Black Jack (Elite Ops 4)

Page 34

“Gentlemen, I have things to do today.” Lilly got to her feet. She was finished with the conversation. “If you will excuse me, I believe I’ll take care of those things.”
She turned and swept from the library, ignoring her uncle’s protest as she pushed the doors open and headed for the stairwell.
What did she have to do today except read that damned file again? That and try to understand why Travis hadn’t warned her of the “company” arriving earlier.
Who could she trust? She had wanted to trust Travis so badly she ached with the need.
No one, her mind screamed. There was no one she could trust, and that was terrifying. She felt as though there was no place to turn, and no place to find answers.
“Lilly.” Her mother stepped from the living room as Lilly was turning to the foyer and headed for the stairs. “Could we talk for a moment?”
Lilly pushed her fingers through her hair and fought to restrain the impatience roiling through her. “Is my room all right, Mother?”
The living room seemed too open, with too many potential ears listening.
“Of course, dear.”
Lilly could see the nervousness in her mother’s face, the hint of sorrow and pain that shadowed her eyes. She hated hurting her mother, but there was a part of herself that she couldn’t help but hold back. There were too many secrets that she sensed she had to hold in.
Entering her bedroom, she turned and waited for her mother to enter. Immediately Angelica moved to the bedroom window, opened it, then pulled a pack of cigarettes and a lighter from the pocket of her slacks.
“Mother, you know you shouldn’t smoke,” she said, sighing.
“My one guilty pleasure,” she said as she lifted the slender cylinder to her lips and closed her eyes in pleasure.
Lilly waited until she finished, knowing it would take only moments. When Angelica finished she moved to the bathroom, flushed the butt, washed her hands, then returned.
“Your brother called this morning.” She smiled sadly. “He and the children are going to Hawaii this summer.”
They usually joined the family in Maryland.
“He doesn’t want to see me,” Lilly guessed.
“So many changes.” Angelica sighed as she sat on the edge of the bed. “Jared has never dealt well with change. He brooded for months when we thought you were dead. He can’t believe it’s you now, because the changes are so drastic, and there’s no explanation for them.”
Her mother stared at her as though she should have answers.
“I’m sorry, Mother.” Lilly sat in the chair next to her bed and watched her mother as she ruffled her fingers through her perfectly streaked dark blond and brown hair.
“You read the report your uncle gave you, then?” she asked. “Did nothing trigger a memory, Lilly? Nothing at all?” She was so hopeful, so desperate, that Lilly wanted nothing more than to confide in her.
“Nothing,” she whispered. “I’m sorry, Mother.”
Angelica’s hands twisted restlessly in her lap as she stared down at them for long moments.
“You’ve changed so drastically,” she said softly as her head lifted, her pale blue eyes reflecting a glimmer of pain and tears that tore at Lilly’s heart. “Sometimes, Lilly, it’s as though I don’t even know you.”
Lilly swallowed tightly and forced back her own tears. “I’m still me. I don’t know what happened, or why I changed so severely, but I’m still me. I remember shopping with you, crying with you, my coming-out ball and my first date. You cried each time.” A tear slipped free. “Just because my face changed doesn’t mean I’m not still your daughter.”
A soft sob tore from her mother’s lips then. She moved jerkily from the bed and in the next second Lilly found herself in her arms. Arms that had sheltered her, that had helped protect her.
In that moment, she closed her eyes and wanted to cry herself. She wanted her father. When she had cried, they had both held her; the warmth and acceptance of their embrace had always been all she needed to hold her world together.
Now, her world was torn apart, confusion and fear tore at her, had her holding tighter to her mother and fighting the need to confide all those fears in her. She wanted the easy, carefree relationship they had once had. She wanted the involved, complicated relationship she’d had with her father. She’d been his confidante and his partner, she had been her mother’s friend, her brother’s baby sister. Once upon a time, she’d had a full, happy life.
And she had no idea what had happened to it.
“You can talk to me, Lilly,” her mother whispered tearfully as she drew back, her soft fingers easing the tears from Lilly’s cheeks. “I’ll always be here for you. I’ve always been here for you.”