Authors: Melissa Giorgio
“Are you okay?” Rafe asked, his eyes on the road as he drove me, Alexandra, and Kain to the train station. Philip was with Evan. I wanted him with me, but we knew we couldn’t put him and Alexandra in the same car. And I couldn’t leave Rafe, so that had been our only option. At least poor Evan had
company. I’d managed to patch things up between him and Rafe (for the most part, anyway), but after that scene in the kitchen, I knew he and Alexandra had a long, long way to go.
“Yeah,” I said in response to Rafe’s question. “I’m just imagining what I’m going to do to Charles when I find out he’s been withholding some very important pieces of information from me.”
Rafe chuckled. “Maybe he didn’t know. About you and Phil, I mean.”
“Of course he knew. He knew and he probably goes to sleep at night congratulating himself for duping me and Phil.”
“That sounds about right,” Alexandra drawled from the backseat. “If you need me to hold him down while you punch him, Gabi, just let me know.”
“Oh, me too!” Kain said. “Please let me punch him, Gabiella! I’ve been wanting to do that for
“No one is punching Charles,” Rafe said as he pulled into the train station’s parking lot. Evan parked his car in the next space and Philip got out, typing a text on his phone. “We need information from him. You can’t get that if you send him to the emergency room!”
“All right, fine,” I conceded, getting out of the car. “I’ll just wait until he finishes telling us everything before kicking his ass.”
Philip looked up from his phone warily. “Do I even want to know who you’re talking about?”
“Isn’t it obvious?” Kain asked, throwing an arm around Philip’s shoulders. “Mister Douche-Dick!”
Philip let out a humongous snort and walked away to compose himself. Evan, meanwhile, was giving Alexandra a mournful and desperate look. When she noticed, she flipped him the finger and stalked away to the other side of the parking lot, glowering.
I exchanged a glance with Rafe, who shrugged helplessly.
This was going to be the longest day ever.
The train ride to Manhattan was two hours, and on top of that we’d had to wait an additional forty-five minutes for the train to even arrive at the station, so I spent a lot of time thinking. Thinking about Mom, and Philip, and how our relationship would change if we were brother and sister. Or would it? Kain already said we reminded him of his bickering sisters. Our squabbles aside, how could I forget how easily we clicked from the moment we first met? It was like, subconsciously, we knew we were related.
As the train sped south, I rested my head against Rafe’s shoulder and watched Philip, sitting in the row across from me, stare out the window. I definitely wouldn’t mind having him as an older brother. I knew I shouldn’t think of him as one without hearing what Charles had to say first, but, I realized with a rueful shake of my head, I already did.
Whatever Charles says, it doesn’t make a difference,
I told myself.
Siblings or not, he’s still one of your best friends. That’s not going to change.
“Why are you staring at me?” Philip jostled me out of my daydream by throwing a wadded up gum wrapper at my head. “Are you still trying to see if we look alike?”
I threw the wrapper back at him, successfully missing Philip and hitting Kain on the nose instead. After apologizing to Kain, I told Philip, “No. I was just thinking it would make sense if we’re related, since you’re so good at annoying the hell out of me.”
“You know I can easily say the same thing about you, right?” Philip pointed toward my window. “Oh, look, a cow. Remind you of home, Gabi?”
“I have no idea why you’re still saying that when you
where I live!” I folded my arms over my chest and glared at him. It took me a few seconds, but I realized he was teasing me to distract me from, well, everything. “Thanks,” I mumbled, looking away quickly.
I watched his reflection in the glass smile. “You’re welcome.”
The train pulled into Penn Station with a loud screech. People jumped from their seats, grabbing their luggage and bags from the overhead racks. My friends and I waited for the train to empty before rising and heading for the doors.
I held Rafe’s hand tightly as we navigated through the crowds. People were everywhere, rushing to catch their trains as a voice over the loudspeaker announced the track numbers and reminded everyone to report any suspicious activities. Stores selling everything from food to books lined the long corridor, and I made a small sound of protest as we passed a bakery without stopping.
We rode the escalator outside, and immediately new noises filled my ears: people hawking wares, honking car horns, and pulsing dance music spilling from a store across the street. The six of us stepped out of the way of the ever-present crowds of pedestrians so Philip could tell us our next move.
“Okay, he’s pissed off we’re here,” he said, staring at his phone, “which is to be expected, but Dad says he’ll meet us at Bryant Park.”
“Bryant Park?” I echoed. “Is that like Central Park?”
They all smirked at me.
“Shut up,” I said, my face turning red.
Stupid New Yorkers!
Taking pity on me, Rafe pointed to the right and said, “It’s this way.”
Bryant Park was not, in fact, part of Central Park, but another, smaller park situated on the same block as the New York Public Library. It wasn’t a far walk from Penn Station, so we didn’t bother with the subway, although Rafe informed me the train did stop at the park. But unlike back home, it wasn’t too cold out, and they didn’t have any residual snow on the pavement, so I didn’t mind the walk.
It probably helped that Rafe stopped to buy me a hot chocolate along the way.
Philip eyed my happy face as I drank my cocoa and shook his head, but he wisely said nothing.
I began noticing trees to our right, and suddenly, smack dab in the middle of the tall office buildings and the crazy traffic and all the people rushing around was a park. “Huh,” I said. “New York City is cool.”
No one answered, but there was definitely a lot of eye-rolling going on behind my back. I could tell, even without looking.
We crossed the street and Philip led us up a small flight of stairs and turned right, toward a corner of the park. The paths were clear, but piles of gray and white snow covered the fenced-off grassy areas. The trees, their limbs still bare, stretched high above and around us, but they didn’t block the sight of a very busy city street right outside the park. Still, the place was nice. I liked it and wished we’d come here just to hang out, instead of taking care of some dark and possibly life-altering business with Charles.
Speaking of Mister Director, he was already sitting at a green wrought-iron table, watching us approach. His table had been pulled away from the main brick path, and two empty chairs occupied the space across from him. He rose, his face already twisting into a scowl. “Do I need to waste my breath to inform you how displeased I am to see you all here?” he asked.
“Nope,” Philip said. He reached into his pocket, pulled out the photo of me and Mom, and tossed it onto the table.
Charles paled as he stared down at it. After a moment, where he seemed lost in his own thoughts, he quietly said, “Philip and Gabi, sit down. The rest of you, make yourselves scarce.”
Evan rolled his eyes and walked away first. Alexandra watched him go, then took off in the opposite direction, sitting at a table too far away to overhear anything, but close enough that she could come running if she needed to. Kain paused to murmur something in Philip’s ear before following Alexandra and sitting down at her table.
While Philip sat, Rafe lingered next to me, still holding my hand. The frown on his face told me he was unhappy about being sent away. Rafe was probably afraid of what Charles was going to tell us, and how I would react to it. A warm rush of gratitude flowed through me, and I stood on tiptoes to softly brush my lips against his. “Sit with Evan?” I asked. He looked surprised at my out of the blue request—he’d probably expected me to ask him to stay—but he nodded.
So with Kain and Alexandra at one table, and Rafe and Evan at another, Philip and I sat down with Charles, ready to hear whatever it was he had to say.
Charles couldn’t stop staring at the photograph of me and Mom. His face betrayed no emotions, but his silence, combined with his tense posture, told me he was unhappy. Philip crossed his arms over his chest, leaned back in his chair, and said, “Kain found that photo in Gabi’s house. Gabi says it’s a picture of her and her mom, which wouldn’t be a big deal, except for the little fact that that same woman is in a framed photo on your desk.” He leaned forward, his chair creaking slightly. “It’s the same woman, isn’t it, Dad?”
Charles shut his eyes. “Yes.”
“You said she was dead!” Philip’s voice cracked, and I realized he was struggling to control his emotions. I just hoped he didn’t try to punch Charles. A trip to the police station was just what we didn’t need today. “Why the hell would you lie about something like that?”
“I had my reasons,” Charles answered evenly.
“You had your
? What kind of bullshit answer is that!”
“Phil.” I reached for him, placing my gloved hand over his as I tried to calm him down. “Let him talk.” Turning to Charles, I asked, “Did you know? About me and Phil being siblings?”
“I had my suspicions,” Charles said, “when you told me your name. Morgan always said if she had a girl, she wanted to give her an unusual name.”
A sharp, stabbing pain hit me squarely in my heart at the mention of that name.
When was the last time I heard someone refer to her as “Morgan”? At home, it was always “Mom,” and after she left, that term was used sparingly. Dad’s relatives, the ones we saw during Christmas, never even called her that after she left. No, it was always “that woman” with them. To hear Charles say her name so flippantly?
I realized Charles was waiting for me to say something, and I forced myself back to the present. “So you knew since then? Since you kidnapped me?” I remembered how he’d paused after I told him my name was “Gabiella,” not “Gabriella.” I’d thought he was being creepy, but no, he was just keeping super important information all to himself.
How nice of him!
“I wasn’t certain, but it was a feeling I had.” Charles paused for a moment. “One that I hoped was wrong.”
“Why?” Philip demanded. “That’s a horrible thing to say. Hell, everything you’ve done since that moment is horrible! You knew she was my sister, and you didn’t say anything?”
Sister. The word echoed in my head, heavy and full of so much meaning. We’d wondered about it, but to have Charles confirm it for us made a world of difference.
A brother. I had an older brother.
One I’d been robbed of for almost seventeen years.
Fury washed over me, hot and fierce, and all I wanted to do was hurl my hot chocolate at Charles’s face. But that would be a waste of a perfectly good beverage—and it was only lukewarm now, so it wasn’t like the liquid would hurt him—so I restrained myself.
“Why don’t you start from the beginning,” I suggested through teeth clenched together so tightly I wasn’t sure he’d understand what I was saying.
But Charles sighed and nodded, running a hand over his face. He looked tired and drawn, and I wasn’t sure if it was a direct result of our conversation, or stress from Silver Moon business, but at the moment, it was hard to care.
He brought this on himself
, I thought darkly. If he’d been honest from the start, we wouldn’t be having this conversation in the middle of Manhattan, the last place I was supposed to be. But there we were, at the point of no return, and I squeezed Philip’s hand as hard as I could as Charles began his story.
“She wasn’t a hunter, your mother,” he said. “She could have been, but she didn’t want to be. It does happen from time to time, but usually with those who don’t display any talent.” His eyes flicked to me and I knew he was taking the time to explain this for my benefit. “But Morgan had the talent. She just didn’t have the stomach for the fighting and the killing.”
Charles looked at his son. “By talent, I mean magic.”
Philip sucked in a shaky breath. “That’s—” His voice cracked again. “That’s where I got the magic from? From her?”
“Yes, precisely. That’s how we first met. I was hunting with Rafe’s father, and she stumbled across our veil. A regular human would have been deterred by the veil and walked away, but she entered the fray and saved my life with a skillfully thrown fireball.”
I was desperately trying to picture my mom, a passive gardener who was also a little bit klutzy, as a badass magic user, and failing horribly. There was no way we were talking about the same woman.
“Liam and I made quick work of the demon, and I approached her before she could escape,” Charles continued. “Naturally, I had questions for her. Was she a hunter? Where had she learned to wield magic like that? She tried to avoid my questions, but when she saw how persistent I was, she informed me I better treat her to a meal if she was going to tell me her life story.”
“Holy shit,” Philip muttered, giving me a sideways glance. “Now I know where you get your affinity for food from.”
I scowled in response.
“We made plans to meet in two days, and I have to admit I was looking forward to it,” Charles said, a faraway look in his eyes. “She was so different from anyone else I had ever met, so alive, so—”
“Okay, we get it,” Philip interrupted. “You can skip over the vomit-inducing stuff, all right?”
Charles’s expression darkened.
He’s enjoying this,
The reminiscing. He… loved her, didn’t he?
I shuddered. Thinking about Charles and my mom was just too horrifying. Maybe Philip had a point. We didn’t need to hear about
stuff, not unless we wanted to have nightmares.
“Fine,” Charles said. “We met, and we ate, and she told me about her life. She’d grown up in Florida. Her parents were hunters, but she didn’t want to be one. This caused strife between them, and she ended up leaving when she was fifteen, moving to the Midwest to live with an aunt. Her aunt, however, was talented in the ways of magic, and that’s where Morgan learned to do what she could. She didn’t mind the magic, and she knew she would never wield it against demons. That’s when I pointed out she
wielded it against a demon, to save my life. Her expression softened, and she said she was beginning to realize it was worth it.”
An ambulance raced by, its siren wailing, and Charles paused until it passed. I was literally on the edge of my seat, completely engrossed in his story. I still couldn’t picture this woman as Mom, and it felt weird to hear things about her I never knew. (She was estranged from her parents? She has an aunt? She’d never talked about her family, ever!). But all the same, I wanted—no,
to know more.
“I’ll spare you the details,” Charles said with a rueful look in Philip’s direction, “but it was a whirlwind courtship, and suddenly, she was pregnant with you.”
Philip shut his eyes and swallowed hard.
“You weren’t married?” I asked.
“No,” Charles said. “I immediately proposed when she told me the news, but she said no. I thought she wanted to wait, have the baby first, but now I realize…” His voice dropped to a whisper. “She never cared for me the way I cared for her.”
Despite myself, I felt sorry for Charles. Why? Because the expression on his face was the same look my dad wore whenever he thought about Mom and didn’t think I was watching him. I’d seen it so many times throughout the years, and it was like a knife through my heart, each and every time.
Mom hadn’t just hurt Dad. She’d hurt Charles, too, and who knows how many other guys in the process. I didn’t know why, maybe it was just the way she was, but that was a horrible thing to do to someone. Especially the father of your child!
“So what, she had me and left?” Philip asked hoarsely. “She didn’t give a shit about me, huh?”
“No, Philip, that’s not true—”
Philip slammed his hand against the table, knocking over my cup of hot chocolate. “Don’t
to me, Dad!”
“I’m not,” Charles insisted as I righted my cup, using a tissue from my purse to wipe up the spilled liquid. “I was there when she had you. I saw the look on her face when the doctor handed you to her. She may have never loved me, but she fell in love with you the moment she saw you, Philip.”
Philip went from being angry to looking like he was about to start crying. “Then why did she leave?”
“She was a wanderer,” Charles said. “She was never happy if she stayed in one place too long. She never wanted to be a hunter, never wanted to be part of Silver Moon. She knew I did, though, and while she was able to ignore it for a little while, in the end she knew she could never compete with the organization.” Charles shook his head. “She was wrong, though. If she had talked to me, instead of making assumptions, I would have left the organization in a heartbeat. The only things that mattered to me were her and you.”
Philip looked away with a wince, blinking rapidly.
“But she left before I could tell her this, vanishing in the middle of the night, and despite how hard I tried to find her, I never could.”
I thought that was the end of the story, but then Charles turned back to me. “Until one fateful day when I saw her again.”