The Best Goodbye(Rosemary Beach #13)(9) by Abbi Glines
“In the hall closet.” She let out in an angry growl. “But if you go after her, I’ll lock you in the attic.”
“Noooo!” I cried under my breath. The attic was so hot and dirty. Every time she locked me up in there, I had nightmares for days afterward.
“You aren’t putting me anywhere. I’ll tell Dad,” he said. Then his footsteps drew closer toward me.
I wished he’d just leave me in here. We would both pay for this later. She’d do something terrible.
The doorknob turned, and I squinted against the light as I looked up at him. He was so tall, and at that moment, with that fierce expression on his face, I was sure he was my angel. Maybe God had heard me and sent me River.
He dropped to his knees and held out a hand to me. “It’s OK, Addy. I’m here.” His voice was gentle. Nothing like what I’d heard him use with his mother.
“If you take her out of that closet, I will call social services and have her sent away. I don’t have to keep her here. She’s not what I wanted. She’s a mean child.”
I didn’t want to go to a group home, and I didn’t want to lose River, but I kept my mouth closed. Among my options, there were two kinds of evil. I knew this one; I didn’t know the one I would face out there. I also wouldn’t have River to stand up for me.
“If you send her away, I’ll tell Dad you’re taking pills again,” River said, turning to look at her. “I know. I have proof. I’ll tell him, and he’ll leave this time. For good.”
I wasn’t sure what pills he was talking about, but her face paled. She didn’t say anything but turned and stalked away.
“Come on, Addy. She’ll lock herself away for the night now. I beat her at her own game,” he said, taking my hand in his and giving it a gentle squeeze. “Let’s get you some food.”
“Your dad is coming home,” I whispered, afraid she’d hear me and come back.
He scowled and shook his head. “No, he’s not. He’s with his secretary. Come on, let’s go eat.”
It was her laugh. Brad had fucking made her laugh enough today that I’d had plenty of opportunities to evaluate it. Telling myself that Rose’s laugh reminded me of hers was an understatement. Rose had Addy’s laugh. Even the way her eyes danced and the way she tilted her head were identical to Addy’s. It was hard to watch and listen to.
I’d had to bite back a snarled demand that she stop laughing twice today. I hated how the sound of it made me feel, because with its warmth came the sharp pain of loss. Something I thought I’d overcome years ago. I’d have to keep Rose at a distance. She was a hard worker and a single mom. I couldn’t fire her. I just had to avoid her, or I was going to crack. Emotional damage came with those memories. Even after all these years, it was a trauma I’d never forget. My actions following Addy’s death had changed me. I’d never be the same person again.
With each man I killed, I lost a little more of my soul. Even if those men deserved death, being the one to end their lives took a piece of me. I knew I’d never love again, because I couldn’t. My emotions weren’t normal; I was both haunted by them and cut off from them in a way that couldn’t be healed.
When I pulled my truck up to the marina where I kept my boat, I saw Elle’s car. I’d told her I wasn’t in the mood for company tonight, but she hadn’t listened. She rarely did. Maybe what I needed was to let her take my mind off the past.
I’d lived on the boat for most of my adult life. It moved with me, and having it meant I could leave at any time. I liked the freedom it gave me. I had missed it when I was in Texas, my most recent state of residence. Houses brought back bad memories for me. I couldn’t bring myself to stay in a house.
My boat gave me peace.
Stepping inside, I noticed Elle in the small kitchen, fixing sandwiches. When she did stuff like this, I felt guilty for leading her on, if that was what I was doing. She had her issues, but she wasn’t all that bad. When I needed stress relief, she was there. I just didn’t have what she needed emotionally. I wasn’t ever going to want more. I’d never care about her deeply, let alone love her.
Her long brown hair swung over her shoulder as she glanced back at me. Then she smiled. That smile was safe. It didn’t cause painful constrictions in my chest. She didn’t remind me of all I’d lost. She could laugh, and it wouldn’t affect me. Yet another reason I liked Elle.
“I know you said you weren’t in the mood for company, but I figured you needed to eat, and I was hungry, so I fixed us some sandwiches. We can eat together, at least. Then I’ll leave.”
She knew she wasn’t leaving as well as I did. But I just nodded and walked over to the fridge to grab a beer. “You want something?” I asked.
“A beer is good,” she replied, a little too happily. She knew she’d won. I was too tired to care.
I took two beers and put hers on the counter before picking up my sandwich. It was the bigger of the two. She rarely ate large portions. I doubted she’d eat half of the sandwich she’d fixed for herself.
Taking a bite, I leaned back and watched the black waves outside. It was calm tonight. No wind to make things rough.
“You don’t want to sit?” she asked, breaking into my thoughts.
I shook my head and took another bite.
“You seem tense today. Like you’re ready to explode at any moment.”