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Taking back forever, p.15
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       Taking Back Forever, p.15

           Karen Amanda Hooper
 
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  He ran away from his pile of poop by the glass door and hid under the coffee table, snorting at me with apologetic eyes. I groaned with disgust on three different counts: Nathan cheating, Mikey’s diaper, and Eightball’s accident.

  Definitely one of the crappiest days of my life—literally.

  BEG YOUR PARDON

  Maryah

  I seriously considered saving both loads of crap to throw at Nathan when he returned, but I couldn’t stand the smell a minute longer. After I cleaned up both accidents, I tried to flood my nostrils with the smell of baby powder and the living room with air freshener. I texted Nathan to come home right away.

  Amber showed up for Mikey moments later. She sensed something was wrong and asked if Mikey had been a lot of trouble, but I told her no and shooed her out the door.

  I was so furious I wanted to crawl out of my skin. Nathan cheated on me. I paced the back deck and left the door open to air out the living room. Every second I waited for him to traverse home made me angrier.

  Seven minutes passed before he materialized. “How was your nap?”

  “You bastard.”

  His eyes widened. “Beg your pardon?”

  “You cheated on me?”

  “What are you talking about?”

  “I was there! I heard you and Harmony talking. You cheated on me!”

  “Hang on. You were in Calgary? You astral traveled?”

  “Yes.”

  “That’s wonderful! Did you travel on purpose?”

  “Don’t change the subject!” My hands balled into fists. “I want to strangle you!”

  “Maryah, the incident you’re talking about was hundreds of years ago. It was a one time, wretched mistake that I learned a severe lesson from and I would never do again.”

  Typical guy thing to say. Next he’d tell me she meant nothing. “I can just picture you kissing some bimbo, and it makes me sick.”

  His eyes were wide, but he had a fascinated smile on his face. It made me even madder because it almost seemed like he was enjoying this. “Picture me? I didn’t even look like this. I was in a different body. I was a foolish new soul who barely had begun to evolve.”

  “I just don’t understand. I mean, I didn’t know you were my soul mate when River kissed me, and I barely let him kiss me because it felt wrong and I didn’t even know why. You were with me. You knew I was your true love so how could you do that to me?”

  “Greed, lust, lack of conscience and morals, I was still struggling with all of those things at the time. I was far from perfect in many of my lives, but honestly there has been no one but you since 1138. Can you please hold me accountable only for mistakes I’ve made in the past five hundred years or so?”

  He stepped closer, extending his arms and tilting his head in that enticing way of his, but I was angry enough to resist him.

  “I don’t even want to be near you right now.” I stomped into the house and kept going until I reached the kitchen.

  He followed. “Maryah. Please, let’s discuss this. I don’t want you to be upset.”

  “Oh, I’m upset!”

  “Shh, I’d prefer Louise didn’t hear us.”

  “She’s not even here!” I positioned myself so the island was between us. If I didn’t put something between us I might smack him. “Do you still think about her?”

  His forehead wrinkled with confusion. “About Louise?”

  “No, about her! The hussy you cheated on me with!”

  His eyes bulged again and his head craned forward. That ridiculously maddening smile spread across his face.

  I gripped the edge of the counter. “Why are you smiling?”

  “Because your jealousy regarding this ancient issue is entertain, er—surprising.”

  “Entertaining? You were about to say entertaining! You think it's funny that you hurt me?”

  “Maryah,” he laughed, and I wanted to leap over the island. “It is a bit entertaining, but only because it’s interesting to know who you once were and to see you acting so…jejune about this issue.”

  I huffed. “What does jejune mean?”

  He inhaled, tightening his lips in a contemplative grin before continuing. “Inexperienced or—brace yourself—immature.”

  I grabbed an orange from the fruit basket and threw it at him.

  He caught it effortlessly, visually fighting back laughter. “I meant it in a loving way.”

  “You just called me immature!”

  “You are immature.” I threw a plum at him but he caught that too. “You are, mentally and emotionally, eighteen years old. It seems some of your past maturity has remained intact, but by no means are your emotions as evolved as they were in our last lifetime. Keep in mind I grew and evolved with you over many centuries. You basically reset yourself, leaving me with an extremely young and callow version of you.”

  I squinted. “Callow?”

  “Inexperienced.”

  “You’re making it sound like you’re some hundred-year-old man robbing the cradle.”

  He smirked. “More like nine-hundred-year-old man.”

  “Gross!”

  He laughed again. “Well, it’s the truth.”

  “Great. Now all I can picture is you all decrepit and wrinkled like a Tales from the Crypt character.”

  He slowly eased his way around the island, peeking up from under his lashes with a careful and calculating look. If he thought of me as a child I might as well act like one. I crossed my arms across my chest and turned away from him.

  His hand stroked my forearm and my skin prickled. I hated that he could disarm me with one touch. He leaned in, lightly brushing his nose along my jawline and breathing on my neck. My knees went weak but my resolve to stay angry remained strong. He hummed lightly in my ear before speaking. “Comparing me to The Crypt Keeper is a bit insulting. How about we go into the bedroom so I can prove how lively and virile I am?”

  It took supreme strength not to throw my arms around him and devour him. Weakly, I said, “No. I’m mad at you.”

  “Mmm.” His hands slid down my hips. “That’s fine because we have all of eternity for me to show you how sorry I am.” He kissed my shoulder then my neck. “Even when I thought I had lost you forever, I knew I’d never be with anyone else. Never, ever, will there be anyone but you, Maryah.”

  I turned around and he stared at me for one intense moment then his lips closed over mine. His kiss was deep and apologetic. The usual head rush flowed through me seconds before my knees gave out. Nathan knew all too well the effect he had on me, so he caught me effortlessly. He lifted me up, set me on the counter, and eased himself between my legs. He kissed me so passionately I was sure the kitchen smoke detector was about to go off.

  He paused just long enough to say, “I missed you.” Then he kissed me again.

  I wrapped my arms around him, digging my nails into his back and pulling him tighter between my legs. Our breaths quickened and our kisses grew deeper. His hand slid through my hair and he guided my head to whatever position he wanted as his lips and tongue worked their magic on my neck.

  Beams of green and gold light flashed around us. I yanked back, placing my hands on the side of Nathan’s face, half-expecting him to say he saw the same thing, but when he looked at me, I gasped. I could see deep inside his eyes, just like the time at Montezuma Well. Multi-dimensional shapes pulsed and moved through a tunnel of pulsating light.

  Nathan’s breathing was fast and hard. He closed his eyes again and leaned against me.

  “No!” I moaned, pushing him back.

  “I’m sorry.” He raised his hands above his head and stepped away. “I got carried away.”

  “That’s not why I’m saying no. Your eyes.”

  His green eyes were smoldering and beautiful, but the magic tunnel of light was gone.

  “Dammit,” I said breathlessly, kicking the air.

  “What?”

  “Your kaleidoscope eyes, I saw them again, but only for a few seconds.”

/>   He glided back between my legs, wrapping his arms around me. “Really?”

  I nodded, running my fingers through his hair. He slid me to the edge of the counter and pulled me tight against him. “I’m sorry. I would have kept them open if I knew.”

  “When your eyes look like that, it’s so…” I couldn’t find a word powerful enough to describe it, so I went with, “magical.”

  “It’s not me,” he insisted. “It’s us. Our history. Every emotion, memory, and piece of our past together is stored in my soul.”

  I swallowed, preparing to ask the question I’d been wondering since the night I told him I loved him. “What do you see when you look into my eyes?”

  His grin faded into a grimace of pain. His focus dropped to his hands as he rubbed my thighs.

  “You can tell me,” I assured him. “I can handle it.”

  He raised his eyes to meet mine. I blinked several times, worried that what he saw caused him heartache. “I still see the grand hall, or tunnel of light as you refer to it, it’s just…well, many of the shapes and colors have disappeared, and the light has...dimmed.”

  I flinched with guilt. “But it’s not completely empty, right? You still see some light?”

  His merciful squint and tight lips told me the truth, contradicting the words he spoke. “I see enough.”

  “I’m a horrible person,” I confessed quietly.

  “No, you’re my twin flame. The light of my life.”

  “Here I am yelling and throwing things at you because I’m angry about something you did hundreds of years ago while I committed the biggest sin thinkable less than two decades ago. And every time you look at me you’re reminded of it.”

  “I forgave you.”

  “You shouldn’t have. I can’t imagine how hard this is for you. How hard it was the past eighteen years. How hard it still is for you.”

  He sighed. “True, you can’t imagine, so please promise me you will never erase again.”

  I wrapped my arms around his neck, grasping him tightly. I didn’t deserve him, but I was grateful he was mine. He was imperfect but perfect for me. “I promise you, Nathaniel, I will never erase again. I love you now and eternally.”

  That look flickered in his eyes again—that almost but not enough look that frustrated me so badly. He whispered, “One more thing.”

  “Anything.”

  “Promise not to throw fruit at me ever again.”

  I kissed his cheek softly. “I would never make you a promise I can’t keep.”

  He laughed and so did I.

  COSMIC CARSON

  Maryah

  Everyone was home safe and sound, except Harmony, but Faith assured me she’d be home in a day or two at most. I had to admit a part of me was happy the Nefariouns were nowhere to be found in Calgary. The thought of any of the kindrily being near Dedrick made me cringe with fear. I felt bad that we were no closer to finding Gregory, but we still had hope. Two hopes: Sheila and me. A burst of friendly competition had sparked inside me. I was determined to master astral traveling and find Gregory before Sheila did again. I was much more hopeful given my recent astral travel and glimpse into Nathan’s soul.

  Nathan traversed back to Calgary to convince Harmony to give up on her investigation and come home. She was determined to find out why Dedrick had been there, but her search had led her to one dead end after another.

  Krista and I were supposed to have some alone time to go out for milkshakes, but Carson asked if he could come along and Krista told him yes before I could say no. As always, he insisted on driving.

  I might as well have been invisible the whole time. They talked about the trip, the plane, some phone application Carson was designing that sounded too technical for me to understand, and a bunch of other topics I eventually tuned out since I wasn’t involved in the conversation. The whole night I felt like a third wheel. They didn’t even attempt to include me.

  By the time we were on our way home, I was glad the evening was almost over.

  I was in the backseat, glancing between Carson’s profile and the back of Krista’s head. They talked to each other even more casually than Nathan and I did. Carson was zipping along a good twenty miles over the speed limit when he suddenly came to a wheel-screeching stop. I flew forward, ramming the back of Krista’s seat. Carson turned his head, looking behind us as he reversed a few yards.

  “What the heck, Carson?” I cracked my neck to make sure I didn’t get whiplash. I tried seeing Krista’s expression in her side view mirror but she was facing Carson.

  “Turtle?” She casually asked him.

  He nodded.

  “Turtle?” I repeated.

  Carson stopped the car and climbed out, leaving his door open. I leaned between the front seats and watched Carson pick up a turtle from the middle of the road. He examined it then carried it down the bank and off into an area with bushes.

  “How did you know it was a turtle?” I asked Krista.

  She grinned, still watching him. “The same thing happened the other day.”

  Carson the Turtle Saver. Who would have guessed?

  Carson climbed back in and buckled his seatbelt. “He’s all good. Not a scratch on him.”

  “So this is a hobby of yours?” I asked. “Saving turtles?”

  “Good karma,” Carson replied. “The worst is when they’ve already been hit but aren’t dead. It’s no fun playing God.”

  My eyes darted to Krista. She always said she didn’t want to be a doctor because she didn’t want to play God. She didn’t want to decide who lived or died. I couldn’t help asking, “Kris, could you heal a turtle if it were dying?”

  Krista tilted her head. “Maybe. I’m not sure. I’ve never tried to use my ability on animals.”

  “Why not?” Carson asked the same question I was thinking.

  Krista shrugged. “I never had any pets of my own. I wasn’t ever attached to an animal that needed healing.”

  Carson’s head snapped back against his seat. “Why would you need to be attached? You’re a vegetarian. You won’t even eat meat. You wouldn’t heal an injured turtle if we came across one? A life is a life.”

  Their voices rose as they continued bickering. No way was I jumping into this argument.

  “I didn’t say I wouldn’t try to save an injured turtle,” Krista snapped. “I simply said I’ve never been in that position before and I don’t know if I could.”

  “Which basically means you’d consider letting them die an agonizingly painful death.”

  “Agonizing? You’re acting like you know how the turtle feels.”

  “I know they suffer and feel pain. Amber told me they cry and beg for help. It’s awful.”

  Krista stared at him with the same surprised look I’m sure was on my face too.

  “Amber can hear animals crying?” I asked quietly.

  Carson huffed. “She communicates with animals. Did you think her ability only applied to cheerful chitchat? I’ve been in the car with Amber when she came across an injured animal. One time, this rabbit had its lower half crushed by a car, but the poor thing lay there, smashed into the road, his front feet struggling to move him to safety as he cried and pleaded for help.”

  Tears formed in my eyes.

  “Amber had to explain to him that he was going to die,” Carson continued. “Imagine what that must be like. And then, so he wouldn’t have to lay there suffering, she killed him.”

  A tear ran down my cheek.

  Carson shook his head. “I still can’t get the image of her breaking that poor bunny’s neck out of my mind.”

  My hands flew to my mouth. “Oh my god.”

  “Yeah,” Carson said, glancing at Krista, “so if we ever come across an injured animal and you don’t at least try to help it, we’re going to have a serious problem.”

  “I’m sorry,” Krista whispered. “I didn’t know.”

  “Didn’t know what?” Carson gawked. “That animals feel pain? Do you know what Amber told
me about that rabbit? When she told him he was going to die, that he was going to a place where he wouldn’t be in pain anymore, do you know what his last thoughts were? He worried about his family. They’d never know what happened to him. They’d be left alone, worrying, imagining the worst, and they’d never have closure.”

  It was like a heartbreaking Disney movie. My voice cracked. “The bunny had a family?”

  Carson pulled into the driveway. He shut off the car then turned to look at us. “You two have a lot to learn about this world. Maybe I’ll get you two pet bunnies and turtles tomorrow and see how you feel when they show up missing.”

  He got out and slammed his car door.

  “You’ve really never tried to heal an animal?” I asked Krista.

  She shook her head. “Amber can only hear animal thoughts. Gregory could only hear human thoughts. I always assumed my healing power was limited to humans.”

  “Well, if Eightball ever gets sick, you better try your best.” I couldn’t get the awful roadkill images out of my head. “I feel awful for that bunny. Poor little guy.”

  “As sad as that story was, I think the bunny was a metaphor for Gregory.” Krista sighed. “I’m fairly certain every time Carson tries to save a life, it’s for Gregory.”

  ∞

  Later, Krista and I were lounging in her bed watching television with a huge bowl of popcorn between us.

  “That was pretty smart of you about the bunny metaphor,” I said. “I sort of forgot Carson was Gregory and Harmony’s son last lifetime. I mean, I didn’t forget, but this kindrily has a lot of people and it’s hard to keep track of everyone and their connections. I wasn’t considering how much this must be upsetting him too.”

  “Yup. He’s been taking it pretty hard. He puts up a strong front, but he wants to find Gregory just as much as Harmony does. Maybe more.”

  “You two seem to be getting pretty close. If I didn’t know better, I might have thought you two were having a lover’s quarrel about the saving animals thing.”

 
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