Masie, the flaxen-haired daughter of notorious bootlegger Dutch Schultz, returns home from boarding school to find her family in crisis. Her mother is dangerously unstable, her father’s empire is on the brink of ruin, and the boy she once loved has become a ruthless killer for hire. To keep her family’s dangerous secrets Masie is forced into a lie that will change the course of her future—and leave her trapped in a gilded cage of her own making. As she watches her world fall apart, Masie must decide whether to take her place in the hierarchy, or spread her wings, leaving the people she loves, and the life she despises, far behind her.
“How you feelin’, Mas?” Vinny asks.
Relaxing back into the chair I look up, unable to keep the sour grin from my face. “Never better.”
Releasing me he steps around the table, helping himself to a seat. “That’s not how I hear it. I hear you lay in bed all day feelin’ sorry for yourself”
“Can you blame me?” I ask harshly, straightening in my chair.
He’s still for a minute, then pulls the fedora off his head and plays with it in his hands. “I’m sorry about your ma, she was a fine lady.”
I snort, the booze in my belly making me bold. “She was a nut job and everyone knew it.”
Now he looks up, his thin lips downturned at the edges, “She was good to me.”
Sighing I stand, helping myself to the crystal decanters on the tray. “She loved you like her own,” I offer gently as I pour myself another drink. “It’s the only thing she was good at, loving people. Wasn’t great at taking care of them, though.”
She’d tried to take care of Daddy at first. I know she always secretly hoped he’d change his ways, as if her love could make him a better man. But, as much as they may want to, people don’t really change. Time passes, choices are made, but we are who we are in the end.
“Is there anything I can do?” he asks, twisting in his chair to look at me.
I just hold up my glass, “This seems to be helping.”
Standing, Vinny walks over, taking the glass from my hand he swallows back the contents in one gulp. “Never drink to feel better, Mas. That’s not how the stuff works.”
I frown, pushing past him, “Don’t tell me what to do.”
He stops me, grabbing my arm and pulling me toward him until the tip of his crooked nose is touching my forehead, “I’m not gonna let you throw yourself away like she did.”
His words are sharp and they cut like glass
I shut my eyes against them, against the closeness of him, the heat radiating off his body, the smell of bourbon on his breath. Part of me demanding to push him away, the other part wanting to lose myself in him.
“You left,” he continues, his tone accusatory. “You left so you wouldn’t have to watch—but I watched. I watched the light in her go out. I won’t watch that happen to you, Masie. I can’t. So you’re going to have to be strong. Because we need you. I need you. It’s awful dark here, Mas. We need you to be the light.”
The first tear slips from beneath my closed lids. Maybe it’s the desperation in his voice, or the fact that he’s right, but something in his words strikes me to the core. It’s tempting, far too tempting, to drink the pain away, to let it eat me from the inside out until there’s nothing left to hurt.
But I can’t.
I can’t be like my mother.