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Sonora released a long breath at the end of the story.

"I wouldn't believe a word of that story if I wasn't literally sitting here in the middle of it. That's amazing," she waved at the room. "This is amazing!"

Sonora stood. Unlike others, the path to her right was marked, and she wanted to see why. It led toward the edge of the garden to the stone wall. Atlantian writing was displayed above her head as she stood there. A tall stand with a display case was in front of her.

This area seemed rather sparse compared to the rest of the garden. Most plants were kept back from the dais. What there was had been used sparingly, with deliberation.

Though lovely, the focus wasn't on its beauty but upon the case. Sonora scanned the garden. This whole garden was a tribute to their past, and this display was its crown jewel.

But the crown jewel was gone, the case was empty.

She turned to Ian with a question on her lips. His demeanor had changed from the eager storyteller he had been to someone stiff and distant.

"We don't talk about that," he said curtly.

"As in, you and I don't talk about it, or no one here ever talks about it?"

"You and I don't." Ian's voice was stern. "The rest of us avoid the subject whenever possible."


Sonora swallowed an exasperated sigh. She was used to moody men. Her father had his emotional days, and her grandfather was the moodiest person she knew. The family often teased him that he was the grumpiest grandpa alive. Not only could his emotions change on a dime but they could be extreme, to the point that he would remove himself from his family to spare them his low spirits.

But her grandfather was also the most loving, giving person she knew, and they'd always had a special closeness. She wasn't afraid of a little moodiness, but it did bring up the question that had swirled through her mind since dinner.

Why was she even playing nice? Why wasn't she railing against him at every opportunity? They were questions she couldn't seem to solve. Maybe because she'd fought him all the way here and gotten nowhere. Maybe because for some reason, she knew, she just knew, that he wasn't evil.

Although he was clearly a confident man, there was an apology in his eyes every time he looked at her. There was hesitation in every move he made near her. He had told her he hadn't meant to take her, whatever that meant. But she believed him. He needed her for some reason. She just needed to find out why.

Sonora nodded her head just as a movement caught her eye. Three women stood at the entrance of the park, similar enough in looks to Ian that she assumed they were his relatives. Though each had their own style, all wore mid-length dresses that flowed from the waist. The gowns were sleeveless, showing off their own shimmering tattoos that ran in a pattern much like Ian's.

Sonora lightly touched Ian's shoulder and tipped her head their way. He turned, his face breaking into a smile.

"It is my mother and sisters," he said as they walked toward them.

Going to the oldest women first, he hugged her before hugging the others. Then Ian turned back to Sonora, putting a hand to her shoulder to encourage her to step forward. "Sunny, this is my mother, Aleena. My sisters Cascadia and Talise."

After the awkward encounter with his father, Sonora's voice was level as she said, "I'm pleased to meet you."

Aleena nodded. Ian's sisters smiled, though Sonora couldn't exactly tell what kind of smile it was.

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