Home > The Ravishing(6)

The Ravishing(6)
Author: Ava Harrison

“You like Jake, don’t you?” She’d broken my melancholia.

“He makes you happy.”

She rolled her eyes.

“Seems decent.”

“I love him.”

“Him loving you more is what matters to me.”

“He does.”

“You’re a great couple,” I said to reassure her with a wry smile.

It seemed to work as she rested her head against my chest and relaxed into the slow dance.

Time would tell. Jake had married into the Calvetti family, and that meant he was aware our father had built one of the greatest shipping empires in the world. Maybe Dad had also dabbled on the edge of the underworld, but it had been me who’d finally taken us right into its center.

It hadn’t always been this way.

As a young man, I was shipped off to boarding school and lived amongst the upper crust of New York society until I graduated. Foolishly, I’d believed it would always be like this.

Privileged and safe.

Until that evening.

That short visit home to New Orleans.

The future I envisioned for myself changed in the blink of an eye.

I had seen the worst of what men can do. I’d been unprepared for the slaughter that ensued, taking our parents from us, and I had been forced to become a man before I was supposed to.

Forced to put myself second and my sister first. I’d done it gladly. I’d do anything for her.

“You’ve given me the best wedding.” Her eyes watered with emotion.

Pulling her closer, I said, “Shhh.”

“This will be you one day.”

“Focus on you,” I said firmly. “This day is yours.”

Me having a lover meant that she would be vulnerable to the whim of a man who would take his revenge out on her. Loving anyone left me vulnerable, and I needed to remain vigilant. Needed to be constantly poised to take down that family.

But only when I was ready.

There was a glimmer of affection left for my sister. The Glassmans had stolen the rest.

All that remained was hate.

That was what they’d done to me. Replaced my soul with an endless void after murdering our parents. The unseen scars were a testament to their attack that day.

I had failed.

I wasn’t able to protect them.

Unable to save Mom.

The memories of that house in the woods marked what those people were capable of. At fourteen, that event left more than an indelible impression. It had carved out a monster.

Forever changed.

Though I did what I could to protect Sofia from my darkness.

“Mom would be so proud,” I whispered close to her ear.

She closed her eyes as she sank into Sinatra’s dulcet tones and sighed as though letting the memory of our parents wash over her. I held onto this thought of Mom, bringing her into this moment, even as I endured the loss of her, so she could be with us in her own way. Dad, too, would have loved every second of this wedding.

Glassman had stolen that from us.

And I would repay him by delivering him to hell.

The bad blood between families would never cease until that entire family was wiped from the earth.

I’d start with his children.

That was what I had told Glassman three weeks after he’d killed my parents. He’d laughed in my face, but something told me my words had rattled him.

Even with our security tight, I’d suspected one of Glassman’s men would attempt to make a show of it this evening.

A counter-threat.

Which proved he still thought of me as a hazard. I was flattered, to be honest. Knowing he was still scared gave me a warm feeling all over. Like downing a Macallan Old Double Cask Whisky and letting the liquor flow through your bloodstream.

It’s time.

Ridley didn’t need to know the details of what was to happen next.

After this dance, I’d head off to the boathouse to become acquainted with our trespasser.

 

 

Anya

 

Consumed with dread, I stood in Archie’s bedroom staring at his bruised and swollen left eye. “What happened?”

He sat in his swivel chair and turned away from me. Sliding his headphones back on his head. . .

I hated seeing him hurting.

Archie gripped his controller and went back to playing Fortnite. The video game fired-up on his monitor before him—plunging his character into mayhem.

I took a step closer. “Archie, was it Dad? What happened?”

“Leave me alone.”

“Not until you tell me.”

He threw down his controller and yanked off his headphones. “Dad found me in his office.”

“Why were you in there?”

“Go away.”

“Talk to me—”

“Leave me alone!”

I left him for a few minutes to calm down, brought back a bag of frozen peas from the freezer, and placed it over his bruised eye, just like I’d seen in movies. His expression softened as he sat back on the edge of his bed.

I sat beside him. “Please.”

Archie slid the make-shift icepack of frozen peas down his bruised cheek. “Ever wondered why we aren’t allowed in his office?”

“He doesn’t like when we move things.” I shrugged.

“It’s more than that,” he grimaced.

My back stiffened. “What do you mean? Did you find something?”

“Yeah.” He nodded. “I’d have to show you. You won’t believe me otherwise.” He threw the defrosted bag of peas onto his desk.

We left his room.

He led me down the hall, pausing before my parents’ room. His index finger rested on his lips, gesturing for me to remain quiet. They weren’t home, but a stray staff member could see us, and maybe even report back to them that we’d been in here.

Archie turned the handle and went in.

Curiosity made me follow him.

Stopping before a painting—a boring green valley with lush trees that drew little attention—he reached up to remove it from the wall and revealed a safe hidden behind it.

With the ease of someone who’d memorized the code, he punched away at a series of digits on the numbered pad. A beep and a click and it opened.

“I watched Dad,” he answered my unspoken question. “Promise me they’ll never know I showed you this.”

“Promise.” Looking beyond his hand, I watched as he reached into the gaping safe filled with papers.

Archie removed a leather binder and flung it open to the first page.

“What’s this?” I asked nervously.

He rested his hand over one of the photos. “Promise you’ll never ask Mom or Dad about it.”

“Show me.”

Sliding his palm away, Archie pointed at a photo of a small girl about four or so. She could have been me when I was that age. We were similar in that both of us had brown hair and her eyes, like my own, were a deep shade of blue. But she wasn’t me. That birthmark on her wrist proved it.

“Who’s that?”

A deep swallow rolled down Archie’s throat. “Her name was Anya.”

My stomach roiled as though my name was poison, and it was threading its way into my blood and constricting my veins. “That’s not me.”

A wave of emotion flashed over him. “I know.”

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