Author’s Note: Please forgive the greenish lighting of the first three pictures. I usually have my lunar settings so that a full moon does not occur, but forgot in this case with this save and so, we were having a zombie apocalypse before I realized. 😛
Dear Diary, I’m so amazed every time I gaze at Rosetta and Holden. That something so perfect came from me still has my mind boggled. Every time I watch Xalen with them, I’m more certain than ever that he is as bewildered as I am.
I never want to forget this moment I have with my little family. The babies’ newborn cries, coos, and gurgles. Xalen’s soft words of comfort whispered into their little ears. It’s so precious, I could cry because I never knew such love and happiness before now.
Which is quite the opposite of how I felt when I learned I was pregnant in the first place. Back then, I was scared and uncertain. I didn’t want to ruin Xalen’s life and so I followed my first reaction and broke up with him.
I never particularly wanted children, or to even get married. And for the most part, never considered myself the motherly type. Yet having these little ones in my charge makes me realize how much I want to protect them and give them the family they deserve. It also has brought with it the understanding of how much Xalen cares about us. At this moment, I can’t believe I could ever have wondered where his priorities would lie.
“I wish you would change your mind,” he said to me now in that vague hint of an accent he possessed.
“It’s just that I shouldn’t leave them.”
Smiling softly at me, he said, “It would be good for you to get out for a little while. Besides, it is high time I introduced you to the Neptune Foundation and what it is I do.”
Since the twins arrived, he’d been by our sides and ignoring his work. While I was anxious to learn all about the Neptune Foundation, I had serious reservations about leaving the babies home while I was out.
Changing gears, Xalen said, “I want to share everything with you, Marty. This is an important part of me you need to see.”
Susan had already agreed to watch Rosetta and Holden so I couldn’t use the excuse of not trusting a babysitter. She was more than capable.
“Well, all right. I admit I am curious.”
It was a long drive and once we arrived, I was sure Xalen was playing a joke on me. As he pulled the car into the driveway, I studied the immense mansion in front of us that sat high on a cliff, overlooking the city.
“What is this?”
“A very big house,” he said with a smile.
“Smart-aleck. No kidding, but what is it?”
“This house is where I live. It also contains the offices for the Neptune Foundation… and other things.”
Taking my arm, he directed me up the driveway and inside the hulking structure.
The foyer was no less impressive than the outside of the house. I began to feel very small as I gazed from one thing to another.
The staircase before me was about four times wider than any I’d ever seen and the foyer itself was surrounded by two enormous halls. Each hall was at least the size of my kitchen and dining room put together.
“You live here.”
“Yes, with three others who are also a part of the foundation. I spent a great deal of my childhood here during the times my parents weren’t traveling as well as the times they deemed their mission too dangerous to bring me along.”
“Mission? You mean the dig sites they went to?”
Xalen hesitated briefly before finally saying, “They went to some dig sites, yes.”
Sighing loudly, I said, “I’m afraid I don’t understand what you’re getting at.”
“I know. I have gone through this moment in my head so many times yet I still haven’t figured out the best way to explain it. Perhaps I should take you to the control room.”
This was all becoming too much. I was beginning to feel like I was in a spaceship instead of a house.
Anxiously, I looked down one of the great halls. There was nothing at the end but a large bookcase. It reminded me of the secret bookcases in the caves at the St. Cyr house in Winchester where I’d grown up. We weren’t supposed to play down there, but of course, Theo and I did all the time. Figuring out how the bookcases worked to let us pass into the next room had been a childhood endeavor I could not resist.
“Not that way,” Xalen said as he motioned for me to follow him down the other great hall to a door.
I looked back at the bookcase as my curiosity heightened. “Is that a secret bookcase back there?” I dared to ask.
Laughing, he said, “Of course not. Do not be silly.”
Standing directly in front of the door, a red beam scanned his eyes and the door appeared to dissolve in midair! Taking my hand, he pulled me through the space in the wall that was now visible.
I wanted to point out that laughing at a secret bookcase idea seemed the silly thing since I’d just seen a door dissolve but it didn’t seem the right time since I was left completely breathless by my new surroundings. Glancing behind me, it appeared the door had returned. But then, it had never left, had it?
“The door is a hologram and the only way in is through an iris scan. Our work is very important and must be protected at all cost,” Xalen explained. “If you join us, I will see you are cleared to enter.”
This wasn’t the first time Xalen had asked me to join whatever the Neptune Foundation was. At the moment, I was too awed to respond with appropriate questions.
Walking further into the room, I noticed a huge conference table with computers…
… and just beyond that, a staircase to the left and one to the right.
Turning around and looking up, I saw that we were in a three-story library with books from floor to ceiling.
“Marty! It’s so wonderful to see you again!” Shelly Bingham exclaimed as she pulled me into a warm hug.
I’d been so dazzled with everything around me, I hadn’t even realized she was there.
After she let go of me, she chided Xalen. “You’re doing this all wrong. She’s so astonished and puzzled, she can’t even speak.”
“I did seem to flub this,” Xalen agreed.
Looking into my eyes, Shelly said, “I’m so glad you’re here. Welcome to the base.”
“Xalen is so bad with words sometimes, he hasn’t really told you anything,” she laughed. “The Neptune Foundation is a philanthropic entity. We study antiques and relics that the foundation donates to the Holden and Eliza Sprague Collection. I can’t wait for you to see that!”
“Me, too,” I mumbled. This was beginning to make sense in a way. I knew that Xalen’s parents had both been doctors and their names were Holden and Eliza. “And this is where you study the pieces that are donated?”
“Yes, but there’s more. The Neptune Foundation is really a guise… um, a front for what we really do. You are standing in the control room of one of the bases of what we call The Inheritance.”
Seeing my confusion, a man stepped forward and began speaking. “Hi, I’m Daniel. The best way to describe The Inheritance is by saying it’s a centuries-old society known only to its members.”
“These members are hand-picked by each base leader who we call the ‘steward’ and there are bases or divisions of our society all over the world,” Shelly said.
“What – what exactly do you do?”
“We solve paranormal problems, usually that are associated with the various relics, but not always,” Shelly said.
Trying to wrap my brain around all of this, I looked at Xalen. “What is it you do in this society?”
“I’m this base’s steward, Marty, as was my father before me.”
“He’s also the chairman of the Neptune Foundation,” another man said.
“This is Owen,” Daniel said.
As I gazed from Daniel to Shelly, to Owen, then Xalen, I could hardly believe what I was hearing.
“Are you all right?” Xalen asked, his eyes full of concern.
“I keep wanting to pinch myself,” I said.
“You’re not dreaming,” he said.
Owen and Daniel excused themselves to work on something…
… and Shelly turned to Xalen now.
“I’ve figured out the Jennis case.”
“What did you find?”
“As far as I can tell, there was nothing paranormal happening there. The vibrations from the infrasound of some local wind turbines most likely caused the sensations that a ghost was present.”
“Interesting,” Xalen said. “And it was the infrasound that caused feelings of disorientation and chills down the spines in the residents of the Jennis house?”
“I’m certain of it.”
“Good work, Shelly.”
After the tour around the control room, Xalen decided to show me around some of the rest of the house. I say “some” because it was too large to see everything at once.
Down one of the wings on the second floor, we came to a brightly lit nursery which was quite a contrast from the rest of the house.
“This room has been like this since I can remember and is actually the first room I recall as a child,” Xalen said.
Then he showed me a huge adjoining room that he called the “rest of the nursery” but I would have simply called it the playroom.
I was completely lost by the time we got to the third floor. I’m pretty sure we used a back staircase to get to the suite of rooms that were Xalen’s. He told me his parents had once used these rooms but they were now his.
Wandering through a closed door at the end of the suite’s sitting room, I found myself staring three stories down at the control room below. It was quite dizzying!
Xalen protectively took my arm and led me through a door at the end of the balcony that revealed his opulent office.
What he really looked forward to showing me, though, was the gym. I couldn’t help but notice his wide smile when I saw the practice dummy.
“Oh my!” I said.
“I know how you are striving for physical perfection. Wouldn’t this room be perfect? Daniel is a black belt and I could arrange for him to continue your training.”
“I – I need air,” I stammered. This was all becoming too much to absorb.
Xalen quickly took action, bringing me down narrow stairways and to the back garden. The cold Fall breeze hit me in the face, turning my cheeks red but it was what I needed. I stood near the fence, gulping the fresh air in.
“You must see now why I had such difficulty telling you about this,” Xalen said.
“It’s hard to understand and pretty overwhelming.”
“From the moment I met you, I could sense you would be a good fit here. Then, years later when you saw Julia’s ghost and could hear her, too… Well, I knew then I was not wrong.”
Staring at the city below, I whispered, “Why could I see and hear her?”
“I do not know for certain. I suspect it has something to do with what happened with your great-uncle Mango and then your grandfather Leo and what they went through.”
My eyes widened and I felt my heart speed up. “You know about that?”
“Intimately, although we only monitored that situation. There was no need for us to step in unless Mango could not figure out he had the power to heal Leo.”
“Are you part of that lab that did that to Mango?”
“No, not at all. That lab is gone now and will not hurt anyone else.”
I had a feeling Xalen and the rest of The Inheritance team had a hand in ending that lab.
Suddenly, a thought entered my head that I didn’t like. “Xalen, how long have you been following me? Was our meeting in Longview really by chance?”
As if sensing my irritation, he looked away briefly. “I met you in Longview by chance, I swear to it. Although, when we shared pizza that day and you told me where you were from and who your grandfather was, I realized who you were. My parents had a great interest in your family but after Leo was healed and Mango died, they withdrew from watching you all. Our interest in this society is strictly focused on situations that can bring harm to the world.”
Accepting this explanation for now, I asked him, “What is it you want from me exactly?”
Embracing my shivering body, he said into my ear, “I want you to be a part of this. I want us to be a team together. Can you see yourself living here with our children, being a family and working on something important together?”
As the warmth from his body seeped into my chilled flesh, I realized he called the babies “ours” and it did more to melt my heart than the heat from his body ever could.
Still, I couldn’t give him a definite answer.
“I need to think about this and what it means.”
As if satisfied with this, he smiled tenderly at me. “I’m glad to see that you are not jumping in feet first. It is a lot to consider.”
“You’re right about that.”
“Whatever you decide, my darling, we will work this out with our family. I will make sure of that.”
They were the sweetest words I’d ever heard except for the time he told me he loved me. This was a lot to absorb and a huge decision that would affect my children, so I had to be certain it was the right thing to do.
Author’s Note: (Again! lol) If you didn’t already hear, I wanted to say that due to my internet outage from last Sunday to Thursday, and then because it was out again for some time on Friday (yesterday), I am really, really behind in reading your posts. However, I will be in the process of catching up as soon as I can. I look forward to this and cannot wait to get started. Please know that if I do not leave a comment, it is not because I don’t want to, it is because I have tons of blogs to catch up on and many of those have updated several times since I was last able to read.
Thanks so much for understanding. You are all wonderful! 🙂