Desired by the Bear Book 2(12)

By: V. Vaughn

“It did, and it didn’t.” She shuts her eyes for a moment and rubs the bridge of her nose. “It’s complicated.”

I wonder if my father has a family, and I ask, “Is he married?”

She nods. “But that’s not all.” She takes a deep breath and stares at me with intensity. “Your twin is alive.”

“Whoa.” My chest tightens as if the air was just sucked out of my lungs. “What? I thought--”

“I thought she died too, but it turns out my friend Julie stole her and convinced Henri, your father, the baby was theirs so she could marry him.”

“Oh my god.” My stomach clenches, and I reach out and touch my mother’s arm as the teapot begins to hiss. I get up to turn it off, but forget about making tea as I quickly return to the couch and ask, “So your friend who helped you deliver me stole my sister to get Henri? Why would she want to be with a man who wasn’t her true mate?”

“Henri has a lot of power in the clan, and judging from what she was like in college, I think she wanted the lifestyle.”

I shake my head as I try to fathom what kind of person steals a child just to marry for power. I have a sister. And this woman made my mother think my twin was dead. I ask, “What will the clan do to her?”

“I don’t know.” Mom leans back on the couch and clutches a pillow to her chest. “Henri and Julie have other children.”

What Julie did was criminal. Surely if they’d lock Mom and me in a room because they thought we might be hunters, Jean Luc would do much more for a known kidnapper. “But she stole your baby!”

“Jean Luc said she’d be punished, but she’s not who I’m concerned about.” Fresh tears fill her eyes. “I hurt Henri, and I’m not sure he’ll ever be able to forgive me.”

I ask, “Did you find out for sure if you’re true mates?”

She hiccups, and I say, “Mom, he’ll forgive you.” I wonder, now that she knows he never got over her, if she’s experiencing different guilt. Maybe the idea she kept him from the family he was supposed to have is eating her up. I ask, “You can’t forgive yourself, can you?”

“Why should I, Kelsey?” She sniffs as tears roll down her face. “You had a father I didn’t let you know, and Caitlyn never knew her real mother. I ruined our family by not telling Henri.”

I grab her arm, and notice how fragile her bones feel in my grip as I say, “Stop. You did what you thought was right at the time. You sacrificed your love for him so that he wouldn’t leave the clan. It was an honorable thing to do. You didn’t know anything about being true mates.”

Mom blows her nose on a tissue and says, “It was stupid.” Her gaze is intense as her eyes flash while she says, “Lying is never the right choice.”

I think about how she was angry with my decision to come here and wouldn’t tell me why. Perhaps she should have told me what I was, but again she was trying to protect me from something she thought would hurt me. I sigh, “Maybe not, Mom. But you aren’t an evil person. Your decisions were made with the best of intentions.”

I get up off the couch, and the water I heated up is still hot when I check it. Liquid splashes into two mugs as I prepare tea. I try to imagine what my father must be dealing with right now. Not only is he married to a woman who lied to him for decades, he found out about a daughter he didn’t know existed, and his true mate has returned to his life.

I have a strong urge to fix things for my mother, and wonder if I can help Henri understand how good and kind she is. I ask, “Does Henri want to meet me?”

“Of course he does. Even though we both discovered shocking truths tonight, he made it very clear he’d like to get to know you, Kelsey.”

I sit on the couch and hand my mother her drink. She holds it in both hands and blows on it as I ask, “Can we meet my sister?”

Mom closes her eyes for a moment before she says, “Your sister ran away at the age of twelve and they suspect she’s the hunter who looks just like you.”

I have a twin who wants to destroy us. Bile rises in my throat as I recall meeting the boy in the gas station that looked like me, and I recall the Ouellette warriors who were so sure I was someone named Caitlyn.

Mom sips her tea and says, “I need to give Henri time to figure out what he wants to do.”

My heart aches for my mother and Henri. “I guess this means you’re going home.”

“I have to,” Mom says, “It’s the end of the school year and my vacation days have been used up.”

“I think you should come back for the summer.”