Rae had changed into a pair of shorts and a tank top before having Nin help her make brunch for everyone. Rick had made a hasty exit moments before Kat came into the kitchen. Her eyelids looked plump and swollen as if Kat had been crying. Rae tried to get her attention, but she’d been in her own world. They were eating eggs, bacon, and toast when the front door slammed, and familiar heavy footsteps sounded down the hall. Caprice breezed into the kitchen with a broad smile, a box, and a bag from the Wine and Spirits store. Xavi seemed to follow her movements with undivided attention.
“I thought you were heading back to Miami?” Rae shot Caprice a concerned glance.
“There was a change of plans. I’ll be here a little longer.” Caprice smiled when Xavi kissed her cheek. “It smells good. I hope I’m not too late!” She held up a box, handing it to her sister. “Be careful because it’s breakable.”
“Nope, we’ve still got some food.” Rae grabbed the box, and she pulled out a set of tall glasses. It was a thoughtful gift. Rae lost a lot of things in the divorce and mentioned buying new stemware a few times but never managed to get around to it. Her sister always paid attention.
“I brought mimosas!” Caprice grinned, pulling orange juice and champagne from the bag and setting them on the counter. “Everyone, this is a special occasion, and I have some exciting news to share with you!”
“Special occasion?” Rae lined up the glasses and filled them halfway with juice. Then she handed Nin a corkscrew. “Nin, would you open this for me?”
“Oh, I don’t need that.” Nin’s hand was glowing slightly. The air around him was hot, like a steam room. With a gentle flick, the cork pulled free of its prison, only to hang suspended in the ambient jelly of telekinetic energy before Nin grabbed it midair.
Caprice’s lips parted slightly. “That’s some party trick.”
“Yay!” Nin cheered. He walked to the counter and poured them all a glass of bubbles.
“Thanks, Caprice.” Rae passed her one of the glasses. “But I still don’t know what we’re celebrating.”
“You know you’re all my favorite people.” Caprice winked.
Rae groaned. “Okay, spill it. Tell me already! Why are we celebrating?”
“I’m getting married!” Caprice held up her hand, waving it to show off the large rock on her left ring finger.
Xavi frowned. “Married?”
It took a moment for the words to register, but then Rae was on her feet, hugging her sister. “Congratulations! When?”
“In four weeks in Melbourne, Australia! That’s where my boyfriend’s family is from originally. They live in Florida, but his grandparents can’t make the trip. He wants the wedding in Australia so they can be there for it.”
Rae wanted to be happy for her sister, but she couldn’t help thinking this was too soon. Who was she to talk? She’d fallen for an alien prince almost at first sight. “Tell me more.”
Caprice blushed, clutching the engagement ring on her finger. “Eric brought me over to his parent’s home to meet them. His parents were upset at first, but we made them see how much we loved each other. They were overjoyed when he proposed! When I met Eric, he completely swept me off my feet. How could I possibly say no?”
“Married?” Xavi shook his head and turned toward Rae. “I thought you said your women didn’t have mating rituals or a breeding season.”
Caprice glanced at him with a bemused expression. “Breeding season? I’m not pregnant. It’s not like that, Xavi! It’s not a breeding ritual or whatever. We’re doing it because we want to be together!”
Rae took a long sip of her mimosa and watched her sister with narrowed eyes. “This is what you really want?”
“Uh-huh.” Caprice beamed.
“Caprice, you’re my sister. I want you to be happy, but I want to meet him first. Bring him by the house before I leave.”
“Leave? Where are you going?” Caprice’s voice dipped, her lip quivering slightly.
The expression on her sister’s face reminded Rae of when Caprice was little.
“Wait! You have not met this potential mate for your sister to pair bond with, but you’re the matriarch of this family, if I understand correctly. It seems highly improper.” Xavi’s face was a rippling glow, shifting as if a muscle were spasming beneath his left eye. A silver strand of hair fell over his forehead, and he pushed it away with a clawed finger.
Rae ignored Xavi. “I really want to meet him.”
“Oh, you’ll love him!” Caprice picked up her glass and raised it in the air. “To love.”
“To love,” everyone murmured except for Xavi, who scowled, but they all sounded a little down at Caprice’s happy news.
“Well, this is my breeding season. And your plans do not align with mine.” A coldness emanated from Xavi, a hard-frozen wasteland of primordial and ancient energy buried underneath.
Rae’s breath caught in her throat, but her sister didn’t notice.
“I’m a human, Xavi! Humans fall in love, marry, have kids, and grow old together.” Caprice smiled at him.
Xavi poured the mimosa down his throat and frowned into the empty glass.
“This is all very touching. I’m going to go work on the ship.” Ferrix exited through the patio doors and made his way around the pool.
Rae watched him tap a screen on the device around his wrist. The ship uncloaked and reappeared in the backyard, surrounded by the wrecked landscaping Ruth had complained about earlier. Rae didn’t know why telling Ruth off made her smile so damn much.
“You should bring Nin to the wedding. He’s lovely! I bet he’d look so handsome in a tux.” Caprice sipped her drink.
Rae reached over and squeezed Nin’s hand. “Actually, I’m not sure if that’s going to be possible. I’m returning to Erion with Nin once they fix the ship.”
“WHAT?” Her mouth formed a perfect ‘O.’
“I’m sorry.” Rae couldn’t help feeling guilty, but she knew Caprice wouldn’t understand. “I can’t help it. I want to do this. I want to go with him.”
Caprice searched her eyes. “But we’re family, and you said we would always stay together. You and me against the world for as long as I can remember.”
Their parents had died in an accident. Black ice on Pennsylvania roads was nothing to mess around with. The car was chunks of twisted metal wrapped around a tree. She remembered it like it was yesterday. Winter was bleak, the world was dead, and all she could do was grieve. Aunt Marina had raised them, but Caprice had been so young when they died Rae wondered if she remembered them. But Nin was her true mate, and it was time for her to find her place in the universe. Rae never felt as if she belonged anywhere after her parents’ death. Being with Nin was the promise of a new beginning and having a family of her own.
Rae nodded. “It’s complicated. But I’ll visit you when I can. I love you, and you’re my sister. And we’re going to have a hell of a time in Florida when we visit you. Right?”
“It’s dangerous.” Caprice’s voice dropped to a whisper. “It’s not like you’re moving to the city. You’re talking about another planet!”
“Excuse me, ladies. I’m going to see if Ferrix needs a hand with the ship. Xavi, you’re coming with me.” Nin planted a quick kiss on his mate’s cheek. He ducked away from the uncomfortable conversation and dragged Xavi out the door.
Rae smiled, grateful that he’d given her space with her sister, before returning her gaze to Caprice. “I know, but this is what I want, and I also want to spend as much time with you as I can before I leave.”
Caprice shook her head. “I don’t understand how you can be so calm about this. Is it because you’re in love with him? Is that it?”
Rae nodded.”Yes. I’m in love with him. I pair bonded with him, and we are linked forever..”
Caprice’s pink lips parted. “So you’re going to abandon me.”
Rae sighed. “Caprice, I’m not abandoning you. I’ll visit. Anything I can do to help you, I’ll do it. I promise. I want you to be happy for me. I didn’t say a word about you marrying Eric because you’re both adults.”
Caprice stared out the patio doors toward the spaceship. Rae could see out to the ship like a glossy fish that cut a silver trail through her lawn, shimmering with evening dew and reflecting light from her pool.
“I want you to be happy for me.” Caprice paused. “Not just for this, but I want you to be happy with him. I hated seeing you in pain after your divorce. Is this really what you want?”
“I love him, and I need to be with him. It hurts me to even think about leaving you, but I must go with him to Erion.”
Rae pulled Caprice into a hug, and they held on to each other, both crying. She always had to be the rock for everyone else, but this time she would live her life the way she wanted. It was a first for her, and it felt good.