"What is this trickery?" another assemblyman asked. "Are you saying that someone is this room tried to kill you? How? When?"Read the first chapter here.
"Not just me, but yes. On more than one occasion."
"Who?" he repeated louder.
"Maggie's pregnant!" Marla blurted out. I gasped and started to yell back, but everyone in the room, especially the council members, stopped and stared at me. Or wait.....no, they were glaring at Caleb. Crap. Things were about to get ugly.
"That is not true," Caleb shouted. "Marla is trying to deflect. The Watsons kidnapped Maggie and kept her for away from me for four days. Then, just a couple of days ago, they sent someone to my house and they tried to kill us there, too."
"Now, how can we believe you?" Donald chimed. "The proof that you mutualized with her before you were married is right there for all to see. If you would mutualize with her before marriage, then why not do more than that, hmm?"
"You can believe me because I'm telling you we've done nothing more than mutualize."
"And I say so, too," I butted in to defend Caleb. "I'm not pregnant and haven't done anything to make it so that I was."
"Trust has to be earned," Donald said. "And I'm sorry to say it, but we don't know you well enough yet to trust you like that. Marla has been one of us since birth."
A big, burly older man stood up from the council table and said in a flabbergasted voice, "But she's the Visionary!"
"Assembly, I'm sorry to be the stickler here," Marla continued in a voice that strained with its fake sincerity. "But it would be so easy for them to say that she's not pregnant without any proof. She doesn't want Caleb to be punished."
"Punished?" I yelled and looked at Caleb. "What is she talking about?" I hissed.
He leaned close. "I told you that our kind waits until we're married."
"But you didn't say you'd be punished otherwise."
"Is that a problem, Visionary? I thought you said there was no indiscretion performed?" Donald piped in.
Indiscretion? This whole day was going so far from the way I imagined it. Before I could speak again, Peter was.
"I informed the council of the Watson's ploys and plans to hurt my family before we arrived. Are you saying that you have no knowledge of it?"
"We received your message, but this is a classic case of he said\she said."
"You wouldn't be bending rules to cover for your family now would you, Donald?"
"How dare you accuse me of such a thing?" Donald roared. "I am counselor and mentor to all, not just my family, as are we all on the council."
"Then, if you investigate the preposterous idea that Maggie could be pregnant, after only being my son's significant for a couple of weeks, then you'll investigate the Watsons and what they did to my family," Peter demanded in a gravelly voice.
"I think you best watch-" Donald started, but Gran cut him off.
"Of course we'll investigate the Watsons, Donald. If such a claim was made against the Jacobsons, we'd investigate that as well. Which is precisely why we have to have a hearing…for Maggie and Caleb." Everyone gasped, including me. What was Gran doing? "When a life is taken, there must be a hearing to determine if punishment is required. Two Watsons were killed at the home of Peter by Maggie and Caleb, and another was killed at the home of Max by another member of the Watson clan."
"You know the rules, Winifred," another member said. "The murder of a member of the same clan is dealt with within the clan. That has nothing to do with us."
"So, let's get on with the dealing for Maggie and Caleb," she said and looked at us. "Who in the family will account for them?"
"I will," Peter said and began to recount everything that happened to us at his house and at Kyle's. While he was doing that, I turned to Caleb and spoke low with Kyle and Lynne huddled in as well.
"What is Gran doing?" I asked. "Why would she want them to-"
"She's not," Caleb assured. He touched my cheek and gave me a sympathetic look. His hand coasted down to wrap around my wrist, his thumb rubbing my tattoo in possession. I shivered even in the tense circumstances. The side of Caleb's mouth tipped up at my reaction, but Kyle smacked his arm. "What?"
"Dude," Kyle complained and rolled his eyes. He looked back at me. "Gran's diffusing. If she brings it up first instead of letting the Watsons tell their side, it'll look better for us. Make us look innocent."
"We are innocent," I insisted in a hiss. "They tried to-"
"I know," he said quickly, "but they don't know that."
"Ok, ok." I nodded to make myself believe everything was going to be alright. This was so not how Caleb described the reunification to me. Him and Kyle both made it seem like a big party. Like it was going to be fun, hanging out, dancing, talking. This was just…not.
I'm sorry. If we had just imprinted and you'd just been you, it wouldn't have been this way. But because you're the Visionary...I kind of expected some of this. Usually the council just sits up there the whole week and we barely see them. But because of what you are, they feel like they've got to make a scene or something.
Why do I feel like I should apologize?
He smiled and pulled me to him, tucking my face into his neck. "Ah, baby," he whispered. "You didn't mess anything up. They're just all a bunch of coots, is all."
"I like that," I told him quietly. "Coots." And then we were jolted as a loud bang was issued. Donald was banging his fist on the clothed table again. And him and Peter were face to face as Peter leaned toward him.
"I've accounted for the details of what happened. My kids were just protecting themselves, and you can find no fault in that."
"Don't judge and jury me, Peter. This is not some human courtroom where you can play lawyer and weasel your way out of the rules and traditions that were set forth for us centuries ago!"
"That's not what we're trying to do. The Visionary and my son were not only justified in their actions, but would be dead, and many of us dead as well, if they hadn't done what they did."
"Irrelevant and you know it."
"Enough!" Gran yelled and swiped at her hair that had fallen from her bun. "Good grief. You know the rules yourself, Donald Watson." Watson! Ah, it all made sense now…
Gran continued. "A hearing will be set as is customary and we'll vote. Nothing else to do about it. Now both of you stop causing a scene and let everyone meet their Visionary."
"Quite right," Donald agreed. "And a pregnancy test will be issued to Maggie to determine that she is not with child."
"Pardon, Donald," Marla called, "but she wouldn't be far enough along to be detected on a home pregnancy test. She'll need a blood test."
As soon as the words left her mouth, I knew exactly what she was planning, though her thoughts were not open to me. Next she would suggest that her aunt take my blood.
"It just so happens that my Aunt Sylvia, Sikes' widow, has such abilities to perform the blood draw without any pain or discomfort to the Visionary."
Peter interjected, "This is ridiculous and disrespectful to perform a test solely with the purpose of trying to catch the Visionary in a lie!"
"If she's not lying, there should be no reason she would refuse the test." I knew then there was nothing I could say then. He had us and he knew it, and so did Marla. "It's settled then," Donald chimed, sounding all too thrilled with the idea. When he set his hands on the table, I caught a glimpse of his wrist tattoo, but couldn't make out the design.
I looked to Peter and Caleb, to see if they understood what I had concluded. Marla knew I wasn’t pregnant, she was after more of my blood. And there was no way to refuse the test without looking like I was pregnant and Marla knew I wouldn't risk Caleb being 'punished', whatever that meant.
Caleb was reading me the whole time and nodded his knowing. He grit his teeth, but tried to keep me calm. He smiled and rubbed my arm.
We'll figure this out. I'll go with you, I won't let her keep your blood.
I nodded back. Peter crossed his arms, his eyes blazing a line of disgust at Donald, but he said nothing. I didn't want to open my mind up to the room, honestly I didn't want to know what everyone was thinking right now, but I assumed that Peter had come to the same conclusion we had. Rachel came and put her arms around him. I almost smiled as he instantly calmed and looked at her, a grateful look upon his face.
We spent the next hour schmoozing, as Gran put it. I shook hundreds of hands, was bowed to more times than I could count, though I'd asked them not to, and was told multiple names that I would never remember. I also endured the looks from girls who were not happy that I was the one to snag Caleb. I tried not to take their looks of death and then quick smiles, to keep the Visionary from turning them to dust, personally.
Then music started to play. I looked over to see a small stage with instruments…but no one was playing them. The instruments were playing themselves, rather good too, I might add.
"They're charmed," Caleb explained into my ear. "One of the Gemino clan members can charm objects to do their normal function."
"So he can't make a guitar do the dishes or anything like that?" Lynne asked.
"Nope, just play music."
"Lame," she complained in jest and we laughed. She was nervous still. People couldn't take their eyes off of us four, all for different reasons, but one common fact. We had imprinted. Lynne hated the attention, but Kyle was eating it up. He loved the fact that he had what everyone else envied.
"How about a dance, pretty lady," I heard behind me and turned to find Rodney; the one who found me and saved me in the woods that day at the Watson compound. I silently gasped and, without thinking, jumped to grab him around his neck. He held me to him and I felt him chuckle. I peeked over at Caleb, expecting to see a scowl of jealousy, but found only affection. He was still really grateful to Rodney as well. He saved my life, after all.
"I guess that means you remember who I am," Rodney joked as he put my feet back to the floor.
"Of course I do," I replied. I saw his eyes catch the mark on his neck and the look of affection changed to one of rapture. He smiled and did his bow-kiss-hand thing.
"Visionary," he whispered and smiled wider. "It makes me all the more proud to call you family."
"Please, just Maggie," I insisted, and though he nodded, I knew it would take some persuasion. Then he turned to Caleb.
"Rodney, man, it's good to see you." They hugged, bumping their fists onto each other's backs.
"You too. And Kyle, I see you've got an addition as well."
"Yes. This is Lynne," Kyle explained proudly. "Lynne, this is our cousin, Rodney."
"Nice to meet you," Lynne said and bumped fists with him. "Are you from Tennessee, too? You've got the whole…" she waved her hand in front of him, "cowboy look going on."
And he did. He was meaty, dark, tanned with jeans and a plaid shirt. All that was needed to top off the picture was a cowboy hat.
"I am from Tennessee, yes ma'am," he said in a exaggerated southern drawl. "In fact, I live on a farm with fifty horses."
"Nuhuh," Lynne said and leaned closer in interest. "Really?"
"Cross my heart."
"I love horses!" she said and giggled in joy. Kyle grabbed her arm and started to drag her away laughing.
"I better get you away from Mister wild horses over here."
"Aw, don't worry. You can just buy me a horse and then we'll be good."
"Done," Kyle said and though he was laughing, I could tell he was absolutely going to buy her a horse. He nuzzled her neck and they laughed.
I glanced over to see Caleb watching me. "What?" I asked.
"Just wondering what you're thinking, since you've got your brain turned off."
"I'm just thinking that I'm glad Kyle has Lynne," I said without hesitation. "I'm glad he's happy."
"Me too." He wrapped his arms around me from behind. "And not just because he was annoying the hell out of me over you. I'm just glad that we can be friends again."
"Me, three," Rodney said and laughed as he clapped Caleb on the shoulder. "I've missed you guys out at the ranch. Mom has too. She hasn't had anyone to bake sugar cookies for."
"Yeah," Caleb said thoughtfully, "we haven't been out there in months."
"You'll have to come soon. Mom's got a new Clydesdale. It's the biggest horse you've ever seen."
"We'll do that. We've just got to get a few things out of the way first," Caleb said and smiled against the back of my neck.
The night wore on. I wasn't really enjoying myself. I felt too much on display so I wasn't in a dancing mood. Or an eating mood, as there was a huge spread of fruit. Everyone was whispering and sneaking peeks at us. And when I caught one of them they smiled and quickly looked away. I didn’t know what to do about it.
But soon, all my thoughts of self pity flew away when the Watson who had been my poltergeist since I met Caleb decided that the evening needed a little more excitement.
"Hello, little human," Marcus said from behind us. We turned and I held Caleb's arm tight to keep him from charging him. "Nice haircut. Is it new?" he prodded with sarcasm.
Then, there was nothing I could do. Caleb launched himself at Marcus, pinning him to the wall behind him. Caleb's hands gripped his throat and he growled in his face, oblivious of the aghast crowd that watched from across the room. "Don't you speak to her, ever."
"Ah, the Jacobson prince," Marcus replied loudly and laughed. "How lucky for Maggie that she had such a big, strong boy to keep her safe from my insults."
"I said to shut up. We are stuck here with you this week, but that doesn’t mean that you can torture Maggie the whole time. She is your Visionary and you will show some respect for that if nothing else."
"What's going on here?" Donald yelled from behind us. I felt arms around me from behind and turned to find Rachel hugging me, with Peter flanking her. Donald came forward and stood next to Caleb who still hadn't released Marcus. "I said, what's going on? Answer me!"
"Caleb is jealous of anyone who shows any affection to our Visionary, Uncle," Marcus sneered.
"Marcus, I will-" Caleb started, but Donald cut him off.
"Now, Caleb, I know how you must be feeling." Donald clapped him on the back as if in sympathy. "But you can’t be stingy with our Visionary."
"I'm not and have no plans to be. Marcus had tortured Maggie for weeks in echoes and kidnappings and a lot more. I won't let him do that to her this week."
"Neither will I," Donald said sternly. "Of course, anything that happened before was petty and uncalled for, but is over with I'm sure. Considering she is the Visionary." It sounded like a warning to Marcus, but Marcus just laughed and tipped his head.
I almost opened my mind to him, but was scared to. I was afraid of what everyone was thinking and was afraid to overload and appear weak in front of all these people who expected so much from me.
"There, you see? Caleb, let him go, son."
Caleb held for a few seconds longer, in obvious protest and his own warning to Marcus, and then came back to take my hand.
"I think I'll take Maggie to her room now," Caleb said. "It's been a long day."
"Of course," Donald conceded and smiled. "Your quarters, Caleb, are on the second floor. Maggie will remain here on the first floor with the rest of the assembly members. This year we've changed a few things around, I'm sure you can understand why."
"No, sir," Caleb replied and laughed a humorous laugh, "I don't think I do understand, but I'm sure there's an implication in there somewhere."