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Taking back forever, p.19
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       Taking Back Forever, p.19

           Karen Amanda Hooper
 
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  Marriage. On some level I knew that would eventually happen, and that Nathan and I had been married numerous times before, but it was still jarring to think about. Heck, we’d just had our first kiss a little over two weeks ago and here was Nathan sitting in front of me casually talking about our wedding.

  I was a little bit nervous but a lot giddy. “How do you know I’d say yes?”

  He flinched then cocked his head to the side. “Oh. Well. Good point. That was arrogant of me to assume, um...” He lowered his eyes. I had rattled him. There was a first time for everything for him too.

  “I’m kidding,” I assured him. “I said I’m yours forever and I meant it. But I’m also in no rush to get married.”

  “Then you should be in no rush to do it, either.”

  I scrunched up my nose at him. “So tell me what happens at these kindrily weddings.”

  “I can’t adequately describe it with words. You’ll have to wait and hope I propose so that you can witness it for yourself.”

  I smirked. “Touché”

  He rolled onto his back and I curled up against him, resting my head on his chest. For a few minutes we just lay together enjoying the comfortable silence. I couldn’t stop thinking about all the places we’d be able to traverse too someday. Then, being the selfish, excited, determined girlfriend that I was, I lifted my head. “How tired are you?”

  He looked down his nose at me. “Why?” He must have read my mind. “Oh bollocks, you too? Even my soul mate offers me no reprieve.”

  I kissed his chin. “Pretty please? I’ll reward you with kisses. Lots and lots of kisses.”

  “Well, when you offer a deal I can’t refuse.” He leaned to his left and grabbed the edge of the comforter then leaned right and grabbed the other side. He wrapped us up, cocooning us together in the blanket.

  “Ready?” He asked.

  “Ready.” I slid my arms under him and held on tight.

  ∞

  We were on top of our favorite cliff, lying on our bedspread, staring up at the Sedona sky as it prepared to transition into my favorite time of the day—sunset.

  “Do you see any stars yet?” Nathan asked me.

  My gaze fluttered across the periwinkle sea above us. “No. Do you?”

  “I see them all the time. They’re dim when the sun is shining, but they’re always there.”

  I sighed. “I wish I could see them.”

  “Me too. The sky would have so much more significance for you.” He took a deep breath. “I need to tell you something.”

  Oh god. No good ever came out of conversations that started with one person saying I need to tell you something. I sat up and stared down at him.

  “Why do you look terrified?” he asked.

  “Because I’m worried you’re about to tell me something bad.”

  “Quite the opposite actually.” He sat up too. “Shiloh, you know he has the ability to see clearly in the dark, and that he sees light and color differently than the rest of us.”

  I nodded.

  “Well, he swears he can still see your star in the sky.”

  “You said my star fell. That it was gone.”

  “I know. And I can’t see it. As much as I’ve tried and hoped to see a flicker of light where your star used to shine, I still see nothing. But Shiloh doesn’t lie. And he swears he can see something.”

  I lifted my face and scanned the cloudless sky above us. “What does that mean?”

  “It means you erased, but you aren’t gone. We know that’s true because you have remembered glimpses of our past. It gives me hope that you’ll remember more. I wanted to tell you what Shiloh sees so you could share that hope. Your star didn’t fall from the sky like I originally believed. Erasing caused it to burn out, but I believe you can reignite it.”

  I looked at the sky again. I wanted to see the stars. I wanted to see my star. I wanted to burn so brightly that other galaxies could see me. But wanting and doing were very different things. Doing, I thought. It was up to me to do something. No one could make my star shine except me.

  Nathan did give me hope. According to Shiloh, I still had a place in the heavens. I was determined to turn on the light so that everyone could see I was home again.

  “Do you think your ability is getting stronger like Edgar suspects, or do you think you’ve been able to take people with you when you traverse all along, but you just didn’t know how?”

  “I’m not sure. But everything happens as it should.”

  “Maybe I’m getting stronger too. I mean, I’m starting over with a severe handicap, but if I’m getting stronger then I might sensperience or astral travel like a pro any day now.”

  “That’s a brilliant theory. I hope it pans out.”

  I gave him my best enticing eyebrow wiggle. “I want to practice again. Do you need to be anywhere?”

  “Nope, I’m all yours. Which would you like to practice, sensperiencing, astral traveling, or soul gazing?”

  “Sensperiencing.”

  “Very well. Lie back.”

  I stretched out on my back, preparing for another round of one of my favorite activities. I was determined to make progress this time.

  “Close your eyes,” Nathan said quietly. “Abandon your body. Let every muscle, bone, and cell dissolve and become pure, weightless energy.”

  I relaxed my muscles and imagined them turning to water like the meditation guru said in her recordings.

  “Float upward,” Nathan continued, “into the sky. Keep floating through the clouds and out of the atmosphere and into space. Don’t picture space from the outside looking in. Be in space. Let your soul float there in the black sky among the countless shining stars.”

  I could see what he described because I had seen it before. The night I almost died. The stars were so close and they were pulsing, living energy that I wanted to reach out and touch.

  “Now just look,” Nathan whispered. “Observe all the celestial energy around you. Feel your energy shining brightly just like the stars you see surrounding you.”

  I was there. I was in space. I saw and felt everything Nathan described as if it were the easiest task in the world. Two stars pulsed on either side of me. One was radiant and warm gold. The other burned cool blue and white.

  I was aware that Nathan continued talking, but his words were like a slow comet traveling past me. All I could focus on was the energy of the blue and white star. It called to me, not with words, but with its energy. I reached for it, wanting to meld with its light, but then a voice clearly whispered words that shook every star in space, making them blur into streaks of connecting light. Open your eyes.

  My eyes flew open.

  Nathan was propped on one elbow at my side, but his head was tilted toward the sky and his eyes were closed. “Expand your—”

  “Nathan.”

  He looked down at me. “Back so soon?”

  “Did you tell me to open my eyes?”

  “No. Were my directions working?”

  “Yeah, and I was doing so well. I felt all transcendental, but then a voice said ‘Open your eyes.’ And here I am. Back on boring old Earth.”

  He smirked. “Earth can be transcendental too.”

  “Not like that,” I said. “That was incredible.”

  “I have other ways to make you feel incredible.” He reached down for my wrist and lifted my arm over my head. Slowly, he did the same with my other hand. With his one firm grip he locked both of my wrists together.

  I felt vulnerable but at the same time completely safe because it was Nathan. My Nathan. “Do what you please with me,” I said. “I’m all yours.”

  He gazed down at me. “Is that a promise?”

  “Given our history, I’m pretty sure it’s a fact.”

  “This,” he whispered before kissing my neck.

  “This what?”

  He kissed the other side. “This is one of those moments when I desperately wish you hadn’t erased.”

  “Why this mom
ent?”

  He took his time scanning every curve of my body before answering. “Because if you hadn’t erased, I’d have no moral qualms about making love to you right here and now.”

  I closed my eyes. God, I wanted him so bad. He made love to me twenty times a day just by looking at me. How much more amazing would it feel when the physical aspects were added to it?

  He released the hold he had on my wrists and repositioned himself. I opened my eyes, but his head was down. He tugged at the button of my shorts then kissed my exposed belly. I sighed dreamily and he laid his head in my lap. His breath tickled the inside of my thigh as he spoke. “You have no idea the transcendental things I’m going to do to you after we’re married.”

  I smiled so big it reached the sky. “For the record, I have no moral qualms about making sure we’re a good fit before marriage.”

  His head rose and he glared authoritatively at me as he lifted himself up and positioned his body over mine. Gently parting my legs, he lowered himself between them. My hips rolled forward as he pressed against me. I moaned and arched my back.

  “I assure you,” he whispered into my ear. “We fit together perfectly.”

  “Please,” I begged. “I don’t want to wait.”

  He grinned and shook his head. “I never imagined you’d become such a modern-day hussy.”

  I laughed and wrapped my legs around him. “Don’t call me a hussy.”

  He rolled over onto his back, pulling me on top of him and laughing too. I sat on his lap and rolled my hips, trying to make him want me as much as I wanted him, but my shorts and his jeans between us might as well have been the Berlin Wall. I was tempted to rip his pants off.

  “Look at you.” Nathan reached forward, holding onto my waist.

  “What?” I asked, self-consciously smoothing down my hair.

  “The sun is setting behind you and I swear, you’re glowing like something not of this world.” He propped himself up his elbows, still gazing up at me. “You look like an angel.”

  I leaned down and kissed him. Then I slid off him and stretched out at his side. “I used to think you were my angel of death.”

  He turned and faced me. His brow rose. “Come again?”

  “After I was attacked, I thought you were an angel taking me to heaven. Then I kept seeing you in what I thought were my dreams. The one time, after I first moved here and set my—correction, our—bed on fire, you appeared again. I assumed you were trying to take me.”

  “Take you to...heaven?”

  I nodded.

  He grinned deviously. “There’s a sexual joke in there somewhere about you and I setting a bed on fire and me taking you to heaven, but I don’t have enough blood in my brain to deliver it properly.”

  I laughed at him. “Why am I even trying to talk to you if there’s no blood in your brain?”

  “It’s slowly coming back. I can think half-straight. Continue.”

  I didn’t like the thought of him regaining his composure so quickly. Even though I was having a conversation with him, my body still ached for him. I don’t know where my courage came from, but I reached down and grabbed between his legs. He closed his eyes and groaned.

  “Where’s your blood flowing now?” I asked quietly.

  He lay back again and pulled me down so our lips met. I kept my hand right where it was and through his jeans I felt him grow harder. I pretended to have some clue of what I was doing while I kissed him more intensely and squeezed.

  “Maryah,” he breathed. My name never sounded so beautiful.

  I felt powerful. He always seemed to have the upper hand when it came to our make-out sessions, but now I was the one in control. And it was making him crazy, which I enjoyed.

  “The first time I drank Helen’s tea,” I whispered, proud of myself for how composed I sounded in such an intense moment. “You sat on the couch with me. I thought you were my angel then too. I thought the tea, and you, would be the death of me. “

  “Take me,” Nathan said.

  My head snapped back, jolted by his words. “What?”

  “That night you said ‘take me,’ you have no idea how badly I wanted to.”

  I didn’t remember saying that, but he spoke about it so passionately I didn’t argue. “Was that another time?”

  “Another time for what?”

  Just thinking about the words I was about to repeat made me eight hundred times more excited. “That you wanted to make love to me.”

  “I can’t count how many times I’ve wanted to make love to you.” He pulled me on top of him so I was straddling him again. He shifted his hips at the same time I did and the bulge that had just felt so good in my hand became exquisite torture between my thighs.

  We both groaned at the same time.

  I was losing my mind. The feeling of control and power was slipping away into a haze of ecstatic bliss. I let my head fall back and gazed up at a cotton candy sky of pink, blue, and purple. I wanted to float up into the sky, cling to the clouds, and fly away with him.

  When I looked down again Nathan’s loving eyes were watching me with so much love I was almost brought to tears. His fingertips swept up and down my thighs. “Come back down here, please.”

  I leaned forward and he eased my head toward him until our lips met.

  His kiss set my soul on fire. We were flying again.

  Our mouths parted long enough for me to breathlessly say, “Marry me.”

  He smiled then gently flipped me onto my back and hovered above me. His lips teasingly brushed against mine. “Where’s my ring?”

  I help up my thumb and nodded at my antique peacock ring. “That’s all I have to offer.”

  “That belongs on you. Always has and always will.” He held my hand and kissed my thumb. “Besides, I promised your parents a thoughtful and memorable proposal.”

  My hand flew over my heart. “My parents?”

  Nathan nodded. “Before they crossed over, I asked your father for permission to marry his daughter, and for your mother’s blessing as well. One of the conditions was my proposal to you had to be grand.”

  A bittersweet tear escaped the corner of my eye. “What were the other conditions?”

  “There was only one more—that I love and cherish you forever.” He wiped another tear from my face. “Both conditions are inevitable.”

  BE STILL MY BREAKING HEART

  Harmony

  Some of Shiloh’s dance students were chosen to perform in a production of West Side Story. When he and Faith first invited me, I declined, but I was so restless after school that I changed my mind. I needed to get out of the house, out of my own head, and do something, even if it was watching a group of twelve-year-olds dance around and sing.

  The distraction didn’t work. All I thought about was Gregory.

  On the ride home I sat in the back of Shiloh’s truck, trying to ignore Faith and Shiloh gushing about how well Shiloh’s students performed. Dakota sat beside me. He nudged my leg at one point and rolled his eyes. I shrugged. If this was all they had to get excited about who were we to spoil their fun?

  We stopped at a red light. An old familiar eerie sound stirred in my ears—the sound of metal grinding together. It started faint, like the first subtle ripple on a still pond. I turned my head slightly, listening to make sure it wasn’t squeaky breaks. But the unmistakable sound rippled inward, getting louder—more annoying than fingernails on a chalkboard.

  I’d only ever heard the sound once before, minutes before the Nefariouns arrived at Amber and Dylan’s wedding.

  I shot straight up in my seat, searching the dimly lit streets outside and trying to see inside the dark cars passing by us on the opposite side of the road. My fingers flew to my ears, pressing hard to try to stop the sound from pulsing between them, but the sound grew louder. Shit.

  I knew what it meant. I didn’t question or deny it, but it couldn’t have happened at a worse time.

  I wasn’t prepared for this. We weren’t prepared for th
is. I glanced around the SUV. Quick mental tally: three kindrily members, one innocent bystander with absolutely no power to fight with. Double Shit.

  I leaned down, feeling the top of each boot, confirming I had at least half-dressed this morning. I wasn’t wearing a bulletproof vest. None of us were. When I sat up, as if by divine force, my head turned to look at the black Mercedes with tinted windows pulling up beside us.

  For a brief second the flicker of a lighter illuminated the profile of a man in the backseat. Every curve and slope of his face was familiar. My hands fumbled for the door handle as the black window of the Mercedes lowered several inches. Through the steady stream of cigarette smoke I saw his snake-slit eyes.

  I threw my door open just as the light turned green. The Mercedes sped off before my boots hit the pavement. I stood there, in the middle of the street, flabbergasted.

  He hadn’t aged a day.

  “Harmony, what are you doing?” Faith yelled through her passenger window.

  I leapt into the back seat, slamming my door shut as I shouted. “Follow that Mercedes!”

  “What? Why?” Shiloh asked.

  “Gregory is in the back seat.”

  I’m not sure which was louder, the gasps throughout the car or the truck’s tires squealing against the road.

  Faith dialed Anthony.

  Shiloh tossed his phone to Dakota. “Call Nathan. Keep calling until he answers.”

  I kept my eyes locked on the Mercedes several yards ahead of us as I waited for Carson to answer his phone.

  “What’s up?” he asked.

  “Gregory’s here. Get to the main road as soon as possible and head west. I’ll keep you on the phone until we figure out where they’re going.” I heard a short, shocked squeal from Krista. Seconds later, Carson’s Mustang roared to life. I smirked, imagining the look on Krista’s face when Carson grabbed her and whisked her away with his sonic speed. It was like being shot out of a canon before you even had time to figure out you were moving.

 
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