The Immortal Who Loved Me(Argeneau, book 21)(67) by Lynsay Sands
Now that she was thinking about her breakup with Carl, the artist, she couldn’t recall why they had broken up exactly. Even worse, she didn’t even remember actually doing it.
“What are you thinking about?” Alexander asked quietly, and reached toward her, but Sherry backed up a step, out of his reach. They had said she’d built up a resistance to having her mind read in general, but more specifically to whomever was the immortal in her life. This man. He had to touch her to read her, she suspected, and definitely to control her, and she was beginning to suspect he’d controlled a lot of her life.
Lifting her chin, she glared at him. “It just didn’t work out. It’s better that way.”
Alexander stilled, alarm flashing across his face.
“You put that thought in my head, just like you put the thought about Uncle Al just fading from my life there,” Sherry accused.
“Yes,” he confessed quietly, and then rushed on, “It was for your own good, honey. Carl was a waste of space. All he did was smoke pot and strut around with a paintbrush in hand. You were so much better than that. You were hardworking and had ambitions and he was an anchor dragging you down.”
“I loved him,” Sherry cried, but wasn’t sure she really had even as she said it. Her memories of that time were foggy at best.
“Sherry, he was getting you into pot and other drugs. You were losing the thread of your life,” he said quietly.
“I was not,” she gasped with disbelief. “I’ve never done drugs in my life.”
“You did with him,” Alexander argued. “Not at first, but then one night after a party where you’d had too much to drink you had a couple tokes with him, and then it happened again and again. And then he got you to try acid, and mushrooms . . .” His mouth tightened. “You were going off the rails. Buying his nonsense that no one should have to work, that the birds don’t dress up in suits and go to an office every day and people shouldn’t have to either.”
“I wasn’t,” Sherry denied, but with a little less fervor. That phrase sounded vaguely familiar. Frowning, she argued, “Birds may not put on suits, but they do work. They build nests, and they have to hunt food.”
“Exactly, and that’s what you said when you were sober. But once he started getting you into drugs, you started slipping. And the day you repeated his nonsense line about the birds to me as if it were gospel, I knew I had to intervene.”
Sherry was silent, confusion rife in her head as memories began to flood her now. Chilling on the couch in a marijuana haze, dancing through the park watching the light trails of fireflies on acid, hallucinations after eating mushrooms.
“Your mother was worried sick about you, and tried to talk you around, to get you to see what was happening. But in your heart you blamed her for your parents’ divorce. If she hadn’t blamed him, if she’d just tried to talk to him, you thought, they might still be together. So the more she criticized and talked, the more rebellious you got and the more you let him convince you to do,” he said grimly.
“You started to skip classes. Your grades started to drop. Your whole future was going up in smoke and I debated what to do, and then the day you caught him in bed with your next door neighbor—”
“What?” Sherry squawked, even as an image flew into her head.
“You were pissed, and when you came to me and told me, I hoped you’d finally end it, but then he showed up and started giving you some nonsense about man not being naturally monogamous, that most animals weren’t and it was all cool, he still loved only you but why shouldn’t you both have some fun. I could tell you were confused. I was afraid you were going to go back to him, so I . . .”
“So you took control of me, broke us up, and erased all of this from my head,” Sherry said slowly.
“It was better that way,” Alexander assured her. “You got back on track right away. Your grades came back up, you were more studious and determined than ever.”
She nodded slowly and simply asked, “And the part about wanting the store to be up and running before bothering with dating?”
“I . . . it was what you wanted. And you wouldn’t take money from me. I thought if you were stable, with a steady income, I could worry less about you. And you have such poor taste in men, honey.”
He reached toward her again and Sherry again jerked back.
“How many mistakes like Carl, the artist, did you prevent?” she asked grimly.
“What?” he asked warily.
“How many times have you intervened in my life?” Sherry asked, her voice steel now. “How many ‘wrong men’ did you stop me from going out with? How many bad decisions did you keep me from making or change for me? How much of my life was actually my own?” she ended heavily.
“I . . .” Alexander shook his head helplessly. “I was just trying to keep you from making mistakes.”
“They were my mistakes to make,” Sherry snapped. “It was my life. It’s a part of growing up and maturing.”
“I was just doing what any parent would do,” Alexander said impatiently. “Every parent tries to keep their kid from making mistakes.”
“They do,” she agreed, “But every parent can’t take control of their child, erase or replace memories and make them do what they want. You literally ran my life. I don’t know now what was me and what was you. Did I even want to own my own business or is that something else you put in my head?”
“You did,” he assured her. “It was what you wanted from when you were little. I just helped you get that.”
“By keeping me from going off the rails,” she suggested.
“Exactly. I kept you on track,” Alexander said with relief, now that she appeared to understand.
“You steered the goddamned train that was my life,” Sherry snapped. “You took over my life and ran it the way you decided it should be.”
“You wanted to own your own business,” he argued desperately.
“And before that I probably wanted to be a ballerina or a singer,” she said dryly, and then remembered, “When I got to university I didn’t care as much for business courses as I thought I would, but I loved the psychology courses I took and considered switching my major. Did you have anything to do with my staying in business?”
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