“thank you” Antoni didn’t argue another second. Instead he gratefully ran to his room to shower and get ready for her. Antoni went straight for the shower, making it quick so he could dry and pull on some clean clothes. He had realized she was an intelligent woman but he still couldn’t believe she had already found her way to him. Once he had gotten his hair completely dry he straightened his clothes and went outside to wait for her. He wanted to be the first person she saw and he knew if he waited inside the guys would all tease him. She was so close the rest of the waiting would be agonizing enough.
“I hope you’re okay with being on a boat.” William said when they finally locked up and left with little Rosie in tow.
“Even if I’m not, I just want to get to Antoni.”
William chuckled as they got in his car. “I was pretty surprised when he called and told me about you. Antoni is the last person to break the rules.”
“He’s not going to be in trouble is he?”
“No, teased maybe, but not in trouble. It’s not like he did it on a whim, he probably debated with himself over it. Besides, his mentor is pretty forgiving.”
“He told me there were six of them total, but some of them don’t live in the main house.”
William nodded. “They got married and wanted their own space so a new one was built. Then there is Antoni of course, Ronin, their mentor Phobetor, the couple Alec and Claire, then Phobetor’s newest apprentice Shona. She’s the youngest at twelve. She goes between the two houses.”
“Wow, so young to be fighting nightmares.”
“She doesn’t have any family and when Phobetor discovered her talent for dreaming, he adopted her. Now she has everyone on the island.”
“Thats so sweet, they all seem to have good hearts”
“You’ll like them, every generation of my family has. One day it will be little Rubie here making this trip. It’s an honor”
“are you excited to do this yourself one day?” Rhona asked the little girl who nodded with a smile. “wait until you see the island”
“when did you first start going with your dad?”
“I’ve been going as long as I can remember” Her father was now speaking again “yep, our family tends to start bringing the young ones as early as they can be trusted on the ride.”
“That must be fun, is it hard to keep the secret”
“Not at all, as I said, it’s an honor”
Antoni’s heart gave a leap when he heard the sound of the boat’s engine and made sure his clothes looked okay as he walked to the edge of the dock and looked off into the fog. The bell on William’s boat sounded to let him know they were close and he swallowed when the boat finally broke through the fog bank and started towards him. She was there, sitting in the seat just behind Rosie. William slowed and had Rosie grab the rope and toss it to Antoni. “You made it.” He said as he tied the boat off.
“We did and even managed to pick up a passenger.”
Antoni’s eyes were already riveted to Rhona and hers on him. He held out his hand and Rhona’s cheeks warmed as she took it. “It’s really you.” She said as he helped her up onto the dock.
“And you.” She was even more stunning in real life and he got so lost in her eyes he nearly forgot about William and Rosie. He blinked, feeling embarrassed. “William, would you and Rosie like to go see the others?”
William tried not to grin too much as he and his daughter walked away from the two of them. “It really is good to see you Rhona” Antoni said softly. “thankfully people were kind and helpful along the way. Your hints were really good too”
“sorry I wasn’t just straightforward with how to get here.”
“Oh, don’t worry about that. It was kind of fun”
“I was mostly worried my mentor would be upset with me for inviting you but he’s actually eager to meet you” Rhona smiled “then lets go in, I’d love to see everyone” Antoni cleared his throat out of nervousness “may I take your hand again as we walk inside?” Rhona put her hand in his and they laced fingers as they approached the home he shared with the other dreamwalkers.
They could hear everyone talking as they entered and Antoni found himself suddenly very nervous. Rhona seemed to feel the same and squeezed his hand, helping to calm his nerves. Phobetor was surprisingly in the kitchen with Rosie and Shona who were making cookies and smiled when they walked through the door. His eyes moved over Rhona as he held out his hand to her. “Miss Rhona, so nice to finally meet you.”
Rhona took his hand, shaking it. “Um, you too.”
“No reason to me nervous, you’re very welcome here.” He turned his attention to Antoni. “I wanted to greet her before I went to work, please introduce her to everyone and give her a tour.”
“I will, thank you.” Even though Phobetor had said he was fine with Rhona coming, it was still nice to see him greet her with a smile.
Phobetor left them and while Rhona wanted to get to know him as well she understood how important their work was. She couldn’t imagine how hard her childhood would have been if Antoni hadn’t been there for her. You only slept so many hours a day but nightmares had a way of haunting you even in your waking hours. With Antoni around she never had to worry, she knew he was always coming for her and she couldn’t take that security from another child, not when she could just talk to Phobetor later.
They spent a lot of time talking to Ronin first. He was as lively and kind natured as Antoni had depicted him. He was really the only one she knew much about so meeting the others was an extra special treat. Antoni told her as much about them as he could think of which to his dismay wasn’t much. All he could think of right now was that she was here on his island.
“I can see why he broke the rules.” Alec teased.
“It’s because she’s so pretty.” Claire added with a wink to Antoni that had his heart skipping.
“That’s not true.” Antoni replied. “I wanted her to find me because I…because I wanted to see her, really see her.”
“I bet you’re clues were even that hard.” Ronin added. “Go left at the bakery and you’ll find William who will bring you right to me?”
Rhona couldn’t help but laugh. “It was a bit challenging to be honest, but I think after getting to know him for so long, I was able to decipher everything. It was like getting a tour from him and was a lot of fun.”
“Maybe he’ll have to ask Phobetor to let him leave the island to give you a real tour. Like a date.” Ronin threw out, trying to sound nonchalant about it, but chuckling when Antoni gave him a look.
“You really think he wouldn’t mind?” she asked and Antoni said “I doubt he would.”
“He doesn’t expect us not to have social lives” Ronin added. “I’ll ask him when he’s done working” Antoni said, already trying to think of where all to take Rhona. He was devoted to his work so while he had of course left the island before it wasn’t something he did often. He hadn’t had much of a reason to until now. When Phobetor was coming in for a coffee break he spoke without being prompted “You can have all the time off you want” Antoni nearly blushed “I” he started and Phobetor shook his head “go on, take her somewhere. I’m very old and I get more and more observant with time. Plus it would be common sense you’d want to be able to do something with her since she came all this way. Go on, I don’t want to hear anything about work. We all have things taken care of”
“Alright, thank you.”
Phobetor waved him off. “When we start a relationship, it’s important to grow it and if I forced you to always make work a priority then it would fall apart, so go and have fun. I’m sure William and Rosie will bring you back when you’re ready.”
“Of course.” William said. “You know I don’t mind.”
“Thank you.” He turned to Rhona. “Would you mind waiting here with the others while I get ready and gather some clothes? It is okay if I stay with you while I’m away right?”
“Of course.” Rhona’s face warmed and he gave her a warm, adoring smile.
“Go on, we want to tell her about all of your most embarrassing moments.” Ronin teased.
Antoni gave his friend a look before hurrying off, a bundle of nerves and excitement. When he came back everyone was laughing and he didn’t even want to ask what they had just been telling her “If you two are ready i can go ahead and take you” William offered and Antoni looked to Rhona who said “Yeah, I’m ready”
“make sure to bring her back sometime” Ronin insisted as they got on the boat with William and his daughter “I’d love that” Rhona said as she sat down. Antoni sat close to her, his heart actually beating a little harder in his chest. They made the trip back safely and didn’t waste time leaving William and his daughter to their own lives. “so…um…” she started. “so?”
“by first impressions am I what you expected?” He smiled “You’re just as pretty in person as you are when I see you in your dreams”
“Yeah, you’re perfect, of course you would be no matter what?”
She giggled. “What if I had actually been a man?”
He shrugged. “I like to believe I’d still love you, though it might be kind of surprising. I mean I’ve known you since you were little.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “What about me? Not nearly as cool without the guns huh?”
Rhona took his hand. “Even cooler.”
“That’s a relief. I’m really happy you’re here, that you were able to decipher all my clues.”
“Well, I wanted to meet my hero and thank you. You kept me safe my whole childhood.”
He blushed, wanting to respond but feeling any way he could would sound far too sappy. He always wanted to keep her safe and wished she didn’t live so far away. As things were, he could only watch over her in the dream world unless she was visiting. The two hit it off almost surprisingly well hanging out in person over the following days. Antoni had to admit to himself that sharing a bed in her hotel was the best part for him. It was only making him care more deeply for her. She fit so perfectly in his arms and she always smelled amazing, even after long days of enjoying everything the area had to offer.
“Rhona?” Antoni said as they walked through the city.
“Yeah?” She looked up at him and he found himself frozen by her beautiful blue green eyes. It was like he was being hypnotized. “Antoni?”
He blinked, his face warming. “Um, I was wondering, when do you have to leave?”
“The end of next week.”
“I see.” He reached out and took her hand, pulling her to a stop. “Do you have too?” He swallowed. “I mean, I’m sure you want to go home, but I…I want you to stay, or maybe I could go with you.”
Rhona’s heart danced and she almost couldn’t believe what he had said. “You want to go back with me?”
“Of course, I don’t want to be without you and if you can’t stay here then I’ll leave. I don’t think Phobetor would mind.”
“But this is your home.”
He moved closer to her, lifting his other hand to stroke her cheek. “It’s not home if you’re not here. I love this place, but I want to be with you.”
Rhonas heart stuttered in her chest. She could barely believe he was saying things like this despite how well they were connecting. She could see in his eyes he had no reservations about following her home if thats what he needed to do “If I didn’t have school I wouldn’t ask you to leave but…my career means a lot to me…” He kissed her forehead “don’t feel bad about me leaving. I’m happy to, I truly mean that. Why don’t we go back to my island so I can talk to my mentor and the rest of the group”
“They really wont hate me?”
“Not at all” She hugged him, feeling excitement and happiness rush through her body. He held her in return, keeping Rhona in his arms until she pulled away. They hoped William wasn’t busy but even if he was they had plenty of time to get back and talk.
William was more than happy to take them back and once they were back on the island, Antoni explained to everyone that he wanted to leave with Rhona. They all looked sad that he would be leaving, but they could both see they were happy as well. “Now who am I going to tease?” Ronin asked.
“But he doesn’t have anyone to stare longingly out into the distance for.”
“You’ll figure something out.”
“And I promise we’ll be back.” Rhona said. “I really want to get to know all of you more and it wouldn’t be fair to keep Antoni away, you’re his family, so we’ll be back.”
“Don’t rush, we’re not going anywhere.” Phobetor replied. He then placed a hand on Antoni’s shoulder. “I’m proud of you, Antoni and if you should ever need us, you know you’ll find us in dream.”
“I know, and I’ll keep helping children as much as I can”
“I know, how much longer can she stay? We’d love to spend some time with her before you are off”
“I have to leave the end of next week. I was actually hoping I would get to know you all too”
“Then that settles things, you can stay in Antonis room the rest of your trip.”
“Would you like me to check out of your hotel room for you and collect your things?” William offered and Rhona said “Oh yeah, I forgot where all my things were for a moment there. They might give you trouble for trying to check out of my room so maybe Antoni and I can go back tomorrow after breakfast, spend one more day on our own then come back here in the evening”
“Thats fine with me, my daughter loves coming out here”
Rhona loved the rest of their time there, becoming good friends with everyone and learning more about dreams and what Phobetor looked for in the people he chose. She loved how much Ronin teased Antoni and adored how much they all cared for Shona. It seemed like their last day came far too quickly and she was sad during their goodbyes, but promised they would be back. William picked them up and Rhona snuggled close to Antoni as they rode back through the fog, her giving his hand a squeeze when she saw him looking back toward the island. “I promise we’ll be back as soon as possible.”
“I know, it’s just strange to be going away for so long.”
“Are you okay? I mean, really?”
He turned to her, smiling. “Of course, I love you and I don’t regret leaving. I’m happy you came to me, that you found me, and I’ll be happy no matter where I go as long as I have you.”
Her heart danced and she smiled lovingly back. “I love you too, my hero.” They hugged each other then relaxed for the rest of the ride, looking forward to their future together.