Home > Black Hearts (Sins Duet #1)(9)

Black Hearts (Sins Duet #1)(9)
Author: Karina Halle

“Nothing,” I mumble. “Just bored.” I give Ben a hopeful look. “Want to hit the Haight?”

Ben and Mom exchange a wary look. I get along well with my brother, even more so since he went off to Santa Cruz for college, but it’s not like we hang out one on one all that often.

Maybe he can pick up on the silently pleading look in my eyes because he shrugs. “Okay, sure. You got your fake ID? I wouldn’t mind a beer.”

I know in any other household we’d probably get a lecture. But Mom is as lax as possible when it comes to those kind of rules, especially the ones set by the government. She’s been a supporter of my fake ID and underage drinking, so long as I’m responsible. And I am. To a fault.

There’s a tiny bar at the end of the street, by Amoeba Records, that serves delicious Asian fusion food with amazing cocktails. It’s dark, narrow, and the music isn’t obnoxious or overpowering. It’s the kind of place that seems perfect for divulging secrets.

As we walk up the street, Ben going on about some MMA fighter that I’m pretending to care about, I feel my phone burning in my pocket, as if the picture I took of the newspaper article is trying to leak out into the world.

“So, what the hell is going on with you?” Ben asks as we sit in a booth, the waitress leaving with our order.

I chew on my lip until I’m sure my Chapstick is completely scraped off. “Ben…” I say slowly. “Do you ever get the feeling that our parents…” I lower my voice and lean in, “aren’t who they say they are?”

He rolls his eyes. “This again?” He attempts a smile, like it’s a joke, but it looks forced.

“I’m serious. Just answer me.”

He sighs, sitting back in his chair and running a hand through his dark hair, the ends still spiky. “They’re weird. Okay? That’s it. Mom is just…well, she’s paranoid. And Dad is probably the same guy he was when he was young. They’ve always been very…I don’t know, cool, I guess. I mean, I know they’re Mom and Dad, but they don’t act like typical parents. Doesn’t mean they’re hiding anything or lying about anything.”

I pause as the waitress drops off his beer and my lychee martini. “You sure about that?”

He studies me for a moment. It’s amazing how much he looks like Dad at times. I got my mother’s high cheekbones, dark eyes, and small bone structure from her Estonian ancestry. It would have been nice to have gotten the striking blue eyes like the guys have, or Ben’s darker complexion, or their height, but I’m not complaining much.

“Vi, you’re not very good at beating around the bush, so just say it.”

I exhale slowly as I pull my phone out. I flip to the picture and slide it across the table to him.

“What is this?” he asks, picking it up.

“Just read it and you tell me,” I say. My hair is starting to feel too hot on the back of my neck, the ends tickling, so I put it up in a ponytail as I watch him.

He frowns as his eyes scan the photo, zooming in and out as he tries to read the text. His face goes through a gamut of emotions. Confusion, shock, anger.

“I don’t…” he finally says, staring down at it with disbelief. He begins to slide the phone back to me and then quickly snatches it back, looking over it again. “What the fuck?”

“I know. I’ve had all week to think about it.”

“You’ve known for a week? Where did this even come from?”

“Someone sent it in the mail. That’s all there was in the envelope, just the clipping. No note. No return address.”

“You didn’t tell Mom or Dad?”

I shake my head. “No. I slipped it back in. They never noticed I opened it.”

He reads the article again. “Fuck. Vi, I don’t get it. Why would Dad lie about his father? He told us he was dead.”

“Maybe he was ashamed of him. It obviously seems like something big happened if the word scandal was used.”

“Yeah, a scandal involving a fucking drug cartel.” He sighs. “Even with the internet regulations over the years, I bet if I looked hard enough, I could find something about this.”

“You’re Ben McQueen. The internet is your bitch.”

He gives me a half smile. “Yeah, well, I never thought I’d be looking for information about our father, that’s for sure.”

“But this explains a lot, doesn’t it,” I say to him. “Why they act so cagey sometimes. For, like, no reason.”

He purses his lips, nodding slowly. “Could be. I can’t believe you’ve kept this a secret.”

“I wanted to show you in person. You probably wouldn’t have believed me otherwise.”

“You’re right.”

“Thanks.”

“You can be like Mom sometimes, you know.”

“Paranoid?”

He shrugs and takes a sip of his beer. “I would have said combustible.”

He knows the right word to get to me all right, though at least he didn’t call me sensitive. He knows that’s a sore spot for me.

When he puts his beer back down, he starts to spin it in his hands. “I can’t believe we had a grandfather. That he was still alive. A sheriff? And what about his wife? If that’s his second wife, what happened to his first one? Did she die early too or was that another lie?”

“Makes you wonder about Grandpa Gus and Grandma Mimi.”

   
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