Final secrets revealed in Secrets of the Sea Lord

Come Home to a Bonus Ending!

Here is the "happy ending to the happy ending" bonus epilogue for Secrets of the Sea Lord, book six in the Lords of Atlantis series: "Faier Keeps His Promise."

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This is exclusive to newsletter subscribers, so please do not share it. Also, you should really read Secrets of the Sea Lord first. This story contains massive spoilers! It is a fun, steamy story of Faier and Harmony visiting her old home of Council Bluffs, Iowa with Evens, King Kayo, and more. Plus the beginning of a sweet bonus romance! And danger...

Harmony's looked forward to coming home for so long, but when the unexpected happens, Faier has to be her hero once more.


Epilogue for Secrets of the Sea Lord

"Faier Keeps His Promise"

Harmony crossed her arms and tapped her foot on the worn linoleum. She tilted her head to address the warrior behind her. “Faier, I know you’re trying to protect me, but you can’t hold me hostage.”

Faier’s hard forearm, decorated with iridescent lavender and mauve tattoos, cinched tight around her belly and pressed her butt to his rock-hard abdomen. “I vowed to keep you safe.”

“I’m perfectly safe. Don’t stand in my way.”

“Harmony, you know the danger of crocodiles. They move suddenly, their jaws snap, and you shriek.”

“I just — Faier. If you love someone you have to let them go.”

He nuzzled into her neck, making delicious shivery goosebumps trail down her arms and legs. “I will never let you go into danger, Harmony.”

She crossed her arms tighter, refusing to give in to the dangerous warrior. “Just give me the mallet, Faier.”

“I protect you.” With his free hand, he whacked the electronic green alligator emerging from the arcade console with the purple foam mallet.

She wiggled. “You’re going to win!”

“A true warrior fights through any distraction. You told me so last game.”

“I was cheating and it was wrong. Very wrong. You’re an honorable warrior who would never, ever cheat.”

His lips curved into a smile. He nibbled her sensitive ear lobe. “You change me, Harmony.”

Heat bloomed between her thighs.

She turned and lifted her chin, offering her lips.

He dropped his mouth on hers, sealing their connection. His tongue entangled hers. Liquid heat shot to her core. Her nipples tightened into pearls rubbing against soft cotton. His arousal pressed against her waist, reminding her of the wonderful hour they’d spent together before breakfast and promising another good moment any time she wished.

Harmony snuck the mallet from Faier’s lax hand.

He pulled back, the lavender threads in his dark irises gleaming. He knew what she had done.

“My turn!” She faced the Wacky Gator arcade game. Whack whack whack whack. “I win!”

“Good recovery.” He leaned against the machine, watching her with a soft smile.

“Yeah! Ha ha. Haaa.” She held the mallet and then the silliness of the situation hit her. She lowered the mallet and turned away.

Harmony had come home to Council Bluffs with two goals. They were already on their last day and neither of the goals had come true yet.

One had been to show her friends all the wonderful things in town. But an arcade game was probably pretty boring for a warrior who’s wrestled real crocodiles.

Sensing her changing mood, Faier pushed off the wall and moved behind her again. “You are very skilled at whacking the electric crocodiles.” His fingers knotted her hair and gave little tugs.

She relaxed into him. “These are much more fun than the real ones. The Mall used to have a whacking moles game. But I was better at alligators.”

His hard arousal nudged her. “Shall we play again?”

“No.” Her mouth dried. “It’s a little boring, isn’t it?”

“No time with you is boring.”

“Are you sure?”

He held her quietly for a long moment. Silent communication passed between their bodies. His support and steady kindness and enticing power. He’d been her rock this past week. And, even though they only had one night left, the hardest part of the visit wasn’t quite done. She’d been putting it off. But there was no more time.

He leaned down and murmured in her ear. “Are you ready?”

She held his arms around her a little longer. Her heart squeezed and relaxed. Now or never. She stepped out of his arms. “Let’s check in with the others first.”

Faier followed her out of the snowed-in pizzeria onto the wide flat street of her old home town, Council Bluffs, Iowa.

The winter day was sunny and freezing. A continuous wind blew off the Missouri river; on the other side of the interstate, tall skyscrapers announced Omaha. Along the street, dirty banks piled up into frosty mountains.

She tugged the thick jacket close to her collar. Indoors, Faier caught eyes with his tribal tattoos encased in otherwise nondescript khakis, a blue golf shirt, and loafers. Outdoors, he was fully covered, like her.

They passed the building where the old library had been. She’d stood, silently devastated, outside of the vaulted stone for ten minutes with her pleasantly interested companions who perused the now history of trains museum before she finally asked what had happened to the library.

Now she crossed the park and stamped off extra snow in the modern glass building that was perfectly nice, fresh and strange, but held none of the happy memories from her childhood.

King Kayo settled at a sturdy, clean table turning oversized pages of “pressed pulp” inked with photographs of the modern world. Cities, countries, machinery, zoo animals.

Evens, next to him, identified everything by reading the captions or using his new tablet Harmony had bought.

He had survived his weeks in the gang’s captivity with few bruises and, thank goodness, no lasting scars. The arrests of Lifet and Jean-Baptiste had thrown the gang into a tournament for power between lesser lieutenants and rival gangs. Evens had been stashed at Lifet’s uncle’s plantation so he’d missed most of the violence. He’d been forced into terrifying hard labor instead.

Harmony had gotten him therapy. The haunted looks were fading and he only jumped a little when people shouted nearby. He was upbeat and resilient like his mom. His therapist hoped for a full recovery.

And, since the first moment they had met, Evens had decided that King Kayo was his new best friend. No one would kidnap him and force him into labor if he was best friends with a massive warrior.

The king was still recovering from his own injuries and was very amenable to going a slow pace, resting often, and learning about the surface world through the eager eyes of a “young trainee” child. They’d been nearly inseparable for the whole week. And, now the two of them had surrounded themselves with a fort’s worth of books.

Evens bounced to his feet in front of Harmony, the plastic on his new sneakers squeaking. “We’re learning about farming.”

“Oh, good.” She squeezed his slender shoulders. “We’re heading out to my old apartment. Did you want to come?”

Evens snorted at her like she was crazy. “Is the apartment not boring and cold?”

Her heart sank. To be reminded by an eleven-year-old about the failings of her town visit hurt but he was right. “Yeah, actually, it probably is.”

“Then we will stay here where it is warm and awesome.”

His enthusiasm tricked her back into a smile. “Okay. Can I get you two scholars a snack?”

“We have already gotten a snack from the vender-machine.” King Kayo flattened six empty silver wrappers formerly filled with Strawberry Frosted Pop Tarts. “These flavors are so strange yet addicting. I cannot stop eating.”

She mentally added them to her shopping list. “Your addiction runs in the family. I ate one a day everyday all through high school.”

“Can I acquire this ‘toaster tart’ through hunting or farming?”

“Farming,” she guessed, although she had no idea how. “Maybe the librarians can find you a recipe. Why?”

He smoothed the wrappers. “Our father was a great hunter. He healed my mother by offering her any food she desired. But modern brides have more exotic tastes. I must not disappoint my…a future bride.”

His aura dimmed.

Although the tear-shaped scar from his near-death heart injury was hidden by his loose long-sleeve shirt, he was still recovering and had not gone on any great hunts.

He was also still recovering from the heartache of finding and losing what he thought was his sacred bride—Harmony—and he feared that he would end up like Faier, unable to connect with any bride for months or years.

Faier had searched for a bride in New York for nearly two years before encountering Harmony on a rescue operation in the Caribbean. King Kayo had surfaced a week ago with Harmony and already showed the glimmers of anxiety at seeing so many human females and realizing that not one of them was destined for him.

It was a hard blow for a king raised to believe he was chosen to find the first mate in all his city. After the betrayal and execution of his first lieutenant, Tibe, King Kayo had questioned a lot of things. To the end, the cold first lieutenant had showed no remorse. That, perhaps even more than the betrayal, had made King Kayo question his own judgment.

She had accidentally slipped a few changes past him that had nearly blown up in the mer city, but thanks to the guidance and forgiveness of the other warriors like Xarin, Luin, Poro, and shy Zaka, things had turned out all right.

Even Elder Bawa was beginning to say changing over to a rebel city was the right choice. He, too, carried many regrets. His former righteousness and end-justifies-the-means schemes had ended completely. He was now a gruff introvert who refused to take sides on anything and only shared his experience when asked.

He, like many of the elders, subtly pushed for a reunion with Harmony’s tribe.

The elders were all fascinated that Harmony’s mother had never taken another husband after Kamuy. They were struck by the similarities in how the two had died. The elders had conducted meticulous research to match up dates and were certain that the two had died within days of each other. If such a link between mates could remain for decades, and the ancient covenant no longer restricted them from seeking out their old brides…well, the elders hoped for a swift reunion, and quite honestly, Harmony couldn’t blame them.

Facilitating the reunion was the second item on Harmony’s goal list for this town visit.

“You’ll find a bride,” Harmony assured King Kayo now. “Our Life Tree reunited us after nearly three decades. Your bride will cross your path too.”

He nodded despondently. “Hopefully I do not threaten her, abandon her in the ocean, or make her cry as I did you.”

“You won’t. I wasn’t your soul mate. When you find her, you’ll listen to her like every word is made of gold.”

He sighed. “I hope.”

She missed her brother’s bright confidence and generous kindness. Someday, hopefully soon, he’d accept that mistakes happened and forgive himself.

Harmony let his melancholy go “Are you staying here or going back to the rental?”

Her brother gazed on his barely-touched stack of books and stretched. “Evens prefers to review these books and I am glad of the knowledge. We will go directly from the library closing to the meeting spot with Evens’ mother.”

She swallowed. “I hope this trip hasn’t been disappointing.”

“My feelings do not matter.” He clasped her hand. Her small neon pink tattoo on her thumb—which she’d embellished up to her wrist into a branch of the Life Tree dripping a resin Sea Opal—matched the swirls on his hand. “Your homecoming must be all you have wished.”

Her throat closed. “I wish it would have been a little more fun for you.”

“Do not worry for me.” His brows lowered. “My happiness or sadness is of my own making.”

“I know. Okay. Try to have some fun.” She released her brother’s hand and leaned an arm over Evens’ thin shoulders. “Don’t work too hard.”

He laughed with delight. “This is not working. This is a dream.”

Evens’s bliss made the tension behind her heart relax.

Harmony left her brother and Evens where they were, tugged on her snow hat and damp gloves with Faier in the entrance, and clambered on the bus for the destination she’d been putting off since the moment she’d rolled into town and realized things were off.

As always, he remained a silent, supportive figure beside her, whether crammed on the bus seat beneath too many layers of snowy fluff or whether nude beneath the sea.

The high school appeared outside their window. Harmony signaled for a stop. They both got off.

Her nerves crunched.

“Are you okay?” Faier asked.

“Yes. Sorry.” She turned away from the school and hurried down the block. “Come on.”

He followed easily although his gaze returned to her frequently with worry.

This trip had run her through the ringer of emotions, squeezing her heart and then expanding it again.

Long ago on that life raft Faier had promised to bring her home. She’d been so happy and now…Faier had gone through so much to make this promise come true. She hated showing even a moment of unhappiness.

Yesterday, she’d given Evens a tour of the old high school. The outside was the same but the inside had changed so much it was like confronting false memories and finding out her past—her identity—was a lie.

Evens had been enthralled by the brick and concrete structure, with long halls and clean classrooms, computer labs and desks, like he’d stumbled upon a mythical city.

“Your school will be just like this,” she’d said shakily in the doorway while he’d touched the white boards, desks, and paper supplies. “After your mom gets in, we’ll all head to your new school in Florida.”

King Kayo had tilted his head. “How do trainees learn to hunt inside this small space? They must be experts at close-quarters combat.”

She laughed awkwardly. “Fighting isn’t usually on the curriculum…”

“How strange. What more important skill is there for life?”

She didn’t answer.

Only Faier had noticed her distress creeping on the underside of every edgy answer.

Remembering it made her feel guilty all over again.

She turned the blocks from the high school by rote. Even though it had been a decade, she would never forget the route.

Her heart started to thump.

Faier took her hand. Separated by the thick gloves, she could still feel the warmth of his fingers.

She rounded the block and faced the apartment building where she’d spent the happiest decade of her ife. “Here it is! Oh.”

He stood beside her.

Nothing remained of the apartment building but a vacant lot. Cracked cement and stringy grass were flattened under mounds of old, dirty, ice-crusted snow.

An older woman came out of her house in a thick coat and boots, checked her mail, and paused. “You looking for something?”

“I used to live in the apartments that were there,” she said, striving for a normal tone and hating the hurt whine that lived in her voice instead. “But now they’re gone.”

“Oh, yeah. Those old fire hazards got pulled down six years ago.” The woman’s gaze fixed on Faier’s tattoo-colored face with amazement but she continued to answer Harmony’s question. “They were going to put in a fast food place but then the economy turned. Say, are you one of those merman types we’re always seeing on the news?”

Faier rested a hand on Harmony’s padded shoulder. “We both are.”

“Hmm. I didn’t know about any girls.” She patted her coat pockets. “Here, can I get you a hot cocoa? Or do you need something to eat? I think I’ve got some tuna casserole.”

“We have to meet someone.” Harmony backed away. “Thanks so much!”

“You sure? This winter is dragging on and on. You both must be frozen solid. Wait right here…” She headed into her house.

Harmony dragged Faier back to the main road before the woman’s Iowa-nice values got them invited into her living room and stuck in an awkward, although certainly well-intentioned, conversation that ate up the rest of the afternoon.

He joined her in front of the bus stop. “Where do you wish to visit? Back to the Mall?”

“No.” She rested her head on his puffy shoulder. “That was too disappointing.”

The Mall she’d dreamed about for a decade had not thrived in her absence. The very first place she’d stopped at, on the way in from the airport, was the Mall at the Bluffs to get a frosted soda—even though it was freezing—and salty French fries.

But the place had been virtually empty. The food court booth she’d wanted to eat at had a For Rent sign plastered across the counter. At the only open booth the fries had been cold and the pop had been warm.

And it had gone downhill from there.

Several historic buildings she’d remembered from her childhood were just gone. Paved over for parking lots and strip malls, where most of the mall shops had moved to. Then the library was in a new building; the old was converted into a museum. Her favorite restaurants had closed. She didn’t recognize any of the new ones. And of course the high school had changed its carpeting, added a wing, and updated its mascot. She’d been terrified of visiting her old apartment. That’s why she’d waited until the last afternoon of the last day.

Her childhood home was gone.

Faier teased a lock of hair away from her ear and nuzzled her. “Perhaps now it is time for another bag of your favorite hot French fries?”

“Are you hungry?”

The threads in his eyes gleamed. “Not for food.”

She checked the cheap plastic wrist watch she’d bought in the mall. They had a few hours until Fab’s plane touched down. The bus pulled up and she showed their day passes, then stuffed them into a seat. A new idea began to take form. “Let’s go home.”

As always, he followed.

The bus let them off a few blocks from their AirBnB rental. They crunched through the old, dingy ice. Faier opened the white picket fence, shaking off new snow, and she crossed the snowed-over lawn into a salt box blue four-bedroom house. She used the key and, inside the foyer, they clambered out of their cold weather jackets and sweaters and scarves and mittens.

She hung the melting gear over hooks and stretched. “Oh, if only my mom could see me now! I’ve really made it.”

Faier slid his arms around her middle, his arm surprisingly hot against her thin undershirt. “You have.”

“This was our dream.” She lowered her arms and rested them on his strong, bony knuckles. “Working hard enough to live like this. In a middle-income house.”

He was her steady lavender rock. The intertwining of his two colors of tattoos mesmerized her. She traced the lines she had repaired, connecting the old tattoos and recapturing his history. He stilled. His hard arousal pressed her again.

She turned in his arms and stroked his cheeks. “I wish she could have met you.”

“Thank you, Harmony.” His brow, once so angry, smoothed with steady calm. “Your wish honors me. Especially considering my past.”

“She would have seen right away that you were honorable. Whether or not you had your tattoos.”

He teased her lips with his. “Do you wish to draw a bath and relax?”

“No.” She slid her still-chilled fingers around his goosebumpy taut abdomen and turned to fit her body to his. It was funny how on the surface she had to open her mouth to speak instead of kissing and speaking simultaneously. “I have a different idea on how to pass the time.”

Their lips meshed. His taste filled her mouth. Male, spicy, and arousing. His hands tightened on her waist, cinching her against his hard cock.

She dug her hands into his shirt fabric and dragged him, hips swaying, backwards down the hall and into their master bedroom. The fading winter sun illuminated a fluffy white comforter thrown haphazardly across their bed from the morning’s activities. She backed up to it and tugged, tumbling him on top of her. They bounced together on the bed, him shielding her from his weight by landing on his forearms, and he answered her giggles by smiling down on her with pure satisfaction.

She tilted her head and teased him. “What?”

His smile turned serious. “I am not disappointed.”

“Oh?” She undulated beneath him, sliding her tight nipples across his broad chest and interlocking her legs around his taut buttocks. “Glad to hear it.”

He closed his eyes and sucked in a deep breath. Hot arousal made his cock pulse hard against her belly. She loved teasing him and he knew it. He opened his eyes with new seriousness. The lavender threads in his eyes gleamed. Mesmerizing.

She gave into her wish and captured his mouth, tangling tongues.

He slid his hand across her belly and lifted her undershirt, exposing her lace-covered breasts to his expert fingers. They had made love beneath and above the seas many times and his ability to satisfy her had only increased with experience. His hot, wet mouth closed over her eager nipple and pleasure streaked to her hot, throbbing pussy. She closed her eyes and arched into the delicious need he evoked in her.

They pushed and pulled out of clothes, intermixing kisses with exposed skin, tickles with sensual teasing.

He laved her with his tongue, licking and kissing down her trembling belly to her mons, delving beneath her lacy panties to her sensitive clit, and stroking her seam. She opened to his worship. He pressed his hard palm against her sex lips and moved just the way she liked, riding her desire like a fish cutting through the tide. His eyes locked on hers, sensing her reactions and seeking how to better please her. She held his gaze. Locked on it.

Gratitude floated on the top of her building arousal. Thank goodness the other women Faier had met and tried to date had never seen beyond his scars. Now he was healed, inside and out, and she enjoyed the treat of a powerful warrior kneeling on a bed holding her entire world in his steady, capable, gorgeous hands.

He made her want to give instead of only passively receiving. She grabbed his bulging biceps and guided him up her body.

He moved with her, knowing what she wanted with their perfect soul resonance, and fitted his cock to her dripping entrance.

She angled to savor his first thrust, taking him in to the hilt. Male to female, warrior to queen, soul mate to soul mate. Both damaged souls, they had found each other and become whole.

Harmony entwined his flexing thighs and arched into his masterful thrusts. His cock pounded into her feminine center. She lost herself and came hard, tingling with delicious release. He exploded in the same instant, firing his hot release into her womb, and collapsed, shuddering with emotion.

She stroked Faier’s trembling shoulders gently, holding him tight against her until they subsided. How funny that they could have come together so many times and yet he still reacted as if it was the first time.

“It’s kind of funny,” she started to say as sleep invaded her veins.

“I still struggle to believe you are mine,” he replied, knowing what she meant without her needing to finish her sentence.

Her heart warmed. She kissed his trembling forehead and nuzzled into his thick, dark hair. “Believe.”

His arms tightened briefly in recognition. But she also understood. It was hard to believe she was here in Council Bluffs after a decade-long nightmare overseas.

First thing after surfacing as a queen of Aiycaya, Harmony learned that she was welcome to return to the United States as its citizen at any time.

Her ex, off the drugs and struck by guilt at her disappearance after the Coast Guard arrests of Lifet and Jean-Baptiste, had determined to prove her citizenship and had contacted a journalist in Florida with the whole story.

The journalist had not only found Harmony’s mom’s old employer, coworkers, and statements about how she’d worked while pregnant; he’d also found the Dominican midwife who’d delivered Harmony at home. He’d traced the various typos, glitches, and records problems that had created a perfect storm affecting not only Harmony but over a thousand other births during the same decade and had even resulted in one other mistaken deportation. Luckily, unlike Harmony, the other deportee had actually had family abroad to help navigate the sudden shock.

It was nice to know that she had always been an American after all. Although it was all complicated by the fact that she was a mer. Born of a transformed human mother and a mer father, she herself was a mer shifter, and like the rest of the world’s human governments, her actual status for human rights—human rights, the opponents pointed out, restricted her rights even in the name—was up for debate now.

But that didn’t matter because Aiycaya was her home. King Kayo was her brother. Faier was her soul mate.

And she was rich.

After being poor her entire life, literally everything was better with money. She could afford any school Evens wanted—and so they picked one together. She could send Monsieur Joseph to the world’s most renowned knee doctors in Switzerland—and so she did, and he was making great improvements even though he didn’t respond to any Sea Opal therapies.

He was eager to return to his “children” in Haiti and would arrive in a few weeks with a cane. Although he would no longer run with his students at recess, he was also no longer a cripple.

She felt terribly guilty about involving him but he’d waved away her apologies.

“Evens was my student. My boy.” His soft French accent was still dignified and he held himself tall, his black skin midnight against the cream hospital sheets. “I would have given my life for any of my boys but I did not see any chance. Until you.”

She’d swallowed her tears. “I’m sorry.”

“Do not grieve, Harmony. I rest easier now than I ever have. And thanks to your scholarships more of my boys will have a chance to build a good life.”

Her scholarship funded the educations of a girl and a boy overseas, and Monsieur Joseph would return to Haiti to begin talks with community to revamp the educational system.

There also needed to be more for students to look forward to after graduation than joining a gang. So, they needed to make opportunities together to support youth before, during, and also after school.

Last, she did want to improve things for her tribe, not only because it was her heritage, but also because of the shared history with her warriors.

Her cell phone alarm beeped.

She startled out of her daydream and tapped Faier, who was already rising and heading to the shower. He knew her mind again without speaking. That connection was something she hoped all of her warriors would someday find with their brides.

They dried, dressed, and slogged out into the snow again. No busses were coming anytime soon so she ended up calling for a ride. How funny that she could just afford that now.

“You’ll love Fab,” Harmony told Faier, her excitement rising as she got out in front of the busy burger joint. “She’s raw and cheeky and delightful. And it’s no exaggeration to say she saved my life. I turned up in Haiti with nothing. She answered the church resettlement group’s request as my ‘cousin’ even though we’re so many times removed we’re barely related. And she had nothing to her name but she shared it all with me. For a long time, she was my world.”

He held the door for her to enter. “I will honor her.”

“Oh! There she is.” Harmony hurried to the table to greet her cousin.

The professional woman with tight black curls shorn close to her head didn’t look at all like the stereotypical jungle tribe Haitian. She stood and waved, a steaming hot coffee in one hand. “Here you are! Welcome home!”

“Welcome yourself.” Harmony hugged the slender woman who had come down to the church in Port-au-Prince with an infant in a sling and willingly taken a total foreigner back to her suburban hovel. “I’m so glad you could make it.”

“I didn’t have much choice, did I?” She pulled back, her smile twinkling despite the sadness. She’d lost her job when she’d fled home to beg for Evens’ life from the Haitian gangsters and had had no luck finding a new one. “Where’s my son? Can’t get him out of the library I suppose.”

“You know Evens. The library closes in another twenty minutes and they should be along then. I hope it’s okay. King Kayo’s with him.”

“Sure, I trust my son with a six-foot tattooed warrior who’s never stepped foot on shore.”

Her twinkle intensified because she actually was teasing this time. Her son had skillfully evaded gangsters and trekked into a jungle with Harmony, who’d been less than useless. She knew his capabilities and Harmony’s.

Fab greeted Faier and they ordered food. “So, Faier. What do you think of the fabled Council Bluffs?”

He rested a comforting arm around Harmony’s waist. “I am glad to experience it with Harmony.”

“Better with a wife than a guy’s trip, right?”

He smiled tightly.

Faier still grew silent with the mention of exiled Balim. Something had happened to the quirky, sarcastic doctor who had treated all the warriors with a quip and a quiet melancholy. Faier wouldn’t talk about what Balim had done. Only that he’d committed the worst betrayal of any city and that he’d admitted his treason before being exiled.

Harmony couldn’t stand it though. She put her hands on her cousin’s. “Fab, I’m so sorry. All the stuff I said was here is gone.”

She waved her off with a casual laugh. “Why are you apologizing? It’s America! This is progress. You want it like Haiti? To stagnate or all fall down?”

“I don’t want to insult your country.”

“Haiti is no more my country than it was yours.”

Ah, that was actually something Harmony wanted to broach with her. “Um, about your tribe. I’m so sorry Evens and I led Lifet to them.”

She flubbed her lips. “No, I’m sorry I never told you the truth about why I’d left. I could have saved you and Evens a trip.”

Harmony’s stomach rolled. “You knew? About the prophesy.”

Fab raised a brow, stuck between a laugh and disbelief. “Of course. I was also a ‘useless girl’ and not to return until I, too, had married a Sea Lord. When I found out Evens took you to meet our great-grandmother, I regretted ever teaching him our language. But,” she took a deep breath and pointed her coffee at Faier even though she couldn’t quite force herself to smile, “you did what I could not. You have provided a good future for Evens and given hope to our tribe. So, good for you.”

Uh oh. Fab was bitter. And Harmony had never known about this at all. “I’m so sorry.”

“No, I was the one who turned my back on them. On that impossible prophesy. I cried alone. I chased after human men and had Evens and then I made my own life. Eventually, it included you. And my career, which was someday going to pay for Evens’s school and you to go back to America. Except here you are and my career is all gone. So, on the plane, it was time to cry again alone.”

Harmony watched her strong cousin who’d taken her in with a smile now struggle not to break down.

Fab swallowed hard and patted Harmony’s hand. “I will make my own life, Harm. And someday I, too, will be able to go home. And be disappointed.”

Her cousin was so resilient. Harmony suddenly remembered another detail. “Uh, I was really sick in your hut, by the way. Really sick.”

She waved that away. “Then I will be happy to hear it was paved into a banana plantation.”

Fab had always impressed her with her cheer, endurance, and wisdom beyond her years. She had once endured an ex-boss’s attacks because he didn’t beat her “very hard” and she’d supported Harmony and her son’s dreams even when it meant traveling to another country with empty pockets.

But Harmony hadn’t known about her residual bad feelings for her own tribe. “I’m actually hoping to introduce some of the warriors to our tribe members.”

“That will thrill our great grandmother.” Fab sipped her coffee.

“If you think I shouldn’t—”

“No, don’t let my bitterness stop you. I, like many of my cousins, were raised to become the wife of a Sea Lord. I rebelled but my cousins would be thrilled.”

“What would you say to facilitating meetings with our tribe and the Aiycaya warriors?”

Fab’s expression flattened.

“You speak all the languages,” she said in a rush. “You’ve lived outside the jungle so you know what modern life is actually. Plus, if you have no current job, it’s an opportunity…”

“Heh.” Fab’s lips twisted into irritation even as she tried to school her expression to something more grateful. “Am I the charity case now?”

“I’m sure you’ll find another job you like,” Harmony insisted. “And it’s definitely not charity. We need someone desperately. Haiti is closer to Aiycaya than a lot of other places. You’d be at ground zero. If you’re willing to consider it…”

Fab finished her coffee as their food arrived. They’d all gotten the breaded tenderloin basket, on Harmony’s advice. She picked hers up and put it down without taking a bite. She’d rejected the Sea Lords and been kicked out of her own tribe for it. Now Harmony was asking a huge favor.

“You don’t have to,” Harmony said. “I know and trust you so that’s why I’m asking. You’d do a good job.”

“I know nothing of these mystical warriors.” She gestured at Faier. “Look. They eat hamburgers and fries.”

Faier paused mid-chew. He was actually eating breaded pork sandwiched in a bun with lettuce and a slice of cheddar.

“They’re very flexible,” Harmony said, stroking his sweater-clad arm, comforting.

“And I know nothing of romance.” Fab picked up her pickle spear and pointed it at Harmony. “Your ex was a lawyer. My exes are in jail. Or dead.”

“You don’t have to date them,” she insisted. “Just help set up meetings. But, really Fab, if you don’t want to, maybe you can help me hire someone else who can.”

“Oh, it’s fine. I can be a matchmaker.” She crunched the pickle with a small head-shake. “I can endure my tribe’s judgment. Some might even think I’m a hero.”

Harmony silently thanked her. Faier understood and rubbed her back. She picked up her tenderloin and took a thick, delicious bite. Mmm. Finally, this crunchy yet savory pork was exactly what she remembered.

Her seat was angled toward the door so she saw when Evens opened the door of the joint and King Kayo walked in.

He sauntered in, kicking off the caked snow, and surveyed the restaurant with a measuring gaze. Like Faier, he always evaluated new places for danger. His smile touched Harmony and then hit Fab and slipped. He stopped abruptly between two tables. His aura flared brighter like he was stunned.

Evens ran to his mom, surprising her. “I saw a library!”

She wiped her hands and wrapped him in a happy hug. “Of course you did! Soon, you will own a library.”

“My own library…”

“And anything else you want.” She kissed his forehead. “Like your teachers say. Work hard and you can earn your wildest desire. Nothing will stand in your way.”

“Yeah.” He giggled.

This was the type of family scene that had kept Harmony sane during her exile. Fab, like Harmony, wanted so badly for Evens to flourish. Harmony only wished she could do something for Fab.

“And we need to teach King Kayo to read.” Evens wiggled free.

“Ah, yes. King Kayo.” She smiled at her son indulgently and lifted her gaze to the new-to-her king who’d come to his senses and approached the table once more. “I must thank you…” Her smile dropped off her face. Her cheeks heated and she touched a finger to her throat. “Excuse me. Do I know you?”

He passed Harmony as if Harmony did not exist and clasped her hand. “You are Fabiola?”

“Fab. Fab. I’m, um, Fabiola is my name, yes.” Her hand disappeared in his. Her other hand remained touched to her throat. “You are?”

“King Kayo of Aiycaya.”

“Of course.” She blinked multiple times. “Yes. Of course you are. Ha ha. Um, welcome. Or, do you come here often?”

“No. This is my first time in my life.”

“Oh, special occasion.” She licked her lips, never once removing her eyes from his. “We should have a drink to celebrate. What would you like?” She pointed absently behind her at the written menu.

He squinted at the words.

“Manman. Manmi. Mam.” Evens pushed a paper menu into her hand.

She barely heard him. “Yes, ti chouchou?”

“You have to read him the menu. King Kayo can’t read.”

She blinked. “Oh! Yes, thank you. Ah, the menu.” She switched hands with King Kayo, like it was perfectly normal to have a tattooed warrior looming over her, holding onto her hand, and placed her glasses on her nose to read the menu. “Coke. Sprite. Tea. Coffee. Milk. Hot chocolate.”

“Get the Coke,” Evens advised King Kayo with the authority. “Harmony’s paying. Anyone can drink hot chocolate. American is very bland.”

Faier glanced at Harmony. An amused smile touched his lips. He clearly saw what she saw—that Fab’s failure to woo a Sea Lord was about to be rectified and her cred with her tribe was about to improve.

“Evens shares a room with his mother,” Faier noted blandly.

“Maybe we’ll take a walk after dinner,” she said. “With Evens. Let Fab settle in.”

“Perhaps she will feel happier now that she entwines her soul with her mate.”

Harmony hoped so. But even if not, Fab deserved the happiness that she defined, and Harmony would one hundred percent support her no matter what.

He finished his tenderloin sandwich. “This was good.”

“Yeah, it’s finally like what I remember.” She washed hers down with a long slurp of soda and sighed, resting her head on Faier’s solid shoulder while the family across the table from her was absolutely absorbed in each other. “I’m sorry nothing turned out like I wanted it. I talked up Council Bluffs. It must be a terrible let-down.”


“You don’t have to be polite.”

“You have shown me that even if Nerissa still stood today there would be changes. We would be traditional. Perhaps it is just as well I can never go home.”

Her throat tightened. “Isn’t that depressing?”

“It is freeing.”

She didn’t understand.

He lifted his arm around her shoulder and pressed her more firmly to his chest. Sincerity burned in his lavender-threaded brown eyes. “You have given me closure I did not think was possible, Harmony. I have always missed my home. I will always miss it. But I am so grateful to continue forward with you.”

Bittersweet happiness twinged in her chest. “I’m glad I could do that for you. Maybe this trip hasn’t been a total disappointment.”

His smile warmed her. “No time with you is ever a disappointment. The longer we are together, the more I learn about myself. And, of course, the more I learn about and love you.”

Her throat closed. She buried her face in his shoulder. “You’re going to make me cry.”

“Happy tears only.” He stroked her hair gently. “Trust in me.”

“I do.” She choked. “I just hope you never feel like I lean on you too much.”

“That will never happen.” He held her. “You are my soul mate, Harmony. I will comfort your sadness, soothe your anger, savor your lust, and celebrate your joy. Your strength is my strength. And, right now, I feel strong enough to life the entire world.”

Her tears changed to happiness. He was right. His strength flowed into her, making her feel like everything was going to turn out all right. The late snow outside the burger joint’s windows turned fluffy, white, and pure. Inside, they were warm and full and surrounded by friends in a cozy nook of perfect happiness.

Starla Night

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