Her mother should be working the swing shift at the hospital, so she auto-dialed her mom’s cell number. It rang twice.
“Hi honey,” Erin Noelle said.
“Hey Mom.” Lessa glanced away from Santos, who was now listening closely to her side of the conversation. “Are you busy?”
“I can talk for a moment. What’s up?”
The background noise of the hospital faded out as her mother probably ducked into a room to hear her better.
“I need to ask you something.” She struggled for courage to ask the question which could change everything.
“What now?” Erin laughed.
Lessa took a deep breath. “Who is Jiovanni Tazio, and why is he sending me a letter saying he’s my father?”
Erin made a startled sound and the line went quiet.
“Mom?” Dread filled her. Her mom was supposed to say she didn’t know who the heck Jiovanni Tazio was.
“How did you find out?” Erin demanded.
“It’s true?” The line went silent again. Lessa spun to focus on the photo from the long-ago trip to Disney. Of the three of them smiling—her mother, Lessa, and the man she’d thought was her father. Who maybe wasn’t.
“Of course it’s not true. Peter’s your father. You look just like him.”
But she didn’t. She closed her eyes. She and Peter had similar coloring. Blonde hair, blue eyes, fair skin. But her features were like her mother’s.
“Just send the letter back to this man. He obviously got the wrong person.”
Her mom’s voice was too cool, and Lessa didn’t believe a word. “You mean hand it back to the courier?”
Erin gasped a second time. “Get away from him. Jiovanni’s men are dangerous.”
“Who says it’s a man? And who says it isn’t Jiovanni himself?” The depth of her mother’s lies started to work through her. She pressed her hand against her burning stomach.
“You have to get away from him right now.”
She shook her head even though her mother couldn’t see her. “You lied to me. All these years, and you pretended Peter was my father.”
“Sweetie, listen to me, they’re dangerous people. I had to lie to keep you safe. You need to stay as far away from Jiovanni as possible.”
She almost choked on her outrage. “That shouldn’t be a problem since, apparently, he’s dead.” And with him dead, she’d never have the chance to find out who her father really was.