Savage Love, page 24
She looked from Dylan to Patrick, then back, saying nothing. Setting her face in determined lines she stared, daring them to pursue the interrogation. The decisions she'd made were right and they weren't going to make her regret what she'd done.
“Gingernut, Dylan is awaiting an answer,” Patrick encouraged her with his look.
With her palms, she fretfully smoothed her hair, “Whatever happened is done.”
Patrick considered the only woman he'd ever loved. Closing his eyes so her beauty wouldn't blind him to the truth, he entered her mind swiftly, at the same time grasping Dylan's hand so they'd both know the reality of what she'd endured. Patrick's tears came then, hurting his eyes, piercing like shards of glass. He'd never felt such sorrow, not even at the death of her brother. This was his fault for not caring for her as she'd needed, for not protecting her from her own fragile heart that was so afraid of abandonment that she'd do all that was in her power to assure her security and their happiness, even if she had to deny or alter reality.
Releasing Dylan's hand Patrick unashamedly wiped the tears from his face, sensed the anguish of the man beside him, “Gingernut, my arrogant selfishness all these years has robbed you of the protection you needed. I will never leave you, should have never voiced the threat. So feel free to tell us all that happened.”
She smiled serenely and shook her head, “There's nothing more to tell.”
“Will continued deception not taint the babes? Rise to the standard you've set for yourself by showing your children you truly fear nothing. Show them that love inspires honesty and freedom. Tell Dylan what led to all this and what you've endured.”
She stopped smiling, “No Patrick, now leave well enough alone.”
Dylan knew what Patrick had allowed him to see and that was killing him. If there was more, he wasn't certain he could handle it but he had to know, because he cared for her more than his own life. Looking to Patrick, he asked hoarsely, “Tell me what?”
Patrick continued to stare at her, saying nothing. She was forever changed now, stronger than he could have ever imagined. Bringing the babes into the world had taken monumental determination and commitment, finally revealing to him what she truly was and he loved her even more. For that reason, at that moment, he wouldn't betray her, “Never mind Dylan.”
Carolina smiled at Patrick, silently thanking him. “Now come, both of you, the babes are overdue to be named.” She extended a hand to each of them feeling their strong, sure grips. Miraculously her world was back in balance, she had everything, her children, a family and two men she loved beyond reason. The dark curse that had hounded her was almost gone and now she was free. At least she hoped so.
Together they all walked the short distance over to the smiling infants, each man having the thought that the babes were not exactly fay or human but projections of her love and maternal desire and they feared the babes would vanish at any moment. With knowing, sidelong glances at each other, Dylan and Patrick silently shared their sadness. Patrick was the first to say, “The little colleen on the end should be named Susan Josephine because she looks mostly like Dylan's mother and a bit like his father.”
For a moment, Dylan was hopeful that the babes were truly a miracle, his wishes come true, because Carolina had no knowledge of what his parents looked like. Then he heard her say to Patrick, “She does look like the baby pictures Chris showed me.”
With an unsteady hand Dylan pointed to the red-haired boy infant on the end, “That little tyke with his dimples and serious brow we'll call Patrick Dylan after his true Pa and his brother will be Dylan Patrick after me.”
“Each of them has identical birthmarks to each of yours. Here let me show you.” Gently she picked up baby Patrick and unwrapped his perfect little body from the pristine soft white cotton sheet she'd cut and fashioned into blankets for them, placing her finger gently to a greenish spot near his navel, “Patrick show Dylan yours.”
“I already know it's a tiny shamrock.” Dylan reached out to take the baby, needing to feel for himself its existence.
Carolina pulled away from him, holding baby Patrick protectively against her chest, “You've been smoking. I don't want that stench on him.”
Dylan looked at Patrick who was shaking his head from behind her. Daringly he ignored the other man asking, “If I take my shirt off can I hold them?”
“Of course as long as the scent isn't on your skin.” She smiled happily and without warning placed the babe in Patrick's arms. “How does he feel? I know he doesn't look much like you, but when you smell him, you’ll know he’s yours. His scent is richly green like Ireland, mixed with a tropical breeze as is your Paradise and when you look deep into his eyes you see the tiniest of flames especially when he's fussy.”
Patrick held the squirming babe close to his chest, felt its solid warmth, sniffed his sweet baby smell and started crying earnestly because he held in his arms the entirety of her love for him and for a moment her image seemed to loose some of its brilliance and he suffered an awful suspicion. Hurriedly he passed the infant back to her, saying anxiously, “Dylan there will be plenty of time later for us to hold the babes. Let's finish naming them, and then hurry home.”
Dylan gave Patrick a look of inquiry but Patrick wouldn't meet his eyes. To Carolina, Dylan said, “You name the last two.”
Touching each one lovingly she decided, “These two will be named for my brother and his wife. This little imp will be Clover Honey and you my little genius will be Ciarana Ginger. We can go home now. Patrick, did you get everything at the store?”
He grasped her hand keeping her still, “Not just yet Gingernut. Where are the men who attacked you?”
Pulling away from his hold she continued to touch and play with the babes, not sparing him a glance she answered cryptically, “I sent them away.”
He asked again, “Where are they Carolina?”
She fixed him with a beguiling look, “You trespassed into my mind so I'm surprised you don't know. They were here to kill me but I killed them instead then I gave them their lives back because I didn't want my babes stained by their blood. I sent the men on their way, a little changed, but alive.”
“After they left what happened?”
“I came up here and fell asleep. When I awoke the babes where here.”
Patrick narrowed his eyes. He'd been in the delivery room when Callum and Calder were born, remembered the smell of birthing, no babes had been born into this sweet smelling, pristine room. “Kiss her Dylan and tell me if you notice a difference.
Dylan assured him, “I kissed her earlier and everything was fine.”
“I'm not convinced. Gingernut come here.” Patrick held his arms out to her.
Carolina entered his embrace raising her lips to his lovingly, but when they met baby Patrick gave an ear-splitting cry that made Carolina jerk away with widened eyes. She hurried over to sit and comfort him; lowering the top of her blouse, she offered the child her breast. Hungrily he latched on. His warm tiny fist rested against her cool flesh. Without looking at Patrick or Dylan she instructed, “Take the other babes and get them settled in their car seats. I'll be down when he's finished.”
Patrick watched Carolina for a few seconds more, fearing something was certainly amiss. He called to her softly and when she looked up at him, he asserted, “I'm happy about the babes, about little Patrick.” When she beamed at him, he saw the luster of firelight around her head and shoulders. He knew uncertainty and fear, tears welling up again, “Gingernut, you'd never leave me would you?” He saw her lips move, possibly to answer but baby Patrick let out an ear-piercing wail that distracted her, leaving his fears unanswered. In despair, he addressed Dylan, “Let's take the colleens down first and then you can come back for Carolina and the boys.” Cupping his hands together, Patrick and the baby girls vanished from the room.
Dylan vaguely heard Patrick and definitely didn't witness the dematerialization because his attention was wholeheartedly focused on the marvelous sight of
Dylan had never seen a man weep as distressingly as Patrick. He sat in a heap, bawling noisily with shaking shoulders, leaking eyes and a runny nose. Handing the little fellow his handkerchief, Dylan looked away to attend to his baby girls resting in their baskets. After a few more minutes of the man's uncontrolled howling, threatening tears himself Dylan walked over to hunker before him, “Hey, you gotta stop. Carolina is gonna be upset if her girls get to fussin'.” Patrick kept right on crying. With his own eyes stinging, Dylan laid a calming hand on the other man’s forearm, “Pull yourself together. We're supposed to be getting the babes ready for the ride home.”
Patrick made a cradling motion with his arms before letting them fall heavily to his sides. “There, everything is ready,” he blubbered.
Dylan looked around him, his daughters, now sat secured in posh 'Princess' pink car seats while two other stylish safety seats of 'Starry Eyes' blue sat unoccupied beside them awaiting their brothers. The pink lined baskets that had been the girls' beds where nowhere to be seen. Turning back to the sad figure in black Dylan fought the urge to consolingly pat the man's bowed head, wondering why he didn't magically stop himself from weeping. “Are you gonna keep on until Carolina comes down?”
Patrick looked up at him sniffling, “I don't want her or the babes to go. However, I don't see how any of them can stay. You saw what happened to her as I did.”
“That was only a vision.”
“Not just a vision, I feel her loss. She miscarried what was in her womb, blood running out of her like a river, right before she killed Liz's boyfriend.”
“She said there'd been some shimmering fluid at the births. The babes told her they'd come early because I'd called to them.”
Patrick gave him a look of exasperation. “How do you explain the shamrock babe? I haven't slept with her since she forced me out of the coma I put myself into after her brother died. That was six years ago. There should be no little Patrick.”
Dylan trustingly confided, “I wished for her to have him so she'd be happy.”
Patrick's annoyed countenance was transformed into outright incredulity. “Listen carefully, Carolina lies to protect people and herself, now she has you doing the same. Wishing for a babe, humans can wish for one until they're blue in the face. I know from personal experience with Ciaran and Clover that such action less wanting rewards only misery and despair. You're marked by lightning I grant you, but music is your magic, not procreation. You know what you saw. She lost the babe, tried regaining its little life by bringing those brutes that attacked her back from the brink of Hell. When her efforts were unsuccessful she set the bastards on their way, then she went upstairs to sleep.”
Dylan was singing 'Life Is Beautiful' in his head, trying to keep out Patrick's naysaying, not wanting to doubt himself or her. “We didn't see beyond that. Maybe she was carrying six babies and unfortunately lost one.”
“Shut up. They're our children. Justin is hers too. I saw the changes in him,” Dylan's tone was quick, hot and sharp. He only wanted to believe in his and Carolina's combined magic, but the music in his head was growing faint.
“Your son is changing because he desperately wants a mother and because Carolina brought him back. His transformation started after she breathed her fire and energy into him. Justin is no more her fay babe than I am,” Patrick stated compellingly.
Dylan looked over at his daughters, his voice low, “But you don't know the-”
“But nothing. Whatever happened when she was asleep, allowed her to bring over babes of her fantasies. She holds the magic.”
He wouldn't let go of the dream, “The babes were talking. I heard them.”
“You were listening to Carolina. She's been in and out of your head more times than you can imagine. Every fantastic thing she does, becomes, is to fulfill your desires, her pleasing you by instinctively giving what you want and need. Your children have to be extraordinary, because you expect them to be. Have you heard the colleens since you've been away from her?”
Dylan turned his gaze from the babes, saying sadly, “No.” But it wasn't just him wanting to believe in Carolina, his mother had told him long ago that his children would be exceptional, entering the world through unique means, because he was special and though he hadn't always heeded her advice he'd always trusted his mama's word but Patrick's reasoning was persuasive. His own self-judgment added to the dilemma. What was remarkable about him spending thirteen years in a miserable relationship, a lifetime alone without the love of a wife to complete him? How could he be considered exceptional when he hadn't protected his son from harm? Would being a transplant, brought forth and of lightning, have given him the power to wish into existence his children? Or to sing for that matter? He'd always believed his unique birth had endowed him with special abilities but now his doubts were steamrolling over his hopes, his beliefs, and on one point, he sought clarification from Patrick, “After she brings you back, who causes her to change?”
Patrick felt no satisfaction at Dylan's mind shift. “I had the thoughts and she made them happen. Her breast torpedoed because you wanted them to, her transformation was what you wanted, your desires no matter how tiny that she picked up on and made real to please you.”
Dylan's voice was remote, “She said you gave me the power to change her.”
“Carolina wants us to get along so she'd tell you anything. If I had already given you a particular power, it would have been to see your ex-wife unambiguously. However, I believe I will eventually grant you the powers to see your parents at will, because their absence continues to haunt you and to gauge Carolina's level of honesty. She is terrified of loosing people, of being abandoned and is not above self-deception and lying to maintain balance in her life. Now she's casting spells to keep her life in harmony.”
Dylan wanted to believe in her. “You didn't even know she was fay. How do you know she used magic?”
Patrick's tone was egotistical, “She wouldn't kiss me. Her refusal lets me know she's keeping something hidden.”
Dylan couldn't believe Patrick's primary reasoning rested on not being kissed. “In the past, I'm sure, she kissed you plenty but she kept her true spirit hidden for over two decades. Little Pat made her turn away today, nothing more.”
Patrick gave him a look that said he was finally catching on. “That's right. I held him, and felt absolute love, as if I were holding everything Carolina feels for me in my hands, as if she somehow split, and gave a chunk of herself to the babe so he can exist. So with five babes what can there be left of my precious Gingernut? When I studied her, she seemed to be fading away and you saw what holding little Patrick did to me. I don't think anybody except Carolina should handle them. I can't imagine what other people might experience or what may happen to her.”
With his face set in a serious mask, Dylan raised an eyebrow, “Are you trying to drive me crazy like you were last night?”
Patrick's gaze was unfaltering, “No.”
Dylan fought against being swayed. “You know what, I don't believe you. I love her and she loves me, maybe not as much as she cares for you but she does. She's also the mother of our children. Carolina won't ever leave us, or them. I appreciate everything you've done but don't mess with her with your notions. I won't allow you to take from her what she so desperately wants.”
Patrick gave him his handkerchief back and a hard look. “I've developed a huge amount of brotherly affection for you so I'm going to ignore your tone. I've only ever wanted Gingernut's happiness, though I may not have always acted in her best interest. I also want her health and safety. Right now, I believe she'
Dylan put the handkerchief in his pocket. The improbability of all that had happened in his life, and Patrick's sincere concerns, began to burrow into his consciousness, causing him to massage his forehead tiredly. Sadly, he asked, “If what you say is true, do you think she's aware of what's happening?”
“Perhaps a wee bit, but she has a well cultivated ability to insulate herself from the truth especially if the facts are likely to cause her distress. Go get her and the other babes and let's take them home. I think we're in for another sleepless night. My desire to annihilate those who planned to kill her will not let me rest anyway, and the only reason I’m not going to slowly torture each of them is because she’s convinced harm will come to the babies and I’ll not risk their lives. But after everything that's happened, I can no longer honor my oath to Carolina concerning Liz.”
Dylan wondered if he'd ever be free of his ex's drama. “What's she done now?”
Patrick assessed Dylan's subduedness, realizing he was unaware of Liz's culpability in Carolina's attack. “I need you to keep the family and yourself safe.”
Patrick shifted his voice, so that the tone was mellow and entrancing, “You will do nothing about what I reveal, must keep in mind our bond and your responsibilities.”
“I'll remember.” Family was everything to him; they would always come first.
With his eyes blazing firelight Patrick hypnotically confided, “Liz sent those men here to kill Carolina because she doesn't want Gingernut with you and Justin. Before this, your ex planned to extort money from you in exchange for pictures and videos she had taken of Justin’s abuse. She had him kidnapped and sexually assaulted because you sought sole custody and-” Patrick halted his disclosure to study Dylan and decided to just forge ahead with what needed to be told, the most painful revelation Dylan would have to accept, “Liz murdered your parents.”