Rival Page 54

I finally snuck back to Shelburne Falls only to find Madoc had definitely moved on like my mom said. He wasn’t dwelling on me one bit. The only thing on his mind was the girl with her head between his legs. Backing away¸ I had run out of the house and jumped back in my father’s car that I had stolen. Now, here I was, three days later with lacerations on my arms and a sharp ache in my chest.

I suck in a breath and stiffen as my father rips the blanket and sheet off of me, sending them flying to the floor.

“Daddy, what are you doing?” I cry, noticing his fierce green eyes.

He yanks me from the bed, squeezing my upper arm so hard that the skin stings.

“Ow, Daddy!” I wail, limping across the floor as he drags me into the bathroom. My arm feels stretched, like any minute he’ll yank it from the socket.

What is he doing?

I watch as he plugs up the bathroom sink and begins filling it with water. The fingers of his other hand dig into the flesh of my arm, and I begin hyperventilating.

He pulls my arm hard, yanking me closer as he yells. “Who are you?”

Tears spill over, and I sob, “Your daughter.”

“Wrong answer.” And he grabs the back of my neck and forces my face into the filled sink.

No!

I gasp and suck in unwanted water as my head is forced under. I slam both hands on each side of the sink to push back against his hand, but he’s too strong. I shake my head, my slippery hands sliding out from under me as I struggle against him.

The water is in my nose, and I squeeze my eyes shut against the burn.

Suddenly, I’m yanked up out of the water.

“Daddy, stop it!” I cough and sputter, water dripping from my ratty tendrils and chin.

His voice thunders around me. “You want to die, Fallon?” He jerks my head in his anger. “That’s why you did this, right?”

“No . . .” I rush out before he slams my head back into the water, cutting off my air supply. I barely have time to think or prepare myself. My mind turns black as I wail into the shallow depth.

My father won’t kill me, I tell myself. But I’m hurting. The insides of my forearms sting, and I think my cuts are bleeding again.

He yanks me back up, and I reach behind myself and grab at his hand at the back of my head as I sob.

“Who are you?” he bellows again.

“Your daughter!” My body shakes with fear. “Daddy, stop it! I’m your daughter!”

I’m crying and shivering, the front of my nightgown dripping water down my legs.

He growls close to my ear. “You’re not my daughter. My daughter doesn’t give up. There were no skid marks on the street, Fallon. You crashed into the tree on purpose!”

I shake my head against his grasp. No. No, I didn’t. I didn’t hit it on purpose.

My mouth fills with thick saliva, and my eyes squeeze shut, remembering leaving Madoc’s house and hiding out at my father’s place near Chicago. I’d taken one of his cars and . . . no, I didn’t try to hit the tree.

My body shook, and my throat filled with pain.

I’d just let go of the wheel.

Oh, my God.

I steal air as fast as I can and whimper as I cry. What the hell has happened to me?

I stumble as my father throws my back into the wall next to the sink. Before I even have a chance to straighten myself, his hand comes across my face with a loud slap, and I wince at the sting traveling down my neck.

“Stop it!” I rage against the blur in my eyes.

He grabs me by the shoulders and pins me against the wall again and I cry out.

“Make me,” he challenges.

My fists slam against his chest, and I heave my whole body into the push. “Stop it!”

He steps back to steady himself but comes up again and grabs my head between his hands.

“Don’t you think that it gutted me when your mother took you away?” he asks, his eyes heartbroken. “I punched every wall in the goddamn house, Fallon. But I swallowed it down. Because that’s what we do. We swallow every brick of shit this world feeds us until the wall inside of us is so strong that nothing breaks it.” He lowers his labored voice, sounding stronger. “And that’s what I did. I let her take you, because I knew that cunt would make you strong.”

I clench my teeth, trying to stop my tears as I look at him. I love my father, but I can’t love him for letting my mother take me away. I guess in his head he thought it was a way of hiding me from his enemies. Did living with my mother make me strong? Of course not. Look at me, blubbering and ruined. I’m not strong.

“You don’t get to give up. You don’t get to quit!” he yells. “There will be other loves and other babies,” he growls, shaking my head between his hands and leveling me with his hard stare. “Now. Swallow. The. Pain!” he rages all around me. “Swallow it!”

His roar shatters my insides, and I stop crying, staring at him wide-eyed.

He holds my head tightly, forcing me to keep my eyes on him, and I focus, looking for something to grab on to. Anything. I concentrate on the tiniest point I can find, the center of his black pupils.

I don’t blink. I don’t budge.

The center of his eye is so dark, and I try to imagine that it feels like cruising through space at warp speed. In my world there is no one but him. The gold surrounding the black flickers, and I wonder why I didn’t inherit that in my green eyes. The white in his irises looks like lightning, and the ring of emerald, before you get to the white of the eyeballs, seems to ripple like water.

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