“You told him.”

Johnny nodded. “That’s okay, isn’t it?”

Toni assessed Evan’s giant smile. “Yes,” she said. She hugged Evan back. “Yes.”

Kurt Miller parked his Crown Victoria in the garage. Once he’d stuffed the files into his briefcase, he left the car. Inside, he heard the treadmill motor running in the basement. “Honey?” he called.

“Down here!” she called, slightly breathless.

Kurt descended sluggishly. His mind had been rolling for the last half hour as he’d driven around, thinking. Brenda already knew for certain she couldn’t have kids. A uterine problem. In vitro was out. Neither felt surrogacy was an option, so his fertility had never been tested. They had accepted they could not have children. But now he knew: He could father a child. How would it make her feel? She’d already dealt, years before, with feeling “flawed.” Would this bring that pain back?

At the bottom of the steps, he stood and regarded her.

“What?” she asked and let loose a self-conscious giggle.

He said nothing.

“Kurt? Is it the case?” She powered down the treadmill and walked toward him. “Is everything okay?”

He wrapped her in his arms.

She laid her head on his chest. “Kurt. What’s wrong?”

“Nothing’s wrong.”

She didn’t argue, she just let him hold her.

This is who she is. Patient. Loving. I’ve been so selfish for so long, thinking I could never make a real fatherlike connection to some kid I didn’t know. It seemed an insurmountable mountain, but he’d seen two strangers conquer that slope in the back of his car today in a few minutes, under less than perfect circumstances. Sure, John was Evan’s biological father, but as any law enforcement officer saw daily, fathering a child didn’t make a man a parent.

He sucked down a breath. With his mouth lightly touching the top of her head, he whispered, “I want us to make an appointment with that adoption agency you found.”


I woke up clean in my comfy bed at the haven. The clock read 1:30 p.m. A fire was burning low, providing just enough light for my drowsy eyes.


I still have Menessos.

My satellite phone rang. Grabbing it from the nightstand, I saw it was Nana. “Hello?”

“Everything going well with your critical situation?”

“Yes, I think it’s resolved. For now. How’s your knee?”

“Gonna be fine.” She paused. “Your mother’s a piece of work.”

“Yes, your daughter is.”

I heard her marked exhale. “You smoking?”

“No, but Goddess I want one.”

“You coming home soon?”

She paused. “Yes. Yes, I am.”


There was silence on the line, then she said, “I love you, Seph.”

“I love you too, Nana.” We hung up.

I thought back over last night.

Without speaking much, Menessos had wrapped me in his jacket. He had held me all the way here, and ushered me quickly to my rooms so I could shower and change—two things I’d been eager to do. It had required a lot of conditioner to convince my hair to comb out, but eventually, and with the aid of hot water and ibuprofen, I felt human again.

A hot meal had been waiting for me after I showered. Chicken noodle soup, no less.

The broth had had a delicious hint of rosemary, and the fat noodles must have been homemade. There had been gourmet crackers as well; they’d been buttery and sprinkled with rosemary, too. After eating, I had felt restored, and sleepy.

Unable to get my mind off the fight we’d had before the meeting with the shabbubitum, I’d felt guilty. It hadn’t exactly been a fight, but I’d shouted at him and told him I didn’t need him exploiting what he’d given up.

I had to admit that my venting might have been more about the state of my relationships with Johnny and my mother than it had been about Menessos. Feeling remorseful about it, I’d gone down to his chamber wearing my thick terry robe and a sling for my arm. Mark had been sitting in a comfy chair outside his door, playing a game on his cell phone. “May I?” I had asked.

He’d said, “Of course.” I’d knocked.

“You should be resting,” Menessos had said. He’d shut the door behind him, but not before I’d seen the advisor and Liyliy’s sisters in his chamber.

“I want to apologize.”

Mark had abruptly excused himself and meandered toward the stage to give us privacy.

“There’s no need—”

I’d put my fingers on his lips to shush him. “Yes, there is. Friday night, before the advisor arrived . . . I . . .” I hadn’t been able to tell him that Johnny had attacked me. He’d claimed he’d known, but I hadn’t been ready to talk about that yet. Just thinking about it generated burning tears. “I wasn’t myself. I appreciate all that you do for me, all that you have done and sacrificed for me. And I thank you for it.”

I had opened my arms then and, awkwardly, we’d embraced.

“Oh, Persephone. I just want . . . to keep you safe.” I’d shivered when he’d said my name, and he’d broken the embrace too soon. “Go now. You must rest.” He’d put on a brave countenance, but something sad had been lurking beneath.

I’d caressed Menessos’s face and pulled him to me. I’d kissed him, tenderly, sweetly, and he’d let me. Then I’d flicked his lips with my tongue. He’d sighed. He’d trembled under my touch and his arms had snaked around me to clutch me close. I’d tasted him and explored his mouth, indulging in his cinnamon flavor, kissing him as a lover would.

Later, in my safe and warm bed, rousing to a lazy Sunday afternoon, I remembered all this, and anticipated Menessos waking less than four hours from now.

Nothing will ever be the same.

My satellite phone on the bedside table rang. Ozzy Osbourne’s “Bark at the Moon” flooded my ears, and I knew exactly who was calling.


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