“But he is ruthless about getting what he wants.”
“And you are ruthless in standing for the truth. That can be overwhelming at times and a great burden to bear at others, but it’s as far from the man who exploits the weakness of others to provide for his own ill-gotten luxuries as the life you now live is to the one you were born to.” She needed him to see that.
“I did not want him punished for what he did to me, but I wanted his world to see him for who he was and how he took advantage of others.”
“He destroyed too many lives.”
“And I bet he was never sorry he did so. He and Art have more in common than you and him.”
“Too bad they are not related.”
“Yes, it is. Art’s family are decent, nice people. I have no idea how he turned out so selfish and blind to his own faults.”
“My mother did not want to give me up. Even when I was a small boy, I understood that. She felt she had no choice. She did not want me to be raised in a whorehouse.”
“So, she chose the lesser of two evils, and paid the rest of her life for having to do so.”
“I think you are right.” He looked like he was having a revelation.
“It’s that mother-to-be oracle thing again,” she teased.
He smiled and then went serious again. “That is why you want to invite her to the wedding. You think it is time she stopped paying.”
“I think it is time you both stopped paying for things that cannot be changed.”
“I will call her tomorrow.”
Zephyr stared at his computer monitor. It displayed his latest project spreadsheet, but all he saw was an image from the past—his mother’s face one of the many times she told him she loved him before leaving him at the home. He could see something in that mental picture that he had never let himself acknowledge before, the terrible pain in eyes so like his own.
His burned and he blinked rapidly.
“At Last” by Etta James started playing in that tinny way that ring tones did, bringing him firmly into the present.
He grabbed his cell phone and pressed the talk button without looking at the screen. “Hello, pethi mou.”
What he lacked in sentiment, Piper made up for. She’d programmed the song into his phone as her personal ring tone after agreeing to marry him. She was going to go all gooeyeyed over the wedding ring set he had ordered to be overnighted from Tiffany’s. He’d had their names and the date they met engraved on the inside. It was such a little thing, but it would be special to her.
“How did it go?” Piper asked without preamble.
“You’re not surprised.”
“No.” Not after Piper had warned him to expect it. “We agreed to meet for dinner on a day before the wedding, as you suggested.” Piper had thought him seeing his mother for the first time in more than two decades at his wedding might be too much drama.
He’d agreed for his mother’s sake. If he thought he might be grateful for it, too, he wasn’t saying.
“Great. Are we meeting at a restaurant?”
“No, she asked us to come to her home,” he replied.
“And you agreed?”
Piper was quiet for a second and then asked, “Will her husband be there?”
“Yes.” He might as well get it all out at once. “He’s coming to the wedding as well.”
Absolute silence met that bombshell.
“He wanted to talk to me, too.”
“What did he want to say?”
“That he was very, very, very sorry. That he was wrong to
make my mother let me go. He said he wanted to tell me before, but he could not until I was ready to talk to him. He cried, too.”
“I’ve heard Greek men do that sometimes.”
“Of course not.” There was a teasing note in her voice, but he did not call her on it.
“I heard the story of how my sister and brother learned of my existence.”
“Really?” The sound of Brandi asking a question in the background came over the phone. Piper covered the mouthpiece and he could hear the muffled sound of her answer before she said, “I thought it was odd your mother told them after not allowing you to see them once they were old enough to remember you.”
“You never considered I might have told them?”
“Even with my ruthless streak?”
“Like I told you, it’s a good kind of ruthlessness.”
“You have a great deal of faith in me.”
“Yes, I do.”
His heart contracted at her words, but he ignored the strange sensation and said, “Iola found my mother crying over a pile of old photos. They were of me. My sister convinced our mother to spill the whole story.”