Lucy huffed, then turned toward the door as Velia and Jerrett entered. The two of them were important residents, as they’d been instrumental in helping to thwart Lilith’s plans to kill Reigna and Eden when they were just infants. Much to everyone’s surprise, they revealed some time later, that their interest in one another had blossomed. Since neither of them had a currently living charge, they married. Now they had four boys, the eldest, eight, the youngest, a newborn.
Standing over six feet tall, and exceptionally muscular, Jerrett always wore loose linen pants and an open vest that exaggerated the size of his biceps and the strength of his abdominal muscles. He wore at all times, a belt from which numerous weapons hung. His presence frightened anyone who didn’t know him, as before becoming an Oathtaker, he’d lived a rather wild young life. His tattoos of serpents with open mouths and fangs exposed, evidenced that fact. Notwithstanding his appearance, however, Reigna and Eden favored him. Indeed, even the youngest of the compound children did.
The twins jumped up to meet the newcomers.
“Come, join us at our table,” Eden offered, taking Velia’s arm.
Once again the door opened and Marshall stepped in. He’d been Lilith’s Oathtaker, though she’d released him shortly before she’d set out on her murderous journey to seek out the twins and to kill them. Her actions devastated him. When Mara finally informed the Council of what Lilith had done, they renewed Marshall’s Oathtaker credentials. He then swore that he’d take only one more oath in his lifetime, and that, for the twins’ benefit. After doing so, he joined Lucy’s compound.
“Hello, Marshall!” Reigna exclaimed.
“Hey.” He glanced about the room. For the most part, only the key decision-makers were in attendance. “What are you two doing here?”
“We told Lucy that since this is about us—in one way or another—we’re staying.”
“Please, join us.”
“Oh, I don’t know. Your table will be full, I’m sure.”
“Come on,” Reigna urged. She grabbed his arm and pulled him along. “We’ll make room for you.” Then they, with Eden, Velia, and Jerrett, sat at Jules and Nina’s table.
The room grew noisier as the diners talked, laughed, and ate. Occasionally, when someone mentioned Mara or Dixon, the group momentarily quieted, but all in all, they enjoyed themselves and one another’s company.
As they were finishing up, Adele stepped into the dining area. Formerly a personal maid to Rowena, she later served Lilith, who treated her cruelly. From the moment Adele escaped the woman’s clutches and joined Mara and Dixon, she’d looked upon them as her family. Now she ran the compound kitchen, seeking to serve the others in some small way.
She looked around the dining room, then stepped back into the kitchen. Moments later, she returned with kitchen staff, to clean up. Then they set out a variety of desserts: pies filled with a mixture of fresh peaches and blackberries, surrounded by flaky, puffy, buttery crusts; brownies with chewy oats, layered with caramel and chocolate; and fresh pear tarts, sprinkled lightly with cinnamon, and glazed with apricot jam.
Adele supervised the staff as they set out the sweets, along with hot coffee and tea. When all met her satisfaction, she stepped toward the kitchen.
She turned back.
The twins stood.
“Dinner was wonderful,” Reigna said, “and the desserts look fabulous. Thank you so much.”
“Yes, thank you. You’ve outdone yourself once again,” Eden added.
The dining room erupted in spontaneous applause.
“It’s my pleasure,” Adele said, tears glistening in her eyes. She smiled, then limped away.
No sooner had she disappeared than those in attendance got up to select their favorite confections. As they sat back down, Lucy made her way to the front of the room. Then, “If I can have everyone’s attention,” she said, “we can get this meeting started.”
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