“Hi, Dae. We’re just taking a walk as therapy. We thought we’d say hi,” Thailyn explained.
“Well, come on in. Sapphire has most of the kids at the market. Minx is working with a couple that are still here.”
Thailyn frowned. “Minx is here?” That could be a problem.
Dae nodded. “I’ll let her know there’s company. You know how she can be. Would you check on Nas? He’s fussier than usual lately.”
“He’s probably teething, but I’ll check on him.”
Thanks, he sent telepathically.
If Pisha’s going to be your chosen, you might want to tell her, Dae sent back as she went to the room the counselors used as an office.
Chosen? Thailyn asked.
Dae smiled. Ti sees gossip as a source of information.
Dae’s smile grew.
“What was that look for?” Pisha asked as he helped her to the sitting room.
“Her mate, Ti, is addicted to learning and is almost as big of a gossip as my sister. He shares everything with Dae. You don’t keep things from your mate.”
“Ann or Ruzi must have said something about us.”
He picked up Nas, who, as usual, grabbed his beard. Thailyn caught his hand before he could pull it. “Like, I don’t have enough trouble growing this thing.”
“So what’s the problem with Minx?”
Thailand raised an eyebrow. “Minx?”
“You got nervous when Dae mentioned Minx was here.”
“She once proposed to me.”
“And you thought I’d be jealous?”
Thailyn nodded. “Especially if she kissed me, which she does.”
“She kisses you?”
Thailyn could feel her getting jealous.
“You said you weren’t involved with anyone.”
“I’m not. I was partnered with her husband and lived with them at their clinic.”
“Husband? She’s married and you’re kissing her?”
“They’re dwarves. She’s married to Darkham, the healer that saved my life when Darina died, and Wench. Minx proposed to me over twenty years ago. I told her no. That was the end of it. No more was said. Eventually, I moved to be closer to Ann. We lost touch. When Minx moved here, she started kissing me.”
“You enjoyed it.”
He nodded. “So many people’s touch is so uncomfortable. It was nice to feel something pleasant for a change.”
“And her husband didn’t mind?”
“A little. When I told him about the proposal, he said he was willing to let me join them. I think the offer still stands, but I don’t feel that way about any of them. I never have. Not like I feel about you.”
“I guess I can understand. It’s similar to me and Vishom.”
“Did your family always treat you like that?”
Pisha nodded again. “Dad was always strict, but things got worse when my mom left. Then, my dad and brothers started getting nasty. I spent as much time as I could with Sinta or Jerta. Their families saw what my family had become so they let me stay as long as I could. Aunt Siena used to say she needed my help to influence her family to be more traditional.”
She looked at him. “I thought we came over here to cheer up.”
Thailyn smiled guiltily. “Sorry.”
“How’s the baby?”
“Teething?” Dae asked. “That’s all?”
“He needs more meat.”
“He doesn’t like meat. He prefers nursing.”
“Try roasting some with no spices or anything,” Thailyn suggested. “Sometimes babies have extra delicate tastes.”
“Maybe mix it with a little of mom’s milk,” Pisha suggested.
Dae nodded. “We can try it.”
“He’s adorable. Is he yours?” Pisha asked.
Dae smiled and shook her head. “He’s Sapphire and Pt’this’s youngest. Ti and I don’t have any of our own. We’re waiting a while. But we have plenty of kids here. We’re all family.
“Jo is coming by later so we have some coffee made. Would you like some?”
Pisha nodded. “Oh, yes, please.”
“With vinegar?” Dae asked as she started for the kitchen.
“Just a little.”
They sat and visited for a while and to Thailyn’s relief, Minx behaved herself.
They left shortly after the kids got home from school, so they could all talk with Ruzi. Thailyn contacted Ann so they wouldn’t have to have the conversation a third time.
“We wanted to talk to you too. About the two of us…” Thailyn started.
“Dad, I told you. I’m okay with it,” Ruzi interrupted.
“And I told you the same thing this morning,” Ann reminded him.
“You’re sure you’re okay?” Pisha pressed.
“Mom, you deserve to be happy. The man who sired me didn’t do that. Dad does.”
“And you?” She turned to Ann.
Ann nodded. “Thailyn needs someone. Darina’s been gone a long time. He loves you. I want the two of you to be happy.”
“Just one request,” Ruzi added.
“We’ll stay in the bedroom,” Thailyn assured him. “Sorry about last night.”
“Maybe Lamdi and I aren’t the only ones who need a chaperone.” Ruzi smiled.
Thailyn growled. “Mind your manners.”
“Thailyn, did you tell her about your heart?” Ann asked.
“Yes. I wasn’t trying to hide it. There was just a lot going on.”
“How many bouts did you have while that ‘a lot’ was going on and you didn’t tell us?”
“Ann, she already knows.” Thailyn turned to Pisha. “I told you about my heart, right?”
She nodded. “You have an atrophied heart, almost a level IV.”
“And who’s taking the liquid shade?” Ann asked, frowning.
“Your dad is,” Pisha told her.
“You’re not supposed to be taking liquid shade. It makes you go mad-dragon,” Ann warned him.
“I didn’t go mad-dragon. I just lost my temper.”
“Grandfather and Nim had to hold you, so a healer could drain it from you.”
Thailyn frowned. “Who’s been telling you this?”
“Nim, who else? Why are you taking liquid shade?”
“It helps with my heart. I’m only taking a very small amount.”
“How often? That stuff builds up.”
“Ann, I know what I’m doing.”
“But you do what you shouldn’t anyhow. You wouldn’t even be passed a three and a half if you did what you’re supposed to.”
“You were hurt. I wasn’t going to let you or Cari die.”
“Shunati and Lamdi were both there. You could have guided Lamdi.”
“You’d just been hurt and then you changed shape while you were pregnant. I wasn’t going to let you or your baby die,” he shouted.
“Dad, calm down,” Ruzi told him.
“How much liquid shade have you taken again?” Ann asked.
Thailyn growled, realizing she goaded him into losing his temper.
“I’m fine. I’ve taken less than a quarter of a dose. Less than Miri used to take and I won’t take any more for a while. I just need to stay off the green bough while we bond. I’m being careful.”
Ann nodded. “I hope so. Cari needs her grandpa, and Drepal and I need our dad.”
Thailyn started to say something, but Ann cut her off.
“Do not tell me you’re not my dad. You are just as much my father as Emeton is.”
She turned to Pisha. “He won’t let me call him ‘dad’ because he feels he lost that right when he gave me up. Drepal never had another father so she calls him ‘dad.’”
“It’s one way to tell them apart,” Ruzi told her. “At least until you get used to them.”
“Will you three be eating at the palace tonight?” Ann asked.
“Why? Is Andy cooking?” Thailyn asked.
Ann nodded. “He is.”
“What’s he making?”
“Who cares?” Ruzi shrugged. “You know that it’ll be good.”
“Your mother’s not used to human food, and Andy’s recipes are a bit foreign.”
“It’s okay,” Pisha said. “I like trying new things. When I was at the college, we used to have human food nights.”
“Andy used to be a chef so once a month, he cooks for the palace,” Ruzi explained.
“He was studying to be a chef. He cooks for the family. The palace chef copies the recipe for the rest of the palace,” Thailyn corrected him.
“Usually, they turn out quite good, but sometimes ingredients have different names, and some he just can’t get,” Ann added.
“It sounds like fun. I just don’t know if I can make it to the palace, yet.”
Ann smiled. “Not a problem.” She took her hand and Ruzi’s. Thailyn grabbed the cane and took Pisha’s other hand. There was a flash of light.