Authors: Melissa Giorgio
“And I shouldn’t forget,” I whispered. “You sacrificed yourself for me, Mom. And this was after you took the parasite spell from Rafe. You didn’t know Rafe; you didn’t have to do that. But you did. You worried you’d failed as a mom, but you hadn’t. Not for a second. You risked everything to protect me and… Thank you. I didn’t get to say that before you died, and I’m sorry for that. I’m sorry I acted like a brat when I found out you were going back to the city without telling me. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you how much I love you.” My voice cracked and I stopped speaking, biting the inside of my cheek as I struggled to gain control of my emotions.
I waited a moment, the wind rustling gently against my dress.
“And even though I didn’t want it to, life has moved on,” I continued. “After you died, I just wanted to hide in my bedroom for the rest of my life, but Dad and Rafe weren’t having any of that. And Penny—she dragged me to the mall and made me do normal things with her. And it was nice. Really nice. It reminded me that I needed to keep living and doing stupid things like spending hours trying on expensive clothes we were never going to buy. Because even though life has some really crappy parts to it, it’s also full of good things too.
“Rafe got into college. Correction—” I held up a finger. “He got into
the colleges. Each and every one he applied to. And you know which one he ended up choosing?” I snuck a glance at my boyfriend, smiling when I saw him squatting in front of the same pair of ducks we’d seen swimming in the lake. “It’s only an hour away. He picked it because he doesn’t want to be too far from me. We’re going to see each other on weekends—we still don’t know if Dad is going to let me spend the weekend at his dorm, but we’re working on that. Rafe got a full scholarship—for baseball—but he’s going to major in business. Guess why?”
I tapped my corsage. “I took your advice and told him about my dream of opening my own nursery someday, and he loved that idea. Said he better get a degree in business so he could help me out.” I smiled at the thought of us working side by side, helping customers, getting our hands—literally—dirty…
I gazed out across the lake. A cool breeze blew ripples across the water, contrasting with the warmth from the sun. At that moment, I got it. I knew why Mom had come here after making the deal with Skinless all those years ago. There was something about this place that calmed you.
“With that in mind, I’m going to apply to Rafe’s school and major in horticulture,” I said. “I don’t know if I’ll get in, but I’m going to try my damn hardest. Oh yeah, I almost forgot—I got a job at the local nursery! The last time I was in there, I saw a ‘Help Wanted’ sign up, and I asked Rafe if I should apply for it. I mean, I already had a job, but I didn’t like it. Working with plants is what I want to do, so I might as well get some experience doing something I like. I’m going to start once school finishes, for three days a week. And I’m going to make more than I did at the Corral! Bernard took the news pretty badly, though.” I grimaced, remembering how my boss had freaking
when I told him I got a new job. I never realized he cared that much about me! But then I reminded him that Chloe was turning sixteen soon and needed a job, and he perked right back up. I couldn’t wait for my little sister to be the one behind the counter, wearing her lime-green store-issued shirt. I would be doing a lot of shopping at the Corral come this fall…
“Oh, I’m also going to be taking driver’s ed. Dad finally let me get my permit after I turned seventeen.” I’d started practicing a little bit, and so far, I’d avoided hitting anything. I don’t know why Dad had been so against me learning how to drive; I wasn’t bad! Now Chloe on the other hand… Something told me she was going to be a crazy driver.
“So it’s going to be a busy summer. But I know I’m going to have fun, too. With Rafe and Phil and everyone. Being normal and stupid, like we’re supposed to be. I just want to be happy, Mom. And I’m getting there. It’s slow, but I am.
“You gave me this, this second chance at life, and I’d be an idiot to take it for granted. I won’t. I promise you I’ll never forget what you did for me. Never, ever. Mom… I love you.” I kissed my fingertips before extending my hand toward the lake and closing my eyes. I would never know if she heard me, but deep in my heart, I was confident she had.
I walked over to Rafe, who straightened up when he saw me coming. His new duck friends quacked at me before waddling away and we both laughed.
Rafe opened his arms for a hug and I snuggled against his chest, wrapping my arms around his waist. “How’d it go?” he asked.
I took a deep breath and exhaled slowly before answering. “Good. It was good. I told her about college and my new job, and our plans for the summer. I think she would be happy for us.”
“I’m pretty excited for the summer.”
“Me too.” I tilted back my head so I could see his face. “First of all, it’s warm. And there’s no school. Do you know how much fun we’re going to have?”
Always the responsible one, Rafe said, “Don’t forget you still have work and driver’s ed—”
I waved my hand dismissively. “We’re going to the beach. A lot. We’ll take the train down to Long Island and it’ll be so much fun.” I smiled wickedly. “I’ll get to see you without a shirt on. Like,
the time. I’m really looking forward to
You gave me that brief glance in Dad’s closet, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.”
Embarrassed, Rafe started fidgeting with his collar. “You are such a pervert. No wonder your dad told me to watch out for you.”
“He did not!” I hesitated, unsure whether he was lying or not. That actually did sound like something Dad would say. “Did he?”
Rafe laughed loudly. “No, he didn’t. He actually told me if we Saw a demon, I needed to pick you up, throw you into my car, and speed away.”
is the truth.”
Rafe nuzzled the side of my neck, which in turn made my knees weak. “Have you really been thinking about me shirtless all this time?” he murmured.
“Duh.” I rolled my eyes. “I’ll always regret telling you to put your shirt back on.” Brushing my windblown hair out of my face, I laughed. “I know better now! Now, I’ll
tell you to put your clothes back on
to stop kissing me.”
Rafe hugged me closer, and I could feel his heartbeat racing through his tux. Lowering his face toward mine, he asked, “Is that a promise?” His voice had gone all low and husky, and it was impossible to miss the passion burning in his deep green eyes.
Whoa, hello, sexy Rafe!
Sheesh, I had to grip the front of Rafe’s tux so I could remain in an upright position.
“Oh, yeah,” I purred against his lips.
Before I could deepen the kiss, Rafe asked, “Do you know what
looking forward to?” His fingers absently trailed up and down my bare arm, creating goose bumps in their wake.
I shook my head, both to clear it
to answer his question.
Smiling, Rafe brushed his lips across my earlobe, making me shiver, and whispered softly, “
Oh boy. This is it. The last acknowledgments I’ll ever write for the Silver Moon Saga. And considering how long this book was, I know I shouldn’t go on and on, but we all know how much I love my words.
This book was a hard one to write. Not only did the plot and the characters fight me nearly every step of the way, but there were things going on in real life that made concentrating on writing nearly impossible. I had to say a lot of difficult goodbyes in the beginning of 2014, and my work suffered for it. Throughout it all the people in my life stuck by me, and I could never say thank you enough to them.
Mom and Dad, thanks for putting up with every mood swing, every doubt, every fear. You told me to take a step back when you saw how I was struggling, and even though I was too stubborn to listen to that really good advice, I appreciate the support all the same. I love you.
Amy, this book wouldn’t even exist without you. You listened and listened and listened, and when it came time to read it, you told me what didn’t work, which I appreciate more than anything. I know I went a little crazy and nearly gave up altogether, but you held my hand throughout it all and told me not to. Thanks for reading this twice, not to mention my thousand and one emails asking you what you thought about the changes to this or that scene. Thank you for steering me in the right direction, for believing in not just me, but the story as well. You’re my best friend, and I’m so lucky to have you in my life.
My family and friends mean the world to me, and I will never forget how they were there for me as I wrote, rewrote, and edited the heck out of this Saga. Thank you for your love and support!
Thank you to Molly and Sam for loving Gabi “Sassy Pants” as much as I do. That nickname is my favorite thing ever, by the way.
A special shout-out to my super-fans: Aurélia, Chalyss, Ellie, and Jachira. These lovely ladies always take the time to send me comments expressing their love for the Silver Moon Saga. They are the reason I write, and I’m so, so lucky to have such wonderful fans.
Thank you once again to SJ Davis, Rue Volley, Brittany Booker, and Elizabeth Lance, for making this book possible.
And to everyone who gave me and my books a chance, thank you! You deserve all the chocolate in the world!