Stay (Page 25)

Chapter Fifteen

Casey

“You’re the only man I’ve ever loved.” Mom gazed up at Gareth, and there was no doubt she meant the words she was saying. But what did that mean for me? I came from a relationship that meant nothing?

“And you know I’ve never loved another, but I need to know what happened.” Gareth tightened his arm around her. “What made you leave, and how did it happen?” He looked at me. I guess I was the it that had happened.

“Remember when you sent me up to that summit? You had to deal with problems within the clan, and you sent me in your place.”

“Yes.” He nodded. “I remember. I hated to make you go alone, but I knew you were more than capable of representing our clan.”

“Everything was going as planned until I met a woman who asked me to help her. She told me her friend was hurt, and she desperately needed the help of a bear with the gift.”

A bear with the gift? I wanted to know what she was talking about, but I figured the smart thing to do would be to keep my mouth shut.

“Continue.” He rested his hand on her leg.

“I followed her out into the woods to help, and then I remembered nothing more.”

“What do you mean?” I had to talk.

Both my mom and Gareth stared at me, so I shut my mouth.

“I don’t remember anything until I woke up sometime later confused, dazed, in pain, and without my clothes.”

“But you never told me of this? Did you tell anyone?” His hand tightened on her leg. She didn’t seem to notice.

“I got dressed and left my room, but before I could make it two steps out the door a beautiful dark-haired woman hurried me back inside.”

Gareth nodded.

“At first I thought it was another witch, but it wasn’t. It was a human.” Mom looked off in the distance. I was sure she was reliving an experience she wanted to forget.

Gareth and I waited silently for her to continue.

“She told me the witch had used powerful magic, and that I’d become a pawn in a dangerous dispute.” Mom swallowed hard. “She told me the king had been drugged and attacked by the magic as well.”

“The king?” Gareth shot off the couch. “You don’t mean?”

Mom hung her head. “I didn’t want to believe her, but her face was so kind. So trusting. She told me that if I got pregnant I needed to run. I needed to hide. She told me not to tell anyone.”

“She hurried off, and I tried to remember. I used every ounce of strength I had to bring back memories of what had happened, but nothing worked. I moved through the day, determined to talk to the healers when I came back home.”

Gareth sat back down. “Did anything else happen before you returned?”

“I saw the human again. She was on the arm of a high ranking Pteron. I tried to talk to her, but she pretended we’d never met. The Pteron she was with handled her roughly after that, so I just packed up and left. I didn’t want to get the woman in more trouble.”

Gareth put his arm around mom again.

“I returned home to find you and Astrella, and all I wanted to do was pretend nothing had happened. But I couldn’t. I could feel it. Something was different about me. Something had happened.”

I’d happened. I tried not to let the story upset me, but it did.

“I went to see the healers and they sensed the magic at once. They tried to rid me of it, but no matter what they did there was still some left.”

“Because I was already part of you. They couldn’t get rid of me.”

Mom moved away from Gareth and kneeled down beside me. “You are the one positive thing that came from everything. I have more of the story to tell, but don’t forget that.”

“I’ll try.”

Mom returned to her spot on the couch. “Daria was able to confirm for sure that I was pregnant. She has that gift as well, and I knew right away that this pregnancy was different. It felt different, and if the human was to be believed, I was carrying the child of the king. Her existence could change everything. She’d be a target.”

“So you left? You took Astrella with you?”

“She goes by Vera now, and yes. I’d debated telling you everything, but I knew you’d tell me to stay. You’d insist on raising the child as your own.”

“Which I would have.” Gareth gazed at me for a moment before turning back to my mom. “That would have been what was best for everyone.”

“Except for her. It wouldn’t have been what was best for my unborn child. She couldn’t know what she was. As soon as she did she’d be in danger.”

“So you left, and took my daughter.” For the first time some anger entered Gareth’s voice.

“I had a premonition. A horrible dream that Vera would be killed if I left her behind. I was trying to protect her.” Mom hung her head again.

Gareth patted mom’s back. “You should have confided in me. You should have stayed.”

“I wish I could have.”

“But what’s done is done.” Gareth looked across the room at me again. “What’s your name?”

“Casey.” I tried to stay calm. He couldn’t hurt me. I was a Pteron. I was strong. But even as I said it my body begged for sleep. I wasn’t strong enough to do anything.

“I know we do not know each other, but I’d like to change that.”

“Why?” I blurted out the first thing that came to my mind. “I’m the reason your mate left you.” I used their word even though it still felt foreign.

“Because you are Taliana’s daughter. She is my mate, and that makes you my child by all the rules I follow.”

This was the second man I didn’t know claiming me as his daughter in just a few weeks. It was all too much. “I need to lie down.”

“Is she ill?” Gareth looked at my mom.

Mom quickly helped me over to the couch. “Yes. She was captured by someone, and I fear that the same kind of magic was used on her.”

I rested my head down on the soft couch, immediately finding relief. I couldn’t keep my head up any longer. The exhaustion and the stress of hearing my mom recount the story was too much.

“I will get the healers.” Gareth’s voice sounded far away.

“You’re going to be okay.” Mom brushed my hair away from my face. The motion reminded me of being a child. My mom always knew how to make me feel better.

“He isn’t angry?” It took a lot of energy just to speak those words.