Stunning, sweeping dizziness exploded, and it rolled through my body in a powerful wave that pulled me down, pulled me under.
I didn’t feel the hard impact with the ground. I didn’t feel or see anything, but I heard Grayson calling out to me. I couldn’t answer. Not when Luc’s voice replaced his. Not even when I heard Luc beg for me to open my eyes.
I was gone.14Evie.
I heard my name called in different voices and at different times. I thought I recognized some, and Luc’s voice was the one I heard the most. Sometimes it was just him saying my name, and then other times he was speaking to me, having a one-sided conversation.
“Zoe is worried about you, Peaches. Everyone is, even Grayson.”
Grayson? That sounded like a lie, but why would anyone be worried? My head was too thick with sleep to figure it out, and I was just tired and needed to sleep. There was nothing to be upset about.
“You’ve got to wake up, Evie.” Luc’s voice was a silky, warm whisper in the soothing darkness. “Open those beautiful eyes of yours for me. Please.”
I wanted to do as he asked, because Luc wasn’t one to beg for anything or anyone, but I wasn’t ready, and dreams were beckoning me.
And I dreamed I was home.
I walked through the quiet living room that smelled of crisp apples and pumpkin spice, drawn to the kitchen.
With her back to me, she sat at the kitchen island, her blond hair smoothed back into a neat ponytail and her white blouse impossibly wrinkle-free.
I’d come to a complete stop, unable to move as I stared at her, heart racing as a mix of emotions exploded within me. Anger was there, like a poison. So was confusion, because I knew I was dreaming, but this felt like a memory, and underneath those messy, explosive emotions was also happiness. Despite everything I knew and everything this woman had done and lied about, I was happy to see her. Relieved.
She sipped from a mug as she flipped the pages of a book I could not see, and I realized that I now smelled rich coffee and more.
Coffee. Apples. Pumpkin spice.
Willing my legs to move, I took another step and then stopped. Something about the dining room table caught my eye. A flower sat in the center, white lilies in a clear vase, flanked by two tapered candles in iron holders. There’d never been flowers there before. I’d remember that, because Mom wasn’t a flower person. She’d once said she didn’t like to watch something beautiful die.
My gaze flicked up to the wall. An unfamiliar painting hung there. A mountainous landscape in black and white. Slowly, I refocused on her. I was almost afraid if I spoke, she’d vanish, return to wherever the dead went.
I took a step forward and then stopped once more. There was a small, roughly round spot where something had stained the hardwood floor. It had been scrubbed clean, but not soon enough.
“Don’t worry about the floor. It will be replaced soon, and it’ll be like none of that ever happened.”
Jerking my head up, I held my breath.
Mom inclined her chin slightly to the right. “I was waiting for you to join me.”
I squeezed my eyes shut as tears rushed them. That was her voice. Warm. Calm. Each word spoken as if she’d put thought behind it. Nothing like she’d sounded the last time I’d heard her.
The woman was a liar, and God only knew if anything she ever said was the truth, but she was my mother.
“Come sit with me,” she said. “It’s time.”
Drawing in a ragged breath, I asked, “Time for what?”
She patted the stool next to her with a pale hand. “I’m not going to hurt you. I promise.”
Cool air stirred as a body brushed against mine, silencing me before I could respond. Startled, I turned and felt the floor drop out from under my feet.
A girl with blond hair slowly inched forward, as if each step required effort. Her hair fell to a waist so narrow I was confident two hands could span it. She was slim, too slim. The plain black shirt hung from shoulders and arms that were so frail and so thin, they looked like they could be broken with a snap of the wrist. Legs that were absent of fat or muscle appeared as if they were barely holding her up. This wasn’t someone who was just naturally thin with a hyper metabolism. This was someone who was sick.
Someone who was dying.
And it was me—when I was younger, when I went by the name Nadia.
Eyes wide, I watched her sit on the stool, arms folded at the waist, shoulders bunched, but she met Mom’s stare with no fear.
Confusion flooded me as I stared at Mom and the younger version of me. Was this a dream or a memory?