Savage Love, p.28
“They're getting dressed. I wanted you to myself. We never have a lot of time alone together and now with the babies finding time for each other will be even harder.”
“I'll always make time for you and me. I won't love you less because the babes are here.”
“I know and not being an only child is great. Did dad tell you he asked Liz to allow you to adopt me?”
“Yes. But she refused.” She checked her sadness so she wouldn't upset him.
“He even offered her money but she said she only wanted us, claims he'll go back to her when he gets stressed. Do you think that's possible?”
Clutching his hand, she assured him, “No. Your dad will never go back to her.”
Justin drew strength and comfort from her touch but he remained fearful, terrified of the hold Liz always seemed to have on his father. “He had sex with her on Sunday. She bragged about being with him. Can't you beguile him so he won't desire her?”
She told him honestly, “I know about them but I'd never charm him. It's wrong.”
Hesitating a moment he then asked, “Worse than killing someone?”
Embarrassment colored her cheeks, “How do you know about that?”
He held her hand tighter. “When you were sleeping I listened to your memories. You were different when you got home with the babies and I was afraid you might be really sick. I wanted to know you were well, that you weren't leaving me.”
She hugged him, stroking his copper and gold hair. “In future if you want to know something ask and I'll tell you and to answer your question, I feel robbing your dad of his free will would be the same as murdering someone. If you remember any of our other life, you know crafting and trickery were responsible for our separation. I suffered being under that sorceress' curses. I lost you, my fay and human families and I fear my ability to hold womb babes. The curse I've lived under is a poison killing off pieces of me bit by bit. That's what malicious magic does. When I was fully fay I tried such skills on the winged one who planted you inside me and the magic went awry and he hexed me. I will never be so foolish again. Now that you've brought up crafting, I've meant to ask, do you possess magic or have knowledge of the fay ways?”
With his head resting on her shoulder, he felt uncertain about the best response to give and finally told her, “Not really. Your fay mate had no interest in me. The enchantress charmed me the day I fell into her clutches, kept me an infant, rendering me unable to escape. But when they died, I was able to shift to my rightful age. Then the little magic I'd learned from watching and listening I used to cross over and find you.” He didn't think confessing that after many attempts he'd finally succeeded in killing them the day before her eighteenth birthday, so he could come to her was necessary. Nor was he going to reveal that he'd longed to efface Liz every day of his life, but he hadn't because of his dad. From the day of his awareness of Dylan Savage, he'd protected him from the poisonous, white powder Liz introduced him to, tried using as a shackle to keep him in the dungeon of her diseased desires. With a heavy intake of breath he continued, “I thought finding you would be easy, but I was wrong. The enchantress had the foresight to cast a wide spell to keep us from reuniting. She cursed your womb, had you banned from our home and crippled me for many years but I could be born to you again if you conceived the moment you lost your virginity and were strong enough to hold and birth me or we could reunite if our paths ever crossed and you loved me without knowing my true spirit as you did weeks ago.”
She kissed the top of his head. “Did you replace the spirit of Dylan's babe?”
He moved out of her embrace wanting to see her reaction when he told her how he came to be human. “I used magic to be born to him because he's special but wasn't destined to find you, his one true love, in this lifetime. He also had the unique ability to be both mother and father to me until I could find you. Mom you're the sole parent of my spirit and Dad entirely created my human form and nature. He can create children of his own, implant them as he did with Liz, birth them himself, or wish them into being through dream and song as he did with you. There's nothing of that fay male in me. I incinerated that part of myself and there isn’t the tiniest shared molecule between Liz and myself. When Liz carried me dad worried that her ways would harm me but I didn't take nourishment from her body. When he implanted me, a sac grew filled with, silvery-blue essence that fed me until I was born. I don't think he knows because he always worried that Liz's behaviors, when I was inside her, would harm me and he only speaks of my coming into the world as an ordinary occurrence. But in reality, he knew my birth was different from other human babes. He paid Liz millions of dollars not to say anything about what she might remember. The same day I was born he let her fall back into her old lifestyle so that she'd forget, think the money was for bearing him a son and the hospital staff don't remember because Gammy Sue and Papa Joe came back and did something to them to protect me and dad. They always knew what he was capable of, accepted that he was more than their baby boy, loved him tirelessly and still watch over him, all of us.”
She stroked his cheek tenderly, “Justin I appreciate you wanting to enlighten me but you must stop out of respect for your father. He'll tell me eventually.”
He nodded. “Sure mom, plus you care for him no matter what. I'm honored by the kindness of spirit you both possess even though initially I was jealous of the time dad was spending with you, but I know his selfishness about you stems from his fear of losing you, like he lost his Ma and Pa, but otherwise he's super generous. All of the people who work with us are compensated with huge salaries, elaborate benefit packages and dad establishes education funds for their children.”
“I like that he's so fair-minded,” she said, her heart filling with pride.
“He's closemouthed too, for instance he's allowed you to believe Tata August is the housekeeper, but she doesn't work with us. She's the surrogate matriarch of this clan and cares for us as all mothers do. Her, Gammy Sue and Papa Joe were bonded from the moment they met. She arrived in their hometown the morning after dad was born, and when they died August was elected to head the family, care for dad especially. He and his brothers provide for her as they would their birth parents. Tata August has no blood-kin, will always live with us until her time comes to reunite with Gammy and PaPa. We'll physically care for her until her spirit is embraced by the light and after we'll always cherish her, see her vessel laid to rest with pride of place in the family crypt.”
“I had no idea. However, I'm happy to learn August is to be as my mother-in-law. I feel silly now, had sensed she lived far away and planned to give her my home so she wouldn't have a long commute,” she admitted with undisguised bewilderment.
Justin accurately read her expression and enlightened her, “Your senses are picking up on the fact that she's like Patrick, able to travel across planes few can even fathom, with the ability to see and hear some things before they manifest. Her powers made her aware of your intentions to give her your home the day you hugged her in the kitchen. Tata August was so excited; she told dad you'd already made the offer to her after she scolded him for not resisting Liz. Oh mom, how happy she was at your genuine bigheartedness. She's been praying and singing to herself about you ever since, cares for you immensely as she does the other Savage women, unlike Liz whom she detested at first sight. Which is more of a reason why I can't accept Liz bearing the legal title of my mother much longer. Any association with her feels poisonous and stifling, insulting to August, Sue and Joe. I feel that way about Patrick too, that your love for him will interfere with us growing into the happy family we're supposed to be. Has he tried making you doubt our history?”
“I know I'm your mother and in time Patrick will come to see the truth. Our ways are foreign to his understanding. He knows much of this world, but naught of our true home. However, he, and your dad, will work tirelessly to get Liz to change her mind. They partly know how much we want your adoption, just not that the legal bond will secure us from any residua
He lowered his head feeling defeated, “Liz will never agree. She hates me, you and Calder too much.”
Placing the crook of her finger beneath his chin, she raised his eyes to hers, “What has she against Calder?”
“He told dad she stole Gammy Sue's necklace,” he confided in a hushed monotone.
Carolina saw shimmering puddles of indignation in his eyes and silently prayed he'd embrace the love that surrounded him to overcome his hatred of Liz. Perhaps renewing his magic would give him a greater sense of protection from that hag she thought, asking hesitantly, “The things Calder talks about learning from Patrick would you like to study them as well?”
“I can already hear thoughts, read memories too, but music is my true magic like dads is for him and that's enough for me, proves that I'm truly his son and not that evil fay creature's from before. When I was born dad had me spiritually cleansed to rid me of Liz's taint, and in doing so made me mostly human. He had me baptized shortly after I escaped her sickly body, prayed over me for hours and made Uncle Chris my godfather because he can put the fear of The Almighty into anyone. Uncle Chris is extremely conversant on subjects like Ciaran, but he plays down his intelligence so not to alienate people. Plus he's even more special than dad, which is why Vega married him and why Patrick likes him so much.”
She smiled, thinking of Patrick and Chris involved in debate, “I don't doubt it.”
Justin suddenly grinned then revealed, “Patrick was my first choice for a father, but he'd already assigned his heart to Ciaran and when I heard of his plans to father the twins, I found dad and he brought me forth when Patrick first claimed you.”
She flushed at the memories his words evoked. “I figured out the significance of the time of your conception. How did you know about Patrick and me though?”
His eyes caressed her face, “I had glimpses of your human life over the years.”
Feeling exhausted she tenderly stroked his cheek, “Are you ready for breakfast?”
“I'm not hungry. I have things to do before your wedding. I want to look nice, maybe wear something green. Remember the last night we were together, you wore the most beautiful green gown, had braided clover in your hair, your wings glittered fairy pink, with a dusting of pure gold. You were backlit by the bonfire as you danced beautifully amongst the meadow flowers, with me cradled in your arms. The next day was supposed to be the start of our human lives together.”
Her voice was startled, “You remember that? You were my wee Periwinkle then.”
He smiled at her use of his fay name. “I still am and I remember every second of our lives before we were separated.” Silently he vowed nothing would take her from him again. “Why did Tyler and those men want to kill you?”
“Liz doesn't want me to be with you and Dylan. But don't worry Justin, we’re a family, nobody is going to come between us. I took care of those men, Liz is moving to New York, tomorrow your dad and I are getting married and the adoption we both need will happen soon,” she finished assuredly, hugging him close again.
He wanted to believe her about the adoption, about his father's commitment to her but uncertainty had a hold on him. “Mom, wear something green for me today.”
“After you were stolen I couldn't wear the color. This morning I'll order a green dress to wear at dinner tonight. My hair will be adorned with clover too.”
Excitement had him moving away from her, sitting on the edge of the bed. He couldn't wait to see her. “That will be great and I'll wear a white shirt, woven with fine green and gold threads like you made for me.”
“Okay baby. We better both get going before your father gets back from his ride.”
“He's in his study talking with his brothers about the little Susans you gave them last night,” he commented offhandedly, leaning forward to give her a lingering kiss on the cheek before pulling away, “I'll see you later mom.” When he was about to exit the room he turned to her with mysterious quality to his voice, announcing, “Calder and I were wrong. You won't always love Patrick more than dad, eventually you'll love them the same.” Flashing an informed grin, he waved and walked out.
She smiled at his departing figure. For a long time she considered pulling the covers over her head, but she weakly fought the depression that was spreading throughout her being since her miscarriage. Throwing back the beige comforter, she was placing her feet on the floor when Vega, wearing a midnight teal silk dress and matching high heels, walked in, her whiskey-amber eyes bright with panic and fear.
Vega's palms lay flat against her stomach, fingers visibly trembling, “Carolina you have to hurry downstairs. Dylan's been arguing with his brothers about the babies you gave us. Now he's at the door with some men who are asking to see you and Dylan is raging mad.”
The minute Carolina set foot in the entryway she knew who the men were and why they'd come. She also knew Dylan was on the verge of an emotional meltdown. He stood tense and glaring at the two formerly tattooed men she'd spared the previous day. They were both dressed in dark slacks and short-sleeved pull over sweaters and each of them held a large bunch of flowers. The man formerly identified as 18 had a large healed over burn on the side of his neck where the numbered tattoo had been. When he saw her peeking around Chris' wide body he shoved Dylan, Frank and Jesse aside to approach her determinedly, with a frail little girl at his side. His red rose bearing chum, the bald man she formerly associated with the S.W.P. tattoo, followed behind them. His tattoo had also been seared from his skin, leaving behind raised and puckered flesh on his cantaloupe-sized bicep. She'd painlessly burned them yesterday, searing as much of the hate out of them as she possibly could as part of her atonement.
She stepped from behind Chris to greet them just as she heard Patrick descending the stairs. “Hello Cliff and George what are you doing here?”
Scarred neck Cliff passed the bouquet of white and yellow peonies to a startled Jesse who moved to place them in an empty vase. Cliff meanwhile pushed the little girl, dressed in a butterfly embroidered jumper and bonnet, toward Carolina, “I know we shouldn't be here after what we did yesterday, but will you help my daughter Vienna?”
Everyone was silent, eyes upon the frail doe-eyed child who stood on weak legs staring up at Carolina. Puny little fingers undid the bow beneath her pointed chin and spindly arms were raised to remove her bonnet to reveal a tiny head as bald as the man's standing beside her father. Carolina reached out to caress the child's sunken cheeks, tracing the purplish bruises beneath the child's big, brown eyes, instantly falling in love with the haunting, heart-shaped face. She'd lost her own babe she wouldn't allow this little jewel to waste away. With an unsteady voice, Carolina addressed a perturbed looking Dylan, “The healing will only take a few minutes then we'll talk.”
His voice was calm and sickeningly sweet, “Sure, we're gonna talk. Go ahead and heal the little lady.”
“Would you all leave us?” When no body budged to give the child, and her privacy, Carolina spoke, “Vienna, I need to give you a big long hug, is that okay?” Seeing the child's nod of consent Carolina pulled her close and wrapped her arms tightly around the child's stick-thin frame. There was no dimming of lights or whispered words. The previous moonlit night she’d achieved the maximum level of her powers and she could feel the little girl filling out in her arms, see dark golden brown strands of hair elongating from her scalp until it tumbled over her shoulders on down her back. Best of all, the child no longer held the odor of decay. The fetor had been replaced by the sweetness of orange blossoms and vanilla cupcakes. Carolina inhaled deeply before releasing the lovely little child, standing back to see the rosy blush
The little girl's voice was blissful, “Like I did before I was placed in foster care.”
“That's great Vienna. If you start felling sick again, you have your papa bring you back. Now you had better go before you're missed. Cliff, next time get permission before you just take off with her.” Carolina turned to Patrick, “Get her everything she needs, send a monetary gift to the foster parents so they won't kick up a fuss and please Patrick, make sure Cliff and George come to no harm.” Carolina waited until Patrick inclined his head in silent agreement because he'd always do exactly as he pleased unless he somehow gave his solemn word otherwise.
Cliff, awestruck, took his daughter's hand and backed away from Carolina. Unexpectedly George, who'd made no secret of his lust for her the previous day, dropped his bouquet of roses and fell to his knees to kiss her bare feet, his hands stroking up her naked calves, beneath the heavy fabric of the robe she wore. She met Dylan's gaze as she patted the man's baldhead, whispering to the kneeler, “George you better go. My fiancée is looking really upset.”
He tightened his grip on her and professed, “I'm lost without you, needed you to-”
Cliff, take Vienna out to the car. George will be along in a few minutes,” Dylan ordered dangerously.
The grateful man didn't wait around, leaving his associate to handle his own affairs. Dylan walked over to the bowing man, shaking off Chris' staying hand. “George, go ahead and finish what you were fixin’ to say.”
“Carolina I wanted you to know that I'll never forget what you did for me. I'm a changed man with a clearer head and a lighter heart.” He got nimbly to his feet. Placing his big hands on her shoulders he disregarded Dylan's close proximity and took a wooing tone with her, “If ever you find yourself free of personal attachments I'll be waiting. I need you so much the ache gnaws at my insides.”