Crawford's Murder: A Crawford Family Urban Fantasy Prequel (E-Book)
Crawford's Murder: A Crawford Family Urban Fantasy Prequel (E-Book)
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A father who would do anything to have a daughter.
Even if it means sacrificing his own sons.
- Fairytale Retelling
- Family Saga
- Cursed Family
- Contemporary Urban Fantasy
Billionaire rancher Frank Crawford is an abusive father with twelve sons and another child on the way.
In an effort to get out from their father's thumb, the boys agree to a wager. If the baby is a boy, all of his sons will be his slaves until the day they die. If the baby is a girl, all the boys must leave immediately and never come back.
Except their mother already knows the gender. And tells her boys of their father's nefarious past. Now the boys are on the run with their father closing in on them.
This contemporary urban fantasy is a Grimm Fairy Tale retelling filled with twists, turns, and family bonds that can never be broken. Even by magic.
Intro Into Chapter 1
Intro Into Chapter 1
Callista Crawford eyed the back door with dread. Her husband would be home from work any minute and she never knew if he’d arrive bone-tired, happy as a fiddler at a wedding, or drunk.
Frank was not a happy drunk.
How many times had she tried to hide his flask only to find bottles hidden around their ranch?
She wiped a strand of black hair from her eyes, waddled to the long wooden table, and added the last of the dinner plates needed to feed the eight older boys and her husband.
The four youngest boys sat at another table finishing their meal with their nanny while Callista finished setting the larger table for the others.
Why did the cook have to call in sick today? The wife of one of the wealthiest ranchers in Montana–especially one about to give birth–should not have to cook her own meals.
She surveyed the dining table. Rolls filled one dish, next to the potato salad and drinks. All she had to do was add the warm food when she heard Frank walking through the door. If she didn't have the food ready as soon as he sat down, there would be hell to pay. Not just on her, but on her children, too.
The boys’ voices reached her long before they reached the back door. She called to the nanny, now in the living room, quietly reading books to the younger boys. “Bath and bedtime!”
The eight older brothers, ranging between twelve and twenty-four, elbowed their way down the hallway and into the crow-themed kitchen, where Callista pulled the beef from the chef-quality gas range and put it on the table.
Their mother hurried to get the thick steaks and steaming mashed potatoes onto the table. As she waddled from the stove and refrigerator to the table and back again, she shouted instructions to her sons to get cleaned up for dinner.
She knew before seeing him that her husband was drunk. He always lagged behind when he drank, and he was nowhere to be seen at the moment.
"Hurry, boys. Everyone needs to be at the table before Dad gets here."
Footfalls ran up and down the floors as the brothers tried to jockey their way in and out of the bathroom and back to the kitchen table as fast as they could.
The back door slammed open, and the kitchen fell silent, except for four-year-old Benjamin who scurried into the kitchen and wrapped his little arms around his mother’s pregnant belly. “G’night, Mommy. G’night baby!” He kissed her belly, then hurried back out of the kitchen and up the stairs.
All eight of the older boys sat rigid in their wooden chairs, their hands folded in their laps.
Callista smelled Frank before she saw him, and groaned inwardly. The beer seemed to leak from every pore, filling the dining room with an acrid stench. Frank stumbled into a wall and knocked something over. It crashed to the floor, rattling as pieces skittered along the mudroom tile.
A slew of curses erupted from the mudroom, and one of Benjamin’s old baby toys tumbled across the tile floor, stopping by Callista’s feet. Her stomach dropped.
Frank had knocked over the box of old toys she planned to give away when she went into town. She’d forgotten to put it away.
Her body tensed, and she pressed her eyes closed. Dread oozed into her bones like cold tar, making her nauseous.
Hold it together. For the boys. They couldn’t see her fear. It would send them into a tizzy. The last time Frank hit her, Bran and Corbin jumped him. One boy had a concussion, and the other was in the hospital for a week. Frank told the doctors Bran was bucked off his horse. Like every other time their boys went to the Crawford Hospital, nobody questioned billionaire Frank Crawford. He financed all the new equipment to their oncology department. No one would dare question him.
Frank stumbled from the mudroom, his tanned face leathery from decades in the sun, now red as a blood moon. “Who left that trash in the middle of the mudroom? I don’t work all day so I can come home to some filth-infested shack with crap strewn all over.”
Callista rested her hands on her beach ball-sized belly and swallowed. “I did. I was planning on putting it in the Suburban to donate.”
“I nearly died!” Frank bellowed, spittle flying in all directions. He stomped toward her, his nostrils flaring. “All I ask after a hard day’s work is a hot meal and a clean house. Is that too much to ask?”
Callista raised her hands to calm him. “I’m sorry. I’ll clean it up after dinner–”
Frank grabbed one of her arms and flung her toward the hallway. “You’ll do it now, while the rest of us eat without you.”
She stumbled several steps, trying to regain control. Her protruding stomach made it nearly impossible, causing her to crash into a wall.
Behind her, several of the boys’ chairs scraped against the tile floor.
Frank bellowed, “Sit down! You will all eat your food while that woman cleans up her mess.”
Callista glanced over her shoulder and her blood stilled. All eight boys were all standing. Twenty-four-year-old Bran broadened his muscular shoulders. He was taller than Frank, and had the physique of a man in his prime, hardened by a decade of hard labor.
“That woman, is our mother. And we will not keep sittin’ by while you throw her around and treat her like dirt. She’s nine months pregnant, for Pete’s sake!”
Bran looked at the twins, Ingram and Ronne, and jerked his head toward their mother. “Go help her pick up.”
Frank cocked his arm, as if preparing to swing at the twins as they passed him.
The two oldest brothers dove for their father, tackling the drunk man to the floor.
Callista screamed. Fear clawed at her heart, and she sank to the ground, tears streaming down her face. “Stop it. Stop it!”
Nobody listened. Draven, the only redhead, and normally the joker of the family, bolted from his spot and jumped on top of Frank too, pinning down one of his father’s arms.
Ingram helped the twins pick up the debris from the box, and put it outside, while Ronne put his arms around his mother, guided her to her chair at the end of the kitchen table, and instructed her to sit.
“Are you okay?” Ingram asked her.
Callista bit her trembling lip and nodded. She eyed the wrestling match nearby.
Frank bellowed obscenities and threats at his sons, but this time he was too drunk, they were too big, there were too many of them, for him to win.
Finally, Frank went limp with exhaustion, panting under the weight of his sons. He ground his teeth together and growled, “The second you let me go, boy, I’m gonna tear you apart piece by piece and scatter your parts from one end of my twenty thousand acres and leave you to the coyotes to pick your bones dry.”
Bran’s jaw pulsed. “I’m not afraid of you anymore, Dad. I’m twenty-four. Old enough to branch out on my own. I’ve been a rancher since I was waist high. The only reason I’m here is to help Mom and the other boys. But if you’re gonna keep making it hell for them–for us, maybe it’s you whose body will disappear and be scattered all over your land.”
Frank eyed Bran, then skewered each of his sons with his piercing blue eyes. But none of the boys looked away. They stared right back at him.
“I see we’re at an impasse.” Frank said. “I want hard working sons who will pull their weight and show me the respect I deserve. You want to leave. After everything I’ve given you. You’re thankless pieces of work.”
Bran shifted his weight over Frank’s chest, forcing his dad to breathe in shallow, gasping breaths. “And you’re a jerk,” Bran said.
Sweat dripped off Frank’s bright red forehead, and his nostrils flared as he stared up at his oldest boys, wheezing.
“You’re a gambling man, aren’t you?” Frank said, narrowing his eyes. “All your weekly poker nights with your buddies after work? You’re quite the lucky fellow, aren’t you?”
What are you talkin’ about, old man?” Bran said.
“I’m talkin’ about a wager.” Frank jerked his chin toward Callista. “You’re gonna have a new baby brother or sister any day now. After twelve kids, we decided to let this one’s gender be a surprise. If we get another boy, you–and all twelve of your brothers–work for me until the day you die. No more planning to leave, and no more fighting me. You are my sons. I had you to work around my ranch, not to eat my food, sleep in my beds, and then run off the first chance you get without so much as a thank you.”
Bran’s lips narrowed into a thin line. “And if Mom has a girl?”
“You leave. Every last one of you. Right down to Benjamin. You’ve lost your inheritance, but you’ve gained your freedom. Leave and never come back. Every last penny will go to the girl.”
“No!” Callista yelled, tears streaming down her face. Ronne’s fingers tightened on her shoulders to keep her from leaping out of her chair. “You can’t do that, Frank! You can’t make them slaves and you can’t send them away. They’re your children!”
“I can do whatever I want, woman!”
“And what about Mom?” Bran said. “What happens to her?”
Frank snarled. “She can do whatever she wants. But the girl will stay with me. And I will raise her however I see fit.”
Color drained from Callista’s face, and Bran’s eyes darted to her. Then to his brothers.
The room was silent, aside from Callista’s sobs. “Please, don’t do this, Frank.”
“You made me do it!” Frank bellowed. “All of you! This is your fault! You fought me. You thought you could win. But I’ll have the last laugh here.”
Their father smirked up at Bran. “What will it be, boy? You man enough to decide the fate of your entire family?”