Authors: Nora Roberts
“You planned to leave the circle that way. You planned to take it to the cliffs. Alone.”
“It was meant to end there. I’d prepared in every way I knew how, considered every possibility. And still I missed one that you didn’t. When I looked down from the cliffs and saw that circle of light. . . . Sam.” Swamped with love, she leaned into him. “When I felt that strength, that love and faith sweeping up and into me, it was the greatest gift. Who knows what would have happened without it? You did that. By asking for help when I didn’t think of it.”
“Islanders stick together. Spread the word to a few people—”
“And word spreads to a few more,” she finished. “And they gathered around the cottage and in the woods tonight. All those hearts and minds turned toward me.”
She pressed her hands between her breasts where that song still sang. “Strong magic. You have to understand,” she continued, easing back, “I couldn’t tell you, any of you. I couldn’t allow myself to open even that much, take the chance that what was in my own mind and heart would be read by what we were going to fight. I had to wait until everything was in place.”
“I’m working on that, Mia, but this wasn’t your fight. It was ours.”
“I wasn’t sure of that. I wanted to be, but I wasn’t sure until you stepped out of the circle in front of me. And what you felt for me . . . telling me you love me paled with feeling it burst out of you in that one moment. I knew you’d
come after me. I knew then, without question, that we had to finish it together. I need to tell you . . .”
She shook her head, stepped away from him until she was sure the words would be there. “I loved you once, so much. But my love was twined around my own needs and wants and wishes. A girl’s love, that has borders. When you were gone, I made myself lock that love away. I couldn’t survive with it alive inside me. Then you came back.”
She turned to him. “It hurt to look at you. As I said, I’m a practical woman, and I dislike pain. I dealt with that. I wanted you, but I didn’t have to unlock that love to have you. So I thought.” She brushed his hair from his forehead. “So I wished. But the lock wouldn’t hold, and that love spilled out. It was different than it had been, but I didn’t see, didn’t want to see. Because looking hurt again. Every time you told me you loved me, it was a knife in my heart.”
“No. I’ll finish. The night we sat out here in the garden, with the butterfly? Before you came I’d been trying to settle my mind, once and for all. To reason it all out, to prepare myself. You sat, and you smiled at me, and everything inside me shifted. As if it had only been waiting for that one moment, that one look. When you told me you loved me, it didn’t hurt. It didn’t hurt at all. Do you know how it made me feel?”
“No.” He skimmed his knuckles over her cheek. “Tell me.”
“Happy. Down-in-the-gut happy. Sam.” She ran her hands down his arms, couldn’t stop touching him. “What I felt for you then, and now, and always will isn’t a girl’s love. It bloomed out of that, but it’s new. It doesn’t need fantasies or wishes. If you go—”
“If you go again, what I feel for you won’t change or be locked away. I had to know that, without a shadow of
doubt. I’ll cherish it, and what we made together. I know you love me, and that’s enough.”
“Do you think I’d leave you now?”
“That’s not the point.” Flying on her own heart, she stepped back, turned in a circle. “The point is, I love you enough to let you go. That I won’t wonder or worry, or look at you with that shadow on my heart. I love you enough to be with you. To live with you. With no regrets, no conditions.”
“Come here, will you? Right here,” he said pointing in front of him.
She nodded and walked to him. “Close enough?”
“Do you see these?” He lifted the chain so that the rings were in her line of vision.
“What are they? They’re beautiful.” She reached out to touch, and her breath caught at the warmth and the light that pulsed from them. “Their rings,” she whispered. “Hers and his.”
“I found his in that cave I told you about, in Ireland. And hers just a matter of days ago, here. In our cave. Can you see what’s carved on them, and inside them?”
She traced her finger over the Celtic symbols and read, as her heart began to thud, the Gaelic inside the circles.
He slid the chain over his head, took the smaller ring off. “This is yours.”
All the power that still surged inside her seemed to pause. As if a million breaths were held. “Why are you giving it to me?”
“Because he couldn’t keep the promise. But I will. I want to make it to you. I want you to make it to me. Now, and again when you marry me. And every day after that. I want to say it to you every time one of our children is born.”
Her gaze flew up to his. “Children.”
“I had a vision,” he began, and brushed the first tear away with his fingertip as it spilled down her cheek. “You
were working in the garden in the very early spring. The leaves were just a green haze, and the sun was soft and yellow. When I came out to you, you stood up. You were so beautiful, Mia. More beautiful than I’ve ever seen you. You were full with our child. I put my hand on you, over it, and felt it move. Felt that life we’d made just . . . surge. So impatient to be born. I had no idea.”
He took her face in his hands. “No idea what that would mean. No idea that I could want, so much, everything I saw and felt in that one slice of time. Make a life with me, Mia. Our life, and what comes from it.”
“I thought the magic was done for the night. Yes.” She pressed her lips to his cheek. “Yes.” And to the other. “To everything,” she said, laughing now as her lips found his.
He circled her once, then took her right hand. “That’s the wrong finger,” she told him.
“You can’t wear it on the left until we’re married. Let’s be a little traditional. And since we are, though I think people who’ve been in love all their lives should have a very short engagement . . .”
He opened his hand, and where her tear had lain was a slice of light. Grinning at her, he tossed it high, and stars fountained from it, raining down like little sparks of flame.
“A symbol,” he said, plucking one of the lights from the air. “A promise. I’ll give you the stars, Mia.” Turning his hand over, he offered her a circle ringed with diamonds clear as water, bright as fire.
“I’ll take them. And you. Oh, and you, Sam.” She held out her hand, absorbing the thrill as he slipped the pledge onto her finger. And there it glittered. “What magic we’ll make!”
“Let’s start now.”
Laughing with her, he lifted her off her feet and danced her around a garden bursting with flowers.
And their stars shimmered brilliant against the dark.