”Well, that went fantastically well, don you think? ” Eamon asked, with a sarcastic tone clear as day. They had just made it back to their car after being unceremoniously evicted from the McCoubries home.

Eoin was in a foul mood. Things had not gone to plan at all! He had so many other things he had wanted to say to Ashling. They all got lost in his head the very second he was confronted with talking to the girl he had been dreaming about meeting for years. And then, he touched her. The second his magic touched hers, he felt their bond finally snapping into place.

He had been attempting to follow the formally weak pulling of the connection for years to try to find her. Now, though, it was solid. He could feel it pulsing in his chest, pulling him back toward her. ”Yeah, well, I didn see you jumping in to help me out at all! ”

”I am not her anamchara, my friend. You are! It is your responsibility to tell her the truth. I am simply here for moral support, ” Eamon countered, standing by the passenger door with his arms leaning on the roof of the car.

Eoin groaned out a tired ”for **s sake. ” He was right, of course. His responsibility was to introduce Ashling into their world, answer her questions, and be her guide and protector, especially with the way their world was turning. ”I don know how everything went so sideways. What do I do now? ”

”I don know, brother, but you best figure something out. ” Eamon straightened, a somber look once again clouding his features. ”If she doesn call with questions of her own by tomorrow, you are going to have to reach out to her yourself. And this time, you will have to get her to believe you. If you don , not only will your father be on our asses, but Maire will as well. I don know about you, but that woman terrifies me! ”

Shuddering at the thought, Eamon got into the car. Eoin remained a moment longer, turning to look back across the street to the McCoubries home. He would have to get Ashling to listen long enough to get everything out into the open and explain everything. He had no idea how he was going to do that, but it would have to be soon. They were running out of time.

________________________

After the whole debacle that happened downstairs, Ashling had thrown herself onto her bed and had not moved from beneath the covers. While just that morning, she had been doing the same thing seeking warmth, this time, she was seeking comfort.

Her mind was a jumbled mess flitting back and forth from ”how dare he ” to ”but what if he was telling the truth ” and back again. It felt ridiculous that she was even considering that Eoin was truthful at all. Druids? Really?

Druids did not exist. Historically, there was a group called the druids back before the Romans came to Britain and then died out from persecution with the introduction of Christianity to the region. They were not magical beings! They were tribe elders, wise men or women, healers, teachers, and religious leaders.

Frustrated, Ashling turned over again, aggressively adjusting her pillow until she was happy with it. Despite what her history schooling told her, she had felt the spark when Eoin touched her hand. It wasn just a static spark like you get if you run your feet across the carpet too many times and then touch someone (a favorite prank Seamus used to play). Instead, it was a deep jolt of energy. It almost felt like something in her was connecting to something in him, and she had no idea how to explain it and even less of an idea of what it meant.

She was pulled from her storm cloud of conflicting feelings when a knock sounded on her bedroom door. Before she could ask who was there, it opened, and a jumble of red curls and flailing limbs practically fell into the room. Of course, it was Seamus.

”Hi, ” was all he said as he came to sit next to her balled-up form.

”Hi, ” she muttered back.

”How
e you feeling? ”

Sighing, she decided to ignore that question altogether and ask one of her own instead. ”Where are Dec and Cian? ”

”Cian is in the kitchen stress baking. Brownies, I believe. Dec has gone out for a run to blow off some steam. ” Cian had a habit of baking when he was anxious or upset about something. When he had been fired from his last job, they had almost drowned in scones and muffins for weeks. She had known that bringing up their parents would be difficult for all of them, but she didn think it would upset him this badly.

She was struck with a sudden jolt of regret. Why had she told them anything about the stranger coming into her work? She knew how ludicrous his claim to know anything about her family more than likely was. But she had held a tiny flicker of hope that maybe they would be able to learn something about their parents shadowy past. Tears pricked at her eyes.

”Im so sorry, Seamus. This is all my fault. ” She sniffed, trying rather unsuccessfully to blink back the tears that were threatening.

”Ash, this was not your fault, ” her brother turned more fully to face her the best he could, placing his hand on her shoulder. ”You didn know this would be the outcome. You thought they might genuinely know something, so of course, you told us. We would have been more upset if you hadn . ” He cleared his throat before continuing. ”Talking about Mum and Dad is always a little difficult. It is just worse this time because someone decided that our grief would make for a good laugh. I mean, druids? Really? What a load of shit! ”

”You don believe them at all, then? ” Ashling blinked a few times and took a shaky breath. She wasn sure if she should even broach the topic of what she had felt with her brother, but with Seamus only being a year older than her, they had always been close. Maybe he would understand where she was coming from.

”Of course not, ” Seamus scoffed, his face scrunching up with irritation before smoothing out into a more unreadable expression. He looked more directly toward his sister. ”You don , do you? ”

”Well, no. But… ”

”But… ” he prompted.

”I felt something when that guy, Eoin, took my hand, ” Ashling began slowly.

”Felt something like his sweaty palms? ” Ash laughed softly at that. Her brother liked to make jokes to lighten the mood during serious conversations that made him uncomfortable.

”No, like a shock. Or jolt might be a better word. Like something in me waking up. ”

”Something in you? ” Seamus looked concerned now. ”Don tell me you are buying into this magic stuff? ”

”No! No! I mean, I don think so. ” She trailed off towards the end of her sentence, feeling silly now for even bringing it up.+

”Ash, we already have one airhead in the family who is currently trying to drown us all in brownies. We don need another one. ” Ashling was shocked by her brothers words. What a mean thing to say, not just about her but about Cian as well.

”Seamus, how can you say that? ” Suddenly angry, she sat up and glared at her brother, who had risen from his seat, and walked back towards her door.

”Its the truth, Ash, ” he bit out, his anger apparent. ”The whole business about magic is a bunch of garbage. The sooner you get that idea out of your head, the better off we will all be. That Eoin guy is gone, along with his friend, and if we are lucky, we will never see him again. ” With those words, he turned on his heel and strode out, closing the door with a hard slam.

Her anger left her suddenly, leaving her exhausted, tears threatening to fall once again. She knew her brother was right. Of course, he was right. But then why did the thought of never seeing Eoin again bother her so much? She felt so torn, her emotions raging against one another, question after question tumbling through her mind. She needed answers as desperately as she needed to breathe. It was apparent her brothers were not going to help her find those answers.

A course of action took form in her mind. It was insane; she knew it was, but what other choice did she have? Raising from her bed, she quietly opened her door and tip-toed down the hallway towards the last room before the stairs leading to the main floor, creeping past Seamus lit-up bedroom.

Silently opening the door to not alert Seamus of what she was doing, she crept inside. An ornate desk was pushed underneath a large window facing the backyard. Declan was always obsessively neat, so it wasn difficult for her to quickly locate the little square of cardstock in his top desk drawer. He would be so livid if he knew what she was doing.

After making sure everything was exactly as her brother had left it, she turned and left the room, closing the door as silently as she had opened it. She made her way back to her room, again giving Seamus door a wide berth. Once she had safely closed her door and was home free, she sat on her bed looking down at the card, the little black letters stark against the white background. She picked up her phone and dialed the number. She was going to get her answers.

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