I loved it.
The phone calls happened on my second day.
Miss Patrice called. Matthew called. I got another phone number from him, one that I was going to reach out to later on.
Then in the early afternoon, the visitors started.
Graham and Britney came to visit. My mother and Guy came later. Nate came back in the evening. Aspen was with him. Taylor, too. Ricci. No Calihan, but I was okay with that. Cal was… complicated. I understood complicated. That had been me, and that brought me to the call I made.
I thought long and hard, but I needed to do it.
“Are you sure you want to risk this?”
The question came from Carl Mallone, my dad’s last PI, and I say the last because Duke fired him. When I called Carl, he explained that Duke wanted him to do surveillance on Nate and me.
Carl refused. Carl got fired.
A new PI was hired, but Carl assured me the second PI wasn’t good.
“All honesty, he’ll probably photoshop something if he can’t find anything and charge your dad double. Your dad will realize he’s been scammed and will fire him. I wouldn’t worry about the newest PI.”
I wasn’t worried, and maybe I should’ve been, but I wasn’t. Not about any current dirt my father was looking to unearth. I was worried he’d get someone to believe his accusation that I stepped in front of that car on purpose, and that would gut me. I didn’t do that, and I didn’t want Nova to grow up thinking I had done that. So, to end that all, I made the call to Carl.
And now, here I was.
He called back a day later with what I needed.
Now I just needed to find the courage to go through with it, and as I was sitting in my hospital room, waiting for Nate and the nurse to come to get me, the courage wasn’t in me.
I just wanted to go home.
I just wanted to hold my girl.
I just wanted to crawl in bed with Nate.
That was all I wanted.
My father was like a pretty snake with fur. A pretty furry snake with doe-like eyes that was poisonous. When you saw it, you didn’t know quite what it was, and you got pulled in by the fur and the doe-like eyes. You thought it was a long sort of wiener dog, and you didn’t know if you should think he was cute or a new sort of species, but then because you were confused, that was when he could strike and hurt you.
I needed to just shoo the snake out of the house.
That was what I was going to do, and that was why I called him to come here an hour before Nate was supposed to arrive.
There he was. My furry doe-eyed snake.
I heard the voices as I approached.
I didn’t mean to eavesdrop, but… when I heard what I heard, I couldn’t move. Not a foot.
Then I was torn apart.
I stood from my bed, then decided to perch on the end. Folding my hands in my lap, I rolled my shoulders back and straightened my spine. I was a perfect dancer in front of the so-not perfect father.
I didn’t care.
I was pulling on my armor for one last showdown with him. After that, I’d let myself bleed, and I’d lick my wounds, but I’d be okay.
I’d be okay…
He stepped inside the room, and I started. “It has to stop.”
My dad’s eyes were dead. He was cold.
A shiver wound down my spine because I realized how accurate my thoughts of him as a snake were. I also knew that he wasn’t going to stop, ever.
“You need to stop.” He moved farther into the room. “You need to grow up, wake up, and come home. If you bring my granddaughter, I will allow you to live on my premises.”
“She’s not yours. Not even through blood.”
“Valerie gave her to you. You are mine. Nova is mine. I want you both at home. This has gone on long enough.”
“Valerie wasn’t your child.”
“But you are. And you are Nova’s mother now. I can help you fight Monson.”
I opened my mouth.
He beat me to it, saying, “I’m aware you’re sleeping with him. And that’s okay. I understand.”
“You do?” I frowned.
“Of course. You’re ensuring your future. You’re doing what you feel you need to do so that he won’t leave you without Nova or worse, destitute. But you’re not. You have me. I can take care of you, of both my girls. But you have to come home, and we have to prepare for battle. Monson has proven to be a worthy adversary, but we can beat him. I’ll need you to tell me everything he’s done to you. That’ll make the case go better. We’ll get enough traction, and then we can take further steps against him.”
My lips parted.
He was mad. Literally.
I asked, “Like what?”
He shrugged. “I know cops.”
Dread sliced my insides, cutting a line down my organs. I was bleeding internally. “Like dirty cops?”
He didn’t answer.
“I think your dad will set me up.” Nate said it, and he was right.
I moved farther on the bed. I was no longer perched on it, but I was standing and leaning a hip against it. My arms were starting to tremble. A dancer had complete control over her body. I commanded my arms to go still, but they didn’t.
I stuffed them behind me to hide the shaking.
“I’ll do what I need to do. Monson won’t be able to raise Nova. I’ll make sure of that.”
I knew it then. I hadn’t known it, but I did right then and right at that moment.
I let out a small laugh, a sad laugh. “I was ready for you. I called you. I knew what I needed to do when you came to see me, but I had hoped that I wouldn’t have to do it. I hoped that you wouldn’t be who you are, and there would’ve been a part of you that would’ve come in. You would’ve seen me. You would’ve realized you were being wrong in everything you’re doing, and you would’ve asked to hug me. You would’ve told me you loved me. And you would’ve asked what you could do to make it better.”
A tear tracked down my cheek.
I let it be.
My voice was hoarse, almost cracking. “But you didn’t, because that’s not who you are. And I can’t have who you are in my life anymore, even if you are my father. This is it, Dad. This is the end for us. I want you to stop plotting after Nate or me.”