Robin returned to The Institute and sat down in the control room.
He watched the monitors, waiting for Isellta to appear.
Who are you?
The sweet little lost puppy I know?
Or are you just another manipulative fey having cold hearted fun?
Arrrgh! Such a STUPID question. I know you!
I know you.
I love you.
You love me.
It’s all so simple.
Why’s it have to get so needlessly complicated by stupid junk?
“Just come back to me, Isellta, you stupid little fey. Come home.”
Raven contemplated the young woman curled up next to him.
She is not Miss Farlington.
What if she were Miss Farlington?
All of the things that I have done for Missy and with Missy, would I have even considered doing it with her?
Raven imagined May Rose kissing his bare chest.
A bit too vividly.
He stood quickly.
Missy toppled over and landed with a discomfited “uhh.”
A bad case of the jitters came over him. He spread his hands on the nearest wall and bowed his head, willing his mind and his body to calm down.
I never would have permitted such inappropriate behavior from her. I would have pushed her away. I would have…
I would have…
“Arden! You look well.”
He set the plate of tea sandwiches on the table and resisted the urge to run to her.
She did not come closer to him.
“As do you, Mrs. Vansing.” He bowed to Charles. “Mr. Vansing.”
“Have you seen my father? I have news I wish to share with him.”
“He had business to attend to in town. Do you wish me to relay a message to him?”
She hugged her husband’s arm and looked up at him.
Raven had the strange feeling that he was being pushed further and further away from her. He turned his attention to the sandwiches and carefully rearranged them.
“It’s all right, my love. You may tell him, if you wish.”
“Thank you. Arden. Look at me. There is something I must tell you and I want you to look at me.”
Something in her voice caught his ear. He smiled as he recognized it.
The trace of the demanding, bossy May Rose Farlington that he knew. “Very well.” He looked at her. “What do you wish to tell me?”
She smiled and it stole his heart all over again. “I am going to be a mother. My Charles and I—“
“I understand.” He hated the abruptness of his words. He put on a brave attempt at a smile. “I am happy for you, Mrs. Vansing.”
Can she hear the lie in my words?
“I am so happy for you both.”
Does she know how it kills me to say those words?
Mrs. Vansing. Do you know?
She leaned her face against her husband’s arm. For a moment, a small stolen moment, she met Raven’s gaze.
In that moment, he was James and she was May Rose and a lifetime of possibilities still lay before them.
Then, the moment passed and it was gone.
She smiled at her husband and James Arden ceased to be in her mind.
Raven sighed as his body calmed down.
It was their first child.
The first of many.
None of which were mine.
He returned to Missy and sat beside her.
She sat up and looked at him.
“You ought to sleep. Tomorrow will be a perilous day for you. You need your sleep.”
I’m okay. Tell me about her.
“I. I beg your pardon?”
Tell me about your first real love.”
“Missy.” He fidgeted into a more comfortable position. “I…I barely know where to begin.”
Begin at the most obvious place.
She smiled. At the beginning.
He smiled in return. “Of course. Fair warning: It is a long story and it is not happy.”
I’ll listen, anyway.