“I know you remember me,” I say. When she still doesn’t speak, I yell, “Look at me!”

I want her to know that I won’t let her forget me. That her father used her to explain the fact I’m losing my job.

Suddenly, her father grabs my wrist, and growls, “Listen to me, you little …” He clears his throat to prevent himself from saying something I’m sure was going to be nasty. “Don’t you fucking look or talk to my daughter like that. You will never, ever be good enough for my daughter. You hear me?”

“Father,” Charlotte mutters, her eyes widened.

I jerk myself free from his grip. “I never said I wanted—”

“I’m not blind, kid. I know you want her; I saw it with my own eyes. I’ve known ever since you two had that little chat at my wedding.” He points at me with his crooked finger as if it’s a gun. “And I’ll die before I let that happen.”

I swallow, trying to make sense of his words. Is this a threat or a dare? I can’t tell.

“Don’t think you ever had a chance to begin with, boy,” he adds.

I don’t believe him.

“Father!” Charlotte looks mortified. “Please!”

He completely ignores her. “You’re just a common busboy. A waiter who’ll serve our drinks and that’s it. You won’t amount to anything more, and she will never, ever talk to you again. You hear me?”

My nostrils flare as I glance at both her and her father, but he’s the only one who will look me directly in the eyes. It’s as though she’s too afraid to even try. She’s still ignoring me, still pretending I don’t exist, and that fucking hurts.

I don’t say another word as I grab the two glasses and take them with me back to the kitchen. I won’t give him the satisfaction of my response. I won’t let them witness my full-blown rage.

Both of them will get their comeuppance one day. I’ll make sure of it. And when the time comes, I’ll dance on her father’s fucking grave.

A stupid smirk spreads across my lips. One day, she will belong to me. Whatever it takes. I won’t stop until she’s mine completely.

And I’ll make him witness me kissing her, marrying her … fucking her.

Just so that bastard can see how wrong he was about me.

Chapter 5

Charlotte

1 Year Ago

The last time I saw Father was probably months ago. I try not to go to his house too often because our conversations always derail into shouting matches about who’s right and who’s wrong. And I can never, ever win that fight. Especially not with that woman living with him and always taking his side. He protects her more than he ever cared about me.

That’s why I decided to move out and live in my own tiny apartment. It’s a much safer and saner place to live, and I have some savings I can live on until I find a job. I haven’t gotten one yet, but I know if I keep pushing, I’ll be successful. I have to because I’ll run out of savings someday, and there’s no way I’m going back to my father.

Well, except to check on him, of course. I mean, I can’t just let him sit on his golden throne while his wife waits for him to drop dead so she can claim his wealth. That won’t be happening on my watch.

My father’s never been nice to me, but he’s still my father, and I don’t want him to be anyone’s victim.

Today’s our annual get-together with the whole family before he goes on summer vacation, and I went to his place to make sure his wife is still behaving and not secretly poisoning my father. We’re all sitting at the table in silence, eating our dinner without even looking at each other.

My father seems to be okay, health-wise, but I’m not sure mentally he’s doing so well. He’s more absent than usual, and the littlest things, like a misplaced fork or food not being salty enough, enrage him. It’s as if something’s going on, but he won’t tell me.

Suddenly, he slams down his fork and says to the butler, “Can you fucking make sure the steak isn’t overcooked this time?”

“Sorry, sir,” his new butler apologizes. He’s gone through five of them in the past two years. “It won’t happen again.”

“Better not.” My father scoffs, patting his lips with his napkin.

“Father,” I mutter, lowering my fork.

“What?” he snarls.

“Charlotte, better not go there,” Elijah tries to warn me, but I ignore him.

“Is everything okay? You seem so agitated lately,” I say, trying to put it mildly, so Father doesn’t get even angrier.

“It’s none of your damn business,” he growls back.

I frown. “Well, excuse me for being interested.” I sigh as I stare out the window.

“Just eat your damn food,” he says after a while.

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