Standing before Kylie, fully manifested, was her father. Not just fully manifested but brighter than ever before. The sound of the falls grew louder. The hum of peaceful water.
"Daddy?" she whispered.
Hey, baby girl.
"Hey," she said.
He looked over her shoulder and frowned. Your mom's passed out.
Kylie glanced back. "She's had a hard night."
So have you. He motioned to the blood on her shirt.
"Just a flesh wound," she said, or was it more? She glanced down wondering if she'd only imagined it was small and now her father was here to take her with him.
Blood had soaked through her shirt, not a lot of blood, but enough that the peaceful feeling lessened and fear took its place. Oddly, it was not fear for herself, but fear that her death meant she'd let others down.
Or had her victory over John and Mario resolved that? And it was simply her time to go?
Glancing up, she stared at her father, her vision slightly blurred with tears. "Am I going to die? Are others going to suffer because-"
No, Kylie. He rushed to her. His hands holding her shoulders. His cold a comfort she welcomed. You have so much life to live, child. I'm not here to take you. I'm here to help you explain this to your mother.
She blinked. "Did the death angels give you more time on earth?"
Only a little more, but what they offered me was better. I have a place with them now.
It took Kylie a second to understand. "You're going to be a death angel?"
I will be after I help you this last time. But the beauty of it is that from now on, I will always be watching out for you. The wisdom you hear in your heart will be from me, daughter.
Tears filled her eyes again. She realized something he said about helping her explain this to her mom.
Kylie had been so intent on saving her mother, she hadn't even considered how she was going to explain it. "How am I ever going to get Mom to accept this?"
That is what I am here for. We will do it together.
Then Kylie recalled. "She could see you ... before she passed out."
Yes. She had always felt my presence, but I was granted enough energy so she may see me. He looked around, frowning at the dead bodies. But for now, call Burnett.
Kylie picked up the phone and redialed Burnett's number.
* * *"She is almost awake." Kylie's father appeared. Kylie, sitting in a chair beside the bed in the extra bedroom in John's house, looked up at her daddy.
Her mom had been out for almost four hours now.
Burnett and Holiday had shown up minutes after she'd called them. And he'd immediately called a crew to clean up the mess. The FRU were going to make it look like a code red, which was a car accident. How they would make being stabbed with swords appear to be a car accident, she didn't know.
She didn't want to know.
After a good long cry on Holiday's shoulder, Kylie explained what went down. She'd also told them about Daniel. Holiday was in awe that Kylie would have a personal connection with a death angel. Kylie had almost told her that she would have preferred to have had her dad with her in life, but this wasn't about choices and she reminded herself that she had much to be grateful for.
When she explained that Daniel was here to help her explain things to her mom, Burnett expressed concern that Kylie's mom couldn't handle the truth. Kylie was worried about the same thing. Yet when he suggested they bring Derek in to erase her mother's memory, Daniel had appeared and disagreed.
She needs to know the truth, Daniel had insisted. He hadn't given explanation; he didn't have to. Kylie had to trust her dad, even when her heart feared how her mom would take the news.
It was Holiday who pointed out that Kylie's mom wasn't just a normal human. Being a descendent of a Native American tribe had made her intuitive of supernatural powers.
So, with the help of Daniel, a future death angel, Kylie was about to tell her mother everything. And she wasn't looking forward to it.
Her mother opened her eyes. She focused on Kylie and then the words spilled from her mom's lips. "I had the worst dream." She sat up and looked around.
Kylie looked around as well, not knowing if Daniel was still visible. He wasn't. She supposed he'd show up when she needed him. But she felt pretty needy right now. Looking back at her mom, Kylie knew the moment when her mom realized they were at John's house. Her breath came short. "What are you doing here?"
Kylie took her mother's hand. "You were in trouble."
Her mom blinked, shook her head, and fell back against the pillows. "I'm still dreaming."
"No, Mom. It wasn't a dream."
"Yes, it was. It was awful, Kylie. At least parts of it were. You were fighting and-"
"It was awful. But it wasn't a dream." Kylie knew only one way to prove it. She pulled the collar of her shirt down and showed her mom the cut. It probably could have used some stitches, but Kylie had been too busy to worry about that. Of course, Holiday had seen the blood on Kylie's shirt and hadn't been happy until she searched the house for something to clean the wound.
Her mom's eyes got big as quarters.
"Are you ... okay?"
Okay was such a vague term, Kylie realized. It didn't come close to expressing what Kylie felt. But at the same time, words failed her.
She'd seen her mom nearly choked to death. Kylie had been forced to fight for their life with a glowing sword. She had watched her abductor kill his father. She'd been stabbed with a sword. Then she'd had to kill a man."Yeah," Kylie nodded. "I'm okay." She inhaled and tried to remember how she planned to tell her mom the truth.
"Of course you're okay," her mom blurted out. "It's just a dream."
Kylie gave her mom's hand another squeeze. Daniel had said he was going to try to go into her mom's dreams and help make all this easier. Had he been successful?
"Mom, do you remember telling me that you thought there was something magical about Daniel?"
Her mom nodded. "Yes, but-"
"Well, you were right. He was magical. And that made me magical."
Her mom gripped the bed sheets as something occurred to her. "I dreamed about him, too. Oh, goodness. This isn't making sense." She dropped back and covered her eyes with her hands.
"It will, but you're going to have to listen to me, Mom." Or maybe it wouldn't make sense. Hadn't it taken Kylie weeks to accept all this?
She paused. The expression to make sense was another vague term.
"Do you remember the stalker I thought I had? You know, when you sent me to see that shrink."
Her mom nodded, but weakly, almost as if she was about to pass out again. Then Kylie realized why that might be.
Her mom took a big, deep swallow of air and Kylie continued. "Remember I told you he was dressed in army clothes?"
Her mom nodded again. "I realize now that probably freaked you out because ... well, my dad died in the army? Isn't that part of what upset you?"
"He said you would tell me all this. What's happening, Kylie?"
"Just what Dad told you," Kylie said calmly. "I know it sounds crazy and I know what you've ... what we've been through here is hard, but you have to try to believe."
Her mom's eyes, focused over Kylie's shoulder, suddenly went large. The cold hit at that exact moment when her mom gasped and Kylie knew Daniel had appeared. And if her mom's expression was any indication, she could see him, too.
"Breathe, Mom." Kylie got tears in her eyes at the look of loss that passed on her mother's face as she gazed at the man she loved so much so long ago.
"The dream I had ... you..." Her mom's voice wavered.
I told you that you would see me. Daniel moved closer to the edge of the bed. Now, I want you to listen to our daughter. She's going to explain things to you better than I did. I have to go now, but remember what I said. You will find love again. Don't fight it.
Daniel leaned down and kissed her mom softly on her lips. You were the love of my life, he said.
Tears filled her mom's eyes again as Daniel pulled away. He glanced at Kylie and then placed a soft kiss on her cheek.
Daniel looked back at her mom and motioned to Kylie. We did good, didn't we?
Her mom nodded.
Her dad glanced back at Kylie. I'll always be here when you need me. He faded and Kylie wiped her own tears from her cheeks.
Her mom looked at Kylie. "I had a dream, he told me that he'd been watching over us the whole time."Kylie nodded. "He has been, Mom. I only started seeing him recently, but he knew things about my life."
Kylie crawled in bed with her mom and hugged her and they cried. Cried for someone who had died years ago, but who they would forever miss. After a few good tears had passed, Kylie told her mom about Shadow Falls being for magical teens, and about Mario and Roberto, and how John was actually Mario's son. In a gentle tone, she told her mom that they were magical, but Mario and John were actually the bad kind of magic.
Her mom gasped. "I just remembered. John killed someone, some man? Where are the cops?"
"That was Mario. And, well, Burnett took care of that."
Her mom gripped Kylie's hand. "Burnett from ... your school?"
Kylie nodded and noticed her mom had stopped breathing again. "Breathe, Mom."
She gasped and then asked, "Is he, this Burnett, magical, too?"
"Yeah." Kylie decided to wait and explain the whole different species thing to her mom later.
Vampires, werewolves, and such might freak her out. It certainly had Kylie, at least until she became best friends with one and fell in love with another.
Her mom closed her eyes as if trying to forget something, or maybe trying to remember. "Then there was a wolf and then you killed ... John. Oh, God, baby, you had to kill him. What are the police going to say?" She sat up some. "We'll tell them I did it. Do you hear me, I did it, not you."
Kylie's heart clutched at her mom's willingness to confess to murder for her. How, Kylie wondered, had she ever doubted her mom's love? "There's not going to be any police. Burnett works for an organization like the FBI. He's taking care of it for us. That means we can't ever talk about this to anyone."
Her mom nodded and then she leaned in. "But, Kylie, how is Burnett going to explain the bodies?
People will know I was dating John."
"Burnett is taking care of that, too."
She sank back into the pillows. "It's going to take a long time to believe this."
"I know," Kylie said. "It did me, too."
The following Monday morning, Labor Day, Kylie went down early and started breakfast for her and her mom. Kylie had stayed with her, and she had to remind her to breathe a lot. They slept in the same bed at night. Talked sometimes until after midnight.
Her mom asked a lot of questions. Some required difficult answers. Yup, she went into the whole species issue. Vampire and werewolf being the most difficult because of instinctual fear due to all the folklore surrounding them. Kylie told her mom she was a chameleon, and decided to wait until later to explain that meant she actually had a little of all of the species in her.
Over the weekend, Kylie had also spoken to Della and Miranda. Della was furious Kylie had disappeared on her watch again.
"It's beginning to look bad on my record," Della said.
Kylie promised to talk to Burnett and take all the blame.
Miranda reminded Kylie of her pinky promise to never leave, and Kylie assured her that she wascoming back. And today was the day. It also just so happened to be Burnett and Holiday's wedding.
She and her mom were going early to help set things up.
Lucas had called Kylie three times. He had been staying at his uncle's since the full moon. Supposedly, a funeral was a several-day ordeal for weres. And today, before the wedding, he had his meeting with the Council as scheduled. She'd offered to go with him, but he assured her that he needed to do this alone.
Kylie prayed they accepted him.
Not that it would change anything between them. As his grandmother had said, they were part of each other's quests-quests that had been ongoing since they met all those years ago. Some things were just meant to be.
Kylie hoped it was true what Daniel had said about her mom finding another love. Sadly, Kylie got the feeling it wouldn't be her stepdad. She'd actually spoken with Tom Galen this morning. They'd spent a good twenty minutes making plans for their next summer trip. Before they hung up, she told him she loved him, and she meant it. Even knowing she'd have Daniel close as her guardian death angel, her stepdad had his place in her heart and always would. She knew Daniel wouldn't want it any other way.
Kylie went to the refrigerator to pull out the eggs. The steam rose from the carton in an odd way.
Kylie recognized the spirit's voice.
They aren't sending me to hell.
Kylie looked back at the spirit sitting on her mom's countertop and smiled. She wore a nice gown with no slashes, no blood, and she'd left the sword behind, too. "You're going to heaven?"
No, well, not yet. They're giving me a second chance. You know, to do some work for them to make up for all my wrongdoings. Then, if I earn the right, I'll get to go there. I'll be with my boy. She beamed.
Kylie smiled at her. "I like second chances." She paused.
Do you know why they are giving me this second chance?
"Why?" Kylie asked.
Because I loved my son.
Kylie smiled and remembered Mario had called it a weakness, and yet it was that very thing that took him down.
"It's a powerful emotion," Kylie said. And she thought of all the love she had in her life. Her family.
Her friends. Lucas.
I have to go now, the spirit said, her image fading.
"It was nice knowing you," Kylie said.
You, too. The voice faded with the last of the cold. Kylie turned back to her breakfast-making when her mom walked into the kitchen.
"Who were you talking to just now?"
Kylie debated telling the truth and decided to hold off. "Phone's been ringing all morning."
"Who called?" she asked as she went for a cup of coffee.
"Dad, Lucas, and Sara," Kylie said.
Her mom's eyes widened. "Your dad?"
"Tom," Kylie clarified.Her mom nodded. "I guess ... your dad wouldn't use a phone to contact you."
Kylie grinned. "I don't think so."
Her mom poured her coffee and added a teaspoon of creamer into the cup.
"Is this Lucas guy ... is he ... important to you?"
Kylie nodded. "Very much so. I love him."
Her mom's eyes grew wide. "Are you two ... you know?"
Her mom still couldn't say sex. "Not yet," Kylie said. "But it's going to happen soon."
Her mom nodded. "You should probably see a doctor about getting..."
"On the pill," Kylie finished for her.
Her mom nodded.
"I will," Kylie said.
Her mom inhaled as if the conversation had been painful, then she asked, "Is Sara coming by before you head back?"
"No, she's in New Orleans at a family reunion. That's what she called to tell me. That and to tell me her aunts were smothering her with their boobs."
Her mom giggled and then her expression went flat. She just stood there, staring at her coffee, stirring it around and around. The spoon clinking against the side of the cup seemed to be the only noise in the room.
She finally looked up, concern tightening her brows. "When I took Sara to see you, she told me you healed her. You didn't really ... did you?"
Okay, Kylie couldn't keep everything from her mom. "Yeah." Kylie got busy making the French toast and pretended it wasn't a big deal.
"Is there anything else you can do?" her mom asked, caught her breath, and waited.
"Why don't I just tell you a little bit at a time?" Kylie said.
Her mom released a deep breath that sounded like relief. "Good idea."