“It’s all so terrible. I still can’t believe it. It’s like a dream. One that I’ll wake up from and it’ll be that day, before everything happened. I just stood there, waiting for him to do it. I couldn’t figure out who he was, but I knew his face.”
Daniel sat in silence, his lips pressed tightly together.
“Well, we came around to the permanent solution anyway. The police matched a print from Mark’s apartment to him. He used the same weapon against you as he used to kill Mark. He wasn’t as bright as he was ambitious. Unfortunately for him, fortunately for me. The case is finally closed. They’ll be announcing it any day now.”
Emotion flooded through me. The relief was unmistakable. Could it really be over? It seemed impossible, but I couldn’t imagine going through any more of this.
“I can’t believe it.”
“It’s done. I promise you. My lawyers are taking a much-needed vacation. The police shouldn’t bother you anymore. Neither should the reporters.”
“How are you feeling otherwise?”
I opened my eyes, and a new kind of pain shot through me, a pain far deeper than the physical pain that had slowed me down the past couple weeks. Blake’s hand tightened around mine. My free hand rested over my belly, that wasteland where I could have held a life. That possibility was now just a number, a slim chance that anything could be normal. I swallowed the tears that would come every time I thought about it.
“You should go.” Blake said quietly, but firmly. “She doesn’t need any upset right now.”
“It’s okay,” I said, but my voice cracked.
“It’s not. This is his fucking fault. Look at what this has done to you.”
A tear fell slowly down my cheek. “Stop, please.”
Daniel frowned, fresh concern awash on his features. I didn’t have the physical or emotional strength to keep them from tearing each other apart if they stayed in the same room. I gave Blake a pleading look.
“Blake, can you give us a minute?”
His eyes narrowed as his gaze slid back over to Daniel. He looked back to me, his expression softening only slightly. He rose and retreated to the kitchen.
“What happened, Erica?”
“I’m fine. It’s just. Um, it might be hard… Having kids, I guess, will be a challenge now. There was some damage there.”
“Jesus.” For the first time I saw genuine fear in Daniel’s eyes. He seemed pale as he looked me over. “Erica, my God, I’m sorry. I’ve made such a mess of this. I wanted…”
His head fell into his hands. He rose abruptly, went to the wet bar, and poured himself a drink. He drained it quickly and poured another. He stared into the glass. The answers weren’t there. I wanted to tell him I’d already checked. I’d thought my way all through the bad news the doctor had given me. I could stack up the regrets and rewrite history, but nothing would change the damage that had been done.
My life was a mess. At least we had that in common.
“What are you going to do about the governor’s race?”
He gulped down another mouthful of Blake’s expensive scotch and exhaled. “Fuck, I don’t know. There’re only a couple weeks left. What more can I do? There’s more news about the shooting than the campaign at this point.”
“I could try to help.”
His eyes widened, that glimpse of fear there again. “No.”
“I know I haven’t been very supportive,” I said.
“You’ve had good reason not to be. And now you have an even better reason. You shouldn’t be anywhere near my campaign or me.”
I wilted. “I literally don’t have anything else to do. The business is gone. I’m stuck here.” I didn’t want to go down the list of everything that had led to the utter wreckage of my life in its current state.
He came closer, sitting beside me on the couch. “What happened to the business?”
“It sort of got sold out from under me. It’s a long story, but suffice to say, I now have lots of spare time on my hands. I could help if you wanted me to.”
“You should be resting, and I want you far away from all of this.” He caught my hand. “I want you far away from me too.” He let me go, sliding his hand away as if the touch burned him.
“I’ve done enough damage. Every time I think I’m taking care of a problem, three more crop up. I’ve brought nothing but terror to your life since you found me, Erica.”
He stood, avoiding my eyes.
“This is done now. The investigation is closed. We can sever ties. You don’t need to worry about me bothering you anymore. I’ll leave you alone. Hopefully the only time you’ll see me is in the news, and even then… Fuck, I don’t know.” He shoved a hand through his graying hair. “Nothing makes sense right now.”
Fresh tears formed in my eyes. “Why are you saying that?”
“Because it needs to be said. Because this is why… This is why I left your mother.” His blue eyes blazed into me, emotion igniting there that I’d never seen before. “You’ve seen glimpses, but you have no idea what it’s like to have this life. You had no way of knowing that finding me would bring you this far down into it, but I warned her too. I told her we couldn’t be happy that way. Erica…” He rubbed his forehead, doing nothing to resolve the grimace there. “I wanted to be with Patty. I swear on my life, I loved your mother. I wanted to marry her and be a family, but I had no choice. You can’t understand it, but I have no choice. It’s all laid out, and for all the years it took to get here… Christ, here we are. Here I am. No better off, really. And you’re not safe around me.”
He stared into the now empty glass. I didn’t know what to say to him. I couldn’t argue that my life had turned into a life-threatening shit storm since I’d found him, but the thought of him leaving and never coming back was slowly devastating me.
Before I could argue, he took a step toward me. He leaned down and kissed the top of my head, where my hair met my forehead. He lingered there a moment and began to speak in a whisper.
“You’re my daughter. My only child. I love you, but it’s time for me to go now.”
He stepped back with eyes cast down. He left the apartment as quickly as he’d come, leaving me in stunned silence.