Four – 01

[This post is from Marin’s point of view.]

The sound of a lilting tune drifted from one end of the tents, half lost under the sound of the rain pounding against the canvas. Lin was half asleep in my arms, lulled toward his morning nap by a clean diaper and a full belly. I followed the sound, canting my head to one side even as my brow furrowed.

It’s familiar, but I can’t quite place it.

I came around a set of shelves and saw her sitting cross-legged on a spare dresser, a sketchbook open in her lap and a tin of colored pencils open alongside her. Hecate was humming softly to herself, bundled in a hooded sweatshirt and blue jeans, her hair pulled into a thick braid down her back. Even with her back turned, I could tell she was smiling and that made me smile, too.

The humming stopped as I took another few steps and she turned around, looking over her shoulder at me. One corner of her mouth lifted up in a wider smile.

“Morning.”

“Morning,” she echoed. “Everything okay?”

“Yeah,” I said, moving to join her in her perch. She scooted over a little to make room, watching me with an arched brow.

“You sure?”

I nodded. “Yeah, I just thought you were still in bed, that’s all. You weren’t at breakfast.”

“Well, I’ll admit that I thought about staying in bed,” she said as I settled next to her. “The rain would’ve made that easy. The drum and the gloom and damp and all that—it was tempting. Then I decided I’d been hiding in bed for long enough and I should get up.”

“You weren’t hiding,” I said, brow furrowing slightly. “You were recovering from the last attack. You still are.”

“Oh, Mar,” she sighed, tucking her pencil above her ear and reaching to brush a fingertip down Lin’s face as his attention turned to her, blue eyes half-lidded as he half-heartedly fought sleep. “I’ve been physically fine for at least three days. Trust me, I’ve been hiding. It’s easier sometimes.”

I shifted Lin slightly to free an arm to wrap around her shoulders. “Well, you do whatever you need to do,” I told her. “No one’s going to get upset at you for that.”

Hecate took a deep breath and exhaled it slowly, nodding slightly. “It’s just hard, that’s all. I’m still getting used to not being alone and learning to trust people again. My first instinct sometimes is to just hide because hiding keeps me from getting hurt—at least most of the time.”

I squeezed her gently and she smiled.

“You don’t have to say it,” she said. “I know what you’re about to tell me.”

“You mean the part where I say that we’re here?”

“Yeah,” she said, smiling. “That.” She smoothed a hand over the page in her sketchbook, leaning her head against my shoulder. “I told Matt that sometimes I’ll need reminding.”

“I’m sure he’s more than willing to do that,” I murmured, resting my head against hers as I peered down at the drawing on the page. “That’s a good picture of him.”

Hecate held it up so we could both see it better, her brow furrowing slightly. “I don’t know. It’s missing something.”

“Color?” I suggested.

She laughed and shook her head a little. “No, not that. I’m not sure what it is, but I’ll figure it out. Eventually.”

“Has that been what you’ve been out here doing?”

“Mostly,” she said. “It’s another thing the rain somehow makes easier.”

I squeezed her gently, staring out at the rain. She sighed and set the sketchbook down in her lap again, gaze drifting out to the sodden ground and the trees.

“Are you sure you’re okay?” I asked in a whisper.

Her shoulders rose and fell in a shrug. “Probably. It feels like it’s been a long time since I was sure of something like that. But probably.” Hecate slid an arm around my waist and smiled faintly, though the expression was fleeting. “And if I’m not, you guys are here. That’s all that matters now.”

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Three – 05

[This post is from Thom’s point of view.]

Staring down at a blank page of his sketchpad, Thom cleared his throat. “So. Persephone?”

“Right,” Matt said, tone slightly rueful. He shifted the metal again in the coals, then let go, stretching slightly and seeming to marshal his thoughts before he started to explain. “I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a complicated thing but it’s something that kind of got shunted aside with that last attack and all. Hecate thought she was dead and probably wouldn’t know anything otherwise if she hadn’t found a way to ask J.T. for help.”

Thom glanced up from the page, brow furrowing. “Hecate asked Jay for help?”

“No,” Matt said quietly as he shifted the iron in the coals one more time. “Persephone found a way to reach out to J.T. That’s how we know she’s alive—J.T. came to Hecate to ask for help. She’s out there somewhere, probably—almost definitely—a prisoner of Olympium.”

“Shit,” Thom breathed. “You’re sure?”

“As much as we can be,” Matt said. He pulled the iron back out of the fire, settling it against the anvil and taking up his hammer again. “Like I said, with the mess that last attack left us with, we haven’t had much of a chance to do anything about it—not yet, anyway.”

“You sound like you’re planning something,” Thom said, attention drifting back toward his sketchbook. He finally put pencil to paper, starting to sketch without quite knowing what he was designing. He glanced up, pencil still moving, watching as Matt started to hammer a blade into shape.

“Nothing solid,” Matt said. “Nothing certain. She still hasn’t recovered from dealing with the dark nymphs in the last battle.”

Thom winced. “I—I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have sent her to the wall without warning her why I was doing it.”

“It turned out all right.” Matt sighed. “And you weren’t wrong to send her. She told me how it happened and even she thinks you were right. Once she was on her way to us she understood and you were right, trying to explain it would have taken too long and she might have hesitated. It would’ve been a hesitation we couldn’t afford.”

“But she’s all right?”

“She will be,” Matt said, then smiled. “You’re worried.”

“Of course,” Thom said, glancing down. “She’s your wife, and that makes her my sister. She’s family.”

Matt grinned. “She said the same thing about you.”

Thom snorted softly. “Good to know I’m someone’s sister.”

Matt laughed. “That’s not—”

“I know,” Thom said, staring blankly at the sketchpad in his lap.

A cradle? But I—

He stared at the page for another few seconds, then looked up at Matt.

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” Thom said. “Just thinking.”

He turned the page.

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Three – 04

[This post is from Thom’s point of view.]

Thom watched him for a few seconds before exhaling and flipping his sketchbook open again. “How—how much do you remember about then?”

“How much do you remember?” Matt countered, shifting the metal in the forge so it would heat more evenly.

Thom choked back a laugh. “Is that how we’re going to play it?”

“Seems like.” Matt shot him a crooked smile. “I think we both remember more of it than we let on—especially to Mar.”

“Well, she’s kind of weirded out by it a little bit herself sometimes,” Thom murmured. “So the two of us keeping some of it on the down-low doesn’t surprise me at all.”

“Me neither,” Matt agreed. “Not really. In actual answer to your question, though, maybe not as much as sometimes I’d hope but enough to be sure of some things.”

“Did you—” Thom stopped, frowning for a second, then took a breath and started again. “Did you remember before?”

“Before? Before what?”

Thom grimaced. “Before she took you?”

Matt was silent for a few moments, then nodded. “Yeah. Yeah, I did, I just didn’t know what it meant, who it was that I kept being with and talking to. I mean, it wasn’t like I could see her, you know? It was never any time that I could really see her. It was always after.”

“After Cíar escaped.”

He nodded. “Yeah. I knew there was someone and I knew she was important, I just didn’t know what she looked like. I just knew what she felt like and I knew how deeply he loved her, how deep that connection went.” Matt sighed, staring into the forge for a few seconds. “I wondered at first if that’s why I cared about her, but I realized pretty fast that it wasn’t.”

“Was she—?”

“Different? Yeah. There was a side of her that she couldn’t let anyone else see, part that she had to keep protected or she’d be done for. Everything she went through kind of fractured her but she’s getting better now. I think it’s healing, even if it’s slow.” He smiled faintly. “And I’m glad that she feels safe enough here to let us help. She’s making friends and learning that there’s more than two other people in the world that care about her and that’s worked wonders.”

“Two?” Thom echoed, brow furrowing. “I mean, I know you’re one, but who was the other one before all of us?”

“Persephone,” Matt said quietly. “We have to figure out how to help her, too.”

“What?”

Matt shook his head, a rueful smile curving his lips. “That’s right. I should probably tell you about that.”

Thom rubbed at his temple, shaking his head. “I feel like I slept through a lot.”

“Not a lot,” Matt said. “Just some important stuff.” He glanced back toward the rain outside and sighed. “Well, we’re not going anywhere anytime soon. Guess we’ve got time, right?”

“Even if we didn’t, we’d make it.”

“True enough,” Matt agreed softly. “True enough.”

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Three – 03

[This post is from Thom’s point of view.]

“You’ve still got that look,” Matt said. Thom frowned but didn’t turn.

“How do you know? I’m not even looking at you.”

“I think I know you well enough to figure out when you’ve got that look,” Matt countered. His hammer started to fall into rhythm and Thom sighed, shaking his head. “Cheer up.”

Thom snorted softly, limping back to one of the benches that lined the walls of the forge, slowly sitting and stretching his bad leg out in front of him. “Easy for you to say.”

Matt quirked a brow and Thom had to smile.

“What? You sure as hell seem cheerier lately. Things going better with Hecate?”

“You say that like they weren’t fine in the first place.” A ghost of a smile curved Matt’s lips as he turned most of his attention back to the metal laid out on his anvil. “She and I have been fine since we got here.”

Thom grimaced, leaning back. “I just—I meant—”

“You mean you were worried about how she was adjusting?”

Thom managed to nod, glad that Matt had rescued him from what was about to become a far more awkward situation than he’d anticipated it being. He leaned his head back, watching his brother-in-law, resting his sketchbook against his thighs, half forgotten. “Was just worried, that’s all.”

“When you were aware enough of what was going on to be worried, anyway,” Matt said with a faint, wry smile. “It was a valid concern in some ways. She was afraid and so was I. For good reason, too.”

“She’s not what I thought she was. Who I thought she was.”

“She never was,” Matt said quietly, staring at the iron on the anvil. “Not then, not now. No one really knew her.”

“Except you,” Thom said in a whisper, watching him. Matt winced slightly.

“Me as Cíar and me now,” Matt agreed, then smiled a little. “I didn’t realize she was what I was looking for until suddenly she was there and I was looking through the mask and seeing what was really there.”

“You love her.”

“I always have,” Matt said, turning and thrusting the iron back into the fire. “I just didn’t know it until it was almost too late.”

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Three – 02

[This post is from Thom’s point of view.]

 

He could still feel Matt’s gaze on him and Thom sighed, rolling a shoulder and trying not to wince at the sudden lance of pain that shot through it. The wounds from a camazotzi’s claws were largely healed, enough so that he could usually forget they were there—until he moved the wrong way, stretched the wrong way. At least, that was what he kept telling himself. The more likely case was that the pain had receded toward a dull ache and was therefore drowned out by all of the other aches and pains that were sharper, somehow fresher.

Matt’s hammer clanged off the metal once, twice. The third time it fell off-key and Thom turned, frowning. Matt was looking at him strangely.

“What?”

“You’re talking about dying.”

Thom blinked at him. While he wasn’t wrong, he’d thought Matt had caught his meaning before. “I wish I wasn’t.”

“Damn, Thom,” Matt breathed. “I—was it as bad as that?”

“The past few weeks sure as hell haven’t been a picnic,” Thom said, turning away again to watch the rain. Lightning spidered through the clouds as he watched, exhaling a sigh. “I think I’m on the other side of it now, though. Hope so, anyway.”

“I hope so, too,” Matt said. Metal scraped against the anvil for a second, then the hammering resumed. “Not sure what the hell we’d do without you.”

“You guys managed well enough while I was down for the count,” Thom murmured, almost too quiet for Matt to hear over the sound of the rain and his metalwork.

“There wasn’t a choice,” Matt said. “And we knew that we’d get you back sooner or later. This—all of this—this doesn’t keep standing without you, Thom. You know that.”

His stomach twisted and his fingers tightened around his sketchbook.

Maybe not now. But someday? Someday, it might have to.

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Three – 01

[This post is from Thom’s point of view.]

Thom sat near the doorway out of the forge, staring out at the rain. Behind him, Matt was reheating a strip of metal that was going to become either a sword or a tool—he hadn’t bothered to ask which it would be, not yet. He could feel his brother-in-law’s gaze on him even as the younger man shifted the metal in the firebox, letting it heat through, though perhaps paying less attention to it than he probably should.

“What is it?” Thom finally asked, not looking back. They were alone together up there—Thom to work on some sketches, Matt to work the forge itself. Thom hadn’t quite expected to be alone together up there, but perhaps the rain that had begun falling half an hour after they’d finished having breakfast had something to do with it.

“You are never going to get back down there without getting soaked or worse,” Matt said. “I’m still trying to figure out how you got up here.”

“Slowly and painfully,” Thom said, glancing back over his shoulder with a rueful smile. “Everything hurts.”

“Somehow that doesn’t surprise me, Thom.” Matt shook his head, glancing back to check the metal in the coals. “You keep going through the wringer and then shit keeps getting worse.”

“Yeah, well,” Thom murmured, “I guess some of us are built to suffer.”

“Possibly true,” Matt said, shifting the bar around in the forge. “It wouldn’t surprise me, anyway, all things considered.” He went silent for a few moments more, then exhaled. “Have you been feeling better? Beyond everything hurting, I mean.”

Thom nodded slightly. “Yeah, a bit. Better than the alternative.”

“The alternative being?”

“Something we don’t talk about,” Thom said, voice firm, though he still smiled, glancing back again. “Sufficient to say it’s something that would greatly upset your sister.”

“Oh,” Matt said. “One of those things. Right.” He pulled the metal out of the fire, taking up his hammer. “Well, I think we’d both rather avoid that.”

“Exactly,” Thom said, turning back to stare out at the rain again. Thunder grumbled low in the distance. He exhaled quietly, wishing that some of the aches would drop away. He knew they wouldn’t, though.

Somehow, he just knew.

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Two – 03

[This post is from Phelan’s point of view.]

Jacqueline hugged him tightly, though only for a few seconds. She stepped back as her arms loosened, looking up at him. “You know, I did come looking for you for a reason.”

His brow quirked. “Really? You mean it wasn’t just to tell me to get up off the ground?”

She shot him a dirty look but didn’t manage to hold it beyond the first ten seconds. It transformed into a rueful smile as she let go of him, shaking her head. “Don’t be awful. Yes, it wasn’t just to tell you to get up off the ground—that was just the distraction when I saw you laying there.”

“Something wrong?” He took her hand again, squeezing her fingers, stomach lurching slightly. A dozen thoughts—most of them not good—flashed through his head before he quelled them, all things that might have driven her to come looking for him on a rainy morning. A common thread was wondering what could have gone wrong now, or with whom.

“No, not wrong,” she said, studying him. He felt more than a flicker of relief and exhaled a breath he didn’t realize he was holding, earning a faintly amused smile from her. “You were worried.”

“That’s become a normal reaction.”

“True,” she admitted. “Not necessarily a wrong one in most scenarios, either.”

“No. So what’s up?”

“I was just thinking about things.”

His stomach twisted again and he watched her face, searching for clues to where this was going. “What kind of things?”

Jacqueline tugged on his hand to get him walking and he fell into step with her, wrapping his arm around her waist as they wended their way back through the maze of spare furniture and bins of supplies toward the cookfires that were a usual haunt for most of them when they weren’t working on something else. “Ideas,” she admitted. “Plans. Us.”

“Is there something about us that I’m not aware of?” His stomach refused to settle, churning hard now, bile rising. He swallowed, trying to smother the nerves that were probably rising without any reason for their existence.

Her brow quirked. “What do you mean?”

“I don’t know,” he said. “But the way you’re talking makes me think there’s something going on that I’m not privy to?”

“I’m not sure I would go that far,” she said with a smile. “Just figuring out timelines and other things.”

“Other things?” The timeline part he could understand—he’d asked her, she’d said yes, now it was figuring out when would be best to do it—to actually get married, something he’d never dreamed would ever happen for him, not after as many centuries as he’d spent alone. “What kind of other things?”

“I think you need coffee first,” she said with a sly smile. “Then we can have this discussion.”

Phelan raised a brow himself but didn’t argue with her. Sometimes, it was just better not to.

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Two – 02

[This post is from Phelan’s point of view.]

“A shift,” Jacqueline echoed, watching him almost warily for a moment even as her fingers flexed in his. “I don’t follow. What kind of shift?”

“That’s just it,” Phelan said quietly. “I can’t quite describe it, not adequately. It’s something you feel more than know.”

She studied him for a few more moments, then simply nodded. “I think that I can understand,” she said, squeezing his fingers again before tugging at his hands. “But you don’t know what it all means?”

He shook his head and smiled ruefully. “I don’t, but at the same time, there’s a part of me that likes not knowing.”

She shot him a quizzical look, one that made him smile a little more broadly.

“At least now I have a good excuse for things to not make sense anymore.”

Jacqueline squinted at him for a second, then snorted a laugh. “Oh. Oh, I get it. The stories and the prophecies rattling around inside your head from, what, the past three thousand years?”

“Something like that.” It was longer than that, but he wasn’t going to correct her.

“Have you told anyone?”

He shook his head, drawing her toward him so he could wrap his arms around her waist. She leaned into him, draping her arms around his neck and staring him straight in the eye.

“Why not?”

“Because I’m not ready.”

Her brow quirked. Phelan smiled sheepishly.

“Can you really blame me for not being ready for some kind of interrogation where I don’t have good answers to the questions I’d be facing?”

“Okay, point.” She stood on tip-toes to kiss him gently. “I’m sorry I pressed.”

“I’m glad you did,” he admitted, resting his forehead against hers. “Someone has to and if that’s the case, I don’t think I mind that it’s you.”

“Well, it would either be me or Marin.”

“Or Kel, or Neve.” He smiled briefly, though the smile faded a second later. “Seamus can’t right now.”

Jacqueline winced and looked down. Phelan sighed, wrapping his arms around her shoulders and drawing her tight against his chest.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered into her hair. “I didn’t mean it like that.”

“I know you didn’t,” she said, her voice muffled by his shirt. “It’s okay. I know you’re worried. I’m worried, too. I just—he’s so important to you guys, Phelan. I don’t want to be the one to fail him and neither does J.T.”

“He’ll be fine,” Phelan said. For all he knew, the words might have been a lie, but he needed them to be true for all the reasons that Jacqueline left unspoken. Seamus was his cousin, former heir to a throne that no longer existed, though its people did and now looked to the younger of the two brothers, Teague, for guidance—not that there was much to be found with the shattering of the world. Phelan wasn’t even sure how many of their people had returned from the Tír to Earth before the end, and now—so far as any of them knew—there was no way to get there and no way to come back to Earth, either.

Then again, for all he knew, they might be wrong about that, too.

For all that they thought they knew, all of it could have been wrong.

Maybe that’s why I have the feeling that’s something’s changed. Maybe now, almost a full year later, I’m finally starting to realize that not everything I thought I knew was right. Maybe I was wrong about more of it—maybe we were wrong about more of it.

Or maybe it’s something else entirely.

He just wasn’t sure.

“How do you know?” Jacqueline murmured.

“I just do,” Phelan said, pressing a kiss to the top of her head. “He’s too damned stubborn to die now—especially with everything that’s happened. He has Leinth and his freedom and a second chance. He’ll be fine. He has to be.”

He will be. There’s no other way this ends. That’s just how it has to be.

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Two – 01

[This post is from Phelan’s point of view.]

Phelan listened silently to the sound of dripping water somewhere beyond his vision to the left. Laying on his back near the edge of the tents, he stared up at the striped blue and white above him, gaze slipping in and out of focus as he forgot the feeling of the damp ground beneath his back and ignored the faint chill to the air.

Things were changing and he wasn’t certain what to make of those changes, or if he should even worry too much about them. But he could feel the shift in his bones, down to the marrow. It was strange, but not necessarily frightening.

Not yet, anyway.

“What are you doing, Phelan?”

Jacqueline stood above him, her nose wrinkled slightly as she gazed down at him in apparent confusion and concern. Phelan smiled a little.

“Thinking.”

“Five feet from where the rain’s coming in?” The healer smirked slightly. “Somehow, I think I could come up with much better places to lay down and think.”

Phelan attempted an eloquent shrug from flat on his back, one he suspected fell well short of the mark. The look on Jac’s face told him that he was absolutely correct in that regard and he heaved a heavy sigh.

The tiny blonde put one hand on her hip as she watched him roll onto his side and begin to get up, eyes narrowing slightly as she studied him not with a lover’s gaze, but one of a now-experienced healer.

“I’m all right,” he assured her as he got his feet back under him and dusted himself off. Some of the dampness lingered, seeped into his clothing. He’d have to deal with that before too long or else Jacqueline would have something to really worry about.

“Uh-huh,” she said, still eyeing him. “Because you on the ground like that is totally normal.”

Now it was Phelan’s turn to shoot his lover a long, measuring look. Slowly, a wry grin crept across her features.

“Okay, okay. Maybe it’s less unusual than I am making it out to be but I still have every right to be concerned and curious, now don’t I? What’s going on, Phelan? Something’s got to be, right? Beyond the usual?”

He shrugged again and her gaze sharpened into a glare.

“Phelan.”

“Right,” he said quietly. “Sorry. It’s just—”

“No games,” she said softly. “No secrets. You promised.”

And he had. He’d promised that the only secrets he kept would be the necessary ones, and oddly enough their definitions of necessary seemed to align fairly well—something he’d taken as yet another sign that he’d finally found the person he’d been meant to find after all of the centuries he’d spent alone, paying penance for crimes that he wasn’t sure were all his to atone for, though he had to admit that he did have more than his fair share of things to pay for.

Sighing again, he took both of her hands in his and squeezed them gently. “It’s nothing that I’d call bad,” he murmured. “At least not at this point. Just a little concerning maybe.”

“Concerning,” she echoed, eyes searching his face for something he wasn’t sure she’d find—reassurance, perhaps. “Concerning how?”

“All the prophecies,” he said softly. “All the futures—everything that I’ve been taught, everything that’s been seen by people like Thom and Marin and my cousin and all the other Seers down through the ages. Something’s changing, Jac. I don’t know what it is but I can feel it.

“There’s been a shift and I don’t know what it means.”

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One – 01

[This post is from Teague’s point of view.]

Water rasped against stones, almost a whisper as the breeze pushed the lapping waves up against the shore. Beyond the sound of birds in the trees, the wind whispering through branches, the world was quiet. He stood and stared off across the water, letting his eyes relax, gaze unfocusing. He listened to the quiet, even breath of his son, not yet a year old, heavy against his chest as he stood near the shore, the boy’s head resting against his shoulder.

In, out. In, out. Teague Vaughan matched the pattern of his own breathing to his son’s, shifting him slightly into a more comfortable hold. Kira would come looking soon. She worried when they were out this long and it was only a matter of time before realized they weren’t back yet. She worried about him and he loved her for it, especially because he still wasn’t quite certain he deserved it.

After all, he still blamed himself for the fate that had befallen the world almost a year before.

If Phelan were here, he’d tell him that there wasn’t anything more he could have done. He’d tried. They’d both tried—them and so many others, Teague had come to realize in the months since.

None of it had mattered.

“Teague?”

A faint smile curved his lips at the sound of her voice.

Not none of it.

He turned to see her coming down the path from their lodge, her footsteps as silent as his own would have been. Teague smiled and lifted his free hand, finger to his lips, nodding to their sleeping son.

Kira smiled as she came to him, dressed in faded denim and a plaid shirt. Her hair had gotten long and for all that she made noises about cutting it, she never seemed to do it. Their fingers laced together as she stopped by his side, leaning her shoulder against his.

“You’ve been gone for a while,” she said softly. “I was starting to worry.”

“You do that a lot,” he murmured, pressing a kiss to her temple with a faint smile.

“Well, you’re worth worrying about,” she said, then smiled back, squeezing his fingers before she wrapped her arms around his waist. “Are you all right?”

“Why are you asking?”

“You’ve got that look,” Kira said, resting her chin on his shoulder and looking at him for a few aching heartbeats. “The one I’ve seen before too many times to count. You’re wrestling with something and you’re not sure if you should tell me—or anyone.”

Teague smiled faintly. “You know me too well.”

“Well, I’ve only been dreaming about you my entire life.”

His heart gave a painful squeeze, though it was less than it might have been a year before. He’d never meant for her to go through even half of what she’d faced, never meant for her soul—bound to his millennia ago—to suffer as it had for so long, never meant for her to dream of his face for her entire life. And yet, that had been what had happened, it was what was. There was no way he could ever change that, and in hindsight, he wasn’t sure if he would even if he could.

He knew that she wouldn’t.

“I love you,” he murmured softly, then kissed her again.

“I love you, too,” Kira said, squeezing him. “Is that a dodge?”

Teague laughed quietly. “No. No, it’s not a dodge.”

“Then what’s bothering you?”

“I’ve just been thinking.”

“Mm.” She sounded amused and concerned at once and he nearly laughed aloud. “About what?”

“I had a dream last night.”

Kira stiffened slightly, her brow furrowing. It was a few moments before she asked, “What kind of dream?”

“The kind that scares both of us,” he murmured. “The kind that I haven’t had since I fevered when you brought me here a year ago.”

“I thought we were past that.”

“it’s a gift and a curse.”

“You can return gifts,” Kira whispered. “You can break curses. This is something else. Something different.”

He rested his cheek against her head and exhaled a sigh. “I don’t have another word for it.”

“I know,” she said. “Neither do I.” Another pause. “What was it about?”

“Them,” he said simply, knowing she’d understand.

A breath escaped her that wasn’t quite a gasp, not quite a sigh. Her voice came as a whisper. “What did you see?”

“They’re all right,” he said quietly. “For now, at least.”

“For now?”

“Nothing’s ever certain, Kira. You know that.”

Her arms tightened around him. “Some things are.”

A chill crept down his spine, unbidden, then he forced himself to relax. “You’re right,” he whispered back. “Some things are.” Like this. Like us.

Kira’s fingers brushed along his cheek and jaw and he smiled faintly, tears stinging for a second before he blinked them away.

“Thank you,” he breathed.

“For what?”

“For loving me.”

She smiled. “Let’s go inside. I made lunch.”

Teague nodded and wrapped his arm around her shoulders. There would be time enough later to tell her everything he’d seen—to tell her about all that had changed, how different it all was now from what he’d originally thought, from the stories, from the dreams, from all of it.

There was time.

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