Home > The Ravishing(4)

The Ravishing(4)
Author: Ava Harrison

I didn’t look like them and didn’t feel like them. Hell, I didn’t even sound like these interlopers.

Another thing drilled into me from an early age was to perfect my accent, so I sounded uber posh, like one of those Ivy League students. The ones who got to make decisions for themselves.

I was raised to be perfect. Poised, polished, and precisely elegant. No southern accents. No hair out of place and, most importantly, no personality—in case I was ever noticed.

It was exhausting, to be honest.

What was it all for?

Perhaps for this precise moment, when I could make an appearance and smile and wave at strangers as Glassman’s daughter. Giving credence to the web of lies they’d spun about my brother and me existing happily in this place. One happy family that could make the neighbors think they were the outliers.

Across the lawn, surrounded by Archie’s fake friends who he didn’t even know, my brother stopped talking just long enough to stare up at me with the same emotionless expression. That silent warning to prevent me from coming over. He didn’t want me embarrassing him in front of these people he hoped would be his friends.

There was no affection here.

Not even in his eyes.

It didn’t take him long to make his way over to me. We might not be close, but we both agreed this place sucked.

The one thing that tethered us together.

He stood beside me. Neither of us spoke. Both of us watched the crowd as if we were waiting for something to happen. As though someone might point out what we were so good at hiding.

I’d filled in the spaces between the mystery—imagined my dad was an American spy, and that was why he kept us safe in Louisiana. Or maybe he advised senior political figures with his foreign business insight, which warranted the impenetrable-iron-gates kind of protection.

Archie looked miserable. Both of us just looking out at his fake friends, who seemed to be having fun, as we waited for the curtain to rise on our ruse.

“Where is he?” I finally asked.

Archie turned to face me, cocking his head in a question. “Who?”

I shook my head at his silence. “Dad. Who else?”

“Oh. . .” He trailed off for emphasis. “You really think he’d be out here for this?”

I let out a long, drawn-out sigh. “Yes.” I shouldn’t have hoped, but somewhere inside me, I’d convinced myself I deserved it. “He told me he would be.”

“Wow, Anya. You actually believe that shit.” No matter how much he disappointed me in the past, I did.

“He didn’t attend mine.”

“You weren’t turning eighteen.”

“True. He was out of the country on business on my sixteenth birthday, remember?”

I nudged his arm playfully. “You know he loves you in his own twisted way.”

Archie smirked, but then his eyes filled with sadness. For him or me, it was hard to tell.

Regardless of how I wanted to protest, I knew he was right. They treated us equally. A fair dose of shit for us both.

Still, for some reason, I thought today would be different. I had this false belief my father would come through today on my eighteenth birthday. That he’d leave the sanctity of his office and make an appearance.

I was wrong.

So painfully wrong.

“I know you want out.” Archie sidled closer. “You’ll be able to leave soon.”

His voice cut through my inner rambling, and I looked up at him, up into his big eyes that were filled with hope and jealousy all mixed into one. We always spoke of this day, when we were legal and what would happen.

“Technically, I can go, but the question is will he let me,” I muttered under my breath.

“Can he stop you?”

“Yes.”

“Mom wouldn’t want you to go.”

I gave him a look he deserved. He gave me a knowing nod of agreement back, confirming what we both knew. She’d hardly notice.

This cage was not just fortified with towering walls, my parents also etched it in fear. Fear of the unknown, of the world outside my bubble.

Someone must have known why we were forced to live like this.

A grandparent, maybe? An aunt or uncle? Someone held the answers, and the knot twisting in my stomach demanded I find them.

I walked away.

From behind me, I heard his question. “Where are you going?”

I didn’t answer. Refused to have him stop me.

If Dad wasn’t coming out here, I’d go to him.

Walking through the throngs of people without slowing my pace, I headed inside. With each stride more resolute, I would ask him why he didn’t think me important enough to show up.

I pushed down the butterflies swarming in my belly.

The closer I got, the worse it felt, as if they were frantically flapping their wings in a panic, trying to dissuade me. Terrified I’d pass out from nerves, I turned the corner and faced that sprawling hallway and saw the open door to his office.

He was standing there.

Imposing.

Leaning on the doorjamb, he was seemingly deep in thought. Half in his office, half out, as though unsure.

And he was never unsure.

Larger than life, his shoulders filled the space, his eyes dark with an intensity that shook everyone they fell upon—as though looks really could kill.

His mind clearly on anything other than the celebrations outside.

Our gazes caught, and his eyes narrowed in displeasure. I opened my mouth to speak, to say something that would garner his affection and remind him what today was, but before my words came spilling out, he gave me a look that rocked me to the core. It looked a lot like disappointment.

He shut the door—shutting me out, leaving me standing in the hallway.

 

 

Cassius

 

Sofia was the only good thing left in this world, and seeing her free of worry was like breathing in the freshest air for the first time in decades. It was everything.

She was everything.

Beneath the archway of freshly plucked flowers, I watched my sister have the first dance with her new husband, Jake Powel.

I wasn’t the only one either.

Hundreds of guests sat at the surrounding tables, and they were equally enamored by them.

Normally, I wasn’t much for details, but even I could see the beauty around me.

The cream-and-silver-themed décor was an understated touch, but it reflected my sister’s personality to perfection. She’d never gone for showy. Sofia was as humble as she was beautiful.

And tonight, she looked stunning in her wedding gown. She hadn’t wanted to spend a fortune, but when she saw the Tom Ford gown, the smile that spread across her face was enough for me to hand her my black card and demand she buy it.

She’d gushed that it was made from the finest lace, but as an older brother, all I saw was a plunging V-neckline. One that my mother would have loved, but my father would have raised his eyebrow at.

Regardless of my protective nature, she looked gorgeous, and seeing her dance was enough to make me form a real and genuine smile.

She could have asked for extinct animals to be reanimated for today, and I would have done everything in my power to make it a reality. I only wished Mom could’ve been here. Instead of me walking Sofia down the aisle, it should have been Dad.

Mom had asked me to promise to look after her, and after all these years, I could honestly say I had done just that.

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