Celeste’s lips curled into a smile, but it was a hateful thing. “You might be a good mother, but you can’t keep a job. You’re aimless and without means. And how about the people you surround your son with? Your momma is half crazy and everyone knows she’s practically a criminal. And your younger brother is a menace.”
“Zep is all right,” Harry argued. “He’s actually a pretty good guy. Cal likes him, too. And Delphine is a good grandmother, a good person.”
“She’s not the kind of person who should be influencing my grandson,” Celeste insisted.
“And you wonder why I kept this secret?” Sera shook her head. “I didn’t tell you before because I knew this would happen. I knew you would come after Luc, and I know how Wes felt about his father.”
Celeste pointed her way. “Don’t you tell me a thing about Wes. You don’t know any of us.”
Sera was calmer than Celeste, and that seemed to give her the upper hand. “But I do. I know you far better than you can imagine because I was the one who listened to Wes talk about never being able to please his father. I was Wes’s friend, sometimes his only friend, for years. Most of our childhood. Even after you shipped him off to private school, he would always call me. Wes talked about how scared he was of his dad and how he would smack him every now and then to toughen him up.”
“How dare you say that. That is a vicious lie.”
“Then it’s a lie your son told,” Sera replied.
Celeste raised her hand, but Harry stepped in between them.
“Don’t you dare hit her,” Harry growled. “I don’t even know who you are right now. Sera, I think we should leave.”
Celeste seemed to get control of herself. “Harry, you can’t possibly think of taking her side. Do you understand what she cost this family? She lied to all of us.”
“She didn’t lie to your daughter. Angie knew,” Harry pointed out.
Harry seemed determined to betray every single one of her secrets today. Angie had backed against the wall as though she could hide from the truth.
Celeste turned to her daughter but simply shook her head. “I will deal with that later. Seraphina, get out of my house before I call the sheriff in to haul you out. The next time I see your face will be in court. You broke my Wesley’s heart. I won’t let you break his son.”
“You know what, Celeste, I just realized something. I’m not afraid of you.” It came to her in a great rush. Being around Harry had changed something inside her. He’d gone through so much and had let go of his bitterness. He’d moved on. Yes, he’d proven he couldn’t love her the way she needed him to, but loving him had finally convinced her she wasn’t broken at all. “I’ve been stuck in a moment for years. I hid because I didn’t know myself anymore. Maybe I never did. Maybe I spent my whole life allowing my existence to be defined by relationships. I was a daughter, a sister, a friend. To Wes I was an aspiration, an escape. Then I was a mother and a rumor and a joke. I’m more. I don’t know exactly who that is, but I know one thing. I’m not hiding anymore. You want a fight, I’ll give it to you.”
She turned and started for the door. The funny thing was, it had been Celeste who pointed out that she acted like a mouse. She needed to be a lion now. Her son and her family needed her to be fierce. She had options and Remy was right. She didn’t have to go out quietly.
“Sera, I didn’t know she would react that way.” Harry came through the door behind her, rushing to keep up as she made it to the front of the house.
She rounded on him. At least they were alone now and she could speak freely. “I told you she would.”
He started to reach for her but pulled his hands back. “I should have listened to you. I’m sorry.”
There was nothing she wanted more than to go into his arms and throw the whole situation at him, to beg him to fix things for her. She’d done it all her life, but it was time to stand on her own. “I’m sorry, too. I think we could have been good together.”
He stood in front of her, his shoulders so broad and that face of his beautiful in a way that had more to do with his soul than his appearance. Harry’s goodness was stamped on his face. “We still can be. I choose you. I would always have chosen you.”
His words were sweet, but he was rewriting history. “No, you wouldn’t have. You didn’t. Do you think I could trust you again after this? I even know why you did it. I knew you would do it. I went to Remy’s to plan how I would handle Celeste after you told her. I just thought I would have more time.”