Reliving Fate, page 19
I shove her between the supermarket and a block of flats next to it while looking over my shoulder. The shooter dives into a beat-up Ford and takes off.
"It's okay," I whisper to Bella.
We're not going to get shot at. The shooter has gone, and people are already gathering around whoever is now on the ground. I don't know his name, but I've seen him around before. Now, he's dead.
"Wh-what the hell was that? Why did he do that? Why do people do that?" she mumbles, stumbling over her words. Her fingers are cutting into my biceps.
I take her face between my hands and press my forehead to hers. "Hey, you're okay. It's done now. He's gone. You're safe, I promise."
"I don't know why, Bella. There's not always a reason...or not one you would understand."
She shakes her head, eyes wide with fear. "There has to be. It doesn't make any sense. Is the person he shot dead?"
I nod. Middle-of-the-forehead shot isn't something you survive.
"How do you just decide to take someone's life?"
"Whoa, Bella, breathe."
She takes a breath, and I see tears well in her eyes.
Her head snaps around, following something.
"That's the one," she says.
The one what?
She really is in shock.
"I see it everywhere."
"Huh? See what, Bella?" I look off in the distance. "You mean, the car?" It's just a dark Volkswagen Passat. "I don't know whose it is, but most young lads drive round and round."
When she looks back at me, her eyes are wide and filled with terror. "I want to go back to your place now. I don't like it here. Can we go?"
This is getting weird.
"Yeah," I reply. I tuck her into my chest as much as I can as we hurry back to my car.
The people who don't want to be around when the cops turn up have left, and only two people are now with the dead guy on the floor.
To Bella, this is horrifying, but to me, it's business as usual.
I drive back to mine, and the second we come to a stop outside my flat, Bella is out of the car and running to my door.
Is this the part where she leaves?
It should be. I should make her if she doesn't.
I let us in the flat after locking my car, and she heads to the living room.
Shit, I'm losing her.
The thought makes me feel sick.
Closing the door, I follow her. Bella's sitting on the sofa, staring into space.
This is why I should've ended things between us before it really began.
I crouch down in front of her and stroke her hair from her face. "Hey, I'm so sorry you had to witness that. It doesn't happen often, not murder."
"Is he definitely dead?"
Unless he's immortal...
"I think so, babe. Are you okay? I know it's a shock the first time you see something like that."
She looks down and whispers, "I'm okay."
That's a goddamn lie. Clearly, she is not okay. Her hands are shaking, and she looks like she's seen a ghost--or a fucking murder. I don't really know what to do to help her.
"When did you first see something like that?"
"Er, I think I was about four."
She presses her lips together and nods. "How many times have you witnessed someone dying?"
"I'm not sure." I've not kept count, but it's probably around five. "Why do you want to know?"
"I..." She licks her lips. "No idea. Sorry."
"Don't be sorry, Bella. Tell me what you need. Do you want me to drive you home? I'll understand if you don't want to be here right now."
"No. Despite what just happened, this is the only place I want to be."
How can she mean that? Some guy just got shot in front of her.
"Really?" I ask, unable to hide the surprise from my voice.
"You make me feel safe," she whispers.
"Jesus, Bella," I say.
Cracking a small smile, she leans forward. "I'd really like it if you took me to bed now."
She looks sure, but I'm not feeling it. Something happened back there, and she's using sex to distract herself from it. Now, I'm no stranger to meaningless sex, but I refuse to do it with her.
I hold her gaze, and her eyes twitch.
"Bella, talk to me."
"I'm sorry. I'm just a little shaken up. It's not every day you see someone get shot."
I push off the floor and sit beside her. She curls into my side and buries her head in my chest.
"It's okay not to be strong and cocky all the time," I tell her.
"Yeah, maybe you should tell yourself that once in a while."
I want to tell her that I'm fine and that, in the past, I've never had anything to lose, but that seems like rubbing it in. Growing up here has hardened me. I don't get scared when shots are fired. And I always thought that was the best way to live, but being with Bella is making me question that.
Maybe the happiness someone can bring is worth having a weakness for.
Though I can't see that being true if anything ever happened to her. It would break me if I lost her for good.
"Maybe I should," I agree. "Let's make a deal. In front of each other, we don't always have to be strong. Okay?"
The deal is for her. I want her to open up and tell me everything, and I still want to know what she's holding back, but I have no intentions of offloading any of my shit on her.
Tilting her head, she looks up at me and cracks a beautiful smile that makes my heart thud. "Okay, deal."
"What?" I ask when a frown steals the smile.
"I don't know. It's just...I've never had someone to talk to. Not someone I feel like I can talk to anyway."
"You'll always have me, Bella."
No matter how long always is.
"I'm holding you to that. I've never been this close to someone before, and I don't want it to end."
"If I'd known it'd only take a guy getting shot for you to open up more, I would've paid a hit man."
Her mouth falls open, and I wince.
"Sorry, babe. Too soon?"
"Yes, too soon, dickhead!" She slaps my chest and glares.
I know that, if I keep looking at her, she'll smile, but I don't think I'm done with her being angry yet. I fucking love her angry.
"Sorry, I wouldn't really hire a hit man. I--"
"Don't even finish that sentence."
"It's nice to see that your fire is back."
She bites her lip. "I didn't mean to act like a little girl."
Her eyes narrow. A darkness is still there, but she's doing better. "Did you just shut me up again?"
"Mmhmm. What are you going to do about it?"
Oh God, please do something kinky.
"I'm going to withhold sex."
"Oh, because that's going to happen. At least threaten something you have a chance at following through with."
"Fine. I'll make you meet my parents."
I wait for the fear as her words sink in. That should make me want to run for the hills...but it doesn't.
"Isn't meeting the parents inevitable? We should get it out of the way."
She sits up straighter, so fast that it startles me. "What the hell, Rocco? Are you joking right now? Because I feel like you should be joking. Why doesn't your face look like you're joking?"
"Wow, someone's a commitment-phobe."
"I'm not. I'm with you exclusively, aren't I? You're just crazy to think that meeting my parents is a good idea."
"First, you'd fucking better be exclusive with me. Second, why are you freaking so much? You think they'll hate me?"
"Er, I know they'll hate the thought of me being with you. They're not like normal, supportive, and accepting parents. They worry too much, and they want me to be with a boring, safe guy with a full rest-of-life plan. And a good pension."
"Who has a pens
"Harry has one at eighteen."
"Fucking hell." My mouth falls open.
That ain't normal. There isn't much I wouldn't do for Bella, but getting a pension is one of them.
"Exactly. Let's keep the parent meeting until we absolutely can't put it off any longer."
Yeah, they're going to hate me.
"Sure. You mean, like after the birth of our first child, right?"
She arches her eyebrow. "I mean, like after the birth of our second child."
Works for me.
If Ellis had overheard this conversation, I would never hear the end of it. I don't plan things with people, especially having children.
"I feel like I need to drink a lot of beer," I say.
She grins and nudges my arm. "Children talk?"
"Yeah. Grab me one, too, please. Actually, grab me, like, four."
Well, at least we're on the same page about kids, too. For now anyway.
If I can't get away from here, there's no way I'm bringing a baby into this place. It's too dangerous.
I had Bella around gunfire today. Somehow, I need to find a way to give her the life she deserves. A life that is far from here.
* * *
If Rocco finds out I'm at the scrapyard alone, he'll flip. So, it makes sense that I'm not going to tell him.
Hugo is here. His face is messed up. His right eye is about twice the normal size, his lip is sporting a long gash down the centre, and he has bruises all over his jaw. Still don't know who won, but Rocco was definitely right about it being a close fight between them.
Being here is beyond stupid, especially after witnessing a murder yesterday, but I can't let a silly little thing like sense get in the way. Rocco barely left my side after it happened, but he fell asleep, so here I am.
Hugo looks up and stops whatever it is he's doing under the bonnet of an old Ford Escort. "Can I help you?" he asks.
I bloody hope so because I'm tired and drained, and I want justice.
Every step I take closer to him makes my heart thud. He could either be Celia's killer or just someone she used to know.
I tilt my chin up and straighten my back. You can do this. For Celia.
"Yeah, I'm looking for a car stereo. Mine's had it." Lies roll off my tongue so easily. They have done so ever since I was six years old.
"What car you got?" he grunts.
He lifts an eyebrow. "That's not a car."
I roll my eyes. Is he related to Rocco? "It wasn't my choice."
He's right; it's more of a go-kart than anything else, but Livvy wanted it, and at the time, after sneaking out of my parents' house, missing the family meeting, and getting caught, I wasn't allowed to be a part of the decision-making process. Not that I give many fucks since it gets me away from the house faster than walking.
"How'd you break the last one?"
I shrug. "It just stopped working."
"And you just assume you need a new one?"
"Okay, well, do you know how to fix them?"
He straightens his back and suspiciously eyes me.
Fuck, does he recognise Celia in me?
"Yeah, I know how."
I need to leave, like now.
"What's your name?" He's looking too hard.
Please don't see my sister.
It's game over if he figures it out.
Damn it, damn it. Fuck.
Celia probably didn't mention her sisters' names to him, but I still feel the need to lie out of my arse. Only I can't really do that because if he's around when Rocco or Ellis says my name...
"Bella," I reply. "Yours?"
"You know mine."
He tilts his head. "You were here the other day, right?"
Oh God, he saw me.
"Erm, yeah." I fidget on my feet. "The fight was...good." Not that I was there long enough to witness much of it.
Smirking, he leans his hip against the car. "Good? You don't sound convinced of that. You Rocco's girl?"
"Yeah, I am."
So, he just recognises me as a mate's girlfriend, not Celia's sister. I think. I hope.
I really, really hope.
Chuckling, he shakes his head. "Didn't think he'd ever settle down."
I don't want to know why...because I can guess.
"Believe it. Are you not the settling type?" I ask, not entirely sure I want to hear what he and Celia were...or weren't.
He turns his nose up, like he just smelled something gross. "No fucking way."
"Really? But you've had girlfriends before, surely?"
"Depends on your definition of girlfriend."
"Someone you spend longer than one night with."
Laughing, he kicks the dusty ground. "Then, yes, I've had a girlfriend."
"Hmm, what happened to her?"
Oh, nice one, Bella. Like he's going to come right out and say, Actually, I murdered her.
"Why do you think something happened to her?"
The pulse in my neck starts to drum, and my palms sweat. "No, I just mean, what happened to you guys since you're not together now?"
He studies my face, searching for something that I don't ever want him to find. He's looking for recognition, like that feeling you get when you're sure you've met someone, but you can't think of who they are.
I shake my head. "You clearly don't want to talk about it. Sorry, I shouldn't have pried. It's none of my business."
"I don't mind talking about her."
He shrugs. "We just didn't work. I'm not good at monogamy."
Did you cheat on my sister, you prick?
Though, in the grand scheme of things, cheating isn't the worst thing he might have done to Celia.
"Where's Rocco?" he asks, looking behind me like he expects him to be standing nearby.
"Home," I reply. "Hey, have you and Rocco ever fought?" I know this, but I need to quickly move on from him asking me questions.
"Nope. I'm not really into it much anymore. Getting old. Lonny just had it coming."
Okay, so my plan isn't as solid as I thought because I don't know where to go from here. If he offers to take a look at the stereo, I'll have to actually break it when I get home. Seriously, I don't know why I even open my mouth sometimes.
"Rocco likes fighting. Is it that way for you? Or was it that way?" I ask, genuinely interested.
Enjoying getting punched is the dumbest thing I've heard, and Livvy talks some crap.
He lifts one shoulder in a lazy shrug. "Suppose."
"Wow, you're a real talker."
Why do I keep getting the watered down version of everything here? No one can be bothered to talk for longer than five seconds.
He takes a step closer to me, and I suddenly wish Rocco were here, too.
Hugo glares, and he's built like The Hulk. "Around here, you do what you've gotta do."
So, what does he feel he's got to do right now?
I stand my ground even though every instinct is screaming at me to run. "Even if surviving meant doing something that would seriously hurt or even kill another person?"
His head tilts to the side, and his eyes darken. "What do you mean?"
"Yesterday, a man was shot outside the supermarket. I saw it happen."
"And you think it was me behind the trigger?"
"No!" I force myself to laugh. Was it you? Did you murder my sister? "Of course I don't think that."
"Good. I didn't murder him."
I hold my hands up. This is so not going the way I want. "That's not what I was suggesting, I swear!"
Though I did notice that he'd said he didn't kill him, not that he wasn't a killer.
"There's a lot that goes on here that's completely alien to me. People don't seem to care much about the lives of others."
"You don't belong here, Bella. It never ends well when a girl from the right side of the tracks tries to play happily ever after with a guy from the wrong side."
What does he mean by that? He's speaking from experience. Was that a confession?
Did you kill my sister, you son of a bitch?
"Isabella!" My name is snapped from somewhere behind me.
I look over my shoulder and see Rocco stalking toward me with a heavy, pissed off frown.
Don't think I've ever seen him look so angry before, and he's hardly the most cheerful person.
"Rocco, man, did you lose your girl?" Hugo says.
Rocco seethes, and his shoulders tighten, as if he's preparing for a fight. But it's not Hugo he addresses first. "What're you doing?" he growls at me. His hair is a little messy from where he was sleeping.
"I couldn't sleep, so I went for a walk. You were out of it, and I didn't want to wake you."
It's not a flat-out lie. I did walk here.
"She snuck out of your place?" Hugo asks, his voice laced with humour.
Okay, why is he still here?
"Apparently, she can't help it," Rocco spits through his teeth.
So, maybe I regularly sneak out of my grandparents' house, but I didn't want to with Rocco. It's just that he would have been less than supportive if I'd told him what I was doing. He's a bit over the top when it comes to my safety.
Also, I'm a terrible fucking person for making him worry, which he clearly was since there are only two people in his life that he cares about...and I'm one of them.
"Get in my car. Now."
Man, he's extra bossy when he's pissed.
Gritting my teeth, I salute him and stomp off toward his car. I might be acting a little childish, but he's treating me like one, so screw him.
"Bella!" he snaps.
I hear his footsteps gaining. I don't look around.
It only takes him a few seconds to fall in line. His eyes are fixed on me. I can feel them burning a hole in the side of my head. There's no way I'm engaging yet. I'm too bloody livid. Not only did he interrupt a potentially pivotal conversation about my dead sister, but he also made me look like an idiot in front of Hugo.
Not that I care what Hugo thinks of me, but he's unlikely to want to talk to me again after that.
Great. That's just fucking great.
Tears sting behind my eyes.
What if that was my chance to find out what Celia and Hugo really were, if anything?
He could've given something away.
After twelve years, I'm so tired of this, and I just want the truth.
"Are you going to tell me what that was about?" he asks through his teeth.
I stop on the spot and narrow my eyes. "Oh, hell no! You don't get to be the pissed off one, not anymore, you twat!"
Other author's books:
- Broken SilenceSilenceThe CellarPlayers, Bumps and Cocktail SausagesLie to MeSilent NightReliving Fate
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