Hush (Black Lotus #3)

By: E K. Blair

To Sally

Because you love him as I do





“It’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.”

-Lewis Carroll





I’VE COME TO know illusions well. They’re the phantasms I cling to because I’m not ready to let go of the comfort they give me. Most of what brings me solace and peace are nothing more than ghosts of my past, yet I hold tightly to keep them with me in the present for fear that without them, I just might disappear too.

I’m scared to be alone, even though in some ways, I always have been.

A jolt of electricity shoots through the thick blood in my veins. It’s the one thing that lets me know the difference between reality and delusion. The spark shocks my system into high alert, forcing my heart to leap out of rhythm as my eyes widen in a storm of a thousand questions my mind can’t process.

I crawl to the foot of the bed on my hands and knees, staring at the TV above the fireplace. Declan sits behind me, but I no longer feel him as I struggle to breathe.

“He’s alive.” It’s all I can mutter as I stare at the paused screen of the news report.

“Who?” Declan questions from a million miles away as I stumble off the bed and walk in uneven steps across the room, closer to the TV.

I reach out my hand as I near the image that can’t be true, but is. I step onto the hearth, my fingers trembling when I slowly press them onto the screen. The moment I touch him, my heart ruptures, and I cry out. Blood from my wounded soul floods my eyes and spills down my cheeks. My breaths fracture and fill the room.

Strong hands grip my shoulders, and I want to collapse, but I can’t look away from the one thing I’ve been searching for my whole life.

“Talk to me,” he says, voice panic-stricken.

Pressing my hand more firmly against the screen, I beg to feel the warmth of him on my skin.

“Who is he?”

“This is real, right?” I ask of Declan. “You and me, in this room, it’s real, isn’t it?”

“Look at me.”

But I can’t. I’m afraid to look away for fear that I’ll lose him. That somehow he’ll vanish from the screen.

“Tell me it’s real,” I cry.

“It’s real, darling. I’m here with you.”

And with his words, an ugly sob rips out of my chest, but I catch it quickly when Declan steps onto the hearth next to me. As memories swirl inside, a mixture of foggy emotions fight with each other, and when anger claims victory and swells to the surface, I turn my head to look at Declan. His eyes mirror mine in utter confusion.

“He’s dead,” I say to him, the words like razors slicing my vocal cords, but I speak through the pain as tears stream down my cheeks. “They told me he was dead. Why? Why?”

“Who?”

“I saw his grave. I felt the stone where his name was etched,” I go on. “Why would they lie to me? Why did he lie to me? Why didn’t he ever come for me?”

Declan pulls me into his arms, pressing me tightly against his chest as I wail over and over, crying out for answers that don’t find me, screaming for comfort in all of my whys.

“Who?” he questions again, and when I turn my face and bury it into his bare chest, I sob through shattered dreams, broken hearts, and lost souls.

“My dad.”

I fist my hands against Declan’s chest as his grip tightens around me. His embrace is unwavering and entirely hard as his muscles constrict around my weakened body.

“Why am I so easy to walk away from?”

“Don’t do this,” he scolds. “Don’t you dare blame yourself.”

“Why not?” I scream, jerking my body out of his hold, pissed at the world, and for the first time in my life, pissed at my father. Stepping down and away from Declan, I turn back around and lash out in self-pity at the top of my lungs. “What did I do to deserve this life?”

“Elizabeth, please. Just take a deep breath.”

“No.”

He moves towards me, saying, “The last time you saw him you were only five years old, right? How can you be sure that’s even him?”

I step up to him and seethe between my tears, “Because you don’t forget the face of the one man you’ve spent your whole life aching for. There is no doubt that man is my father.”

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