He hung up. The dial tone rang through, and I left the phone behind. It didn’t matter. I had bags of burners ready to go, and in thirty-two hours, I would meet up with Blade and Carol. It was a decision we’d all made. I had to trust they were genuinely okay doing all this. If not, it’d be all for nothing.
I drove to my attorney’s office. I had another matter to finish. One last errand before I disappeared forever.
? ? ?
“Are you sure you want to do this?” My lawyer laid his hand over the last sheet for me to sign.
I was having déjà vu, but not from the second-guessing, from the paperwork. I had to sign a piece of paper for every single person my father had employed in his homes. I wasn’t too worried about the company. Those employees would still have jobs. I knew Kai needed the trucking line to keep trucking. That was the whole point, and the other holdings were investments. They would remain active.
I nodded. “I’m sure.”
“This is a lot of money you’re giving away.”
It didn’t matter. Not to me. From my father’s holdings and homes, I had acquired two hundred and seventy-three million dollars. I was giving it all away, except five million. Five was for me, just in case.
Each of those household staff members would receive five million. And I had divided the rest. Every domestic abuse shelter in Canada and the United States would receive a hundred thousand. After that, whatever was left, five percent would go to homeless shelters. Another five percent would go to any nonprofit fighting sex trafficking. And I left a percentage for lobbyists fighting sex trafficking at the legislative level. There were other stipulations and a good fund for my lawyers to take from for their own bills, but I wanted to do good.
This was my way of doing some good.
And signing my last piece of paperwork, I was officially done.
I had nothing hanging over me—not anymore. All the businesses and investments were gone. Every one of my father’s houses had been sold. I’d taken care of his employees. Blade and Carol were safe. The last step was for me to disappear.
It was time.
I shook my lawyer’s hand and slipped out. I had asked to keep this last meeting discreet, though he had wanted his entire law firm there to “send me off.” I wouldn’t allow it.
When I left his office, I was no one important. I was merely a client leaving, with a car full of memories and a full tank of gas, ready for a cross-country trip.
The girls at the front desk said their usual goodbyes, and I ducked my head as I waved. Pushing through the glass door, I stepped onto the street, and I was free. I felt it in every step I took, and I embraced it. I loved it. I lived it. It was going to keep me alive for the next decade.
And then I heard, “Riley.”
No. No. No.
I started shaking my head even before I turned to look. Then I had to laugh. He’d sent Jonah. Not Tanner. Seriously.
“Are you kidding me?” I flung a hand in his direction. “He sends you now? Tanner not enough for me? Or what? I need a secret genius to handle me? Is that why you’re here? How’s the girlfriend, Jonah? Kai know about her yet? Huh? Or…” I was going out on a limb. “About Tanner’s gay lover?”
Yeah. I registered the shock on Jonah’s face.
“Does Kai know about that too? Does the ‘family’?” I gave him some air quotes and let my arms swing wide. Because I was done. Done. Done! Having Jonah show up on this day, at this moment, took the cake. The whole fucking cake.
I’d been so close to freedom.
Jonah straightened from the building’s side where he’d been leaning as he waited for me. He cleared his throat, looking up and down the street and stepping closer. “Kai knows about Tanner’s sexual preference. So do I.” He stared at me. Hard. Not the way I’d known him to do so before. He resembled Kai now, at least in that moment. “We don’t give a shit.”
My soul was shriveling up.
He had no idea.
Freedom. I was so close and letting out a choking sound, I started to go around him.
He moved in a flash, grabbing onto my arm. “Kai wants to talk to you.”
He was three months too late.
I tried to keep my motivation going as I glared back at Jonah.
I didn’t care if he was a future doctor. I didn’t care how many times he had looked over me, made sure I was okay. I didn’t think about Tanner or how I was scared how the rest of the council might feel about who he loved. I didn’t consider Brooke, how she was as shattered as I had been, and how I was starting to miss her, just like I missed—NO!
I was not going there.
He didn’t deserve it.
I swallowed down a lump. “No.” God. I hung my head in anguish. “Let me go, Jonah.” Falling forward, my forehead found his shoulder, and I stayed there.
It was all for nothing.
He had found me. It was Jonah, for God’s sake.
I’d wanted them to be my family at one point.
“Please.” I whispered that over and over again, and he seemed surprised at first, stiffening.
Then he relaxed and just held me. He smoothed a hand down my hair and back, comforting me.
“Please let me go. You don’t understand.”
“Shhh.” He bent his head down, his cheek resting against my forehead. He held me closer. “Shhhh. It’s okay, Riley. It’s going to be okay.”
But it wasn’t. And he didn’t see it. He didn’t know it.
Nothing would be okay.
He lived in the mafia world. I was trying to break free. He was choking off my last run at it, at actually and finally being free. He had no clue what he was stopping. Swallowing my own tears, I pulled back, shaking my head.
“You don’t know.” I pressed my fist to my mouth, only able to gasp at the pain. It was too overwhelming, flooding every inch of me.
I couldn’t handle this.
I couldn’t bear it.
“No, Jonah. You couldn’t know.”
The street sounds began to blur together.
The sidewalk started going in circles around me.
Desolation. Destruction. Decimation. The same word. The same effect, but I needed all of them to describe how I was feeling, because it was all done. It was all over.
I was starting to show. They would know. Kai would know, and there’d be no going back after this.
Dazed. Confused. I stepped away from Jonah. I didn’t know where I was going, but I had to get away. I had to. One last attempt, even if it was a pathetic one.
I started up the sidewalk, and someone shoved me in the shoulder.
“Hey!” came Jonah’s voice.
The guy cursed next to me, “Watch it!”
A second shove.
I cried out.
I lost my footing. The world was tipping upside down.
I tripped, trying to catch myself. I went farther than I’d wanted. I felt the brush of a car behind me, a parked car. I reached out for it, trying to steady myself.
My insides were on alert. Red. I was going nuts. I had to get a handle on this, or my worst nightmare would come true.
Gritting my teeth from the sheer force, I righted myself against my own dizziness. I clung to that car and waited for everything to settle around me. And then, still holding on, knowing I wasn’t out of danger, but perilously close to it, I felt one last shove against me.
“Fuck! Sorry! Hey—He—”
A horn sounded.
I fell back, my hand flailing in the air, reaching for a stronghold, and then…
I woke to a light beeping sound, my mouth parched, and a splitting headache.
“Ow.” Lifting my head, I winced. Pain shot through me, and I almost doubled over. That hurt worse.
I kept my eyes closed, but I knew he was there. I’d felt him even before he spoke. I didn’t want him here. If he was here, it wasn’t good. There was only one thing that would bring him to my bedside.
I prayed silently, but then Kai spoke. “The baby’s gone.”
I didn’t want to hear those words. My hands moved to my stomach. There’d been the slightest bump starting. It felt flat again.
“No,” I choked out, curling in on myself. “No, no, no.”
“Riley—” The bed dipped under his weight, and I whirled around.
“NO!” I shoved him. “Get out! Get away from me.”
I turned away again. I didn’t want to see his pain. I didn’t want to see that he’d lost weight, how haggard he looked. Gaunt. I didn’t want to see his obvious suffering, because no matter what, none of it mattered. He’d torn out my insides, unknowingly leaving behind a part of him. And now that small blessing was gone.
“No.” I started to sob, hugging my pillow. “No.”
He sighed from behind me, his voice cracking. “Riley.”
The bed shifted even more. The sheet lifted, and I felt his hand on my back. He just placed it there a moment, his fingers trembling, and then he began to smooth it up and down. He grew more confident when I didn’t yell or shrink away.
“I can’t. I can’t—not anymore. Not after this.” He sounded so broken.
A tear leaked from my eye, and I hugged that pillow even tighter.
“By the time Jonah called and told me what happened, I was already coming. You have to know that. God. Do you even want to hear all of this?”