Pricked (Page 41)

“I had no idea …”

“Yeah, well. It doesn’t matter. She’s taking care of it today,” he says. “I’ll be damned if any grandchild of mine has an ounce of your blood.”

Before I have a chance to respond, his double doors swing open and two men in security uniforms come at me. I’m sure he called them right before he came out to get me, knowing he’d have just enough time to say his piece before having me dragged off.

One of the guards reaches for me, but I take a step back, lifting my hands in the air.

I will not be dragged out of here like some criminal.

I leave without saying another word. I’ll deal with him later. All I can think about right now is Brighton and how fucking scared she must be.

Walking back to the parking lot, I call her number, only it goes straight to voicemail.

“Brighton,” I say, “It’s me … call me as soon as you get this. Please. There’s something I want to tell you.”

I leave it at that, hoping that my vagueness might pique her curiosity enough to get her to finally call me back.

Heading back to Olwine, I keep picturing Brighton pregnant with my child. The whole concept of parenthood never really appealed to me, and Dev reminds me on a regular basis that I’d be the worst dad ever because I’d probably never let my kid do anything or go anywhere, but the idea of having a baby with someone like Brighton makes the idea of being a father more palatable.

God, she’d be an amazing mother.

Sweet and tender, funny and intelligent.

And so much love to give …

A warm sensation floods my chest when I picture the three of us. Maybe that’s love, maybe it isn’t. All I know is that I want to be with Brighton. I want to take care of her. Of our child. I’m sure she’s terrified right now, feeling alone and low on options. I can only hope I can get a hold of her before she makes a permanent solution out of a temporary problem.

I can’t imagine Brighton so much as hurting a fly, let alone terminating her own pregnancy. If her parents are forcing her hand in this, I swear to God, there’ll be hell to pay.

And if Brighton gives me another chance … I swear to God, I’ll never let her go.



“She’s awake,” an unfamiliar voice says as I come out of anesthesia. The steady beep of machines fills my ear next.

There’s a funny taste in my mouth and my tongue is dry as sandpaper, but my mother is at the ready with a can of 7-Up and a bent straw.

“You did great, sweetie,” she says. “Everything went well. They were able to keep everything intact so …”

She’s referring to my fallopian tube. Funny how she can’t bring herself to say the word, as if me demonstrating the fact that I’m a woman perfectly capable of becoming pregnant wasn’t enough proof to her that I’m no longer a little girl.

My head throbs, likely a side effect of the anesthesia, and I alternate between feeling like I’ve just slept for a million years and wanting to go back to sleep.

“They said you can go home in a couple of hours,” Mom says. “Eloise is prepping your room as we speak. And I spoke to your boss. They’re going to let you have the rest of the week off to recover, though it’ll be unpaid. I told them that wouldn’t be a problem.”

I’m half out of it still but fully embarrassed.

I can’t believe she called my boss.

Or wait. I can believe it.

It’s Temple Karrington we’re talking about.

She brings the soda to my lips again and I take another sip through the straw. A moment later she sits back down, and I close my eyes, mind wandering to Madden. What little piece of him I carried with me is now gone in every sense of the word. Still, I wonder what he’d think if he knew about this.

I was going to tell him. I had every intention. I wanted to show up with a sonogram in hand and sit down with him and figure out what we were going to do.

But when they told me the pregnancy was nonviable, it seemed pointless.

I think about Madden one more time before the image of Veronica in his apartment comes to mind. I decide right here and now, in my medically induced post-surgical grogginess, that as soon as I get out of here, I’m moving forward and never looking back.

It was good while it lasted, but it’s over now.

Madden doesn’t want me.

He never did.

“Oh, your father just got here,” Mom says. “Charles, she did well. Everything went smoothly.”

“That’s what Dr. Robbins was just telling me,” he says. “I ran into her out in the hall.”

The strong scent of his aftershave fills my lungs, sending a small wave of nausea to my center, but it passes. Leaning down, he places his hand across my forehead before kissing the top of my head.

“Close your eyes and rest, Birdie. Everything will be back to normal soon enough. It’ll be like none of this ever happened …"

I close my eyes and pretend to sleep, hoping my parents will quiet their non-helpful commentaries if they think I’m out.

I’ll never tell either of them, but I regret nothing.

I’m fine with moving on, but I never want to act like Madden never happened.

He happened. And it was amazing. And then it was painful. And then it was over.

End of story.

I’m not sure how much recovering I’m actually going to accomplish. It’s my second day of resting at home and my mother has already barged in here at least five times, and it’s not even noon yet.

I slip a bookmark between the pages of the A.J. Finn book in my hands and place it on my nightstand before grabbing my phone.

It turns out lying around all day doing nothing gives a person too much time to think, and lately I can’t stop thinking about Madden’s father being the Rodney Kramer whose name we were never allowed to so much as whisper growing up.

Pulling up an internet browser, I type in my grandparents’ names and brace myself for the results. In all the years that have passed since that tragic night, not once did I ever read a single article.

There was never any need.

Why read about something when you’ve already lived through it?

A string of results, mostly archived news articles, fill my screen half a second later, and I click on the first one.


Archibald ‘Archie’ and Cleo Monson, owners and founders of international pharmaceutical giant Monarch Pharmaceuticals, were discovered dead in their home late Sunday morning from gunshot wounds. Police state that it appears to be a robbery gone wrong, however, they stress that it is still an active investigation.

One suspect is in custody, 42-year-old Rodney Marcus Kramer of Olwine. The other suspect, a sixteen-year-old male, was allegedly shot by one of the victims. He was rushed to the Hollandale Memorial Hospital in Hidden Oaks by the first suspect, however, he was pronounced dead upon arrival.

Sixteen-year-old male?

I do the math.

Madden would’ve been sixteen when this happened.

Did he … have a twin brother?

I open a new tab and type in the name DALLAS KRAMER, and then I click on the “images” section of the results.

The first image is a hauntingly familiar face, younger but undeniably identical.

Dallas was Madden’s twin brother.

And my grandfather shot and killed him.



“You sure you want to do this?” Pierce snaps a latex glove on his hand. It’s the only time he’s asked so far. I think he’s afraid I’m going to change my mind. Plus he knows better than to give me shit about this. Pierce is the only one who knows the real reason why I refused to get inked.

Until now.

“Yep.” I lie back on his client bed, staring at the stained tiles on the ceiling, one arm lifted behind my head.

The machine begins to buzz.

I close my eyes.

And Pierce gets started.

It’s been a month now since I last saw Brighton, and still when I think of her, this fullness floods my chest. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever felt before. Sometimes it’s warm, other times it’s full. Always euphoric.

I don’t know shit about love, but I imagine that’s what it feels like.

For a while I kept thinking I’d miss her less with each passing day, that with a little time I’d be able to move on, but if anything, time and space and distance have only intensified the feelings that rose to the surface the night Brighton told me she loved me and walked out of my life for good.

I don’t know what she’s up to now, if she’s still working at Hershman or if her parents forced her to go to med school like she’d originally planned. I imagine she’s no longer pregnant. If Charles said she was “taking care of it that day” and she refused to return my call, I can only draw one conclusion.

I’m still working on putting together a case against that bastard. With a little more information from my father and the private investigator and forensic accountant I’ve hired, we’re making leeway.

I’m hopeful that someday soon Charles Karrington will be trading in his massive estate for an eight by ten cell.

“All right, man. All done,” Pierce says, quieting the tattoo machine when he’s done. I hop off the table and take a look in the full-length mirror. “What do you think?”