Adam jolted awake when the doorbell rang. He looked at his clock and groaned, then put his pillow over his head, contemplating ignoring it. He’d only been asleep a couple of hours; he’d taken an extra shift yesterday because people were always stupid on Halloween, and sure enough there had been a last-minute call that kept him out until the wee hours of the morning.
He couldn’t not
answer it, though. Grumbling under his breath, he grabbed a robe and shrugged it on over his pajama pants as he headed for the front door. The bell rang again. “I’m coming,” Adam called, then muttered, “Give me a minute, Jesus.”
Reaching the door, he wrenched it open. “Trick-or-treating is over, man,” he started, voice trailing off as he saw who was standing there. Black hair, stubble, stormy hazel eyes, a lean body dressed all in black, and a scowl that showed he wasn’t any happier to be there than Adam had been to be woken up. He looked incredibly familiar. “Do I know you?”
“We’ve met,” the guy grumbled, then cursed softly when the bundle in his arms moved. “Damn it, she just fell asleep too.”
Adam looked at the bundle, saw that beautiful little face, and remembered in a flashing rush. “Moira!” he said. “Kalen. Come in, please. It’s so good to see her safe.”
Kalen walked into the living room and stood there, looking angry and uncomfortable. Moira blinked open eyes just like her uncle’s and squirmed, reaching out for Adam.
!” she babbled, fixated on Adam’s face.
“Hi, baby,” Adam said softly, taking her from Kalen. He was focused totally on her as she chattered at him unintelligibly. He ran the back of a finger over her cheek, and she grabbed it, trying to pull it into her mouth. Adam laughed. “Not a good idea, honey, sorry.”
“We need to talk,” Kalen grumbled. “And it’s going to sound absolutely insane, so I have to ask you to just sit and listen first, okay?”
Adam cocked an eyebrow. “Okay,” he said slowly. “Have a seat.” He waved at the couch in the family room, taking a recliner for himself. Moira settled herself against his chest as soon as he sat, and was asleep almost immediately.
Kalen sat, hands clasped between his knees, and said nothing for several seconds. Finally he shook his head and scrubbed a hand over his mouth. “You made a promise to take care of my sister’s child,” he said. “And while I’d be happy to call it good, promises made to my people aren’t a thing to take lightly.” He paused and huffed to himself.
“We’re fae,” he said, gesturing between his chest and the sleeping baby on Adam’s. “Creatures from another realm, where magic lives and our rules are straight out of your fairytales. Not the least of which is that a promise made to a fae must be honored. So. Here we are. Oh!” He snapped his fingers and produced a diaper bag out of thin air. “Almost forgot her things. She’ll need a change soon.”
Adam felt his mouth hanging open. He could dismiss the words as ravings from someone who should not have custody of a child, but producing the diaper bag from nowhere was a different proposition. But it still could be some sort of elaborate hoax, and Adam knew it. He slowly closed his mouth, his hand on Moira’s back pressing a little more firmly. “Uh, okay,” he said carefully. “What?”
“Powerful magical beings,” Kalen said, cocking an eyebrow at him like he thought Adam was being purposely dense. “And you made a promise to take care of one of us.” He rubbed his palms over his black-denim-covered knees. “Now, I don’t know you or if I should even trust you, and not to mention that our young tend to be…capricious, what with access to the forces of magic. So I’ll be staying on to help. And to watch, because I don’t know if I can trust you with her life, and I refuse to make that mistake.”
He snapped his fingers again, this time producing a pair of suitcases. “Do you have a spare room, or should I take the couch?”
“First door on the left,” Adam said, pointing at the stairs. “Mi casa es su casa
.” He rubbed Moira’s back absently. “I don’t know you either,” he added, “or if I should even trust you
. I will say, however, that I’m glad you’re here to help. It’s been a long time since I’ve been around a baby.”
Kalen frowned. “You’re taking this well.”
“I’m taking it with a grain of salt,” Adam corrected, “but I’m willing to give you the benefit of the doubt for now.”
“Whether you believe me or not, it’s real, and there are rules for dealing with my kind,” Kalen said. “Only ask a direct question if you’re truly sure you want the answer. Our existence is not your secret to tell. And…” He paused long enough to glare menacingly across the predawn gloom of the living room. “Never
make a promise you don’t intend to keep.”
“I’ll keep that in mind,” Adam said drily. “Can I go back to bed now? I was up working until about two hours ago, and I’m exhausted.”
“I’ll take her, in that case.” Kalen stood. “I haven’t had time to get a crib for her yet.”
Adam’s arms tightened reflexively, but he forced himself to relax even as he raised an eyebrow at Kalen. “Can’t you just wave your magic wand?”
“Normally, yes,” Kalen said, forehead furrowed in frustration. “But Moira’s half human, and that’s rare enough we’re not sure how she’ll handle large amounts of magic. She’s already traveled back and forth again between our worlds in a matter of hours, and then my tricks to get you to believe me. I’d rather do as many things the human way as possible until I’m sure it won’t harm her or affect her developing magic. If she even has any.”
Uh-huh. Adam shook his head. “Hours?” he said. “It’s been a couple of weeks since your sister died.”
“For you. Time is different in my realm.” Kalen held out his hands but didn’t snatch at Moira. “She’s been crying for you since shortly after I got home, but I think she’ll be able to sleep now we’re here. So go back to bed, and I’ll mind her.”
Adam carefully levered himself up and out of the recliner and handed Moira to Kalen. “I hope you’re right about time,” he said, lightly stroking Moira’s dark curls. “I’d hate to think of her miserable for so long.”
He stretched with a yawn. “Bathroom’s across the hall from your room. You’re welcome to watch TV as long as you keep the volume low. Don’t worry about waking me up if you have to, but only if you need something, okay?”
Kalen nodded, rubbing his cheek against Moira’s hair. “Goodnight, Adam.”
“Good morning,” Adam said with a faint smile, then turned and walked down the hallway to collapse on his bed facedown. He was asleep almost as soon as he hit the pillow.
* * * *
Kalen moved quietly around Adam’s house, carefully holding Moira until she fell into a deep, boneless sleep. He took a couple of pillows off the bed in what was now his room and settled Moira in a nest on the floor before continuing to explore.
Counting the master bedroom on the ground floor, there were four beds, two baths, a formal living room, a comfortable family room, a dining room, and a spacious kitchen. It was a big house, much too big for a single man on his own. But there were dozens of family photos on the wall, showing Adam—tall, blond, smiling—and at least five equally fair siblings. Formal photos decorated the stairwell, with more relaxed snapshots in nearly every room Kalen saw.
There were photos of in-laws too. Mostly brunettes with adoring eyes for their spouses, though there was one fiery redhead who reminded Kalen of his cousin Bree. It relaxed Kalen to know that Adam came from such a big and obviously loving family. Still, he wasn’t going to pass judgment on how fit a parent Adam would be for a long time yet. Naomi had jumped into trusting that faithless human waste of space, and it had been her undoing; Kalen would die before he did that to Naomi’s daughter.
He poked through Adam’s books, then a collection of small, shiny discs his brother, Conor, had already explained held movies
, and eventually wound up in the kitchen, making room in the refrigerator for the self-filling bottles he’d brought. They were the one magical item he’d allowed when he left; a fae child could waste away for want of the right food. That much magic was a risk worth taking, as far as he was concerned.
It was midmorning by the time Kalen heard Adam moving around in his bedroom. Kalen was in the family room, Moira in his lap and tucked in the crook of his arm as he fed her. Her little hands grasped the bottle as she looked up at him with wide eyes, and he couldn’t help smiling down at her. “Hey there, little changeling,” he crooned.
Adam wandered out into the family room, stopping short when he saw Kalen feeding Moira. “So you weren’t a weird dream,” he said, then continued on to the kitchen. “Have you already eaten?”
“No,” Kalen said, glad Adam couldn’t see his blush. “I don’t remember the last time I cooked without magic.”
“Eggs okay?” Adam asked. “Or I can do waffles or pancakes, but they’ll take a little longer.”
“Whatever is easiest for you,” Kalen said, pulling the bottle free and maneuvering Moira over his shoulder. He headed into the kitchen, dancing around Adam to get the empty bottle back in the refrigerator. “Is there somewhere close I can go to get her a crib? We can’t have her sleeping on the floor until she’s big enough for a bed.”
Adam got a skillet out of a cabinet and eggs and milk out of the fridge. “There’s one furniture store in town,” he said, cracking eggs on the side of the skillet, then adding milk before starting to stir them with a fork. “They might have one. Otherwise there’s Logan. It’s about forty-five minutes away. Do you want cheese on your eggs?”
“Sure.” Kalen sat on one of the stools, patting Moira’s back. “That sounds like it’s far. Do you have a car seat
?” He rolled the unfamiliar term over his tongue. “You said one saved her. It seems like something we should have.”
“It did, and no, I don’t.” Adam had the eggs fluffy now, and he split them onto two plates before getting a bag of shredded cheese out to sprinkle over the hot eggs. He put everything away while the eggs cooled, getting out orange juice and two cups and forks. “Hope you like orange juice; it’s all I have. Hope you have money too, because this stuff is going to be expensive.”
“Money is not an issue,” Kalen said. He settled Moira on his lap and pulled his plate closer. “Thank you. Whatever you need me to pay for, I can take care of. I already have more gold than I can spend in a hundred years, and my parents insisted on providing funds of their own. No, darling, this is my food,” he added to Moira, putting his eggs out of her reach. “You just ate.”
He looked up at Adam and offered a small smile. Adam looked rumpled but rested, his robe hanging open to show that bare, toned chest Kalen had already seen so much of. “I think we should get her a high chair too,” Kalen said.
“I may have you help with utilities if you use a lot of water, and maybe groceries once in a while. But I manage okay. We should stop at a bank if you’re carrying gold and trade it in for paper money instead. People don’t really use gold anymore.” Adam raised an eyebrow at Kalen and then tucked in, quickly demolishing his eggs.
“I have a credit card,” Kalen said around bites of food. For something so simple, it was surprisingly delicious. Of course, even with the realm travel, it had been the better part of a day since Kalen had eaten anything, so there was that. “My people long ago figured out how to connect our money to your banks for when we’re visiting.” He finished his eggs and drained the juice in several long swallows. “It’s only fair I shoulder some of the expenses.”
“A credit card is even better,” Adam said. He took their plates and glasses and put them in the sink. “Let me shower and get dressed. Then we can see if Cheryl across the street will loan us her car seat until we can get one for Moira.”
Kalen nodded, then wrinkled his nose as a ripe smell rose up from Moira. “We’ll need diapers too.”
Elizabeth Silver & Jenny Urban