Sweet freedom was within his grasp and Riley Miller could scarcely believe it was real.
After ten years ten long, agonizing years in hell—in less than twenty-four hours, his life would be his and never again would anyone tell him what to do and when to do it. All the rules would be out the window. No more listening to guards ordering him around, telling him when he could eat or sleep or take a shit while snoopy cellmates sneakily rifled through his belongings, spying on him for the guards and the warden.
Everyone is against me. Always have been. But that’s okay. Soon, they’ll see they can’t keep me down and they can’t stop me from doing what I want to do.
Alone in his cell, staring at the ceiling, Riley smiled to himself as he mentally reviewed his carefully crafted to-do list.
He didn’t dare write anything down; his cellmates would find it and pass it to the guards and they would try to use it to block his release. Riley couldn’t have that.
Not when he had come some far; not when he was so close to getting the second chance he rightfully deserved.
The second chance his new lawyer had secured for him.
“I can’t believe your first court-appointed lawyer missed it, but you were only seventeen at the time the crime was committed and because you were a minor, the police should never have questioned you without your mother in the room.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means your confession is nullified and therefore, your conviction is overturned.”
“It will take about a day to process the paperwork, but after that, you will be released and as soon as you’re settled, we should think about a civil case on the grounds that your civil rights were seriously violated.”
The lawyer, Drake Owens, seemed excited about a possible civil case, but Riley wasn’t worried about that.
Owens had already served his purpose. Riley was no longer upset by his mother forcing him to promise he wouldn’t contact her or anyone else in the family again, if she paid for Owens to review his case and fight for his release.
She always was a bitch. I don’t need her. I don’t need anyone now. She can rot in hell, ’cause I’ll be free really soon and then I can really make things right.
For Riley, that meant only one thing.
He wouldn’t rest, he wouldn’t know a moment’s peace, until he stood over Lucas Keifer’s dead body while the bastard’s blood dried on his hands.
No mistakes this time; I won’t just assume he’s dead. I’ll make sure of it. But no way will I kill him quickly. He thought he suffered before, but this time, he’ll be begging for me to kill him.
He’d had ten years to dream about it and plan it, ten years to remember Lucas leading him on and then rejecting him. He knew his mother and everyone else believed Lucas when he said he and Riley had never been involved romantically. His mother had gone as far as to back Lucas up, telling the police that Riley had always been unstable and strange. She even handed over his journals, which held his writings about Lucas, and the police had used those writings as “proof” that Riley was clearly obsessed with the young teacher, who had done nothing more than be kind to the awkward kid who didn’t have any real friends in school.
It was more! It was! Lucas made me love him. He was nice to me. I saw the way he looked at me in class and he wanted me, but he changed his mind when he met that other guy and then he lied and I had to make him pay for that, for making a fool of me!
Feeling the familiar stirrings of anger, Riley closed his eyes and drew in a deep breath, assuring himself that soon, he would have his payback and nothing and no one could stop him.
I wonder if anyone will call and tell Lucas I’m getting out.
He almost hoped someone would. He liked the idea of Lucas sitting around, afraid, worried, wondering when Riley would swoop down and end his life in a bloodbath.
Smiling at the thought, he allowed himself a moment to remember how he had wanted it to be so different, how he had fallen in love with Lucas Keifer the moment he saw the new teacher standing in front of his senior English class.
Fresh out of college, ambitious and outgoing, Lucas Keifer wasn’t like other teachers; he was warm and kind and he related to his students. He didn’t talk down to them; he talked to them, openly, in a way that made them feel comfortable and at ease, and he never hesitated to offer extra help to anyone who needed it.
When the other kids in class made fun of Riley, Lucas was the first teacher to ever tell them to knock it off. Riley knew then that Lucas loved him.
And he was beautiful. So very, very beautiful.
At five-nine, he wasn’t overly tall, but he was beautifully built and graceful with well-crafted muscles created by years of competitive swimming and gymnastics. His hair was a thick golden-blond and more than a bit unruly and longish, the mesmerizing shade a perfect contrast to his sun-kissed skin and expressive, darkly- lashed cerulean blue eyes.
He wasn’t a fan of shaving daily, so he often had a rugged appeal and, unlike other teachers, he avoided anything more “dressy” than jeans and T-shirts.
All the students loved him, but none more than Riley.
Riley loved him completely and, for a while, Lucas made it clear he loved him too, with smiles and eye contact and extra help after class, but then Riley learned that Lucas was living with another man and it broke his heart.
He tried to talk to Lucas, but Lucas was confused when Riley asked him why he was turning away from him.
“Riley, I don’t understand….”
“You do! I know you do! All the time we spent together? You have to remember.”
“I helped you after school….”
“No! You told me you loved me. You said I was special.”
“Maybe we should sit down and talk about this.”
“No! I don’t want to talk. I want to know why you’re cheating on me! I saw you yesterday, at the park, with that other man.”
Another teacher heard him screaming and she contacted the principal and the school therapist and they came in and demanded to know what was going on.
They talked to him and Lucas separately, but no one believed Riley. They all said he was clearly “troubled” and his mother bringing in his writings just confirmed that, the principal insisted, before he and the therapist instructed Riley’s mother to get him help before he returned to school.
Lucas even offered to help cover the cost, but his mother refused his help. She told Riley he would just have to go to another school, that she wouldn’t waste money trying to “fix” him because she knew it would be a waste.
“You just stay away from that teacher, you little freak. If you go near him, I’ll kill you.”
He told his mother he would, but it was a lie, because he started sneaking out that very night, to go and sit across the street from Lucas’s apartment.
Every night for two weeks after he was thrown out of school, he watched Lucas come and go from afar. He saw him with his boyfriend/live-in lover and he learned the guy’s name was Ridge Dallas. He was an accountant or something like that and he was certainly good-looking, but not nearly as good-looking as Lucas, and Riley hated him. Each time he saw them hold hands or kiss, he grew to hate Lucas more.
Lucas lied; Lucas led me on; Lucas cheated.
Everything that happened was all Lucas’s fault. He had brought it all on himself and Riley wasn’t sorry for any of it; even now, ten years later.
He only regretted that Lucas hadn’t died.
But he will this time; this time he will pay for hurting me, for lying, for breaking my heart and ruining my life with his lies.
Really, Riley reasoned, it would be so easy. Maybe easier than it was before.
He already knew where to find Lucas. He had been keeping tabs on him for years, going as far as to pay a former cellmate to track him down and give Riley a report about where he was living and what he was doing.
He lived in a North Carolina town called Cedar Point where he owned a bookstore.
Bet no one is living with him now. Bet he can’t get a lover or even pay someone to fuck him.
Satisfied with that thought, as he always was, to know he had made Lucas Keifer unlovable, Riley rolled to his side with a contented sigh.
Tomorrow, he would be free.
Tomorrow, he would set his plans into motion and it would be wonderful.
Enjoy what time you have left, Lucas. I’ll come see you soon and this time, you will die.