The Brightest Night (Origin 3) - Page 71

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“He promised not to hurt Luc, but he tried anyway,” she stated, incredibly pale jaw hard.

“Why would I trust you?”

“Because I kept my promise,” Mom replied.

The dying version of me laughed—laughed right in her face, and I think I developed a girl crush on me, which was as weird as it sounded. “None of you tell the truth.”

“And who do you think tells nothing but lies?”

“The Daedalus. You’re not saving my life because you have a soft spot for sick girls. You want to control him, and I’m a way to do it.”

“And Luc still brought you here. He still left you here.”

“That’s because he’s an idiot.”

I blinked.

Mom laughed, though, the sound painfully familiar. “No, it’s because he loves you even if he doesn’t yet know what that means. He’s willing to do anything to give you a second chance at life.”

“Like I said, he’s an idiot.” Her chin lifted. “And there’s nothing you can say or do that will make me trust you.”

That was me.

The boldness in her words and in her gaze drew a smile to my lips. She was fearless.

I had been fearless.

Empowered by who I used to be, I walked toward the end of the island, my gaze falling on Mom first. She was looking at Nadia, but that was her profile, her face, the faint lines marking the skin at the outer corners of her eyes the only sign of her age.

Sylvia Dasher was beautiful in a crisp sort of way. Straight, chin-length hair the color of champagne. High, angular features and pale skin devoid of makeup. I could count on one hand the amount of times I’d seen her wear mascara and lipstick. This was definitely Sylvia.

Then I looked at Nadia, really seeing myself for the first time. I saw my features in the shape of her face. She was so pale, though, the freckles standing out starkly, and the shadows under her eyes were like bruises. Her eyes were puffy as if she been crying recently, and I thought I knew why. Luc had just left her here. Left me here. My chest squeezed tight. Weariness clung to her mouth, and her lips held a slight, bluish tinge to them. Each breath she took was labored, as if it took everything in her to get her lungs to inflate.

How much longer would I have lived if Luc hadn’t brought me here? Definitely not months or even weeks. Maybe only days. That was how close I’d come to dying.

“You will,” Mom said after a long moment, and she almost sounded sad, resigned. She tapped her finger on the book. “Look at this.”

Brows furrowing, I did as she asked, and so did Nadia, her expression doing the same as mine. It wasn’t a book that rested on the island. It was a photo album, and Mom’s finger lay on the picture of a small blond girl sitting behind a birthday cake. A candle proudly proclaimed the number eight. She beamed at the camera, her smile so happy and big.

It was the picture of Evelyn Dasher.

The real one.

“You look so much like her,” Mom said. “You could’ve been sisters.”

Nadia leaned in just a little, her eyes widening as she stared down at the photo. “That’s … disturbing.”

Yes. Yes, it was.

Slowly, Nadia lifted her gaze and drew back, putting as much space between herself and Mom as she could.

Good to know the old version of me was just as wigged out as I had been when I’d found the photo album.

“The first time I saw you, I couldn’t look at you. It was too hard when all I saw was my Evie.” Sylvia mashed her lips together and then slowly loosened her jaw. “She died in a car accident. Three years ago.”

Nadia stared at the photo.

“She may not have been my daughter by blood, but I was her mother in every way that mattered.” Her shoulders tightened, and then she turned the page. “Your resemblance is uncanny. I knew that was why he’d chosen you.”

Why he’d chosen you …

Nadia lifted her gaze, watching her for several seconds before asking, “When was the first time you saw me?”

I held my breath.

“A very long time ago,” she answered.

I exhaled harshly, wondering if it was possible to hyperventilate in a dream, if this was even a dream. If Mom had seen me long before I came to them with Luc, then that—

“This was a setup from the beginning,” Nadia accused, tiny beads of sweat dotting her forehead. “How? How did you—”

“There is very little the Daedalus cannot do, Nadia. Luc knows that better than anyone else.” Mom smoothed a hand over an imaginary strand of hair out of place, a habit that caused my heart to squeeze. “Do you remember how you found Luc?”

Nadia’s pale lips pressed tight as she stared mutinously at Sylvia.

Tags: Jennifer L. Armentrout Origin Romance