The morning after, there was a note from Frank on my desk about a new alarm system being installed in the apartment that very afternoon, and a loaded .22 on my keyboard.

Owen never bothered me again, but with my .22 at the ready, I kinda wished he had.

“You want to bring my daughter around Owen?” I asked Bethany. I tried to rein in the panic in my voice, but I know she’d heard it.

“No, no. It would just be me,” Bethany assured me. “I haven’t told anyone about this—not even my husband. I’m not asking to take her anywhere, either. Maybe, we could meet up at the park, just like this, and I could play with her a little...get to know her.” She looked like a woman who was desperate to form a relationship with someone—one that didn’t take everything she had to keep it from falling apart.

Bethany let out a long held sigh. “You know, I tried to have him put away, but Owen’s father wouldn’t have anything to do with the idea. Instead, I had Cole lock him in a cell for a few days to calm him down after he’d had a fit. That’s what we called his behavior, anyway. I started recognizing the similarities between my son and my husband. Jamie’s never been a gentle man.” Bethany’s eyes glazed over. “He is very much like my son. I think he’s just better at covering his tracks.” She crossed and uncrossed her legs.

I couldn’t figure out why she was telling me any of this.

“If I had to pinpoint a time when it all started to go wrong, I would say it was when Mason died.”

“Mason? Mason Dunn?” I asked.

What did Jakes’ brother have to do with the Fletchers?

“Yes. They grew up together, practically shared a crib. Marlena was my oldest and dearest friend. I think when both Mason and Marlena died, Owen started to lash out. He blamed everyone and anyone for Mason’s death, especially his brother Jake.”

“Why?” I asked. “It was an accident.”

“Yes, well. Jake was supposed to be with Mason that morning, but he was still a teenager and probably didn’t want to be on a boat in the middle of the river at five a.m. on a Sunday. So in typical teenage fashion, he didn’t show up at the docks. Mason went out alone. Nobody knows what happened to capsize the boat. The waters were due to be rough, but nothing more than usual. Owen just assumes if Jake had been there with him, then maybe Mason would still be alive.”

“Or they both could’ve died,” I said. At least now, I knew why Owen and Jake had hated each other from the very beginning. That hatred hadn’t started with me. I’d just added to it.

“I know that. But Owen couldn’t see it that way. I felt so helpless, he was hurting so much. Instead of getting him help to work through it, I justified his behavior. I enabled him. Instead of making him realize he was wrong, I made excuses.” She gave me a sad smile. “I helped to make him what he is.”

“Has he hurt anyone since me?” It was something I wondered about almost every day.

When she nodded, I almost fell off the bench. I clutched my stomach. “The Preston girl. Stacy, I think her name was. Owen gave her a black eye and roughed her up a bit. We also think he might have sunk the Prestons’ shrimp boat, but he denies it, and they have no proof.” She wiped her palms on her skirt. “Nothing compared to what he did to you, though.”

No. Nothing did.

She cleared her throat. “I know this doesn’t mean shit to you, Abby, but I think you are doing a great job as a mom, a much better job than I ever did.” Bethany's eyes had started to glaze over. Was hell freezing over, or was Bethany Fletcher—formerly Satan’s right hand man—actually about to cry? And in front of me, no less. “Is Owen her father, Abby? I mean, I know you were living with Jake for a while…”

It was time to tell someone about it.

I would never have dreamed in a million years it would be Bethany Fletcher. But, she happened to be the one who was asking.

“When I first found out I was pregnant, I was sure she was Owen’s, but then she was born with bright blue eyes, and I thought for a second there was a chance…” I shook my head and laughed. “I was so young. I didn’t know most babies born with blue eyes change color over time. One day I was staring at my six month-old baby girl and her eyes were as green as the freaking Emerald City. That’s when I gave up all hope that she was Jake’s.” It was difficult to admit out loud.

“Oh, Abby,” Bethany said. “That must have been hard for you.”

I nodded. “It still is.”

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