Chapter 9

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"Wait. Slow down," Jenna said, giving me an unrelenting stare while waving her hands against her face like she ate something hot. Her posture told me she didn't believe a goddamn word I said. Jenna didn't believe in me, never did. She wanted me for sex, and the sex was good, but sex doesn't pay the bills, and we had plenty of bills. "You're telling me—"

"I'm sick of asking your father for loans. And yes, I'm serious," I said louder than I'd wanted to. "That's exactly how it happened." Jenna couldn't even believe that I robbed a bank? How pathetic am I? Wait, I'd never raised my voice at Jenna, not like this.

"I've never seen this side of you is all. I mean, can't you see where I'm coming from here?" I hadn't realized how little faith Jenna had in me. I mean, I'd done everything to please her. But I forgot how to impress her.

"We didn't want people to get hurt. I mean—"

"You had something to do with the hotel robbery, didn't you?" Jenna stared me down, not blinking. "Please tell me you had nothing to do with the killing."

"Robert killing the clerk wasn't in the cards." I dropped my head. "We were after money, nothing more."

"Look, I don't know what you did or what your part in all this was, but you'd better talk. This is so not like you."

"Robert is my brother. Well, he's my half-brother." Another bastard son of my mother's. She'd had several of us fatherless children. I only knew of Robert, though. It's not like I couldn't have done the robbery myself. I had no idea how to get away with a crime. No, I'm not the best of people, but I'd tried playing by the rules long enough. I'm through trying to convince the world that I'm better than the words of hatred I shout in the mirror.

Jenna turned her attention to Jill. "So, Jill is your sister-in-law?"

I nodded and let out a sigh I didn't know existed. "Look, I know this is a lot to take in but—"

"To say the least..." Jenna dropped to the sofa and raked her fingers through her hair. "This can't be happening. This isn't happening."

"Well, believe it because it's true." I couldn't believe how far my take-charge attitude had come. I mean, before I'd avoid confrontation, but now I was out to win. "Robert and I needed quick cash, and robbing the hotel became our only option. I didn't want to tell you I was out of money again, or that I didn't want you to ask your father for another loan."

Jenna lifted her gaze, and her piercing green eyes almost cut my soul. "Well, you didn't pull the trigger, did you? You're not a murderer, are you?"

"No, relax. I didn't pull the trigger. I didn't even expect Robert to come until much later. I called him when you were asleep. We talked about you and us and what I should do about the dog. Like, if we broke up, who do I give the dog to? You've always hated that dog."

Jenna snapped her fingers to which my eyes returned from a hollow stare. "Okay, that's beside the point." Jenna returned her eyes to the money I'd placed on the bed. "So, where did all this money come from? You don't have any family and no friends and no real job, so where?"

"I robbed a bank," I said, prouder than I should have.

Jenna rolled her eyes. "Yea, sure you did, buddy. You robbed?" Jenna pointed at me. "Robbed a bank?" Jenna doubled over, cackling to tears. I hadn't seen her laugh this hard in forever.

I stood with my hands on my hips, not moving my eyes from hers. A teacher used to tell me to look a man in the eye when you talked to them, which was the hardest thing for me to do. I always looked off to the side or shifted my eyes when I spoke without even knowing it. I'd catch myself mid-sentence staring off into space or some other planet. I'd found the courage to stare Jenna square in the eye. But this time, she looked away.

"Wait, you're serious?" Jenna moved across the room and jumped into my arms. It's been a while since I'd felt the passion in her eyes and her touch that made the sunshine in my heart in the night's cold. "We're rich, right?"

"Not exactly, but I planned on robbing more banks," I said, gathering the bills and flipping through them like a card dealer shuffling a card deck. "I mean -- if you guys want to get in on the action..."

"Hold on," Jill said. "Are you asking us to help you rob banks?"

"Bad idea, right?"

Jenna cocked her head. "You're trying to prove yourself to my father, aren't you?"

I let out a sigh I didn't know existed. "How could I not? Your dad hates me. He would rather see me behind bars than in your bed." I'd hoped it wasn't all in my head. But her dad hates everything about me. "Are you with me on this?"

"You want me to pretend you got a high-paying executive job?" Jenna said. "You've never been the devious, lying type. I should take your temperature. Have you been taking your medication?" Jenna said in a soft tone.

"Would you stop with the medication deal? Seriously," I said. "I have problems, yes, but I'm not the one we need to impress; it's your father." I placed the cash in the back of my T-shirt dresser drawer. "We've got to go talk to your father," I said. 

"Dad doesn't want to talk to you," Jenna said, shaking her head.

"We don't have a choice," I said. "He has to know I had nothing to do with this robbery," I said. 

"Jenna, he's right," Jill said. "Your father is the one who pointed the finger at Ben."

"Fine." Jenna sighed. "Let's go talk to Dad." 

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