She nodded, unable to speak her happiness because she was afraid she would sound like an idiot if it all bubbled out, and she was more likely to do that in her excitement.

“You hadn’t met your guide?” Recina asked with astonishment.

She shook her head. “It’s a long story.”

Recina smiled. “We have all the time in the world.” She looked at Rogar, her smile still firmly in place. “And you two have mated?”

“Yes,” Rogar told her.

“Uh…” Callie looked between the two.

Recina seemed to realize what she had just asked. “I’m sorry. My mother raised me with all the traditions of a Symtarian. I’m afraid I’ve always been of that culture. I knew someday I would see my home again.”

But Recina had just said she would never leave her? Had it been only words?

“We’d better get Zerod locked away where he can do no harm,” Rogar said.

He was right. They would all have time for questions and answers later.

But she was starting to feel very confused.

“I never thought I would have the chance to wear clothes again,” Recina said after they were back at Callie’s house. They had just changed into some of Callie’s clothes.

“Thank you for watching over me.” Callie couldn’t stop herself from giving her mother another hug. This was her mother! All these years and she’d been watching over Callie the whole time.

Recina held her close for a moment, then with a sniff, stepped back. She cleared her throat as she glanced around. “This is where you have lived?”

“It was all I could afford.” Callie saw the shabbiness even more now that her mother was here. She would’ve hoped for her approval, but she could understand her disappointment.

Recina put her arm around Callie and pulled her close once again. “It’s not your fault. You survived, we both did, and that’s all that matters. Surviving has made you strong, I can see that. I guess I felt bad because I couldn’t give you everything that I would have liked to give you.”

“You gave me more than I ever dreamed.”

Rogar walked in the front door. “I have Zerod safely locked away on my craft. He won’t be able to get free. Once we’re back on New Symtaria, he’ll pay for his crimes.” Rogar looked between the two of them. “It’s time for me to return.”

Callie’s heart skipped a beat.

Go with him. It’s where you belong, Callie. It’s where I belong, too.

“Callie?” Rogar asked.

“I…” She looked at her mother.

“I can’t tell you what to do.”

“But I spent all that time going to college, and then there’s DeeDee, and…”

“Follow your heart,” Recina said. “But know that I will stay if that is what you choose.”

Callie wasn’t sure what she should do.

“I love you, Callie,” Rogar told her. “I love you with all my heart. If you decide not to leave, I’ll give up everything to come back and be with you.”

She saw by his expression that he was serious. He would give up the planet that he loved, his people, just to be with her. But could she ask him to do that?

Or could she travel far, far away to New Symtaria?

It wasn’t hard to figure out when she really thought about it.

She ran to Rogar and threw her arms around his neck. “I love you, too, and yes, I’ll go back with you.”

He swung her around, laughing before lowering his lips to hers in a searing kiss that left her breathless.

You made the right choice, Katun said.

I know.

And she did know. She’d always felt there was something missing in her life, but she’d never known what it was, until now.

Facing the unknown would take a lot of courage, but it was better than living the life she’d been living. Actually, when she thought about it, she hadn’t really been living, only watching as life passed her by.

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