House of V (Unraveled Series) (2 page)

BOOK: House of V (Unraveled Series)
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His eyes travelled up to my arm
before he gave me a slight nod.

A few more years.
Stay strong.
At least, that’s what I
intended to say. My Norwegian was sub-par at best, despite practicing hours
with Ryan on the boat. I never had a knack for foreign languages. Or maybe it
was because I never had a tutor that was actually skilled in foreign language.

I was “homeschooled” in high
school, although the schooling wasn’t anything the name implied. I was tutored
mainly because Holston wanted to keep me away from anyone else. I liked to
think that it wasn’t because he was ashamed of me or because he was afraid that
I was going to lose it in a regular classroom. I knew better than that, though.
When I got older, Holston could throw money at any problem, including me.

Rolf’s arm dropped to his side, his
thick strands shaking in understanding across his forehead, but the look wiped
across his face didn’t match. He was
that he was hit, ashamed that he wasn’t good enough. I knew the feeling all too
well. I watched his body move away from me, down toward the sea until he stood
only inches from the lapping water. In that moment, when he bent down to throw
a shell, that’s when I decided to keep an eye on Bernard.

It wasn’t just for Rolf, though. It
was for the little girl that I had been; the little girl that had never had
anyone to take her side. Ethan had for a brief while, but he was long gone; my
own selfish drive to find my mother the cause of his death. Ethan’s death lay
heavy on my heart, like a pillow of suffocation. Another kill and win for
Holston Parker. Killing Holston hadn’t rectified any of those feelings like I
had hoped they would. So instead, I buried them deeper into my gut. And despite
how hard I tried to make more room, I was feeling quite full lately.

I shook the thoughts of Ethan out
my head as I focused my eyes back on the fishing boats. Ryan would tell me to
stay away from Bernard and keep my distance to avoid any disruption or
attention. Ryan would be right about it all. But there was something there;
something with Rolf that needed protection. I promised myself I would keep only
a light eye on Bernard.
For Rolf.
for little Anna Jones.

Not that I didn’t have anything
else to worry about lately. I stayed off the boat today because of the message
I received yesterday. Delaney’s last email was unsettling.

It was the second email I’d
received from my sister in the last three days. I had sent her instructions on
how to email me from an anonymous IP address with an unidentified email
account. The particular account I recommended she use expired after ten minutes
of sending the email. It had been a risky move to send mail to her on her
wedding day just three months after I left, but I figured sending it to the
business next to James’s law office might slip me through the watchful eyes of
the local and federal agents. Turned out, I was right.

The email account was to be used
sparingly. Once a year, I had told her. The FBI wasn’t really actively looking
for me, at least not heavily anymore. I suppose that’s what happens when you
murder a serial killer; a moral dilemma of relief and justice. They were onto
the next big case and couldn’t worry about my little stint with a stolen
identity. The FBI would have a hard time tracking the emails, however there was
the possibility that they would find me. And this wasn’t how I wanted to go
down. Everything was behind me, or at least I thought.

The boat’s hull shone in the late
afternoon sun and the name Betty came into view as Ryan pulled up near the
dock. I heaved my body from my beach chair and pulled the cover up over my
shoulders, my bare feet pattering against the planks of the dock. He launched
the rope into my arms and I dutifully obliged, winding the rope tight against
the metal handle secured to the dock.

I felt my shoulders flex with the
motion, and the healed skin where my crucifix tattoo once was burned across my
back. It took three months and seven sessions for the removal, but it was gone.
Another trace of
Parker had vanished. I smiled
as my skin stretched and burned across my back.

“Tighter,” Ryan reminded me as my
hand squeezed the rope harder, winding it around the metal handle until it was
secured. The boat knocked gently against the dock as Ryan stepped out and moved
to the back to wind the second rope.

“How was the catch?” I asked,
watching his tanned forearm bulge with each pull of the rope. His body was
perfection, built and toned to meet the demands of his work. I pulled my eyes
up to see his thick jawline flex with his movements. He was ruggedly handsome;
the outdoorsy kind of man that looked like he could chop a mean stack of wood.
He embodied the simple life that we had; a life full of early mornings on the
water and late afternoons in bed, just the two of us. Ryan was a man that could
protect me, not that I needed it or anything, yet knowing this made me feel a
little safer. I was beginning to like the feeling of being safe, and I definitely
liked being in love.

“A big catch this morning, but when
I went back this afternoon,” Ryan pointed to the empty net.

“What can I say? I don’t go, and
look what happens,” I said as I wrapped the strands of red in a ponytail at the
back of my neck.

“Ha, so you’re a lucky charm?” Ryan
joked as he stood next to the boat, taking one last glance at the empty net
before turning to me. His sun-soaked lips cracked into a wide smile. God, I
loved that smile. “And how was your day?
Productive on the beach?”

“Not really,” I lied. The run-in
with Rolf had helped push me over an edge that I hadn’t wanted to be pushed
over. I didn’t want to give in to Delaney’s email, I really didn’t, but the
run-in with Rolf had reminded me too much of the time I had spent with Sister
Josephine as a child. She had given me a purpose in life at my lowest point. I
couldn’t let this happen to her; I couldn’t let someone who had pulled me
through my darkest hour down. According to Delaney’s email, Sister Josephine

“Well, then be productive tomorrow
and join me. I’m used to the help,” he said as he pulled down the rubber
coveralls and boots, stowing them on the boat. His arms flexed again as he bent
over the boat, finishing the clean-up for the day’s work. No matter how hard I
tried to get my body to help, I couldn’t move.

The words of Delaney’s email
scrolled through my mind. Someone needed me. I had never known what it felt
like to be needed before this moment. I felt an unnerving responsibility to
both Delaney and Sister Josephine.

“Ivy,” Ryan said, but I didn’t
turn. “Ivy,” he repeated. I still didn’t turn.


The sound of the name I had been
called for more than a quarter of a century trickled through my veins as I
finally looked up to see Ryan holding out a bag for me to carry. Although it
had been a year since we began calling each other Luke and Ivy in public, it
didn’t always stick. Okay, I’ll be honest, Ivy never stuck.

“Keep it down,” I warned as I took
the bag into my hands and swung my head around to see Aaron and
just a few boats down. The brothers were working in
their own fishing boat and hadn’t flinched at the sound of our voices.

“It’s fine. They didn’t hear me.”
Ryan shook his head before he leaned down to grab another bag from the boat and
swung it over his shoulder.

“You’re lucky,” I said with a
little too much edge, but Ryan didn’t seem to notice.

“You must have spent too much time
in the sun today. You can’t even remember your own name.” He brushed me off
with a laugh as he walked down the dock, nearing the brothers.


du, Montana
,” the darker
skinned brother,
, replied with a laugh.
A little
More than you
, Montana
Ryan on the shoulder and let out a deep chuckle from his
belly. The fishermen at the docks were a rowdy set of men, though relatively
jovial once you were accepted into their ring. Ryan was in, and since I was his
‘sidekick,’ I was in.
Lucky me.

I hooked the bag over my shoulder
and followed Ryan down the wooden planks with my eyes down. I cast them up for
a moment, giving the brothers a small smile before catching up to Ryan. It was
enough to blend in, but not too much to be noticed; it had been mode of
operation for the last year. So far, it was working.

I veered to the left, grabbing my
bag on the beach as Ryan folded the chair in one quick motion. I felt the
warmth of the sand against my feet and let it soak in for the final time that
day before following Ryan to the concrete sidewalk. We walked side-by-side to
Ryan’s truck in silence where he put the chair and bag in the back then climbed
into the driver’s seat.

I stood for a moment, thinking that
most women would hate the fact that Ryan hadn’t offered to help me with the
bags I carried. But he knew me, I did things myself. I always had and always

I thought about Delaney’s email
again and her sprawling plea to respond back to her. Delaney had offered a
final PLEASE at the end of the email. Now things were different, though. I had
Ryan to consider, and it had been good here, safe. I reminded myself that I had
already made up my mind.

“Are you coming?” Ryan yelled from
inside the cab. I swung the bags into the back with a loud thud.

The heat of the cab swirled in the
air as the engine roared to life and the windows shot down. I pressed my arm
against the opening, feeling the scorching heat of the side of the truck. My
sheer black cover-up flapped in the wind and exposed my black swimsuit beneath
as he accelerated and turned onto the road.

“I’m not going to lie, black is
always sexy, but I don’t think it would kill you to wear something with a
little color every once in a while,” Ryan finally broke the silence. “I think
the mourning phase is over.”

“I’m not in mourning.”

More silence.

“Good. So you want to tell me
what’s up or am I going to have to coax it out of you
I take advantage of you? Just let me know, either way, I’m
fine with it.” Ryan gave a sideways grin with one hand on the wheel. He was
sexy and tempting, I couldn’t deny him that.


“Today’s the year-mark.”

“I know,” he said.

“Three-hundred sixty-five days.”

“Yep, that’s how long a year is.”

“Things are going well. Really
well,” I said with a small nod, fingering the edge of my cover up. They were
going better than I expected; dare I say, normal, maybe even extraordinarily

“That’s a bad thing?”

“No, it’s not. It’s a good thing.”

“Then, what’s the problem?” Ryan
asked again.

I inhaled the mix of sea and sun
into my nostrils; the smell of Ryan, the smell of Norway, the smell of the good
life. His hand pressed into my thigh as I exhaled and let my head fall back
onto the seat. I didn’t want to leave him, but I owed this to Sister Josephine,
to go back and help her, but I also knew that there was no way in hell that
Ryan was coming with. And there was no way that he was going to understand.

“I love you, Ivy Stone,
Jones. I always
will. Whatever it is, you know I’m here. Hell, I’m aiding and abetting a
Even sleeping with her.
It has to count for
something, right?” Ryan said as his hand crawled up my leg and onto my
swimsuit. I closed my eyes as my head reeled at the thought of telling him I
was leaving, but instead of starting the conversation, I let his fingers dance
along the black fabric as the warmth of excitement flooded to my thighs.

Later, I promised myself.




June 17, 11:30 p.m
Appleton, Wisconsin


It was the only way he knew to get
Parker to come back.

stood before the open window of the rectory, peering into Father
living room. He leaned his gloved hands against
the sill, careful not to press his face into the screen. A couch and matching
chairs glowed in the soft hue of a plugged-in night light.
A night light
, Derek scoffed as he thought of the countless priests
that had been accused of child molestation over the past decades.

The hypocrisy was amusing to him;
those priests wore cloaks of morbid pretense to hide their sinful behavior.
They were called to protect God’s children, but instead, they abused their
positions and the children. He wondered if Father
was hiding something from his parishioners for all these years; over six
decades presiding at St. Mary’s. Father
the beloved shepherd on the verge of retirement.

He listened to the silence of the
house; the outside air was filled with the incessant chirping of crickets in
the bushes to his left and right, but there were no movements inside. If all
went as planned,
Parker would come crawling back
to Wisconsin, tail between her legs, and he could finish what Holston Parker
had started.

BOOK: House of V (Unraveled Series)
3.31Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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