“No,” Snow ordered Killian, her mouth set in determined lines. “You have to go. Now. Get to Emma. Make her believe again.”
“What? Without you? We have to find David.” Uncertain, Killian gripped the bean tight and didn’t move. Another massive root from the downed beanstalk snapped while the billowing cloud of devastating magic in the distance swirled over the hills.
Snow shook her head vigorously.
Jasmine took an urgent step toward her. “Snow, you can’t mean—”
“There’s no time to lose,” Snow argued, her hands clenched into fists. She flicked her gaze to Killian. “You have to go. The magic in the bean could be gone before you get back to Regina.”
“I have my carpet,” Jasmine pointed out, clutching Snow’s upper arm.
But Killian knew that hard look in Snow’s eyes. His mother-in-law wouldn’t be swayed. He straightened. “I’ll go. And I swear to you Emma will remember.” Conviction marched through him. He refused to let David’s absence obliterate hope.
Killian turned and whipped the bean into the air. A flaming portal opened, swirling and spinning, its vortex blasting him with wind. He would find Emma. He would convince her of the truth. They’d been through so much, they’d fought so hard and had won. And they would triumph again.
He strode forward but before going through, he glanced at Snow over his shoulder. Her chin was raised in the look of strength she always held. She’d entrusted their fate to him. He wouldn’t fail her.
After a nod at her and Jasmine, he jumped.
* * * *
With her hands curled tight around the wheel, Emma pressed the gas pedal of her VW Bug. Her stomach swirled with indecision, with grief at leaving Henry, but she had to get out of Storybrooke. She had to get a little of herself back.
Fairy tales? They didn’t exist.
How had she ever let the belief inside her heart? Was she that starved for connection to a family that she’d ignore reason?
But Henry had seemed so sure. His face, tight with resolve, with hope, grew in her mind’s eye. How could she discount his urgings? When had she ever spoken with that much faith?
She shook her head and shoved away uncertainty. She had to have some distance, some time to think.
The miles went by as she drew closer to the town line. When the city sign rose ahead, she gritted her teeth and picked up speed.
Light blasted across the horizon. Wind pushed at the car. Emma leaned forward and checked the sky. There wasn’t a cloud, but a swirling vortex sliced into the air.
“What the hell?” She let up on the gas as she stared transfixed at the phenomena.
A figure fell through the mass.
She gasped and hit the brakes.
The form fell onto the road in front of her.
The bug came to a screeching halt, slamming her forward then back. Breathing heavily, she blinked at the scene ahead of her. What the hell had just happened? Had she hit someone? She jerked the car in park then scrambled out, her heart in the pit of her stomach.
A man rolled to his knees.
“Are you all…” Emma stopped in her tracks.
The person stood, dusting himself off, moving gingerly as if in pain.
When their eyes met, she couldn’t breathe. The long leather coat. The black vest. The silver hook. And the piercing and open look he sent her…
She knew this man. She’d seen this man. In Henry’s book. And…on the rooftop…
Her throat dried up. He’s real. He lives and breathes. Impossible. No. It can’t be.
He stood without making a move. Watching her. Waiting.
She wanted to get closer. Which was ridiculous. Dangerous. She clenched her hands into fists and forced herself to take normal breaths. The spinning portal disappeared, but he remained. Who was he?
Not her husband. Not that.
But the images from the rooftop flashed through her mind. She could feel him hold her, feel his mouth on hers. Her lips burned at the memory, so sharp she had to suppress the urge to touch them. “Who are you?” she demanded, refusing to bow to the odd feelings coursing through her.
One corner of his mouth lifted. Was that pride in his gaze?
“My name’s Killian Jones.” He spoke without caution, but also without irritation. As if he expected her question and appreciated it.
He gave a little grin, and his eyes lit with what she could only describe as adoration. “But…Most people have taken to calling me by my more colorful moniker.”
She knew what he was going to say. Her heart pounded hard in her chest.
“Hook,” he finished.
He spoke the truth. She could feel it. She knew this man. In the marrow of her bones.
No. No. She lifted her chin. “As in Captain Hook?” She couldn’t help the mockery of her tone as she drew out the title.
He nodded once, but didn’t rise to her challenge. “I’ve come to help you, Emma. To help Henry.”
Alarmed, she took one step forward. “What do you know about Henry?” And he knew her name. How did he know her name?
As he curled his hand around his belt, he replied, “He’s like you. And his grandfather. He’s going to fight back.”
“The Black Fairy.”
Again he answered with so much conviction she couldn’t help the sense that he told the truth. But it was ridiculous. Impossible. She paced, agitated. “Why would he do that? And how would he do that?” She fired the questions at him, uncaring if she seemed rude.
“To save everyone, Emma. To return his family, your family, to this land.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “And he knows how to fight because…I’ve been teaching him.”
She laughed in disbelief. “You taught him? How? Through delusion? He’s never met you. You don’t live in Storybrooke.”
“Yes, I do.” His gaze turned direct, consuming.
Again the visions of him waiting at the head of the aisle blasted through her memory. In a black suit, an open and loving expression on his face. She couldn’t listen to him tell her they were married. She didn’t want to hear because every fiber of her being would want to believe it.
She was supposed to be going to Boston. “I have to leave.”
The strident tone did nothing to make her turn. She lifted the handle of her car door. “I can’t stay here.”
“If you go, everyone you love will perish.” He took two urgent steps toward her. “Please, Emma.”
She closed her eyes against the way he said her name. It went through her, warming her, tugging at her. How could this possibly be real? She’d gone crazy. That was the only explanation.
“We have to get to Henry. We have to stop what’s coming, and Emma…” A second of charged silence passed. “You’re the one who has to lead us.”
She let out a slow breath. Then turned. “Is this that savior talk?” How could she make this stranger understand what he referred to couldn’t possibly be true? “I’m not that person. I can’t save anyone.”
His eyes snapped with fire, and he took another strong step toward her. “Yes, you can. If not for you, so many people wouldn’t have reconciled their differences. People were given second chances and third ones because of you.”
Her heart kicked against her ribs. How could this man believe such things about her? She shook her head. “No. You don’t know me. You can’t know me.”
“Love, there’s so much we’ve shared. We’ve had to fight so hard, for every inch we earned, every smile, every step.” He swallowed, his gaze imploring her to believe. “Without you, I would still be a man on a quest for revenge.”
She couldn’t contradict him in the face of his impassioned speech. Why did she feel compelled to trust him? She trusted no one except Henry. “You might think you know me, but that’s impossible. I don’t know where you’ve come from, but you should go back there.”
He gestured toward the sky. “The portal I came through, does that not prove anything to you?”
She sliced the air with her hand. “All I know is that I don’t trust myself right now. I don’t trust my own mind.” She opened the door. “And I can’t trust you.”
“Your tattoo,” he called out.
She paused in the space between the door and seat. Alarmed, she looked at him.
“On your left wrist,” he continued.
Her breath came quicker. She clamped her mouth shut.
“It’s a Forget-Me-Not.” Desperate hope shone from his piercing blue eyes. “You got it to remind yourself to always remember who you are.”
The product of true love. The statement whispered through her. And it was his voice she heard. But he hadn’t said it. Still, shivers moved over her skin at the mystical sigh of words. She couldn’t move. Several seconds passed between them. “Who told you that?” she rasped.
He inclined his head toward her. “You did after…” A muscle ticked in his jaw, as if he was afraid to finish.
“After?” she prodded.
“After the first time…our first time…together.” His gaze gleamed with love, with remembrance, with hope.
She believed him. She did. She narrowed her focus. If this was all true, then Henry…
Determination shot through her. “Get in the car.”
He complied without argument.
Once he was seated, she shifted into drive, turned sharp and raced back to town. “He’s going after the mayor?” Henry had referred to her once as the Black Fairy.
“Yes. He won’t surrender.”
She tightened her grip on the wheel and kept her eyes on the road. This man, who knew too much about her, who lived in her dreams and made her heart swell, took up all breathable air inside the vehicle. She couldn’t get caught by his gaze again. Not now. Henry needed her.
And, if she believed Henry was in danger, that the captain told the truth, then that meant he was--
She clenched her jaw and stared hard at the road ahead of her. Racing past trees on either side, she tried to ignore the man next to her. What he might…be…to her. She concentrated on Henry, on getting to him.
“When we find the mayor, what the hell do I do?” she questioned.
“Trust your gut. It never steers you wrong.”
She glanced at his profile, at his own hard expression as he faced forward. He must’ve felt her attention. His gaze met hers. Went soft. Something flipped inside her.
For a reason she couldn’t fathom, whatever she would encounter, if he was there, she could handle it. Without faltering.
She gripped the wheel tighter and looked ahead. Buildings appeared. Leaves scattered as she pressed the gas pedal almost to the floor.
When they came upon the walk leading to the mayor’s office, the captain said, “There he is.”
Henry strode toward the structure, his steps determined, a sword in hand.
Fear leapt inside Emma, and she slammed on the brakes.
The captain scrambled out of the car before Emma had the vehicle in park. “Henry,” he called.
Emma watched her son freeze then exited the bug herself.
Henry turned and saw her. A look of thankfulness and hope passed through his eyes before his attention turned to her passenger.
“Killian,” Henry cried. He shot forward.
Emma watched, stunned, when her son raced into the embrace of Killian Jones without hesitation. Captain Hook.
She swallowed. “Oh, my God,” she breathed.
The pair faced her.
As her heart hammered in her chest, she gazed at her son. “I married Captain Hook.”
A slow smile spread across Henry’s face. “You sure did.”
She glanced at her…husband.
He quirked a grin at her. “And you’re quite happy about it, I assure you, love.”
Laughter at his cheekiness erupted before she could stop it. She clapped a hand over her mouth, stunned. As realization spread through her, she also understood that while she might believe, her memory of it didn’t exist. She lowered her arm and took a deep breath. “If…If I am truly,” she cleared her throat, “married, and everything you’ve been telling me is real…then I found my parents.” Happiness blossomed inside her.
“You did,” Henry affirmed. “And they love you very much.”
But they’d been taken from her. By the mayor. Anger grew inside her. She stormed around the car. “Let’s find Fiona and get the rest of our family back.”
“We’re fighting for more than just your parents, Emma,” Killian told her.
“What do you mean?” Henry asked.
Her…husband let out a breath. “All the realms are disappearing. The final battle is a war for your soul, Emma, your belief.”
What the hell? “You can’t be serious? How is that even possible?” Emma lifted her hands out, palms up.
“Curses can do a lot of things, terrible things.” Killian gestured toward the sword in Henry’s hand. “You’re going to need that, but you’re also going to need to face her with all the hope and faith you can muster.”
As Henry handed over the blade, she took it uneasily. “I know how to use this?”
“Quite well.” Killian promised. “You bested me once.”
Another grin came from him. “Only once with a sword. You bested me in other ways.”
“Can we go?” Henry asked, interrupting her exchange with Killian Jones. “Pretty sure the Black Fairy isn’t just twiddling her thumbs.”
No, she probably wasn’t. She’d cursed a town, ripped people apart, and was now destroying the lives of thousands. Emma gritted her teeth. “Let’s go.”
She led the way and when she reached the mayor’s office, she kicked open the door. But no one was within. She spun on a heel. “Now where?”
“Let’s try the clock tower,” Henry suggested.
As Emma raced back into the hallway, an arc of light whooshed through her. She stopped in her tracks. Images flooded her. Memories. Precious memories.
Her mother. Her father. Kissing Henry awake. Flying into Killian’s arms in the cemetery.
“I remember,” she whispered. She turned and faced her husband and son. She rushed toward them. She kissed Henry’s cheek. Her lips met Killian’s as she cupped the back of his head with her hand. When she pulled away, his arm was around her waist, solid and steady. “I remember,” she declared again, awestruck, gazing deep into his perfectly warm and beautiful eyes.
“Just in time, savior,” an ominous voice spoke from behind her.
She whipped around. Gideon stood at the end of the hall. “Killian, get Henry out of here,” she commanded. As she poised to fight her nemesis, her husband did her bidding.
Gideon stormed toward her, sword raised. She backed into the office, thinking, planning. What should she do? Could she kill Belle’s son?
Before she made the decision, Henry slammed a fire extinguisher onto the back of his head and Gideon crumpled.
“Come on,” Killian urged, waving them toward the exit.
Emma sealed the door with a protection spell. “It won’t hold him for long. We have to find another way to stop him.”
They ran from the building.