Carrow could tell he even enjoyed it when Ruby sang "Particle Man." But it made sense. He'd been alone so long, the sound of a child singing must be pleasing, no matter the tune.

Last night, Ruby had asked for Malkom to hold her hand at bedtime. Carrow had stood at the doorway, watching as he'd patiently waited for Ruby to fall asleep. He'd gruffly told her, "Dream well, deela." Demonish for doll.

With each second he'd remained at that bedside, Carrow had become even more convinced that Malkom was the one....

Sometimes Ruby would report in on things they'd done.

"I'm teaching him to read," she'd said yesterday, her tone filled with importance. "Because I read waaaaay better than him."

"You didn't tell him that, did you?"

"Only twice."

Ruby continually pressured Carrow to leave, reminding her several times a day, "You promised me you'd take me home."

"I know, baby, but it's complicated."

"I miss my friends. I miss Elianna."

Elianna, Carrow's mentor and substitute mother, was a half immortal who aged but never died. The old witch always wore an apron with pockets full of mysterious spellcasting powders, and every time Carrow hugged her, those scents wafted up. To this day, Carrow associated the smells with warm hugs and unconditional love. "I miss Elianna, too. And Mariketa. But we'll see them soon."


In turn, Carrow was pressuring Malkom to help them escape this place, but he kept blowing her off. She thought he feared that she'd leave him once they'd returned home. When in truth, if he treated her half as well as he had in the mine, then she'd be stuck to him like epoxy.

She didn't see that forthcoming. After they'd made love the first time, Carrow had awakened with her body well pleasured, even as her heart had still hurt. She'd been so stung that she hadn't sought him out for any more of his attentions.

But last night as she'd lain awake during a storm, he'd appeared in the doorway, limned by the flashing lightning. "Come."

She'd missed him like an ache, finding it impossible to deny him. Filled with excitement, she'd followed him out. As the rain fell, he'd taken her against a tree, then from behind, then with her writhing in his lap. She'd lost count after that, but each time he'd taken pains never to come inside her - or to bite her.

This morning, Carrow had been cross-eyed with exhaustion and pleasantly surprised when he'd come to the cabin early, getting Ruby fed and taking her out - as if he'd wanted to let Carrow sleep late.

Such a thoughtful gesture, a husbandly gesture. But later, when she'd thanked him, he'd coldly denied that he'd done it for her.

Yes, she'd been taking her knocks, singing "Tub - thumping" to herself as she'd held her tongue and plastered on smiles. I get knocked down, but I get up again....

She'd first started falling for him because she'd felt cherished. Now this disdain was killing her. It constantly reminded her of her childhood.

When she was young, she'd thought if she was good and made her parents proud, they would thaw toward her and give her love. Now she'd begun to accept that they never would.

Would Malkom?

Yet his behavior had made her realize something. She'd done wrong by him, and if his treating her like this for a time would help them get past her betrayal, then she could endure it.

However, there was no reason for her to endure it from her parents. She'd gazed at her emerald ring, the one tie she had with them. What if she just admitted defeat? Relin"uished all hope?

Then she'd wondered, What if Malkom never gets past my betrayal?

That would be a problem, she thought as she rose to go find him.

Since Carrow had already fallen in love with Malkom Slaine.

Two witches were making Malkom rethink everything he'd known. For a demon of his age, this was an uncomfortable process.

They'd settled into a routine of sorts. During the day he fished and checked the perimeter traps with Ruby tagging along. Once done, the girl would teach him to write a few words in the sand. At night, he dreamed.

Memories from Carrow had begun suppressing his own nightmares from his past. And not all of her memories were filled with loneliness, carousing, or wars.

He'd witnessed much more from her life - visions of cars, great bridges, and boats as big as mountains. He'd seen her home, a manor called Andoain, the place she'd spoken to her parents about. It was filled with other witches and surrounded by unusual creatures.

But Malkom had also begun to suffer a recurring nightmare about journeying with her to her lands. As soon as he got there, she whispered, "I'm so sorry, Malkom." Or, in another version, she didn't apologize; she laughed at him just as those demonesses had when he'd been starving as a boy.

Carrow had admitted that she'd been well on her way to wanting a future with him, even before they'd journeyed through that portal. You were well on your way, witch, but I was there. He'd cared about her when he'd blindly followed her. And he hurt all the worse for it -

He heard Carrow approaching.

"Why don't you ever stay inside with us?" she asked from behind him.

He shrugged.

"Do you mind if I sit?"

Sit. Talk to me. Say the one thing that will ease my mistrust. Malkom didn't want to feel like this, but four hundred years of misery couldn't be cured by a few days with her. Old fears died hard.

Sensing she was about to leave, he grated, "Sit."

She settled next to him on the sand. "I need to know when you're going into the interior to search."

He wouldn't be. Because Malkom would not be returning her to her old home. If he did go off to "search," he'd just return with word that there was no way to escape.

This place was paradise. For the first time ever, he was utterly satisfied with all that belonged to him.

Though he'd had no choice about coming to this island, he would choose to stay, seizing another territory to guard, one with ample room to run, water, and food.

Food from the sea. Fishing for his mate and their young one was satisfying.

More importantly, 'twas a place without the screeching sounds and blinding lights of her home. Without the wars.

"Why are you so eager to return?" he asked her. "Is it so bad here?"

"I have to get home. That's where my life is."

"You are my female. Your life is with me."

"Then let's spend our lives together. In New Orleans," she said brightly. "Malkom, you would be happy there with us. But you'll have to trust me."

Just accept what she offers, a part of him commanded. If she betrayed him again, he would survive. Yet then he pictured how she'd looked today, smiling down at Ruby as they'd collected shells.

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