The thought of leaving Della here all alone for the next twelve years is almost too much to bear. I wish I could wait until Dad is at work, load her up on a bus, and disappear somewhere across the country. We could be safe and happy. She would be loved.
But Dad would find us.
I know he would. His resources are endless and his wealth runs even deeper. We’d be plucked from whichever obscure town we landed in and planted right back in this condo. But his wrath would end up destroying us in the end. Especially Della. His trust and adoration of me—my only tool in my arsenal—would be completely wiped away.
But twelve years feels like forever. We can’t last that long. I have to figure something else out.
My mind fights to go back to a night not long after Mom passed away. That night he struck me for the first time. I was in his office, trying every number combination possible on his safe, looking for pictures of Mom since most had disappeared after her death. It took weeks for the bruise on my face to heal and I wasn’t permitted to leave my room until it did. All my teachers thought I had the flu.
No, I can’t bring that on us both. I’ll figure out a way to get us out of his crossfire.
“I suppose a few nights away each week won’t hurt,” I say in a shaky voice, forcing a smile. “You always know best, Dad.”
His features soften and his blue eyes twinkle as he looks me over. “Good girl. Your father does know best. I have another surprise for you. It’s what you’ve wanted for a long time.”
I frown, unsure of what this could possibly mean. The only thing I want, and have for a long time, is freedom for me and Della. Nothing else.
Well, there’s one thing, but he doesn’t know about it…
He pulls an envelope from his inside pocket and slides it across the table toward me. I glance down at the emblem on the envelope with Landry Croft scribbled in someone’s neat handwriting across the front.
Oh my God.
I reach for the envelope. NYU. College. I didn’t even bother applying. Not because I didn’t want to, but because I couldn’t leave Della. Mom was a stay-at-home mother and Dad always told me my trust fund would make it so I’d never have to work a day in my life.
“What’s this?” I ask, already knowing the answer.
“You’ve been accepted.” His eyes flash in a knowing way. “You know I always keep tabs on my little girl. You’re too precious to me for me to let anything ever happen to you.”
He’s been spying on me—my computer search history to be exact. What else could I have looked at that he might have seen? Terror burns in my gut. I hope to God I didn’t look at anything that might come back on me and Della.
“I didn’t apply.” I gnaw on my bottom lip to keep it from shaking.
“I pulled a few strings. Anything for you, my love.”
“Thank you,” I force out. “I didn’t think it was something you’d allow me to do.”
“You’re eighteen now, sweetheart. You’re a woman and you’re going to do great things.”
I nod as if to agree.
But I don’t.
Because leaving to “meet people” and to “do great things” means leaving Della. I don’t like this sudden need to separate us. It feels like the beginning of something far more sinister.