Dark witch, p.33
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       Dark Witch, p.33

         Part #1 of The Cousins O'Dwyer series by Nora Roberts
 

  She swiped at the tears, curled up, stared at the door.

  Any second, she thought again. Any second now. Her mother had to be angry. She had to come in and assert authority. Had to.

  “Please,” Elizabeth murmured as seconds ticked into minutes. “Don’t make me give in again. Please, please, don’t make me give up.”

  Love me enough. Just this once.

  But as the minutes dragged on, Elizabeth pushed herself off the bed. Patience, she knew, was her mother’s greatest weapon. That, and the unyielding sense of being right, crushed all foes. And certainly her daughter was no match for it.

  Defeated, she walked out of her room, toward her mother’s.

  The garment bag, the briefcase, the small, wheeled Pullman were gone. Even as she walked downstairs, she knew her mother had gone, too.

  “She left me. She just left.”

  Alone, she looked around the pretty, tidy living room. Everything perfect—the fabrics, the colors, the art, the arrangement. The antiques passed down through generations of Fitches—all quiet elegance.

  Empty.

  Nothing had changed, she realized. And nothing would.

  “So I will.”

  She didn’t allow herself to think, to question or second-guess. Instead, she marched back up, snagged scissors from her study area.

  In her bathroom, she studied her face in the mirror—coloring she’d gotten through paternity—auburn hair, thick like her mother’s but without the soft, pretty wave. Her mother’s high, sharp cheekbones, her biological father’s—whoever he was—deep-set green eyes, pale skin, wide mouth.

  Physically attractive, she thought, because that was DNA and her mother would tolerate no less. But not beautiful, not striking like Susan, no. And that, she supposed, had been a disappointment even her mother couldn’t fix.

  “Freak.” Elizabeth pressed a hand to the mirror, hating what she saw in the glass. “You’re a freak. But as of now, you’re not a coward.”

  Taking a big breath, she yanked up a hunk of her shoulder-length hair and whacked it off.

  With every snap of the scissors she felt empowered. Her hair, her choice. She let the shorn hanks fall on the floor. As she snipped and hacked, an image formed in her mind. Eyes narrowed, head angled, she slowed the clipping. It was just geometry, really, she decided—and physics. Action and reaction.

  The weight—physical and metaphorical, she thought—just fell away. And the girl in the glass looked lighter. Her eyes seemed bigger, her face not so thin, not so drawn.

  She looked . . . new, Elizabeth decided.

  Carefully, she set the scissors down, and, realizing her breath was heaving in and out, made a conscious effort to slow it.

  So short. Testing, she lifted a hand to her exposed neck, ears, then brushed them over the bangs she’d cut. Too even, she decided. She hunted up manicure scissors, tried her hand at styling.

  Not bad. Not really good, she admitted, but different. That was the whole point. She looked, and felt, different.

  But not finished.

  Leaving the hair where it lay on the floor, she went into her bedroom, changed into her secret cache of clothes. She needed product—that’s what the girls called it. Hair product. And makeup. And more clothes.

  She needed the mall.

  Riding on the thrill, she went into her mother’s home office, took the spare car keys. And her heart hammered with excitement as she hurried to the garage. She got behind the wheel, shut her eyes a moment.

  “Here we go,” she said quietly, then hit the garage-door opener and backed out.

 
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