Taking Back Forever, p.23Karen Amanda Hooper
“Hi Dakota,” Krista said soothingly.
Dakota rubbed his lips together. I knew firsthand how dry they probably were because my mouth felt like a desert when I woke up from my coma.
“I’ll be right back,” I said, taking off for the kitchen.
I threw some ice cubes in one glass and filled another with water, then hurried back to Dakota. I shouldered past Louise and Shiloh, then squeezed in next to Krista at Dakota’s side. I grabbed an ice cube and dipped it in water then ran it over Dakota’s lips. He looked relieved.
“You’re making us nervous,” Carson told him. “Say something.”
“Something,” Dakota murmured.
“Hell yeah!” Carson shook his shoulder. “I knew you’d pull through.”
Faith fell forward, hugging Dakota’s torso. “You crazy brave idiot, you almost got yourself killed.”
“So good to have you back,” Krista told him.
His tired eyes narrowed on her. “You saved my life.”
Krista grinned. “It’s sort of my thing.”
“Well,” his voice was scratchy. “Thank you.”
“Can you feel everything” Carson asked him. “All fingers and toes accounted for?”
Dakota wiggled his fingers and his feet moved under the blankets. “I think so. Just stiff as hell.”
“It will take time to get your strength back,” Krista told him.
Dakota barely nodded. He looked at me.
“Hey,” I muttered.
I didn’t know if he heard what I had said to him right before he woke up. I sort of hoped he hadn’t, but he had this expectant look in his eyes like he was waiting for me to say something. “I’m so sorry this happened to you.”
“I know.” His eyes searched the ceiling. “Is Harmony okay?”
Krista and Carson exchanged glances.
“She’s recovering too,” Krista assured him.
“Good,” Dakota said. “And the Nefariouns?”
“You killed the red-head,” Carson told him. “Dedrick and River got away.”
“That’s three,” Dakota said. “What about Gregory?”
The silent crowd of members shifted and fidgeted.
“He’s here,” Faith said. “With Harmony.”
Dakota’s brows rose.
“It’s okay,” Krista explained. “He was being mind-controlled and didn’t know who he was, but he does now. He’s no threat to anyone.”
“Crazy,” Dakota murmured. I could tell he was struggling to make his mouth move.
“Do you want some water?” I asked him. He nodded so I pressed the cup to his lips and helped him take a few sips. He let out a sigh of relief then his head fell back into his pillow. “Mind if I rest for a minute?”
“Rest as long as you need to, man,” Carson said.
“My parents,” Dakota started. “What—?”
“Don’t worry.” Krista patted his hand. “Dylan took care of it. They think you’re out of town with Carson.”
“Cool,” Dakota said as his eyes closed.
I stared, still finding it hard to believe that Dakota survived, but grateful beyond words that he did. Now, we just needed Harmony to wake up and the world would seem semi-right again.
WASHING AWAY SINS
I missed having Dakota to talk to. He’d returned to his body days ago, which was good, but I missed having him with me. My body was not cooperating with my soul’s desire to return to it. I’d never been a fan of my current body. It was too small and delicate. Even now, it was hindering me from my simple goal of waking up.
I sat on the bed and watched Gregory. He was stunning.
Being in a new body and form while he was still in his same form from our previous life was a first for us. Dedrick had somehow figured out a way to keep them from aging. That meant he was physically twenty-two, and it meant I still knew every inch of his body, and how amazing it felt.
I was pissed off that I couldn’t feel it. Or touch him at all.
In spirit form I tried touching him over and over. I tried to caress his face, run my fingers through his hair, kiss his cheek, but he never flinched. He’d just stare. He’d sit and stare at my unconscious body.
Except in the early morning before anyone was awake, and late at night after everyone had gone to sleep, he’d sing to me in Spanish. But he’d never say a word to me otherwise. No apologies, no explanations, nothing.
Frustrated by another failed attempt to connect my soul with my body, I swung my phantom arm, trying to palm-plant him in the forehead and knock him backward in his chair. Nothing happened.
“You stabbed me!” I shouted.
He kept staring at me. Not the me who was yelling at him, but at my body.
“Just wait until I wake up,” I warned him. “You’re going to be very sorry.”
After singing me another Spanish lullaby, he pulled back my covers. He delicately pulled my shirt over my head then removed my underwear. I knew what he was planning to do before he did it. He had done it so many times throughout our lifetimes.
He gathered me into his arms and carried my naked body into the bathroom. Still holding me, he reached down and turned on the water. After running his finger under the spigot a few times, testing until he was satisfied with the temperature, he set me in the water and placed the towel behind my head as a pillow. He grabbed a washcloth and soap then sat on the edge of the tub.
Gently, and slowly, he cleaned me from head to toe. Quietly singing, every so often he’d pause to kiss my hand, cheek, or the top of my head. It was so intimate, but not sexual. I wanted to be there with him. I wanted to feel his strong hands gliding the soft, warm, cotton against my skin. But all I could do was watch helplessly.
When he was done, he lifted me out of the tub. With my weight leaning against him, he wrapped a fluffy towel around me and carried me back to bed. He opened Maryah’s dresser drawer and pulled out a tank top and pair of shorts. He slid them on, handling my limbs like I was a breakable doll. Before he pulled my shirt all the way down he ran his fingers over the stab wound below my breast. His eyes were glassy, but no tears fell. He leaned over and kissed my scar then pulled my shirt down over my stomach.
I lay down as if I were actually in my body. I gazed up at him. One strand of hair had slipped free from his ponytail. It draped over his chiseled cheekbone. I reached up, trying to push it away as he pulled the covers up over my body. He tucked us in—my body and my soul—then sang my favorite Spanish lullaby of all time.
He hadn’t changed a bit.
I flashed over to check on Dakota. He was sleeping peacefully, and he looked good—healthy. He wouldn’t remember having any conversations with me in spirit form. That’s just the way it worked. But I was glad he fought to survive. I needed to do the same. I’d be much better use to him as his living, breathing big sister.
I felt the jolting tug of my body trying to connect with my soul while Gregory tucked me in. I was sure I could have returned to my body at that moment. As tempting as it was, there was something I needed to do first.
Someone else needed my help.
I found Sheila’s spirit wandering her old home on the Isle of Man.
“It’s time for you to go,” I told her. “I will forever owe you for helping me find Gregory.”
Her light pulsed between dim and bright. “Forever. Such a fickle word, isn’t it? So many souls can’t begin to grasp the concept of eternity, not even a fraction of it, yet they toss around the word so carelessly.”
I moved closer. “If I could give you forever with us, I would. All of us would.”
“I know that. And I appreciate it. I’m about to travel to the place where forever begins and ends. It’s the most glorious trip I’ll ever take. And the saddest. Because I have cherished every moment of being part of this family.”
The room was filling up with light, but Sheila glided out onto her balcony. Through her transparent form I
As if just realizing it, Sheila pulsed with surprise. “Yes, why and how are you here? You’re in spirit form too.” Her glowing hands flung to her mouth. “Oh, no! Harmony, you’ve passed?”
“Not yet. I’ve still got a fighting chance.”
“Then what in the world are you doing here with me? Get back to that young and vibrant body of yers. Go be with Gregory! I didn’t do all that work for nothin’.”
“I’m okay. I have time.”
She sighed again. “Oh, sweetie. That’s what I thought too. That’s what we all think. But there’s no time like the present.”
“Pot calling the kettle black considering you’re still not ready to move onto the most heavenly place you’ll ever see.”
“Agreed.” She turned and looked out at the horizon. “Just a few more moments here by the sea I loved so much. Then I’ll go.”
I moved to stand beside her and gazed out at the waves. “I’ll stay with you until then.”
“But what about Gregory?”
“Screw him,” I said. “He tried to kill me. Let him wait forever.”
She laughed then leaned against me, her divine energy melding with mine. “Forever comes and goes and so fast. It feels like the blink of an eye.”
“I know. That’s why he can wait.”
Every night Nathan and I tried to fall asleep in his old room, curled up in his twin bed, and every night I’d end up sneaking out and falling asleep on the living room couch. I told him we weren’t allowed to kiss or touch, except innocent cuddling and hand holding. I still felt guilty that the kindrily couldn’t reach either of us during such an important crisis and it felt eighty kinds of wrong to make out while Harmony clung to life.
In the morning, when I woke up, just like every other morning, Nathan was asleep on the floor beside the couch. I reached down and ran my fingers over his cheek. His eyes opened and he sat up, tossed his pillow on the loveseat then went to the kitchen to make coffee.
It had become our regular routine. Continuing the routine, I got up to check on Dakota and Harmony.
Dakota was still asleep so I quietly made my way to our room.
Krista was sitting at Harmony’s side just like every other morning. Except Krista looked more exhausted than usual.
“You’ve got to give yourself more time between healing sessions,” I told her. “Your eyes are starting to cave in. Carson will lose interest if you keep looking like that.”
Krista kind of laughed, but she was too tired and weak to actually make a sound. Her lips didn’t even curve upward.
“Carson won’t lose interest.” Carson said from behind me, entering the room and strolling over to Krista. “He loves that self-sacrificing crap.”
“She’s giving too much,” I told him.
He swept her up into his arms and sat in the chair with her cradled in his lap. “She always gives too much. It’s who she is. Why try to change something so beautiful?”
I couldn’t have custom ordered a more perfect boyfriend for Krista. The way she and Carson looked at each other, the way he supported her and looked after her, it was everything I’d ever wanted for her. Sometimes watching the two of them together was better than watching one of my favorite romance movies.
“You’re right,” I agreed. “I wouldn’t change her if I could.”
Carson seemed to have grown a few inches since meeting Krista. He was taller than her now, or maybe he always was and I never noticed before. He sat there holding her like she was a priceless treasure he wouldn’t let anything in the world damage. He’d sit in that same chair, holding Krista after every healing session, sometimes for hours at a time, and his arms wouldn’t drop, shake, or falter in any way. He’d just hold her close to him while chatting with anyone who came into the room.
“She never gets heavy?” I asked, still amazed by some of the kindrily’s gifts.
“Huh? Oh.” He paused, gazing down at Krista’s closed eyes. Her head rested against his chest.” “Nah, it’s like carrying around a teddy bear. Except warmer, prettier, and teddy bears don’t talk or kiss you back.”
I grinned. “She’s lucky to have you, Car.”
“Let’s not get into a ‘who’s luckier’ debate. She and I have done that spiel too many times.”
It had been only a few minutes since Carson came in and gathered Krista into his arms, but she lifted her head and looked at him.
“Something’s different,” she said.
Carson’s brow wrinkled with concern. “What, Turtle? What’s different?”
I sat up straight, worried. But as I studied her more closely I saw the healthy color had returned to her face. That usually took hours.
“Not different in a bad way,” Krista clarified. “It feels like maybe...I’m recovering faster.”
“Yeah?” Carson asked then kissed her forehead. “Good. Maybe that means Harmony is getting better. She’s not taking so much out of you.”
Krista turned to me. The healthy golden color had spread to under her eyes.
“Kris,” I said. “You almost look back to normal. That only took minutes.”
“Weird isn’t it?”
I nodded, but as I did, a cloud of intuitive knowledge blew past me, breezing by and planting a realization in my being. I whispered, “You’re changing.”
Carson looked up at me.
“I know. I feel good.” Krista smiled.
“No, I mean like how Shiloh’s vision changed, and Nathan can take people with him when he traverses. You’re recovering faster even after performing heavy duty healing. You’re power is strengthening.”
Her face lit up. “I hope you’re right.”
Later that evening, Nathan and I sat at Harmony’s bedside in silence.
Gregory sat with us. I was still trying to be at peace with the fact that he wasn’t the same person who killed my parents, stabbed Mikey to death, and almost killed me—mainly because he was the same person, at least physically.
Gregory barely left Harmony’s side. He even slept beside her.
Most of the day we’d all leave Carson and him alone for hours at a time to discuss whatever it was they discussed privately. Once, while I walked down the hallway past the closed door, I overheard Carson laugh. I didn’t know what he was laughing at, or how he could be laughing while Harmony laid unconscious in the very same room, but Krista told me not to judge. She reminded me that just last lifetime Gregory was Carson’s father and they had a wonderful relationship.
My knee had been bouncing for a few minutes before I finally found the nerve to ask Gregory what I’d been wondering. “Do you remember everything?”
He and Nathan both adjusted in their seats, looking surprised by the interruption to the silence.
Gregory squinted at me. “I remember too much.”
My knee bounced faster.
Gregory clasped and flexed his huge fingers. “I’ve sat here with you a few times trying to find proper words to describe how sorry I am for what I did to you and your family, but I’ve yet to find words that would be anywhere close to sufficient.”
I went completely still. “So you’re sorry? You regret...what you did?”
“Mary, I regret it more than I could ever express.”
“My name is Maryah.”
“Right.” He lowered his eyes. “Carson told me you erased. But I believe you’re still just as much Mary as Carson is Carlos. The Mary I knew is still in there somewhere.”
Gregory’s words hit a nerve, but a good nerve.
“Yeah,” I muttered, wanting to believe the same thing. Nathan reached over and held my hand.
Harmony’s eyes flew open as she arched her back and gasped so loud the bed shook. We all jumped, startled by her sudden awakening.
Gregory stood. Harmony sat up
“Harmony,” Gregory uttered.
Harmony roared. She actually roared and leapt off the bed, tackling him like some kind of rabid flying monkey. I jumped backward, almost knocking over my chair, shocked by her rage and burst of energy. I hadn’t even recovered from the shock of her waking up. I didn’t notice how or when it happened, but Nathan was standing too.
Gregory had caught Harmony after she flew at him. Her legs were wrapped around his waist. She was only wearing a black tank top and my shorts that were so short they barely covered her butt, but she didn’t seem to care. I wasn’t sure if she even knew Nathan and I were in the room.
Gregory kept his head bowed protectively as Harmony’s fists swung at him over and over. She hit him in his shoulders, his back, even his head. She punched him over and over.
I glanced at Nathan, waiting for him to spring into action, but to my surprise he stood there watching them with a grin on his face.
“You senseless bastard!” Harmony shouted. “How could you?”
“I’m sorry.” Gregory kept his head lowered, protectively raising his shoulder the last time Harmony punched him in the back. She squirmed off him and her bare feet landed on the floor. She stepped back and he almost lifted his head but she rushed forward and smacked his chest several times with her open hands. She stood in front of him balling her fists at her sides.
He towered over her. He could have knocked her sideways onto the ground with one swing of his arm. But he didn’t.
She stepped forward, standing on her tiptoes and lifting her face toward his. Even though he was three times her size, he stepped back.
“You almost killed Maryah,” she said through clenched teeth.
He blinked, and although he could have glanced up and seen me directly across the room from them, he didn’t. He never looked away from Harmony. “I’m sorry.”
Taking Back Forever by Karen Amanda Hooper / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes