“You’re blackmailing us!” Sage retorted but he saw the doubt in her expression. Tyce didn’t feel offended, realizing that she was just trying to find solid ground, trying to make sense of this situation.

“I’m asking for DNA to be tested and if that DNA proves my theory, I am asking for my sister to meet you and your brothers. I am not asking for money, time or involvement.” Tyce rested his forearms on his thighs, his eyes steady on her face.

Sage picked at the rip on her thigh, opening up a hole in the denim that wasn’t there before.

She looked so lost and alone, out of her depth. Easily able to identify with those emotions, Tyce ignored his brain’s insistence to play it cool. He moved across the bare wooden floorboards and dropped in front of her, bending his knees and linking his hands. “I wanted to tell you first, Sage, but you wouldn’t take my calls.”

Sage opened her mouth to argue and abruptly closed it again. Yeah, she couldn’t argue that point. “You wouldn’t talk to me so I went on to plan B.”

Sage looked past him, to a painting on the far wall, and Tyce followed her gaze. It was the back view of a ballerina but unlike Degas’s pretty, perfect renditions of the dancers, Tyce’s piece was full of angst, accurately capturing the pain and persistence a dancer went through to achieve perfection. The dancer, dressed in a grubby tutu, her hair falling out of her bun, was massaging her toes, fatigue and pain radiating from her. It was one of his early pieces but emotion poured from it. It was good, he supposed. Not great, but good. Tyce idly wondered when Sage had bought it and why. He knew that she loved ballet but it wasn’t, after all, a Degas, an artist whose work she could afford.

“Tell me about your sister,” Sage commanded, her eyes clashing with his.

“What do you want to know and why?” Tyce asked, lifting an eyebrow at her imperious demand.

“Well, you want us to meet her. What does she do? What is she like?”

Tyce thought a moment, wondering what to say. He adored Lachlyn but he wasn’t in the habit of talking about her. Or his family. “Uh...eight years younger than me. She’s an archivist.”

“Really? Does she enjoy her work?”

Tyce’s mouth softened into a smile. “She loves it. She’s history, and book, crazy.”

Feeling antsy, Tyce rolled to his feet and walked across the room to look at the framed photographs on the wall. He smiled at a picture of a very young Sage in a tutu, attempting a pirouette, of Beckett on a diving board about to race, Jaeger and Linc in tuxedos at a wedding. All across the world were millions of walls like this one, holding ten billion memories.

He didn’t have a wall, neither did Lachlyn.

Like most New Yorkers, he’d watched the Ballantynes grow up. The press was consistently captivated by the closest the city had to a royal family. He remembered the day their parents died, devouring the reports about their plane crash. Tyce remembered reading about Connor, a confirmed bachelor, stepping in and scooping up his orphaned nephews and niece. The Ballantynes had been, were, a constant source of fascination to the mere mortals of the city for a long time.

He had been amazed when Connor adopted Linc, his housekeeper’s son, along with the three Ballantyne orphans. He’d wondered what type of man did that. Neither his own father, who’d bailed on him before he was old enough to remember him, or his stepfather ever gave a damn for anyone other than themselves. They’d both been so immature and unreliable, so it was no wonder that Connor’s easy acceptance of children who weren’t his made such an impression on him.

His mom just managed to keep it together enough to keep working, but navigating the world for a few hours a day sapped all her energy. She’d had nothing left to give to her son and her infant daughter. A month after he’d graduated from high school, his mom fell in on herself and refused to leave her room, to go back to work, to talk and to interact. Six weeks passed and Tyce knew that she wasn’t getting better and that it was up to him to support his family. He gave up his scholarship to art school and found a job to feed, clothe and educate his ten-year-old sister. Since he worked two jobs and their mother slept as much and as often as possible, Lachlyn grew up alone. She’d craved a family, siblings, teasing, laughter and support but she got a mother who stopped speaking and a brother who retreated into an impenetrable cocoon, his thoughts consumed by how to stretch five dollars into ten, what new argument he could use to placate their landlord.

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