Embers (Inferno 3) - Page 23

I take a deep breath, force a smile onto my face, and look up at him, nodding. “Of course I am. I’m here with you, Daddy.”

The smile on his face is a genuine one. The look in his eyes softens from harsh to loving and I wonder if that may have been the wrong thing to say.

He turns me to face him completely and takes my face in his hands. “Do you love me, Darbs? I know I keep asking you, but I have to know for sure before we continue our little tour.”

“I do, Daddy. I love you most of all.”

He leans down and I close my eyes. His lips press gently against mine, then move up my forehead as he pulls me close and I inhale his scent deeply. For now, it’s just us, the sound of the birds chirping, and the heart beating in his chest keeping me company.

And while I know I shouldn’t feel as suddenly content as I do right now, I can’t help it.

I’m in the arms of a man that loves me, and that’s a rare thing to come across, isn’t it?

We stood in the clearing for what seemed like forever. We held each other tightly, content in the company of monsters, until Dad sighed and told me that we still had one more special thing to talk about.

Dad finally let his arms fall away from around me and took my hand, leading the way out of the woods. I could almost swear that I heard the rustling again, but he dismissed it as the leaves in the tree catching some of the wind, and I believed him.

As we walk down the side of the house, I can see the oubliette coming into view and I hesitate in my next steps.

“What’s wrong, kid? Think I’m gonna put you down there again?” he asks with a click of his tongue against his teeth. “You haven’t done anything to go back down there, have you? You hiding something from me, Darby?”

“No,” I say softly while the thought of Mom’s letter burns a whole through my chest. If he ever finds that, he’ll become so terribly angry that I didn’t immediately turn it over for confiscation. But it’s not his to take or read—it was meant for me, and it’s mine now. God knows how many years it spent down in that fucking hole waiting for me and had I not had the same instinct that Mom had to save my child, I never would have found it.

Thanks, Mom, I think in silent gratitude.

“Then you have nothing to worry about. Come on,” he says, giving my hand a gentle, but firm tug.

I nod and let him lead me to hell on Earth and try my best not to cry.

“Well, you already know how Jocelyn went, but did you know that I would bring you to visit her? She was my favorite girl for a long time, you know. That was until I tasted your sweet cherry for the first time. I got hooked on you after that. I know it sounds really shitty to say, but after you started loving me the way a daughter should love her father, I kind of forgot about her. I only ever really thought about her on the nights you were on your period and refusing to fuck, or when the kids got too close to the well. Other than that, I can’t say she’s ever crossed my mind,” he finishes with a shrug as we finally reach the oubliette.

I wait patiently as he leans down and begins to lift the wooden grate off when I do something incredibly brave. Something I never would have thought possible until I read Mom’s letter.

I shove him as hard as I can and because he’s taken off guard, he stumbles and falls. But not into the fucking oubliette like I intended him to. Thinking fast, I drop down on him using the weight of my body, which although not much, it’s sufficient enough to pin him in place for the moment. I have to move fast because when he gets angry, he’ll be able to overpower me easily.

I reach for the ladder and tie one of the rungs around his throat, then pull him up to his knees.

Dad is dazed, confused, and looks like he’ll kill me the moment he gets a chance, once the direness of his situation finally settles in. I use all the strength I can muster to lift half of his body over the oubliette and dig a knee into his gut, holding him in place.

“Where are my children?” I scream at him.

A sinister smile takes over his face as his eyes darken. He turns his head as much as he can and spits onto the grass before turning his eyes back to mine.

“I swear to God, I’ll throw you over the side and let you strangle to death, you piece of shit! Where are they?” I shout at him in a blind rage.

Dad tilts his head to the side and offers nothing. No words of anger, nothing that would give me hope in ever being with my kids again and I pull the rope tighter around his neck. His face is turning red as he coughs violently, but he maintains his steely silence and doesn’t break eye contact.

That’s the reason he’s able to knock me off guard. That’s the reason he’s able to get back to his feet, grab a fistful of my hair, and force me to my knees.

Daddy has always been much smarter than the rest of us, and because we’re from his body, he knows how to easily outsmart us.

I never saw his hands moving so slowly around me. I didn’t see the look of rage in his eyes turn cantankerous until it was too late. I didn’t pick up on a lot of the signals that he would get the upper hand, because I was too blinded by my own rage. Something he never taught me to control because it would always be an advantage over me.

Once Dad removes the rope from around his neck and tosses it to the ground, he picks me up to my feet by my hair. It hurts so much, but nothing compares to the pain of not knowing where your children are.

“The stupid one?” he breathes heavily, pulling me closer to his face, “I left that little shit with children’s services. Told them a family member dropped her off on my doorstep and that I wasn’t equipped to handle someone like her. She’s probably five families into the fucking system by now.”

Tears sting my eyes and when they roll down my face, he laughs as he continues, “And the other two? They’re still here. You’re just too stupid to fucking find them, Darby. But don’t you worry. I’ll take care of them like I did with you—like I did with your mother, and you’ll have no one to blame but yourself, just like that stupid bitch that shot you out her worthless cunt.”

Tags: Yolanda Olson Inferno Dark
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