“I’ll take these.” She handed the clothing to the saleslady, while trying to ignore the irritation in her mother’s eyes. Perhaps it was best that she remain the daughter Angelica thought she was, but another part of her demanded that she be something else, something more, and that she be prepared.
She had to maintain the illusion, she thought. Survival depended upon blending into this life she was living now. Even the smartest prey understood the value of playing dumb. And a killer well understood the hunt.
Lilly almost came to an abrupt halt at the thought. Shock was a bitter taste in her mouth as she fought not to sink into the shadows and the memories that were just out of reach.
She wasn’t a killer! She was a social butterfly; a scheming little debutante, her father had once accused affectionately. She knew well how to blend into this life, she had learned at an early age. She wasn’t a killer. But the blood in her dreams indicated otherwise.
She resisted the urge to stare at her hands, a part of her desperate to ensure no blood stained them.
Who the hell was she and why did the memories of the past six years seem so elusive while the nightmares seemed more real?
She was indeed Victoria Harrington. DNA had proven it. Her blood was a perfect match for the DNA that had been taken from the Harrington children a decade ago to ensure they could always be identified, no matter the circumstances.
She knew who she was, yet she felt like an imposter. Whatever had happened in the past six years she had lost had changed her in ways she couldn’t explain. It had ensured she no longer fit in with her family, her friends, where once before she had blended into this life seamlessly.
She had memories of her life up until the night before the car crash that had killed her father and left her struggling for life six years ago. The memories of the past six years eluded her, though.
And why was she searching for a face in the crowd, anticipation surging through her at the thought of one brief glimpse of a man she didn’t know? A man who felt more familiar to her than her own face. The man she had caught watching her earlier.
“You’re acting very strange, Victoria.” Angelica sighed as they left the shop and moved back to the tree-shaded sidewalk and the shops that Angelica insis
ted on visiting.
Lilly could hear the edge of anger in her mother’s tone and she knew she should be wary of it. Angelica Harrington had a hard, sharp edge when angry. One that cut with brutal strength. And she had no problem slicing into one of her children if she felt the need.
“I’m well, Mother.” She watched the crowd intently, careful to keep her mother’s body shielded as they continued the impromptu shopping spree they had decided on that morning.
She couldn’t understand why she was doing that. Why did she suddenly know how to protect her mother, and what was she trying to protect her from?
“I didn’t ask if you were well,” her mother said, exasperated. “I said you’re acting strange.”
“So, I look strange and I feel strange, as well.” Lilly snorted. “And could you please just call me Lilly?”
They both stopped.
Lilly tried to look everywhere but at her mother, before she was finally forced to meet Angelica’s dark brown gaze. The anger was still there, but also a hint of fearful confusion. Lilly well understood. Perhaps Angelica truly had lost her daughter.
“Lilly,” Angelica finally said softly then, staring back at her as though she saw more than even Lilly could guess at. “That’s what your grandmother called you, you know.”
No, she hadn’t known that. Her grandmother had died when Lilly was no more than a child.
As though by silent accord they turned and began moving down the sidewalk again. There was a silence between them now that wasn’t exactly comfortable.
“I don’t remember her calling me Lilly,” she said, trying to calm her racing heart and to ease the tension.
“You were very young,” her mother said. “It doesn’t surprise me that when you disappeared you chose that name to use. Your grandmother always claimed you were more a Lilly than a Victoria. But your father insisted on Victoria.”
She had been Victoria six years before. She had been the belle of every ball. She had been powerful in her own right. She had had lunch with the Queen more than once, she’d known the Prime Minister, she had danced with many members of Parliament. She had conspired—
The memory slammed shut, just that quickly. It was there, then gone as though it had never been. Frustration ate at her. The memories were there, just out of reach, haunting her, daring her to do what, she wasn’t certain.
“You know, there’s the nicest little antiques store just ahead.” Her mother changed the subject with forced brightness as they passed a small café whose tempting scents wafted out to her. “I thought it would be nice to see what they have. I found several flatware pieces there the last time I visited. It was quite unique.”
Coffee. She would kill for a cup of hot coffee.
She would kill . . .
For the barest second the sight and scent of blood filled her senses, and it wasn’t the first time. She didn’t freeze this time. She barely paused at the memory, and, like the first time, it disappeared just as quickly as it had come.