“What makes you a good judge is your ability to see the good in people, to protect people and your brothers. You do not need to be in pain to do this.” Pressing my hand over his heart, I kiss him softly. “Let go, my love. We will be here to catch you.”
He closes his eyes, shuddering as I surge inside and wrap him up in my protection. How dare that king try to corrupt such a soul and dampen his sunlight? The others surge in as well, feeling their brother’s need, and we hold him as he lets go of his pain, his past, and when his eyes open, I see his ghosts are finally gone.
I kiss him softly. “I love you,” I promise. “Within darkness or sunlight.”
“I love you too,” he whispers. “So damn much.”
Her soft hand, so much smaller than mine, holds on tightly as she grins up at me. Her bare feet sink into the ground, and despite her height, she still only reaches my chest, yet she leads me, and I follow like a lovesick puppy.
I would follow her anywhere.
Those little hands hold my heart and soul, and where she goes, I go willingly. I didn’t even know I needed to be saved until her. I didn’t know I was still so troubled by my past until it poured out of me and into her listening heart. I practically begged her to judge me, but she never did, not once. She held me tightly, as if she would protect me from the sharp edges of my past.
For the first time ever, I don’t want to fade into the waiting shadows. Instead, I want to walk in the sunlight with her.
A lot of the monsters will be sleeping during the day, but we make a meticulous circle to check the habitats they have chosen. There’s some blood, so clearly some are clashing, but no bodies, which is good. She smiles the whole time, like she has a secret that I don’t know about, and I’m obsessed with her.
I almost stumble and fall because I’m focused on her, but she keeps me upright with a giggle that echoes through the forest, lighting it up.
I refocus with a clearing of my throat. I notice the chimera slipping by and nod at him. I can sense some of the others close, probably the pixie and the shapeshifter, but it’s more out of curiosity than anything, so we keep walking, until something skirts my senses.
“Althea.” I tug her to a stop, frowning, but she squeezes my hand.
“It’s okay. I feel it too. It’s watching us and deciding.” Turning, she walks backwards, leading me. “When they are ready, they will come out.”
“The call?” I ask, and she nods.
“A shy one.” She shrugs, and the trees break out into a clearing.
The huge cave I used to spend a lot of nights in is before us, glistening with jewels and gems. The waterfall next to it is throwing mist everywhere. It looks like something from another world, which is why I liked it so much, and I didn’t even know she was leading me here.
She sits on the edge, dangling her feet into the water, so I sit behind her, wrapping my arms around her, and we just sit, soaking in the water, the beauty, and the peace, knowing what is to come will be madness.
My senses pick up whatever is watching us as it moves closer. She must too, but she simply sighs and leans back into me. When it doesn’t speak or make a move, she grins. “You can come out. We will not hurt you.”
We wait, and a silhouette appears on the other side of the water, keeping it between us.
“What are you?” my queen calls, and I focus on the figure, also unsure what kind of monster this woman is.
Her hair is a bright blue, like the ocean, and it falls to her knees. Her black eyes are huge, and her skin is so pale, it’s almost luminous. She looks like a mix between a fey and a pixie. She’s a beautiful creature for sure, but she’s nothing compared to the queen in my arms.
“A mermaid and a siren,” the melodic voice replies. “If I were to enter the water, you would see my true form. I journeyed far from the ocean. I felt your call and had to know. I have spent so much time alone in the water. My mate and family were killed by poachers a long time ago.”
I sense her pain and Althea rubs her chest, feeling it too.
“I am sorry,” Althea tells her, and I can tell she means it.
The woman sits, dangling her feet into the water like Althea, and a change slowly comes over her legs until they morph into a blue and green iridescent fin.
“Beautiful,” Althea says with awe in her tone.
“As are you, night being,” the woman replies. “I am known as Tide, or I was when I had anyone to call me.”
“Althea,” my girl responds. “I am so sorry about your family, Tide. You have been alone since?”