The fire left her eyes. “So what are you trying to tell me? How do you know Madeline?”
There was no easy way to say it; she was going to find it hard to take no matter how I put it. Sara had to hear the truth about her mother so she could accept who she was.
“I watched her grow up.”
Her head moved from side to side, and denial filled her eyes as she stared at me. I watched emotions cross her face as she processed my words. I wished there was something I could do or say to make this easier for her.
“No!” She turned and fled.
“Sara,” I called, but she ran faster. “Damn it,” I muttered, going after her.
I moved past her and stopped. As she collided with me, her palms pressed against my chest to steady herself, and I felt their heat as if they were touching my bare skin. A wave of need pulsed from my demon, but I refrained from touching her. She was as skittish as a colt. The last thing I wanted to do was frighten her more than she already was.
A gasp slipped from her. “How –?”
“Demon speed, remember?”
“Someone could have seen you.” She backed up, pressing her lips together.
“You and I both know that people see only what they want to see and believe what they want to believe. But just because a person chooses to not believe something, doesn’t mean it’s not real.”
The double meaning in my words was not lost on her, and she wrapped her arms around herself defensively.
“How can you be so sure?” Desperation filled her voice as she fought the truth. “There must be more than one Madeline Croix.”
“I was sure of what you are before I heard her name. As soon as I saw you the other night, I knew.” I stared at the water, afraid of what she might see in my eyes. “My Mori recognized yours.”
“Mori can sense each other when they are near. It is how one Mohiri always recognizes another.” And my Mori would know yours anywhere.
She started to shake her head.
“They are never wrong,” I said with gentle firmness.
I searched her eyes, looking for recognition in them. “You felt it, didn’t you?”
Her lower lip trembled, and I finally saw what I was looking for. When she gave a tiny nod, an emotion I couldn’t define made my chest constrict.
Solmi, my Mori growled softly.
“This can’t be happening,” Sara whispered.
I gave her a small smile. “There are worse fates, you know.”
“You’re telling me I have a demon parasite inside me, and I’m supposed to be okay with that?” Fear colored her voice, but I knew it was only fear of the unknown. She would lose that when she got to know her people and accepted what she was.
“It’s not as bad as you make it sound,” I said.
She winced, her internal struggle visible on her expressive face. “No, it’s worse.”
I felt the urge to comfort her, but there was nothing I could do that wouldn’t scare her away. Paulette would have known exactly what to say.
“I know this is strange and frightening, but you are not the first orphan we’ve found. You will adjust as they have.”
“It’s just a term we use for young Mohiri who were not born to our way of life,” I explained when she recoiled. “They have no idea who they really are until we find them.”
Her eyes widened. “Then there are others like me?”
“Not exactly like you. The others have been much younger.” By at least ten years. It shouldn’t be possible for her to be standing in front of me, but she was. One more piece of the mystery surrounding her.
“What does that matter?”
I searched for the gentlest way to explain it without frightening her more. “Our Mori need us to survive as much as we need them, but they are still demons, and they have certain impulses and wills of their own. We learn from an early age to control those urges and to balance our human and demon sides. Otherwise, the Mori will try to become dominant.
“Orphans who are not found young enough to be trained grow up with deep mental and emotional problems, tormented by their demon sides. The worst cases become severely schizophrenic and end up in institutions…or they kill themselves.”
She shuddered, and I could only imagine what was going through her mind in that moment.
“How old was the oldest orphan you ever brought in?” she asked.
I thought about the blonde trainee at Westhorne. “The oldest reclaimed was ten, and she was the exception. The others were no more than seven.”
“I know what you’re thinking; I see it in your face. You are Mohiri. I know that with one hundred percent certainty.” I took a step toward her, and my Mori tried unsuccessfully to reach out to hers. “What I don’t know is how you learned to subdue your demon without training. I’ve never seen control like yours. Your Mori is practically dormant.”
When she retreated again, I didn’t follow. She needed space, and I wouldn’t push her.
“Is that why I’m not fast or strong like you?”
“That and we reach maturity around nineteen or twenty. You should already have noticed some of your abilities starting to show by now, but you’ll have to learn how to use your demon side to enhance your physical abilities.”
Her face blanched.
“Are you okay?”
She shook her head slowly. “No. It’s just so much to take in.”
“It will take time.”
My words failed to comfort her, but she appeared to collect herself. “So, what else can you do besides move really fast and catch people falling off buildings? What other powers do you have?”
I tried not to think about her falling in that alley. “Powers?”
“You know, can you compel people like vampires do or read minds or heal things? Stuff like that.”
Her expectant expression drew a laugh from me. “No special powers or compulsion or anything else. We have the speed and strength to fight vampires. That is all we need.”
“You sound disappointed.”
“No, I’m just trying to understand it all.” Her eyes moved slowly over my face. “How old are you? And I don’t mean how old you look.”
Her gaze snared me, and I almost forgot to answer. “I was born in eighteen twenty.”