“Yeah, she is.” Jake held me tighter and kissed my head.

“Who is the L then?” I traced the intertwining letters on his forearm with my fingers.

“Sabrina’s mama had died a few years before, from some sort of cancer. Her name was Laurelyn. While she was in labor, Sabrina told me if the baby turned out to be a girl, that’s what her name would be.”

“Wow.” It was all I could manage. The mystery of the SL tattoo had been solved and the truth behind it was more incredibly sad than I could have imagined.

“I should have gone for help, and I regret it every day that I didn’t,” he admitted. His usually strong voice was weak and mild.

“It was what she wanted Jake,” I said. “You were young. You did what you could.”

“No, I could have done more. I could have done so much more.”

“I think what you did was brave. Anyone could have just called an ambulance and gotten her to the hospital. What she asked of you was not what was expected. But it was what she wanted. I think it took a lot more strength for you to honor that.”

“I don’t know about strength. I was scared shitless.”

“What do people think happened to her?” I asked.

“They think she ran away. It was well-known that her dad was a really strict religious sort, and from her constant bruising I suspected he beat the shit out of her on a regular basis, but I was too much of a coward then to even do anything about it. Sabrina’s brother had run away when he was fifteen, so her dad assumed she either went to find him or followed his lead. Honestly, I don’t think he ever really looked too hard for her.”

“I know what that feels like.”

“Why do you say that?” Jake asked.

“Right after Nan died, if I’d just disappeared people may have wondered what happened to me, more for the sake of the gossip. But, no one would’ve looked for me.”

“If you ever disappear on me, I would track you to the ends of the Earth and back. I will always find you, Bee. Always.” He held me tighter.

“I’m not going anywhere,” I assured him. And it was in that moment that I meant it. I wasn’t going anywhere... though Jake would be. I had to remind myself again and again that our time together had an expiration date.

“I would kill for you, Bee. Happily.” He ran his fingers down my cheek. “I need you to know that.”

“I know.” Not only did I know, but as odd as it sounds, it flipped something on inside me. I suddenly had a deep and powerful need to be taken care of by someone who would do anything for me—even if that meant taking a life. It may have been there all along, but only now that I had someone who actually felt that way would I allow myself to feel it.

Sick, twisted Abby was in love with the sick, twisted, beautiful Jake.

Jake ran his fingers through the grass beside him and patted the ground.

“The first blood on my hands was theirs. Somehow I knew it wouldn’t be the last.” He took a deep breath. “Which reminds me of something else I need to tell you.”

“There’s more?” There had already been so much. “If you tell me more now, what will we talk about tomorrow?” I smiled. Jake laughed.

“Sort of. I have to leave next week.”

I knew he’d be leaving, after I’d heard him on the phone, but I hadn’t known when it would happen.

“Leaving?” The word still made my heart jump. It was too soon. He couldn’t leave yet. This was why I shouldn’t have let him break through my barriers. This was why I should have stayed numb at all times. I felt myself putting the walls back in place, brick by brick.

Stupid, stupid Abby.

“Not leaving leaving. I have to go do a job, I was going to back out, but they’ve already sent payment and cut communication, so saying ‘no’ at this point really isn’t an option, unless I want people looking for me.”

Apparently, I was just overreacting. Stupid Abby.

“How long will you be gone?”

“There is some tracking involved with this one. The guy isn’t exactly on the radar. Could be a couple weeks. Maybe a month.”

A month?

“Then, what?” I asked.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean after you come back. How long until you leave again? You’ve told me Coral Pines isn’t permanent for you. I can’t help wondering when you actually do plan on leaving leaving.” I needed to prepare for when that time came. I needed to be numb Abby for it.

Somehow, I knew I was fucking kidding myself.