MORE ABOUT THIS BOOK
On the farm where she’d been born, Fallon Swift learned how to plant and grow and harvest, to respect and use the land. She learned how to move through fields and forests, silent as a shadow, to hunt and fish. To respect the game, and take no more than needed, to take none at all for sport.
She learned to prepare food grown or taken from the land in her mother’s kitchen or over a campfire.
She learned food was more than eggs fresh from the henhouse or a well-grilled trout. Food meant survival.
She learned to sew—though she disliked the time spent sitting still plying a needle. She learned how to tan leather, far from her favorite lesson, and could, if given no choice, spin yarn. Clothes, she learned, weren’t simply something to wear. They protected the body, like a weapon.
She respected weapons, and had learned from a young age how to clean a gun, sharpen a knife, string a bow.
She learned how to build, with hammer and saw, to keep the fences in repair, to make repairs on the old farmhouse she loved as much as the woods.
A strong fence, a sound wall, a roof that held back the rain offered more than a happy home. They, too, meant survival.
And, though she often simply knew, she learned magicks. How to light the flame with a breath, how to cast a circle, how to heal a small wound with the light inside her, how to look, and how to see.
She learned, though she often simply knew, magick was more than a gift to be treasured, a craft to be honed, a weapon to be used with great care.
It was, and would be, survival.
Even with food, with shelter, with clothing and weapons, even with magicks, not all had survived. Not all would in the times to come.
She learned of a world that had existed before her birth. A world crowded with people, a world of huge cities with towering buildings where people had lived and worked. In that world people had traveled routinely by air and sea and road and track. Some had even traveled into space, and to the moon that hung in the sky.
Her mother had lived in a great city, in the City of New York. Fallon knew from the stories told, from the books she devoured, it had been a place full of people and noise and light and dark.
A wonder of a place to her, one she vowed to see someday.
She imagined it often at night when she lay awake watching the faeries dance outside her window.
There had been war in that world, and bigotry and cruelty, just as there was now. She knew of the wars that had been from the books, from the stories. And she knew of the wars that were still raging from visitors who stopped at the farm.
Her father had been a soldier once. He had taught her to fight—with her hands, her feet, her mind. She learned how to read maps and how to make them, and imagined following them one day on the journeys she knew, had always known, she would take.
She had no attachment, as her parents did, to the world that had been before the Doom had killed so many. Billions, it was said. Many remembered when those great cities fell to the burning, the mad things, the dark magicks. The cruelty and greed of men still swam in the minds and the blood of those who’d lived through it.
When she caught glimpses of tomorrows, she knew there would be more burning, more blood, more death. And she would be part of it. So she often lay awake at night, cuddling her teddy bear, a gift from a man she’d yet to meet.
If those tomorrows weighed too heavy, she sometimes slipped out of the house while her parents and siblings slept, to sit outside while the little faeries flickered like fireflies. Where she could smell the earth, the crops, the animals.
Most often she slept the quiet and innocent sleep of a child with loving parents and three annoying little brothers, a healthy child with a questing mind and an active body.
Sometimes she dreamed of her sire, the man her mother had lived with in New York, the man she’d loved. The man, Fallon knew, who had died so she would live.
He’d been a writer, a leader, a great hero. She bore his name, just as she bore the name of the man who brought her into the world, who raised her, who taught her. Fallon for Max Fallon, her sire. Swift for Simon Swift, her father.
Two names, Fallon thought, equally important. Just as her mother wore two rings, one from each man she’d loved.
And though she loved her father as deeply and truly as any child could love, she wondered about the man who’d given her the color of her eyes and hair who, along with her mother, had passed powers to her with their mating.
She read his books—all books were gifts—and studied the photo of him on the back of them.
Once, when she was only six, she’d curled up in the library with one of Max Fallon’s books. Though she couldn’t understand all the words, she liked that it was about a wizard, one who used magicks and brains to fight against evil forces.
When her father came in, a stab of guilt had her trying to hide the book. Her dad had no magicks, but he had a lot of brains.
He’d plucked her and the book up, then sat to hold her on his lap. She loved how he smelled of the farm—the earth, the animals, the growing things.
Sometimes she wished she had eyes like his that changed from sort of green to sort of gold or just mixed those colors together. When she wished it, she felt guilty about Max.
“It’s a good book.”
“You read it?”
“Yeah. My mom really liked to read. It’s why she and my dad made this room for books. You don’t have to hide anything from me, baby. Not anything.”
“Because you’re my daddy.” She turned into him, pressed her face to his heart. Beat, beat, beat. “You’re my daddy.”
“I’m your daddy. But I wouldn’t have gotten the chance to be if it wasn’t for Max Fallon.” He turned the book over so they could both look at the picture of the dark, handsome man with strong gray eyes. “I wouldn’t have my most beautiful girl if he hadn’t loved your mom, and she hadn’t loved him. If they hadn’t made you. If he hadn’t loved her and you enough, been brave enough, to give his life to protect you. I’m real grateful to him, Fallon. I owe him everything.”
“Mama loves you, Daddy.”
“Yeah, she does. I’m a lucky guy. She loves me, and she loves you, and Colin and Travis.”
“And the new baby that’s coming.”
“It’s not a girl.” This on a huge, sorrowful sigh.
“Is that so?”
Copyright © 2018 by Nora Roberts