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The motherfucker now looked like the piece of shit monster he was.

This wasn’t a controlled rage. Far from it. This was me unleashing the pent up anger and frustration I’d been feeling ever since that bullshit fake cop tried to take me to ground.

I looked down at my hand, coated in the sticky red and smiled.

I wanted more.

I needed more.

“Stop. Please. I beg you,” Tanner moaned, revealing bright white teeth coated in even brighter red blood. He rolled his head from side to side, choking on the blood that had pooled in his throat.

“You started this, motherfucker. You can’t reign it in now just because you’re fucking pissing yourself. This is on you. You lay your filthy fucking hands on my girl, burn her skin, try to fucking kill her, and I’m supposed to show you mercy?” I shook my head. “You don’t fuck with what’s mine, and unfortunately for you, you’re about to learn that lesson the hard way.”

I looked up at Jake, who was standing to the side. His eyes were black and intently focused on Tanner. At first I thought he was almost bored, and waiting for me to end the kid and get it over with, but when I looked closer, I realized his expression was not bored at all.

It was lust.

And not for the boy, but for his blood.

“You can’t kill me,” Tanner said, gasping for breath.

“I believe I can, and I believe…I will.” I ran the barrel of my gun down his nose and pushed it into one of his eye sockets, while he squirmed underneath me. “It’s been a long time since I’ve killed anyone for the pure pleasure of it…too long really,” I said whimsically.

“You think Ramie is going to stay with you?” the little twat said. “She’s a fucking teenager. She doesn’t know what she wants. She could leave you tomorrow when she realizes that you’re just a pedophile with nothing to offer her. She’ll remember soon that she’s better than you, and she’ll fucking leave.”

“That’s where you’re fucking wrong,” I said. “You obviously don’t know me very well because her leaving me isn’t an option.”

“Then you’re just as much of a monster as I am. You and I aren’t so different after all,” he quipped, his pupils as big as his eye sockets.

“That’s where you’re wrong,” I corrected.

“Neither of us are willing to take no for an answer. Doesn’t sound much different to me.” His breathing became more and more labored, his words took great effort to choke out. Jake was growing restless, passing his gun from his right to left hand over and over again, his focus on Tanner unwavered.

I chuckled and ran my hand over my head. “Well, for starters, tomorrow I’ll be breathing…and you won’t be.”

Jake nodded and tilted Tanner’s head, pressing the heel of his hand against his jaw, he cracked the bones in his neck.

Tanner’s eyes darted from me to Jake, his strained voice turned to panic. “Ramie would never forgive you if you killed me. I fucked up, I admit. I totally fucked up, but she still wouldn’t want me dead. I’m the father of her son for Christ’s sake!”

“Wrong again, shows how much you really don’t know her. Not only will she forgive me, but she’ll thank me when we’re home and she’s back in my bed where she belongs.” I scratched my head with the barrel of my gun and stood up. “But just in case, you’re right, I won’t kill you.” I holstered my gun in the back of my jeans and Tanner breathed out a sigh of relief.

I turned around, knowing full well what was going to happen next. I’d only taken two steps toward the door when I heard the sound of a single gun shot.

“Jake will.”

Chapter Thirty-Four

Doe/Ray

One Month Later

I spent time with Nikki’s parents as soon as I was able. I needed for them to know that Nikki didn’t die alone as a junkie seeking a high, but as a friend, protecting her very best friend, until her very last breath.

We laid Nadine to rest near Nikki, and just like at Preppy’s funeral, I gave the eulogy for the woman who was more of a mother to me than anyone else. Looking back at all the times Nadine defended my father, all the times she stood by him when his own wife hadn’t, I couldn’t help but think that maybe the two of them had more than an employee/employer relationship.

My mother hadn’t officially split, but when the word traveled to wherever she had secluded herself about Tanner and Nadine and what had happened that night, she’d just never came back.

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