I emerged from Rina’s suite two days later to find Tristan waiting for me in the hallway. It had been my shift to sit with Rina while Mom took a much-needed break, but she had returned to relieve me. Between the two of us, we sat with her around the clock to share our Amadis power.
“Any change?” Tristan asked. He’d spent the morning with Dorian and then with Bree and Lilith. The girl still remained unconscious, and we’d come to the conclusion that Martin had hit her, too.
I shook my head. “Not really. She kind of pulls away from pain, but not all the time. And her eyelids fluttered a couple times, but then she left us again. She pretty much just lies there, as if stuck between death and unconsciousness. It makes me wonder what’s going on in her head. Does she dream? Is she talking to the Angels? Does she hear us but can’t respond? Or is it just a black emptiness, nothing going on at all in that head of hers?”
“Have you tried finding out?”
“Actually, yeah. But I get nothing. I’m not sure what that means. I hope it’s not because there’s nothing to get.” My brows pushed together. “I wonder if the dark magic can create a block.”
“Or maybe the Angels have.” Tristan gave my hand a squeeze.
I looked up at him and smiled. “I like that idea better. Hopefully she’s talking to the Angels about a future daughter or about Dorian or, at least, about how to fight the Daemoni, since they keep attacking more. And it makes sense. Only she’s allowed to hear their messages.”
We started down the stone stairs, and I had no idea where we were going, but Tristan moved with purpose.
“Have you heard anything from Owen?” I asked as we descended.
Tristan’s voice came out low and heavy. “Nothing at all. Not from Char either.”
“I feel so bad for them. Owen probably hates me.”
“I don’t think anyone can hate you, Lex,” Tristan said as he led me outside. “And it wasn’t your fault. Owen’s not stupid; he gets that. He just needs some time to deal with this. Like you did when you found out about your biological father.”
“Like you do about your mother. How was your time with Bree, anyway?”
He shrugged. “A bit … awkward. But it’s not over. She wants to talk to both of us.”
We had followed the path to the beach, where we came upon Bree sitting on the sand and gazing out over the water. The sun enflamed her hair to a near blinding brilliance. She turned to look at us and gave us a stunning smile. But I had to agree with Tristan. It was a bit awkward. I returned her smile anyway, and Tristan and I sat down next to her.
“When the Angels first spoke of this plan for both of you,” Bree said as she looked back out over the water, “I had no idea two people of this world could be so perfect for each other. I didn’t fully understand what they meant. Now I finally see you two together and realize they truly did create a match in Heaven. There’s no doubt you belong together.”
“And not because of a stupid stone,” I muttered.
Bree looked over at me and frowned. “A stone cannot create or force love, no, but it is not a ‘stupid’ stone, Alexis. That stone is very important, and you need to know about it. All about it.”
I sighed. I practically hated the stone now, with all the problems it had nearly caused between Tristan and me. I didn’t want to think about it and had seriously considered letting Vanessa keep the damn thing. But I couldn’t deny my curiosity about it. After all, it had been implanted in Tristan’s heart, and he had cut it out and given it to me, his true soul mate. Bree had called it a fertility stone the other day, but I still didn’t understand its full meaning.
“Okay, so let’s have it,” I said.
“I have to start by saying I don’t know everything about it,” Bree said.
“But it’s your stone,” Tristan said. “How could you not know everything about it? Or was it your stone to give?”
Bree sighed. “No, not exactly. But before we go further, Alexis what have you been taught about faerie stones?”
I snorted. “Nothing. Tristan showed me his memory of you implanting it in his heart, and everyone’s called it a faerie stone, except when you called it a fertility stone. That’s all I know.”
“A faerie stone comes from the Otherworld,” Bree said. “It’s an element of that world that when brought into this physical one, takes the form of a stone. Only a faerie can bring it into this world, and when he or she does, it’s for a specific purpose. The stone is given characteristics by the faerie to serve that purpose. Each stone is unique, so it’s said to belong to that faerie.”
“So this one didn’t belong to you?” I asked.
“Yes and no. The Angels wanted me to bring the element of fertility when I came to this world permanently. They ordered me to give the stone to the child on his third birthday, with the instructions that his heart would warm when he met his true mate. The stone would tell him she is the right one, and he is to give it to her. Only then could he produce a child.”
“And he did give it to me, and we had Dorian,” I said. “So is Dorian it? Did the Angels know Tristan would break the curse and Dorian could lead?”
Bree’s mouth formed into a thin line. “I’ve been kept from the Otherworld for almost three hundred years, so I am unaware of much. But I doubt it, Alexis. I’m sorry, but I don’t believe Tristan is the right one to break the curse.”
“Then why do we only have Dorian? Did the stone not work properly?”
“The stone doesn’t determine the gender. It only guarantees Tristan’s fertility. Everything else has been part of the Angels’ plan. There is a reason they gave you Dorian by himself–a purpose he must accomplish that he can’t do if he has a sister–but I do not know what it is.”
“But regardless, he’ll go to the Daemoni,” I said, my heart sinking. “And we still don’t have a leader after me.”
“You haven’t been able to get pregnant without the stone. It must be in the possession of Tristan’s true love, and then can she become pregnant by him.”
“So we must recover the pendant.”
I looked at Tristan. “Is this why you said the Daemoni couldn’t have it? You knew when we lost it that we needed it back.”
“I told you I didn’t remember anything at the time,” he said. “I only knew it was important you had it and not a good idea for it to be in their hands.”
“Is there any way the Daemoni … since they have it … can they use it?” I asked Bree.
“The characteristics I gave it only allow it to work with the two of you. However …” Bree paused. When she didn’t continue, Tristan and I both looked at her with our eyebrows raised.
“However?” Tristan finally asked.
She blew out a breath. “As I said, I don’t know everything about it. The Angels enhanced it, and they would not tell me how. They did something with it and returned it to me, along with the instructions. They may have simply reinforced it with their powers or … they may have added something to it. It could be more than a faerie stone. It could be an Angel stone.”
“And you have no clue?” Tristan’s voice came out harshly, as if he didn’t believe her.
Bree shook her head. “I’m sorry, but I don’t.”
Tristan sprang to his feet and paced in front of us. I didn’t understand why he was so upset. “So there could be something more to the stone, but we have no idea what it is?”
“Yes,” Bree said.
“And we don’t know if it’s something only for us or if the Daemoni could figure out how to use it against us.”
And now I caught up with him.
“Shit,” Tristan and I both said at the same time. He plopped back into the sand next to me.
“Agreed,” Bree said.
We all sat in silence for a long moment.
“But if we get the stone, I can get pregnant, right?” I asked.
“Well,” Bree said, hesitantly. “Its fertility works specifically for Tristan, so he couldn’t populate the world with offspring before you were even born. It doesn’t guarantee your fertility. However, with all the Angels have planned for you and the Amadis, I am sure they have included another Amadis daughter in those plans. But right now, your chances are zero, at least with Tristan. You must retrieve the stone.”
“Yes, we must. And sooner rather than later. I really don’t want to fight the council again about staying with you, Tristan. I won’t let them force me to Owen.”
Bree stood up. “I must return to Lilith now. Just remember it may be even more important than another Amadis daughter. Considering it’s a connection between the two of you, if the Angels added anything to the stone, it probably serves as some sort of protection of one or both of you. As in your lives or your souls.”
Tristan and I exchanged a glance, and we looked back up at Bree, but she was gone. I sighed and leaned my head against Tristan’s shoulder.
“Ms. Alexis,” Ophelia’s voice called in my mind. Now that my ability had been made public, I’d have to get used to people jumping into my head. The good news, though: they never heard my thoughts unless I wanted them to. Well, except when Tristan made me lose my mind completely. One reason we wouldn’t be staying on the island long.
Yes? I answered.
“Mail for you. Ms. Sophia said to deliver it straight to you.”
With tiny pops, three envelopes appeared in the air in front of me and dropped into my lap.
Thank you. Can you please send Dorian out?
“Of course.” She gave a mental curtsy and vanished from my mind.
My stomach took a nervous dip as I studied the envelopes. Who could possibly be mailing me anything? Any bills would be sent to Tristan’s alias at our Florida address, and dead authors no longer received fan mail. Anyone who knew I was alive was pretty much right on this island, except Blossom. Only my name and the embossed Amadis seal marked the envelopes–not postmarks or anything else. I reluctantly opened the first one and breathed a sigh of relief.
I wanted you to know I made it home. Your bush is all right, but I think I’ll be staying here for a while. I hope you realize I had nothing to do with any of the set-up. But I think my sheila did. If you see the were-bitch, send her my way. I could always use a snack.
I shook my head, a small smile on my lips. Jax was home safely, which was good. And he hadn’t played an intentional role in Kali’s scheme, another relief because I didn’t want to hate him. But Kali brought him into it and used him. That pissed me off.
The next envelope contained a second one within it addressed to me in Florida, with a Sanibel return address but no name, and a stamp but no postmark. As if it’d been intercepted somewhere between the sender’s mailbox and the post office. Strange. With a tingle down my spine, I opened it.
I need your help. I know everything about you. You are the famous author A.K. Emerson. You are also Alexis Ames, even though you gave my mom a different name when she helped you find your house on Sanibel. Your men messed with her memories, but not with mine. I know you from a long time ago, too, and you don’t look any older. You look exactly like you did nine years ago when you punched my asshole dad in the face. I was only eight then, but I remember that day clearly. Your men were there, too, and they also look exactly the same now.
Don’t worry. I’m not going to the media or anything. I’m not blackmailing you. I’m writing because I really do need your help. I have an older sister Sonya who was at a friend’s house the day you hit our dad. But you might remember her, because she attended almost every single one of your signings. She loved your books. I do, too, but Sonya was over the top with them and with you. She always said she was your biggest fan, always on the Internet chats and forums for your books. She idolized you ever since the day you saved our mom. You were her favorite author and also her favorite person. Because of you and your men, our mom is alive today.
If you’re paying attention, you’ll notice I used past tense for Sonya. She’s supposedly dead. That’s what Mom thinks anyway, but I’ve seen her. Just like you’re supposedly dead but I know I saw you. As crazy as it sounds, I think Sonya has been turned. She always wanted to be a vampire and I think she is one now. Yes, I believe they exist. I think there are some living over on Captiva, and I think they’re good, nice like some of the ones in your books. But they deny it. They won’t help me. Only you can help me.
I cried for weeks when I thought my sister was dead and cried again when she pretended to be someone else, the time I caught her. I can’t lose her, Alexis. I can’t stand the thought of her being bad, of her killing people. I can’t get the image of her with blood dripping from her mouth out of my mind. Please help me. You’re the only who can.
On my knees begging you,
Your second biggest fan,
“Wow,” I breathed, dropping the paper into Tristan’s lap. “I’m not sure what to say about that.”
Tristan read the letter and then said plainly, “We’ll help her.”
“Of course we will. But how many more will there be? Solomon and Rina swore my books were a good thing. But this … I made this happen, Tristan. And I’m sure she’s not the only one!”
He wrapped his arms around me. “You didn’t do this. The Daemoni did. It’s not your fault they’re out there. It’s not your fault she went to them. People make their own choices and Sonya made hers. Fortunately for her, we can help her.”
I couldn’t shake the guilt, though. I punched her wife-beating dad in the face, bringing her attention to me. She read my books because I wrote them–she didn’t become a fan of me because she liked my books first. She stalked me. And my publicist put a stop to it, so what did she do? Went out and found the Daemoni. Tears stung the backs of my eyes.
My hands shook, reminding me I had one more letter. I didn’t want to read it. I couldn’t take anymore right now. I forced myself to open the card-sized envelope and pull out the ivory stationery. I carefully unfolded the linen paper.
Alexis, if you are reading this, then you have won this battle. But do not be fooled, child. The war has only begun. We will meet again some day soon. After all, you have something that belongs to me, something very powerful, and I will possess it one of these days very soon.
“What … what does it mean?” My voice trembled. I handed the letter with the beautiful calligraphy and terrifying words to Tristan. “Who’s it from?”
He glanced at the letter, taking it all in with a quick read. “Probably Kali. And my guess is it means either Owen or Dorian.”
I pressed my lips together and nodded, the sting in my eyes growing. And I prayed Charlotte would get her revenge sooner rather than later. If she needed assistance, I’d be the first to volunteer.
Nobody threatened my family.
“I’m gonna kill you!” warned a child’s voice.
I pulled in a deep breath and blew it out to calm myself. That threat doesn’t count.
“You both need a spanking until you can’t even sit,” Dorian continued.
“What did we do, little man?” I asked, looking up at our son as he stood over us with his hands on his hips. I couldn’t help the smile stretching across my face just to see him. This only made him angrier, though, as he glowered at us.
“You lied to me. You told me not to do my tricks ever again, because no one else can do them, but I keep seeing everyone doing their own tricks! Why can’t I do mine?”
Uh-oh. “Um … where have you been, Dorian?”
He stared at the ground and stabbed his toe into the sand, forgetting his own indignation as guilt washed over him. “Ophelia had to do something. She said it was really important. I was supposed to stay by the big tree, but I wanted to see.”
“What did you see?” Tristan asked as he stuffed the folded letters into his back pocket.
Dorian prodded the sand some more. “Lots of stuff. Stores and houses and people.” He looked up at us, remembering his threat now. His eyes narrowed. “And they were disappearing and appearing out of nowhere. And doing crazy things. Tricks. How come they can do tricks but I can’t?”
Tristan gave me a pointed glance. My stomach sank, but I understood. I nodded at him, and he reached out and pulled Dorian to sit between us.
“Because your tricks are amazing and people would always want to watch them,” Tristan said. “And some people, very bad people, would want to take you away from us because of them.”
I gathered Dorian into a hug. “We don’t ever want that to happen. We want you all to ourselves! Okay?”
Dorian giggled as I nuzzled my nose against his neck. “Okay. But don’t worry, Mom. If anyone tries to take me away, I’ll kick them in the knees and punch them in the balls.”
“Dorian!” I said, unable to help the laugh. Then I tickled him, making him squeal. “I don’t know why anyone would want you. You’re such an ornery little man!”
Sasha bounded over to us, barking as Tristan and I both tickled Dorian. She jumped in circles around us, yipping and wagging her tail, just like a normal dog.
And, I supposed, if someone were watching us, they might see us all as a normal little family, playing and laughing together on the beach as if we didn’t have a care in the world. A bright image I would hold onto as we carried on into the dark days ahead.