She knew my mother. I think back to the stories she told when she came back from the mountains after a few weeks. Every year she went to a cabin for six weeks to work and babysit a little girl, her boss’s daughter. At the time, I had no idea who she was working for but I do remember that she would freeze every now and then when my father asked about her day. It wasn’t until much later that I found out that my parents both worked for the same man.
When I watch Jaleena, every day I am amazed at how strong she is, how she copes with all the fucked up things that are thrown her way, and even though she has a nightmare every night, she bounces back every time. She’s the most beautiful woman I have ever met and I don’t mean just her looks. Sure, she’s absolutely stunning, but it’s her personality that draws me towards her. I ball my fists at my side as I think of everything she’s been through and the circumstances she grew up in. From the whispers about my parents’ employer, I knew from a young age that he was one of the most dangerous people on the planet, but I have always thought that his daughter was his greatest treasure. His most valuable asset, which he protected at all costs. How wrong I turned out to be.
I push a strand of hair behind her ear and gently wipe a drop of sweat from her eyebrow. Her breathing is shallow, her eyes are glassy and the pain is visible. I blow softly in her face to bring her back from the memory she’s obviously stuck in.
“Princess, you need to come back to me,” I tell her softly.
My hand rests on her cheek and with my thumb I stroke the seam of her upper lip. I see movement out of the corner of my eye and with my free hand, I make a move that makes it clear not to get into her space. I don’t want her to feel crowded when she comes back to us. She needs time to process. It’s overwhelming enough to find out you have a brother. Hearing that he is not only your brother but also your boyfriend’s who happens to be the son of the maid and caretaker of the cabin. My mom told stories about Jaleena, but she never told me her name back then, and even though I knew who her employer was, the pieces didn’t click together when she suddenly appeared here. Never did I once think back about the scared little girl in the mountains. I could kick myself for not realizing it sooner, but I guess there’s nothing I can do about it.
I look over my shoulder at Cass and Gideon and they nod. Gideon seems to be tearing himself in half about whether to leave the room or not and I can understand how he feels. If he were sitting with Jaleena, I’d rather stay too. It’s like she has a magical grip on us but I don't think any of us wants her to let it go. Cass places a hand on his shoulder and nods towards the door and gently pushes him out of the room. I look back at Jaleena, whose breathing slowed down a bit, but not yet the way I’d like to see. I shift a little so that I’m right in front of her and place my other hand on her cheek. I lean forward and brush my lips against her forehead while my thumbs stroke her cheekbones, trying to ground her a little bit.
“Princess, you’re scaring me. I need you to come back. I need you here with me and to trust me when I say I won’t let anything happen to you ever again, I promise,” I whisper with my lips still against her forehead. A tear rolls down her cheek and disappears on the skin of my thumb. I continue to caress her cheeks and I feel the moment she snaps from her memory.
“You’re the son of my Marissa,” she repeats and I don’t think I’ve ever seen her so broken. I lean back slightly and look into her eyes which are filled with shadows and unshattered tears.
“I know, baby. I know,” I whisper back.
I pull her gently against me and push her head against my chest. The position I’m in is uncomfortable as fuck, but I don’t care. I’m worried about her and the need to make her feel better is riding me hard. My dark side tugs from the back of my mind. It’s been on edge ever since we found out about Xavier and again it was like he already knew everything I’ve read on the screen. I push it back though, now is not the time to let her find out that part of me although my window of opportunity is closing. I stroke her hair and finally, I feel her relax in my arms and she wraps her small arms around my neck.
She sighs and the sound of it has something desperate and I interrupt her as soon as she opens her mouth.
“We don’t have to talk about this now. Let’s get you cleaned up and I’ll ask one of the others to make you something to eat.”
She squeezes me one more time before she releases her hold on my neck.
“I miss her. Will you tell me stories about your mom?” she asks hesitantly.
I smile at her. I’m not surprised by her question. I don’t think she realizes how much my mom used to talk about Jaleena. By now, I would do everything in my power to put a smile on her face. She doesn’t give it easily and every time she gives us one, I feel honored that she trusts us enough to show us that side of her.
“Yeah, I will. After your shower and you ate something,” I wink.
I pull her up and walk with her to her own bedroom so she can shower in her own safe place. After I reassured myself that she’s alright, I start searching for the rest of the guys. I’ll tell her whatever she wants to know about my mother because I want her to know that there was someone who loved her after all.