Immortal reborn ariann.., p.27

Immortal Reborn - Arianna's Choice, page 27

 

Immortal Reborn - Arianna's Choice
 



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Alexandria made her way out of the castle and headed for the helicopter, which Heath was warming up. Rohan came forward and intercepted her on the lawn. She looked up into his face to see it clearly lined with regret.

  “I wanted to tell you. I swear I did. But Gaius and the others forbade me. And my father, Eremiel, did as well. I’m so sorry, Alex,” he said humbly.

  “I understand, Rohan. I am not angry with you, just very confused.” Alex looked back at the castle and wondered where Jack was at that moment. Was he still in the library or was he watching her leave from a window somewhere, she wondered. She looked back at Rohan and clasped his forearm with hers.

  “Take care of him, Rohan. Don’t let another like Aagon hurt him again. Watch over Jack for me while I cannot,” she said somberly.

  “On my life and honor, I swear it to you. You have my word,” he pledged to her.

  Alex broke her hold on his arm and hugged him farewell. Then she turned and boarded the S-92.

  Archimedes, Sabina, and John were all aboard waiting to accompany her. She nodded at them, then took her seat, quietly fastening her safety belt and looking out of the window at her side. Light was coming up across the estate now as morning bloomed in full.

  Jack and Alex had risen just as dawn had pierced the sky, and their meeting in the library had taken such a short amount of time in Alex’s estimation. Though the coming to terms with it all had felt much longer. Her stomach grumbled loudly, and Alex realized she had skipped dinner the night before and breakfast that morning. But she felt so unsettled, she honestly did not think she could keep anything down.

  Sabina moved forward and took some fruit and juice out of the small refrigerator and offered it to Alex, imploring her to try at least a few bites. Alex did as she was asked, and managed to keep it all down somehow.

  The flight took no time, less than twenty minutes, and before Alexandria could worry about the impending reunion any longer, she felt the helicopter bank and begin its descent. She tried to instill a sense of calm within herself but found that her hands shook slightly. She closed her eyes and began to concentrate on her aura, trying to blanket herself with the restorative and protective power. Anything to hold on to, anything at all, she mentally reached out for.

  When they were finally down, and the rotor blades had slowed enough for the group to disembark, John moved forward and released the steps as he had when she first arrived at Aeoferth Hall. They all waited to see if Alex would want to leave first, so she took in a deep, calming breath and headed for the exit.

  “Courage,” she whispered to herself as she made her way down to the soft ground.

  Alexandria stepped a little distance away from the helicopter and looked around her. The castle was three stories tall, and it faced away from the sea beyond. The ground now was covered in winter’s blanket, but Alex knew, without trying too hard to recall the memories, that there were stepping stones made of old Roman glass nearby. They were just up the hill on the right, leading into a garden on that side of the estate.

  She closed her eyes and breathed in the cold salt air that called to her in the distance. Alex caught a glimpse of herself laughing in the bow of a very small wooden sailboat with Gaius, teasing him because he could not catch the wind with his sail. She watched as they walked with Rohan and Elrick along the shore discussing strategy and defense, and she saw herself walking on the lawn at the other side of the structure with a great wolfhound and large stallion, talking to the two as if they were old friends.

  All memories that spoke of happier times, times long since past. Alex looked up to see her friends waiting for her expectantly, but patiently.

  “Take this slowly, Alexandria,” cautioned Archimedes. “There is so much here to take in, and the emotional connections will make it harder to control the flow of the memories as they try to work their way back in.”

  Alex did not trust her voice yet, so she gave him a tight nod.

  They continued forward, and every few feet, Alex paused and looked inward as another memory washed over and through her. She thought to herself just how appropriate the analogy was which Arianna had chosen that very morning when she compared her memories and her past to water. All of this was flowing over Alex now, and she was trying to anchor herself to the world she knew so she would not be swept away.

  Continuing forward, Alex finally made her way to the entryway. She paused and placed her hand against the wood, feeling the texture and remembering the tree that had given its life for the front door the day Gaius had cut it down. Fortifying herself, Alex opened it slowly and walked inside.

  Everything there was more familiar and real to her than Aeoferth had been when she entered it just days ago. Alex was careful not to touch anything because she did not want to be swept away, not there and not at that moment. She just stood in the foyer seeing flash after flash of herself with and without Gaius.

  Opening the doors to welcome other Nephilim into their home for celebrations. Walking in after a long horseback ride across the estate, both of them splattered with mud. And one scene that made Alexandria smile just a little as they ran inside after being caught in a deluge of summer rain, both of them soaked through and through, but laughing hysterically.

  Through that last vision, Alex saw his face become real before her eyes as Gaius walked quietly into the foyer and stood in front of her. He was so close she could reach out and touch him, but she dared not, unsure what physical contact would do to her or him for that matter.

  Alex stood openly taking him in, trying to understand how she could not have remembered him. With all that had been coming through, why not Gaius, she questioned. Because this was too real and too much, even now. Alex looked up into his serene blue and green eyes, bluer now than in E-We’s memory.

  Her eyes looked first to his hair, and she remembered the feel of it, like silk under her fingertips. Alex remembered cutting it, too. She saw a slight bit of stubble on his cheeks; he had not shaved in a few days, she mused. Gaius’ broad shoulders she remembered touching, and his arms when he had lifted her time and time again to carry her. His waist, which she had put her arms around and hugged him, sharing her love with this man who was her husband.

  Husband. The word was not Alex’s, and she could not use it. He was hers, but he was not, and Alex did not know if she should look away or continue to stare and remember. Finally, Archimedes came forward and softly broke through the reverie to introduce them, but he need not have.

  Alexandria breathed his name aloud, “Gaius Alexander Marcus,” and he inclined his head, never breaking eye contact with her. She noted his hands were clasped behind his back, and she wondered if he did so to stop himself from reaching out. Alex became aware that she had knotted hers together in front of herself as well.

  “Alexandria Grace Groaban,” Gaius said quietly, stating her name as if it were a prayer. “Will you walk with me?” he asked gently, gesturing towards a hall that led on beyond the main staircase.

  Archimedes interjected, “Perhaps now is not the time for that, Gaius. Possibly we could have a bit of breakfast first, then Alex can walk with you at her pleasure.”

  Gaius’ eyes never left Alex’s when he listened to Archimedes’ attempt to keep them separate. “What would you like to do, Alexandria?” he asked, making no attempt to hide the fact that he was not going to heed their friend’s suggestion.

  She finally tore her eyes away from his intense stare and looked at her friend. “I think I will walk with Gaius, Archimedes. You all start breakfast without us, and we’ll be along shortly.” Alex nodded to let him know that this was what she wanted. She could not hide from any of this now, and going straight to a meal felt like she would most definitely be hiding.

  Alex looked back at Gaius and asked him to guide the way. He led her out of the entryway and through the home, past rooms which she tried not to look in for fear they would distract her. Alex was also careful not to get too clos
e to him, all too aware that their elbows were dangerously close to brushing up against one another. They paused for a moment at the door leading out of the back, and Gaius leaned forward to open it for her.

  Alexandria stepped back to give him room and then entered the frozen gardens with him at her side. They walked for a short distance, and he led her to a gazebo enclosed in glass which would shelter them from the wind and frosty temperatures. Alex moved forward and looked at the metal sculptures within that whimsically held plants and pots – an artful collection that she felt sure she had had a hand in acquiring. Finally, she turned and looked up at him, waiting to see what he would say to her.

  Gaius was standing not far away, taking in every part of her with his eyes. “Thank you for coming with me and giving me these few moments alone with you. I know that this is not easy, for me it is an internal war right now,” he said, running his hand through his thick hair.

  Alex remembered that he did that frequently.

  Gaius’ eyes bore into hers, and he stepped closer, coming within inches of her.

  “Alexandria, please answer me truthfully. Do you know me? Do you remember us at all?”

  His breaths were coming heavily in and out of his chest, and she could see such deep emotion in his eyes. Alex closed her eyes for a moment to put some distance between them. Inside, she knew she could not lie. This process and these choices demanded honesty. Alex looked back up at Gaius and saw the raw emotion there right at the surface.

  “I do.”

  With that simple statement, Gaius’ entire body and aura visibly relaxed. He became less rigid and stepped back from her just a fraction.

  “Though not in the way you might think,” Alex quietly qualified. He angled his head to look closely at her face, and she saw his eyes narrow just a fraction.

  “Please explain what you mean, Alexandria,” he said softly.

  “I was not given the knowledge of you until just a short while ago, but once you appeared in my mind, of course, I knew you. I recognized the estate before we ever arrived, and I am sure I can close my eyes now and tell you about every room down to the last detail.”

  “I’m getting flashes of memories of us together, but I know they’re only the tip of the iceberg. I know that the more I try to remember, I will, and I’ll remember the emotions behind us, too,” she said.

  He nodded as if willing her to go on, knowing she had more to say to him.

  “But, I want to make sure that if I feel these feelings, that they are mine and not just the memories of another. I want to make sure that I, Alexandria, choose this path. Does that make sense to you?” she asked hesitantly, hoping her honesty was not hurting him further.

  Gaius smiled down at her. “It does,” he replied. “I want you to know me for what was and what could be, and I promise to try not to force any expectations on you. I’ve had a long time, much longer than you, to process these emotions and be ready for your return, and I still feel a mess inside. I can only imagine what you are going through.” Gaius’ brow creased with obvious worry and his concern.

  “Quite frankly, I feel like I’m being tossed about by gale-force winds and I’m just trying to find an anchor to hold myself down,” Alex confessed. “So much that’s new and unexpected has happened in my life within the last week. I suppose I’m just trying not to lose sight of who I am in all this, as I struggle to make the correct choices.” She shrugged, out of words to describe her feelings.

  “Then hopefully, I can help and provide answers you need for the road ahead. Would you like to eat now or remain here to talk?” he asked.

  “I think I’ll eat if that’s okay, and then you and I can talk more. Would that be alright?” Alex asked, wanting Gaius’ input as much as he wanted hers.

  He smiled a bright, dazzling smile at her that took Alex’s breath away.

  “Of course, it’s alright. Alexandria, I am so very glad you came,” he said, holding out his hand to her expectantly.

  Alex was so afraid to take his hand that she hesitated and looked back up into his eyes, trying to decide what she should do.

  “I will not harm you, Alexandria. I would never, nor could ever, hurt you in any way. You are safe with me, always,” Gaius vowed sincerely.

  She took a steadying breath and placed her hand in his, and was blinded for a moment as their auras surged and overlapped across one another’s hands. Alex was in the center of a cyclone, and she looked to see if Gaius was feeling the effects as well. His sharp intake of breath told her he was. His eyes looked moist, and he closed them as he bowed his head forward.

  Alex wanted to take her hand and run it through his hair as she knew she had done in the past, but she held her other hand firmly in place at her side. Rather, she stood in quiet reflection at the immense power surge that was occurring between them and was in awe of the many colors within his Light.

  In Gaius’ aura, Alex saw a deep blue like the blue in his eyes, green like the grass on the mountains in Scotland in the summer, yellow to match the sun reflected off of the sea, purple as she had only seen in sunsets, and a shimmering silver that reminded her of shooting stars. It was so beautiful, and Alex found it made her feel a deep sense of calm.

  Finally, Gaius lifted his head and released her hand. “I have missed you so much. And if having you here causes you discomfort in any way, I expect you to tell me. Do you agree, Alexandria?” Gaius stood over her, waiting for her agreement before they left for the main house.

  “I agree. I will tell you how and what I am feeling.” Alex nodded slowly, unsure if she could put into words what had just passed between them if asked to. She was not hurt, but she was very overwhelmed.

  “That is all I could ask. Shall we?” Gaius stepped forward once again and held the door open.

  Alex walked by his side to the main dining room and together, they entered to eat with their friends. Sabina and Heath had gone into the kitchen and prepared a light meal while Alex and Gaius talked outside. Alex took the seat to Gaius’ immediate right, where she knew she had sat for hundreds and hundreds of years before.

  All of them tried to make light conversation, but time and again, Alex found herself staring into Gaius’ eyes, seeing memory after memory come to present itself. She had not seen so many in such rapid succession, except perhaps on her first night in the ballroom, when she became reacquainted with so many of the Nephilim. But even that night did not carry the weight of the current meeting.

  They were finished with their meal, just passing recollections around, when Alex noticed a small red circle on the table in front of her. She squinted her eyes, trying to decipher what it was and then there were two, not just one. She looked up to see if anyone else noticed them, and saw that no one else had. Alex tried to focus on Sabina’s face but she was looking through too many memories and could not find her in the confusion.

  Alex decided that she should speak up, but found instead that she was beginning to slide out of her chair, headed towards the floor. She looked back at Gaius’ face and noticed his alarmed expression and heard his shout as he launched himself from his chair to catch her. Alex gave into the dark pulling sensation she felt and closed her eyes to follow it.

 

  Gaius was out of his chair with his arms around Alex before the others knew something was wrong. He stood and cradled her against his chest as John ran over and held a napkin to her bleeding nose.

  “Tilt her head back for me, Sabina,” John instructed while he used his aura to stop the flow. He took Alex’s pulse and then opened her eyelids. John looked to his friend and said, “Gaius, take her and lay her down somewhere, quickly.”

  Gaius turned with Alex and vaulted up the steps to the third floor, taking two or three at a time. He was trembling, not from fatigue, but sheer terror when he laid her upon a bed. He had to forcibly make himself let go of her. It took all Gaius had within him just to complete the motion. The other
s followed in behind, and John sat next to Alex, checking her pulse again. He nodded, looking a little more relaxed, but only slightly.

  “What is going on?” demanded Gaius, still greatly shaken.

  “We don’t really know, Gaius,” said Archimedes. “Both she and her family have recounted that Alexandria experienced memory flashes when she was a child, but her family called them visions not knowing what they were. Since Alex has returned to us, she’s had quite a few spells like this, varying in length and severity. She has experienced a few seizures and one other prominent nose bleed, but she has recovered from each episode.”

  “And no one thought to tell me this when you were updating me on her progress?” he said in a deceptively calm voice.

  “No,” replied John, “because we have no information about it for you. She knows now how to heal herself, and we can heal her as well, so I’m not concerned about irreparable damage. But I cannot stop the episodes. It’s not as if she has epilepsy and we can treat it, Gaius.”

  “What have you been doing for her?” he pressed.

  “We monitor her to make sure her heart rate and blood pressure stay steady. We make sure to give her water when she wakes to keep her hydrated. And we stay with her in case she were to call out for us, using our auras to calm her and bring her reassurance,” John answered.

  Archimedes continued. “Each time she has awakened, Alex tells us of the memories and insights she has uncovered. It’s all coming back in, and rather rapidly I might add, though Ganymede has told us he’s holding so much back. I think somehow Alex’s mind is finding ways around that to assimilate her past anyway. It’s a lot for a mortal mind and body to handle,” he said sadly, reaching out and patting Alex’s head.

  Sabina had returned from the watercloset with a cool, damp cloth in her hand. She stood by the bed, listening to their remarks. When she heard Archimedes’ last statement, she turned sharply to stare at him.

  “What are you saying, Archimedes? Speak plainly to us now,” Sabina compelled him, hoping he would divulge what he was thinking.

  Gaius’ eyes narrowed, and he finally turned away from Alex to stare down at his friend now as well.

  “What I know is that the greatest immortal’s power ever to be created is now housed in one young mortal’s body. What I wonder, and do not know, is how much longer that body can continue to try to contain it before it becomes too much. Alexandria is accessing her aura and building shields within, but she is not healing herself from within as we do every second of every day.” Archimedes pursed his lips briefly.

  “And until she claims her right as the immortal she was meant to be, she’s burning out a very short fuse much too quickly,” he added regrettably. “We cannot force her to choose this; Alex must want it for herself. But, my friends, I don’t honestly know how much longer she can sustain this. Weeks, months, perhaps a few more years, and then I would say Alexandria will reach the end of her journey as a mortal here on this earth.”

  No one said anything as they each weighed the gravity of Archimedes’ words. Alexandria had just returned to them, yet unless she chose what life she truly wanted for her future, she was destined to leave them just as quickly as she came, it seemed. And no one felt the pain of that potential loss more than Gaius.

  “I have lost her once. I’ll not do it again,” he said through a constricted throat. Gaius turned and extended his hand for the cloth, and Sabina relinquished it to him.

  John stood and instructed Gaius on what to watch for, and then they all took their leave, allowing Gaius to keep the vigil.

  He sat beside her and slowly stroked Alex’s brow with the cloth, watching her face for any signs of awareness. Gaius set it down on the bedside table and beheld the person whom he had loved through the ages. She was exactly the same as she had been before.

  She had the same hair, the same startling blue eyes, the same nose, and delicate features. Her eyelashes were still darker than her hair color and long. Her lips were still softly pink on their own, and Gaius was so glad to see that Alex refrained from painting her face with cosmetics. Alexandria needed no adornment, he thought, because she was beautiful in her own right.

  He had already witnessed for himself the steel within her that gave Alex the courage to face all of this when she walked with him and gave him her truthful answers. And unbeknownst to Alex, through the years of her life, he had silently kept watch over her as she grew from child to woman.

  Gaius had never told the others, not even Rohan, that he had tracked Alexandria’s aura and located her when she was but two. He, and he alone knew her so well and loved her so much, that he had located her and guarded her from afar. And in the times between his watch, Gaius used his energy to track Kronis. He had kept Alex safe until now, and he would find some way to convince her to take the mantle before it was too late.

  Gaius reached forward and did what he had wanted to do when she first arrived. He cupped a hand to Alex’s cheek and ran his fingers down her jaw to her lips. He traced her lips with his fingers, remembering all the times he had held her and loved her.

  Gaius moved his hand up and ran it through the long length of Alex’s golden hair, then leaned down until his face was right over hers. His eyes searched her face as he whispered to her, “I know your heart and soul, Alexandria, now let me know your mind. Come back to me.” Gaius lowered his mouth to hers, kissing Alex gently and wishing that she were awake and with him truly.

  He pulled back and lifted the cloth, holding it once more to her brow. Slowly, he began to build his aura and spread it over her like a blanket, protecting and comforting her.

  “Come back,” he whispered again.

  Alexandria slowly opened her eyes to see where she might be, not knowing if she was experiencing another memory or if she was looking at the present she knew to be true. She turned her head and saw that Gaius was seated next to her on the bed where she lay, but it looked as if he had fallen asleep where he sat. Tentatively, Alex reached out a hand and laid it on his leg. He stirred immediately, looking at her with concern.

  “How long did I sleep?” Alex asked, her voice cracking.

  Gaius looked at a clock that sat on the bedside table and told her that she had slept for the last three hours. He reached over to retrieve a glass of water that Sabina had brought to him some time ago. It was barely cool, no longer cold, and then he altered his plan.

  Before Alex could protest, Gaius moved forward and put an arm behind her back and one under her knees, and then shifted her up on the bed, placing an extra pillow behind her so she could sit up and try to drink the water. He handed the glass to Alex, and his hand covered hers in the transfer. She thought Gaius was trying to ensure she did not drop the glass and make a mess, but she was hesitant to meet his eyes.

  “I don’t know why I lost consciousness,” Alex stated reluctantly. “Each time that has happened this week, I get a good look into the past or a vision about you. But I’m here with you, and I didn’t dream anything just then. It was just peaceful sleep.” Alex could not get a handle on what her body was up to, and it certainly was not consulting her.

  “You’ve had visions about me this week?” Gaius asked her softly, hoping to coax more information from her.

  Alex could feel her cheeks heat, and she shrugged her shoulders. “I never saw your face, but I knew that there was a man looking for me or someone I was trying to find. I didn’t see your face, though, until this morning, when E-We gave me a direct image of you and then… well, it seems the floodgates opened.” She paused and looked into Gaius’ eyes earnestly, trying to decide if she should be completely honest with him.

  “What is it, Alex, if I may call you that?”

  “Of course, you may. Gaius, I need to tell you what has happened this week, so that you will understand it from my perspective. I know Archimedes and perhaps some of the others have been relaying information to you, but I need you to understand what I’m thi
nking and where I am right now.” Alex faltered for a moment, not sure how to proceed with her next thought.

  “And you need to tell me about Jackson, is that what you’re thinking of?” he inquired, smiling down at her.

  Though Alex was shocked, she was glad that he did not look angry or jealous. “Yes, I assumed the others mentioned him to you. Gaius, I don’t want to be the cause of hurt to anyone, but I have to tell you everything, or we can’t proceed. Will you hear me out?” Alex paused, waiting for his agreement.

  “Of course, Alex. I want to hear you tell me what’s in your heart and on your mind. From what I have heard, you’ve been through an extremely harrowing week. And I am very sorry that I could not be there to help you through it. I understand Mr. Campbell was, and I will be forever grateful to him, because he did what I could not: comfort and guide you.”

  She looked into his eyes, truly looked, and saw no malice or ill will when he mentioned Jack’s name. Could it be that Gaius was not threatened by the newly discovered attraction and deep abiding faith she had in Jack, she wondered. Alex knew nothing of men or relationships, but she had thought men would feel jealousy like many of the girls she had known at university had when they discovered they had a rival.

  Alex nodded and began the retelling of her tale. She started with the early visions and her family’s reactions to them, and moved on to how Ganymede had visited and stopped the memories for a time. She told Gaius of how she felt when finally going to school and on to university, where she excelled but still wondered when the visions would begin again.

  As Alex moved into her adult life, she explained her work at the U.N. and her feelings about living alone in New York City. Gaius occasionally smiled as he listened and nodded encouragingly. She progressed to her return for Christmas and of Bertrand finding her and locking her in Lord Lenley’s study at the ball. This was still a raw and painful memory, so Alex made mention of the assault but left out the traumatic details for the time being. Gaius moved higher on the bed so that he could sit closer to her, though he did not touch her.

  Alex told him of her decision to move forward and call Ganymede for long-awaited answers. She felt tears form in her eyes when she told him of coming to Aeoferth Hall and meeting the Nephilim, who she truly recognized and remembered. And Alex shared the memory of herself with Kronis on the cliff top, watching as Gaius hung his head in sorrow at what that memory wrought.

  She paused and reached forward to touch his shoulder and felt the current pass through them again, but Alex did not remove her hand. Rather, she tried to send her regret and compassion through their connection, recognizing his loss. Gaius looked up at her, and his eyes were bright with unshed tears for the wife he had lost at Kronis’ hands.

  As they continued, Alex related each of her training sessions and how she had felt freedom for the first time ever on Eimhir’s back as they thundered across the snow-covered fields. He smiled brightly and told her of other days when she had ridden bareback and gone so fast that it had left him breathless.

  She paused seeing the images as well. Alex shivered when she told Gaius of the mental exercises she had endured and how she felt watching her brothers be tortured. She noted that his brow creased significantly when she told him what Archimedes had created within her mind, just as Jack’s had that night. They finally were able to laugh over Rohan’s decision to hurl his longsword at her head, and how he had removed some of his own protection to remind her how to heal.

  “Rohan never has developed patience. Goodness knows we have both tried to teach him over the centuries,” Gaius said, laughing and shaking his head.

  She chuckled too, but less enthusiastically, noticing his use of the word, ‘we.’

  With a fortifying breath, Alex then began to tell Gaius about Jackson. How he had come along on her journey but quickly related her brothers’ interference, and how he adapted to the changing landscape before him with grace and humor. She told him how Jack had really been the first friend she had ever confided in, and then she told Gaius of Aagon’s brutal assault. How she had been forced into a situation where she chose to take a life in order to save Jack and everyone else she cared about, whom Aagon would have surely targeted next.

  Gaius never moved or wavered when Alex told him how she breathed life back into Jack’s body, or how they had lain on the bed just the night before, seeking comfort in the proximity of one another. And, sadly, she told him of her parting from Jack that very same morning.

  Alexandria ended with her recitation of her dream just hours before her arrival at Elysium, in which Arianna appeared to her and offered Alex the full depth and wealth of her memories, abilities, and talents. If Alex wanted them, and if she wanted to commit her life to the service and protection of mankind.

  When she finished, Alex was overwhelmed by all that the week had brought to her life. So many firsts and so many new opportunities, but also great pain and conflict.

  As she voiced her last thoughts, Alex could feel the tears trailing down her cheeks but she stayed silent, waiting for Gaius’ words. Would he judge her for Aagon’s death or her feelings for Jack, she wondered.

  Finally, Gaius spoke, turning to face her and he braced his arms on either side of her legs so he could look directly into her eyes. “Alexandria, I am so very, very proud of you, more than you may ever know. I am touched and humbled by all that you have shared with me, and I can feel the uncertainty you still hold regarding your future in the words you share.”

  “You have come so far, so fast, and it is no surprise that you are confused and frightened. I would be too, Alex. Your feelings for Mr. Campbell are nothing to be ashamed of because you have, for the first time, felt real love. And love can be a powerful and all-consuming emotion when you are with the right person,” he said sincerely.

  “With all the emotional twists and turns you experienced this week, I have no doubt that you needed a calm place in the midst of the storm, and Jackson has been that. But know that I wanted to be there to shelter and hold you as well.”

  Gaius raised a palm and touched her cheek, gently stroking Alex’s skin and wiping her tears away. Alex felt a slight current running along her face from his caress.

  “You know your fledgling feelings for Jack, but you should also know what I offer you as well,” Gaius said solemnly. “I offer you an eternity of love, one that will go on through the centuries and will never tire or fade away. It will never ask more than you can give, and my love will always support and nurture you in your tireless work yet to come.”

  “Alexandria, if you will let me, I want to offer for your hand as well. I want to know you in the here and now, in the hope that there can be a future. If you choose this immortal life, you will need a partner who will stay by your side through the ages.”

  “I have no doubt that Jack is a very good man because I don’t think you would be drawn to anyone who would not love you and respect you. But think of his life in terms of a mortal life. He will live for another sixty or seventy years, and then God will call him home.”

  “If you choose him or a mortal like him, you will not be able to spend an eternity with them, and you will not grow old as they age. It would be most painful for you both, and I would not wish that heartache for you, even if you do not choose to spend the rest of your days with me.”

  Alexandria had not thought yet in those terms because she had yet to declare love for Jack. She knew she felt something very powerful growing between them, but was it love, she could not say at that point. And could it survive in the outside world, Alex wondered, with her running around the globe with the Nephilim if she chose that path, and Jack stationed who knows where guarding unforeseen people.

  Yet, what if she did not choose an immortal life, Alex thought. A future with Jack might be achievable, but would he still want her if she turned her back on Ganymede and refused to help others with the gifts she had been offered, she pondered. He seemed to value
honor and service to others highly, as did she.

  Alex looked into Gaius’ steady gaze and whispered, “I’m so confused that I cannot tell you what I want right now. I don’t even begin to know how to handle this,” she said, shaking her head.

  “Then let me help you. Will you let me try as well to show you how I feel?” Gaius asked, pleading with Alex through his earnest gaze and his warm hand which still cupped her face.

  “How can you help me?” she questioned.

  “Like this,” he whispered and leaned down, meeting her lips with his own.

  Alexandria immediately felt a shift in the atmosphere, and her lips trembled. There was so much, and she did not know how to process it. Alex could feel Gaius’ aura flowing into her, and that he was showing her without words the depth of his love and devotion. There was so much beauty and hope.

  “Forgive me, Jack,” Alex thought to herself as she allowed Gaius to deepen the kiss, consuming her. As much as she had felt with Jack, this was something altogether different. This was a love that had already endured so much, and she was just catching a glimpse of what an eternity of his love might feel like.

  Gaius wrapped both arms around her and pulled Alex to his chest, giving her all that he held within his heart, moving his hands up into her hair, and willing her to remember what such a life could mean for them both. “I would love you for centuries like this, Alexandria,” he whispered against her lips. Gaius rained kisses down her neck and back up to her cheeks and eyelids.

  He pulled back and saw the haze in Alex’s eyes, and then reclaimed her lips once more. Gently, Gaius brushed their lips together again and again, and then deepened his embrace once more.

  “Please,” he pleaded. “Tell me you feel something… anything,” he quietly begged.

  Alexandria’s tears silently continued to flow, so staggered was she by all of the splendor and power she felt between the two of them.

  “Yes, Gaius. God help me, I do,” she breathed as he held her to him. “I feel like I’m betraying Jack and you at the same time. But, yes,” she said, leaning back and looking into his eyes, so radiant and so alive.

  “Did you promise Jackson a future together already, Alexandria?” Gaius asked, smoothing her hair back with both of his hands.

  “No,” she said, shaking her head, “and I cannot promise one to you now either, Gaius. I can most certainly feel the connection between us, and I can see that there is something to explore. But I cannot give you anything more than that we will try, as I have to try and decide where Jack fits into my future, too.”

  “That is all I had hoped for today, that you would at least consider me for your future. That you might remember and want this in the days to come. Thank you for giving me hope,” Gaius said solemnly. He kissed Alex tenderly once more on her lips and, gazing into her eyes, he forced himself to stand.

  “I’ll leave you to freshen up and rest a bit more if you would like, then I think you should come down to eat, Alex. I’ve kept you up here a long time, and you need nourishment. Shall we try the dining hall again?” Gaius smiled down at her, waiting for her reply.

  She nodded her agreement, and he walked over to the door. Gaius paused for a moment to look back at her, and Alex could feel their auras still reaching out for one another, straining to connect across the small distance. He finally tore his gaze away and left her sitting alone, trying to calm her breathing and her heart rate.

  Alex slowly got up and tested her legs by walking around the room. She visited the watercloset and walked over to a cushioned window seat by the bedroom’s large bay window. She gazed out through its panes and again began to see flashes of herself walking on the lawn below. Alex looked away and closed her eyes.

  Was this her future, or was this her past, she asked herself? She could not deny what had just passed between herself and Gaius. It was the most astounding revelation she had yet to have – that that amount of love, passion, and respect could endure for so long. It was a miracle in and of itself.

  Gaius had asked her to please consider him, and she would have to now. He knew what his touch would awaken, and Alex was now all the more confused by it. All week, she had been able to talk to Jack as such big shifts and changes as that were occurring, but Jack was not there now, and Alex was sure he would not want to hear the details of Gaius’ ardor.

  Still, she took out her mobile and briefly texted her family to let them know she was safe and well. Then, she sent a message to Jack.

  It read:

  ‘Thank you for supporting me, Jack. I am well. I will remember.’

  His response came quickly:

  ‘Courage, Alex.’

  Alex slipped the phone back in her pocket, and as she headed out of the door, she offered up a silent plea to Ganymede. “Please, help me find the right path. I feel so, very lost right now. Please, be with me.” And with the hope that he was with her, Alexandria began down the stairs, ready to give the dining hall another try, as Gaius had phrased it.

  Chapter 23

 
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