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Paint It All Red: Chapter 19

LANA

Wherever you go, go with all your heart.

—Confucius


Three months ago, I thought I was going to die.

But once again, I was saved by a brother, though not the same one.

Jake walked in, firing rapidly, and threw in a smoke bomb. I wish I’d thought of a smoke bomb. I was too busy thinking I was invincible.

I’d thought I saw Marcus, but it wasn’t him. It was the other brother. The one who had stood by me through hell and high water, and dragged me out of the pit one last time, saving me just barely in time.

And we made it out before the fire caught up. Before the building exploded. Before anyone ever knew he’d saved me.

He’d already paid off a hospital staff who closed off a wing like I was royalty, and they patched me up enough to travel by sea—on the yacht Jake also bought, since flight plans had to be changed to avoid anyone noticing my condition.

From time to time, I check in on Logan—or try to. He’s been on leave, but Jake won’t hack the FBI data base to find out more than that.

We know we have to let Logan and Hadley go. It’s what’s safest for them.

We can’t condemn corruption then drag more souls into our own damnation without facing our own hypocrisy.

I pick up Jake’s underwear and groan as I toss them into the laundry basket he can never seem to find. I still have a small limp, but I’m getting stronger with each passing day.

My hand has healed up much quicker than my leg, but the doctor swears I’ll make a full recovery with just a scar as a reminder. At least I won’t mind my new scars. They tell a better story of survival than the others.

We’re both a little lost right now, trying to find a new purpose to channel all our energy into. Jake has gotten good at fishing—weirdly enough. We’ve both gotten really good at being drunk half the day.

The pain in my leg is barely even there anymore. I’ll be glad when it’s gone completely.

My wax apple is proudly stationed next to a portrait of the ashy remnants of Delaney Grove, and I smirk at all the nails sticking out of it. The last one was added over a month ago. There’s only one more nail to go before the apple art is complete.

Something falls, and I whirl around, a knife in my hand, just in time to see a black blur of fur as it dives behind my couch. I see the coaster that has been knocked off the table, and I curse Bennett.

“Bennett,” I hiss at the fur ball.

A small meow follows the scolding as Bennett pokes his head out from behind the couch and peers at me with innocent eyes. Damn cat.

I fill up his food bowl, and he slides across the slick, tile floor when he tries to tackle it. Then I kick on some sandals and head out for my daily walk, making my leg stronger and stronger.

At least I’m good at rehabilitation.

Per the usual, I plug in my earbuds and start playing my music, while also internet searching for any news from the states that might pertain to the FBI finally fessing up to the truth.

I know it’s doubtful, despite the mounds of evidence, but I keep hoping they’ll eventually exonerate my father’s memory.

Delaney Grove has started rebuilding, according to one article. The people are trying to piece their town together, and the dorky but sweet deputy has been named the new county sheriff. It might have helped that we spared his life, along with two others who weren’t involved.

The rest of the world may forget us and the legacy we left behind, but Delaney Grove will forever be changed. No one there will forget.

And maybe Jake and I took a long trip back to the states just to kill Jason for the purpose of letting Logan know I was alive.

Jake had to help me subdue him, considering I’m still not as fast, given the leg injury.

But I don’t know if Logan ever figured it out. It took them longer to recover the body than I expected. Sheesh. That house must have the lowest interest in the market.

However, it was discovered over two weeks ago, and nothing suspicious has happened. Jake is too busy fishing and still too mad at me to hack anything for me, so I’m stuck with the regular articles everyone sees.

Most of the buzz is still going, and weird conspiracy theories have formed, overshadowing the actual conspiracy theory.

But one article has me almost tripping over myself when I’m right in front of my house. My eyes read over it quickly, trying to understand the words.

The same day Jason’s body was discovered, another man died, though his body was just recovered yesterday afternoon.

It’s the man’s name that has my skin prickling.

Christopher Denver.

Olivia hasn’t called to tell us anything. At least Jake hasn’t mentioned it. Then again, he’s still pissed at me for almost dying, so prying information about following events has been difficult, since that’s part of my punishment.

I turn and look at the beach where Jake is lying down, a pole between his legs as he sleeps and fishes at the same time. I trudge through the sand, wincing when I try to run. Then I kick the jerk.

A loud oomph leaves his lips as I kneel beside him.

“What the hell?” he snaps, rubbing his side as he glares at me.

“When did Olivia call? And don’t tell me she hasn’t.”

He looks genuinely confused.

“I haven’t felt it safe enough to contact her with a new number yet, considering there was some federal activity on her name. I set her phone up for alerts to notify her if anyone got wind of her trail, and had her a new identity ready and waiting. If she has to leave, she’ll go to the safe house, and I’ll get an alert when she does.”

He holds up his phone and I sink to the sand a little more as I hand him my phone to read.

He skims the article at first, then bolts upright to a seated position.

“Olivia wouldn’t have shot him,” he says, shaking his head. “She was content with drawing it out as long as possible once his organs started failing.”

“Apparently something happened. I never pictured her as a crotch shooter, but that’s where he bled out from.”

“Maybe she spent too much time with you,” he quips, still reading it.

I remember the day Jake figured it out. I’d already been suspicious, but couldn’t bring myself to fully believe it. Not until Jake walked in and we both confirmed the worst case scenario together.

He had all the copies of his father’s DVDs in his hands, and tears were in his eyes. We watched the trial again together, saw the occasional slip up when Christopher would smirk as my father sobbed.

It became overtly obvious during one home video when his father couldn’t look away from my mother at a birthday party. And his jaw was grinding when my father came up and kissed her, causing her to giggle in his arms.

It was the most painful realization.

My father’s best friend.

My best friend’s father.

The same man who had sat at our table for holidays when we were growing up, was the same man who’d sentenced my father to the worst death imaginable.

That’s when we called Olivia.

Jake didn’t even hesitate. He hated him already, but he said his father was dead to him after that.

He started the regimen Olivia concocted—a new synthetic parasite she’d been working on in her lab—and so it began. The first thing to leave him was his sex drive. Not even a little blue pill could fix that.

The second thing to go was his energy.

From there, things just slowly, agonizingly, started getting worse and worse. She assured us the pain would grow to be unbearable, and she was all too happy to make it happen.

Jake helped her get the synthetic parasite off the lab property and even hacked the files that held the information about it. She also took a few extras for later on—the endgame.

My part was miniscule. All I had to do was be the lookout during the planning of this.

This wasn’t just my revenge. It was theirs more so than mine.

Christopher Denver wronged my father in more ways than I can even fathom, even played his best friend and lawyer, but at the end of the day, Jake was his own son. He was wronged the most.

Because of his father, Jake lost the love of his life back then.

Because of his father, Olivia’s sister was raped and murdered.

My misery was placed on the backburner. I had enough people to kill.

“This is crazy. Olivia should be on the run if they suspect her,” Jake says thoughtfully, drawing me out of my own reverie.

“It says they have a male suspect they’re looking into,” I say, confused. “They don’t suspect her.”

“Can you find more on it?” he asks as I try scaling down.

“No. It’s just a small article that barely even cares to mention this at all. I’ll see what I can find, but I know someone far better at all this computer stuff than me.”

I shove at his chest, and he grunts while rubbing the spot like I hurt him as he winks at me.

“Not right now. I was in the middle of dreaming up a good threesome. I’d like to return to that dream.”

I narrow my eyes at him, and he groans while lying back down.

“I’ll look into it later, Lana. I genuinely don’t give a shit who killed him. I’m just glad the fucker is finally dead.”

He covers his face, his breathing already steadying as he starts drifting back off to sleep. Rolling my eyes, I push back up to my feet and walk back to the house.

For once, Bennett doesn’t attack my feet the second I walk in, and I kick off my shoes while looking around and making kissing noises. “Bennett! Come on, Kitty. I need to give you a bath.”

He doesn’t come, and I frown. Usually he’s all over us after we’ve been gone for a minute.

Deciding to chase him down later, I go to the fridge and grab a bottle of water, but my hand hovers over a bottle as I stare and tilt my head.

It’s a habit to count things and take in my surroundings, always aware of any change. And I’m positive there were three beers beside my water this morning. Now there’s only one beer.

Slowly, I grab my water as a chill slides down my spine. It’s possible Jake has already started drinking, but doubtful, considering there were no beer cans near him.

It feels like someone else is here, but I don’t make it obvious by looking around. The living room is just beyond me, and I grab a knife and an apple, acting as though I’m about to peel it.

Abandoning the water bottle, I stab a new nail into my wax apple to represent the man I wanted dead the second most, but I pause, noticing it’s been turned. I look at this apple every single day. I know it’s not facing the right angle.

I move through the house, seeing nothing obviously out of place, but there is more sand in the dining room than normal. Bennett should be all over my feet right now, but he’s not.

Slowly, I start peeling the apple as I move into the living room, and the chill in my spine has it stiffening. There’s no doubt that I feel eyes on me right now.

“If you’ve hurt my cat, you have no idea what that will cost you.”

I spin around, the knife in hand as I drop the apple, but my entire body turns to stone when I see someone smirking at me from the corner.

Logan pushes off from the wall, and I’m tempted to pinch myself just to be sure I’m not hallucinating or dreaming.

“Your cat’s name is Bennett?” he asks, his lips twitching as the knife tumbles from my hand. “I’m not sure how I feel about that,” he goes on, stalking closer.

My bad leg tries to give out, and I stumble, but Logan’s arms are immediately around me, his scent engulfing me as those hands grip my waist.

I tilt my head back as unshed tears start clouding my eyes, and he stares expectantly.

“You’re here,” I rasp, which is a ridiculous thing to say after three months.

“You let me think you were dead,” he says, his voice strained.

“I didn’t want to risk contacting you and getting you in trouble,” I quickly explain. “They were monitoring your calls because you were stirring up trouble even on leave and—”

He puts a finger over my mouth, silencing my babble.

“They still don’t know it was you. Did you kill Jason as a sign to me that you’re still alive, or was he just unfinished business? The torture was mild in comparison to the others, almost as though you were in a hurry.”

He pulls his finger down from my lips, dragging it, and I shudder against him while staring into those too-familiar blues.

“It was the safest way to tell you. I didn’t think it’d take them so long to find him. And I couldn’t do it sooner because I couldn’t even walk without crutches until—”

He silences me when his lips come down on mine, and I melt against him, reveling in the feel of his kiss. Tears spring from my eyes as I kiss him harder, clinging to him like I can’t let go.

I’m breathless and dizzy when he finally breaks the kiss, but I manage to blink the tears away and speak.

“How’d you find me?”

“You said if you could be anywhere, you’d be in Greece with me. I hoped that meant you came to wait,” he says softly, thumbing my chin.

“But your job—”

“I left it,” he says, studying my eyes.

“And your life—”

“Is wherever you are. Guess you shouldn’t have been so perfect if you didn’t want me to love you this much.”

I blow out a frustrated breath over that word. Perfect. He knows the truth is so far from that now.

“I didn’t want you to sacrifice everything for—”

He kisses me again, most likely to shut me up, but I don’t care. Any reason for his lips to be on mine is a perfect reason.

Finally, he breaks the kiss.

“I signed up to ensure justice,” he says, brushing his lips over mine. “I didn’t sign up to play politics. I’d rather be in Greece with you than sitting in someone’s pocket back home. And before you get the clever idea to leave me behind because you think you’re ruining anything for me, you should know I can’t ever go back.”

My brow furrows. “Why?”

“Because I made sure there was no way to leave you with any doubt.”

My eyes search his, and it finally dawns on me. “It was you who shot Christopher,” I whisper in shock.

“That was my message to you,” he goes on. “Didn’t realize it’d take them so long to find the body.”

I shiver in his arms, realizing how fucked up this token of love would be to the rest of the world. But to me, roses and poems can’t compare.

“So you’re here to stay?” I ask, still reeling.

“You can’t ever leave me again. I’m assuming there aren’t any other secrets?”

“No other debts to collect,” I assure him.

He stares at my lips like they’re fascinating, still cupping my chin as he starts backing me toward my room. I guess he’s been getting familiar with the home.

“Where’s my cat?” I ask, which sounds stupid.

“I was surprised you had a pet,” he says, amused as he dodges my question.

“Did he run out?”

“No,” he says, smiling broader. “He’s probably purring away with—”

“Oh, good. You’re here.” Hadley’s voice has me snapping my head around as she walks out of my room, holding a purring Bennett in her arms. “Your cat has bald spots that are confusing me.”

“What are you doing here?” I ask, shocked.

She shrugs, inspecting Bennett’s ugly coat that is gradually getting better.

“Where else would I be? Now about your cat… What’s wrong with him?”

“He was a stray and had something stuck in his fur. Jake shaved off the glue-like stuff about two weeks ago when we found him.”

She rolls her eyes. “Speaking of Jake, where is he?”

“He’s the bum with his arm over his face who is sleeping on the beach.”

Hadley grins at us and puts Bennett down as she skips toward the door. I hope Jake is prepared to be surprised. I also hope she wasn’t just a fling to him, since she’s sort of in Greece right now.

“Back to where we were,” Logan says, turning my face back to meet his. “I had Hadley do a search of a list of surnames. I knew you wouldn’t change your first name. Lana Vorhees was pretty obvious, considering I watched Friday the Thirteenth all the time when I was a kid.”

I smile like an idiot for no reason at all.

“Me too.”

He brushes his lips over mine again, still backing us toward my room.

“Then it was even more obvious when I saw Jake Vlad listed under this address as well. Not sure that Vlad is the best name for him.”

“He used to dress up as Vlad the Impaler every Halloween when we were kids,” I explain, still smiling.

We’re so morbid.

“I picked a little less obvious name,” he says with a shrug.

“Oh?”

“White,” he says, shrugging while smirking.

“As in Carrie White?”

He nods slowly, still backing me toward the room until my legs finally hit the bed. In one motion, he bends and tosses me to the bed, and I squeal like a little girl.

He comes down on top of me, and I giggle like an idiot, smiling up at him as he kisses the tip of my nose.

“So this is real. You and me. We’re actually going to get to be together?”

“Not possible for you to get rid of me,” he says, kissing my lips.

“I can’t believe you’re actually here,” I moan as his lips start trailing down my neck.

He leans up on his elbows as I start stripping. He watches me, but finally he decides to shed his clothes too. As soon as we’re both bare, he settles between my legs, but he stares into my eyes while pushing a piece of hair away from my face.

“I decided if I could choose anywhere in the world to be, it’d be wherever you were,” he says before he kisses me, silencing whatever girly, swoony thing that would have come out of my mouth.

And I kiss him back with everything in me as he thrusts inside me, filling me so completely that every nerve in my body feels electrified.

“I love you,” I whisper across his lips.

“I love you, Lana Vorhees,” he says, grinning.

It’s our own twisted version of perfection.


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