A Gift from the Goddess Book Two – Chapter 17

“I mean… there is no biological way that Eric Reid could have fathered you.”

I stared at him blankly.

Was this topic really coming up again? He’d already questioned this on the night of the charity event. A presumptuous perspective from someone who didn’t know any better.

…From someone who grew up with real parents.

“Yes… I know,” I said, somewhat annoyed. But, for whatever reason, this response took Kieran by surprise.

“Wait, you know?” he asked.

“Yes…,” I said again. “I should hope he isn’t Because if he were my biological father, I’d imagine that would have made our first meeting very awkward. What with him picking me up from the orphanage and all.”

“I don’t understand,” he said. “If you know he’s not your father, why are you being so loyal to him?”

“Why?” I asked, unable to hide my irritation now. ” Because he is still my father. He still raised me and took care of me. He rescued me from a shifty house where I was severely bullied, one where I was just another unwanted, unloved six-year-old in a bad system, and gave me a home. Gave me skills and purpose. Protected me from—.”

But I quickly stopped myself from saying the next words before it was too late.

Because I could still recall it so vividly; that day when I had been adopted. I could remember because it had been the same day that I’d committed my first sin.

I’d been relentlessly terrorized for being different, pushed around, and abused by the other kids. They didn’t ‘mow what I was but, thinking back now, they must have sensed it. Realized that I was nothing like them. That I held an underlying threat.

…But it was ultimately that sense of theirs, that treatment, which finally caused me to snap. Or maybe they ‘snapped’ was a more apt way to put it … their arms and legs to be exact.

It was precisely after this encounter that my father then found me….

Standing in a pile of four older children. Covered in their blood. Shaking uncontrollably as I tried to come to terms with what I’d just done.

However, as he took one look at me, he didn’t seem even slightly disturbed by the scene before him. He didn’t so much as bat an eyelid.

No, he simply approached me slowly, crouched before me… and extended me his hand.

He offered me a shelter that I had long since given up on. A vow that if I abided by his rules and helped him, I would forever be safe under his protection. That I had nothing to fear once I became his daughter. His raven.

…An offer which I quickly accepted.

At his best moments, it was bliss. His encouragement and affection were the very things that had been absent from my life up until then. This was someone who saw me for what I was and still loved me regardless. Who wasn’t afraid of the unnatural strength I possessed as a child?

And so when he eventually placed a dagger in my hand and put me to work… I did everything in my power to make him as happy as he made me. To pay him back by being as useful as possible.

Only, as I very quickly discovered, he possessed a side to him that was far more terrifying than I could have ever expected.

The day I made my first mistake was the day I learned what it truly meant to fail my father. When I was inevitably sent for punishment at just the young age of fourteen, I learned my lesson the hard way.

A lesson where being complacent and slipping had consequences. Because it was harder to forget the rules when they were painfully reinforced in your mind.

In a warped, twisted way, I now knew deep down that things wasn’t what they probably should be. That it was unhealthy and dangerous, especially with the threat he held to both me and those around me.

But… he was still my father. A part of me still wanted to believe that his actions were only in my best interest.

…Which was why I couldn’t figure out his motive for poisoning me.

Why spend the last sixteen years raising me, spending thousands in both money and resources to meticulously craft me into who I was… only to then give me something so toxic?

He gave me his name, called me daughter… then tried to slowly kill me.

What was the point?

It just seemed like… a bad investment. Something that I knew my father was more careful about.

Was I just delusional about what was really happening?

“I don’t expect you to understand,” I said, pulling away from my thoughts. “But he is the only family I’ve ever known. Just because he’s not my blood, it doesn’t mean he’s any less important. Not everyone is fortunate enough to have their real parents alive.”

“I didn’t… I didn’t mean it that way,” Kieran said. ” I was just trying to—.”

“I ‘mow what you were trying to do,” I interrupted, holding up a hand to stop him.

He’d said it with the hope that I’d suddenly change my mind about everything. That I’d think that I didn’t actually have to stay… but it didn’t make a difference. In fact, all it did was reaffirm just what was at stake.

All I’m trying to say is that no one should treat their own daughter that way,” he said. “He clearly doesn’t love you in the way that you think. Not if he’s willing to do all those things. A father should never want to hurt their child.”

“…I guess I wouldn’t know then,” I said bitterly. ” But I appreciate the insight from someone more fortunate.”

I turned my back and went to leave, but his voice quickly stopped me.

“…You’re not the only one with a dead parent, Raven,” he said, his voice strained.

And, instantly, I felt a little guilty.

I’d forgotten about what I’d read in Victor’s file. It had mentioned being married but held no details of the wife. Usually, this implied that the partner had died too long ago for our records, something I’d already assumed but didn’t give much thought to.

…But that was Kieran’s mother. It gave it an entirely new meaning now that I wasn’t just reading words on a page.

That was a living person.

“I was just a kid when it happened but I was old enough to remember her,” he continued. ” Truthfully, I don’t know if that makes it better or worse… but I can at least understand your pain if only a little. We have more in common than you think.”

I felt myself holding my breath, this whole thing only adding more confusion to my already conflicted head. AU of this was too much to process.

…No, I needed to leave before I really did do something I regretted.

Without saying anything further, I opened the door and went to take a step over the threshold.

“Three days, Raven,” he called out to me. “I’ll wait three days. I really do hope you’ll change your mind”

It was enough to make me stop for a moment. But through gritted teeth and, with a final push of strength, I did what I needed to do.

…I finally left.

“Goodbye, Kieran,” I said quietly.

And I closed the door behind me.

The next few days felt painfully slow.

With every second that passed, I was very aware of how it was another second wasted, knowing that Kieran was there. Waiting for me in that room, hoping that I’d reconsider. Wanted nothing from me other than to help me escape.

…It took every ounce of self-restraint I had not to give in.

After having some time to cool down and reassess, I was willing to accept now that maybe what Kieran had told me held some merit.

I did love my father… but I also equally feared him. It had been that way for many years now, but I’d become accustomed to it. And so regardless of the motives behind his actions, I had to acknowledge that perhaps my firm belief might not be true. That perhaps there wasn’t a good reason for why he gave me the medication.

…Maybe things were worse than I originally thought.

It didn’t do much for my present situation though. I was still trapped regardless, helpless to go anywhere. If Kieran knew just how far my father’s reach really was, he wouldn’t be speaking of escape so easily.
No, I was still making the right choice.

This way, I could keep Kieran safe. This way… I could continue to pretend everything was okay.

…Or, at least, I thought that was the case.

Because on the third day, something happened that made my blood turn cold.

I was called into my father’s office and saw on his desk the very thing I dreaded to see.

..Another manila folder.

“Father,” I greeted, unable to take my eyes off of it. “Apologies if you had to wait long. I only just heard from Gavin that you wanted to see me.”

“My dear daughter,” he said, setting his drink down. “Yes, please… take a seat.”

Oh, no.

I was never asked to be seated. Something about this felt… wrong.

Hesitantly, I pulled the chair back and did as he asked.

“I’ve been hearing… some interesting stories,” he said. “Stories… about you.”

At that, my entire body froze, momentarily forgetting how to breathe.

Like a snake, it was as though I could feel my father’s hold slowly winding around my neck, constricting my throat… closing in….

..And I ‘mew that he’d caught me.

I should have known better. No, I did know better. I knew all along that secrets were impossible in this house and yet I still tried.

“I’m not… I’m not sure what you’re referring to,” I said, though I knew it was a dangerous game to play dumb here.

“Take a look for yourself,” he said and proceeded to gesture towards the folder on the desk.

Instantly, I swallowed nervously, staring at it intently once more.

Just who’s name would I find in there?

Was it Noah’s? Zac’s? Kieran’s?

…My own? With a shaky hand, I reached out… and opened the cover to reveal the contents.

Only, what I found there wasn’t a name… but rather a photo.

A photo of me getting out of a taxi in front of Kieran’s hotel.

It was the night I’d gone to him for answers. The day my father was meant to be out of town. Somehow, it looked as though I’d been followed despite taking extra precautions. It meant that my father purposely had someone watching me without my knowledge.

“Do you ‘mow who’s currently staying at this hotel?” he asked

I wasn’t sure what to say, already knowing that there wasn’t anything I could do in this situation to make it better.

After several moments had passed, to which I still hadn’t replied, my father continued without waiting.

“Kieran Lycroft,” he answered. You might remember him from the Mayor’s Charity event last week… You know, the assignment you failed to gather intel for?”

‘Think, Raven. Think,’ I started screaming in my head over and over again.

If I didn’t find a way to fix this right now, everything would have been for nothing. Hell, I would be facing similar repercussions had I just tried to run away.

But, most importantly, I’d now thrown Kieran in the firing line. Placing the very target I’d tried so hard to keep off of him.

“Now, why might you be there, my raven?” he asked, curiosity filling in those grey eyes of his.

…Eyes that I’d come to ‘mow only too well over these last sixteen years.

But it was within that familiarity that an idea then finally came to me. A way to save Kieran.

Because I just needed to do what I’d always done… what I always tried to do.

…I just needed to please my father.

“…You’re right,” I said, finally finding my voice. “I was there. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you. I kept it a secret because I wanted it to be a surprise.”

He frowned, his curiosity clearly only increasing.

“After my punishment, I felt responsible for my actions,” I quickly continued. “Just as you had said … I didn’t act appropriately and I failed to do what was best for us. Best for the company. So… I wanted to make it up to you.”

“…Is that so?”

“I thought that if I could still somehow complete the mission, then you’d forgive me. I felt awful knowing that I’d broken your trust and I didn’t want to tell you what I was doing in case I failed again. However, looking at it now, I can see how my actions were deceitful. I’m truly sorry, father.”

He paused in silence as he carefully scrutinized my face, and, in turn, I looked down at my hands in shame. I needed to play the part I normally would in a situation like this. One of submitting to my faults.

“If you feel I should be punished, I would completely under—.”

“Were you successful?” he asked, not waiting for me to finish. “Did you happen to find out about the documents?”

…Interesting. So he really was determined to find them. Even more so than to worry about my actions.

If that was the case… I wondered if there was a way to spin this around….

What if…

But, no, that was probably too much to hope for. Unless….

“…No,” I answered. “But I did manage to befriend the son. He trusts me now. Almost too much. Just like you said, I gave him my best smile.”

Come on… Take the bait.

Please take it. Just this one thing. In all my years, please just give me this one thing.

“And you feel like you are close to locating the documents?” my father replied, unable to hide his interest now.

I exhaled in mock frustration, doing my best to act as genuine as possible. “Truthfully… and I don’t mean to disappoint you further… but I don’t think the son knows anything about them.”

I could see how he instantly deflated, unhappy with that.

A response that was perfect for me. It meant it was working.

“That being said,” I continued. “…I think his father might. Kieran mentioned something along the lines of Victor needing to do important business in Ashwood. A major development that just came up. In fact, I believe Kieran is heading home today to help. I’m just sorry that I wasn’t able to find out anything else, father. I really did try.”

He didn’t even seem phased that I knew all of this and hadn’t told him yet. He was far too focused on just the information. Thankfully, what I had said apparently lined up with whatever those documents were, something I had needed to bluff based purely on assumption.

“It certainly is a shame…,” he said, lost in thought.

“Hmmm. But, actually,” I continued, innocently bringing a finger to my chin in thought “Now that I think about it… you know, he did beg me to go with him.”

He sharply looked back over to me, his interest now piqued once more.

“If you wanted… I could maybe go there myself…,” I said. “Find out about the documents from Victor and then possibly even retrieve them.”

…Please take the bait.

“…No one would even think that anything was strange. Just another rich boy bringing home a pretty girl. Someone who held no threat nor caused any reason for them to be guarded.”

Please….

“All I would need is your permission, of course.”

Please….

Just this one thing.

The only thing I’ve ever wanted this bad.

Please just let me go with him.

And, as I met my father’s eyes, I’d never been so nervous as I waited for his answer.

“…Very well,” he said.

It was the best news I’d ever heard in my life.

And though I wasn’t sure what to do long-term, or even about the documents I’d blatantly lied about.. at least, for now, I had a chance to escape my cage without any fear.

…If only for a short time.

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