Notes: This is sort of a long one, but it's so worth it. Please read and let me know what you think!
Epilogue: Back in Business
One year later
Giddiness filled every bone in Avalon's body.
"I can't believe today is the day," she gushed happily, turning over in bed to find Colton's blue eyes smiling back at her.
"We've been waiting six months," she said, excitement fraught in her voice.
"Only seven more hours."
"Seven?" Avalon seemed genuinely confused.
"Yes, love. We cannot pick her up until nine a.m."
"But surely it's not only two in the morning."
"I despise to inform you that it is."
"Seven hours?" Avalon repeated. She groaned, rolling onto her back. "That is too damn long."
"You know," Colton's tone took on a suggestive note, "we can always find an alternative way to pass the time," he advocated, pulling Avalon into his arms.
"I can't think of anything except the baby," Avalon objected.
"Oh, can't you?" Colton asked, crawling on top of her, pressing his bare chest against hers, but making sure to hold himself so that he didn't put any unnecessary pressure on her.
Colton bent his head and left a trail of hot, steamy kisses down the column of Avalon's neck. Moaning, Avalon's mind was far from the long hours she had to wait to pick up the baby from the orphanage. Her fingers found their way into Colton's blonde hair as he moved down her body, kissing and sucking at her delicate skin. He left a wet path down her neck, her breasts—bestowing excessive attention on those particular body parts—her stomach, her navel, her hip. He stopped and looked up into Avalon's glazed over eyes before he gently pressed his lips against the raised skin on her left hip that still clearly read CB.
He would never forget what she had done for him, how she had selflessly placed herself in his position even before she really knew she loved him. This scar represented that torturous night she had endured to keep him out of harm's way.
"I love you, Avalon," he whispered.
"I do too. Now, hurry," she urged in a heated voice.
Colton cocked an eyebrow at her, looking up from between her legs.
"I thought you had other things on your mind," he teased.
"You've certainly distracted me," she replied.
He chuckled, moving further down. When he had her writhing on the bed, undulating her hips to get more friction, he moved back up to kiss her on the lips. Her nails dug into his back, her legs wrapped around his waist, as he pushed forward and connected their bodies, uniting them in more ways than one. She threw her head back and moved with him until they found their rhythm.
Half an hour later, Colton fell back onto the bed, lying on his side, gazing down at his beautiful wife with her hair in tangles, skin aglow, and chest moving up and down as she panted from their early morning exertion. He pushed a stray curl from her sweaty forehead, tucking it behind her ear, causing a smile to form on her lips as his fingers caressed her cheek, her neck, her chest, her side. He couldn't help himself. His body had a mind of its own when it came to the exploration of his bride's body. Suddenly, he heard an intake of breath, and Avalon's hand gripped Colton's wrist in unexpected velocity.
He then realized where his hand had accidentally stroked.
"Love, I am so sorry," he quickly apologized. "Does it still hurt overly much?"
Avalon looked down at her scar: the one that inhibited her from bearing children.
"I hate to admit it," she said, "but it still does throb at the slightest pressure."
"Is there anything I can do for you?"
"Yes," she responded. "Make love to me again."
"Are you not ready yet?"
"Baby, I am always ready," he rejoined, crawling back between her legs, being sure to avoid the hurting wound on her stomach.
Three hours later, there was a tentative knock at the door of the master's bedchamber.
"Prince and Princess Holds?" a small voice entered through the thick, mahogany wood. "Breakfast is ready."
"Come on in, Louisa," Avalon permitted, not rising from the pillows.
The young maid opened the door and pulled a silver tray into the large room. Colton pushed himself up into a sitting position, making sure the sheets didn't slide past his hips.
"Thank you, Louisa," Colton said, smiling at the new servant.
The girl glanced up at the royal couple and blushed at the sight of the nearly naked bodies. She bustled out of the room after a hasty curtsy.
"I think the new maid has a crush on my husband," Avalon chuckled, sitting up next to Colton before grabbing a croissant off the silver platter. "I must admit that I like breakfast in England much more than in America," she added.
"That was the sole reason I wanted you to come back to England with me: to try our breakfast."
Avalon rolled her eyes with a smile.
Turning the subject to a more serious topic, she sat Indian-style with a muffin in her hand, facing Colton, and asked, "Are you ready to be a father?"
"Are you nervous that your excitement at becoming a mother was rushed for me?"
Pursing her lips and looking at the ceiling, Avalon said, "Possibly. I realized that during the adoption process, I was so anxious to have a baby that I didn't even consider how comfortable you are with children. You see, not many know this, but I love children. I always have. I have rescued so many kids and have a sort of connection—"
"Avalon, hush for a moment. You start rambling when you get nervous. I am the oldest child of four. Although many believe that we royals stick our children with servants and nurse maids, I actually cared for Winston and Ryland very much during our youth. Felicity and I quite enjoyed the close relationships we kindled with our siblings."
Avalon smiled, satisfied with his answer.
"You are good with youngsters?"
"I guess when you have just saved a child from a kidnapper, a strong bond is created between the two of you," Avalon answered. "Beau always said I had a knack for putting children at ease whenever I took on a mission involving minors."
"Did you always have children as your assignments?"
"Well, you were my assignment."
"For the majority of your work, I mean."
"Yeah. My specialty included ages ranging from seventh months to ten-year-olds." She paused. "I feel like you're interviewing me for a job."
"Nah, just a marriage." Colton winked.
"After eleven months, now you think it is the ideal time to interview me for marriage?"
"I am a late bloomer," he joked.
"What are we going to name her?"
"We will know when we see her," Colton said with a devious smile.
"Why do I have a feeling that that smile means something more than you want it to?"
"Smile? What smile?"
Just then, Colton's phone vibrated against the nightstand.
"Hold that thought, love," he said, using this distraction as an excuse to end the conversation. He placed the phone to his ear. "Holds."
"Who is it?" Avalon whispered.
He placed the phone on speaker and mouthed, "The adoption agency."
"Prince Holds, this is Amanda Roberts from the Wellington's Adoption Agency."
"Good morning, Amanda. Are there any updates we should know about?"
The couple heard a nervous sigh on the other end of the phone. "Your majesty, I have some terrible news."
Colton and Avalon exchanged a wary look.
"Last night, we had a break in at the orphanage. Two children were abducted from their beds. Your daughter was one of them."
A ringing in her ears blocked out anything else Amanda said as these words registered in her head. This could not be happening. After everything they had been through, after all of the obstacles they had overcome, and now this? The room was swimming around her as she sank back down into the bed. After six months of waiting and anticipation, everything was falling to pieces around her.
She hadn't realized it, but forty-five minutes had passed with nothing but silence between them. Colton had hung up the phone and now lay next to her, his hand in hers, both staring up at the ceiling.
Then, Avalon shot up in the bed, her silver eyes wide as an idea sprouted in her mind.
"Avalon, love, what is it?"
"Let's get her back."
"This is my job. I do this for a living. Let's go rescue our daughter."
"Avalon, you can't be serious."
"This is ludicrous. You cannot put yourself in danger. How many times do I have to let you slip through my fingers just to have you almost die?"
"I did not say 'Let me get her back.' I said 'Let us get her back.'"
"I am not qualified for a rescue mission."
"You are, with me on your side." With excitement in her eyes, she insisted, "Come on. You can be the Robin to my Batman."
"I am not a sidekick."
"Fine. You can be Batman. I will be Superman. We can team up."
Chuckling, Colton questioned, "And what is your kryptonite?"
"So, basically you are saying that I am your Lois Lane?"
"Fitting, since I am constantly saving you from peril."
Colton rolled his eyes. "To be fair, when you saved me at the dock, I thought I was going to rescue you."
"Okay, I will give you that. But let's stop wasting time. We have a child to rescue."
"Where do you suggest we start, Nancy Drew?" Colton asked, rising out of the bed finally and throwing on a gray T-shirt that he found in the bottom of his chest of drawers.
"Well, Sherlock, where any good detective starts: the scene of the crime."
"Hullo, how may I help you?" the bubbly girl at the front desk asked as Colton and Avalon entered the premises of the orphanage in cognito.
Reading the nametag, Avalon greeted, "Good morning, Reese, is Amanda Roberts available?"
"Hold for one second, m'um," Reese replied with a brilliant smile as she picked up the phone and pressed two buttons. "Yes, hi, Amanda, we have a couple here asking for you. Er…" Reese's eyes darted to Colton and Avalon in their dark, discreet attire before she answered, "I dunno. I believe not."
Avalon and Colton exchanged a glance, guessing what Amanda had asked.
Reese hung up the phone and smiled back at the clients. "She will be with you in just a moment. Please, feel free to wait over there."
Only, they did not get a chance to sit down because Amanda rushed into the room.
"Hello," she greeted, surveying the two of them. Her face lit with recognition before she gave a disapproving look at the receptionist. "Prince Colton and Princess Avalon, I thought I might be seeing you today."
Reese straightened up in her chair, her eyes widening.
"Yes," Colton greeted, shaking her hand.
"We are so sorry for what has happened. We already have the force involved and some professional detectives on the case. There is not much else I can do for you—"
"It's not what you can do for us," Avalon interrupted, "but what we can do for you."
"I do not understand."
"Did you ever happen to catch any articles about my previous profession before I married into the royal family?" Avalon asked.
"I followed every bit of it," Amanda confessed. "Your story was quite intriguing."
"Then it is safe to assume you are very familiar with what I do."
A small smile began spreading on Amanda's lips. "Search and rescue missions."
"Exactly. Now, do you have any footage from last night? Anything the kidnappers left behind?"
Thirty minutes later, Avalon had a rather good idea of where she needed to go to find her child. After finding a dirty footprint left on a windowsill right outside the room the two children had been sleeping in and discerning that the shoe size was an abnormal size of fourteen, Avalon did some quick research in the database for the English criminals and found over seventy-three suspects. Narrowing her search to those who lived in a thirty mile radius, she had tapered her daughter's potential captor to sixteen. After some more research, she learned that fourteen of those were currently locked up in prison, which left her with Thaddeus White and Robin Wolfe. And based off the video that caught the act of the kidnap, she knew that it had to be Thaddeus due to his black hair as opposed to Robin's light blonde locks. Also, Thaddeus had a record for participating in human slave trade, including children.
"I am not letting our daughter get mixed up in this," Avalon growled after watching the video footage once again to get a feel for this perpetrator.
Colton placed his hands on Avalon's shoulders to calm her. Lightening the mood, he said, "You do realize that this mission is not in your specialty range. Both children are six months old."
Avalon turned to face him with a mischievous smile. "You underestimate my abilities?"
"On the contrary, I challenge them," he replied with a childishly devilish smile.
"Well, let's get to it."
"Where do we start?" Amanda asked.
"Uh…" Both Avalon and Colton looked at each other.
"I don't think it's highly advisable for you to accompany us," Avalon said.
"Those two children are still under my protection—"
"As they were last night when they were kidnapped," Avalon barked, her old, rash, caustic character poking its head out of hiding. She blinked. "I-I'm sorry. That was rude. What I mean, in the best way possible, is that you might just end up getting in the way or getting harmed. It would be best if the two of us just went; it's less likely that we will get caught with a smaller number of people."
"They are my responsibility," Amanda insisted.
"So are all the rest of these children. Stay here and watch over them. It would be a great help to us, especially if Thaddeus comes back to the scene of the crime."
Amanda deliberated for a moment before finally agreeing. "I see your point."
Avalon smiled before she and Colton exited the adoption building and climbed into a small, nondescript car they had bought months ago for private events and dates where they didn't want to attract the nagging paparazzi.
"I'm sorry about that," was the first thing out of Avalon's mouth.
"About what?" Colton asked, glancing at her as he drove down the cobbled street.
"The old me came out and snapped at her."
"Avalon, that is only natural. You should not try to completely change yourself just to conform to society. In fact, when you get in your zone, you have every right to take command, to be the natural-born leader that you are."
"I love you."
Colton winked. "I know."
"You just ran that stop sign."
"There was a stop sign?"
Avalon laughed as Colton rolled down the windows, letting the air rush in and blow through the car, chaotically messing up their hair. She loved the feeling of him speeding down the road. He accelerated, looking over at her and smiling at her blatant happiness. Her hair whipped around her face and shoulders in a hectic storm of blonde curls, her eyes lit up with adventure and recklessness. He was momentarily brought back to last year when he had first met her. He remembered her brave and daring demeanor, her stoic and controlled expressions. So much had changed in her, and yet she was the same. She was still selfless and strong and courageous, but she was no longer secretive or mistrusting.
"What?" Avalon queried, pulling him back to the present.
"Why are you looking at me like that?"
"Because I can."
She rolled her eyes with a large smile on her face.
"This is sort of bringing me back to the days," she commented.
"Of detective work and irresponsibly speeding around to catch kidnappers and murderers."
"Before you met me?" He had been wondering lately if she missed that, if she missed her carefree, living-above-the-law, no-rules life.
"When I met you," she corrected. "If it weren't for DAA, I never would have met you."
"What does DAA stand for?"
"Daniels' Assassination Association. It used to be called TAA and belonged to some man called Tucker, but Vanessa Daniels uncovered some information that devalued him, something like exploiting his job position for his own use. Since then, the agency has been dubbed DAA."
"So, it is not named after Derek?"
"No, Derek is Vanessa's little brother. The agency has been passed down from Vanessa to her sister, Heather, to their brother, Derek. It's a family rite of passage."
Ten minutes later, Colton slowed the car to a stop and parked on the side of the street three houses down from the address of Thaddeus White. Looking around, both took in the setting. White picket fences adorned each cookie-cutter house with lush, green lawns and identical, black mailboxes.
"Well, this is…" Avalon started.
"…definitely not expected," Colton finished.
"I mean, here I was thinking of abandoned warehouses and secluded lots."
"Meanwhile, I was here thinking of medieval dungeons and ghastly pirate ships."
Avalon rolled her eyes.
"Let's go." She stepped out of the car and tucked her knife and handgun into the waistband of her jeans. Lifting her arms up, she pulled her knotted ringlets into a high ponytail and wrapped her hairband around her thick mass of hair. "Why do you keep looking at me?" she asked after catching her husband's eyes on her once more.
"I am simply admiring the view."
Unable to curb the smile that sprang to her lips, she nonetheless admonished, "You need to tuck your horniness somewhere safe until we get back into bed tonight."
"Was that supposed to help?" Colton asked, following her down the street, "Because it most certainly had the opposite effect."
"You're like a single pre-teen schoolboy."
"Ah, a compliment, at last."
Stealthily sneaking around the back of the house, Avalon and Colton pulled up the hoods of their sweatshirts over their heads.
"Would you like me to tell you where to put that compliment?"
Avalon squatted down in front of a wooden, cellar door in the backyard. She tested the heavy, metal lock that was connected to thick chain links wrapped around the handles of the cellar door.
"I would indeed, love," Colton continued the conversation, keeping a watch out, making sure no one had spotted them.
Avalon slipped out a pair of pliers from the strap on her thigh and began working on the lock.
"You can," she huffed, "stick that," she puffed, "compliment up your," she heaved, "arse," she panted. "God, that was difficult," she admitted when she finally broke the clasp.
"How do you have everything you need just tucked away on your body?"
"Wouldn't you like to know?" Avalon winked suggestively.
"Seriously. You are like a human version of Hermione's bag."
They both descended into basement of the house, closing the cellar door behind them, so as not to draw much attention to themselves.
"I'll take that as a compliment."
"Up my arse?" Colton asked, reverting back to their previous tête-à-tête. "My arse? When, my dear wife, have I ever used that term?"
"No, please, tell me—"
Avalon pushed him against the wall and placed her hand over his mouth. She turned, pressing her back to his front against the wall of the basement. A shadow passed in front of them in the darkened area. They watched, without breathing, as the shadow moved to the stairs that led to the cellar door. Avalon pushed Colton toward a small niche in the wall to hide from the man who was checking the broken lock on the outside of the door.
"Damn thing," he swore, throwing the lock and chain off to the side in the yard. As he came back into the basement, Avalon caught a glimpse of his face and confirmed that he was Thaddeus White.
Avalon crouched, ready to spring when Thaddeus passed by the niche, but Colton gripped her upper arm.
"What are you doing?" she hissed, nearly inaudibly.
"Stay calm. Be smart about this. Don't be rash."
Glaring at him, Avalon turned and growled through clenched teeth, "You said yourself when I get into my zone, I take charge. I take the lead."
Colton let go of her just as Thaddeus was passing where they stood.
"Who's there?" the older man called, having heard them.
Without thinking twice about it, Avalon propelled herself out of the shadows of the basement.
"What the hell—?" Thaddeus swore just before Avalon's body crashed into his, knocking him to the ground.
Within moments, he regained his wits and began fighting back. He rolled over, pushing Avalon onto her back on the cement ground. The side of her head knocked against the floor, but she swung her arm around and bestowed an uppercut to his jaw, disorienting Thaddeus. Colton grabbed him by the arms and hauled him off Avalon.
Sitting up, Avalon massaged her temple, her elbows resting on her bent knees. She groaned when she felt the throbbing in her head from the bruise.
"Are you all right?" Colton asked as he manhandled the struggling Thaddeus into a chair.
"Yeah, I'm fine," she stated, her eyes narrowing at Thaddeus.
She located some flayed rope and handed it to Colton who proceeded to tie Thaddeus's hands behind the chair.
"Where are they?" Avalon growled.
"I don't know what you're talking about—"
Avalon's fist met Thaddeus's jaw again.
"Avalon, stay calm—" Colton shut his mouth at the chilling look he received.
"I'm going to ask you one more time," Avalon said calmly, looking at Colton for approval. He smiled at her over Thaddeus's head. "Mr. White, where are you keeping the two children?"
"What's it to you, anyways?"
"I do believe you are not in any position to be asking questions. In fact, I believe we are the only ones in an appropriate position to interrogate. So, I will repeat myself one more time before I beat you to a bloody pulp." She took a deep breath, controlling every muscle in her body from punching him right now as her instincts told her to. "Where are you hiding the—?"
Just then, she heard a faint, crying sound coming from up the steps to the house.
"They're in the house?" Colton asked, his ears picking up the soft noise.
"Watch him," Avalon commanded before she fled up the stairs.
Reaching the locked door, she untucked her handgun from her jeans and shot at the lock to open it. She kicked open the door and entered into a dated kitchen with brown cabinets and a white tiled floor. There was a burner oven in the corner and an old fridge beside it. The walls were decorated with floral wallpaper and horrifying knickknacks.
She forgot how horrid the kitchen looked when she heard the cry of a baby once again. Following the heart-wrenching sound, she glided down the paneled hallway, her gun cocked and ready if the need became apparent. She was just about to round the corner and into a bedroom when she was shoved against the wall, her gun knocked out of her hand. Her fingers instantly went to her waist, grabbing at her knife when her eyes met… "Beau?"
"Hey, big sis."
"What the hell are you doing here?"
"What the hell are you doing, going on a mission without me? I'm hurt."
"You should be back at the palace with Felicity!"
"As should you, but here we are, having this conversation in the house of a known criminal. So, what gives?"
"It was spur of the moment," Avalon said.
"And you didn't have a moment to call your dear baby brother? Again, this is wounding my ego. We cannot tell Derek. He would laugh in my face if he ever found out you brought along Prince Charming instead of me."
"Then we'll keep it our little secret. Now, let me go. My daughter is in there."
"There's another thing. Why didn't you tell me my niece had been abducted?"
"It. Was. Spur. Of. The. Moment." She repeated slowly, her teeth gnashing together.
"Well, let's go then," he said, releasing her from his hold.
"How did you get in here?"
"Through the opened cellar door."
"Colton knows you're here?"
"What? You must have walked right past him."
"I did exactly that."
"And he didn't see you?"
"That's why you should have a professional come with you on missions, not amateurs, like your charming prince."
"Next time, I'll send you a text."
"That's all I'm asking."
Avalon and Beau walked into the bedroom at the end of the hall, and both sets of eyes widened.
"No. Fucking. Way."
"Oh. My. God."
Both six-month-old babies were lying in cribs, only these cribs were rigged with metal bars over the top and a padlock in the center. Around the padlock was another mini cage that was humming.
"You don't think…" Beau began.
"That's exactly what I think," Avalon answered. She walked up to one of the cribs and gently touched her finger to the cage around the padlock. She was tossed back, the electric shock jolting her muscles, making her spaz. Beau caught her under her arms and hoisted her back up on her feet.
"Electrical wiring," Beau said.
"Oh, is that what it was? I wasn't aware."
Beau smiled, glad to have the old, Avalon-spunk back.
"So, what do we do?"
She searched her thigh strap and pulled out a Phillips-head screwdriver.
"You know how to disable this?"
"Did you even pay attention during training?" Avalon shot at him.
Beau snorted. "Ava, seriously? Is that even a question? No, of course I didn't."
Avalon found a tiny, black wire protruding from the center of the padlock. Her eyes scanned the room and found where it connected to the wall, and probably from there it reached its power source in the form of an outlet behind the wall. She found a miniature pair of scissors in her pocket and snipped the wire. Using the screwdriver, she loosened the wing nuts to the access panel and unveiled a box with two wires. A red wire and another black one.
"Which one do you cut?" Beau asked.
"Phew, good. Here I was thinking, we were about to be a part of an intense movie scene where you sweat for two unbelievably long minutes before you cut the right wire."
"I have to remove the positive cable before I cut the negative one."
"Great. Which one is the positive cable?"
"I don't know."
"I don't know," she repeated.
"I have to guess."
"And if you guess wrong?"
Beau's eyes widened.
"I'm just kidding. Jesus, breathe. I hear it's beneficial for your health. I'll only be shocked a little."
"God, Ava. Seriously, don't do that to me again."
"You should have seen your face. Did you wet yourself? I think I smell something funny."
"Shut up," Beau grumbled.
Taking the red wire, Avalon clipped it with her scissors, receiving a painful, but bearable, shock through her arm.
"Okay, red is negative."
She unlocked the padlock with her travel tools and opened the top of the cage. The crying baby inside reached her little arms up to her.
"Hey, sweetie," she cooed at her. "Come here; you're okay now. Let's get out of here."
As soon as Avalon picked the child up and the baby's weight left the crib, there was a distinctive clicking sound and consequent beeping.
Her heart beat in her ears, blocking out anything else for a brief second.
"That's not a…"
"It's exactly that."
Rushing, Avalon thrust the baby into Beau's arms. "Take her to safety. Get Colton and Thaddeus. Take them outside. Run as fast as you can and as far as you can. Don't let them die."
"But, Ava, you—"
"Don't worry about me. Just go. NOW!" she screamed when he didn't move.
She gathered her courage and rushed over to the second crib. She only had an estimated two minutes before that bomb went off.
"Okay, it's okay, baby. You're okay," she whispered more to herself than to the baby. "We're going to get through this. You are going to be just fine."
She cut the power wire and was using the screwdriver to uncover the access panel when her sweaty fingers fumbled with the tool, and it slipped through the metal bars of the crib.
"No! No! No! No!"
She squatted in front of the crib, reaching in through the bars, but her arm was too large. Her fingers just grazed the tool, but she was unable to grasp it. The baby rolled over, crying. Avalon squealed in delight when the baby's roll knocked the screwdriver right into her hand.
"Thank you, sweetheart," she breathed, jumping back to action.
She unlocked the access box and cut the black wire before the red. Taking a risk, she stepped back and, without wasting time, shot at the padlock with her handgun to bust it open. The cage was opened, and she grabbed the baby before dashing down the hallway and back down to the basement to make sure everyone had evacuated before she left.
"What the fuck?" she yelled when she came across Beau with a squalling infant in his arm, kneeling over Colton's unconscious body. Tears instantly sprang to her eyes. "He's not…He's not…"
"No, he's breathing," Beau answered her.
Relief flooded her.
"Take the babies and run."
"No, Ava, I'm not leaving you."
"This isn't just our lives at stake here, Beauregard! We have about thirty seconds! Take these children to safety. NOW!"
She placed the second baby in Beau's empty arm and pushed him toward the steps up to the backyard.
"All right, Colton, come on," she panted as she hoisted Colton's arm over her shoulders.
He slowly began regaining consciousness and was able to help her out by stumbling along beside her. They trudged up the stairs toward the sunlight.
"We're almost there, babe. Just a few more steps."
The ticking from upstairs was getting faster, and Avalon urged Colton to move more quickly. They had made it to the front of house when the beeping stopped for just a second. And then the explosion commenced.
Avalon felt her body flung forward, away from the house. Heat encompassed her back. She could tell that they were about to be thrown against the gravel of the road and knew how damaging that could be. Taking Colton's arm, she mustered all of the strength she had left and tossed Colton even further into the grass of the yard of the house across the street. Her head cracked against the road, and she felt a cool liquid seep against her hair. She twisted feebly to see Colton, making sure he landed where she had wanted him to. Once she saw him rise from the grass, shaking his head, she smiled to herself and rested her head against the ground, too tired to do anything else.
Colton rose from grass, shaking his head, trying to regain his hearing. There was a loud ringing in his ears that blocked everything else. Finally, he reoriented himself and searched for Avalon. His heart leaped into his throat when he saw her, lying amidst debris and crackling pits of fire from the explosion.
"Avalon!" he yelled, but he couldn't hear his own voice because of the ringing.
He rushed to her side and took her in his arms. Blood soaked through her hair from her head. She stirred in his arms, and her eyes fluttered open. A small smile flitted to her face.
"You're alive," she whispered.
He could just barely hear her, but he didn't care. She was okay. He hugged her to his chest, cupping the back of her head. His hand was soon soaked in blood from her head.
"We need to call an ambulance." But his phone was cracked when he pulled it out of his pocket.
"We have a car, silly," Avalon reminded him. "Where are the children?" she asked, her eyes widening.
"Right here," Beau said, walking up to them. "I've already called the fire department. They'll be here momentarily. An ambulance is coming with them."
"Thanks, bro," Avalon replied in a sardonic tone.
"Any time, sis."
"Your head," Colton expressed his concern.
"I'm fine. It's just a scratch."
Avalon placed her palm against Colton's bruised cheek. "I will survive. You needn't worry about me."
Colton relaxed a bit at her reassurance.
"I love you," he whispered.
"I love you too," she replied.
"You saved my life."
"It's all in the job description," she smiled weakly.
"You do not work for Daniels anymore."
"No, you're right. But as your wife, it's in the job description: protecting a prince."
Colton chuckled, smiling down at her.
"I let Thaddeus get away."
"Don't concern yourself over that," Avalon said.
"We will get him. In time, we will get him. The three of us will," she said, reaching out to Beau, who sat on the other side of her in the middle of the road.
Switching the subject, Colton asked, "How did you land in the middle of the road if I landed in the grass? You weigh much less than I do; the explosion should have thrown you farther."
"I can answer that," Beau interpolated. "She threw you."
"What?" Colton asked, bewildered. "You threw me? Why?"
"So you didn't get hurt."
"You risked your own wellbeing for mine?"
"Don't sound so surprised. I've done that plenty of times."
Colton laughed, brushing a curl from her cheek. "It will never not surprise me."
"Are you going to accept it now?"
"You're my Lois Lane."
Colton laughed. "Yes, I accept my fate."
"I want to hold my baby," Avalon whispered faintly. "Before the ambulance gets here and takes me away, I want to hold her."
"Um…" Beau looked from one child to the other. "Which one is she…?"
"Both," Avalon whispered, looking up at Colton to see his reaction.
All he did was smile down at her, unfazed by this curveball.
"If that's all right with—"
"Of course it is. Your wish is my command."
She smiled as Beau bent down and placed the two girls in Avalon's arms. In the background, they all heard the sirens of an ambulance and fire trucks.
"What are you going to name them?"
It was Colton's turn to surprise Avalon. "Grace and Aria."
Beau's and Avalon's eyes snapped up to look at Colton.
"I mean, if you approve, of course," Colton backtracked. "I just thought that, well, obviously, Grace is such a beautiful name, and I am sure your mother was such a wonderful person. I wanted to honor her. And Aria is the name that she chose for her daughter, so I thought it would be a good idea to—"
"I love it."
Colton smiled at Avalon.
"Two perfect names for two perfect girls," Avalon murmured.
"Three perfect names for three perfect girls," Colton corrected.
He bent down and kissed her, their daughters safely in her arms.
Coughing awkwardly, Beau rubbed the back of his neck. "Maybe, I should leave."
Both Avalon and Colton laughed.
"Come here," Colton said, wrapping his hand around Beau's shoulder and bringing him in for a group hug. "We are all family here."
"Family," Avalon repeated. "I like the sound of that."
Author's Notes: I just got really excited about this chapter and went ahead and wrote it. I love how it turned out! And I hope you all do too! Please, let me know!
I loved writing this story, but I loved hearing your responses even more! Although this story is over, I might end up writing more about other members in this family, so keep a look out if you're interested.