With the wind whipping a gale in the portal, Breen felt her grip on Marco’s hand start to slip. She couldn’t see, as the light had gone bright and blinding. She couldn’t hear through the roar of that wind.
As if tossed by the gale, she tumbled, with Keegan’s hand a vise grip on hers, and her desperate fingers barely clinging to Marco’s.
Then, like a switch flipped, she fell. The air went cool and damp, the light snapped off, and the wind died.
She landed hard enough to rattle bones. On a dirt road, she realized, wet from the soft rain still falling. And in the rain, she smelled Talamh.
Breathless, she rolled to hunker over Marco. He sprawled, limp and still, with eyes wide and shocked.
“Are you okay? Let me see. Marco, you idiot!” Searching, she ran her hands over him. “Nothing’s broken.”
Now she stroked her hand over Marco’s face as she whipped her head around to snarl at Keegan.
“What the hell was that? Even the first time I came through, it wasn’t like that.”
He shoved his hand through his hair. “I didn’t account for the extra passenger. Or all your bloody luggage. And still I got us back, didn’t I?”
“What the actual fuck?”
As Marco stirred, she turned back to him. “Don’t try to get up yet. You’re going to be dizzy and shaky, but you’re okay.”
He just stared at her, his brown eyes huge and glassy with shock. “Did all this crazy make you a doctor, too?”
“Not exactly. Just catch your breath. What the hell do we do now?” she shot at Keegan.
“Get out of the fecking rain, to start.” He pushed to his feet, a tall, irritated man with dark hair curling in the damp. “I aimed to bring us back in the dooryard of the farmhouse.” He gestured. “And wasn’t far off, considering what came with us.”
She could see the stone house now, the silhouette of it a few yards away and across the road.
“Marco isn’t a what.”
Keegan just strode over, crouched down. “All right now, brother, sit yourself up. Take it slow.”
“My laptop!” When Breen spotted it on the road, she scrambled up, sprinted over to grab the case.
“Well now, she will have her priorities.”
In the road, in the rain, she clutched it to her. “This is as important to me as your sword is to you.”
“If it got banged up, you’ll fix it. That’s the way,” he said to Marco, “slow and easy.”
The way he spoke to Marco—slow and easy—reminded Breen that Keegan could be kind. When he wanted to be.
She strapped on the laptop case cross-body, hurried back to them.
“You’re going to feel dizzy and weird. The first time I came through I fainted.”
“Guys don’t faint.” But Marco dropped his spinning head to his updrawn knees. “We can pass out, we can get knocked out, but we don’t faint.”
“That’s the way,” Keegan said cheerfully. “Let’s get you on your feet. We could use a hand here, Breen.”
“Just let me get my suitcase.”
“Women, by the gods!” Keegan whipped out a hand, and the suitcase vanished.
“Where did it go?” Marco’s voice hitched, this time his eyes rolled. “Where’d it go?”
“Not to worry, it’s all fine. Up you come now. Lean on me, and we’ll get you there.”
“I can’t feel my knees. Are they here?”
“Right where they should be.”
Breen hurried over to wrap an arm around Marco from the other side. “It’s okay. You’re okay. It’s not far, see? We’re going right there.”
He managed a few shaky steps. “Men don’t faint, but they do puke. I might.”
Breen pressed a hand to his stomach, pulled out some of the churning. It made her feel a little queasy, but she told herself she’d handle it. “Better?”
“Yeah, I guess. I think I’m having a really weird dream. Breen has weird dreams,” he told Keegan in a voice that sounded a little drunk. “Scary weird sometimes. This one’s just weird.”
Keegan flicked a hand, and the gate of the dooryard swung open.
“Like that kind of weird. Smells good anyway. Like Ireland. Right, Breen?”
“Yes, but it’s not.”
“That would be way weird if we’re standing in our apartment in Philly one minute and going splat on a road in Ireland the next. ‘Beam me up, Scotty’ time.”
“Those are good stories.” Keegan flicked the door open. “Here we are now. You’ll have a lie down on the divan here.”
“Lying down’s good. Hey, Breen, there’s your suitcase. It’s real homey in here. Old-timey homey. It’s nice. Oh, thank Christ,” he said when they laid him down on the couch.
“I didn’t faint, see. Didn’t puke either. Yet.”
“I’m going to make you some tea.”
He shook his head at Breen. “Rather have a beer.”
“And who wouldn’t? I’ll get that for you. Stay with him,” Keegan ordered. “Dry him up, smooth him out.”
“He should have the tea, what I had when I came through.”
“What goes in the tea can go in the ale.”
“Drugs, right?” Marco asked as Keegan strode out. “Because he slipped us lots and lots of drugs so we’re in this weird dream together.”
“No, Marco. It’s real.”
She held out a hand to the low, simmering fire in the hearth and had the flames rising and crackling. She lit the candles around the room from where she knelt beside the sofa.
She ran her hands down Marco’s sides to dry his clothes, then brushed them over his braids to dry his hair.
“I’m voting for crazy dream.”
“You know it’s real. Why did you jump with me, Marco? Why did you grab onto me and jump?”
“I wasn’t going to let you go without me into some hole of light in our damn living room. And you were all upset. You’d been crying. You—” He looked at the ceiling. “I hear something. Somebody else is in the house.”
“Harken—Keegan’s brother—lives here. He’s a farmer. This is their farm. It was my father’s. I was born in his house.”
Marco’s gaze tracked back to hers. “That’s what he told you, but—”
“My grandmother told me, and it’s the truth. I’m remembering things I didn’t. And I’ll explain everything, I promise, but—”
She broke off when Harken and Morena came down the stairs—in clothes obviously hastily dragged on, as Morena’s shirt was inside out.
“Welcome home!” Sunflower hair unbraided and tangled, Morena rushed down to drop beside Breen and grab her in a fierce hug. “We’re so happy to see you.” She beamed at Marco, blue eyes dancing. “And you brought a friend. Is this Marco then? My nan said you were a handsome one, and she’s never wrong.”
She grabbed his hand to shake. “That’s Finola McGill, my nan. I’m Morena.”
“I’m Harken Byrne, and you’re welcome here. A rough come through, was it? We’ll fix you up.”
“I’ve got it.” Keegan came in with a tankard.
Marco darted his gaze back and forth. Brothers, sure, the resemblance was apparent in the strong cheekbones, the shape of the mouth.
“Ale, is it?” Harken considered. “Well then, as long as you remembered—”
“It’s a basic potion, Harken. I can handle the basics as well as any.”
“Potion?” Marco started to push up, and his rich, dark skin went a little gray at the edges. “I say no to potions.”
“It’s a kind of medicine,” Breen assured him. “You’ll feel better for it.”
“Breen, maybe they look real good, these three, but they could be sucking you into some cult. Or—”
“Trust me.” She reached up to take the tankard from Keegan. “We’ve always trusted each other. I know it’s all hard to believe, or even begin to understand. But of anyone I know, it’s going to be easier for you. You already believe in multiverses.”
“Maybe you’re a pod-person Breen and not my real Breen.”
“Would a pod-person Breen know we sang a Gaga duet while you got a tattoo of an Irish harp inked in Galway? Here now, take a sip. Or would she have packed the pink frog mug you made for me when we were kids?”
“You packed that?” He took a sip when she held the tankard for him. “This messed up my head really good.”
“I know the feeling. Drink a little more.”
When he had, he scanned the three who stood watching him. “So … you’re all, like, witches.”
“Not me.” Smiling, Morena spread her silver-tipped violet wings. “I’m a faerie. Breen has a bit of Sidhe in her as well, but not enough for wings. She wished for them when we were little.”
Morena sat on the edge of the couch. “We were friends, you see, good, strong friends—the same as sisters—when we were littles. I know you’ve been a good, strong friend to her—the same as a brother—for a long time on the other side.”
Sitting back on her heels, Breen let Morena take the lead with a cheerful voice and understanding eyes.
“She missed you through the summer, but more, she felt the weight of not telling you, her dear friend, all of this. Now, as her good, strong friend, you’ll stand with her, and by her and for her. As we all will.”
“That was well done,” Harken said quietly, and laid a hand on Morena’s shoulder. “You’ll feel steadier after the potion, and hungry with it. Such a journey empties you out.”
“I’d say that part goes for the lot of us. We didn’t come through the Welcoming Tree,” Keegan told him. “I had to make a temporary portal, and to add to it, only formed it to bring two.”
“Ah well, you’ll be starving then. There’s enough stew left from supper to fill the holes. I’ll warm it up.”
“Is everybody really, really pretty here?” Marco wondered.
Morena gave him a light punch on the arm. “Aren’t you the one. Well, I’m no hand in the kitchen, but I’ll give Harken what I have with the food. You’ll be staying what’s left of the night, I take it. There’s room enough.”
“I wouldn’t want Marco to have to go through again so soon, so we couldn’t stay in the cottage tonight. And I’d rather not wake Nan and Sedric.” Breen looked at Keegan. “I’d appreciate staying for the night.”
“You’re welcome, of course. Coming around then, are you, Marco?”
“Yeah, actually. I feel good. Better than good. Thanks.” Then he frowned at the tankard as he sat fully up. “What’s in here?”
“What you needed. Finish that ale, brother, then Breen will bring you in for the meal. Harken’s more than a decent cook, so you won’t go hungry.”
When Keegan left them, Marco looked down at his ale. “You and me, girl, we need to have a real long talk.”
“I know it, and we will. And the flash drive I gave you, everything’s there. I wrote it as it happened, right back to meeting Morena and her hawk at Dromoland.”
Copyright © 2021 by Nora Roberts