I just hoped for two things. One, that Maisie would recover quickly from her wounds— both physical and emotional. And two, that eventually I could look at my sister’s face and not see the feral monster who killed the male I loved.
Back in the main boulevard, the green expanse lay in ruins from pools of blood and blackened circles from dead vamps. Scorch marks marred the white stone tombs. The air stank of spent magic and death. Several mages and fae bent over the bodies of fallen comrades, tending to wounds or whispering blessings for the departed.
The protective instinct that had insulated me from reality was already receding. My nerve endings sizzled like live, exposed wires. My arm and back screamed from injuries. But the wounds on my heart caused the greatest pain. Because even though Lavinia was finally dead, achieving that goal— even indirectly— had come at too high a cost.
I paused as the truth slammed into me like a battering ram. David had predicted tough choices with long-range consequences. Had he known I’d choose to go it alone and fail, thus setting off this chain of events? Or would any choice have netted the same outcome?
And how would the choices I made tonight impact all of us going forward? Obviously, my choice to allow Maisie to kill Lavinia would be a factor. On the other hand, Lavinia’s death would allow the peace accord among the fae, mages, and vampires to go forward. But could Tanith really be trusted as an ally? And would the Queen or Orpheus listen to me when I told them any peace was tenuous as long as Cain still lived? The weight of those big questions was almost too much to bear in the wake of such personal loss.
I looked up at the moon and allowed the heaviness to settle deep into my bones. Closing my eyes, I imagined Adam’s face in my mind. I realized the image was a memory of the first time I’d seen him in that smoky vampire bar in Los Angeles. He’d been trying hard not to be noticed, but a male like Adam was hard to miss.
A tear ran down my cheek. Hard to miss in a lot of ways.
May the Great Mother wrap you in her arms and keep you safe until I can join you.
Footsteps crunched on the grass. I looked up and saw a familiar silver-haired mage emerge from between two crypts. “Rhea?”
She wiped a bloody hand across her brow. “Sabina. Thank the goddess you’re okay.”
“What are you still doing here? Why would you risk staying?” Pain and worry added an acidic edge to my words. When I thought about how she could have been injured ….. or worse, my chest tightened.
“Sabina, I might be an old woman, but I’m not a coward. Besides, I had healing to do here.”
She slashed a hand through the air. “What’s done is done.”
The dam broke and I threw my arms around her. “I’m so sorry.”
Her silver brows slammed together. “What in the world are you apologizing for? I told you Maisie’s prophecy was right.”
I pulled back, my face wet with tears. “What?”
She smiled at me. “The prophecy. About how you were going to unite the dark races and stop the war? Look around you.” She motioned in a circle, “You brought together fae, mages, demons, weres, vamps, and, hell, even a human. Lavinia is dead. The war is no longer a threat.”
I boggled at her. Had grief over Adam’s death made her come unhinged? “What? I don’t care about that—”
“Well, you should, because you lost the bet.” The bet she referred to was one we made back when Maisie told me about the prophecy. I’d told the mage I didn’t believe in fate or in my ability to unite anyone. She told me she reserved the right to rub my nose in it when I was proved wrong. “And because you lost, consider yourself officially I-told-you-so’d.”
Considering the Cain factor, I felt her words were a tad premature. But what bothered me more was the lack of emotion she displayed. “Rhea, are you feeling all right?” I asked, putting a hand to her forehead. “I was trying to tell you I’m sorry about Adam.”
She frowned. “That wasn’t your fault. Besides, it all worked out in the end.”
“What?” I whispered. How could she say that?
“I will say, though, it took just about every resource I had at my disposal to revive him.”
My stomach somersaulted. I grabbed her arms. “What!”
She shot me a look. “Sabina? What—”
Movement behind Rhea captured my attention. A familiar silhouette emerged from behind the tombs like an apparition. My knees went weak. Reaching blindly toward a vault wall for support, I both cursed and thanked the goddesses for the Chthonic powers that allowed me to see Adam’s ghost one final time.
A low keening cry rose from my diaphragm. “Oh, gods, Adam!” The pain was literally too much to contain.
Seemingly oblivious to my agony, Rhea turned and put her hand on her hips. “Adam? I told you to stay put.”
The ghost looked up and stilled, one hand pressed against his chest and the other against the solid wall of the tomb. A white bandage marred with a splotch of bright red wrapped his chest.
Rhea’s voice sounded far away. “You’re going to reopen your wound stumbling around like that.”
That’s when it clicked that, unlike David’s ghostly form, I couldn’t see through Adam.
“I needed to …..” He paused. “Sabina?”
At the sound of his voice, my knees finally buckled. “Adam?” I whispered brokenly.
He took a step toward me. The move forced his handsome face into a grimace of pain. Something about that expression— so real and unghostly— finally convinced me that he was real.
Oh, my gods. He’s alive!
I moved without conscious thought. Moved so fast I’m not sure my feet actually touched the ground. Finally— miraculously— my arms clamped around his solid form until I clung to him like a vine. Hesitantly, his own arms slid around me as great, heaving sobs wracked my chest.
“Hey,” he said. “It’s okay.”
I wanted to explain, but I couldn’t speak. Just a few seconds ago I was convinced I’d never be okay again. But now, the hope I’d abandoned reignited in my chest.
From far away I heard Rhea mumble something about giving us some privacy. My head rubbed back and forth on his shoulder. I wanted to explain, but I couldn’t speak. His hands found my face, gently urging me to look at him. “Did someone not make it?” His voice cracked. “Maisie—”
A whole new round of sobbing began, robbing me of speech. Unable to control myself, I launched at him again, pressing my lips to his. He returned the kiss slowly at first and then relaxed into it, deepening it with his tongue.