“Stop. Stop. Stop,” Basha said, gently pressuring her to lie back. “We’ll help you to get home,” she continued when Mara ceased resisting. “You rest up and . . . and Dixon will take you.”
Glancing his way, her eyes narrowed. Then she turned back to Basha. “Why don’t you take me?” she asked.
He turned away. He couldn’t bear to see or hear more.
Brushing Mara’s hair away from her face, Basha smiled. “Because no one would be better than Dixon to get you there safely. No one.”
“All right,” she said, tentatively.
He approached. “I’ll get you home safely, Mara, I promise.” He winked at her. It had become habit over the years. One of the first concessions she’d made to him when they’d both confessed their love for one another, years back, was that she loved when he winked at her.
“All right, then. When can we leave?”
“Soon. We’ll leave soon.”
She closed her eyes and almost immediately, fell asleep.
“What do you think, Dixon?” Basha asked.
“I think we won’t be able to stop her for long. If I don’t agree to take her from here as soon as possible, she’ll just go on her own. She may not remember anything, but she’s still Mara.”
Basha grinned. “Right.” She nudged him. “Listen, you haven’t rested for days. You should go get some sleep.”
Seeing him about to argue, Therese cut him off. “Basha’s right. Every time Mara awakens, it’s going to become more difficult to settle her down. I know your attendant magic allows you to get by on little sleep, but you haven’t really conditioned yourself properly for that, as you ought. So you should start now. We’ll stay here. We’ll make sure she eats and rests, and we’ll keep Lucy at bay. You come back when you’re ready, and we’ll see then how she’s doing.”
“Should I tell the girls anything?”
“I think you should. Not everything, of course. But I think you should introduce the idea that Mara would like to go home for a short time.”
“I don’t know if they’ll believe that.”
“Why wouldn’t they?”
He bit his lip. Then, “Because,” he said, “whenever, over the years, they asked her about where she grew up, she told them that she left as a young woman and never—ever—intends to go back.”
“Maybe it would be better to go elsewhere then.”
“Or at least say you’re going somewhere else,” Basha suggested.
“No. I suppose I may as well keep that part in the open—just in case she says something to the girls.” He went to the door. “I’ll come up with something and then I’ll put some of her things together.”
“Don’t forget her blade.” Basha picked up Mara’s blade, Spira, from the table. She went to his side and handed it to him.
He looked at it. “What about clothing? All we have around here is Oathtakers’ garb.”
“I’ll check with Adele and Nina.”
He stepped out into the rain. If he could cry himself, he feared he’d gush just as the skies poured. He trudged across the center pathway, his feet heavy, his heart even more so.
When he arrived at the cabin he shared with Mara and the twins, he stopped and took in a deep breath before stepping inside.
Reigna rushed to his side. “How is she?”
He stroked her hair. “She’s good, honey. She’s good.”
“Is she awake now? Can we see her yet?” Eden asked as she approached.
“Not just now. She’s resting.” He grinned half-heartedly. “Listen, I could use your help.”
“What do you need?” Reigna asked.
“Anything, Dixon,” Eden said.
“Basha, Therese, and I, were talking. You know, it’s been a very long time since Mara has left the compound for anything other than a Council meeting.” He motioned to a nearby table, then joined them at it.
He put his elbows down and leaned in. “I—we—think it would be good for her to . . . have a little . . . break. You know? So, I wondered if you’d help me put some of her things together.”
“You’re going to take her away?” Reigna asked.
“Just for a short time.” He sat back. “I think a respite from having to respond to the compound intrusions would be good for her. Don’t you agree? Besides, you know Mara. If she’s here, she’ll insist on supervising every detail herself. I think it would be good for her to—”
“You’re right,” Reigna interrupted. “I like the idea.”
“Yes, she deserves a break,” Eden said. “When will you leave?”
He shrugged. “As soon as she’s able to travel.”
“Has she said anything? Does she know about your plan?”
“Well actually, yes.” He hoped the twins wouldn’t catch him in his web of lies. “I admit she surprised me, but she mentioned going back to her old home.”
“That’s impossible,” Reigna said.
“She said she’d never go back there,” Eden added.
“I know. I know. But sometimes when a person goes through a . . . trauma, an emergency, he finds he wants to . . . revisit familiar things.”
The sisters shared a glance.
“We understand,” Eden said. “What can we do to help?”
He patted out a rhythm on his thigh. “You can help me to put some of her things together so that we’ll both be ready to go as soon as she’s feeling better.”
“That soon?” Reigna asked.
“She sounded quite sure of herself. So the sooner we go, the sooner we can get back here.”
“You’re in no shape to go now, Dixon. Look at you.”
“I’m fine. But you’re right—I do need some rest.”
“You see to that, and we’ll put Mara’s things together,” Eden offered.
“Thanks, sweet.” He stood.
The twins followed suit.
Reigna put her arms around him and leaned her cheek against his chest. “I’m just glad to know that she’s all right.”
He returned the embrace, then gathered Eden into his arms, as well. “Me too,” he said. “Me too.”
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish