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Authors: Rebekah L. Purdy

Cinderella Complex (6 page)

BOOK: Cinderella Complex
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Chapter Nine

 

I plopped down next to Jack on the bench as my duffel bag skidded across the floor of the foyer. We stared out the window, waiting for Dad to show.

“I don't know why we can't drive ourselves to his house,” I muttered.

“Because then there'd be a way to escape.” He snorted. “Dad knows the only way we'll stick around is if we're locked in.”

I traced my fingers along the seam of my black leggings. Everyone we knew would be at the football game tonight. They'd get to watch Connor score touchdowns. I sighed, imagining his smiling face. Then again, if I did go it'd only remind me he was off limits now. Stupid Katrina and her happy ending.

A horn blared from the driveway. Dad's black BMW parked alongside the house. He never came to the door. I'm sure it had something to do with not wanting to have a run-in with Mom.

I stood up and grabbed my bag. Jack followed close behind.

“Hey,” Dad said when we climbed into the car. “Good to see you.”

“Hi.” I waved half-heartedly from the backseat, staring at his sandy blond hair cropped close to his head. He spun around.

“We're going to Antonia's for dinner.” He pushed his sunglasses up. “I've got some news I want to share with you.”

My chest tightened. What kind of news? Ugh, I hoped it didn't have something to do with Thorna, his girlfriend. Maybe he planned to move farther away. Or better yet, maybe he'd decided to buy us another car.

Jack glanced back at me, his jaw set as Dad shifted the car into gear.

“How's school going?” Dad turned onto Pine Street.

“Fine,” I said.

Jack didn't answer. The tension in the car thickened like pea soup. I wondered if I'd have to ladle myself out when we got to the restaurant.

He continued the questions. “Are you guys dating anyone?”

“You'd know if you came around more.” Jack bristled in the passenger seat, his neck turning red, his hand clenched on the armrest. “I could've gotten six girls pregnant already and you wouldn't even notice.”

“Don't start, Jack,” Dad warned.

“I—um, I started tutoring.” Great. Me to the rescue. If my brother didn't shut his mouth, he'd get us both in trouble. The last thing I wanted was to be grounded the whole weekend. It was bad enough we had to go. No need to make it worse. Not that I didn't love Dad. It's just he spent most of the time in his office, or off doing things with Thorna. Not exactly quality “family” time, but Mom said we had to go. Because it said so in the court order.

Dad smiled at me in the rearview mirror. “That's great, Mags. It'll look good on your college applications.”

“Yeah, that's what I thought.”

Uncomfortable silence blanketed the car. You'd think we were strangers. Although, I guess in a way that's what we'd become. Dad didn't know us anymore. He didn't try. Gone were the piggy-back rides and Saturday movie nights. No more family-fun games or pool parties. He'd changed. I guess we'd changed, too. We weren't the naïve kids he used to tuck in. We'd grown up; he hadn't.

Soon we pulled up to Antonia's, where Dad handed the valet his keys. We went inside. The warm splash of burgundy carpet and mahogany woodwork made it seem darker. The dim lights created more of a romantic atmosphere than it did a family one. Dad used to bring Mom here when they were together.

I slid into a cushioned chair closest to the wall. My gaze followed the floral patterns on the wallpaper. Maybe if I concentrated hard enough, my Godmother powers would kick in and speed the clock up.

“Order whatever you want.” Dad smiled as the waitress hurried to our table.

“An expensive dinner isn't going to change things,” Jack said under his breath, picking up his menu.

Dad cast him a warning look.

“Can I start you off with some drinks?” The waitress glanced around the table. “Perhaps a nice white or red wine?”

“I'll have a Sex on the Beach,” Dad said.

Jack snorted. “Do you mean the drink or with the waitress? You might want to specify.”

Dad's eyes bulged. He clenched the side of the table. I went still. If there was a crayon called ugly red, Dad's face would be on the wrapper.

He turned to the waitress. “I apologize for my son. He appears to have lost his manners tonight.”

I kicked my brother under the table.

“Ow!”

“Knock it off,” I whispered, as I pretended to bend down to pick something up. “Let's just get through dinner.”

“Dinner wasn't my idea.”

Like it was mine
!
Good grief, he acted like an idiot sometimes. I didn't want to spend the whole night fighting. I just wanted to eat a decent meal, hear Dad's news, and get back to his place to crash.

When the waitress finished taking our orders, Dad tried to start another round of meaningless conversation. He asked about our car, our friends, and whether or not we planned to go to the Homecoming dance. When he didn't get much response, he reverted to boring talk of work.

I nearly cheered when our food arrived. The scent of steak made my mouth water. I gazed at my plate. Well-done steak with a side of red potatoes, green beans, croissant rolls, and coconut shrimp.

With my napkin in my lap, I picked up the steak knife and tried to cut my meat. The whole plate moved, nearly landing in my lap.

“Good grief,” I said under my breath. “All I need is a spell to cut this crap.” Bits of glitter fell from my sleeve. I watched in horror as the knife flew from my hand, plunging into a painting behind us. My eyes widened. The brass name plate beneath the painting said,
Walter Crap
. Oh, no. The spell took it literally, and cut the Crap all right.

Dad glowered at me. “Are you trying to outdo your brother tonight?”

“It was an accident.” I swiveled around and jerked the knife from the picture. “Like I'd throw a steak knife across a restaurant.”

Jack didn't seem to buy it. His eyes focused more intently on me. I shrugged then stabbed my fork into the beans. Great. Now my stupid powers were getting me into trouble too.

Dad took a sip of his drink then cleared his throat. “If you two are finished with your shenanigans, I'd like to tell you the surprise I mentioned in the car.”

My mouth felt like sandpaper as I set my silverware down.

“You know that Thorna's been living with me for several months now. And we've decided it's time her daughters, Blythe and Georgia, moved in with us.” He smiled. “We thought it'd be nice to take the next step in our relationship. She's in London, helping the girls pack.”

Jack pounded the table with his fist, causing the silverware to clank together. “First you replace Mom. And now us? Well screw you. I don't need this bull-crap.” He shoved his chair back and rushed to the exit.

Several people stared at us then started whispering. Dad apologized and turned to me. But I was sick of being the go-between. I couldn't stand Blythe and Georgia. They were snobs. And I hated his girlfriend almost as much as I hated Katrina. Dad had ruined everything. First with his affair. Now this.

“Of course, Jack has to cause a scene.”

I clenched the tablecloth and stared at my dad in disbelief. “Then why did you bring us here to spring the news? You knew he'd get mad.”

“I thought being in public might aid as a buffer, keep him from acting like this.”

What a load of crap. More like Dad didn't think it through. Had he forgotten Jack's anger issues? Or maybe he didn't care.

“Well next time, just bring us home.” I stood up. “I'll get him. But I doubt he's coming back in.”

“Tell him he needs to finish his dinner. He's not wasting my money. And tell him if he wants to act childish, then I'll start treating him like a child.”

In the infamous words of Seth, what a tool! How did Dad expect us to take the news? Jump up and down, maybe? Throw our arms around him like it was the best thing to happen since the invention of zit cream? What the heck was he thinking? I stalked from the restaurant, my jaw clenched. Dusk had set in, the sun nothing but a memory now. The parking lot lights flickered as if they might go out. I shivered.

“Jack.” I glanced at the outdoor eating area. No Jack. I walked toward the back lot. A chill snaked up my spine. I rubbed my arms, my pulse thudding in my ears. “Jack, c'mon, just get through dinner.”

Trees waved back and forth, shaking like pom-poms as the wind picked up.
Where in the heck
did he go
? I kicked a stone. It rolled across the cement, pinging when it hit a metal trashcan.

The inky blackness bled across the lot.
Thwimp
. I looked up. The street lamps blinked out one at a time. I came up short and grabbed ahold of one of the lampposts. What in the world was happening? My legs trembled as I glanced around. Then I saw
them
.

Shadows detached from the trees, turning into elongated people creeping toward me.
This wasn't real
. I had to shut my mind off. Everything would be fine. I took several steps back, then spun on my heel, running toward the restaurant.

Whoosh
!
Something swooped down. I ducked, throwing my hands up over my head. A swift breeze whipped past, and my hair blew into my face.

“You will die, Fairy Godmother
,”
a deep voice threatened in my ear.

This wasn't good. I needed to get out of here. Fear embraced me as I raced across the lot. My footsteps thudded against the pavement.

I screamed as a dark mass pummeled the air toward me. Its claws scratched my cheek and something warm trickled down my skin.

“Wand!” The wooden rod appeared in my hand and I spun to face my pursuer. “Fire.”

A ball of flames flew from the wand, igniting a giant tree. Sparks sprayed across the pavilion. Great. Not only did I miss my target, but I'd just set the park on fire.

More silhouettes flocked together in the air like birds of prey.
Grimms
. How had they found me out so soon?

I darted between cars. One of the beings dove for me. The glint of a blade flashed, and a large black-winged figure glided toward me. I raised my arm to protect myself and felt the brush of the creature's wing against my skin.

At the last second, someone slammed into me, knocking me to the ground. I glanced up to see a figure in chain-mail armor unsheathe a glowing sword. Whoever it was stood there ready to defend me. The Grimms screeched as they flew off.

My knight in shining armor had arrived. Or more correctly, my Knight of the Godmother Order.

“Do you have a death wish?” A familiar voice asked.

I gasped. “
You
? You're my champion?”

Chapter Ten

 

The Fairy Godmother World had one heck of a sense of humor. Jack grinned at me as he sheathed his sword. My knight was supposed to be hot. And strong. Not my flipping brother. Seriously. Could I get a break already?

He offered me his hand and helped me to my feet. “You've got blood on your face.” He handed me the handkerchief tied to his armored arm.

Wow, Jack being chivalrous? I must've died and gone to some strange heaven, because my brother normally would've rather crapped out a rhino than do something nice for me.

“Thanks.” I took it from him and dabbed the scratch on my face. At the rate I was going, I wouldn't have a face left. First the car. Now the Grimm—what next? Okay, maybe I better not ask.

Sirens whined in the distance.
Aw, crap
. Smoke floated across the parking lot, reminding me of the fire I started. People gathered on the sidewalk to take in the pyro show. Jack backed into the shadows, muttering words under his breath. A loud
clank
reverberated in the air. His armor disappeared, replaced by his clothes.

“Okay, so how long have you been a knight?” I put away my wand.

He ran a hand through his disheveled hair. “After we got home from Grandma's party. Some old guy appeared in my room with a sword and knighted me. The next thing I know, he jerks me into the closet for training. Try having some sweaty guy pressed up against you, showing you how to swing a sword.” He snorted. “I didn't know for sure, until tonight, who my first assignment was. And now here I am, rescuing you.”

I narrowed my eyes. “Hey, I didn't ask you to save me. I could've handled it on my own.”

“You don't get it. I'm assigned to you. Anytime you're in trouble, I'll be summoned to your side. In other words, we'll be spending lots of quality time together.” Jack pulled on a strand of my hair. “Brother-sister bonding.”

“Why me? What did I do to deserve this?”

“You? I've actually got a life and a girlfriend. How do you think I feel? I'll have to drop everything for you.” He rolled down his shirt collar to show me the tattoo of a sword on his neck. “I'm marked, and before you ask, there's no way of getting out of it. Trust me, I tried.”

The restaurant doors burst open. People poured out. The fire blazed closer to the building and sirens grew louder as the fire trucks sped into the lot.

“There you are!” Dad shouted over the commotion. He grabbed Jack and me by the arms and dragged us to the car. He glanced at me and came to an abrupt stop. I ran into him. “What happened to your face?”

Great! No way could I explain that.

“A mugger,” I blurted out.

Dad's eyes bulged. “Are you hurt? Other than the cuts on your face?”

“No, I'm fine. Really.”

“Maggie, you need to talk to the authorities.”

Double crap! Now I was in for it. If I made a false complaint to the police, I'd go to jail or something. Forget being a Fairy God Liar, more like Felony Godmother.

“I didn't get a good look at him in the dark. He stood in the shadows.” I shot my brother a look. But he just crossed his arms and grinned like an idiot.

“They still need to know. Who's to say this man won't try to hurt someone else?”

Okay, was it really lying? I mean, I got attacked by a Grimm. And who's to say he wasn't trying to mug me?

“He didn't take anything,” I said. “Jack intervened before anything bad happened.”

He shifted his gaze to Jack. “Did you get a look at him?”

“No. Not enough light.”

The firemen shouted for everyone to get back as the flaming tree fell to the ground. It ignited the dry grass like a dynamite fuse.

Dad shoved us ahead of him, letting the mugger stuff go as we raced for his car. The valet seemed startled as customers rushed to get their cars. There went his tips. Once we climbed into the car, Dad put it in drive.

“We're going to stop by the police station before we head home.” He glanced at me.

My mouth went dry. This wasn't going to end well. Maybe if I wished hard enough, something would change his mind. No sooner had I thought it, and
crash
!
The car spun sideways. Glass sprayed the seat. An SUV backed into the driver's side door.

“Dang it! I just bought this car.” Dad slammed his hands down on the steering column and waited for the other driver to move. He shoved on the door, cussing and screaming when it wouldn't budge. “Let me out.” He nudged me toward the passenger side door. I slipped out of the car, watching Dad crawl out behind me, his face crimson.

“If that isn't payback, then I don't know what is.” Jack laughed as he joined us outside. Dad's BMW was his baby. With that, I knew Dad would forget the “mugger” incident. I sighed with relief as I stared at the car.

The night was a total disaster—and it wasn't over yet.

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