“All of our gifts are special, but yours, I wish for myself. Thank you.” Abby humbly accepted Valentine’s gift with a kiss on his cheek. Then, turning to Broni, she hugged her again. “Thank you, Broni, for asking for your father to share his gift with us.”
Broni gave her a gut-wrenching smile before returning to her husband’s side.
“They are almost gone. You must go.”
Mother watched the couple as they took each other’s hand then ran down the sloping hill. She continued to watch lovingly as Abby stopped to pick up a small flower, showing the perfect daisy to Adam, before they continued to run to catch up to the others who were wearily moving forward at the army officer’s shouted commands.
When one sighted them, he used his horse to maneuver them into the line as they walked through the forest that wound around the Appalachian Mountains. It would be a trail of tears that would test their love and commitment, but she had every faith they would be victorious. They not only had her blessing, but each of the gods’.
Mother waved her hand, erasing each of those who had given their gifts to Adam and Abby, sending them home. With them gone, she stayed and watched her precious children until they were out of sight. Then it was time for her to go home and cry in the privacy of her castle.
Waving her hand, she disappeared, as she did, the sun dipping behind the burgeoning clouds.
Droplets of rain splashed down to the earth and the wind began howling. The sounds of Mother’s weeping fell on deaf ears, the humans unable to hear her cries.
The only remaining soul able to hear the weeping was Fate, whose duty it was to watch them and their children. She wouldn’t be able to interfere, but she stared out sightlessly through the centuries, smiling.
She remembered a line from a poem she had once read to Zerina when she was a child.
To appreciate the light, you must first live in the darkness,
To feel nothing but complete loneliness,
To be nothing but the space you take up,
Slowly letting the darkness consume you...
For when the light finally touches your face,
You feel what it's like to be truly loved,
That you are worthy and have always been worthy of letting the light consume you.
Fate lifted her goblet to her lips as she sat down on the balustrade on Mother’s balcony.
“Why do you allow him to do that?” she asked as she heard Mother come outside to escape her party, finding the harmonious silence of the heavens.
Mother leaned her hands on the balustrade to see what Fate was watching, laughing when she saw what Fate was referring to. “He amuses me.”
“It doesn’t amuse me. Last time, it was bad enough that he brought a woman. This time, he brought a child. The next time I visit Zerina, I’m going to let Hades have it for giving that particular gift.”
Mother’s eyes narrowed on the child. “Don’t be too hard on my son. The child is special.”
Fate couldn’t hold back her smile when she saw the fireworks. “That human is a show-off.”
“He’ll calm down as he grows older.” Mother turned her back on the pair of sightseers, turning to her best friend. “Since you brought up my son, how is he doing?”
“I surprised them with a visit. Hades granted me and Valentine visits anytime we want. We caught them playing hide-and-seek.” Fate rolled her eyes at the youthful exuberance of young love. Then she raised her goblet to the one who was held in Mother’s hand. “We chose well.”
Mother chinked the goblets together. “Shh … I don’t want Broni or Cara to hear inside. They wouldn’t approve of our meddling.”
Fate smiled. “What they don’t know doesn’t hurt them.”
“Agreed.” Mother lifted her wine to her lips. “I must get back to my party. Coming?”
“No, I thought I would have an early night.”
“Good night, daughter.”
Fate smiled, bowing to Mother before transporting herself to her bedroom.
After bathing, she misted her body with the scent of lavender and changed into a sheer sleeping gown. When she finished, she stared around her room, committing it to memory. Like the bed she had loved Valentine on, creating the lives of her children, and the memories of her children through the years.
She replayed those precious memories before going to her balcony door, opening it to walk outside.
Without looking back, she transported herself to another balcony, one where a large man stared out at the dark sky, watching the stars.
Odin stiffened, jerking around when he heard her step onto the balcony.
“I was wondering when you would keep your word,” he snapped, crossing his arms arrogantly over his chest.
“I had to prepare my family. I knew once I kept my promise, you wouldn’t let me go.”
His hands fell to his side in shock. Seeing her nod at the question in his eyes, he gripped her by the forearms as she moved closer, crushing her to his chest with a groan.
“I’ve been waiting for you for so long I lost hope.”
“I always keep my promises.” She traced over his features with her eyes. “When you didn’t come for me, I began to doubt that you wanted me to keep it.”
Odin lifted the woman who he had fallen in love with. “Yet you came anyway.”
“My daughters are all happily settled. Even Zerina is expecting her first child.”
Odin laughed. “I know. Hades didn’t believe he could be a father.”
“Neither did Jericho. He adjusted and makes a great father, so will Hades, once he gets over the shock. How did you know Hades and Zerina are expecting a child?”
“I asked Mother for an audience with him. He told me about their news when I talked to him.”
“Why did you ask for an audience with Hades?”
“I wanted an engagement gift for you.” A necklace appeared in his hand.
Fate gasped at the beauty of the precious stone, while Odin carefully fastened the necklace around her neck.
Fate stared down at the necklace. “I’ve never seen one as beautiful, not even the ones he had made for Cara and Broni as wedding gifts.”
“Hades made it for Zerina, but she refused to wear it. He made an armband for her instead. He has excellent taste.” Odin placed a kiss on her collarbone. “Not as good as mine, but close.”
“It looks like the one Lakshmi wears at court.” The goddess had been gifted it by her husband, and she was always flaunting it at court.
“It’s larger. It doesn’t compare to yours.”
“I’ve never been jealous of other women’s jewels.” Placing a possessive hand over her new necklace, she thanked him with a kiss just as spectacular as the jewel resting at her throat.
Odin lifted his lips to stare at her dubiously. He was old enough to know women were always envious of other women’s jewelry. “You didn’t seem surprised when I showed it to you.”
“I didn’t? I was … very surprised.” Fate smiled smugly, trailing her hand down his bare chest to curl her hand over his hip, tugging his closer. She was rewarded with him lifting her high into his arms.
Circling his neck as he carried her into his dark bedroom, Fate laid her head on his strong shoulder. She wasn’t afraid of the dark. It had taken centuries for her to learn the same lesson Hades had to learn, and Destiny had learned to late.
The dark wasn’t the enemy. It was her lack of courage that kept her from reaching for the light of Odin’s love that was always there, always shining like a beacon, watching and waiting.
It was a hard lesson to learn. All she had to do was so simple. She had to reach for it, because love wasn’t coming for her. She had to reach for it and be willing to grasp it and hold on to it like a raft in a stormy sea.
Odin placed her down on his bed, leaning over her. “Say my name.”
“Odin … Odin … Odin.” She repeated his name as many times as she had denied knowing it was him the night Thor was conceived. “Satisfied?”
“Not yet, but I will be,” he boasted, lying down beside her on the bed.
Fate laughed, rolling on top of his broad chest as it shook underneath her.
“I don’t like that look in your eyes.”
“How can you see anything in the dark? It’s pitch black in here.”
“I can see in the dark.”
“That’s a gift I wish I had.” She lowered her lips to nuzzle his neck, snuggling her pelvis into his bulging cock under his leather pants. She was tracing her lips to his ear when she suddenly rose. “You also have the gift of foresight?”
“Yes.” Odin raised his head, trying to capture her lips.