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The Unseen Kingdoms - Chapter 30

David's last class ended just before evening. He had no idea how his students hadn't noticed he was distracted all day. Thoughts of Sara had been tormenting him. He knew nothing about her; he knew only that he had to see her again. Needed to know everything. She needed him to protect her soul, and he wanted nothing more than to oblige. How long had he been waiting to find love? He had lost count of the years. Then, suddenly, she had appeared before him, and now he had to no way to find her again.

"Love's folly," he murmured as he walked into his office.

"Are you referring to me?" Sara stood up from the chair she had been sitting in, and a smile curved her lips as she saw his startled expression. "I asked another professor to let me in. I think she suspects I have ulterior motives, which I may have confirmed a bit."

He carefully closed the door. "I am both interested and yet alarmed by that, especially since I can tell you're something of a predator. You strike me as the type to grab for what she wants when she wants it." He quickly crossed over to his desk to put it between them. He wanted nothing more than to yank her into his arms and kiss her senseless. It had to be that sultriness to her. It still felt magnetic. "To what do I owe the pleasure?"

She leaned on the edge of the desk. "Well," she began, "I think we would both be lying if we said we had not noticed the . . . sparks between us. I've never encountered them before, so I want to follow them and find out what they mean. I've never felt a desire worth acting on, and because that . . . has meaning to someone like me, I think I'm falling in love with you, David." She met his eyes. "And for people like us, love literally is forever."

He let out a long breath. "So you know that."

"Mm, hard to miss it. To someone like me anyway. Do you know who or what I am?"

He hesitated visibly. "I . . . suspect. As the day went on, the more I could not stop thinking about you, the more I just felt as if . . . I knew you. As if I knew who you might be, if based only on how I felt for you." He slowly reached out, and when she leaned closer rather than retreat, he let his fingers skim across her cheek. "I don't have to quantify," he told her huskily. "I am falling in love with you. Maybe I've already fallen." He drew her closer, and his lips curved. "You smell like carnations. I like it."

She grabbed his jacket and dragged him down to kiss him with all the fevered need in her starving soul. His hands curled around her waist and he dragged her across the top of the desk, knocking half the items to the floor. Neither noticed. He kissed her just as wildly until it became nothing more than a tangle of lips and tongues, and she gave a little moan that raked him only harder with desire.

He tore free of the kiss to gulp air and told her roughly, "Unless we intend to get intimately acquainted right here and now, we had better stop."

The sheer fact that she felt so tempted to give in to the sensual warning told her she may as will give up the quantifiers as well. "Don't tempt me," she whispered huskily. She realized she sat on the other side of the desk than she had started, and that something of a disarray had appeared around them. Laughter welled. "Uhm. Is it terrible to say I like your enthusiasm? And that if the door was locked, I would probably start stripping you right now?"

"Don't tempt me," he countered. He blew out a breath. "I did not realize that was what could happen." She looked up at him, and he smiled wryly. "I think we two are much alike. Until you, I never really felt any desire strong enough to bother with either."

She looked at him a second time and evaluated things she had already felt and suspected. He had a . . . familiar scent to him. Letting it lie because if it was important it would come up, she only smiled. "Then I think we need to move forward here and see what happens. I think our destination is somewhat inevitable, but we can enjoy the journey there." She eased up to kiss him again, lingering until his arms curled around her. A sense of peace swamped her soul as happiness welled in her heart. "It's getting late," she whispered as she eased back. "I should go. Can I see you tomorrow? Do you have any time free?"

"I have an entire day, in fact." He rested his forehead against hers and smiled. "What did you have in mind?"

"Well, I thought you might get some enjoyment out of watching Shana at work while you're not her target. Her last shoot for her final is tomorrow, and she wrangled two of our male friends into modeling. You can join me to watch, and you can be reassured that you're not the only novice."

He smiled. "It's a date."

* * * * *

In the Dragonsbane base, Jaslyn swung the pendant she held back and forth in front of Reggie's face. The pendant glowed softly as it began to draw on the power of her target. "Anything?" she asked him.

"Nope, not hypnotized." At least, not by the necklace. Jaslyn, however . . . He always felt hypnotized by her lately. She was just too darn pretty! Testing the waters, he leaned over and gave her a quick peck on the lips. Her eyes widened, and he grinned. "Gotcha."

"Don't you two start!" Siana complained as she went by.

"I didn't do anything," he protested. Since Jaslyn was eyeing him warily, he decided he had pushed his luck enough and wandered off. Maybe these human bodies weren't that bad after all. He might grow to like kissing, if it was Jaslyn on the other half of the action.

"Talla!" Jaslyn complained when she saw the other woman. "Reggie kissed me!"

"If you liked it, don't complain to me," Talla muttered as she continued past with a determined glint in her eyes. "Where's Linx?"

"Uhm . . . in his room." Jaslyn's eyes widened as she began to realize what Talla's game had been lately. Deciding she didn't want to stick around for the fight, she hurried off. And, darn it all, she had liked Reggie's kiss! That did not seem at all fair.

Linx was in his room brooding about the empty space in his memory. It had become more and more obvious lately. The deeper he let himself get entangled with Talla, the more vivid the blank spot became. His door suddenly opened and Talla stalked in. Instant hunger flared to life. "Do you want something?" he asked her as evenly as he could.

"Yeah. You." She walked across the room toward him with a nearly predatory stride. "I'm tired of dancing around this." It was a huge risk she took, based solely on the current evidence that fighting with him tended to provoke his hunger for him. "I'm in love with you." She said it as a challenge. "That's where I stand in things. You said you wanted me. Here's your chance to have me if you really meant it."

Silence met her announcement. There was nothing more she could do. "You know where to find me." She turned on her heel and headed for the door. She would not show her pain. Not until she was alone and could cry without witness.

Her hand touched the doorknob and he suddenly reached over her head to slam the door shut. Her breath lodged in her chest as she turned around sharply. He stared down at her for long moments and then said roughly, "I'm in love with you. I didn't want to be. But why else would you piss me off so much? I knew I couldn't have you."

Even if the mind forgot, the heart could and did remember. She had never realized it before. "Then," she said, her voice thick, "hold onto me. Be my lover. Forget everything else."

He yanked her into his arms and held onto her fiercely. He would take the risk. He would risk Irimara's wrath. He would risk anything for Talla. He caught her face in his hands and kissed her with a greedy need that still did not feel new. Nothing felt new. Just desperate and aching and . . . lonely. He had missed her somehow.

He woke in the middle of the night and found her cuddled against him. Something in the way her hair fell across her face and the soft sound of her breathing touched that emptiness inside his mind. For the first time, he realized that his problem was not that he had forgotten something. Something was missing in his memory. It made a slight, yet significant, difference.

He quietly slipped from her arms and got dressed. A few minutes later he stalked into Irimara's room. "Irimara!" he snapped. "What did you do to my mind? I can feel your power in my memories. What did you take away from me? Do I have memories of Talla that you've stolen?"

Irimara stared at him in dismay as she saw the signs of how he had spent the last few hours. She had tried to stop it but it had happened again anyway. All she could do now was muffle the memories further and hope that this new relationship did not ruin all her plans. If it did, she would have to kill them both. "Of course not." She firmly applied pressure to her spell on him. "You're just tired. Tumbling with your lover will do that."

He blinked and shook his head as if to resist but the spell was stronger than his will. The anger faded from his face. "You're right," he finally said. "I must be tired. I'm sorry, Lady Irimara." He bowed and left the room quickly.

Around the corner, Jaslyn ducked down out of sight. Her heart tripped madly in terror. She had been after a midnight snack when she had seen Linx. What she had seen in Irimara's room made her feel truly afraid for the first time. Irimara had a spell on Linx, and she was manipulating him. Was she manipulating all of them?

* * * * *

The photo shoot the following day was actually held on the roof of one of the university buildings that had a spectacular view of Lux beyond. David had woken up feeling as if he could barely crawl out of bed, yet he had forced himself to do it anyway. He wanted to see Sara. He tried to keep his fatigue under wraps, but he was fairly sure she sensed something anyway because she kept looking at him as they climbed the stairs to the roof.

Sara was pissed. She could see that he was tired, and she could feel the drain on his lifeforce whenever her hand brushed his. She could practically smell the hold Dragonsbane had made on him. Finally, at the top of the stairs, she swung toward him. "What's wrong?" she demanded.

He could only sigh as he leaned against the wall. "I'm exhausted," he admitted. "I didn't sleep well last night. I tried to take a nap earlier but the minute my eyes closed I felt charged back up." The sudden fear on her face clenched his heart. He gently reached out to cup her cheek. "I'll be fine, Sara. I usually never get sick, but if I am this time, then you can just nurse me back to health." He tugged her closer to kiss her lightly. "And if you manage to catch it, I can baby you."

She found a smile for him. "Deal." She pushed the door open and walked out onto the roof. She immediately had to grin as she saw the two models who had been wrangled. "Uh-oh!" she teased. "So that's who she hooked!"

Sam groused at her, "It was inevitable, I guess. And it's not like this is new to me. I just expected that moving to Lux and getting a new job meant that I wouldn't be back into that field again quite so fast." He closed his eyes as Desiree came at him with makeup. "At least you're easier to work with than some," he told her.

Desiree snorted softly. "You're welcome." She eyed her fiancé as he sat nearby. "You're next, so don't be trying to hide."

Uwe winced. "I would not dream of it."

Rachel had tagged along to the shoot just for fun as well as to play assistant, and she grinned toward Sara and David. "I'm just here to help. And to chase down any escaped models. I can mostly outrun Dad, and definitely outrun Uwe. If he gets into water, though, then I'm out. I'm not that good!"

"Brat." Sam had been released of Desiree, so he caught Rachel in an affectionate headlock. He intently studied David for a moment, evaluating what he could see and sense as well as what Michael had told him. He filed away his suspicions if only because being right would be a good thing, and being wrong changed nothing. "Welcome to the insanity, David. I'm Samuel Castlera. This little terror here is my stepdaughter-ish, future daughter-in-law-ish, but technically more legally future sister-in-law-ish." At the lifted brow he got, he grinned. "I married her adopted mother, and she's marrying my brother who has actually always been more like a son to me since I helped raise him."

"And I thought my family tree was odd," David murmured, much to Sara's amusement.

"I'm Uwe Andres," Uwe offered with a lift of his hand. "I'm a professional swimmer and swim teacher, but apparently I am a model today." Not that he entirely complained being that close to Desiree. It would probably be bad form to kiss the makeup artist, but it felt tempting.

David just smiled. "David Myosotis. Nice to meet all of you."

"Sam," Shana ordered, "get your butt over here."

He sighed as he headed to where she was pointing. "Why am I doing this again?"

"Because A. you and Uwe were the unlucky bodyguards for today, and B. Rocky said so." She stuck her tongue out at him. "I am not above using his influence to get what I want, and I warned you I would pay you back for moving me against my will. You're gorgeous, you're a pro, and you look good in anything. Now suck it up, put on the hat, and stop being a baby. At least you're not naked. Yet."

"And that's why Mom loves her most," Rachel told Sara solemnly as she and David sat down beside her.

Sam showed the same sort of ease and expertise that Virginia had the day before, despite his grumbling, and he almost could read Shana's mind as well. Uwe made David feel better, though, because he had the same lack of experience with things. He also got a bit more flustered with the entire thing, but patient coaching from Shana and Sam alike got him to relax and settle into the rhythm. He looked almost professional himself by the end, and he had to reluctantly admit, "That was sort of fun! Though it felt a little bit weird to be that cozy to Sam. Like trying to snuggle up to a brother."

"Eh, it didn't show." Shana happily flipped through photos. "You can snuggle up to Ree if you want, to make up for it. Ooh!" She looked up. "We'll do an ocean shoot come summer! Two versions! One with her as the mermaid, and then you as a male equivalent!"

Uwe grinned at Desiree. "I like when she and I think alike. I could agree to that."

Shana's entire body suddenly tensed, and she looked around sharply as she felt a premonition race down her back like an icy chill. "Something's coming!"

Sam tackled her flat to the ground and covered her protectively. Rachel and Sara mutually grabbed David to take him down to safety, and both Uwe and Desiree dropped flat on their own. Shana's prescient warning had given them all just enough time. The blasts of dragon magic that ripped through the area seconds later narrowly missed anyone or anything important, though the lights did wobble a bit. Jaslyn appeared on the roof with a swarm of Draconids a moment later.

As Shana shoved her bodyguard aside and sat up, she looked at Jaslyn's face and realized that the young woman was not fighting with all of her heart. She looked more desperate than anticipatory. "If you're after David," she said as she stood, "you're out of luck."

"I am but . . ." Jaslyn pointed at the pendant she wore; it looked nearly full. "I went after him hard and fast to avoid getting your attention. But . . . he's still standing. He's like really strong or something." She waved her hand at the Draconids. "Go get them."

No Masks or weapons could be drawn with David there; Sara deserved a chance to tell him everything, even if he may have guessed, rather than just shove it in his face. Instead, Shana, Sam, and Rachel waded in with hands and feet while Desiree and Uwe joined Sara to keep David safe. Even if he had known, he would be at a severe disadvantage for being so exhausted.

Several of the Draconids managed to break free and came after them anyway. They all scattered to safety, but Sara found herself stumbling over a light stand and crashing to the ground. Her clumsiness could be hit or miss, and usually chose to hit when she least needed it. Her entire body tensed as she saw a monster moving in. Her hand reached out where red and gold magic began to swirl to call her halberd.

The Draconid lifted its claw for a strike, but massive vines of Nature magic shot through the air and plowed through its chest with enough force to make it explode. Sara stared at the vines in utter shock. They could not be from Shana; she could see the queen actively engaged in combat several feet away. Only one other Nature element happened to be on the rooftop.

She slowly turned her head and stared at David. Magic colored both blue-violet and red-violet still swirled around his hands. He caught her eye and then slowly reached up to tug down his shirt collar. A little shimmer flickered and then the empty outline of a forget-me-not blossom appeared over his heart. The Mark of a Deactivated Ruler Cultivator. He reached down to help her stand, and she slowly touched the Mark. "That's why," she said. "That's why you felt so familiar to all of us. You're a Deactivated Ruler Cultivator of the planet Celia. You're related to Matt!" She had begun to wonder, and now here it had been confirmed.

"That explains a lot!" Sam muttered. At the least, he felt better for being right after all—though he had not expected the non-Ruler's world to be Celia of all things. "Shana, did you know?"

"Eh, maybe?" She kicked a Draconid hard enough to shatter it. "I knew he was a Deactivated Ruler right from the beginning, and he started really reminding me of Dad, so I at the least knew he had to be from Celia and possibly related to Dad and therefore me by proxy, but I didn't entirely expect him to be my past uncle outright. Oh, and Virginia had the same suspicions too, and she also kept her mouth shut."

"Uncle!" Sara dropped her face into her hand. "Well, that's awkward. I'm lusting after the brother of a man who has been like a brother to me." Then again, her very closeness with Matthew might very well have been because of David's future as her soul mate.

"Hello?" Sam punched another Draconid. "Have you seen my family tree lately?"

Jaslyn was so busy watching the fascinating argument that she didn't realize Rachel had come up behind her until the taller woman planted her ankh in her back firmly. "Eep!" She lifted her hands. "Please!" she begged. "Don't blast me!"

"Call off the monsters," Rachel ordered.

"Gladly!" Jaslyn waved a hand and all the monsters disappeared. Rachel moved her weapon, and Jaslyn scooted away quickly. She dropped to her knees with her hands linked in front of her. "Please!" she pleaded. "Just let me take the lifeforce and go!"

Before anyone could say anything, a clap of evil magic announced the arrival of someone new. Irimara appeared on the edge of the roof, and her eyes narrowed disdainfully on Jaslyn. The minion paled as Irimara snarled, "You are a pathetic weakling. Nothing but a useless half-breed!"

Shana firmly stepped in front of Jaslyn. "And you," she said, her tone cold and hard, "are a shame to your entire species who does not deserve to be a Guardian of anything."

Irimara snarled at her and made a sharp gesture that caused more Draconids to appear. Unlike the versions the five minions could call via corrupted gems, these came right from the raw source of Irimara's evil magic. They looked more terrible and more vicious, and they radiated bad energy with such a stink that just about everyone present—even Jaslyn—gagged. "Let's see how cocky you remain after this, Heir of the Realm!"

Shana calmly removed her Mask from her necklace. "I'm never cocky. I'm just confident. Masks and weapons up!" she ordered. She donned her Mask to call her armor, and her claymore appeared in her hand as she lunged forward on the first strike. "Rachel, stay with David! Sara is to join Desiree and I. Sam and Uwe will cover our backs and handle anything we weaken that tries to escape!"

Rachel felt a sudden surge of near bitterness for her lack of a Mask as she watched those with armor wade into the fray. Something welled hotly inside her soul and she could suddenly actually feel the Seed inside. A tingle from her arm and chest had her looking down quickly, and she discovered the unexpected presence of a statice sprout mark. Not a blossom, not yet, but she now knew she would flower soon enough.

Irimara had disappeared the moment Masks had gone on. With magic, weapons, and armor now in play, the three Defender Cultivators made short work of the worst of the horde. One managed to break line, however, and lunged for Shana with such speed she could not dodge. It slammed into her so hard that she went flying back across the roof and crashed through several pieces of equipment. She went over the edge of the roof, but managed to grab the edge before falling.

"Shana!" Sam shouted as he ran after her, only to be diverted when the Draconid instead came after him. "Damn it!" he snarled. "Anyone able, get to the High Queen!"

Shana tried to get traction with her booted feet but a window under them meant she kept slipping. She had more than enough strength to hang on as long as needed; however, she needed a better and different grip to actually pull herself up. She needed to be able to curl her hands around a bar or something, not just grip a flat edge!

Hands suddenly wrapped around her wrists. She looked up quickly and discovered Jaslyn trying to pull her up. The 'enemy' looked nearly white from a combination of fear and strain. "Stop!" Shana told her sharply. "There's no way you can lift me, even with dragon strength! You're just too small!"

"I want to save you!" Jaslyn's head whipped around as she felt a Draconid getting close. Out of sheer desperation, she opened her mouth and blew Ice magic at the monster.

The ice particles made the Draconid pull up sharply as the shards punctured skin, and it proved just enough of a delay for several arrows fired by Uwe to finish it off. He ran over as fast as he could and reached down as well to grab Shana. His strength plus Jaslyn's managed to overcome both gravity and the weight of Shana in her armor, and they pulled her up just enough her boots could find traction. However, she gave a little yelp as she did so. "Shana?" Uwe asked sharply.

"My left ankle. It's mad at me. But I have another one." Using mostly her right foot and the two holding her, she managed to get back up over the ledge. She sat down on the edge and looked around. Nothing remained of the Draconids. Sam did not look as if he had been badly injured, and Desiree and Sara alike looked intact as well. Rachel had what looked like a claw mark on her arm, but it barely bled. "Good job, everyone." She pulled off her Mask to send away her armor, and she winced wryly as she saw her ankle. It had already started to swell and it looked a very interesting amalgam of colors.

"Healer time!" Uwe said a bit dryly as he crouched to see the injury better. "The last thing we want is you on crutches while you're in enough danger already."

Sara pulled off her Mask as well and glanced up as David came up beside her. "Were you right in your suspicions of me?" she asked softly. "You said you suspected."

"I was," he admitted. "Cultivators usually recognize each other, even one Deactivated like I am. Also . . . well, as I thought about it last night. . . I realized that you were not unfamiliar to me for an entirely different reason." He smiled and shook his head. "That can be told later. For now," he looked to where Jaslyn had sat down slumped against the wall, "what do we do with that poor fledgling?"

"I can't go back," Jaslyn whispered. "Irimara is just using us! I'm sure of it! And . . . and she tried to kill me with the rest of you! If I go back then she'll succeed!" Tears welled in her eyes. "I thought she wanted to help us find a place in the physical plane again, to make dragons be accepted once more! She doesn't. She really doesn't."

"No, she doesn't." Shana slid off the ledge to sit beside her. "The day will come when dragons can feel safe in this plane again, but it will not come for a long time. There's too much risk of evil. Even witches, whether they are of the Faith or not, tend to stay on the quiet side. My priestess wants to change that, is actively working to do so, but we can't change five thousand years in just one day. It will take as long to fix it as it did to break it. If you can just be patient, then in the Resurrection Era, maybe you all won't need to worry about living among humans once more."

Jaslyn took a long breath. "Okay. That . . . sounds better. I like that more than hurting or destroying humans to make us a place. I didn't really like what we did," she confessed softly, "but I thought we were doing something bad that would do good later."

Shana shook her head. "There may be such a thing as necessary bad events, but this does not count. Irimara is only after power. You can stay with me until everything is safer, alright? Hey, you might even consider staying on Protea as a human for a while. You'd have fun. You might even take a university class or two. Learn some things. You're here. Take advantage, right?"

A smile lit Jaslyn's face and made her radiantly lovely. "Thank you, Your Majesty!" She hugged Shana enthusiastically.

"The only rule is that you don't call me that," Shana laughed. "Now let's go find my sister-in-law or Daffodil Defender. My ankle is killing me."

Sam bent and lifted her up into his arms on a sigh. "You are determined to give me wrinkles," he accused. "And you're damned lucky you twisted my arm into being here, else you'd be sitting here until one of your soul mates could come get you!

"It could be worse," she told him solemnly. "Did you know that majik adds weight?" She laughed when everyone, even Jaslyn, stared at her. "It does! I can't remember the exact ratio that Jean told me, but majik absolutely makes a witch weigh far more than their physical shape or height strictly implies. I think she said that she had an additional fifty pounds or so of majikal weight. Lucky for us that magic doesn't do that."

Uwe snorted softly. "Luckier still that Byron is stronger than average."

It made Shana grin. "Indeed."

* * * * *

A short-lived terror broke out when Sam carried Shana into her apartment, and Sara watched in bemusement as she got unceremoniously pounced on by her lover and sister. They bickered back and forth over who would get to do the healing, and finally Rocky won—though Siobhan reserved right to interfere if he messed up since it was not his dominant skill.

Sara shook her head at them and turned to where Matthew and David had been hugging. Now seeing them beside each other, there could be no mistaking the resemblance. "How did we never meet?" she asked David. "I find it hard to believe you and Matt never once visited while in the Realm."

"We did," David admitted, "but it just always happened that I never interacted with anyone inside his closer circle other than Genevieve or Quint and Hannah. I, ah, actually predated him in getting to the Realm. Awkward."

Which also explained why he looked a bit younger than his brother; they should have both looked around forty, but David actually looked to be in his mid-thirties. "How is it you were allowed to descend when your nieces and nephews are here?" She tilted her head curiously. "Or were the rules sort of bent since, technically, their being reborn meant that you did not actually have relation to them anymore?"

"That's exactly it," he agreed.

Matthew studied David and then asked politely, "Dave, would you like to tell her everything, or shall I do that honor?"

David sighed and then reached out to take Sara's hands in his. "Sara . . . I'm sorry. So sorry I left you alone for so long. You see . . . when Matt came home to Celia to Activate our sister . . . he told me about you. Said that he just felt as if we could be soul mates because he felt as if you needed me, and that you had become like a sister to him in a way no one else had. The more he told me about you, the more interested I became. I kept thinking about you over the following years and then decided to act."

She closed her eyes. "You tried to come to Carnation."

"And didn't make it. I thought that must surely be a sign that Matthew had been wrong, so I just never thought to go find you in the Realm. Then, yesterday, I met you at last." He brought her hands up to rest over his Mark. "I fell so hard and fast, I knew we were soul mates. When I started thinking about it during my sleepless night, I realized you reminded me exactly of how Matt had once described the Carnation Defender Cultivator. You even smelled like carnations. It seemed impossible to believe you would be a Cultivator and smell like carnations and not be the Carnation Defender my brother had once described. I don't believe in coincidence."

"That's a bad word in this place," Leslie told him solemnly from where she sat on the couch with Sam.

It made him laugh. "And rightfully so!"

"And on that note . . ." Jaslyn and Siobhan began to shove David and Sara toward the balcony. "You have some other talking to do," the dragon said firmly. "And don't back come in until you do."

"H-hey!" Sara found herself on the balcony as the door firmly shut and locked behind her and David. "Jaslyn! Siobhan!" She groaned and covered her face with her hands. "Dear goddess, they're multiplying! Damn it, Hanny! Do your children have to have as much of you as they do? So much for them being most like Quint!"

David laughed and caught her up in his arms. "I suspect they want confessions of undying love."

"Is that all?" She slid her arms around his neck and smiled. "I think I'm alright with the way we kept passing in the night, and how long we have waited to meet, if only because we finally have. I don't feel so afraid anymore, David. Not with you here to hold me. I suppose I am also a Cultivator who needs a Caretaker that is more like me than not." She softly kissed him. "I do love you, David Celia. When this ends, we will return to the Realm together and steal the eternity we were nearly denied."

His breath hitched and then he leaned down to kiss her with all of the hunger in his soul. She wrapped herself around him like a vine, and he fought the urge to start yanking off her clothes. It would be terribly rude on his niece's balcony. "Happily ever after?" he muttered against her lips. "Because I love you more than is possibly sane, and I want that eternity, too."

The curtains had been drawn for privacy, so when Leslie finally peeked them open to look out, she found an empty balcony. Only a forget-me-not sat on the rail of the balcony. She bit back giggles as she ran to tell the others. Perhaps now Destiny and Love would put their partnership on hold for a while. It would not be until the Resurrection Era and her own generation that the two would find more Blossom Field Cultivators in need of perfect Caretakers. She sort of looked forward to finding her own, too. If he did not go along with things easily, well, she would just have to pursue him and use every weapon at her disposal.

She was, after all, as much her father's child as her mother's.

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