We crested the bare, grassy hill, the wind whipping my hair and skirts into a flurry. Jon’s hand around mine was the only thing holding me steady as the waves of grief washed over me. I was elated, having saved my family, watching as they eyed my husband with suspicion and awe. He’d been more than gracious and kind to them in the few moments we had to spare as the mountain—the only home they’d ever known—burned.
We stopped for a moment, allowing everyone to catch their breath. This adjustment was insurmountable for us all. Benji kept staring at Bane with reverence, his blue eyes wide as he took in the sights of this new world. Anna kept her eyes down, shooting glances at Jon every so often, clearly caught off guard by his handsomeness and lack of savagery. My mother was quiet, introverted, tears silently flowing down her cheeks. We’d been smart enough to bring them extra items of clothing—shoes, coats, scarves, gloves. It was comical, watching them dress in things they’d never seen before. It reminded me of my first days out here, in the wild.
Kristjan walked far ahead, anxious to rendezvous with Bjorn and Boudica, to march back to Macdara and safety. I longed for it, too. There had been a secret held within my heart and soul for a small while now. My grandmother had sensed it, spoken it to life, acknowledging something that I was so frightened to lose.
I turned to stare at Mount Tier in the failing light. Below this hill was a sea of deep green trees swaying in the chilly breeze. The mountain was nestled in the distance, picturesque against the sunset. Black smoke wound its tendrils to the sky, and every so often another loud crack would echo through the forest to greet us. I knew Charles had saved as many people as were willing; the rest had perished in the flames. I hoped Viktor had suffered, had felt every lap as the fire licked at him and consumed him. I prayed my grandmother had gone peacefully, content that she’d lived her life full in every aspect, knowing I’d be taken care of and that I would keep her memory alive.
Jon wrapped an arm about my shoulders, pulling me into his warmth. He kissed the top of my head.
“Ye did it, princess. Ye saved yer family.” He said. I nodded, watching as Bane shared his flask with Benji, who coughed and sputtered. Bane’s loud laugh caused my mother to jump in fright. I smiled, knowing they’d be alright, knowing they’d be welcomed into Macdara, shown true freedom yet unknown to them. I’d told Jon of Charles, how he’d double-crossed Viktor for us, how my grandfather and him had exchanged places. My father would be safe, my aunt and uncle having died the month before.
“She was from a clan,” I said to the wind. Jon hugged me tighter, knowing of whom I spoke.
“Aye, it was bred into ye, that’s for sure.”
I turned my gaze to him, to his deep black eyes, to his beautiful face that made my heart clench. I took a deep breath, holding that gaze for a beat, relishing the moment of utter freedom. Our lives had been connected by fate, intertwined in a way unfathomable to us both, and the love between us only seemed to burn more fiercely each day. I felt my face break into a smile.
“What is it?” He asked, smiling nervously.
“I have something to tell you.” I said simply. Without another word, his face slowly seemed to light up like the dawn after the darkest of nights. Tears brimmed his black eyes, his chin quivering with the onslaught of joy.
“Ye are…?” he said, nodding as a few tears trailed down his cheek. I nodded, feeling my own tears of joy. He kissed me deeply and pulled me into a tight embrace, holding between us the life we had created once more.