Eden O'Neill's Signed Paperback Giveaway!
***Unedited teaser chapter***
The Summer Before Senior Year
Old fucker: Feel free to let yourself in, son. I’ll be in the parlor.
My thumb closed out the text, countless others above it.
They’d been what led me here today.
I’d driven over two hours to see this fucker, tell this fucker what was what. I didn’t need his old ass anymore.
Today, was the day I told him.
I’d admit, the ruse had to go on longer than I had anticipated. I couldn’t come right out with asking the old man what I needed from him. I had to lean into things a bit and pretend like I wanted to get to know him.
I got out of my car, parked in front of a manor the size of a city block. The old fucker had done well in his reclusion. He was an outcast from our town. At least, when it came to me and mine. He wasn’t wanted and after he got out of prison, he’d made a new home for himself far away from my family and me.
Dad kept watch on him the first few years he’d been out from what I understood. He hadn’t wanted the old man to have anything to do with us, with me. Apparently, the old fart upstate didn’t impose much of a threat because eventually I no longer heard whispers of Dad utilizing his monitoring team upstate. He used to often talk about the detail with my mother, but that stopped.
“He’s dead to me. Dead to this family,” I heard my father say. He’d sighed. “Might as well make it official. I won’t grant anymore resources to him.”
But Dad did still keep tabs and I knew that because, on occasion, he did have his PI come in with a report for him. Dad had many contacts, things he used for various reasons. He ran many successful business and worked with many people. With the high stakes clientele he worked with, he often had to find out if those people were on the up and up.
His PI, Marshall, usually came through around once a year, and I knew the guy, knew what he did. Dad claimed he was a friend, but I had my best friend Thatcher look the guy up one day. Marshall was my dad’s way of dealing with the fact that his fucked up kin was currently out in the real world. It was Dad’s way of functioning.
What I’d been doing recently was mine.
Since Charlie died, I needed help. I hadn’t wanted to stress my father out or my mother. Coming to see this old fuck weekly all summer had been my way to get what I needed to be okay. He helped me find the woman responsible for Charlie’s death and according to Thatcher, she was returning to her position of headmaster of my school this upcoming term.
Things were finally coming in full circle, and I didn’t need to put on with the ruse. I didn’t have to take the phone calls or worry about a text being seen by my mother or father. I didn’t have to pretend anymore. I was ending this with my grandfather today.
And it’d be oh so sweet.
I slammed the car door behind me, my grandfather’s manservant Samuel meeting me out on the cobblestone walk. He offered to take my keys from me and drive my car around to my grandfather’s garages.
I told him no need.
I wouldn’t be long and met my grandfather in his parlor. He had a fine mansion, opulent with all the bells and whistles. He had more rooms in it than his old ass knees could even take him into. Same with the stairs. I was quite sure he hadn’t seen a quarter of this house that looked like something out of some old ass European flick.
My feet creaked on the polished hardwood, my grandfather sitting in front of a chess set. We had a routine during these visits, and I forced down the bile in my throat every time. I had to sip tea with him like some uppity ass prick, moving chess pieces around with him while he spoke to me about my dad, old stories he had about my father in his youth. I listened to this while trying not to choke on the fucker’s cigar smoke. He’d also offered me a puff on the thing more than once.
He’d offered me alcohol too like a good and responsible grandfather. He claimed norms imposed on society were for the normal.
We weren’t normal.
We were elite. We were above and this was something he never failed to remind me. He never asked about current details regarding my father or mother. I didn’t think he cared.
He was too busy working on me.
His eyes lifted from his chess set, our tea already out and ready. He also had that cigar smoking in his fingers. He waved a hand. “Take a seat, son.”
I wouldn’t, no longer fighting the sneer at being referred to by a title only my father was able to use. I was his son, and I may be blood related to this man, but only on paper.
Grandfather noticed me standing there, the man aged but not as old looking as what I’d hoped. He was in his seventies, but took very good care of himself. He swayed at least a full decade younger, his graying blond more pepper than salt. He appeared distinguished in his smoking jacket and was probably the only old man I’d ever seen that might actually pack a punch if he’d ever decided to throw down. My grandfather was a large man, and I knew he had used those fists in the past. He’d done so on my father. I’d heard the stories.
I stayed by the door, clenching my own fists, and I’d give it to my grandfather. He pretended not to notice. Instead, he angled his gaze down to the chess board.
“You have words for me,” he said, moving a pawn. These were always sacrificed first. He sat back in his chair. “Be a man and say them, son.”
Be a man.
I smirked, the toxicity this fucker emanated off him could be bottled. It reeked of privilege and old values. I wet my lips. “I’m not your son, old man.” Shit, did that feel fucking good. I’d been holding back my taunts, my own jabs. I forced a finger in his direction. “Never fucking call me son. Ever.”
I honestly had no idea how I’d been able to hold off on this day for so long. The words itched my tongue every sip of tea I took and piece of bullshit I did have to tell him about my life. I never told him the truth. I made shit up about me and what I was into. I never did speak a word about my family. This was all a lie and had been from the beginning.
Grandfather tapped his cigar on an ashtray, not phased in slightest by what I said. “I see.”
“No, you don’t actually.” I went over and placed my hands on the chess set.
I tossed it.
The pieces flew everywhere, all over the floor and scattered. I didn’t bother to watch them roll before I was in this old fuck’s face.
“I don’t want anything to do with you,” I said calmly, strategically. Grandfather hadn’t moved an inch, but only to watch me. He appeared nothing if not intrigued by my rant, and that only made me want to punch is old ass more. “I never did. This was a lie.”
His blink was rather slow. “A lie?”
“Yes.” I pushed off the table. “I used your ass, old man. I did and now that I got what I needed, I don’t want anything to do with you.”
I watched the words play on my grandfather’s face, his pokerface a good one. I couldn’t tell if anything I said meant anything to him.
At least, at first.
Sitting up, he tapped the chess-free table. He nodded. “I know.”
He nodded again. “I know you haven’t been coming here because you particular liked me, son—”
My teeth gnashed.
His head bobbed once more. “Dorian. I know you don’t want to be here and only came here because you did need help with your little problem.”
My heart raced, my vision red. He called my uncle’s death a little problem, and it was only the man my mother raised that kept me from actually punching a seventy-year-old man.
My nails dug into my palms, probably enough to draw blood but it was all I could do in order to stand there when my grandfather got up.
He placed his back to me, going to the roaring fireplace. He took the poker, tending to the fire.
“You needed me for something,” he said, tossing the embers. “You did, and it brought you to me. I didn’t care your reason. It brought you here. Got you to get to know me.”
“I don’t want to fucking know you.” My fists unclenched and only then, did he turn around. He had his cigar still in his hand, puffing out thick smoke.
“I think you know more about me than you think,” he said studying my hands clench and unclench. Thick smoke clouded around him. “We had a mutual exchanged, and I forgive you for taking advantage of the situation.”
I smirked again, coming over. I shot a finger in his direction. “This ends today, old man. I won’t be coming up here anymore. Playing chess or smelling your funky as shit smelling cigars.”
To prove that, I took it from him. I broke it in two, then tossed it into the fire, the thing going up in flame.
Grandfather did nothing. He said nothing when I got in his face again.
“I hated you from the moment I found out you existed,” I said my throat working. “You’re a monster and an abuser. The only thing keeping you from the title murderer is because you didn’t technically kill my aunt Paige.” He’d covered it up which was as good as him being one as far as I was concerned. “You stay away from me, and you stay away from my family.”
Grandfather studied me, as if I was a child, and he was merely entertaining my presence. Without missing a beat, he pulled another cigar out of his jacket.
He lit it up in my face.
“Now that you’ve proposed your terms, I’ll state mine,” he said, blowing smoke in my face now. He smiled like an arrogant fuck. “Only fair, correct?”
What the fuck did I give about being fair when it came to him? Even still, he continued on, placing his back to me again. He walked over to the window our chess set faced, a perfect view of his gardens and fountains. In fact, it looked so much like our property back home in the backyard it made me sick.
What he had out here was about three times larger. Like he was trying to outdo my father’s childhood home and the gardens my biological grandmother actually planted. Grandpa Prinze soiled her name with this whole phony-ass display.
Probably on purpose.
“You know, you’re so much more like me than he ever was,” Grandfather said. He grinned. “Your father? What you call abuse, I call toughening him up, making him a man.”
I saw red, seething, shaking. I almost couldn’t see through the haze of red.
He faced me. “I’m sure he never used my tactics, but you still managed to be stronger than he ever was.”
“Fuck you,” I growled and in my haze, I did approach him. I raised a fist.
He caught it. He did by the wrist, but he only stopped me from hitting him, made hesitate, because of the look in his eyes.
Horrifying, it stared back at me, a warning in the old man’s gaze.
The smile with it only made it appear more warped.
“My new proposal is that you do what I say,” he said, his head tilted. “You continue to come here and do what this old man says. You visit me and humor your grandfather.”
“You’re fucking crazy—”
“Because otherwise things can happen,” he stated, making my blink. He nodded. “Terrible things can happen, and I’m sure you wouldn’t want your parents knowing about these visits. They’d be pretty upset, their lives disrupted. And how is your mother these days? She still work for the city?”
His grin widened. “Surely, you know I’d keep tabs on my son and his family. I mean, where do you think he learned it?”
He lowered my fist slowly, so chillingly calm my stomach clenched. He puffed his cigar again, wetting his lips after. He directed his cigar at me. “You’ll continue to come see me. You will until I see fit.” He leaned in. “After all, we wouldn’t want another accident. What happened to your aunt Paige was so tragic.” He made direct eye contact. “Wouldn’t want your mother having any bad luck.”
He tapped my face, making me twitch again.
He sat at the table, picking his ashtray up off the floor. He knocked some ashes into it. “You’re dismissed for today. I’m sure you have a lot to think about.”
He’d said it so cooly, so coldly. Like he hadn’t just threatened my mother’s life.
Like it meant nothing.
Such words probably didn’t to this man, this monster.
Turning, I left but his words stopped me at the door. He said my name, and when I turned, he was smoking his cigar again.
He blew smoke from his lips. “How’s the weather in Maywood Heights this time of year?” he asked, casually. He shrugged. “I might be thinking of relocating.”
Shock kept me silent, but strength kept me standing.
Grandfather grinned. “You think about that too,” he said, then stared at the window. That was the last thing I saw before I closed the door. I strode with unsteady footing all the way to my car.
I had a lot of time to think during my drive home that night, but my last thought sobered. He said I was more like him than my father, and he may be right. There was only one way to fix what I’d done. I’d opened Pandora’s box, and there would ultimately be only one way to close it, end it. My grandfather couldn’t be on this earth if I wanted my family safe.
I’d have to take care of him.