(an extra epilogue to Mom's Last Stand, told from Melissa's point of view)
I tried not to freak out as the satyr—a half man, half goat fae—picked me up and slung me over his shoulder. For a guy not much taller than me, he easily carted me deeper into the dense woods.
This was all going according to plan.
Normally, I’m the humble office manager for Stronghold, a fae-based firm that works closely with the US military. Under a peace treaty spearheaded by Queen Mab, we’re often tasked with going after fae who harass unsuspecting humans. I don’t normally get involved with those assignments, but this particular satyr tried to kidnap a local woman with his entrancing magic. Her husband had fortunately rescued her before she could get dragged off into the forest, but with a satyr’s lustful appetite, he was bound to try again and soon.
Someone had to serve as bait to draw the offender out, and I’d been the only female available at the time.
My boss, Gabriel Alston, had been dead set against it at first. His steel gray eyes had flashed with explosive anger when he told me, “You are absolutely not coming with me.”
He might have been intimidating in his massive gargoyle form, but my stubbornness matched his rocky persona any day. “Then how are you going to find the satyr?” I asked with exasperation.
“I don’t know,” he admitted. “But I’ll figure something out.”
I crossed my arms over my chest. “You’ll just let other women get hurt while you bumble around looking for a satyr who can easily slip past you?”
He wings were spread out so wide that they bumped against either side of the office hallway, where I’d cornered him. “I can’t let you.”
His anger melted into something more vulnerable. “Because I don’t want anything to happen to you.”
His tone took some of the bluster out of my own frustration. Gabriel and I had been through a lot while we’d saved my daughter from an ancient fae prophecy. We’d even made love once while on the run from her would-be captors. But since resolving that issue and returning home, we’d walked eggshells around each other. Stronghold was swamped, tackling issues that had been put off in our absence. I told myself we were too busy to address our mutual attraction.
In the back of my mind, I worried that with the immediate danger gone, Gabriel was having second thoughts about our relationship.
Even now, as he shuffled on his massive heels, I had to admit that gargoyles had fierce protective instincts. He would have been worried about any employee going on a dangerous mission, especially me, who didn’t have any formal training.
But I had something up my sleeve that most office managers didn’t have. “The satyr can’t entrance me because of my void magic. I’ll be fine.”
“What happens if he tries to harm you physically?” Gabriel asked.
“He won’t. I’ll take a whistle with me. You can fly overhead until you hear it, then come rescue me.” I paused to narrow my eyes at him. “Unless you don’t think you can fly fast enough.”
“It’s not my flight speed I’m worried about,” he ground out. “It’s you.”
“And I’ll never forgive myself it that satyr hurts someone else if I could have stopped it.”
And that’s how, begrudgingly, Gabriel had flown me halfway across the state toward the Oregon coast, on the outskirts of the Siuslaw National Forest where the satyr had last been spotted. Gabriel and I had assumed it could take hours to lure him out, but it had only been about fifteen minutes since Gabriel had deposited me on a remote hiking trail and taken back to the skies. I hadn’t seen him since, but I knew he was up there, somewhere, waiting.
Now I had to give the signal. Reaching into my pocket, a difficult task given that it was smashed against my captive’s shoulder. I managed to wrangle it out.
The satyr noticed the glint of silver in my hands. “What’s that?”
He stopped so suddenly, I didn’t have time to brace myself. My body lurched with his, and in horror, I dropped the whistle to the ground.
The satyr craned his neck to examine it near his hooved feet. “A whistle?”
I struggled in his firm grasp. “Let me have it.”
“I don’t think so.” He kicked it away with a solid thwack. It shot deep into a blackberry bush, where the thorns would prevent me from ever finding it.
So much for my brilliant plan. I had to gain Gabriel’s attention, so I took in a deep breath to scream.
“Help! He’s over here! Gabri—”
My momentum shifted and before I knew what had happened, the satyr flung me like a pillow onto the ground. I landed hard on my back, the wind forced out of my lungs. Pain radiated across my body as I gasped for breath.
The satyr was on top of me, hand over my mouth. He leaned over me with malice. I got a good look at his beady little eyes for the first time, and the empty depths I saw scared me.
“Be still, little one,” he said in a horrifying soothing voice, like a mother might comfort a crying child. “Don’t fight me.”
His entrancing magic washed over me but I pushed it aside, struggling against his body weight on mine.
His face twisted in confusion. “How are you resisting me?”
I had to get him off of me. Using a self-defense technique I’d learned from my knightly mother, I thrust my hips upward. It knocked him enough off balance that I was able to push him off me and scramble backward.
But the satyr was surprisingly fast, using his spindly legs to thrust forward in a tackle. He landed so hard on my chest that I choked on empty air.
As I sputtered and tried to regain my wits, he had the gall to caress the side of my cheek. “Don’t worry. You’ll enjoy being with me, love. I promise.”
A roar cut through the air above us. The satyr only had a split second to lift his head to the noise when suddenly his weight came off me.
“She’s not your love,” a menacing voice growled. Gabriel towered above me, the satyr wriggling like a worm in his claws.
“G-Ga…” I tried to say his name but didn’t have enough air. I coughed.
Distracted, Gabriel turned to me. “Are you all right?” he asked, his voice ending on a tremble.
Before I could respond, the satyr managed to land a weak kick at Gabriel’s bicep. “She’s mine!” he howled.
Gabriel’s expression became so dark, it would have taken my breath away if I’d had any. “She doesn’t belong to anyone,” he said in a deadly whisper. With his free hand, he punched the satyr in the chest with his stone fist.
The fae’s eyes bulged. He sputtered, getting a taste of his own medicine.
“Melissa?” Gabriel asked, his attention once again on me. “Speak to me.” He tossed the goat man as if he were no more than a discarded bit of paper, straight into the same blackberry bushes with my whistle.
“I’m…okay…” I managed as I sat up.
Gabriel had his strong arms around me in an instant. “I heard your screams. It took me a few minutes to locate you, and when I saw the bastard on top of you…” he couldn’t finish his sentence.
I leaned into him, burying my head into his shoulder despite its hard texture. I could not deny my desire to get as close to him as possible. “I’m fine,” I said slowly as I breathed in mouthfuls of sweet air. “Except you got one thing wrong.”
He laid his chin on top of my head. “What’s that?”
“I do belong to someone…you.” As I spoke the words, I knew them to be true.
Seconds went by. Gabriel didn’t reply, although his arms around me began to shake.
The pounding blood in my veins chilled. Had I made a mistake?
“I’m sorry,” I blurted out. “I was just overcome with emotion. I shouldn’t have—”
He released me so we could stare at each other, nose to nose. I got lost in his steel gray eyes.
“And I belong to you,” he said.
He morphed instantly into his human form, his lips drawing toward mine. As he kissed me, long and deep, he removed any doubt that had been lingering in my heart. I knew then that our relationship wasn’t just the product of circumstance.
Gabriel Alston and I were officially together for the long haul.
Thank you for reading this bonus epilogue to my Paranormal Women's Fiction series, Magical Midlife Mom!