Beneath These Scars (Page 74)

Lucas and I were sprawled on an extra bed he’d requested in Jerome’s private hospital room. Conscious of my injuries, he wasn’t wrapped around me, but he hadn’t yet let go of my hand, even in sleep. His chest rose and fell in an even rhythm that I took comfort in.

Jerome groaned from the bed next to us, and I jumped up to check on him. Lucas didn’t move. I leaned over the old man, my heart aching at the sight of the bandages wrapped around his head.

“What’s wrong? Do you need the nurse?”

His eyes fluttered open and the faded blues locked on me. He had a major concussion for sure, and the ER doc had requested that he stay overnight for observation. The old man was tough and had refused, but Lucas had overruled him.

“I’m fine. And you? You’re still okay?”

I nodded. “I’m good.”

His eyes shifted to Lucas. “And my boy?” It was the first time I’d heard him refer to Lucas in such a way.

“He’s . . . good.”

“He took a life. That never gets easier,” Jerome said. “He still carries the guilt from the last time, and God knows that was an accident. Even if he believes he killed his father.”

The breath caught in my lungs. “What?” I whispered.

Jerome nodded. “It’s not my place to tell you the story, though.”

Lucas’s voice cut through the rhythmic beeping in the room. “You already started, old man. Might as well tell her the whole sordid tale, because I did kill him.”

I turned to look at Lucas. “Wha—”

He swung his legs over the side of the bed, dropping his elbows to his knees and his face into his hands. “I killed him. I didn’t save him, and I could have.”

The story poured out of Lucas. “My father was a brilliant, crazy-as-fuck R&D director. Think Steve Jobs, but with more screws loose. He pioneered technology decades before its time. He’s the one who got me interested in science and business. But he only understood the science side of the house, and not business.”

Lucas looked up, revealing the torment on his face. “Learning from him, I developed a concept that he called stupid, ridiculous, and idiotic—and he called me all the same things. But it wasn’t, and I wasn’t. I knew it then, and I know it now. It’s what I’ve been working so hard to launch. I’ve been working on it since I was sixteen. He was a perfectionist, driven to extremes in every area of life. No one was safe from his scrutiny. He could invent beautiful technology, but with people, he only knew how to destroy.”

When he paused for a moment, I sat on the bed beside him and wrapped my hand around his arm. “You don’t have to tell me.”

Lucas turned his gaze on me, his eyes hard, colder than I’d ever seen them. “This is the only way you’ll understand when I say I’m not a good man, I’m telling you the truth.”

Jerome spoke. “Maybe you should take this somewhere private, because I’m going to want to interrupt with the facts, as you clearly don’t understand the truth of the matter.”

Lucas shoved to his feet, and I dropped my grip on him. “The truth is that I baited him that day. I told him he couldn’t climb that peak, that he was too old. He’d been livid. Backhanded me. When he’d carried gear to the car, I’d known that the day would change everything—because I was going to show him that there was something I could do that he couldn’t. His competitive streak wouldn’t allow him to quit.” His jaw ticked as he clenched it. “Neither of us should have been up there that day. I was so far beyond my ability, it was an accident waiting to happen.”

“An accident is exactly what it was, Lucas,” Jerome interjected.

“No. When the rope slipped and shredded on that rock, I had time. I could’ve grabbed it. I waited too long—”

“And then went over a cliff to try to save him, nearly killing yourself in the process and landing in the hospital for three weeks.”

My eyes jerked to Lucas. The scars on his forearm that I’d never asked about, because I didn’t like to talk about mine. The slice of a scar that ran through his eyebrow and up into his hairline. It was all coming together.

I touched the raised white line on his forearm now. “No one makes it through life without scars. It’s impossible. But they’re not signs of shame; they’re badges of honor showing that you fought and survived. That’s why I’ve never hidden mine, but you’ve never moved on.”

Lucas’s words came out sharp. “And you have?”

“I have now. And you’re the reason why.”

“I’m the worst reason.” Lucas shoved to his feet and strode out of the room.

I started after him, but Jerome’s voice stopped me.

“His father tore him down at every opportunity, made him believe he was unworthy—of affection, love, of anything. He’s spent every minute of every day proving him wrong, and yet he still doesn’t believe he’s done enough. He persists in seeing himself as the villain.”

“If his father were alive, I’d throw him down a mountain myself.”

“He was not a good man. But his son is.”

I headed for the door. “You don’t have to tell me that. I already know.” I reached the hallway, but there was no sign of Lucas.

I stopped at the nurses’ station. “You see a big, black-haired man stomp through here?”

She smiled. “That hot one? Oh yeah. He headed for the elevator. Said he needed some air and to call if anything changed.”