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When we pull apart his eyes are wild and hungry, the red flame flickering albeit lazily.
“That was some ride.”
“You asked for it.”
“I did, didn’t I. Don’t let me ask for it too often. I could get addicted.”
“No chance of that my love. I enjoy making love to you straight too much.”
“Straight?” he asks with a twinkle in his eye and raised eyebrows.
“You know what I mean,” I retort slapping his shoulder. He smiles dreamily and snuggles into me. “We need to get up and dress for dinner,” I remind him.
“Oh, can’t we have just a little longer? It’s so warm and cosy here.”
I can’t help the grin that spreads with the warmth through my body. I recall with a pang the terrible fear that crippled David right here only a few days ago. I made him lose himself so completely in his fear that he was aware of nothing but. In that one instant, just before he lost consciousness, he truly believed he was about to die in a terrifying way— and he didn’t want to die. I feel bad about that, but it is past now. This room is no longer one that reeks of fear and pain; it is warm and cosy, because that is how Star sees it.
Star is the symbol of how things have changed. I put my arms around him and pull him close, turning slightly so he can rest his head on my chest. If he were a cat he would be purring. Absently I stroke his back, playing with his hair as he draws lazy patterns on my chest and stomach. Gradually, I begin to realise he has something on his mind. I let him work through it himself.
“Luma, you know what we were talking about today?” he says at last. His voice is careful. My stomach knots and he must feel it.
“Star, it’s alright. Everything is always urgent with Astaria. Take as much time as you want.”
“The thing is… It scares the hell out of me. I don’t know if I’ll ever want to. You won’t make me, will you?”
Horrified by the fear in his voice, I tilt his face up to mine, suddenly realising how vulnerable he must feel after what I have done to him. “Don’t ever think that I would force you or make you do anything you don’t want to do. I know it is a huge step for you to take and I would never push you into it. In fact I wouldn’t even consider it unless you were one hundred percent sure it is what you wanted.”
“What will happen if I don’t?”
“As long as you take my blood regularly, I can keep you as you are for a very long time.”
“Three hundred years?”
“And what will happen then?”
“At some point, my blood will cease to have an effect and you will begin to age.”
“Star, I cherish the time I have with you no matter how long it may be.”
“What about Bridge and Sacha?”
I frown. I know my eyes are betraying the shadows of my heart. “I doubt that Bridge will ever be strong enough to endure the ritual. We have to make the most of every second we have with him. As far as Sacha is concerned I may offer it to him later on. My one worry is that it is impossible for those like us to live together for any amount of time. Two of us, two who love each other as much as we do, would probably be alright, but any more wouldn’t work. There have been times when I thought it would, but it has always ended in pain… betrayal, murder, disaster. The bottom line is – if we change Sacha we will have to send him away.”
“Assuming that I decide to go through the ritual.”
“Yes, assuming that.”
He sighs and snuggles deeper, lowering his head to my chest. I can almost feel his mind working. After a time, when I think he has fallen asleep, he stirs and sits up.
“We had better go or Bridge will bitch-slap us.”
Our room is empty. I had expected one or both of them to be here.
“Well, it’s getting late. They’re probably on the terrace waiting.”
Star and I dress each other, giggling over our choices. It has been a long time since I have felt so carefree and light. Finally Star declares us ready. I think he has been deliberately playing with me.
As we approach the terrace, the scent of lilac wafts through the open doors along with the sound of laughter. Wherever Bridge is there is laughter.
I was expecting just Bridge and Sacha, but I should have known better. Bridge is such a gregarious creature. Chancey is here with his arm around Ara, and Bridge is flanked by the twins, one of whom has his head on Bridge’s shoulder. The other is doing card tricks, which has everyone in stitches. ‘Sam’ I think with a smile, then frown. Since when did I think of them by their ‘real’ names? My heart supplies the answer… since they became real people.
As I approach they all look up. Alex pulls back startled when Bridge bounces to his feet and bounds over. “Luma,” he cries, hugging me and then Star. “Come and see what Sam can do. It’s awesome.”
Chancey frowns. “Bridge, I have explained this. You should call us by the names My Lord has chosen for us.” But he can’t maintain the frown, no one can with Bridge.
“But Chancey, be reasonable, Aksaray Escort Sam and Alex have been calling each other by their names forever and they keep forgetting. Besides, Luma chose such silly names for them.” He looks into my face with those big green eyes and I can hardly breathe. “You won’t make them change their names will you Luma?” There is something behind his eyes that sparks warning and makes me feel… proud. “You said I could use my before name if I wanted to.”
“Bridge, that’s different and you know it.”
“It’s alright, Chancey,” I interject, making sure there is warmth in my voice and not censure. “Actually I had already decided that it is no longer necessary to take away names as I have no intention of taking anyone by force.” I smile at Alex and Sam. “You may keep your names.” Then I turn to Chancey whose jaw is practically hitting the floor. “Spread the word Chancey. You may choose and so may everyone else.”
“I… I don’t…”
“I want to keep, Ara.” A soft voice says. He looks at Chancey with dewy eyes. “It’s the only name I’ve heard from these lips.” He lightly kisses Chancey, who blushes but hugs him closer.
“I don’t want any other name either,” Chancey whispers, smiling. “I feel I’ve earned my name and the sound of it from these lips,” he says, kissing Ara, “is so full of music how could I bear to let it go?”
“Well, I’m keeping mine,” Bridge says firmly and sits down next to Alex again, slipping his arm around him and hugging him close. “Alex isn’t feeling well. Make him feel better,” he demands.
I walk slowly over to Alex and raise him to his feet, merely by cupping my hand under his chin. I peer into his eyes. True, they are shadowed and his face is pale but… I motion for Sam to stand behind his brother with his arms around his waist, supporting him. He looks up at me, his eyes wide and I notice he is trembling and breathing hard.
Brushing his pretty hair away from his neck I gently stroked his throat to relax him and ease a fear so deep it is almost palpable. He sighs and leans heavily back against Sam, relaxing as I bend my head and drink deeply. It doesn’t take long to check what I already knew from the warehouse. I lift my head and press my lips to his. He opens for me and I breathe gentle healing into him as he relaxes more and more deeply until the only thing that is keeping him on his feet is the pressure of my body and Sam’s. I step back and sweep him up into my arms as he collapses.
“What’s wrong with him?” Sam asks anxiously. Bridge is on his feet looking worried, too.
“Absolutely nothing. He’s weak and exhausted but he’s not ill. Let him sleep for as long as he wants and in a few days he will be strong again.”
“He’s never been very strong,” Sam says with his eyes downcast.
“I promise you Sam, after a few days here he will be strong, stronger than he ever has before.”
Sam looks at me with a direct, almost challenging look. Then he nods and smiles. I lay Alex on the couch at the end of the terrace and tuck a rug around him. “Chancey, will you ask Serif to come when he can and take Alex back to his room. He’ll sleep until morning and then he will be much better.”
“Thank you, My Lord.” Sam beams at me.
I can’t resist the temptation to reach out and ruffle his hair. “Don’t worry Sam. Everything is going to be alright now. You don’t have to be the strong one anymore.” I am looking into his eyes and I see the barriers smash. He turns away but I won’t let him. I take him into my arms and hold him as he sobs.
“I’ll see to dinner, My Lord.” Chancey says gently. “I’d only come to see if you were ready. I’ll send Serif.” I nod thanks and lower my head to rest on Sam’s.
The touch on my hand takes me by surprise, I hadn’t heard anyone approach. I smile. I never hear him approach. Bridge’s face is so serious, so tender, as he puts his arms around Sam from behind, resting his head on his shoulder and whispering something in his ear too softly for me to hear. I raise my hand from Sam to stroke Bridge’s hair and he looks up at me unsmiling. I tilt my head enquiringly but he simply shakes his head and lowers his face to whisper to Sam again.
By the time Serif arrives, Sam is calmer and his eyes, although red and swollen, are at peace. When Bridge releases him I push him slightly away from me and look into his face, smiling. “There is nothing to worry about anymore, Sam. When Alex wakes you can tell him that it’s over now. The worry, the pain, the separation, the fear. It’s all over now.”
He smiles and nods, still tearful but so, so happy. “Thank you, My Lord.” I smile and hug him.
“I’ll see you both in the morning. Chancey will come to prepare you quite early so make sure you rest too tonight.”
“I will, My Lord.” He turns and frowns when he sees Serif. “Can you really lift him? He’s heavier than he looks.”
Serif grins at him. “I’m stronger than I look.”
Sam is shocked when Serif lifts Alex in his arms as if he weighs nothing Aksaray Escort Bayan and strides from the room. He shoots me a glance, which I catch and shrug, then follows them out of the door. It’s so much fun watching people meet Serif for the first time.
“Luma,” Bridge says softly and I look, smiling, into his serious face.
“I’m worried about Sam and Alex.”
“Alex is ill. Maybe his body’s just tired but his mind’s hurt, Luma. It’s really hurt and it’s making him ill.”
“What makes you think that?”
“I don’t know. I’ve been talking to them and it just… Sam knows it. He watches him all the time and there’s something in his eyes. I thought it was because he was actually ill. He looks as if he’s afraid Alex is going to… I don’t know what he’s afraid he’s going to do but there’s something.”
Impulsively, I hug Bridge. He is such a beautiful, beautiful person. “I’ll talk to them tomorrow. I’ll take them together and I promise you I will get them to talk.”
“You won’t hurt them?”
“Of course I won’t hurt them. Do you trust me, Bridge?”
His quick smile returns and he takes me by surprise when he kisses me. “Of course I trust you. I trust you absolutely.” He breaks off and raises his head, sniffing the air. “Food, ” he rumbles with shining eyes.
Chancey has piled food onto a trolley which he now wheels out onto the terrace. It is something that he picked up from somewhere outside. It has a heated compartment underneath which keeps food hot and a large wooden surface above where it can be served, mixed, chopped etc. It is enormous.
Chancey takes out a huge bowl of rice and places it on the table, while Ara produces dish after aromatic dish. There are Indian curries, Chinese sweet and sour chicken and crispy duck, creamy sauces and crisp fries. Bridge descends on the food like a starving man, exclaiming over each dish and loading his plate with a little of each. Both Sacha and Star are more discriminating, taking a little of what they like, with the intention of going back for more.
I sit back with a selection of my favourites on my plate and watch them. Star is gazing out over the garden where evening is dusting the air with magic and the stars are beginning to twinkle. I wonder if he realises the constellations are very different here. He has a contemplative look on his face and his hair is still tousled from our lovemaking. He is stunningly beautiful and it is hard not to touch him. I want to touch him all the time.
Sacha and Bridge are in animated conversation about the food. They are both laughing. It is amazing how Bridge can bring laughter so easily to all who cross his path. He is beautiful too, in his own way and now it has been pointed out to me I can see the magic in him, the feyness in all he does. Even the emerald green of his eyes is far too bright and deep a colour to be wholly human. Why had I not realised that before? Maybe I had. He looks up from his conversation, his fingers half way to his mouth and smiles at me.
Sacha gets up and wanders over to the wall. “It’s such a beautiful evening. I’m glad you decided to eat outside. It smells so wonderful.”
“I love the evenings,” Bridge says dreamily. That’s hardly surprising. I wonder if he knows. “I’ve always loved evening. It feels like magic, as if I see a whole new world out of the corner of my eye but when I look it’s gone.” Putting down his tray he goes to stand beside Sacha and slips his arm around his waist as if it’s the most natural thing in the world. For Bridge it is.
“When I was a child,” he says in his soft voice, “I had books of fairytales with pictures in them of enchanted forests and fairies. Some of them were the usual kind… really small with dragonfly wings, but some of them…” He pauses and flicks his hair back behind his shoulder. “Some of them were different, darker. They hid among the trees and were only there when you weren’t looking at them.
“They weren’t bad, or evil as such but they could be spiteful. They played tricks and teased people. Sometimes they stole children. Changelings they were called. They put fairy babies in their place. I’ve never been able to work out why, what they got in the exchange but…” He gives a huge sigh and rests his head on Sacha’s shoulder. “I’ve thought over and over that I’m one of those changelings. I just never… fit.”
I almost say something, almost. I’m about to open my mouth, but he presses on, his voice changing, becoming less dreamy, more focussed. “I used to think it in a bad way… that my mother ran away because of it and my father hated me because of it… because they knew I was a changeling and not part of their family. But then… then when the bad things started to happen, it kind of gave me comfort to think that. To think that these bad people who did bad things to me weren’t my family, they weren’t anything to do with me, anything like me… any of them.” The last half a sentence is spat out with more venom Escort Aksaray than I have ever heard come from Bridge’s lips before.
Sacha hugs him and kisses him on the cheek. “Maybe you are a changeling… maybe you didn’t fit with your family… but you sure do fit here, with us.”
He has his back to me so I can’t see his face but I can tell he isn’t smiling. I am about to get to my feet when Star beats me to it. He gets up and stands behind Bridge putting his arms around him.
“I can believe you’re a changeling, Bridge. There’s something so special about you it has to be magical. You cast a spell over everyone who comes anywhere near you. No one can help but smile when you’re smiling, to laugh when you’re laughing or to cry when you’re sad. You’re a walking love spell and the most beautiful creature I’ve ever set eyes on. Yep… you are definitely some creation of magic and mystery. But I can tell you something.”
“What?” Bridge murmurs dreamily, his voice betraying the emotion that’s always so close to the surface.
“If someone did give you away, they must be touched in the head and they’d be kicking themselves silly if they could see you now.”
In the silence, I can hear Bridge smile. Somewhere birds begin to sing as the sun sets. I have heard twilight called the time between times and that is nowhere more evident than here, in the place between places. The lawn stretches out towards the hedge marking the beginning of the formal garden. It is a wide, flat stretch of velvet that catches the last of the light making a carpet of stars that mirrors those lighting the sky above.
Gently, Bridge disentangles himself from Star and Sacha and walks down the steps onto the lawn. He is moving strangely, as if he is in a trance, mesmerised by the moonlight. I have heard it called moongazy. There is something almost holy in the silence he wraps around himself and no one makes a move to stop or follow him.
When he reaches the middle of the lawn, Bridge starts to dance and there is no longer a shred of doubt in my mind that he is fey. After a very short time, he pauses to strip off his clothes and dances naked in the twilight.
I join Sacha and Star to watch him. He is unaware, his face lit up and ecstatic.
“Do you think he really is a faery?” Sacha asks.
“What do you think?”
“I think he must be.”
“I think you’re right.”
Star remains silent, staring at the pale, slender figure who leaps and spins, his face uplifted to the sky.
“What do you think ,Star?”
“I think…” he says in a distracted way. “I think…” Then suddenly he grins and runs for the steps, discarding his clothes as he does do.
If Bridge was an insubstantial figure, fading into the twilight, Star is a candle flame, burning away the darkness. Together, they are perfect; yin and yang, dark and pale, positive and negative and their dance is one of magic and mystery. With more and more complexity they weave an intricate dance of carefully contained abandonment, faster and faster until it is difficult to see where one ends and the other begins. Sacha and I watch in wonderment and awe.
“Would you like to join them?”
“I’d like to but I’ve no illusions I could.”
“I know what you mean. This is their dance.”
At last the spell breaks and they stand still, panting and laughing, embracing each other in the centre of a pool of moonlight. Even the birds have stopped singing and there is a hush over everything, as if the world is holding its breath.
They turn and begin to walk back. Star has his arm around Bridge’s shoulders and Bridge has his around Star’s waist. Their faces are turned towards each other, lit by a magical half light that makes their features blur and dace so they look more fey than human and yet… and yet with Star that feyness is more… fierce. I can see the dragon in him now too, its shadow hovers over him as they walk, fire sparking from his eyes and sparks dancing in his hair.
“What’s that?” Sacha asks, more than a little alarm in his voice.
“There’s a… It’s like a shadow over Star. It’s making sparks, making his eyes glow. It… it’s scary.”
“Star is a dragon. He doesn’t know it yet but the spirit is strong in him.”
“A dragon?” Sacha laughs. “If you’d told me that before I saw the dance perhaps I wouldn’t have believed you.”
“How can I deny truth I’ve seen with my own eyes?”
The two boys reach the bottom step and Bridge bounds up them, light spilling from his eyes. “It’s a beautiful night. There’s magic everywhere. Come dance with me, Luma.”
“I think you’ve danced enough for one night. You’ll wear yourself out and you don’t have enough energy to spare.”
“Please, Luma,” he begs. “It doesn’t have to be like that. I’ll be gentle with you, I promise.”
“Eat your supper and I’ll think about it.”
“Oh please, Luma, stop being such a mother hen. Please… just one little dance.”
When he is looking at me with that look in his beautiful eyes, how can I say no to him? I have never been able to say no to him.
“Alright, one dance but you are not going to be letting this one make you feral.” Bridge tilts his head to one side and stares at me thoughtfully.
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