Shattered King(2)By: Sherilee Gray
I swallowed, trying to get some moisture going in my mouth. I had to say what I’d come to say. I had to. I started to shake. Fuck. “I’m . . . I’m sor . . .”
“Don’t fucking say it, Lulu. Don’t you dare fucking say that to me.”
Hearing him say my name was a knife to the chest. He was the only one who called me that. Everyone else called me Lucinda or Lucy. Pierce, my stepfather—even thinking his name made my skin crawl—had hated it. Hated Hunter period. Now the sick, sadistic asshole had found a way to get him out of my life for good.
I stared into his eyes, desperate for a piece of my Hunter, no matter how small. But he was gone. The full impact of his hatred for me, his disgust, was as bright as a neon sign. What else could I say? He didn’t want my apology. I got that, too. How could an “I’m sorry” make up for losing three years of your life?
I couldn’t tell him I’d let him swing to save his life. My stepfather had people on his payroll in this prison. He’d told me they’d be watching today, that if I said one thing to tip him off, Hunter was dead. If I went to the cops, if I said anything to anyone, Hunter was dead. My nose and eyes stung, tears threatening to escape, but I swallowed them down ruthlessly, forced them back.
I glanced around. No one seemed to be watching us, but I had no way of knowing for sure. I couldn’t risk Hunter’s life just to appease my guilt. “I’m leaving,” I told him. “I’m never coming back. I came to say goodbye.”
He stared at me for several long seconds, showing no outward reaction. But then he fisted his long fingers in front of him, the ink on his knuckles becoming stark against the tight, whitened skin. “As far as I’m concerned, you’re already gone. You’re dead to me. You don’t fucking exist.”
I was going to throw up. Nothing in my entire life had hurt more than those words. I couldn’t bear it another second. I couldn’t sit here with him looking at me like that. Lying to his face. Pretending I didn’t care. Pretending I was okay, when I was so far from okay I didn’t know where the hell I was.
I stood abruptly, and had to grab for the table when my legs threatened to give out from under me. Before I could get my bearings, Hunter’s hand snaked out, wrapping around my wrist, yanking me forward. I fell across the table with a cry, the bolted down metal legs rattling loudly against the concrete floor as he dragged me closer.
“Why?” he hissed in my face.
His grip was tight enough to hurt, and the table dug painfully into my side. Tears welled up and spilled hotly down my cheeks. “I’m sorry,” I gasped. “I’m so sorry.”
The guards were on him, trying to pull him off me. He fought, still not letting go. They yanked him back and I was dragged forward, going down hard on the floor.
“Why?” he roared in my face.
His fingers were pried from around my wrist, and they dragged him from the room. He yelled the same word over and over the whole way. It echoed off the walls around me.
I squeezed my eyes shut, lifted to my elbows, and threw up in front of everyone. I didn’t care.
Hunter was gone.
Three years and four months later
My footsteps were soundless against the thick carpet as I headed up the darkened stairs. I didn’t need a flashlight; the moon was doing a decent job through the skylight.
The Upper East Side townhouse had that smell. A smell that, to me, screamed money and privilege, not something I could describe easily. The word sterile rattled around my skull. Furniture polish. Floor cleaner. Whatever other shit they had their cleaning staff use to wash away any traces of personality. Anything real.
It hung heavy in the air. Lifted the damn hair at the back of my neck.
I despised the types of people that lived like this. Firsthand experience had taught me they couldn’t be trusted. That they’d stab you in the back as soon as you looked the other way.
And in this guy’s case, commit insurance fraud rather than admit they were living beyond their means.
I did a walkthrough and a quick search of the bedrooms before I headed to the office. I found the safe quickly, in a closet on the far side of the room, hidden under a stack of boxes. I’d been cracking safes since I was fourteen. Raul Esposito, a man who had become a second father to my older brother Van and me when our own had been a drunk and an asshole, had trained me well.