Of Blood and Bone (Page 19)

Of Blood and Bone (The Minaldi Legacy #1)(19)
Author: Courtney Cole

I don’t.

I say, “My mother is suffering from dementia, Dr. Talbot.  It is hard to imagine why she says the things that she does.”

“Yes,” Evangeline answers slowly. “About that.  Your mother’s presence of mind is not as altered as I would have thought.  She knows her name and her age.  Her pulse is slow and steady.  I don’t believe her psychosis is as advanced as she would have you think.  It is there, to be sure.  She does believe that your father is still alive.  However, I have seen cases like this before.  A person’s grief is so overwhelming that in order to protect themselves, they concoct a new world, one in which their loved one still remains.  That could be why your mother is so focused on you.  Perhaps she is making you a villain in order to somehow shield herself from some internal guilt, rather than taking it onto herself.”

I am impressed that she gathered all of this from ten minutes with my mother.  So I tell her that.  I don’t hand out compliments easily, although there is no way she could know that.

She smiles.  “It’s what I do, Luca.  I think your mother has the presence of mind to manipulate you.  She’s faking psychotic episodes in order to control you.”

I stare at her.  “You gathered this from one meeting?”

Evangeline nods, confident in her assessment.  “My thesis project revolves around studying the personality traits of a person based on the initial meeting.  It’s a skill I’ve gotten quite good at.  Why would you mother want to manipulate you?”

I shrug and take another drink.  “I have no idea.”

Evangeline stares at me.  “You’re lying.”

“Does it matter?” I meet her gaze and she is trying to figure me out, to take me apart mentally, thought by thought.  I almost laugh.  That will never happen.  No one on the planet will be able to figure me out.  It’s a feat that I haven’t accomplished myself.

“It matters,” she answers.  “If you want me to help your mother, you have to help me.  You can’t lie to me.  That would just hinder the process.”

“So I’m a process now?”

I set my glass down purposefully on the table, then lean toward her.  The space between us is narrowing by the moment, charged with the energy that we create.  I rest my hand on her slender knee, very lightly, as if to emphasize my point.  She sucks in her breath. 

“I’m many things, Evangeline.  But a process isn’t one of them.”

She shakes her head, flustered, ignoring the fact that I am touching her.

“You’re not a process,” she answers.  “You’re a mystery, an enigma.  And if I could figure you out, I’m sure I could help your mother.”

“I think you’ve got that backward,” I tell her bluntly, removing my hand and easing back in my seat, breaking the spell.  And then I wish I hadn’t said a thing because her eyes light up and widen with a revelation.

“You think I could help you if I figure out your mother?  Do you need help, Luca?”

I smile at her question and I can feel the taste of grim reality on my lips.

“Evangeline, I need more help than you will ever know.  But I’m a lost cause.”

“I don’t believe in lost causes, Luca.”  Her words are soft, her tone even softer.  She reaches over and puts her hand over mine and hers is pale against my darker skin.  It is slender and small, and although something urges me to grasp it with my own, I remain motionless.  It is one thing to touch her when I am in control, but it is quite another when she is trying to comfort me.  I can hardly trust myself to remain aloof.

“There’s a first time for everything,” I answer.  She starts to say something, but I interrupt her.  “But let’s focus on my mother for the time being.  Will you help her?”

Evangeline is silent as she considers it, but it only takes her a moment before she nods.

“All right.  I’ll do what I can.”

Her voice is whisper soft in the silence of my study.

“When can you start?”

“Immediately.”

It’s the right answer.

Chapter Ten

Eva

I can’t figure Luca out.

One moment he seems vulnerable and the very next, he is once again the powerful Luca Minaldi that the rest of the world sees.  It is frustrating and I feel as though I need to take my internal list of his character traits and tear it into pieces.  I’m never going to get it right.

“I can’t figure you out,” I tell him.  “I don’t know what to make of you.”

He is standing at the windows of his study, looking out over the property.  In the light of the moon, he is slender and masculine, a striking figure against the window panes.  He turns and I swear that my heart begins to race.  He has a profound and unexplainable effect on me.

“I don’t know that you are supposed to,” he replies.  His voice is husky and deep.  “My family is complex, Evangeline.  Am I correct to assume that everything that you learn here is protected by doctor-patient confidentiality?”

I nod, not gracing that with an answer.  A small smile tugs at the corners of Luca’s lips.

“Good.  I should also mention that I prefer that my employees don’t involve themselves with each other romantically.  Will that be a problem?”

He’s staring at me again with those inky eyes and I know he’s talking about Adrian.  And I should be furious that he would try to control me in such a way, because I know that’s exactly what he’s doing.  He knows that Adrian and I had dinner, he watched us return to my house.

And I am annoyed.  But more than that, I am fascinated.  He’s intrigued enough with me to want to interfere?  My heart races once more.  I know it shouldn’t.  I know I should be overwhelmingly offended at this maneuver.  But on the same token, I’m a strong enough woman that I can handle him.  I can handle anything.

“I seldom date at all, Luca.  So while generally I would tell you that you don’t have the right to tell me who I can or cannot see romantically, it probably won’t be an issue.  If it does become one, I’ll let you know.”  I keep my voice cool.

Luca looks surprised and satisfied at once, but he doesn’t comment.  He simply nods.