Author’s Note: This one continues to be like pulling teeth, but I have been trying to put the last few scenes together anyway, still being about as stubborn as it is, and maybe that means I will get it finished after all.
Or maybe not.
I have spent most of the day trying to figure out where to go now. I finished writing the scene after this and edited my epilogue, but no. I don’t have the scene that goes between this one and the next one. I can’t end this.
I can’t bridge that stupid gap.
“What do you mean, he’s my father? That’s not possible,” Nolan said, wanting to blame the concussion and the fact that he’d been kidnapped for the confusion and sheer unwillingness to believe that’s churning through him. He did not want to have heard what he knew he’d just heard. “Oh, I grant that my mother was not exactly… selective in who she had sex with—okay, let’s face it, she whored herself out for money to pay for her drug habit, but she always made it seem like that was all after my father was out of her life. I mean, it’s a lousy thing to tell a kid—even in implication—that he’s the reason why she got addicted, that she couldn’t cope with being a single mother and having her boyfriend ditch her, but that’s always been the understanding that I had about the whole thing. I know my father wasn’t Nora’s father, but that has never mattered to us.”
He heard something shift in the darkness, and he assumed one or more of the girls was moving, but he didn’t know where they were or how big this room was. He was still trying to come to terms with everything that had happened to him today—if coming to terms was anything close to being tempted to plug his ears and run around screaming that it wasn’t his father right out of that infamous scene in Star Wars. Hell, he already had said just about the same thing as those lines that everyone knew.
He shook his head. He was insane. That was all there was to it. None of this was real. He’d just cracked under the pressure of Shaelynn leaving him for good and now he was full on delusional.
“You know,” the second voice, the more sarcastic of the two—Nolan should have gotten her name by now—said, and he swore she would have rolled her eyes or worse at him if he could see her. “None of what you said just then excludes him from being your father. Not one bit. Fact is—if he was your father, as she insists he is, he’d have had to have set all that in motion before he adopted the public face he thought he could use for government. Not to mention that you’re significantly older than either of us. You’d be… a teenage indiscretion, which isn’t all that surprising, but if you think about it—you’re the one he’d least want to surface because he did do all that. He got your mother hooked on drugs. He knocked her up. He abandoned her. She turned to prostitution to support her habit. Hell, she might even have sold her children for that—”
“No. My mother never sold Nora. That is just… wrong. Mom was messed up, and I don’t deny that, but the closest she came to that was joining the cult and basically signing Nora up for a role as a teen bride and baby-maker. That’s not the same thing at all.”
“Yeah, but that’s just what you say. There’d be no way of disproving the rumors if they got out there. If your mom was desperate enough to sell herself, they’d think she’d sell both of you as well. That’s just the way it would look. It doesn’t matter if it was true or not. He’d be condemned for leaving you in that situation, for creating it. Even being young and stupid doesn’t excuse it—he should have gone back and done something for your mother and you after he straightened himself out. He had the resources from the beginning. He was just too much of a dick to use them for anyone other than himself.”
Nolan closed his eyes. “My mother told me my father’s name was Sheppard. That’s the name on the birth certificate—I checked when I went back to it, since Boath had given us all his name when he ‘married’ Mom and supposedly became our legal guardian.”
“I didn’t just say you were like my dad because you wore the same kind of suit,” the other girl said. “You both have this unconscious thing you do when you’re talking, and I swear you looked exactly like him in this video I saw—different hair, and you do have a lot of your mother in you, but there’s enough of him in you that when I rewatched that video, I was sure. When I confronted him with it and asked him how many other bastard children he had out there—well, two of us ended up here.”
“I don’t understand.” Nolan forced himself to swallow, trying not to argue about it again. “If we’re all his children, why do this? Someone was going to figure out the connection between you two eventually—I saw the pictures; you are almost obviously sisters—plus they’d have DNA for comparison to bodies and they’d make the connection. They’d have to know that you were both his daughters, and if he was trying to cover up his indiscretions, he just ended up drawing more attention to them. He made them a federal issue, and the agent working your case is not an idiot. She’s a determined woman who hasn’t given up on finding you even though the window where you’d be alive has come and gone, at least in terms of statistics.”
“I don’t know that he did much thinking this through—he knew enough not to rush into getting you, I guess, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t plan on making sure that the worst of his indiscretions disappeared for good. He just had to find the right way to do it.”
Nolan shuddered. He had a feeling the second daughter had grown up in a world almost as twisted as his own, and she was damaged enough to frighten him with only a few words. “I don’t care what his plan was. He was an idiot. It won’t work. He miscalculated. Badly. He doesn’t know what I have done and am willing to do for my sister—and since you’re both family… Well, it was a mistake.”
“You’re a prisoner, remember?”
He snorted. “Do you think I don’t know that? I actually spent a good part of my life as a prisoner—oh, the cult never called it that, never dreamed to imply it, but I know what I was and how thin a line there was between my supposed ‘obedience’ and my death. I survived that, I escaped, and I brought it down. I might not have Shaelynn at my side this time, but I can do it again.”
“None of us know where we are,” the first one reminded him. “We don’t know how to get out of here, and they have weapons. Or something. They got you once, didn’t they?”
“They took advantage of the fact that I was distracted,” Nolan said. “I don’t need a weapon. I was trained to be one. Ambrose was twisted, but I know how to fight. I know how to disarm people. What I need is an opportunity. That’s it. I can do the rest as long as I have that.”
“You sure? You were unconscious for a while, and you’re probably injured.”
He was. He did have a concussion, and he would be at a disadvantage no matter what—the dark, the pain, all of that was working against him. Still, he’d had similar fights before—Ambrose was not a man who played fair, not once in his life. “I am, but I was trained for that, too. I will need your help, though.”
“We’re not trained.”
“I don’t need you trained—I need you to help me find the door.”