Rogue Page 23

I’d never really questioned my decision not to tell her what I knew.

Technical y, it was none of my business, but more important, I didn’t want to be the cause of problems between my parents. She had meant no harm. On the contrary, she’d been trying to mend the rift between Ryan and the rest of the family.

Shortly after Ryan left, when I was thirteen, my mother became secretly obsessed with tracking him down to talk him into rejoining the Pride. After two years of searching, she found him, and though he eagerly accepted her money, he steadily refused to come home. In retrospect, I think that was the closest he ever came to standing up for something he believed in.

When Ryan got tangled up in Miguel’s kidnapping scheme and began using her to spy on the council, my mother never had a clue. I could only assume she figured it out when Owen dragged Ryan home in shame, not to mention shackles. I couldn’t be sure, though, because I’d never asked either of them. But as far as I knew, she hadn’t spoken one word to Ryan since the night my father locked him up.

My Shift complete, I forced thoughts of my mother and brother from my mind as I stepped into the backyard to find my clothes.

Normally I wouldn’t have bothered dressing until I’d showered.

Werecats are accustomed to seeing one another in al variations of undress, as well as all stages of mid-Shift. But hopefully there would be a delivery boy on the property soon, for whom we’d have to make allowances. Walking around nude in front of humans was not a good way to keep a low profile with the local community. It was an excellent way to make new friends, though.

Unfortunately, Marc didn’t like new friends.

Dressed, except for my bare feet, I crossed the yard and stepped into the back hall, shoes dangling from the fingers of my left hand. Before I reached my room, Ethan stepped out of the kitchen with a stack of cheddar Pringles cradled in one hand. He smiled, extending his snack toward me. “Bite?”

I hesitated, then shrugged. “Actually, yeah. Thanks.” We met halfway, only a few feet from my open bedroom door, and I snatched the entire stack from his hand, grinning as I danced out of reach. I was still dodging my brother’s long-armed grasp when my father’s office door opened and he appeared in the threshold.

“Karen!” he bellowed to the house in general. “We’re supposed to be there in an hour.”

Clearly expecting an answer, he paused, glancing down the hall in our direction. But no response came.

“Karen?” he cal ed again, stepping into the center of the foyer. Stil no answer. My father’s eyes locked onto mine, and my heart started to pound. Surely he could hear it. He knew I knew something. I barely resisted the urge to hide behind Ethan. “Have either of you seen your mother?”

“Yeah,” Ethan said, and my heart actually skipped a beat.

He knew Mom was in the woods? If so, why hadn’t he mentioned it?

He knew as well as I did that she only Shifted when she was upset about something.

But I should have known Ethan was joking. “Slim lady. Blue eyes and a gray pageboy,” he continued, his eyes glistening in appreciation of his own humor. “Answers to the name ‘Mom.’”

Our patriarch frowned, his eyes darkening. Fortunately, he thought Ethan was answering for us both, which was fine with me. I tossed another chip into my mouth and started to duck into my room before my father could question me separately. But my foot froze in midair when my mother’s voice rang out from my parents’ bedroom.

“Gracious, Gregory,” she called out. The door opened, and my mother stepped into the hall with a towel wrapped around her hair, tying the sash of a pale pink bathrobe. Her feet peeked out from beneath the robe.

Two entirely human feet with neatly polished toenails.

My jaw dropped open, and I was glad no one was watching me. How the hell did she get past me?

“What on earth are you shouting about?” my mother demanded, and for a moment, I thought she’d read my mind. But then she propped her hands on her hips and glared in irritation at my father. “Have I ever made us late?”

“There’s a first time for everything,” Daddy said. But as stern as his voice was, his eyes were gentle when he looked at my mother. His eyes were always gentle when he looked at her, as if something about her melted his heart, even when she was second-guessing him or slapping his hand for trying to sneak a bite of raw cookie dough. And that was probably a pretty good assessment. She thawed him out. It was a damn good thing someone could.

“Well, I’m stil waiting for the first time you let me get ready in peace.” Her mouth twitched in an effort to keep from smiling.

“Meet me in the car in twenty minutes.” She backed into her room and closed the door gently. I followed her example.

In my room, I stripped for the third time that day and headed straight to the bathroom for a quick shower.

Clean, dry, and lavender-scented, I pulled a brush through my still-damp hair and dressed in a pair of short denim shorts and my favorite green stretchy-T. I paused at my dresser to put my watch on, then glanced up at the mirror.

Not too bad, I thought, brushing clinging strands of hair from my neck.

But with my throat exposed, my eyes caught on my first and only battle scars: four smal white crescents running down the left side of my throat.

No one else ever noticed. But I did. Al the time. And each time my gaze focused on them, I remembered Miguel’s fingernails popping through the surface of my skin and sinking into my flesh.

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