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“I know you will.”

“I’ll follow the instructions.”

Tears left his eyes as he smiled. “Hunter, Map renmen w toujou e pou tout tan.”

And then I exhaled a breath that came from the depths of my soul. Next, I sliced my best friend’s throat.

He fell forward, almost holding me. His body shook against mine. Warm blood slipped down my hands and stained the front of my white pants and shirt.

Tears blurred my vision as my and Zola’s gazes met.

When Baptiste’s body stiffened, I lowered him into the grave with Nakita’s already rotted body. No one else was supposed to touch his body, after I killed him.

Stark looked down at me. “What language did Baptiste speak at the end?”

“Creole,” I whispered, placing Baptiste on the soft black dirt.

“Creole. Okay.” Stark rubbed his face with both hands and let out a long breath. “Then, do you know what he said?”

“Yes.” I stared down at Baptiste dead body. “He said…‘Hunter, I’ll love you always and forever.’”

36

Love Always Numbs the Pain

Zola

Hunter had been shaken from the whole ordeal, but still he followed each instruction and every detail. For the rest of the day, I helped Stark and him bury Baptiste with his lost love. The sun set, and we chanted. All evidence had to be erased while Baptiste’s instructions were still followed.

The new moon hovered above us.

We continued hours into the night.

Finally, the wind blew the candles out, and our voices were hoarse from chanting, and there were no more tears left to fill in the jar.

When we finished, we all left.

Stark didn’t come with us, pretty sad from the whole situation and needing to see a fresh scene. He hugged Hunter and then left for the airport.

We didn’t go to the resort either. Hunter was done with the place.

Instead, we drove on a small winding road the rest of the night. Hunter remained silent, and I didn’t push it. Both of us had suffered through the horror of not being together. And he was also mourning the loss of his friends and the part he played in both.

The whole drive, I kept my hand on his leg and he held my hand, slipping his thumb along my palms.

We drove for a long time.

The sun rose. We crossed mountains and meandered down winding roads. It was the most beautiful scenery. Tropical vegetation changed with the altitude—breadfruit forests and a sea of sugar cane. Bananas stretched out to palm-groves.

We passed a port town and then branched off down a smaller road. Soon, we arrived at a massive mansion by hidden bay.

He parked in the front and spoke for the first time. “This is my summer home.”

I widened my eyes. “It is?”

“I’m sorry that I’ve been quiet. I just needed time to think, and the drive did that, and holding you helped me calm down even more.”

I squeezed his hand. “I’m here for you. Anything you need.”

“I’m so sorry that happened.”

“I’m okay. You came. I knew you would. And…I kind of get why Baptiste did it. And plus…better him stalking me than some real threat.” I sighed. “But right now, I’m here for you. This is all about you.”

“I’m fine also.”

“No. You’ve lost two friends.”

“Damn it.” He pulled me to him and kissed me. “I love you. I fucking love you, and I was so scared—”

“Me too.”

“And you’re fine?”

“I am.”

An older woman walked out to the car. Shock rode her voice. “Mr. Jasper, you’re here?”

He let go of me. “Yes, Yvonne. I decided to bring my girlfriend for a surprise vacation.”

I widened my eyes at the term girlfriend but knew I’d more than earned the title. I’d waited so long, and we’d gone through so much.

“Nice to meet you.” Yvonne nodded at the car.

We climbed out and Hunter showed me around his home. It had three bedrooms with a pool, minimal design dripping in elegance. Everything I would expect a rich bachelor to have, especially one that exuded Hunter’s taste.

First, we strolled further around his property. The bay was crescent shaped and at least three-quarters of a mile wide. The ocean’s blue surface calmed me as a ruffled breeze blew across the surface. A mile from where we stood, a long line of breakers stopped at what must have been a reef just outside the bay.

It was an enchanting place. Like a fantasy house on top of a tall tan cake covered in green icing.

He walked me closer to the edge of the bay. “If it’s okay with you, I would like you to stay with me here for a while.”

“I want to.”

He gave me a weak smile. “I’m thinking of retiring.”

“Me too.”

He chuckled. “That’s what happens when you have a rough year.”

“True.” I gazed down at the bay and held his hand. Below, the water was pale green on the white sand. Later, it deepened to dark blue. For the first time that day, I let out an exasperated breath and leaned against the love of my life.