Even though it had been thirteen days since I saw him, he haunted my mind. Every blink was a flash of his perfect face and every breath a reminder of the horrendous act he committed two weeks ago. It was stupid to follow him that day…The mere thought of him provoked the jarring memory of the blonde’s…ugh, I can’t even think about it. Not now.
I jumped, startled by the sudden noise. I turned my attention to my phone on the edge of my desk and grabbed it with uncertainty. I scrolled past the missed call and text notifications from Mr. Leto. There were about 31 and counting. My eyes landed on the notification I wanted.
New Message From Allegra Leto:
Kerri, this is my last text to you this time. You’ve been MIA all week, ignored me in class and now you won’t answer any of my texts. What’s wrong?! Look, I don’t care if you call my dad Jared, I just want my best friend back. Please call me! WE HAVE TO TALK.
Shame washed over me as her text reminded me of why she could never know this secret.
I squeezed my eyes shut; shutting the world out and trying to shut my thoughts off. But it was futile, the scene replayed over and over in my mind. They were both out in front of the house, once I arrived, taking a picture of her in front of it. She seemed so relaxed as they entered, a little too relaxed for a business meeting, and walked arm in arm through the door.
I slid out of the car and darted for the bushes lining the driveway. Peering through the window, I found them in an embrace, but something was different about this. I got a better look to see him gripping her so tightly against his body as she lay limp in his arms. It wasn’t until he slowly removed the crimson-coated knife from her side that it dawned on me. She was dead. His face remained calm throughout, almost detached. Like he’d done this before.
There was a rattle of bangs at the door.
“I know you’re in there, Kerri. Please, open the door.” The voice was muffled, but I knew it anywhere. It was him: Mr. Leto.
My heart quickened as excitement and fear trickled about my body, overtaking my bones. If I didn’t answer, he would get suspicious. If I did answer, it’d be my first time staring into the eyes of a killer.
Stick to the sick story, Kerri. You’ve just been sick with a stomach bug.
Anticipation trembled through my veins as I grasped the doorknob. I took a deep breath and opened the door.
Of course, he was breathtaking as always. He cocked his head up at me, “Kerri.” He breathed.
“Hi, Mr. Leto.” I said, evading his eyes.
“You’re alive! How have you been feeling? Can I come in?” Concern laced his voice. There it was, his Best Father of the Year act, right on queue. How pathetic. I was right the whole time, this man was one of the best liars in town.
I nodded slowly and invited him in the living room. “I just came to check up on you,” he said as he turned his head every which way, scoping the house before we entered the living room. “I assume your Mom’s at work and your brother’s at school? ” He asked.
Every one of my instincts screamed at me to lie, but it was always so hard to lie to him.
“Good.” He smiled as he stared into my eyes slyly. He pulled me into his arms.
I stepped away from him. I wanted my skin to crawl. I wanted my body to reject this awful man, but none of that happened. “I can’t, Mr. Leto. I’m sick remember?”
“Oh, right,” he said.
We walked into the living room. He sat down on the couch across from me. I stared down at the white-rimmed border coffee table between us, trying to buy time. My eyes wandered up to meet his and we both paused. A half-smile was written on his face.
The Cover Photo for this Chapter is the 3rd Place Winner of the Her Instinct Cover Contest by @jokerfanfic (tumblr & wattpad). Congrats again!~
So it turns out that I wrote so much for this chapter, I have enough for two chapters! So this one is not as long, but Chapter 19 will be out in a couple of days! That means 2 chapters in ONE week! 0.o
====So I want to do a little experiment and get in the minds of you all, my wonderful readers. When you’re done reading this chapter, please inbox/message me this. Feel free to be anonymous. I just like to hear your thoughts!====
1. You’re age
2. Why do you like the story/What makes you come back to read a new chapter?
New Year’s Eve was finally here! Mr. Leto had escorted us to our rooms earlier, but quickly fled saying he had to help with preparations for the night and that he would see us at the ball. He left us exquisite masks as parting gifts. Each of them labeled. He said he wanted to know who we were. The thing about this ball is everyone was to wear black; gowns for ladies and tuxes for men. And rightfully so, this place seemed like a palace fit for a king and queen – and I loved it!
My mom received a studded gold mask with beading outlining the brim. Allegra had a purple sequined one with a flower on its right side. I had the exact same mask but ruby red.
And Nico had a black mask that almost covered his whole little face.
We were finally ready. I was excited!
As we entered, the hall was compete breathtaking and absolutely huge. Everything was gold, from the floors to the walls to the ceiling.
I looked about the room at faceless strangers swallowed by the sea of colors and feathers on their faces. What a sight!
I searched the room for Mr. Leto, but after 5 seconds, I found him. I knew that man anywhere, even if it’s what felt like a football field’s length away from the other side of the ballroom. My heart fluttered as I gazed upon him. He was the image of suave in his black tailored tux.
~The Cover Photo for this Chapter is the Honorable Mention of the Her Instinct Cover Contest by AmandaHargrave (twitter & wattpad) . Congrats again!~
*****Please keep your thoughts coming! My experiment is still open, so if you haven’t shared yet, please inbox/message me this. Feel free to be anonymous. I just like to hear your thoughts! I love what I’m hearing so far!*****
1. You’re age
2. Why do you like the story/What makes you come back to read a new chapter?
Allegra finally conked out on her bed… I even tempted to poke her a few times to make sure she was fully asleep for sure.
I checked my phone and saw a text from Mr. Leto.
Bring your swimsuit.
I snagged my bikini from my suitcase and snuck out of the room effortlessly. As I stepped into the spacious living room area, I spotted a pair of bright almond eyes looked back at me in the dim light.
It was Nico.
“Can’t sleep Nico?”
“Uh – yeah,” he spoke hesitantly. I could see that he was holding something behind his back. The silver foil from what looked like a Hershey’s bar.
I grabbed it from behind him.
“Hey!” he started to yell, but quickly hushed himself so he wouldn’t wake anyone.
“Nico, Mom said to stay away from the candy. You’ll be sick!”
“It’s no fair Kerri. You get what you want, but I can’t eat candy.”
I paused dead in my tracks.
“What in the world am I getting?” I asked. Uncertainty tried to creep in, but I wasn’t having it. He’s too young to know what he’s talking about, unless-
“You get to be with Mr. Leto” He squinted his eyes at me.
My heart sank as I nearly choked on my breath.
My little brother. My little, sneaky, blameless – so I thought – little brother was smarter than I ever gave him credit for in his almost 9 years of life here.
“Nico, Mr. Leto and I already went over this with you. We were just-“
“I don’t believe you.” He frowned up his face, partly in confusion, partly upset. “I’ve seen the way he looks at you. And he look at you a lot, Kerri. And when you look at him, your eyes do the same thing. It’s like they talk to each other or something.”
He knows, Kerri. It’s either flight or fight.
I busted into forced bent-over, side-splitting laughter.
Nico looked stunned.
“What an imagination you have!” I tried to catch my breath dramatically. “Now I see why mom said to put you in drama camp.”
He put his hands on his hips. “Nuh-uh. It’s the truth. At least I think it is.”
I saw an open door and I walked through it. “Are you kidding? Mr. Leto? Ew, Nico! He’s an adult.”
I could see reason coming over Nico’s face. He was taking the bait.
“He’s like dad to both of us. You know that, right?” I stopped and caught myself.
Omg, I’ve turned into Mr. Leto. I sounded just like him when he spoke to Renee.
I shook myself back into the present and looked at Nico who was scratching his head as his little brain went to work on the lies I fed him.
Finally, he rubbed his eyes and said, “I guess you’re right,” he conceded.
Good. I just needed one last detail or sentence or anything to seal this deal.
“And besides, I already have a boyfriend, so it’d be so wrong.”
“Derek?” He asked as his little eyes lit up.
I nodded convincingly.
“Wow. Well that makes sense.”
“See? You got all caught up in a guess.”
I knew exactly what I was getting myself into by telling big-mouthed Nico this, but desperate times call for desperate measures- even if it means Mr. Leto will have a fit.
“Now do I have to tell mom about your candy eating habits?
“No!” he begged.
“Then go to bed and stop making up ridiculous stories!”
“Fine.” He huffed dramatically and ran to his room.
I stayed in the living room until he was out of sight and closed his door.
I looked over across the room to Mr. Leto’s half of the suite. Now it was my turn to be up during the night, but I was going for more than a midnight snack.
I crept through the dark 3 –room luxury suite on my way to Mr. Leto’s area.
I pulled back the slide door that separated his master room from all of ours. I stepped in quickly, sliding the shade shut ever so quietly.
I turned and almost jumped out of my skin as I saw Mr. Leto staring at me from the couch. He just laid there, eyeing me; his face as effervescent as a photograph.
Jeff Ratner here, your possibly-cursed Neptune Grand hotel manager. Did the VMHQ librarians learn NOTHING from the Mother’s Day fiasco? Obviously, not because now they’re sponsoring this… this… debacle they’re calling a Father’s Day Charity Poker Tournament! I KNEW I should’ve taken up smoking… or heavy drinking… or drugs.
Maybe I can get some from one of the participants. Tom Griffith’s acting a little suspicious, if you know what I mean. He keeps excusing himself to run to the bathroom, and I seriously doubt, based on all the sniffing, it’s got anything to do with a tiny bladder.
The game got off to an inauspicious start when Jake Kane showed up 30 minutes late, bodyguard in tow, only to balk when he discovered the roster had changed.
JK: Who the hell are you? Guys, where’s Bone? My assistant told me Bone was supposed to be here.
TG: (nervously, sniffing) Why do you want to know? You’re not a cop, right? Because that guy behind you looks like a homicide detective, and I prefer to operate in a…cop-free environment.
DICK CASABLANCAS SENIOR: (examining fresh card pack on table with interest, shuffling and dealing) Bone couldn’t make it, he had some…producing thing. Hey, can we get a deck of Bicycle cards over here? I only play with that brand.
AARON ECHOLLS: (lighting cigar with relish as he examines his hand, despite restaurant’s strict no-smoking code) Bone’s burning the midnight oil mixing Beiber’s latest single. Apparently it needed extra autotuning.
TERRENCE COOK: Why only Bicycle cards, Dick? Is this kind bad luck? Because I need GOOD luck cards, I’m on a ROLL tonight
See what I mean? Neither Casablancas nor Cook seems clear on the concept that this is for CHARITY. And Echolls’ only focus is getting a glass of some brandy that’s not available in the United States–he wants to send his JET to pick it up. Plus he keeps asking, repeatedly, if the photographer from Esquire has shown. He thinks he’s getting the cover.
Meanwhile, the good ‘Doctor Studio 54’ is steadily headed for the stratosphere in the paranoia department. I hope I don’t have to call EMS.
TG: There’s nothing wrong with those cards, right? Like there aren’t any missing? Because if some were missing, how could the game be fair? We’d lose all our money and have to owe each other favors! Who KNOWS where that could lead?
TC: Hey I’m not here to lose money, I’m here to WIN money. LOTS of money, hopefully. Daddy needs a new automobile.
JK: (wearily) Guys, you do remember the proceeds will be donated, right? Like they won’t go into your pockets at the end of the night?
DCS: Well, there’s charity, and then there’s CHARITY. When smart guys like us play, we can always find a little wiggle room.
AE: So who’s getting the cash, then? Because I run an organization that can always use more press. Aaron’s Kids. Helping kids in need, because that’s just the kind of man I am.
JK: It’s for some hospital that helps save… brains, maybe? Bleeding brains? No clue, Celeste made me come.
TG: Bleeding BRAINS? Like hematomas? Or like Ebola, where your brain melts and you bleed out your nose?
For the record, the charity is Clean Up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. I have no clue where Mr. Kane came up with bleeding brains, but frankly, I’m concerned.
AE: So what is it you do, Tom? Film insurance broker? No offense, but you seem kind of…tense.
TG: I’m a plastic surgeon–I actually performed your eye tuck three years ago. It still looks great, by the way. No distortion of shape, which can be a thing if the surgeon’s not meticulous, and THAT often causes terrible…
AE: You must be mistaken. I would never damage my instrument by going under the knife. And besides, I’m far too young to have more than a few character wrinkles.
JK: (receives text, scrutinizes, puts phone away) Knock it off, Aaron, you’re forty-seven. You haven’t been young enough to lack wrinkles since you were that Sixties bombshell’s boy toy.
AE: A profound relationship which transcended societal expectations. Plus you would not BELIEVE how much exposure dating her got me. (Sits back in chair to better expound). You know, I’ve always felt age is just a number.
TG: (as Mr. Kane receives another text) Who are you texting anyway? You don’t have someone watching over a hidden camera, do you? Someone who can see all our cards, to make sure you win and we lose?
DCS: (raking in proceeds and dealing another hand) It’s probably just Lianne Mars. She got wasted at my Christmas party and told everyone in the ballroom Jake is her true love. Then she hid behind a potted fern to cry.
At least Mrs. Mars didn’t end up in a pool fully clothed. Unlike at some OTHER social events I could name.
JK: Don’t make me deck you, Dick. I’m a married man, albeit unhappily.
AE: And Lianne got herself hitched to Dudley Do Right–so all’s fair after a few cocktails. You shouldn’t be so hard on Celeste though. I’m sure she’d thaw right out given…more active encouragement.
JK: Why do I speak to you? You don’t know squat about marriage. Or parenting, isn’t your kid on probation? Really, your only skill is knowing how to look buff while buildings explode behind you.
AE: Hey, the Academy of Motion Pictures disagrees, and so does the viewing public. Three Oscars and twenty mil a picture, those stats don’t lie. Besides, you’re one to talk, with that hot-to-trot daughter and a weirdo son who spies on everyone. I’m afraid Dad of the Year will always elude you, no matter how many billions you make. Just like Sexiest Man Alive.
TC: Wait, I don’t need to worry about you guys’ kids, do I? My daughter’s coming down here senior year to go to school, and she’s had enough bad influences in her life.
AE: This is the girl that’s almost legal right? You got a picture? (T Cook frowns). What? What parent doesn’t love to show snaps of their kids? I sell pap ops regularly to People magazine!
DCS: I don’t really carry pictures of my sons. Or take them. I leave that to my wife…ex-wife, actually. Only I don’t think she ever took any either. Anyway, I’m in for five hundred.
TC: Call. And let’s leave my daughter out of this conversation.
TG: You can’t call. You don’t have enough chips left. Unless you’re HIDING chips? Are you? Hiding some? And if so, where?
TC: No…comment. How about this; I’ll throw in a promissory note for my Rolls. That thing’s worth at least a hundred grand.
AE: Terrence for God’s sake, it’s a charity. Bleeding hearts or whatever, you can’t bet your CAR.
TC: How about my Rolex?
DCS: You know, Terrence, if you want to invest your money in something substantial with great returns, I have an excellent portfolio of REIT’s I could show you.
JK: Why do you need to sell him squat, Dick? You’ve won every hand so far. You could take this skillset to Vegas and make more than you do on those inflated hotel scams.
AE: And why DO you keep winning so much, anyway? Logically, I should be cleaning you all out. I mean, I trained for months for my role as a world poker champion in ‘High Stakes’. There’s really nothing about this game I don’t know.
TG: Yet you keep losing. Which doesn’t make sense. Could your brain be bleeding? Or maybe it’s the cigar. I’ve heard of people being murdered by strychnine in cigars. Oh, God, the smoke could be killing us all slowly. Put it out! Put it out NOW!
I’d say ‘I’m sure you know what happens next’, but how could you POSSIBLY guess? The cokehead lunges across the table, yanks the cigar from Echolls’ mouth, and stubs it out while covering his face with his shirt. In the process, his nose connects with Casablancas’ elbow, causing an Ace to fall out of his sleeve (Bicycle deck, natch). Cook begins yelling about disqualification and wanting his Rolex back, and Echolls flips the table in a rage.
Jake Kane’s bodyguard drags him backwards out of the room, gun drawn, yelling at the gathered crowd to ‘remain calm’. Casablancas, trapped beneath the table, begins screaming about lawsuits. His cries are drowned out by Griffith however, who, convinced he’s contracted Ebola due to the nosebleed, begins to shriek and hyperventilate.
Needless to say, no oceans will be saved. And a certain dining room has sustained damage to the tune of seven grand. On the plus side, I’ve talked Casablancas out of the lawsuit by agreeing to meet about my investment portfolio. And Griffith just gave me his card, after I made him breathe into a paper bag, in case I ever need to fix ‘the problem with my face’.
So all you VMHQ readers, feel free to create meta or fan art about these awful human beings all you want, and tag it #vmhq dads week. Personally, I plan to drink to forget. And maybe volunteer for that Pacific Garbage Patch project somewhere FAR, FAR away from Neptune, starting tomorrow.
One of the sweetest sayings I’ve heard yet. David Sykes of Moncton, NB Canada was told this by his amazing daughter. Here is what he said about her quote:
At bedtime my daughter would always try and outdo me when I said “I love you more than…” and one day she said “Daddy, I love you past the Moon and Mars and all the stars, where there’s nothing. I love you where there’s nothing.” And ever since that’s what she says every time because how can I outdo that?
I woke up in a daze, starring at wall of my room, completely spent from the total workout, or should I say workouts we had last night. I felt Mr. Leto’s arm wrapped around me, entrapping me in his grasp. I stroked it absentmindedly, inhaling the sweet morning air as memories from last night flooded my mind. This was pure bliss.
“Morning, Kerri.” His voice in the stillness of the morning almost made me jump. I was surprised he was up.
“Good morning” I nearly croaked out as I turned.
He was wide-awake; his is blue eyes gazed into mine dreamily. He leaned in and kissed my forehead as his hand grazed up and down my side. He slowly kissed down my face to my cheek and jaw.
“Tell me something Kerri.” His voice was so soft I had to really focus to pay attention. “Why do you waste your time with Derek, when you have this” he plays with my hand and pulls it to his chest. “You certainly don’t do this with him. So what’s the point?”
I stared in bewilderment at Mr. Leto. After all we’ve done and he brings up Derek? I completely forgot he existed.
Was this a joke?
He stared back at me, waiting intently for my response.