Broken Queen

Page 72

Nora joins us having picked up Emma’s discarded backpack. She smiles kindly.
“She’s such a good girl,” she says to me as she rubs Emma’s back. “Like Hannah was. So good.”
I look at the older woman for a moment and see her sadness. And I understand the brothers’ hesitation to grant me my wish to rebury my father. He destroyed their lives. Separate from what Lucien did, my father was just as guilty to cover it up, to try to bury it. He could have stopped it, but he chose a different path and his choices caused too much harm.
I reach one arm to Nora and pull her into our hug too and she so easily hugs me back. I think maybe, just maybe, we can start to heal now. All of us. I don’t think the damage will ever be repaired wholly. There will always be cracks. But Bastian is right. Those cracks make us strong and they can be beautiful in their own way.
“Vittoria,” I hear in my ear and blink away my tears because it’s Emma. It’s Emma’s sweet little voice that I haven’t heard in too long. So long that I’d forgotten it.
I draw back and set her down, crouching to be at eye level.
“Yes, sweetheart?” I ask, trying not to cry.
“Vittoria,” she says again. Then points behind me. “Bastian. Amadeo.” Then to Nora. “Nana.”
I don’t correct her.
“You, little one, need to learn to put your shoes on the right feet,” Bastian says, coming to sweep her up. Amadeo ruffles her hair, and I watch them with her. My two dragons are so sweet to this child as Bastian slides one shoe off and makes a point of sniffing it, then pretending to pass out, only to have her giggling. The sound of her laughter grows as he tickles her and does it again with her other shoe, and it’s the most wonderful thing.
“Happy?” Amadeo asks, startling me. I didn’t realize he’d come to stand right behind me. He’s holding his mother’s hand in one of his and sets the other against my lower back.
I turn my face up to his, kiss his cheek. “Happy,” I say.
* * *
We spendthe whole day swimming in the pool, then playing on the beach, then back to the pool until I put an exhausted Emma to bed at a little before eight at night. We've had dinner, and the brothers are upstairs with their mother. She’s exhausted, too, and I didn’t realize that the man and woman traveling with them were a doctor and nurse.
They’ve asked me to meet them in the study so I’m watching the moon in the distance trying to decide if the morning is more beautiful or the night.
“Dandelion,” Bastian says, entering first. His mood is heavy, and I wonder if it’s because of his mother. If she’s unwell.
Amadeo follows him looking tired.
“Is she okay?” I ask as they close the door.
“She’ll have to be. Physically, she’s fine, but she saw it happen.” When I wait for more, he reluctantly adds, “Francesca and Hyacinth.”
I cover my mouth. “Oh, God.”
“Having Emma is helping her immensely,” Bastian says.
“And Emma having her is helping Emma too, I think. When I came back after the will reading, you should have seen her. They’d made me a birthday cake, and Emma just looked relaxed and happy and not afraid for the first time in so long.”
Amadeo comes to me, rubs my back and hugs me. “She’ll get that back. She’s young and strong and she has you, Vittoria.”
Just me? I want to ask but don’t.
“What will you do now?” I ask, using the heels of my hands to wipe the stray tears. “Ravello, I mean. Will you keep it?”
“Not sure. I think it might be too much for Mom.”
“And Emma,” I say, searching his eyes.
He searches mine too.
I open my mouth to say what I need to say, but before I can get a word out, there’s a knock on the door, and Bruno enters carrying a briefcase. He looks at all three of us but when he takes Amadeo in is when his smile broadens.