“You don’t understand how deep this goes,” he says. “How these people will destroy anything that’s pure. That’s good. It’s us against them, Delphi. They’ve taken from us. All of them.”
“And Lena Burtka? Lena Volchok? She’s a member?”
“There was never an affair between us. You have to believe me, sweetheart. That’s all a fabrication designed to tarnish my reputation.”
“Then what is it? I saw you coming out of a hotel with my own two eyes! She was here tonight! Or was that not real either? Salvatore showed me the emails between the two of you. You’ve been in contact for years. I still remember the sound of Mom’s cries when she found out. You’re saying it’s all a lie?”
“Things with Lena are complicated. But I swear to you, if I could tell you the full story, I would. Don’t let Mancino get in your head, Delphi. Can’t you see he wants you to hate me? I’m the only one who can protect you.”
Delphine finally stops pacing, pinning him with a hard stare, her mind made up. “You’re pathetic. You’re fucking pathetic. Where do the lies end, Dad? Do you know how violated I feel? I’m sick to my stomach. You’ve spent every moment lying to me, spying on me, manipulating me.”
“It was for your safety!” he shouts. “Do you think I want what happened to your mother to happen to you—”
Ernest seems to realize a split second too late he’s said too much. He clamps his lips shut and cringes at his own gaffe.
It’s too late.
Delphine moves closer, her brows knitted. “Mom’s murder? You mean the Society was behind it? And you’ve known? Oh my god… oh my…”
Just when I think it can’t get any worse for her.
Her breath grows sharp and shallow, quickly in panic attack territory.
I rush to her, shielding her from where her father sits tied to a chair. I fill my palms with her cheeks and tell her to breathe.
But she’s finally reached her limit. She’s crumbling before my eyes, falling to pieces as the grief from Mrs. Adams’ passing and the devastating revelations of today collide. I wrap my arms around her and hold her close.
She reacts by crying harder, louder, lost in anguish.
“Delphi, please… Delphi….” Ernest implores. “I couldn’t stop what they did. I no longer wanted to be a part of it, but they refused. No one gets away alive. I never thought they’d go after her—”
Delphine flees the room. She slips out of my arms and escapes into the hallway outside. I follow.
It’s a gut-wrenching sight—her gasps for air, her tear-streaked face, her helpless pacing back and forth. She’s devastated in every sense of the word. Full of so much heartbreak her body is rejecting it, unable to handle anymore.
“Phi, breathe,” I urge. I hesitate between giving her space and comforting her. “You don’t have to do it anymore. You’ve confronted him and gotten your answers. I’ll take you away from here, okay? I’ll handle the rest.”
Her chest rises and falls with every deep, erratic breath she takes in. “What are you… what are you…” she gasps between another breath. “What are you going to do to him?”
“Anything you want,” I answer, and I mean it.
Anything she wants.
If she wants me to handle him, I will. I’ll gladly take care of him myself, ensure he never hurts her again.
The bloodlust has risen up inside me, hot and furious, almost enough to make me snap and do it of my own accord.
I hang on only by reminding myself Delphine decides. She’s in control of the situation. But if he should ever try and hurt her again, I will take matters into my own hands. Even her protests won’t be enough to stop me.
“No,” Delphine whispers, her eyes sad and wounded. “I’ll deal with him.”
Unease coils in my chest as she walks around me and back into Ernest’s office. Once again, I’m shadow-like, moving in her wake.
Delphine enters in a sudden state of composure. No falling tears, no heartbroken cries, no desperate gasps for air.
She stops in front of him strapped to the chair. Hope flits onto Ernest’s face; he thinks she’s here for a peaceful exchange, to forgive him.
“Delphi honey, I knew it. I knew you’d listen to me. You’d see it my way.”