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Sloth (The Elite Seven #6)
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I don’t give a fuck.
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They were fighting again.
Only…it was difficult to call it a true argument when my father stayed mostly silent and my mother rallied against him in a voice shrill enough to wake the dead. I’d wondered as a child if that was exactly what she was trying to do: raise the unholy spirits lurking in the bayous and cemeteries of New Orleans to rally them against my demonic father. She had taught me about voodoo and the magic of the afterlife since I was young, and even though I knew better as a seventeen-year-old man, there was still a small part of my soul that believed Magnolia Dempsey was magic.
I could hear the yelling through the walls and all three stories of our plantation home tucked away in the lush countryside north of New Orleans on the banks of Lake Pontchartrain. A storm was raging outside, one of the savagely wet and windy tempests that crashed through Louisiana in the late summer and early fall. The howling of the wind was nearly as piercing as my mother’s screaming.
Other than our five live-in servants, no one was home.
My brothers had long since fled the nest for warm climates and sunny futures while I was still stuck in the thorny bed of the Dempsey compound.
They could have been fighting about me. They often did. My father thought I was a waste of space, and my mother thought I was God’s gift. It was hard to agree with either of them, especially when I’d just been blackmailed by my high school girlfriend with a fucking sex tape. I’d tried to hush the situation by myself, and as a result, she’d uploaded the thing to the internet for everyone to see.
Dad sued her family under child pornography laws, but that act was the final nail in the coffin of his contempt for me.
My mother thought I was the victim of a venomous woman scorned because I couldn’t and wouldn’t love her.
They were both wrong.
I deserved neither his criticism nor her praise.
I was a fucking pigeon in a murder of ravens, and it had never been more obvious.
I was high as fuck, the bay window beside my bed thrown open to bring the storm into my room and let the sweet smoke of my joint carry into the night. Getting high was about the only thing I was good at, or even cared about these days.
Even then, I wasn’t high enough to ignore the shatter of glass on the main floor and the resounding vibration as a door slammed shut. My bloodshot gaze caught a flash of white whipping through the backyard under my window.
My mother was running over the wet grass and discarded magnolia blossoms toward the white capped waters of the lake.
Alarm ripped down my spine like tearing Velcro.
The lake was large enough to be truly frigid and fucking dangerous in this kind of weather. She had no business even being out in the slashing force of the rain, let alone anywhere close to the churning body of water.
I crushed the end of my blunt against the windowsill and clumsily ran down the curving staircase and through the hall to the back door. My father’s office door was open, light spilling into the dark house from his stained-glass Tiffany lamps. I spared one molasses’ slow moment to blink at his figure sitting ramrod straight and totally composed behind his palatial desk.
There was no sympathy or urgency in his dead gaze, only bone deep disregard for everything around him. His house, his wife, and even his youngest son.
I turned back down the hall, sprinting into the plummeting rainfall. The grass was slick and cool as an ice rink beneath my bare feet. The darkness of the storm had completely reduced my visibility of the lake.
Still, I ran, knowing my mother was out there somewhere, more hysterical than I’d ever seen her—even through the last few months of her increasing anxiety.
“Mom!” I shouted over the wind and crashing waves. “Mom, get back from the water!”
A forlorn wail met my ears, but I couldn’t be sure if it was the savagery of the storm or a cry for help from my mom.
My feet met the cool, gritty sand, and I went dashing across the sliver of shore until I was ankles deep in the sucking, brutal drag of the lake.
I rubbed my fists over my blurry eyes, hating myself for not being sober or capable enough to fix this mess and fucking find her.
“Magnolia!” I shouted so loudly, it tore a strip off the inside of my throat.
A flash of white caught my eye, pulling my gaze to the left. I peered through the gloom to discern the spill of her dark blonde hair and her pale face bobbing, half-submerged in the frigid lake.
Without thinking, I ran into the waves up to my hips and then dove under the glacial water. My arms churned through the peaks and troughs of biting cold until I finally reached the distance I’d seen my mom at, but she wasn’t there.