Destined Hearts [Three Hearts 3] (Siren Publishing Menage Amour) [MultiFormat]
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eBook by Tonya Ramagos
eBook Category: Erotica/Romance
eBook Description: [Menage Amour: Erotic Fantasy Menage a Trois Romance, M/M/F, M/F, M/M, Vampire/Werewolf] Calliope wants only to join with her true love. The prettiest and youngest of Goddess Queen Ina's daughters, she watched as her sisters found their mates the nights of their joining celebration. Now her night has finally arrived. Her true heart, however, does not show. When an anonymous note leads her on a mission of discovery, what she finds is a world of ecstasy she has never known. Not one but two mysterious strangers await her, both with the powers to send her heart and her hormones on a rapturous ride. Will she be forced to choose between the domineering, electrifying Reinn and the gentler but no less tantalizing Bronwen? Or can she keep them both? [Erotic Fantasy Menage a Trois Romance. Warning: Contains graphic sexual content and adult language.]
eBook Publisher: Siren-BookStrand, Inc./Menage Amour, Published: 2009, 2009
Fictionwise Release Date: May 2010
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12 Reader Ratings:
Calliope felt the warmth radiate from his body pressed to hers and sighed as the pleasure moved through her, as the thrill sizzled in her veins. He gazed down at her through eyes darker than the deepest depths of the universe, the expression on his flawlessly handsome face one of utter love and complete devotion. Her heart flipped excitedly in her chest, her stomach alive with dozens of tiny butterflies, and her core afire with sexual delight as his lips closed over hers in a kiss so light, so lovely it stole her breath.
"The people are arriving early tonight and a slew of them, too. Look at all of them!"
Calliope blinked, the image of the dark, striking stranger vanishing as she caught sight of her sister in the mirror. Karan stood at the window, her back to the bedchamber. There was tension in her strong shoulders, Calliope noted even as she envied the play of muscles left exposed by the strapless siren red dress. It was a dress one would never see in the lands of the Gods. But, then again, her sister was of a different land now, a different time. It was the power she possessed that gave her the ability to travel between those worlds.
"The third daughter of their goddess queen shall find the man of her heart's desire on this night. It is a moment not to be missed."
Aithne's words spoken with as much trepidation as excitement drew Calliope's attention to her oldest sister. A woman definitely fit for the land of the Gods, she perched on the edge of the bed, one hand absently caressing her slightly rounded belly covered by a dress of soft green that oddly accented rather than clashed with her tumble of fiery red hair.
"It is a moment for them to gawk, to pry, to gossip." Karan sneered as she turned from the window, her long dark hair swinging like a curtain over one shoulder. She pitched her voice to that of a stage whisper and cupped a hand around her mouth as if speaking secretively to another. "I wonder who it shall be. Look at the way he looks at her. Oh, do you not think he would be the perfect match for her?" She rolled her eyes and tipped her head back at the window. "They are probably whispering about it already, speculating."
"Karan, it is the way of our land, our people." Aithne gave a long winded sigh. "You know this. We have been through this twice already."
"That does not make it anymore..."
Calliope tuned out, focusing on her own reflection in the mirror as her sisters bickered quietly. She was considered by all in their lands to be the most beautiful of the three demigoddess daughters born to the Goddess Queen Ina and King Andrew. With hair that shimmered like sunlight, eyes the delicate blue of cornflowers, and skin as soft and flawless as whipped cream, she often saw herself as too delicate, too dainty, too shy. How she longed for Aithne's contrasting beauty and sense of adventure; or Karan's unconventional, almost boyish muscular physic and unyielding bravery.
Instead, she had been given the beauty of a rose, the stability of its stem in a winter chill, and the heart of a timid but ever hopeful romantic. Karan would say hopeless romantic, Calliope mused and disagreed. She was very hopeful and immensely excited to find her love. Aithne had been right. This night was a moment. This night she would finally, at long last, find the man of her heart's desire, her destined mate to whom she would join forever.
"Tell me again how it feels." She turned from the mirror to face her sisters, her quietly spoken request putting an instant end to their squabbling. "Describe to me again what I shall feel inside when first my eyes meet with his. You know. Both of you have felt it." And both were now joined with the men of their destinies. Jealousy curled in her belly like a poisonous snake. It was all she wanted her whole life, all she ever dreamed, and all she lived for. To find her true love, join with him, and live with him forever.
Her handsome stranger with the fathomless black eyes tore to the forefront of her mind as he so often had for as long as she could remember. It seemed he had always been there, drifting in her thoughts, her dreams, waiting for her to find him. Well, it was generally her dark-eyed love, though sometimes those eyes turned a brilliant sparkling green. But always he came as strong, mystifying, and arousing. As a young girl, she fantasized he would sweep her off her feet, carry her to a marvelous castle on a mountain top where they would forever live in happiness and the blinding light of love. As a woman, well, her fantasies had not changed much but for the intimacy, the longing only maturity could bring.
"It is a feeling in your belly as mother described to me the night of my joining celebration." Aithne's green and gold flecked eyes turned dreamy as she remembered. "It is a quake, a tremble that possesses the heart and the mind. A quiver down to your toes of a power the likes of which you have never before felt nor will ever feel in the presence of any other. It hurts and excites, terrifies and pleases. Mother was right. It is all of that and more. So much more."
"Was that the way of it for you, too?" Calliope turned her attention to Karan. Of the three of them, her middle sister had been the one determined to never mate. She fought, denied, and refused until nearly the bitter end even after she met her destined heart. When Karan answered, it surprised her.
"It was and so much more. What Aithne fails to mention is the rush of heat to your breasts, the throb between your legs." Karan began to laugh as Calliope felt her eyes grow wide.
She had felt those things, knew of the desires of the body, the pleasures of the flesh but... "Is it not lust you speak of?"
"Of course it is lust," Karan said. "You should find the man of your heart as easy to lust after as to love, do you not think? You cannot tell me that sappy fantasy you have had all your life never made it to the bedchamber." She waggled her eyebrows and grinned suggestively.
"No, I cannot." Calliope felt her cheeks heat. Because she tired of the way her sisters so often thought of her as the innocent, good girl, she shot them a wicked smile. "My fantasies always make it to the bedchamber after extended stops in the hallway, the great room, the grand dining room, the staircase, the--"
"Okay, okay." Karan threw back her head and hooted with laughter.
"To use Karan's favorite otherworldly expression, you go girl." Aithne joined in the laughter, shaking her head.
"Do not go through with it tonight." Karan's sudden, so serious tone had the sound of laughter in the chamber dying a quick death.
Stunned, Calliope stared at her sister. "You wish me to miss my own joining celebration?"
"I want you to be safe." Karan rushed to her, knelt on her knees in front of her, and took her hands. "I am scared for you, Calliope."
Karan's voice wobbled ever so slightly, but it was the words she spoke that had Calliope's eyes brimming with tears. Her heart raced from a bone deep terror. Karan was the strong one of the three, the brave one. She was not supposed to be scared of anything! Though Calliope knew Karan had been. When the bad guys took her in the alternate world, Karan had surely been frightened then. And had she not been petrified to join with her true mate, to place her heart in the hands of a man?
"You would have me cancel the celebration on this night?" Calliope's gaze flicked to Aithne and she saw the echoing sentiment in her eldest sister's expression. "Even if I wished to do so, such a thing cannot be done."
"It can." The quiet words drew Calliope's attention to the doorway of the bedchamber. Her mother, the Goddess Queen Ina, stood with her hands clasped tightly together, her face a carving of worry and fear. "I can send our people home; order the celebration not to be held. All you must do is say the word and I shall do as you wish."
"You would not do it for Karan." And Karan had wanted nothing more than to flee her celebration a mere phase of the moon's time ago. "You said it was her duty, her place as your daughter. You said the celebration is custom in our land, has been for more millennia than any of us have lived. All who are heir to the goddess throne have such an event when they come of age and you would not cancel it no matter how much we fear the outcome."
"Your memory, my youngest beauty, is as always impeccable." Ina sighed as she stepped closer. The skirt of her royal gown made a soft swishing sound around her slim ankles as she walked.
She might call Calliope her beauty, but even her youngest daughter's loveliness paled in comparison to the queen. Hair of a glimmering gold with eyes that were an undetermined shade somewhere between green, blue and gray, shapely lips and even shapelier curves, the queen exuded power, delicacy, and femininity from every pore.
"I did say all of that and likely more." Ina stopped behind Calliope. The hands she rested on Calliope's shoulders were stiff, cold, and just a bit shaky. She met Calliope's gaze in the mirror. "It is different for you. Perhaps I should have been willing to change my stand for your sisters. Perhaps not. As it turned out, in the end all was for the best. I wish I could believe it would be so for you as well."
"But you cannot. You are more afraid for me than you were for them." The chilly fingers of that fear danced along her spine. The eyes that met hers in the mirror, her mother's eyes, swirled with emotions she never thought to see on the queen's face.
"It is the spell cast upon you that is the most horrid," Aithne reminded. "You are fated to be engulfed by a world of darkness, to reside in terror and face a monster that will bring a death of no end."
Calliope was not the only one with an impeccable memory. Aithne spoke the words of the spell word for soul chilling word. A curse put upon the three of them at birth by their grandmother and, at that time, reigning goddess queen, Daria. A spell that fated each of them to face matters of the heart that inevitably led to their deaths. Except, Aithne and Karan met their hearts, fought against their parts of the spell and triumphed, gaining not only the hearts of their destined mates, but powers neither had possessed before. Aithne now held the power to heal; Karan had the power to travel through a door between worlds long ago sealed for all eternity.
"You faced the demons of your spells and you came through them unharmed. You think me too fragile, too slight."
"Calliope, we do not think--"
"You do, Aithne. And you are likely right in part. I do not hold your sense of adventure, your enthusiasm of the quest. I am not brave and rebellious as you are, Karan. What I am is a woman who wishes for love, a family, a home. I wish to fulfill my duty as the demigoddess daughter of a love goddess."
"The threats we faced were not nearly as huge." Karan shook her head and squeezed Calliope's hands. "Aithne and I came against death, yes, but monsters, darkness, terror...those horrors were not part of our spell."
"Perhaps they are not words of literal sense, but metaphorical as yours turned out to be. It has all come down to matters of the heart so far, choices that have proven the curse can be broken. Aithne desired two men and, in the end, had to choose between them, to recognize which held her true heart to break her spell and heal herself of the poison within her. Your heart was divided, between the man you were fated to love and your own stubborn desire not to love anyone. Then you were torn between his world and ours. Only when you finally gave into your heart, gave into him, found yourself willing to give up your world for him, did you break your spell and gain the power to travel between his world and ours."
"But what if the words are literal this time?" Karan asked, her lavender eyes imploring. "What if it is different for you?"
"You fear the terror, the darkness." She met each of her sister's gazes in turn, and then settled on her mother's in the mirror. "As do I. But do you not see that love, true love, shines through any dark? It is what I have wanted my whole life. This night is what I have waited for." Determination, defiance, and a boldness she never before felt surged through her veins. She squared her shoulders, lifted her chin, and met her own gaze in the mirror. "I will have my celebration, I will meet my true heart, and I will face whatever I must to break the spell once and for all."
"You are wrong, little sister." A single tear slid down Karan's cheek. "You are the brave one."
* * * *
"We should not be here." Reinn scowled as men and women, Fae and faerie, sprites and nymphs passed. Most moved by without notice. Some shot him sidelong glances. Did they know who he was? What he was?
"I have to be here." Bronwen kept with his steady pace toward the palace of the goddess queen. His muscular legs clad in black leather carried him in long, even strides. His booted feet crunched on the pebbled walk with each step. His broad shoulder encased in a crisp white shirt with white lace lapels brushed a passerby, but his attention was oblivious to the visible chill the woman experienced at the light contact, to the look of abject fear that leapt into her eyes.
"And what do you intend to do? Will you waltz into that palace, take the hand of the queen's daughter and tango your way back out?" Reinn's sarcasm was not lost on Bronwen. When the other man turned, his lips tilting in an amused grin, Reinn felt his loins tense, his blood pumping hot and excitedly in his veins. He loved that look on Bronwen's face, so mischievous, so wicked, and so sexy.
"It is a thought." Bronwen finally slowed and moved to one side of the gathering crowd making their way through the double doors of the goddess queen's palace.
"A damned stupid one," Reinn muttered. "She will not want you." But I do.
Bronwen fisted Reinn's shirt in his hand, lifted his feet inches off the ground, and slammed him against the stone wall of the palace so fast Reinn didn't see it coming. Reinn's breath left him on a whoosh of painful surprise as the blow reverberated through his body. Bronwen possessed strength to rival any man, any beast and Reinn figured he felt only a fraction of that force now.
"She will want me." Bronwen spit the words in Reinn's face. "She has no choice but to want me. It is her way, her tradition, her duty. She is the daughter of a love goddess, a Queen, and I am her destined heart. It is no simpler than that."
Reinn closed his eyes and slowly nodded. The agony in Bronwen's gaze tore at his heart even as the anger in Bronwen's voice tightened his balls, hardened his cock. He wanted to comfort, to sooth, to ease the anguish in Bronwen's mesmerizing eyes, but how did he do so for a man who loved another? They had been together for decades, both living a life of predatory darkness and solitude. And in all those decades, Reinn knew Bronwen's heart belonged not to him. Some believed a creature of the Underworld possessed no heart. Some were wrong.
"I am thinking only of you," Reinn said when Bronwen's grip on his shirt slowly loosened, when he felt his feet ease back to solid ground. "I don't wish to see you hurt, my friend. What you are after tonight is only madness."
"I am doing what I have to do." Bronwen stepped back, but the fury, the torment remained in his pitch black eyes. "You know. You have always known."
Reinn nodded. "As you have always known you cannot go through with this. You cannot have her."
* * * *
She did not feel so brave. Tension jittered in Calliope's stomach making her grateful she had not taken the time to eat since breakfast. Her hand on her father's arm tightened and she fought to keep her breaths even, steady. Hyperventilating until she became lightheaded and toppled head over heels down the stone staircase would do her no good.
"Is it excitement or nerves?" Her father leaned in and brushed a kiss to her cheek with lips that smiled in amusement.
"Does nothing get by you?" Calliope looked up at her father, into his all-knowing eyes the color of smoky rain clouds. So handsome. She always thought so. His hair was a deep tree bark brown that fell in a satiny curtain around a face lightly creased with lines around the eyes and lips. Character lines as she often thought of them.
Andrew shook his head. "Not when it concerns one of my daughters."
Calliope gave a shaky laugh. "I am not certain. Both, I suppose."
"You have waited for this night your whole life." Understanding sparked with obvious memories like lightning bolts in his eyes. "I believe you were born searching for your mate."
"As do I. Do you worry too, father?" She knew he did. She had only to see his expression, to feel the worry radiating from his body.
"Of course I worry. It is my job as your father, as the king to worry."
"I wish you would not." She wanted to hug him, to hold him close. More, she longed to curl in his lap like she did as a young girl. Yet, even then she dreamed of her mate, of this night, of the customary celebration. He was right. She had been born searching for her true heart.
"Your mother said you refused to cancel the celebration. She would do it for you without regard to opinions or laws."
"She should not." Calliope lowered her voice, careful to be sure only her father heard her. She need not turn to know her mother stood a discrete distance behind her, Karan and Aithne at her side. "As queen she should have more care for those opinions and laws."
"Ah, but it is her disregard for such laws, as well as my own, that led us here."
Calliope shook her head. "Canceling tonight's gala would not be right. It would not be fair. It would not be destiny."
"It would certainly disappoint all of them." His gaze flicked to the crowd of people gathered around the bottom of the grand staircase, the scattering of others throughout the grand ballroom.
Calliope stared into faces, studied features, and felt her heart thump then sigh each time her gaze locked with a handsome male in the crowd. In nights passed, she had envisioned this moment, pictured herself dashing down the stone stairs and launching herself into the arms of her destined mate. Too easy, too instant, she told herself when she felt none of the bone deep quiver she longed for with each transfixed gaze.
"Then they shall not be disappointed." She looked back at her father and smiled more genuinely than she ever thought she could.
He blinked, studied her for a long moment, and then finally nodded. "Then they shall not be disappointed," he repeated and slowly escorted her down the stairs.
There were quiet gasps, murmurs, rumbles of conversations among the crowd. It wasn't until she and the king reached the last step that the crowd began to disperse, but the chattering, the speculation, and the gossip continued.
Calliope knew the men found themselves besotted by her beauty. Even so, only a small handful found their way to ask her onto the dance floor. As the night drew on, the celebration around her was in full swing despite the lack of coupling between the honored guest and her mate. She danced with her father and her sister's husbands more than any other.
"He will show." Hakan, the future king of Tolynn and Aithne's brother-in-law, assured her at one point. "Or you will show to him."
Confused, Calliope drew her eyebrows together, angled her head as Hakan led her in a slow twirl around another couple on the dance floor. "I do not understand."
"I had a similar conversation with Karan the evening of her celebration. As a matter of fact, I was dancing with her as I am with you now when she vanished from my arms and my sight."
Yes, Calliope remembered it well. Her sister's abrupt disappearance had created quite the uproar until their father managed, through his powers of divination, to see she had been transported to another world. A world where she found her mate, the incredibly delicious witch named Eric.
"The difference then and now," Hakan continued and spun her around again, "is that Karan was relieved no man present proved to be her chosen heart while you will be devastated if he does not show."
"He will be here." Calliope averted her gaze, not wishing for Hakan to see how truly worried she was that she could be wrong. What if he did not show? What if she waited her entire life for a night that would end like every other, alone, wanting, wishing?
Only a candle flicker of hope remained when she passed off Hakan to his wife with the fierce assurance she was fine. Dustin, Aithne's mate and captain of the guard of Tolynn, stepped in quickly to keep Calliope busy on the dance floor. She knew her family only wished to avert her attention from the obvious fact her mate's identity still remained unknown. Though it occurred to her once that her being in the arms of others all evening might deter her mate from approaching, she pushed the thought away. It was not how the customary joining worked. If he were present nothing and no one would stand between them. Aithne and Karan and even the queen already proved as much.
More than once as the night slowly drew to a close, as guests trickled out, their jaws flapping with speculation and opinions, Calliope felt as though someone watched her. The fine hairs at the nape of her neck stood on end, her skin prickled with awareness, and her belly quivered with the slightest of knowing sensations. But when she would turn, certain beyond her very being he was there, she would find nothing.
* * * *
He had not gone inside. Bronwen peered through the window of the grand ball room hidden by the deep shadows of night and watched her, wanted her, silently willed her to come to him even as he urged her to stay away. Reinn was right about everything. He could not have her. Even so, it did not change what was. He was meant to have her.
Bronwen watched as the man she danced with, a blond Fae he thought was named Dustin, stepped away, releasing Calliope from a companionable embrace. She smiled and that soft curve of shapely lips moved over Bronwen like a caress of silk. He had known she possessed a beauty so bright, so magnificent it blinded a man. Too bad for him that beauty fell short of lighting any darkness. She moved back from the Fae, cast a slow and searching glance around the room, disappointment, weariness, and confusion swirling in her cornflower eyes.
His arms ached with the absence of her trim body so fiercely it was as if he had been the one holding her, letting her go rather than Dustin. The low thrum of pain pumped through the blood he had taken in upon waking, scorching his body, tearing at his heart. He stepped aside, deeper into the shadows, needing a moment without her in his sights.
The shadows, he was always in the shadows, in the dark. How could he even think to have her with the curse laid upon him? How could he ever consider bringing her forever into the night?
"She is amazingly beautiful. A crisp slice of sunshine." Reinn's voice rang with an awe that surprised Bronwen. He had been sure his long time friend had been aware of Calliope's stunning physical appearance. Beneath the awe, Bronwen heard something more in the tone, something he could not pin.
"There is no other to rival her beauty," Bronwen said. He felt a hand on his back, a light comforting brush, and shot Reinn a look. He had perfect vision in the darkness, both did, and their gazes met in that quick instant, sensations and knowledge slicing between them like a double edged blade. Reinn's blondish-brown locks fell in haphazard curls around his square face, accenting perfect bone structure and wild electric green eyes. Eyes that so often portrayed the love he felt for Bronwen, love Bronwen so often ignored.
"To bring such beauty into our world would only kill it, kill her." Whatever had been in Reinn's tone was gone now, replaced by matter-of-factness that had Bronwen's temper flashing hot.
"Do you not think I know this? Do you not think I know the danger I would put her in?" Bronwen hissed the words, his head whipping to face Reinn. He ran his tongue over his teeth, felt the fangs starting to push through. Yes, definitely lit his temper flame with that one. It was that fact alone that held him back from claiming what was his. How could he strip such a woman from the light? He might be a monster, but even a monster could not be so cruel.
He leaned over, careful not to draw the attention of the few guests who remained inside the palace, some now gathered closer to the window. Calliope was surrounded by the king and queen, her sisters and their men. Her expression was troubled through she obviously tried to hide it with small smiles and feigned laughter. It was he she waited for, he who did not show. How could he leave her to wonder, to pine? How could he not? How could he walk away knowing the feelings inside him, the destiny meant to be shared?
His heart ached. A heart that had not beat in many millennia. Still, he could not bring himself to take what belonged to him, to take her from a world of light and happiness into one of darkness and gloom.
"Walk away, Bronwen." Reinn gently touched his arm. "We are not the only dangers of our world."
"No, but we shall protect her. If she comes to us, to me, we will protect her. It is the only way." Bronwen met Reinn's gaze and he saw the disapproval mixing with resignation in the other man's eyes. "The choice will be hers and hers alone. She will have until the dawn of next light to come to me."
* * * *
"I truly wish to be alone." Calliope entered her bedchamber with her sisters and her mother close at her heels. She might want nothing more than to be alone with her thoughts, her despair, but with the three women who loved her, she stood not a chance of getting that wish.
He had not showed. The celebration, the night she waited for her entire life came and went without a sign of her fated heart. Was loneness the real monster the curse upon her spoke of? A life doomed to darkness, alone for eternity, pining for love? For a woman such as she, there could be no greater death with no end than that.
"You do not need to be alone." Karan spoke firmly, an unmovable rock. She walked passed Calliope like a woman on a mission, her seething temper so thick around her even the sharpest of swords would have had trouble slicing through. "Let me find the son of a bitch. I will cut off his dick and feed it to him for breakfast for leaving you in the balance this way."
"Karan!" Her creative words and imagery had the queen and Aithne gasping in unison.
Despite her tattered heart and feelings, Calliope felt herself smile. It did not sound all that bad a punishment for the man so deemed to be her fated heart. Fitting for the embarrassment and pain he caused her this night.
"Sister is right." Aithne moved to Calliope's back, wrapped her arms around Calliope's waist, and rested her chin on her shoulder. Calliope thought she felt the baby in Aithne's stomach kick against her back, a light and comforting thump. "You should not be left alone when you are upset. You need your family now. You need us."
"I shall issue a declaration." The queen's tone was rigid, angered. "Your father will send out guards. We will find out who did not attend tonight's celebration. All in the lands were bid to come. Obviously, at least one did not."
Calliope looked to her mother, opened her mouth to speak and then, thinking better of it, closed her mouth again. It would likely do no good for any of them to point out how mere hours before the queen had been ready to defy her own law and cancel the celebration out of fear for who might show and turn out to be Calliope's destined heart. Instead, she closed her eyes and breathed deep. When she opened them again, her gaze landed on the bed, on the single red rose atop a scrap of parchment positioned on her pillow.
Her heart raced at the sight. It was from him, her mate, her destined. She need not look first to know. Twin arrows of fear and excitement speared through her as she slowly stepped out of Aithne's embrace and moved to the bed.
"What is it, Calliope?" Alarm rang with the curiosity in Karan's voice.
Calliope pretended not to hear her as she reached for the rose, the note beneath. The stem felt cool and stiff in her fingers. When she closed her hand around it to bring it to her nose for an indulgent sniff, she felt the prick of a thorn pierce her palm. She opened her hand and saw the small dab of blood. An omen? As she stared down at the words scrawled on the parchment and realized they were written in blood, she thought it must be.
"Calliope?" The same alarm echoed in Aithne's tone as she once again moved behind her and touched her shoulder.
"It is from him." There was no signature, no clue to his identity. The note gave only instructions of a place to go, and a deadline to be there. Still, everything in her being told her he had written the note. "He was here. He left this for me. I am to go to the top of the waterfall mountain before the sun rises on the next day and wait for him. Alone." She added the last word on a whispered breath of heightened fear tinged with anticipation. Emotions warred inside her, sensations she could not separate battling in her mind, her heart, between her legs.
The waterfall mountain. It was the highest point to the north of the goddess queen's lands. The peak was said to divide the light from the dark. The place where beyond turned into an Otherworld, which some even believed contained an Underworld. It would be a long journey of will, nerves, and expectation. A journey he wished her to make alone.
"You are not going." The queen's brisk, unarguable command had all the feelings accumulating inside Calliope crashing together, morphing into one. Shock.
"Mother, of course I will go." Clutching the note, the rose, she turned to face the queen.
"To the top of a mountain reputed to be a divider of Otherworld in the middle of the night to wait for a man you know not?" Aithne sounded horrified. "Sister, you cannot be serious!"
Though her answer was for Aithne, Calliope continued to gaze at her mother. "But I am serious."
"Then we will go with you." Karan stepped to Calliope's side.
Calliope felt the defiance, the aura of battle radiate from her sister. Always ready to fight. "No." She met Karan's hard edged insistence with a quieter, more certain tone of her own that was far more effective because of it. "I shall go alone as he bids."
"But the darkness, the monsters, the curse, you cannot--"
Calliope reached for Karan's hand even as she looked back at her mother. "It is my destiny. He is my destiny. Whatever I must face is meant to be."
The queen hesitated for so long Calliope was sure she would argue. Finally, her lips set in a grim line, eyes consumed with worry, she nodded. "Then you shall do as he bids."