Home > Paint It All Red (Mindf*ck #5)(14)

Paint It All Red (Mindf*ck #5)(14)
Author: S.T. Abby

Instead, we’ve spent the past several hours just talking about anything and nothing at all. Mostly it’s been mundane stuff, when we weren’t wrapped around each other and doing less chatty things.

Her cheek has a small graze on it from a bullet that got too damn close, but it’s not bleeding. It should be a reminder that she’s not invincible, but she seems to think battle scars are better than victim scars.

“So I spent all that time worried about Plemmons targeting you, and you spent all that time annoyed with me for keeping him from you?” I ask, staying on the conversation we’ve veered to.

I feel her smile against my chest, and she runs her fingers down my stomach, tracing the lines there.

“A little annoyed, but mostly I just felt cared for. If I hadn’t wanted him dead so he could never hurt you, then I would have appreciated all your concern a lot more.”

She presses a kiss to my chest, and I tug her tighter to my side as I stare up at the ceiling, trying to sort through everything. It’s a mess in my head. It’s a mess everywhere inside me.

I’m questioning everything I’ve ever stood for.

Judge, jury, and executioner has never been something I’ve agreed with. I’ve fought for legality and true justice. My entire world has centered around it since I was offered a position within the FBI.

“How’d you learn to fight like you do?”

“You haven’t seen me fight,” she sighs. “I’d never fight you.”

My lips twitch as I glance down at her. She peers up at the same time.

“Should we test to see who’s better?”

She stifles a grin, trying to keep a serious face. “Agent Bennett, I think it’d be emasculating if I kicked your ass. So don’t worry, I’ll hold back if you ever get brave enough.”

I laugh, finding the sound almost sad. Her smile is just as grim amidst the heavy air around us when she lays her head back down and resumes her task of tracing idle circles.

“So now that all your worst secrets are aired, maybe you can share a little about your past,” I say quietly, feeling her stiffen next to me as her fingers still on my chest.

“You’ve already heard everything they did. Do you need more detail than that?” she asks in a harsh whisper.

I tilt her face up, palming her cheek. She meets my eyes with the same fearlessness she faces the rest of the world, but I see the vulnerable girl tucked away inside her; the girl she has to protect after all she’s been through.

“I was talking about your past before all that happened. Something that would tell me about the girl you used to be.”

She cuts her gaze away, blowing out a breath.

“The girl I used to be is dead. Knowing how naïve and fragile she was won’t do anything but break your heart right now. Because you’ll picture me as her. You’ve had the real me the entire time, Logan. Nothing between us or how I was with you was a lie. Only snippets of my past were altered for the sake of keeping my secret.”

I can feel her drifting away even as she presses closer to me.

Instead of letting her float off inside her own mind, I shift, turning and coming down on top of her. She tries to kiss me, but I pull back as I settle comfortably between her legs and keep my lips just out of reach of hers.

“Part of the reason you’re so fierce today is because of that girl. Pretending as though you were never her is one step closer to detachment from reality. It’s a dangerous slope.”

She rolls her eyes, but a small smile forms on her lips, surprising me. I’ll never get tired of how she never reacts the way I predict. Half of the reason I fell so hard was the constant mystery cloaking her.

Even as pieces of the puzzle continue to fall together, I’m still just as intrigued and mystified by her.

“You sound like Jake,” she finally says, running her fingers through my hair as her legs tangle with mine.

“I hope Jake never held this position while having this conversation.”

She laughs, rolling her eyes again, and finally she sighs.

“Jake is just a friend,” she says quickly.

“So you’ve said.”

She flashes that smile that is real and not weighted like all her other ones have been tonight. For some reason, she likes it when I get jealous.

“My mother and father were peculiar people with varied interests. My brother always said they had ‘eclectic’ personalities.”

It’s so out of the blue that I don’t know how to respond. Fortunately, she doesn’t need me to speak to continue her story.

“They loved classical music, and hated that none of us had an ounce of musical talent. But they also loved their hard rock and jazz too. You’re supposed to be able to judge someone based on their taste in music—hence the reason my brother deigned them with the eclectic personality label.”

Her smile grows.

“They were this amazing team. Dad worked a thankless job as a janitor—the true reason I pieced together the Boogeyman’s cleaning background—and Mom was a coroner. She was such a perky person for someone who dealt with death every day, and I was a little too comfortable around dead people, since she often had to take me to work with her. They took turns cooking, and they cleaned together. No one was ever more important than the other.”

Her eyes grow distant, as though she’s recalling a memory, and I watch her, unable to tear my own eyes away from her face. I’ve never seen such a serene look on her.

“They’d dance,” she says, her eyes sparking back to life as she meets my gaze again and smiles.


“Every night after we went to bed, they’d stand in the living room, put on a slow song, and dance.” She clears her throat as her eyes water. “Mom would always have her head on Dad’s chest, and he’d be holding her to him with his eyes shut as they swayed off-rhythm to the music. Mom could sing so well, and she’d often sing as they danced.”

I brush a tear from her cheek with my thumb, and she leans into the touch.

“I would sneak out just to watch them dance. Sometimes Dad would catch me, but instead of scolding me, they’d have me dance with them. Same for Marcus. Even Jake was invited into the dancing ring on the nights he stayed over. It was a time so perfect that it eventually had to end in tragedy. Good things have a lesser reign than the bad.”

She exhales heavily, and she offers me a tight, less genuine smile.

“They were really in love. That must have been nice to grow up in,” I say, trying to encourage her to continue.

Her spark fades again as a coldness surfaces, confusing me.

“You see something for so long, and you take it for granted. In our minds, Marcus and I believed a love like that was common, easy to find, and effortless. In our minds, falling in love with someone had to be the simplest thing in the world.”

She presses her hand to my chest, holding it against my heart, and her eyes stay fixed there.

“We didn’t know how messy love could be or how jealous people would lash out.”

“Jealous people?”

Her eyes come up, and she releases her hand from my heart. “Everyone was envious of what my parents had. My father was a lowly janitor, but he was handsome. My mother was beautiful, and her smile could save the lives of the almost-dead. She radiated purity and warmth. Everything the opposite of me.”

“I’m sure there’s a little girl living with Lindy Wheeler who would object to that,” I remind her.

Her eyes harden again, and I decide not speaking would be a good idea. I have no idea what to say that won’t drive her farther into her own head.

“Lindy suffered. She knows how to offer comfort to another. The little girl is in good hands. I made sure of that. One good deed doesn’t make me the angel she accuses me of being. And I’m not even bothered by it. I don’t want to be an angel. I was like my mother, only a little more hotheaded and ready to defend myself. I was just like her other than that. I saw the good in everyone, and I smiled even when someone was trying to break me down. I thought I was so strong and so smart. The problem is, I saw good where no good even existed.”

“Like with Kyle?” I ask, an edge to my tone. Just knowing he touched her…

“Like with Kyle,” she repeats, her tone flat and emotionless. “I trusted him even after he’d proven himself to be a jackass. I never saw the pure evil in him until that night. And my brother was just as naïve. The two of us walked directly into that trap, unprepared and outmatched, with no chance of walking away. And we never saw it coming, because we never thought people could be that cruel.”

She blows out a breath, as though she’s keeping herself in check. I don’t press the issue or say anything, allowing her to tell the story however she wants to.

But if I hear the details from her mouth, I may end up joining her on her killing spree. I just don’t think I’m strong enough to hear her break down and tell me what they did without killing everyone else involved in all of it.

“We learned differently, and I shed the coat of naivety once I managed to survive. I made a promise to my brother that I intend to keep. A promise he knew I would be able to make. Now I only see the good when it’s there to see. I’m smarter. They made me smarter. They also made me what I am today—lethal and merciless. I have to believe there was a reason for that, and each time I save someone else from the same possible fate I suffered, I feel a bit closer to Marcus.”

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