Race the Darkness (Fatal Dreams Book 1)(6)

By: Abbie Roads


He rounded the first curve in the driveway; the truck’s headlights danced across the house’s many windows. No lights shined from inside; no exterior lights illuminated the grounds. The place was a giant beast slumbering on the side of the hill.

Anyone else looking at the structure would be awed by the many gables and porches and stunned to learn that an entire medical facility was housed in the expansive basement. But to him the place was a mausoleum of memories. A place where he’d once been part of a family with his dad, his stepmom, and his teenage stepsister who all loved the child version of him. Until Gale left his father, taking Shayla with her, and his dad forgot Xander existed. He’d been just seven years old when love left his life. Twenty-five years later, he could honestly say anger had been a better friend to him than love had ever been.

He eased off the gas and coasted past the house, not wanting to make too much noise. He didn’t want to wake Uncle Matt, and he especially didn’t want to wake Roweena, the Stone family housekeeper. She might be an employee, but she’d chew his ass for driving around in the middle of the night as if he were still a teenager. She worried about—

You’re not coming. You’re not going to save me. Because you don’t exist. Never have. I believed in you. Thought you must be real—Gran swore you were. But you were nothing more than hope’s fatal dream. We’re going to die, and no one other than Queen will ever remember we existed.

“Get the fuck out of my head.” He yelled the words, breaking his number one rule—never talk back to the voice. Talking back meant he’d descended to a whole new level of cuckoo in the cranium. He clenched his eyes closed for just a second, hoping for a reset when he opened them.

A figure stood in the middle of the driveway, facing away from the truck.

“Shit.” Xander slammed on the brakes, the truck skidding in the gravel before stopping only a few feet away from a vehicular manslaughter charge. The sound of his heartbeat and ragged breaths were as loud as an air horn to his ears.

Dad.

His father stood in the middle of the driveway, dressed in a pair of plaid pajama pants and a T-shirt. His thick, gray hair smashed and bent, forming an unattractive case of bedhead. What the hell was the guy doing?

Xander sat back in his seat and crossed his arms. He wasn’t making the first move. To acknowledge Dad would be a violation of their unwritten code of conduct. Each pretended the other didn’t exist. It’d been that way since Gale left them, taking his father’s heart with her.

But that voice. How long before it started talking again? He needed to get half-pickled to get it good and gone.

Fuck the rules. He honked one short burst.

Dad didn’t flinch or acknowledge he was standing only feet from Xander’s bumper in the beam of his headlights.

Xander rolled down the window. “Move.” His throat tingled from the force of his shout.

Dad acted oblivious. As if he weren’t standing in the middle of the driveway, in the middle of the night, in the middle of Xander trying to get booze.

Xander tore open the truck door. Decades of anger rode between his shoulder blades. Hundreds of unuttered words flooded his mouth. He stomped toward his dad. “What is your problem? I’m just following your rules. I got the message ten years ago when you didn’t show up at the hospital after I was struck by lightning. When you never even asked Row or Matt whether I was alive or dead. Now get out of my…”

His words faded when he saw his father’s face. Fine wrinkles flared out from the corners of his eyes and deeper ones cut furrows across his forehead. His mouth was turned down in an endless frown. The last time Xander had been in the same room with his father, the guy was in his forties. The man before him was two decades older and looked like he’d suffered a tremendous loss.

Tears streamed down the older man’s cheeks, splashing onto his T-shirt.

Pain slammed into Xander’s temple. He jerked and pressed his palm to the side of his head. He could practically feel his brain pulsing inside his skull.

Dad’s gaze cut to him. “She needs me. I can feel her desperation, but I can’t find her anymore. It’s been too long.” I love her. She’s my soul. My everything. I need her as much as she needs me.

For a moment, only a moment, compassion chiseled away Xander’s hard edges. But then blades of bitterness and rejection and anger stabbed through the tenderness. “This is about Gale? It’s always been about Gale. It’s been over twenty-five years since she left. Get over it. And get out of my way.”

She’s my fearless. Dad cast his gaze down the driveway.

“Here we go again.” When Gale and Shayla first left, Dad had raged for weeks about some local legend and the bear totem that resided on the hill nearby. But that’s all anyone knew—the rantings and ravings of a man gone manic in his grief. “You’re not making sense.” Xander grabbed Dad’s arm and hauled him to the edge of the driveway. “Stare at the night all you want. But do it after I drive past.” He got back in the truck and drove on, refusing to look back, or think about Dad or the voice. He’d think about beer. A chilled beer. He could practically taste the tang of that first swig. His mouth watered.