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The Ring and the Bridle

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He could still see the expression on her face when she had left. It was burned like the negative of a photograph on the back of his eyelids. Nothing chased away the memory of her last smile. Not drugs, not anguish, regret, or anger. Nothing would change the singular fact Rhona was gone, as wrenched from him as his right hand.

Regan watched the sunrise spill across the sky through his sweat soaked bangs. He hovered between reality and dream as he felt like he was a child again and expected to see his mother at his bed side. He tried to put his hands together and feeling the stunted flesh he gave a low cry of rage and despair. The wound of the flesh was nothing compared to the one across his heart. He had only been in such anguish once before, when his mother’s curse had come full circle. She had held him close and given her last request. She had given the boy two things; a key and a necklace. One was for opening a door, the other for locking a door.

The key had been to the summer home that had belonged to his mother alone. It was a place his stepfather had never been allowed. He had wondered often how much the man had ever known about his mother’s true nature.

Who was that woman she kept hidden away? Had he known they were lovers? Had he accepted the affair that didn’t endanger his right to be sire of his wife’s children because it allowed him to engage in his own discreet couplings with every sort of whore? One of whom had been the young Katharine Greene? Had he suspected his wife’s first child was not his, even if he had married her in haste, as if afraid the prize would slip away? He had adored his stepdaughter yet had always been wary of the ones he claimed for his own. It was as if he had always sensed their mother had passed on that mysterious trait that he was attracted to yet feared to truly discover.

Kelly had been Michael Seele’s but unfortunate enough to inherit her mother’s disquieting aura. Regan had always held her close to him when they were younger until she had grown into the forgiving and gentle personality their mother had long since been forced to forsake. It had been his mother’s final wish.

And it would take one ignorant mechanic and his ass-headed sister to ruin it all.

Mother had loved Rhona like the grass loves the rain. She had been only alive when she spent those weeks in warm summer with the other woman. They had watched her children play along the sea shore together during those long days.

Regan had not seen Rhona in five years that day he had taken the train down to Palisade Beach when he was only fifteen and in mourning. In his hand was a letter from his stepfather informing Rhona she would be cared for with an allowance from his wife’s own income. The other was a letter he did not read that had been written by his mother to Rhona. The latter had been written years before, as soon as the woman had become aware her life would be halved.

It had been March before spring had arrived. Rhona had been standing in the shallows of the shore before the small cottage. Her blonde hair had trailed in the wind along with her simple white dress. She had been as radiant as the shinning ocean and as graceful as the sea foam she had been born from. She had not looked at him as he had walked up to her, her eyes only on the sea she could still not return to, standing in the waves was surely torture to her, yet one she had endured into, within, and out, every day. Yet nothing compared to the loss of the woman she had given herself to in sacrifice.

“She is dead.” Was all she softly said as he came to stand next to her. He handed her the letters. She read one, and then the other. With a scream she had fallen to her knees and thrown both of the letters into the surf. She had wept for hours until the sun had died behind the ocean, as had her chance to return to its vast depths and her sisters. She lamented the love she had given to Lorna MacGregor in the most visceral way.

Regan had visited her every few weeks after that. She became his only true companion when Kelly forgot who she had been. In time Kelly completely forgot the love her mother had had for Rhona. That Rhona had once watched her gather shells as a toddler. That Rhona had used to sit on a swing beneath a yarrow tree with their mother in the backyard of the cottage with their hands entwined for long hours. Everyone forgot about her in time, even the man who had once rivaled her for the affections but not the love of Lorna MacGregor. Regan remembered her however and grew to manhood with all his memories of love.

He seduced her one winter morning after his time in Germany. He had waited until he was a man with a few things to offer, some skill in bed and the beginning of a personal fortune culled from his gifts and intelligence. The future had seemed bright and unyielding as he held this relic from his past in his arms; he would make her his own. He had not asked if the pelt had compelled her to open her body to him, even though she always spoke of the ocean in bed.

“I am lonely, and you are as well, so let’s be together,” he had breathed into her ear and she had made no answer. He had strung jewels about her neck and given her fine clothes to shine in. Nothing however could hide her lack of a smile, and only given when she was running away from him. Had he not treated her well, as his princess? As his treasure? Had he not given her everything she could have wished for? He had only disbarred the sea; he had only tabooed the ocean. He had only loved her.

Yet Naoise of Lake Santos had been given so much devotion that he had a woman ready to die for him. So in love was Eddie Moreno with death she would defend him at all cost. Regan had truly not seen such a thing coming. He had thought the girl naïve, a little bit stupid even, but not so foolish as to really throw her life away. Apparently he had underestimated this young woman glutted on fairy tales and festering in some sort of hidden insanity. It was inexplicable, morbid, and would not be allowed to continue. It was an affront to rationale and the very dignity of humanity.

Yet if Naoise dragged her away tonight, he would allow the crime, at least let Regan save his own flesh and blood.

Edith Moreno could at last suffer the consequences for her actions.

A few hours after dawn his sister gently woke him by touching her cool fingers to his forehead. The woman stood over him with a haunted look as if aware of what phantoms from her past had just crashed through her life just beyond her line of sight. Yet she stood over him with a small smile as if she had forgotten how she had torn her dress to tie a tourniquet below his gushing wound a few hours before.

“G’morning. How do you feel? Should I have the nurse maybe give you another painkiller?” she asked lowly.

“You’re not on duty Kel.” Regan muttered softly. He was still heavy-headed from the massive dosage of sedatives and analgesics that had branded his fever dreams on the insides of his eyes. He raised his hand, found it gone, and was forced to raise the other to find her wrist, to reassure himself she was real and not the product of his pernicious memories.

“I am,” Kelly sighed and pushed her mussed hair from her face, tangled by hours of fretting. “I won’t leave until they let you out.”

“Don’t be silly, I’m not dying.” Regan chided, as best he could when his tongue felt like an over large and loose fish in the chasm of his mouth anyway. He glanced at her, “you’ve changed.”

“Yeah.” She looked down at her gray sweat suit that had replaced her torn and blood soaked dress of last night. Its canary yellow silk was forever ruined with a putrid stain. “Matt got me a change of clothes from the house.”

“And where is he?”

“He’s nappin’ in the waiting room.”

“And his sister?”

Kelly’s look of slight confusion alerted his sluggish mind he should perhaps speak more carefully. She answered however, “She left before….before what happened. All the better, huh? Just got so dammed lucky she didn’t have to see…”

Kelly stopped and choked. She covered her mouth with a trembling hand. Regan gently squeezed her other hand. “I’m sorry. I just don’t understand how something so terrible could have happened! So quickly and suddenly!”

He hushed her but her tears still flowed. This is what mother wished to shield you from. He felt anger rise up in his chest but he kept his expression gentle, comforting, like he had taught himself to; to bury all of his emotions.

“Bad luck I suppose,” he tried to joke, stroking her knuckles. She shook her head but when she dropped her hand she smiled back at him.

“I suppose I should thank the lord you were not killed. To think such thugs would be in our neighborhood! I refuse to believe they were from Los Olivos or Orangeblossom!” Regan just closed his eyes and nodded at his sister’s vehement denial. It would seem Brody had done one thing right; cast the net of illusion.

“Am I upsetting you?” she asked quietly.

“No,” he rolled his head toward her. “Never.”

She gave a small, gasping laugh. She shook her head and rubbed her forehead. “I’m being so silly but I just spent the night thinkin’ of when Mom died and—“

“I won’t leave you,” Regan tried to sit up and groaned at his sudden nausea. He rolled over to his side and tried to spare Kelly the sight of him vomiting. I am going to kill you Naoise of Lake Santos!

“No, no,” Kelly soothed as she stroked her brother’s hair back. She held the bed pan with all the professionalism she had culled from so many years of study and practice. Her comforting bedside manner however was only her unspoiled light that had forgotten the darkness.

“I will always have my brother, and Matthew,” she looked back towards the waiting room and sighed. Regan’s eyes narrowed. Matthew was a good man, who loved his sister, but this sort of world was not his. His sister’s behavior when exposed to it had more than proved Kelly was in more danger in the arms of a blind man than any other. No, she could have the prince her brother had crafted for her down to every last detail. Matthew Moreno would be far better off having no inkling what shook the branches of the MacGregor Family tree.

The Moreno siblings needed to be entirely removed from their lives.

“Yes,” Regan gently agreed, looking above Kelly’s breast where he knew her necklace was, the last gift from their mother.

“Rhona…is gone, isn’t she?” Kelly suddenly lowly asked and Regan felt his heart stop. She looked at him with concern. “She’s not at the house, not here. Did she leave last night too?”

“Yes.” Regan grimaced as he looked away. His sister gently embraced him and kissed his cheek. She couldm’t know why she understood the dejection in her brother’s face, but she sensed it and tried to banish it. It was the lingering touches of their mother’s curse. It was why she needed the touch of a prince; nothing could totally remove that taint.

“Stay strong love,” she asked softly as she saw the duty nurse in the doorway and understood she must leave for the woman to do her work.

I am strong. Regan looked down at his hand and the ruined stump of his other arm. Even crippled, he was strong. Even abandoned, he was strong. Even alone, he was strong.

He was strong for her alone.

 

 

Naoise was gone but she could still feel the tie of the bridle and the invisible chain he would one day return on.

Could I have possibly said something even more stupid than “we could have watched every sunrise together.”?! Eddie berated herself. What a way to send off a man you had just rejected! Make him think you were too cowardly and ignorant to say your feelings. Why had she even expressed her regret, when she knew it could never be?

She had just wanted him to know! She had just wanted him to know.

All I wanted was you. She had only realized it when he had left, when she had known this was going to be the last time she could kiss him and hold him so gently. When she had feared he was going to be slaughtered in front of her. When she had been afraid that they never get to talk ever again, that she never get to tease him ever again, or tell him her insipid stories about what she had seen on television.

She would never see his smile again, she felt certain, after last night.

The Earth was a place of small wonders that were only made miraculous because they were in defiance of death’s hold. She had given the kelpie a taste of death and he had found it bitter and choking. He would either have her banish the memory of something she had been fed on since birth or he would serve her the final meal. He had desired to possess her, perhaps his only conceivable reaction to something he cared for. He didn’t understand her at all, how humans eventually all acquired a taste for death, for their nature was that of a mortal being. Niamh had tragically sent Oisín back to Earth, insensible to the same concept. Eddie had refused Naoise to spare him a similar disaster.

She had desired him however, and did still. Love was not enough to make her forget all that she was, but it still burned softly, and painfully, in her heart. She had done the right thing, by letting him go. She would have only been unhappy in Faerie and would have only made Naoise miserable.

She also knew however that by his nature the kelpie couldn’t spare her. Naoise was a rational creature of singular purpose, either he subdued the threat by making her his own, or he eliminated her, those were the only two options. She had refused to let him save her, and that was the irrational sort of freedom only humanity knew.

Eddie raised her head at a sudden cry from the kitchen and then the sound of Sarah berating Stan. The pair with Yusuf had found her in an apoplexy last night. They had seen the entire horrific episode of Regan’s mutilation and somehow had managed to keep their sanity.

Eddie had cried in Sarah’s arms before Yusuf had brought them to her home. It was just as they had arrived her brother had called Sarah in a frightened hysteria. It was then Eddie realized her phone had been totally drowned in Naoise’s mad underwater dash.

And that she didn’t have a good excuse as to why it no longer worked.

Still the ever vivacious Sarah had explained away the older brother’s fear by saying Eddie had had a fight with “that dickhead”. After speaking to Eddie and detecting the distress in her voice he fully believed Sarah. He explained there had been an “emergency” at the party and may not be home until tomorrow. Eddie explained Sarah would be staying over and left out so would Stan and Yusuf.

Now Eddie sat up in her bed, her hair still damp from last night’s shower. Her blood stained dress, which would need to be burned or perhaps used in a magic spell, was on the floor. She knew she still had to attend to her chores despite her pain. Pain from her heart and the series of bruises she had smashed into her hands last night as she had crashed them against the wall in her panic.

She had laid in bed for the past hour watching the pink light of the sun rise crawl up her bedroom walls and turn a lighter shade as it hit the ceiling. She reluctantly ended her pity party however and threw on a pair of jeans below her night shirt. She put on a jacket as she tried to slip out the back door without her friends hearing.

“Hey Eddie, hurry yourself back, we’re having blueberry pancakes!” Sarah called as she somehow heard the other young woman moving around. Eddie paused and after giving a nod no one could see she slipped out the door. She spent the next forty-five minutes dawdling and wondering if she should lie and how much she should. She realized she should not even attempt such a thing. Her friends had come to save her from something they had been warned was dangerous and malicious last night. How could she repay them with deception after such a thing?

I never wanted to draw you into this. She frowned as she paused before the back door. Could she really hope to try to keep her friend out of this when fate had brought her into it? Stan had already been touched by that unseen world even if he had been unaware at the time. He had caught the fancy of a kelpie, perhaps it was only destiny he would eventually learn the truth of the young man who had danced with him at the barn dance.

She took a deep breath and squared her shoulders. No lying, she would confess everything, even if it made her look petty, selfish, and bullheaded. She took off her jacket and walked into the kitchen. Sarah was pouring cups of coffee as Stan flipped a pancake onto a stack. Yusuf seemed to be comfortable sitting in a chair while stroking Blackie.

The pair were dressed in borrowed clothes, Sarah in one of Eddie’s night shirts that was far too tight in the chest, Stan in one of Matthew’s old shirts that hung off his frame with his dress slacks. It would have been almost be comical if Eddie felt far too hollow to laugh at anything. Sarah looked up at her and beamed.

“Here she is. Sit.” She moved a cup of coffee toward Eddie as she took her place at the table. She folded her hands, unsure how to start. She looked down at the roiling coffee in the cup and covered one side of her face, recalling the waves of the lake left in Naoise’s wake.

“You bridled a faerie.” Eddie looked up in surprise at Stan’s quiet voice. He laid a plate of pancakes before her. “How, why?”

She didn’t touch her food until she had explained it all from the beginning. By the time she had finished she found her meal was cold and herself with no appetite still. Her anxiety was not helped by the silence that followed her morbid tale of romance that had ended with a death threat. Sarah at last broke the silence by slamming her palms onto the table. The thump made the cutlery and dishes rattle with anger. Eddie didn’t look up however as she heard Sarah’s chair scrape back, behaving like a child who knew it was going to get a scolding.

And really she could admit that she deserved one.

“Oh, you—“ Sarah groped for words as she stomped around in a fit.

“He wanted to know if you loved him back.” Eddie looked up in horror at Stan’s soft remark. Sarah also looked at him in surprise. He continued on steadily, “That’s why he didn’t abduct you when he could. He didn’t want you to force him to bring you back, to be rejected.”

“And he was rejected all the same.” Eddie sighed softly as she picked up her fork.

“And so he’s going to fucking kill her for it, what a bastard!” Sarah snapped as she put her hands on her hips.

“Humans can break their promises but fae can’t,” she frowned as she recalled Naoise’s explanation that his actions defined his self. “You know the whole time Naoise and I were together he bitched about all the rules and social conventions humans have when fae have just as much.”

She shook her head, “and they’re just as confusing to us as ours are to them.”

“Makes for quite a bit of culture shock,” Stan mused and ignored Sarah’s glower.

“Well I don’t care what you call it, it’s wrong, and there has to be another way!” she cried.

“I choose this. The only other options were killing him or enslaving him for all eternity.” Eddie covered her face in remorse.

“Then let him be enslaved, the asshole!” Sarah argued.

Eddie shook her head, recalling Rhona. Could she really live with herself as she inflicted such suffering onto another being? People like Regan did such things. Not her, not this self.

“As Naoise cannot forgive Eddie for reneging their pact,” the jinn carefully interjected, “Eddie can no more murder and enslave and still be herself.”

“It was just an impossible situation.” She lamented and jumped when Sarah slammed her fist down on the table.

“But that doesn’t mean you should give up!” She yelled and Eddie felt tears form in her eyes at her cowardice.

“I’m sorry, I never wanted you to get involved—“

“Don’t fucking apologize to me! I don’t want it if it’s not sincere!” Sarah waved her arms in disgust. “When I think of the pain Matthew will feel if you die and what I will…”

And Sarah began to cry herself, turning away from her friend. She wrapped her arms around herself and radiated agonized anger. Eddie raised a hand then dropped it, knowing no apology would be sincere so long as she would do something that hurt her loved ones this much.

“You’re right; I’m a horrible person to do this when I have people who love me.” Eddie looked away and grimaced at the pain in her chest. “But I always have been, I think. So I thought…’I’ll take the risk of this not working out, because even if I screw this up, at least I will have brought Matthew some happiness’.”

She began to sob, not caring if it made her look weak or even pettier. She could do nothing else. Why should Sarah or Matthew love her this much when she had made such a mess?

“So I took the risk! Because I felt like I hate myself even more if I became a murderer! I just wanted to be fair. I know I’ve been selfish, and I’m willing to accept the consequence of that! Even if it’s that you would turn away from me, as you should, when otherwise I would hurt you so much!”

She collapsed into her sorrow, trying to hold back her cries as she rested her forehead against the table. She began to hiccup in her distress and felt a headache form in her brow yet she tried to smother her weeping. She waited for them to leave, to tell her that she was the sort of person she had always feared she really was; weak and selfish. She trembled in how exposed she felt like she had been placed naked in a cold and raking wind.

After a few seconds warm arms encircled her and she stiffened. She blinked in surprise as Sarah’s hair brushed over her face like a veil.

“Oh Eddie. You are a very stupid girl indeed. You think you’re so horrible that we be better off without you. Yet you’re the sort of person who doesn’t take the easy way out of anything. You try to take responsibility for everything however when it’s not your fault at all. So much you would even spare a blood thirsty monster his deserved punishment.” The woman sighed and gently cupped her friend’s cheek to tilt her face up. Sarah smiled gently at her. “And even now, you would not give in to him, knowing what suffering it bring to us and him.”

She leaned down and kissed Eddie’s forehead as the other girl sniffled in mollification. “It’s been terrible for you and you’ve tried so hard to be strong. If Naoise kills you, he deserves a true punishment. That he would be such an ass as to kill someone who fought so hard to even save someone like him.”

“Sarah?” Eddie asked in wonder at her friend’s loving look. The young woman just beamed.

“Oh…didn’t I tell you once I wished I could have Matt and you to myself forever? I love you girl, and I won’t abandon you, whether or not you’ve thrown yourself to a man-eating horse.”

“I don’t…I don’t want you to feel any guilt, no matter what happens,” Eddie said vehemently reaching up to squeeze Sarah’s hand gently. She couldn’t lay this burden on her but it seemed like Sarah had already set her mind to accept it.

“A sorrow shared is a sorrow halved.” Sarah waved her hand and glanced at Stan. “Right?”

“I didn’t think there was room for me between you and Eddie,” Stan deadpanned at Sarah. He was suffered to have a pancake tossed at his head. Eddie kept silently crying letting her tears salt her pancakes. Eventually however her tears ran dry and even with a pounding headache, she found reason to smile.

She wasn’t alone anymore.

Sarah and Yusuf endeavored to stay until Matthew came home but Stan was ready to leave after breakfast. He pulled Eddie aside as Sarah took a shower. They sat on the front doorstep of the home and spoke of things that should not be.

“Dougal, Naoise’s brother, he’s a kelpie too, isn’t he?” Stan asked lowly as he rubbed behind Blackie’s ears. The cat sighed in deep pleasure, the favorite of the spirits.

“Yeah.” Eddie confessed just as lowly as if they were sharing a secret. Stan inclined his head.

“He didn’t try to take me to Faerie, why?” Eddie glanced at Stan wondering if it had really gone that far. Perhaps she should have been paying more attention even if she had spent most of that night in Naoise’s arms. Stan’s face was carefully impassive which was a warning even with someone so mild mannered.

“Because…when a fae gets their heart broken, they remember for a very long time.” Eddie sighed and closed her eyes.

Stan seemed to accept this answer and stood up. He turned to Eddie one last time however.

“I do wish you luck, you know. It seems like you could have done worse.”

“Thanks,” Eddie smiled at him and watched him walk around the house and disappear. The cat moved to her lap now and she continued to indulge her. She raised her face up towards the sky and squinted her eyes at the bright sun.

And she wondered if such warm light was shinning where he was.

 

 

When Regan became more lucid, he was ready to discuss trickery.

He had dismissed Kelly to allow her to get some breakfast with Matthew and in her absence he summoned the prince to him. The man arrived a few minutes later looking a bit cautious as if he feared Regan was a snake that would strike at him. Regan’s expression remained cool however despite the searing agony in his wrist as he slowly fell from the embrace of his analgesics. His servant gave his report in a measured tone as if he was discussing an unpleasant dinner he had been to but must still speak well of the guests that had attended it.

“So it is believed that a gang of some sort were attempting to steal some valuables and were responsible for your hand.” Darzi glanced at the vacant void at the end of his arm and Regan ignored him in relief he didn’t need to enchant a questioning police officer if his servants had proved competent.

“It is also believed,” he continued carefully with his eyes warily on Regan’s. “That Rhona assisted in the crime and fled with the ring leader.”

Regan gave no response other than a grunt. It was an acceptable lie; she had after all betrayed him. The woman had never created any ties in the community and could be believed to commit any sort of crime. He hadn’t wanted to tarnish that last extension of his mother but all the selkie had left him with was suffering. Darzi exhaled and seemed eager to finish up.

“So, Brody been down to the station already to enchant the reports he took so every officer thinks the other took them down—“

“And who was he?” Regan asked with a sharp glance.
“Ian Stauffenberg, the new detective from North Vale, head of the case.” Darzi smirked a little. “And the real Ian Stauffenberg has a perfect memory of the story of every witness he interviewed; he will feel no need to go back over the reports.”

“And pity whatever fools get convicted of it,” Regan sighed. Perhaps he would find some substitutes himself but for now the weaving of spells would hold. Darzi looked away; if he was hiding a frown or a smirk it could not be seen.

“You’ve done well, Darzi, but do you think this makes up for how you interfered last night?” Regan asked softly, he raised his mutilated arm to conjure a ward over the room. Even crippled he was not voided of any power. His magic did not depend on the strength of his body, only his mind. And he had refused to let the kelpie shatter his psyche with terror. Darzi tensed but somewhat impressively held his ground.

“Regan you know you were acting far too rashly—“

“I was only trying to complete a necessary task! If Eddie Moreno is killed by Naoise of Lake Santos that will be your fault Jai Darzi!” he snapped and his servant cowered in the manner the magician was accustomed to. He looked away in disgust. The ring had been meant to be the kelpie’s downfall. He knew Eddie would not allow it to remain in his possession with her inverted sense of justice. It had only been a matter of time when the fae in his love could be lured into a position compromising enough to kill him.

Now however unless he did something just as drastic, that girl would die. She had refused to leave with Naoise last night, if she would not be a bride she would be a murder victim. That girl would get her death wish and he would suffer the blow to his pride. Regan had always approached his position with a stringent sense of duty, having a fae slay a human woman would not be allowed on his watch. He would not allow a spirit to overcome him! Especially not the one that his mother had only defeated at the expense of her very self.

“If you don’t wish to be associated with me anymore, leave.” Regan looked back at the man with a sneer. “Keep in mind however who gave you those looks, this life, those parents that adore you, and the possibility of having a beautiful, talented, and loving wife. Without me you’ll be doing nothing but crawling on your stomach in the mud again!”

“Kelly doesn’t love me!” Darzi suddenly burst forth. “She already has someone who loves her. Why should you try to wreck that?”

“Because he is someone who has no inkling of who Kelly really is. How can he love her without knowing that? I would not see her heart broken.” Regan glowered. “Are you not unhappy Eddie Moreno prefers a damned man-eating monster over you, a perfect prince? Was that not your first taste of rejection, when she would not look back at you from a beast?”

Regan lay back with an air of frustrated resentment. “Imagine how much worse that feeling be for Kelly, if her husband left her because she produced a Sighted child, or because some sort of spirit entered their lives?”

Darzi drew back, obviously longing for a way to strike back but Regan knew he had none. He had nothing without him! Damn him if he ever forgot that!

“Do you really think this is best for her? To cage her in a perfect little world you’ve crafted?” Darzi asked bitterly.

“If you don’t like this world, you’re free to leave it, but you will lose everything I have given you if you do.” Regan’s glare turned into a smirk as he chuckled darkly. “Perhaps I shall find a toad that will make a better prince than you!”

Darzi snarled and turned away. Even as he stormed out however, Regan knew he wouldn’t leave. He couldn’t, for he had everything he wished for. Everyone could have everything they wanted if they never looked beyond the bars. The man fell back into a fitful sleep where he dreamed again and again of Rhona’s last smile, always trying to reach for her, but always finding he only had one hand and could no longer hold onto her.

His sister returned and informed him he was being discharged. The love of her life was at her elbow. A man Regan could not enchant into believing he didn’t love his sister. He had tried and had found as much resistance within this simple man as he had in his even simpler sister when Regan had tried to convince her that Matthew could not love whoever he wished. In another world he would have truly been Kelly’s prince, if she had been nothing more than a normal human woman. Fate however was never so kind.

The pair were far too stubborn to be caged and would only know suffering in their freedom. He had wanted to give them a happy ending, but now he was forced to engineer a tragedy. Regan smiled gently at Matthew as he spoke enthusiastically to encourage the other man through his hard time.

“My grandmother had a sayin’ like, you can’t put socks on a rooster, but you can put a hat on his head. Not fully sure what it meant but I think it probably was something like, ‘do what you can’, and we can always try our best.”

Regan just nodded at this obscure bit of wisdom and tried to ignore his sister’s loving look at the mechanic. Katharine bustled in with the nurse, and after making a scene over how hard she had labored with the police and guests after Kelly and Regan had, so selfishly, left, she informed him she would be overseeing his recovery. Regan just smiled and informed her he would sooner be dead.

True love was beyond the bars, but a facsimile of it came with no suffering at all.