Part of her wanted to dismiss all of it as the product of some really good drugs. But she knew this was real. How else could a miracle like this be explained? Yes, it was all as it was supposed to be. She had been gone for a while, but now she was back where she needed to be, with Trez.
The angel smiled at her. She smiled back at him.
“Do you see him?” she whispered to Trez. “The angel…?”
“Shh, don’t talk. Save your strength.”
Funny, that’s what she’d said to her mahmen.
Refocusing on Trez, she studied his face. “I am the one you lost. I don’t know how that is possible, but I lost you and now I’m back. And I love you.”
Abruptly, there was total silence all around her—and not because she had died. All of the medical staff, and the other people in the room, froze where they stood and stared at her, at Trez.
“The fire,” she said. “I saw myself in the fire in a white robe. And then there you were.”
“I saw you in the fire, too,” he explained. “You came to me out of the funeral pyre. You…”
With a jerk of his head, Trez looked to the angel. Then everyone looked at the angel.
As if he had been waiting for the group’s attention, beneficent illumination emanated from the heavenly messenger’s body, the great, warm, healing light, enveloping them all. Then the angel started to laugh.
“Hot damn, it worked!” he said, clapping his hands and then boom!’ing his hips. “This is my first frickin’ miracle, and I rocked the shit out of it! High fives all around for me.” He smacked the air with his palms over his head. “I mean, I wasn’t sure whether it was going to work. After Selena died, I delivered her soul to those nice people’s house in Michigan. I left her on the doorstep in a bassinet—I mean, come on, who doesn’t love a young in a basket on the doorstep at Christmas!” He swooned as if he was admiring a piece of art. “And then, after some difficulty—because, come on, even in my world, there was to be a little balance—everything works out! It’s perfect! I mean, seriously—I impressed even myself.”
Walking over to Trez, he put his palm out, and Trez slowly raised his own. The angel made the clap happen, and then he very gingerly did the same with Therese.
“High fives,” he whispered to her.
Then he stepped back. “Now. I gotta go ’cuz Home Alone is about to start. It’s a marathon for eight hours, but if you miss the pizza scene in the beginning you really can’t get Kevin’s motivation right. Plus, hello, Fuller’s a bed-wetter, so you get why Kevin has to go to the attic—”
The angel stopped and looked around at all the dumbfounded faces.
“Are you guys keeping up here?” When there was no collective response, he pshaw’d them all. “S’okay, I know you’re in awe of my greatness. I get it. Happens all the time. Anyway, you guys talk amongst yourselves, but she’s going to be fine and he’s going to be fine, and Merry fucking Christmas. Just call me Lassi-claus!” Turning away, he made like he was going to walk through the wall to disappear, but then he turned back and lifted his forefinger. “Yeeeeeeah, so one thing. I’m afraid we’re going to have to forget about this little behind-the-scenes revelation just now, m’kay? The rules say I have to tidy up after myself, so none of you can technically know about the particulars. I’ll just stipulate that you’re so grateful, you can’t contain yourself, and listen—if you feel the need to buy me really expensive gifts for under the tree? Don’t fight it. I like animal prints, the color pink—I’m a forty-four long in pants and you can forget shirts ’cuz I work out.”
Abruptly, he grew serious as he looked at Trez and Therese. Then he smiled, wistfully. “I’m a sucker for true love, what can I say. I only wish I could fix everyone’s problems like this.”
With a fetching wink and sashay, he abruptly disapp—
New Year’s Eve, Two Weeks Later
Upstairs, in the little Cape Cod house, Therese stepped out of the shower—and stopped. On the counter, by the toothpaste she shared with Trez, there was a small wrapped gift. It was nothing big in terms of size—which mean it had to be jewelry.
She immediately looked to the open doorway. “I thought we agreed,” she called out. “No presents!”
When she didn’t get an answer, she rolled her eyes and smiled. Wrapping a towel around herself, she picked up the little box with its bow. There was a tag on it that read, “Open Me Now.”
Laughing, she held the present to her heart. Took a deep breath. And counted her blessings.
After the fire at the rooming house, thanks to Trez’s blood and the Brotherhood’s excellent medical care, she had bounced back to health within a week. Which, even being fully fed by her mate, and having a vampire’s incredible healing capabilities, had been faster than anyone could have expected, given the seriousness of her injuries.
They’d been so extensive. And the recovery had been very painful.
Also, if it wasn’t for the fact that vampires healed without scars as long as they weren’t exposed to salt, she would have been permanently disfigured.
So, yes, it was the longest seven days of her life, and she was still going to physical therapy, but dear God, it could have been so much worse.
And Trez, along with her father and her brother—and her mahmen in spirit from her own hospital stay—had been there the whole time. Or rather Rosen and Gareth had gone back and forth between the two clinics, ferried by Fritz, the Perfect Butler, as she had taken to thinking of him as. And she and her mahmen had FaceTimed a lot.
After which, she had come home to this wonderful little house.
To her mate.
She looked down at the little box and marveled at Fate.
During the fire, something had happened, something that had shifted her internally—and her new perspective was not just the result of her appreciating life so much more after such a close brush with death. No, whatever it was went even deeper than that. She had an awareness of some other part of herself, something that had always been, she now recognized, just under her surface. Not a separate identity, no. It was more… like a prism of her identity, another facet that enhanced the colors she saw and the people she now knew—especially Trez.
She was just… utterly at peace with him. As if some kind of answer had been given to her. And Trez felt the same.
Somehow, the discord, the strife, the confusion about who she was to him and who he was to her had all washed away. And anytime her mind was tempted to return to the angst, the warmth in her soul, her happiness, shooed away any doubts. All she knew, all she needed to know, was that she was exactly where she needed to be.
With exactly who she needed to be with.
Trez was likewise. As her discharge from the Brotherhood’s clinic had approached, the two of them had talked things out and decided that they would take things slowly. And then they had promptly moved in here together as soon as she was released from that hospital.
They had never looked back.
It was as if they had always lived together. And always would.
“What did you do, Trez,” she murmured as she took off the wrapping paper.
Yes, it was indeed a jewelry box. A little blue velvet jewelry box.
Opening the lid, she gasped. Inside, was a gold pendant… of an angel with diamond wings.
“I figure since we’re believers and all.”
She looked up at Trez, who had settled in the doorway. “You shouldn’t have.”
“But I will, anytime I like.” He smiled as he came forward and took the chain the charm was on out of the packing. Hanging the angel around her neck, he smiled at her reflection in the mirror. “Besides, it’s not like a huge rock or anything.”
“I do not want one of those. I told you.”
“I’m getting you one anyway.”
“But I’m going back for my PhD in another three weeks. That’s expensive.” When he just cocked an eyebrow at her, she laughed, held the pendant out, and looked at the angel. “Where did you get this?”
“Little shop downtown in the financial district. They have a lot of engagement rings there. Maybe we should go look—”
Therese turned away from the mirror and put her arms around his neck. “Kiss me?”
“Are you trying to distract me? Because it’s working.”
Even though they had guests coming in less than an hour, his talented hands found her skin under the towel, and she promptly forgot about all the reasons she needed to rush to get ready.
Besides, this could be the last time they were alone-alone in the house.
She eased back. “Are you sure you want my whole family to move in with us?”
“We have two bedrooms downstairs. And besides, your mahmen needs to be close to Havers’s.”
“You’re wonderful, you know that?”
“Yes, I do, but tell me again.”
Therese opened her mouth to say so, but he put her up on the counter and found his way in between her thighs. There was the sound of a zipper being lowered, and then she gasped.
Every time they made love, it was a revelation. New and fresh.
“I’m so happy,” she said as she arched into her male.
“Me, too,” he moaned as he began to thrust inside of her.
Moving together, her breasts against one of his perennial silk shirts, her thighs split wide around his hips, his bonding scent in her nose, she revisited the sense that a circle had been completed, and they were safe.
* * *
Everyone came to the NYE party in the house Trez was busy buying for Therese behind the scenes. All the Brothers. All the shellans. The fighters. Only the King and the Band of Bastards stayed back at the mansion for security purposes. But there was all kinds of FaceTiming going on, so no one felt left out.
Although thank God for the finished basement and the wide-screen TV, Trez thought as he got out the first of the champagne bottles from the fridge. Lassiter had insisted that the Times Square special be put on, and at least half of the people ended up down there.