Fall from India Place Page 32

I must not have been able to keep that pain out of my expression, because Marco tensed, and something like regret flickered in his gaze.

He set the beer down, his entire focus on me. “I want you to know that being with you that night was one of the best nights of my life.”

I froze at that shocking confession, only for anger to quickly unfreeze me. “Don’t you dare try to sweet-talk me with bullshit and pretty words. I just want the truth, Marco.”

His features hardened. “That is the truth. You can be pissed off at me all you want, but don’t question what I tell you tonight because I’ve never lied to you.”

“For all I know.”

“No, you do know. I’ve never lied to you, Hannah. Not once.”

“Well, if that night was so amazing how come you couldn’t get out of there fast enough afterward? How come you left me lying there in that skeezy flat, feeling used and absolutely worthless?”

Looking pained by my questions, Marco suddenly drew a hand down his face.

I waited.

“I hate myself for making you feel that way,” he whispered. “I’m sorry.”

My heart was beating so hard against my chest it hurt. “Why, then?”

Understanding my question, he sat back in his chair, his jaw taut. “You were Hannah. You were this great girl who made me laugh and looked at me like I was worth something, and every year you got more beautiful.”

His words made my heart flip over in my chest.

“You were too good for me. I knew that the first time I walked you home. Pure class from the tips of your fingers to the tips of your toes. Not for me.”

“I don’t understand.”

Marco exhaled heavily. “I told you I didn’t get along with my grandfather or my uncle. And what I meant was that I really didn’t get along with them. From the moment I could walk Nonno made sure I thought I was a piece of scum, worthless. He told me I was nothing and that I would never amount to anything. He said I was just like my mom and dad, and that every life I’d touch, I’d ruin. He drilled that into me.”

I couldn’t help myself. Even after everything, I was hurt and angry on his behalf when he said those things. “He sounds like a bitter old bastard.”

Marco gave a huff of laughter. “You’d be right. But he was the only father figure I had. So, despite Nonna’s attempts to soften my grandfather’s blows, I believed him. It got so I was almost trying to prove him right. I grew up with this kid in my neighborhood. His stepdad was kind of a prick to him too. We were friends mostly because of our mutual hate for them. As we got older, Jamal started doing stupid shit like breaking into people’s homes, stealing stuff, vandalism, and all that crap, and I went along for the ride. Then when we were almost sixteen he got recruited into a gang.”

My eyes widened. “A gang gang?”

“A gang gang.” Marco’s eyes were dark with the memories. “He told me some of the stuff they made him do and it pissed me off, but at the same time I kept thinking how much it would really piss off Nonno if I got mixed up in that shit. I think the only thing that stopped me from taking it that far was Nonna and the rest of our family. Still, I did think about it.

“But then one night I was hanging out with Jamal and a couple of the guys from his crew, and they were trying to convince me to join. They waylaid this neighborhood girl Jamal liked.” His gaze drifted off over my left shoulder and I knew he was re-seeing it all. “I didn’t want to believe it… that he was going to rape her, but he started touching her and she was crying and he wouldn’t…” His eyes flicked back to me, hard now. “I jumped him and she got away, but his friends started in on me and it was three against one. I think if Jamal hadn’t convinced them to stop they would have killed me. As it was, I ended up in the hospital and I told my grandparents what had happened. That’s when they got on the phone to my uncle Gio and somehow convinced him and Aunt Gabby to adopt me and bring me over to the UK to get away from it all. They tracked my mom down and got her to sign the papers and by the time I turned sixteen it was all done and I was suddenly in Scotland.”

“And your grandfather? Didn’t he think what you did for that girl was heroic?”

Marco scoffed. “Heroic? No. He called me a worthless, stupid, ignorant piece of shit. He said a father’s blood always tells and my blood was telling.”

My own blood turned red-hot. “Your grandfather’s a dick of the highest order.”

“My grandfather’s dead.”

I tensed. “What?”

He sighed, leaning forward again. “The morning after we slept together Nonna called to tell us Nonno had died of a heart attack. I flew back to Chicago that night with my aunt and uncle.”

“That’s why you left Scotland?”

“Yeah. My aunt and uncle returned to Scotland but I didn’t come back for a year because I wanted to make sure Nonna was okay and I… I had a difficult time letting go of the fact that I was never going to get closure with my grandfather. I was never going to get an apology or whatever validation it was I was looking for from him. I tried to find peace, but I couldn’t, so I decided to come back here.”

I pushed my fork around my plate. “I understand all that, Marco, and I’m sorry he ever made you feel that way, I am. I’m truly sorry. But that doesn’t explain why you left me in that room after I gave you my virginity and told you I loved you. It doesn’t explain why you never tried to look me up since coming back.”

The sudden intensity in Marco’s gaze captured me. His voice sounded even rougher than usual as he replied, “I left you because I thought I didn’t deserve to touch you. I felt like a selfish bastard for having sex with you because… I felt like I was nothing because he told me I was nothing, and scum like me didn’t deserve to touch you, let alone take what you gave me. But I got so caught up in you and how much I wanted you I forgot all that… until you told me you loved me.”

I felt cold, remembering the moment well.

“When we met… at first the situation with Jenks just reminded me of Jamal and the girl. It didn’t matter if I didn’t know you. I was there, I saw that shit happening and I knew what Jenks was like, so I wasn’t going to stand there and let that happen to you. I walked you home because I didn’t want him to circle back on you.

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