Burning Skies Page 81

Kerrick had already told him what was back there and his heart ached, which was why he had a hard grip on Havily’s hand. She didn’t complain, however, but pressed his hand in response every now and then. He glanced at her as they walked.

“It’ll be all right,” she said.

“How can it be all right?” he asked. “All I can think about is Parisa and Medichi.”

“I know.”

Kerrick called a halt to the march. He drew Alison close to him on his left. “Marcus, we don’t have to do this right now. We can do it another time.”

Marcus met his anguished green eyes. Goddamn, they were all in turmoil because of the kidnapping, all of them reminded of past losses and present dangers.

He took a deep breath. He strove to remember his sister and her wisdom, the serenity of her nature, her acceptance of life on Second Earth, of the profound impermanence of ascension despite their relatively immortal self-healing state. As he thought of Helena, peace descended on him. Life is for the living, she had said.

But something more, he thought: Life is for the battling. They were battling now, to find Parisa, and somehow they would. And if in their pursuit they discovered she no longer lived, then he and the warriors, as well as Endelle, Alison, and Havily would all work to get Medichi through. They would rally around him, support him, carry him on their backs every step of the way until he could overcome this loss.

He looked at Havily, and released her hand so that he could slide his arm around her waist and draw her close. He searched her eyes. I love you, he sent.

She nodded, more than once. He brushed away the tears that rolled down her cheeks. He felt her sadness as his own; he could feel the warmth of the sun on her bare shoulders, that her left heel had sunk into the lawn—she moved it now—that her thong was causing her trouble, which she ignored, all evidence of their connection, results of the breh-hedden. He loved her so much.

He turned back to Kerrick. “I think it’s appropriate we do this today. I want to do this.”

Kerrick nodded, but his jaw was tight and his breathing harsh. “Let’s do it then.”

He led the way to the fiery red honeysuckle and stepped between an overlap in what was actually two walls. From a distance the breach could not be detected. The honeysuckle had long since formed an arch overhead. Sparrows chattered madly, disliking the intrusion. A few wasps moved here and there. A green-throated hummingbird made a whirring appearance then darted away.

Marcus dipped his head in those places where the honeysuckle had sunk under its own weight. A few more steps and he arrived at an opening. Shit, his knees felt weak and his head spun for there were five gravestones, old weathered stones, lined up in a row. Three belonged to his loved ones, Helena, Christine, and Kerr; the other two had been placed in honor of the servants who had died in the explosion that same night so long ago.

He moved to stand in front of Helena’s grave and yep, his knees quit on him and he fell to a kneeling position, his heart in his throat. He wasn’t surprised that Havily joined him, also on her knees despite the fact that the grass would probably leave stains on her sundress. But he knew her. She wouldn’t care about that. He put an arm around her shoulders and held her close.

The funny thing was, Kerrick joined him, on his knees, Alison as well. How long they remained there, he couldn’t say, but it felt right.

At long last, Marcus bowed his head and murmured prayers to the Creator for his sister, his niece, his nephew, and finally it was enough. The burden of his grief, the rage of his loss dissipated. With Havily by his side, her head leaning on his shoulder, with Kerrick’s hand resting on his opposite shoulder, it was enough. Helena would always be the greatest loss of his life, but her legacy continued, in the child Alison carried who already bore her name, in the words Helena had spoken to him that had allowed him to give his heart to Havily, in the love he would always bear for his beautiful wise sister.

Yes, it was enough.

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