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Chapter 1

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Tap.

Tap.

As I had always imagined, as forbidden as it was for me, the blue-green trip down the isolated road that cut through the dark forest was in silence. The long weaving through the northern Californian depths had been nothing less than breathtaking and true to fantasy, if it had not overcome all expectations.

Tap. Tap. Tap.

What differed from the forbidden reverie was his nervous, quiet tapping fingers drumming on the steering wheel.

I was so taken by the scene flying by me, as I always was, to glance over; though, I did want to. But part of it was my nerves, too.

This was a much different ride than any of the other few we’d already taken since our time together began. But he was making it worse!

The incessant drumming, although I’d originally thought was to distract me from any thinking, began right after we stopped our Q&A about my family.

“Are you still close to your father?”

“Not really,”

“Oh.”

Tap.

I recoiled.

“And your mother? Have you gotten any closer to her?”

“Same as always,”

Tap.

I flinched into my shell.

“Oh,”

Every time I tried thinking, the drumming, as though a bang on the back of a honeycomb before bees could settle, set my thoughts into a frenzied mess; instantaneous. I couldn’t ignore it and I wasn’t purposefully trying to.

I winced when his finger hit the leather of the steering wheel again but kept myself glued to the scenery out the passenger window. I fastened myself tighter into the seat than was necessary

Tap.

I forced myself to glance over, finally, in an inquisitive way. I didn’t have to worry about looking judgmental; I wasn’t very good at looking like any variant of the spectrum of “mad”; my face was too stupid for that.

He glanced over. I made sure that I looked close enough to his eyes so it looked like I was. He couldn’t tell and those were years of my practice well paid. He turned back out the foggy front window with a surrendering sigh.

I followed suit, too scared to look at his face. Inside me, everything wound up in anticipation and I prepared myself with a distinguished exhale. This conversation would not be pleasant. The soft drizzle continued to pelt in tiny specks all around, calmer than the night before or any night I’d spent in the area.

“You look like one of our relatives,” he whispered in his gentle, wise voice. He glanced over, turned back, handling the wheel firmly now. “Catherina Alessondra,”

Of course, Uncle John had been an estranged uncle who had appeared in our family tree when I was only five years old. He was also a historian, if not by degree, by practice. And one day, he vanished from the family altogether.

The nerves unhitched when I realized I was doing it again. I was thinking too hard about something. “Thanks, I guess,” I muttered mindlessly.

“Remember,” he said finally getting it over with, presumably in an impulsive move by the sound of his haste. “Don’t ask too many questions, and don’t linger on anything too long,”

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