The big Kindred laughed with him.

“That’s right, my son—this is a happy day for us both,” he told Jamie. Gently he cradled the baby to his broad chest and looked at the Old One. “Go on.”

“Thank you.” The Old One smiled and looked out into the crowd. “As part of their Joining ceremony, Skahr would like to formally adopt Emmeline’s son as his own. From now on, he will be as a natural born son to Skahr and he will raise the boy in our ways as the Goddess wills it.” He looked at Emmeline. “Is this well with you, my daughter?”

There was a breathless silence and for a moment it seemed as though Emmeline was having trouble answering. When she turned her face, Caroline could see the tear tracks running down her cheeks, shining in the firelight.

“Oh, Skahr,” she whispered, choking back a little sob.

“Delora, are you not pleased? Have I hurt you in some way?” Skahr asked anxiously.

She shook her head. “No, of course you haven’t hurt me. I…I’m crying because you’ve made me happy. So happy, Skahr! Of course I want you for Jamie’s father—I just didn’t expect a whole ceremony about it!”

“I wanted it to be a surprise.” He smiled at her. “A ceremony of true adoption is rare among our people—most men who take a wife who already had a child simply call them the son or daughter of their mate. But I wish to name Jamie as my natural son and raise him in the ways of our Clan.”

“I’d love that—and I love you!” Apparently Emmeline couldn’t hold herself back any longer. She reached for Skahr and hugged him, her eyes still streaming with happy tears.

The big Kindred wrapped a long arm around her and hugged her back. Jamie, who was still cradled in Skahr’s other muscular arm, looked up at his parents with wide eyes. Then suddenly he cooed loudly, causing the Clan members who were watching—as well as everyone in Caroline’s lab—to laugh.

“I think the young one likes his new father—and his new family,” the Old One said, smiling. “I pronounce this Joining and Adoption to be sealed in the sight of the Goddess. May she bless these three and let them walk in her light all of their days.”

There was clapping and cheers and the Clan got up to congratulate the new couple. Caroline blinked back tears of her own and from the corner of her eye, she saw that Richard’s eyes were suspiciously bright too.

“Honey, are you all right?” she murmured, squeezing his hand.

Richard squeezed back and sniffed deeply.

“You were right, darling,” he murmured to Caroline. “She is where she belongs. As much as I’m going to miss her, I’m happy for Emmeline—she has a wonderful future ahead of her and so does her son.”

“So do we,” Caroline pointed out to him. “And speaking of sons, I thought you wanted one of your own?”

Richard’s eyes gleamed. “As a matter of fact, I do.”

“Then what are we waiting for?” Caroline got off the couch and pulled him up with her. “Emmeline and Skahr aren’t the only ones celebrating tonight. Let’s go.”

As they left Liv and Sophie and Kat comparing notes and the Clan celebrating in the window of the PORTAL, Caroline reflected on how glad she was that Emmeline had found her happily ever after.

Truly the Goddess was good and she loved all of her children, especially her Brides of the Kindred.

The End

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