The countertops under my brush gleamed. It had taken weeks of scrubbing to get them to a point where I felt safe feeding Quinn food prepared on their surface.
A knock sounded at the door. Who could that be? Quinn was upstairs working on the guest bedroom and Tyr was at work. He wasn’t supposed to be home for hours yet, not to mention… this was his home, so he didn’t need to knock.
Thumps sounded on the stairs and my mate called out, “Don’t answer that, Alec, until I get there.”
I huffed. Sometimes it felt like Quinn forgot that just because I preferred to heal people didn’t mean I was some wafting southern belle.
My siblings and I had all been raised in the sort of hell no child should endure, and Tyr, my twin, and I were more than capable of taking on opponents twice our size by the time we were ten.
Then a smile graced my lips. Quinn knew very well that I could take care of myself. He also knew what it cost me to harm others, and the giant marshmallow of a gryphon was determined to spare me even the slightest hint of pain.
I tracked him through our bond. He hit the last stair in the house and made his way to the kitchen. Before we’d bonded, my greatest fear was worrying about where my family was and if they were safe. When I accepted the connection Quinn offered, he’d warned me that he wasn’t sure what form our bond would take. It was different for each couple.
Thankfully, ours manifested as a tracker. I could tell what direction Quinn was in, and a relative distance. The further we were away from one another, the vaguer the information became. As if that wasn’t enough, I was also able to get a general sense of his wellbeing.
It was a balance you could say. I couldn’t lie to him since he was a powerful gryphon, and now, at least when it came to his health and location, he couldn’t lie to me either. It was perfect.
Quinn marched into the kitchen, streaks of wood dust creating a stark pale line across his dark face. He was too handsome for words, and the bastard knew it. I thanked the old god every day that he was a patient asshole, and he only had eyes for me.
Coming around me, he reached for the doorknob, twisted it, and pulled the heavy wood door open.
His shoulders were tense, ready for a fight. I was too, and had begun to gather molecules of water to form into blades at a moment’s notice.
It wasn’t long ago that my eldest sister had been taken, and each of my siblings walked on eggshells, waiting for the monsters of our youth to come and grab us too.
Shrieks sounded from outside and small voices shouted, “Papa!” Curious, I walked to stand beside my mate.
When I peeked around Quinn’s shoulder, more shouts sounded. “Daddy!” Stunned, I stood there like a lump as small arms wound around my waist.
Looking down, I got caught up in a pair of chocolate brown eyes. They were set in a heart-shaped face and surrounded by a tumble of honey-brown hair. Time skipped a beat as the raggedy child continued to hug me.
Terrified, I looked at Quinn. He looked back, perplexed. Clutching a boy with the same eyes and hair as the girl.
Seeing that my mate would be no help, I scraped enough brain cells together to ask, “Can we help you?”
“When will Uncle Tyr be home?” the girl asked. “And Auntie Brooke?” I tensed. They knew my siblings. And for an awful moment, I feared the government had sent these two young souls to do their dirty work. I wouldn’t have put it past them.
“Uhhh,” I stated eloquently. Quinn tried to hide his amusement and failed.
“Why don’t you two come and sit with me over here for a moment while Alec goes and gets you snacks? Then you can tell us the whole story.”
The boy glared at what could only be his sister. “Grace!” he admonished. “You jumped ahead again. You know you have to explain.”
The girl looked sheepish and large tears began to build in her eyes. “I’m sorry, Keenan, I forgot.” My heart melted, and I patted the child on the head.
“No harm done. Go and sit with Quinn. I will be back in a jiff.”
Downtrodden, the child trudged over to Quinn and sat on the step beside him. My teddy bear of a mate sat down between the two and tucked them under his large arms.
Slipping back into the house, I threw together a few sandwiches, got some juice from the fridge, and grabbed some pre-cut veggies that Tyr liked to snack on. Barely any time had passed, and I was back out on the porch offering the treasures to the kids.
They fell on the food with ravenous hunger, and I met Quinn’s gaze over their heads. They were underweight but not starving. I desperately wanted to take them in and protect them from the world.
Quinn’s eyes softened and I knew that no matter what happened, we wouldn’t forsake these two small souls.
Once the meal was mere crumbs on the plate, Quinn leaned back. “So, what brought you to our door?”
“Auntie Mackenzie sent us,” Grace said quietly. Her shoulders hunched. Both of us froze. This was the first whisper of my sister that we’d gotten since her abduction.
Not wanting to scare the children, I forced my muscles to loosen, and said, “Why don’t you start from the beginning?”
The pair took turns telling us about how they ran from their parents—both of whom were addicts, and from what the kids said, would be glad they were gone. They also spoke about their life on the streets, and their capture by the Los Magica gang in Noxus.
I furiously typed a message on my phone to Curtis as they did. He told me to keep sending him info, and he would coordinate things on his end.
“Then Aunt Mackenzie told me about you. That you guys were very nice and she missed you.” My heart lifted—that sounded like her. “The bad mage hurt her when she wanted to free us and left. She slipped us the key and we pretended to be really sad,” Kennan said.
“Then I had a vision.” Grace said.
Dear lord, she is a baby seer. More often than not, seers came into power late, the mind better able to handle the onslaught of information. For Grace, who couldn’t be much older than seven or eight, to process it all and not go mad was an amazing feat.
“It showed me you and Papa. Uncle Tyr, Auntie Brooke, and Uncle Connor.” She hugged herself with her tiny arms and I couldn’t not reach over to pull her in tight. She melted into my arms and I was gone. Someway, somehow, I would convince Quinn to keep them. After all, our family was all about taking in strays.