Hours later, I was exchanging pleasantries with Mom during our weekly tea. My parents lived in a postwar apartment on Park Avenue. Their home was lavishly decorated with expensive furnishings and too many knickknacks my father had picked up on his numerous trips to Japan. Each time he came home, he brought Mom some type of artwork—paintings, sculpture, even jewelry. Personally, I knew Dad’s excursions weren’t always about business, but Mom didn’t seem to mind.
But what made me happy… Who made me happy… I wasn’t ready to share that news. This thing with Torin was too young to label. We required time, but it was a luxury we might not have. The deadline for me to announce my mate was coming soon.
My mother kept eyeing me over the rim of her cup like she knew something. Minutes passed without a word, only the grandfather clock’s ticking filled the void. Finally, my mother placed her cup on the table, dabbed her lips with a linen napkin, and leaned back on the antique Louis XV divan.
“Is there something you need to tell me, Sybil?”
Butterflies danced in my stomach as I squirmed like a toddler. Why couldn’t we meet for weekly bourbon shots or something much stronger than herbal tea? I took a deep breath. I could do this. Stand up to her—the way I wanted Torin to do with my father.
“No, Mom.” Why tell the truth when a lie would suffice?
“You’re sure about that?” She gave me a narrow-eyed glance. “Ryu came to see me this morning. He told me about your friend, Torin. I thought you had forgotten about the Irishman.”
Shit. What the hell did my cousin say? He had no right to discuss my relationship with anyone. “Mom, Torin and I have known each other since we were kids. Why would I forget about him?”
Mom tilted her head to the side. “Ryu implied there might be something more than friendship between you and your friend.”
This back-and-forth nonsense my parents insisted upon wore me out. They expected me to find my mate and settle down, but that male should be of Japanese descent. Their goal was to keep our family’s royalty intact. Lilin who had a pure lineage was a rarity, but I had never cared about such things.
Setting my cup on the coffee table, I said, “Mom, please stop.”
“Stop what?” Her eyebrows rose along with her voice. “Stop being concerned about my daughter? Stop not wanting grandchildren?”
“That’s not what I mean. I just need you to stop poking into my affairs. Let me live my life.”
Before my mother could respond, my father entered the living room. His dark eyes bounced from my mother’s flustered face to mine. “What is going on here?”
Mom sighed and pushed to her feet. “It’s the Irishman again.”
Dad shook his head while twisting his lips. “We cannot interfere. If this is who her heart has chosen, then so be it.”
“You can’t be serious.”
“Yes, my dear, I am.” My father placed his hand on my mother’s shoulder and squeezed. “It’s her choice.”
My choice? What the hell was going on here? My parents had never allowed me to decide on anything. They always held the belief that it was their right to steer my life in the right direction—because I was royalty…because I was female.
“No. Hideo’s right.” Mom’s lips flattened for a moment. “If you want to tie yourself to this male, we will not stop you. Just know that you are destroying your proud lineage.”
And there it was. My parents bigotry and hatred. Their refusal to see any worth in any male not to their specifications. Normally when they objected to something I wanted, I caved—changed my mind and gave in to whatever they wished.
Not this time.
The risk was too great. Not choosing Torin meant a life spent with someone I didn’t love—someone acceptable to Mom and Dad.
“What are you saying?” I asked.
Father cleared his voice. “It should be obvious. You have one week. And then we will either have a family dinner announcing your match with the Irishman or somebody we choose.”
Time to see Torin.
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