Authors: J. M. La Rocca
The Professor Series
J.M. La Rocca
Copyright 2015 by J.M. La Rocca
Cover Design by Sharee Faircloth of
Sharee Faircloth Creative
Photographer: Garreth Barclay
Model: Marcel Snyman
Hot Tree Editing
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to any actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owner
To my twins, who think mommy’s favorite jobs are to write books and wash dishes.
Seventeen years old
I wasn’t always like this. Dark. Malicious. Empty.
He made me this way.
Years ago, I was happy and content. Living a life beside my mother, a light so bright that she transferred it to others. She was a beacon. All the goodness she had in her bled into me.
Then she was gone.
My beacon faded away.
I was left with him.
That darkness seeped into my soul and took over. It flipped a switch and showed me things I’d never known. It showed me how one’s pain could be my pleasure.
At first, I fought it. I knew right from wrong.
This was wrong.
But if it was wrong, why did I enjoy it?
I battled with my subconscious on a daily basis, but he kept pushing me further over the edge, so far that there was no more light to be seen.
I knew why I embraced it. She was magnetic. A new beacon to consume me, but the darkness was overpowering.
I told myself I hated it. I was evil. A murderer. Deep down…I enjoyed it.
I closed everything behind a door in my mind and kept it there until it needed to be opened again.
I despised myself, but the inner part of me enjoyed that, too.
I’d never win this battle.
I lost myself when I was seven.
There was no redeeming who I would become.
I sat with my head resting on the back of the couch, staring at the ceiling. The blood on my hip was already starting to clot, the pain from the cut no longer registering in my brain. Luke would be there soon, and I needed to get my head on straight.
So many things whirled through my mind, but Emma’s terrified expression as I yelled at her to leave was front and center. I tried to block it, like I’d done with so many other things, but it was too fresh.
Running a hand through my hair, I sighed as the night’s events played over in my head again. I was stupid. So fucking stupid.
I heard a soft tapping and lifted my head to look in the direction of the front door.
“Yeah!” I shouted then laid my head back down.
I heard the door open and light footsteps as Luke made his way to me.
“What the fuck happened?”
I turned my head and looked toward Luke to see him standing in the doorway. “You bring your kit?”
“Yeah,” he said, lifting it up for me to see as he looked at my hip.
“Good.” I turned to lie on my side, exposing my torn flesh for him, not worried in the least of what he’d think of my nudity.
He walked into the room and set his bag on the table. “Talk to me, Mase. What the hell is going on?”
I stared at the wall, looking over the painting Emma had examined a week before. The colors swirled together as I stared intently at the purple splotch in the corner. It truly was a window to my soul.
“Do you ever wonder what your life might have been like if you had made a different choice?”
I looked toward him and waited for him to answer. It wasn’t something I thought of often, but there were times I wondered how my life would’ve turned out if I’d chosen a different path. What would it have been like if my mother hadn’t died? What if I’d tried to get Sophia out? There were so many times I was left in the house on my own with her. We could have both run. I could have kept her safe. I could have found a way. I destructed my own life. I’ve made all the choices.
I heard him sigh and open his bag before he knelt on the floor beside the couch.
“I’ve been your best friend for a long time, Mase, and I’ve never questioned your choice not to tell me why you do this to yourself, but I’m not leaving tonight until you tell me what the fuck is going on inside your head.”
I chuckled before bending my arm back behind a pillow and resting my head to get comfortable.
“If I told you all the fucked-up shit going on in my head, you’d be just as fucked up as I am.”
“I highly doubt that.”
I looked away from the painting to see a small smirk on Luke’s face. He’d been with me through thick and thin all of my life. He was the only one I’d ever consider telling, but that wouldn’t be a wise decision on my part.
“There’s too much to even try to explain.”
“That’s the main word there, Mase:
I took a deep breath and let it out slowly before looking down at my naked body and then over to my hip. “Fix me up first, will you? Then we’ll talk.”
He nodded somberly and got to work on my hip after bandaging the shredded skin on my hand.
After he stitched and dressed the cut, I sat up and grabbed one of the decorative throw blankets from the side of the couch to cover myself up.
“Can you go to my office and grab the bottle of scotch?”
He closed his bag and did as I asked, pouring a glass for each of us when he arrived back in the room.
“You can take your time, man, but I’m not leaving until you give me…
.” He gestured with his hand as he sat down in the chair across from me.
I grabbed the glass of scotch and downed it before leaning back on the couch. I tried to get comfortable, ignoring the sting from the stitches pulling at my skin every time I moved.
Letting out a deep sigh, I ran a hand through my hair. I had a hard decision to make. He’d been there for me through so many things, and for me to keep all of this from him? He’d feel betrayed. Especially since it had to deal with his father, as well. I squeezed my eyes closed for a moment before finally looking up to meet his gaze. I didn’t want to tell him anything, but I knew he wouldn’t leave it alone unless I gave him something.
“You’re the only person who knows me, Luke,” I said, taking a short pause. I opened my mouth to say more but closed it again, shaking my head.
Luke furrowed his brow then leaned forward in his seat to rest his elbows on his knees.
“Just let it out.”
Filling my glass, I drank half before staring down at my hands as I rolled the glass between them, contemplating what to say.
“There are things I can’t tell you. Things I’m not at liberty to say. Things that plague my mind and cause me to do what I do to myself.” I looked down at my covered hip and for the first time, shame washed over me. Something I’d never felt before.
Cutting had always given me a sense of freedom. The control I never had. I’d never been judged for my actions because I’d kept it hidden. Although Luke had known about it, he kept his opinions to himself. But as I looked over his expression, the thought of him silently judging me in his mind didn’t sit well with me.
“I can’t tell you why I do it or why I started. You’re asking for answers I can’t give you and for ones I don’t have.”
you tell me, Mase? You’ve been on this road of destruction for as long as I can remember. Let me help you.”
I let out another sigh and leaned back on the couch, running a hand through my hair. What could I tell him that wouldn’t get him involved?
“There’s no helping me. I have to figure this out on my own. It’s the only way.”
“I know you’ve been through some hard times. I can’t tell you that I understand how you feel, but you’re like a brother to me, man. I hate seeing you like this. I can bust your balls all day long when we’re around our friends, but in the end, I worry about you. And I know things between you and John were never the same after your mom passed, but I hope you know that my dad loves you like a son, too. If you need something, you have people willing to be there for you.”
I brought the glass to my lips and swallowed the rest of the scotch as I took in his words. I appreciated everything he had to say, and I knew he worried about me. His dad had always been there for me. While John was off doing whatever the fuck he was doing every day, Victor was the one who actually treated me like a son.
Then it clicked.
I’d been pondering what I could do to get revenge. Wondering how I could bypass the barricades I knew would be waiting for me. I couldn’t get the proof that John was up to no good, but I knew the one person who could.
“Are your dad and John still as close as they were when we were kids?” Victor and John were never a source of conversation when we were together, so I didn’t know what their relationship was like.
Luke placed his glass on the table and shook his head. “I wouldn’t say they were close. John’s changed over the years, but so has Dad. I’d say they’re basically just partners now. They do what they need to do for business. Why?”
I shrugged, feigning nonchalance. “Just wondering.”
Luke scoffed. “If you’re asking, there’s a reason.”
If John was doing any of his side business within the firm, then he’d basically fucked himself over. I had no idea what I could do about Donicko, who was the leader, also known as the Black Widow. He was untouchable, and his money put a lot influential people in his back pocket. But he could wait; I needed to focus on one at a time. Anything I could do to John would ultimately harm Donicko in some way, but I needed to be careful. I still didn’t know Donicko’s end game.
Why did he have me in his sights so long ago? Why’s he calling on me again after so long?
These were the things I had to figure out, and I had a feeling he wouldn’t make me wait long.
He was up to something.
Then there was the fact that he knew about Emma. I didn’t honestly think he would do anything to her. He was just trying to get under my skin, and he’d achieved his fucking goal.
My eyes drifted back up to the painting. I didn’t know what it was about her that made her different from all the rest. I’d spent my whole life hiding behind a mask, hiding my inner and outer scars. But she’d seen part of me. A part of me I never wanted anyone to see.
It was my weakness.
I didn’t want the looks of sympathy, the looks of pity and sadness. I wanted the fucking memories to go away.
“Hey, man, where are you?”
I pulled my eyes away from the painting and met Luke’s brown ones. “Sorry,” I said as I cleared my throat and sat up straighter on the couch. “I think I need to head off to bed. The night’s events have worn me out.” The adrenaline was leaving my body, and I felt exhausted.
“All right,” he agreed as he slapped a hand on his leg and stood up. “Just remember, I meant what I said. If you need anything, I’m here for you. Just—” he started as he gestured to my hip, “stop fucking cutting yourself. If you get the urge, call me. I’m here for you. You may feel like you can’t talk to me, but you can.”
I nodded and clasped my hands together. I hated seeing that fucking look on his face, but I appreciated it all the same. Being cared for wasn’t something I was used to.
“I’ll try, okay?”
“That’s all I’m asking.” He grabbed his bag and headed for the door. “I’ll call you soon!” he shouted over his shoulder as he opened the door and headed out.
Sitting back on the couch, I ran a hand down my face and closed my eyes. I needed to go to bed. I’d start thinking about everything else in the morning.