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I threw the copy of the Carlisle Ledger on my dad’s desk.
“What the hell did you do?”
Dad looked up at me, Henry McAllister, cold and icy.
“Tradition dictates that when a child of someone in my position—”
“What position, you run an AHL hockey team—”
“—with the kind of money and social standing we have—”
“—you said the wedding would be quiet!”
We talked over each other like raising my voice would be enough to make sure he listened.
All I could think that in those simple lines of print, my whole life had been ruined. Not to mention how Goog must be feeling. My heart was breaking, my life was shit, and this man sitting in his home study was responsible for it all.
“You made a deal, Sam.” He sounded smug. And why wouldn’t he be, he’d won this round of our family war.
But yeah, I had made the deal. If I hadn’t fucked up on the team’s Casino Night. If I hadn’t thought it was a good idea to try to claim some connection to Goog? Hell, if Goog hadn’t arrived with a woman on his arm. If Goog and I had talked to each other after what happened last year in Turku. If dad wasn’t such a bastard?
So many if’s and as they passed through my mind my legs felt like jelly, and I sat down slowly.
“You didn’t have to do that.” I pointed at the paper and the society page that was face up announcing the upcoming wedding between Samuel Henry McAllister and Bethany Amanda Brooke.
“You do recall the deal we made?”
Christ, all he needed was a fluffy white cat on his lap, and the whole menacing look would be perfect.
I couldn’t look him in the eye. Yes, I recalled the deal in every single excruciating detail. Dad wouldn’t press charges against Michael, wouldn’t have Taz sent away, wouldn’t out Goog to the world, wouldn’t have my gallery closed down by dumping it in the rezoning package he’d invested in.
All I had to do in return was marry Beth.
“How could you do this?” I asked, not for the first time, stunned that there was so much manipulative hate in one man. There was no compassion or empathy in him at all. “I’m your son.”
Dad lifted his chin, and for a moment it looked like he was contemplating my question in full. He wasn’t.
“You’re not the son I wanted, you never can be, but you may as well make yourself useful.”
I didn’t have the strength to begin to argue with him, and I left, striding through the vast house I hated, and out to the front courtyard where my beat-up Toyota sat next to dad’s flashy silver roadster. Ever since mom had died three years ago, dad had become obsessed with the team, his cars, and amassing property and wealth.
I wished I could think that mom’s death was what had turned dad into this hard-shelled obnoxious asshole, but he’d always been like that. He’d hated me, his ‘pretty‘ son my entire life. He detested the fact I was an artist, loathed the fact I was gay, and now I was stuck.
My cell vibrated, but when it was Goog’s name on the screen, I pressed reject, doing the same when Taz called as well. The last thing I wanted to do was talk to either of them. Goog would try and talk to me, which was a bit late now after the previous year when we hadn’t spoken much at all. As for Taz? He would just be telling me to tell dad to fuck off.
I don’t need that. I can’t deal with it.
Heading into the city, I parked in one of the three spaces at the back of Aura Gallery. Even seeing the name of the place I called home made my heart ache. I’d named it for the Aura River which runs through Turku, one of the most beautiful cities in Finland I’d ever visited. It reminded me of Goog, of his insistence I should work with my art, spend all my inheritance on this place, make it my life. It was entirely mine, and it sat in the middle of a district that was being gentrified at an alarming rate. That was good and bad. It meant the building was more secure, but it also meant land was at a premium, and the Brooke consortium wanted this plot. The only thing that stood in the way between me losing this place and staying was my dad.
I got the artistic gene from mom. She loved that I painted, adored that I was quieter than other boys in my class, hugged me fiercely every time she was near me.
I miss you, Mom.
She wouldn’t have left dad get away with the crap he was trying to pull.
My cell vibrated again, this time it was Beth, and I couldn’t ignore her. “Hey.”
“Did you see the paper?” She sounded tearful, and I didn’t blame her. She was just as much a victim of this shit as I was. Only it hadn’t been her that had started everything off at Casino night. We might be in this together now but giving dad the ammunition he needed had been all me. Guilt was something I dragged around with me every waking hour, and even in my dreams.
I leaned back in the seat.
“I’m so sorry, Beth.”
“This isn’t all your fault, Sammy,” she said. “But Lisa… she’s…”
My chest tightened with compassion. She was crying for her girlfriend, I was agonizing over Goog, and everything was wrong.
I needed to get inside the Gallery, to stand in my workshop, with the scents of paint and thinners, and the splashy color of my experimental paintings that lay haphazardly around the edge of the large bright room.
Maybe there, I would find peace.
I had to give something a try.
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