Lover Reborn Chapter Two

"Take some time off... relax... enjoy yourself...."

As Xhex muttered to a peanut gallery of antique furniture, she walked out of the bedroom and into the bath suite. And back again. And... back once more into marble-landia.

In the bath she and John now shared, she stopped by the pond-deep Jacuzzi. Next to the brass faucets, there was a silver tray with all kinds of lotions and potions and girlie what-the-fuck. And that wasn't the half of it. By the sinks? Another tray, this one full of perfume by Chanel: Cristalle, Coco, No. 5, Coco Mademoiselle. Then there was the fine wicker basket of hairbrushes, some with short naps, others with pointy bristles or spiky metal crap. In the cupboards? A lineup of OPI nail polish bottles in enough variations on cocksucking pink to give even Barbie a nosebleed. As well as fifteen different brands of mousse. Gel. Hair spray.

Really?

And don't get her started on the Bobbi Brown makeup.

Who the hell did they think had moved in here? One of those Kardashian nut jobs?

And on that note... Christ, she couldn't believe she now knew Kim, Kourtney, Khloe, Kris; the brother, Rob; stepfather, Bruce; little sisters Kendall and Kylie; as well as the various husband(s), boyfriend(s), and that kid Mason -

Meeting her own eyes in the mirror, she thought, Well, wasn't this interesting. She'd managed to blow her brains out with E! Entertainment Television.

Certainly less messy than a sawed-off, and the results were the same.

"That shit needs to come with a warning label on it."

As she stared at her reflection, she recognized the buzzed-off black hair, and the pale skin, and the tight, hard body. The clipped nails. The absolute lack of makeup. She even had her own clothes on, the black muscle shirt and leather pants a uniform she'd put on every night for years.

Well, except for a couple of evenings ago. Then she'd worn something else entirely.

Maybe that gown was the reason for all the fembot stuff that had shown up after the mating ceremony: Fritz and the doggen may have assumed she'd turned over a new leaf. Either that or it was all just part of the standard, newly mated shellan welcome wagon.

Turning away, she put her hands up to the base of her throat, to the big, square diamond John had bought her. Set in sturdy platinum, it was the only piece of jewelry she could ever imagine wearing: tough, solid, able to withstand a good fight and stay on her body.

In this new world of Paul Mitchell, and Bed Head, and Coco's stinky stuff, at least John still got her. As for the rest of them? Can you say "education"? Not the first time she'd played teacher to a bunch of males who thought that just because you had breasts, you belonged in a gilded cage. Anyone tried to turn her into a glymera chickadee? She'd just saw through the gold bars, set a bomb on the base of the stand, and hang the steaming remains from a chandelier in the foyer.

Heading into the bedroom, she opened the closet and pulled out the red gown that she'd worn during that ceremony. Only dress she'd ever put on - and she had to admit she'd enjoyed the way John had taken it off with his teeth. And yeah, sure, the nights lounging around had been great - first break she'd had in forever. All they'd done was have sex, feed from each other, eat great food, and repeat with bouts of sleep.

But now John had gone back out into the field - whereas she wasn't due to start fighting until tomorrow evening.

This was just twenty-four hours, a delay, not a dead end.

So what the hell was her problem?

Maybe all the chicky-chicky was just triggering her inner bitch for no good reason. She wasn't cooped up, nobody was making her change herself, and that Kardashian car accident of a marathon on the boob tube was her own damn fault. As for the beauty stuff? The doggen were just trying to be nice, in the only way they knew how.

Not a lot of females like her. And not just because she was half symphath -

Frowning, she cranked her head around.

Letting the satin fall from her hands, she went for the emotional grid that was outside in the hall.

With her symphath senses, the three-dimensional structure of sadness and loss and shame was as real as any building you could drive by, look around, or walk through. Unfortunately, in this case, there was no fixing the damage to the supports, or the hole in the roof, or the fact that the electric system wasn't operational anymore: As much as she experienced a person's emotions as if they were a private home, there were no subcontracting workers to come in and repair what was wrong, no plumbers or electricians or painters for this shit. The homeowner had to perform their own improvements on what was broken, battered, and busted; no one else could do it for them.

As she stepped out into the hall of statues, Xhex had a tremor go through her own little house. Then again, the robed, limping figure up ahead was her mother.

God, that still felt weird to say, even if only in her head - and it didn't really apply on so many levels, did it?

She cleared her throat. "Good evening... ah..."

It didn't sound right to throw out mahmen or mom or mommy. No'One, the name the female went by, wasn't comfortable, either. Then again, what could you call somebody who had been abducted by a symphath, violently forced to conceive, and then trapped by biology to bear the result of the torture?

First and last name: I and Sorry. Middle name: Am.

As No'One shifted around, the hood that was in place covered her face. "Good evening. How fare thee?"

The English was stiff across her mother's lips, suggesting the female would have done better speaking in the Old Language. And the bow that she gave, which was utterly unnecessary, was lopsided, likely because of whatever injury that caused the uneven gait.

That scent she threw off was not anything by Chanel. Unless they'd recently added a Tragedy line.

"I'm well." Try restless and bored. "Where are you going?"

"To tidy up the sitting room."

Xhex sucked back a wince of don't-go-there. Fritz didn't let anyone but fellow doggen lift a finger in the mansion - and No'One, in spite of the fact that she had come here to attend to Payne, was staying in a guest room, eating at the table with the Brothers, and accepted here as the mother of a mated shellan. She was not a maid by any standard.

"Yeah, ah... how'd you like to..." Do what? Xhex wondered. What could the two of them possibly do together? Xhex was a fighter. Her mother was... a ghost with substance. Not a lot of common ground there.

"It is all right," No'One said gently. "These are awkward - "

Thunder roared through the foyer below, sure as if clouds had formed, lightning flashed, and rain had started to piss down. As No'One recoiled, Xhex glared over her shoulder. What the hell was -

Rhage, a.k.a. Hollywood, a.k.a. the biggest and most beautiful of the Brothers, all but leaped up onto the second-floor balcony. As he landed, his blond head shot around in her direction, his teal eyes on fire.

"John Matthew called. It's all hands on deck downtown. Get armed and meet us at the front door in ten minutes."

"Hot damn," Xhex hissed as she smacked her palms.

When she turned back to her mother, the female was trembling, and trying not to show it.

"It's okay," Xhex said. "I'm good at fighting. I'm not going to get hurt."

Nice words. Except that wasn't what the female was worried about, was it: Her grid was showing fear... of Xhex.

Duh. Given that she was a half-breed symphath, of course No'One would think "dangerous" before "daughter."

"I'll leave you alone," Xhex said. "Don't worry."

As she jogged back toward her bedroom, she couldn't ignore the fact that her chest was killing her. But then, she couldn't ignore reality, either: Her mother hadn't wanted her.

And still didn't.

And who could blame her.

*   *   *

From beneath the brim of her hooded robe, No'One watched the tall, strong, merciless female she had birthed rush off to fight against the enemy.

Xhexania didn't seem fazed at all by the idea that she would be facing deadly lessers: Indeed, that sneer she had shown upon the Brother's command suggested she would relish it.

No'One's knees went weak as she thought about what she had brought forth into the world, this female with power in her limbs and vengeance in her heart. No female of the glymera would respond such as that; then again, they would never be asked.

But the symphath was in her daughter.

Dearest Virgin Scribe...

And yet, as Xhexania had spun around, there had been an expression quickly hidden on her face.

No'One hurried forth, limping down the hallway to her daughter's room. At the heavy door, she knocked softly.

It was a moment before Xhexania opened up. "Hey."

"I am sorry."

There was no reaction. That showed. "What for?"

"I know what it is to be unwanted by parents. I do not wish you to - "

"It's okay." Xhexania shrugged. "Not like I don't know where you're coming from."

"I - "

"Listen, I have to get ready. Come in if you like, but be warned: I'm not dressing for tea."

No'One hesitated at the threshold. Inside, the room was well lived-in: The bed was mussed; there were leather pants draped on chairs; two sets of boots were on the floor; a pair of wineglasses were set on a table over in the corner by the chaise lounge. All around, the bonding scent of a full-blooded male, dark and sensuous, lingered in the air.

Lingered on Xhexania herself.

There was a series of clicks and No'One looked around the jamb. Over at the closet, Xhexania was putting some kind of nasty-looking gun through its paces. She was utterly competent, slipping it into a holster under her arm and taking out another. And then it was the bullets and a knife -

"You're not going to feel any better about me if you keep standing there."

"I did not come for myself."

That broke the flow of those hands. "Why, then."

"I saw the look on your face. I do not want that for you."

Xhexania reached in and pulled out a black leather jacket. As she yanked the thing on, she cursed. "Look, let's not pretend either one of us wanted me born, okay? I absolve you, you absolve me, we were the victims, blah, blah, blah. We need to stipulate that and move along our separate ways."

"Are you sure that is what you want."

The female froze, then narrowed her eyes. "I know what you did. The night of my birth."

No'One took a step back. "How..."

Xhexania pointed to her own chest. "Symphath, remember." The fighter came forward, her gait like a prowl. "That means I get into people - so I can feel the fear you have right now. And the regrets. And the pain. Just standing in front of me, you're right back where you were when it all happened - and yeah, I know you buried a dagger in your stomach rather than face a future with me. So like I said, how about you and I just avoid each other, and save both of us the hassle?"

No'One lifted her chin. "Indeed, you are a half-breed."

Dark brows popped. "Excuse me?"

"You sense but a portion of what I feel for you. Or perhaps you do not wish to acknowledge, for your own reasons, that I might wish to care for you."

In spite of the fact that the female was strung with weapons, she abruptly seemed vulnerable.

"In your gruff self-protection, do not cut off avenues for us," No'One whispered. "We do not need to force closeness if it is not there. But let us not stop it from blooming if there is a chance. Perhaps... perhaps you shall just tell me this night if there is some small way I can help you. We shall start there... and see what transpires."

Xhexania broke off and walked around, her tight, hard body more like a male's, her dress more like a male's, her energy masculine. She stopped when she was in front of the closet and, after a moment, pulled out the skirting of the red gown Tohrment had given her for the night of her mating.

"Have you cleaned the satin?" No'One asked. "And I am not suggesting you have sullied it. Fine fabric must be cared for, however, in order to be preserved."

"I'd have no idea where to start on that one."

"Allow me, then?"

"It'll be fine."

"Please. Allow me."

Xhexania looked over. In a low voice, she said, "Why in God's name would you want to do that?"

The truth was as simple as four words, as complex as an entire language. "You are my daughter."

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