tempest reborn (jane true #6) Page 26


‘I loved you very much, too,’ she murmured into what had been my ear as her arm tightened around nothing.

I was only a presence then as the creature’s giant eye grew larger, blazing with power, until it whispered in a harsh, unfamiliar voice.

‘Finally,’ it said. Its eye met mine, full of love and triumph and hope and a thousand other emotions I couldn’t begin to name. It spoke one last time.

‘I told you, child. There are always options.’

And then it died.

The moment of its death hit like another big bang. Everything exploded around me in a flood of white light that shattered eternity.

I was flung too far to comprehend with a force beyond flying.

To be honest, I wish the creature had been able to give us some sort of warning of its intentions.

Because Anyan just about had a heart attack when the corpse he’d been sobbing all over sat up in his arms, gasping for breath.

Epilogue

‘Reader, I married him,’ I said to Iris as I watched Anyan dandle Layla on his knee after passing Grace over to my father.

‘No, you didn’t,’ my succubus friend reminded me absent-mindedly before chasing after Grizzie and Tracy’s just-toddling boys, Tom and Dennis. Their mothers had come in long enough to pass their kids over to Iris and then they’d sacked out next to my dad on our couch. They still had their coats on and the girls’ birthday presents in their hands, and they looked about as tired as I felt.

‘I was being literary,’ I called out after Iris in my defense. It was true that Anyan and I never married, simply because supes don’t go in for that type of thing. But I had given him a promise to love him as fiercely as I could, and then I’d given him babies.

Twin girls to be exact, currently resplendent in Pampers and matching blanket rompers. I watched as my father and Anyan cooed over them, thankful for their adoration. The truth was, I think Anyan and my dad only really forgave me for eviscerating myself once I’d given them babies. Before that, there had been a substratum of our relationships made up of a steely wall of anger that never quite gave way.

I couldn’t blame them, of course. If either of them had done what I’d done, I’d have killed their dead bodies. Twice.

‘Oops, I think Layla needs changing,’ Anyan said, standing up with a groan. He looked as tired as I did. Twins did that to a body. But standing there with his hair sticking out at every angle, his gray eyes shadowed by dark circles, and baby sick staining his Eukenuba shirt, I’d never thought him handsomer. My love caressed my dark head with his strong hand as he went to change our girl.

My dad rocked Grace gently as she promptly fell asleep. Layla was Anyan’s child – big gray eyes and enough energy to keep both of us on our toes. Grace was mine.

In case there was any doubt, the air around Grace shimmered, and lying on my dad’s chest was a tiny, perfect seal dressed in a blanket romper.

‘I’ll never get over that,’ Grizzie said, her voice awed.

‘Me neither,’ I said drily. After seeing Grizzie and Tracy go through it themselves, I thought I’d been ready when Caleb told me I was having twins. Until I gave birth to one girl and one seal. A true selkie, Grace had gone ahead and reverted to her watery form in utero.

‘Thank the gods I never let you talk me into a human doctor,’ I reminded my father.

‘I know,’ he replied with a chuckle. ‘Although I do sometimes like to imagine the conversation when the ultrasound found flippers.’

‘Something tells me the doctor would not have found the situation as funny as we would.’

‘Probably not,’ my dad replied, still chuckling. He stroked a gentle hand down my daughter’s fur. To be honest, I still wasn’t entirely comfortable with having a seal pup for a baby, although Anyan dealt with it much better than I. He was the one to coax her back into human shape, after all, when I’d been squeamish about nursing a baby seal.

‘They’re a miracle on so many levels,’ my dad said, touching upon the elephant that, although it had shrunk in size, still stood in a corner of every room.

Grizzie and Tracy both looked away uncomfortably.

‘Dad, I had to do it,’ I said for about the millionth time. Of course, Anyan chose that moment to return with Layla, who was squirming around in his arms trying to see everything there was to see.

Hearing what I said, Anyan growled. Layla hiccoughed and looked up at her daddy.

‘Are we really going to have this conversation again?’ I thought it had died with the babies’ birth.

‘I know you did what you had to,’ my dad said, to my astonishment. ‘I’ve thought about it a lot, obviously, since I was told what happened. And I’m starting to understand. I just wish…’

His words trailed off. He didn’t have to say what he wished; it was what we all wished – that I hadn’t had to make that choice, that I’d known and could have warned everyone, that I hadn’t had to actually go through with it.

‘That’s not how sacrifice works,’ I reminded my dad and Anyan. ‘It had to be real. It was real. And I’d do it again to save you and save everyone we love.’

‘No, you won’t,’ Anyan said flatly. But his eyes were on our twins. He’d been willing to die for me, and it was particularly unreasonable that he’d taken so long to accept that I’d be willing to do the same for him. But he’d been that unreasonable. Anyan had been furious with me after I’d woken, an anger fueled by all that fear he’d felt seeing me die.

We’d had to start almost from scratch when I came to. He’d felt betrayed in a way I couldn’t figure out until Iris made me stop and put myself in his shoes. Even if I’d done it for the right reasons and it had worked out, that moment of losing me had hurt Anyan as deeply as a person could be hurt. It didn’t matter why I’d done it or that it had ended all right, my actions had wounded him in as final a way as possible.

Once I understood that, I’d been able to approach him differently. Instead of being upset that he didn’t get that what I’d done had been for him, I acknowledged the fact that what I’d done had eviscerated him as messily and as painfully as it had me. I’d asked for forgiveness for real, and he’d been able to give it to me.

He’d also given me twins less than a year later. I couldn’t help wondering if my fertility was a parting gift of the universe or the creature, or if there was simply something in Rockabill’s water. But our babies had certainly been the magical fix to our relationship that babies usually aren’t.

I think they reminded the barghest that we can all love others more than ourselves, and that he didn’t have the monopoly on martyrdom. That’s when he’d apologized to me for being so hurt, and everything had gone back to pretty much perfect.

We watched as Layla shimmered again, turning back into a human baby. I shook my head, wondering what she was dreaming about, and wondering how long she’d stay with us. Instead of looking forward to a kid going to college, I had to look forward to a kid moving into the sea.

Parenthood was going to be as interesting as anything else in the supernatural world.

‘So, tell us about your date last night,’ Anyan said to my father. ‘You like this lady, don’t you?’

‘Patti’s real nice,’ my dad said, blushing almost as red as the sofa he sat on. ‘She cooked dinner over at her place, and it was nice.’

Anyan chuckled. ‘Nice, huh?’

‘Yeah,’ my dad said. ‘Real nice.’

My eyes darted between the two men, who seemed to be communicating on some level of testosterone I couldn’t quite comprehend, but I was pretty sure I didn’t want to translate.

Grizzie butted in, coaxing a few more details about Patti from my dad, and then we continued to chitchat. The gossip from Rockabill was blessedly normal, something I still appreciated, as I was still grateful I’d been able to go back home.

And that was when the rest of the guests showed up.

‘Sorry I’m late,’ Caleb said, clip-clopping inside still wearing his medical scrubs. Well, at least his shirt. He’d gotten a job at the local clinic, under a glamour obviously, and was making a good living in Eastport as Dr Caprone. Iris walked back in from the porch, where she’d chased the toddlers, one squirming bundle of Grizzie-spawn under each arm. She kissed her mate, passing him Tom at the same time. She kept the other toddler, Dennis, for herself.

‘Trill and Nell are coming; they’ll be late. Ryu’s just coming now,’ Caleb said. ‘He and Daoud are unpacking gifts.’

‘Hopefully not out of Daoud’s pants,’ I muttered, going outside to help.

‘Hey, boys!’ I called, wandering down to where Daoud and Ryu were trying to extricate an enormous package out of the tiny trunk of Ryu’s latest sports car. I couldn’t help laughing.

‘She who laughs gets no presents,’ the baobhan sith said, glaring at me over the top of his dark designer sunglasses, before continuing to mutter swear words at his car.

‘I’m sorry. Can I help?’