When we hit the surface of the steaming warm hidden spring my entire body turns to liquid as Max’s arms release me. I hold my breath letting the warmth surround me and flow into my very soul before I break the surface. I see Max watching me curiously from a few feet away. He shakes his head as he smiles playfully. “You could’ve just told me what was down here.”
I shake my head at him. “I like that you refused to let me face the danger alone.” I tease. I swim a little closer to him and whisper in his ear. “Close your eyes and follow me.” He complies as I take his hand and lead him across the pool silently swimming towards the sight I wanted him to see. I swim around behind him once we reach our destination. The cool breeze mixes with the steam of the hot spring creating a fog like effect.
I smile as I see the amazing scene before me in the darkness. “Open your eyes Max.” I instruct quietly so as not to disturb the performance. Max’s jaw falls open as he takes in the sight before him. I wind my arms around the top of his shoulders as I float behind him. I let my chin rest on his shoulder just above the water as we both gaze in wonder into the surrounding forest.
“How did we fall into the stars?” He breathes out desperately. I muffle my soft laughter in the side of his neck before planting a light kiss.
“They’re fireflies.” I tell him sweetly. “They dance in the vapor fog lingering around the trees.” We watch on silently as I let the scene work it’s magic. The beautiful spectacle of fireflies dancing in the darkness, combined with the warm healing spring waters are a life affirming display. I lean my head back a little breathing in the scent of the damp forest floor mixed with the evergreens as I find the stars stretching out in perfect chaotic formation across the opening of night sky.
I tighten my arms around Maximus and kiss his neck again. He gasps as he turns to look in my eyes. I smile sweetly at him before his lips rush to mine. My legs lock around his hips as he takes possession of me in a display of awe and beauty that puts our surrounds to shame. We both float back down to Earth from our incredible soaring high and my body practically molds itself to his.
His lips are at my ear whispering so softly I don’t hear him over my ragged breaths. I lean back a little to look in his eyes curiously. I smile when I see the flaming blue glow lighting up the area around us. Even a few fireflies have moved closer to investigate the strange glow emanating from him. “What did you say?” I ask him softly. He smiles a reverent smile at me.
“I said I remember this.” He says gesturing around us. I look at him confused. He leans forward to kiss my furrowed brow lightly. “I no longer regret my choice.” He adds vaguely.
“What do you mean?” He looks at me seriously.
“I remember this feeling. This is what it felt like, to be warm, full of awe and faith. To feel—.” He trails off suddenly looking uncertain. I smile knowingly at him.
“To feel loved?” I query cautiously. He nods reverently.
“Unconditionally. This is what it felt like when I was there.” He says sadly. I caress his face and force him to look at me.
“Heaven?” I barely whisper the word as his eyes start to rim with tears. My own eyes sting at the effect. His eyes look around at his surroundings as the night sky starts to fade to a dark violet. He looks at me desperate to understand. “It’s the sun about to rise over the valley. We’ve been out all night. The view is amazing from here, you can’t see it yet but when the sunlight touches the valley first thing in the morning, it’s like what I imagine the creation looked like.”
“I can already see the most amazing view of creation.” He says certainly as his eyes lock onto mine. I feel myself blush violently and duck my head to avoid his intense gaze. “You promised to explain my emotions to me.” He reminds me gently tipping my chin back up to look at him. I smile a shy smile at him and bite my lip as I consider how to tell him.
“First tell me what you meant about no longer regretting your choice.” I instruct him as I wait for the sun to make its appearance. He looks haunted for a moment before his eyes glow their bright blue flame again.
“I remember what it felt like. It wasn’t really a physical place it was a state of being. You recreated that feeling for me tonight, here.” He explains gesturing around us before taking a hold of my waist with his hands. “That feeling wouldn’t have been possible without you. So I can’t regret the choice that brought me to you. No matter what else I’ve done with my existence because of that decision, I can’t regret it.”
“So I make you feel loved?” I ask coyly. He nods cautiously eyeing me. “Do you think that might be because I do love you?” His eyes look shocked for a moment. I see that strange blue flame again but it’s not coming from his eyes, it’s mine. I look down to see my reflection in the water surface and smile a beaming disbelieving smile.
I feel a set of hands cup each side of my face as I look up to see Max staring at me in complete wonder. As my glowing eyes lock onto him the all seeing eye of the Earth peeks over the horizon to bear witness to my discovery. Max’s eyes fall like he’s heartbroken. I reach out to caress his cheek tenderly.
“What’s wrong?” I plead desperately hoping he isn’t repulsed by the confirmation of my lineage. “I swear I didn’t know. I’ve never felt anything other than mortal. Please say something.”
“I knew there was something more to you. There had to be, you’re too good to be mortal. Now I know for sure, it’s just not possible.” He confesses sadly.
“What’s not possible?” I demand as the sun starts to blanket the lower valley with its light and love.
“It’s not possible for you to love me. I’m a fallen traitor, you’re a descendant from the purest beings of grace to ever appear in this world. I had just begun to think it was possible for a mortal to overlook what I am to love me. But there is no chance that a creature of grace could feel anything towards me.” His heartbroken words cause my heart to seize in my chest.
I feel my anger boil my blood even hotter than the temperature of the springs that we’re in. I splash the water at him violently before swimming towards the edge where my clothes were discarded earlier. I climb out quickly to hide my flowing tears from the man who just tore out my heart. I clamber half dressed up onto a high boulder to continue to watch the sun set fire to the lake and valley below through my tear blurred vision.
I hear Maximus come up behind me and take a seat silently watching the dawning horizon as well. I shake my head in complete confusion. “I don’t understand.” I breath out in a whisper. I hear him take a sharp intake of breath. I feel the anger fizzle out into desolation. My heart didn’t fall for him because of what he is or what I am. All I wanted was to make him see his own grace, to know love.
I feel his hand caress the top of my bare shoulder affectionately. “Max.” I plead as my body falls back against his and his arms wind around my waist as I continue to cry my silent tears. “You’re wrong.” I tell him firmly through my tears. He shakes his head subtly.
“McKenna, you’re not designed to be able to love a creature like me.” He pleads.
“That’s such crap Maximus.” I seethe at him as I turn to face him. “You’re just scared of what it’ll mean if I do. I’m not an angel any more than you’re a daemon. I’m mortal, with a soul, a soul that has completely surrendered to yours.”
He looks confused for a moment. “You’re right. You do have a soul, which means for the most part you’re mortal. Yet you are still touched by grace.” He adds sadly.
“I probably had it triggered by you.” I snap angrily. He looks stunned for a moment before looking completely wretched. “I’m sorry I didn’t mean to blame you. I’m just angry. The normal response when someone tells you that they love you, isn’t you can’t.” I exhale in frustration.
“Do you doubt my feelings for you cor meum?” He begs me before I turn away from his gaze. I feel the sun start to caress my skin with its enveloping warmth. Then I feel the warmth on my skin turn into a blazing internal fire again. My entire body spasms backwards over the boulder surface in pain as I cry out. Max doesn’t jump away fast enough and his arm connects with mine.
Instead of feeling a sharp burning pain form the contact it feels like a soothing aloe. I reach out instinctively and bring his body on top of mine. A cool blue glow emanates from underneath my skin as the fire recedes at a rapid pace. “What was that?” I exclaim looking at my now normal looking arms. Max’s eyes are scanning me furiously.
“You really do love me?” He exhales in awe. I look at him incredulous.
“That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you.” I explain exasperated. His lips rush to mine in a desperate prayer of gratitude. “How. Is. This. Possible.” He states each word between kisses. I smile against his lips before he breaks away to look at me in complete awe. I sit in between his legs with my back pressed against his chest as his arms secure me in a hold that promises never to let go.
We sit in silence as we watch the morning sunlight flood into the valley below breathing the life of a new day into the world around us. The colors of a thousand different hues of green from the trees reflect in the topaz waters of the spring beside us. The scents of different flowers lace the cool breeze surrounding us completely.