Chapter 5, Part 2-3 (End Chapter 5)

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Dixon walked the perimeter of the campsite, then positioned himself outside the fading light of the coals. Bullfrogs belched in the pond and bats squeaked overhead, but for the most part, his vigil was a quiet one. He was glad for the calm that gave him some time for introspection.

He'd been so busy being angry, of feeling jealous of Mara and of her having been in attendance at Rowena's last moments, that initially, he'd failed to take a good look at her. But her smile held a kindness, a sincerity he'd not encountered for some time.

He was weary of others using him, especially those who wanted something from Rowena. It had been so long since he'd been able to trust someone. He fervently hoped he could trust Mara. Being an Oathtaker was a lonely business. So few understood its demands and limitations.

Goodness, but she was beautiful, as well. He found the light sprinkling of freckles across her nose amusing, attractive.

Perhaps best of all though, she was strong and spirited. Imagine a newly assigned Oathtaker telling him to take a hike. Then there was the way she handled Heri. That was genius, really. She was impressive, gutsy—and she'd been right. He had unfairly blamed her for what he'd perceived as his own failing. Ehyeh did use all things for good. The world did operate according to His design. Had Mara not been there, the twins might never have lived to see the light of day. He shuddered to think it.

He was certain she still believed that he'd loved Rowena. It was true, there had been a time, but of course it was impossible—for so many reasons. He was under oath and therefore, not free. She was married and therefore, not free. Though it had taken some time, eventually he'd come to appreciate that it wouldn't have worked anyway. Rowena did not return his sentiments.

In the early days, it had been painful to love without love in return, but he never acted on his feelings, strove never to allow any vestige of them to be known to others.

Over time, his love changed. Rowena became like a sister to him and the very best of friends. He supported and helped her in every way possible. He was willing to go, and would have gone, to the grave to protect her, just as he'd sworn he would do.

Yes, he had loved Rowena, but not as Mara thought. So why hadn't he corrected her misunderstanding?

Maybe because it keeps a distance between us.

One of the babies cried out. Mara awakened and prepared a feeding. In that moment, he was immensely grateful she was allowing him to share in this experience.

An owl hooted in the distance. He turned toward the sound and caught, at the edge of his line of vision, the splendor of a shooting star. Luck is with me tonight.

He walked the perimeter of the camp again. He relived some of the better times with Rowena in his thoughts: her laughing and teasing him about his apprehension over having accepted a seventh as his charge, the births of her children, and if how she'd placed her newborns in the care of Oathtakers she trusted while she continued on her mission.

She had called her supporters her inner circle—and what a group they made.

She was a rare one. Dear Good One, great Ehyeh, I miss her so much already.

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