Five full dinners and two desserts cover the counter-top. She's spent a great deal of effort in this. My chest tightens painfully.
"I know, mi hija, but I wanted to," she says patting my cheek.
Blake's shocked as she touches my skin.
Her gaze bores into mine, tears pooling in the bottom of my eyes. She wipes them away as they spill over, running down my cheeks.
This feels like goodbye.
Impulsively, I throw my arms around her neck. She gasps, encircling my midsection with her arms. My breathing is erratic with the effort to control the threatening sobs. These emotions are brutal and completely foreign to me, making them stronger, rawer.
"Ai, Bonita, don't cry. You strong, so strong. You come back to us," she whispers, smoothing my hair against my back.
Standing up straight, I swipe the tears from my face. "I'm sorry, Teresa. I'm a fucking mess these last few days."
Her smile is infectious and I grin, wide and genuine.
"Don't apologize. I made you and Mr. Mason some good Mexícan and Spanish dishes. You going to love them." She gestures toward the extravagant layout of food.
"Eat with us, Teresa," Blake says, taking my hand and pulling me into the kitchen.
She nods, pulling out an extra place-mat.
By 3:00 am, we've picked at every dish, and I'm stuffed. Teresa tells me about her life in Mexico before coming to work for Blake, her late husband, and children. In the time I've been here, I've only spent time with Blake and the team. Being with other people, doing something normal is more satisfying than I would've thought possible.
"So, Lily, you like to do anything outside your work for Interpol?" She pours more soda into my glass.
"Not really. I've never had any socialization aside from the team. Even when we aren't on assignment, I hang out in my apartment and train at Interpol headquarters." I pop a piece of churro into my mouth.
"Where's your apartment, again?" Blake takes a swig from his beer.
"Lily has a closet down on the Bayou," says a deep voice behind us. Spinning around, I gaze at Dresden. Vlad stands next to him, a shy smile on his lips.
"It's not a closet. It's sturdy and basic," I snap playfully.
They both laugh, walking to join Teresa across from us.
"Sorry about last night, Mason," Vlad says, holding his hand out.
I raise my eyebrows, astonished.
"No worries, I think the three of us are all fighting for the same thing," Blake says, shaking Vlad's hand firmly.
"Fighting for the same thing. What thing?"
"None of us wants you taking this asinine assignment, Lily," Vlad says. His eyes are tight, lips turned down and shoulders slumped forward slightly.
"Truthfully, I don't want to take this assignment, either. I don't have a choice though."
"Yes you do, Lily, tell him no," Dresden snaps.
I reach over, clasping Blake's hand in mine. "Dres, I was taken by The Taurus when I was eight. This is personal for me."
"You're going in blind, it's too dangerous," Vlad says.
"I know this group better than anyone, I'll be fine."
"Be prepared, if anything happens, it's Jax's ass on the line," Dresden warns, his face hardening.