Home > The Stepsisters(4)

The Stepsisters(4)
Author: Susan Mallery

   “You’re right. Try to sleep, baby girl. I love you.”

   “I love you, too, Mommy.”

   Daisy and Esmerelda stepped into the hallway.

   “I’ll stay close,” Esmerelda promised. “Twenty minutes and Tylenol.”

   “Thank you. I’m going to check on Ben.”

   Her son’s room was across the hall. Like Krissa’s room, it was large, with big windows and high ceilings. The en-suite bathroom was larger than most master baths—one of the realities of living in a fifteen-thousand-square-foot house. There weren’t all that many extra rooms, but the rooms they did have were huge.

   Ben was still in bed, but sitting up and reading on his tablet, Sheba already back in her place in the middle of his bed. Simba the cat stretched out against her favorite dog.

   Ben smiled when he saw her. “Hey, Mom.”

   “Hey, yourself.”

   He was ten, with sandy brown hair and the same hazel eyes as his sister. More serious and intellectual than Krissa, he’d always been older than his years.

   “Your sister is sick. You have powerful germs, young man.”

   He grinned and flexed his right arm. “I’m super strong.”

   “You are.” She sat on his bed and kissed the top of his head. “How are you feeling?”

   “Better. I had soup for lunch and toast. Esmerelda says I can come downstairs tonight.” He looked at her. “Mom, I want to do my homework. If I don’t, I’ll fall behind.”

   “I think the odds of you falling behind are incredibly slim.” She glanced at her watch. “All right. You can get up and sit at your desk for an hour, but only an hour. Then back to bed.”

   He grinned and scrambled to his feet. Sheba watched to see what was happening, then when Ben only went as far as his desk, she settled back to sleep.

   Daisy looked around the room. When Ben had been ready to leave the nursery and move into his “big boy” bedroom, she’d redone the whole space. The neutral, masculine colors would carry him through college. The bed and dressers were new, but the captain’s desk was old—salvaged from an eighteenth-century sailing ship. It was elegant, with just enough scars to be interesting.

   This had been Sage’s room, she thought, trying to remember what it had looked like back then. The furniture had been lighter, the drapes more frilly. She remembered a big dollhouse in the corner. A dollhouse that had been relocated from the playroom to Sage’s personal space—something Daisy had always resented.

   But her father had reasoned that the move had been hard on Sage. She was leaving everything she’d known to come live with them and it was up to Daisy to make her feel welcome. It hadn’t taken long for Daisy to realize that the only person who didn’t belong here anymore was her.

   Even after the divorce, things hadn’t gotten much better. Because of the joint custody arrangement with Cassidy, Sage and her mother had moved into a house in the area and Sage had continued to attend the same private school. Daisy couldn’t escape Sage’s reign as queen of the mean girls. Being smart didn’t matter if you were also overweight and anything but pretty.

   “That was a long time ago,” Daisy whispered as she walked out of the bedroom. These days she and Sage were practically strangers. She didn’t need to dwell on the past. Running into her former stepsister had been a onetime thing. What were the odds of it happening again anytime soon? A million to one, she promised herself.




   After making arrangements to have her car picked up and taken to the service department at the dealership, Daisy checked on Krissa one more time before heading to the opposite end of the second floor. The master suite was large, encompassing several rooms, including a study she used as her home office, along with his-and-her bathrooms and closets.

   She grabbed jeans, a T-shirt, fresh underwear and a bra before heading into her bathroom. She pinned up her hair and then stepped into the steamy shower.

   Alone for the first time all day, she allowed herself to think about Jordan. At some point she was going to have to let him know that now Krissa was sick. He was, after all, their father.

   Bitterness welled up inside of her. Yes, he was their father and he was also the man who had walked out on his wife and kids two days ago, with no warning. She’d finished her shift, gone to her locker and had found a text from him saying that he was going to be moving out for a few days. Just like that. No conversation, no explanation, just him gone.

   She’d been stunned, hurt, outraged and scared. Fortunately outrage had won, allowing her to hold it all together. Because while he’d been in a hotel somewhere, she was left with everything else, including letting their kids know their father was gone.

   She’d told him it was unfair to scare them with what was happening. He’d agreed and they’d decided to tell Ben and Krissa that he was away at a conference. But that excuse would only last for so long, she thought as she stepped out of the shower and grabbed a towel. At some point she and Jordan were going to have to talk about what was happening in their marriage. Easier said than done considering she didn’t know herself.

   Oh, sure they fought from time to time and for the past few weeks, he’d seemed quiet. And lately they’d both been busy and hadn’t had much time for each other, but that was normal. Life got in the way, then they worked on fixing the problem. Only Jordan didn’t seem interested in fixing so much as going for the dramatic gesture.

   As she dressed, she tried to figure out what he was thinking. Resentment kept clouding her judgment, making her want to grab him by his shirtfront and shake some sense into him. Given that she wasn’t especially strong and that he was a good eight inches taller, the odds of that happening seemed unlikely.

   She slipped on flats, then grabbed her phone. She should let the school know she was keeping—

   I’m moving into an extended-stay hotel later today so it’s easier for me to have the kids over while we figure out what’s going on with us.

   She stared at the text. Fury overtook outrage. “No you didn’t.”

   She hit the call button and waited, knowing there was a better than even chance he wouldn’t pick up. The phone rang and rang. She wasn’t sure if he was avoiding her or with a patient. She was about to hang up when he answered.

   “You got my text,” Jordan said by way of greeting.

   “Yes, I did. Really? Is this how you wanted to tell me what was happening? By text? You couldn’t face me in person or call? Let me answer the damned question. What’s going on with us is you left. You just walked out with no warning, leaving me to pick up the pieces. Has it occurred to you that your inability to communicate might be part of the reason we’re having problems in the first place?”

Hot Books
» House of Earth and Blood (Crescent City #1)
» From Blood and Ash (Blood And Ash #1)
» A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire
» The Queen of Nothing (The Folk of the Air #
» Deviant King (Royal Elite #1)
» Sweet Temptation
» Chasing Cassandra (The Ravenels #6)
» The Play (Briar U Book 3)
» Den of Vipers
» Angry God (All Saints High #3)
» Steel Princess (Royal Elite #2)
» Serpent & Dove(Serpent & Dove #1)
» Archangel's War
» Credence