“Is Dad in his office?”

He gives me another nod, and I smile politely in thanks before turning and going downstairs. With each step, dread weighs down on me. I try and shake it off the best I can. I have to do this. I have to ask the questions that I need answers to. I won’t sit and turn a blind eye to what he might be doing.

The door is ajar, but I knock lightly. “Come in, Loren,” my dad calls, and I push it open.

He stays seated behind his desk. I can already feel the weird tension in the room, but maybe it’s me. He tilts his head and looks me over. He isn’t the same man I remember from years ago, and it’s a reminder of how fast things can change.

“You’re scared of something,” he says as he stands up. “Did someone harm you?” he asks as he braces his hands on his desk.

Did someone harm me? No. Did they touch me? Yes. It won’t be a lie, which is something I always have to be careful about.

“No one has harmed me,” I answer, stepping farther into his office.

“Come sit.” He points to a chair and I do as I’m told, taking a seat in front of him.

He keeps studying me and I don’t even know where to start. I stare at the same face I’ve known my whole life. I’m growing older each year, but his always stays the same. If you told someone we were father and daughter they wouldn’t believe it. Not with how young he still appears.

“Out with it,” he pushes, and I can tell he’s already irritated with me.

It makes me miss the old him even more. Maybe this was the real him all along and I’m only seeing it now that I’m looking for it. I notice he’s getting careless with keeping things hidden from me.

“I found this.” I pull the picture out and place it on the desk. “You lied to me.” He picks up the picture and stares at it without a reaction. “How can I be your child?” The words come out whisper-soft, but I know he hears me.

I wring my hands in my lap. He’s never given me much of a story on his vampire history, telling me the less I know about things the better. I hadn’t pushed because when I was younger I didn’t give it much thought, too young to fully comprehend what a vampire was beyond what I saw on tv or read in a book.

“I raised you, didn’t I?” he says, his voice calm and even. “I gave you everything you needed.”

I nod. “Dad.” I look at the man that has been my life and he’s all I know. “I need you to give me some kind of honesty. Please.”

I silently beg for him to lay everything out and make me feel horrible for the things I’ve conjured up in my mind. Maybe he only told a few small white lies to protect me. I need to know something because my mind keeps trying to come up with reason after reason to distrust him.

He drops the picture back down onto the desk and sits down. I hate the silence that lingers and it makes me think he’s coming up with lies to tell me. The truth should come out easily.

“Are you killing redheaded women?” I toss out the bomb to shake the silence, but he only he lets out a laugh. He throws his head back and the sound doesn’t put me at ease. He’s not laughing as though my question is crazy. It’s sinister. It makes the pain in my stomach throb.

“You’re not as stupid as I thought you were.” His words are worse than a physical slap right to the face and a tear escapes. “Don’t cry.” This time there is a trace of regret in his voice. “I do care for you, Loren. I didn’t think I would, but it grew over time. You’re the closest thing to a daughter I’ll ever have.”

I’m unsure how to respond.

“You should thank me. Your mother, if you can even call her that, had you stuffed in a drug house. You’re lucky to be alive. I found you when you were three years old running around a trash bin barely nourished. I saved you and made you forget that rotten life.”

He smiles like he’s proud of himself and I don’t know how to feel about it. “Is my mother still alive?” He shakes his head. “Bishop killed her.” I repeat the words he’s said to me a hundred times. They’re always in my mind and sometimes they’re on a loop playing over and over. I’m not able to process all of it right now, as crazy as that sounds. Maybe I am going crazy.

“It is because of him she’s dead,” he confirms.

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