I was sick. That’s why.
He rested his head back against the bathroom counter. “You’ve been through a traumatic event.” His eyes grew softer. “For what you’ve been through, I was … I could’ve been softer yesterday.” His voice hardened. “You were forced to choose between a father you didn’t know and your mother. It’s a hard place to be in, and I do—”
If he said “sympathize,” I was going to pinch his nuts.
I waited, but he only said, “You had a day with your mom, but given how fast everything has happened, I’d understand if you needed a night.”
“You want me to pull myself together?”
He winced. “The family knows I have a guest coming. They know you’re here, so they’ll want to meet you. Seraphina is especially excited. She’s texted me ten times asking when my ‘lady friend’ is getting here.”
My throat swelled up. “How—how old is Seraphina?”
“You’re trying to tell me you don’t know?” He gave me a knowing look, his lips tugging up.
I tugged at the end of my shirt, smoothing it out. “You know about my brain.” Not a question, a statement.
“Yeah.” His voice softened again. “I know.” And he kept on, his voice taking on an almost intimate sound, sliding behind my walls. “I know you probably read up on your father, read about his family, your family, but I don’t get why you want me to say it. What does it mean for me to tell you how old your sister is?”
My throat burned.
How could I explain that? That it would make me feel normal, that I wanted someone to tell me about my family, that this one time, I didn’t want to already know the answer before someone told it to me? Especially about her, about Matthew, about my other brother.
How could I say all that to him?
I jerked up a shoulder, looking away. “Just tell me about her.”
“We call her Ser.” His voice softened too. “She’s twelve, and she’ll be shy when she first sees you, but trust me, she’s dying to have another female around, one somewhat in her age range.”
“How old are the females around here?”
“Quinn is thirty-five. She married your father young, but Ser doesn’t count her own mother. Most of the female staff on the estate are in their forties or fifties. When Quinn came into the picture, most of the younger females were asked to leave or were transferred to other estates, other jobs owned by your father.”
Cripes. Quinn sounded like she had issues.
“They weren’t fired?”
He shook his head. “They were relocated. Besides yourself, and a few staff members, the only other female allowed around Ser is Victoria.”
I was going to ask who Victoria was when he continued on. “And then there’s Cyclone.”
“Your little brother, and he’s a handful.” He laughed lightly before standing up, then paused. Looking down at me, his eyes darkened before he shook his head. “You look better, not so pale. Let me grab you something to drink quick. Don’t stand up.”
He left, and I rested my head back.
A little sister who seemed to lack female companionship, who was shy but excited. A brother who I had a feeling might be a terror. I mean, I doubted his real name was Cyclone. And Matthew. Even from the tabloids and gossip sites, I knew he was a handful.
That could’ve been me.
If I had known, if I had been raised here, it might’ve been me in the tabloids.
“Here.” Kash came back in, a glass of water in hand. He held it down and I took it. Our fingers grazed against each other. I averted my gaze, and he stepped back. “I have to be somewhere.”
He paused, and I lifted my head again.
Those eyes, they were locked on me. A deep look was in them, as if there was a storm going on in his head, as if somehow that storm had something to do with me, as if he didn’t like that. Then, like before, he closed his eyes, and when he opened them again, gone. The storm was dead.
I didn’t know what that was about, but I felt as if I’d just lost out on something, something big, something I might’ve desperately wanted.
A bunch of sensations twisted inside of me.
He cleared his throat, deadpanning, and yeah, I was completely locked out of whatever had gone on in his head. Again.
“Are you going to be okay here for the evening?”
“No freak-outs.” I shook my head, a hard wave. “I’ll be fine.”
Kash gave me a doubtful look, and I couldn’t blame him. I didn’t believe myself either.
I amended, “I’ll do my best.”
“Okay.” His eyebrows were dipped low, but his phone buzzed and he sighed. “I really do have to go.” He pointed to the ceiling. “You can have your pick of the rooms upstairs. My room is on the main floor, but make yourself at home. Relax. Settle in. There’s food in the fridge, or if you wanted the main kitchen to make you something special, just pick up the phone and dial one. It’ll ring you through to the communications desk.”
A communications desk.
For a house.
Yeah. Not normal.
He stepped farther back. “If an older woman comes around, it’ll be Marie. Like I said, she’s the only other one who really knows why you’re here. You can trust her. Go to her for anything you might need.”
His phone buzzed again. He cursed, reading whatever was on the screen. “I really have to go.” He stepped to the side, then stopped. “Oh. I called yesterday and you should have clothes upstairs for you. If they aren’t in the room you want, just mention it to Marie. She’ll have the staff switch everything for you.”
One more pause, one more look back. “Do you need anything from me?”
I needed my mom. I needed all of this not to have happened. I needed a new father.
I forced a smile. “Not a thing.”
“Okay.” And he was gone.
Yes. Not a thing …
I was snooping. No shame here.
An hour later, I was in his bedroom. He had his own library in there, and his own balcony. Not to mention the bed. The bed! It was big enough for five people to sleep in it.
“We kill cats here.”
I jumped as I was shutting the balcony doors, and whirled.