Mrs. Molina is standing outside the door with a piece of cake on a plate. She’s nearly finished eating it. When she spots me, she sucks the icing off the tip of her thumb and smiles.
“Oh, Gia.” Her eyes light up. She’s a bit tipsy, too. I can tell when she starts to giggle. A butler walks by and she flags him down, handing him the half-eaten cake. “How are you liking the party?”
“It’s fun,” I lie with a smile.
“It is. I’m so glad you are here. My son has never behaved so well.”
My mouth twitches. I don’t want to talk about him right now.
“Come on,” she insists, grabbing my wrist. “Walk with me. I need to sober up a bit before getting to bed.”
I laugh. “Almost drunk, huh?”
“Almost?” She laughs, and then sighs, our heels clicking across the marble. I look back, glad none of the guards are following us. He can at least do that for me—leave me alone. “I don’t know if Draco told you, but his father would take me to Spain every year for my birthday. We would drink and party so much, no matter how old I felt. We used to have such a good time together. I miss those days with Carlos.”
I look over at her as we stop right where the stairs that lead to the galería are. “You miss him a lot, don’t you?”
“Every single day. And so, so much,” she says, rather painfully. “I wanted to drink tonight to remind myself of him. To imagine him here with me in spirit, enjoying this night with me. It may not be Spain, but it has been a good night, with great music and delicious cake.”
She looks me over twice, gripping the guardrail. It’s quiet for a few seconds. I shift in my heels, looking down at the galería door. “Do you think my son can make you happy?”
That question catches me way off guard. I tilt my head to look at her, opening my mouth, but then clamping it shut in an instant, realizing that I don’t know the answer to that. “I—I don’t know,” I finally respond.
“I hope that he can,” she says in a near whisper. “And I hope that you can make him happy, too. I hope that one day he will quit all of this, because the riches and the power don’t matter. It’s what his father thought—that it mattered most—but it doesn’t. Draco deserves to have a life. I hate that he’s a wanted man. I fear for his life every single time he steps out of the door. I fear for my own life sometimes, but I don’t so much mind the thought of leaving this world. It’s just being in this world without him that would kill me. Losing my son—my only son . . . well, I wouldn’t want to live. Every day would cause suffering. I just want him to do the right thing one day—quit this so that he can go far away and enjoy his life.”
“He seems to love what he does.”
“He does. And I don’t blame him.” She looks down at the galería door, sighing. “After all he has been through, all he has seen, I can’t blame him at all. Sometimes I wonder why he isn’t angrier.” Her head picks back up and she locks eyes with me. “I hope he can make you happy one day. Maybe not now, but someday soon. I hope Lion was right. I hope you two become inseparable.”
I press my lips, wanting to smile broadly, but unable to. Daddy talked about us with her, too. Of course he did.
“Well,” she yawns, stepping away from the rail. “I thought I could make it to midnight but I am exhausted. I think I should go to bed.” She rests a flat palm on my cheek. “Tell my Draco that I love him.”
“Okay.” I smile.
Her gaze is gentle when she pulls away. She walks past me, in her purple gown, and continues walking without a glance back. I look after her until I can’t hear her steps anymore.
I turn and look down the steps, at Draco’s galería door. I don’t want to go back to the party. I really don’t want to face him just yet.
He’s drunk right now, but I’m hoping he’ll sober up soon and return to his regular Draco self.
I place my wine glass down on the corner table and then take the steps down, going to the door. He’s been going in there a lot lately, almost every other day. I’m curious what he’s been painting.
He said he doesn’t mind me going in there, just as long as I don’t touch anything. I’ll make myself useful and see what I’ve been missing. It’s been a while since he’s brought me here. He’s had no reason to bring me down to this room that makes a statement, either by punishment or by pleasure. Or a mix of both.