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Twisted Love: Chapter 37

Alex

I watched Ava leave,my chest hollow, my eyes burning with a foreign, pent-up emotion.

I wanted to run after her and snatch her out of Bridget’s arms. To fall to my knees and beg her forgiveness for the unforgivable. To keep her by my side for the rest of our days so nothing and no one could hurt her again.

Except I couldn’t, because I was the one who’d hurt her. I was the one who’d lied and manipulated. I was the one who’d endangered her with my thirst for vengeance and twisted plans against my uncle.

The only way to protect Ava was to let her go, even if that meant destroying myself.

The car taking Ava back to Maryland and away from me disappeared from sight, and I released a shuddering breath, trying to make sense of the pain clawing at my insides. It felt like someone was ripping out pieces of my heart and soul and grinding them beneath their feet. I had never felt so acutely, so much.

I hated it. I longed for the icy indifference of numbness, but I feared this was my penance—to burn in the flames of my self-inflicted agony for the rest of eternity.

My personal living hell. My own walking damnation.

“Alex.” The head of my Philly team approached me, his movements sharp and precise. He wore a Philadelphia police uniform, the badge gleaming in the afternoon soon, but he was no officer of the law. “The house is ready.”

“Good.” I noticed Rocco staring at me with a strange expression. “What?” I snapped.

“Nothing.” He cleared his throat. “You just look like you’re about to—never mind.”

“Finish the sentence. About to what?” My voice dropped to a dangerous decibel. I had clean-up teams on standby in various cities, ready to swoop in in case any of my many plans went awry. No one knew about them, not even my uncle when he’d been alive. They were discreet, efficient, and looked like normal people who held normal jobs—not fixers who could bury any body, erase any evidence, and jam any communications…including outgoing calls to local police stations.

Every “police officer” and “paramedic” who’d showed up today was on my team, and they’d played their roles convincingly.

Rocco looked like he wished he’d never opened his mouth. “Like you’re about to, ah, cry.” He flinched, no doubt aware that even though he’d intercepted Ava’s 911 call and pulled the team together in record time, that wouldn’t shield him from my wrath.

The fire in my veins matched the burning behind my eyes. I didn’t dignify Rocco’s statement with a response; I merely glared at him until he wilted. “Are there any other foolish observations you’d like to share with me?” My voice could’ve frozen the Sahara.

He gulped. “No, sir.”

“Good. I’ll take care of the house.”

There was a short pause. “Personally? Are you—” He stopped when he saw the look on my face. “Of course. I’ll tell the others.”

While he rounded up the rest of the team, I walked into the mansion where I’d spent the better part of my life. It was home, but it’d never felt like home, not even when my uncle and I had been on good terms.

It made what I had to do that much easier.

Rocco gave me the go signal from outside the entrance.

I retrieved the lighter from my pocket and flicked it open. The smell of kerosene soaked the air, but I didn’t hesitate as I walked to the nearest set of curtains and tossed the flame at the thick gold material.

It was amazing how fast fire could spread across a ten-thousand-square-foot building. The flames licked the walls and ceiling, ravenous in their pursuit of destruction, and I was tempted to stay there and let them consume me. But my sense of self-preservation kicked in at the last minute, and I escaped through the open front door, the scent of charred ashes lingering in my nose.

My team and I stood a safe distance away, watching the proud brick manor burn until it came time to contain it before it spread out of control. The manor sat on acres of private property, and no one would know about the fire until hours, if not days, later. Not unless I told them.

Eventually, I would. It’d be a tragic story of how an errant cigarette caught fire and how the ailing lord of the manor, who’d refused to hire a full staff and lived alone, failed to put it out in time. It would be a small news item, buried in the back pages of the local paper. I’d make sure of it.

But for now, I simply stood and watched the flames incinerate the corpses of my uncle, Camo, and my past until there was nothing left.


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