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Taking back forever, p.24
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       Taking Back Forever, p.24

           Karen Amanda Hooper
 
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  Harmony punched him in the chest so hard he let out a gush of breath. Harmony took another step, and he stepped back again, but not as far this time.

  “You killed Maryah’s brother,” she hissed, “and her parents. You were a merciless monster.”

  He inhaled and his eyes wrinkled with regret. “I can’t apologize enough for what I’ve done.”

  Harmony punched him again, even harder, in the stomach. He bent forward, grunting, but he quickly recovered and stood tall.

  Her next words were a mix of rage and heartache. “You almost killed me.”

  He ran his hand over his mouth and down around his neck. The look on his face matched Harmony’s heartbroken tone. “Te amo, I’m so sorry.”

  She delivered a series of punches and kicks that Gregory never attempted to block. His stomach, his ribs, his jaw. I flinched for him. Watching Harmony beat him was painful, but I glanced at Nathan again and he looked as if he were watching a beautiful sunrise.

  Harmony’s foot connected with the side of Gregory’s knee and he crumpled to the floor.

  I rushed around the bed. I have no idea why. Instinct to protect someone who was being hurt? I stopped only a couple feet away, worried Harmony would hit me if I tried interfering.

  Gregory stayed on his knees with his head hung. Blood dripped from his lip onto the floor.

  “How can I ever forgive you?” Harmony shouted. “How can any of us ever forgive you?”

  “You shouldn’t,” Gregory said quietly. “None of you should.”

  “I ought to beat you within an inch of your life,” Harmony snarled. “I should beat in your head with a pipe the way you did to Maryah.” She leaned down and grabbed his jaw, raising his chin so he had to look at her. “I should stab you through your abdomen with a dirty splintered stake of wood like you did to Maryah.”

  I stiffened. I should have assumed everyone in the kindrily knew what he did to me, but hearing Harmony say it aloud sent a phantom pain shooting through my stomach.

  “Then,” Harmony continued, “just when you think you’ve survived all that, I should stab you in the back and lungs with a knife.” She grabbed the neck of his shirt and pulled him forward so their faces were close. “I should kill you so slow and torturously that you’ll beg to erase.”

  Gregory licked away the blood on his lip and swallowed. “You have threatened to kill me at least a million times throughout our history together and you have yet to follow through. This time, I give you permission to carry it out. I deserve it.”

  Harmony pulled him so close their noses almost touched. “Do you still love me?”

  His hands lifted as if he wanted to touch her. “I never stopped.”

  She tackled him again, but he opened his arms and caught her as naturally as if they had planned and practiced the move. He stood as Harmony’s legs wrapped around his waist again, and her arms flew around his neck. She hugged him hard then pulled back and kissed him.

  “I missed you so much,” she cried out between kisses.

  One of his hands raked through her short hair as they continued kissing so fiercely that I had to look away.

  “Let’s give them some privacy,” Nathan said, taking my hand.

  I followed him out of the room. He closed the door behind us.

  “Is it safe to leave them alone?” I asked. “I’m worried Harmony might kill him.”

  Nathan chuckled. “She might attack him a few more times, but he’s used to it. No one can handle Harmony the way Gregory can.”

  “And you’re sure he’s not going to lose his mind and try to kill her again?”

  “He’s free from whatever spell Dedrick had controlling him.”

  A loud thump from inside the bedroom made me jump. Another series of loud bangs followed. I reached for the doorknob, but Nathan grabbed my hand.

  “Leave them,” he said. “They’re making up for lost time.”

  LOVE HURTS

  Harmony

  We stopped pinballing off the dresser, wall, and nightstand, and finally fell onto the bed.

  “Eighteen years,” I gasped as Gregory kissed and bit my neck. “Eighteen years I’ve worried about you, and missed you, and had no idea if you were okay.”

  “I’m sorry,” he grumbled, never pausing between kisses.

  I yanked his head back by his long hair and forced him to look at me. His obsidian eyes were the strongest form of foreplay I’d ever known. We stared at each other, gazing into each other’s souls while trying to catch our breath. “What happened to you?”

  He swallowed hard. “It’s all blurring. Like two lives trying to cancel each other out. A couple days ago, I remembered almost everything I had done. I could tell you every Nefarioun’s name and their ability, but I could barely remember what happened before I was with them. Details of my time with them are slipping away, but details of you and I and our kindrily have poured back in.”

  “So you didn’t miss me? You didn’t even think about me during all this time?”

  “My soul missed you. It’s all hitting me at once. Two decades of missing you, all that emptiness, has rendered me useless. I’ve been consumed by my grief and regret ever since the spell was broken.” He pressed his forehead to mine. “Mi vida, I wanted to die. When I snapped out of it and realized I had stabbed you, that Maryah was Mary, and I had almost killed her, that Mikey was the kid I killed in Maryland, I contemplated walking right out in front of a truck and clawing my way to the Higher Realm and demanding to erase.”

  I grabbed his face. “Don’t you ever.”

  “That’s how much I despise myself for what I’ve done. I don’t know how it can ever be forgiven. Every time you punched or kicked me, all I could think was that it wasn’t hard enough. No amount of pain you inflicted on me would be enough.”

  We had so much to discuss, so much healing to do. Millions of questions and thoughts raced through my mind, but none more important than being with Gregory again. My need for him was primal.

  I took his hand and pressed it against my cheek. “We’re together again. That’s all that matters.”

  “I’m not worthy of you anymore.”

  “The universe disagrees.”

  I gripped his face and forced him to stare at me. “I give you permission.”

  He lowered his eyes. “Don’t. I don’t deserve to hear your thoughts.”

  Long ago he promised me he’d never listen to my thoughts without my permission. He had a way of controlling who he listened to. For the wellbeing of our relationship, I forbid him to eavesdrop unless I said it was okay.

  “I want you to hear my thoughts,” I said. “I want you to know how much I missed you, and how desperately I need you. I need you to know that this didn’t destroy us. Nothing could ever destroy us.”

  He kissed me. His hands ravished every inch of me, trying to learn every curve of my new body in one fast crash course. Yes, Gregory, yes. You have no idea how much I’ve missed your touch.

  His hand slid inside my shorts and I groaned, urging him to rip them off, but he pulled back and held up his hand as if he’d committed a crime. “I’ll understand if you don’t want to be intimate with me. I shattered your trust.”

  He still wasn’t listening to my thoughts, even with permission. One dreaded question hit me in the chest like a wrecking ball. I had to ask. I had to know. “Gregory, were you with anyone else?”

  “No,” he said sternly. “I swear, not once. I was evil, but I was faithful. You know my pet peeve about people touching me.”

  I kissed him to hide my relieved smile. “Except for me.”

  “Yes, mi vida, except for you.” He nuzzled my neck and the sensitive place between my neck and shoulder. It had been the sweet spot of my last three bodies, and it was on this one too. I purred and pressed my pelvis against him.

  He rose up on one arm. “Does this mean I’m allowed to do more than just kiss you?”

  “You better do more than kiss me. Haven’t I waited and suffered long enough?
A bittersweet smile spread across his face. I kissed the corner of his mouth. “Physically you haven’t changed a bit. I know what this body is capable of and I’m dying to get reacquainted with every part of it.”

  His grin stretched wider. “Your body is so different from your last.” His hand almost covered the entire length of my thigh as he rubbed his thumb along the edge of my shorts. “You’re so small.”

  “Small but not weak,” I assured him.

  “You could never be weak.” His knuckles brushed against the thin cotton between my thighs, making me ache for him even more. “But I am worried I might hurt you.”

  “I’m a virgin, so of course it will hurt, but I don’t care. I need you.” I reached down and grabbed the bottom of his t-shirt then pulled it over his head. His tan rippled chest looked so good it took my breath away.

  He lifted my chin so our eyes met. “I didn’t mean hurt you in that way. I meant because of your stab wounds.”

  “Considering you gave me those stab wounds, I suggest you make up for them in the most sensual and selfless way you can.”

  His eyes lit up and he licked his lips. “Right now?”

  “Yes, right now. I’m healed. You bathed me every damn night. No reason to wait.”

  He caressed my cheek. “I knew you were watching.”

  “Then why didn’t you say anything to me?”

  “I did. I sang to you.” He cocked his head to the side. “You don’t remember, do you?”

  “Remember what?”

  “Last lifetime, when Carlos broke his leg, you blamed it on me. You were so angry with me, you told me not to speak to you for two weeks or you’d cut out my tongue.”

  I laughed. “I forgot about that.”

  “I didn’t speak a word,” he continued, “but I sang to you every morning and night. You allowed that because you knew it was my way of apologizing.”

  I blushed as it all came back to me. “You sang to me because you wanted sex.”

  “And it worked.”

  “It did. I’ve always been a sucker for you.” I laughed again. “So every time you sang to me these last few days, it was only because you wanted to have sex with me?”

  “Sex isn’t just physical with us. It’s our souls melding together. The physical pleasures of it are an exquisite bonus.”

  My entire being ached for him. “These past few days you sang with the hope that our souls would meld together soon.”

  “Yes,” he whispered, kissing a trail down to my chest. “Hearts, souls, and bodies.”

  I ran my fingers through his long silky hair and arched my body against his. He pulled my shirt off over my head and pressed his bare chest against mine, watching me carefully to make sure my stab wounds didn’t hurt. I nodded, letting him know I was fine.

  He kissed me and his huge, heavy frame lowered between my spread legs. I couldn’t wait any longer. Even if it did hurt, it would be the most glorious and highly anticipated pain I’d ever felt.

  He gazed into my eyes, into my soul, and whispered, “Te amo, mi vida.”

  “Get your damn pants off right now,” I demanded.

  “Yes, ma’am.”

  BETTER THAN CHOCOLATE

  Maryah

  Nathan had been out all day, but he wouldn’t tell me where.

  After my level of missing him became unbearable, I texted him. Wish u were here.

  My phone chirped after only a minute. I will be soon. And you misspelled YOU.

  I giggledd, feeling brave and bold since we were only texting. Perhaps YOU should hurry home and teach me a lesson on how to properly handle YOU.

  I waited. I second-guessed my own flirtatious joke and whether it even made sense. My phone chirped. That’s a complicated lesson and would need to be taught in many parts.

  I bit my lip, fighting back my giddiness as I typed. I want to learn how to handle ALL your parts.

  A few seconds later I received a response. Careful what you wish for.

  We had barely touched each other since the night Harmony and Dakota were hurt. I still felt bad about us not being there, but I also really missed being physically close to Nathan. This was the most we’d ever texted before and since it was only texting I felt like I could say anything. I nestled into the sofa and tried to think of something clever and flirty to respond with. I typed, Maybe you should...

  But Nathan appeared, standing next to me. He pivoted and lowered himself onto the couch on top of me. It happened so fast I barely had time to breathe before his lips closed over mine. He pulled back just long enough to slide his hands around me. “Hang on tight.”

  In a flash of light we disappeared from the living room. We reappeared somewhere outside, standing on a deck, looking out over snowy mountains. It was cold, but not Nepal can’t-breathe-or-feel-your-face kind of cold. Plus, I was wearing clothes.

  “Yes!” I shrieked, letting go of him and spinning in a slow circle, taking it all in. “Now this is what I’m talking about. Where are we?”

  “Sundance, Utah. We're in a private cabin that a family friend loaned to us.”

  The deck we were standing on was red cedar and butted up against a steaming pool lined with rocks and boulders. The cabin itself was two stories high and built into the side of the mountain. Massive windows covered the entire exterior and reflected the sun setting behind us.

  I turned to look out at the view again. It was so pretty it could have been a picture. Framed between two mountain slopes that felt close enough to touch were more snow-covered mountaintops towering above varying shades of rolling green trees. I scanned and searched as far as my eyes could see, but I couldn’t find one other house or building.

  The pink sky, as pretty as it was, seemed to shy away and hide behind the mountains, knowing it paled in comparison to the majestic landscape below. “It’s...I’m speechless. I have no words to describe how beautiful this place is.”

  “This is where we celebrated our one-year anniversary last lifetime.”

  “Really?”

  He nodded with a satisfied smile. “You made me promise to bring you back here, so...welcome back. I kept my promise.”

  “How long are we staying?”

  “As long as we want. I told Louise and Krista to call my phone if they need us for anything, and I promised that this time one of us would answer immediately.”

  “But I didn’t bring anything.”

  He shrugged. “We can go back and get whatever you need whenever you need it.”

  I was sure I’d never want to leave this place, but now hardly seemed like the time to be taking a vacation. “What about Harmony and Gregory, and Dakota?”

  He stepped closer and took my hands in his. “Gregory and Harmony will most likely go off somewhere private for at least a week, or month. Maybe a year. As I said, they have a lot of making up to do. And Dakota is fine. Carson and Krista are keeping a close eye on him until he’s completely back to his old self, but you’ve seen him. He’s doing great.”

  Nathan placed his hands on my hips and pulled me against him. “We’ve barely touched the last few days. We were both feeling guilty, and rightfully so, but everyone is fine, and we can learn from our mistake. Can we please stop punishing ourselves now? I’m so stiff from sleeping on the floor.”

  “Okay.” I wrapped my arms around his neck. “I do believe your text said you had multiple lessons to teach me?”

  “I do. I just wanted to make sure you were ready to handle them.”

  “Oh, I’m ready.” I grinned. “Mentally and physically.”

  “Good. Come with me. Dinner is waiting for you.”

  I wasn’t really hungry, but he looked so pleased with himself that I grabbed his hand and followed him through the sliding glass doors and into the cabin.

  The inside was almost as pretty as the outside. It was a true cabin with wood everywhere, but all the furniture, artwork, and decorative details gave it a luxurious feel. Nathan guided me through a living room with a crackling fireplace. I glanced behi
nd me as he continued pulling me along because for a second I had a feeling of déjà vu.

  I began to tell him about my almost-memory, but we stopped as we crossed into a formal dining room, and the spread on the table made me forget all about my déjà vu.

  “Oh my gosh,” I whispered, creeping forward because I was afraid if I moved too fast it would disappear like a mirage. My mouth was watering. “For the love of chocolate.”

  Nathan opened his arms proudly. The table was filled end to end with chocolate. A three-tiered chocolate fountain sat in the center, framed on either side with white chocolate flowers in dark chocolate vases. There were boxes of assorted chocolates, chocolate bars, chocolate truffles, chocolate drinks, and tins with open lids revealing brightly wrapped candies.

  I was going to overdose. I had cheated death up until this point because this was how I was meant to die: a glorious, delicious death by chocolate.

  And I was ready.

  “Let me explain,” Nathan said, side stepping toward the table while watching me. “You have always loved chocolate. Everywhere we ever traveled, you insisted on trying chocolate from that place. Country, region, providence, state, next town over, it didn’t matter. If we went someplace new, you tried the local chocolate. And...” His brows raised and his face lit up even more, like what he was about to say could be any better than a table big enough to seat ten about to buckle under the weight of so much chocolate. “You could taste and pinpoint the difference in tastes between every kind of chocolate you tried.”

  I reached over a chair for a truffle with a pink drizzle.

  “Wait!” He grabbed my hand. “I thought you could sit down and I’d bring you a sample from each place and tell you where it’s from.”

  “I don’t care where it’s from. I just want to eat it.” I pulled away from him and swiped for anything I could reach, but he grabbed me by my waist and lifted me away, just as my fingers brushed the smooth surface of a candy. An oval piece of milk-chocolate rolled off the table and onto the floor. Tragic.

 
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