Embers (Inferno 3) - Page 2


“Of course, Daddy,” I finally say, forcing a small smile onto my face. “I always want your company.”

Dad yawns when we enter the kitchen, then gives me a lopsided smile before he goes to sit at the island. I watch him get comfortable in the stool before I turn my attention toward the refrigerator.

“Is there anything in particular you’re hungry for?” I ask, immediately regretting my choice of words when they leave my lips.

“Well, I won’t be having my usual, but thanks for asking,” he responds with a dry laugh.

I pull the pitcher of cold water out of the refrigerator and retrieve a glass from the cupboard above the sink. I walk over to the island, set the glass down and fill it with water, sliding it over to him. He sounds parched and I don’t like it—it scares me in a weird way. I’m not ready for him to go just yet and I won’t have any part of it until I’m good and ready.

I guess I’m like him in that way. Neither of us like things we have no say over, but he put me in my place a long time ago, and I tend to stay there when it’s appropriate, only stepping out really when it comes to the children.

He doesn’t seem to mind it—tells me that it makes me a good mother; better than Jocelyn ever was, and that he appreciates me for it.

I don’t take it as a compliment by any means, because if life had gone the way it should have, I wouldn’t be here, and neither would my children. I sometimes think about that on quite nights that Dad’s asleep in bed next to me and the moonlight shines on our glistening bodies, exposing our sins to the darkness.

I think about how much better the world may have been for my mother and her brothers had they had a normal life instead of what they were subjected to.

Unfortunately, the wistful thoughts of a young woman, long since dead when her mother was abandoned into a hole in the ground, won’t help anyone. I have to be strong for my children and for my father, equally.

“Thanks, Darbs,” he says with a nod as soon as he’s finished his glass of cool water. “I appreciate the way you look out for me.”

“You’re welcome, Daddy,” I reply with a small smile. Even the tiniest of praise is enough to get me through the days and nights when I feel like giving up.

“Maybe just make some simple sandwiches, huh? Cut the crust off the bread so we won’t have to listen to them bitch about having to pull it off while you’re at it,” he says, getting to his feet and heading to the small window in the kitchen.

I don’t understand how he can be so kind in one moment, and so hate-filled in the next, but I’ve become accustomed to his mood swings and do my best to brush them off.

Simple to Dad could be anything, but I decide on peanut butter and jelly because I know the kids love those sandwiches. If he’s not happy with my choice, I’ll make something else for him—right now my concern is getting some food into their stomach until dinnertime.

“That kid doesn’t fucking know how to listen,” he suddenly barks, slapping the windowpane. I jump and turn to face him slightly in time to watch him open the window and lean his body out. “Cleo! Get the fuck away from that well! Don’t make me come out and collect you!”

“Stop yelling at her,” I snap at him. “It’s not her fault. She’s a child—she doesn’t know any better.”

Dad’s body goes stiff before he leans back into the kitchen, walks over to me, and slaps me hard across the face. Tears sting my eyes, but I won’t let them fall because that’s what he wants. His cruelty has grown with his age and when he’s not making me sleep in his bed with him, he’s usually being malicious in other ways. There’s only a small sliver of time that he’s ever gentle anymore, and those are the times I cherish the most.

Gripping my face firmly in his hands, a sinister smile crossing his lips, he turns his head to the side and leans his ear toward me.

“One more time. I didn’t quite hear you,” he dares.

I take as deep a breath as I can before I’m able to form words again.

“Please don’t be so mean to her. She loves you and you’re always yelling at her. I don’t understand what you expect from someone as confused as she is,” I reply in a gentler tone.

“What I expect?” he begins, turning to face me again and tightening his grip on my cheeks. “What I expect is to have obedient fucking children and if she can’t understand the simplest of shit, then maybe I’ll have to teach her a different way.”

“No!”

My reply is immediate, defiant, and much louder than I would have liked, but he lets go of my face and smirks.

“Then you better teach her how things go around here, Darbs, or I will.”

I begin to wring my hands, trying to think of a way to keep Cleo safe from his unsavory desire when it dawns on me.

“May I sleep in the living room tonight, Daddy? I’ll keep Cleo out here with me and I’ll set some rules for her. I’ll make sure she understands everything you need her to, and if I fail then the punishment is how you see fit—only I want to be the one to be punished and not her. Please?”

Dad puts his hands on his hips and looks me up and down, mulling over my proposition before he clicks his teeth and nods.

“You have until tomorrow night to make sure she gets it, otherwise, you’re fucked. In more ways than one,” he says dangerously before he goes back and sits at the island and resumes his watch over me.


Tags: Yolanda Olson Inferno Dark
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