Embers (Inferno 3) - Page 21

We’re alone at the breakfast table the next morning. It’s just me and Dad, and no sign of Richter and Skylar. The mother inside of me is screaming at me to demand answers, but the girl inside of me that wants so desperately to please Daddy is warning me to keep my mouth shut. All good things to those who wait, she tells me, and I have to force myself to eat the pancakes that Dad made for us so I don’t turn this quiet time into an interrogation.

I shove another forkful into my mouth and steal a glance at Dad. He’s reading his morning newspaper, obviously aware that I’m watching him. It’s apparent by the smile that curls the edge of his lips.

“Something on your mind, Darby?” he asks, flipping his paper to the next page and smoothing it out. Dad doesn’t look up at me, instead he reaches for his coffee cup, takes a hearty sip, and goes back to reading.

“No, Daddy,” I say quietly as I place my fork down onto the plate.


“You shouldn’t be afraid to speak up when something is bothering you, kid,” he says conversationally. “Besides, how am I supposed to fix the problem if I don’t know what it is?”

I take a deep breath and chew on my lower lip. I want to know, more than anything, where my children are, but I also don’t want to upset him.

Is this how Jocelyn felt?

But just the thought of her is enough to make me feel a little brave.

“Where are the children?” I ask him softly.

“Where they belong,” he responds evenly. “Where I should have put them to fucking begin with. Those kids haven’t done you any good, Darby; and they sure as hell haven’t done a damn thing for me either.”

I swallow the lump in my throat as I begin to think of the layout of the property. The back of the house is wide and stretches far out into the trees. There’s nothing on the side of the house except for the oubliette and he knows that’s the first place I’ll look when given the opportunity.

He came back dirty and tired, I tell myself, remembering what he looked like when he reappeared last night. That’s not a sign of the well, it could be the woods, but I won’t be able to look back there without being gone for too long, and Dad will notice if I’m missing.

“You know, I heard a saying once. Something along the lines of our hearts being wild animals and our ribs their cages..”

I look up at him and raise an eyebrow. What he said sounds so out of left field, that I almost want to brush it off, but the one thing about Dad is that he never says things just to hear himself speak. There’s always a reason for anything that comes out of his mouth. Be it in anger or quiet moments, his words always carry some kind of meaning.

“What?” I ask in confusion.

“Oh my sweet baby girl,” he says, letting out a long sigh. He drops his arms on the table, crossing them at the wrist, and smiles at me. “You’ve always gave too much of a shit for your own good. I know why, too. It’s that motherly instinct to protect your children. Your mother had it, her mother showed signs of it, but ran the moment she got the chance. Didn’t matter much to me with that one though because she wasn’t my blood, so I knew she’d leave eventually. Taylee had it for a while too until that brain of hers snapped one day and sent her looking for someone to keep her desires fed up at night,” he continues scratching his chin thoughtfully. “I wonder if she’d finally be proud of me now.”

“She would,” I tell him quietly as I reach over and place a hand on his. “I think Taylee would be really happy to see the man you’ve become.”

He chuckles and runs a thumb over the top of my hand. “Thanks, baby girl. I think she would be too. She’d be plenty happy to see that I’m the man she always wanted me to be.”

Dad leans over and puckers his lips, waiting patiently for me to give him a kiss, and I do. Gentle and soft—exactly how he always wants them to be.

When we pull away from each other, he lets go of my hand and goes back to his newspaper.

“Anyway, I don’t think you should worry about those kids anymore. I sure as hell won’t,” he says callously.

“May I be excused, Daddy?” I ask solemnly.

“Yeah, just make sure you clean up the table. And I’d like a refill on my coffee when you’re done,” he replies absentmindedly as he becomes engrossed in a section of the black and white print.

* * *

It’s three in the afternoon.

The house has been cleaned from top to bottom. There are still no sign of the children and Dad makes sure that he’s always in the same room as me when I move from one to another.

He doesn’t say anything.

He just follows me from room to room and watches me like a hawk. It’s obvious that he’s trying to figure out if I’m okay with the kids suddenly missing, and if I have any intent on trying to find them. In my heart, I do, but I can’t let it show and do my best to keep a cheerful demeanor and pretend it’s the greatest thing now to be child free.

I know that Dad isn’t easily fooled, so I put on as best a facade as I can while I wrack my brain trying to figure out where they are. Richter and Skylar still have to be on the property somewhere, while Cleo … I let out a quiet sigh. I’ll never know where she’s gone to unless he tells me and there’s no way to force it out of him.

Tags: Yolanda Olson Inferno Dark
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