Authors: Tymber Dalton
She met his eyes as her gaze suspiciously narrowed. “What did you do?”
“A little surprise. Pleasant, I assure you. I have some latitude in different ways.” He leaned in and kissed her forehead, lingering a moment longer than he planned, reluctant to let her go. But she wasn’t his. Not now, and hadn’t been for a long time.
She surprised him with a strong hug. “Thank you,” she whispered.
He kissed her neck. “It’s my pleasure, love. Be happy, you two. You’ll have some time alone to relax on your honeymoon. Enjoy it. Enjoy each other.”
Kal studied him, something gently tugging at the outskirts of her mind. She couldn’t grasp it long enough to figure it out. “What’s going to happen, Ry?”
Ryan knew Kal had no idea she was the only one he allowed to call him that. “I’m assuming you mean the big picture?” She nodded. “Not your concern, pet. That’s my job.”
He took her hands again and looked into her eyes. “I promise you, you have my word that I will never willfully put him or Aidan or the others into a situation I think they won’t return from. There is nothing I know of in the immediate future that we must fret over. There are rumblings I must to keep my ear to, certainly. My job is to prevent those rumblings from leading to something to worry about. If there is ever a time I feel they might be at risk, I will always do everything in my power to minimize that. I promise to be honest if I feel there is considerable risk. Believe me when I say that for now, all is well enough that you don’t need to concern yourself. Right?”
She nodded and hugged him again. “Thank you for bringing me together with him. I understand why you did it. I’m not mad at you.” She paused. “Anymore.”
He laughed and closed his eyes. “I never would have let harm come to you. Not now, not ever.” He gently patted her on the back and quickly turned before she spotted his tears. “Good luck, love. You’re a beautiful bride. You’ll make each other very happy for a good many years.”
Aidan and Jeff stood next to Will at the front of the church. Aidan sensed Will’s nervous tension, but it was a happy time for his soul brother. Aidan smiled as he felt Jeff’s hand playfully brush his.
When Jeff did it again, Aidan briefly captured his hand and squeezed.
Aidan swore he heard mental laughter, but maybe that was just the combined good mood of everyone in attendance. Aidan was trying to tune out as much as possible so he didn’t get overwhelmed.
When the wedding march sounded, everyone stood and turned. Kal walked down the aisle on her father’s arm. Kenneth Martin seemed a little shaky, but looked like he’d make it without stumbling. Ryan stood ready to preside over the service, a peaceful smile on his face.
Kal looked beautiful, calm. Her dress was gorgeous, perfect for her. Off the shoulders with an elegantly beaded bodice, form-fitting and not too fancy.
Aidan felt Will’s joy and relaxed, knowing that for the first time in many years, Will felt absolutely no sadness in his heart.
Maybe Ryan wasn’t such a shit weasel after all.
Aidan spotted the amulet around Kal’s neck when she was a few feet from the altar. It was all he could do not to walk over and examine it. He hadn’t seen it in…
Since Chloe died.
Blinking, Aidan tried to focus on the ceremony and hoped his mental barrier and Will’s preoccupation would hide his thoughts. He tried to catch Ryan’s eye, but he’d also put up a barrier and refused to meet his gaze. He managed to pass over the ring on command without dropping it despite his shaking hands.
The ceremony seemed to last five hours. Aidan knew it was only a few minutes. When the happy couple turned and walked down the aisle, Aidan bumped against Ryan and their eyes met.
Ryan mentally scolded.
Aidan felt Ryan’s mental shove
and he had to follow Becky down the aisle, walking fast to catch up.
He hoped his smile looked right in the wedding photos. It took conscious effort on his part not to stare at Kal’s chest, where the amulet hung from its gold chain, gently bumping against her flesh every time she moved.
Later in the reception hall, Aidan somehow managed to give the toast, barely able to pull his gaze off Kal and her amulet.
The amulet he knew without a doubt was the mate to the one around Ryan’s neck.
The amulet that had been around Chloe’s neck when she died—when she was Ryan’s wife and soul mate. When Ryan took her as his wife, Aidan had been the one to place the amulet around her neck before he put her hand in Ryan’s.
What the fuck?
An hour into the reception, Aidan was able to grab Ryan’s arm and drag him into a side room, locking the door for privacy. “What the home is going on, Ryan?”
Ryan crossed his arms and glared. “What?”
Aidan clenched his fists and advanced on his brother-in-law. “Don’t give me that clueless act shit! You gave Chloe’s amulet to Kal? How could you
“It was mine to give.”
“When I asked you for it, you told me it was gone.”
“No, I told you it wasn’t available.”
Aidan shoved him. It was as useless as pushing Mt. Rushmore off its foundation. “Fuck! How can you give Chloe’s amulet to Kal, you son of a bitch! She was my little sister!”
“And she was my soul mate, lest you forget.” Ryan’s green eyes blazed. “As her soul mate and as head of The Firm, I have the right to give it to whomever I choose.”
Aidan tried to stare Ryan down, then blinked in shock as he glimpsed Ryan’s thoughts even through his barrier. A startling realization slammed home. “Kal was Abby. You bailed on me and Will when he took Abby as his soul mate. You gave Chloe’s amulet to Kal. That means…” Aidan clapped a hand to his head and grabbed a nearby chair for support, the sudden revelation rocking him to the very depths of his soul.
Ryan took Aidan’s arm and steadied him, guided him into the chair, then knelt in front of him. “Aidan, please,” he desperately whispered. “You must forget this. Please. You must.”
Still in shock, Aidan shook his head. “Why?”
“Because Will and Kal must never—”
“No, I mean, why did you give her to Will? That’s why you couldn’t be friends with him after he bonded to Abby. Because you knew. Oh, shit.” He looked at Ryan. “Tell me I’m wrong. Please, Ami, tell me I’m wrong.”
Ryan shook his head. “I cannot lie to you, brother.”
Aidan stared at him. “You could have had Kal for yourself, had Chloe back. Why did you do that? Why did you give her to Will? If you knew who Abby was all these years, why didn’t you say anything? Why didn’t you tell me?”
Old agony flashed across Ryan’s face. “Because Abby and Will loved each other for many more years than Chloe and I had together. Had Will come back to The Firm sooner, yes, I would have gladly taken Kal as my soul mate. In a second.”
Ryan stood and turned away from Aidan. “Why do you think I was so desperate to make him return? I could not let him die, Aidan. He’s our soul brother. Believe it or not, I do love him. I had no choice but to do it this way. Will’s bond with Abby was strong and pure, as is his bond now, with Kal.”
Ryan looked at Aidan as his expression hardened. “And if I choose to give Kal that amulet, that is
business, not yours.”
Aidan leaned forward, his head in his hands between his knees. “Fuck,” he whispered. “Fuck fuck
” After a few minutes he sat up, still looking horrible but no longer feeling like he would pass out. “Why didn’t you tell me about Abby?”
“Because it wasn’t your business.”
“Will had no business knowing. If you’d known, he would have found out. It didn’t matter, Abby was already his soul mate, an unbreakable bond. Why make him feel guilty? Why taint their bond with his guilt?”
Aidan finally nodded. Ryan was right. Had Will known Abby was Chloe reincarnated, especially after witnessing what Ryan went through after Chloe’s death, Will would have felt guilty. It would have tainted their bond.
“That’s why all these years… That’s why you and Abby were friends. That’s why you’ve never taken another soul mate.”
“Sometimes it sucks to be the boss, Aidan. This is one of those times.”
Aidan sat there, stunned. “How could I not know? Why didn’t I recognize her? Or Kal?”
“In a way, you did. The relationship you had with Abby was very much like the one you had with Chloe. As is your relationship with Kal. You were not her soul mate, you were her brother.”
Still in shock, Aidan shook his head. “Fuck, Ryan,” he whispered. “All these years? You knew all these fucking years and did nothing?”
“What was I
do? I have a job to do. My life is meaningless in the scheme of things. The greater good is not served by me being selfish.”
“So you act like an asshole all these years?”
“We all deal the way we deal. Don’t judge me before you’ve walked my path.”
“You can’t have another soul mate because technically, you know your soul mate is still alive.”
Ryan didn’t respond and dropped his eyes. “I could choose someone else. I don’t wish to.”
“You could have had her back. You just walked away from her?”
Ryan slowly shook his head. “I will
walk away from her. But the day Chloe died, she was no longer mine to claim, no matter how desperately I wanted her back.”
Ryan left the room. Aidan took a few minutes to pull himself together. Everything had snapped into place, why he immediately felt like Kal was family from the first moment he met her, why Will fell in love with her, everything. Why he’d loved Abby like a sister.
Ryan was right—Will and Kal could never know. Will never knew Chloe, and she’d only been with Ryan a fraction of the time that Will had with Abby.
It explained why a soul brother would turn his back on them. Why Ryan had reacted with shock and distance when Will introduced them to Abby.
Why Ryan wouldn’t talk about Chloe. Why Abby’s death had seemed to rip out a hunk of Ryan’s soul, even though she wasn’t his soul mate.
Why Ryan was so close to and went out of his way to protect and take care of Abby, and now Kal.
* * * *
Aidan drifted through the reception. Fortunately, Kal and Will seemed too caught up in their day to notice his shock. Ryan kept his distance from Aidan, politely interacting with the wedding guests and allowing Kal’s mother to walk him around and introduce him to their friends and relatives.
But Jeff noticed. At one point he walked over and sat next to Aidan and handed him a glass of wine.
“What’s wrong?” Jeff softly asked.
Aidan shook his head. “Nothing.”
He sensed Jeff’s eyes on him. When he looked, Jeff was studying his face.
Aidan sighed. “Nothing.”
“You’re a horrible liar, Aid. I know you better than that.”
Aidan looked around and finally found Will and Kal at the other end of the reception hall. Aidan leaned in close to Jeff and lowered his voice. “Just some old memories trying to bring me down, that’s all. Melancholy kind of day, okay?”
Jeff reached out and smoothed Aidan’s hair. “Do we have any plans later?”
The hopefully nonchalant way he said it coaxed a smile from Aid. “I was hoping I’d be spending the afternoon alone with you.”
Jeff glanced around, then leaned in a little closer. He winked. “I was hoping you’d say that,” he said.
* * * *
It surprised Aidan right out of his funk when Jeff later took his hand and led him across the hall to a table in the far corner, where an older man and woman sat alone at a table.
He thought Jeff might release his hand when they approached, but he didn’t. Instead, he squeezed it more tightly.
“Mom, Dad, I’d like to introduce you to Aidan Faust. He’s the man I’ve been telling you about.”
Aidan hoped he hid his surprised shock as he shook hands with Jeff’s parents. “Pleased to meet you.” Jeff had told Aidan he would introduce them, but their schedules had been too busy to get together with them before now.
Jeff’s parents smiled. “It’s very nice to finally meet you,” his mom said. “Jeff’s told us a lot about you.”
More shock. Happy shock.
“Oh?” He glanced at Jeff, who smiled.
“Yeah. Oh,” Jeff said with a playful grin.
Aidan knew he had to be blushing. He’d never been introduced to anyone’s parents as a romantic partner before.
He’d never been introduced to anyone’s parents before, period.
“Please sit with us for a few minutes, Aidan,” Jeff’s father invited.
“Um. Okay.” Aidan nervously sat, not wanting to say or do anything to upset them. Jeff sat next to him and surprised Aidan yet again when he reached out to where Aidan’s hand rested on the table, covered it with his, and laced his fingers through Aidan’s.
And left it there.
After twenty minutes of conversation, two things were obvious. One, that Jeff had made it unquestionably clear to his parents that he was dating and romantically involved with Aidan. Two, that while they might be a little uncomfortable with it, they were open-minded and supportive of their son.
Aidan swallowed back an unexpected emotional lump in his throat.
When Aidan and Jeff had to get up to take another round of pictures with the rest of the wedding party, Jeff’s parents also stood. Mrs. Conrad leaned in and hugged Aidan. Mr. Conrad again extended his hand and offered a genuine smile.
“It was very nice to finally meet you, Aidan,” he said. “I hope you two can come over for dinner before you return to Florida.”
Stunned in a happy way, Aidan nodded. “That’d be great. Thanks.”
As they walked away, Jeff once again took Aidan’s hand.
He looked down at Jeff. “You set me up, sugar,” he said with a playful smile.