I wanted to give John-John his mother back. I failed. In my heart, I suppose I knew I would. I square my shoulders and raise my face to meet Sani’s gaze.

“Then I have made the only decision I can. I wil remain vampire, protector. I only hope someday to be wise enough to know what is right and to have the courage to fight for what is right.”

Sani’s eyes shine into mine. “Fol ow your heart in al things and you wil not go astray.”

His grip on my hands loosens, but I don’t let go. “Tel me,” I ask. “Why did you agree to meet with me?”

He smiles, patting my hand. “You have respect for the Navajo. For the old ways. There is too little of it, even among our own people.”

He rises, takes my hand, pul s me to my feet. “You are a soldier — a guardian. Don’t fight your nature. Embrace it, learn from it. You have an important role to play. You’ve just begun to understand how important. You seek love, for yourself and others. It is understandable. But seek knowledge, too, and through it, understanding. There are many factions, many battles ahead. You wil be the ambassador to bring al sides together. That is the gift of the Chosen One.”

He lays a hand on my head, a blessing.

And a farewel.

Just like before, I don’t have time to process his words or respond. Sani is gone. The scene around me melts into a blur.

The next moment, I’m back on the porch.



too disoriented to get up right away. I’m not sure my legs wil support me.

What happened wasn’t a dream. Was it?

The last few minutes replay in my head as vividly as a movie. Sani’s words are imprinted in my brain, there for me to cal up when I falter.

The thought fil s me with warmth.

It’s as if I have a little of Sani’s spirit inside.

When I walk into the kitchen, Frey and John-John are seated around the table. Frey tilts his head, peers at me.

“Are you al right?”

“Sure. What’s going on?”

Frey motions for me to take a seat. “I have to tel you something.”

I slide in next to John-John. He looks a little happier, his eyes clearer. He holds out a hand to me and I blow into his palm. He grins.

Frey isn’t so happy. “I’ve made a decision.”

I beat him to the punch. “You’re staying here with John-John.”

He looks startled, as if I’ve pul ed a chicken from behind John-John’s ear. “Don’t look so surprised.” I muss the child’s hair. “It wasn’t so hard to figure out. I knew before you did.”

Sani’s words, the boy wil not be alone.

And Frey’s admonition: magic always exacts a price. The bigger the magic, the bigger the price. Isn’t that what he said?

This is my price to pay. Life without my friend. Even if the magic didn’t work the way I hoped it might.

This is my price to pay.

“You could stay with us,” John-John is saying. “I could teach you to ride and speak Navajo.”

“I wish I could. But I need to get back to work. I’l come visit, though. I think it’s time I learned to ride a horse, don’t you?”

He is smiling. I touch his hair, softly, and stand up. I don’t know how long I can pretend to be upbeat about Frey’s decision, even though I know it’s the right one. The only one.

Sadness is so close to the surface, I’m afraid it wil overwhelm me. How wil I get along without my friend?

“Besides,” I say through the huge lump in my throat. “I’ve been thinking about my own family. I think it’s time I paid them a visit. Trish has been scolding me for staying away so long.”

With a side trip to New York. I missed Stephen’s debut network appearance. Maybe I can catch the next one in person.

I can tel by the look in Frey’s eyes, he approves. I wish I could communicate how much I’m going to miss him. Maybe it’s better that I can’t.

“He knows,” John-John pipes up. “He’s going to miss you, too.”

Frey and I laugh. “I forgot how smart you are.” I hug John-John to my chest. “You take care of your dad.”

I let John-John go, fighting back tears. “I’d better cal my pilot and have him pick me up in — Ah, where would be the closest airport?”

John-John’s eyes get big. “You have a plane?” he asks before Frey can answer.

For just a moment, excitement and wonder sweep the cloud of sadness from his eyes.

I bend down so our faces are close. “I sure do. Tel me, John-John, how would you like to take a ride on a private jet?”

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