Lilly had to clench her teeth in irritation.
Lilly, she thought. Her name shouldn’t be Victoria, she had always disliked being called Victoria. She was Lilly. But she couldn’t recall a single time that her parents had called her Lilly.
She was Lilly. Lilly . . . something. She tilted her head and stared at the material as she rubbed the pocket between her thumb and forefinger. Lilly. Not Lady Victoria Lillian Harrington. Not even Lilly Harrington. But who?
“Can I help you?” the saleslady asked just behind her.
“The jeans,” she told the red-head as she moved to where they hung. “I’d like to try these, please, as well as the boots.” She moved to the boots and chose the correct size before stepping to a particular rack of blouses.
“Oh my God, you wouldn’t dare! Victoria, Desmond would have a stroke if he caught you dressed in such clothing.” Her mother was outraged, as she stared at the flat-heeled, sinfully black leather over-the-knee boots and snug jeans.
No, it wasn’t Desmond who had a problem with the clothes. It was her mother. Angelica Harrington demanded a certain image be presented at all times. Jeans did not fit that image, nor were they allowed in her mother’s presence.
Ignoring her, Lilly walked over to the nearby shirt, reached out and ran her fingers over the soft, expensive olive-green Egyptian cotton.
“Desmond will not appreciate this,” her mother warned, her voice tight.
Desmond was her stepfather now. In the six years she couldn’t remember, she had managed to lose her father, and her mother had married his younger half-brother.
“This blouse, please.” The dull olive-green cotton would fit tightly, conform to her body and shape her breasts enticingly. She wasn’t certain why she was suddenly drawn to the color, though.
She turned to the polite saleslady trailing them. The other woman smiled gently. Long red-gold hair fell to her shoulders and an understanding smile crossed her face.
In the meantime Angelica fussed in the background about the jeans and the drab color of the blouse.
“Victoria, really. The dresses are much nicer.” Angelica continued to object as her daughter moved toward the dressing room.
She glanced back at the door. There was a spot just between her shoulder blades that refused to stop itching. She could feel the eyes on her. His eyes. Somehow, he was still watching her, still waiting for her. Would he be as surprised by the jeans as her mother seemed to be?
As Lilly entered the dressing room she breathed a sigh of relief and leaned wearily against the wall, closing her eyes and taking a hard, deep breath.
She opened her eyes and stared back at the woman in the mirror.
She wasn’t Victoria any longer.
Who the hell was she, really? And why wasn’t she comfortable with the knowledge of her own identity, her own looks?
The soft cotton material of the short gray dress skimmed over her breasts and hips, ending at a barely decent length just below her thighs. The soft gray material didn’t seem appropriate somehow. Just as the green eyes staring back at her didn’t seem right.
She had once had hazel eyes. She had always had hazel eyes.
Her hair was a dark red now. It had once been a rich deep brown. Her doctors were amazed at the fact that somehow her eye and hair color had been permanently changed.
She was different. Her looks were different. Something inside her was different. There was something that didn’t seem quite right about the life she was living now, and the woman she remembered being.
“Darling, are you all right?” Angelica’s voice came through the thin walls of the dressing room. Lilly could hear the concern, the confusion in her mother’s voice. But she also heard the forced patience and edge of irritation.
“I’m fine, Mother. I’ll just be a moment,” Lilly told her.
“Desmond is going to be utterly upset if you return to the house in jeans.” There was a note of amused affection in her mother’s voice when she spoke of her husband that had Lilly almost cringing in distaste. There was a warning there as well. “He may even fuss at you, dear.”
Lilly stared at the denim, the boots, and the blouse. She stared back at herself in the mirror, then turned away. She loved it. She could move in this clothing. She could run, she could fight . . . who?
Dark flashes surged through her mind, electric images of gunfire, blood and death flashed like vibrant lies amid a midnight landscape.
Hurriedly stripping the new clothes from her body, Lilly pulled the dress back on, slid her feet into the heels that she knew she could never run in, then gathered up the articles she had tried on.
Stepping from the dressing room, she gave her mother a careful, cool smile in response to the frown on Angelica’s face. She knew better than to upset her mother. At least, she had known better six years ago. There was a part of her now that balked at giving into another’s dictates or the threat of the consequences.