Stella opened her mouth, no doubt in protest, as Teddy scooped her up and headed for the stairs.

“Laura, you and Farns stay in the kitchen,” I said. “Run out the door to the garage if anything happens.”

Laura helped Farns from the floor as Lucius and I rushed past, no time to don shoes or coats, and took off after her. A blast of arctic air rushed into the foyer and stung my exposed skin as we darted into the night.

She fled across the moonlit lawn, her hair glowing silver in the luminous rays, and her white nightgown floating around her ankles. Ethereal and determined, she was making decent time. All the same, Lucius and I gained on her. My feet burned from the frost on the freezing ground, but we pounded after her, ignoring the pain.

She was slowing, fatigue already making her lag. We caught up, both darting around to corral her. She stopped and shrieked, her eyes wild and glancing from Lucius and back to me. I barely recognized her. The woman who’d raised me, tormented me, was now a screaming banshee on the same front lawn she used to rule.

“Mom!” Lucius tried to shout her down, holding his hands out in front of him as he crept nearer.

“Don’t you touch her! Don’t you touch her, you bastards!” She snarled, spit flying from her pale lips.

“Mom, it’s me.” I stepped closer and stared into her eyes, the ones I knew were the same shade as mine.

“Stop hurting her.” She put a hand to her mouth, gasping as if someone had knocked the wind from her lungs. “Please stop.”

“Mom! It’s me, Sin.” But she wasn’t seeing me. She was seeing Renee’s trials. They played over and over again in her mind as if she were sitting alone in a movie theater, strapped to a chair with her eyes pinned open.

“Stop!” she screamed and raked her nails down her face. “Take me instead. Please, take me.”

I moved slowly, the individual blades of icy grass crunching under the soles of my feet with each step. She grimaced and tore at her hair, ripping at the silver strands as her wild gaze turned skyward. Lucius and I both darted in, grabbing her around the waist. Then the screams began in earnest as she clawed and fought.

“Mom, calm down.” Her nails were on my neck, gouging deep lines as she bit at Lucius. She was feral, the mother I’d known long since gone.

A brutal wind whipped past, carrying her screams out into the night. She was barefoot. If my feet were any indication, we were all in danger of frostbite the longer we stayed out here.

“Get her legs,” I yelled.

I gripped her upper body, pinning her arms to her sides, as Lucius grabbed her around the knees. Together, we lifted her and hurried back toward the house. Once we reached the steps, she stopped struggling and her screams ceased. Defeated and limp, she fell silent. I took her full weight, cradling her in my arms.

“Lucius, go on up and see about Renee.”

“Oh, shit. I didn’t even think about her. Mom, what did you do?”

She was unresponsive as Lucius took the steps two at a time.

“Can I help?” Farns came down the hall, wringing his hands as Laura gripped his arm.

“Everything’s fine.” A lie. “Just one of her episodes.” I hurried up the stairs to the third floor.

The door to her room was open, and I carried her in before laying her on the bed. Renee sat on the floor by the fireplace, hand pressed to the side of her head. Blood trickled down her face.

Lucius knelt down beside her, pulling her hand away to check the wound.

“You okay?” I asked over my shoulder.

“I-I think so,” Renee said.

Mom lay on the bed and stared at the light green ceiling. Her mouth moved, half-formed words passing through her lips that held meaning only to her.

She’d made this large suite her sanctuary, the place she’d retreated to when Lucius and I were old enough to take care of the estate and the sugar business. I’d thought it was a blessing to be rid of her at the time, but I didn’t know how much darker her thoughts would grow while she stayed alone up here.

“What happened?” Lucius pulled Renee’s hand away to inspect the damage. The wound seemed to be somewhere in her dark hair, and was bleeding profusely.

“I don’t know,” Renee said. “She was lucid. We were talking about you boys when you were little. She was telling me a story about how Teddy used to ride his tricycle into the house and how it drove her batty. We were laughing, actually laughing. Then she swung something at me. I don’t know what. I don’t remember anything until you two came in.”

I knelt beside her and pulled her hair away. It was a small gash that wouldn’t need stitches, but the lump around it was troubling. I looked back at Mom, but she was still in her daze. Would she regret this when she came back to life? I doubted it.