Authors: Meg Jackson
And stick around after the epilogue
to read Part 1 of
Flip the page to start Prologue.
are all wanderers on this earth. Our hearts are full
of wonder, and our souls are deep with dreams.
– Gypsy Proverb
The August of 1981 was one of the hottest, wettest
months Kingdom had ever seen, though it didn’t surprise anyone. The last days
of July had been so muggy and humid that precipitation clung to you the moment
you stepped outside, and everything seemed to be covered in the same glistening
sheen of anticipation.
The month of August came on a great roiling
thundercloud that stayed for a week before finally lightening to a persistent
drizzle. It was only when the third week of summer’s last month arrived that
there was any respite – and it was a glorious respite, the full bloom of the
sun tempered by the drier air, the sky blue and blue endlessly through all the
long days, and star-strewn through the short nights.
It was on one of those brilliantly canopied nights
that Pieter and Rhonda managed to meet once more, under that sky so full of
stars that the stream, running thick as a river, was bathed in a cold, gracious
light. His mouth was soft and warm, his half-clothed body was pressed against
hers, their hands were entwined above their heads.
With the air still warm, she didn’t shiver when he
pulled her dress away from her softly undulating body, her hips moving up and
down against his, her thighs parting so he could slip between them, the cold
zipper of his pants the only chill, the only obstacle between two willing
bodies. His mouth moved down her neck, licking each inch tenderly, tasting the
soft heat of her, his hands moving to her breasts and cupping one gently, then
firmly as he thrust against her, wanting to bring her close, so close, before
She moaned into his ear, her hand finding the top of
his jeans and pulling uselessly down, their position giving him all the
advantage, all the control. Smiling against her flesh, he felt her need for
him, the words she couldn’t say out of modesty –
I need you, I want you, please, come inside me…
Instead of yielding to these unspoken pleas, though,
he teased her more, moving downwards until his mouth closed over one small,
hard nipple, her back arching upward. Out of the corner of his eye, he could
see where her fist grabbed at the grass and dirt just outside the blanket, next
to his discarded shirt; his lower stomach pressed against the heat of her sex.
She was wet for him, he could feel her against his bare flesh, his own manhood
churning with impatience. But he wasn’t ready to enter her yet.
No, first he wanted to taste her other breast, suck
her sweet bud into his mouth and feel each mound from underneath, cupping his
hands around their soft bottoms and lifting, moving his mouth away only to
graze her nipples with his thumbs.
“Pieter,” she moaned his name, the most she would ever
say. His woman, his oh-so-unexpected woman, was shy, even now, after they’d
showed each other everything, all their scars and all their most beautiful
parts. Her thighs were tightening around his chest, her hips thrusting, and he
moved downward further, covering her stomach with kisses, hearing the
battery-hum buzz of her body under his tongue, until he was between her legs,
his hands tracing up and down her thighs, milky white in the moonlight.
And the taste of her was so sweet in his mouth, her
tender sex spread wide for him to lap at every inch, catch every drop of her
desire on his tongue. He closed his lips around her hard clit, sucking it in
until her hands buried themselves in his hair and she was pressing him forward,
demanding her release, his tongue flicking out to provide it.
Her thighs closed around his ears and all he could
hear were her distant moans, the blood that pumped through her faster and
faster as she pulled him harder and harder, his tongue rolling across her
tenderness, circling it and flicking upwards, and then rolling once more,
again, again, until she was bucking against him, her nectar warm on his chin,
her thighs rigid and her hips straining bolt upright.
Only then did he make quick work of that zipper,
releasing himself, hard and throbbing with need for her, and pulling himself up
buried his nose in the small of her neck as she opened for him again, still
gasping from her orgasm as he filled her, feeling her pussy contract and
stretch to fit him, massaging every inch of his cock as he plunged it into her.
“Oh, baby,” he moaned into her, unable to hold back as
her hips moved with him, her slit wet and sucking him in with each thrust,
harder and harder, his hands wrapped around her tightening, wanting her to
swallow him whole as he came, bursting inside her, the sensation driving her
over the edge once more so that they came together, her pussy milking each drop
of cum from his cock.
When it was over, he stayed inside her, the feeling of
her radiating heat around his wilting cock the perfect ending. Slipping out at
last, he rolled over and they lay, breathless, staring up at the sky and the
endless stars. He reached out in the dark, taking her hand in his.
“Pieter,” she said, and the tone of her voice startled
him from his near-dozing state. It was strained, worried, anxious. Not at all
the tone he’d expect from Rhonda after one of their toe-curling encounters.
Usually, after, she was dreamy and thick-lipped, cooing in his arms.
Now, he raised himself on one elbow. Her face told him
even more than her voice; her dark chocolate eyes were narrowed under worried
brows, mouth screwed up in fear. Instinctively, he brushed his hand through her
hair, holding the back of her head.
“What is it, baby?” he asked. Whatever it was…it
wasn’t good. He thought of the things she'd told him, about the man who'd been
“I have to tell you something,” she said, and she
sounded like she was about to cry. Pieter’s heart fell. What could she want to
tell him that would make her so sad?
“Anything,” he said softly, steeling himself for the
worst. A long moment passed between them, then a sob escaped her lips.
“I’m pregnant,” she said, crying the words out.
Pieter’s heart stopped – then started again, double-time. Pulling her into him,
he closed his eyes and kissed her deeply on the top of her head. She reached
out, clutching him tight. He felt her tears wetting his chest, rocked her
slowly as his mind worked. And then, closing his eyes, he pulled away, smiling.
“This calls for a celebration,” he said, wiping the
tears from her eyes. Rhonda looked confused, then shocked.
“You’re not…you’re not upset?” she asked between
“Upset? I’m elated, baby,” he said, cupping her tiny
face in his hands. When she smiled again, his heart broke into a million
pieces. It always did. “You wait right here. I have just the thing in the
truck. I was gonna wait until I dropped you off to give it to you, but now
seems the right time.”
Rhonda laughed, relief flooding her features, wiping
the last of her tears as Pieter stood up, pulling his jeans back up and
disappearing into the brush. His truck was parked a half mile away through
thick shrubs and clinging mud, the ground still drenched from the month’s
persistent rain. The voice of the stream lapping against the shore calmed
Rhonda’s heart as she sat forward, clutching her knees to her chest.
Intermittently, she smiled, even laughed slightly.
When, only a few minutes later, she heard something
approaching through the bushes, she turned in surprise.
“Pieter?” she asked into the darkness. A tall, shadowy
figure emerged, but didn’t respond. She squinted, trying to see who it was.
The gunshot shattered the night, and she died with his
name on her lips, his seed on her thighs, and his child in her womb.
Her voice was paper-thin, gravelly, painfully dry. He
crossed the darkened room, the smell of incense and herbs overwhelming. Better
than the smell of death, though. He knew that much. He’d smelled enough death
that month to last for the rest of his life.
First, his father, too young, even for the hard-ridden
life he’d led. And now, Baba Tayti, who’d outlived her first daughter by fifteen
years, her only son by a month. He could remember her wailing, though he’d been
young when his aunt had passed. When she’d heard of Pieter’s passing, she
hadn’t had the strength for wailing. She’d simply closed her eyes and swallowed
hard. Her life had been long and fruitful; as far as Rom, or Romani gypsies,
went, she was as close to a saint as one could get. She was facing death as
bravely as any saint, Catholic or not, to come before her.
“Baba,” Kennick said, taking her hand as he settled
into the chair beside her bed. “You shouldn’t…”
“Don’t be stupid,
her voice cut quick, and Kennick smiled. She still used the term for
For him, and for his brothers. And
for Mina, his sister, she used
term for girl. They would always be boys and girls to her, just children
letting the doors slam behind them while they reached sticky-fingered for rock
candy in the kitchen. “You don’t tell me what I should or shouldn’t do.”
Her eyes, though cloudy with cataracts, rolled towards
the sign of his voice. Behind the milky film, the vibrant swirls of her second
sight glowed gently.
she cooed, struggling to lift her other hand, closing it on top of his. Her
palms felt like tracing paper. Her gnarled fingers, which pained her endlessly,
even with the highest grade medicinals the
could grow, were hard as sticks. “Beautiful, beautiful
I see your love coming.”
Kennick’s back stiffened slightly, and he hoped she
couldn’t feel it.
“Don’t,” she scolded, proving that even on her deathbed
she was more perceptive than any able-bodied man. “Don’t be rigid to love. Love
is the greatest thing of them all. And you need it. And this love…oh, Kennick…”
A smile spread across her face, her eyes closing as
though she were bathed in the glow of this love-to-come.
“Kennick, this will be a great, great love. The kind
that happens so quickly you don’t even see it happening. She will be beautiful,
Blue eyes like a
jewel. I can see her…she has a smile on her…”
“Baba, don’t tire yourself…”
Kennick couldn’t help but grin.
Shut up and listen!
Baba would take her temper to the grave.
“You are travelling soon,” the old woman said,
continuing to see things mortals usually couldn’t. She saw more through her
blind eyes than Kennick could ever hope to see. “And that is where you will
find her. But there will be trouble, too. Such heartbreak.”
Baba’s brows furrowed, her mouth turning downwards.
“You are going for your father. When I am gone, you
will be leaving. I know you are waiting for me. You won’t need to wait much
Kennick’s heart fell. He loathed the thought of losing
Baba, but it was true; she was the reason they hadn’t already returned to that
town, the place Pieter Volanis had begged them to return to, to clear his name.
She couldn’t travel in her condition, so they were staying put until she met
her great reward.
“Kennick, you must be careful. Watch after your
brothers. I sense something evil is going to happen…and another girl. I see
danger for a girl. Not one of ours. A
girl. Kennick wondered what that would have to do with him, or his people. He
didn’t think that anyone in the
harm a child, whether she was gypsy or not.
“Some things you cannot stop,” Baba said, her voice
weakening with the strain of seeing. “Some things…Kennick, you are r
in a hard time. Things are
going to change. Someone is very unhappy to follow your lead. He will do
horrible things. I cannot…I cannot see! Ah, I am useless!”
“No, Baba,” Kennick said, hunching forward, bringing
her hand to his mouth and kissing the back of it. “You have always been the
heart of our family. I will be careful. I will watch over my brothers. I will
well. I will not
let anyone take what’s rightfully mine. I promise, Baba.”
“And promise,” Baba said, a smile now coming to her
features. “That you will take this love, the love God is giving you so freely.
You will take it and treasure it. Treasure her. In treasuring her, you will
treasure yourself. And me. It is my only wish, Kennick.
be damned. It is my
I care most about. Sweet…”
A snore interrupted her sentence as she drifted off to
sleep. She did that so often, falling asleep in the middle of speaking. It
would not be long, Kennick knew. And the thought was a stabbing pain in his
heart. He released her claw-like hands, laying them on her chest. Leaning
forward, he pressed his lips to her forehead.
Outside, in the long corridor that separated Baba’s
room from the rest of her trailer, Cristov and Damon waited, fidgeting, both
having already said their goodbyes. Mina was in the kitchen, brewing a strong
tea to help ease Baba’s pain. She and their aunt Ana, Baba Tayti’s only
surviving child, had taken charge of attending to the ailing woman, as
The Volanis family were not thoroughly chained to much
of the traditional Rom laws and mores, but some things were too sacred to leave
behind. Mina and Ana would care for Baba until she passed. Women tread the
threshold between life and death much closer than men. Mina was strong for this
reason, stronger than her brothers.
“What did she say?” Cristov asked, following Kennick
to the living room, where the three brothers sat on the old, natty couch they’d
grown up jumping on, sleeping on, and spilling juice on. It was beautiful for
“She said there would be trouble,” Kennick said,
pointedly ignoring her prophecies of love. That was none of his brother’s
business. In truth, he knew this was wrong. Everything was his brothers’
business. They didn’t hide things from each other. But Kennick didn’t feel the
need to share that right now. Mina gave him a strange look as she passed
through the living room, teapot in hand, as though she saw his lie in his eyes.
Damon sighed, but didn’t say anything. Cristov slumped
“That’s what she said to me, too,” he said. “Plus, she
said some shit about me having to grow up and stop acting like a puppy.
Whatever that means.”
Kennick bit back a smile.
“She said someone in the
would raise hell,” Kennick continued. “About me being r
the big man. The leader. The one in charge. Pieter
Volanis had once held that title, and with his passing it fell to Kennick’s
shoulders. As the oldest of the Volanis brothers, his father had spent his last
days finalizing a life's work of teaching. Kennick had always paid close
attention to the way his father led the
the group of families and extended families who travelled together, all of
them Rom by blood or by marriage. Resolving disputes, dealing with the myriad businesses,
liaison for law
enforcement and community groups. Kennick had always known he was destined to
take Pieter’s place. He just hadn’t expected it to happen so soon.
“Well, whoever it is will
have a lot to handle if he tries to mess with you,” Cristov said, clapping
Kennick on the back. “Everyone knows that there’s no such thing as a lone
“Of course,” Damon said,
adding his rare two cents to the conversation. Kennick’s heart still throbbed
and ached for Baba, knowing it would be a matter of days – if not hours –
before they laid her to rest. But surrounded by his brothers, his sister
nearby, in the trailer they’d grown up in, through laughter and tears, he knew
that death was just a transition.
Someday, he would see Baba –
and Pieter – again. In the meantime, he had an army at his side. They were a
small army, it was true. Four siblings made for a small army, indeed. But they
were well-armed, well-taught, and well-fought.
Soon, they would strike out
for Kingdom, Delaware, where a thirty-year-old tragedy waited for them to clear
their family name.