Read Seer (The Seeker Series Book 3) Online
Authors: Amy Reece
“But I don’t want to be mad at her! She’s pregnant and needs my support right now. How can I be mad at her? What kind of horrible person does that make me?”
“Okay, okay,” she soothed. “Just cry it out. You’ll feel better, I promise.” She let me cry for a while before she went to the bathroom, got me a warm, wet washcloth for my face, and told me it was time to move on. Another reason she’s my best friend. “Enough of this. Wipe your face and tell me about your trip,” she ordered. “I cannot believe you took off with Rémy and didn’t tell anyone! You could have told me, at least! I wouldn’t have ratted you out!”
“I know and I’m sorry, Tara! I didn’t even tell Jack. He still doesn’t know. Rémy thought it would be better if we didn’t tell anyone.”
“What a jerk! I really hate him sometimes!”
I closed my eyes and lowered my head to my hands. “Oh, God, Tara!” I groaned. “I need to tell you something.”
“Oh, my God! You slept with Rémy!”
I threw a pillow at her. “Of course not! How could you even think that?”
‘Sorry!” She had the grace to look guilty. “What did you do?”
“I kissed him,” I whispered.
“You mean recently? Since the last time?”
“Thanks for reminding me!” Why was she my best friend? “He kissed
last time, remember? He actually kissed me this time too. But I kissed him back.”
“Was it, you know, a
kiss? And did you
kiss him back?”
“Yep. As real as it gets. I
kissed him back.” I flopped on my bed and curled into a fetal position, hugging the stuffed cat Jack gave me a few months ago. “I’m so ashamed! I cheated on Jack! What am I going to do?”
She sat beside me and brushed my hair off my face. “Okay, tell me about it.”
So I told her about the prophecy all the Conseil members seemed to want to interpret to mean I was the Oracle and Rémy and I were meant to be together. I told her how he insisted on slow dancing with me and holding me closer than I was comfortable with. I told her how he kissed me, saying that everyone expected it. And I told her how I kissed him back instead of pulling away. “I was so tired of everyone, especially Kate, trying to push us together. I thought maybe I was wrong and I should listen to everyone else,” I said miserably.
“First of all, he kissed you. You didn’t kiss him. That’s an important distinction. How was it? Were they right? Are you two meant to be together?”
I shook my head. “No, we definitely aren’t. I mean, he’s a good kisser; there’s no denying it.”
“I know. You’re right: the boy knows how to kiss,” she said, reminding me that she and Rémy dated briefly when he first arrived in Albuquerque last winter.
“But I analyzed it the whole time: how he moved his lips, what he did with his tongue.”
kissed him, huh?” she interrupted.
I cringed and nodded. “I never analyze it when I’m kissing Jack. I can’t even think straight when we’re kissing. Kissing Rémy was like kissing my brother, if I had a brother. I don’t know how I’m going to tell Jack.”
“Why in the world would you need to tell Jack?” she asked incredulously.
“Because I cheated on him! I need to beg his forgiveness,” I wailed.
“Ally, sweetie, you didn’t cheat on him. You were confused and pressured into doing something you never would have chosen to do on your own. You have been under an enormous amount of stress lately with this whole Oracle nonsense and you were basically tricked into doing something you didn’t want to do. That’s not cheating. I guarantee you Rémy isn’t losing any sleep over the kiss and you shouldn’t, either. Just make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
“You really don’t think I should tell Jack?”
“I really don’t. I know you feel guilty, although I don’t think you really have any reason to. Telling him would only make you feel marginally better. It will hurt him. I guarantee he won’t understand. And it will probably be the nail in the coffin in his and Rémy’s already tenuous relationship. He’s already going to be pissed at Rémy for taking you to France, and since Rémy is an important part of your life, you need them to be able to get along somewhat.”
“Are you sure? I feel like I’m lying to Jack if I don’t tell him.” Rémy had given me the same advice, but I wasn’t sure. I felt naïve, gauche, and so far out of my depth it wasn’t even funny.
“Hey, I’m no relationship expert. I just know that you love him. I think you should focus on the future, not the past. You’ve got what, four more weeks before he gets back? Why don’t you let it rest for a few weeks and see how you feel about it closer to when he gets home? If you still feel like you have to tell him, fine.”
“Okay. Thanks, Tara. I’m just so mixed up about everything right now. I don’t know what to do.”
“Well, for starters, let’s get out of here. You owe me some girl time. Let’s hit the mall and whatever else we decide to do before I have to go to work. Do you want to see if Mina wants to tag along? By the way, am I the only one sensing some sparks between her and Rémy? Aren’t you able to read his mind or something? Does he like her?”
“There’s something going on, but they have both firmly shut me out of that part of their minds, which is highly annoying,” I said as I went across the hall to invite Mina to accompany us to the mall.
Mina did want to go, and we had a great afternoon shopping and showing Mina what American retail was all about. Tara and I were both amused at Mina’s reaction to the grocery store we stopped by on the way home. Apparently grocery stores in Ireland were not nearly as big as ours and she wandered the many aisles, wide-eyed. We were just picking up a couple frozen pizzas and some salad for dinner, but it took her a full fifteen minutes to decide what kind of pizza she wanted.
“How do you choose between so many different types of food? It must take you hours to shop!”
“Let’s really mess with her mind and take her to the ice cream aisle,” Tara suggested.
“That’s evil,” I said. “But now I want ice cream, so let’s do it.”
Later that night, as I wrote a letter to Jack, my mom came in and sat beside me on my bed. “How often do you write to him?” she asked, idly picking up the calendar I had set down beside me. I was using it to mark off the days until he came home.
“At least twice a week. I don’t get that many in return, though. He’s not a great letter-writer.”
“Yeah, well, he’s a guy.” Neither of us said anything for a few minutes; I kept writing and she flipped aimlessly through the calendar. “Can I ask about the meeting with Josh? Did it go all right?”
I sighed and stopped writing. “Yeah, it was okay. Awkward, but he seems like a nice guy.”
“He is a nice guy. Ally, I’m so sorry. I know you must hate me right now.” She stood up and paced around my room.
“I don’t hate you, Mom. I don’t know exactly how I feel, to be honest. I’m mad, I guess, and I still don’t understand how you could do that, how you could keep it from us all these years.”
She shook her head. “I know. I don’t have any excuse, sweetie. I was afraid. I made some really bad choices and I’m so ashamed of myself.” She came back and sat down again. “Are we going to be okay, Ally?”
“Yeah, we will. I just need a while to get used to this and to think about it. I need time, okay?” I reached to rub the back of her hand.
She nodded sadly. “Okay. I understand.” She rose and left my room, silently closing the door behind her.
I sighed and fell back against my pillows. Crap. I hated that my mom and I weren’t in harmony right now. I much preferred to get along with her and Grams, but I couldn’t get past what she had done to my father and me. I reached over and picked up the letter I had been writing to Jack, attempting to explain the huge change in my life. After a few attempts, I scribbled out what I had written and crumpled the paper. This was too big to write in a letter; I didn’t want him to be distracted from his last few weeks of training by worrying about me and my crazy life. When he got home I would have lots to tell him. He still had no idea that I had defected to France with Rémy instead of going straight to Ireland and now I had to tell him all about my father. Yikes. I reached over and grabbed the calendar my mother had been looking at and crossed off another day: three weeks and five days until Jack came home.
contract of true love to celebrate;”
I spent quite a bit of time with my father over the next few weeks. He split his time between Dallas and Albuquerque, racking up a huge amount of frequent flyer miles as we attempted to get to know each other. Josh was a nice guy, so it wasn’t terribly difficult, but there was still a certain amount of awkwardness, which we were finding a challenge.
“Josh, can I ask you something?” We were sitting in a secluded booth at The Rancher’s Club, a pricey restaurant inside the Hilton Hotel. Josh enjoyed taking me out for expensive dinners when he was in town, and I loved eating at the kind of places my mom and Grams never took me to and that were well beyond the range of Jack’s salary.
“Of course, Ally. You can ask me anything.”
“How did you figure all this out? Mom said you saw us on the news or something, but I wondered how you knew.” I felt like we were getting to know each other well enough to begin to talk about some harder issues.
He set down his fork and took a sip of wine, as if to fortify himself. “Well, that’s true. I was watching the national news one evening last spring and they were covering the funeral of Ashley Hayes, doing a story about how the cold case was finally solved. There was a shot of you and your mom standing together at the funeral and they were talking about how you had been taken hostage by the killer and almost died in the shootout or whatever it was.”
I remembered what he was talking about; Mom and I had refused to talk to the media at the funeral, but couldn’t keep them from filming us from a distance. We didn’t want to have to go into details about how I got involved in the whole situation and turned down multiple offers to tell our story. I probably could have financed my college education on what I was offered by the various media outlets, but I had no desire to talk about my psychic abilities on national television. We had also agreed to keep that information from my father, as well. I could think of no reason for him to know about our little family gift.
“Anyway, I recognized Jen right away. She really hasn’t changed that much. She’s still beautiful.” He sounded wistful as he stared into his deep red wine. “And then I noticed the girl standing beside her.” He looked up at me, pinning me with his gaze. “I can’t begin to tell you how I felt at that moment, Ally. It all came back to me: the last crazy months of freshman year when Jen and I couldn’t keep our hands off each other—”
“Oh, God, Josh! I was trying to eat!” I pushed my plate away.
“Sorry, sweetheart, but it’s true. Anyway, Jen disappeared in the middle of finals week without a word to anyone. I couldn’t find her anywhere on campus and when I got to her dorm room, she was already gone, along with all her belongings.”
“Why didn’t you go after her? If you loved her, why didn’t you chase after her?” I had churned this question over in my mind since I found out about him. I couldn’t understand why he had let her go without a fight. Jack would never do that. Would he?
“I tried, Ally. I really did, but I only knew she was from Albuquerque. I didn’t know her home phone number or address and I couldn’t find it in any phone book. We didn’t have cell phones back then and the Internet was in its infancy. I was just a stupid kid and I thought she had got tired of me and left. I always worried she was out of my league and that was her way of letting me down easy. I never thought about her being pregnant. God, I’m such an idiot! I missed your entire childhood! You’re nearly an adult and I just found out about you. I’m so sorry, Ally.”
“Grams said Mom was really messed up after Grandpa died. She told me she just wasn’t ready for you.” I said nothing for a moment. “Did you love her?” I needed to know the answer to this and I really hoped he wouldn’t lie.
He was silent too, and then said, “I don’t know, Ally. I thought I did, but we were both so young. We got serious so quickly and weren’t as careful as we should have been. And I’m really embarrassed to be talking about this with my 17 year old daughter. Look, I don’t have all the answers. All I know is I have a daughter I never knew about. I want to get to know you and be part of your life. That’s it. Can we just concentrate on that? Please?”
I half-smiled at him. “Yeah, we can. Dad.” I tried it out for the first time. And I liked it.
A startling change came over him and I saw him surreptitiously wipe away a tear.
Tara succeeded in getting me a job at the restaurant where she had been working all summer and the busy schedule helped the time without Jack pass more quickly. I started as a hostess, but hoped to be promoted to waiting tables soon. I studied the menu every day in order to pass the 60-question menu test, the first barrier to becoming a waitress. Now that we were both gainfully employed, Tara started dragging me around to look at a plethora of different apartment complexes. I asked why we couldn’t simply rent one in the same complex as Mat. Jack would be moving in with him as soon as he returned from boot camp. Wouldn’t it be handy to live in the same complex? I hadn’t seen it yet, but it sounded great.
“I’m not saying no, but I would like to look around first. I do have my name down on a waiting list for a three-bedroom in their complex, but we need to have a backup plan.” So we toured apartments. A lot of apartments: Tara was a woman on a mission. Mina joined us when she could; Rémy had managed to get her a job in an Irish pub since she was old enough to serve liquor in New Mexico, although not old enough to drink it. I don’t want to know how he managed to get her a green card and a server’s license so quickly. He also found an IT program for her to start in the fall so she could learn web design. He had wanted to underwrite all her living expenses, but she was fiercely, yet quietly independent and refused to let him. After much negotiation, she agreed to let him pay for her initial schooling costs, but stated she would be reimbursing him. Period. When he tried to argue, I sent him a friendly mental message:
for God’s sake, stop talking
. I began to recognize that when Mina set her jaw and narrowed her eyes it was best to let her have her way. Mina and I humored Tara up to a point, gamely viewing model apartments all over Albuquerque, but I held firm on a place that allowed cats; Mr. Wickham would definitely join me on my sojourn toward independent living.
Josh called later that week to arrange a lunch date on Saturday. It surprised me since he usually took me to dinner, but I agreed readily enough. Our time together was no longer awkward and I was becoming more and more comfortable thinking of him as my dad. Which he was. Of course. Okay, so, maybe I had some more work to do.
“Sure, Josh. Dad.” I cringed as I said it. “Yeah, that would be great. What time should I be ready?”
“It’s okay, Ally. It’s hard, I know. How about I pick you up around 11? I have something I want to show you before lunch.”
He picked me up in his rented Acura and drove us to a neighborhood close to my old high school, pulling in the driveway of a well-kept red brick home with a green, manicured lawn and a huge tree shading the front of the house. I noticed a realtor’s ‘sold’ sign in the yard.
“Are we visiting someone?” I asked.
“Remember when I told you I wanted to show you something?” Josh said. I nodded as he got out of the car, opened the door for me, and ushered me up the front walk. I was surprised when he used his own key to open the front door.
“Oh, my God, Dad! Did you buy this house? Are you moving here?”
“Yes and no. Yes, I bought this house. No, I am not moving here. Would you want me to?” he asked.
“Of course I would. It would be great if you lived closer. Why did you buy the house if you’re not moving here?”
“I bought it for you, Ally. Surprise.” He pushed open the front door and led me inside. I said nothing; I was incapable of speech as he led me on a tour of the house, which was empty of furniture. I said nothing as he showed me the living room with a beautiful brick fireplace and dark wood floors. The kitchen was gorgeous, obviously recently remodeled, and the three bedrooms were spacious. The backyard was adorable, with the same lush, manicured lawn and a covered deck that wrapped around the side of the house. “So, what do you think?” he finally asked.
“You…you bought me a house? Why? Josh—Dad—it’s too much. You can’t buy me a house! What in the world?” I was flabbergasted.
“All right, first of all, yes, I can buy you a house. I assure you I can afford it. I’ve made a lot of money in real estate and I want to spend some of it on my daughter. As to why: you need a place to live and this would be much better than living in an apartment. Renting an apartment is throwing money away. A house is an investment. It’s capital. You can start building wealth at a young age. With three bedrooms, you can have your two friends pay you rent.” He sounded so logical.
“But it’s so expensive! This is a really nice house, Dad.”
“It is nice. I’m not about to buy you some hovel, sweetheart. It belonged to an older couple who maintained it well. I’ve had a few things updated and improved, but that’s all.”
A few things? Yeah, like the entire kitchen, all three bathrooms, and the flooring throughout the whole house! “Wait. An older couple? Nobody died here, did they?” What a horrifying thought; I’m not sure I could live in a house where people died. With my luck, they would probably stick around and want to visit with me.
Josh laughed. “No, Ally. Nobody died here, at least not recently. Realtors have to disclose a distressed property, so it was not the scene of some gory murder, either. The couple that lived here was tired of taking care of the yard and moved to a smaller condo. I’m nearly positive this house is not haunted.”
“Oh, good. But that does not negate the fact that you can’t just buy me a house! Who does that?” I exclaimed.
“A father who was absent for the first seventeen years of his daughter’s life and has never paid a cent of child support. Ally, did you know that the average cost of raising a child to age 18 is somewhere around $250,000? That fits in well with the cost of this house. I’d rather do that than hand you a lump sum.” He looked ridiculously hopeful so, although I still had major reservations about the whole thing, I gave in.
“Okay. Well, wow. I don’t even know what to say except thank you. This is beyond amazing, Dad. Thanks.” I initiated our first-ever hug. “Tara is going to flip out when she sees this. I guess our apartment hunting is over.”
“So, you think your friends will want to move in with you?”
“Well, good. I hesitated because I didn’t like the thought of you living alone. And I absolutely hated the thought of your boyfriend moving in here with you. Please tell me that’s not an option.” He looked at me, pleading.
“Don’t worry. Jack would never go for that. He’s really kind of an old-fashioned guy. If you know what I mean,” I said with raised eyebrows.
“I don’t. And I don’t want to know or even think about it. As long as you’re okay with the house, there’s one more thing I want to show you. Come on.” He led me to the door in the kitchen that opened into the garage. “Ta da!” He opened the door to reveal an exquisitely clean garage in which was parked a brand new SUV.
“Oh, my God,” I whispered.
“It’s a Toyota hybrid, so you’ll save on gas. It’s four-wheel drive so you’ll be safe when it rains or snows.”
“A house and a car? No way, Dad. I just can’t.”
“Of course you can. It makes me happy, Ally. Please. I’ve never been able to provide for you. Now I finally have the chance. I already told your mom and grandmother and they’re fine with it, if a bit surprised.”
“Yeah, no kidding. Me too. But Dad, I have a car. Jack gave it to me. I don’t want to hurt his feelings,” I argued.
“If this young man is as wonderful as you say he is, he’ll recognize that this is a much safer vehicle than that Volkswagen, which doesn’t even have air bags. I hate the thought of you driving around town in it. And this is air-conditioned. And it has heated seats.”
My dad didn’t play fair. I had been sweating it out driving around Albuquerque in the summer heat. July temperatures typically hover in the high nineties, so air-conditioning would be so nice. And the thought of toasty-warm butt cheeks on a cold winter’s day had me sighing. I had one thing left to say, however. “Dad, you know I don’t need any of this. I still want to spend time with you whether or not you buy me stuff like some sort of fairy godfather. I need to know that’s not what this is about.”
“No. Absolutely not. I need to be able to do this for you, Ally. I can well afford it and it makes me feel better, so let me, okay? This helps me feel like I’m making up in the smallest way for not being there while you grew up.”
“It’s not like you had any say in the matter, you know?” I pointed out.
“I know, I know. Do this for me, okay?”
“Okay.” I had no more arguments. I would accept my dad’s extreme largesse and be happy with it.