Chapter Fifty-One

956 117 37
                                    

Overcome with emotion, May let out a primal cry of frustration. A part of her wanted to hit something—to drive her fist through the wall just to give all the anger and despair somewhere to go—but she knew it wouldn't fix anything. Instead, she whirled around and stomped away from the others. Being near them only made things worse.

May stormed to the stairs and peered up. There, crouched at the very top, Gaten blinked down at her. With a sigh, she motioned for him to come down.

"It's okay, buddy," she said, softening her voice as best she could. "Your mom and dad are here."

"What?" Rue gasped in disbelief, lurching forward toward the stairs.

The sound of her voice piqued Gaten's attention. Instantly he was on his feet.

"Mommy?" he asked, his high little voice jittering with every step he bounded down. May stepped out of the way, letting Rue take her place at the base of the stairs. Rue let out a joyous cry at the sight of her son and immediately broke down. Gaten leaped from the stairs into her arms. She clutched him to her desperately, sobbing into the soft ringlets of his unkempt hair.

Then, before May could move away, Rue looked up and caught her eye.

"Thank you," Rue said. She smiled and May wondered if she had ever seen her do so before. "Thank you for saving our baby."

The only response May could muster was a weak nod.

May watched this tearful reunion between mother and son, quickly joined by Connor, as if through a television screen. This had been exactly what she and Em had set out to accomplish when they first agreed to help WIND. This was the reason they couldn't just walk away. She was happy for Rue and Connor, having spent countless hours imagining just how gutted they must have been and knowing how equally desperate she would have been in their situation. She was relieved for Gaten. There was no doubt a lot of healing in his future, but at least he was home with the people who loved him most. But still, May knew these things rather than felt them. Knowing Em was in immediate danger had created an emotional chasm between her and what was supposed to be an important victory. The only thing she felt was numb.

While Rue and Connor fussed and cried over their son, May turned and shuffled into the kitchen. Jeremy and Priva followed without speaking, and kept their distance—though May couldn't tell if it was out of respect or something else.

"What's the plan then?" May asked, rounding on the two of them. "How are we going to get Em back?"

Priva shot Jeremy a tense look and folded her arms across her chest. For his part, Jeremy gaped, his mouth trying to work on words that just wouldn't come. May glared between the two of them.

"Well? Come on, we're wasting time."

From the hallway, where the young family was still huddled together, Rue gasped and let out a heartbreaking wail. Before the others could react, Connor blew into the room.

"We have to go," he said, addressing Jeremy and Priva in turn. "Right now. Grab only what you can carry."

Jeremy hesitated. He looked to May, his expression conflicted, but Connor turned back to face him with a strong hand on his slight shoulder.

"We don't have a choice, Jeremy. Now, go."

May was confused. "Go where? What's happening?"

Connor stepped toward her, pausing to whisper something to Priva, who nodded and left without a word. His eyes—the same ones he had passed down to his child—were glassy and betrayed his regret. "I'm sorry, May. We can't take you with us."

The Fire and the Sky (Book 3 of the Starborn Series)Where stories live. Discover now