Lucian knew that wouldn’t happen. Silence fell between them, and he would’ve thought she’d fallen asleep if it weren’t for the way her fingers tapped aimlessly on the blanket.
“Don’t you have something better to do?” she asked. “I don’t mean that in a bad way, but I’m sure there’s something else you could be doing.”
“There’s always something else I could be doing, but I’m fine right here.” Truth was, one of his buddies had invited him to the Red Stallion tonight. He’d thought about going to just get himself out of the house and away from Julia, but he’d rather be here. Odd. “I won’t stay forever. I just want to make sure you’re really okay. Don’t tell me I don’t need to. I know that. I want to.”
Her lips parted, but she snapped her mouth shut. A couple of more moments passed. “I know it sounds like you didn’t have a really good relationship with your father.” Turning slightly, she lifted her chin. Their eyes locked. “But I still am sorry.”
A weird pressure clamped down on his chest and then moved into his stomach, forming a bitter, messy knot that he wasn’t sure he could unravel. “Me, too.”
Julia had no idea where the brothers were, but she knew if they caught her out of bed and in Madeline’s room, there’d be hell to pay.
She wasn’t being stupid about her injury. Julia was taking it easy, but her headache was nothing more than a dull throbbing and after spending all morning in bed, she knew that checking on Madeline wasn’t going to harm her.
Plus, she really couldn’t stay in bed any longer. Not when that allowed her brain to overanalyze every second of the time spent in the shower. With the sun streaming in through the porch doors, it was hard to say for sure what really happened last night. Had it been a shadow? A person? She wasn’t sure.
And when her brain grew bored with obsessing over the whole shower incident, she was thinking about the fact that Lawrence de Vincent had passed away only a handful of days ago and no one had mentioned it until she had said something about him. That piece of knowledge seemed like something someone would’ve mentioned right away. Granted, the de Vincents were obsessed with privacy, but come on. It seemed weird to her. And that wasn’t even taking into consideration Lucian and Gabe’s response. Julia wasn’t naïve enough to believe that everyone had awesome parents like hers, but their reaction seemed extreme.
Then again, everything about the brothers was extreme. She really didn’t want to think about the fact the first time she’d met Gabe she did so freaking naked, but he talked to her and treated her like he’d known her for years. He’d shown up that morning, carrying a breakfast tray, and chatted with her about the woodwork he’d done throughout the house.
The same could be said about Lucian. Well, there were other reasons for why Lucian acted like they’ve known each other but it was . . . different. He’d stayed the night before until she fell asleep, and while that should’ve felt imposing, it hadn’t.
It left her feeling confused more than anything else.
Sighing, she pushed those thoughts out of her mind as she moved across Madeline’s bedroom. Someone had moved her out of the bed, most likely one of the brothers. She was in the chair by the window when Julia crept into the room. Blood pressure and pulse were within expected limits.
“How are you feeling today?” Julia asked, brushing Madeline’s hair back around one shoulder. “Looks like it’s going to be a beautiful day outside.” A thought occurred to her as she walked around the chair. “I wonder if we can get you outside before it gets too hot? I’m sure you would enjoy that.”
Julia noted that Madeline’s gaze was fixed on the painting again. Curious, she walked over to it to get a better look.
Faint traces of brush lines swirled into shades of green and brown, eventually giving way to the slate gray of tombs. The detail was amazing, from the tiny blades of dying grass to the scroll design on the columns of the tomb. Even the angel’s face at the center of the tomb was painstakingly re-created. It almost looked like a photograph.
That painting was beautiful but it was also morbid.
Her brows knitted together. At the bottom right of the canvas there were two letters painted in white. “M.D.?” she whispered.
She turned slowly, facing the bed. “Are those your initials? Did you paint this?”
That wasn’t much of an answer obviously, but what kind of coincidence would it be for there to be a painting hanging in this house with those initials that belonged to someone else? Then again, it could belong to another family member, an ancestor long passed.
Julia looked at Madeline’s still hands. Her fingers were long and elegant. Hands of an artist, just like—
She cut that thought off with a groan and refocused. If Madeline was the painter, maybe Julia could use that? There were a ton of studies supporting using art as a means of communications with patients who couldn’t verbally communicate. Maybe something like that would—
Footsteps intruded on her thoughts. Julia turned to the doorway, cringing. She fully expected it to be one of the brothers about to yell at her for being out of bed. “I’m in trouble,” she whispered to Madeline.
A shadow appeared and then a man dressed in an expensive, tailored charcoal-gray suit. He was a strikingly handsome older man with dark hair that was turning silver at the temples. He looked so much like Gabe and Devlin that if she hadn’t known about their father she would’ve sworn it was him.
He stopped just inside the doorway, the same amazing mix of blue-green eyes drifting from where Madeline sat and Julia stood. The man cleared his throat as he adjusted the darker gray tie. “Hello. You must be the new nurse.” His voice was deep and cultured with a hint of southern accent.
Having no idea who he was, she nodded. “Yes. My name is—”
“Julia Hughes,” he cut in, smiling slightly as he took a step into the room. “I’ve heard all about you.”
That could mean so many things. “Well, you have me at a disadvantage. I don’t know your name.”
“I doubt there are many who would have you at a disadvantage,” he replied, and boy was that a weird thing to say. “I’m Stefan de Vincent—Senator de Vincent.”
The senator. Oh my word, she’d heard all about him in the tabloids. Most of it not good. Wasn’t there an intern who had worked for his office that had gone missing under suspicious circumstances that were tied to him?
“I see you’ve heard of me.”
Julia really hoped what she was thinking wasn’t written on her face, because hello, awkward. “It’s nice to meet you.”
He lifted his chin as he scanned the room, his gaze dancing over Madeline. “Well, I am here on business and thought I would check in on my niece.”
“Would you like some privacy?” she asked even though some innate instinct turned that offer to bitter ash in her mouth.
“That’s not necessary. How is she doing?”
She clasped her hands together. “As well as can be expected.”
“Which means what?” he asked. The eyes that were so much like all the other de Vincents were distinctively colder. “That she’s breathing and sitting up on her own?”
A burn started in the pit of her stomach. “Which is amazing considering what she’s been through.”
“And what exactly has dear Madeline been through?” The senator folded his arms. “As far as I’ve been told, no one knows exactly. For all we know, she was doing just fine.”
Julia’s brow wrinkled. “It’s doubtful that she was doing fine—”
“Is that a medical opinion or one that is personal? I ask because as far as I can tell, she’s in amazing health for someone who has been missing and presumed dead for ten years.” He smiled, and something about the twist of his lips felt patronizing. “And since I’m sure you’re unaware of Madeline’s previous behavior, please forgive me if I’m a bit skeptical of her and her condition.”
Her spine straightened as a sharp need to defend the woman rose. “My medical opinion is that she is in good health despite what has occurred.”