He grits his own teeth. “Is this the part where you use your mafia tactics to intimidate me, Mancino? Go ahead. Give me your best shot.”
I slam him against the wall again. “Intimidation is the least of your worries, DA. You should be on your best behavior right about now. You owe Delphine some answers. Answers you’re going to give her. Is that understood?”
He has the nerve to glance over at Delphine. His mask slips—the valiant heroic father she’s always known vanishes. The calculated, cold-hearted asshole I’ve always known him to be emerges. The man I’ve always told her he was. The man she never believed he could be.
Delphine steps back, the shock in her brown eyes enough to ignite a fresh wave of rage.
“Alright,” he says coolly, “what do you want to know?”
I lose patience. I shove him down into a chair, twisting his arms behind his back so I can hold him in place.
“Grab the ties from the window drapes,” I order Delphine.
She listens. She snaps into action, rushing over and pulling the rope-like ties holding the drapes from their loops. I knot them around Ernest’s arms behind the back of the chair.
An extra precaution I’m taking because I don’t put anything past him in a moment where his hand is being forced. It’s written across every inch of his cold, calculated face. He’s thinking fast what he can say or do to get himself out of this dilemma.
Plotting ways he can yet again gain control and return things to how they should be—Delphine and I separated and her under his thumb.
Delphine doesn’t stop me. She stands by and lets me secure him to the chair. Her expression’s a kaleidoscope of emotion, ranging from alarm to hurt to anger.
Even now, she still can’t believe it. She’s questioning if she’s dreaming.
“Tell her about the necklace.” My voice is measured but with a threatening edge. The calm before the storm. The silence before the explosion.
He draws in a disgruntled breath. “That necklace belonged to my mother. It’s a treasured family heirloom she wanted Delphine to have.”
“Something tells me Delphine’s grandmother wouldn’t have wanted a camera and tracking device installed inside of it.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about—”
I slug him in the face. My fist connects with his cheek. Not my hardest punch, but enough to make his head turn and his cheek ache.
Again, Delphine doesn’t stop me. She stays where she is, watching.
I’m getting answers out of him, regardless of the methods I must use.
“Tell. Her. The. Truth.”
Short, punctuated words that are my last warning before he’s in for more pain.
He stretches out his jaw, his tongue poking around, presumably to make sure no teeth have been knocked loose.
“Delphi sweetie,” he says, shifting his attention directly onto her. His fatherly tone has returned, paired with a pleading frown. “What have I told you from the time you were a small girl? How many times have I warned you about the danger in Northam? I didn’t want you in the city for a reason. It was no place for you, with so much crime and bad people around. I wanted to protect you.
“But you were growing up. I couldn’t keep you safe under my roof forever. I had to make sure you were going to be okay. Nana Rose really did want for you to have her necklace. I decided I could use it as a way to protect you—make sure you were never in any trouble.”
His words are met with nothing. Silence stretches on as he stares expectantly at his daughter and she gives no real reaction. I’m on the sideline with my arms tightly folded across my chest, my temper bubbling to the surface once more.
He’s trying to manipulate her. Downplay what he’s done. Present his deep surveillance as for her benefit.
And maybe, in the beginning, it was. But Ernest has always seemed to get his way as far as Delphine was concerned. His uncanny ability to, in the end, draw her in whenever she strayed was always a talent of his I didn’t understand.
All along he’s been spying on her at such a level, he was able to manipulate much of her life in his favor.
Just when I begin second-guessing if Delphine will hold him accountable, she shows me this time is different—she won’t be fooled by him anymore.
“When I was fifteen,” she says slowly, “I went out to a party with Ashley. I told you and Mom we were going to be studying. I met Salvatore that night. I had my necklace torn off. The next morning Salvatore had the chain repaired. You were so furious with me. You grounded me for a whole month. I wondered if you knew… if somehow, you knew I was lying when I said he must’ve found it at school. But you knew the truth all along, didn’t you?”