The cranky old martial-arts instructor who’d lived upstairs, who’d taught me more than I’d understood, strode in through the half-open door, swinging his cane like the prop I’d never known it was. “It’s not her name until you say it to her face; it will change her, and I can’t allow that, not yet. We need her just the way she is for a little while longer, warts and all.”
I’d expected that line to draw an angry remark from her, but a quick glance showed she was more stunned than I was. Apparently the game was four-dimensional Twister.
He misinterpreted my look. “Not physical warts, boy, character flaws. Ones that we’ve carefully nurtured for centuries.”
I didn’t know what he was, but I thought about all the pain and loneliness Angel and Ariel had gone through before I met them. He’d nurtured them, too.
My hands curled into fists. “And what were you nurturing me to be?”
“A hero, like your father before you.”
“My dad was a bank teller.”
“…who gave up his dreams to love a woman he knew would die young, and raised their child to be a protector, once he found something worth protecting. We do have something like valkyries, son, and they’re never wrong about heroes. I liked him, so I picked up where he left off.”
“Time for you to get back to it, I think. Don’t worry about this one; I’ve got one last job for her before Graduation, and I guarantee it will keep her out of your hair.”
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