Oh, my. Is that even a question? “Yes!” I exclaimed, jumping up in excitement. The little girl inside of me was squealing.

He smiled broadly as he braced my shoulders. “Then we should start getting ready, future princess of The Shade.”

Derek

Sofia and I had very little time for preparations once we’d received confirmation from Jeriad that Ben and River were welcome to accompany them, and Ben confirmed they were both happy to take part in a joint wedding.

We made a trip around the island inviting people personally; it was something we wanted to do, given that it was our son’s wedding. Two other couples also decided to join the bandwagon and tie the knot at the same time: Helena and Matteo, and Micah and Kira.

And then there remained only one person I had left to speak to.

My brother.

I still hadn’t had much time to speak to him—and absolutely no time alone. Even though we’d gone together to The Dunes and then Hortencia’s cave, Lucas hadn’t been around much since, being a fae, he’d been helping Ben and the jinn much of the time.

It was time that I talked to him man to man. Brother to brother. Although I was dreading it, there would be no better moment than now.

I told Sofia where I was going before heading off to look for him. I spotted him eventually on the beach near the Port. He was sitting with Jeramiah and talking, their feet submerged in the water.

I felt hesitant to approach, but forced myself to interrupt by arriving at their side and clearing my throat.

Lucas’s eyes widened in surprise as he looked up to see that it was me.

I turned my focus to Jeramiah. “If you don’t mind, I would like a few words with your father.”

Jeramiah nodded curtly. Lucas stood up, his height just less than mine. I found it hard to hold his gaze for long and, it seemed, so did he. We both looked away in opposite directions even as we began to walk together along the beach, away from Jeramiah.

When he made no move to say anything after about a minute, I attempted to break the ice. “Thank you for helping my son.”

Still looking at the sand, Lucas murmured with a dismissive shrug, “I owed him.”

I swallowed. What do I talk about with him? I had decided to invite him to the wedding, but that wasn’t what I’d really come here for.

Trying to converse with Lucas felt more uncomfortable than attempting to strike up a conversation with a complete stranger. At least a stranger shared no past with you. No hateful, envious past.

To my relief, Lucas took his turn in saying something. “You should, uh,” he began, wetting his lower lip. “You should be proud of your son.”

I stopped walking, causing him to stop too. I felt the urge to look him in the eyes. His cold blue irises that matched my own locked with mine.

“I am very proud of him,” I said, steadily holding his gaze. And I wish I could return the compliment to your son. Jeramiah was not inherently bad, but he still had a lot of work to do on his character, a lot of strength to build up if he wanted to be anywhere near the man my son had become.

Though now that Lucas was back, hopefully a changed man, maybe he would become the role model Jeramiah had always hoped for.

I hesitated before speaking again. “Did you really never tell a soul about Jeramiah?” I asked. “Not even Father?”

He swallowed, and I lost his eye contact again. He grimaced as he gazed out toward the ocean. He shook his head.

“Why?” I prodded.

“Isn’t that obvious?”

“I can’t say that anything about you is obvious to me anymore.”

Lucas paused, his eyes darting toward me again. From the look on his face, he took that as a compliment. And I guessed it was.

“I wasn’t proud of what I did, Derek,” he said darkly.

“You did a lot of things that you weren’t proud of—or at least, shouldn’t have been proud of—but that never usually stopped you from boasting.” I wondered if I might have pushed the boundary a little too far with this remark as his jaw tensed. I was expecting the old, prickly Lucas to rise to the surface. But then his jaw loosened.

He heaved a sigh. “Yes. But some more than others.”

“What other secrets have you been keeping?” I forged on.

At this, he looked at me curiously, almost half amused. His lips curled. “What business is that of yours?”

“Uh, well, after what your son attempted to do to us, it would be good to know if there are any other skeletons in your closet who might come back to haunt us.”

His eyes darkened, then he shook his head again. “You’ve seen the worst of it.” We fell into silence as we continued to walk. Then he murmured, “So you finally got your little twig in the end.”

Little twig. It took me a few moments to remember that was what he used to call Sofia. “Yeah…” I said. “You don’t need to call her that anymore. She’s no longer the wide-eyed seventeen-year-old you swept up from a beach, I assure you that much.”

“Oh, I can see that she’s not,” he said, a little quickly. He almost seemed… worried that he might’ve offended me. I realized that he’d spoken with tongue in cheek. I was once again struck by how in tune he seemed to those around him, no longer in his little narcissistic bubble he used to float around in day and night.

“I would like to apologize to her,” he said, after yet another pause. His voice sounded a little unsteady as he added, “Properly.”

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