“WE’VE GOT some serious decisions to make,” Amanda said, chuckling when Romeo rolled his eyes. Deep down, she felt uneasy proceeding with the wedding while everything was still in turmoil but for now, she had to play along. “Well, it’s not every day you give away our eldest daughter you know.”
“Seems to me I did that a while back when she mated that little whelp,” said Romeo, joking.
“Oh come on, he’s good for her.”
“Meh,” Romeo said, with a careless shrug of his shoulders. “He’s alright.”
“You love him and you know it.” Amanda smiled.
“Yeah well, I can’t hate him forever. Sarina would never talk to me again.”
Amanda rolled her eyes and slid her arm through his. She loved him, even if he was twice as stubborn as any man she’d ever met, human or not. Had it really been nearly twenty-eight years since he’d all but forced her to marry him? Okay, he’d been nearly irresistible, but still; he’d also been an annoyingly arrogant dick. “Would you have picked anyone different?”
He turned those smoky eyes on her and set her insides fluttering with his crooked grin. “Honestly? Never. I wasn’t about to tell her that. But Brody fits her to a T and…,” he paused with a sigh, “you were right.”
“When you said she’d hate us; that we’d destroy any trust she had in us. You were right.”
Amanda smiled, but not laughingly. It had certainly been a tense moment in their family.
If only she’d known then how much more tense things would get from that moment on, perhaps she’d have been somewhat prepared. The last three years had been both joyous and torturously painful. She’d welcomed two healthy, bouncing grandsons into their pack, thanks to Sarina and Brody. She’d also buried her eldest son, Sarina’s twin, Jason. She’d fallen apart and somehow put herself back together after his death. Now, things started to settle down. That is, until last night when she visited the special room and spoke to the beautiful keeper of that room. Amanda sought her council after suddenly feeling the weight of worry that Sarina was not actually her Sarina. The bond between mother and child is one of the strongest and purest in nature, and when she went to hug Sarina earlier that evening, she felt something missing. A feeling of warmth and sincerity that was non-existent.
Faced with terrifying knowledge that Lilith had managed to convince the Devil himself to allow for her to inhabit Sarina’s body, and therefore also aiding in the eventual destruction of the entire Traverse family, Amanda had no time to waste. Torn between saving her daughter or ruining a joyous occasion her family was looking forward to, the latter would have to wait. Of course it could wait! Her daughter was being held captive in purgatory! Giving her head a shake, she wrung her hands as a worried look furrowed her brow. She decided to broach the subject with Romeo with the most delicate touch, so as not to anger him beyond control, especially when he finds out that Lilith is behind it all. She couldn’t risk Lilith using her incredible power to keep Sarina a prisoner forever, or worse, end her daughter’s life altogether. Lilith could be unpredictable and extremely dangerous if she knew Amanda and Romeo were on to her, especially before Amanda was prepared with a plan to save their daughter.
“You’re brooding again,” Romeo said as he drew her into their room. “Not that I don’t find it incredibly sexy.”
Amanda giggled when his lips found the nape of her neck and his arms came around her waist.
“Your mind is so sexy when you’re brooding. Wanna do some brooding in the buff?” he asked.
“And you’re incorrigible. But you did get me to stop brooding, for a minute.”
“If the promise of sex keeps you from sulking, I can make good on it,” Romeo said teasing, playfully nipping her shoulder.
Amanda sighed, wishing that an afternoon romp would cure all her worries. “I just… ever since we got back from defeating Fenris, I just can’t shake the feeling that something’s not right. I haven’t said anything before now, because I wanted desperately to deny it. Now though, that feeling’s getting stronger almost by the minute.”
“Have you done any spells to expel it?”
“No,” Amanda said, not sure she could explain why. She knew she had to try though, for everyone’s sake. “I know this sounds crazy, I’ve almost convinced myself that it is, except I know in here it’s not.” She placed her hand over her heart.
“Well?” Romeo urged.
“I think there’s something wrong with Sarina.”
“But you don’t know what?”
“Right,” Amanda sighed, even though she knew this was not entirely true.
“Maybe we can work together to narrow down what the difference is. I don’t suppose we could chalk it up to her excitement about the wedding?”
“No and that’s just it. She doesn’t seem excited. Two weeks ago she appeared ready to just get on with it. I figured after nearly three years together, maybe it was just a formality to her. But then, as everything settled down she was beaming about it. Now we’re back to ‘I couldn’t give a shit.’”
Amanda knew pretty much what he was thinking when she looked at Romeo. She didn’t need telepathic abilities to know what was on his mind.
“Maybe we’ve all been a little too relaxed,” he finally said, his dark eyes meeting hers.
“You think something’s wrong as well.” It wasn’t a question, but a statement of undeniable fact.
“I think you’re not the only one who’s noticed changes,” he agreed.
“Why didn’t you say anything?”
“Because she already thinks I’m paranoid. I wasn’t sure what I saw was real or if it was just a figment of my imagination.”
“So what do we do?”
“What else? We confront her with something she wouldn’t know unless she was our Sarina.”
“What it was like when she was with Brody that first time,” Romeo said, refusing to flush at the idea of his daughter being with a man. “Only our Sarina would know the answers to those sorts of questions.”
“You want to question whoever is pretending to be our Sarina with intimate questions about her first time. Any woman can answer those questions.” Amanda balked at this suggestion.
“Not the way our daughter can,” Romeo said, grinning when Amanda sighed.
“Have fun with that one,” Amanda said in retort, now sporting her own wide grin.
“Oh no,” he started, putting both of his hands out, palms facing her. “I didn’t say I was going to talk to her, I said we should. You know damn well I’m talking about you, woman.”
Amanda’s laugh poured out so naturally that Sarina felt tears sting her eyes. She might not have had the body she once did, but her emotions were still her own and they were heightened, especially given the circumstances. How do you convince your mother that you were real and not a figment of her imagination when she can’t hear you? Brody had believed her, but he’d been able to hear her, even to see her somewhat. Telepathy, through mates, was a natural part of being a werewolf. She just hoped her mother could hear her as well. There was hope, knowing that her mother was a Radiant. It wasn’t the first time she’d been able to hear someone she loved, despite great obstacles.
Sarina remembered her mother telling her that when she’d been pregnant with Sarina and Jason, Amanda had been tucked safely inside the in-between realm in Ireland. Even then, she’d been able to step outside that space to hear Romeo. It had held her together over the months of their separation when he’d been held prisoner by her Aunt Aurora’s obsessive ex, Remus.
That time seemed like forever ago and Sarina felt her heart drop again when she thought about her now deceased brother. The mere fact that she hadn’t seen him in the underworld was cause for celebration, but her heart wasn’t in it yet. She needed to get her life back and her mother was her only hope of doing so.