House of V (Unraveled Series) (6 page)

BOOK: House of V (Unraveled Series)
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I was silent because I didn’t know
how to tell him that I couldn’t commit to that right now. I wasn’t sure if I
would ever be able to commit to it. I’d always feel an obligation to Ryan; that
he’d go down with me. It was better to cut the ties now before it was too late.
Before I filled his heart with the same blackness that filled

Ryan reached out toward me, his
hand finding the bottom of my skirt.

“Jesus, not now, Ryan,” I said as
his hand reached up my skirt to my thigh. He stopped at the holster, feeling
around at the empty slot where the knife should have been. His hand slid back
down my leg and away from me.

“Where is it?” he demanded, his
voice angry now.

I was silent as I slid my left hand
into my right sleeve, retrieving the bloody blade to set it in my lap. It
wobbled with the movement of the truck, rocking back and forth with a beautiful
eeriness I admired.

God, what was wrong with me?

“What happened?” he yelled now,
slamming his hand against the wheel, but I didn’t flinch. I was waiting for it.

“It was the cowboy at the bar.” I
said, my body clenching as I thought of the way he flicked the tip of his hat
down toward me. That had set me off. My hand gripped the knife tighter. I
should have sliced through his throat.

“Did you kill him?” Ryan yelled.
“Jesus Christ,
. Did you kill him?”

“No, I didn’t kill him, although I
should have,” I replied coolly, loosening the grip on my knife. I let it sink
back onto the fabric of the skirt. It would have to be burned, along with my
jacket. I would need another new jacket. How many more of these would I need in
my lifetime?

“What did he do?” Ryan asked, his
voice now leveling off as he moved his hand behind his head, rubbing his scalp

“He took a woman.”


“Yeah, he took her. I wasn’t
looking out for him, despite what you might think. I was looking for a way to
get out of there. There was a huge rave in the back, people everywhere. Drugged
out, drunk, whatever, you name it. I was going to find another way out when I
saw her. You should have seen her face, Ryan. She was scared for her life. He
brought her back in the alley to do whatever he does to women.
I don’t know what he
does. Whatever people like him do,” I said, feeling the heat explode from my
body. Ryan was working me up now, making me explain myself and my actions, but
I didn’t kill the cowboy even though I had wanted to. I deserved a medal, but
Ryan didn’t realize that.

“People like him?” Ryan
his voice barely audible.

“Yeah, assholes like him. He was
American, by the way. He almost knocked me out, but I stabbed his foot and his
calf. That’s when she got away - the woman he had. She ran off. Then I kicked
him the groin, and I left without slicing through his throat like he deserved.
I looked for the girl, the woman in the red shoes, but I couldn’t find her,” I

“And who all saw you?” Ryan asked.

“The cowboy and the girl,” I said.
The woman was gone in a second, but she had seen me. She had seen my face. I
looked out the window as the sea came into view on my right. We were nearing
home. I inhaled the sea air, wondering how long it would be before I smelled it
again, if ever.

“You think she’ll tell? Go to the

“I don’t know, Ryan. Your guess is
as good as mine.”

“You know I love you, right?” he

“Yeah, I know,” I replied, resting
my head against the window, knowing that my next words were going to wreck us
both, but I said them anyway because I meant them despite what I was going to
do. “I love you, too.”




Delaney's second email from June



I hope you got my first email.
I know, I know, use sparingly.

Sister Josephine received a
note this morning that she hasn’t brought to the police. She said you would
know how to handle the situation. I told her I would contact you (she told me I
shouldn’t ever lie to anyone, let alone a nun, again), but I also urged her to
contact the police. She didn’t like that response.

It was a handwritten note, left
in the confessional at St. Mary’s.

“Tread carefully, Sister
Psalm 116:15
in the sight of the
LORD is the death of his saints.”

Whatever it is that’s been
started, I don’t want any part of it. I can’t do this again. I told Sister
Josephine that I would give you a day to get back to me. I guess as a courtesy
to her and to you. If you don’t respond within twenty-four hours, I’m going to
the police. Sanchez can surely handle it, I hope.

I do miss you. Please consider
coming back.

Much love,





June 17, 11:30 p.m


I shed my clothes, sliding the skirt
down until it was a ball on the floor in the middle of Ryan’s living room while
he stood in the glow of the kitchen light watching me. I didn’t need to look at
him to know he was watching me, it was pretty obvious, but I didn’t let it
bother me. I’d had enough disappointed people in my life to know that he didn’t
know what to do with me.

I wiggled my shoulders,
the leather jacket off them and onto the heap with
the skirt. I then lifted my shirt over my head, now standing in just my bra and
underwear with my holster still around my thigh when I heard footsteps.

Ryan came up behind me and reached
toward my thigh, pushing the holster down past by knee and finally to the
floor. He placed his hands on my shoulders and kissed the right one lightly
until he moved toward the fireplace to pick up two logs from the stack next to
the fireplace. Kneeling down, he lit a match and nursed the flames, tucking a
handful of paper beneath the logs. Still crouched, he turned toward me with his
hands opened.

Ryan was still here with open arms.
I didn’t deserve this. I didn’t deserve him.

Gathering the pile of clothes, I
pushed them into his waiting hands and watched him scatter them among the
flames. The pungent smell of burning hair wafted through the air as the flames
licked my leather jacket.

I stood, watching the flames as
Ryan walked around the house again, double-checking every door and bolting them
shut. I didn’t bother to remind him that I would know if someone was within
fifteen feet of the house thanks to the video surveillance and alarm system I
set up the first week we came back. I would let him soak in the feeling that he
was protecting me, protecting
. He
stopped at the front door, peering out the side window before returning to me
in front of the fire.

“Now what?” he asked as he circled
his arms around me. My body responded to his touch, craving him more than ever.
Leaving would be easier if he would simply push me away. All of this would have
been easier on my own.

“We stay here,” I said, knowing
tonight would be my last night with him. I wanted just one more night, one more
time. I wanted to remember the feeling of the two of us together.

“Stay?” Ryan asked with a raise of
his brows as he spun me to face him. “Did I hear that right?”

“Stay,” I whispered before I pushed
my lips into his. He pulled me in and bent down to consume me. I wrapped my
legs around his waist as he lifted me up with one arm and unhooked my bra. It
clattered to the ground as we collapsed onto the couch, me on top of him, just
like we had every night for the last three hundred sixty-five days. I would
miss this.

Damn, I would miss this.


I waited for the sound of Ryan sleeping,
the slow and methodic inhale and exhale that I heard every night. He was a
deep-sleeper, prone to falling asleep the second his head hit the pillow. Not
me, I was late to bed and early to rise. Ryan joked one day that he was
sleeping with a vampire since he’d never actually seen me sleeping. I’d trained
my body to function on only three to four hours of sleep each night a long time
ago, sometime in my teens. It was after Elizabeth had died, AD. I sometimes
thought about my life in terms of Elizabeth’s death.
death, BD, and after death, AD.
Although my entire life had been pretty
dismal - hell, I think it was safe to say it had been a train wreck - AD was
filled with some of my darkest days.

I considered three to four hours a
win, especially now that I didn’t sleep with one eye open. I’d slept more
soundly in the last year than I had my whole life. Ryan didn’t know what that
felt like. I was beginning to think that I needed a new gauge to think about my
Before Holston, BH, and after Holston, AH.
Sleeping soundly was definitely an AH benefit.

I huddled into Ryan’s nakedness, my
body curled beside him with his heavy arm draped over the top of me. He wrapped
my body tighter, pulling me in. I was somehow sure his body was subconsciously
aware of my plan to flee. I lay still, my body light on the bed with my eyes
wide open.

2:37 a.m.

I made a mental checklist of the
things I would need. I had planted several bags hidden throughout the house
with cash and knives, in case I ever needed them. Ryan would need to know about
them, but I only needed one bag - the bag with two thousand dollars, a
disposable phone and IDs for Ivy Stone.

Ryan’s breathing finally settled
into the pattern that was like an alarm for my body to spring. I waited a few
more minutes, for good measure, and then slid from beneath his arm.

2:42 a.m.

He stirred, his arm still in the
same position he’d fallen asleep in except without my body beneath it. I
flipped the covers back over him, taking one last look at his peaceful body and
slacked face.

There it was again, the pang that I
hated feeling; the sudden and new sensation that I had felt for the first time
today. I clenched my fists before moving away from the bed one last time. He
would understand. He had to.

I’d first met Sister Josephine more
than twenty years ago; the moment she came into my life remained vivid in my
memory. It had been after Sunday morning mass, and Holston was still in the
pew, head ducked down in prayer while the rest of the congregation filed out of
church. I had sat next to him, thumbing through the Bible he had required I bring
with me to service. My eyes had scanned through the pages unable to read the
words when a warm hand had closed over mine.

I had looked up to see the most
beautiful vision I had ever seen. Her eyes had been an amber color, a vast
deepness of invitation that had spread into a wide smile. She had been young
then, but she’d been clad in a matronly dress that buttoned up to her neck. A
long rosary had dangled from her neck, waving gently as she had leaned in
toward me.

“Come with me,” she had whispered,
enclosing her hand around my own. I remembered hoping that she would take me
far away from him. I had hoped, in child-like dreams, that she was my mother
and had finally found me.
That my mother was here to save me.

had whispered, feeling the nag of my father’s eyes next to me. I had looked
over to see him nod quietly in approval before ducking his head back down

She had pulled me up until I had
stood on my small, black patent shoes - the shoes he had required me to wear
only for Sunday mass for years, even after my feet were far too big because it
had been before he had made his money - eagerly following her footsteps. She
had woven through the pews to the other side of the church and had moved into a
small hallway I had never been in. I remembered the feeling that I was being
led to a secret garden, a magical place full of color and life. Even then, I
was always looking for a way to escape from my reality.
run away from it all.
I guess some things never changed.

She had stopped in front of a
statue of Jesus as a child, not much older than I was at the time. He was
holding a small lamb with its eyes half closed in peace and innocence.

“Remember this,
When you feel frightened or scared,” she had said while bending down to look
into my eyes, “or lost in any way. The Lord is here for you.”

I had wanted to run into her arms,
bury my face into her neck and beg her to take me with her. Instead I had
nodded my head in self-restraint as I had felt her hand give mine a small
squeeze as if she’d known.

I had found myself wondering
throughout the years, as I got older and our time together had grown to regular
visits on Sunday and once during the week, how much Sister Josephine really had
known. I had asked her once, soon after I had seen Holston order Gunnar to
murder Henry, if she’d known who my father was.

Her hair had been colored with
silver streaks by then, yet her eyes had still burned the same beautiful amber
they always had. Her lips had tightened before they had parted to tell me this,
“I knew your father a long time ago, my dear, but I don’t know who he is now or
who he has become. Only the Lord knows, and it should stay that way.”

It had been in that moment that I
realized Sister Josephine knew
but what or how much, I wasn’t sure. It took ten years for me to ultimately
decide that Sister Josephine had been wrong and that the world should know who
he was. That’s why I had been grateful not to see Sister Josephine that day
when I’d visited Father
a year ago. She would
have tried to talk me out of it and insist that I follow the plan of the Lord.
In some ways, I wondered if God had planned that I would kill Holston all
along. After all, Holston had taken me instead of Delaney.

BOOK: House of V (Unraveled Series)
4.01Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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