t have to torture him. We can kill him and we can all go home.”

He closes his eyes for a moment and takes a deep breath. I know I’m trying his patience, but I’m still hoping logic and reason will win out. That it will spare me the nightmare that’s about to happen.

“We could,” he says, his eyes flashing open. “We could put a couple of bullets in his head and mail him back to his father and hope that that’s the end of it. But then, seeing his beloved son with only two holes in his head might only further anger the father.”

“It would be a risk, yes,” I admit, and the small bubble of hope I was nursing inside me deflates as I start to realize his reasoning behind this.

Matthew nods his head sharply. “Yes, it would be quite the risk. His father might become confused and not realize that we mean fucking business. That no one fucks with our family and gets away with it.”

I drop Matthew’s hand.

“Today it was Bryant, Johnathan, and Simon,” he says, his face flushing red with anger. “Tomorrow it could be Lily, my children, you, or my unborn niece or nephew.”

His eyes flick down to my stomach and unconsciously I place my hand over it.

My baby. If I truly am pregnant like Simon says, I’ll do anything… anything to protect my child.

Fuck. Now I understand why Matthew did what he did.

“Is that a risk you’re willing to take, Meredith? Are you willing to put that burden on your head?”

Oh god. Could I ever forgive myself if something happened to them? Could I live with myself knowing I didn’t do everything in my power to prevent it?

There’s already so much blood on my hands… so much…

I shake my head, the tears streaming down my face in earnest now. “No…”

“Then you agree with what we’re about to do?”

As much as I hate it, as much as it turns my fucking stomach, I find myself nodding my head.

“Good,” Matthew says and turns away from me. “Are you about done, Andrew?”

I glance over to see Andrew nod his head and squat back down to rummage in his backpack. “Yeah, just finished putting in the last stitch.”

Simon’s eyes meet mine over Andrew’s head and there’s so much intensity in them it steals my breath.

“You want something for the pain?” Andrew asks and Simon’s attention drops down to him.

“Yes, I want something for the fucking pain,” he snarls.

Andrew nods his head and pops up holding a syringe.

As Andrew gives the syringe a tap, Simon asks, “Why didn’t you offer earlier?”

Andrew shrugs and smirks. “You didn’t ask, Spider.”

I wipe at my eyes with the back of my hand as Andrew finds a suitable vein on Simon’s arm and administers the painkiller.

“You’re ready to go,” Andrew says, withdrawing the needle and taking a step back.

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