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Fighting for infinity, p.31
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       Fighting for Infinity, p.31

           Karen Amanda Hooper
 

  Every new place gave me déjà vu. Every word he said made me giddy. Every kiss made my stomach drop until I was so jittery with excitement and nerves I thought I might pass out.

  He had counted down from nineteen. We traversed to every location of every proposal, until we ended up at number one. Our first lifetime together.

  We stood on the roof of a building, gazing out at white-capped waves as they crashed below us in the dark. Around us, hundreds of candles burned, their flames flickering in the wind, but never blowing out. I didn’t know if it was luck or if someone had cast a spell to make sure they stayed lit. The glowing candles set a romantic vibe that left me shivering in a good way.

  Nathan wrapped a blanket around me. “One. Isle of Man. This building wasn’t here yet, but we used to picnic on the hill where it was built. I can’t put into words how nervous I was.”

  I giggled, trying to imagine him that way. He was so confident and sexy, and always in control of himself and every situation. I still couldn’t believe he was all mine. “I kind of remember this place.”

  “You do?”

  “I think so.” I walked to the edge and stared down. “It’s like a Post-It note in my memory that’s so faded I can barely read it, but it’s there.”

  “Sheila lived here for decades. She loved the island’s energy.”

  My eyes darted left and right. “Sheila.”

  The Post-It note came into view as I backslid into a memory. I spun around. Nathan watched me silently. A pain slithered up my neck and into my head, but I welcomed it. I was remembering something.

  My ring had sat upon my finger as I scrawled words onto a page. “A letter.”

  Nathan’s brow rose, but he stayed quiet. Was I remembering more about writing in the book to Rina? I shook my head. No, it wasn’t the book. It was one piece of paper. A notecard.

  “I wrote something here,” I said, “something important.”

  Nathan encouraged me with his smile.

  My eyes darted around the cement rooftop. “I put it in a box.”

  He nodded. “A letterbox.”

  “A mail box?”

  “Not exactly. Letterboxing was a favorite hobby of Sheila’s. It’s like treasure hunting using notes.”

  “I left a note for her. I hid it here on the island.”

  He nodded again. “And as always, she found it. In return, she set up her own message for you to find. She gave the initial card to me not long before she passed. I was here, one floor below us, visiting her. The hunt led me all over the world, but the final message was here, full circle to where I started, hidden on this rooftop.”

  “What was it?”

  He held my hand and guided me to the lip of the roof made of old stones. He ran his hand across a section of them, pressing as he went, and then one stone slightly shifted. He pried it loose and stepped back.

  I squatted down, reaching in and pulling out a rectangular box. “Have you opened it?”

  He pursed his lips, trying to conceal his guilty grin. “I wasn’t completely honest about why I suspected your ring contained the starstone. I revealed as much as I could, but when you open that box you’ll understand why I couldn’t tell you the whole truth.”

  I lifted the lid and found a single card stamped with an elaborate gold star.

  Nathaniel,

  Do not give it to her until the time is right. You will know without a doubt.

  Love Always, Sheila.

  I lifted it. Another card sat beneath it bearing the same gold stamp.

  Sheila, my little star sweeper:

  Keep it safe for me. When the time is right, give it to no one but Nathaniel. To me, it is more powerful and magical than its spurious replica.

  My eternal love, Mary.

  Besides those two cards, the box was empty. I turned to ask Nathan what my note meant. He was on one knee, holding a ring in his hand.

  “Maryah, we’ve been through a lot in a very short period of time. We’ve endured exponentially more throughout the centuries, but through it all I loved you—and still love you—mind, body, and soul. If you’ll have me, I would be honored to be your husband. Again. And for the first time that you’ll remember. May I have the privilege of marrying you?”

  A happy tear streamed down my cheek. “Yes! Yes times infinity.”

  He slid the ring onto my thumb. It looked just like the one we had put in Rina’s folded hands when we buried her.

  “I was going to have it resized,” he said, “but the way you wore the other one on your thumb suited you. I thought you might prefer this one to fit the same way.”

  “It’s perfect.”

  He cupped my face and kissed me. I squealed and danced in place. “We’re engaged!”

  He smiled against my lips. “Yes, we are.”

  “I have to tell Krista and Faith.”

  “I’m pretty sure they suspected this day would arrive sooner than later. But there’s one more thing. We weren’t entirely alone during my proposal.”

  A stairway door opened. Harmony stepped out onto the roof and joined us. “Hola, lovebirds.”

  “We’re engaged!” While hopping in place, I held up my hand to show her my ring.

  She shook her head, but a smile cracked her lips. “Congratulations.”

  I hugged her. I didn’t care whether or not she’d want me to. I was too excited and needed to share it with someone. Surprisingly, she hugged me back and even rocked me side to side a little.

  “Okay, okay, enough.” She pulled away and smoothed away invisible wrinkles from her sweater. “I’m here to translate.”

  “Translate?” My heart fluttered with even more joy. “Rina? She’s here? Did she see Nathan propose?”

  “Yes and yes,” Harmony said. “She’s thrilled and says if you wed quickly, she could be there.” Harmony wiggled two fingers. “Before she crosses over.”

  “She’s waiting on us?” I hated imagining Rina in limbo like my parents were.

  “She really wants to be at the wedding.”

  I turned to Nathan. “How soon can we do it?”

  “As soon as you want.”

  “Tomorrow?”

  He held my hand. “That doesn’t give us much time to plan.”

  “We don’t need a big fancy wedding. I just want it to be us with our kindrily, on our cliffs, at sunset.”

  Nathan kissed my thumb. My new engagement ring sparkled in the candlelight. “That would be brilliant.”

  BURN BRIGHT

  Maryah

  It was our wedding day, and I was terrified.

  Not terrified of marrying Nathan—I loved him more than chocolate. And we had already been married many times throughout our existence. There was no doubt I wanted to marry him again—and remember it. The thing that terrified me was history repeating itself.

  Dylan and Amber’s wedding in their previous life had been the event where many of our kindrily had gathered and been killed.

  I was ninety-nine percent sure Dedrick’s soul had truly departed our world for good, but the one percent What if? still worried me.

  What if he had somehow taken over River’s body again? What if he sought revenge? Every member of our kindrily would be there today. What if today—the day that was supposed to be the happiest day of my life—turned out to be another massacre of our kindrily?

  I shuddered. I didn’t have memories of Dylan and Amber’s wedding, but knowing I was there and so many of the people I loved were killed sent my heart writhing with pain.

  “Stop sweating.” Faith blotted my cheeks and forehead with a tissue.

  “I can’t help it.”

  “It is kind of warm in here,” Krista said. She opened the balcony door then returned to my dresser mirror to finish braiding her hair.

  I flopped back on my pillows and stared at the dream catcher swinging above my bed. I blew out a big breath, hoping to send my negative worries up into its wood, string, and feathers to magically be erased.

  “This better not b
e about Dedrick again,” Harmony growled.

  I lowered my guilty eyes and fidgeted with my bedspread.

  “Maryah.” Faith finished smearing extra glitter on her eyelids then shook her finger at me. “Stop. Evelyn told us River is living with her in Ireland, and there is no possible way that Dedrick has taken over his body. Don’t let that hellhound ruin your wedding day.”

  “Rina agrees,” Harmony said. “She checked on River and Evelyn a couple times, and she says River is definitely himself.”

  I took a deep breath. “I know, I know. Okay. I’ll stop.” I sat up. “Where is Rina?”

  Harmony pointed to Faith sitting cross-legged on the floor in front of the other mirror. “Next to Faith. She’s fascinated with her makeup ritual.”

  “Aww, Rina.” Faith held up her eye shadow brush and blew sparkling powder at the space beside her. “As soon as you come back here, I will be your personal beauty consultant. We will accentuate all of your star princess features.”

  I giggled at the thought of Faith applying lipstick and assorted glittery products to the future toddler version of Rina. My stomach swirled because whenever I thought about being pregnant so that Rina could return to us, it required me to also think about having sex with Nathan—for the first time.

  Most girls wouldn’t already know their daughter before they married their baby’s father, but add that to the ever-growing list of stranger-than-fiction facts about my life. Bottom line was it was my wedding day. And everyone knows what happens on the wedding night. My palms were sweaty, so I rubbed them on my thighs.

  I closed my eyes and pictured Nathan’s lustful gleam that he could never hide. I pictured his hands and how slowly but confidently they touched my skin, how he could be so gentle one moment and so incredibly strong the next, the way he’d discreetly moisten his bottom lip right before he kissed me. Every inch of me tingled just thinking about it.

  Tonight would be the best night ever.

  Louise tapped on the door then stepped inside with a garment bag draped over her arm.

  Krista rushed toward her. “The dress!”

  The same wedding dress I wore last lifetime was unbelievably beautiful. Louise had it stored in her bedroom closet, but last night she and Helen made me try it on for alterations. Much to my dismay, I wasn’t nearly as busty in my current body so the strapless top didn’t have much to hold it up, and several inches had to be hemmed from the A-line skirt, but when I stepped into that dress, I felt like I had slipped into a fairy tale.

  “Helen and I just finished,” Louise said. “We added a few embellishments. I hope you like them.”

  She hung the garment bag from one of the posts on my bed and unzipped it. Two peacock feathers had been added beneath the bust where it cinched together at the high waist. The feathers were secured with one blue pearl.

  Louise’s lips pursed with a bittersweet smile. “The pearl was—”

  “I know.” Tears welled in my eyes. “My mother gave it to me the first time I ever played dress up and pretended to be a bride. She told me she wore it when she married my father and that I could wear it at my wedding. As my something borrowed and blue.” I smiled at the happy memory and then wiped away a tear. I wanted my mom with me today more than anything. “They’re perfect. Thank you.”

  Krista handed me a tissue and wrapped her arm around me.

  “That’s not all,” Louise said with a wink. “Nathan made a request too. Turn around for a moment and don’t look. I want you to get the full effect when you see it for the first time. Faith, will you assist me?”

  I turned around, but I was giddy. The dress was already so pretty. What would Nathan have requested be done to it? The bag and fabric rustled behind me. Krista stood right beside me, so I watched her face, waiting to read her reaction.

  She gasped so hard, she almost sucked in my hair.

  “Ooooooh,” Faith cooed.

  “What?” I turned my head, but Krista stopped me. “Not yet.”

  “I’ll admit,” Harmony said, “even I like it.”

  I bounced on my toes. “You guys are killing me.”

  “That side needs to be spread out a little more,” Louise directed. Fabric shook a couple more times as Krista and Faith not-so-quietly tried to contain their excitement.

  “Okay.” Louise’s bracelets jingled. “Ready.”

  With her hands on my shoulders, Krista turned me around.

  I gasped even deeper than Krista had. The back of my dress was breathtaking. The skirt fanned out along the floor with a train made of white peacock feathers. They started near where my hips would be. Hundreds of them, layer upon layer, overlapped in arched rows until the final row lined the curved edge of the train.

  “It’s...” I couldn’t think of a word that meant super-duper, jaw-dropping amazing, more-than-I-ever-dreamed beautiful, so I opted for, “exquisite.”

  Louise petted the soft feathers near the waist. “Nathan said they’d represent your purity. Your soul’s new beginning.”

  Faith giggled. “He’s such a keeper.”

  “Wedding number twenty confirms that.” Harmony elbowed me. “What are you waiting for? Put that thing on so we can get you to the chapel on time.”

  I shook out my hands, which had been clenched from a mixture of nerves, excitement, and a million other emotions, and I untied my robe. I was about to marry my soul mate.

  What more could a girl ask for?

  ∞

  Krista and Faith stood on either side of me, helping me gather my dress so I could climb into the Desoto.

  “Where are your shoes?” Harmony asked, staring at my bare feet.

  “I’m not wearing any. I like feeling the earth between my toes.”

  She rolled her eyes.

  I assessed the backseat of the Desoto then looked over my shoulder at the train of perfectly arranged white feathers.

  “For crying out loud.” Carson strutted down the driveway in his best man’s outfit of tan pants and a matching vest. Under it he wore a crisp white shirt, and his blue and green tie was perfectly knotted. Krista lit up at the sight of him. I had to admit he looked handsome. He stuck his hands in his pockets and chuckled. “You can’t be serious. No matter how careful you are, your peacock tail will be ruined if you climb into that car.”

  “We already discussed this,” I said. “Nathan can’t traverse me there. It’s bad luck to see the bride before the wedding. I’ve had more than my share of bad luck already.”

  Carson started rolling up his sleeves. “The cliffs are less than a mile from here.”

  “Walking that far will ruin the dress too,” Faith argued. “I can’t promise to carry this skirt that far without dragging it at some point.”

  “I’ll carry you,” Carson told me. “We’ll be there in no time.”

  I laughed. “No way. The only man allowed to carry me today is my groom. Besides, you’d probably ruin more feathers than the backseat of the Desoto would.”

  “Rina has a suggestion,” Harmony said. “We blindfold Nate and then he traverses you there.”

  Faith dropped my skirt and clapped. “Oooh, I love that idea.”

  I raised one brow at Carson. “How come you didn’t think of that one first, Boy Genius?”

  Carson’s face contorted while he searched for a snappy comeback. “Just stay put, Sparky. I’ll take the girls to the cliffs and tell your past and future husband to come get you.”

  “We can’t leave her here alone,” Krista argued.

  “I’m not alone,” I pointed out. “Rina’s with me.”

  Carson nodded. “Besides, it takes all of two minutes to drive there.”

  They piled into the car. Krista, Faith, and Harmony were all careful with the skirts of their green dresses. The Desoto cranked to life, and I waved to them as Carson backed my car down the driveway.

  “Oh, Rina.” I sighed. “This is happening because of you. Thank you for saving him. But I’m brokenhearted that you can’t physically be here.”


  Her warm, loving energy embraced me in a hug.

  “This is it.” I stared up at the cerulean Sedona sky. “My whole life is about to change. Again.”

  ∞

  “Don’t peek,” I warned Nathan.

  “I would never.”

  I ran my fingers along the muscles in Nathan’s forearms. His sleeves were rolled up like Carson’s, and maybe I was biased, but Nathan looked infinitely sexier in his wedding attire. I was ready to skip all the hoopla and start the honeymoon.

  I examined the silk sash tied around his head. “You really can’t see?”

  “I swear.” He hugged me tight to him. “I’ve waited too long already. Let’s go.”

  I giggled as we traversed to the cliffs.

  “Can I take it off now?” He asked.

  “Not until I start walking down the aisle.”

  “Fine.” He grinned. “But could you ask Carson to guide me from here?”

  I waved Carson over, and he escorted Nathan to his position.

  There were no chairs, no altar or stage, just a makeshift aisle lined with huge gorgeous stones that I assumed were the handiwork of Helen. The path led to a large circle of more stones and white flowers which looked beautiful against the red rocks and the setting sun.

  All of our kindrily members circled around the ring of flowers. Nathan stood in the middle, blindfolded.

  Harmony approached me with a genuine full-blown smile. “You look beautiful.”

  “Thank you, so do you.”

  “Take a deep breath,” she ordered.

  I did, and before I had completely exhaled, she hit me with another emotional bomb.

  “Your father asked me to tell you something when this day arrived. He said to tell you that he understands you have been Nate’s for centuries, but you will always be his little girl.”

  I stared down into my bouquet of white Stargazer lilies, fighting back tears.

  “He couldn’t be happier that you’re marrying such an amazing man.” Harmony wiped a tear from my cheek. “See you in the circle, Bonita.”

 
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