I’m the one to blame for what happened, so I beg for the mercy I’ll never show myself. “Please forgive me. Please.”
Though she’s not mine to love anymore, I do anyway. I love her in spite of what I’ve been forced to do.
Staring at her, I memorize every detail. Unable to resist bonding our hands once more, I complete the tattoo that forever anchors us together. “I love you.”
Two . . .
I walk away, swinging the door wide open, and leave this place, and her, behind.
Just outside, I cut the corner of the building and fall against it, needing a moment in the sun to wash away the bitterness before facing my mom. It doesn’t work.
How can it?
My hands are dirty with the deed I’ve done when all I wanted was her to cleanse them. Seeing Chloe didn’t do the trick. It made it worse. I break down, letting the anger own me. I fucking hate her dad. I hate this world for giving me a taste of a life never meant for me. I fucking hate everything.
I didn’t sign our relationship away on the dotted line. I made a choice to give up on us when she’s fighting to live. How is that right? How is that fair? I’m returning to my life as if our lives haven’t been changed forever, and I hope she hates me for it. Like I hate myself.
My gaze angles toward the entrance of the hospital to see a cop standing with his hand ready to draw his weapon. Confusion has me pushing off the brick wall. Old habits have me glancing over my shoulder for Todd and Bryant like we’re outrunning Old Man Sanders for trespassing to steal beer from his barn. Do I make a run for it?
He comes closer. “Don’t make this harder than necessary.”
I square my shoulders, fighting the need to cower as a blaze of physical pain scores my insides. “What are you talking about?”
“You’re still recovering, so I recommend you go willingly.”
“Go where?” I could make a run for the vehicle, but then I’ll be involving my mom, and I can’t do that. Where would we go? They know who I am. Where we live. Though I can’t stop my mind from spinning through optional scenarios, I know there’s no way out.
I’m not sure why sympathy enters his eyes, but I’ll take it. “I have a warrant for your arrest.”
A warrant? I sour in the words, knowing I’ve been had. “I signed the paperwork. Dr. Fox got what he wanted.”
He rattles off a series of charges. Although some I already heard when it was a threat, they don’t sit any better now than they did.
This isn’t New Haven where the Evans last name holds the weight I always complained about back home. Owning an immense amount of property has cemented his place. Here, I have to be strong because I’m not dealing with small town security guards like Dwight. This is Dr. Fox’s doing.
My instincts told me his word was no good, but as Chloe’s father, I trusted him. Being trapped makes you do stupid shit. Signing that contract was the dumbest one yet.
A fight rages inside my muscles, but this is a no-win. I’d die fighting, and what good to my mom will I be then? “It’s bullshit, and you know it.”
“It doesn’t matter what I know. You signed a confession.” He pulls the handcuffs from his loop.
My legs wobble as my head lightens, trying to process what he just said. “What confession?”
Suddenly, the sympathy makes more sense. “Were you under duress when you signed the paperwork?”
The beat of my heart rattles against my rib cage, shaking hands ready to fight for my freedom. “That wasn’t a confession. It was—”
“Put your hands behind your head,” he says, moving in. “And get on your knees.”
Pulling his gun, he aims it at my chest. I duck my head and drop to my knees as blood rushes through me, the sound in my ears making me squeeze my eyes closed.
Forget the pain, the visions of happier times, of mangata. Forget the sight of Chloe bare beneath me, her laughter filling my ears and her smile gentle like the breeze reminding me I’m alive.
“I didn’t sign a confession.” Tears fill my eyes unexpectedly. “I swear to God.” I slowly put my hands behind my head. My injury flares with fire licking up my back and side.
My wrists are twisted down and snapped into metal cuffs. It’s not the pain that gets to me and not the nosy people who’ve gathered to watch this arrest go down. It’s my mom when she discovers what’s happening. Her tears and cries as she comes running.
A look of utter devastation on her face is the last thing I see as I’m being driven away, breaking every promise to stay out of trouble that I made to her. But sometimes life doesn’t work out the way we plan.