Wicked Princess Page 2

“Mom’s taking me one day,” I tell him smugly as we climb inside the car.

Liam’s mouth drops open. “No fair.” He looks at Mom. “You have to take me to India too.”

Mom shushes him as she peels out of the parking lot.

“She can’t,” I inform him. “We’re going on a mother-daughter trip. Girls only—”

“What the hell is this?” my father’s voice booms over the car speakers.

Liam and I exchange another glance. Dad never yells at Mom.

“You can read, can’t you?” Mom says curtly.

“Rumi,” he says, his tone somber. “Talk to me. Tell me what’s going on…why you want this.”

“I can’t right now, Jason. You’re on speakerphone and I have your children in the car with me.”

“Want what?” Liam whispers in my ear.

I was just as confused as him. “I have no idea.”

“I’m in Texas for a meeting,” Dad states. “But I’ll fly home right after, okay?”

“Fine,” Mom tells him. “But it won’t change anything. My mind is made up.”

“Rumi,” Dad pleads, like her name is his lifeline. “Please don’t do this. I love you—”

“Sorry, Jason. I’m driving through a tunnel. Gotta go.”

Eyebrows pinched, Liam looks around. “What tunnel?”

“What was that about?” Liam hisses.

Mom told us to wait in the car while she ran inside to sign Cole up for football.

I repeat my earlier statement. “I have no idea.”

I was only eight. How the heck was I supposed to know what our parents were arguing about?

Liam juts his chin. “Mom’s on her way back.”

I shoot my gaze out the windshield where sure enough, she’s walking back to the car, cradling her cell phone against her ear.

But from the looks of her glassy eyes and tense face…it’s not a happy conversation.

“She’s fighting with Dad again,” Liam says, stating the obvious.

“Should we do something?”

“Like what?”

Suddenly Mom stops walking.

“Do you have any idea what I’ve given up for you?” she screams, snatching the ends of her long dark hair.

My stomach drops.

“India,” Liam and I say at the same time.

Mom left her family—and her career as a Bollywood actress—in India to be with him, and she never went back.

The last time she saw her family was their wedding day.

Liam’s eyes narrow. “I don’t know why Dad won’t let her visit them. They’re her family.”

I had an idea as to why, but I wasn’t ready to share what I recently overheard just yet.

“Maybe he’s protecting her from something?”

“Protecting her from what?”

Here goes nothing. “Last week I overheard Dad—”

A loud sob cuts me off mid-sentence.

Oh, no.

Mom was full-on hysterical crying in the parking lot of our school.

“Crap,” Liam says. “Should we go out there?”

I start to nod because Mom’s episodes—as Jace referred to them—isn’t something she’d want on display, but Mom starts walking again.

“Wait. She’s coming back.”

My relief is short-lived though because she proceeds to kick the side of her car. “I was going to give up everything for you!”

“Mom, what are you doing?” Liam whisper-shouts, panic rising in his voice as she continues kicking her Mercedes.

Whatever my father was saying to her was sending Mom into an adult temper tantrum.

The worst tantrum I’d ever seen.

“You can’t do this to me,” she yells, pounding her fists against the hood. “You promised we’d get married and be together forever.”

Yeah, our mom was definitely not okay right now.

“Maybe we should take Mom’s phone away and call Jace?” I suggest.

He’d know what to do.

Liam nods. “Yeah.” He eyes me warily. “How?”

I had no freaking idea.

“She’s on your side of the car, Liam. Open your door and grab it.”

My brother looks at me like I just asked him to kill a python. “Nuh-uh.”


“Fine. I’ll do it—” I start to say, but the pounding gets worse.

“She’s gonna break the window,” Liam says, scooching over to my side.

“She’s gonna break her hand.”

“Don’t do this to me,” Mom screams so loud we both wince. “I love you, Mark.”

Liam and I exchange a wide-eyed glance.

Who the heck is Mark?

“I’m fine,” Mom says, attempting to wipe away her mascara streaks with the back of her hand.

She tosses her head back and laughs. “Everything is fine.”

I clutch Liam’s hand. Everything wasn’t fine.

Mom wasn’t acting like herself.

“Can I use your phone?” Liam questions, sticking to the plan to call Jace.

“No,” Mom snaps.

So much for that.

I glance out the window in confusion. “Where are we going?”

“The waffle house is the other way,” Liam reminds her.

“Don’t worry,” Mom says. “There will be plenty of pancakes and ice cream soon.”

Liam’s face lights up. “Are we going to Disney World?”

I pinch his arm.

I had no idea where she was taking us, but it wasn’t Disney.

“Mom,” I begin. “I love you.”

Whenever I reminded her how much I loved her, it usually helped calm her down.

“I love you too, baby girl.”

“You’re going really fast,” Liam says. “Slow down.”

“It will be all right, baby.” A fresh set of tears roll down her cheeks. “Everything will be okay.”

Her words offered no relief to either of us.

Liam grips my hand tighter and whispers, “Do you think she’s kidnapping us?”

I open my mouth to remind him that Mom wasn’t a scary man on the news, she was our mom and therefore couldn’t kidnap us…but then I realize he might have a point.

My heart is nearly pounding out of my chest. As much as I complain about my family, I loved them, and I need us all to be together.

“Where are we going?” I croak, my voice trembling.

If I knew where she was taking us, I could call Jace and Cole and tell them what was happening.

“Someplace without pain,” she answers as the car begins to swerve.

“Where?” I urge, a bad feeling churning in my stomach.

It feels like forever before she responds.

When she does, it sends a chill down my spine.


Bile surges up my throat and the hairs on the back of my neck prickle.

For the first time in my life, I finally believed it.

This wasn’t normal. Mom was sick.

“No,” I choke out. “I don’t want to go to Heaven.”

I wanted to join ballet.

I wanted to get a cat.

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