Read Bitter Nothings Online

Authors: Vicki Tyley

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Bitter Nothings

BOOK: Bitter Nothings
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BITTER NOTHINGS

 

Vicki Tyley

 

Copyright 2012 Vicki Tyley

All rights reserved

 

ALSO BY VICKI TYLEY
Thin Blood
Sleight Malice
Brittle Shadows
Fatal Liaison

 

Visit
www.vickityley.com

 

No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

 

PROLOGUE

 

She stirred, her hand seeking her husband’s reassuring touch. Cold sheets. Panic fluttered in her chest and then died. She remembered now. What had happened to them that they could no longer talk? Her splayed fingers caressed the empty space next to her, as if searching for some imprint of the man she’d married, the father of her two children. What or who had come between them?

From downstairs, she heard a thud, followed by what sounded like a muffled grunt. She gritted her teeth. He daren’t wake the kids. It had taken all her wiles and half the night to convince little Oliver there were no three-eyed, boy-eating monsters living under his bed. Kayla hadn’t been much better, getting up at least once every hour to ask for a glass of water and a cuddle. Damn Warren. Didn’t he know by now children picked up on every vibe?

Another thud. Closer this time. She held her breath, listening. Footsteps. She rolled over, feigning sleep when she sensed his presence in the doorway. Her breathing didn’t falter.

A slight movement of air brushed across her face. She inhaled. Her breath caught, the sharp smell registering in the same instant the cold metal kissed her temple.

 

 

CHAPTER 1

 

Dervla Johns ran her tongue around her teeth, checking for any lurking toast crumbs, and opened the door. Much earlier and Emmet would have caught her still playing tag with the alarm clock’s snooze button.

“What sort of time—” Her throat closed.

Off to the side and a good meter back stood their older brother, Gabe, his expression as dark as his eyes. Whatever the reason for her brothers’ visit together, she knew it was serious. Since their mother’s suicide two years ago, the two men had barely exchanged a civil word, let alone tolerated being within spitting distance of each other.

She looked to her ginger-haired younger brother for an answer but before he could open his mouth, Gabe shouldered past. “For fuck sakes, man, just tell her.”

“Tell me what?” she asked, her voice rising as Gabe disappeared down the hall, the runner’s thick pile absorbing his heavy footfall. “What’s wrong? What’s happened?”

“Not here.” Emmet stepped inside, steering her back from the door.

She jumped at the unexpected blare of the television coming from the living room. The ensuing series of sound bites suggested her older brother had found the channel buttons but not the volume control. “If this is some kind of joke, it’s not funny.”

“Tell me about it.” Emmet sighed and patted her shoulder. “You should be sitting down for this one. C’mon.”

He took a step. Dervla grabbed his arm and jerked him back. “I’m not going anywhere until you tell me what the hell is going on.”

His mouth twisted from side to side but still he didn’t speak.

Only then did she notice his unshaven face. Her grip tightened. “Now, Em.”

“It’s Lucinda…” He wiped a hand over his mouth and started again. “It’s Lucinda. She’s been… she’s been shot.”

“What do you mean she’s been shot? What hospital is she in? Is she going to be okay?” Not that she and Lucinda were close; more a mutual standoff than a relationship. But she was the mother to Dervla’s half-sister and -brother. “Kayla and Oliver, where are—”

Emmet’s chest rose and fell. He caught her hands as they went limp, the answer in his silence.

She wrenched her fingers from his, clawing at the wall as she stumbled backwards. “No, that can’t be.” Unable to control the tremor that had taken over her body, she sank to the floor. “You’re lying. You have to be.”

He crouched down. “I only wish I were.”

Gabe materialized at her side, smelling of cigarette smoke. He tried to put his arm around her shoulders.

She warded him off with her hands. “Please don’t,” she said, the thought of anyone touching her – even her brother – too much to bear.

Regardless, he tried again.

“Don’t!” She flung his hand back with such force she almost hit him in the face.

He muttered something and moved off. Emmet stayed but kept his distance. Unlike Gabe, he knew her well enough to know when she needed space.

With her gaze fixed on a tiny crack in the aged hardwood floor, she breathed in, held it for a count of ten and exhaled. And again. The gravity of the news began to sink in, question after question swarming in her head. Shot? How? Why? Who?

“Dad…?” She swallowed, the lump in her throat not moving.

Emmet’s jean-clad legs shifted sideways. She glanced up. He shook his head, the fine lines around his pale blue eyes deepening. Her stomach knotted. She held her breath and waited for the words she knew were coming.

“We don’t know. Nobody does.”

“Nobody knows what?” Hope flickered.

“Where he is.”

“You mean he doesn’t know yet?” She held up a hand and Emmet hauled her to her feet. “We have to find him. Oh God, my keys. I can’t remember where I put my keys.” She whirled around. “Oh God, where did I put my keys?”

Strong hands grasped her bare shoulders, halting her mid-flight. “Not so fast.”

She tried to shrug him off, but his fingers just dug deeper, hurting her. “Why are we wasting time? Let’s go.” Out of the corner of her eye, she saw her other brother standing, arms crossed, in the middle of the hall. “Tell him, Gabe,” she yelled.

He advanced. “I’ll tell him all right. Never send a boy to do a man’s job, isn’t that right, Emmy-boy?”

“Piss off.”

“Oh stop it. Please, not now,” she said. “We don’t have time for this shit.”

“Did you hear that, Emmy-boy? No time for shit.”

Emmet ignored his brother’s taunts. “Dervla, there’s something else you—”

“I can’t go out like this,” she said, suddenly realizing all she had on was a pair of shortie pajama pants and a skimpy spaghetti-strap top. “Let go of me.”

“You’re not going anywhere,” Emmet said, his tone forceful. “Not until you’ve heard what I have to say.”

Her body tensed. She closed her eyes tight, wishing she could do the same with her ears. Whatever it was, she didn’t want to know. Not yet. Her brain could only take in so much at once.

“Lucinda, Kayla and Oliver were found murdered in their beds a couple of hours ago. The police are there now. As far as we know, they haven’t found the gun. Dervla…” He paused. “Dad is missing. They haven’t said as much, but we got the distinct feeling he’s their prime suspect.”

“Don’t be ridiculous. I know how much you hate him but that’s taking it too far,” she said, turning to her older brother for backup.

Gabe took a step forward, his full lips stretched in a grimace. “Sorry, sis. For once in his life, Emmy-boy is telling it as it is.”

Her gaze darted from brother to brother, desperate for a ‘gotcha’ from either one.

“No,” she said, “you’re wrong. They’re wrong.”

 

 

CHAPTER 2

 

Dervla pulled on yesterday’s jeans and a clean T-shirt. She hurled her bundled pajamas in the en suite’s direction, spun around, yanked the bedclothes into some semblance of order, spun around again, wrung her hands. The faster she moved, the less time she had to think.

Barefoot, she hurried down the hall. The television was still on, blasting out an advertisement for a child’s toy of some sort. Giggling, chubby-faced children. She switched it off. Her brain couldn’t handle the noise. Nor the reminder.

She stood in the middle of the open-plan living area, one hand on her head, forgetting for a second why she was there. She took a step toward the kitchen and stopped. Unless her brothers were hiding behind the breakfast bar, they weren’t there. She swung around, only then noticing the glass bifold doors leading to the rear courtyard were ajar.

Poking her head out, she spied Gabe, one shoulder braced against the back fence, puffing away on a cigarette as if it were his last. He glanced up and flicked ash toward the base of a terracotta-potted bay tree, his housewarming gift from three years ago.

“See you haven’t managed to kill it yet, then,” he said.

“Not through lack of trying. Where’s Emmet?” She heard the crunch of gravel and turned her head to see her younger brother emerge from down the side of the house. In the daylight, his face appeared even more ashen, his lips bloodless.

She stepped outside, the concrete pavers gritty under her bare feet. A light breeze stirred the warm air, carrying with it the sounds of a street waking. Voices. Car doors closing. A toot of a horn. Distant traffic. Normal everyday noises of people going about their normal everyday activities. If only it were that simple.

Her stomach turned at the smell of bacon grilling next door. She clapped a hand over her mouth, pinching her nostrils between her thumb and forefinger. Another sign that reality had flipped? She swallowed hard.

Two pairs of eyes watched her: one pair dark, the other pale like hers. Anyone meeting her two brothers for the first time might find it hard to believe them related. Whereas she and Emmet had inherited their mother’s fair skin and fine features, Gabe, with his rugged looks and more thickset build, took after their father. Light and shade.

She dropped her hand from her mouth. “What about Alana? Please tell me someone has told her what’s happened. The last thing she needs is to hear it on the news.”

“Told her that her bastard father is missing and the prime suspect in the murder of his new wife and kids, you mean?”

Dervla gasped. “Kick a man while he’s down, why don’t you?”

“Thanks, don’t mind if I do. It’s the truth.” Emmet let out a loud huff. “Seriously, what part are you objecting to? The bastard father bit? What else do you call a man who refuses to acknowledge his illegitimate daughter?”

Gabe groaned. “That’s because there’s no proof she’s his daughter, fuckwit.”

Emmet’s face reddened, his fists clenched at his side. Gabe rolled his eyes.

Dervla jumped forward, arms out like a boxing referee. “This is not helping.” She drew her younger brother aside. “God, Em, what has got into you?”

“Nothing.”

Not for one second did she believe him, but she had more important things to worry about than her brothers scrapping. They all did. Besides, Emmet ought to have learned by now that picking a fight with his brawnier brother was not in his best interests.

“For once, can’t we put aside our differences and at least pretend we’re a real family?”

Gabe scowled at Emmet and lit another cigarette.

Emmet’s eyes narrowed, his nostrils flaring. “In answer to your question about Alana, not yet. Have you heard from her lately? I dropped by her place on Saturday, but it looks like she’s moved out. No one seems to know where to, or at least they’re not saying.”

“That lot,” Gabe said, blowing smoke from the corner of his mouth, “wouldn’t know what day of the week it was, even if it came up and bit them on the arse.”

“You would know.”

Dervla sliced the air. “Enough. Have you forgotten why you’re here? Little Kayla and Oliver are dead. Slaughtered in their beds.” She aimed her next words at Emmet. “It doesn’t matter that you never knew them, they were still your sister and brother. They were innocent children, for God’s sake. And regardless of what you think of Lucinda, she didn’t deserve to die like that either. No one does.” She took a breath. “And Dad, too, just because he hasn’t been the best father doesn’t make him a murderer. I don’t even know how you can think that.”

“It’s just that…” Emmet dropped his gaze, his expression sheepish. “It’s just—”

“It’s just nothing. You can’t keep blaming him for Mum’s death. It won’t bring her back.” Nothing will, she wanted to scream at him, at the world. Nothing. Gulping air, she pressed the heels of her palms against her eyes.

A chill enveloped her. She shuddered, her brothers grabbing her arms as her legs disappeared from under her. In the next instant, she found herself wedged between them on a wooden garden bench meant for two.

“Quick, a glass of water,” Gabe said, one arm extended behind her back to steady her, the other motioning Emmet toward the house.

If her brain had been able to engage with her mouth, she could have told him she needed a damned sight more than water. Try brandy. Instead she waited for Emmet to reappear.

The glass, when it came, was barely half full and, from the faint chlorine smell, straight from the tap. She sipped the water, swilling it around her tongue before swallowing. The two men mouthed something to each other above her head. She didn’t care. If nothing else, her pathetic act had put a halt to their bickering, given them someone else besides each other to think about.

BOOK: Bitter Nothings
2.3Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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