“Is that an attempt at a compliment?” she asks, a little of her humor coming back.
I shrug a shoulder. “Just trying to keep you out of your head. What’s happened, what you learned and remembered… it’s a lot. You’re going to need time to process. But you can’t disappear into your head alone. I don’t think that’s good for you.”
She shivers and hugs the towel to herself.
“Let’s get you dressed.”
“Do you know where he is, though? Amadeo?”
I shake my head. If I did, I’d be there. And I’m worried. Because he’s alone and they can hurt us when we’re divided. I know that well enough.
“I want to wait for him.”
I nod, then walk her into the closet to get her dressed in a pair of leggings and a comfortable, oversized sweater. She leads the way downstairs and curls up on the sofa, facing the front door. I bring the whiskey and pour some for each of us, but neither of us drinks as we keep vigil.
Bastian and I sit side by side in the living room and wait. Neither of us touches the whiskey. He’s worried. I can see it. And he doesn’t want to let on.
It’s almost over. This nightmare at least finished. I don’t know that any of us feel better for it. I don’t. Does Bastian feel some satisfaction at the death of my brother? Because he is dead. I have no doubt of that. Do I for tearing out his eyes?
I look down at my hands, turning them over. I know why I did that after the dreams now. I was searching for blood. I couldn’t get it off at first even when I scrubbed the skin raw with bleach.
But Bastian has cleaned them well and with such care. The only evidence of the violence my hands did is in the broken, jagged fingernails.
Lucien paid those men to keep me prisoner. To hurt me. He hated me so much he delivered me to them. He hated my mother as much. But I think he also always wanted her. He blackmailed her into leaving her lover. Did he rape her? Or did he blackmail her into sleeping with him? Either way, it’s rape. She didn’t want him. But the result is Emma, and my mother adored Emma. She took so much care with her. She didn’t hate her as the product of that sort of coupling.
Then there is Dmitri Anders. He loved my mother. I could see that in his eyes. If he’d stayed with her, if he’d made her stay, would she be here today?
At that, my mind wanders to my father. Lucien accused him of my mother’s murder, but can I trust anything he says? They’re all dead now, so I may never know the truth. Was my father truly capable of violence like that? He hated Emma. I saw that for myself. I saw how ugly he could be to her.
“Get out of your head, Dandelion,” Bastian says, taking one of my hands and weaving his fingers with mine.
I look over at him. My dragon. One of two. Emma trusts him. I trust him. I trust them both. What will we do now that it’s over? Now that there truly is nothing more I can give them? Will they let us go? Do I want them to?
He squeezes that hand, and I look down at his lap, at our hands together. My right in his left. And I lay my head on his shoulder and fit myself into him.
Hours must pass because the sun has broken the horizon, turning the sky a deep orange before we hear the sound of tires crunching gravel. Keeping my hand in his, Bastian is on his feet, and I am on mine. My heart is in my stomach, and when the door opens, and Amadeo walks in looking like he’s walked through hell, I feel a release so overwhelming, so emotionally charged, I cry out as fresh warm tears of relief stream down my face. I exhale. I finally exhale. And when my knees buckle with the emotion of it all, I know I’m only upright because Bastian is holding me.
“You look like shit,” Bastian says, releasing me to hug his brother.
“Thanks,” Amadeo says, hugging him back. They pat each other on the back the way men do, and when they pull away, Amadeo’s eyes land on me. He glances at Bastian, and they share some silent exchange before Amadeo steps toward me. I think he must be able to hear my heartbeat because it’s pounding so hard it’s all I can hear.
“Dandelion,” he says. I missed his voice. The assurance of it. The strength of it.
I look up into his steel-colored eyes that I don’t find cold anymore. And I do something that surprises me maybe more than it surprises either of them. I pour myself into his arms and hug him hard while my body is wracked by a wave of relief and something else. Something I never thought I’d feel for these men. My captors. My dragons. My lovers.
In my periphery I see Bastian. He turns away as if unable to look at this display, but before he can walk away, I reach out to take his hand and draw him to me. And as we stand there, all three of us, Amadeo beaten, bruised, and splattered with what I know is Lucien’s blood, Bastian, disheveled from the events of the day, from looking after me so carefully that he neglected himself completely, and me, the daughter of their enemy. The sister. A Russo. And as we stand in our small circle, I know one thing more surely than I’ve ever known anything in my life. We were fated, the three of us, from a very young age and from before the events that took place in that small kitchen on that terrible day, to come to this place. This moment in time. We were always meant to end up right here. Together.
Amadeo told me once when you kill a man, their soul is bound to yours for eternity. I don’t believe that, though. I think you can only be bound to those you love. To those who your heart swells and drops for.
I reach up to first kiss Amadeo and then Bastian. I weave my fingers with theirs and lead them up the stairs to my bedroom. The three of us. And as they wipe the tears that fall while they make love to me and I too them, I know that we belong to each other. The three of us, we have always belonged to each other.