The Redemption of Boaz Pritchard by Hailey Edwards




One





I poured another shot from the tequila bottle and tipped it down my throat. And then another, and then another. “Is it still an arranged marriage if you arrange it yourself?”

“You can’t be serious.” Dad dropped onto the mattress beside me. “Boaz Pritchard?”

“He’s desperate.” I drained the dregs then set the bottle on the nightstand. “So are we.”

“We aren’t that far gone,” he harrumphed. “Not yet. We still have—”

“I won’t let it come to that.” Our only options were pawning Mom’s jewelry, selling the family home, and asking relatives for help. More help. Again. Most of them no longer returned our calls, and I would not beg in person. “This is a solution to everyone’s problems.”

Chin down, Dad peered at me over the wire frames of his glasses. “Will he make you happy, Addie?”

“What is happy? Can you even remember?” I laughed darkly. “I’m not sure I can.”

“Happy for me was the day you were born, the day Hadley was born.”

The mention of my little sister punched the air from my lungs, and I choked for oxygen.

“Happiness comes nine months after the wedding night,” I said, voice broken, and set my glass aside. “Gotcha.”

“We have options,” he insisted. “You don’t have to sell yourself to pay our debts.”

“I gave my word. It’s done.” I flopped back onto the mattress where Hadley had wasted away to nothing but fragile bones and paper skin, and let my eyes close. “Make your peace with it.” I pressed my face into the pillow that still smelled like the lavender children’s shampoo the nurse had used to bathe her. “I have.”

My future husband left for his home in Savannah, Georgia, hours ago. There was no turning back now. For three weeks, I had waffled over his proposition to merge our households. Meeting him in person hadn’t changed my mind, only reassured me he was decent and earnest. That was good enough for me.

“Get some rest.” Dad collected the empties to take with him, and I crossed my fingers he didn’t sniff them. The drunk act was tough to pull off after your dad realized you were tossing back shots poured from a handwashed bottle topped off each night with filtered water. But drink was a demon he was familiar with and wouldn’t ask questions. The fewer, the better. He was safer not knowing how I spent my nights. “We’ll talk about this again at dusk.”

“Mmm-hmm.”

Lingering in the doorway, he watched until my even breaths convinced him I had drifted off to dreamland. He murmured a prayer to the goddess, asking her to watch over me, and I wondered, just for a second, if he knew how I had paid the bills the last few years.

No.

He would never let me out of his sight if he had a clue. Not after we lost Hadley. He would be terrified my job would get me killed. He never needed to know how close I had come on more than one occasion.

“I thought he’d never leave,” the vampire hiding in the closet sighed before flinging open the doors.

“You could have texted me.” I shifted onto my side, facing her. “You didn’t have to show up in person.”

Her impromptu visit was the reason I had to shove her into a closet without so much as a hello.

She tended to sneak in through Hadley’s window unannounced, and Dad happened to be coming up the stairs when he noticed me duck into her bedroom. The drunk act was my only saving grace, but I hated turning his demons against him. It was a cruel but effective means of protecting him.

“Cellphones broadcast radio frequency waves.” Cassandra made the sign of the cross. “The International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies RF fields as ‘possibly carcinogenic to humans’.”

“You’re not human,” I pointed out, “and vampires don’t get cancer.”

Because they were already dead, putting them well out of the disease’s merciless reach.

The Catholic thing was a gray area for me. As a necromancer, I worshipped Hecate. As a resuscitated human, Cass had a more complicated relationship with her god.

“I used to be human,” she countered. “Besides, you can never be too careful.”

“You’re the next best thing to immortal.”

“And I want to stay that way.”

Giving it up as a lost cause, I got down to business. “What’s on the agenda for tonight?”