My Just-Adult Daughter Almost Married an Old Man

The late afternoon sun cast long shadows across the living room floor as I shuffled through the mail. Bills, flyers, the usual suspects. The doorbell suddenly chimed, jolting me back.

A glance at the clock told me my daughter Serena must’ve gotten off her afternoon part-time shift early to keep up with her weekend visit, a ritual she followed without fail every week since moving out to live in the next town.

The door swung open to reveal a vision in turquoise. Serena, her smile brighter than the summer sky, bounced in, a whirlwind of energy and the familiar scent of vanilla and sunshine.

“Hey, Dad! You won’t believe what just happened… my roommate, Jessica…” her voice trailed off as her eyes landed on my face. “Everything okay?”

“Yeah, yeah,” I said. “Everything’s great. Come on in, honey.”

Taking a deep breath, I ushered her towards the couch. As she settled, I busied myself pouring two glasses of lemonade, the clinking of ice cubes a welcome distraction. “So,” I began, “how’s everything? All good?”

“Actually, Dad,” Serena said, her smile faltering slightly, “There’s someone I… well, there’s this guy I met. His name’s Edison, and…” she took a deep breath, her cheeks flushing a hint of pink, “I’m in love with him and want to marry him. But the thing is…” her voice dropped to a whisper, “…he’s sixty.”

Marry? The word slammed into me. My mind conjured an image of her bubbly smile, the one that could light up a room, replaced by a solemn question echoing in my head: Serena, my eighteen-year-old firecracker is marrying a SIXTY-YEAR-OLD MAN?

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I devoured her words in a panicked frenzy. Edison. The name felt foreign, unwelcome on my tongue. Sixty years old. Sixty! The number hammered against my skull, drowning out everything else Serena recounted about a magical proposal and a perfect love story.

Anger, hot and raw, bubbled in my gut. Sixty years old! What could a man that age possibly offer a girl barely out of high school, chasing dreams of fashion design? My hand tightened on the armrest, the worn velvet fabric crinkling like a protest.

My daughter’s face bloomed with delight. The playful light in them dimmed, replaced by a cautious wait. I took a deep breath, the words heavy on my tongue. “This Edison,” I began, forcing the name out, “you said he’s… sixty…”

The smile on Serena’s face cracked as I continued to choke out, “Eighteen and sixty, Serena? Don’t you see how crazy that sounds?”

Her smile vanished completely, replaced by a defensive frown. “Crazy? Why? Because of the age gap? Dad, does that even matter?”

“Of course it matters a lot, honey,” I countered, my voice rising a notch. “He’s old enough to be your father — heck, your grandfather!”

“He’s not my grandfather, Dad,” she shot back. “Eddy’s kind, supportive, and he gets me in a way no one else ever has.”

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Frustration gnawed at me. “That doesn’t make him a young boy, Serena. Snap out of it! He’s got one foot in the grave! What kind of future is that for you?”

“The future where I’m happy,” she argued. “He inspires me, Dad. He believes in my designs more than anyone else. He loves me.”

“Maybe,” I conceded, my anger morphing into a deep worry. “But what happens in ten years? Twenty? He’ll be…”

“I don’t care!” she exclaimed, tears welling in her eyes. “Love isn’t about numbers on a piece of paper! It’s about connection, about feeling seen. And with Eddy, Dad, I feel truly seen.”

Her words hit me like a gut punch. The raw vulnerability in her voice choked back the retort that had risen to my lips. I saw the same stubborn determination in her eyes that I used to have at her age. The same fire that had made me believe anything was possible. But marrying an older man thrice her age? I would never want that for my daughter.

“He’s promised to take care of you when he can’t take care of himself in another ten-twenty years?” I hissed.

“He doesn’t have to promise,” Serena countered, wiping a stray tear. “He already does. He makes me feel safe, cherished… loved. He’s my best friend, Dad. The only man I’ve ever truly loved and would like to spend the rest of my life with.”

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Silence descended between us, thick and heavy. My heart ached for the little girl who used to come to me with scraped knees and dreams bigger than the sky. How could I argue with the love shining so brightly in her eyes, even if it terrified me?

“Alright, honey,” I finally said, the words tasting like defeat. “When can I meet him?”

A relieved smile bloomed on Serena’s face, as radiant as the afternoon sun outside the window. “Tomorrow night! You’ll see, Dad. You’ll see why he’s everything to me.”

There was a tremor of hope in her voice, a desperate plea for my approval. I forced a smile, masking the storm of emotions churning within. For Serena’s sake, I had to hope she was right.

The following evening found me in an unlikely setting — Edison’s Victorian villa in the neighboring town.

I navigated the awkward throng, a smile plastered on my face that felt increasingly brittle with each passing moment. Just as I excused myself to the balcony for some fresh air, a snatch of conversation snagged my attention.

“Edison, you absolute madman,” a woman’s voice, laced with exasperation, drifted from a nearby room. “This is beyond reckless. What were you thinking?”

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I froze, my heart hammering against my ribs. The speaker emerged from the shadows — a woman with a mane of silver hair and eyes that mirrored Edison’s piercing blue.

“Annie, come on now,” Edison’s voice, smooth and practiced, followed her. “I’m your brother. You know me well. It’s just a bit of harmless fun. A chance to win a little something extra.”

“Harmless fun?” Annie scoffed. “You’ve practically moved a teenager into your house for this ‘fun,’ risking your reputation and toying with that girl’s affections!”

A cold dread coiled in my gut. Edison’s facade, charming and attentive all evening, began to crumble. “What are you talking about?” he barked as I strained to hear, my breath catching in my throat.

“The bet, Edison,” Annie hissed. “That outrageous wager you made months ago with those rich men at the club. You think marrying some young, naive girl is a cakewalk to pay off your debts?”

The blood drained from my face. Edison had made a bet? A bet on marrying an 18-year-old girl? The pieces slammed together in my mind, forming a sickening picture. The lavish dinner, the sudden proposal, Serena’s starry-eyed adoration — it was all a performance, a carefully orchestrated scheme staged by this man.

Fury, hot and primal, surged through me. This man, old enough to be her grandfather, had been playing with my daughter’s heart for a wad of cash? The image of Serena, her eyes shining with love and trust, sent a fresh wave of nausea crashing over me.

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I couldn’t stay there a moment longer. I needed to get out, to get to Serena, before this monster could sink his claws any deeper. I barged into the dining room, the roar of fury in my ears drowning out the polite chatter.

“Serena!” My voice cracked.

Heads spun in my direction, startled by the sudden intrusion. Serena, perched on a velvet chair amidst a gaggle of giggling women, turned towards me, her brow furrowed in confusion.

“Dad? What’s wrong?” she asked.

I couldn’t hold back any longer. “This! All of this!” I gestured wildly at the room, the carefully curated scene of wealth and sophistication. “It’s a lie, Serena! A cruel, twisted game!”

Her smile died, replaced by a flicker of apprehension. “What are you talking about?”

“Edison!” I spat. “He doesn’t love you, Serena! He never did. He’s just using you.”

“Dad, stop it!” she barked, a desperate edge creeping in. “Are you out of your mind? You don’t know what you’re talking about!”

“I know exactly what I’m talking about!” I stormed across the room, the distance between us shrinking with each frantic step. “I overheard him, Serena. Annie, his sister… they were talking about some bet. A bet on marrying a young girl… for money!”

The color drained from Serena’s face, leaving her ashen. Her eyes darted to Edison, who stood frozen near the fireplace.

“No,” she whispered. “No, that can’t be true.”

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“It is!” I grabbed her shoulders, my grip tight enough to shake her. “He doesn’t care about you, honey. He’s playing you for a fool!”

A tear escaped the corner of her eye, tracing a glistening path down her cheek. But then, her expression hardened, replaced by a steely resolve.

“You’re lying!” she screamed, pushing me away with surprising force. “You’ve always hated Edison! You’re just trying to sabotage my happiness!”

The sharpness in her voice cut deeper than any knife. “Happiness?” I roared, my voice hoarse with disbelief. “This isn’t happiness, Serena! He’s a liar. Don’t you see what he’s doing to you?”

“He loves me, Dad!” she cried. “He makes me feel beautiful, seen! You never did that! You married your business after Mom died. You just threw money at everything! Nannies who barely spoke English, expensive boarding schools that felt more like prisons… all while you were chasing deals in some foreign country!”

The accusation landed like a physical blow. Shame and a raw ache clawed at my throat. “That’s not true!” I rasped.

“I just… I wanted to give you the best of everything. The nannies, the schools, it was all supposed to be the best. I never wanted you to feel motherless…” my voice trailed off.

“Motherless?” she barked. “That’s exactly how you made me feel, Dad. Like an orphan in my own home. Like a responsibility you couldn’t quite handle. Edison, he makes me feel loved… and wanted. He sees me, not just my potential or some trophy daughter.”

“Get out!” she then whirled around, pointing at the door. “Get out of his house and don’t come back!”

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A primal rage surged within me, fueled by her tears and misplaced trust. I lunged towards Edison, a guttural roar escaping my lips. Before anyone could react, my fist connected with his jaw. A sickening thud echoed through the room as he stumbled back, clutching his face.

“Don’t you touch her!” I roared, adrenaline coursing through my veins.

But Serena was between us now, her arms wrapped protectively around Edison. “Stop it!” she screamed. “This is my life! You can’t control it anymore! Please go away. Leave us alone.”

My heart hammered against my ribs. Tears blurred my vision as I looked at my daughter.

“Serena,” I pleaded. “Please, come home with me. You’re making a terrible mistake, honey.”

She turned away, her back stiff, refusing to meet my gaze. The finality in her gesture tore a hole through me, a gaping wound that threatened to swallow me whole.

“Please go away!” she yelled.

With a heavy heart and a shattered spirit, I turned and walked out of the house, the weight of her betrayal anchored in my chest. But even amidst the despair, a flicker of determination ignited within me.

I wouldn’t give up on my daughter. Never. I had to find a way to save her from this nightmare, even if it meant going against her every wish and getting myself drowned in her hatred.

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Three days crawled by in a blur of frantic phone calls and restless nights.

The image of Serena, her eyes filled with a desperate loyalty towards her conman of a fiancé, gnawed at me. I had to get her back. But I needed leverage, something concrete to expose Edison’s web of lies.

Finally, a glimmer of hope emerged from a conversation with an old friend, a guy with connections in the local PI scene. A hefty retainer later, a manila envelope landed on my doorstep, its contents promising to be the key to saving my daughter.

The private investigator’s report was a damning indictment. Edison’s past was a tangled mess of failed businesses, broken promises, and a crippling gambling addiction. The black-and-white facts on paper confirmed the suspicions that had gnawed at me since that fateful dinner.

My eyes landed on a name – Duke R., Edison’s former business partner, a man left holding the bag after one of Edison’s disastrous ventures.

Duke, according to the report, frequented a greasy spoon called Le Beans Café on the outskirts of town. It wasn’t much to go on, but it was a lead. So, I dialed the contact number scribbled next to his name.

That evening, I settled into a chipped booth at Le Beans. The diner was practically deserted, the only sound a mournful jukebox crooning a forgotten country ballad.

A man with a face etched with deep lines and eyes that held a weary cynicism pushed open the door, a gust of cold air swirling around him. He scanned the room, his gaze landing on me.

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“Billy?” his voice was rough, tinged with surprise.

“Duke?” I rose, extending a hand. “It’s good to see you, even under these circumstances.”

We exchanged strained pleasantries. “So,” Duke finally rasped, leaning forward, “what brings you here? Why did you want to meet me?”

“Edison,” I said, my voice flat. “We need to talk about him.”

The flicker of anger that crossed Duke’s face was as quick as a lightning strike. “What about that two-faced snake?” he scowled.

I launched into a condensed version of the past week — Serena’s relationship with Edison, the overheard conversation, and the private investigator’s findings. As I spoke, I watched the anger in Duke’s eyes morph into something else — a chilling mix of sadness and betrayal.

“Gambling,” he declared. “Always the damn gambling. That’s what brought that pervert down, and it’ll bring everyone around him down too.”

“That’s what I’m afraid of,” I admitted, feeling a sliver of hope pierce through the despair. “But maybe there’s a way to use it to our advantage.”

“I want to know everything about Edison’s gambling interest. Everything,” I leaned closer as Duke narrowed his eyes and told me everything, every little thing that could help me save my daughter from that crook.

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As I rose to leave, Duke surprised me with a gruff, “Good luck with that, pal! Hope this information helps.”

“Me too!” I muttered, my eyes already gleaming with a plan.


Clad in a meticulously chosen disguise — a rumpled fedora pulled low over my brow and a fake beard and worn trench coat obscuring my features — I was a ghost in the sea of high rollers at the casino the following evening.

Murmurs swirled around the plush green felt tables, punctuated by the rhythmic slap of cards and the clinking of chips. It was a world of high stakes and even higher emotions, a world Edison thrived in.

Disguised as “Parker,” a Texan oil baron with more money than sense (according to the elaborate backstory I’d cooked up), I weaved through the throng of gamblers, my gaze scanning the room.

Then I saw him. Edison, perched at his usual table, a predatory glint in his eyes as he sized up his opponent.

I sauntered over, a practiced swagger in my step, and tossed a wad of cash onto the green felt. “Evening, gentlemen. Parker. Mind if I join the game?”

Edison’s head snapped up, a flicker of surprise crossing his features before he schooled his expression into a practiced smile. “Welcome to the table, Parker,” he drawled, his voice smooth as butter. “High stakes tonight. Hope you brought your appetite for risk.”

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The game began, a tense ballet of bluffs and calculations. Each hand raised the stakes, the atmosphere crackling with anticipation. Edison, a seasoned player, kept his cards close to his chest, his eyes narrowed in concentration.

But tonight, luck wasn’t on his side. With a flourish, I revealed a winning hand, a royal flush that sent a collective gasp through the room.

“Looks like beginner’s luck for you, Parker,” he snarled, pushing his chair back from the table.

“Maybe,” I said, a slow smile spreading across my face. “Or maybe some folks just play a better game.”

The weight of my gaze settled on him, heavy and deliberate. He shifted uncomfortably, a bead of sweat trickling down his temple. This was it. Time to reel him in.

Leaning closer, I lowered my voice to a conspiratorial whisper. “But hey,” I said, “money isn’t everything, is it, Edison?”

“What are you talking about?” he hissed.

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“The debt,” I said, the word a hammer blow. “You owe me a considerable sum, wouldn’t you say?”

He opened his mouth to protest, but I cut him off. “And let’s not forget the little matter of your… charade with my daughter.”

His face drained of color, a stark white against the dimly lit room. The jig was up. He knew I knew. A slow smile spread across my face, the satisfaction sharp and cold.

“Surprised to see me, Edison?” I rasped, pulling my fedora back just enough to reveal my eyes. The flicker of recognition that dawned on his face was priceless.

“Didn’t think an old man like me could clean you up at your own game, did you?”

“Billy?” he gasped. “Wha-what are you—”

“There’s a way out,” I cut him off, watching him squirm. “Walk away from Serena. Completely. No contact, no nothing. Consider your debt forgiven.”

Edison’s eyes darted around the room, searching for an escape, for some kind of leverage. He was a cornered animal, and I had him right where I wanted him.

“Or,” I added, “you can settle the debt right now. In cash. And let’s just say, I have some… unconventional methods of collecting outstanding debts.”

A burly man I hired, strategically positioned near the doorway, shifted slightly, his presence a silent warning. Edison’s bravado had evaporated, leaving behind a desperate man facing the consequences of his actions.

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With a defeated sigh, he slumped back in his chair. “Alright, alright,” he muttered, his voice barely a croak. “I’ll leave her alone. Just… get the goon out of my sight.”

A triumphant grin stretched across my face. It was done. My daughter was safe. “Excellent choice,” I said, my voice dripping with satisfaction. I stood up, the forgotten chips abandoned on the table. “Consider it a lesson learned, Edison. Not everything in life is a gamble.”

With a final, withering look, I turned and walked away, the murmurs of the stunned onlookers following me like a victory march. Outside, under the cool night sky, I let out a breath I hadn’t realized I was holding. Relief washed over me, sweet and potent. I had saved Serena. Or so I thought.

The celebratory feeling was short-lived, a nagging suspicion prickling at the edges of my mind. Something didn’t sit right. But I didn’t know what it was. I thought Edison’s chapter was over in my daughter’s life. But I was wrong.

Fury pulsed through my veins, a white-hot inferno threatening to consume me. My calls to Serena the next morning went unanswered, her voicemail a mocking reminder of the distance that had grown between us. In a desperate attempt, I dialed the number of one of her friends, a girl named Sarah.

“Hey, Sarah, it’s Billy,” I rasped.

“Mr. Thompson! What’s wrong?” her chipper tone grated on my already frayed nerves.

“It’s Serena,” I blurted. “She’s not answering my calls. Is everything alright?”

A confused pause followed. “Everything’s great, Mr. Thompson. Didn’t you know? Tonight’s Serena’s engagement party!”

The phone felt like it suddenly weighed a ton. “Engagement party?” I repeated, the words scraping out of my throat.

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“Yeah, to Mr. Thorne, of course! Didn’t Serena tell you?”

The world tilted on its axis. Engagement party? With Edison? The betrayal was a physical blow, the air knocked out of my lungs.

“I, uh,” I stammered, my mind a tangled mess. “No, I… I must have missed something.”

“Oh,” Sarah chirped, oblivious to my crumbling world. “Well, it’s at The Grand Springs, starts at eight. You should come! It’s going to be a blast.”

I choked back a humorless laugh. A blast? The only blast I envisioned was me smacking that son of a ***** Edison right there in front of everyone.

“Thanks, Sarah,” I mumbled. “I… I’ll try to make it.”

Before she could respond, I hung up. Collapsing onto the couch, I pulled up Serena’s social media page on my phone.

The image that greeted me was a digital slap in the face. A brightly colored engagement announcement, Serena’s beaming face plastered next to Edison’s smug grin. The caption, all hearts and emojis, announced their upcoming nuptials.

Forty minutes later, I pulled into the valet lane of The Grand Springs, my heart pounding in my chest. The clinking of champagne glasses and the thrumming bass of the music formed a festive backdrop.

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Spotting Serena across the grand party hall, her face alight with happiness as she chatted with a group of friends, I stole away from the crowd, my movements cloaked in a desperate urgency. She didn’t notice my absence, her attention consumed by the festivities.

My gaze darted around the room, searching for my target. There, by the lavish buffet table, I saw him—Edison—his smile practiced, his charm on full display as he mingled with the guests.

A wave of icy anger crashed over me, chilling my veins and sharpening my focus. With a determined stride, I stormed across the room, ignoring the curious stares that followed my path.

Reaching him, I grabbed his arm with a grip that spoke volumes. Edison’s smile faltered for a brief moment, surprise flickering across his features before hardening into a sneer.

“Billy?” he drawled, his voice laced with mock politeness. “A pleasure, as always!”

“Cut the crap, Edison,” I growled. “We need to talk.”

His eyes narrowed, a dangerous glimmer in them. “Here? In the middle of the party?” He glanced towards Serena, his voice dropping to a low murmur. “This hardly seems like the appropriate venue for a… friendly chat, father-in-law!”


I grabbed him by the arm, pulling him towards a deserted hallway branching off from the main hall.

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The pulsating music from the party was muffled, replaced by a comforting silence. Here, in the dim light, we could settle this mano-a-mano. Shoving him into the nearest restroom, I slammed the door shut behind us, plunging us into a tense silence.

I shoved Edison back against the cold tile, the porcelain flexing slightly under the force. “You think this is a game, Thorne?” I clenched my teeth. “You think you can weave your lies and walk away with my daughter’s life?”

“Your daughter,” he scoffed, “is hopelessly in love with me. Blinded by some fabricated fantasy you clearly failed to provide.”

His words struck a raw nerve, the barb finding its mark. Shame burned in my gut, hot and acrid. I had failed her. Yes, I did. But that didn’t excuse this monster preying on her innocence.

“Love?” I spat. “You don’t know the meaning of the word. You only see dollar signs and a chance to climb the social ladder on my daughter’s back… by betting on her.”

Edison’s smile widened. “Maybe so,” he conceded. “But let me tell you something, Thompson. She’d walk away from you in a heartbeat if she knew the truth about your little… indiscretion. About your little deal at the casino.”

The threat hung heavy in the air, a low blow aimed to disarm me. My grip on his arm faltered, the memory of my deal at the poker game a bitter pill to swallow. But I wouldn’t let him use that against me.

“Maybe,” I said, my voice regaining its strength. “Maybe not. But one thing’s for sure, Thorne. You will not have her. Not until I’m alive.”

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A dangerous glint beamed in Edison’s eyes. He leaned in close, his voice a venomous hiss. “You think you can stop this, Daddykins? She loves me. She wants me. And if you try anything, if she sees even a tiny scratch on me, she’ll turn her back on you forever. Is that what you want, Thompson? To be abandoned by your sweet daughter?”

His words sent shivers down my spine. Was he right? Would exposing him destroy my relationship with my daughter forever?

But the image of her, her radiant smile as she looked at Edison, filled me with a renewed sense of purpose. No. I couldn’t let him win. I had to find a way. A way to expose him, to save Serena from a future filled with lies and deceit.

“We’ll see about that, Edison,” I countered. My grip on his arm tightened, not out of anger, but out of a desperate determination to protect my daughter, no matter the cost.

Edison shoved me back. He straightened his tie, a practiced smile returning to his face. “Two minutes, Thompson,” he said, his voice cold. “Then I get security to throw you out… right in front of your sweet little girl.”

Defeated, I stumbled out of the hotel and into the breezy night air. The city lights shimmered above, a million tiny diamonds mocking my despair. My heart pounded. My eyes welled up.

I had failed. Not only had I failed to protect Serena from that… dirty old conman, but I’d also alienated her further.

Panic washed over me, a leaden weight threatening to drag me down. I sank onto a nearby bench, burying my face in my hands. How could Serena have been so blind? So easily manipulated by Edison’s web of lies?

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A sharp cough startled me from my despair. I looked up to see a woman standing before me, her face obscured by the dim glow of the streetlight. She was tall and slender, with a mane of gray hair pulled back in a messy bun. A vague sense of familiarity tugged at the edges of my memory.

“Mr. Thompson, I presume?” she asked, her voice a husky whisper.

Recognition dawned, slow and haunting. “Annie? Edison’s sister?” My voice emerged as a rusty croak.

A wry smile played on her lips. “The one and only,” she drawled, her eyes glinting with a mixture of amusement and something else I couldn’t quite decipher. “We met a few weeks ago, over dinner with… well, let’s just say some less than savory company.”

A jolt of electricity shot through me. This was it. A chance encounter, a stroke of luck that might just turn the tide. “Yes,” I stammered, hope flickering in my chest. “That’s right. You see, Annie, there’s something you need to know about my connection to your brother, Edison.”

Her smile vanished, replaced by a guarded expression. “What is it, Mr. Thompson?” she asked, furrowing her brows.

Taking a deep breath, I plunged into the story, the words tumbling out in a desperate torrent. I told her about my disguise at the poker game, the deal, and Edison’s ruthless manipulation.

As I spoke, a flicker of something akin to rage crossed her features. When I finished, a heavy silence descended between us, broken only by the distant hum of traffic.

“That conniving weasel,” Annie finally spat. “He’s wasted everything — our inheritance, my savings from years of theatrical performances… all gone to feed his gambling addiction.” She slammed her fist against the wooden armrest, the worn wood groaning under the impact.

“I hate him! I hate him for what he’s done to me, for this mess he’s gotten himself into!”

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Her outburst was music to my ears. “Annie,” I said, my voice low and measured. “We can stop him. We can expose him for who he truly is.”

She met my gaze, a spark of defiance igniting in her eyes. “What do you have in mind, Mr. Thompson?”

“A plan,” I said, a sly grin creeping onto my face for the first time that night.

Annie, the once scorned sister, now a potential ally, raised an eyebrow in amusement. “My brother is a leech, and I’m ready to do anything to show him his place.”

I reached into my pocket, pulling out a wad of cash. “Consider it a down payment,” I said, extending the money towards her. “There’s more if we can pull this off.”

Annie stared at the money momentarily, then a slow smile spread across her face. A glint of mischief replaced the anger in her eyes. “Alright, Mr. Thompson,” she said, her voice dropping to a conspiratorial whisper. “Let’s hear this plan of yours.”

And so, under the cloak of the night, with the city lights as our silent witness, I revealed my scheme. A plan fueled by desperation, hope, and a touch of theatrical flair, courtesy of Edison’s own sister.

The first act of our play was about to begin.

A week had flown by in a blur of frantic activity. Plans were finalized, alliances were forged, and nerves were frayed to the thinnest threads. Today was the day — Serena’s wedding.

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Standing across the street from the grand church, its stained-glass windows casting a mosaic of colors onto the sidewalk, I clutched my phone in a death grip. A live feed from a strategically placed camera worn by Annie, disguised as a wedding guest, streamed onto the screen.

My heart raced for the plan to work, hope and trepidation churning in my gut.

Inside the church, the ceremony unfolded with a sickening normalcy. Serena, radiant in a white gown, walked down the aisle, her smile a heartbreaking mix of innocence and misplaced joy. Edison, looking dapper in a black suit, beamed back at her, the picture of a devoted groom.

The officiant, a kind-faced man with a receding hairline, launched into the familiar vows. My breath hitched as he reached the pivotal question: “We gather here today to witness the union of Serena and Edison. If there be anyone present who knows of any lawful impediment why they may not be joined together in holy matrimony, speak now or forever hold your peace.”

A tense silence descended. Edison quickly reached for Serena’s hand and began to slip the ring onto her finger. He got halfway through the motion — my daughter was almost his wife — when a young woman barely out of her teens, rose from her seat near the back.

“I object!” she cried. All eyes turned towards her.

The officiant, clearly flustered, cleared his throat. “On what grounds?” he asked as Edison froze, the ring stuck halfway on Serena’s finger.

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The young woman took a deep breath, her gaze locking with Serena’s. “This man,” she said, pointing at Edison, “is a fraud. He doesn’t love you. He never has.” Her words bounced off the walls, a bomb exploding in the quiet sanctity of the church.

A collective gasp resonated through the pews, a wave of shocked murmurs rippling through the guests. Serena’s head snapped towards the woman, her eyes wide with a dawning horror that mirrored the whispers spreading like wildfire.

“What… what are you talking about?” she stammered.

Another woman, older this time, with a weary sadness etched on her face, stood up. “He does this,” she said, her voice shaking slightly, “to all of us. Sweet words, empty promises, and then…” she trailed off, tears welling up in her eyes.

Across the aisle, another young woman with fiery red hair practically leaped to her feet. “He took me to Vegas!” she blurted. “Told me it was a romantic getaway, then spent the entire time gambling away my college fund!” She ripped a fake silver necklace from her neck, the one Edison had supposedly bought her, and flung it at his feet with a clatter.

Edison, his face draining of color, looked like a cornered animal. He stammered out a denial, his voice weak and unconvincing. “No, that’s not true! I… I don’t know them.”

But his words were drowned out by a chorus of voices, each woman sharing a piece of their heartbreaking story. One spoke of a whirlwind romance that ended abruptly when she refused to lend him money. Another tearfully recounted how he’d used her apartment while she was away on a business trip, throwing wild parties that left her with a hefty damage deposit.

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The air crackled with a mix of outrage and disbelief. Serena, her face pale and stricken, looked from one woman to the next, the truth settling in her eyes like a crashing wave.

Finally, a woman with a determined glint in her eye stepped forward. She wasn’t young, but there was a steely resolve in her stance. “Don’t let him do this to you, honey,” she said. “He’s a user, a conman! A playboy in his sixties! Run away while you still can!”

Through the phone screen, thanks to Annie’s video call, I watched Serena’s face crumple, the mask of happiness shattering into a million tiny pieces. My heart ached in sympathy. It was my plan. With Annie and the young girls, her troupe of talented theater artists, we orchestrated an elaborate performance and turned Edison into a character he’d never forget

“This can’t be happening,” Serena whispered, her voice choked with disbelief as she hurled the wedding ring on the floor.

The church doors burst open, and Serena emerged, a whirlwind of white lace and despair.

She stumbled down the steps, the pristine train of her wedding dress trailing behind her like a tattered dream. Across the street, I watched with a mixture of relief and heartache. My plan, audacious and risky, had worked.

But the cost? The emotional toll on Serena. I whispered an apology. I knew this heartbreak was nothing compared to the nightmare my daughter almost put herself into. Relieved, I turned my gaze to my phone.

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Sirens wailed in the distance, growing louder by the second. Two police officers, their faces grim, approached Edison, who stood alone on the church steps, the picture of a dejected groom abandoned at the altar.

The officers exchanged a brief look before one of them stepped forward, a pair of handcuffs glinting in his hand. “Mr. Thorne,” he said, his voice flat and emotionless, “you’re under arrest for suspicion of illegal gambling, outstanding debts, and forgery.”

Edison’s face crumpled, the bravado he’d displayed moments ago dissolving into a pathetic whimper. He stammered out a string of denials, but the officers were unmoved. They led him away, a defeated shadow of the man who’d almost stolen my daughter’s future.

A satisfied smile played on my lips as I smiled through the camera lens. Annie’s face flashed on the screen, confirming my payment — thirty thousand dollars, the price of her loyalty and theatrical expertise.

With a wink in my direction, she slipped away into the crowd, her gray hair a beacon disappearing into the throng of disappointed wedding guests.

With a deep breath, I pocketed my phone, the weight of the past few days lifting from my shoulders. This was a perfect victory born out of crooked means. Serena was free, and that was all that mattered.

Spotting a taxi pulling up to the curb, I watched as Serena climbed into the back seat, slamming the door shut. As the cab pulled away, I couldn’t help but let out a sigh, a mixture of relief and sadness escaping my lips.

A few hours later, I stood outside Serena’s apartment. Taking a deep breath, I rapped on the door, the sound hollow and jarring in the quiet hallway. The door creaked open a sliver, revealing my daughter’s tear-stained face framed by a curtain of blonde hair.

“Dad?” she croaked, wiping her tears.

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Before I could say another word, she threw herself into my arms and burst into tears. I held her close, whispering words of comfort, the ache in my own heart mirroring hers.

When her tears finally subsided, she pulled back, her eyes red-rimmed and puffy. “I’m so sorry, Dad,” she whispered, her voice choked with emotion. “I should have listened to you. I… I shouldn’t have trusted him.”

“It’s alright, sweetheart,” I murmured, squeezing her hand. “We all make mistakes. What matters is that you’re okay.”

We stood there for a moment, a silent understanding passing between us. Then, I reached into my pocket and pulled out a plane ticket I’d bought in advance, the crisp edges glinting under the soft light.

“Boston,” I said, my voice gentle. “Fashion design school. Remember your dream?”

A twinkle of light returned to her eyes, a spark of determination replacing the despair. “But…” she stammered, her voice hesitant.

“No buts,” I said, my voice firm but filled with love. “It’s time for a fresh start, sweetheart. A chance to chase your dreams and leave this mess behind.”

She looked down at the ticket, then back at me. Finally, a small smile tugged at the corner of her lips. “Thank you, Dad,” she whispered, her voice filled with gratitude. “I love you.”

To all the parents out there, a word of advice: cherish your children, make them feel loved, and never let the pursuit of anything overshadow the ones who matter most.

“I love you too, sweetie!” I said, joy blooming in my chest as I hugged her back.

Had I done that, perhaps Serena wouldn’t have been so vulnerable to the empty promises of a conman. But from now on, she would be my world, my focus, my everything. And this is a Dad’s promise to his daughter.

For illustration purposes only | Source: Getty Images

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