Dark Highland Fire


Page 56


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She'd come to find it perversely amusing.


"What? You might as well just say it."


"Well..."


"Though I would like to point out, I am sitting down," she added. Gideon snorted.


"You look tired," he grumbled, slightly defensive. "I just wondered whether you might, ah ..."


"She's not lying down right now, Gabe," Gideon said, rising to pull his wife to her feet. "And neither am I, for that matter. The day is too beautiful, and I'm on vacation. Come on, love. Let's go for a walk."


Carly, fairly glowing in a deep-blue sundress that perfectly matched the color of her eyes, looked wistfully at the cushions and the platter of treats as Gideon began to tug her away.


"Some vacation. The MacInneses don't sit still very well, have you noticed?"


"Enjoy the activity while you can. It gets deadly dull here in pillow land, believe me." Rowan gave her a pointed look. "You're in for it now, you know. You have my sympathy."


Carly just laughed as she was led off. Rowan smiled as she watched Carly put on the brakes and tell her tall, long-legged husband to slow down already. Then she pulled him down to her much lower level to plant a kiss on his lips.


Once they were out of earshot, Gabriel regarded her quizzically.


"What's Carry in for?" he asked, tucking a lock of hair gently behind her ear.


"Oh," Rowan murmured, "you'll see." She wasn't about to steal Carly's thunder on that one. But it would be nice for the baby to have a cousin so close in age.


It would also be nice to watch someone else be asked to get off of her feet every time she moved. Though she was sure that Gabriel would have moved on to other things by then, like crawling-related paranoia. She must be crazy, Rowan decided, sighing contentedly as he began to nibble at her neck. Because she couldn't wait.


"Behave, you," she instructed him. "I'm as big as a house."


"You're beautiful," Gabriel replied as he continued to tease her. "And now you can't run away from me."


"I can still waddle pretty quickly," she replied, swatting at him and then shifting around to try to get comfortable again.


"For the love of the Goddess, Rowan. I can't rest in the middle of an earthquake." Bastian, a wicked grin on his handsome face, got to his feet from where he'd been quietly resting and stretched. "For the record, I still think you must have at least two in there. Maybe even three." He laughed as Rowan pelted him with fruit, her only defense.


"Damn it, Bastian. I'm going to teach her to bite your ankles as soon as she can crawl. We'll see how you like that." Inwardly, though, she rejoiced. He hadn't been sleeping well for some time now, Rowan knew, and she didn't care at all for the dark smudges beneath his eyes, or his increasingly frequent desire for solitude. Her brother had always been serious, but his reclusive tendencies had become even more pronounced since the victory over the dragons. Today, for the first time in months, Bastian seemed better. Maybe whatever cloud he'd been under had lifted. She hoped very much that it had.


"He says he'd like to stay here for a while, see what he can do to help Dad and Malcolm run things," Gabriel said, indicating Bastian with a tip of his head as her brother jogged away.


Rowan sighed, unsurprised, trying not to be hurt that Bastian didn't want to stay with the Dyadd, his family. "Yes, he mentioned it to me. In a way it's a relief. I'd worried that he might just take off into the wilds, especially with whatever's eating at him. Maybe this place will do him some good." She stroked the back of Gabriel's hand. "It always does me."


"He'll be fine," Gabriel soothed. "He just needs to find his place, like I did."


"Hmm," Rowan returned, noncommittal. She willed her husband to be right, but it didn't ring entirely true with her. There was more. But Bastian, contrary as ever, didn't want her to know, and refused to share the burden. "He's as bossy as I am. He and your father are going to drive each other nuts."


"Speaking from experience, that's really not such a bad calling," Gabriel offered, finally drawing a smile from her. "And I don't know about him not finding some way to make himself useful around here. Dad's been in a bit of a mood the last couple of days. Something about unwanted company headed this way, and he's been muttering a lot about integrity and family honor and 'damned hippies,' of all things." He paused, considering. "Could be the old man's losing it all by himself. He might not need any help on his way there."


"Sounds fascinating. And stressful. I think it's a perfect distraction for Bastian," she sighed warmly, turning her head to catch Gabriel's soft kiss. For now, she tried to put her worries about Bastian from her mind and concentrate on all the good that she'd been blessed with, and the infinitely more to come.


Soon. She felt it in each breath she took, in every turn of the baby within her. It wouldn't be long. And by some miracle she had all of her sisters to share the joy, along with a host of Gabriel's Pack who had so fallen in love with the land of their ancestors (and in more than a few cases, with the women of her tribe) that they had decided to remain . Some stayed on Earth, of course. The Lia Fáil remained guarded and safe, as it had for centuries, and there was talk of searching for the dragons that had been stranded on Earth by Mordred, though nothing had yet been decided. Still, in the realm beyond the Stone, the arukhin had returned at last. And among the women of the Dyadd there was a contentment not felt in generations.


As Dyana, Rowan found she enjoyed helping the Orinn of the many villages in the Noor. There was always need for their abilities, and despite the fact that she was often tired lately, she was always happy to do what she could. She'd found, though, that the celebrations had grown to be a bit much for her at present. She would simply choose one of her sisters to preside over the festivities, and then Gabriel would fuss over her in the peace of their tent. The man gave a fantastic foot rub, she had to admit. And as chosen leader of the Pack contingent now living in the Noor, he had risen to the challenge of playing both strong Alpha and loving husband with a confidence and ease that filled her heart nearly to overflowing.


She only wished her mother could be with her. But when it weighed on her, Rowan reminded herself that Elara was no doubt sharing a goblet of ruby wine with Morgaine herself in the Higher Kingdom, watching and smiling on them all. In fact, since her return to Coracin, she had begun to have dreams about just such things, and always awoke with a sense of warm comfort. Her mother, she was now sure, watched over her and hers well.


Elara had been avenged. For now, at least, the Drakkyn were at peace. And thanks to the circle of stones in her forest, the doorway between her and Gabriel's worlds was used often, and without fear.


Bastian was teaching her about using the stones herself. Though she worried over his reasoning, she treasured the gift he was trying to give her. She had come close to opening the portal several times now. Soon she would succeed, and Rowan held back for that reason. Because once she did, she knew Bastian would go. Even if it was only to Iargail, she hated to lose his steady and constant presence. And she couldn't help but be concerned about why he was removing himself.


Still, they were all here now, enjoying a final bit of calm before she gave birth to the first of the next generation of the Dyadd. And as much as Rowan loved her home, she found herself ever more enchanted by this little corner of the Scottish Highlands, a place full of hidden magic that had come to feel like her second home. She would focus on that and try to be content.


"I didn't think it was possible, but this is even more peaceful than the Noor," she sighed contentedly, her eyelids beginning to droop.


"If you want to call a bunch of rowdy werewolves living side by side with your trigger-happy sorceresses 'peaceful,' be my guest," Gabriel chuckled. "But I think pregnancy must have addled you a bit if you really believe it."


"They're not trigger-happy," Rowan protested, and the face he pulled had her laughing again. "Okay, so Samuel's horns might have been a little rash on Reya's part."


"Along with the hooves," Gabriel added.


"Well. That's what you get when you don't keep your paws to yourself," she sniffed.


There had been an adjustment period with some of the Pack learning the rules of the tribe. Actually, she was beginning to wonder whether that was just going to be the natural state of things, but she was trying not to dwell on it. The werewolves had plenty of redeeming qualities that stopped the Dyadd from outright bloodshed. And her people, she was pleased to note, appeared to have an endlessly entertaining gift for clever retaliation.


Besides, Reya had removed the horns and hooves.


Eventually.


Gabriel gathered her close, tucking her head beneath his chin. They were quiet for a long time, and Rowan snuggled into him, feeling centered, feeling his love as though it were a tangible thing. As she drifted, she thought about her family and his, and about the new one they were about to create. She thought of the future, and the past. She wondered about the brother who had let himself be taken by the daemon, trying to atone at last for the pain he had caused, and whether he was still alive. Though she couldn't truly be sorry he was gone, Rowan did wish him a release from his pain, for his own chance at redemption and peace.


But most of all, she cherished this moment-that she was here in her mate's arms, their child stirring in her womb, surrounded by love and family beneath the ancient and sheltering trees.


Not even in the wildest of the tales she had loved as a child had the Wolf ever ended up with the dragon. But that, Rowan decided as she sank into contented sleep, was somehow better.


That story, ever and always, would be their own.




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