“Damn it!” Nathalie slammed the oven door shut.
“What happened?” Jackson poked his head into the kitchen. “Need help?”
“No, get back to the register,” she snapped at him.
He arched one blond brow before doing as he’d been told.
With a sigh, Nathalie braced her mitt-covered hands against her work table and let her head hang down from her neck.
She was short-tempered as hell this morning, and it wasn’t only because she had slept less than three hours last night. Ever since Andrew’s peculiar comment from yesterday, her mind was churning with questions. She could no longer look at Jackson without wondering what his and Bhathian’s agenda was, and by that, she meant what was Andrew’s.
Why had none of them mentioned being related to each other before?
“Number two sandwich, mayo on the side,” Jackson called out from the other room, instead of coming in or just sticking his head in to announce the new order. Her irritated response must’ve come out nastier than she’d intended, to scare off a guy who seemed to be afraid of nothing.
Good. Today, she really wasn’t in the mood for seeing his pretty face and his fake charm.
Her father had had one of his episodes last night, waking her up sometime around two in the morning. He’d come into her room, saying that he couldn’t sleep in his bed because there was some random guy already sleeping in it. No amount of arguing had managed to convince him otherwise. In the end, she’d given up and had moved his blanket and pillow to the couch in the den.
She’d been up since then.
You should have found him a place months ago.
Oh, hell, Tut. He was back.
What else could go wrong? Why couldn’t she get one damn break in her stupid, miserable life?
She thought she’d found in Andrew the perfect guy to share her life with, only to discover that he’d been hiding things from her—like the fact that Bhathian and Jackson were part of his family. And she couldn’t shake the suspicion that he’d gotten closer to her only to find out information about her missing mother.
She thought she’d found in Jackson the best helper for her shop, only to discover that the kid was part of the conspiracy.
She thought she’d found in Bhathian a great new friend, one who was selflessly helping her out of the goodness of his heart, but he was with them, and obviously had an ulterior motive.
But the last straw was Tut. After such a long stretch of silence, she thought she’d gotten rid of him. All that remained was to banish Sage as well. It would’ve meant that she was getting better. But her hopes had been shattered.
She was still as nutty as ever.
Damn it. Even if her suspicions about Andrew were nothing but paranoia, what kind of a future could someone as bat-shit crazy as her hope to have with a man like him?
Nutty Nattie would never have a normal life. She would never get married, and would never have kids. She would grow old alone with only a bunch of cats for company.
Trouble was, she was allergic to them, and an old dog lady didn’t work as well as an old cat lady.
With hot tears flooding her eyes and sliding down her cheeks, she fled the kitchen, afraid someone would come in and see her crying like a loon. And if the tears weren’t bad enough, she was losing the battle against the sobs that were pushing up her throat.
Shit, she couldn’t breathe.
The downstairs bathroom was the closest, but it served the coffee shop and didn’t offer much privacy, especially since she was about to bawl her eyes out and sob uncontrollably. Which left only the second-floor bathroom. Dropping the mitts at the foot of the stairs, Nathalie ran up and locked herself in her cramped sanctuary.
Dramatic much? Tut’s sarcastic tone was like a kick to the gut. Dirty, underhanded bastard, kicking her when she was already down on the floor.
“You’re such an asshole.” Nathalie dropped the toilet lid and sat down.
And you’re overreacting because you’re tired. It happened before. You get depressed when you’re sleep-deprived.
“Shut up. Just shut up. I can’t deal with all this crazy right now.” She dropped her head to her hands.
You’re not crazy, you have a gift, he said softly.
“Says the crazy voice in my head.”
What if I can prove it?
Tell you something that no one else knows.
“Go ahead, I’m listening.” Tut was so full of shit. For years he’d claimed that he could tell her nothing because it was against the rules.
Columbus didn’t discover America.
Nathalie rolled her eyes. “Everyone knows that. Some Viking explorer got there first.”
Tut chuckled. The truth is that America had always been known, and various peoples had been crossing the Atlantic Ocean for thousands of years. It just wasn’t known to the Europeans of Columbus’s time.
“Maybe yes, maybe no. It’s not something I can use. There is no way to prove it. You need to give me something more concrete, something personal, not something anyone can dig out of obscure history books.”
Sorry, I’ve been dead for far too long. All I have are anecdotes which are history to you.
“Bloody convenient excuse.”
Ask the new guy, he’s fresh.
Whatever he calls himself. He’s a newbie so there is a good chance that he died recently and can remember stuff to tell you that you can still verify. Except, time doesn’t work the same on this side, so even though he might think he’d been alive only yesterday, he could’ve been dead for many years of your time.
This was more information than Tut had ever shared with her. “Why are you telling me this only now?”
I had no reason to tell you any of this before. But as I said, my time here is limited, and I don’t want to leave you vulnerable.
“Fine. If Sage comes back, I’ll ask him.”
He will. You’re like a beacon of light to those of us who cling to this existence for one reason or another. That’s why you were bombarded with so many voices when you were little. I helped shield you, and as you got older, becoming more guarded and skeptical, that beacon of yours has dimmed. But some desperate souls will still find you, I have no doubt of that.
“Why? What do they want from me?”
Think about it. If there were only one person in the world who could hear you, wouldn’t you fight for a chance to be heard?
He had a point. It must be awful to be all alone in the big void with no one to talk to. “Yeah, I guess I would.”
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