Vision in Silver Page 120

Jackson stayed with her the whole time, fending off the young Wolves who wanted to give her a thorough sniff and might accidentally scrape her skin with a nail as they jostled one another.

Finally tired of looking, seeing, feeling, she agreed to go back to her room—especially when she saw Jackson remove the white paper that had kept her from seeing out the window.

“You can see more tomorrow,” he said when she hesitated in the bedroom doorway.

“Hope,” she said, hearing a truth in the word.

He cocked his head. “What?”

She gave him a brilliant smile. “My name is Hope.”

Elayne Borden’s Diary

“What’s a man like him doing with someone like her?”

“I don’t know what he sees in her.”

Sometimes I hear those words as Nicholas and I walk past the audience who have come to hear him speak, me on his arm, trying not to show too much how thrilled I am to be the one he’s chosen.

I felt so ashamed after Monty left. To everyone who mattered, I was the lover of the cop who had killed a human in order to save a Wolf. How could I live with that? And Lizzy, with the other children slapping her and calling her hurtful names for something that wasn’t her fault.

Then Nicholas came into my life—a man from a wealthy, distinguished family in Cel-Romano. He dazzled me just by wanting me. He said he knew from the moment he met me that I was different from any other woman he’d ever met, and that coming to Toland and meeting me was fate.

I was with him when he made his speeches promoting the Humans First and Last movement. I was with him when he attended banquets hosted by the crème of Toland’s society. He took me to parties that even Mother couldn’t wangle an invitation to attend—which impressed her greatly.

Mother no longer snubs me in public, no longer gives the impression when I visit her that I am as much of an embarrassment as something smelly that’s smeared on the bottom of her shoe. Now that Nicholas is living with me, she’s even encouraged my brother, Leo, to watch Lizzy on the evenings when Nicholas and I have an event.

I am vindicated. I have shed the disgrace of my middle-class police officer lover, shed the doubts that I would be welcomed again in the level of society my family enjoys. Being Nicholas’s lover puts me several rungs up the social ladder, and now it is Mother who has to ride my coattails to attend the poshest parties.

Nicholas talks about taking me and Lizzy to Cel-Romano to stay at his family’s estate. He wants them to meet me, wants them to get to know me. And Lizzy too. He always includes Lizzy in our plans.

He is the best thing that has ever happened to me.

He came back from a meeting reeking of that skanky slut who had been hanging on him after his last speaking engagement. And what did he say when I accused him of sleeping with her? “Don’t be so provincial, Elayne. A man of my background is entitled to diversions outside the comforts of home.”

Is that what I am? A comfort? Someone to screw if a diversion isn’t available?

Did he give her that ugly ring made of white gold and diamonds that she was flashing around? Is that why she was giving me sly looks, because Nicholas hadn’t given me anything with sparkle? Gods, he doesn’t even offer to help pay for the food he eats—and the man has expensive tastes. Nothing but the best for Nicholas.

But Mother smiles at me. She smiles and smiles, so pleased to see me with a man like Nicholas Scratch. But her eyes don’t smile. They never have; not like they smile when she looks at Leo.

She doesn’t like me. She tries to hide it, and for so many years, I believed the reason she didn’t like me was because there was something lacking in me. I thought if I could just be what she wanted, do what she wanted, she would approve of me the same way she approves of Leo. But she won’t because she doesn’t like me, and she doesn’t love me. I’m not sure she ever did.

Sometimes I think her chest is made of ice, and she has to stay emotionally cold in order to hide the smell of a rotting heart.

“What’s a man like him doing with someone like her?”

“I don’t know what he sees in her.”

When did I begin to ask myself those same questions?

I heard Nicholas talking on the phone. I didn’t hear the other side of the conversation, but what he said was enough.

Thaisia will experience food shortages—grains, flour, I don’t what else. Why? Because a farming association is selling their harvest to Nicholas, who is shipping it to Cel-Romano, because food equals victory, whatever that means. But here, some families won’t be able to afford a loaf of bread, assuming there is any to buy.

How can there not be something as basic as bread?

Humans first and last. I think I’ve figured out which humans will come first.

I always wanted my mother’s love and approval. I never got either one, but she made sure she kept me under her thumb enough that I kept trying to get them. The only time I acted for myself, the only choice she hadn’t managed to control, was when I fell in love with Monty and we moved in together. My mother didn’t speak to me for several months as a punishment. Those were the happiest months of my life.

Gods! I found a bag of jewels inside Boo Bear. Lizzy had mentioned playing hospital and Boo Bear needing an operation, but Leo had shrugged it off, and I’d had too much to drink after a quarrel with Nicholas—who had sent me home early because, he said, I was causing a scene. But the way that skanky bitch was looking at me as he escorted me out, I knew he was planning to sleep with her tonight.

Then there’s Lizzy using up all the adhesive bandages on that damn bear . . .

Jewels. I wanted to believe they were glass, something Lizzy had picked up somewhere. I wanted to believe she’d hidden them inside Boo Bear after Leo told her a story about how he used to hide things in his toys when we were kids so that Mother wouldn’t find what he wanted to keep secret.

But that ugly white gold and diamond ring is in the bag.

And I remembered that Leo would hide things in my toys, especially things that would get him into real trouble if anyone knew he had them.

Has he done the same thing to Lizzy?

Leo and Nicholas. Are they stealing during the benefits people were holding for the HFL movement? Are they working together, or is Nicholas unaware that Leo is using him?

Is Leo using Nicholas? Or is Nicholas using all of us?

I tossed Nicholas Scratch out on his sorry ass. I packed his bags and had them sitting outside the apartment door. He’s too aware of his reputation to indulge in a shouting match through the door. That’s probably why Leo showed up a little while later “to talk some sense into me.”

Prev Next