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Taking back forever, p.6
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       Taking Back Forever, p.6

           Karen Amanda Hooper

  “You go flit about town with lover boy and leave the real work to the multi-gifted.”

  I fought back a smile. “Thanks, Car.”

  He waved his hand like he was annoyed. He could pretend all he wanted, but we had grown fond of each other.

  The doorbell rang and my pace quickened down the hall. I hadn’t seen Nathan all day. When I called him for the tenth time, he politely said he was too busy to talk but he’d see me this evening. We had to talk about the Shelia crisis, and we had to figure out a way to kick my astral traveling ability into high gear ASAP.

  As I passed my room, my foot slipped and my ankle rolled. My heels weren’t high, but they weren’t the sandals or sneakers I usually wore and I cursed Krista for making me wear them. I doubled back to my room, kicking off my heels, and grabbed my ballet flats.

  The front door opened and I heard Louise say hello to Nathan. I jogged down the hallway but slowed when I reached the kitchen. Being so eager to see him probably wasn’t proper first-date etiquette.

  Anthony and Krista stood at the island watching me.

  “You look lovely,” Anthony told me.


  “Good Evening, Krista.” Nathan stepped into the room and my heart stopped. He was wearing a dark gray suit over a crisp white shirt that fit him perfectly. His blue and green tie made his green eyes even bolder. The epitome of handsome and debonair, he put James Bond to shame.

  He bowed slightly. “Mr. and Mrs. Luna.”

  “Nathaniel, nice to see you,” Anthony said.

  The formal good manners were sweet and endearing, but I couldn’t focus on anything but how amazing Nathan looked.

  He stepped closer to me. “Maryah, it’s a pleasure to see you.” He gently took my hand and kissed the top of it. Whatever cologne he was wearing smelled delectable. “You look enchanting as always.”

  “Thank you. You look...” Hot as hell. Unbelievably gorgeous. Good enough to eat. “Very dashing.”

  “How kind of you to say so.” He straightened and turned his attention to Anthony. “We should be on our way if we want to be on time for our engagement.”

  I gasped. “Engagement?”

  Louise grinned at me. “Your date.”

  “Oh.” My cheeks warmed. As if Nathan would propose to me so soon. “Right.”

  Nathan raised his elbow and offered me his arm. My heart ached because I wished my mom could have seen me off on my first date. She would be so impressed by everyone being so proper and genteel.

  Nathan and I walked to the front door.

  “Good night,” I called over my shoulder to Anthony, Louise, and Krista. Louise and Krista waved and wished us a fun evening, but I was surprised when Anthony followed us out. I looked ahead as we made our way to the driveway, but Anthony’s footsteps followed behind us.

  When Nathan opened the passenger side door to his Mustang and Anthony climbed into the backseat, the disappointing realization of what was happening hit me.

  I turned to Nathan. “Is he—?”

  “Our chaperone for the evening? Yes.”

  My mouth fell open. “Chaperone?” I whispered. “Seriously?”

  Nathan leaned close and spoke under his breath. “A lady and gentleman should be escorted by a chaperone the first time they appear in public together.”

  “This isn’t the early 1900s, or our first time together.”

  “Oh, but it is our first time. Officially.”

  I glanced at Anthony sitting patiently in the back seat. Just when I was starting to appreciate how cool it was to be part of a centuries-old family, they had to go and ruin it with Anthony crashing our date.

  I tilted my head so Anthony wouldn’t overhear me. “Guess there won’t be any kissing tonight.”

  Nathan faked shock. “And tarnish your reputation? I would never.”

  Oh boy. We were in for a very long night.


  The first thing I noticed on our drive into town was the absence of hot chocolate. As thoughtful as Nathan was, I assumed he’d remember to bring me hot chocolate, but nope. And the radio softly played whatever song the DJ selected to blast over the airwaves, definitely no Ella Fitzgerald. We were off to a disappointing start.

  We pulled into the parking lot of a restaurant whose sign advertised a supper club tonight. A supper club, if memory served me correctly, was dinner and music or a show of some sort. At least we wouldn’t have to talk much. Having any conversation with Anthony tagging along would be awkward.

  Nathan shut off the engine and climbed out of the car. I opened my door and Anthony grunted. “You should let Nathan get that for you.”

  “I can still be a lady and open my own door.” The novelty of this old-fashioned stuff had worn off. I just wanted to get through our date and get back home where Nathan and I could be alone.

  Nathan offered me his arm again as the three of us walked into the restaurant. Anthony hung a few steps back.

  A cute blonde hostess welcomed us by practically swooning. “Nathan Luna!”

  I glanced at Nathan, but he was calm and cool as usual. “Good evening.”

  “We had a class together last year. I’m Kelsey.”

  “Of course. How are you, Kelsey?”

  “Great. I heard you moved to Colorado. Are you back?”

  “I am back. For good.” His hand rubbed the small of my back. “This is Maryah, my reason for returning.”

  “Oh, hi.” She glanced at me and looked sort of disappointed. River had mentioned that all the girls at school had a thing for Nathan at some point. Apparently Kelsey was one of them.

  “Nice to meet you,” I offered, trying not to blush from Nathan’s sweet introduction.

  Kelsey smiled and grabbed two menus. “My boss told me to give you the best seat in the house. Follow me right this way.”

  Nathan held my hand as we followed Kelsey to a table for two in front of huge windows that framed a breathtaking view of Oak Creek Canyon and the red rocks. Nathan pulled out my chair for me and I sat while scanning the restaurant for Anthony. He was sitting at the bar with his back to us.

  “They play live music here,” Nathan told me. “I think you’ll enjoy it.”

  “Are we done with all the formal stuff?”

  He grinned. “Would you like to be done with all the formal stuff?”

  “Yes, I barely know how to act on a date in modern times.”

  “Just be you. That’s all I ask.”

  I spread my napkin on my lap and read the menu.

  A waiter appeared and set two waters on our table. “I’m Brad and I’ll be your waiter this evening. The jazz band will start shortly. Can I get your drinks started while you peruse our menu?”

  “I’ll have an iced tea,” Nathan replied. “And the lady will have your signature chocolate cocktail, but make it virgin, please.” Nathan looked at me. “Would you prefer it hot?”

  My heart warmed as if I were actually drinking hot chocolate. He hadn’t forgotten. No wonder this guy was the love of my life. “However they usually make it is fine.”

  Nathan nodded at Brad. “Chilled is fine. I’m sure she’ll enjoy it.”

  Brad dashed off while Nathan and I smiled at each other. The setting sun outside reflected off his silky tie, creating a sultry glow in his eyes. If we weren’t in a crowded restaurant, I would have climbed over the table and kissed him.

  “We have a four course meal ahead of us,” he said, completely unaware of how badly I wanted to skip right to dessert—him being dessert. “I hope you’re hungry.”

  “Oh, I’m hungry,” I mumbled.

  “Beg your pardon?”

  “Nothing,” I said louder.

  He licked his lips while smiling then read the menu.

  “So jazz music, huh?” I hadn’t given him enough credit in the car. He had tailored this date especially for me.

  “I’m sorry it’s not Ella Fitzgerald, but she’s impossible to get tickets for these days.”

  I laughed. “I
wonder who she is now. I hope she was reincarnated as a singer again.”

  “Perhaps she’s doing something different. An Olympic gymnast or a movie star.”

  “Maybe she’s a music teacher, teaching kids to sing—with soul.”

  “That sounds more likely.” He set his menu down. “I missed you today.”

  My toes curled and I swung my feet happily under the table. “I missed you too. Where were you all day?”

  “Running errands.”

  Brad returned with our drinks. The chocolate drizzled glass he set in front of me made my mouth water. Nathan ordered for us, somehow selecting every item I would have ordered for myself. The jazz band started playing in another room, but at a comfortable volume so we didn’t have to shout to hear each other.

  I almost brought up the Sheila situation, but I didn’t want to dampen the mood. This was our first date, and even with Anthony sitting nearby at the bar, it was perfect. I didn’t want to do or say anything to ruin it.

  The sun continued setting over the red rocks, painting the Sedona sky with awe-inspiring streaks of pink and orange. I loved this town. I loved my life. I missed my parents, but in a way they would always be with me. Mikey was back for good. All was right with the world.

  I studied Nathan. He was gazing out the window too. His perfectly tailored suit and the profile of his chiseled jaw was enough to make me reach across the table for him. He extended his hand and wrapped his fingers around mine without looking away from the sunset. “Pretty, isn’t it?”


  His ardent eyes fixed on me. His voice put the velvety jazz band to shame. “The view doesn’t hold a candle to you.”

  At the moment, I couldn’t imagine my view, or my life being any more beautiful.


  I finished my second chocolate drink and pushed away my plate. “I can’t eat another bite. This was a delicious dinner and an amazing date. Thank you.”

  Nathan leaned back, twisting in his seat to glance around the restaurant. He casually draped his arm over the back of his chair then turned to look at me. His eyes penetrated me in that same unique way they always did right before he blew me away by saying or doing something amazing. Something was coming. I just couldn’t have guessed what.

  The music abruptly stopped. So did every other sound in the restaurant. Fuzzy white noise rang through my ears due to the instant quiet. I glanced around and everyone was frozen in place. Patrons at other tables were paused mid-sentence, or mid-chew; one older woman’s wine glass hovered at her lips. At the next table, Brad held a tray of food at his shoulder, his friendly smile cemented in place. My eyes shot to the bar but Anthony was gone.

  My heart leapt into my throat, assuming the worst. Nefariouns was all I could think. “Why did Anthony freeze time? What’s going on?”

  Nathan stood and offered me his hand. “Come with me?”

  He was far from panicked. Clearly this was planned. My heart calmed a bit and I took his hand.

  He guided me into another room where the lighting was dimmer and spotlights shone on a stage where band members stood frozen with a saxophone, trumpet, and trombone pressed to their lips. Behind them, projected onto a brick wall was a screen of white light. Nathan guided us onto the dance floor, carefully weaving between the living statues who had just been dancing moments ago.

  A recorded audience applauded and a video of an orchestra on a stage appeared on the wall-screen. My hands flew over my mouth as I squealed.

  Ella Fitzgerald strolled onto the stage. She was all smiles in her dress and pearls and she sweetly thanked all the ladies and gentlemen in the audience then introduced the Johnnie Spence orchestra.

  “It was the best I could do,” Nathan said beside me.

  “Oh, Nathan, it’s wonderful!” My skin tingled as her audience from decades ago roared with applause and she started singing. “She’s so amazing.” I turned to face him. “You’re so amazing.”

  My head bopped along with hers and my hands swung at my sides snapping as she sang “Too Marvelous for Words.” I mouthed every word. I felt sorry for the people frozen around us. They had no idea what they were missing. Anthony was nowhere in sight. “This is why Anthony came along, isn’t it?”

  Nathan took my hands in his and bounced to the music. “Yes, but way back when, a chaperone was required on our dates.”

  He leaned and swayed in time with the beat then spun in place, opening his arms and taking my hands again without missing a beat.

  “You can dance?”

  He laughed. “I’ve learned some moves through my lifetimes.”

  Of course that made sense. But seeing him dance so gracefully made me very aware of my own lack of dancing skills. He took off his suit jacket and hung it on the extended arm of a man frozen beside us. He rolled up his shirt sleeves without breaking stride. “Dance with me.”

  I stepped back. “I’m not a good dancer.”

  “You also said you weren’t a good kisser, but that was a lie.”

  I bit my pinky nail, watching Nathan’s feet cross over each other and step perfectly in time with Ella’s song. My mom and dad used to dance in a similar way and it always left me in awe. Mikey picked up on it quickly, but I usually ended up stepping on my dad’s toes. Nathan was an even better dancer than my parents. No way could I move like him.

  I glanced at Ella on the screen again. She drew out one low note and a burning throbbed behind my eyes. I keeled over, pressing my palms against my closed eyelids.

  Nathan pulled me up, prying my hands away, and then cradled my face in his hands. “Hey, you’re pale as a ghost. Breathe.”

  I inhaled a shaky breath and struggled to take another one. My head pulsed with pain.

  “Whoa, whoa, whoa.” Nathan pulled me against him, tucking my head against his chest. “Easy, baby girl. You don’t have to dance. Relax.”

  “No,” I uttered, trying to explain my sudden headache. Ella’s band transitioned into a slower song.

  “You’re shivering,” Nathan said.

  My jaw was clenched shut from the throbbing in my head.

  He grabbed his jacket and wrapped it around my shoulders then lifted my chin. “It’s just Ella, you, and me. I would never judge your dancing abilities, and I’m sure Ella wouldn’t either, but we don’t have to do anything that makes you uncomfortable. This is your night.”

  I took a few deep breaths and pulled his jacket tighter around me. “That’s not it. It’s my head.”

  “Your head hurts?”

  I nodded. He started massaging my scalp, and like magic, the pain eased. He continued for the rest of the song and when the ache had dulled enough to tolerate, I looked up at him.

  His worried eyes darted around my face. “Any better?”


  “Do you want to go home?”

  “No. I want to be here with you and Ella.” I didn’t want to ruin the special night he planned by discussing my frequent headaches. Krista was the only one I had confided in about my suspicion that my headaches were linked to my soul trying to remember my past. Soon I’d tell Nathan too, but not on our first date.

  Nathan reached into the pocket of his suit jacket and pulled out a tiny remote. The video advanced a few frames and then Ella started singing “Body and Soul.”

  “How about we slow dance?” he suggested.

  “I don’t know how.”

  “All you have to do is wrap your arms around me. I’ll do the rest. It’s what all the kids are doing these days.”

  “I think I can handle that.” I slid my arms into his jacket, loving the feel of wearing something of his.

  He kissed my forehead and pulled me close. At first we simply rocked side to side, listening to Ella sing. I rested my head on his shoulder and breathed in his invigorating nectar of the gods scent. Running my hands down the back of his crisp shirt, my fingertips pressed against his muscular back. I gazed up at him. He watched me with a sexy seriousness that weakened my knees. Soon, I wouldn
t be able to slow dance either.

  Without thinking, I pinched my wrist.

  Nathan squinted and cleared his throat. “You’re still doing that?”

  “Doing what?”

  “Pinching yourself to see if you’re dreaming.”

  “Can you blame me?”

  “No.” His smile was luminous. “I mentally pinch myself every time you look at me in that way of yours.”

  “What way of mine?”

  “That magnetic way. Like you’re analyzing my body and soul and you love every part of what you see. That way that makes everyone else disappear because all I see is you, and I know all you see is me. That way your eyes flicker with light and it makes the whole world shine and shake. That way.” He looked pointedly at me. “The way you’re looking at me right now.”

  I kissed him and the world did shake. It felt like a fire ignited between us, lifting us off the ground and blasting us up out of the restaurant, into the sky, past the stars, into space, and out of this galaxy.

  Nathan’s tender voice brought me back to Earth. Ella stretched out her last three words, bodyyyy annnd soullll.

  “Nothing?” His fingers running through my hair felt like stardust falling from the sky. “No memories at all? Only the headache?”

  “What?” I pulled back, surprised by his question and suspecting he knew about mine and Krista’s headache/memory connection.

  “I hoped the concert would be so familiar that it might trigger a memory from our past.”

  I glanced at Ella singing in front of the orchestra, then at the dark room around us. “Have we been here before?”

  Nathan shook his head. “Not here.” He pointed at the video playing on the wall. “There.”

  “At the concert?”

  “Yes, 1965 she sang in London. She was your favorite singer. I had to take you.”

  I gasped and stared at Ella. “Wow. That must’ve been the best date of my lives up until that point.”

  The corner of his mouth lifted into a smirk.

  “But now,” I wrapped my arms around his neck. “You’ve outdone yourself.”


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