“Lunch, here or on the way?”
Kieran looked across the bedroom at Claire. She was stunning in her sundress and strappy sandals. She’d straightened her real hair and it flowed around her face.
They’d landed three nights ago and she’d been nonstop ever since. He loved it. Everything was new and fresh and exciting and he loved watching her discover these new places.
He hadn’t taken her to the castle yet because he didn’t want to taint this first experience. But they would come back and they would visit his cousin’s seat of power in this country and his great-grandfather’s gift to Aaliyah. He did want to say hello to his great-aunt Kaitlynn and cousins Amery and Garrett. Funny how things happened. Garrett was also his cousin on his father’s side. Claire would love to hear about that story. She was a hopeless romantic and he loved that about her. He loved…
“Al?” She’d moved closer and was peering up at him curiously.
Kieran shook himself back to the present. “Yeah, sorry. On the way works for me.”
“Excellent!” Claire leaned over to give him a kiss and turned around, grabbing his hand along the way.
His entire world shifted as their hands met and he grew stiff as image after image flowed into him. He blinked a few times, his eyes trying to reconcile the images that were superimposed on his view of the bedroom. A gasp from Claire wrenched his attention away from what he was seeing and he looked at her.
“Alistair…” she breathed.
They stood, staring at each other for what felt like a millennium. “You’re Fae touched,” he said.
“So are you,” she responded.
All thoughts of going out and food were forgotten as they sat in the living room of the small house they’d rented for this trip. Claire had been the first to recover from her shock and she was talking a mile a minute. Kieran heard none of it. She was a supernatural, like him. He knew people like him existed – human but touched by magic – he’d just never met any. His family was very cavalier about who and what they were and he’d been raised as a normal human. The last nine years with Lorde had been so normal, so non-magical that he’d almost forgotten…
“Al, are you okay?”
Once again, Claire pulled him out of his spiraling thoughts. “Yeah, I’m just shocked is all. We’ve been together for a while now. Why now?”
Claire shrugged. “I don’t know. New place, new experiences?”
“Maybe,” he murmured.
“Do you want to talk about it?”
He did. Suddenly, it felt like the most important thing he had to do. “Yes.”
Claire smiled and moved a little closer to him on the couch. “Would you like to go first? I have a feeling you have more to tell me than I, you.”
And he did. He told her everything. About how his grandmother had been the first, how she’d come back from the dead. He told her about his mother and his uncles, about Maya returning, about Tony being a ghost/werewolf hybrid. He left out Siobhan’s name but mentioned a very powerful Fae helping them. She seemed to get excited about that and he told her about Matt. He told her everything and when he was finished, they sat in silence.
“Wow,” she finally said.
“I know.” She was the second person he’d shared his family’s secrets with. Eden had been the first and that had been out of necessity so his parents could help Belle. He’d never before shared so much with someone just because he wanted to. It felt freeing. It felt intimate.
“Do you believe in destiny?” Claire asked suddenly.
He took her hand in his. “I believe that there are paths that people walk during their lives that are inevitable, yes. But I also believe that how you get there and how you travel down those paths are decisions you make on your own.”
Nodding in agreement, she said, “I think we were meant to find each other.”
How could destiny be so cruel and so generous at the same? He would give almost anything to have met her first but he didn’t think he’d appreciate her as much if he had. The thing that drew him to her the most was how different she was from Lorde.
Kieran took her chin in his hand and tilted her face up to his. “I love you,” he whispered.
“Yeah?” Kieran stopped kissing Claire’s back and looked at her.
She wasn’t looking at him but he could hear the smile in her voice. He was tempted to flip her over and start kissing down her front. “Stop interrupting me!”
He smacked her lightly on the ass and laughed when she squeaked. He was not fooled. She loved his love taps and he told her as much.
“That may be but you’ve been kissing my tattoos for a while now. Are you going to get on with it or am I going to have to get aggressive?”
He laughed again and fell back onto the bed. “Be my guest.”
“Excellent.” Claire sat up quickly and straddled him. She leaned down and nipped him on his jawline. “It’s not fair, you know.”
“What’s not?” He shifted. Being on the receiving end of the teasing wasn’t as much fun.
“You have no tattoos for me to kiss.”
“Do you believe in fairy tales?”
“Occasionally, usually around my son’s bedtime.”
Claire laughed. “Ever heard the one about Siobhan of the Stone Heart?”
“Siobhan?” Kieran willed his body not to tense up. Very few people knew Siobhan’s real story. “But she isn’t real. She’s a fairy tale we tell our children.”
“Plus, there are so many versions of that story. Which one do you know?”
Her lips curled up slightly. “She stole the heart of the Unseelie Queen and was blinded for it. Her father, the Seelie King bartered the Book of Life for her. But instead of being happy, the vainglorious princess found a witch to give her back her sight, in exchange for her wings – they were the most beautiful in all the kingdom, of course.”
Kieran grinned. “Of course.”
Smirking, she continued. “The Unseelie Queen, angered by this, cursed Siobhan to fall in love with the very first thing she saw, be it man or beast. And wouldn’t you know but the first thing she laid eyes on was a werewolf, a caste so beneath her station that she was too ashamed to even speak to him. She tried to find a way to break the curse but could not. She disappeared and no one ever heard from her again. Some say that when she saw the werewolf, she was overcome with so much grief that she knelt upon a rock and cried and cried and cried. She stayed that way for so long that she eventually turned into stone too.”
Kieran’s grin had begun to slip as he listened to Claire’s rendition of Siobhan’s story. He knew exactly which parts were true and which were not. But it was not something he could or would ever share with anyone. Siobhan had died for his family.
“I don’t believe that last part is true.”
He looked down at Claire. “Which part?”
“The ending. I don’t think she turned to stone. I think… I’ve met her.”
Kieran couldn’t stop himself from tensing this time and automatically reached out to her but stopped before his fingers made contact with her skin.
“No, go ahead. See for yourself.”
Staring into her eyes, he gently placed his hand on her warm brown skin and waited.
Images moved through his mind blindingly fast. It was like opening a photo album and letting the pages slip through his fingers, as he got closer to the memory he was looking for, they started to slow down until he could see distinct pictures. His magic was based on emotion and each snapshot was an emotional moment in Claire’s life.
Finally, the images slowed enough for him to see. His breath caught. It was Siobhan! She was pale, her hair streaked with gray, her eyes lined and her skin aged. She looked old.
She was speaking to a young woman, Claire at the age of fifteen, no, thirteen. The image was brief and then it was gone.
Kieran blinked and found himself back in the room with Claire lying still against him. “You were sick.”
She nodded. “I was born blind. When I was twelve, I had corrective surgery but I caught an infection. The worse thing in the world is to know what you’re missing out on and being unable to do a thing about it.”
Kieran pulled her closer into his arms. “And Siobhan helped you?” He didn’t even bother trying to deny who the woman had been. He was too heartbroken.
“She healed me. She told me that I was needed and it would be one of her last gifts. She said she was sorry she wouldn’t see them grow but that they were destined for great things. She told me to take a chance on the bourbon drinker. And she said not to be afraid of the visions, that I was strong enough. More than enough. And then she was gone.”
Claire hugged him close, tears in her eyes. “I thought it was a dream but the next day, the doctors came and took the bandages off and I could see! A miracle, they said. And it was. A miracle and a gift. She is real. I know it. It was Siobhan.”
She turned around to look at him, eyes bright. Kieran held on to her and felt his own tears threatening to spill. He placed a soft kiss on her lips. “I believe you. I do.”
When she started to cry, he held on and cried too. He could feel the sorrow emanating from her because in her heart she knew what he and his family already knew, Siobhan the Stonehearted, who’d lived for hundreds of years was gone now.
Interlude | Chapter Nineteen