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She was in his room. He didn’t know why she’d knocked on his door or what she wanted, but Gavin hadn’t been able to tell Madame Braith to get lost. Now she was inside his room, sitting at his desk chair. Her hands were folded over her lap. She didn’t look happy.
“I know this is strange,” she said.
Gavin didn’t know what to do with himself. Should he sit on the bed? Should he stand? Pace? What should he do with his hands? He shoved them in his pockets and faced her. “Strange?”
“I just got the feeling you wouldn’t come to my office if I asked you to.”
Gavin didn’t say anything. She was probably right. He didn’t much like being around her anymore.
“It’s understandable that you’d be uncomfortable around me after what happened between us.”
Oh God. She wasn’t saying this, was she? He didn’t want to talk to her about any of this.
“You have to see, Gavin, that I don’t really know what came over me that night. I certainly have never wanted to…to be intimate with you and—”
“I thought we weren’t going to talk about this,” Gavin said.
“We weren’t,” she said. “I wasn’t going to bring it up again, but it seems that very strange things are happening to me, and I wanted you to know about them.”
Strange things? Gavin sat down on the bed. “What are you talking about?”
She took a deep breath. “Oh God.”
Gavin waited for a few minutes, but she didn’t say anything else. “What happened to us has something to do with that exercise we did that night. What did you do to us?”
She looked alarmed. “You think so?”
“Don’t play dumb.”
She shook her head. “No, you’re wrong. They aren’t related. They can’t be.”
“I saw all those dead spirits swoop into the room, and they crawled into our bodies. They’re possessing us. You called them.”
“I didn’t call any spirits. You’re wrong. I don’t know why they came, but it can’t have been that.”
Was she telling the truth? Was she really as clueless as they were? No. He couldn’t believe that. She’d done this to them. He knew it. “I don’t trust you.”
“I know. I’m sorry. I took advantage of you…somehow…and it must make you feel—”
“It wasn’t like that, and you know it. We weren’t ourselves. I didn’t even call you the right name. I called you something else.”
“Yeah. And I called you a bear or something.”
“We’re possessed by spirits. Where did they come from? Why did you bring them here?”
She sighed. “You don’t have to believe me if you don’t want, but I didn’t bring anything anywhere. It’s just as strange for me as it is for you. Hell, it’s stranger for me.”
Stranger? “Just tell me what you’re talking about.”
She laughed. “Right. What am I talking about? I’m just going to come out and say it.”
He wished she would. He wished she’d leave. Being around her was extremely complicated. On the one hand, she revolted him. Being this close to her made him vaguely sick to his stomach. On the other hand, part of him wanted to touch her. She seemed upset. Part of him wanted to comfort her. He despised the conflicting feelings. He felt uncomfortable in his own skin.
“Well, I don’t remember a lot of the details of what happened,” she said. “But I do know that we weren’t really very…careful when we…did what we did.”
“Careful?” What was she talking about?
“We didn’t take…precautions against, well, anything.”
Precautions? He wrinkled his brow in confusion.
“Protection,” she said finally. “We didn’t use—”
“Like a condom or something?” he said.
She seemed uncomfortable with his bluntness. She didn’t seem to want to acknowledge what had happened between them aloud. “That’s what I mean, yeah.”
“You have herpes or something?” If she did, he’d probably given them to Wyn last night. Since the two of them had been overtaken by spirits as well, they hadn’t used protection either.
She laughed again, a near hysterical sound. “No, Gavin, no.” She moved her arms away from her lap. “I’m pregnant.” She gestured at her stomach, which was definitely protruding.
“No,” said Gavin. “It’s too soon.” She couldn’t be that pregnant that fast. There was no way.
“You think I don’t know that? My body is growing and changing so quickly. It hurts.” She bit her lip, and her eyes welled up.
He couldn’t help it. He went to her. He put his hand on her shoulder.
She covered it with her own, closing her eyes. “I’m so scared.”
I will spend my life finding the power to keep us together. You and me and our baby. Always.
They pulled away as if the touch of the other burned.
“See?” said Gavin. “That. That’s what I’m talking about. We’re possessed.”
She stood up, shaking. “Maybe so, but what are we going to do about this?” She pointed at her swelling belly.
Gavin backed away. She was pregnant? Really? No. She couldn’t… “Why are you asking me?”
“It’s your child,” she said. “It’s our child.”
“No,” said Gavin, the sick feeling growing, bile rising in his throat.
“I didn’t want this to happen either.”
“No,” said Gavin.
“Gavin, please, you have to—”
He sprinted out of the room, knocking against the walls as he ran from the bedroom. As he ran, he wretched.
He almost didn’t make it in time. But just before it was inevitable, he flung open the door to the bathroom, slammed himself to his knees next to the toilet, and vomited everything in his stomach.
He heaved and heaved, throwing it all up. When there was nothing left, he felt exhausted. He sagged against the toilet, unable to move or think. Everything seemed to get a little blurry. The world swam before his eyes.
The air was cold and wet. He huddled in his tunic, staring out over the green hills. The sky was gray. A storm might be coming. He’d heard talk amongst the others that rain was on its way. His back to his tent, he wondered again if there was something wrong with him. His brother Kay was excited at the thought of a battle today. To him, it just seemed foolish and wasteful. He and his father’s men were fighting over a small piece of land with a run-down castle on it. Why did it matter so much? And was it worth the lives that would be spent on a wet and cold battlefield?
Kay would call him a coward. He had to admit to himself that part of his trepidation was in the thought that this, his first battle, could be his last.
A blonde head peered through the tent’s flap. “What are you doing out there?” Morgan asked in a throaty voice. “It’s cold. Come back inside and warm me up.”
He smiled down at her. If there was anything good about this situation, it was Morgan. She was beautiful. She liked him. At least, if he was going to die today, he wouldn’t die without ever being with a woman.
His father had tried to stop him last night, for reasons that he couldn’t fathom. There were women who followed the men around at battle. They nursed those with wounds. They shared the beds of the soldiers. Certainly, they were no one’s wives, and certainly he’d heard men call Morgan names like “whore” and “witch.” It wasn’t considered proprietary to sleep with them, perhaps, but it was common. He couldn’t understand why his father had tried to stop him.
“You don’t want to do this,” his father had said.
But the other men had roared with laughter, calling to Ector to let the boy alone, to let him have his fun. He was a man, now, wasn’t he? He’d spill blood tomorrow. He should be given the chance to spill his seed tonight.
It wasn’t like that, though, not for him. Morgan wasn’t a distraction, just a bit of fun before a battle. She was something more. After all, she had noble blood. She was the stepdaughter of the late high king, Uther Pendragon. Her mother had been his queen. He knew she was special. He’d told her she was. If he had his way, he’d have her with him always. Looking down at her now, he felt his chest swell with some kind of indescribable emotion. He reached down to stroke her face, to smooth her wild, blonde hair. “Beautiful Morgan,” he whispered.
“It’s early,” she said. “You must have an hour at least before battle. Come lie with me again.”
Something else swelled at the thought of having her. God, did he want her. He bent down and tasted her lips. She responded eagerly. “My bear,” she whispered, her lips moving against his.
But at that moment, Kay came scrambling up from the valley where the other army was encamped. His eyes were wide. He was out of breath. “They’re charging!” he screamed. “They’re attacking us unprepared.”
The camp came alive. Men threw themselves out of their tents, struggling into armor and shields, sprinting for their horses. He watched, but he didn’t move. He knew he needed to. This was it. The battle. His first battle. But he just looked deep into Morgan’s eyes. He didn’t want to leave her. He didn’t want to go.
Kay was dragging him to his feet. He shook him. “I can’t find my sword,” said Kay, panicked.
He reached into the tent, picked up his own. He offered it to Kay. “Take my sword.”
“What will you use?”
“I’ll find yours. I’ll join you in the battle and give it to you. You can give me mine back.”
Kay considered, but only for a minute. He took the sword. “Hurry, little brother. They’re coming fast.”
He nodded, swallowing.
In the chaos, men shouting and swearing, Morgan helped him search for Kay’s sword. It was nowhere to be found. They searched the tents, the rocks surrounding the smoking campfire, the path to the valley that Kay had come from, where the first sounds of battle were ringing up through the hills.
“Don’t go,” Morgan said. “They won’t miss you.”
“I have to,” he said. He knew he did. He may not want to, but it was expected of him. He was a man now. Morgan had made sure of that. That was when he saw it. He wasn’t sure exactly how. Perhaps it was a glint of light on its hilt. Maybe he heard something in the small grove where it stood. But there, amongst a group of trees, stood a sword, which had been driven into a rock.
Morgan saw it too. She was alarmed. “No,” she said. “No one can free that sword. No one ever has.”
He started for it, though. He needed a sword. Morgan followed him. “Don’t!” she said. “It’s hopeless. Only a descendent of Uther Pendragon can pull the sword out. It’s held fast by magics. Leave it. Leave it.”
He didn’t listen to her. He went to the sword. He wrapped his hands around its hilt. And it came free, with no effort at all. There was a ringing sound, as it scraped against the rock it had been trapped in.
Morgan cried out. “Oh God,” she said. “You are. I didn’t want to think you were. When they told me Ector fostered you, I didn’t believe it.”
He turned to her. “What?” he demanded. “Ector is my father.”
“No,” she said. “No, Arthur. Uther is. And his wife is my mother.”
He dropped the sword to his side. He didn’t understand what she was saying.
“Yes,” she said, and she was sobbing now. “You’re my half-brother.”
He closed his eyes, struggling to reconcile what she’d just said. “No,” he said. “That can’t be. I am the son of Ector. Kay is my brother. I am not…”
Morgan picked up her skirts and ran.
Arthur looked after her. Thought about following her. Then he turned, raised the sword above his head and ran for the battle, an anguished cry ripping from his throat.
Gavin lifted his head and gazed down into the toilet at the contents of his stomach. He knew who the spirits were now. He knew who he was now.
Outside the mansion, furious storm clouds gathered. They rolled in, blocking out the moon. Thunder rumbled across the sky. Lightning rent its jagged tears through the clouds.
Inside her room, Wyn looked up from her homework. “Arthur?” she whispered.
Across the hall, Reese was doing pushups on his bedroom floor. His arms gave out under him, and he fell on the floor. He rolled over onto his back and looked up at the ceiling, and he only knew one name. “Guinevere.”
In the den, Meaghan was trying to read a book, but having trouble concentrating since she could only think of Reese. Her Reese. Her beautiful, beautiful… “Lancelot.”
Thunder crashed outside. Fat rain drops began spewing from the heavens. Lightning lit up the sky like the Fourth of July. Wind rattled the windows of the mansion. Tree branches scraped against the walls.
In the kitchen, Luke was cleaning his new shotgun. He jumped when he heard the thunder but went back to his task.
Madame Braith stumbled out of Gavin’s room, muttering to herself. Suddenly, she stood up straight and shrieked, “May the wheel spin again! May the clock wind backwards! May the old world live again!” Her eyes rolled back in her head, and she scrabbled at the door frame, trying to hold herself up.
There was a gunshot.
And then everything was silent.
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