The Millionaire's Forever

By: Sonya Weiss

His cell phone rang and he answered. Cole, his friend from high school who’d been sentenced with him that night, too, said, “Hey man, we’re waiting for you.”

“Be there in ten,” Mason said and disconnected.

Thick-limbed trees hung over the road as Mason drove away from the city toward the outskirts where the cemetery was located on a small patch of land a wealthy citizen had donated to use for burying those too poor to afford a plot.

The sign on the black iron fence surrounding the cemetery had long since rusted and weeds choked much of the grass. The heavy scent of honeysuckle perfumed the air, the white and yellow flowers of the plant twined in between the fence and metal bars around the land. Beauty amid the brokenness.

He hated the place. Hated what it represented. Adam hadn’t deserved what happened to him. He hadn’t made it to his eighteenth birthday. Mason’s fingers closed on the steering wheel. The juvenile facility carved hollow places inside all of them and only justice would fill them. Mason shut off the engine and lowered the window, allowing the warmth from the day to fill the interior. The sounds of birds chirping rang out, disrupting the stillness.

Shoving open the door, he grabbed the bouquet and stepped out, walking through the unkempt landscape to where Cole and Jake waited. Adam should have been the fourth man. They’d been inseparable until the juvenile facility had parted them. They’d gone in whole and come out fragmented.

“You ready?” Jake asked. He lifted a six-pack of beer in glass bottles. “Here’s to a promise kept.”

“Lead on.” Cole waved his hand and the three of them headed across the sloping grassy hill to the spot marked for Jake’s little brother, Adam.

After Adam’s death, once they’d been released, the three of them spent hours sitting with their backs against the fence, hearts aching, hatred eating a hole in them like acid. The hatred had taken years to overcome, especially after Jake shared the letters Adam had written in the facility—letters wishing for freedom. Letters hoping for a new life someday. Now all that was left was the retribution they’d bring to those who deserved to pay for what they’d done.

They settled around the simple marker that held Adam’s name and Jake pulled out a handful of weeds blocking the writing on the stone. Uncapping the beers, the three men touched the tips of the bottles together.

“For you, bro,” Jake said and downed a large swallow. He wiped his mouth and the three of them stared at the marker, each lost in his own thoughts.

They were quiet for a second, and then Cole looked at Jake. “You sure you can handle this?”

“Yeah,” Jake said gruffly, a muscle working along the side his jaw. “But the question is, can Mason handle Olivia? He always had a thing for her.”

“I can handle Olivia,” Mason said impatiently, watching as a bee landed on one of the flowers in the bouquet.

Jake shook his head. “Then why didn’t you tell her daddy the reason you couldn’t have been the one to set that fire was because you were busy making sure his passed-out drunk, half-naked daughter got home safely?”

Chapter Two

“You want to talk about it?” Beth asked after she had returned.

She tried to look casual, but Olivia knew her friend was dying to know what Mason wanted. It wasn’t every day that a man with his allure strode into the shop. Olivia felt hot all over thinking about him. His eyes were so dark, his face so incredibly handsome. She hated that she noticed his appeal. Hated that she felt drawn to him despite his high-handed attitude.

“Mason’s pretending to be my boyfriend because he wants revenge. There’s nothing more to say.” Olivia looked away from Beth’s astonished gaze and lifted her shoulders in a shrug, as if it didn’t matter. Truthfully, though, she battled sparks of anger and indignation over the whole situation. Over her foolish lie, over the way Mason assumed he could waltz into town and own her life.

“Revenge? Even after all the evidence, he’s still saying he was set up?” Beth moved to the thermostat on the wall and adjusted the setting. The aging air-conditioning unit clicked on and a blast of cool air erupted from the vents.

“Says that he and his friends didn’t start it. My guess is he believes my father didn’t do his job. Like Dad was to blame for Mason being sentenced, but he didn’t come right out and say that.”

Looking thoughtful, Beth said, “Your dad never liked Mason. Didn’t even want his name brought up around him. What was up with that?”

“He always said Mason was trouble. Any time something was vandalized or stolen, Dad questioned Mason first.” Olivia moved a stack of mail over to the left side of the counter so she’d remember to open and deal with it later.

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