“If you’re still upset with me, I completely understand,” she said, cutting right to the point in typical Colonel Dasher fashion. Another slice of roast beef went onto the sandwich. “I apologized, but I know I said things today to Luc that I shouldn’t have, and you were right. After everything, you didn’t need that today.”
I loosely folded my arms in my lap as I looked around the kitchen. “Luc … He did sort of start it. I mean, he didn’t need to bring up the whole pulling-a-gun-on-him thing, and I know you two are probably never going to get along, but—”
“You need him,” she answered for me, placing the bread on the meat.
Warmth hit my cheeks. “Well, I wouldn’t say that.”
A faint smile tugged at her lips as she looked up at me. “You are as much a part of him as he is a part of you.” Her smile faded as she shook her head. “Luc thinks he knows everything. He doesn’t.”
Thank God Luc wasn’t here to hear her say that.
“And he especially thinks he knows why I did what I did when I decided to … help you become Evie, but he doesn’t. He’s not in my head,” she said, and I wondered if she realized that Luc could read thoughts. She had to. “And I know he doesn’t trust me. I can’t blame him for that.”
“But you stopped my fath— You stopped Jason from trying to shoot him,” I pointed out. “And you weren’t the only one keeping secrets. So was he. It’s not like you’ve given him any other reason to not trust you. The same goes for him.”
She nodded as she reached for the bag of chips. “You’re right. Maybe we’ll try it again, and next time, we’ll have better results.”
“Maybe,” I murmured.
“You don’t sound too certain.”
“I’m not,” I admitted with a laugh.
A wry grin appeared as she dumped some chips onto the paper plate, next to the sandwich. “But something you can be certain of is that I am your mother. I may not be her by blood or by certificate, and I may have only been in your life for these last four years, but you are my daughter and I love you. I would do anything to make sure you’re safe and happy, just like any mother out there would.”
My lower lip trembled as my chest and throat burned. Daughter. Mother. Simple words. Powerful ones. Words I wanted to own.
“I know you’re mad about how I kept everything from you, and I understand that. I suspect it will take a long time for you to get over that. I don’t blame you. I wish I had been more up front with you about him and who you were. The first time he showed up here, I should’ve told you the truth.”
“Yeah, you should have, but you didn’t. We can’t change any of that, right? It is what it is.”
Mom looked away then, smoothing her hand over the front of her shirt. She’d changed out of the blouse and into a pale blue cotton shirt. “I just wish I’d made different choices so that you could have made different ones.”
I lifted my gaze and looked at her—really saw her. Something about her seemed off. Mom looked at least a decade or so younger than her age, but she seemed paler than normal. Her features were drawn, and there were faint lines around the corners of her eyes and deeper grooves in her forehead that I’d sworn hadn’t been there two weeks before.
Despite all the lies and all the million things I still didn’t understand, concern blossomed. “Are you okay? You look tired.”
“I am a little tired.” She reached up, lightly touching her shoulder. “It’s been a while since I tapped into the Source.”
A tremor coursed through my entire body. She’d used the Source when fighting Micah. “Is that normal?”
“It can be when you haven’t used the Source in a while, but I’ll be fine.” She smiled then, a faint but real one. “Eat up.”
Feeling a little bit better about everything and almost normal, I scarfed down the sandwich and chips so fast it was amazing I didn’t choke. Once I was done, I was still hungry. Dumping my paper plate in the garbage, I went to the fridge and stared inside, debating if I wanted to go to the trouble of cutting up the strawberries I spotted and smothering them in sugar or if I wanted something easier.
“When you’re done cooling yourself off standing in front of the fridge, there’s something I want to show you,” Mom announced.
I snorted as I grabbed a packet of string cheese. Walking over to the trash can, I pulled off the wrapper and tossed it into the trash. “What?”
“Follow me.” She turned, and I followed her to the front of the house, to the French doors that led to her office. She opened the doors, and my steps slowed.