Ava has a surprise kin visit, all because of Athanasios.
Kin & Family
Follow Your Heart
“Dad?!” I call out and leave Athanasios’ embrace to hug my father. From behind him, my brother appears and I laugh, grin and hug him. He’s eighteen now, legally a man and he is a good head above me in height. “Aonghus,” I breathe out my brother’s name. I hardly saw him grow up. “You’ve changed, little brother!”
“So have you, sister mine,” he hugs me closer again. “Help me leave home,” he whispers into my ear and I nod.
“Dad, I need to introduce you to,” I turn as I sense Athanasios behind me.
“I am Athanasios Orion Zephyr Draganos,” he says, extending his hand to my father. My father is not a shifter, nor is his bloodline as strong as the Callaghan line, however, he squares his shoulders back and looks Athanasios in the eyes.
“I’m Ava’s father, Archie. Let’s talk,” my father commands and as Athanasios glances at me, I can’t hide the smirk or pride I feel at my father’s protectiveness, even if it is useless against a dragon shifter.
We watch the men walk away and I turn to my brother when I know they’re out of direct ear-shot.
“What’s happening? Why do you need help?” I ask Aonghus, motioning him to the benches so we can sit down. He sits at the edge to allow for his long legs.
I Need Out
“Have you told dad you don’t want to be at home?” I ask, but I know there’s a solution to his situation. It will also mean getting Aunt Em’s approval.
“He knows I’m not happy. They’re divorcing, finally. Aunt Em said you found your fated mate. Dad didn’t believe her, but I think it’s ‘her’ that’s destroying the good man we know,” Aonghus turns to me, the hollowness of his eyes shows more than he’d like for me to see. “That’s why I insisted on coming here with him today. I had to see you myself,” he grins as he nudges me.
“I have… and he’s not from this country. He’s Greek,” and I motion to the direction dad and Athanasios walked. “He has to return home soon.” I pause, letting my brother’s mind catch up. “You know the blades have never left Callaghan lands, that the bloodline comes down mainly through the female line. You are an exception to that lore,” I remind my brother. His dark eyes light up with a speck of hope. The same eye colour I look at each morning, the same nose, mouth shape and hair colour is prevalent in all three of us, though our sister is somewhat lost to us and has been for too long. I wonder how she is and I reach out, magically, to feel a warm wave of love, affection and happiness.
We Are Family
“I felt that,” Aonghus shares with me. “That was Alison?” He asks and I nod with a huge smile on my face. I don’t need to share that she felt like she was close by. “I wish mum didn’t… Hadn’t…” he begins and I go to hug him. He’s broader than I am and I hug him as tightly as I can. His arms wrap around me, squeezing me as tightly as he dares.
“It wasnae your fault. You can’t blame yourself. Dad never has, Ali and I never did either. No one does, or ever did.”
“She’s right, brother,” and we turn to see my younger sister stand at the edge of the area, holding a baby.
“Ali,” I breathe out, hardly daring to believe my sister and brother are here. She’s a year younger than me but already, she is married, defying our father’s wishes. She married for love, moving away to the other side of the mountains. I’d already been shipped off to Aunt Em’s, so I wasn’t home for the fall-out between my siblings, father and stepmother. Something Alison blamed me for on the few occasions I returned home.
“Ava, Aonghus,” she smiles and steps forward. “I’m sorry, I should… Ach, heck!” She expels and we smile.
Once Kin, Always Kin
“Forgiven,” I interject. “You were hurting, carrying the weight I should have carried, or helped to carry. Though, Vicky should have made life easier,” I observe. “I’m sorry you two didn’t have an easy time of it,” I tell my kin, looking between them.
Alison nods. “I should have realised you didn’t want to be away from us. But, after mum died,” she looks at us both. Mum died post-childbirth, leaving Aognhus without the knowledge of the women Ali and I were barely old enough to remember. “I got angry. Maybe I didn’t give Vicky a chance, but now I have my own,” she looks at the child on her hip.
“How old?” I ask, wanting to hug the child that’s my niece.
“She’s nine months now, Eunice, honey, say hello to your Aunt Ava, and Uncle Aonghus,” and the child hides her face into her mother’s chest. I laugh, gently.
“She reminds me of you,” I nod to Alison, who blushes.
“So, dad’s divorcing her? About time,” Alison states and Aonghus nods.
“Aye, and it’s too fraught. I’ve finished my general studies and I’ve been putting in arena time to avoid going home,” and I glance at my brother.
“You bring yours?” I ask and he nods. I motion to the arena and he nods with a mischievous grin that reaches his eyes. Mentally, I call out to Aunt Em, to find her, my father and Athanasios close by. I tell her what the plan is, and I delay as she encourages the men she’s with to hurry up.
I pull the blades from their harness and warm my arms back up. Alison sits on the bench with her daughter in her lap, explaining to her daughter what’s happening.
“I cannae go easy on ye brother,” I warn Aonghus, who grins at me.
“Don’t want ye to! But I’ll hold back on hurting ye sis,” he teases.
“Did you watch the trial?” I ask him, warming my wrists up, and he nods. “Good. Dinnae fash about hurting me, Aunt Em can heal me, after Athanasios roasts ye,” I grin and before my kin can comment back, I let fly with an attack. He blocks it, the sound of metal clanging against metal bounces around the arena and my brother, true to his word, doesn’t hold back. The blades are sharp, not charged and we give each other a good few scratches. Each strike reverberates up my arms, into my shoulders and I ensure I do the same for him. I focus on my brother, his blades, my reply, my attack. He’s just as fast as I am, having been taught the blades at home, no doubt with dad.
The blades swish, narrowly missing each other, hissing as they’re swept through the air. We dance, showcasing each other’s ability, determination, stamina, skill and dedication. Neither one of us will stop until there’s a clear winner. Then, my brother loses focus for a split second and I strike, stopping my set of blades at the tip of his throat.
“Tsk, tsk, you lost it!” I declare and he drops his blades. I withdraw mine and loud applause greets us.
The New Callaghan?
My brother and I hug, then we turn to the audience to find half of the pack assembled in the arena, with more entering. Athanasios and my father are standing side by side, Aunt Em is sitting by Alison. Both groups have a look of admiration, respect and pride on their faces. Hugging my brother, I walk to my fated mate feeling both saddened and exhilarated by the session.
I turn to my father. “Aonghus tells me you’re finally divorcing Vicky,” I state and my father nods. I feel for him, he only ever wanted his kin by his side.
“Not afore time. Athanasios tells me he’s your fated mate and hails from Greece.” My father states. I nod by way of a simple reply.
“What do you want to do, Ava?” My father asks and I sigh.
“I have not had the chance to process everything or decide on things, yet. And I need to talk with Athanasios about things first,” I look up at the dragon shifter. The one I don’t want to let go of; the one I know I need to be with. My new kin.