“She is ours,” said Dominic. “Iris only stayed with the Bjorn Pack because she wanted to be near Christopher’s grave. But I think that if she’d had custody of Francesca, she’d have joined our pack for her sake. Francesca would have been a Phoenix Pack wolf. She was taken from us, and she’s been without a pack for long enough.”
“Yeah,” agreed Marcus. “It’s time she reconnected with us.”
Lydia stroked her throat. “She may wish she’d never found out the truth.”
“You should send her another e-mail tomorrow that makes things a little clearer, Lydia,” Dante advised. “But don’t tell her too much. You want to make her curious enough to meet you.”
“If she’s strong, she’ll face it and deal with it.” Lips pursed, Trick shrugged. “Guess this will show us just how strong she is.”
After pulling up outside her grandparents’ home the next day, Frankie switched off the ignition. The white three-story building was beautiful, there was no doubt about it. Stylish. Classy. Elegant. But when she was growing up, it had also felt constricting at times. When she was inside that house, certain things were expected of her—even as a child. Extreme politeness. Complete composure. Absolute obedience.
She’d failed on all counts.
Not purposely or spitefully. But because there was a wildness in her that wouldn’t allow for that sort of control. Her wolf had always bucked against her grandparents’ strictness—not in defiance, but out of her protectiveness toward Frankie.
She walked between the white columns and dashed up the steps. The housekeeper, Edna, opened the door and smiled. “Hello, Frankie.”
It was a very informal greeting for a housekeeper, but Edna had been good to Frankie over the years, encouraging and supporting her when her grandparents didn’t. Usually Frankie would talk with her a little. Today she was too anxious to speak to her grandparents.
With only an absentminded greeting for Edna, Frankie headed inside. The house was as classy on the inside as it was on the outside. Bright and spacious, with chandeliers, antiques, and crown moldings. There was plenty of artistic decor throughout, but not even one of her sculptures—it was a statement that her grandparents didn’t approve of her chosen profession.
Her grandparents loved her, but they’d never understood her. Never understood that there hadn’t really been a choice for her. Sculpting wasn’t something she did to pass the time or amuse herself. There was a drive inside her to create, to shut out the world while she disappeared into her own. It made her feel alive. Maybe they didn’t understand because, though they were both ambitious, neither of them had a “passion.”
She didn’t expect them to understand. She just wished they’d accept it.
Her heels clicked along the marble floor as she headed down the wide hallway. She found her grandparents in the cool, airy sitting room. Geoffrey stood in front of the high window, talking on his cell phone, while Marcia sat on the upholstered sofa, sipping what was probably iced tea.
Marcia’s mouth curled. “Francesca, this is a surprise. I’m glad you’re here. Selma White will be coming for dinner tonight with her son. I hope you’ll join us.” She rose, clearly expecting Frankie to cross the room and kiss her cheek. But Frankie couldn’t seem to move. She felt rooted to the spot as she stared at them, looking at them through new eyes. Could they really have lied to her all these years? Why?
Ending his call, Geoffrey turned to her. He smiled automatically at the sight of her, but that smile faltered as he took her in. “Is something wrong?”
Frankie balled her hands into fists. “Do I have an Aunt Lydia?”
There was a boom of silence, and her grandparents exchanged a brief look.
“You told me that my father was Dustin Turner, that he was a lone wolf and he didn’t tell you what pack he came from—that all you knew was that the pack wanted nothing to do with him or me.” She forced herself to take a few steps forward. “Was that story a lie?”
Geoffrey rested a hand on the back of an armchair. “Francesca—”
“Was it a lie?”
Marcia calmly took another sip of her drink. A top neurosurgeon, Marcia Newman was extremely intelligent, and always cool and composed no matter the situation. Sometimes she was a little too cool. Unfeeling, even. “Just why would you ask that?”
“Just why won’t you answer?”
Geoffrey sighed. “You have an Aunt Lydia, yes.”
Frankie’s stomach plummeted. “Was my father’s name really Dustin Turner?”
Geoffrey hesitated. “No.”
A shaky breath left her lungs. She felt cold all over as several emotions rattled her. Confusion. Shock. Hurt. Betrayal. Her wolf curled her upper lip, eyeing them both with distrust. “I don’t understand. Why didn’t you tell me about her? Why give me a false name? Why all the lies?”
“Who mentioned Lydia to you?” he asked.
“She did. She contacted me. Referred to my father as Christopher. Was that his name? Was it?”
Geoffrey’s mouth twisted slightly. “Yes.”
Jaw clenched, Frankie blew a breath out of her nose. “Why lie to me? Why?”
“Be sure you want the answers to these questions, Francesca.” Geoffrey crossed to the little bar. “You won’t like what you hear.”
“The truth can’t be worse than any lie.” Not for Frankie.
“Don’t be so sure of that.” He poured himself a brandy, and she knew he was stalling.
Impatient, Frankie pushed, “Who was my father?”
“His name was Christopher Brooks,” said Geoffrey in that authoritative voice she’d heard him use in court more than once as he sat at his bench, cloaked in a black robe. “He shot himself. But not before strangling your mother to death after stabbing her several times. He killed both her and himself right in front of you.”
Nothing he said could have shocked her more. Nothing. She stood there, frozen, struggling to process his matter-of-fact delivery of such a horrific event. Frankie had grown up believing that her parents—loving, attentive parents who’d been devoted to her and to each other—had died in a car accident. She needed to sit down, but she couldn’t seem to move.
Marcia set her glass on the table. “You were three at the time. We expected to find you terrified when we arrived on pack territory. But you were quiet, subdued. In shock. Naturally we brought you here, away from those animals.”
And she seemed to think that Frankie should applaud her for that.
“You didn’t seem to remember what you saw—as if you’d blocked it out.” Geoffrey took a swig of his brandy. “You’d have nightmares, but you’d never remember them. We let you forget. We gave you a different story. We did it to protect you.”
Protect her? Lying to her all her life sure didn’t feel like “protection.” It wasn’t that she couldn’t understand why they thought they were protecting her when she was just a child; she was just pissed to all hell that she was only finding out now.
She also felt embarrassed. She’d easily believed their story, easily bought their lies. Never once questioned them. Shouldn’t she have sensed the deception? Probably not. It was really only natural that she’d believed them. She’d had no reason to doubt them. Yet she felt disappointed with herself. Humiliated, even.