My father cleared his throat and our kiss broke.
“Welcome back, Blake. For a minute I thought you weren’t going to make it,” my father said.
“My king, good to see you are looking healthier.”
I hit my dad playfully on his arm. “You knew?”
“It was a surprise, sweetpea.” He laughed. “Why do you think I chose that song?”
“How long did you know?” I was upset. If he had known how close I was, even if I’d said I would be patient, he wouldn’t have kept this from me.
“This morning,” Blake answered instead. “It wasn’t that long, and I flew here as fast as I could when my dad finally told me that you’d woken. I literally landed ten minutes ago and I still had to sing.”
I laughed and gave him a hug around his waist.
My father cleared his throat and looked at both of us with raised eyebrows.
“Seriously. I’m nineteen.”
“Don’t worry, I got the speech already,” Blake said, looking at my father.
I looked at him. From whom? And then I remembered that day in the manor. Sir Robert and Isabel. His arm was still around my waist.
“So did you get your stupid orbs?” I asked him.
“Oh they are far from stupid, and I think it’s time I shared with everyone what it is they can do.”
“What they do?”
He raised his eyebrows. “It’s a surprise, so go dress warm, wear a rain coat and boots.”
“What, why?” It was a beautiful night, no clouds or even a hint of a rainstorm coming.
“Just do it. I don’t want you to ruin that pretty dress of yours.”
My father looked at me with a slight frown.
“You too,” Blake said and looked at my dad. “It’s something both of you need to see.”
“Fine, but don’t disappear again.” I held my finger in his face.
“Not in a million years.”
I smiled, turned around and ran in the direction of my room.
I looked back at him hugging his sister and his mom. I had to pinch myself as I rushed up the steps to go change. It was real, he was here. A million years wasn’t farfetched to me anymore. It could happen: It was Paegeia and I had his Essence.
I had to ask Simone for help getting me out of my dress.
My father had taken in Jeeves and most of King Helmut’s staff. The palace in Tith was going to be our second home.
“I’m so happy that he finally returned, were you surprised?”
“You knew too?” I asked.
“It was a hard surprise to keep, princess.”
I saw it in her eyes. She knew how much I’d missed him. Sometimes she’d even found me crying on my bed when I thought he was dead, when I was so sure he was dead. Where the hell was he?
I finally got out of my dress and pulled on my jeans, boots that came up to my calves and a T-shirt with a blazer over it.
I rushed back downstairs as Simone took my dress to the laundry room.
“Enjoy,” she sang and a small giggle escaped her as I waved at her.
I found Sir Robert waiting for me. No Blake.
“Don’t worry, he had to set up for this surprise,” he said.
I smiled. “When did he phone you?”
“This morning, during breakfast.” They’d had a breakfast just for my father and all his men. We’d been having a girl’s thing, and I’d really tried to enjoy it.
“Blake was speaking so fast, I could hardly hear a word he was saying, but I knew the tone. He was panicking, and then I just had to tell him you’d woken up and were waiting for him.”
I smiled like an idiot.
“It’s a good day, Elena.”
“Yes, the best.”
He took me to the garden by the small waterfall and the huge lake. Gardens would never be just a garden to me anymore.
I found my dad, Annie, Constance, Isabel, Becky, Sammy, George and Emanuel all waiting by the lake.
Blake was missing again, and I searched everywhere.
I didn’t like this.
“Look up,” my father said and I found him walking on the cliff above the waterfall. He bent down every five yards, placing one of his orbs on a spot. When he was done, he dove into the lake and came walking out looking like a Tommy Hilfiger ad.
He shook his head and water splashed all over me.
I laughed, put my hands up in defense and he stopped and gave me another quick kiss on the mouth before he bent down and took the last orb out of his bag.
“I need utter silence now, please. Not a peep.”
We all just looked at him as he took a few steps back. He held the orb with both hands and winked at me before he closed his eyes. “And don’t be scared,” he said, just as I looked away, and when I turned to him to find out what was up with the Don’t be scared comment, the orb in his hand was already glowing.
All the others he placed up on the cliff started to glow too. It was a faint light then they grew brighter and brighter. They all took on a different color, shooting beams out that connected with the orb in Blake’s hand. He concentrated real hard as he guided all the orbs’ colors to the lake. The water started turning blue, then the purple connected with the blue, the pink started to melt into them, and soon all the colors of the rainbow flowed into one another.
It was simply beautiful. A silver spot right into the middle appeared and slowly grew bigger. It moved to the edge and then it turned into a bright silver light. It made the lake look like a big bright moon.
We all gasped at its beauty.
The water started to ripple. Something was in there and I looked at Blake again who was still concentrating.
‘Don’t be afraid.’ That was what he’d said.
I clung onto my father’s arm, who looked calm as always. He gave me a soft smile, but didn’t take his eyes off the water as his hand lay on top of mine.
Something started to emerge from the lake.
I didn’t know what it was at first, but halfway through I knew it was two people. One was huge and another was about Sammy’s height.
I thought about the mermaids. My encounter with them hadn’t been good.
They wore cloaks and their faces were covered as they came to a standstill a few feet away, still in the water.
One took off its hood first and revealed a girl in her early twenties. She had purple streaks in her dark, curly short hair and she smiled, looking at Blake, then her eyes found mine. Her smile grew slightly.
It made me feel awkward as I had no idea who she was. The next one took off its hood and my eyes lingered on him for a few seconds. They grew slightly as I realized who it was.
My heart was beating so fast. How…this cannot be.
I looked at Blake, who was staring at them too.
He nodded toward the second figure as if in greeting.
I looked back at the man in the lake, who was staring at me now, and I left my father’s arm and ran into the lake.
I could hear how my father said “Thank you.” To who, I didn’t care.
I flung my arms around him. “I’m so sorry.” It barely came out.
“Shhhh, Bear. It’s all right.” He stroked my back. Herbert’s hands were stroking my back.
“How is this possible?”
He laughed, the one that creased up his cheeks, the one that lit up his eyes. His eyes glistened with tears, and he cupped my face gently. They felt so warm. “You still don’t understand what his orbs can do, do you?”
My father was dead. I stared at him. He looked so real. He had tears in his eyes. He was warm, and then I got it.
Blake could communicate with the dead through them.
I looked back at Blake, at my father and back at Herbert.
“I should’ve never fought with you. You had to raise me when you knew that I killed…” I froze then looked at the girl next to him. She had dark hair, purple streaks showing here and there. “Cara?”
She smiled. “What took you so long, sugar?”
I flung my arms around her. “I missed you so much.”
“What, the rodent still giving you hell? It doesn’t sound like that.”
I frowned, not knowing what she meant by that last part, but I didn’t care. She was here, in her own body.
“It’s not what I meant.”
“I know, and I told you I’m always here.” She touched my chest, “Well, figure of speech.”
I smiled and hugged her again. “You taught me so much.”
“That was why my egg hatched. To guide you. It’s amazing, the afterlife, you just know what you were created for, but you have to wait for it for a very long time, but something tells me you will have your own piece of heaven right here.”
I squeezed her tighter. Something told me she wasn’t staying, as she just stroked my back.
“Jako.” My father stood in front of the person in the water who had raised me.
“Don’t, my king. I always knew when Cara hatched that she’d been created for a bigger destiny.”
King Albert touched Cara’s face gently.
She smiled. “Hey, I remember you.” She hugged my real father. “Always so kind, and we used to play for hours.”
My dad laughed, but regret and guilt lacing his expression. “It was my pleasure, really. She was a great part of my life.” Cara looked back at me.
“I don’t know how to thank you both,” my father said. “It will never be enough. You stayed when Tanya didn’t.” He looked at Herbert again.
“I should’ve told her sooner,” Herbert answered softly.
“Don’t. It worked out just like it should.” My dad smiled.
They both laughed, as it was something Herbert always said.
“Just enjoy the time you get with her, she is a remarkable young lady, Al.”
“Thanks to you.”
“We have to go, Elena,” Herbert said.
“Already?” I looked at both of them.
“Hey. We want to stay,” Cara said. “We just can’t.”
“Take care of her, rodent.” Cara looked past me at Blake. “Or I’ll come haunt your ass.”
“I’d be so lucky,” Blake joked, and I gave her another hug and my father too.
“I love you.”
“I love you more, Bear. Always have, always will. See you again one day,” my father said and winked at me.
I watched them go back into the water and needed to say thank you to Blake. He’d given me a chance to say sorry to my father. To say goodbye, something I’d never thought I would ever get to say. But when I turned around, his eyes were closed, concentrating again in order to get them safely back home.
I walked to him slowly, waiting until he’d finished, and then Constance and Isabel gasped. I heard the splashing of water and when I turned to see, all of the people on the shore were bowing. My father’s cane was on the ground.
I turned around as saw him hugging a smaller figure, crying and whispering.
My legs felt slightly wobbly. It can’t be.
“Go, Elena,” Blake said, and I looked at him. “She really wants to see you.” His eyes were open.
“I’m so sorry, Katie. I should’ve tried harder,” my father cried softly as I walked back slowly to the lake.
“Shhhh,” she whispered. “I love you so much, and I was so lost back then. I made your life a living hell. I’m sorry.” I only heard her voice, my father was blocking her entire body with his.
“You had all the reason in the world to feel lost.”
I stared at my father’s back.
“Elena,” he said. “I want you to meet the bravest woman I’ve ever met. Your mother.”
He turned his head toward me and moved out of the way.
She was gorgeous, just like in the pictures that were hanging on my bedroom walls, just like that last dream I’d had of her, and that one interview when she’d had no idea I was there. With brown hair and big, doe-like gray eyes. Her smile made you feel as if you could do anything. Why couldn’t I look like her?
We stared at one another then she opened her arms. I ran to her, not fast enough. It was as if everything in this universe had tried to not make this reunion possible. When I finally connected hard with her body, she had to step slightly back to keep her balance.
She was as tall as me, and her arms felt so motherly. She hugged me so tightly I immediately felt the love she’d had for me. They were so familiar, arms I’d only felt for a short time when I was so little.
She kissed me all over my face and hugged me again. “You are all grown up,” she whispered and sniffed. Her face was inches from mine. “I love you so much, and I will never ever stop loving you. I really wanted you, and I’m so sorry that we never got to share anything. I really looked forward to our shopping sprees.”
“Oh, and could she shop,” my father joked, with tears glistening in his eyes.
“Shush.” She slapped my father, and I laughed.
“But I promise you, you will have an amazing life.” She tugged my hair behind my ear. “One that will be filled with love, and memories. Your destiny is written in the stars, and one day, one day, we’ll go on that shopping spree.”
I hugged her again, and she kissed me on my head one more time. “I love you, baby.”
“Please don’t go.” My voice broke.
“If it was possible sweet, sweet girl, I would stay, but I can’t. I’m no longer a part of this world, but you have a great mother now. She’ll look after you.”
I nodded. I wanted to say I wanted her, not Constance, but I loved Constance too. How does one choose?
She wiped my tears while hers were still lying thick in her eyes.
“I’ll always be with you. I promise.” She kissed me one more time on my temple and started to retreat.
I didn’t want her to go but our hands left one another, and my shoulders shook when she moved back into the water.
My father hugged me, comforted me as I was forced to look at her retreating figure.
“I love you, Catherine Squires,” my father said. “Always have, always will.”
She laughed. “Don’t be so forward. Your new bride might get jealous.”
I heard Constance’s laughter from the shore. She didn’t say anything.
And then she was gone.
“I’m so sorry, Elena. Believe me, if I’d known it was Goran I would’ve done something. I swear to you.” A stray tear rolled down my father’s cheek.
“Shhh.” I sniffed. “It’s in the past, Dad.” We couldn’t change it, but at least I’d gotten a chance to have met her and not through a stupid device. This time it was for real.
One by one the orbs started to make a whizzing sound and shoot into the air. We all watched as they exploded one after another into the sky. First red, then pink, orange, yellow, blue. All of them exploded in a stream of colors, and died out with tiny colorful sparkles that fell from the sky. It was the meanest and most amazing fireworks display I’d ever seen.
The last one shot through the air and engulfed the night sky with its purple light. I’d had that orb in my hands once. It was one of them that Blake had had to dig out with his talons. I looked back at Blake, who kissed the last one he held, as if he were parting with a great treasure. He threw it up into the air as hard as he could and a bright light filled the night sky, no explosion, and they were gone.
He’d used them all for me, so I could say goodbye to the people I couldn’t, and meet the one person I really wanted to, my mom.
I ran over to him and jumped into his arms.
“Thank you,” I said, my voice raspy.
“Shhhh,” he said against my ear. “I’m sorry I couldn’t give you more time.”
“Thank you Blake,” my father interrupted us and Blake put me down. “I can’t thank you enough. I know what they must have meant to you.”
“They mean nothing compare to what your daughter means to me.”
“Please.” My father shook his head, his tone quite serious. “Don’t ask me for my blessing, not yet.”
We all laughed.
“Too soon?” Blake joked.
“Way, way too soon.”
We went back to the wedding. I couldn’t get my mother out of my head. She was real, she was there and I had to let her go again, just like that.
“Fly with me?” Blake asked.
He took my hand and led me outside where he started to strip down and change.
I didn’t look away this time. He was right, I had to get used to his nakedness and he just smiled when he found me staring at him.
“It’s about time,” he joked and transformed.
The Rubicon, as hulking as ever, stood in his place, and I climbed onto his back with his assistance.
When my hands touched his neck sprouts I twirled them softly around my hands. I’d never thought that I would feel so safe on top of his back, but it was now the most natural place for me to be. His colossal wings started to flap and we ascended into the sky.
The wind against my face made me feel free again.
I was finally at peace, and he’d given that final peace to me.
My mom was happy wherever she was, and Herbert knew how sorry I was for making everything so hard on him. And Cara, she was beautiful, just as I’d imagined she would if I hadn’t been her human form.
My heart was at peace and Blake was responsible for that.
He spoke and I gasped softly.
He was reciting poems off the top of his head, of tonight’s scenery, the way he felt, the way I made him feel.
It wasn’t his dragon’s voice, and I knew what that meant.
I could hear him, and I closed my eyes and became lost in his head, how he saw the beauty of this flight.
He descended and we landed in a clearing.
It was a place Becky and George had told me about, a place in Etan, but I’d never gone. I would’ve just ended up missing him more, and I struggled with it back then. The place was stunning, something that one only saw in a picture of a fantasy world.
The moon was reflecting on a small river, and the meadow lit up with fireflies, or they could be fairies. The words Blake used to describe this in his head were so beautiful, I could understand why Professor Pheizer had tears in her eyes that day when I’d told her what the voice in my head said.
He transformed again and came to stand behind me with his arms wrapped around me.
His body was so warm, heat radiated from it, just like a blanket.
“I’m sorry that I took so long,” he said.
“It’s fine. You had to find them. Just promise me next time you have to do something like that again, I can fit in your bag.”
He chuckled. “I’ve promised this way too many times, but this time, you have my oath.”
I smiled. He would never leave me to go do something like that ever again. He’d sworn it with his entire being that he would take me with him.
It was quiet as we stood there and watched the million fireflies around us.
“That poem was beautiful.”
“I know, you told me that before.”
“Not the one you turned into a song Blake, the one you spoke when we came here.”
He was quiet for a few seconds. “You heard that?”
I nodded. “I heard it when we were separated in the castle too, when Goran was pretending to be Helmut. I couldn’t see you, and I was so scared. I really thought Helmut wanted to kill me, and then your voice roared that it was Goran.”
“He didn’t want you to find out that he was his twin.”
I turned around in his arms to look at him. “I know that now.”
He smiled softly but it disappeared.
“Why the long face?” I asked.
“It’s not a two-way stream. I can’t hear yours.”
“Guess it’s a bit of payback,” I said and he smiled. “It will come back, Blake. That I know.”
He smiled and took a deep breath. I knew that breath. He had to be patient. “Well, if you can see my thoughts, maybe now I can show you something.”
I narrowed my eyes. “What on earth would that be?” I joked.
He grinned. “Shhh.”
I closed my eyes and found myself in the same white room I had that day underneath the tree.
I started to laugh. “You want to show me the dent again?”
A picture of my face filled my mind as the white room disappeared. I opened my eyes and saw a slight frown between his eyes.
“What do you mean by again?”
“You already showed me that.”
“No, I would’ve remembered if I had.” He had a sheepish, yet confused smile on his face.
I laughed, but it disappeared. It had to be real. “That day in the forest. I thought you were going to say goodbye to me. It looked as if you were hiding something.”
“I even told you that it didn’t make sense. That if you were there.” He put his finger on my mouth this time and closed his eyes. Images of that dream flew into his mind.
That was you?
“Who else would it have been?”
He showed me something else. That it was him or he’d thought it was him imagining that. I saw the picture of me lying on a bed, with a machine breathing for me. The emotion with that was hard to explain, it was tormenting, it made it hard to breath. He was lying next to me as day and night kept moving fast.
“I don’t understand.”
I did that so many times during that first month, wanting to connect with you, to bring you back. I needed to hear your voice, even if it was my own doing. I didn’t care.
An image of that day and that kiss I’d given him, it had felt real to him, so strong. He should’ve known that it was real. He’d left that day.
I just looked at him. “You really tried that more than once?”
“Every time I possibly could,” he said.
I closed my eyes and our lips touched again. I could kiss him forever. It became harder and faster.
He grunted as a promise, flashes really flew through his mind, and broke our kiss.
“What was that?” I laughed.
“I can’t.” He smiled. “I made a promise to keep my hormones at bay until our wedding day.”
We both laughed as he spoke in rhyme.
“And your father just told me that it is too soon, so it’s going to be hard for me but I want to try.”
“Who did you promise?” He hid his thoughts from me as I didn’t get it. He was so good at everything. A master.
I frowned. I had been there, and he hadn’t promised her anything like that.
He looked at me with so much love. Flashes of another place entered his mind. It was so beautiful, so bright, and Lucian’s face flashed fast through his thoughts. He tried to hide it, but I saw Lucian’s face.
“When I used half the orbs’ powers to go talk to him.”
“To who?” Lucian?
“Lucian. I thought he had you, Elena.”
I stared at him. Lucian was dead, and then I got what he was saying. “You called Lucian the way you called my mom?”
He chuckled and shook his head. “No, he didn’t want to speak to me, which only confirmed my fears, so I had to take a trip to go beat his ass.” His grin remained.
More flashes of this serene place went through his mind. I saw Helmut and Queen Margerite too with an unknown girl. Goose bumps broke over my skin. “You were on the other side?” My voice broke.
He nodded. “Time works differently that side. I struggled to track him down and promised that if I found him with you, I was going to scorch him, didn’t matter how saintly he was, until he gave you up. When I finally found him, he was surrounded by girls.” He smiled. “He told me it wasn’t the reason he didn’t want to speak to me. He wanted peace. He said that you were not there, and that was how I met your mother. She’s a lot like you. When she discovered who I was, she scared the living crap out of me.”
“You told her that you didn’t treat me like crap anymore, right?”
He chuckled. “Not about that. About taking advantage of you. She’s very traditional and didn’t want you doing things with me you were not supposed to be doing until your wedding night.”
I laughed just watching his image of her pushing him against the tree. She was scary. “You didn’t mention…”
“Hell, no,” he whispered, and we both laughed softly.
Our eyes met again and he looked at me – really looked at me, as if he could see straight into my heart. I hated that look. He made me feel everything at once when he did that. “I’m sorry I couldn’t give you more time. It turns out I still needed to learn how to be patient too.”
“Shhh, I have that same problem.”
“And now I just went and made it even worse.”
I hugged him again. “We’ll see it as a learning experience.”
I buried my face deep in his shoulder and just breathed in his Essence.
“You really went to the other side for me.” It wasn’t a question, more of a statement. One that was struggling to sink in.
He lifted my chin so I could look at him and smiled. “When will you get it, Elena? Not even death can keep me away from you.”