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Taking back forever, p.27
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       Taking Back Forever, p.27

           Karen Amanda Hooper
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  Gregory silently stared at the table for a minute then shook his head in frustration. “No. We were told you were dead the next day. And that was it. No further details or explanations.”

  Maryah sank back in her chair.

  “It explains why you’re months younger than I am,” Nate said to her. “I assumed you stayed in the Higher Realm for longer than usual and I tried discerning how or why that would happen. I never guessed you were kept alive after the massacre.”

  Edgar laid his glasses on the table. “It frustrates me to no end that none of these events are recorded in the Akashic Records. What kind of power must Dedrick be harnessing to shield events like this from being recorded in such a universal recording device of history?”

  “As I told you the first day we discussed this,” Gregory said to Edgar, “Dedrick has some of the most gifted souls tethered to him as puppets. I met only some of them. He probably has his most prized possessions locked safely away.”

  A detail flashed into my mind from the night I almost died at the airport. “I almost forgot! Josephine was the Nefarioun Dakota shot and killed. Right before she died her eyes cleared and I saw who she was.”

  Louise pressed her hands over her chest. “Josephine of Ancient Greece?”

  “Yes,” I admitted, already knowing what everyone was thinking and hating myself for not remembering to tell them sooner.

  “Harmony,” Helen gasped, clutching Edgar’s arm. “Josephine could read the Akashic Records.”

  “I know,” I confessed. “I don’t know how it slipped my mind. So much has happened.”

  Someone should have punched me. Nate, Louise, everyone. I deserved it.

  Helen stood. Edgar rose to calm her.

  “It will be okay,” Edgar tried assuring her.

  “We took his reader,” Helen bellowed. “He’ll need someone to replace her. Edgar is the only other known reader.”

  “Oh god,” Maryah said, her voice almost trembling. “He’ll come after Edgar.”

  “Any other crucial tidbits of wisdom you’d like to share with us, Harmony?” Nate asked with ice in his voice. “You seem to be on a roll today.”

  “I’m sorry.” I pushed my chair back and braced my hands on the table. “I didn’t keep either of those things from anyone on purpose. I made some mistakes. I’m only human.”



  Nathan tossed another log into the fireplace. My head had been hurting since the round-table meeting, but I was actually welcoming the pain. I wanted memories from my time with Dedrick to break through more than anything.

  “This is the key.” I paced behind him. “I feel it. Something happened to me during my time with Dedrick that made me erase. Or maybe he made me erase? Is that possible?”

  Nathan stood and leaned against the mantle. “I don’t think so. Your soul is your own in the Higher Realm. He couldn’t control your actions once you were there. At least let’s hope not. That much power shouldn’t be allotted to anyone.”

  I ran my hands over my arms trying to rub away my chills. “We’re so much closer to solving the big mystery though. I can feel it.”

  He sat on the sofa and dropped his head into his hands. “I keep picturing you strapped to a bed and it infuriates me.”

  I ran my hand over his hair. “It’s in the past. Nothing we can do about it now. At least we know he didn’t rape me.”

  Nathan’s eyes met mine. “But what else might he have done?”

  “Again,” I tried to assure him. “It’s in the past. Even if he did something awful, I don’t remember it, so I win.”

  “That. Did you just hear yourself?”


  “Even if he did something awful, you don’t remember it. Endless scenarios have been running through my mind about awful things he might have done to you, and how horrific they must have been to make you choose erasure. Maryah, you were so strong and stubborn. I don’t want to imagine what it would have taken to break you and make you erase.”

  I took a deep breath.

  He stood and held my hands. “And if his actions made you erase, then he did win. He took so much from you and me, and our kindrily. He won. And we don’t know if we’ll ever get back what we lost.”

  “But I’m right here.”

  His eyes flashed with sadness. “A miniscule part of you is here. And while I love you, I hate him for taking away so much of you—and our history together.”

  Nathan looked away but I turned his chin to face me again. “I’m going to remember. I’m determined. I astral traveled last night. I’m going to again. I’ll get stronger, and I’ll find a way to recover my memories. I’ve never been more determined about anything in my life.”

  My very short life, I thought to myself.

  Nathan nodded, but he didn’t look convinced. “I’m glad to hear you being so confident.” He caressed my brow. “Do you feel okay? Your eyes look strained like you’re in pain.”

  “I have a minor headache, but I think it’s because I’m trying so hard to remember what happened with Dedrick.”

  He frowned and ran his fingers through my hair, massaging the back of my scalp. “I hate that you’re in pain.”

  No memories were coming through due to the headache phenomenon, so I figured trying our other theory would be much more enjoyable. “I had an idea at the meeting, but I need your help.”

  “Of course. Anything.”

  My cheeks blushed thinking about it. “You’ll have to be super strong and have amazing willpower.”

  His brow rose. “Will I now? What exactly is this plan?”

  “The flashes of my past lives have hit me only while we’re in a place we’ve been together before at a significant time, or while we’re making out and it gets hot and heavy.” He grinned with such satisfaction it made me smile too. “Don’t let your ego get too big when I say this, but my theory is that I’m most connected to you when our physical intimacy gets intense. But you don’t want to have sex until we’re married, and the more I live with that plan, the more I think that is the right thing to do. I want to stick to that, but I also don’t want to rush into marriage just so we can have sex because that feels trashy, and like you’ve said, our relationship deserves better than that.” I paused. “Why are you smiling so big?”

  “Because you’re rambling nervously and it’s adorable. And I can see where you’re going with this but you’re taking an awfully long time to get there.”

  The tips of my ears were burning. “You do know where I’m going with this?”

  “I think so.” He kissed each of my fingers as he spoke. “We’re here. In one of your favorite places from our last life. And we already had success with you astral traveling, so clearly this place is powerful. Your rant about flashes of your past happening while we make out means you want to push that envelope further and see if more memories flood back.”

  I swallowed, wishing he’d say it so I didn’t have to.

  “Tonight,” he continued, “you want us to get exceptionally hot and heavy as you call it, but you’re depending on me to be strong-willed enough to make sure it doesn’t go too far and...” He tucked a strand of hair behind my ear and spoke in that confident and sexy way of his. “...turn into full-blown, mind-bending, star-shaking, more-pleasure-than-this-earth-can-contain, universe-altering, hours upon hours of us making love.”

  A huge breath whooshed out of me. It took me a few seconds to speak. “You’re setting a very high bar for yourself.”

  “I’ve had centuries of experience. I’m more than confident that the bar is so high it’s out of this galaxy. And I can still reach it with ease.”

  I swallowed hard. “Maybe this plan is a bad idea.”

  “Your plan is a brilliant idea.”

  “I’m probably going to want to take it too far.”

  He kissed my shoulder. “You most certainly will.”

  “I’ll probably end up begging you for it.”

  “Yes, you

  “You’ll have to be strong enough to tell me no.”

  “I know.”

  “And you think you’ll be able to?”

  “I will.”

  “How can you be so sure? I’ve seen how worked up you get. You want to just as much as I do.”

  “That’s not true. You don’t remember what it’s like when we make love. I have endless memories of us ravishing each other. Therefore, I want it infinitely more than you do.”

  My body screamed for him. “Then how can you promise you’ll be strong enough to stop before we go too far?”

  “Because I love you so much that my respect for you, your honor, and your soul, is more important than satisfying my urgent, intense, and overwhelming need to penetrate your body.”

  Breathe, I reminded myself. Just breathe. “If you talk like that during our experiment you’re going to make it even harder on me.”

  “Everything about this experiment is going to be extremely, painfully, and ecstatically hard.”

  I smirked, anxious and excited about getting started, but first I wanted to shower, shave my legs, and get as cute as possible.

  Nathan adjusted his jeans. “What time is our rendezvous with temptation?”

  It was only noon. “I want the stars to be out, so maybe around eight or so?”

  “Maryah, the stars are always out. You need to look more closely. But eight it is.” He kissed my forehead then walked rather awkwardly across the room.

  “Where are you going?” I asked.

  He called over his shoulder, “To take a long cold shower.”

  I smiled, very pleased with myself.


  I was so nervous but so excited. Those two emotions tangled and twisted my insides until I thought I might explode. I sat at a table by our private pool, gazing up at the stars in the sky.

  Nathan walked through the sliding glass doors holding one perfect and gorgeous peacock feather. “For you.”

  “Thank you.”

  He squatted between my legs and held onto the arms of my chair. “You’re breathtaking.”

  “So are you.” He was wearing khakis and a white button down dress shirt. His hair was freshly cut, and somehow it made his eyes even more intense. They almost matched the color of my sundress. I made sure to wear a pretty bra and matching underwear.

  Every other time we made out it happened naturally. This preplanned thing had me nervously salivating with anticipation, but I tried to play it cool. Nathan ran his hand up my calf, squeezed above the back of my knee then let his hand travel up my thigh just past the hem of my skirt. I tingled with anticipation.

  But then he stood and walked over to the pool, leaving me sitting there wanting to shout at him to come back. He dipped his toes in then stared up at the sky. He closed his eyes and clasped his hands together in front of his chest.

  After a minute or so I asked, “Are you praying?”


  “For what?”

  He kept his head thrown back toward the sky. “For the strength and power to not make love to you tonight when you beg me to.”

  I laughed. We both might need to acquire a new superpower before the night was over. I stood and walked over to him. “We’re going to make serious headway tonight. I can feel it.”

  “Headway,” he repeated. “With your ability and memories, right?”

  “Among other things.”

  He pulled me close to him in a dancing stance. I linked my fingers through his raised hand and he led us to start slow dancing.

  “There’s no music,” I pointed out.

  “There’s always music, you just need to listen.”

  I rested my head against his chest, listening to his steady heartbeat that always comforted me and lulled me to sleep. He began humming the song, “For You, For Me, For Evermore.” I pulled back and gazed up at him, loving the sound of the deep and perfect vibration, but then he sang the words to me.

  “You might sing that better than Ella.”

  “Now that’s a compliment.” He continued singing the lyrics that seemed like they could have been written especially for us.

  When River sang to me it was awkward and uncomfortable, and it felt so wrong that I almost threw up, but this was different. This was romantic and amazing because it was Nathaniel. Because it was Nathaniel, it was perfect.

  He kissed my forehead. “Your dancing is improving.”

  “I have a strong partner.”

  He smiled. “So do I.”

  We continued dancing around the deck while Nathan sang to me. As sweet as it was, I wanted to get to work. “I do believe you’re procrastinating.”

  “It’s not procrastinating. It’s foreplay.” That one word sent a warm rush through my body. “Enjoy the anticipation and build up, Maryah. It will make the climax that much more enjoyable.”

  He needed to stop saying words like foreplay and climax or I was going to stop acting like a lady and rip his clothes off.

  “What exactly is the climax for us tonight? We’re not going all the way, so where do we stop?”

  The corner of Nathan’s mouth curved upward. “Where do you want to stop?”

  My heart was thumping excitedly. “You know the bases much better than I do.”

  “The bases.” He chuckled. “Tell you what.” His eyes gleamed as he licked his lips. “I’ll stop right before I slide into home. Even though you’ll be begging and pleading and trying to wave me in.”

  “You’re so confident about me begging for it.”

  “I am.”

  “What if I don’t beg? What if I’m the strong one tonight?”

  “Then you’re right, you’ll have made serious headway, because I’ve always been your greatest weakness.” He leaned down and kissed me, gently and sweetly. His lips moved to my neck and I melted. I didn’t notice he had turned me around until I opened my eyes and saw I was facing away from him. He stood behind me, lifting my hair while kissing the back of my neck and shoulders.

  His breath was delicious fire in my ear. “Most men never master the art of undressing a woman. It took me two lifetimes to realize that slow meant barely moving, and gentle meant skin whispering against skin.”

  He slid the straps of my dress down so slowly. His lips and tongue trailed along the curve of my neck. Painstakingly slow was an understatement, but my god it felt incredible. With one hand he pressed against my hip, pressing the back of me tightly against the front of him. His other hand masterfully, and supernaturally slowly, peeled one of my bra straps down my shoulder.

  His mouth kept working miracles along my shoulders, neck, and back, and the cool air around us left a path of chills everywhere he had kissed. The mix of hot and cold had my mind blurring and my body aching.

  My dress slid down my body barely an inch before he caught it with his fingertips. The fabric lowered less than a centimeter at a time, feeling like one long smooth kiss of silk against my skin.

  “Dear god,” I whispered.

  The dress kept sliding down my body, the cool air caressing me as more and more of my bare skin was revealed. I was glad my back was to him, and my face was lifted to the sky, because my eyes continuously rolling back in my head could not have been attractive. Just when I thought I couldn’t take any more of my dress teasing every cell in my body, Nathan let it drop into a pool of fabric around my feet.

  I sucked in a surprised breath at feeling so exposed, but then his soft shirt pressed against my bare back, warming me. The bulge in his pants pressed against my silky underwear. I moaned as his hands skimmed my stomach and trailed down to my hips. He spun me to face him and I was dizzy from how good I felt. I was mentally aware enough to locate the seam of his shirt. I tried unbuttoning the one at his chest but my fingers were jelly. I grabbed hold of both sides and ripped it open, sending buttons flying.

  “Sorry,” I murmured. “I’m no master at undressing you.”

  “That was pretty masterful.” He kissed me hard and lifted me up. I
wrapped my legs around his waist, groaning when our chests pressed together.

  I didn’t realize he had carried me across the deck until he laid me down on the double lounge chair. He lowered himself on top of me, kissing my neck and chest. His hand slid up my thigh and traced lines along the crease of my leg. I promised myself I wouldn’t beg or plead just to prove him wrong, but yes and please slipped out of my mouth over and over.

  “Open your eyes,” he whispered.

  He had repeated those same words to me over and over while I was in a coma. Those words gave me hope, saved my life, and right now, if I opened my eyes and saw his green eyes staring back at me, I knew they’d send me over the edge.

  “Maryah, please, open your eyes.”

  I whimpered but opened them. Holy celestial universe, he was breathtaking.

  “I need to know you’re all right with what I’m about to do.”

  “I am.” I nodded, running my fingers through the back of his short hair. He could do whatever he wanted and I would be more than okay with it.

  His fingers made tiny circles against my underwear. “You’re certain?”

  “Yes, yes times infinity, yes. Please, Nathan.”

  He kissed me deeply. And then his fingers weren’t just teasing me anymore.

  “Nathaniel,” I gasped, bucking against him. I didn’t know what base we were rounding but it was my new favorite. His fingers weaved magic that spread through every cell in my body. The stars shone bright above me. They were a blur of twinkles between my eyelids fluttering open and shut. Every nerve ending in my body had just found a new and beautiful beginning.

  I raked my fingers down his back. His green eyes were two irresistible beacons that reigned me in deeper as we kept moving together in perfect rhythm.

  “What do you want, Maryah?”

  “I want you,” I managed between gasping breaths.

  “Just this me, or every version of me I’ve ever been?”

  “All of you.”

  “Then you need to search deeper. You need to truly see me. All I’ve ever been.” His eyes filled with light. I was pulled into the familiar magical tunnel.

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