For Keiran Saysin, protecting the fairy population from humans is more than a job. It is passion and his duty to the realm. Since Eero’s revolution failed—and the discovery of fairy power lying dormant in some of the human population, that job hasn’t been easy. Now that his sister and her husband are welcoming a set of twins, old enemies have come out of hiding, hoping the children will a serve as a key to reclaiming what has been stripped from them.
Enter Annie Valentine, the genetic researcher Daniel’s mother has employed. Keiran knows the smart thing to do is cast a spell and push the human away, but something about the way she stands toe to toe and eye to eye has him forgetting that getting involved with a human could cost him everything he values, including his power.
The Realm's Salvation, Book 3
The things a person will do to keep a job.
Annie Valentine tightened her hold on her large, black leather bag as she walked out of the four-story brick building that housed the research lab where she worked. She swallowed hard and gave herself a nudge forward, hoping the phony smile she pasted on as she slid into her boss’s blue Prius masked the sloshing of anxiety in her stomach. “It’s nice to see you again, Mrs. Elliot.”
Tara gave a sideways glance of acknowledgment in Annie’s direction before she pulled out. “I hate the traffic in this city.”
A common complaint. Chicago’s rush hour ranked as one of the worse in the Midwest, especially when there was an accident or construction on the throughways. But Tara’s disdain once again raised the question nagging Annie since she took the job. Why had Tara moved to the city to take such an active role in the research company abandoned by her ex-husband?
When Annie really thought about it, nothing made sense about Tara’s business venture: not how she’d changed the research focus from geology to genetics, and certainly not how she’d looked up Annie a year ago and insisted she work for her.
Today, the surprise phone call begging her to accompany Tara to Rockford where her twin grandchildren were to be born didn’t make sense either.
“Mrs. Elliot, you realize I’m not a doctor-doctor. Don’t you?”
“Maybe not, honey, but you are the closest thing I have at my disposal. And you know so much about birth defects.”
Annie twisted in her seat. She was uncomfortable enough being taken into a birthing situation without being reminded of just how much can go wrong. “Are complications expected?”
“No one anticipates problems, but I’m not comfortable with the way my daughter-in-law’s family decided to handle this. Who goes out and rents a farmhouse that is miles from civilization and hospitals to have a baby, let alone twins?”
It was nice to know some things never change. Tara had a way for dramatics, or so Annie’s mother used to say. The most Annie remembered about Tara from before eighteen months ago was as her mother’s best friend and Daniel’s mother.
Now an adult, Annie didn’t spend much time thinking about the Elliots, even though they only lived three doors down. She and Daniel always seemed to run in different circles.
They’d been so different as kids, even more so as adolescents. She remembered him as studious and cautious. While she was going to the lake with her friends or shopping in the city, he stayed close to home with his nose in a book. “He never struck me as someone who took risks.”
“You wouldn’t believe how much Monique and her family have changed him.”
Tara’s face scrunched up in a scowl. Just a few seconds later, she appeared to have a change of heart and nodded. “Don’t get me wrong. Monique is a lovely woman, and Daniel loves her. She’s just…well…a free spirit. She was adamant about not having the children in a hospital.”
Everything everyone said about childbirth being a normal, natural process may be rooted in truth, but before proper medical attention became commonplace, babies died during childbirth. Mothers too. A lot of them. And even now, with all the advances, there were some who still didn’t survive the natural process. “Home births are becoming more common, but I wouldn’t advise it—especially with multiple births.”
“Monique spends too much time listening to her brother if you ask me. I’m sure he’ll be there tonight, ordering people around and running the place like some madman.”
Did Tara think she was making this whole adventure sound more inviting? “They do know you’ve asked me to come along, don’t they?”
“Oh no! Keiran would have put a stop to it. He tried to talk Daniel out of letting me be there.”
“Keiran? That’s Daniel’s wife’s brother?”
Tara nodded again, not taking her focus away from the heavy traffic, growing worse by the minute.
Wonderful. Annie reached down and pulled her tablet out of her purse. Rush hour on a Wednesday night and she was heading out of the city with a woman who’d recently lured her into a research job. They were headed to an out-of-the-way farmhouse where the wife of a childhood acquaintance was giving birth to twins while her overprotective brother played overlord.
Why am I not jumping for joy?
Annie turned the device on and pulled up her databases, trying to immerse herself in work, hoping that would send a loud-and-clear signal to her boss that she didn’t want to be dragged any deeper into the family drama.
Her parents, her sisters, and especially her brother were disappointed when she had given up medicine and taken the job from Tara. It had even caused a rift between the once best friends.
Annie really couldn’t expect her family to understand. They thought the large salary had enticed her away from her original career path, but money didn’t mean all that much to Annie. Sure, it was nice not to struggle to make the bills, but the large paycheck didn’t ease the guilt over that horrible night in the emergency room, and walking away from her medical training hadn’t stopped the reoccurring nightmares that still woke her from a dead sleep now and then.
Ninety minutes later, Tara turned off the stone road. Large willow trees bordered the long driveway creating a tunnel. Slowing the car to a crawl, Tara turned her lights to bright, but it was still hard to see more than a few feet in front of the car.
Annie turned off the tablet—the battery was nearly dead anyway—and slipped it back into her purse. “I guess you weren’t kidding about being in the middle of the boondocks.”
“It’s ridiculous.” Tara turned off the ignition and dropped the keys into her purse. “You just stick close to me, sweetheart, and don’t let Keiran and his goons intimidate you.” She reached for the door handle, but then paused and turned back again. “Daniel and the Saysins don’t know about my business investment or that I’m your boss. Can we just keep that between you and me?”
Annie nodded as she swallowed the acid pushing up from her stomach. This bites. Not only was she going uninvited into a family pressure-cooker, but she was being asked to keep secrets.
All in the name of a job.
She hung her purse and her large black bag off her shoulder and followed Tara up the narrow walk and four steep steps.
Even with Tara’s warnings of an overprotective family, Annie wasn’t prepared to see two men securing the door while they joked around with each other. Of average height and build, they didn’t fit the typical description of guards, but it was blatantly obvious that’s what they were there to do.
On the left, a man with shoulder-length blond hair pulled a radio from his belt clip. “We got a problem, Keiran.”
The other man, with short black hair, put his arm out, blocking Tara’s path into the house. “Mrs. Elliot, who is accompanying you tonight?”
Annie recognized Tara’s clipped, choppy tone. Louder than her words, it clearly signaled arguing would get him nowhere.
Static and another man’s voice rattled through the air, but Annie couldn’t make out what was said over Tara’s argument.
“She a friend and a doctor, Doctor Annie Valentine.”
Blondie repeated what he’d heard over the radio. In response, Tara twisted toward the guard. “You tell Keiran he can’t keep me away tonight. He better let me in.”
Oh good Lord! Why am I here?
“It’s fine. Let them up.” The mysterious Keiran’s voice commanded from the small box, and the dark-haired guard stepped out of the way.
“Mrs. Elliot, Dr. Valentine, everyone is upstairs.”
As they approached the stairwell, an unmistakable shrill cry of pain whisked down the stairs and pierced Annie’s ears. Daniel’s wife undoubtedly was in the advanced stages of labor. She gripped the banister, her feet freezing to the hardwood floors.
She fought against the urge to turn on her heels and wait in the car. I can’t do this. I’m not a doctor.
Tara pushed against her back. “Let’s go, Annie, it sounds like the babies are close.”
Her boss’s voice held all the excitement of an expectant grandmother: joy and hope layered with nervous anticipation.
Annie climbed another step but then hesitated. “This is a private moment.”
The woman stepped around Annie, grabbing her sleeve and tugging her up the rest of the steps and down the hall. “Nonsense. The situation calls for a doctor.”
Tara pushed through the doorway, going to her son’s side, but Annie couldn’t bring herself to intrude beyond the doorway.
Daniel looked essentially the same as she remembered, except maybe a little more rugged. He’d always worn his dark hair a little longer than one might expect given his studious nature, but now it touched his shoulders and crept over his collar. He seemed more muscular than she remembered as he cradled a tall woman with long, red curly hair in his arms.
Despite her pregnancy, Daniel’s wife seemed to be a svelte woman.
Even if Tara hadn’t told Annie Daniel’s brother-in-law would be there, she’d have pegged the short redhead on the woman’s opposite side as a sibling. A couple of steps away from the bed, he looked as nervous as someone in a rattlesnake den. Despite his obvious anxiety, he held his sister’s hand tight and rubbed her forearm.
At the foot of the bed a tall, thin woman with hair as long as Daniel’s wife, but straight and dark brown, tended to the life entering the world.
At least they were smart enough to bring in a midwife.
Feeling a little more confident that the night wouldn’t end in disaster, Anne slipped back into the hallway.
“That’s it, sweetie. You’re almost there.” Daniel’s voice flitted from the room. As his wife’s cries began to ebb, another voice filled the air: the squeal of a newborn child announcing its presence in the world.
From her position in the hall, all Annie could see was the brother. Keiran—wasn’t that what Tara said his name was? His eyes were torn from the head of the bed to the new life cradled in the midwife’s arms. As she wrapped it tight in a blue receiving blanket, Keiran moved closer, looking down at the small round face topped with dark brown hair. “It’s beautiful, Monique. Is it healthy, Leal?”
Tara had described Keiran as controlling, so when the man’s voice cracked with emotion, Annie was shocked. Seeing no sign of the brute she’d been warned about, her heart melted a little for the guy. Watching him brush the baby’s cheek with his knuckle and softly whisper a welcome to the world—a child that wasn’t even his—didn’t only melt her heart, but turned it into a soupy mess.
“He,” the midwife corrected. “I do believe he is the most beautiful baby I’ve ever seen. And if you tell any of my brothers I said that, I’ll deny it.” The midwife put the infant in Daniel’s arms.
Tara gripped her son’s forearm, trying to peak at the baby. “A boy? A grandson? How wonderful! Annie! Where did she go? Annie, please. Come and examine my grandson.”0
Instincts told her to stay where she was, but it was her boss summoning her into the room, and the part of her that felt an obligation to both Tara and the new baby couldn’t refuse.
She inched through the door in time to see Daniel hand the infant off to his wife. “Isn’t he beautiful?”
“He’s perfect in every way,” Monique whispered. Her voice cracked, probably from a combination of the emotion and the crying she’d been doing. “I appreciate your consideration, Tara, but we don’t need a doctor.”
Keiran leaned back on his heels, watching his sister cuddle the child to her chest. The smile of reverence softened the rough edges Tara had warned her about. Seconds later, he turned his attention to her. Brilliant green eyes seemed to be able to see clear to her soul.
Self-conscious and feeling like she was intruding, Annie took a few steps back, excusing herself from the room once again.