Completed: a Devoured novella
Even before my mother went to prison, our relationship wasn’t something that was solid. My mom was a magician with only one trick—the disappearing act. It was a heartbreaking stunt she repeated throughout my childhood, both before and after her divorce from my father. Growing up, I’d been jealous of the kids with parents who were involved, who gave a damn. Luckily, the one constant in my life was my grandparents—especially Gram. My grandmother loved me enough for her, my mom, and my dad combined.
Without her, I shudder to think of where I’d be.
Even with my mom’s I-don’t-give-a-shit attitude toward my brother and me, the staggering blow to what was left of our relationship had been when she tried to convince my teenage brother to take the fall for the drug charges that sent her and my former stepfather away. Mom’s reasoning had been that since Seth was a teenager the courts would go easy on him. Luckily, Seth had refused to go along with her crap.
I hated to admit it, but for the longest time after she’d asked that of him, I still craved her approval. I’d desperately wanted love from a woman who would’ve gladly thrown her own kids under the bus to save her ass—sometimes to the point where I’d send my last penny to help her.
Grinding my teeth back and forth, I rip my blue eyes from my mother’s face—which is an annoying mixture of amusement and curiosity—and settle my gaze on Gram, who’s standing a few inches away from a decorative mirror. I catch my reflection, taking in the sight of the scarlet color creeping across my pale skin.
Not even five minutes ago I was flushed for everything that was right, for Lucas and what he was saying to me, and now I look like I’m seconds from freaking out.
Don’t Hulk out. That’s what she wants so she can badmouth me to Gram.
So in spite of the rush of emotions spiraling through me, I keep my composure. No matter how much I want to headbutt my mom in her pretty new veneers, I refuse to hurt my grandmother. Gram is conflicted—it’s obvious by her furrowed brow and stooped posture—and I’ll suck it the hell up not to add to her stress.
Gram is old, I chant to myself. The last thing she needs is drama.
Of course, where Rebecca Previn is concerned, drama is the only song on her playlist.
“Maybe we should all sit down in the kitchen,” I suggest, nodding stiffly behind my mom.
She crosses her arms over her chest and snorts. “If you think that’ll help, Sienna. Let’s go right ahead.”
Instead of responding, I stare daggers at her skinny back as I shuffle behind her over the worn hardwood planks.
Before she takes a seat at the table, Gram lays her hand on my forearm and glances up at me, her blue eyes still pleading. “I didn’t even ask you—how was your flight, sweetheart?”
“It was good.” I kiss her temple and offer her a reassuring smile. “I’ll make you a cup of coffee.”
Gram smoothes back strands of my bright red hair affectionately and frames my face with her hands, smiling at me proudly. I don’t miss the flash of anger that enters Mom’s green eyes as she stares between us, but my grandmother doesn’t seem to notice.
“Your rockstar didn’t come with you?” Mom demands, her southern accent dripping with scorn.
I shake my head, the movements tight and jerky. “He’ll be here tonight.”
Ugh. The moment the words leave my lips, I feel like I’ve given her the upper hand, and I’m pissed off at myself as I skulk across the kitchen. It’s easier to deal with her being around with my back turned to her. Makes being fewer than ten feet away from her—without a giant sheet of bullet proof glass separating us—less of a nightmare.
I curl my hands into tight fists, unclench them, and then grab a coffee pod from the carousel. Releasing a tremulous breath, I question, “Does Seth know you’re back?” I’d spoken to my brother less than forty-eight hours ago, and he hadn’t mentioned this. He’d been more interested in my engagement and talking about his Gatlinburg ski plans for Christmas break. “Does. Seth. Know. You’re. Back?”
“He’ll see his mom when he comes over for dinner tonight,” Gram speaks up cheerily at the same time Mom drawls, “I just got out recently, Sienna. Seth’s a big boy—he doesn’t need to know my every move.”
Seth didn’t know she was out and yet she’d had time to get her teeth repaired. I didn’t like this. I didn’t like this one damn bit.
Plunking a mug down on the base of the coffee maker, I start the machine and then whirl around to face my mom. “How?”
Mom’s lips curl into a mocking smile, and for the umpteenth time in my life, I’m thankful I don’t resemble her. She’s still beautiful, but, God, there’s so much manipulation beneath the surface of all that beauty, it’s sickeningly blinding. “I finished my time. Surely you didn’t think they’d keep me a hundred years over a silly thing like that.”
I hug my arms around myself tightly. I can’t help but think of Sinjin—the drummer for Your Toxic Sequel—and his addiction problems. Someone like my mother had fueled that, had sold him the crap that tore him down time and time again, and I hated that person for it.
A silly thing?
Hell, no. It wasn’t silly at all.
“Welcome home, then,” I say, though my voice isn’t at all welcoming. It’s bitter and angry, and I hate sounding like this, but damn if Mom hasn’t screwed everyone in this kitchen over numerous times, including herself. Carefully, I pick up the piping hot mug of coffee and carry it across the kitchen. My mother regards me with a cautious eye—like she’s expecting me to dump the contents on her lap. Meeting her stare, I carefully lower the mug on the placemat in front of Gram before taking a seat across the table.
To my disappointment, Gram scoots her chair backward. “I need to make an important call before it gets too late. It shouldn’t take me too long.” She looks reluctantly between Mom and me, worrying her lip between her teeth, but I nod.
“We’ll behave,” I promise. Although she doesn’t look convinced, she slowly exits the kitchen. When I hear her shuffling footsteps in the foyer, I glower unblinkingly at my mom. “How long will you be staying for?”
She leans back in her chair “For good.”
I bite the inside of my cheek to hold back a harsh laugh. “Excuse me if I don’t exactly buy that. Does ‘for good’ mean until you break Gram’s heart again? Or until you meet a new asshole to run off with? Hell, either way you’ll break Gram’s heart.”
“Believe what you want, you ungrateful bitch, but the moment I knew I was getting released early I decided I wanted to come back home. Is that so hard for you to get?”
Early release? Of course she’d leave that out when I asked how she’d gotten out a few minutes ago. Tilting my head to the side, I shrug. “Oh, I get it. You still need Gram to take care of you because you never did grow up.”
“You better watch your mouth, girl. I’ve got no problem dealing with little smartasses.” She taps her short fingernails on the tabletop, and a slow, evil smile split her cheeks. “Now, when do I get to meet my future son-in-law—and don’t give me any of your shit telling me you’re not engaged, because I can read and you’re all over the Internet.”
“Shame.” She runs the tip of her tongue over her lips and sighs. “I wanted to thank him.”
“For what?” I laugh. “Taking me off your hands? Gram beat him to it years ago.”
Mom’s green eyes harden, but she doesn’t miss a beat when she says, “For hiring the attorney who got me out of that hellhole.” The look of surprise flashes on my face before I can stop it, and she grins like the Cheshire cat. “Of course, he told you about that, didn’t he?”
I match her grin. I match her grin like I don’t have a care in the world, but inside I’m seething. And I want to know why the hell Lucas would have done something like that.