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Doll Face(65)

By:C.M. Stunich

“It means that I warned you. I really did. All I can say is, you're on the families' radars. I knew you would be, especially with Tyler's fate so up in the air right now.”

“Radars,” I ask, emphasizing the plural. “So both families: Harding and Hammergren. Am I right?” Brayden shrugs his broad shoulders.

“They're fighting for custody of Tyler right now. Not because either side really cares, but they've been … competitive for quite some time. It was sort of an unfortunate inevitability.”

I grit my teeth and feel Lola's fingers brush my arm.

“That's my friend's fucking kid you're talking about there, not just some 'unfortunate inevitability'. Fuck you, dude.” Brayden smiles sadly and nods his head.

“Aye. I know that better than anyone, trust me. Here's the deal I want to make with you. I think I can solve both of our problems, that of you and your friends and even Tyler. And mine … of a more personal nature. But it's going to take your complete cooperation.” Brayden pauses and takes a deep breath. “I think if we play the game right, I can even get you the kid, get Tyler for you, if that's what you want.”

“No court's going to grant custody of Tyler to me or anyone else in this house,” I spit, hating that that's the truth, hating that Travis' son is going to be raised by people capable of hiring snipers to shoot single moms. Fucking A.

“Who said anything about court?” Brayden asks, and I can't help but take note of the fact that Lola isn't in jail right now. That no police officers stand guard outside Naomi's hospital room, only Brayden's people. Hmm. I'm just some dumb fuck from suburbia. I don't know shit about shit. This is way over my head right now.

“Why are you coming to me?” I ask and Brayden laughs, shaking his head.

“Because you're the only sensible one in the group,” he says with a smile. I sigh and open the bedroom door, holding it for Brayden so he can get the fuck out and leave us alone. All I want is to get my daughters back, to get to know Lola, to make fucking music. Instead, I get this. “I'll be out of your hair then, but I hope you'll call me when you're ready. Sooner rather than later would be advantageous for both of us.”

Brayden pauses next to the door and watches Lola and me like he feels sorry for us. Not a good sign. Not a good fucking sign. To look at someone with pity, there has to be tragedy that you see overlaid on top of their souls. I've had enough tragedy in my life. I stare right back and after a moment, Brayden chuckles and disappears down the stairs, the sound of his boots echoing loudly against the marble.

“What are we gonna do?” Lola asks, but I'm not sure if I have an answer for her. I wrap my arm around her waist and pull her close.

In the midst of the uncertainty and the confusion, Naomi Knox opens her eyes, and Cohen Rose breathes his last bloody breath. In our bathtub, no less.

Amen to fucking cliff-hangers.