“What does this have to do with Wren?” Carter asks.
That familiar sense of shame sweeps over me, as it does any time I’m forced to think back to those days when I was just a boy and under the control of Pastor Wren. I hate talking about it. I’d prefer to stick my head in the sand and forget it ever happened, but such a thing is impossible. I am who I am because of Wren. The things he did to me changed me irrevocably. There’s an argument in science about nature versus nurture—if we are who we are more because of our genetics or more due to the outside influences of our family and home and surroundings. I feel like I was fucked over on both accounts. I never knew who my father was, and my mother was too weak—mentally and physically—to stand up to the likes of Pastor Wren. All she ever wanted was to please him, perhaps thinking, in some warped way, that giving him what he wanted would somehow get her a direct route to Heaven when her time came. I prefer to think anyone involved with him was sent down instead of up.
I was seventeen when I applied to join the army. It was the youngest age allowed, though I would have joined up years earlier, if they’d taken me. It was my way of escaping. Pastor Wren had been long gone by that point—moved on to torture his next victim, though it wasn’t until years later that I’d learned one of those victims was Asher—but I’d needed to escape the small town where I’d grown up, and the mother who’d handed me over to a monster. I guess I’d hoped to escape myself as well. I’d been so filled with fury all the time, and I hadn’t known what to do with it. I’d thought going into a career where I’d be paid to fight would give me an outlet, but it hadn’t worked like that. It hadn’t been an outlet. If anything, the opposite had happened, and I’d sucked up the violence surrounding me like a sponge.
It wasn’t until Asher made contact with me through a snail mail letter that I’d understood what I needed to do.
Then I’d met my brothers and I’d been introduced to the island that had become my home.
Realizing I’ve left Carter hanging, I force my thoughts back to the present. “The name of the boat. It’s something Wren used to say to us all. The secret truth. It’s what he called his private ‘sermons’ with us.”
It had been Wren’s way of keeping us quiet. We were sworn to keep what happened during his times with us a secret, while he told us that the things he said and did to us were the one and only truth. God’s truth. Of course, as we were so young, we believed Wren told us the truth, too. It was a sin to lie, or so he said.
A pause on the end of the line tells me Carter is considering what I’ve told him. Finally, he speaks. “You believe this Don Bowen is connected to Pastor Wren somehow?”
“Not just me,” I say. “All four of us do. It’s not just a coincidence. It can’t be.”
“What could be connecting them?”
I grind my molars. Finding out this stuff ishisjob. But then I remind myself that anything I can give him will only put him ahead in his investigations.
“We’re just guessing right now, but we know Don is corrupt and Wren has plenty of money. It’s possible Wren had Don in his pocket to help cover his tracks. We’re going to make some inquiries on our end, but since you were already looking into Wren, we need you to find out how he’s connected to Don. If Wren gave Don enough money to buy a fucking boat, and Don allowed Wren to name it, the two must be tight.”
My head swims with the madness of Honor’s stepfather being connected to the man who tormented all our childhoods.
A different kind of thought suddenly occurs to me. What if itisn’ta coincidence? What if Honor was directed to this job on the island intentionally to get to us? Would such a thing be possible?
I can’t see how. Wren doesn’t know the four of us have come together and set upThe Limit. He probably still thinks of us as the little boys in his past and not the fully grown men we are now. Don wouldn’t have had any clue that we’re connected to Wren, either, and if he did, I highly doubt he’d send his virgin stepdaughter straight into our hands.
The whole situation is mind-bending. I don’t like the way my thoughts grow tangled whenever I try to figure this mess out. It sets me on edge.
“Leave it with me,” Carter says. “I’ll get back to you.”
“You understand this is highly time sensitive. There literally isn’t a moment to waste.”
I end the call and drop the phone to the desk, then put my head in my hands. What is happening to Honor right now? The best I can hope for is that she’s curled up in bed somewhere—alone—hoping we’re coming to find her. I pray that she knows we’ll be coming for her, and that we wouldn’t just abandon her. But what if her stepfather is hurting her? What if he’s forcing himself on her? I’ve seen a photograph of this man. He isn’t some sixty-year-old with a limp dick who has to take little blue pills to even get it up. He isn’t much older than Rafferty and Wilder, and certainly wouldn’t look out of place standing beside them.
The thought of his hands on Honor’s pale skin, him fisting her long, dark hair, him forcing her legs apart and penetrating her mouth, her pussy, her ass with his fingers and cock while she fights beneath him makes me want to destroy the entire world to get to her. I’ve never experienced such intensity of emotion before, and I roar my pain, surprising even myself. How had I managed to fool myself into believing I didn’t want her around? I’d tried to build a wall around my heart, but it had only ever been made from sand—easily washed away.
Something else occurs to me.
What if we get her back, and the things her stepfather has done to her have changed her permanently? She might be so traumatized by what she’s been through that she can no longer stand us touching her.
A worse thought lingers in the back of my mind. I almost don’t want to focus on it, probing at it like a sore tooth with my tongue, worried about what I might find. Will we see her differently if Don has fucked her? Before, she’d been our girl—only we’d touched her like that—but will we see her as damaged goods if she comes back to us? What ifweare the ones who can’t bring ourselves to touchher?
The possibility sickens me. What the fuck is wrong with my brain? If anyone is damaged goods, it’s the four of us. I still remember the musky taste of Pastor Wren as he made me take to my knees and had me suck him as he recited prayers above my head.
However Honor comes back to us, we will give her whatever she needs. We’ll comfort her and give her space and time—whatever it takes for her to heal. The four of us, of all people, know how it feels to have your autonomy taken away.
I force myself to my feet and go to the office to join the others.
“It’s done,” I tell them. “Harris Carter is back on the case.”
Rafferty nods his approval. “Good. That’s one step closer to finding Honor.”
I hope he’s right.