Series: Sinners of Saint #3
Release Date: September 21, 2017
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They call him The Mute for a reason.
Hard, cold and calculated, he rarely speaks.
When he does, it’s with disdain.
When he does, his words aren’t meant for me.
When he does, my stomach flips and my world tilts on its axis.
He is thirty-three.
I am eighteen.
He’s a single dad and my father’s business partner.
I’m just a kid to him and his enemy’s daughter.
He’s emotionally unavailable.
And I am…feeling. Feeling things I shouldn’t feel for him.
Trent Rexroth is going to break my heart. The writing isn’t just on the wall, it’s inked on my soul.
And yet, I can’t stay away.
A scandal is the last thing my family needs. But a scandal is what we’re going to give them.
And oh, what beautiful chaos it will be.
1: excess in eating or drinking
2: greedy or excessive indulgence accused the nation of energy gluttony.
The worst out of the seven deadly sins. In my opinion, anyway. And my opinion was the one that mattered in that moment, under the unforgiving sun of SoCal on a May afternoon on Todos Santos’ promenade, when I was in desperate need of some cash. Leaning against the white railing separating the bustling boardwalk from the shimmering ocean and dazzling yachts, I people-watched.
Fendi, Dior, Versace, Chanel, Burberry, Bvlgari, Louboutin, Rolex.
Greed. Excess. Corruption. Vice. Fraud. Deception.
I judged them. The way they drank their organic, ten-buck smoothies and glided on custom-made multi-colored skateboards signed by Tony Hawk. I judged them, knowing full well they couldn’t do the same to me. I was in hiding. Veiled beneath a thick black hoodie, my hands shoved deep inside my pockets. I wore black skinny jeans, an old pair of unlaced Dr. Martens, and a tattered JanSport backpack held together with safety pins.
I looked androgynous.
I moved like a ghost.
I felt like a hoax.
And today, I was about to do something that’d make living with myself harder.
As with any dangerous game, there were rules to abide by: no children, no elderly, no struggling, average folk. I thrived on the rich, targeting the prototypes of my parents. The women with the Gucci bags and the men in the Brunello Cucinelli suits. The ladies with the poodles peeking out from their studded Michael Kors handbags, and the gentlemen who looked like they were comfortable spending on a cigar what a normal person would put toward their monthly rent.
Spotting potential victims at the promenade was embarrassingly easy. Todos Santos was the richest town in California, as of the 2018 census, and much to the old money’s dismay, Nouveau Riches like my father had come settling on this piece of land, armed with monstrous, Italian-imported vehicles and enough jewelry to sink a battleship.
I shook my head, staring at the explosion of colors, scents and tan, half-clothed bodies. Focus, Edie, focus.
Prey. A good hunter could smell it from miles away.
My meal for the day had passed me briskly, unknowingly drawing attention to herself. She threw her head back, revealing a straight row of pearly whites. A middle-aged, Chanel-wearing trophy wife, wrapped head-to-toe in the latest season’s garments. I wasn’t big on fashion, but my father loved spoiling his beloved mistresses with luxurious garbs and parading them around at social events, introducing them as his very personal assistants. My mother would buy these designer items herself in a desperate plea to resemble the younger women who entertained him. I knew wealth when I saw it. And this woman? She wasn’t hungry. Not for food and not for love, the only two things that mattered.
Little did she know, her money was going to buy me love. Her soon-to-be empty wallet was going to fill my heart to the brim.
“I’ve been dying for a duck salad at The Brasserie. Think we can go there tomorrow? Maybe Dar will tag along,” she drawled, puffing her chin-length platinum bob with her manicured hand.
Her back was already to me when I noticed her arm was linked with that of a tall, dark, and handsome type, at least twenty years her junior. Built like Robocop and dressed like a dapper David Beckham. Was he her boy toy? Husband? Old friend? Son? It made little-to-no difference to me.
She was the perfect victim. Distracted, disordered, and overbearing; parting ways with her wallet would be merely an inconvenience for this lady. She probably had a PA or some other form of poor, unfortunate soul on her payroll to deal with the consequences. Someone who would order new credit cards and issue a new driver’s license and unburden her from the nuisance of bureaucracy.
Someone like Camila.
Stealing was much like walking a tight rope. The secret was in your poise and ability to not look into the abyss, or in my case, the victim’s eyes. I was lean, short, and nimble. I navigated through the throng of boisterous teenyboppers in bikinis and families licking ice cream, my eyes trained on the black and gold YSL bag dangling from her arm.
Sounds became muffled, bodies and food trucks vanished from my vision, and all I saw was that bag and my goal.
Recalling everything I’d learned from Bane, I inhaled deeply and lunged for the purse. I yanked it from her arm and made a beeline to one of the many alleyways slicing the shops and restaurants on the boardwalk. I didn’t look back. I ran blindly, desperately, furiously.
Tap, tap, tap, tap. My Docs were heavy against the sizzling concrete beneath me, but the consequences of not coming up with the money I needed sat heftier on my heart. The thick sound of girls laughing on the promenade evaporated as I put more space between me and my target.
I could have been one of them. I still can. Why am I doing this? Why can’t I just let it go?
One more corner to round and I’d be in my car, flipping the bag open and examining my treasure. Drunk on adrenaline and high on endorphins, a hysterical laugh bubbled from my throat. I hated mugging people. I hated the feeling that accompanied the act even more. But most of all—I hated myself. What had become of me. Yet, the liberating feeling of doing something bad and being good at getting away with it shot an arrow of elation straight to my heart.
My stomach dropped in relief at the sight of my car. The old, black Audi TT my father had purchased from his business partner Baron Spencer was the only thing he’d given me in the last three years, but even this gift was loaded with expectation. Seeing less of me in his mansion was his goal in life. Most nights, he opted for not coming home. Problem solved.
I scooped my keys from my backpack, panting the rest of the way like a sick dog.
I was mere inches from the driver’s door when my world spun in place and my knees gave out. It took me a few seconds to realize I hadn’t stumbled on my own gaucherie. A firm, large hand twisted me by the shoulder, knocking the air out of my lungs. The hand grabbed my arm in a bruising grip and pulled me into the alleyway between a fast-food joint and a French boutique before I could open my mouth and do something. Shout, bite, or worse. I dragged my boots in the opposite direction, desperately trying to wiggle free, but this guy was twice my size—and all muscle. I was too blinded by rage to take a good look at his face. Chaos brewed in my gut, shot flames to my eyes and momentarily blinded me. He slammed me against a building and I hissed, feeling the impact from my back to my tailbone. Instinctively, I sent my arms out, trying to claw at his face, kicking and screaming. My fear was a storm. Sailing through it was impossible. The stranger clutched my wrists and crashed them above my head, pinning them to the cool cement.
This is it, I thought. This is where you end. Over a stupid purse, on a Saturday afternoon, on one of the most legendarily crowded beaches in California.
Flinching, I waited for his fist to connect with my face, or worse—for his rotten breath to hover over my mouth, for his hand to yank my pants down.
Then the stranger chuckled.
I furrowed my brows, my eyes narrowing as I tried to regain focus and blink away the terror.
He came to me in pieces, like a painting in the works. His gray-blue eyes were the first to pop out from behind the fog of fear. They were sapphire and silver swirled together, the color of a moonstone. Next was his straight nose and symmetrical lips, his cheekbones sharp enough to cut diamonds. He was pungently masculine and intimidating in his looks, but that was not what made me recognize him immediately. It was what rolled off of him in dangerous quantities, the menace and the ruggedness. He was a dark knight made of coarse material. Cruel in his silence and punishing in his confidence. I’d only met him once, at a barbecue at Dean Cole’s house a few weeks ago, and we hadn’t spoken a word to each other.
He hadn’t spoken a word to anyone.
We were barely acquaintances, but every piece of information I knew about the guy, I also held against him. He was a millionaire, single and therefore probably a playboy. He was, in short, the younger version of my father, which meant that I was interested in getting to know him as much as I was in catching cholera.
“You have five seconds to explain why you were trying to mug my mother.” His voice was bone-dry, but his eyes? Fuming. “Five.”
His mother. Crap. I really was in trouble. Though I couldn’t find it in me to regret my decision, I’d been spot-on. She was a white, rich woman from suburbia who wouldn’t miss the cash nor the bag. But it was unfortunate that my father’s business partner for the past six months was her son.
“Let go of my wrists,” I hissed through still-clenched teeth, “before I knee you in the balls.”
“Four.” He ignored me completely, squeezing them harder together, his eyes daring me to do something we both knew I was too much of a coward to even try. I winced. He wasn’t really hurting me and he knew it. He squeezed just enough to make me seriously uncomfortable, and scare the bejesus out of me.
No one had ever hurt me physically before. It was the unwritten rule of the rich and noble. You could ignore your child, send them off to boarding school in Switzerland and leave them with the nanny until they reached eighteen, but God forbid you lay a hand on them. I looked around for the YSL bag, confusion and panic churning in my gut. Rexroth caught up with my plan quick enough, because he kicked the bag between us. It bumped into my boots with a thud.
“Don’t get too attached to it, sweetheart. Three.”
“My father would kill you if he knew you touched me,” I sputtered, trying to regain balance. “I’m—”
“Jordan Van Der Zee’s daughter,” he cut in matter-of-factly, saving me the introduction. “Hate to break it to you, but I don’t give two shits.”
My father was in business with Rexroth, and held forty-nine percent of Fiscal Heights Holdings, the company Trent incorporated with his high school friends. It made Jordan a threat to the man in front of me, even if he wasn’t exactly Rexroth’s boss. Trent’s intense frown confirmed he really wasn’t scared. But I knew my father would flip his shit if he knew Trent had touched me. Jordan Van Der Zee rarely spared me a look, but when he did, it was in order to assert power over me.
I wanted to taunt Rexroth back. I wasn’t even entirely sure why. Maybe because he was humiliating me—though part of me acknowledged I deserved it.
His eyes shot daggers at me, burning the skin wherever they landed. My cheeks blossomed into crimson, and it hit me hard, because he was nearly twice my age, and outrageously off-limits. I was feeling juvenile enough getting caught red-handed without the side-bonus of feeling my thighs clench as his fingers dug into my wrists like he wanted to split them open and pop my veins out.
“What are you going to do? Hit me?” I jerked my chin up, my eyes, voice, and stance defiant. His mother was white, so his dad must be either black or biracial. Trent was tall, built, and tan. His black hair was buzzed close to the scalp, marines-style, and he wore charcoal slacks, a collared white shirt, and a vintage Rolex. Gorgeous prick. Stunning, arrogant bastard.
“You’ve been counting down from five for ten minutes, smartass,” I notified him, one eyebrow arching. He let loose a grin so devilish, I swear it looked like he had fangs, dropping my wrists like they were on fire. I immediately collected one into my palm and rubbed it in circles. He hovered over me like a shadow, completing the countdown with a growl, “One.”
We both stared at each other, me in horror and him in amusement. My pulse skyrocketed, and I wondered what it looked like from the inside. If the ventricles in my heart were bursting with blood and adrenaline. He raised his hand teasingly slowly and tugged my hoodie down, letting my mane of long, wavy blonde hair cascade all the way to my waist. My nerves shredded into ribbons at how exposed I felt. His eyes explored me lazily, like I was an item he was debating whether or not to buy at the Dollar Tree. I was a good-looking girl—a fact that both pleased and upset my parents, but Trent was a man, and I was a senior in high school, at least for the next two weeks. I knew rich men loved their women young, but jailbait was rarely their jam.
After a stretched beat, I broke the silence, “What now?”
“Now I wait.” He almost caressed my cheek—almost—making my eyes flutter and my heart loop in a way that provoked me to feel both younger and older than my years.
“Wait?” I furrowed my brows. “Wait for what?”
“Wait until this leverage on you becomes useful, Edie Van Der Zee.”
He knew my name. My Christian name. It was surprising enough that he recognized me as Jordan’s daughter just from seeing me across the lawn at his friend’s barbecue weeks ago, but this…this was oddly exciting. Why would Trent Rexroth know my name unless he’d asked for it? My father wouldn’t talk about me at work. That was a hard fact. He tried to ignore my existence whenever he could.
“What could you possibly need from me?” I scrunched my nose, skeptical. He was a powerful, thirty-something mogul and so completely out of my league we weren’t even playing on the same field. I wasn’t being hard on myself. It was by choice. I could be rich like him—correction, I was potentially fifty times richer. I had the world at my feet, but I chose to kick it aside instead of making it my oyster, much to my father’s consternation.
But Trent Rexroth didn’t know that. Trent Rexroth didn’t know that at all.
Under his arms and scrutiny, I felt incredibly alive. Rexroth leaned in my direction, his lips, made for poetry and sin and pleasure, smiling into the skin between my throat and my ear, and rustled, “What I need is to keep your father on a short leash. Congratulations, you’ve just reduced yourself to potential sacrifice.”
The only thing I could think of when he moved away and escorted me to my car, gripping the back of my neck from behind like I was a wild animal in desperate need of taming, was that my life had just gotten so much more complicated.
He tapped the roof of the Audi and smiled through the rolled down window, tipping his Wayfarers down. “Drive safe.”
“Fuck you.” My hands shook, trying to pull down the hand break.
“Not in a million years, kid. You’re not worth the jail time.”
I was already eighteen, but it hardly made any difference. I stopped, seconds short of spitting in his face, when he rummaged in his mother’s bag and threw something small and hard into my car. “For the road. Friendly advice: stay away from people’s pockets and bags. Not everyone’s as agreeable as me.”
He wasn’t agreeable. He was the very definition of a jerk. Before I could fashion a comeback, he turned around and walked away, leaving a trail of an intoxicating scent and interested women. I looked down at what he’d tossed in my lap, still dazed and disturbed by his last comment.
A Snickers bar.
In other words, he’d ordered me to chill—treating me like I was a child. A joke.
I drove away from the promenade straight to Tobago Beach, getting a small loan from Bane to pay my way through the next month. I was too distracted to try to hit another mark for some fast cash.
But that day changed something and, somehow, twisted my life in a direction I never knew it could take.
It was the day when I realized I hated Trent Rexroth.
The day when I put him on my shit list, with no possibility for parole.
And the day I realized I could still feel alive under the right arms.
Too bad they were also so, so wrong.
She’s a maze with no escape.
An ethereal, steady pulse. She’s there, but just barely.
I love her so much I sometimes hate her.
And it terrifies me, because deep down, I know what she is.
An unsolvable puzzle.
And I know who I am.
The idiot who would try to fix her.
At any cost.
“How did you feel when you wrote it?” Sonya held the whiskey-ringed paper like it was her fucking newborn, a curtain of tears glittering in her eyes. The drama levels were high this session. Her voice was gauzy and I knew what she was after. A breakthrough. A moment. That pivotal scene in a Hollywood flick, after which everything changed. The strange girl shakes off her inhibitions, the dad realizes he is being a cold-ass prick, and they work through their emotions, blah blah pass the Kleenex blah.
I scrubbed my face, glancing at my Rolex. “I was drunk off of my ass when I wrote it, so I probably felt like a burger to dilute the alcohol,” I deadpanned. I didn’t talk much—big fucking surprise—that’s why they called me The Mute. When I did, it was with Sonya, who knew my boundaries, or Luna, who ignored them, and me.
“Do you get drunk often?”
Chagrined. That was Sonya’s expression. She mostly kept it schooled, but I saw through the thick layers of makeup and professionalism.
“Not that it’s any of your business, but no.”
Loud silence lingered in the room. I strummed my fingers against my cell phone screen, trying to remember whether I’d sent out that contract to the Koreans or not. I should have been nicer, seeing as my four-year-old daughter was sitting right beside me, witnessing this exchange. I should have been a lot of things, but the only thing I was, the only thing I could be outside of work, was angry, and furious, and—why, Luna? What the fuck have I done to you?—confused. How I’d become a thirty-three-year-old single dad who didn’t have time, nor the patience, for any female other than his kid.
“Seahorses. Let’s talk about them.” Sonya laced her fingers together, changing the topic. She did that whenever my patience was strung out and about to snap. Her smile was warm but neutral, just like her office. My eyes skimmed the pictures hung behind her, of young, laughing children—the kind of bullshit you buy at IKEA—and the soft yellow wallpaper, the flowery, polite armchairs. Was she trying too hard, or was I not trying hard enough? It was difficult to tell at this point. I shifted my gaze to my daughter and offered her a smirk. She didn’t return it. Couldn’t blame her.
“Luna, do you want to tell Daddy why seahorses are your favorite?” Sonya chirped.
Luna grinned at her therapist conspiratorially. At four, she didn’t talk. At all. Not a single word or a lonely syllable. There was no problem with her vocal chords. In fact, she screamed when she was hurting and coughed when she was congested and hummed absentmindedly when a Justin Bieber played on the radio (which, some would say, was tragic in itself.)
Luna didn’t talk because she didn’t want to talk. It was a psychological issue, not physical, stemming from hell-knows-what. What I did know was that my daughter was different, indifferent, and unusual. People said she was “special”, as an excuse to treat her like a freak. I was no longer able to shield her from the peculiar looks and questioning arched eyebrows. In fact, it was becoming increasingly difficult to brush off her silence as introversion, and I was beginning to grow tired of hiding it, anyway.
Luna was, is, always will be outrageously smart. She scored higher than average on all the tests she’d been put through over the years, and there had been too many to count. She understood every single word spoken to her. She was mute by choice, but she was too young to make that choice. Trying to talk her out of it was both impossible and ironic. Which was why I dragged my ass to Sonya’s office twice a week in the middle of a workday, desperately trying to coax my daughter to stop boycotting the world.
“Actually, I can tell you exactly why Luna loves seahorses.” Sonya pursed her lips, plastering my drunken note to her desk. Luna would sometimes speak a word or two when she and her therapist were all alone, but never when I was in the room. Sonya told me Luna had a languid voice, like her eyes, and that it was soft and delicate and perfect. She had no impediment at all. “She just sounds like a kid, Trent. One day, you’ll hear it, too.”
I cocked a tired eyebrow, propping my head on my hand as I stared at the busty redhead. I had three deals I needed to attend to back at work—four if I’d forgotten to send the contract to the Koreans—and my time was too fucking precious for seahorse talk.
Sonya reached across her desk, cupping my big bronzed hand in her small white one. “Seahorses are Luna’s favorite animal because the male seahorse is the only animal in nature to carry the baby and not the mother. The male seahorse is the one to incubate the offspring. To fall pregnant. To nest. Isn’t that beautiful?”
I blinked a couple of times, slicing my gaze to my daughter. I was grossly unequipped to deal with women my own age, so taking care of Luna always felt like shooting a goddamn arsenal of bullets in the dark, hoping something would find the target. I frowned, searching my brain for something—anything, any-fucking-thing—that would put a smile on my daughter’s face.
It occurred to me that social services would scoop her ass up and take her away from me had they known what an emotionally stunted dumbass I was.
“I…” I began to say. Sonya cleared her throat, jumping to my rescue.
“Hey, Luna? Why don’t you help Sydney hang up some of the summer camp decorations outside? You have a great touch with design.”
Sydney was the secretary at Sonya’s practice. My daughter had warmed up to her, seeing as we spent a lot of time sitting in the reception area, waiting for our appointments. Luna nodded and hopped down from her seat.
My daughter was beautiful. Her caramel skin and light brown curls made her deep blue eyes shine like a lighthouse. My daughter was beautiful and the world was ugly and I didn’t know how to help her.
And it killed me like cancer. Slowly. Surely. Savagely.
The door closed with a soft thud before Sonya trained her eyes on me, her smile fading.
I glanced at my watch again. “Are you coming over to fuck tonight, or what?”
“Jesus, Trent.” She shook her head, clasping the back of her neck with her laced fingers. I let her have her meltdown. This was a reoccurring issue with Sonya. For a reason beyond my grasp, she thought she could tell me off because she sometimes had my dick in her mouth. The truth was, every ounce of power she had over me was because of Luna. My daughter worshipped the ground Sonya walked upon and allowed herself to smile more in her therapist’s presence.
“I’ll take that as a no.”
“Why don’t you take it as a wake-up call? Luna’s love for seahorses is a way to say—‘Daddy, I appreciate you for taking care of me’. Your daughter needs you.”
“My daughter has me,” I gritted through clenched teeth. It was the truth. What more could I have given Luna that I hadn’t already? I was her dad when she needed someone to open the pickle jar and her mom when she needed someone to tuck her undershirt into her black ballet tights.
Three years ago Luna’s mother, Val, had put Luna in her crib, grabbed her keys and two large suitcases, and disappeared from our lives. We hadn’t been together, Val and I. Luna was the product of a coked-up bachelor party in Chicago that had spun out of control. She was made in the back room of a strip club with Val straddling me while another stripper climbed on top of my face. Looking back, screwing a stripper bareback ought to have awarded me with some kind of a Guinness record for stupidity. I was twenty-eight—not a kid by any stretch of the imagination—and smart enough to know what I was doing was wrong.
But at twenty-eight, I was still thinking with my dick and my wallet.
At thirty-three, I was thinking with my brain and my daughter’s happiness in mind.
“When is this charade going to end?” I cut Sonya off, getting tired of running in circles around the real topic at hand. “Name your price and I’ll pay it. What would it take for you to go private with us?”
Sonya had been working for a private institution partially funded by the state and partially funded by the likes of yours truly. She couldn’t have made more than 80k a year, and I was being extremely fucking optimistic. I’d offered her 150k, the best health insurance on the market for her and her son, and the same amount of hours if she’d agree to come work with Luna exclusively. Sonya let out a long-suffering sigh, her azure eyes crinkling. “Don’t you get it, Trent? You should be focusing on getting Luna to open up to more people, not allowing her to depend on me for communication. Besides, Luna is not the only child who needs me. I enjoy working with a wide range of clients.”
“She loves you,” I countered, plucking dark lint from my impeccable Gucci suit. Did she think I didn’t want my daughter to speak to me? To my parents? To my friends? I’d tried everything. Luna wouldn’t budge. The least I could do was make sure she wasn’t terribly lonely in that head of hers.
“She loves you, too. It will just take more time for her to come out of her shell.”
“Let’s hope it happens before I find a way to break it.” I rose to my feet, only half-joking. My daughter made me feel more helpless than any grown-ass person I’d ever dealt with.
“Trent.” Sonya’s voice pleaded when I was at the door. I stopped, but didn’t turn around. No. Fuck it. She didn’t talk about her family much when she came over for a quick fuck after Luna and the nanny were already asleep, but I knew she was divorced with one kid. Fuck normal Sonya and fuck her normal son. They didn’t understand Luna and me. On paper, maybe. But the real us? The broken, the tortured, the curiosities? Not a chance. Sonya was a good therapist. Unethical? Maybe, but even that was debatable. We had sex knowing there was nothing more to it. No emotions, no complications, no expectations. She was a good therapist, but, like the rest of the world, she was pretty bad at understanding what I was going through. What we were going through.
“Summer break has just started. Please, I urge you to make room for Luna. You work such long hours. She’d really benefit from being around you more.”
I twisted in place, studying her face.
“What are you suggesting?”
“Maybe take a day off every week to spend time with her?”
A few slow blinks from my end were enough to tell her she was grossly overstepping. She backpedaled, but not without a fight. Her lips thinned, telling me she was growing tired of me, too.
“I get it. You’re a big hotshot and can’t afford the time off. Promise me you’ll take her to work with you once a week? Camila can watch over her. I know your office building offers a play room and other amenities suitable for children.” Camila was Luna’s nanny. At sixty-two, with one grandchild and another on the way, her employment with us was on borrowed time. So whenever I heard her name, something inside me stirred uncomfortably.
I nodded. Sonya closed her eyes, letting out a breath. “Thank you.”
In the lobby, I collected Luna’s Dora the Explorer backpack and stuffed her toy seahorse into it. I offered her my hand and she took it. We made the silent journey to the elevator.
“Spaghetti?” I asked, glutton for disappointment. I’d never get a response.
“How about FroYo?”
The elevator pinged. We strode inside. Luna was wearing her black Chucks, a simple pair of jeans, and a white tee. The kind of stuff I could imagine the Van Der Zee girl wearing, when she wasn’t busy mugging innocent people. Luna looked nothing like Jaime’s daughter, Daria, or the other girls in her class who preferred frills and dresses. Just as well, as she found zero interest in them, either.
“How about spaghetti and a FroYo?” I bargained. And I never bargained. Ever.
Her lax hold of my hand tightened a little. Getting warmer.
“We’ll pour the FroYo on top of the spaghetti and eat it in front of Stranger Things. Two episodes. Break bedtime routine. You can go to bed at nine instead of eight.” Fuck it. It was the weekend and my usual willing bodies could wait. Tonight, I was going to watch Netflix with my kid. Be a seahorse.
Luna squeezed my hand once in a silent agreement.
“No chocolate or cookies after dinner, though,” I warned. I ran a tight ship when it came to food and routines in the house. Luna squeezed my hand again.
“Tell it to someone who cares, missy. I’m your dad and I make the rules. No chocolate. Or boys—after dinner or otherwise.”
A ghost of a smile passed on her face before she frowned again, clutching her bag with the stuffed seahorse to her chest. My own daughter had never smiled at me, not even once, not even by accident, not even at all.
Sonya was wrong. I wasn’t a seahorse.
I was the ocean.
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