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Tempest held her arm out as a jade green bracelet appeared on her wrist. She cooed and traced the symbols branded into the metal.
"And aren't you the prettiest piece of jewelry I've ever worn?"
Wilda snickered. "You two need a moment?"
Tempest's head snapped back up. She glanced at her sisters. All of whom were trying desperately not to laugh. She held her head high and smoothed her dress. "I worked very hard for this."
"We know, sister." Kendra smiled and then looked at Eden. "You are the last."
"I am." Eden brushed her thick chestnut hair back from her face.
Wilda walked over to Eden and put her arm around her shoulders. "The wisest of us all."
Eden snickered. "Well. The oldest. I have a feeling 'the wisest' is about to be put to the test." She took a deep breath. "I have a confession."
Kendra's light blue eyes widened. "A confession?"
Wilda arched an eyebrow. "Well. This ought to be good."
Eden bit her lip. "Oh yes. It's absolutely great." She moved away from Wilda and faced her three sisters.
Wilda wore a filmy ruby dress that left her arms bare. She let her hair fall in long waves down her back. Her green stare fixed on Eden.
Kendra wore a light blue pantsuit that clung to her slender curves. Her hair worn pulled back into a long ponytail tied with a blue ribbon. Her light blue eyes were troubled as she looked at Eden.
Tempest wore a jade sari with her hair unbound. She played with her bracelet and watched Eden carefully.
It was almost too much.
Eden smoothed down her own copper gown and turned from them. She pulled her thick hair back into a simple chignon and gathered herthoughts.
They were bound to be furious. As would their father be, if he ever found out. What she had done was forbidden. But it had been necessary. Hadn't she gone over her actions again and again until a headache formed?
Eden turned back to her sisters. "I helped a mortal."
Wilda blinked. "That's what we do."
Eden shrugged her shoulders. "This wasn't exactly along the line of what we do."
"What exactly did you do?" Tempest looked scared but desperately tried to hide it.
Of all the sisters, Eden bore the most responsibility. Always levelheaded. The peacemaker. She had been the glue that held the sisters together.
She met each of her sister's eyes in turn. "I saved one."
Kendra clapped her hand over her mouth. Tempest looked to be in shock. Only Wilda spoke.
"Well, damn it all, Eden!" She strode over to her sister and scowled. "What possessed you? What in the hell were you thinking?"
"I was thinking she needed to live." Eden's brown eyes snapped in fury. "I thought it was a damn shame that an eleven-year-old girl needed to give up her young life."
"Hold up." Tempest paced. "So you stepped in and helped her." She glanced up at Eden. "So what?"
"She would have died."
The sisters gasped. Eden was right. It was forbidden. They could guide. But they couldn't completely alter a mortal's life. And Eden had done just that.
"Oh. Shit." Wilda sank into a seat that appeared under her. She rubbed her temple. "This is bad. This is extremely damn bad."
"I bear full responsibility." Eden held her head high. "I would do it again."
Tempest growled. "Well, that's damn peachy." She walked over to Eden. "Was she worth it, Eden? To break the rules? To almost certainly be punished by Father?"
"Every damn second."
Kendra spoke. "Tell us what you did."
Eden clasped her hands in front of her. "We always watch them. You know that."
The sisters nodded in unison.
"It happened many years ago. I had been planting irises. I remember it so well." Her brown eyes softened in memory. "I was down on my knees in the garden when I heard a small cry."
She looked at her sisters. "It tore at my heart. The sound." She gestured helplessly. "It sounded like a soul dying."
Wilda nodded. "Continue."
"I dropped my trowel and willed myself to the clouds. When I looked for the mortal, I was frantic." Eden shook her head. "I don't know how to explain it. I had to find her. I had to do anything and everything in my power to help."
"And you did." Tempest put her hands on her hips.
"She had been broken," Eden whispered. "A slip of a girl lying on the ground. She was unconscious as soon as she fell." She looked at her sisters. Anguish in her eyes. "Her soul cried out to me. I couldn't turn from her."
Eden looked at Kendra first. And then Tempest and Wilda. "The mortals gathered around her. They knew it had been a horrible accident. Her right leg." Eden took a breath. "It was crushed. The girl had been riding a horse when it occurred. The horse fell and rolled onto her. Her head hit the ground so hard that her brain bled. She would die. And I couldn't let her."
"Why this girl?" Wilda demanded. "Why did you jeopardize who you were for her?"
"She's a part of me."
Her sisters gasped. No less than what Eden expected. As many mortals as they had helped through the centuries, not one had mattered enough to break the rules for.
"Explain," Tempest demanded.
"I looked at her. Through her," Eden explained. "There was a connection between us. A mortal girl who knew nothing of goddesses. And the Earth Goddess who knew nothing of mortal girls."
"What did you do?" Kendra asked softly.
Eden smiled at Kendra. Of the sisters, she knew Kendra had the softest heart and would understand the easiest. "I mended her brain tissue. I couldn't wholly fix her leg because the mortals would have been suspicious. But I healed the leg as best I could. There were so many bones broken." She dabbed at her eyes. "And I talked to her."
"I am so disavowing knowledge of this conversation when Dad finds out," Tempest muttered.
"She needed me." Eden smiled softly. "So I sat by her bed when she was asleep and talked of nonsense." Eden frowned. "Her parents ignored her, for the most part. They only came when the reporters did."
"Reporters?" Wilda frowned. "You took a lot of risks."
"I did," Eden acknowledged. "And as I previously stated, I would again."
"What happened to her?" Kendra asked.
"I'm glad you asked." Eden stepped to the edge of the clouds and waved them away. Her sisters stepped forward to peer down at the mortal world. And then the woman appeared.
The mortal knelt on a mat in front of her garden with a handful of bulbs and a trowel. Her short brown hair twisted and clipped in the back to keep it from her face. An old pair of blue jeans and a faded blue T-shirt clung to her curvy frame. She wore gardening gloves and swiped at the sweat on her brow periodically.
The mortal dug with a single-minded purpose, her dark brown eyes intent on pulling weeds and placing bulbs in the rich dirt. A pitcher of lemonade and a single glass waited for her in the shade.
The garden was a beautiful maze of landscaping. A wooden gazebo sat dead center in the middle of the lawn with an amazing handmade picnic table and benches.
"How old is she now?" Tempest asked.
Eden smiled. "She turned forty in the winter. A woman who has lived a full life. A strong spirit who has conquered many fears and believes all the hopes she had that never came true did so for a reason. She thinks she's in the twilight of her life."
Wilda frowned. "That's nice. But why tell us this now?"
Eden smiled a secret smile. "Her name is May. And I choose her."