Ava was walkingbetween Sari and Damien on the path to Orsala’s house. The older woman lived about a mile away from the main house and surrounding cottages. The energy between the two mates crackled despite their silence, and Ava tried to ignore the rush of voices that flew from their minds. Both obviously had a lot to say, but they had no intention of sharing.
Finally, Ava had to break the silence, if for no other reason than to stave off the approaching headache. “So, why does she live so far away? Is it because of the empath thing?”
“Hmm?” Sari looked over her shoulder, as if surprised that Ava was still there.
“Orsala. Why does she live away from everyone else?”
“She can shield herself from the emotions around her, but it costs energy she knew she was going to need to read you the first time. So she went to her house. She likes her solitude, but she’s often in the main house.”
“That’s why you haven’t seen her,” Damien said. “After today, she’ll be around more.”
“I feel bad she had to keep away.”
Sari shrugged. “She doesn’t have to do anything. She chose it. It’s no responsibility of yours, so don’t feel bad.”
“Don’t apologize. My grandmother hates it when Irina apologize too much.”
Ava bristled at Sari’s tone but bit back her reply. The woman was brusque, to be sure. Probably more so than Damien. Ava found herself on the “get Sari and Damien back together” train, despite her initial dislike of the woman. Both of them obviously needed to get laid.
Finally, Sari spoke again, but this time it wasn’t to Ava. “You didn’t need to accompany her.”
“I’m paying my respects to your grandmother, Sari. It would be rude of me not to see her.”
“She’s not your grandmother.”
“No, but she’s yours. And, unless you’ve forgotten, I am your mate. Therefore, she’s my family, too.”
Their inner voices were practically shouting at each other. Ava wanted to put her fingers in her ears and sing something. Sadly, that didn’t really work.
“Trust me,” Sari said. “I have not forgotten.”
“Are you sure about that?”
Ava groaned. “You guys are impossible. You should hear yourselves.”
Sari cut her eyes to Ava. “Then stop listening. It’s rude.”
“Don’t you think I would if I could?”
Ava saw Damien fighting a smile, but he didn’t say a word.
She practically cried in relief when they crested the hill to see a cheerful blue house tucked into the hills. It was low to the ground with a white porch and a traditional turf roof. A few flowers still bloomed in buckets on the porch, though most of the garden around the house was dying for the season. As they approached, a willowy woman opened the door, raising her hand in greeting. She wore a thick blue sweater and her blond hair hung loose around her shoulders. As Ava approached, she could see the woman’s temples were touched with silver, and crow’s feet creased the corners of her vivid blue eyes. But her round face was still stunning, and her smile was wide.
“Damien,” she called, holding out her arms. “Oh, my son! I was wondering when you would come visit me.”
Ava could practically feel the waves of annoyance rolling off Sari as Damien embraced her grandmother. They exchanged words in what Ava guessed was Norwegian, then Orsala turned to Ava and held out her hands. “And you must be Ava.”
She smiled, and Ava tried not to stare. Damien had told her that Orsala was close to a thousand years old, but the woman barely looked older than Ava’s own mother.
“You are so very welcome. Thank you for coming to visit me.”
It was amazing how cordial she made it sound, considering Ava knew she really didn’t have a choice in the matter. Orsala’s smile only got wider the longer she held Ava’s hands.
“You have a wonderful sense of humor,” the older woman said. “I can tell.” Then she squeezed Ava’s hands and dropped them, motioning them all inside.
Within minutes, they were all sitting at the round kitchen table, drinking a fragrant herb tea that made Ava think of the spice market in Istanbul.
“Damien keeps me supplied with tea,” Orsala said, sitting down next to Damien and patting his hand. “I can only get the plain teas here. The ones from Istanbul are the finest.”
“I’m glad you enjoy them,” Damien said quietly, holding back another smile as Sari carefully avoided meeting his eyes.
“So much drama,” Orsala said under her breath, looking between the two. “On to other things.” She turned her attention to Ava. “Evren sent a letter with Damien. He says that they cannot discover where you’ve come from! What a delicious mystery, huh? Perhaps reading you today will give us a clue.”
“How much do you know about Irina blood?”
“I… a little. Not much. I know that Irin and Irina magic is different. Related, but different.”
“Two sides of the same coin, is the saying, I think.” Orsala smiled. “We speak the same language they write. But unlike us, Irin can grab the magic. Hold on to it with their writing. We can’t do that.”
“Has an Irina ever tried?”
Sari said, “Yes. Some try. It doesn’t work for us.”
“No more than an Irin speaking magic works for them,” Orsala added. “We are different. We were designed to be.”
Sari grimaced. “And you just end up with messy tattoos and no extra magic.”
Damien leaned toward her. “They’re not messy. I actually think they’re rather attractive, my dove.”
“Don’t call me ‘my dove.’”