Jared’s prediction was wide of the mark, but he had never looked so happy to be wrong since we’d met.
The next day, I awoke to large flakes of snow fal ing graceful y from the sky. Each fluffy white piece drifted downward as if it were orchestrating its own symphony. Looking out the window, the ground was already covered in at least two feet of snow, and the gray clouds above didn’t foretel anything but more of the same.
“It’s been like that since four A.M.,” Bex said from the hal way.
I tightened my robe around me, and opened the door.
Bex stood before me, bored and holding a half-eaten apple. He took another bite, crunching loudly. “He’s bringing coffee.”
“Good,” I said, leaving him to head for the bathroom.
Steam from the shower quickly surrounded me, but before I rinsed the shampoo from my hair, I heard the door open.
“It’s me,” Claire said, shutting the door behind her.
I peered through the fuzzy glass, barely able to make out her tiny frame. “What are you doing here?”
“I’ve been up al night with Ryan. We talked a lot. We fought more.”
“Oh? About what?”
“About what he saw in the desert, and if I was there or not. He knows the men that stabbed him last year were cops. He knows a lot more than we thought. Final y…,” she sighed, “final y I just told him.”
“Everything? You confessed about the other cops, and the commissioner? About Anderson, and…and about what you are?”
“How did you explain without tel ing him everything?”
“I promised I would explain later.” She frowned. “It doesn’t feel right to tel him, Nina. We were raised on the belief that this secret kept our family safe.”
“Then don’t tel him until it feels right.”
“What if it never feels right?”
“I don’t know,” I said, turning off the water. A towel flew up and over the shower door, landing on my head. “Thanks.”
“Don’t mention it,” Claire said, shutting the door behind her.
By the time I was dressed and ready, Claire, Jared and Bex were downstairs in the kitchen, discussing Ryan. Just by entering the room, it was obvious it was not a constructive conversation.
“You’re such a hypocrite!” Claire growled.
Jared slammed the side of his fist on the table. “Are you in love with him?”
“Then it’s a different scenario!” Jared glanced in my direction, and then took a breath, attempting a calmer tone. “You said it yourself. It doesn’t feel right to tel him.”
I sat down, scanning the siblings with my eyes before speaking. Outwardly, Claire was angry. But her eyes were begging for understanding.
Tel ing Ryan anything was a huge step for her, and just as Jared struggled with it two years before, Claire was now fighting with her conflicting feelings. She needed her brothers to support her I took a seat across from Jared, and next to Claire. The choice was meaningful, and I hoped that they would notice. “Maybe Claire is looking for your blessing, Jared,” I said.
“Or just some understanding,” she grumbled.
Bex stood up, and walked across the kitchen, picking up a plate, and then setting in front of me. It was an omelet, loaded with ham, green onion, mushrooms, and cheese.
“Thanks,” I smiled.
Bex nodded, and then touched his sister's shoulder. “Claire, I love you. But if you’d take a step back and think about this. Ryan is a cop. He’s investigating murders you committed. What do you think he’s going to do when you tel him you murdered his partner? You think he's going to forgive you because he saw your eyes in the desert?”
“The partner that orchestrated his kidnapping and ultimate demise,” Claire said. “Listen,” she sighed, “I know how it looks on paper. I may not be in love with Ryan, but he says he’s in love with me. If he listens to what I have to say, and I approach it careful y, I think he could be an asset.”
“We can’t take that chance,” Jared said, finality in his voice.
Claire stood, her palms flat on the table. “You took the same chance when you told Nina, and she wasn’t even an asset! Her life has spun out of control since the second you revealed yourself to her, Jared. At least let me make my own decision, like you did!”
Jared's nose wrinkled in disgust. “You were on me for months about Nina, Claire! How quickly you forget the hours I spent listening to your lectures on doing the right thing. Keep the secret. Keep the secret! That's been your mantra for years!”
Tears fil ed Claire’s eyes as her face turned red. “Coming from you!” she screamed. “You know what it’s like to have no one, and you know what it’s like to final y be free of the burden of what we are; to have someone else besides your mother, or your brothers to confide in! I have no one, Jared! You’ve lived it, and you stil deny me the liberation you insisted on?”
Jared shifted in his seat, but I could see in his eyes he would not yield. Claire saw it, too.
“Go to hel !” she shrieked before storming out of the house. She slammed the door with such force that the surrounding painting and pictures on the wal fel from their nails, and crashed to the floor.
“You’re making a mistake,” I said, meeting Jared’s obstinate stare. “Claire, wait!” I yel ed, hoping she would hear it before she sped away. I ran outside, stopping at the Lotus.
Claire wiped her eyes. “Sorry. I cry when I’m mad.”
“I do, too,” I said, offering an apologetic smile.
“He asked me to go to Anderson’s funeral.” Claire focused her eyes straight forward, too emotional to make eye contact.
“Are you going?”
“I couldn’t think of a good enough reason when he asked, but I shouldn’t. It’s wrong.”
“I’ll go with you.”
Claire’s ice blue eyes darted up in surprise. “You wil ?”
“Yeah,” I said. “When?”
“In an hour,” she said, attempting to mask her hopeful expression.
I looked at my watch. “Okay. Give me a minute to get dressed.”
Jared frowned as I slipped on a demure black dress. I sat down on the bed to pul up my black stockings, and he sat beside me.