I always knew I would die young.
I've known it since birth. From a young age, I would take the blame for Enzo, my closest friend later turned boss. He was always pushing the limits, stealing things he could've bought with a snap of his fingers. He was horrible at thievery, so he always got caught. But I took the blame. Most of my childhood was spent in detention—for every wallet, purse, and laptop Enzo stole just because he could. The man has more wealth than a small country, but it doesn't stop him from showing his power, even from a young age. And I protected him at all costs.
Langston, my best friend and brother in every way that matters, got in trouble in different ways. He preferred to let his fists talk for him—something I understood quite well. We got in more fights than should have been allowed. We both should've been expelled from school, but because of our association with Enzo, no man, not even our principal, would do more than give us detention.
Both men I've protected my entire life. Enzo and Langston are both taller and stronger than any other man I've ever met. But neither man compares to me.
I'm not bragging; I'm humble to my core. But at six foot five, I tower over both of them. My muscles ripple from my body, and men cower at my feet with one glare—a look I've perfected over the years. Yet deep inside, my heart aches to be warm, gentle, anything but the beast I appear to be on the outside. But to anyone except Langston and Enzo, that's what I am—a beast.
My straggly hair and scruffy face only add to that notion. My tattoo ridden body adds fire to my bad boy image. I almost never have to actually use my fists and body to protect my boss, Enzo Black, or rescue my dipshit friend, Langston, when he's in trouble. My appearance more than does enough to scare the shit out of any foe.
But this time was different.
This time wasn't about fighting to keep them safe; this time, I had to sacrifice everything to protect someone more worthy of my protection.
Enzo is my boss; I vowed to protect him with my life the day I took the job at eighteen. After growing up as practically brothers, I would have sacrificed my life for his for free. But this time he didn't ask me to. He asked me to protect another—one more valuable to him than his own. A woman who rests so deeply in his heart that he will never be able to get her out. A woman whose love consumes him.
Kai Miller—a woman I myself love. No, I'm not in love with my best friend's girl. Just in love with her strength, courage, and warrior attitude. I'm in love with the way she loves him.
I once thought I was in love like that. But after seeing it, seeing their love grow right in front of my eyes, I know I never have, nor ever will, experience a love like theirs.
Because this is where my story ends—saving the girl. I stepped in front of a bullet for her. The evidence is blood leaking from my chest as my heart pounds over and over and over—each time spilling more precious drops of blood until I'm bled dry.
You would think I would regret my decision to save a woman I didn't love. That I should've reserved this moment for the woman that had captured my own heart instead of the woman destined to be Enzo's equal in every way.
But I don't regret it even now.
My only regret is not knowing if it was enough. Did I save Kai? Or did I fail? With my death, will she be safe or left vulnerable?
I will never know the answer. Unless perhaps in heaven, I can look down upon her and see that she survives stronger than ever.
Who am I kidding? If an afterlife exists, I won't be going to heaven; my sins will take me straight to hell.
But then, I'm already in my own personal hell.
The bullet knocked me out, but I became conscious again when the storm pushed me over the railing of the yacht and into the water. The last thing I remember before going underwater was the splash of the salty ocean on my face—then nothing.
How I survived this long, I don't know. But I survived long enough that the yacht my friends were on is no longer here. There is no wreckage for me to cling to. No lifesaver floating in the water. I am stuck in the middle of the fucking ocean in the middle of the fucking night—blackness surrounds me.
I should feel alone. But I'm not. I would prefer to be alone. I would prefer to die quietly and calmly by myself. Even though I did my best to protect those I cared about, I never wanted a martyr's death. However, that is exactly what I'm going to get.
Every nudge of the waves reminds me that I'm not alone here in the ocean. That below me are hundreds of sea creatures all doing their best to survive. That sharks and other deadly creatures could be hiding, inching closer every second, being lured to me as my drops of blood seep into the ocean. Every second that passes is another second closer to death. But will I die alone, going quietly into the ocean from loss of blood, or will I die violently fighting a shark until the bitter end? Or will the waves finally overpower me, until I drown?
I tread water with my aching legs, my arms too painful and sore to move. My right arm clutches to my chest, trying to keep as much blood inside my body as possible.
The stars twinkle overhead, taunting me with their beauty and ability to stay alive for so long. My life was short, fleeting. I barely made a blimp on this world. But the stars, they shine forever in a thick layer of darkness draping over us all. They do not fear death; they welcome it. Because even in death, the stars continue to shine for sometimes thousands of years later.
I know my death will be the same. What was taken granted before—the friendships, the brotherhood, will be turned into more. But I only hope it gives Enzo and Langston the strength to face our enemies. And I hope once they're safe, they can move on.
I continue to tread water as each second passes by in what seems like an hour, so slowly I'm not sure I'm moving at all. I should be grateful; these are my last moments on this earth. Despite the pain I'm feeling in my body, the beauty of the night being stranded in the middle of the ocean doesn't go unnoticed. The moon creeps up higher in the sky—a full moon that turns the dark skylight.
The moon will be the last thing I see before I close my eyes—before I die.
I can already feel myself fading—my will to live leaving my body as my legs tire beneath me. My breathing is slow and heavy; my lungs are filling with a little saltwater each time I try to breathe. I'm not able to fully keep my head above water any longer.
This is the end. The end of my story. And what a sad story it was.
My story wasn't sad; I did what I always thought I would do—give up my life to save another. One more worthy, one meant to change the world. And Kai Miller will change the motherfucking world.
My long hair falls over my eyes, but I don't have the energy to brush it off my face so that I can stare up at the beautiful sky. And one of my last acts before sacrificing my life was giving a scrunchie to Kai to keep her hair back so she could fight without worrying about her hair in her face.
I smile, thinking of that moment. And how it felt to do something so simple and kind for a woman so amazing as Kai. I lived for moments like that. I just never got to have those moments with a woman I was in love with.
I close my eyes, deciding it's better this way, that blackness sends me to my death instead of looking at the hair in my eyes. My throat makes a strangled sound as more water enters my chest. I've always loved the ocean, dying in it doesn't seem like such a bad idea. I'd rather die here than be buried on some hillside with a tombstone that my friends feel compelled to visit and bring flowers and all that bullshit. This way, I'll just be gone.
Maybe they'll think of me the next time they are on the ocean, feel me in the wind that blows through their hair, but that's it. They won't feel obligated to me in any way other than just living their lives.
The pain starts, and the panic sets in as my lungs continue to fill more and more with saltwater instead of the oxygen they desperately desire.
I may let the ocean take me, but I don't want to drown. I want my death to be easy and quick, as do all humans. So I remove my hand from my chest, letting the blood spill quicker from my wound. But I think the saltwater—the very thing that's trying to kill me by drowning me—is also saving me. Because my blood should be flowing much faster from my chest. Instead, the water pressure is keeping the blood within my veins.
I kick harder, determined to die at least on my own terms. I try to get my chest above the water, I try floating on my back, but the waves fight harder, pushing me back under.
No, I will not let you win.