Twisted Roses

Page 31

“I was just curious.”
“You should be more curious about your campaign,” he says. “You’ve barely mentioned a word about it.”
“I’m sorry, Dad. I’m just finding it difficult that we’ve said more about our campaigns than we have about Mom.”
“I think about your mother constantly. Every moment of the day. How dare you suggest otherwise?”
“I’m speaking for myself. I can’t sit here at this table and pretend like I don’t notice she’s not here.”
Dad’s jaw muscles go slack and his eyes widen from where he sits at the head of the table. Marcel freezes with his empty glass of iced tea in his hands.
Both gape at me like I’ve informed them I’m from another planet altogether. As though I’ve broken some sort of unspoken rule.
The knots inside me twist even tighter.
I scoot my chair back. “Excuse me. I need some fresh air.”
If either of them question me, I don’t hear it. I’m already out the room before they say a word.
I shudder as I step outside and survey the quiet street of iron gates and large homes. The neighborhood hasn’t changed much over the years. It’s still as pristine and fake as when I was a teenager, witnessing the casual disregard of fellow residents. Their children—the same ones I went to school with—were exactly the same.
I’d always looked forward to the chance I’d get to move away to a big city like Northam and meet people who cared about more than their three-thousand-dollar shoes.
I set off at a brisk pace down the street, seeking any kind of distraction from what happened at dinner. My destination is a mystery to me until I’ve wandered two blocks over and Skip Little’s mansion emerges, peeking out from a wall of towering pine trees.
All of the lights are off except one.
The perfect distraction and karmic justice rolled into one.
Skip is a recluse. Disgraced and widely hated by the public, he lives alone with little to no security.
I inch closer, staring across the deserted road at the three-story, red-brick mansion. Over the years, he’s cared for the property less and less—vines curl up the red-brick and the driveway needs repaving. Predictably, many in Westoria call his home an eyesore.
No one would miss Skip if he were to disappear tomorrow. His estate would be sold off and eventually remodeled into a more modernized home.
The only other residents in Westoria people detest more are the Mancinos…
I glance up and down the street, debating if I’ll cross.
The word sounds in the dark. It’s quiet and raspy enough that it could almost be a note created by the night’s wind.
But I know better than to hope for that coincidence. I know without even turning around who it belongs to, and though I don’t know why he’s here, it doesn’t even surprise me.
He’s inescapable.
Not only does he occupy my thoughts against my will, he invades my life, spreading over it like spilled ink.
A wave of anger rushes me. Possibly irrational, though in the moment it feels justified.
I close my eyes and urge myself to keep calm. “I don’t want to talk to you.”
“Visiting your father?” Salvatore guesses, ignoring my comment. “I’ve just dropped off Stefania. She was belligerent drunk as always.”
“I don’t care.”
“Why are you standing outside Skip Little’s house?”