By: Jennifer L. Armentrout

I nodded and took a deep breath. After a few moments, I reined the tears back in and forced a wan smile.

We were kind of lost in each other’s arms for a while.

Both of us had something to mourn—something we’d lost.

Perhaps Caleb needed this, too. Time seemed to slow down until we were ready.

I looked at the candles. “Shoot.” I’d forgotten a lighter.

“Need a light?”

We turned toward the deep, rich voice. I recognized the sound al the way down to my soul.

Aiden stood a short distance from us, his hands shoved deep into the pockets of his jeans. The setting sun created a halo affect around him, and for a tiny moment, I almost believed he was actual y a god and not a pure.

I blinked, but he didn’t disappear. He was real y here.


He stepped forward and touched each vanil a candle with the tip of his finger. Abnormal y bright flames sparked and grew, unfazed by the breeze coming off the ocean. When he was done, he stood and looked at me. Pride and reassurance fil ed his gaze, and I knew he approved of what I was doing.

I swal owed back more tears as Aiden retreated back to where he’d been standing. With effort, I tore my gaze from him and picked up my little boat. Caleb fol owed suit, and we walked to where the water turned to white, wispy foam, licking at our knees—far enough out that the surf wouldn’t carry the boats back in.

Caleb sat the two boats down first. His lips moved, but I couldn’t hear what he said. Possibly a prayer? I couldn’t be sure, but after a few moments, he let go of his boats and the waves carried them off.

So much stuff ran through my head as I stared down at my boat. I closed my eyes, seeing her beautiful smile. I pictured her nodding and tel ing me it was okay, okay to let it al go now. And I guess, in a way, it was okay. She was in a better place. I real y believed that. There’d always be some sort of guilt. Everything she’d done from the moment the oracle had spoken to her had led to this, but it was over

—final y over. Bending down, I set the spirit boat on the water.

“Thank you for everything, for al you gave up for me.” I paused, feeling the slick wetness running down my face. “I miss you so much. I’l always love you.”

My fingers lingered around the boat for a second more, and then the foamy waves carried the boat from me.

Further and further out, the three boats went, their candles stil glowing. The sky had darkened by the time I lost sight of the boats and their soft light. Caleb waited for me on the sand, and beyond him stood Aiden. If Caleb thought anything about Aiden’s presence, it didn’t show on his face.

Careful y, I made my way back to the beach. The distance between Aiden and me seemed to evaporate, and it was only the two of us. A smal smile crept over his lips as I approached him.

“Thank you,” I whispered.

Aiden seemed to understand I was thanking him for more than just a light. He spoke in a low voice so only I could hear him. “When my parents died, I never thought I’d find peace again. I know you have, and for that, I’m happy. You deserve it, Alex.”

“Did… you ever find peace?”

He reached out and brushed his fingers over the curve of my cheek. It was such a quick gesture I knew Caleb never saw it. “Yes. I have now.”

I inhaled sharply, wanting to say so much to him, but I couldn’t. I like to think he knew, and he probably did. Aiden stepped back, and with one last look, he turned and headed home.

I watched until Aiden became nothing more than a faint shadow. Returning to where Caleb sat, I dropped down beside him and placed my head on his shoulder. Every so often, the salt water would tickle our toes, and I’d catch the scent of vanil a from the breeze rol ing off the ocean. The air felt warm and pleasant, but the edge of the gentle wind held a soft chil , signifying autumn was on its way. But for right now, the sand felt warm on the island off the Carolina coast and the air stil smel ed of summer.