Authors: Karen Fuller
She put up her hand. “I’ve already told him that, and he said he’d be happy to meet you.”
His eyes opened wider in surprise. “He did?” She smiled and nodded. “What’s this kid’s name?”
She smiled; she wasn’t expecting him to be so agreeable. “His name is Luke Wolfburn.”
He looked up in the air and thought out loud. “Wolfburn, Wolfburn, where have I heard that name before?”
She shrugged. “Luke asked me if I had heard of you when he heard my last name. Maybe you met his father at work?”
He shook his head in thought as he tried to place the name. “We don’t have any Wolfburns in the office,” he said distractedly. He looked up and snapped his fingers. “The Wolfburns own that diner where I eat my lunch.”
She shrugged. “Luke didn’t say what his father did. Anyhow, Luke will be here at seven to pick me up.”
Her father pulled his wallet out of his pocket and retrieved his credit card. He held it up just out of her reach and spoke to her sternly, “This is for the school uniforms only. Don’t go crazy with it.”
She snatched it out of his hand and laughed. “I promise I won’t go crazy. It’s not like I have to make a fashion statement at school.” She rolled her eyes. “Everyone dresses like everyone else.”
“You just be sure to check with me before you leave the house. I want to meet Luke. I want to know who has my daughter. Am I clear?”
“Crystal,” she said and waited. He looked back down at his paperwork and picked back up his pen. She was trying to think of the best way to approach her father and decided to go for broke. “Uh . . . Dad?” she said hesitantly, and he put his pen back down and looked up.
“Was there something else?”
She looked away and then snapped her eyes back to his. “I want to know why we came here,” she blurted out, and threw her hand up over her mouth. She hadn’t meant to be that blunt.
He sat back in his chair and studied her expression. “Has something else happened to make you think that I have ulterior motives?”
She blew out a breath and nodded. “I deserve to hear the truth from you and not a stranger.”
“You think I’ve been lying to you,” he said solemnly.
She looked away. “I don’t think that you are actually telling me any lies . . . but . . . uh, I do feel like you’re not telling me everything.” She looked back into his eyes and waited for him to answer.
He sighed dramatically. “I think that I need to hear more of what happened to you at school today.” He raised an eyebrow expectantly. “I need to know what was said to you so that I can answer your question properly.”
Her eyes grew wide. “Are you keeping that many secrets from me, that I have to explain what omission you’ve been caught in?” she said in disbelief.
He closed his eyes to consider his words carefully. He opened his eyes and looked directly into hers. “There were certain things that your mother didn’t want you to know,” he said gently.
She swallowed hard as the tears threatened to spill. “Mom’s dead,” she said in a whisper. “I need to know why.”
He looked away. “Pumpkin . . . I think that it’s better that you don’t know.”
She blinked hard and the tears spilled down her cheeks. She looked away. “So . . . You think it’s better for me to hear it from a stranger than to hear it from my own father.”
He slammed his hand down on his desk. “I’ve been trying to protect you!” he said defensively, and she cringed. He grimaced at her reaction and said gently, “I’m sorry, Pumpkin.”
She shook her head and cried harder. “Dad, I don’t want your pity,” she said forcefully and looked up into his eyes. “I want the truth.”
He wiped a trembling hand across his brow. “What do you want to know?”
Her red-rimmed eyes grew wide in disbelief. He wanted her to pick and choose what truth she wanted to hear? She threw out her hands in frustration. “I want to know all of it, Dad!
Ryan sat back in his chair and sighed heavily in defeat. “This isn’t going to be easy for you to hear, Pumpkin.”
Vicky shook her head. “I expect not,” she said in a clipped tone. “It certainly wasn’t easy for me to hear in the girl’s bathroom today either. So . . . as you always say to me, just spit it out.”
He shifted uneasily in his chair. “You know that your mother was a witch.” She nodded.
“And you are as well,” he said softly and looked at her expectantly.
She shrugged. “So far you haven’t told me anything that I don’t know.”
His eyes grew wide. “You knew you were a witch?”
She nodded seriously. “When you can control the elements, it’s hard not to notice that you’re special. Mom shared that secret with me. I guess she sensed how confused I was. Please go on.”
“I can’t believe she didn’t tell me that you knew that.”
She shrugged. “I never knew that it was supposed to be a secret. It was just something that we never talked about.”
“Right,” he said distractedly.
“Tell me something that I don’t know.”
“What’s that, Pumpkin?”
“After Mom was killed last week . . . why did you whisk me away in the middle of the night to bring me to this God forsaken place?”
“I did it at your mother’s request,” he said softly.
She did a double take. “Excuse me?”
He sighed heavily. “Your mother grew up here.” He looked around the room. “She lived in this house as a child.”
Vicky’s mouth dropped open. “I had always assumed that she grew up in Fort Lauderdale.”
“That’s what she wanted you to believe. She wanted to keep it a secret of just how powerful she was.”
She looked into his eyes. “Sara called me a white witch.”
“Just who in the hell is Sara?” He shook his head in aggravation. “Why were you using your powers in front of that girl?”
Her eyes grew wide. She brought her hand up to chest. “Me? You’re accusing me of using witchcraft in front of others?” she said indignantly.
He raised an eyebrow. “You’re denying it?”
Her face turned beet red. “I’m not denying anything.” He set his mouth in a thin grim line.
“But I will tell you this, Sara called me a witch before I ever demonstrated any powers,” she said forcefully.
His eyes grew wide. “How did she know that?”
Vicky threw out her hands and shrugged. “That’s why I’m grilling you. She knew something about me and my mother that I had never told a soul about. I’m just trying to get to the bottom of it.”
He shook his head. “Your mother told me to bring you here to live if anything bad ever happened to her. She said that you would be safe here. At the time, I didn’t really think anything about it.” His eyes took on a sad, distant look. “It was several years ago. We were so happy. You were just entering puberty, and I guess she knew you were coming into your powers. She must have known something was going to happen to her.” His eyes came back into the present and he looked her in the eyes. “Your mother knew things. She must have foreseen what was going to happen to her.”
She looked away. “I wonder why she said that. I wonder why she wanted you to bring me to the one place that it would probably be impossible for me to keep my secret.”
His face turned white. “Why are you talking like that, Pumpkin?”
Her eyes zoomed back in on his. “Come on, Dad,” she said dryly. “I know you’re not naive.
The name of the street we live on is Wicca, another term used in the craft. I am assuming that other witches live here, in this town, as well.” She blew out a breath. “Sara is a practicing witch.
She uses her witchcraft to terrorize others. She takes it to a dark place. She thought she could intimidate me.” She took a deep breath. “I had to show her that she couldn’t.” She gave her father a piercing glare. “Dad, I need to know what happened to mom last week.”
He set his jaw. “She died,” he said through clenched teeth.
“Don’t patronize me. I’m very aware that she died, although I never saw her body. Why’s that? How did she die, Dad?”
He covered his face with trembling hands and slumped down in his chair. “Somehow the wrong person found out that she was a witch.” He let his hands drop in defeat. “A large group of vigilante witch hunters broke into our home and took her from me by gunpoint. There were too many of them.” A tear trailed down his cheek as he remembered. “They knocked me out and were somehow quiet enough that they didn’t wake you.” He raised his eyes to hers. They were filled with the deep-seated pain and anguish of a lost love. “They tied her to a stake and burned her alive.” He looked up at the ceiling to blink back the tears. “I was afraid that they would find out about you.” Her face turned white, and she brought her trembling hands over her mouth in shocked horror. “Your mother had inherited the deed to this house, so I brought you here. Vicky, you’re all I have left. I couldn’t risk your life by staying in Fort Lauderdale. If what you say is true, and people know about you, we may have to pack up and leave.” He shook his head. “I don’t know where we would go. Maybe somewhere where no one has ever heard of us, I don’t know.”
She looked away, and the tears fell, unchecked, down her face. “How could you keep this from me,” she whispered. “Momma . . .” she cried. “She was a sweet and gentle soul. She would never hurt anybody. Oh my God . . .” Her eyes took on a cold hard glare. She set her jaw in anger. “I will see to it personally, that they will pay for what they did to her.”
He shook his head frantically. “No, Pumpkin. Your mother wouldn’t want that.”
“Oh, come on, Dad . . . If this story is true, these people already know about me,” she said sarcastically. “Why not strike first?”
“Because you’re better than they are,” he growled, “and they may just be lying in wait to make sure you’re a witch before they strike. I’ll not allow you to provoke them into action.”
She laughed, and her laughter took on a slightly hysterical tone. “You won’t ‘allow’ me to strike?” she said defiantly. She laughed harder, and he got up from his chair and shook her.
“Vicky!” he said urgently.
The laughter stopped and she glared up at him. “I love you, Daddy, but I’m not very happy with you right now,” she said in a small voice. “I feel like such a fraud.”
“Pumpkin . . . please . . .”
She held up her hand and turned her head away from him. “I’m going to go upstairs and get ready for my date.” She took a deep breath and blew it out. “I’m also going to try and forget that this conversation ever happened. I want to trust you again, Daddy, I really do. Just leave me alone and give me some time. I promise you that I won’t do anything rash.” She turned and left the room without even glancing back at him.
Ryan sat back down in his chair and stared blankly at the door. He felt like he had just lost his daughter.
She slowly walked up the stairs to go to her room. She paused at the top of the stairs. Her head was swimming with all that she had learned from her father. She wanted to hold a grudge and blame him for keeping all of this from her, but she honestly couldn’t. She knew that he had kept it from her because he loved her. There was no doubt in her mind about that. She also knew that she was hurting him by acting out, and her conscience was getting the best of her. She turned back around and went back downstairs to his study.
She threw the door open and charged in. Her eyes met his. “I’m sorry,” they both said in unison.
He smiled, and she laughed lightly. He stood up, and she ran around his desk and threw herself into his arms in a fierce hug. “I love you,” he said fiercely.
“I know, Daddy. I love you, too.” She sighed. “I’m still not happy with what happened, but I do understand that you were trying to spare me some of the pain.” She pulled back and gave him a stern look. “In the future, I expect you to tell me everything. I’m a big girl now, and I can handle it. Please don’t keep things from me.”
He pulled her into another fierce hug. “You’ve got it, Pumpkin. Now, you need to go. You have a date.”
She smiled up at him. “Yes I do.”
She heard a knock at the door and she went to go answer it. “I’ll get it,” she called out to her father. She opened the front door to Luke. She smiled and opened the door wider. “Hey you, come on in.”
Luke flashed a crooked grin. “You look nice. Are you ready to go to dinner?”
Her eyes sparkled. “You still have to meet my dad first.”
He blew out a breath and then laughed. “Okay babe, do your worst.”
She laughed. “He’s really not that bad. Come on. He’s in his study.” Luke followed her down the hall to her father’s study. She knocked on the door as she opened it. “Dad?” she said to get his attention. He looked up from his paperwork. “Dad, this is Luke.”
“Hello, sir,” Luke said, “I’m Luke Wolfburn.”
Ryan sat back in his chair to assess the young man that had arrived to take out his daughter.
He could see how happy Vicky was and decided to take it easy on her date. “Luke, does your father own the diner?”
Luke smiled. “Yes sir. The diner’s ours,” he said and glanced at Vicky and shrugged.
Ryan nodded. “What time are you going to have Vicky home?”
“I thought we’d eat first, and then I’m going to take her to the department store for a school uniform. It closes at nine. I should have her home before ten.”
Ryan gave them both a stern look. “You be sure that you do.” He looked into Vicky’s eyes.
“Behave yourself, young lady.”
She flushed. “Dad . . . I always behave myself.”
“Just see that you do.” Ryan went back to his paperwork. “Not a minute after ten.”
They turned to leave the room. “Bye, Dad.”
“Dad . . .”
Luke laughed. “Your dad calls you ‘Pumpkin’?”
She punched him playfully in the arm. “Yeah, don’t rub it in.”
“I think it’s cute.”
She rolled her eyes. “Let’s go before I change my mind.”
Luke put the truck in park and cut the engine. He grinned. “We’re here,” he said softly. She grinned back and reached for the door handle. “No, let me do that.”
She pulled her hand away and grinned. “Okay, you can open the door.” He raced around the truck and opened the door. She climbed out. “Thank you,” she said sweetly.