The Immortal Who Loved Me(Argeneau, book 21)(69) by Lynsay Sands
“But can you forgive me?” Elvi asked, easing back. “I was cruel and nasty, and I’m never cruel or nasty.”
“You were a mama bear protecting her cub,” Sherry said, recalling Bricker’s words. She patted Elvi’s shoulder. “Victor explained everything, and I really do understand. Stephanie is like a daughter to you.”
“Yeah. I guess it’s a parent thing,” Elvi said wryly. “We occasionally do stupid things because we care so damned much. But somehow we never expect our parents to be human and mess up too. I mean I don’t know what I would have done if I found out Stephanie was doing drugs. Well, if she was mortal and I could control her, I’d probably do what your father did and just take control and make her stop. Which I suppose is a horrible thing to admit,” she added.
Sherry narrowed her eyes slowly, and then asked without anger, “Reading my mind again?”
“Actually, no,” Elvi said, and when Sherry didn’t hide her disbelief, added, “The intercom was on in the store. We could hear everything.”
“What?” Sherry gasped, and whirled toward her desk. She spotted the intercom panel at the corner of her desk . . . and it was still on. She must have sat on it when she’d perched there early in the conversation with her father, she realized, and now rushed over to shut it off.
“It’s okay,” Elvi said soothingly when Sherry ran her fingers into her hair with a moan. “Decker and Anders took control of your employees and sent them to lunch, then locked the doors and put the Closed sign up so no customers entered and heard anything.”
“But they heard everything,” she said on a sigh. “And so did you and whoever else is down there.”
Elvi nodded apologetically. “Sorry. If I were a better person I would have walked out of the store and waited until it was over before coming back in, but . . .” She shrugged helplessly. “I guess I’m not as good a person as I always thought I was.”
“That or you’re as curious as the rest of the world and couldn’t resist,” Sherry said, and then patted her arm. “Don’t worry, I’m not mad. I probably wouldn’t have been able to make myself leave either. It’s like a wreck on the side of the road—no one can resist slowing to look as they pass.”
“Hmmm.” Elvi nodded, but then pointed out, “On the bright side, though, none of us will be reading your mind on your way out to see what happened.”
Sherry gave a half laugh at that, knowing it was exactly what would have happened if the intercom hadn’t been on. There seemed to be no such thing as privacy among these people. It made her wonder if they had to be better people because of it. She was certainly finding herself editing her thoughts a lot . . . and she didn’t even consider herself a bad person, but she did have thoughts once in a while that could be hurtful or rude if spoken aloud.
“How are you doing?” Elvi asked after a moment. “Finding out all of that stuff about your mother, your conception, and your father . . .” She shrugged. “Are you okay?”
“I don’t know,” Sherry admitted. “The truth is I don’t even know how I should feel.”
“There is no ‘should,’” Elvi said quietly. “You feel how you feel.”
Sherry nodded solemnly.
“I imagine you’re feeling all sorts of things right now. Anger at what he did to your mother, yet confused because it’s the reason you were born.”
“My poor mother,” Sherry said unhappily.
“He didn’t rape her,” Elvi said soothingly. “At least not in the violent, violated way. She was attracted to him and he just mentally veiled her reasons for not sleeping with him, and subdued her conscience. And,” Elvi pointed out, “she got you out of the deal. And while your mother apparently wouldn’t have had an affair with him without his influence, I’m sure she was glad to have you as a daughter, Sherry. Any mother would be. Especially after your brother died.”
“Yes, but maybe if I had really been my dad’s daughter, maybe they wouldn’t have divorced. I mean, that could have been part of it. Maybe he sensed I wasn’t his. If I had been his, maybe they would have worked harder to stay together.”
“Sherry, you could never have been his daughter. There is no way for you to exist but as the daughter of Alexander and your mother,” she pointed out gently, and then added, “And that isn’t a guarantee the marriage would have worked anyway. From what I understand, a lot of couples don’t survive the death of a child. Especially when the couple blame each other for the death, and it sounds like your parents did that.”
“They did,” she admitted, and then added resentfully, “But Alexander also controlled me. Made me do things I didn’t want to do.”
“Isn’t that kind of the job of a parent?” Elvi asked, and then said, “Not the controlling part, but making the kid do things they don’t want to do. Although,” she said thoughtfully, “even the controlling part is something parents have to do too, only it’s usually done with rewards, grounding, and threats of punishment rather than straight-up taking control.”
Elvi let that sink in and then asked, “Do you really resent that you’re now a self-made, successful businesswoman and not smoking dope in a little hovel with someone who thought monogamy and work were both for idiots and dupes?”
“I’m sorry, sweetie,” Elvi interrupted. “But I don’t know many parents who wouldn’t wish they could control their child when they saw they were making a huge mistake. And in Alexander’s defense, he had your best interests at heart.”
“Okay,” she allowed. “But how self-made am I if he was taking control and making me do what he thought I should?”
“You told me your friend Lex, who is your father Alexander, offered you the money to start your own store when you graduated, but you refused,” she reminded her.
“And he allowed you to do that rather than take control of you, and make you think it was a good idea to accept it,” she pointed out. “Then you saved the money yourself to open the store.”
“My mother’s insurance money helped,” Sherry pointed out.
“It allowed you to open it a couple years earlier than your plan,” she acknowledged. “But you still saved the rest of it yourself. And I’m guessing you designed and stocked the store yourself.”
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