Immortal Reborn - Arianna's Choice, page 9
Alexandria stood in front of her full length mirror, making sure that everything was in place. Her long, sapphire gown suited her eyes perfectly and made her pale skin stand out. She had chosen to leave her hair down but curled it so that it cascaded across her shoulders and back. Earlier in the afternoon, Alex had borrowed her mother’s sapphire earrings, necklace and bracelet set, and if she had to admit it, Alex thought she might actually turn a few heads at the ball.
Thankfully, the morning had been uneventful. Alexandria rose early but found that Wallace and Conner were already up and walking the gardens at the back of the house, looking for tracks or any sign of animal disturbance. Nothing could be found. Both of her brothers agreed that she and the labs had heard something, but neither had the faintest idea what it was or what had caused it.
As they had done when she was younger, they filled Alex’s day with activity without leaving her alone for too long. They all took an invigorating horseback ride after breakfast, walked and talked about their busy lives, played cards with their father, and napped on the couches in the sitting room. And if it had not been for the near hour-long nap, Alexandria doubted she would have had the energy to go to the ball that evening.
“Hey, squirt, you coming?” Wallace questioned her loudly from the hallway.
Alex laughed and opened the door. “Well, when you put it so nicely, how can I refuse?” She took a moment to acknowledge that no matter what she wore, she would have a hard time ever coming close to how attractive her brothers were, especially when they were in a tuxedo.
“How have you managed to stay single for so long?” asked Alexandria, bewildered by Wallace’s perpetual bachelor status.
“I could ask you the same thing.” He frowned down at her.
“What?” asked Alex, looking worryingly down at her gown.
“Hell! Conner and I are gonna have to beat ‘em off with a stick tonight! And here I was planning on having a nice, boring evening, just smiling and making Mother proud,” he grumbled.
They both laughed at that thought.
“The only way we’re going to make her proud, is if we all end up married this year,” chuckled Alex.
Wallace visibly shuddered. “Ugh, let’s get going. The sooner we’re there, the sooner we’re home.”
Jameason drove Alexandria’s parents in their Jaguar, ahead of the Range Rover that she and her brothers traveled in. The men were talking in the front seat about some of the latest gossip they had picked up from Jameason earlier in the evening, and Alex was letting her mind wander in the backseat. Try as she might, she could not stop thinking about the sound that she had heard in the garden the night before.
It was threatening and imposing as if trying to exert a feeling of imminent danger. Initially, it had rooted Alex to the spot, but surprisingly she broke the trance and willed herself to start moving. She was thankful that her legs had obeyed her command to walk away.
The Rover pulled up in front of Lenley Hall, and a footman stepped forward to open Alexandria’s door while her brothers climbed out. The footman stood staring at Alexandria until Wallace walked up behind him and tapped him on the shoulder.
“Keys are still in the ignition,” said Wallace in a steady but firm voice.
The footman, who looked to be Alex’s age, recovered and turned towards her brothers. He paled a bit further, looking up at the two, but remembered himself and handed Wallace the ticket he would need to recall the vehicle later in the evening. As the footman drove the Rover away, Alex narrowed her eyes at her two brothers and swatted Wallace’s arm.
“Be nice! You scared him,” she chastised.
“If he hadn’t, I would have,” said Conner.
“Damn right,” agreed Wallace.
Before she could scold them further, their parents joined them to enter together. Her father reached forward and straightened Alexandria’s wrap, then kissed her forehead.
“You look lovely, my dear. Ready to go in?” His eyes crinkled as he smiled down at her.
“As I’ll ever be, Father. We don’t have to stay too long, do we?” asked Alex, hoping this would pave the way for an early exit if she so desired one.
“Oh, no you don’t,” scolded her mother. “The three of you will find this evening a refreshing distraction. And besides, I understand Henry is back from university, and I know he would love a few dances with you.”
Henry. The one young suitor that neither Wallace nor Conner would ever help scare away because they knew that there was no chance Alexandria would agree to anything serious with him. He was one year older than Alexandria, and as the son of one her mother’s dearest friends, Lady Juliana was sure they were a match made in Heaven. Alexandria was sure that she would never last more than a day with Henry. He was sweet, but so boring that she found watching peeling paint a more interesting focus for her attention.
“Yeah, let’s go see Henry,” smirked Wallace.
Alex just rolled her eyes at him and turned towards the stairs that led to the estate’s entrance. Their parents led the way, and she followed behind flanked by Wallace and Conner. As they were announced, several family friends began to come forward and greet them. Everyone seemed happy to welcome her parents, and Alexandria looked on with pride. Her parents were such good, kind people, and she was glad to see them warmly received.
When they all emerged into the main ballroom, Alexandria felt self-conscious but hopeful that the night would move quickly and not drag by. It was a worry she need not have had because young gentlemen were soon pressing to fill her dance card for the evening. She allowed several to secure a dance but was successful at keeping her card from filling. Unfortunately, Henry also found her and asked for three dances, but Alex negotiated it down to two.
As the night wore on, so did her tired feet. She was happy to see her brothers dancing with several young ladies. It was obvious that all of them hoped to catch her brothers’ attention, but Alex knew that it would take more than just a pretty face to turn their heads. Wallace and Conner wanted the same thing she did: a marriage like their parents had. One built on mutual friendship, love, and passion, which could see two people through a lifetime together. And until they each found someone they truly loved and respected, none of them were willing to flippantly enter into a relationship. Alex knew that both her brothers had dated different young ladies through their years at school and university, but none had really been ‘the one.’
After one particularly long turn around the ballroom, Alex found herself with a nice gap in her card. She made her way out onto one of the large balconies to take in a bit of fresh air. As she stepped into the clean, crisp air, she saw several couples huddled together in different places along the balcony, hoping for a moment of privacy both from the crush and probably from their parents. Such events were family affairs, but most of the young guests would rather be with their peers at clubs, Alex thought.
Alexandria smiled and turned her attention towards the well-lit grounds below, watching people mingle on the paths from which snow had been cleared earlier in the day. Hiding behind a hedge, she mused, really did afford one privacy. The thought made Alex chuckle to herself, and she shook her head. She turned, leaning her back against the railing, and thankfully so because she saw Henry inside looking around, obviously hoping to spot her.
Alex winced. She slowly inched along the perimeter of the balcony until she came to a door leading to another room, and made a hasty exit before he saw her. She walked out of the parlor she found herself in and entered a hall.
Alex was unsure where she should head next, but she was stopped by a young lady, working as a server for the evening, calling out her name at the end of the hall. Alex approached her, answering that she was indeed Alexandria.
“Thank you, Miss. You have a call. I was told to find you and tell you that you can take it in the office two doors down on the left.”
Alex responded with her
She had been in the room before on a tour of the house when she was a very young girl. Alex remembered the heavy, antique mahogany desk with its intricate carvings of angels along each leg, flanked by a wall of bookcases that went from the floor to the ceiling. She saw the phone sitting on Lord Lenley’s desk and made her way over to it. As Alex picked up the receiver, she heard the lock of the door click into place behind her, and cold, unadulterated panic flooded her system.
Alexandria did not dare turn around, hoping that the element of surprise could be on her side, rather than on the side of whoever had just sealed them inside the room. She pretended to answer the call while she reached forward with her other hand to pick up the large mail opener which lay on the desk’s leather pad. Alex could feel her breathing and heart rate accelerate, but she tried desperately to sound normal when she spoke into the phone.
The phone line was dead. Alex knew that the longer she delayed, the closer the unknown and silent person behind her would come. Her brothers had always told her to never be taken or go down without trying to defend herself, and Alex knew she had little time and no real choice if she wanted to get away.
“Now or never,” she thought, and she twirled with the opener pointed away to protect herself.
The man had gotten closer than Alex realized, because when she spun he clasped a strong hand down on her right forearm and forced the opener out of her hand quickly. Though disarmed, Alexandria was not going anywhere without a fight. She brought her left hand down and scored his face with her nails as she tried to bring her knee up to his groin at the same time. He grabbed her left arm as well and angled his right leg to block her attack.
Using his leg, he swept Alex’s feet out from under her and pushed forcefully against her arms as he released her, using the momentum to propel her to the floor. She fell hard against the wood planks and felt the air rush out of her lungs. Alex began to struggle up on her elbows when he pounced. He was astride her so quickly that she fell back and hit her head once more on the floor. Her eyes clouded with tears, but she willed herself to breathe and see. She knew she could not afford to lose consciousness now.
Alex got a clear look at his face then. He was beautiful in form, with wavy dark hair that touched his collar, but his eyes were devoid of any compassion, hard and unyielding. The evil she sensed within him came off in waves that felt suffocating to her. He had her legs and arms pinned but seemed in no hurry now to do anything more. Alex began to fight again, but he pressed on her limbs, and she was completely immobile, so strong was he. His eyes roamed over her face and searched her eyes.
He began to chuckle, and it was a deep, menacing sound that set her teeth on edge.
“Well, well, Arianna. Fighting like a girl! A human girl, no less. I can’t believe that you would stoop to such antics,” he said in an understated and lethal tone.
Arianna? Alexandria looked desperately into her attacker’s face. She shook her head ever so slightly, praying he would realize his error.
“No, you’ve made a mistake. My name is not Arianna, it’s Alexandria. I don’t know who you are, but you’ve got the wrong person. Please, let me go,” she breathed out.
“Let you go?” he hooted incredulously. “I think not! I’ve been looking for you for a long, long time. I knew that you weren’t dead. There was no way you were defeated, much less dead. No, you’re coming with me, and you can be damn sure I will be well rewarded when I produce your pretty face to the council!”
He quickly shifted Alex’s arms above her head, pulling them painfully together, and locked them in a vise-like grip with his left hand. She tried desperately then to buck him off and kick her legs, anything to remove his weight. He was so strong that she doubled her efforts. But she was rewarded with a sound slap from his right hand, and then his hand moved to squeeze her cheeks, forcing her eyes to look at his.
“I don’t know what you’re playing at, but this is fun! Keep it up. We don’t have to go anywhere just yet, we could have a bit of fun,” he whispered and lowered his face so that his lips hovered just above hers.
Bile rose up in Alex’s mouth as she realized what he was threatening to do to her, and she took in a deep breath, preparing to scream to anyone within the range of her voice. He sensed her intent and moved his hand from her cheeks to her throat and clamped down hard. He squeezed and lifted her head up long enough to slam it back down on the hardwood. He repeated this once more, and then moved in such a swift and unnatural way, that he had them both on their feet with her neck still in his hand. Alex felt him lift her slightly, and she registered that her toes were just barely touching the floor.
Alexandria was sure that he could snap her neck if he wanted to, and she knew that she did not have the physical strength to remove his hand. She also doubted now that her voice could produce a scream, and what if her brothers or someone else did hear her? She refused to let this monster hurt anyone else due to a case of mistaken identity and misplaced rage. There was only one thing that came to her mind, one word that suddenly became a litany, a prayer, a plea – “Ganymede!”
Alex began to scream his name out in her mind, knowing that he could hear her that way just as well as if she had spoken it aloud. Her assailant was squeezing her throat so hard that she was beginning to lose focus on his face, but she heard his sharp intake of breath and felt a tremor begin in his arm.
“No!” he hissed, and turned Alexandria so that she was positioned between himself and Ganymede.
He was there in the room with them, and Ganymede was real.
Alexandria was so happy to see him that new tears formed in her eyes, but they were tears of gratitude. She could feel the man behind her shifting nervously and inching them closer to the window. His intent was clear; he hoped to make a dash for it. Whether he intended to take her along with him remained to be seen.
Ganymede kept his gaze locked on the man’s face, never once looking into her eyes.
“You cannot win, Bertrand. What you have done here will not be allowed, and will not go unpunished. Release her.” His words sounded calm and measured, but they reverberated around the room with such force that several crystal frames and vases shook. His words were a command that could not be denied, and Bertrand quaked at the authority Ganymede wielded like a sword.
In a desperate attempt to save himself, Bertrand threw Alexandria across the room into a table as if she were a ragdoll, knocking it over as she and the table hit the ground. The table splintered, and Alex was sure she had broken something within herself too. A blinding light filled the room, and she heard a strangled scream that ended in a gurgling crunch. She heard the window breaking, and glass flying outward into the shrubbery.
Ganymede was at her side then, holding his hand under her head. He pulled it back for a moment and observed the blood that thickly covered his fingers. Alexandria smiled up at his face, perfect and young, just as it had been so many years ago.
“You came,” she squeaked, unable to get anything more from her throat.
A sad, slow smile crossed his lips.
“Yes, I am here, dear one. I am so very sorry that I was not here sooner.” Ganymede shook his head with regret as he looked down at her. His eyes quickly swept over her body, taking stock of all her injuries.
Tears welled up in her eyes once more, and Alex began to feel cold all over.
“Hush, now,” he crooned. “All will be well again. Close your eyes and let me fix this, Alexandria. All will be well,” he whispered again as he leaned forward and placed his forehead against hers.
What she felt was unlike any sensation she had ever experienced before. It felt as though warm, melted gold had been poured into her head, and it slowly swept down throughout her body. Alex felt her skull fuse back together, ribs realign in her chest, and her leg, which she had not noticed sticking out at an odd angle, set itself. Though this should
He stayed like that, forehead to forehead for another minute as if in prayer, and then he pulled his head back and looked into her eyes. A warm smile graced his lips and he brushed her hair out of her face.
“Thank you. Oh, thank you so much,” whispered Alexandria as fresh tears came unbidden to her eyes once again.
“Shhh, do not cry, sweet child,” he whispered back as he began to rock her in his arms. “I am just sorry that I was not aware of his presence sooner. This should never have happened. Never.”
“Who was he, and why did he call me Arianna? I don’t understand any of this.” Alex hiccupped. She was trying to retain what shredded bit of composure she had left, but it was quite an internal battle. She had never had anyone lay hands on her before, and certainly not one so determined to hurt her so badly.
Alex and Ganymede could hear voices in the hallway, getting closer and closer. It was her brothers looking for her. “Dear Lord,” she thought, “what do I tell them? How do I explain this?” She looked into Ganymede’s beautiful, clear blue eyes, hoping for answers and reassurance.
“No, there is no need to speak of this now. You are not finished healing, so close your eyes and rest, dear one.”
Alex was so afraid that Ganymede would bring on sleep as he did that night so long ago in Egypt that she spoke urgently.
“No, please not yet! Please, I need to know how he found me and what just happened. Please, Ganymede, I don’t want to sleep!” she pleaded. Alex could hear someone working on the lock. It would not be long now before her brothers gained entry.
“Ganymede, please,” she breathed out and shook from her shock and still flowing tears.
He placed a finger over her lips. “I promise, Alexandria, you will have answers, but you must sleep now.” His last word resonated within, and she could feel her eyes growing heavy.
“No,” Alex whimpered. “No, I don’t understand.”
Her tears were almost Ganymede’s undoing, but he held fast and made sure that she succumbed to sleep before releasing her. He knew that the door was almost open, but he lingered for a few last seconds to look down at her. His eyes flashed with anger over what had happened there, and he turned from Alexandria. Time had run out for him, but it was all just beginning for her.
“I’ll not leave you,” Ganymede quietly vowed, and with that, he vanished from the room.
Time seemed to stand still for Wallace and Conner. As soon as they managed to get the door open, they could not process what their eyes took in. Broken furniture was strewn about the room, and Alexandria lay in the middle of what used to be a small side table. She was completely motionless, and it was obvious that she had battled for her life in the small confines of the office. Both brothers rushed forward and fell to their knees on either side of her, unsure if it was wise to move her, or foolish to leave her lying on the floor for another moment, fearing that she needed immediate care.
Their eyes locked as they reached a silent agreement. They both lifted Alex and began to carry her down the back hallway which led out to the area where all of the guests’ cars were parked until they were recalled. They shifted Alex into Wallace’s arms so Conner could open doors and make sure the halls were clear of people who would love to grab on to anything they thought could be used as a tasty bit of gossip.
Conner had asked the servant who helped them enter the office to summon Lord Lenley and their parents as well, and then to come back and stand guard at the room’s entrance. Neither brother wanted their parents to see the room, and they knew that Alexandria would not want the other guests to see her in her current state. There would be too many questions.
“What has happened?” Lord Lenley questioned the brothers as he caught up with them. “Is she alright?”
“No, she’s not alright,” seethed Wallace through clenched teeth.
“Did she faint?” he pressed.
“No, she was attacked, Lord Lenley,” responded Conner, “in your office. We asked a servant to let us in once we realized she was trapped inside. And we’ve asked that same person to stand outside the door, keeping people away until we sort this out, once she finds our parents.”
“Dear God! I’ll keep the room completely sealed. Do you want me to call a friend I have at MI-5? He’ll handle this quietly if that’s what you want,” suggested Lord Lenley.
Both Wallace and Conner knew that would work in everyone’s best interest because none of them wanted the scandal.
“Yes, do that. Our parents are discretely being led this way. We’ll take her to hospital and then call you from there. Make sure your friend goes over that room with a fine brush. I don’t want one piece of evidence comprised.” Conner’s tone brokered no argument, and Lord Lenley quickly agreed.
“I pray that she’s alright, boys,” he said.
Wallace gave him a tight nod, and they turned and continued on their way to the SUV.