Winter – Chapter 40 – 03

“You asked us to help you that day when your brother and your cousin and all of them were in danger,” Gray reminded her, his breath warm against her hair.  “And we rose to the challenge.  We’re a part of this now, Aoife.  We’re absolutely a part of this now.”

His nose was close enough to her ear that she could feel the heat from his skin through her hair.

“Don’t push us away in a vain effort to protect us.”

“This conversation feels way too familiar,” she whispered, resting her chin on her knees.  “Haven’t we talked about this before?”

“Maybe once,” he said, tugging her gently toward his chest.  She fell against him with a sigh, her eyes falling shut.  He pressed a kiss to the top of her head and she sighed again, curling against him.

“You don’t really want to leave,” he murmured.  “You don’t want to leave us.”

“No,” she admitted in a whisper.  “But the road is calling.  I can’t deny it forever.”  Lady of Sighs, Maiden of the Gray Towers, your feet will carry you hither and yon unto the very breaking of the world.

“The very breaking of the world,” she whispered.

Gray’s arms tightened.  “What is this if not the breaking of the world, Aoife?”

Her heart gave a painful squeeze and she swallowed.  He’s right, isn’t he?  The world is broken.

Let it be born anew.  That’s what Seamus used to say.  The world will break, will die, so it might be born again.  A tear squeezed out of one eye to run down her face.  She missed him, her kind-hearted cousin.

“I have to find them, Gray,” she said softly.  “When the weather breaks, I have to go find them.”

“Who?  Your brother and your cousins?”

“No,” she said.  “No, not them.  I…Seamus.
My cousin Seamus, the oldest of us, the one we…we lost.  He had children.”  She swallowed hard, the long-kept secret bubbling out as she pressed herself more firmly into Gray’s arms, feeling safer now than she had in a long, long time.  “None of our family knew except for me.  I carried the secrets, I kept them.  I need to find those children—his descendants.  I need to find them, Gray.  Someone has to find them.  Protect them.”  She swallowed again.  “They don’t know who they are, what potential they have—what power they hold.  There are so many out there in the world that will be trying to use them—to ensnare them somehow.  I can’t just let it happen.”

“You don’t have to,” Gray said.  “You’re not in this alone.  I’ll help.  We’ll all help.”  His gaze drifted away from the fire, up toward the stairs to the loft above.  “Any of us will hep you.”

“You’ll help me?”

“Without a doubt.”  He tucked his knuckle beneath her chin, tilting her face up toward his.  “Never doubt that when the chips are down, when it’s all said and done and everything’s coming apart, I will be there for you doing whatever you need me to do when you need me to do it.”

Her gaze met his and she sucked in a weak, ragged breath.

“I love you,” she whispered.  “I think I do, anyway.”  She’d never been given to the hard and fast fall into or out of love that seemed to plague her cousin Teague, nor the inability to find someone to love that her brother had.  Uncertainty, though—that had been her curse for as long as she could remember.

Never sure of how you feel, what to do—not unless someone’s told you what needs to be done, pointed you in the right direction.

“Good,” Gray whispered.

Then, when he kissed her, she felt for just one moment that all would be right with the world—somehow, someday.

Somehow, someday, everything would be all right.

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