Chapter Seventeen

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May, Dom, and Lety had just settled at the table, steaming cups of coffee and tea between them, when the security system let them know Grant had arrived. A soft series of beeps rang out, sounding so much louder in the quiet of the shop, and a quadrant of the screens lit up.

"That was fast," Lety remarked, pouring an extra mug. Downstairs, the side door opened and closed with a bang. "Even for Grant."

Within moments the doorway to the command center was filled by Grant's solid silhouette. His greying hair was mussed, a motorcycle helmet wedged under his arm.

"Well I'll be damned," he said, holding an arm out for May, who had already risen from her chair. He pulled her into a strong, one-armed hug. "What're you doing back so soon?"

"On a mission, Grant." May stood back so Lety could hand her boss his coffee. "I need your help finding my birth parents."

Lifting his mug, Grant shot Lety a questioning look over its rim. She shrugged.

May cleared her throat. "Have either of you heard of Dawn and Oliver Gardener?"

Grant choked, sending hot coffee spraying forward and dripping down his salt and pepper beard. May and Lety were barely able to jump back and out of the way.

"You've got to be shitting me." Grant squinted and looked May over. "For fucksake. I knew there was something familiar about you. Sit down and tell me what this is all about."

May crawled back into her chair, her mind swirling. She touched her fingertips to her cheek – never before had she considered that someone else might share the features she'd spent so long resenting.

"Did you know them?" she asked as Grant dropped his helmet on the table and eased into his seat.

"Sure did. Even worked with them on a job or two back in the day." Grant peered at May again. "Are you seriously trying to tell me you're Oli and Dawn's kid?"

May shrug. "So I've been told."

"Incredible." Grant took a proper sip of his coffee. When he set the mug down, his eyes landed on Dom. "And who the hell are you?"

For all of Grant's gruffness, Dom was unfazed. He smiled and offered a hand to shake. "Dominic. I'm a search and rescue tech from Tenna. May and Em have spent a bit of time working on our team."

"He's also a forest spirit," Lety added with a smirk.

"Also that."

Grant arched an eyebrow. "Fancy."

"Very," Dom agreed.

"And who's that one?" Grant hooked a thumb back toward the door. The rest of the table turned to find Welkin haunting the threshold. The Star scowled at having their cover blown.

"This is Welkin." May waved for them to come in. "They're..." She considered whether or not this was the best time to launch into the Star's complicated backstory and decided against it. "Welkin, this is Grant Parker."

At this, Welkin froze, halfway between the door and the table. Their golden eyes narrowed and homed in on Grant as if he was someone familiar. May looked between the two, wondering if Welkin was familiar with the career criminal and, if so, what about him warranted such a curious stare.

But if Welkin knew of Grant, they didn't say anything. Instead, they drifted to the table and came to stand behind May, their hands resting on her shoulders. They offered Grant only a curt nod.

"What have I missed?" Welkin asked, casting a golden glance around the table.

"Maybe Baby here was just telling us that she's the offspring of two of the greatest professional thieves of our time," Grant explained. He leaned back in his chair and stared her down. "What I'm wondering is why this is only coming up now."

"I didn't say anything because I didn't know. After Em and I..." May paused, wincing at the knowing looks Grant and Lety shot at one another. "After everything that happened, I went back home to be with my family. But a Loyal agent tracked me down and attacked me, looking for information on Em."

Lety snorted. "Well, thatplan backfired spectacularly. I knew it was a bad idea for that girl to send you away."

"It doesn't matter." May waved off Lety's ranting, not wanting to fall into the blame game. "What matters is, when I was recovering, my mom told me the truth about my birth parents. Up until that point I didn't even know their names let alone that they were thieves."

"So why the sudden interest then?" Grant asked. Nothing about his fixed expression hinted at what was going through his mind, but May couldn't help but feel he was protecting his old friends, even from her. "You fixin' to give them shit for giving you away or something?"

"This isn't some sentimental trip down memory lane." May leaned forward and locked eyes with Grant. "I need to find them because they stole something important and I need to get it back. That's why we're here."

He smiled, nothing cruel but certainly in a way that told May he was underestimating her. "You think we can help you find it? Kiddo, those two stole a lot of things – big things, and each one was at least important enough that someone was willing to pay good money for it on the black market. I don't think you–"

"Grant, if this is your way of trying to talk me out of this then you can save your breath because it's not going to work."

"We're not talking about knocking off a bank here, May." Now Grant leaned in, his voice deep and authoritative. "I don't think you understand the dirty business your parents were into. But I do, and I can't in good faith send you skipping into things you don't understand."

"I don't need you protecting me, Grant. What I need is your help. Because I'm not going to let this go. It's too important."

There was a flash of something in Grant's otherwise stoic expression; a hint that, for better or worse, she was getting through to him.

"What could be this important, May?"

"The missing wishing star," she answered, rising to her feet. "That's what."

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