Author note: This scene gives a little glimpse into Emma and Darton’s future together. Best read after reading the full Legends Reborn trilogy.
Twelve Years Later
(a Legends Reborn bonus epilogue)
I heard Priya’s voice before I’d finished opening the door: “There she is.” Followed by a squeal and the patter of my daughter’s feet.
“Mommy!” Madelyn cried as I stepped inside. I dropped my purse and caught her in my arms, swinging her around. At five years old, with a slender frame she’d inherited from me, she was still light enough that I could do that without much of a strain.
I hugged her, tucking my face next to her soft curls, which were a bright gold-tinged brown I figured she could mostly thank her father for. Speaking of which… I glanced at my best friend.
“Darton isn’t home yet?”
Priya shook her head. “He called about a half hour ago, said he had a few more things to go over at the campaign office. That boss of is his working him hard, huh?”
“That’s politics,” I said. I couldn’t help reflecting from time to time that in some ways it’d been a lot simpler when people just got the king they got, no campaigning required.
“I need to show you the picture I made for you,” Madelyn informed me. I set her down, and she scampered off toward the living room of the modest bungalow we’d moved into when we’d decided to start trying for a family.
“So, this motherhood gig still seems to be working out well for you,” Priya said, slightly teasingly. “From all-powerful wizard to maternal superstar?”
“Still a wizard,” I said. “Which does come in handy when someone’s absolute most favorite toy gets lost or a scrape is bleeding a little more than I’m comfortable with.”
I wasn’t sure I had the words to convey the joy that lit up in me at the sight of my daughter hustling back to me, a paper clutched in her little hands. I hadn’t been completely sure, given my odd situation as an old soul and a half-fae residing in a younger body, that I even could have kids. Maybe I wouldn’t have another. But Madelyn had only taken a few tries to come into our lives, and even through the early sleepless nights and the tantrums, I’d treasured her presence with all my heart.
We’d made this wonderful new life together, my king and I, and it was nothing short of magical watching her come into her own.
“How was your meeting?” Priya asked after Madelyn had explained the intricacies of her marker drawing to me.
“Oh, it was good, just a little more arguing than I like. But I’m used to that.” I straightened up, rumpling Madelyn’s hair. Because of the wealth I’d amassed across my various lives, I didn’t need to work. But I didn’t do well with inactivity, any more than Darton did. I’d started volunteering my historical expertise at the local museum… not that they always took my recommendations in stride.
Well, who could blame them? The books they’d learned from paled in comparison to first-hand knowledge, but I couldn’t exactly tell them how I’d acquired that.
“Any exciting plans for tonight?” I said to Priya as she grabbed her things.
“Not tonight, but tomorrow I’m seeing that guy again—the one you gave a thumbs up to? He’s cooking me dinner. We’ll see how long I last before I can’t hold myself back from the kitchen.” She winked with a grin. Priya had ended up turning her enjoyment of cooking into a longstanding chef position and now a professor role at a prestigious culinary school.
I wagged a finger at her. “Don’t scare him off now.”
“If he’s scared off that easily, he’s not the right guy for me,” she said primly, but she was still grinning.
“If things keep going well, you’ll have to bring him around the next time Keevan and Izzy are in town,” I said.
“Oh my God. Did you see the pics of their new place in Brooklyn? So sweet.”
When she left after a little more of a chat, Madelyn gave me a solemn face. “No Daddy before bedtime?”
“I guess not,” I said. “Or…” A smile leapt to my lips. “If he can’t get here in time, what do you say we go to him?”
Madelyn pumped her fist. “Yeah!”
I texted Darton as we got into the cab. Is anything you’re currently doing an emergency?
No, just the usual, he wrote back a minute later. Why? Do you think there’s an emergency somewhere?
Oh, just wondering.
Why does that make me nervous, Em? he replied, with a smirking emoji to show he was teasing.
Even after all these years, the sight of the nickname brought a flutter of warmth into my chest. He’d told me, ages ago, “Every time I say or write that, I’m thinking Merlin. But this way no one else needs to know that.”
I have no idea, I wrote now. I’ve certainly never gotten you into any trouble that I haven’t gotten you out of… eventually.
Madelyn and I got out in front of the rather drab building where Darton was helping a new candidate run for state governor. I dipped my hand into my purse, curled my fingers around the wand I made sure to always carry, and murmured a few words to distract all attention from the two of us.
My skin itched as we slipped into the building and past the cubicles to the walled offices at the back. Madelyn skipped along beside me. No one gave us a second glance, or even much of a first glance. We made it to Darton’s door unnoticed.
He raised his head at the swing of the door with an expression as if he were bracing himself for a heap of additional paperwork. His eyes brightened in an instant. I kicked the door shut behind us. “Surprise!”
“Em, Maddy.” He pushed away from his desk and scooped up our daughter, tugging me in a moment later for a joint hug. “What’s the special occasion?”
“Just that you need to take a break,” I said. “I think we should have better scenery than this, though.”
“Em,” he said, with a look that was both affectionate and wary.
“I’ll make sure no one notices you’re gone, and I’ll have you back in fifteen minutes. Don’t you think you deserve fifteen minutes?”
“Please, Daddy,” Madelyn said.
Darton laughed. “Well, I obviously can’t say no to that.”
I wrapped my arm more tightly around him and Madelyn, gripping my wand with my other hand. “Away from here, where green things grow,” I whispered.
A magical wind whipped up around us, and with a jolt we were landing in a secluded little grove in our favorite of the city’s parks.
Twelve years wasn’t enough to erase fifteen centuries of learned caution. I scanned the trees and flowerbeds in a heartbeat, checking for any unnatural twitch of a shadow. No glooms and certainly nothing larger lurked on the park’s terrain today.
Not that I encountered them very often these days as it was. It’d been months since I’d last banished one of those scraps of semi-sentiment darkness. The dark fae themselves had stayed well away since the death of their queen. I wasn’t sure whether they were more wary of me or of the enchanted sword Darton kept in a case under our bed, sealed to prevent explorations from curious little hands.
Madelyn squealed happily and rolled on the thick grass to peer up at the evening sky. Darton kept his arm around my waist as we eased down with her. For the first few minutes, we just sat like that, my head tipped against his shoulder, his thumb tracing a soft line up and down my side. Madelyn exclaimed over a ladybug and an intricately veined leaf, and then drifted a short distance from us to pluck clover to chain into a necklace.
“Maybe I should tell her to make it a crown,” I said.
The man who would always be my king chuckled. “That might come with a little more explaining than I’m ready to do yet.” He brushed his lips to my cheek. “Thank you for coming. I did need this. I wish things hadn’t been so busy the last few months. You know once the election is over—”
“It’ll all calm down,” I finished, giving his hand a reassuring squeeze. “I do know. It’s fine, Art. We knew going in that your schedule was going to be hectic. You’re following your dream—and my dream has always been to see you through whatever you set your mind to.” I paused, a sudden swell of emotion constricting my throat. “I have more of you now than I ever did before. How could I complain?”
“Em,” he said, his voice thick, and stole a quick kiss, so tender I wished we could linger in it. “I can complain. I want to see you and Madelyn as much as I can. There’s just so much else I feel like I should do too, especially since I’m lucky enough to be here at all.”
“Exactly,” I said. “I wouldn’t want you any other way. I fell in love with a king.”
The corner of his mouth twitched. With the light as my witness, I’d swear he was as handsome as he’d ever been, even with the faint lines starting to gather where his eyes crinkled. Sometimes I couldn’t do anything but sit in awe of the fact that I’d now known him, been with him, in this existence for as long as we’d had together in our first lives.
Darton’s gaze went distant for a second before it slid back to me. “I was actually starting to think I’ve built up enough experience that next year I could make a go of running for a prominent position myself. Campaign for myself instead of for someone else.”
Excitement shivered through me. I’d been wondering when he’d take that step. “Of course,” I said. “You should go for it.”
“It’ll mean even longer hours.”
“We’ll make it work. Maddy and I will come and surprise you whenever we can. Regular people in this line of work find a balance—we should be able to too.”
“You’d think so,” he said wryly. And then, sounding almost shy, “I was also thinking… it might be nice if you joined me, however you feel comfortable. Campaign manager, strategist—any title you’d like. Make it a family endeavor.”
The shiver of excitement turned into something soaring. I couldn’t stop the smile that stretched across my face. “Like old times?”
“Like old times.” He beamed back at me, clearly pleased with my reaction. “You know I’d never have been much of a king without you by my side every step of the way.”
I raised my eyebrows at that. “And you know that’s not actually true. But, I will concede that I may have contributed a significant amount to exactly how successful you managed to be. One can only imagine how far we might get without villainous dark fae lurking around waiting to strike.”
Darton laughed. “Is that a yes?”
I snuggled closer to him, holding my arm out to Madelyn as she bounded back to us. “It’s an ‘Absolutely, and now that you’ve offered, there are no take-backs allowed.’”
My husband, my king, and my only love nestled his head next to mine. “There’s not a single moment with you that I’d ever want to take back.”
“Mommy,” Madelyn said. “Do you know how to do this?” She twirled one of the flowers she’d plucked by the stem and then pressed that stem to the ground. Before my widening eyes, two small leaves sprouted on either side of it. When she released her fingers, the new plant stayed upright. I nudged it, feeling the pull of roots now stretching into the earth. My daughter’s face shone with pride.
“Well,” I said. “That’s really something.” I touched her cheek. “You know not to share anything like that with your friends at school, right?”
“Of course,” she said with a scoff, and rambled off again.
“So…” Darton said as we stared after her. “I guess we know who she takes after more, huh?”
I hadn’t been sure light fae magic was hereditary in my particular peculiar situation. There’d been a few hints here and there, but that trick with the flower—that was pretty undeniable.
“Somehow I have the feeling our lives are about to get a lot more interesting,” I said.
Darton chuckled and nuzzled my hair. “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
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