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Sins of the Father
 

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Sins of the Father


  For Emily.

  You inspire me.

  Other books by Jamie Canosa:

  Falling to Pieces

  Angel

  Pieces of my Heart

  Fight or Flight

  Sink or Swim

  Now or Never

  Rock Bottom

  Dissidence

  Vengeance

  Resisting Atlantis

  Sins of the Father

  Jamie Canosa

  ©Jamie Canosa 2016

  Cover Design: Emily Wittig Designs and Photography

  Cover ©Jamie Canosa 2016

  All rights reserved. No parts of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Exceptions are reviewers who may quote short excerpts for review.

  ISBN-13: 978-1523609055

  ISBN-10: 1523609052

  All Rights Reserved

  USA

  Chapter 1

  ~Ophelia~

  Music pounded from the small, two-story white house loudly enough that I could feel the beat of the bass in my bones as we made our way up the drive. Beneath a trifecta of Greek symbols I couldn’t translate, the front door stood propped open with a twelve pack. People milled around, smoking and chatting, red Solo cups in hand or precariously balanced along the porch railing. So not my scene.

  “Lisa!”

  Why wasn’t I surprised that my roomie was the life of the party before we’d even made it through the front door? I’d known her for a grand total of a month and a half. Since I’d moved into the dorm to find half the room painted orange—we weren’t allowed to paint the walls—and covered in posters of indie rock bands I’d never heard of—and still kind of wished I hadn’t. In that time she’d somehow managed to drag me out more times than I’d visited the land of the living after dark in all my eighteen years combined.

  “I have arrived.” The girl was definitely majoring in the ‘social’ sciences. “Let’s get this party started!”

  One guy whooped. Clearly, the party had already started for some. His glassy eyes made a lazy perusal of Lisa’s long legs before colliding with mine. “You brought a friend.”

  “Yeah, that’s Fi. Now point me toward the Jell-O shots. Thanks to her desperate need for some retail therapy, I’m in need of serious catching up.”

  His eyes crossed slightly before refocusing on the skin tight LBD Lisa had shoved me into from her own closet after my jeans and graphic tees failed to meet with her approval. I tugged at the hem. I wasn’t tall by any stretch of the imagination at five-foot-four, but Lisa was a good three inches shorter and the dress wasn’t exactly church-wear on her to begin with.

  “I don’t know what she’s talking about. You look hawt.” He sidled closer and I cast about for backup, but Lisa was already gone—presumably in search of Jell-O shots. “My name’s Anthony. What’s yours?”

  “I’m Ophelia.” I was pretty sure Lisa had already mentioned that, but he wasn’t exactly listening to me answer, either.

  Eyes glued somewhere south of my face, he asked, “You wanna dance?”

  “Not really. I don’t—” I attempted to take a step back, but I didn’t have nearly enough practice in heels.

  Anthony snagged my wrist, supposedly to keep me from falling on my ass, but before I could argue he’d dragged me into the living room where a mass of sweaty bodies writhed to the pumping beat. “Sure you do.”

  Heat radiated like a furnace. Colorful lights flashed and darted across the ceiling. Anthony’s hand landed on my hip and I felt the stirrings of nausea deep in my gut.

  “I love this dress on you.” His other hand joined the first and together they slid lower.

  Mine planted themselves on his chest and shoved, which would have done zero good even if we weren’t all packed in like sardines.

  “Stop.” I swatted at his hands, but they were like damp tentacles suction-cupped to my skin. “I-I can’t dance. I really don’t want to . . .”

  What I wanted was to make a run for it. Plow right back out the door we’d come through and retreat to the comforts of my bed and a good book. Life was easier that way. It was safer. Only I couldn’t spot a gap wide enough to make my escape and I was afraid to turn my back on Anthony. God only knew what kind of ideas that would give him.

  “Have a drink!” Lisa materialized beside me and shoved a plastic cup in my hand, cutting in without a word of apology.

  Anthony scowled at the back of her head, but I could feel the pressure around my chest begin to ease away as he stepped off and got swallowed up by the crowd. The two of us swayed to the music. Songs rolled seamlessly into one another and a fine sheen of sweat broke out over my body. Hosts—pledges, if I had to guess—floated through the room and Lisa snagged cups from trays as they went by. Dance floor service, that was high-class right there. Of course it meant that I hadn’t had a break in over an hour. Or an empty cup. And now I really needed to pee.

  “Where are you going?” Lisa had to shout to be heard over the deafening combination of music and voices blaring through the room.

  “Bathroom!”

  “Okay. I’m gonna grab another drink. You want one?”

  I shook my head—I was already having trouble walking a straight line—and was only mildly annoyed by Lisa’s frown. The girl was a party machine. How was I ever supposed to keep up with that? Besides, one of us needed to keep a clear-ish head if we were going to make it home, and we both knew it wouldn’t be her.

  Upstairs, the line for what was apparently the only toilet in the house stretched down the hall. I leaned against the wall to give my poor feet a break and resigned myself to the wait. Lisa had convinced my drunk ass to pee in a backyard bush once before at one of these things and it wasn’t an experience I planned to repeat. Ever.

  “Hey. There you are.” Crap. And the night just kept getting better as Anthony staggered his way up the stairs. There was a red punch stain on his shirt and he leaned heavily on the banister. “You ditched me earlier.”

  “Sorry about that.” I turned my back, hoping he’d take the hint.

  The thing about drunk frat guys, though . . . they don’t take hints. “S’ok, you can make it up to me now. Have ourselves a private party.”

  His breath reeked of vodka and something sickeningly sour. Blood roared in my ears, punctuated by occasional bursts of laughter. My skin crawled and my hands began to shake as I willed myself to keep it together. There were other people around. Lots of other people. I should scream. That’s what they’d told us to do at freshmen safety orientation. Scream, yell, put up a fight . . . something. Hell, they’d given us a damn whistle to blow. I’d tossed it in the trash the minute the seminar was over, knowing full well I’d sooner skip into the sunset with a serial killer than blow it.

  I opened my mouth, but his hard grip on my wrist felt like a clamp around my throat, silencing all but the quietest of whispered protests. “No. Please, let me go.”

  “No way. You bailed on me before.” His hand locked down like a vice. I could feel the bones in my wrist grinding together. “You’re not doin’ it again.”

  The floor vibrated beneath my feet to the pulsing beat from downstairs. Across campus, the homecoming fireworks display had begun and everyone was plastered to the window, trying to catch a glimpse of the sparkling colors. No one heard me. No one saw me. The metallic tang of cold, hard fear coated my tongue.

  Help me! Someone help me!

  My mind cried out, but years of conditioning took over.

  Don’t cause a scene. Don’t draw negative attention. What will everyone think? What will they say?

  My nails gouged at his fingers as I twisted and turned, and planted my heels in the carpet, struggling to free myself discreetly. He c
ontinued to drag me along with minimal effort, throwing open a door at the end of the hall. A large unmade bed sat in the middle of the room. Oh God, this is really happening. That saying about lightening never striking twice ran through my head as bile crept up the back of my throat.

  “Hey!” A large hand grabbed Anthony’s shoulder, spinning him around and planting him against the wall. A matching hand took my arm and pried it free from his grasp.

  I caught a blurry glimpse of a black tee stretched over broad shoulders and the hint of some kind of tribal tattoo peeking out from under the sleeve along the well-muscled arm pinning Anthony in place.

  “What the fuck, man?”

  “The girl doesn’t look like she wants to be here.” His voice was deep and smooth, nearly as powerful as the body it belonged to. “Or am I wrong?”

  His head swiveled to look at me over his shoulder and I was struck dumb by the brightest green eyes I’d ever seen. Light colored stubble coated a square jaw, matching the locks shaved close to his head, in perfect contrast with the deep pink of his tight lips. My gaze was drawn back to those remarkable eyes and I realized he was still waiting for my answer.

  The best I could manage was a brief shake of my head.

  “That’s what I thought.” He tightened his grip on Anthony’s shirt collar and slammed him into the wall again. Anthony’s head bounced lazily off the doorframe. “A girl says no, she means no, shithead.”

  A gasp drew my attention to the fact that we had an audience. Evidently, fireworks had nothing on a good, old-fashioned ass-kicking. All eyes were on us. A few of Anthony’s frat buddies loitered nearby, waiting to see if he’d need backup. Odds were pointing to yes when Emerald Eyes balled his fist. He was cocked and ready to fire right into Anthony’s face—backup be damned—when I grabbed hold of his elbow.

  “No, don’t. Please?”

  His muscles bunched under my touch. “You don’t want me to hit him?”

  I shook my head, biting down on my lip to keep from begging. We were drawing attention. I didn’t want attention.

  “Even after what he was about to do to you?”

  I shook my head again, pleading without words for him to let it go.

  An endlessly tense moment passed before he released his hold. “You should really thank her. She just saved your ass. And fucking apologize.”

  Anthony’s eyes had cleared considerably and they looked about as confused as Emerald’s. “Uh . . . th-thanks. S-sorry.”

  The instant the words passed his lips, he disappeared into the room, slamming the door behind him. With nothing more to see, the quiet hush that had encompassed the entire second story burst into a frenzy of chatter. Bathroom forgotten, the crowd dispersed to go share the hot gossip. I took the opportunity and slipped inside.

  After relieving myself, I planted my hands on the chilled porcelain sink and examined my reflection. I looked like death: wide eyes, dilated pupils, face paler than an Alaskan ghost. I wanted to splash some water on it, but with the amount of makeup I’d let Lisa paint on me that would have only made a bigger mess.

  A knock came at the door and I ignored it, waiting for my fingers to stop trembling. Deep breaths. Lock it down. Voices grew louder, more urgent. I bit the inside of my cheek and blinked the tears away. Keep your shit together, O. When someone jostled the door handle, I gave in.

  “Okay. I’m coming.”

  Yanking open the door, I stopped in my tracks and nearly got bowled over by a girl in a powder blue halter top.

  “You alright?” Emerald was still there—arms folded, leaning up against the wall—waiting . . . for me?

  “Mm-hmm.” Straightening my spine, I took another step forward, determined to prove it to him, but the weight of everything that had happened—everything that had almost happened—came crashing down on me. I barely caught myself on the wall before hitting the floor.

  “Sure you are.” He didn’t look impressed. Moving closer, he eased an arm around my waist. “Let’s get you out of here.”

  I was so distracted by the fact that his touch didn’t send ice water gushing through my veins that we were halfway down the stairs before I remembered where we were. And who I was with. “Lisa.”

  “What?”

  “My friend. I came with my friend Lisa.”

  “Where was she five minutes ago?”

  I didn’t like his insinuation. I was a big girl. I didn’t need a damn chaperone. The light dusting of fair hair caught my attention, standing out against the deep tan of his brawny arm, the only thing keeping me on my feet. Then again . . . maybe I did.

  “Dancing, probably.”

  Emerald steered me toward he living room, stopping at the edge of the undulation crowd, while I scanned sweaty faces. I spotted Lisa grinding on some guy near the DJ booth and waved her over. By the time she’d pressed herself through the dance floor, she was grinning like the Cheshire Cat.

  “Hey, girl, who did you find?” She gave my escort an appreciative once-over.

  “Umm . . .” I still didn’t actually know his name.

  “Ophelia needs to go home.” Though, apparently, he knew mine.

  “Oh, Fifi . . .” Lisa groaned. “I can’t leave now. Things are just getting interesting.”

  She flashed a smile and wiggled her fingers at the guy in the backward cap and tank top still waiting for her by the DJ.

  Emerald’s jaw tightened and he shook his head. “You’re in no condition to drive, anyway. I’ll take her home.”

  “What about Lisa?” Getting into a car with some guy whose name I didn’t even know, while drunk, didn’t sound like a brilliant idea. In fact, it was probably an excellent example of what not to do for the next year’s safety seminar. “We planned to split a cab.”

  “Don’t worry about me.” A sly grin curled her bright red lips as she slipped into the crush of bodies and I knew I wouldn’t be seeing her—or the other half of my cab fare—until at least tomorrow.

  I was stuck. It was either trust Emerald—the guy who had already come to my rescue once that evening—to take me home to my fuzzy pajamas and warm bed or stick around in a house full of drunken idiots to wait for a better option to present itself. Not likely.

  “You sure you don’t mind?” The nip in the air helped clear my head as we walked along the car-lined street to where a black, two-door something-or-other was parked. It looked sporty, but that’s where my knowledge of cars ended. “I don’t live far.”

  “No. Get in.” He opened the door for me, and I thought, chivalry really isn’t dead, as he lowered me into the bucket seat.

  The radio hummed, filling the dead air between us. My parents were wealthy, which meant I had ‘friends’—money can buy just about anything—but social skills had never come easily to me. I considered asking his name, but what was the point? He’d be gone in about three minutes and I’d probably never see him again. I didn’t plan on attending any more frat parties for . . . ever. Saving my thanks for when he dropped me off, I chewed quietly on the corner of my broken thumbnail, watching streetlights blur by. It wasn’t until we missed my turn that I realized I hadn’t given him any directions.

  “Oh, hey, sorry. That was my street back—” I shifted to point him in the opposite direction. That’s when I noticed the white cloth in his hand. And the look in his eye.

  My stomach bottomed out. His hand flew up to cover my nose and mouth with the cloth. A sickly-sweet scent invaded my airway. With each panicked gasp, I grew woozier and my struggles died off before they even got started.

  In the last moments before consciousness slipped away, my gaze connected with his and I swore I heard him say, “I’m sorry.”

  Chapter 2

  ~Sawyer~

  *14 years ago*

  My cheek stunk like a hive of angry wasps.

  “Get your ass up, boy. At least pretend to be a man.”

  I staggered to my feet and pushed back my shoulders, fighting the urge to cower before the beast of a man towering over my nine-yea
r-old stature.

  “Do you think this is fun for me? Do you think I want to work hard all day and then have to discipline your sorry ass, too?”

  “No, Dad. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to—”

  “Shut up, you sniveling worm. Maybe if you’d learn a thing or two I wouldn’t have to keep teaching you the same damn lessons. Go fetch my belt. We’ll see if we can make it stick this time.”

  I wasn’t even sure what lesson I was supposed to be learning. The one about not complaining about things like being cold? Or the one about not asking for things like a pen to do my homework with? Or maybe it was the one about how I wasn’t supposed to exist at all.

  The worn brown leather dangled from the bedpost, an ever-present reminder of what awaited should I screw up one of my many ‘lessons’. Something I did more often than not. My trembling fingers ran over the buttery material. How could something so soft hurt so badly?

  On the far side of the room, my father’s closet stood open, the darkness beckoning me. Come inside and disappear. I’d already learned the hard way that it was a false promise. Hiding would only ensure I went hungry. For a week the last time.

  “Hands against the wall.”

  Begging would only add more lashes. To ‘toughen me up’. I pressed my hands to the yellowing wall and curved my back, bowing my head and hunching my shoulders to protect my face.

  “Don’t you move.”

  The whistle of the belt cut through the air and I braced for impact. Stiffening my muscles only made the pain that much worse, but it couldn’t be avoided.

  Whack.

  Fire erupted across my shoulder blades. I jerked and bit down on my tongue.

  Whack. Whack.

  The copper tang of blood coated my mouth.

  Whack.

  I gasped and shuddered as the burn spread, devouring my back from shoulder to waist.

  Whack. Whack. Whack.

  My eyes squeezed tight, but not against the urge to cry. That urge had been trained from me before I was out of diapers. Real men don’t cry. And if there was one thing my father was determined to do, it was make me a real man. Just like him.

 
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