Kelly yanked from her grasp and raced for the stairs. But Laura was faster and caught her, holding her tightly.
"Let me go!"
"Honey, you can't see him. No one can."
Kelly cried, and Laura sat on the stairs, holding her, pulling the shell mirror from her clutches and setting it aside. A few shells fell off, pinging on the floor like tacks and Kelly wrapped her arms and legs around Laura and cried as if her heart was breaking.
"What's going on down there?"
Laura didn't respond to the voice on the intercom, instead whispering softly to Kelly, then carrying her and her prize upstairs. The little girl's sobs eased and Laura laid her in her bed, pulling off her shoes. Kelly shuddered and sniffled, and though it was time for her nap, she fought sleep.
"I want my kitty."
Laura brushed Kelly's hair from her face and said, "I'll go find her."
When she left the room, Kelly sat up, then climbed from the bed and pushed her desk chair to the wall. Standing on it, she pushed the buttons on the speaker panel.
"Daddy? I have a present for you. I made it myself. It's a mirror."
He didn't answer.
"That's very nice of you, honey. I'm sure it's lovely."
"Don't you want it?"
"Yes, I do, very much."
"Then come get it," Kelly said, a tired whine in her voice.
"I can't, darlin'."
"Yes, you can!" Kelly shouted. "I saw you on the beach. I saw you! You can!"
Laura stepped in, the kitten in her hand. She'd heard enough to know what was going on. Yet Richard's groan of misery slipped through the intercom wires and spilled into the air.
"Come on, precious," Laura said, gathering Kelly off the chair and carrying her to the bed.
Kelly fussed and tears fell. She kicked at the covers and whispered under her breath.
Laura eyed her. "I won't give you Serabi if you're going to be mean."
The little girl sighed and gazed up at her through a curtain of dark hair, her blue eyes sad and forlorn. "I'm sorry," she muttered sullenly.
Laura sat on the edge of the bed, not giving over the kitten. "It's not your fault, honey. I know you're angry that your daddy won't come to you." So am I, Laura thought. "But you have to calm down. I'll give the mirror to him."
"How come you get to see him and I can't?" she wailed.
"I haven't seen him, either."
"But he was in the kitchen with you!"
"It was dark, I didn't see him."
"You take a little nap, and we'll see how you feel afterward. Maybe we'll go for a horse ride."
"Okay." She reached for the kitten.
Laura shook her head. "Serabi is not ready for a nap." The kitten squirmed to be let down, and when Laura set her on the bed, she leapt to the floor and scampered away, proving her point. Kelly looked suddenly very abandoned, and Laura's heart cracked. It wasn't fair, and she couldn't leave her alone right now. She just couldn't.
Laura lifted the child in her arms and brought her to her own bedroom, laying her in the center of the grand four-poster bed, then kicking off her shoes before climbing in. Kelly immediately snuggled into the curve of her body, and Laura pulled a quilt over them. She whispered soothing words, her lips pressed to the top of her head, and together they drifted into dreams, both blocking out the heartache the man in the tower was doling out in spoonfuls.
"I love you, Kelly," Laura whispered.
"I love you, too, Miss Laura," Kelly said, and Laura's sorrow eased.
* * *
Richard stood inside Laura's bedroom, watching them sleep. He wanted to crawl into that bed with them, hold them. And he cursed the moment, the decision that had sent razors of glass and metal over his skin, shredding his body as well as his life.
He felt like a chained monster, hurting those he cared about when they dared come within reach. He was so damned grateful for these two in his life, and each day he realized how barren he'd been inside before they came. Emotions were running high in Blackthorne House. He could feel the air tingle with it. And he knew when Laura woke, there would be either silence or harsh words. He wasn't looking forward to either.
He looked down at the mirror in his hand, the border covered in shells of gray, white, orange and rust. There were no mirrors on the top floor. He didn't need them to know what he looked like. He didn't even use them to shave. Yet every time he'd see this one, he'd realize all over again why he stayed out of sight, why no one would want to see his reflection.
But he would keep it, cherish it, and in the glass he'd see Kelly and Laura, tucked together like a mother and daughter, and know he could not truly have either.
He left a note for Kelly, that he had the gift she'd made him, and turned out of the room, Laura's fragrance lingering in the air and clinging to his clothes. Richard walked up the stairs to the tower, closing the door behind him, locking out the world and wishing he could do that so easily with his heart.