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Unbound (The Captive #7)
Author:Erica Stevens

Her brother had sacrificed himself for her, for everyone, yet his memory would live on forever with their child and the monument Braith erected in his memory a year after his passing. Braith had surprised her and William with the statue of an oak tree with Daniel’s face etched into its bark, and the names of all those who had perished in the battle against Sabine beneath it.

Aria knew the monument meant as much to Braith as it did to her. He believed that if Daniel hadn’t stepped between her and Sabine, he never would have gotten there in time to stop Sabine from killing her.

The year after Braith had surprised them with the statue for Daniel, he’d had another erected in honor of all of those who had battled against Atticus and lost their lives. This one was a silver horse standing proudly outside the palace walls, and it had the names of all the fallen carved around the base of it. Her father’s name was in the center of all the many others; the silver horse of the statue was strikingly similar to the brooch at her neck.

The peace her father and brother fought and died for had held strong for the last five years. There were still some fights, there always would be, but things flowed smoothly between the humans and vampires now. They all worked well together and had found a happy balance between the species. Under her and Braith’s rule, and with the guidance of The Council, she knew the peace would continue to thrive for many years to come.

She wished her father and Daniel could have been here to see all that they’d helped to accomplish, but she often felt them looking after her, and occasionally she swore she smelled one or both of them or heard their laughter.

Her son, Daniel, already showed an affinity for drawing. Sometimes, she would find him sitting and staring at things in an assessing way that would make her stop to watch him with her heart in her throat. It might not be true, but she believed a piece of her brother lived on in the nephew he’d never gotten the chance to meet.

Aria’s heart swelled with love as she watched Braith with their children. Her hand fell to her belly and the new life growing within. It would only be a couple more months before their family grew even more. Braith caught the gesture and grinned proudly at her as he hoisted the twins higher in his arms.

Her eyes were drawn to Maeve as she adjusted the baby swaddled within her arms. Max leaned over to look down at his son, Dylan. A grin spread across his face when the baby’s fingers enclosed around his own.

Braith carried the twins over to her and settled onto the edge of the fountain beside her. Both of the twins leaned over to kiss her cheek before leaping from his arms and taking off after their cousins again.

From around the corner of the pathway, Gideon and Camille strolled into sight. Their hands were clasped together; Camille laughed as Gideon slipped a rose behind her ear. Camille had finally found the love she’d been seeking. Most were amazed it was with Gideon, of all vampires, but he was hugely devoted to her, and they’d been happily married for almost three years now.

“How did your parents keep you two mortals alive?” Braith inquired of her and William when James tackled Daniel, and Ella leapt onto James’s back. At three minutes older than her brother, Ella had most likely inherited Braith’s ability to not be so easily killed, but it wasn’t something Aria ever wanted to find out for certain.

Aria laughed. “Not easily.”

“Not at all,” William agreed. “I think these little vamps may be tame compared to us.”

Aria grinned as she nodded her agreement.

“Impossible,” Tempest insisted.

“Not so much,” Jack said from where he sat with Hannah on the bench across the way. He had his arms draped around Hannah’s waist as she sat on his lap. “I knew those two when they were human teens, and believe me, keeping them alive was a battle.”

Aria and William both glowered at him before thrusting their shoulders back. “We didn’t need anyone to keep us alive,” William declared.

“Agreed,” Aria said firmly, and Braith laughed.

Xavier stepped forward and, grabbing Ella by the waistband of her pants, lifted her easily off of James. She squealed as she kicked and punched at the air. “He jumped my brother!” she shouted.

“That’s your daughter,” Aria and Braith said to each other at the same time and then laughed.

He slid his arm around her waist and pulled her against his side as Xavier handed Ella to Timber before plucking James off of Daniel. Aria closed her eyes, savoring the laughter surrounding her and the warmth of her husband against her.

“I love you,” he murmured in her ear.

“I love you too,” she replied and lifted her mouth to his. His fingers caressed her cheeks while he took possession of her mouth. A thrill went through her entire body as his tongue brushed over her lips, and she opened her mouth to his invasion.

Peace and love.

It had taken so long to find, but it was here now. She’d never been happier in her life, yet she knew their lives together and with their growing family were only just beginning. There were many more years of peace to come, and she looked forward to loving Braith and being loved by him for every one of them.