Chapter 33

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Despite my grandfather's decree about sleep overs and my unending annoyance at being treated like a mushroom over my own heritage, it was a blissful time. We were still under house arrest, so what we were doing hadn't changed; it was just how we did it now. Movies were watched cradled in each other's arms, meals were eaten holding hands, and the hot tub... oh the hot tub...

In fact, we were in the hot tub when Pop came out and dropped the next bomb. Fortunately we had our hands above the surface and were sitting at a reasonable distance apart when he walked up and announced, "I'm leaving for a few days."

"Where're you off to, Pop?" Keira asked innocently, while sliding a foot up and down my calf.

Pop looked solemn and replied, "I decided you were right, Leigh: you shouldn't be kept from your history. Or your destiny." He sighed deeply. "I'm heading off to track down the Squadron and seek permission for you to join."

I launched myself out of the hot tub and wrapped Pop in a soggy hug. "Pop! You won't regret this, I swear!"

"You know you'll be washing and drying everything I'm wearing," Pop said dryly. "You didn't wait for the fine print. You can't join until Noah returns."

"Pop!" I yelled, aware I sounded like a whiny kid and not caring, "What the hell? Noah? He might not be back for months! Years! He might not ever come back!"

Pop waited out my little rant, then calmly said, "I believe Noah will be back. Sooner than you think. You may not believe it or understand it, but you need Noah. And he needs you. I'm not sending my last surviving family member off to join an elite and dangerous faction without backup. So, complain all you like, Leigh, but if you don't agree, I'll head back to my library right now instead of the airport."

"Okay, okay," I countered quickly. "Fine, I'll wait for my stupid brother. How long are you gone for?"

"At least a week. The Squadron is always on the move. They're incredibly hard to find unless you know the right people." Pop winked. "Fortunately, I do." He gave me another hug, soggy and all, then kissed Keira on top of the head. "Be good, you two. House rules still apply: don't leave the property and no over-night stays. I'll be back in a week."

And he was gone. Keira hooked her arms over the top of the edge of the hot tub and said quietly, "So... You're getting what you wanted. You're going to leave."

"Hey," I said, standing her up and framing her face in my hands. "I've got a plan. I'm not leaving; I'm just going to join, then get you accepted too. That way, we'll always be together."

"Do you think they'd take me?" she wondered, concerned.

"Are you kidding? Look at the casino incident – you're fast and tough and smart. They'd be lucky to have you." I kissed her. "This is gonna be awesome. You and me, fighting for our rights, our species, our freedom!" I raised my wings high and let out a war cry. Keira laughed at me.

"Okay, my warrior. Now, get back in here before I get bored and go put clothes on."

I was in before she finished her sentence. Even in over-sized board shorts and an ancient rash vest, she was a sight to behold.

"I know you're excited about Pop's trip," she started, scooting over next to me through the bubbles, "But I'm kinda bummed. He's gonna miss my birthday."

I'm not too proud to admit it; I had a bit of a melt-down here. "Your birthday? What? How did I not know about this? Noo! When?"

"Next Sunday," she said calmly. "It's okay, I never told you. I never normally celebrate it, but if I'm turning twenty one, I should at least have some cake, I guess."

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