Disclaimer: Not mine, not making any money. I'm just playing.
Edna walked out of Trenton airport arrivals lounge and looked around for Stephanie. She found Lester instead.
He met her eyes and she smelled the fresh green of summer leaves in the middle of the crowded airport, and knew that the forest would never be out of their lives completely. She wheeled her baggage cart over to him and stopped. "Where's Stephanie? Is she okay?"
"She's fine. Sends her love and says she'll see you at dinner unless Ranger shoots his own foot to get out of it." Lester lifted her case from the cart and started walking towards the parking lot. "So how was Wisconsin?"
"Cold. But worth it."
Edna smiled and held her left hand out. "Remember Terry? Still a live one."
Lester whistled. "Nice. So he's making an honest woman out of you? Guess you'll beat your granddaughter to the altar then."
"Bob could beat her to the altar. Those two won't get married until their families stop pushing. Maybe they'll work that out eventually."
Lester loaded her case into the SUV and they got in.
Edna turned to watch Lester as he backed the car out of the parking space. "What are you really doing here, Lester? Stephanie told me not six hours ago that she was picking me up from the airport."
He didn't look at her as he concentrated on driving. "I need your help."
"I want to go back."
Edna didn't need to ask where. "Have you tried?"
"Four times in the last year. Three the year before. I can't find it. Maybe it let us in last time."
"But why?" Edna thought she knew the answer. She asked anyway.
"I can't do what I did before. Not any more."
"You haven't still got that problem?"
He flicked a startled glance sideways. "How did you….? Never mind. No. I just can't get her out of my head. It all feels empty now. And I want to find Morelli, make sure he's okay. His family would want it."
"Bella took it hard, him staying behind." Edna stared out of the window for a long moment. "I haven't done anything like this since bringing us home."
In fact, she'd done the opposite. Walked away. Tried to go back to being a crazy old lady and forget the feel of the power pulsing in her veins.
"But will you try?"
* * *
Morwen stormed out of the back door of the lodge with Snow's latest insult still ringing in her ears. She spun and slammed the door back against the frame hard enough to crack the daub around it, then leaned her forehead against it, closed her eyes and swallowed back the lump in her throat that threatened to become tears.
A roughened hand covered her mouth and pulled her back against the wall of the lodge.
"Shhh," a male voice breathed in her ear.
Her heart slammed against her ribs with terror as a pair of hands held her firmly, preventing her escape. They loosened when she didn't offer any resistance.
"My husband will hunt you down and kill you," she said, trying to stop her voice from shaking.
"Time to run then." Her kidnapper moved into view.
He was dangerously handsome, with dark hair and a scar slicing through one eyebrow. Tattooed wings showed on his chest at the edges of his leather jerkin. Blue thorns twined up both his forearms. A few days' beard growth darkened his jaw.
He pulled her stumbling toward the cover of the forest where a blonde teenager sat astride a roan horse holding the reins of a shaggy gray. As they approached he threw the gray's reins to the dark-haired man.
She recognized the horse. "I know you."
Morelli grinned and spoke into a small object that he held in his hand. "I've got her. Move out." He vaulted into the saddle in one fluid movement and reached down to pull her up in front of him.
The two horses wheeled and took off in a wild flight away from the lodge and into the forest.
Over the pounding hoofbeats, Morelli leaned forward and shouted in her ear, "I have a friend who's spent a long time trying to find you. He says you have unfinished business."
Her heart stopped. "Why didn't he come himself?"
"Because Lester is good at many things, but he can't ride worth a damn. When you see Trenton you'll understand."
Morwen threw her head back and laughed wildly. The wind from the horses' flight whipped the sound from her mouth and carried it away, back towards the lodge.
A/N… and there I plan to leave them. I struggle with the concept of happy ever afters. When do you draw a line under a life and say everything after that was wonderful and they all lived happily ever after. I've chosen to leave them with adventures in their future and their own demons to face. There are hints scattered here and there if you look for them. The truth is that as I wrote this story, like Morelli I fell in love with the forest and its people and decided to stay there. The future in Trenton will have to stay in people's imaginations for now. Edna's battle not to follow in Ash's footsteps and Lester's quest to find Morwen again would probably make stories all of their own.
Thank you to Mud the marvellous muse and my amazing betas Harmne and Dee. They always gave great advice, even if I decided to do something different a lot of the time. All yawning plot holes, dangling threads and other mistakes are down to me, not them.
Thank you to the wonderful JE for not complaining when we play with her characters. Most of the characters you recognise are hers. Others have their origins in earlier tales but I don't think the Brothers Grimm would recognise them so I regard them as my own. I've grown very attached to Morwen. Maybe she'll have her own story one day. Unfortunately for them, Garrick and the boys are all mine, leather-clad toys for my future amusement. Poor, poor boys. They might enjoy it. We'll see.
Thank you for coming along for the ride.