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       Moonbeam, p.13

           Adrienne Woods

  “And now she can come home.”

  “You have a daughter?” Maggie finally asked.

  I felt so small. So stupid, but I couldn’t share it with anyone. “I’m sorry,” I mouthed.

  She just rushed over and hugged me tight. “No wonder no one could get through to you. Where is she?”

  “Tanya gave her the Calypso potion. She went into Cara. They are on the other side.”

  “The Calypso potion?” Isabel sounded scared.

  “It worked. She is fine.” I tried to put her mind at ease.

  Her expression was weirdly blank.

  “One wouldn’t make it, but two might.” Irene spoke softly.

  I rushed over to her and hunched in front of her. Those bright blue eyes of hers held my gaze. “Tanya had no idea what you could possibly mean by that when you gave it to her,” I said. “But she said it made sense.”

  “Why? Was she sick?”

  I nodded, tears forming in my eyes as I remembered that day. It was the worst day of my existence.

  “Wait,” Albert finally said. “How do you know it worked, Katie? How do you know she’s fine?”

  I froze. I’d just wanted to alleviate Isabel’s fears. I didn’t think about my actions. I closed my eyes.

  “Katie, how do you know this? It was a long shot to begin with.”

  I opened my eyes. “Because your extraordinary visitors…were extremely extraordinary, Al.”

  “They saw them?”

  I shook my head and moved toward him. Sat in front of him on my haunches and touched his face with the palm of my hand. A tear rolled over my cheek. “It was them.”

  Everyone gasped again. “What?” Maggie exclaimed. She looked worried.

  “What is it, Maggie?” Both Al and I asked.

  Her face blanched. “The Wyverns.”

  “What about them?” I went to her side.

  “I spoke to Merica yesterday when I came with Lucian. He fascinated her. She told me that Wyverns were going to come and search for a truce.” Her voice shook but her words rang with clarity from the memory of my daughter’s words. “She said I should do everything in my power to not give in. That they can’t be reasoned with, they can’t be trusted. If not, I would lose loved ones.”

  “We won’t trust them. Believe me, this attack made sure of it. We won’t trust them.” I cupped her face. Now I knew why Elena didn’t trust them.

  I kissed her temple and went back to Albert.

  “What do you mean it was them?” Al asked. I could tell from everyone’s faces that they wanted to know this just as much as he did.

  Isabel sat down on the nearest chair, holding Bob’s hand.

  I ran my fingers through my hair. “Blake will receive a new ability when he is thirty. Like Al, I didn’t believe them when they claimed Goran would betray us. But then she told me Blake can jump back in time, and they chose to come and warn us about what was going to happen. They had to use an enchantment to hide their true appearance because of their resemblance to us.”

  Albert gaped at me. Everyone stared at me with slack faces as if they thought me insane.

  “She said she had word about Elena.” I wrung my hands. “I almost killed her, Al. Then she told me you refused to listen. And if I did the same, I would be burned in my bed.”

  “What?” His voice was husky with emotion.

  “I still didn’t want to believe her. She told me Elena would grow up not knowing who she is as Tanya would break her promise and come back after my death. She would leave Elena. Jako would raise her alone.”

  “Jako found them?”

  I nodded.

  He swiped at his eyes.

  “She won’t even know that dragons exist, Al. I was adamant. I demanded to know how she knew all of this and she told me that it was her life, and that they are actually from the future. A future where I had been killed by Goran’s hand. She begged me to kill him so that she could come home.” A laugh escaped my lips. “To convince me, she removed the enchantment that changed their appearance.”

  “And?” his voice was gruff.

  “Blake was the first to change.” I looked at Robert and Isabel again. “He looks so much like you, Bob, but he has Isabel’s peacock eyes.”

  Isabel gave a startled and pleased little laugh. She rested her head on her husband’s shoulder.

  “I was so mesmerized by him. He reminded me of the last time he saw me in the garden, giving him a scolding. He understood all our glares and warnings. And then she said my name.” Goosebumps rose on my arms. “She called me Mom. It was her. It was the image I saw in the pond. She looks just like you.” I hugged Albert close. He cried.

  “We need to keep this new ability of the Rubicon a secret. They are going to be so powerful that…I have to be honest.” I looked at Al. “It scares me to death.”

  Al chuckled through his tears. I laughed with him.

  “Sweetheart, you were scared the minute you found out she was a girl.”

  Bob and Isabel laughed, too.

  “They can read each other’s minds. It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before.”

  “What?” Everyone burst out at the same time.

  “It’s not just old Dents anymore. She was twenty-six, and she could read his mind.”

  “They are that powerful?” Al asked.

  I nodded and cupped his cheek. “You were right about everything. She is going to help him master his dark side and he’ll remain good. I saw it.”

  He closed his eyes and smiled.

  “Except about the Wyverns. You are wrong about that. They can’t be trusted. Please tell me that you will give that a rest.”

  He laughed. “I’ve had my fair share of Wyverns. If they say they can’t be trusted, then that is where it will stay.”

  The next morning Al announced to all of Paegeia that we had a baby girl on the other side of the Wall.

  The press conference showed a happy Catherine for the first time in a year. I was going to be reunited with my child. The thing I wanted most.

  She’d given me the opportunity to change the past and to raise her myself, with Al by my side. She would have a home. She wouldn’t run anymore. Her old life would never come to pass.

  We were finally going to be a family.

  Al sent Robert and Theodore, a Moon-Bolt, to track them down. I gave Bob a letter for Tanya. Just like we’d agreed when the danger was over.

  This entire week revolved around bringing our little princess home.

  We received many calls from the other side. The news reached everyone. People wanted to know if they could assist in any way in bringing her safely to us.

  I couldn’t sleep. Instead, I used my excited energy to help set up her nursery. The one she should’ve had a long time ago. Albert himself picked up the screwdriver and assembled her crib.

  The walls were painted a soft pink. Angelic bears floated among puffy clouds. Crisp white curtains hung at the windows. The shelves were home to baby books and teddy bears of all colors and sizes. Drawers were stuffed with infant clothes, diapers, and hygiene products.

  Al moved back into the west wing with me. He was finally out of the dog house. Elena’s room was a few inches away from us.

  He wanted to hire a nanny. “Over my dead body!” I said, half laughing. “She’s my only child. I have so much catching up to do.” I planned to smother my little girl with love.

  I still worried about this Blake thing. When I saw the two of them together, they were so intense. A part of me loved to know she had such a strong connection, such a deep love. But it scared me. What would they be like growing up? Their bond would be so much stronger.

  Bob and Al argued before he left. I was scared that he might ring my dragon’s neck for making him out to be a villain. I was even more afraid he might refuse to come back. He was offended that we hadn’t trusted him with our secret. I felt dreadful about it. I made a mental note that if I ever met the adult Elena from the other night again, I would drag her life stor
y out of her. I wanted to know every aspect of what she’d gone through—what had happened to everyone in her timeline—if she came back.

  We received word that they were on their way. Tomorrow was the big day.

  I couldn’t stop remembering how it felt to hold her little body in my arms—couldn’t stop imagining how it would feel to do so again. It had been such a long time ago, but the memory…the memory was still there.

  She had been so tiny back then. I’d dreamed of this day for so long. I wondered what she looked like. I knew it would be the female version of Al. She had his eyes, his hair, and almost nothing of me. I scowled wistfully at the thought, but my grin replaced it immediately; I couldn’t be unhappy now.

  “You coming to bed?” Al’s voice filled her nursery. I was staring at the garden.

  He padded in and hugged me from behind.

  I shifted into his embrace. “I don’t know if it is going to be possible to fall asleep.”

  His lips lingered on my head. “Try. The hours will go by faster.”

  I laughed.

  “Okay.” I turned to face him. He captured me with the same green-eyed stare he’d had the night we met, both hiding behind masks.

  “I’m sorry that I was such a coward.”

  I lay a finger on his lips. “Don’t, please. She didn’t tell you who she was.”

  “Because I didn’t give her time.”

  “Well, she got through to one of us. Just promise me that she will always get through to one of us,” I said.

  He pulled me close. “Finally, a way I can redeem myself.”

  I laughed in his shoulder. “Don’t become one of those fathers who gives her everything. I don’t want her to hate me.”

  “She will never hate you, Katie.”

  I gave him a half-joking, petulant pout. “Promise?”

  “I promise.”

  I followed him to bed. We made love like young lovers, not the two-century-year-old people we were. It was the first time we were both really present in the act of love since we’d sent our baby away.

  The next day I was up early, making sure that everything was ready for her. Maggie came in with a huge teddy bear with Lucian at her side.

  He’d grown so much. I touched his face. “I missed him.”

  “He was busy. Believe me, he didn’t even notice.”

  I gave her another hug. “How do you feel?”

  “Excited. Scared. What if she doesn’t want to come to me?”

  “It’s normal. She will get used to this.”

  I nodded.

  Maggie’s voice was soothing. “Just don’t take it personally. Desi is at the stage where Helmut is everything. I doubt that I ever had her, and Lucian… Well, he will always be my boy.”

  I laughed. “So in short, she is going to be Al’s baby.”

  “When she finds out what her mother did for her, he can’t top that.” She scrunched her nose. I laughed. Maggie always knew how to make me laugh. Though Tanya was my sister, Maggie was the one who could put everything back into perspective.

  At ten we all gathered in the expansive gardens outside the castle to wait. Reporters buzzed like a hive of rumor-mongering bees. Albert answered most of their questions. I chirped a few comments like “over my dead body” here and there.

  The papers weren’t just filled with Paegeia’s new princess and her story. The revelation that the Rubicon had a rider rocked the world. Hope sparked everywhere. Plastered in the papers and on the television.

  The mood remained buoyant as my eyes stayed glued to the horizon for silhouettes of three or four dragons, depending on how Jako felt about all of this.

  I knew Al dreaded it. To look another father in the eyes and know we had traded his daughter’s life for ours. It was like murder. But we’d teach Elena about Cara, the special Thunderlight who had saved her life. We would always honor Cara.

  The minutes ticked slowly. Impatient, I glanced at my wristwatch every five seconds.

  “Relax, sweetheart. Bob is with them. He promised he would protect her with his life.”

  I nodded and gave him the ghost of a smile. But I would keep on worrying until they were in view.

  Everyone gasped. My heart leapt as I saw them: four dragons on the horizon.

  Camera flashes went off like mad. It overpowered everything.

  The Green-Vapor clutched something small in her arms. My breath seized in my lungs.

  “See? What did I tell you?” Al’s lips brushed against my ears. Then he stiffened as his gaze fell on Jako, flying at the rear of the procession.

  It was my turn. “It’s going to be okay. Whatever he needs, Al.”

  He nodded.

  They started to descend. I craned my neck, but couldn’t see Elena. Irrational fear of something happening to her lay heavy on my gut. “Where is she?”

  “Shh, calm down. Bob would’ve already said something if she wasn’t with them.”

  Bob landed first. Then Tanya. Gosh, I’d missed her. Theodore hurtled in. Jako took his time.

  My eyes locked onto my dragon; Tanya had shifted back into her human form and accepted a proffered robe from a servant. She pulled it over her perfectly shaped body as she made her way to me.

  Where is my child? My eyes were wild. Hers weren’t. She grabbed me around my neck and just hugged me tight, ignoring my concerns, my crazily thumping heart, my emotions that must have overpowered her.

  “Katie! I missed you so much.”

  Flashes went off like mad.

  “I missed you, too. But where the hell is my baby?”

  She pushed me away so that our eyes could meet. She gave me her perfect, dashing smile. The one that made knees go weak. “That one only has eyes for the men.”

  “What?” I demanded. She merely pointed at Jako as he came to a lumbering landing.

  His right paw was curled gently into a ball. When he changed, a small package was in his arms. He grabbed and donned a robe. He slung the baby sling over his neck, pushing one arm through the straps as he walked up to us.

  Cameras flashed like crazy.

  I felt paralyzed. She was here. She was finally home.

  Al wrapped his arm around me. Tanya took my other side.

  Theodore and Bob positioned themselves right behind us. Jako walked up the stairs and he stopped in front of me.

  Tears blurred my vision. His eyes glistened, too.

  “Jako?” Al sounded grave.

  The Copper-Horn waved a hand. “Don’t. No need.”

  I had eyes for one thing only: the sling. A tiny, chubby arm reached out. My heart stopped.

  He pulled her softly out of her sling. Soft blonde curls clung to the nape of her neck. She was wearing the cutest yellow dress—and no shoes.

  “Yeah, not so fond of shoes either,” Tanya quipped. I couldn’t help but laugh.

  “Bear,” Jako murmured. “I want you to meet your real mommy and daddy.”

  She finally looked at both of us. My lungs decided to start working again. I took a shaky breath. She had her father’s beautiful green eyes.

  I didn’t know if I should hold out my arms to her or if I should give her space to get used to me for now.

  “She won’t bite,” Tanya whispered. “She hasn’t reached that phase yet.”

  I laughed through my tears and stepped forward. I reached out my arms, and to my surprise she came to me after the briefest hesitation.

  She fit perfectly in my arms. As if they were created just for her. She just stared at me as my happy tears rolled over my cheeks.

  “Hello, baby girl,” I said.

  She immediately went for my necklace as my lips lingered on her head.

  “Already intrigued with the expensive stuff,” Al chirped. The media—whom I’d forgotten entirely—laughed as they snapped our pictures.

  He bent over and kissed her head.

  I was never going to let her out of my sight again.

  Isabel walked over with Blake in dragon form. Elena needed to get use
d to him; she was going to be his rider one day.

  I crouched on my haunches with her in my arms. Albert kneeled at my side.

  Blake was not one of the most beautiful dragons out there. Already he was terrifyingly huge, and the dark purplish hue of his scales hinted at his dark side. He was still so young; he hadn’t taken a human form yet. But I remembered the way he would eventually look. Why were they always so damn pretty? To lure girls like mine into sin. She is one year old, Katie, not there yet.

  At first she didn’t notice him. She only gazed at my necklace clutched in her tiny fist. Then he let out a baby growl, a growl of boredom. That got her attention.

  Her entire body shook as she got a fright and started to cry.

  I got up and walked away from him. I couldn’t help the smile, and Isabel had to suppress hers as well.

  “Not there yet?” I said. The reporters laughed. “That’s my girl,” I whispered in her ear.

  Tanya and Jako stayed with us for the first six months.

  The first night was the hardest. Baby Elena didn’t want Albert or me. She bawled for Tanya and Jako. That was expected. But two months in, nothing seemed to change.

  Her rejection broke my heart.

  This was what Margerite had warned me about, but how did one handle it? Albert was really good. He gave her time and space. But not me. I hated every minute of her crying out for Jako or Tanya.

  “It will get better, I promise.” Tanya hugged me and kissed me on my head. “She’s just not accustomed to all this. She will get used to it.”

  It carried on for about another two excruciating months. I slowly came to terms with the fact that a year was just too long for Elena. She’d forgotten about me, but that was fine. She was so little. It wasn’t personal.

  Still, I spent all the time I could with her. Playing peekaboo in the garden, hide-and-seek, all sorts of games Jako and Tanya had played with her.

  Albert got his fair share of playing with her, too, and I respected Jako and Tanya for stepping aside when it was our family time.

  One night, about four months after her return, she screamed again. I didn’t go to her like I did in the beginning. Tanya rushed into my room.

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