“I’m staying,” Nina cried. Her sobs shook her shoulders.
“But—” Mara started.
Jules pulled her to the side. “I’ve tried, Mara, but she won’t hear of leaving.”
“We need you with us at the palace to oversee security there,” she told him. “But then there wouldn’t be anyone here to see to her safety.”
“And the children are staying with me,” Nina added.
Mara’s eyes pleaded with Jules. “Let me talk to her. Please.”
He shrugged. “If you like.”
She approached Nina, then knelt at her side. She took one of her hands in her own. “Nina, listen—”
“I am not going!” She pulled free, took to her feet, stepped away, and then wiped her eyes. “I can’t believe any of you would even ask this of me. My child is in the hands of that monster!” She breathed in heavy gasps. “Haven’t I lost enough to him already? Three of my own children, all those years ago? And then I almost lost Calandra when his men invaded the compound. When does it stop? Huh? How much is enough?” Shaking her head, she moaned. “Oh, why would Ehyeh do this—”
“Ehyeh did not do this,” Mara whispered.
“Right,” Nina snapped. “As you are so fond of saying: ‘He has but allowed it.’” She turned away. “How could you understand anyway? You’ve never had one of your own.” She glanced back, her eyes glaring. “You have no idea what I’m suffering.”
Mara bowed her head and looked at the floor. Nina had hit on a subject that had caused her some pain of late. She’d spent her entire adult life raising the children of another, never to have had her own. Fortunately, her attendant magic provided for her continued youth, so she certainly could have a child . . . But, no. She couldn’t allow for that. The risks were too great. So, with Lucy’s assistance—and a daily cup of barrenseed tea—she’d remained childless all these years. Sure, there were times she wished she could see her own—Dixon’s own—child in her arms, but she felt that would inhibit her ability to honor her oath for the twins’ safety. In the end, it was better to leave well enough alone.
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