The Insiders

Page 30

“Yes, well…”

Seraphina looked up now, watching her mother with those same big eyes. Her mouth opened, just a centimeter.

Quinn took in both of her children’s gazes and her face clouded over. She cast me a tight closed-mouth smile. “Seraphina’s been asking to meet Kash’s lady friend, and Cyclone has talked about you as well. Both are eager to get to know our mystery guest more. Would you like to sit with us for our lunch later today?”

I gazed at her.

She was really beautiful, and it took a second before I realized she was addressing me. And waiting for a response.

My gaze fell back to Seraphina and I saw the curiosity there. It was banked, hidden behind a few walls of her own, and some shyness, but I saw it. I felt it, too. Her and Cyclone. I wanted to get to know them both—and Matt.

“Yes.” My voice was hoarse for some reason. I cleared it, speaking clearer. “Yes. I’d love that, actually.”

Seraphina shyly grinned. Cyclone snorted.

Quinn said to Matt, “We’ll be in the family room at one then.” Her gaze fell. “Cyclone, let’s go and get you dressed for the day.”

He looked down at his outfit, a yellow polo shirt and khaki shorts. Mumbling, as Matt lowered him to the floor, he followed her out. “I thought I was dressed. This is what Marie put out.” Seraphina trailed behind, and all of them disappeared around the corner. “Do I really have to change? What’s wrong with these clothes?”

I couldn’t hear her response.

Matt walked to stand next to me, both of us watching where they had gone. “You ready for that?”

My response was automatic. “No.”

He looked at me.

“But those are my siblings.”

I wanted to know them. No Quinn, no Victoria (whoever she was) would deter me. “We have to dress for this thing?”

Matt snorted. “God no. That’s just Quinn. You scare her. You’re not like…” He was searching for the right word. “You’re not like the rest of us. You’re not scared of her. Maybe that’s the best way to say it?”

“She terrifies me.”

He laughed, starting ahead. “Don’t let her know that. Come on. We’ve not slept. I doubt Quinn did either, but we’ve a few hours of downtime before lunch. You want breakfast?”

I gave him a look

He laughed. “Right. Let’s watch a movie and see if we can not think, at least, until lunch then.”

We turned down another hallway.

Theresa was coming out of a room, took one look at me, and her eyebrows rose almost to her hairline. She made the sign of the cross over her forehead and chest.

I was thinking I’d need more than that sign, but okay then.



Matt had two drinks down before Quinn showed, with Cyclone coming ahead of her and Seraphina following at a more sedate pace.

The movie hadn’t helped.

I’d been restless the entire time.

Matt went from drinking coffee to now drinking alcohol. I couldn’t blame him.

I was used to my little cousins trying to act cool and subdued. There was none of that with Cyclone. He was just himself.

It was refreshing. And Seraphina just seemed kind, excruciatingly kind.

Cyclone launched himself into the chair next to Matt, panting slightly. He smiled at me before turning to his older brother. “When’d you get here, Matt? What was going on last night, with all the guards and Miss Bailey in Marie’s room? Is she going to die? Is everyone okay? Mom said everything was fine, Miss Bailey was cold and she just needed a hug to warm up? Is that because Kash isn’t here?” A breath. A pause, and he wasn’t done. He slid to his bottom on the chair and started with me. “How’d you and Kash meet? Why isn’t Kash here? Did you guys have a fight? Are you the kind of friends like Mom and Dad? Do you kiss, then walk away from each other? I thought Kash was with Dad?”

Oh, sweet Jesus.

The kid really was the Tasmanian Devil.

No one else seemed perturbed. A cool smile came to Quinn’s face as she lowered herself to the seat across from me and next to Matt. Nodding to one of the servers, who brought over a drink for her, she replied, “I don’t think Miss Bailey is that type of friend with Kash. I think she’s the kind like Victoria is with our family.”

He frowned.

Matt shook his head.

Cyclone said, “But Victoria is always hanging all over Kash.”

Matt coughed to cover up his laugh.

My eyebrows went up.

Seraphina was watching her little brother as if she’d been given sour lemonade to drink.

The only one unaffected was Quinn herself. She barely blinked, no joke. “Maybe we can focus on eating instead of asking twenty questions?”

Cyclone. “But why? Marie told me to always ask questions if I don’t understand something.” He pointed at me. “I don’t understand who she is. If she’s Kash’s friend, why isn’t he here? If my friends are here, I don’t go and leave them alone. Marie said that’s bad manners.” His head popped up farther. “You said that’s bad manners too, Mom.”

Matt cleared his throat, sliding out of his chair. “I need something stronger than this. Excuse me.”

I wanted to go with him. I wanted to hide under the table like I was the ten-year-old.

Instead, I moved to face Cyclone better. “So, have you ever known someone who was sad about something?”

He nodded, his eyes so rapt as he listened to me.

“Well, that’s kinda what I’m going through.” I hated lying. Hated it. And still, I was so damn good at it. “So I used to love someone, like your mom and your dad love each other, but that person decided he didn’t want to be with me.”

Cyclone was still silent.

“And there was a reason I couldn’t stay where I used to live, because I’d see him. He was around a lot, and a friend of mine is Kash’s cousin. She suggested I come here to stay with him. That’s what is going on. Kash is here for me, but he still has to do his job.”

I was talking to him like he was younger than ten. I got that. But sometimes when something’s confusing, that’s the best way to handle it. Strip it down to the bare bones and go from there.

And because I didn’t want to get sympathy from my little brother for a lie, I distracted him. “How are you doing with the robot rabbit? Has your dad helped you with your switchboard at all?”

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