It was an out, and one he should’ve grabbed on to, but if this was the last night he was to spend with Kit, then why not give her the whole ugly truth? She deserved it after all the crap he’d put her through. “He never touched his own son. Only me.”

Noah forced himself to breathe. “He’d send his son to play in the backyard and then he’d…” The memories threatened to drown Noah in suffocating blackness. Staring up at the brightest star in the sky, he got the rest of it out before he could no longer speak. “He did pretty much everything you can do to a small boy with no defenses.”

He heard a wet sound, realized Kit was crying again.

Curling his arm inward, he held her against him. Again, he’d made her cry and it wasn’t over. Somehow he could still speak, and the words, they came out one by one, each a razor blade slicing his vocal cords. “Afterward, he warned me that if I ever told, he’d cut my parents’ throats in the middle of the night and do the same things to Emily that he’d done to me. He said that even if my parents survived, they’d send me away for bringing the monster to their door.”

“That fucking bastard.” Kit’s hand was a fist on his chest, her voice thick and harsh.

He crushed her closer, the tremors in his body having turned stiff until his muscles and bones felt like those of an eighty-year-old man. “I was only six, and he showed me the knife he’d use to cut my parents’ throats. So I didn’t tell.”

To this day, Noah didn’t know if he’d have been believed if he had told. “That summer, he did it again and again and again.” Noah’s father had brought a lot of work with him, and Noah’s mother had so many friends to see after having been on bed rest for most of her pregnancy; they’d thought nothing of leaving Noah with the man who was thought to be a friend. And the man’s wife had thought him a great guy for offering to babysit so she could accompany Noah’s mom on her visits.

“Even after we returned home,” Noah continued before he couldn’t, “I didn’t tell anyone. He’d convinced me that he was a real monster, that he could get to my family no matter where we lived.” Huddled and shivering under his blankets, he’d barely slept as he waited for evil to crawl through the window. “It was only when my parents started making plans to spend the next summer with the same family that I broke. I had a screaming tantrum, saying I didn’t want to go.”

“What happened?”

“Time out.” He smiled grimly. “My father told me I was too old for such theatrics and left me alone in my room to think it over. What I did instead was go into his study and use the key hidden under his lamp to unlock the drawer in which he kept his gun.”

Kit’s gasp was loud.

“I knew how to use it.” How to load the bullets if it was empty, how to release the safety, how to brace himself for the recoil. “My father’d taught me—we’re all ‘real men’ in the St. John family. Guns and hunting and women.” His father had always had a woman on the side, all part of the proud St. John tradition.

Bitterness in his mouth, Noah fisted his hand in Kit’s hair. “My father walked into my room an hour after he’d left to find me pointing the gun at the window.”

Kit went as if to rise up, but he couldn’t bear to see the disgust on her face, so he used his grip in her hair to keep her down. Not resisting, she stayed.

“To his credit, he didn’t yell. Instead, he asked me why I had the gun. I told him it was to shoot the monster so he couldn’t hurt us.” Noah could still see his father’s face as Noah finally told him about how the monster liked to do “bad things” to Noah: a mix of shock, pain, disgust… and shame.

Noah sometimes liked to imagine the latter two had been directed inward or at the man who’d done the crime, but Robert St. John’s later actions had made it clear the disgust and shame had been directed solely at Noah. “To cut a long story short, my father told me we wouldn’t be going to the Cape, I gave him the gun, and two weeks later, after a discreet medical examination to make sure there was no permanent physical damage, I was shipped off to boarding school.”

This time when Kit jerked up her head, he couldn’t keep her down. Turning his face away, he stared out into the garden.

“What about counseling?” she said, horror in her tone. “Did they even talk to you about—”

“No.” After the medical exam, no one in his family had ever again discussed the events of the summer of his sixth year. “My mother couldn’t even bear going with me to the doctor, and my father… he looked at me and was ashamed of me because I’d allowed it to happen.”

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