Sugar Free Page 9

Beck’s dad though?

You could tell he was devastated, more so than Colin Townsend appeared over the news of the death of his son. He faced the windows of the library, where we were all congregated, and stared out into the blackness. He barely acknowledged Beck when we arrived and was clearly distracted. I wondered if he was trying to manage some type of internal pain that he may have been suffering as a father.

We weren’t surprised when Beck’s mom called us not five minutes after the cops left to deliver the news. Beck, in turn, told his mom about the cops being there and that we were on our way.

Again, we really didn’t want to go, but it was what was expected of a grieving friend and partner of Jonathon Townsend. As Beck’s girlfriend, I was expected to go as well, although what I really wanted to do was open up a bottle of wine and drown my misery over what has gone down as the single worst day of my life.

Yes…even worse than the day I was gang-raped.

Killing another human being—even one who brutally violated me—was more traumatizing and damaging to my soul than I could have ever imagined. I was such a fool to initially even think it was an appropriate course those months ago, and now with the benefit of hindsight, I wish with all my might that I had never concocted the foolish plan to kill JT. I wish I would have gone straight to the police and let them handle it. I wish I’d turned to my dad to let him comfort me when I learned my attacker’s identity.

In this moment, I even wish I had never stepped foot in the ballroom of that Sugar Bowl Mixer where my intent was still to confront and kill JT, but instead I met Beck, his business partner, who enslaved my body, and later my heart.

Yes, I’d even give up Beck if I could go back in time and change things so I wouldn’t have this guilt pressing down on me.

And it’s not just guilt that I took another life. I think given time, I’m going to be able to accept that in that moment I had no choice. I was reacting on survival instinct and I think most people would have done what I’d done.

But I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to forgive myself for the course of events I started with my stupid plan for vengeance, which led to the police knocking on Beck’s door and looking at him as a potential suspect.

I will never forgive myself.

Beck did an admirable job at the Townsends’ of portraying the devastated friend but also the one with strong shoulders who bore everyone else’s grief. We “learned” some details of what happened to JT from his parents, who were contacted soon after his body was found.

Apparently, his private chef who cooks for him a few times a week walked into the bloodbath a mere twenty minutes or so after I stumbled out of JT’s house. When I think about how close I came to being caught, nausea rolls within me and I have to fight it back down. I have to fight with my own need for self-preservation not to offer up a prayer of thanks for letting me escape before his cook arrived.

JT’s dad recounted to us that the police told them that JT was stabbed in the neck with a sharp object, but that it hasn’t been recovered, and it appeared to have struck his carotid artery, causing him to bleed to death pretty quickly.

Yup. I can attest to that.

They also told his parents that they believed JT knew his attacker because there were no signs of forced entry.

Can also attest to that.

Finally, they confirmed that there was some type of struggle before JT died, but until forensics could finish their investigation, they couldn’t guess as to what occurred in the minutes before his death.

I could tell them the details but I won’t. I promised Beck I wouldn’t and I’d let him handle this.

We stayed for a long time, finally leaving the Townsends’ home around midnight. The long drive back into the city was silent, both Beck and I lost in our heavy thoughts.

I wanted to talk to him. I wanted to say something comforting to him.

I wanted to pour out my guilt and beg his forgiveness again for even getting him into this mess.

But he had put up a wall, and I could sense it as clearly as if he had told me point-blank that he needed some space. His body was stiff with tension, his jaw locked tight when I’d turn to look at him in the glow of the dashboard lights. He never said a word to me on the way back, seemingly fine to suffer in silence rather than with my support.

This confused me and hurt me, and yet…I really didn’t know how to even strike up the right type of conversation that would assure me that he still loved me and give him the emotional support he needed.

At this point, I’m so confused about where we stand that I feel like I’m on the verge of a complete breakdown.

Beck moves quietly down the hall toward our bedroom and I follow behind, flipping off lights as I go. He immediately goes into the bathroom, shutting the door softly behind him. I can hear him in there using the toilet and then flushing. The water turns on, and I can envision him washing his hands. A few more moments of silence, and then he opens the bathroom door, pulling his shirt over his head before he steps out. When the material clears his face, he finally looks at me standing by the bed and I have to hope he sees the look of need on my face.

I need him to say something.

Just one tiny word or even a smile that lets me know that while he’s burdened greatly by everything that’s happened, it hasn’t changed his feelings for me.

Instead, his eyes sort of pass over me and he turns to the closet to deposit his shirt in the clothes hamper.

“Beck,” I call out desperately, my voice heavy with need and fear.

He immediately whips around to face me, his gaze filled with worry. “What’s wrong?”

My eyes roam all over that face, and I try to take in every single feature that gives me a hint as to what he might be feeling in this moment. From the mussed-up hair indicating a long day without a comb to it, to the fatigue lines around his eyes, to the deep furrow in his brow as he looks at me. His eyes don’t shine but have turned a dull matte and his shoulders hang low.

He takes a tentative step toward me but doesn’t say anything.

The silence is almost damning, and my gaze sort of drifts to the window where most of the Financial District buildings are darkened except for strategically placed architectural lighting.

Perhaps we’re finished.

“Sela…what’s wrong?” Beck asks softly, and I look back at him. He’s standing in the same spot, staring at me expectantly.

“Do you still love me?” I blurt out, and those fucking weak-assed tears start to build up again. “After all this trouble I’ve caused?”

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