I’d accepted Jake for being all of those things, yet for so long, I couldn’t accept them within myself. I finally realized that it’s possible to love within a space that sometimes holds nothing but emptiness... or nothing but darkness.

After all, we all have darkness within us.

Some of us more than others.



TWO NIGHTS PASSED BEFORE I WAS ABLE to make it home to Georgia and Bee, to my family. My clothes and skin were soaked with blood, mud, filth, and the other remnants of the dark places I had been. Bee threw herself into my arms without hesitation the second she saw me, despite my disheveled condition.

I’d pulled Bee into her bedroom that night, and she didn’t even let me shower before she asked me to describe to her what I had done to Owen in detail. Then, we had ourselves a long overdue, blood-covered, lust-fueled fuck-fest that lasted all night. For a woman who had once been afraid of my touch, she now devoured every moment of twisted carnal bliss between us.

Making love wasn’t our thing. We already had love. We made that every day. It was in every look, every touch, every understanding word.

Our sex? That was about owning one another. Finally being able to feel after years of pushing that shit aside in order to live and survive was an amazing fucking feeling. I wanted to live inside Bee, and I almost believe I do. That girl had gotten under my skin and inside my black soul the very first night I’d ever laid eyes on her.

I would walk around wearing her on my dick if I could.

I never thought I would be calling the house that used to hold so many ghosts, my parent’s old house, my home again. Our home. Truth is I could call a hollowed out tree home as long as Bee and Georgia were there with me.

My wife, my daughter, my entire life.

The reasons for my existence.

Yeah, we got married. We didn’t make too big a deal out of it. It was just something we felt we needed to do. Not to mention I really wanted to. My girls were always meant to share my last name. It became more important to me than I thought it would be. Our wedding was just the three of us, a witness, and a justice of the peace. We had the ceremony in the orange grove clearing during sunset, where more than my secrets were laid to rest.

It was perfect, our kind of perfect.

I became a better person because of them. The monster in me had been tamed, tucked away for the time being. He was still there deep inside, in a sort of semi-permanent hibernation. It was a comfort to know I could call on him if I ever needed to. Because if my family were ever to be threatened or harmed again, he will be fucking called on.

Truth of it was, I needed them more than they needed me. I’ve never fooled myself into believing that I was even remotely good enough for either of them. Instead, I made a promise to myself that I would give them the life they deserved, and be the man they needed me to be, even if being that man took more work on my part than I imagined others needed.

I no longer traded lives for money. I put that behind me and focused on helping Reggie run the shop. We got ourselves another receptionist so Bee could focus on her photography.

I haven’t killed since the night I was given permission by my woman to end the man who killed her grandmother, raped her, and shot my daughter.

If it had been possible, I would have killed that fucker three times over.

A sense of elation washes over me mixed with pure heated rage when I think of that sick fuck laying his hands on Abby the very night she let me into her heart and into her bed. I can’t stand to think about my poor frail Georgia in the hospital clinging to life. Even when I think of a defenseless and harmless old woman, walking to her own death while thinking she was doing nothing more than helping people, I feel a rage I sometimes find hard to tame.

Abby and I stopped talking about Owen entirely after that. The people of Coral Pines assumed he was drunk one night, fell off the seawall and drowned, like so many of the town’s alcoholics before him. I’m sure they thought his body had been made a good meal of by an alligator or wild boar in the mangroves somewhere.

No doubt, some of the town folk had their suspicions about me. I’m sure they thought I could be responsible in some way. After all, Owen had always hated me, and we’d publicly brawled on occasion. They knew how little we cared for each other. But, the sad fact was that not many people gave a shit about where Owen might have gone.

I had his very own mother on my side.

Bethany knew I killed Owen. How? I told her. I was no fucking coward. I told her while we were still in the hospital what I was going to do the second I knew my girl was okay. She knew she couldn’t stop me and said she wasn’t even going to try. She knew as well as I did that Owen was like a rabid dog and had to be put down.