Authors: J.P. Grider
by J.P. Grider
Fated Hearts Publishing
Edited by Sue Toth
Cover Design by Niina Cord 2014
Cover Photography by Heather LaViola
at Heather Lyn Photos 2014
Cover Models – Sarah Grider & Anthony Cruz
This is a work of fiction. Any similarity to any person, place, thing, or event is purely coincidental and a result of the author’s imagination. Any references to historical events, real people, or real places are used fictitiously.
Copyright © 2014 by J.P. Grider
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.
To Isaiah, a sweet-smiling boy
"I can't find Kenna," Charity cries.
I don't even know if I end the call with her before stuffing my phone in my pocket, but I quick scan the bar, looking for someone to cover.
Holly Buchanan is sitting with her friend Rose, but I wouldn't ask her. She may be awesome to look at, but there's a wicked soul resting beneath the surface, and I don't want to give her the satisfaction of asking her for anything.
But if it's for Kenna, then...
Thankfully, I spot Griffin Brooks walking into the bar with his girlfriend Cali. Perfect.
"Griffin," I call out urgently.
"Mick. You okay?"
"I need you to cover the bar. Casey quit, and I have to leave."
I don't wait for him to finish. "Tom's in the kitchen. He's got Donny's number. Call him. Tell him to come in."
Without further instruction, I run out of the bar and get on my bike. I rush out of Donny's parking lot, about a pint of vodka fueling my veins, to go save Kenna.
If Charity says she lost Kenna, then Kenna is in danger, and there is no way in hell I'll let anything bad happen to her.
No fucking way.
In less than five minutes, I'm at Charity's house—a twelve minute drive from Donny's. And I'm completely sober—the frantic worry over my three-year-old niece's safety and whereabouts dissolving any traces of alcohol left in my system.
Busting down my sister's locked front door, I find Charity crouched down on the kitchen floor in a frenzied sob. "What the fuck, Charity?" I ask, scream rather, as I run from room to room, checking every closet, every door, drawer, vent. "Get off your fuckin' stoned ass and find your daughter," I yell again, racing out the back door, grateful the backyard pool has been out of commission for over a decade.
"Kenna, honey," I call out loudly but gently, hoping to arouse my niece's attention. Praying she's not too far away. "Kenna, baby, come by Uncle Michael, sweetheart." My heart pounds as my stomach lurches, acid burning my esophagus.
The yard is void of my beautiful Kenna.
Not bothering to go back through Charity's house, I jump the neighboring fence and pound on the back entrance of the house next door.
"Mick," Mr. Trioli says when he sees me at his back door.
"Kenna," I mutter breathlessly. "She's missing."
"Oh dear. Not again." He grabs his cell off the counter and steps outside. "I"ll call 911."
"No," I shout instinctively, afraid my niece will be taken away if the police find out my sister was stoned out of her mind when Kenna went missing. "I mean..." Holy Mother of God, I don't know what I mean. "Yes. Call. Please." Finding Kenna is more important than my sister's right to keep her own child, a child who means more to me than my own existence.
"I wish I didn't need my father for his money," I lament again to my best friend Rose, and now to Cali, since her boyfriend Griffin is filling in as server while Donny, the owner, tends bar.
Cali tilts her head in apology to my comment, though the irony of her pity is not lost—considering she has no money whatsoever, and if it weren't for Griffin coming to her financial rescue, she wouldn't even be going to college with us.
But Rose laughs at my comment, recognizing the absurdity of it. "Then get a job and don't ask him for any," she suggests, as if even.
My glare is self-explanatory. There is no way I'm getting a job. "Really? That's your answer, Rose?" I love Rose, but she and I are totally different. Her family has money like mine does, but unlike me, Rose is made to earn her allowance by pitching in at her family's farm. I only have to do well in school, in the classes my father chose for me. In the major he insisted I study. Though truthfully, I am not even doing too well in those classes.
"Well if you weren't so dependent on him, he couldn't force you to do what he wanted you to do. You could do what you wanted. Just sayin'.”
"Well, just sayin', I can't get a job that pays enough until I have my degree, and I can't get a degree unless I have my dad's money to pay for it." My retort is a bit snarky, but really, I can't get by without him.
"You can work part-time while going to school and getting financial aid if you emancipate yourself," Cali adds. "Or you can work full-time for a while, and then go back. I don't know, but there are definitely ways to get your education without the financial help of your parents. I was able to do it on my own. Of course, then Griffin went and helped pay for the rest of my education." Cali frowns. "But really, it's feasible."
I look at Cali and sigh. "For you maybe, but I'm not used to working. I don't even think I have any skills."
"You can learn to do anything you set your mind to, Holl. Don't sell yourself short. Prove to your father you don't need his money. Prove to your father that you can do well in
major of choice, not his."
"I'm a junior though, Rose. Can I even change my major now?"
"Probably. It’s better than settling in finance the rest of your life. You want to be an emotionless, ruthless workaholic like your dad? Holl, I may have only known you three years, but I know finance is the furthest thing from that brain of yours."
" I just can't see how I can change my major now," I mutter to myself.
In less than two months, I'll be moving out of the dorm and back into the Soho apartment with my parents...who will be home for their annual six month April to September stay. At least during the winter months, Dad only flies in when they need him in the office. Why couldn’t he just work from home during the Spring and Summer months too? Now, if I do what my father intends for me, I'll be interning at his place on Wall Street for the summer, and with him by my side 24/7. If I don't, I'll be homeless and living in poverty.
I sip the last of my cranberry and vodka and call over to Griffin, laughing, of course. "Get me another drink, rich boy," I order jokingly.
"Anything for the princess," he jokes back.
"I think it's neat that your boyfriend's our server for the night."
"Yeah well, you know Griffin," Cali remarks, "always ready to help where he can."
"Yeah. Too bad he can't help get me a passing grade in two of my classes."
"You're actually failing?" Cali asks, surprised.
I nod. "Investment Analysis, which I've already taken twice, and Corporate Risk Management."
"I have no idea what those classes are even about."
"Neither does Holly," Rose jests.
"Finance. It sucks," I tell Cali.
"And that's what your father makes you study?" Cali asks.
"Yup. He said he didn't want me to waste my education on a frivolous major, and if I wasn't going to go to school to be a doctor or a lawyer, I needed to prepare myself for Wall Street. So I can be just. Like. Him."
I watch as Cali's eyes grow large, and I cringe. Was that the wrong thing to say to a poor girl? All night I've probably been politically incorrect around her.
Rose just shakes her head. "I think it's time you remind your father that it's your life. You should choose how it is you want to live it."
Griffin finally sets my second cranberry and vodka on the table. "Thanks, Griff. Can't you sit with us yet?"
"No. Casey quit. Donny's other girl couldn't make it today. He's got no one, so..."
"So Griffin to the rescue." I smile, wishing I had someone like Griffin as my boyfriend—helpful, kind, chivalrous.
Rose nudges me in the side. “There you go, Holl. Donny needs a waitress. Here's your chance to make some money and start paving your own future."
Narrowing my eyes, and glaring at Rose for the second time today, I say, "As a waitress? Uh...No." Then I cringe again, realizing I just put my other foot in my mouth. Cali's mother is a waitress. Was a waitress. Now she's the manager at Griffin's father's Glen Rock restaurant. "I'm sorry, Cali," I apologize quietly.
She shakes her head. "Don't apologize. I get it."
Cali Parker is cool. I'm glad Griffin found her.
"I just think if you prove to your dad," Rose continues, "that you can pay your own way, he'd respect you more and let you make your own choices."
"That makes sense," Cali adds.
"There's no way I can make enough money as a waitress to pay for college," I tell Rose.
"I'm not saying that. I just mean, if you can help support yourself, your dad will see you on a different level."
She stops talking, but I don't respond. Instead, I silently absorb what she is saying to me.
"It's just my opinion," Rose says, shrugging her shoulders. "From an objective standpoint."
Griffin sets another drink down in front of me. "You look like you need another," he says, proceeding to massage my neck with his cool hand.
"Your dad bugging you again?" he asks.
"Yeah." Before Cali came along, which I'm glad she did, I'd spend a lot of my time with Griffin. We all did. Since Cali, not so much. So having Griffin pay attention to me and noticing I'm down is pretty sweet.
He pulls out the chair next to me and sits. "I just have a second. What happened?"
"I'm failing two classes. Dad's ready to pull me out and send me to school in New York, where he can keep an eye on me."
"Yeah. Ouch." The last thing I want is to be right under Dad's thumb. It's bad enough he has me on strings the next state over.
"What're you gonna do?" Griffin asks me, while inching his chair closer to his girlfriend and not so inconspicuously taking her hand beneath the table.
I sigh. Right now I wish someone would inch closer to me and hold my hand beneath the table. Though I'm not usually one to hang on to someone who'd hold my hand—I'm more the type to keep the jerks and scare away the good ones.
"I don't know what I'm gonna do, Griff. My father spoke to the professors to get them to give me extra credit assignments, but really... I'd rather fail," I lament, sipping the last half of my third cranberry and vodka.
"Where was the last place you saw her, Mick?" Thank goodness it was Luke Marcus, North Haledon cop and long-time friend, who showed up, instead of another officer.
Frustrated, I tell him that I hadn't seen her today. Kenna was with my sister Charity, her mother.
"Mick." Luke shakes his head. "I'm gonna have to call child services," he says with a head tilt, all apologetic.
"You can't do that, Luke. Please," I plead, knowing that he
call child services on my neglectful and drug-addicted sister.
"History's repeating itself, Mick. I can't just..."
"No," I say more forcefully. "I'll take her. She'll be safe with me. Just fuckin' help me find her."
Turning away from Luke, I head down the street, now resorting to screaming Kenna's name.
Across the street and three houses down, the sixth neighbor I've actually interrogated, Mrs. O'Halleran, opens her front door, disdain and disgust etched across every wrinkle in her face. "She's not getting her back, Michael," she chastises.
Like a coiled steel spring incapable of compressing the tension any longer, I lunge past the fifty-something year-old lady that forever hated my parents and grab Kenna, who is sitting on the living room floor playing with a puzzle.
"I can press charges for kidnapping," I tell the bitch who housed my niece without permission.
"And I can press charges against your crackhead sister for letting her three year-old daughter wander the streets by herself."
Kenna's legs wrapped around my hip, I step outside O'Halleran's front door and say nothing, knowing damn well my sister is at fault.
"She's just like that drug-addict of a mother you have," she spits out, standing at her door and watching me walk back up the sidewalk, my grateful arms squeezing the heck out of Kenna. If I weren't hanging on to my brown-haired, brown-eyed, chubby little niece, I would tell O'Halleran to fuck off. But I am, so I don't.
Hugging Kenna with all my might, I kiss my little pickle on her temple. "Why were you at Miss Katie's, honey?" My voice is calm, so as not to startle Kenna, but my insides are a mess. This little girl means the world to me, and I could kill my sister for not taking better care of her.
"She gave me ice cream," Kenna answers.
"But...did she come and get you or something? Had she asked Momma first?" I ask a three year-old instead of Mrs. O'Halleran, but that lady pisses me off with her judgments.
"No. I was going to the ice cream store Momma takes me to. But Miss Katie saw me from her window and came out."
Thank God for nosy neighbors, I guess.
"What happened when she came out?" I sit Kenna on my lap on my sister's front steps, my childhood home. Two more officers are now here. Shit.
"Honey," one of the newer officers, whom I don't know personally, approaches Kenna. "Where were you?"
I look up at the officer and raise my eyebrows. "Can I handle this?" I ask, my tone less than friendly.
"I'm sorry, Sir, but..."
Luke's hand lands on the cop's shoulder. "I got it from here, Steve."
Steve sighs but goes back to his car anyway.
Luke crouches down in front of us. "You okay, Kenna?"
"Yes," she says, pushing her head into my chest.
Behind me, the front door opens. "Did you find my baby?" my sister slurs.
Luke stands while I kiss the top of Kenna's head, ignoring the fact that I want to kick my sister's skinny ass.
"Oh, Kenna," she cries, noticing Kenna in my arms. Wobbling down the steps, Charity weeps. "Baby. Where'd you go?"
She tries to tear Kenna from my arms, but I keep my tight grip on her.
"You know you're not supposed to go outside without Momma, Kenni. That was bad..."
"Enough," I say firmly, standing and handing over Kenna to Luke. "Go to Luke for a sec, baby." Then I stare angrily at Charity, ready to shove her with my fist.
"Watch it, Mick," Luke warns.
"You lost your daughter one too many times, T. I'm taking her." My hands are clutched tightly by my side, willing them to stay at my sides and not find their way to Charity's face.
"You're not taking my baby, Michael."
Reaching for Kenna, Charity is also given a warning from Luke. "If she doesn't go with Mick, I have no choice but to call child services, T. This is happening too much now. Kenna's gonna end up like Frankie."
Charity, giving no regard to Kenna in his arms, punches Luke in the face, the way I had wanted to throw one at her.
I yank Charity away from Luke and take Kenna.
Grabbing his cuffs behind him, Luke takes Charity by the arm and clicks the cuffs on her wrists, reading her her rights while she screams for Kenna.
No. She shouldn't have assaulted an officer, but I can't help but think this is going to be bad.