Authors: Deborah Bladon
First Original Edition, August 2015
Copyright © 2015 by Deborah Bladon
Cover Design by Wolf & Eagle Media
This book is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is entirely coincidental. Names, characters, businesses, organizations, places, events and situations either are the product of the author's imagination or are used factiously.
All rights reserved. No parts of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means without written consent from the author.
The Obsessed Series
The Exposed Series
The Pulse Series
The VAIN Series
The RUIN Series
The GONE Series
The Trace Series
The Ember Series
've never thought that my father is perfect. I'm not one of those young women who weigh the character traits of the men I meet against those of my father. I've seen him struggle with his own personal demons.
When I was in high school, he traveled extensively. Those rare nights when he wasn't out of town, he'd come home late from work under the guise of an important meeting that he just couldn't miss. He'd typically pour himself a scotch, and then another, and often a third before he'd go to bed hours after my mother did.
It all made sense when during a strained family Thanksgiving dinner, the year before last, my parents told my siblings, their partners and me that their marriage was over. My father repeated those same words over and over again while my mother wept and blew her nose into a tissue. He would always be grateful that he met her, and that they had four beautiful children but the way they loved each other had changed.
Judging by the sorrow on my mother's delicate face, the emotional shift in the relationship wasn't the same for her. She retreated into her sewing room after that, spending hours knitting and crocheting mittens, scarves and even hats for the winter. I have so many piled into a cardboard box under my bed that I'll never wear. I can't wear them. They are a painful reminder of my mother's broken heart.
I tried to stay close to her. I wanted to be that anchor that she needed while she weathered the storm of the end of her marriage. My siblings tried to as well with promises of tropical vacations with her grandchildren and spare bedrooms she could move into in their homes. She'd always politely decline because she wanted to stay afloat in her pain. She's still there, unwilling to allow anyone to rescue her and bring her back into the real world.
I've tried calling her twice since I left the hotel in the midst of Gabriel's questions about whether my father is the man whose face was broadcast on the national news. My panicked ramblings about needing to take care of a personal matter silenced any doubt he may have had about my relationship with the man who is being accused of a list of crimes so long, and vast, that I can't digest any of it.
I'm numb. I'm so dazed that when I fling my arm in the air to hail a taxi on the street outside the hotel, that I don't know where I want the driver to take me.
"Just drive," I whisper. "Please just drive."
I hear the incessant ring of my smartphone that is now buried in my purse. I'd shoved it in there, out of pure need, after I'd left my mother a voicemail. The screen danced to life with notifications that my sister, my oldest brother and Landon were all calling, almost simultaneously. Answering it will only propel me deeper into this nightmare. I need solitude. It's what I've always craved when my world has turned inside out on itself.
I close my eyes as the driver steers the car through the crowded streets. I don't want to see anything. I don't want to feel anything. All I want is for my father to be the man I thought he was when I got out of bed this morning.
hy is my husband looking for you?" Lilly sets her tablet down on her desk. "Is there a problem with the gala?"
I reach forward to place a paper cup filled with coffee in front of her. I was on my way home after I asked the taxi driver to drop me off in Times Square. I thought if I could stand in the middle of the chaos and absorb the energy of the tourists, buskers and New Yorkers who converge there at any given moment of the day, that I'd feel less lost in my own body. I mistakenly believed that by being around a bunch of random strangers that I'd gain some perspective about the scope of my problems.
It hadn't worked. I just stepped out of the taxi when I was propositioned by a sweaty businessman who apparently values my sexual services at less than fifty dollars.
When I'd marched through the crowds and out of the commotion, I'd sought solace, and relief from the mid-day sun, in Penn Station. I was tempted, for no more than a second or two, to board one of the trains that race to Boston.
I would have been in my mother's home before dusk trying to fill my selfish need to seek comfort in her company. She would have held me in her arms, as all good mothers do when their daughters are disappointed, but when the light fell and she went to her bedroom, the gravity of what my father had done would have hit me even harder.
I see the loss of our family in her eyes and I feel it in the way she clings to me when I hug her each time I visit her. I don't have the strength to see her now. I can't shoulder her disappointment on top of my own. I need my oldest brother there for that or my sister, who is the one who stands tall when the world is crumbling around her.
"Thanks for this." Lilly pulls off the plastic lid to blow on the coffee even though by now, it's lukewarm, at best. "When Clive called me he said he tried your number twice and you weren't answering."
I glance at my purse. I'd lost track of how many times the chime sounded a new call coming in. I had been tempted to reach into my bag to mute the ringer but that would have cast a lure to check the log of missed calls.
As much as I want the comfort in knowing my father has tried to call me to tell me his arrest is all a big misunderstanding, the devastation I'll feel if he hasn't reached out will be silent confirmation that what I saw on television this morning is my new reality.
My dad was my superhero when I fell off my bicycle when I was six-years-old and scraped my brow so badly that I had to have two stitches. He was my best friend when our dog ran away and never came back. He was my protector when a red-haired boy I thought I loved in grade school told me that my eyes were too big for my face.
He has been the only true, and strong, constant in my life since I was a child. Letting go of that to accept that his personal failings are so deep that they've hurt others is something I can't do quite yet.
"I've had a busy day," I say because wandering aimlessly through the streets of Manhattan in shock creates its own unique disarray. "I'll call Clive when I go back to my office."
"You're going back to your office?" She takes a cautious sip of the coffee before her tongue darts out onto her bottom lip. "This is almost cold, Tess. When did you buy it?"
I glance at the pearl encrusted watch on my wrist that Ivy gave to me. It's near six now which means that soon Lilly will take the subway back to her place so she can cuddle her daughter before she spends the evening with her husband.
I want to stall her so I can find the courage to ask her to help me. My father's crimes aren't nearly as severe and life changing as those of her father, but she'll be one of the only people who can sympathize with the dull ache that I feel inside.
I want to believe that Landon will too but it's not that simple anymore. His father knew enough about my dad's sins to land him in jail. At least I think he's in jail. I've built such a tightly woven cocoon around myself today that I haven't looked online, glanced at a television or read any of the headlines on the newspapers at the bodegas I passed.
"Tess?" Her voice is softer now. "Tell me what's wrong."
My bottom lip quivers slightly. I pull my fingers across it to quiet it. I don't want to cry. If I cry I don't know that I'll be able to stop. "Do you need to go home soon?"
Her brow furrows as a piece of her hair falls against her cheek. She pushes it back almost instantly, tucking it behind her ear. "Something's not right. You're not yourself. Clive sounded off too. What is it?"
I've seen Lilly upset before. It happened twice. The first time was when the nanny called to say that Haven had a low grade fever. Lilly had rushed from the restaurant we were dining at and had been in a taxi on her way home within moments.
The second time was when we were at a deli grabbing a sandwich before we went to the Saturday matinee of a musical on Broadway. A woman waiting in line was brushed aside when an elderly man had pushed his way to the counter to order his lunch.
The woman had been harsh and unrelenting as she unleashed a verbal assault on the small, quiet man. His mind, obviously, wasn't as sound as it might have been a decade or two ago. Lilly stepped into the uneven fray and silenced the outraged woman with several well-chosen words about understanding and respect.
I was proud of her then. I've never told her that. We'd simply taken our sandwiches and ate them as we strolled down the street, neither saying a word about what had happened.
"You're scaring me, Tess." She's on her feet now, her hands wrung together in a knotted mess. "Clive was preoccupied on the phone when he called and you look like hell. What are you two trying to hide from me?"
can't speak for Clive Parker but I can certainly speak for myself.
"My father was arrested this morning," I spit the words out quickly and brazenly. "I saw it on the news. He was handcuffed."
Her hands both leap to her mouth in unison. The gesture does nothing to hide the shock in her eyes. "What? Arrested? Why? What did he do?"
She fires the questions at me so fast that I barely hear one before the next hits me.
"Things," I say before I exhale harshly. "It's all related to the job he used to have. He sold insurance. On the news they said he stole money. "
I look down as I take a deep breath. Telling Lilly that my father is a suspect in the case of a missing woman only gives weight to something I don't want to be true. My father may have done things with money that will land him in prison but I won't add my voice to those accusing him of actually hurting another person. I won't believe that until he tells me to my face that it's the truth.
"I didn't know," she pauses as her eyes scan my face slowly. "You and your dad are close. Did you..."
"No," I interrupt her before she can finish. I don't want to have the memory of my best friend accusing me of knowing that my dad is capable of doing horrible things. She may be trying to form it into an innocent question, but the implied inference is there. "I had no idea."
She takes a half step back, her hand reaching for the side of her desk. "You must be in shock, Tess. You said you saw it on the news. Have you talked to your dad since then?"
"I haven't." I pull myself to my feet. "I haven't talked to anyone. You're the first person I wanted to see."
I can tell the words touch her by the way her bottom lip quivers slightly. "I want to help. Tell me what I can do."