Straightening, she kept her face turned from Travis as they made their way quickly back to the narrow window and then to her room. Sliding past the balcony doors, she came to a quick, hard stop.
“Damn, this night is just getting better and better,” she stated, noticing that Travis hadn’t moved in behind her. To face her mother. The coward. She had a feeling he was still hiding on the damned balcony.
“Dear Lord, you look like your great-uncle Marcus, dressed to go a-thieving.” There was anger filling her tone. Angelica wasn’t trying to be amusing, but Lilly couldn’t help but laugh.
“I don’t remember Great-uncle Marcus.” She crossed her arms over her breasts and tilted her head to the side. “Tell me about him.”
“He was a damned thief,” Angelica snapped, her blue eyes sparking with anger. “He was arrested so many times that the shame was nearly unbearable for the family. He was royalty. We are royalty and you are dishonoring every drop of blood inside your body that binds you to the greatest history on earth.”
“Oh Lord, this lecture again?” Lilly clapped her hand over her mouth, astonished that the words had actually slipped from her lips that time.
Her mother’s face was a bit worse than astonished. Outraged anger filled it, darkening her blue eyes and flushing her porcelain flesh.
“This lecture again?” Angelica repeated. “Never, Lilly, never in your life have you spoken to me in such a way, with such disrespect.”
“And I’m sorry, Mother.” She tucked her hands behind her back and crossed her fingers. “I’ve just been stressed out. I haven’t been feeling well.”
Angelica’s eyes narrowed. “Well enough to dress in black and be slipping in and out of windows. Running around riding a motorcycle like a hoodlum. What would you do if the paparazzi caught wind of this? We do not need your face splashed over the newspapers again.”
“Such as it was when you found me?” Lilly suggested. “I’m terribly sorry my return has been such a hardship for you, Mother.”
“A hardship?” Angelica gasped. “You believe it a hardship? No, the hardship comes in trying to figure out why the life you’ve been given isn’t enough for you. What in heaven’s name makes you think you can throw it all away for a past you seem determined to return to?” Frustrated anger filled her mother’s voice, her expression.
Angelica had always loved her life, the life of an English lady. She was considered a premier hostess; she wasn’t just related to the Queen Mother, she was also a friend. She had luncheons with the woman, for God’s sake.
Of course her mother couldn’t understand.
“It was bad enough your father had to get himself killed, he nearly had you killed as well, and for what, Lilly? For God and country? God might care, but let me let you in on a little fact. Your bloody country couldn’t give a damn one way or the other, and sometimes, God has to blink. The next time you die you may not be nearly so lucky as to have the option to return.”
She hadn’t had the option to return last time.
Lilly caught her breath at the thought, the knowledge. She wasn’t supposed to return. She was never to have returned.
“I don’t want to discuss this, Mother.” She sat down on the bed, lifted one foot and unlaced a boot.
“As stubborn as always,” her mother snapped, stepping closer. “You were always too hardheaded. Always too determined to have your own way, weren’t you? Just call you Lilly.” She sneered. “Lilly, as though you’re no more than a common little tart.”
“Good God.” Lilly rolled her eyes and let her
foot fall to the floor. “Mother, have you lost your mind somewhere? One of the names you gave me is Lilli-an. And don’t you think ‘tart’ is a bit of an outdated word to use?”
“Have I lost my mind somewhere?” her mother burst out. “You’re, you’re sneaking into your room at nearly three in the morning, consorting with criminals, and doing God only knows what.”
“God knows everything I do.” Lilly sighed, wondering if she could possibly continue to hold back the tears. The censure in her mother’s tone broke her heart.
“I want this to stop!” Angelica demanded. “Immediately. You will cease to consort with that terrorist you’ve taken up with. You will cease consorting with anyone that you’ve known in the past six years. You will be Lady Victoria Harrington, Lilly if you insist.” Her mother’s arms straightened, her shoulders stiffened. “You will not embarrass this family further.”
Lilly pulled the first boot off. As she lifted the other to her knee, Travis stepped from the balcony to the bedroom. Leaning against the door frame, he leveled a hard, silent look on her mother.
Angelica Harrington wasn’t easily intimidated. She had stared down two husbands, a son, a mother, and, it was rumored, the Queen Mother at one time.
“I’m tired, Mother,” Lilly said softly as she untied the boot and ignored the silent battle going on between her mother and her lover. “We’ll discuss this tomorrow, if you don’t mind.”
She wasn’t going to cry, she assured herself.
“I’ve tried to be understanding, Lilly.” Tears glittered in her mother’s eyes, and Lilly felt her own throat tightening. “I’ve tried desperately to be patient, to find some part of the daughter I lost six years ago.” She shook her head as a tear slipped free. “Perhaps you did die that night with your father.”
Lilly didn’t speak. She stared at the floor as her mother turned and stalked from the bedroom, the door slamming behind her.