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Fighting for infinity, p.13
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       Fighting for Infinity, p.13

           Karen Amanda Hooper
 

  I shoved my hormones back where they belonged and curled up against him, resting my head on his chest. “Can we camp out here again? When all of this is over?”

  He ran his hand through my hair. “It’s a date.”

  Countless thoughts and questions whirled through my mind. I started with the most persistent one. “I’m curious about the starstone. What is it?”

  His heartbeat quickened against my ear. My head rose as he took a huge breath. “I’m so glad you asked. A couple souls throughout history have claimed they have knowledge of it, but its whereabouts were never proven.”

  “Maybe we could find those people and talk to them.”

  He gently pushed me up to a sitting position. He searched my face while tucking my hair behind my ears. “The only one we would trust to tell us the truth can no longer discuss the matter with us.”

  “Why not?”

  He pressed his fingers so tightly against his lips that he looked like he was trying to keep his words from spilling out. That’s when I knew. I knew what he was about to say before his words escaped. “Because that person was you.”

  I didn’t stiffen. I didn’t gasp. My heart didn’t even race. I was vaguely aware that my hands were squeezing the blanket on either side of me. Nathan stared at me and I stared back, neither of us saying a word.

  My eyes dipped down, my focus landing on the peacock feather in my thumb ring. The truth hovered thick around me, waiting for me to snatch it and store it in my consciousness, but actually doing so was like trying to catch moonlight and stuff it in a jar.

  Nathan rubbed my forearm “Are you all right?”

  I looked up at him again. “It’s part of it. I don’t know how or why, but as soon as you spoke those words I knew the starstone is part of why I erased.”

  He held my hand as pity unexpectedly darkened his eyes. “The stone wasn’t important to you. You mentioned it in passing, an afterthought. If I recall, you said something like starstones existed and they conducted energy to provide power to Meru. They,” Nathan repeated. “As in more than one. A starstone isn’t some coveted mystical gem protected by secret societies like the other stones. According to you, starstones aren’t even stones, or as rare as the legends led us to believe. Starstones are to Meru what oxygen is to Earth. They aren’t tangible, but they’re vital.”

  I hardly heard anything after Meru. “You said Meru. Are you saying I knew something about the mythical mountain place?”

  He gave me one of his ah-ha-you’re-finally-catching-up smiles. “You visited Meru. You communicated with souls who lived there.”

  This time I did stiffen. And gasp. My heart beat so fast my vision blurred. “What?” I rocked backward, but Nathan kept a tight grip on me. “The center of the universe, the mountain in the heavens place Edgar just told us about?”

  Nathan nodded. “I know it’s a lot to take in. We told you that you were by far our most powerful member. You were always leaps and bounds ahead of us as far as enlightenment and universal dynamics.”

  I opened my mouth, expecting all my questions about Meru and the universe to pour out as fast as they formed in my head. But all that came out was, “What?”

  “You described it as seeing a colorful sunset for the first time after living in a monotone world. You said the beauty and energy of it couldn’t be described with any human words that could ever do it justice. You told me it was the most awe-inspiring moment of your existence.”

  “Did you believe me?”

  “Did I believe how beautiful it was?”

  “No, did you believe I really visited this Meru place?”

  “Of course. You wouldn’t have lied about something like that.”

  He believed I had somehow visited an otherworldly paradise with no proof. We must have had one heck of a relationship. “It sounds too good to be true.”

  “Which is precisely why you said you’d never want to live there.”

  “I said that?” If such a wondrous place existed why would I have never wanted to go back? “Why?”

  “You said it was too perfect. The energy level was too pure. You said it was like a sky filled with stars so big and bright that there left no space for darkness. I told you it sounded beautiful, but you reminded me that stars are most appreciated when they shine in the dark.”

  His words, my words, echoed through my mind. “Mary was so much deeper than I am.”

  He laughed. “Your depth knows no limits. Then and now.” He held my other hand, rubbing his thumbs across my wrists. “You said you had too much to do here. That Meru would always be there, perfect and glorious, but you enjoyed the imperfections and challenges of our world. You did go back once. You said you needed something but wouldn’t tell me what.”

  “You have no idea how much I want to remember the past. Each new thing I learn just leaves me more lost. How could I have erased so many magical experiences and memories?”

  “After Rina’s last visit, I felt closer to an answer. I still couldn’t grasp onto it, but it felt within reach. Then you came back and told us about Dedrick and Meru. All of our conversations about Meru came rushing back to me. Toward the end of the meeting a possible answer finally came to me.”

  “An answer to why I erased?” I perked up. “Tell me.”

  “I think you had peaked. What if last time, after you died, there wasn’t a choice of who and where you wanted to be reborn? What if because of your experiences at Meru, you had become too enlightened to live a human existence again? Perhaps your only other option was starting over—wiping your soul’s slate clean of all the knowledge and power you had acquired.”

  I couldn’t wrap my head around what it all meant. All of this magic, otherworldly stuff was still brand new to my wiped-out hard drive. I rubbed my temples as if that might help me compartmentalize the surge of information. “You mentioned souls who lived there. Who are they? Angels?”

  “Higher-vibrating beings.”

  “Oh god.” I glanced at the sky then pressed my palms over my eyes. “Please don’t say aliens. My brain might spontaneously combust.”

  He laughed and pulled my hands into his lap. “You referred to them as akin. Souls who operated with a different awareness and type of existence. You said they were light and energy. No skin and bones.”

  “Why didn’t you tell me any of this before now?”

  “Like you said moments ago, I didn’t want your brain to spontaneously combust.” He caressed my cheek. “You erased everything. Weeks ago you struggled to believe that reincarnation was real. You were just getting used to the fact that supernatural abilities were a reality and that I was your soul mate.” He dipped his head, peering up at me from beneath his dark lashes. “When would have been a good time for us to tell you that you communicated with beings from other planes, that your soul traveled through energy portals and acquired knowledge that even our eldest members couldn’t fathom?”

  Definite mental overload. But I had to suck it up. I had to prove I could handle anything. Nathan couldn’t be afraid to tell me anything anymore.

  “Your first Meru visit was two lifetimes ago,” Nathan continued. “After that you sprang into action, steadfast with an intricate plan for the rest of that life and our last one. You insisted we all needed to live near each other and that we relocate to Sedona. You convinced our kindrily to blindly follow your lead many times. It’s like you were positioning everyone where they needed to be.”

  “And then I erased. I just gave up on you guys. Chickened out.”

  “Don’t say it like that. The reason will reveal itself in time. Maybe this is all still part of your plan. Perhaps these ups and downs were necessary to achieve a happy ending.”

  “Ending?”

  “Metaphorically speaking.”

  “I don’t know. What if I realized I really messed up? All the bad history with Dedrick, getting everyone killed at the wedding, what if I had screwed up to the point nothing was fixable so I decided to just throw it all away?”


  “You believed you could fix anything.”

  “Maybe the second time, when I went back to Meru, I saw some tragic destiny that couldn’t be changed.”

  Nathan stared up at the sky. “My old friend Wil used to say, ‘It is not in the stars to hold our destiny, but in ourselves.’”

  I grabbed Nathan’s knee. “I’m having déjà vu. Maybe I’m remembering Wil from a previous life. No, wait, maybe not. I think that’s a Shakespeare quote.”

  “Right. He was famous for his writing in that life.”

  My eyes bugged. “You knew William Shakespeare?”

  He smugly winked. “Still do.”

  I gaped at him and tugged his shirt. “Who is he now?”

  “I’m not at liberty to say, but he’s been in a few movies and on television. One of his series even had star in the name. Funny how our origins stay connected with us no matter how different each lifetime is. He’s still sharing stories with the world, just in a different way than when he was Shakespeare. You’d be surprised how many gifted souls there are roaming this world.”

  William Shakespeare reincarnated. My father would have been beside himself. “Does he have a soul mate?”

  “He and Anne have been together through thick and thin.”

  “That’s so cool. In a way Shakespeare is still alive.”

  Nathan leaned back on his elbows. “Yes, older and wiser.”

  “I miss this.” I traced my fingers over his thigh, feeling the solid muscle through his jeans. “I miss being here with you and hearing about our past. I don’t want to go back.”

  “Then don’t.”

  “I have to.”

  He lifted my hand then kissed each of my knuckles. “I know.”

  “You aren’t putting up much of a fight.”

  “Because I know you too well. You’ll return no matter what I say. Because that’s what has to be done.” Apathetic encouragement coated his words. “The villain must be fought. The innocent girl must be saved. The story must end happily.”

  I returned his bittersweet grin. “In order for that to happen you can’t hold back anymore. I can handle the revelations. You might need to use small words so my immature soul can understand, but I need to know everything.”

  “Maryah, it will take me lifetimes to tell you everything.”

  “That works for me.” I pushed him onto his back and cuddled up against him.

  We lay there together gazing at the stars. One streaked across the sky so fast I thought I might have imagined it.

  “Did you see that?” I asked.

  “I did.”

  “I used to wish on every shooting star I’d see, but now that I know it’s a soul resetting, it feels wrong.” I swallowed down my guilt and disappointment in myself. “Someone out there just erased. They chose to burn out, like I did.”

  Nathan rolled over, leaning over me and pinning me in place with his fervid gaze. He didn’t touch me. He didn’t need to. The loving flames in his eyes warmed me to my core. “You never have, nor will you ever burn out. You are the light of all of my lives. Then, now, and eternally.”

  THICKER THAN WATER

  Nathaniel

  After Maryah returned to Rina, I visited the library to talk with Louise.

  I didn’t bother knocking. “That’s how he trapped her soul, isn’t it? He has the Airstone.”

  Louise glanced up from her computer, pressing a pen to her lips. “Perhaps.”

  “What if he obtains all of them?” I collapsed into the chair across from her, rubbing my hand over my jaw and already missing the feel of Maryah’s lips against mine.

  “I sincerely doubt he could find all of them.”

  “But if he does, and if the legends are true—”

  “He will never possess a starstone. Mary said they don’t exist in our plane of existence. And Dedrick won’t be able to link the other stones together without one.”

  “Louise, this is so much bigger than we thought.”

  “Don’t presume anything. He may have only the Firestone.”

  “Each one has incredible power, and in Dedrick’s hands each of them is a deadly weapon.”

  “No argument there.” Edgar walked up behind me and clutched my shoulder. “Would you be willing to visit the keepers of the Waterstone?”

  “Me? I haven’t visited them since the 1600s. I’m sure the guardianship has changed hands by now. I’d have no idea how to find them, and the ocean is too big to search haphazardly.”

  Edgar sat in the chair beside me. “You met two of their kind two lifetimes ago, a dear friend of mine and his late wife. She offered to restore your hearing. He is directly connected to one of the guardians and would gladly help us.”

  I remembered the couple. Mary and I were well along in years. I declined the kind woman’s offer because of how finely attuned my other senses became due to my loss of hearing. A quiet cycle of life had its benefits. “Her husband is still alive?”

  “Yes. I already sent notice that you’d be visiting. A change of scenery would do you good.”

  “What if they tell me their stone is missing?”

  Louise finished jotting something on her notepad then tossed down her pen. “If so, we’ll retrieve it and give it back to those who can protect it just like we plan to do with the Firestone.”

  “Clearly the Firestone keepers failed to protect it from Dedrick,” I said. “Why would we return it to them?”

  Louise sat back in her chair and folded her hands across her stomach. “Because with them is where the Firestone belongs. The same way Maryah was returned to us. All great power needs the support and protection of those who have known it the longest and treasure it the most.”

  I stood. “Let’s hope the Waterstone guardians did a better job at protecting their treasure than we did.”

  ∞

  Edgar’s old friend Lloyd stared shamefully into his coffee cup.

  “You’re positive?” I asked. “One hundred percent certain the stone is gone?”

  “Sadly yes.” His son sat between us on the edge of the kitchen table, kicking the table leg with his bare foot and causing my cup to rattle in its saucer. “The team assigned to guard it was distracted by a tangled mess of recent events.”

  “Distracted.” I rose from my chair and stared out the patio door. Beyond the sandy beach was an azure ocean that appeared to go on forever—the ocean where the Waterstone was supposed to be hidden away from people like Dedrick. “Distracted from protecting one of the world’s most powerful energy sources?”

  “We’re not saying it’s a good excuse,” Lloyd grumbled, “but it’s the truth.”

  His son stood and moved to my side. “We will get it back. That I assure you.”

  I studied his face. He had physical features from both of his parents. Hopefully he inherited their wisdom and bravery as well. “Pardon my manners,” I said, “You told me your name when your father introduced us, but with all my worrying I’ve forgotten it.”

  “Treygan.” His dark blue eyes resembled the color of Alaskan water. “And no apology necessary. I wish we had better news for you. I feel somewhat responsible.”

  “Stop blaming yourself for everything that goes wrong,” Lloyd told him. “You can’t save everyone and everything. The Waterstone wasn’t your sole responsibility.”

  Treygan ignored his father. “You have my word. We will retrieve it and then we will greatly improve our system for guarding it.”

  “The man who has it,” I explained, “Dedrick, he’s very powerful and dangerous.”

  Treygan crossed his arms over his bare chest. “So are we.”

  As much as I loved our home in Sedona, I admired the island lifestyle he and Lloyd lived. I had heard stories of what their kind were capable of, but considering their stone was stolen without anyone noticing, I didn’t have much faith in them. Dedrick had yet another piece for his evil puzzle.

  I checked my phone for missed calls.

  “Hope you’re not waiting to hear fro
m anyone important,” Lloyd said. “Those things don’t work way out here.”

  Why hadn’t I realized that earlier? We were on a remote island south of the Florida Keys and I expected to have cell service? Treygan and his people weren’t the only ones distracted and not thinking straight.

  “I should be getting back,” I said. “Thank you for the hospitality and for your honesty.”

  “I’m sorry we didn’t have better news for you.” Treygan shook my hand.

  “It was a pleasure meeting you. And Lloyd, it was great seeing you again.”

  Treygan’s father didn’t seem to be in the best shape. Returning the favor his wife once offered me was the least I could do. “Lloyd, as promised, I’ll be back with someone who might be able to help with your health.”

  He waved me off dismissively. “I told you I’m fine. Her ability probably won’t work on someone like me.”

  “It doesn’t hurt to try, and I know Krista would be glad to help.”

  “Thank you,” Treygan said. “That would mean a lot to us.”

  I said goodbye then opened the patio door.

  “What’s with the door?” Lloyd called. “Figured you’d exit by vanishing into thin air.”

  Pulling off my shirt, I told him, “I couldn’t visit your island and not swim in that beautiful water.”

  “I’ll join you,” Treygan said. “I was heading home anyway.”

  We walked out onto the sparkling sand then dove into the waves. As blissful as it was to be swimming in a sunlit paradise, I had to return in case the kindrily needed me.

  I said farewell to Treygan then traversed home.

  I called out for Louise several times, but she wasn’t anywhere in the house. I needed to dry off, so I walked down the sunny path to Edgar and Helen’s cottage with Eightball trotting behind me. Louise and Mikey were on the back deck. Helen was potting plants.

  No need for me to hem and haw. “Dedrick has the Waterstone.”

  Helen dropped her shovel and looked up at me, shielding her eyes from the sun. “Does he also have your shirt?”

  I shook the water from my hair. “I went swimming.”

 
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