It’s been ten years, and I live every day with the weight of regret on my shoulders.
We’ve all done bad things, things that we are ashamed of. But those things make us the people that we are today. And today, I’m Liam Brown. When those closest to me were killed, I had to kill my former self just to stay alive. My real name is Micah Lomano, and I left my life fabricating a web of lies along the way to keep what I had done a secret. But I never forgot about Natalene, and now nothing matters…because I don’t have her.
After one fatal night rocked us to the core, everything changed.
I had everything I’d ever wanted: the perfect guy, a loving family, and more money than I knew what to do with. But in an instant, my world stopped. Somehow I’d survived, but I lost everything I knew, everything I wanted. Including myself. I knew then that nothing would ever be the same. I waited for Micah to find me, just like he promised he would. But he never did, and it was when I needed him most. So I was forced with a choice, one that I didn’t want to make: Raise his child on the run or give her up?
The decision wrecked me and what hurt most off all…Micah had no idea that I was pregnant.
The champagne cork shoots to the ceiling with a resounding pop! It’s a sound I’ve always loved, a sign of celebration. Nick slings an arm over my dad’s shoulder and holds the bottle high in the air. I keep myself closely wrapped around Natalene, never seeming to have her close enough to me. She has the biggest grin on her face, and I’ll always do whatever it takes to keep it that way. “To the heist of a lifetime,” Nick says filling four glasses. We each grab one, and my dad speaks before we drink. “To my sons and Natalene, thank you all for helping me pull this one off.” We all clink our glasses together before knocking back the crisp liquid. I set mine down, just as Nick shakes the rest of the bottle, spraying the three of us. The liquor streams down my face and I laugh, especially when I look at Natalene – she is absolutely drenched. The room is filled with laughter – laughter from my family. These are the closest people in the world to me, and I wouldn’t change this moment for anything. We prepared eight months to hit my dad’s associate after he let my mom die, and finally, today was the day of retaliation, and we pulled it off flawlessly. I know there is no amount of money that will ever bring her back. But we’ve financially hurt the man responsible and will get enough for a fresh start, a start where we can be new people and escape our troubles here. We are set to leave the country in the morning, and from tomorrow forward, I’ll be Liam Brown. Micah Lomano will be dead. Natalene grabs my arms, pulling me closer to her. Her touch alone brings a kick of excitement to my stomach. She kisses me hard, our lips pressing fiercely together. “Get a room,” my brother yells. But I can’t stop myself. With Nat, I never can – I’ve always given into her and always will. “I have something for you,” she whispers into my ear. Raising an eyebrow at her, I’m intrigued. “I’ll be right back.” I take a seat on the couch and watch her walk away from me. Her short hair bounces with each step. “Do you want another?” Nick asks me. “Nah, I’m good, brother.” He grabs two beers from the fridge and passes one to our dad as he hangs up his phone. “Is everything good?” I ask, still worried that Moretti will retaliate for what we did, not feeling a hundred percent safe as long as we’re still sitting here and not completely out of his reach. “Yeah, it’s great.” They crack open their beers as I wait for Natalene to come back downstairs. That’s when something catches my eye, even though it’s probably just me being paranoid. But needing to check things out, I get up and am stopped dead in my tracks. The room pings with gunfire as shot after shot blazes around. I drop to my knees, but it’s too late – I’ve been hit. Pain ensues, my worst fears coming true. I knew Moretti would act fast; I should’ve fucking listened to my gut. I try to move, willing my body up the stairs – I have to get to Nat. But another round of bullets blows through me. I look down at my bloody abdomen and collapse. The pain is like nothing I’ve ever experienced. A fire brews inside of me, and I can’t imagine my life ending this way. Looking to my left, my brother is on the floor, blood pooled around his head, his eyes staring blankly. Lifeless. The sight alone takes me away from the pain I’m feeling. His life ripped from him so quickly. The gunmen stalk my dad, slowly walking towards him. My dad stands with a gun on the two men and I lay my head on the brown carpet closing my eyes, hopelessness washing over me. He won’t win. “Moretti sends his condolences to you and your family, Mr. Lomano,” one of the gunmen says in his thick Italian accent. My father tries to argue, pleading, but I’m focused on the stairs. Natalene is at the top of them on her knees looking down at me. Her hands are covering her mouth, trying to contain the anguish. It is clearly painted all over her features. Run, I mouth to her. She still has time to save herself. She nods her head. Pain etched across her face, I watch her turn and leave, my heart breaking at the sight, but I shut my eyes with her as my last vision. These fuckers came here for blood, and they will put another bullet in me, I’m sure of it. They aren’t leaving here ‘til all of us are dead. Slowing my breathing, I pretend to be gone; it’s my only chance. Another round of shots ring in the room and then a body hits the floor. I pray it’s not my dad. But my nightmare comes true. Through a tiny slit of one eye, I can see that the two men are still alive. I’m fading fast, as each pump of blood pushes more and more out of my body. One of the men walks past me and kicks me on the way up the stairs. It doesn’t hurt any worse than the bullets that have shredded me to pieces. I remain quiet, still, terrified they will find Nat. As the seconds go by like minutes, I wait for screaming and more gun shots, but all is quiet minus their talking back and forth. Then they both come down the stairs and one of them says, “She must not be here, let’s clear out.” I’m still waiting for one more bullet to my head when I feel their footsteps next to me. But they just walk past and leave. In the distance, I hear the click of both car doors and then tires squeal. I won’t last much longer, and I’m struggling to hold on to consciousness, when Natalene shakes me abruptly. “Micah! Micah!” she screams resting her head against the back of mine. I grunt a little and she exhales loudly. “You’re going to be okay, baby, hang in there.” I shake my head, knowing I’m better off dead. “Go, Nat.” “What?” she exclaims with tears in her eyes. “No, please don’t make me go.” I swallow hard looking her in the eye the best that I can. She lies next to me on the floor, our faces mere inches apart. “You know the plan,” I swallow hard, “Six months.” I can barely choke out the words. In the distance is the faint sound of sirens. She’ll listen; she knows the rules of this life. “I love you,” she says. “I love you,” I reply as she kisses me. Her warm lips are my solace. I watch her feet walk away as far as I can see them. Tears well in my eyes as she leaves me for the last time. I know I won’t ever see her again, regardless of what happens. It’s the only way to keep her safe.
From bestselling author, LK Collins, comes Skepticism the fourth book in the #1 bestselling Life. Destiny. Fate. series. All though this is a series, each of these books can be read as a stand alone. LK writes an array of emotionally and sexy gripping Erotic Romance novels. She’s a lover of the oxford comma and everything in the writing world. Her stories are compelling and will draw you in from page one, and with twists and turns, she always keeps her readers enthralled 'til the end. When LK’s not lost in the minds of her characters, you can find her on the beach with her family, where her husband and writing partner, “The Prezident,” are sure to be plotting out her next tale.