“I’ll f**king kill him.” Pressure builds in my ears as I glance down at the black wallet gripped tightly in my shaking hands.
Oh, my God. I have to tell Bob.
My gut sinks. So many questions will be raised. Questions I’m not ready to answer. But it needs to be done.
This is urgent.
I dress as quickly as I can in my sweat pants and tee, pocket the wallet and make my leave. Before I exit, I glance around the room, Marco’s room. Lowering my gaze, I shake my head in disgust.
So f**king stupid. You sure know how to pick ‘em, Cat.
My heart races as I think hard about what I’m going to say to the man who raised me. The man who treats me as his own. The man who would kill for me. I come up blank.
First James, now this. I’ll never live this down.
I run a hand through my knotted hair and walk down the hall, out of the dorms towards Mirage. Suddenly, I pause mid-step. My heart skips a beat.
Act natural. Don’t panic.
I close my eyes and draw in a deep breath before stepping into Mirage. My eyes widen. I blink.
No one’s here. Thank God.
I let out a breath I hadn’t realised I was holding and make my way to the church. The closer I get, the angrier I become. How dare he! He knew. He knew and he still took my virginity. Yes, he said he was an ass**le, but I had no idea it stemmed this deep.
I thought we had a connection. A common interest. I thought we were one and the same.
I was wrong.
We aren’t alike at all. He played me like a finely tuned violin. And I let him.
I’m livid. Rage bubbles in my belly, like a volcano threatening to erupt and unleash its fury on anything that dares get close enough to it. I grit my teeth and growl, “Fuck.”
I pass my garden without so much as a glance and throw the kitchen door open. But it’s empty too. I sigh. Irritation has me muttering, “Where the hell is everyone?” The quicker I do this, the better. This isn’t something I can hide and hope it goes away.
My chest heaves. Panting, I run up the stairs to my room and walk the hall, checking every room for signs of life. It seems I’ve been abandoned this morning.
The last place I think to look is Bob’s office.
Bob. My heart stutters and clenches painfully. Poor Bob. He will not take this well.
Shuffling to the office door, I swallow hard and knock lightly.
“Come in,” calls Frankie.
I stare down at the door handle a moment wondering if I should enter at all. It would be so much easier to pretend I don’t have a hole burning in my pocket in the shape of a man’s wallet. Unsteadily, I grip the handle and open the door. Frankie, dressed in her habit, sits behind Bob’s desk, going over paperwork that needs to be filed.
She glances up at me and beams, “Morning, kiddo. Heard you nailed it last night.” One brow rises and she utters huskily, “Or should I say, nailed Mr Hyke.” My face burns and she chuckles, “You little hussy. Who knew?”
I clear my throat. “Is Bob around?”
Her smile falls. “No, sweet girl, he got called out to the Fontaines.”
I’m immediately alert.
Mrs Fontaine, the librarian in town, is the sweetest woman alive. She and Ari took turns giving me lessons in French throughout my childhood. Not necessarily something I need to know, but knowing two languages is better than one in my opinion. If something happened to Mrs Fontaine… My chest squeezes.
I near whisper, “Why?”
Frankie shrugs and sighs, “Mr Fontaine hasn’t been doing well for quite some time, Cat.” My shock must be written clear on my face because Frankie adds quietly, “He’s dying.”
Silence thickens the air around us. I try in vain to cut through it. My response comes out weakly, “Oh.”
She straightens and looks up at me. “Anything you want to talk to me about?”
I paste on a smile that is so void of happiness, I feel ashamed to wear it. “No. Thank you, though. I really need to speak to Bob. When he gets in, can you ask him to come find me? He’ll know where I’ll be.”
She scoffs, “We all know where you’ll be. That damn garden is more loved than I am.”
I smile a worthless fake smile and move to leave. I reach up and grasp the doorframe till my knuckles turn white. Without turning back, I ask, “Do you know where Marco is?”
Frankie doesn’t respond for a long while.
I grip the frame tighter, shut my eyes tightly and grit my teeth.
Please, don’t ask.
Finally, she answers cautiously, “Uh, no. Sorry. He took off about an hour ago.”
My feet carry me away from the office and lead me through the kitchen, to the back entrance of the building. And more importantly, my garden.
I kneel by the vegetable patch, close my eyes and pray for guidance. Praying for courage, the rosary beads wound around my hand are so tight, they threaten to cut off the circulation there.
When I hear the familiar rumble of an engine, I jump to my feet. I tell myself to be calm and think rationally. That’s obviously not going to happen today. Standing on shaking legs, I move to block the path where he rides. My face stern, eyes void, I see him approach, but really I don’t see him at all. Blood rushes through my body; pressure builds behind my eyes and ears. I feel as though I’m going to explode from the anger sizzling my insides.
The motorbike stops a foot away from me. He removes his helmet, smirking, “I was going to come looking for you, but you found me first.” Standing from the bike, he walks over to me with a hungry look in his eyes. “Let’s finish what we started this morning.”
My hands ball into fists. Of all the emotions rushing through me, two stand out. Disappointment and hurt.
He hurt me.
It f**king hurts.
Meeting him halfway, I step forward, wrench my arm back, and in one swift move, I break Marco’s nose.
I expect him to fall, but he doesn’t. He’s too solid to go down from one punch.
He steps away from me, his green eyes blazing. Blood drips from his nostrils over his lips and down his chin. His voice should scare me, but I’m too pissed to notice. He utters slowly in complete calm, “What the f**k?”
My response comes in the form of a high kick to his cheek.
His eyes widen in surprise, but it’s too late. That takes him down. Not all the way down, but he sinks to his knees.
I should feel victorious, but I don’t. I feel sad.
I take a step back, watching him all the while. He stands, jaw set. “You’re upset about something. I get that. But I don’t know why.” He eyes search me while his voice softens, “Tell me what’s wrong, honey.”