“That we do.”
Nothing could stop the fresh tears that fell from my eyes when I knocked on the door of Calvin’s childhood home. His family would be coming to Bellgard for the official burial, but I wanted to make a trip to Rawlins first. Mom had delivered the news since I’d been too distraught, and I was riddled with even more guilt for my failure to face them myself. I wasn’t there to apologize, though.
Mrs. Boyd took a step back when she answered the door. “Charlotte?”
“Hello, Mrs. Boyd. I’m sorry to barge in on you like this, but…” I started crying, and so did she. We hugged for a moment.
Mr. Boyd appeared behind his wife. “What brings you here?”
I composed myself. “Is Nathaniel home?”
“Nathaniel? Sure. I can get him for you.”
Liam, James, and I waited outside. It reminded me of the time I’d waited outside with Calvin’s younger siblings. It felt like a lifetime ago that he’d brought me home to meet his family. Calvin was so full of hope, so full of dreams. I choked back sobs, and James gave me a hug. The gesture was such a non-James-like action that it worked. I stopped crying before the young teen with a startling resemblance to his older brother walked down the front steps. Liam kept his distance, and I appreciated it. As much as I needed his touch, throwing our love in the Boyds’ faces was out of the question.
Nathanial bowed his head. “You wished to see me, my Essence?”
I looked past him at Mr. Boyd. “Would it be possible to run this farm without Nathaniel?”
“Without Nathaniel?” he sputtered. “I have my youngest children still, but why would you ask such a question?”
“Calvin was the bravest, strongest man I’ve ever met. I loved him with all of my heart, and he made the ultimate sacrifice to save me and his people. I am sure that much of his strength and devotion comes from this family. Because of that, I wish to utter an edict.” I reached inside myself the way I now knew I could. I would be eternally grateful to the Source for all of the new knowledge. I had gone from the most uneducated Essence in history to the most informed. I would use the gifts for good. “From this day forward, there will be a Boyd on every Guard. Nathaniel, would you be the Boyd on mine?”
His eyes widened. “Really? A Guardian? Me?”
Liam pulled out Calvin’s sword. “Yes. I would be honored to have you on the Guard.”
“Of course. Of course I will.” Nathaniel turned to his parents. Both had tears in their eyes.
Liam nodded solemnly. “Then take this sword and take your place.”
Nathaniel took the sword from Liam, and it slowly turned green, first lighter then a much brighter shade.
“You may take a few days to prepare, but then I expect you in Bellgard for training.” It was strange hearing Liam so official, but he was taking his job seriously.
“I will be there in two days. I am honored to serve as your Guardian. I will protect you with my life.” He bowed again.
“I am honored to have you. I will feel safer because of it.”
After a tearful goodbye to the Boyds and a promise that I would visit again, we left. Bringing Nathaniel onto my Guard brought me a feeling of security and happiness I hadn’t really expected, probably because I knew it was exactly what Calvin would have wanted.
Two Months Later
I stood in the garden, holding hands with the boy I’d loved my entire life. I would never forget Calvin or the love we had shared, but I knew that Liam’s words had been true that day. We would be happy.
Liam loved me in two different but equally strong ways. He loved me as his Essence, the way a Gerard always would. But he also loved me as Charlotte. He loved me as the little girl who used to chase him around. He loved me as the shy girl who had returned home after years away. He loved me as the girl who had to overcome so many obstacles just to find her inner strength. He loved me for me. And I loved him the same way. I loved him as my Gerard, but I loved him as both the boy and the man who had always been such an important part of my life.
He leaned over and kissed me. The intensity hadn’t lessened, and if anything, it got better each time. He wrapped his arms around me, and I melted into him. We broke the kiss and just looked at each other for a moment before he took my hand again.
We walked through the gate— back home to Bellgard.