Maybe I looked as scared as I felt. Or maybe, just maybe, Tristan’s regret was an honest thing. At any rate, his set expression softened to one that I don’t think I’ve ever seen on a vampire’s face, especially one as strong as Tristan. That compelling but cold visage took on the mood of a man who felt lost. Pained yearning creased the area between his eyebrows. It was the look of a man who had held all he’d ever wanted for a brief moment only to see it shatter in his hands.
His usually smooth and unruffled voice sounded husky. “I’ve not handled us well.”
For a wonder, I didn’t sound hurt, just accepting. “No. But I suppose no one should expect you to. Patricia meant more to you than anyone else, didn’t she? Even me.”
I saw an apology in the slight smile that twitched the corners of his lips. “I was her older brother. I took care of her because she was so sickly in life. Then I was a father of sorts since I brought her over. As a vampire, her body was at last as strong as her will and her vision for what we could accomplish.” He laughed a little, a tight sound. “My sister, my child, my equal. How can that be replaced?”
“It can’t.” That was the truth of it. I was a poor copy, a meaningless substitute. I knew it and accepted it. With all that had been between them, no love Tristan had ever entertained for me could have held a candle to Patricia.
Can a broken heart keep shattering? It must be possible, because I know I heard Tristan’s doing so all over again. He said, “There is such a hole in my life now. The lamia didn’t take just Patricia’s soul – it took half of mine as well.”
I would have traded places with his sister in an instant to erase that devastated look from his pale face. “I’m sorry, Tristan. I could have saved her if I hadn’t panicked.”
He shook his head. “And then so many more would have died. No, Patricia would have been fine sacrificing herself so that others could be saved. She was that kind of person.”
As if he’d talked himself out of mourning, Tristan straightened, pulling his shoulders back manfully, as a gentleman from his time would have been taught to do. My brief access to his grief was over. Now I got to see him pull himself up by his own bootstraps. It was so very Tristan of him.
His voice steady again, Tristan spoke with force. “You have nothing to apologize for, Brandilynn. Not one damned thing. You’ve handled what happened with grace while I’ve left you out in the cold. It stops now, though.”
Yeah right. He’d made that false start once before. I hate to be cynical, especially given who Tristan lost, but I wasn’t setting myself up to be hurt all over again. “You can’t pretend the sight of me in this body doesn’t tear your heart apart.”
No release date set.