Authors: Laura Jo Phillips
Tags: #Paranormal Romance
As much as she wanted to get away from the Falcorans, this was the most important thing she had ever been asked to do in her life, and she wanted to do it. But she could not do it alone. Like it or not, she had to work with these men, or others like them, so she needed to find a way to make the situation one that she could live with.
“There’s one thing we need to be clear on,” she said. “I am
going to be your Arima. I know you don’t want me anyway, but I just want to be sure that there’s no confusion on this.”
“Do you dislike us so much?” Jonathan asked in his peculiar, flat voice.
“No,” Faith replied. “I don’t know you any better than you know me. This isn’t personal. If we’re clear on that, then we can try working together.”
“Agreed,” Tristan said. “If you’ll join us, we are approaching the area in which you saw the first jump point from the Skyport. As Prince Garen mentioned, the sensor readings have changed from what they’ve been since monitoring began two days ago, but we are uncertain what the changes mean. We’ve never seen readings quite like this before. It is hoped that you will be able to see something that will explain them.”
Faith crossed the room and stood at the far end of the viewport, putting as much distance between herself and the Falcorans as she could while still able to look out the window. The Skyport was to her left, looking much larger than she expected from the outside. The jump point, a patch of darkness that seemed lighter than the surrounding darkness of space, was not quite as she remembered it.
“It’s different,” she said.
“Different in what way?” Graysan asked, squinting intently in the direction she was pointing.
“When I saw it before it was like a hole, only in reverse,” she said.
“In reverse?” Jon asked, frowning uncertainly.
“If you dig a hole in the ground, then look into it, it’s dark. Well, this was like that, only it was lighter than the space around it, while still giving the illusion of depth.”
“And how is it different now?” Gray asked.
“It doesn’t look like a hole any more. It looks more like a...thin spot.”
“Thin spot,” Tristan repeated. Faith couldn’t tell if he was being sarcastic again or not, but she decided to give him the benefit of the doubt and let it go.
“Imagine that space is like a piece of carpet that’s been folded and bent here and there,” she said. “In some places the nap of the carpet is completely gone, worn all the way down to, and through, the backing. That’s a hole, or jump point. A shortcut that lets you go instantly to whatever bit of carpet is on the backside of the fold. You following me?”
“Perfectly,” Graysan said, while Tristan and Jonathan nodded. “Now, imagine that there are areas on the carpet where the nap is worn partially away. Some areas more than others, some less, leaving thin spots in the carpet. The thin spots don’t go all the way through, they aren’t holes, but in some places, they’re very close to being holes, going all the way down to the backing, but not through it.” Faith turned back toward the viewport. “This place right here was a hole when I saw it the first time. I saw a ship come through it, then turn around and go back again. Now, it’s a thin place. A very thin place, like the thin backing of that piece of carpet, but it is no longer a hole. It’s like a door that was open, but is now closed.”
“What do you think happened to change the hole to a thin place?” Jonathan asked.
Faith shrugged uncomfortably. “I’m not a scientist,” she said.
“We are fully aware of that,” Tristan said. “Your opinion is asked anyway.”
“Fine,” she said. “I think it means that the Xanti have a way of punching holes into thin areas of space.”
Tristan nodded in agreement, his throat dry with fear for the first time in his life. “And when they’re done,” he added, “they close it back up so no one can follow where they go.”
Faith nodded. That’s what she thought, too.
Jackson Bearen sat on the floor with all three of their young sons. Harlan, currently in his Owlfen form, perched on his right shoulder, while Mattlan, also in Owlfen form, perched on his left. Weld sat on his knee, giggling as he transformed his human arms to fur covered wings, and back again, over and over.
Jackson heard the Sentinel in his mind as it attempted to convince Weld to transform fully, to no avail. “Weld doesn’t appear to be in the mood for seriousness right now,” Jackson said, knowing that the Sentinel could hear him.
,” the Sentinel replied tiredly.
“Perhaps we’ve done enough for today.”
Jackson agreed, smiling when the Sentinel winked out of his mind. Suddenly both Harlan and Matt released their Owlfen and he had two squirming toddlers on his shoulders, their bright peals of laughter joining Weld’s as he reached up to grab them before they tumbled to the floor.
Clark and Rob each plucked one of the boys from his shoulders and tossed them lightly into the air, earning even louder shrieks of mirth, while Jackson stood up with Weld in his arms. As he watched his brothers with their sons, Jackson felt his heart swell with the love and happiness that now filled their lives. They had longed for a family of their own, and children, for so many long, lonely years. It was gratifying to know that every single moment of the wait had been worth it.
He and his brothers were finally linked, the three parts of their shared soul now whole as it was meant to be, and connected with Hope’s soul, also as it was meant to be. They’d found the one woman in space and time meant especially for them, and she was perfect in every way. The boys, Owlfens by birth, but true sons in their hearts, were a joy almost too big for words. And soon, very soon, they would have three daughters to hold in their arms and add to their hearts. It brought tears to his eyes and a lump to his throat just thinking of it.
“Are you all right?” Hope asked as she came to stand before him. She wrapped one arm around his waist and stretched up on her toes to kiss Weld. When Jackson didn’t answer she looked into his eyes and frowned. “Jackson?”
He shook his head quickly and smiled. “I was just thinking.” He smiled, remembering the Bible instruction that he, Clark, and Rob had taken on Earth in an effort to understand Hope’s beliefs more fully. “I now understand something that I didn’t understand the first time I heard it.”
“Which is what?” Hope asked, noting the suspicious brightness in his pale green eyes, the wide smile on his face.
“Our cup truly runneth over,” he said softly.
Hope smiled and hugged him tightly. She knew exactly what he meant, and felt the same way. Then she sighed.
“What is it,
?” he asked.
“I want Faith to have this happiness too,” she said, then shook her head and sighed again. “Sometimes its confusing for me. I didn’t know Grace for very long, but it was an intense time. We bonded during those few days, and I felt as though I’d lost a life long friend when she died. I didn’t think it was possible for me to develop the same bond with Faith. I do care about her, though, and I want her to be happy for her own sake, not just because I want to do something for Grace.”
“I cannot pretend to understand why the Falcorans are so set on refusing their true Arima,” Jackson said. “Why anyone would deliberately deny themselves this kind of happiness defies my comprehension.”
“I think it’s called
cutting off your nose to spite your face
,” Hope said.
“An apt statement, though it draws an exceedingly unpleasant image in one’s mind,” Jackson grimaced.
“Yes, it does,” she agreed. “My biggest problem is that I can’t decide whether I think Faith would be better off without them, or with them.”
“As she was made for them, so too were they made for her,” Jackson said.
“I know,” Hope said. “But after what the Director told me she’s been through, and knowing what the Falcorans have been through, it’s clear that they’ve all been altered in unexpected and tragic ways. How can they possibly still be right for each other?”
, is an age-old question,” Jackson said. “I do not believe anyone has ever yet found an answer to it.”
“I have a theory on that,” Clark said as he and Rob joined them, each with a tired, but happy, boy in his arms.
“Please share,” Hope said.
“I don’t think that our experiences matter,” he said. “It doesn’t matter that we’ve lived for centuries here, on Jasan, members of a race of mostly males, while you lived a fraction of that time in a culture completely different from our own. We had nothing in common with each other in terms of life experiences, beliefs, or even customs. It is our
that were made to be together. Meant to be together. Not our bodies, or even our hearts.”
“Does that mean that Faith and the Falcorans will eventually come around and accept each other?” Hope asked.
“Not necessarily,” Clark said sadly. “Their souls are meant to be together, but they still have minds, and with that comes free will. They may choose to ignore the yearning of their souls. It has happened before, though not since before the Dark Time.”
“What will happen to them if they do?” Hope asked.
“Faith is human,” Clark said. “It’s possible she will one day find another to share her life with, though she will never know the kind of love she is meant to know with the Falcorans.”
“And what of them? What will happen to them?”
“They will live out their lives as they are now,” Clark said. “They will never change, or grow into the men they are meant to be. They will never know happiness, or love.”
“They will never feel the joy of holding their sleeping child in their arms,” Rob said softly before leaning down to kiss Harlan’s forehead. “They will never experience the ecstasy of creating children with the woman they love, nor the strange mixture of anticipation and terror of the impending birth.”
,” Jackson said, wrapping one arm around her shoulders and pulling her close against him, “they will never understand what it is to have their cup runneth over.”
Trey Dracon suddenly appeared on the Bearens’ front step and pressed the doorbell. He waited impatiently for the Bearens’ housekeeper to answer the door, reminding himself repeatedly that the ability to speed travel meant that even without rushing, they would reach Badia in a fraction of the time it had once taken if they needed to. Nevertheless, he was still relieved enough to let out a small sigh when the door opened.
“Greetings, Prince Trey,” the housekeeper said, her eyebrows raised in surprise.
“Good afternoon, Sondra,” Trey said politely. “I would speak with Jackson, Clark, and Rob, if they are available.”
“Certainly, Highness,” Sondra said, stepping back and pulling the door all the way open. “Please come in.”
Trey entered the house and closed the door behind him before following Sondra’s tall, narrow frame through the living room to the family room. He was relieved to see all of the Bearens were there. That would save time.
“Greetings, Highness,” Jackson said as he slipped a sleeping Weld into Hope’s arms.
Trey smiled faintly at the sight of the three big Bearens with the small Owlfen babies. So much had changed for their people in such a short time. Which was why the matter he’d come to discuss with them was so important, and so unnerving.
“I apologize for interrupting you,” Trey said, offering Hope a friendly smile. “It is a matter of some importance.”
Jackson glanced sharply at him, and Trey nodded. Yes, this was a serious visit. Clark and Rob went up the stairs with Hope to put the boys down, while Jackson led Trey into their private office and closed the door. “May I offer you something to drink while we wait for Clark and Rob?” Jackson asked.
“No, thank you, Jackson,” Trey replied. A moment later the other Bearens joined them, much to Trey’s relief. After brief greetings, he began.
“I am here to speak with you in your capacity as Planetary Security Chiefs,” he began. All three of the Bearens stood up a bit straighter, giving him their strictest attention.
“Our decision to send Faith Meyers out on a scouting trip has already paid off,” Trey said as he reached for his hand terminal and pulled up the encrypted transmission he’d received less than ten minutes earlier. He handed the terminal to Jackson. “It appears that the Xanti have the ability to punch through what Faith describes as
in space, creating a doorway which they can then close behind them,” he explained while Jackson read the Falcoran’s report.
“This explains why our sensor readings don’t match known jump points, and why they changed,” Jackson said, handing the terminal to Clark. “
. Artificially created jump points. I never would have believed such a thing possible.”
“At least we can now monitor it, so we’ll know if it opens up again,” Clark said.
“The question is, how many of these things are there?” Trey asked. “And how do we find them?”