The Cherished One excerpt
“Dearest Ali.” Burian smiled as he crossed the room and hugged his daughter-in-law. “How are you?”
“I am well.” She smiled up at him. “How are you?”
“For an old man, I am just fine. Especially when I walk into a room and see your sweet face,” he said, cupping her chin in his big palm. “I swear you get more radiant every time I see you.”
Ali snickered softly, throwing a quick glance to Nicolai before she then turned to greet D’mitri. Wrapping her slender arms around him, she placed a gentle kiss to his cheek and asked him, “How are you this morning?”
D’mitri shrugged halfheartedly. “It is only another day, dear sister.”
Her expression faded slightly before Burian tugged her back into his arms for another hug. D’mitri shook his head, unable to hold back a small smile, knowing that his father was so enthusiastic about his affection for Ali. He only wished that he too had a female of his own that his father could be so enthusiastic about.
“Be easy with my mate, pai,” Nicolai said as Burian lifted Ali. “Do not squeeze my youngling to death.”
Everyone in the room went quiet. When Burian set Ali’s feet back on the floor, she gave Nicolai a look that meant she was obviously irritated with him.
Grandi and Burian looked at one another before both said at the same time, “Youngling?”
Nicolai laughed. “Yes. We realized this morning that Ali is expecting, and she could not wait to share the news with her family.”
As happy chatter rose up, D’mitri felt the yawning emptiness break open deep inside him. He thought he’d been holding up well lately, but he was once again confronted by the sharp contrast between his life and the life of his twin. Nicolai had everything, but D’mitri had nothing to fill the void within him. Unable to stomach the joy emanating from the others, he slipped from the room and headed for the back door. He had to get away.
Nicolai stopped him halfway down the hall. “Brother, where are you going?” When D’mitri only turned to face him but didn’t respond, Nicolai’s smile faded. “D’mitri, what troubles you?”
“Nothing troubles me. I am happy for you.”
Nicolai came up to him and placed his hands on his shoulders. “Something troubles you. Please tell me. I do not wish to see you sad in such happy times.”
D’mitri shrugged Nicolai’s hands off and moved toward the back of the house at a faster pace, hoping to get away from his twin.
“D’mitri!” Nicolai snapped just as he had reached the door. “Turn and face me, brother.”
“What do you want?” D’mitri asked without turning.
“I want to know why you are so upset. I feel your sadness. Please talk to me.”
He took a deep breath and turned to face Nicolai, forcing himself to continue speaking English. “You are happy.”
Nicolai frowned, searching his twin’s face. “And that makes you sad?”
D’mitri shook his head and said softly, “I am tired, Nicolai. My mate is not…” Clearing his throat, he said hoarsely, “Where is she? Where is my happiness?”
Realization dawning, Nicolai sighed and stepped in closer to him. “Be patient, irmão. She will come soon, and she will be worth the wait.”
“I tire of waiting!” D’mitri snapped. He was tired of being alone while Nicolai had everything. “I want her now!” He took a breath and said, a little more calmly, “I need her now.”
“Brother…,” Nicolai said sympathetically.
Switching back to their native tongue because he was tired of trying to form the right words in English, D’mitri said, “It is unfair. You have had your mate for more than a year. I still have nothing. I am still alone. We are twins.”
“But our mates are not,” Nicolai responded. “Yours will come soon.”
D’mitri’s eyes burned with barely restrained tears. “I pray you are right,” he quavered. Nicolai tried to embrace him, but D’mitri pushed him away. “Do not…” He cleared his throat. “Tell Ali that I am happy for you both, and I will see her another time. I must go.” D’mitri felt the sadness and worry rolling off of Nicolai, but he really had to get away, and a run was the only thing that would clear his mind. Not even working on his furniture would help this time.