Chapter 30: Lost and Found

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Olive Delarosa blinked once, twice as the rims of her dark eyes turned silver with tears. Clasping her hands over her mouth, she emitted a high-pitched sob that transferred her sorrow over all the lost years with the son whom she had never thought she would see again. "My boy," she croaked, spreading her arms.

Mother and son collided in a tight embrace. Rowan buried his face against his mother's shoulder like a little child, although he was at least six inches taller than her. The muscles in his back tensed underneath his sweater, his broad shoulders heaving with silent sobs while she stroked his soft, dark hair. Olive's face was distorted with grief and happiness at the same time. The mere sight of it caused a lump to form in my throat, which wouldn't go away no matter how hard I swallowed.

Next to me, Larry's face was already wet with tears and he made no effort to hide it. Fishing a handkerchief out of his pocket, he wiped his nose with a blaring sound not unlike that of a trumpet. I turned my eyes to my other side, half expecting Ellie to make a snide remark about his "exaggerated" behavior, and I was surprised to see a single tear rolling down her cheek.

"Well, well, Ellie. I had never expected you to be so ... sentimental."

"I'm not!" she snapped, swatting at the tear as if it were a wasp on the verge of stinging her in the face. I chuckled, but said nothing.

Rowan and Olive had finally loosened their grip on one another, although they were still holding each other's elbows as a reassurance that all of this was real. Rowan's mother lovingly brushed away a few strands of hair from his forehead. "I can't believe you're here, all grown up."

"I'm sorry I wasn't there to protect you and Amelia," he blurted out, almost choking on the words. The immense relief on his face made my heart shrivel up. Until this moment, I hadn't fully realized how much Rowan's guilt had been like an old, festering wound, hurting him to the core. It had changed his personality for good, turning a young, ambitious boy without a care in the world into a rational, slightly overprotective soldier who hid his emotions behind a mask of charm.

And I had once slapped him in the face with that guilt, in the Forest of Indarr, when I had accused him of abandoning his family. Deep shame engulfed me at the memory.

"Oh, Rowan. Don't tell me you've been fretting over that all this time." She clicked her tongue with disapproval. "It wasn't your fault."

"I've missed you, Mom."

"I've missed you too, sweetheart," she answered, pulling him closer into another long hug. "You and your sister." The words had barely left her mouth when she stiffened, her eyes widening with panic as she leaned back to look at him. "How is Amelia? Is she—"

"She's alive," he reassured her with a smile. "You saved her that day."

Olive let out a deep sigh which seemed to relieve her body of years of tension and anxiety. Behind me, someone gave a subtle cough and we all turned to Taylor Ford. He tapped his foot while watching the reunion of mother and son, his aristocratic face taut with impatience.

Jerk.

Rowan's mother straightened up as if someone had pulled a string attached to her head. "Ah yes, Taylor, I bring news from the Onyx Tower." She was all business now, holding up her chin with pride and folding her hands in front of her as she delivered her message to the rebels. A respectful silence descended upon the room. "It has to happen on the night of the Fair. Everything has already been set in motion, and Tommy wanted me to tell you that he and his men have gathered most of the materials to craft the bombs. There's only one problem—"

"Cain," Ford sighed, scratching his chin. "He's too powerful to be overthrown so easily. We'll have to find a way to take him out, or at least to distract him long enough so that he won't notice anything until it's too late." His gray eyes glided to me as he spoke.

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