Black Jack (Elite Ops 4)

Page 23

Lilly pushed her fingers through her hair, feeling the long strands drifting through her fingers and over her shoulders as a familiar wildness rose inside her. She knew this feeling, she had known it for a long time. The same feeling she had fought before her supposed death six years before.
“Who am I?” She stared back at her mother, suddenly fearful, almost terrified that despite the urge to solve the mystery of those missing years, perhaps she really didn’t want to know.
“My daughter,” Angelica whispered, her voice filled with sorrow. “The daughter I never want to lose again.”
Lilly wanted to hit something. With her fist. Her fingers curled with the need to ram it into a wall, a door, a bed, a punching bag . . . A memory flashed in her mind. A sweat-stained punching bag swinging before her, her fists pounding into it, her heart racing, perspiration pouring down her body . . .
Just as quickly, it was gone. The second before the memory was able to solidify, it was gone.
“Your daughter changed,” she rasped. “What did she change into?”
Who was she? Where had she been? Why had she run?
“Lilly.” Her mother’s hand dropped from her throat as she stepped closer, the silk of her dress floating gently around her knees as the faintest hint of cigarette smoke wafted to Lilly’s senses.
She blinked. She saw her mother through a sniper’s scope. She was wearing her mink coat. Cigarette smoke drifted in a cold breeze. Lilly blinked again and it was gone.
“Lilly?” Angelica reached out for her, her cool, graceful fingers touching Lilly’s arm gently as she attempted to draw her closer. “I want you to enjoy being with the family again. Those years you were gone.” Angelica blinked back tears that filled her eyes as Lilly stared down at her. “You were alive, yet you didn’t allow us to know it. You changed your pretty face.” Her mother reached up and touched her face. “Even your eye color is different. You changed everything, as though your family no longer mattered.”
And those changes had had their consequences. Her brother had walked out of the hospital when he came with her mother and uncle to see the woman the doctors were claiming was Lady Victoria Lillian Harrington. Jared had sworn his sister would never deny her family to such an extent.
Why had she done it? Changed so much of herself?
“There are no answers.” Her mother’s voice cracked with emotion. “Desmond and I have tried to find the answers. All we can find is a woman that lived as though she wanted to die. As though she had lost everything precious to her. And yet we were right here.” A tear slipped down Angelica’s cheek then. “Was I so wrong to keep that from you? Was I wrong to hope you never remembered that you were trying to run away from us?”
“That wasn’t it!” The words, the emotions, flew from her lips before she thought, before she could understand why.
There was a memory there, for just a second. For just a fragile moment clarity had almost overtaken her, only to disappear once again.
“Then what was it?” her mother cried out desperately. “Tell me, Lilly, why can’t I call you Victoria as I once did? Why do you wear leather clothes and boots that make you look like the tramp? Why the changes to your appearance and why the changes to yourself if you weren’t trying to deny the very people who loved you?” Her face twisted. “I nearly died when I thought I was burying my only daughter. Instead you were out raising hell and throwing away everything your father and I tried to provide for you. You left your family, Victoria, for a life that bordered on the criminal and a lifestyle that was little better than that of a terrorist.”
Lilly stood still and silent, watching the emotions that tore through her mother as she felt something shut down inside her. The woman her mother was talking about wasn’t her. Something didn’t sound right, it didn’t feel right. Something was wrong with the scenario her mother was laying out.
She hadn’t been a terrorist. She hadn’t been a criminal.
She looked down at the clothes she wore and felt a shudder go through her.
“I wouldn’t have turned my back on you,” she whispered as a tear slid down her cheek. “Not like that. I don’t know what happened. I don’t know who I am or what I was doing, but I
do know my family was everything to me.”
Sure, her mother was difficult—to say the least. And yes, Lilly had often wanted to run away from all the expectations and rules piled on top of her, but she had never imagined turning her back on her family, pretending to be dead, going through reconstructive surgery, and taking up a life of crime—or something close to it—just to escape it.
She had followed in her father’s footsteps as an informant for MI5. She had worked diligently to uncover evidence the agency needed to identify terrorists, terrorist sympathizers, and other criminal elements. And she had done it, ultimately, to protect the ones she loved.
So what had happened? Why had she turned her back on all of that?
Just then the door opened, and Lilly swung around to meet the furious expression of her uncle. No, her stepfather. God, why had her mother married Desmond Harrington, her father’s half-brother and business partner? Had she missed her husband so much that she had married his brother to replace him?
“Victoria.” He stopped as his bodyguard came in behind him and closed the door. “At least you made it home.”
Anger ripped through her, and she had no idea why. She loved her uncle. He had been an integral part of her life from her birth to her death.
“Of course I made it home.” She had to fight back the conflicting emotions she didn’t know what to do with. “It seems I’m a rather good rider.”
He wiped his hand over his face as he shook his head, obviously weary and attempting to hold on to his temper. Desmond Harrington was known for his temper, courtesy of his red hair, but he was also known for his compassion and logic.
“A rather good rider,” he muttered as he rubbed at his forehead before lifting his head and staring past Lilly to her mother. “It seems, my dear, that this hardheaded child has found a new hobby.”