Authors: Tymber Dalton
You’re losing your emotional distance with her.
He knew it, too. As head of The Firm, his job was to stay emotionally detached and see to the
good regardless of his own desires.
He couldn’t with her. Not with this woman. Especially not after failing to save Abby’s life when she’d called out to him for help.
He waited, sending out his thoughts to locate Kal. Once she and her friend were seated at a table, Ryan appeared behind the restaurant and walked around to the front door, easily locating them inside.
Kal brightened and stood to give him a quick hug. “Ryan Ausar, this is my friend, Becky Williams.”
to meet you, dear.”
Becky smiled and blushed.
“Hi, Mr. Ausar—”
“Please, call me Ryan.” He sat next to Becky, where he could easily look at Kal without appearing obvious. They had a good lunch, spent over an hour chatting. He reluctantly signaled for the check when they finished, refusing to let the women pay. If he didn’t get Kal back to Tampa soon, Will might come looking for her.
At least this way his illusion could remain intact for a little longer.
“Thank you for lunch, Ryan,” Becky said outside the restaurant. She hugged Kal and whispered in her ear, “He’s a cutie. Good thing I’m engaged.”
Kal blushed a little, the same thought having crossed her own mind more than once. “Have a safe drive home, Beck.”
When Kal handed Ryan the keys, he opened the passenger door and held it for her, then walked around and slid the seat back before climbing behind the wheel. Inside the car he looked at her. “Ready to go home?”
“You know, I think I’d like to ride with you to the office first.”
He hoped he hid his surprise. “Why is that, love?”
She settled back in her seat. “Well, for one, I’m stuffed. I need time to digest all that dang cake and lunch. Two, I’d like some time alone to talk with you.”
He started the car
hey pulled out of the parking lot
headed toward downtown Columbus. “Why’s that?”
“The only thing saving you guys from me bugging you to be friends again is that I’m so busy I can’t tell my head from my heinie. Why can’t you all kiss and make up? I know why you walked away from Will and Aidan when Abby came along, but that’s water under the bridge.
Abby’s been dead over twenty-six years. Why does it still matter now if they know who she was? It doesn’t make sense to me.
Ryan’s fingers tightened on the steering wheel. “Love, we discussed this. It’s ancient history, and I mean that literally. No reason to dredge it up.”
get the three of you back together.”
“Your life’s mission?”
“You’d better believe it.” She sat quietly for a while. “What did you do to my dad that night when he showed up at the shoot in Ohio?”
This topic was only a little less uncomfortable for Ryan, but not by much. “All I did was allow him to quit being afraid of the truth. As you yourself said, he feared his years dedicated to dogma would be proven wrongly spent. He’s always loved you. However, his training and beliefs blinded him in many ways.”
“He’s been having a lot of headaches lately. Did you see anything else?”
“I’m not a doctor. I have a lot of abilities, yes, but no medical training.” Ryan prayed Kal wouldn’t sense his obfuscation of the truth. Fortunately for him, she changed the subject.
“I have to come up in a couple of days with Will and Aidan for the tux fittings.”
Just the two of them?”
“Maybe Jeff. I don’t want a huge wedding party, but Mom’s insisting on at least one bridesmaid besides Becky. If I give in, I’ll ask Jeff.”
“To be your bridesmaid?”
She saw his playful smile before she swatted his shoulder. “Duh. Jerk. I like Jeff, he’s a sweetie. He’d be a good groomsman. I need to decide who to give the other bridesmaid gig to.”
“Why not Purson or Gery? As a groomsman? Duh.”
She grinned. “Because they’ve already hinted they’d rather not be stuck in a monkey suit, as Purs called it.”
“Pity. Purs looks damned good in a tux.”
“Lucky you, you’re performing the ceremony or you’d be in a tux.” She grinned again, and he couldn’t help but laugh.
“You’re bound and determined, aren’t you, sweetheart?”
“You’d better believe it.” She was quiet for several minutes. “Thank you,” she said. “I know I’ve said it before, but I mean it.”
“This. Everything.” She looked at him. “For putting up with me. For bringing me and Will together.”
Back to uncomfortable territory for Ryan. “I’m sorry it wasn’t the best of circumstances. And I’m sorry for the duress you suffered.” He meant that with every ounce of his being.
Ryan felt her eyes on him and kept his firmly fixed on the highway. When she spoke, her tone sounded soft. “If Will had flat-out refused to do it, to remove the wraith from me, you wouldn’t have killed me, would you.” It wasn’t a question.
How much could he lie to her without her calling him on it? “He never would have let you die, Kal. You know that.”
“That’s not answering me.
wouldn’t have let me die. Don’t think I don’t see through your act.”
His mind whirled for an acceptable answer. “There was never any question in my mind that he would take you as his soul mate.”
They pulled up to a red light. He felt her hand on his arm. He tried not to fall into her dusty
green eyes, but she always had this power over him.
“You don’t have a soul mate, Ry. You lied that Will was the only one strong enough. I might not know much about you guys and how The Firm is set up, but I’m not a total idiot. You’re head of The Firm, that means you’re powerful. You also don’t have a soul mate.”
“Are you happy with Will?”
“Of course I am!”
“Then that’s all that matters, isn’t it?”
She must have sensed that was all she’d get from him. She sat back, quiet for the rest of the ride, the better part of an hour. When they pulled into the garage at the network headquarters, Ryan turned to her and smiled. “Ready?”
“The office, I guess. It’s still early. I might be able to get some work done.”
“Right. Have everything?”
Kal grabbed her purse. “Okay.” She closed her eyes. Ryan fought the urge to lean over and kiss her.
“Until next time, sweetheart.” Ryan sent her back and closed his eyes. He wished he could bottle her scent forever.
* * * *
Aidan wasn’t in their office. Kal walked down the hall and found Jeff hunched over his computer. “How’s it coming?”
When Jeff straightened in his chair
she heard his back pop. “It’s coming. How many pounds did you gain?”
“Ugh. Too many, probably.” She rubbed his shoulders for him while he closed his eyes and happily groaned. “Thanks for offering to rescue me. I appreciate it.”
“No problem. Did you get to eat lunch?”
“Yeah, I caught a bite with Becky.” She realized after she said it that she didn’t include Ryan’s presence in the retelling. She didn’t correct herself. “Where is everyone?”
“Will and Aid are out on a normal job. Purs and Gery are scouting for a show.” He tipped his neck from side to side as she worked the kinks out of his shoulders. “That feels good.”
“We’re going to nickname you Quasimodo, you keep staying bent over that keyboard. You’ll end up with a hunchback.” She gave him a final pat and sat next to him. He had the magazine laid out on his monitor. “Are you happy working here?”
He nodded. “Yeah. It’s good to relax and not stress out over stuff.”
She smiled, knowing full well what kind of “stuff” he meant. Stuff like their fathers harassing them. “And you’ve got Aidan.”
He blushed a little, but returned her smile. “Yeah. There is that. Thank you for asking them to hire me, Kal. I really appreciate it.”
“Hey, Doofalicious is totally gaga over you, don’t worry. Between him and me and Will, you’ve got job security.” She leaned back in her chair. “I mean, I’ve only known him a couple of months longer than you, but I think he’s a lot happier with you here.”
Jeff looked like he wanted
ask a question. After a long moment, he spit it out. “Can you tell me about the soul mate stuff?”
Kal fought the urge to ask and lost. “You guys are—”
He shook his head. “No, not yet. We’re not even… you know. We just talk and spend a lot of time together right now. I really like him. A lot.” He turned to her. “You know him better than I do. I don’t want to look like a total jerk and just throw myself at him if he’s not really into me.”
Kal grinned. “Well, I’m pretty confident he’s into you and really likes you, too. A lot. There’s not a bunch I can tell you about the soul mate stuff though. I don’t know a lot about the process. I don’t know if it’s the same for everyone.” She didn’t want to tell him everything that happened in her case. Even though it was the wraith in control of her, she still felt ashamed of how she’d acted while it possessed her. Only Will and the other archdemons knew the full story.
“I had to consent to it,” she continued. “They can’t do it without the person asking and wanting it. But if you’re not…” They’d had a similar religious upbringing and she knew he was as uncomfortable talking about sex as she was. “Talk to him, Jeff. Aidan really likes you—”
Her phone went off, a custom ring tone, interrupting her. She frowned when she looked at the screen.
“What’s wrong?” Jeff asked.
“It’s my mom.”
Laura mentally checked another item off her massive wedding to-do list. She felt a little guilty that she planned such a large celebration when Kal was happy to do something small.
But only a little.
Kal was her baby, special even from the day she was conceived. Her husband had gently laughed off her assertions, telling her she’d been napping and dreamed it. Laura knew the truth.
Her baby girl
Dream or not, it was all coming true.
Laura was thoroughly convinced an angel visited and spoke to her that day. Kenneth certainly hadn’t protested when she immediately went to him in his study and persuaded him to go to their bedroom in the middle of the afternoon.
Just like the angel told her, she’d had a little baby girl to love and cherish and raise the right way. Named her Kalyani, like he’d suggested. A little girl who would one day marry someone special, someone important.
And Kal was. Okay, so Will was a TV show host, who cared? He had an ageless air about him that Laura knew on first meeting bespoke the man who should marry her daughter.
Kenneth and his misguided plans. Poor Jeff, she wished she’d stood her ground years earlier and made him stop pestering the kids about getting together, but it seemed harmless enough at the time.
Laura thought about that angel every day of her daughter’s life. His beautiful, sad green eyes, almost like he’d been crying. And how strange that he’d spoken with a British accent.
Funny the things the mind does. No wings either. Everything had come true so far, just as he’d said it would. Kalyani would marry an important, special man who loved her very much, who would hold her heart and cherish her, and her life from there on would be blessed.
When Laura returned home, she found Kenneth dozing on the living room sofa in front of the TV. Part of her wished he still worked so he wasn’t underfoot all of the time. Part of her felt relieved about the sudden change in his demeanor. He certainly was more relaxed and pleasant to be around lately. While she sometimes wished she had the house to herself more often, having him in a far better mood than he’d been in years was a relief. It was almost as if he’d struggled to get Kal married off to Jeff, and then when Kenneth realized that Kal was going to live her life her way regardless of what he felt, he’d popped a gasket.
In the best possible way.
Kal had admitted to her outside his earshot that Jeff was happy and possibly dating Aidan. While Laura didn’t approve in theory, in her heart she was happy he’d found happiness. Wasn’t that the important thing?
Her little girl was happy, Jeff was happy, and with Kenneth chilling out, as the kids said, now both of them were happy, too.
An hour later he was still asleep and she went to wake him. He was slow to rouse and looked disoriented at first. “What time is it?” he mumbled.
“It’s after three. If you sleep all day you’ll never sleep tonight.”
He sat up and nodded, rubbing his head.
“Are you all right?”
“Just a headache. My stomach’s a little upset, too. I think I’ll go upstairs and lie down. Can you bring me a glass of cold water?”
“Of course.” She watched him slowly mount the stairs, fighting the worry pressing her heart. She went to the kitchen to get his water when she heard a loud crash upstairs. “Kenneth?”
She hurried upstairs and found him lying unconscious on the bedroom floor. She screamed his name and shook him. When he didn’t open his eyes
she grabbed the phone. With trembling fingers and unable to stop crying, she dialed 911.
By the time the paramedics arrived
he’d awoke and opened his eyes. She sobbed with relief
but he wasn’t making any sense and was too weak to get up from the floor. She followed the ambulance to the hospital and within an hour he was sitting up and talking, practically back to himself. They were still awaiting test results.
She wanted to call Kal immediately. He put his foot down. “Don’t call her over something like this. She’s probably on a plane anyway. Wasn’t she flying back to Tampa this afternoon?”