Page 76 of Alpha (Alpha 1)

“Crazy,” Layla said. “So are you gonna turn Roth in?”

“Turn him in?” I hadn’t even considered that. “I don’t see the point. It happened seven years ago, and it was, according to Roth, an accident. I’d have to…relive everything. Go through all the evidence. Testify, assuming it went to trial, and assuming there was any way to get evidence against Roth, which I’m not sure of…I don’t know. What would it accomplish?”

“Justice?” Layla suggested.

“Would it, though?” I turned and met her gaze. “I don’t know if it would be justice. I mean, all Roth is really guilty of is blackmail. Would putting him—and me—through a big legal mess be worth it? And would it be justice? Where would that leave me? It doesn’t bring my father back.”

“It sounds an awful lot like you’re defending this guy.” Layla stared down between her feet. “And why do you keep calling him ‘Roth’? I thought his name was Valentine?”

“It is. But Roth was the name he gave me, and that’s just how I think of him. He’s Roth. Valentine…I only really use that name for him in…intimate…circumstances.” I rested my forehead against the glass. “And maybe I am defending him. I don’t know. I’m so mixed up. Why do you think I left?”

“You fell in love with him, didn’t you?” Layla’s voice was quiet.

I could only nod.

Moments of silence passed.

“Does he know this? And how does he feel?”

I didn’t want to answer. “He doesn’t know. And…he said…he never meant to fall for me.”

“So let me get this straight. You’re in love with the rich, hot, powerful man who just happens to have been both directly and indirectly responsible for your father’s death? And he’s in love with you, but he doesn’t know you love him back, because you ran away.”

“That’s about right,” I said, blinking back tears.

“That’s f**ked up, girlfriend. Sincerely and severely f**ked up.”

“I know. Believe me, I know.” My legs gave out and I slid to the floor, holding back sobs. Layla was beside me in an instant, holding me. “What do I do, Layla?”

“I don’t know, sweetie. You’ve got me speechless.”

Apropos of nothing, I realized I hadn’t seen Eric since showing up the night before. I sniffled and glanced at Layla. “Where’s Eric?”

She groaned. “I was hoping you wouldn’t ask.” She waved her hand. “We broke up. No big deal.”

I frowned at her. “You were with him for, like, two years, Layla. How is it not a big deal? Why’d you break up?”

“Fine, I’ll distract you from your much more interesting problems.” Layla blew out a breath. “We’d been fighting for months about his whole pot-smoking, pot-dealing thing. I wanted him to at least quit dealing and find a real job, you know? Aspire to something. He never wanted to talk about it, never wanted to think about it. I tried not to nag him about it, I really did. I mean, I’m not a nagger. I was never super thrilled about that aspect of his life, but he was nice and sweet and had a big penis.”

I shuddered. “I don’t need to know that about Eric.”

She shrugged. “It’s true. It has this upward curve to it, and he had this thing he did where he could hit me just right in this one spot—”

“OKAY!” I shouted over her. “I don’t need to know any more about Eric’s penis. For real. Stop. Please.”

Layla laughed. “Okay, fine. But it was just that when he was high, he could go for a really long time, which is why I put up with the whole business for as long as I did. And I wouldn’t have minded him still smoking, if he’d had any kind of aspirations in life. Something. Literally anything, like, be a mailman or join the Army or wait tables, something. But he was just content to deal pot and smoke pot and play his PS4 and have sex with me. That was his life, and that was all he seemed to care about. And those things are fine, especially the sex with me part, but I wanted him to…not change, but—I don’t even know how to put it. I wanted him to want more from life.”

“I always thought you could do better than Eric,” I said. “That’s no secret. I’ve told you that. He was…he was kind of a loser, honestly. Nice enough, and good-looking enough, but he didn’t do anything. I could never figure out what you saw in him.”

Layla shrugged. “He was easy to be around. He was a good listener. He treated me good. My sister is with this guy who’s just like my dad, all tough and no feelings, and she’s miserable, but it’s all she knows. And I want something different from that. Eric is totally willing to say what he’s feeling, when it’s just me and him, and I like that. Plus, he was good at making sure I came during sex. That’s important. A lot of guys just don’t care.”

“I get it. That makes sense.” I hugged her to me. “How are you doing with it?”

She tried to shrug and didn’t quite manage it. “It sucks. I tried to explain things to him, how I still cared for him and that I wasn’t breaking up with him, I just wanted him to want things in life, for himself and for us. And he took it as me wanting him to change, to be someone else. And maybe that’s true. Maybe I did want him to be someone other than a weed dealer. But not because he was, aside from that, bad.” She sniffled. “He wouldn’t listen to me. He got mad, I got mad. He packed up and left the day before yesterday, and I haven’t heard from him since.”

“I’m sorry, babe. That sucks.”

“We’re quite a pair, aren’t we?”

I sniffled and laughed with her. “That we are. I’m in love with the sexy, reclusive billionaire who killed my father, and you just broke up with your pot-dealer boyfriend who has a penis that’s curved like a banana.”

“It’s not that curved.” She held up her hand and angled her fingers a bit to demonstrate. “More like this.”

“I thought we weren’t going into any more descriptions of his junk?”

“You brought it up.” She paused, and then glanced at me. “Is he really a billionaire?”

“I have no idea. He’s got a lot of money, that’s all I know.”

She shook herself, stood up, and pulled me to my feet. “This calls for mani-pedis and a pitcher of beer at Duggan’s.”

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