The atmosphere in the car is heavy as we drive back into the city. I let Maximus drive as a hope to distract him from his lack of will to return to San Francisco and Diablo’s dungeon. I let my head fall back against my seat as I let a stream of memories from our weekend in the wilderness flow through my mind.
“Stop it. Or I’ll pull this car over right here.” Max scolds playfully. I bite my lip and smile wickedly at him.
“I’m sorry, it’s hard not to replay the best weekend of my entire life.” I offer apologetically. Max huffs in annoyance.
“It doesn’t have to just be a weekend. We could spend the rest of our lives like that. We could disappear.” He says pleadingly. I smile sadly at him.
“Where could you hide me Maximus?” I ask him seriously. His face turns dark and angry. He slams the steering wheel hard.
“Dammit McKenna I don’t know, but I want to try. I want to take you away from this cruel world and show just a fraction of the beauty and grace you have shown me in the past two days. I can’t stand the thought of you being taken from me.” I look at him sympathetically.
“Max, mon Guerrier.” I start to say.
“Stop calling me that.” He demands angrily. “How can I be your warrior when I can’t protect you from the greatest evil the world has ever known?”
“Mon ame.” I offer instead and his entire face falls. “I don’t need you to protect me. You’ve already saved me. My heart and soul belong to you. As long as you live you must always remember that. Don’t dwell on the one thing you can’t prevent. Think about all the love and joy you’ve brought to my dark existence.”
“McKenna I—.” His sad voice trails off. I nod understandingly.
“I know you’ve always needed an enemy to fight, but this isn’t just another battle for you. Not in the way you think anyway.” I explain gently.
“What do you mean?”
“Do you remember how hard a time you had understanding my need to forgive my mother? Well I need you to try to understand that feeling now. I need your forgiveness Maximus. I need you to forgive me for showing you a glimpse of the love you deserve knowing it’s going to be ripped away from you. I tried to fight it, I never wanted to do this to you. I was weak.” I confess heartbrokenly.
Max inhales deeply as he continues driving. “It’s not your fault McKenna. I don’t know that I can ever forgive the one responsible if we’re torn apart.”
“Max?” I plead through my tears. “Please, you know you have your grace and you’re loved. You need to be able to forgive, to understand that this was always going to happen.”
“I do not surrender. I will never accept defeat, I am Maximus. Commander of the seven legions of Hell. I have endured millennia of wars and battles because of a choice I made long ago. I will never forgive the one who takes away the reason my entire existence was worth it.”
I retreat into my silent heartbroken thoughts. This stubborn ass is going to make this so difficult. I’m running out of time, I can feel it. My body is jerked forward violently as the car swerves to a sharp stop on the side of the highway. I turn to look at Max for explanation and his eyes are pure obsidian and his face is a darkness I’ve never seen before.
“What do you mean you’re out of time?” His dark booming voice demands as the car fills with the same darkness emanating from him. I shrink into my seat slightly at the heaviness of the car’s atmosphere.
“Max?” I plead urgently as I try to reach out and caress his face. His head snaps away from my touch but his coal black eyes never leave mine. I exhale in defeat as I turn my gaze away from his soul piercing one. I steadily explain my thoughts about Lucifer’s impatience.
“I haven’t seen him since the day he delivered my sentence when I was thirteen. Now I’ve seen him three times in a matter of weeks. I suspect Kane tried to kill me that night as a way to distract Lucifer. I think he’s planning some sort of coop. I can also feel Lucifer’s pull getting stronger and more persistent.” I confess almost everything. Except my plans to have Maximus recognized as a redeemed being of heaven.
“Why didn’t you tell me any of this?” He demands through his clenched teeth. He looks so angry in my peripheral that I don’t dare look directly at him. I shake my head at him.
“Because I’m selfish.” I confess in a whisper. “I knew that if you knew there was a deadline for our time together you would’ve gone off to fight everyone who was trying to come between us. I just wanted to keep you all to myself, I’m sorry.”
The air suddenly feels like it’s been sucked from the car as two hands grab my face forcefully bringing my lips to his. Max’s possessive devouring reminds me of all of his strength and power. As much as I want to protect him I can’t. The same is true for him. He wants to protect me, but my fate was written long before we met.
I cry tears of pure surrender as Max’s kiss becomes softer and more pleading. We continue our drive in thoughtful silence until the familiar sight of home allows me to really breathe again. Inside the house nothing has changed, yet somehow it all feels so much colder and empty. Like none of this is real.
“What’s wrong?” Max’s voice is strange to hear after so much silence.
“Nothing.” I tell him softly.
“Don’t lie to me McKenna.” He seethes angrily. I turn on him letting my rage burn through.
“I’m not lying to you.” I spit at him. “Is that what you think I’ve been doing? Lying to you?”
“Omitting your fears from me is the same as lying McKenna.” He challenges. I slap him hard across the face.
“I have never lied to you. You were here the night that Lucifer visited me and burned me. Right upstairs in my bedroom. You saw my fear; do you need me to explain how terrified I was in words? Because I honestly don’t think I know the words that could actually explain that deep unadulterated level of fear.” I scream through my streaming tears of anger.
“Dammit Maximus.” I concede as I drop to my knees on the floor and cover my face with my hands. I feel his strong arms pick me up and hold me against his chest as he carries me up to the bedroom. I feel the soft bed beneath my body as I continue to cry. Max’s arms encircle me as I bury my face into his chest as he tries to soothe me.
“Forgive me cor meum. My anger got the better of me. I hate our situation, but I should not have taken it out on you. I’m so sorry my love. I can’t begin to imagine everything you’re going through right now, you are without a doubt the strongest person I have ever met.” I manage to stop my sobs long enough to look at him.
“You were so angry with me in the car. I can’t let you live with that much anger wrapped around your heart Max. I love you, please don’t let me have to worry about you living like that.” I plead desperately. His arms tighten around me.
“I was never angry with you McKenna, only our lot.” He explains softly. “I don’t yet know how, but I will endeavor to fulfill your wishes of forgiveness. However right now I’m going to express my sincerest apologies for adding to your burdens and causing this worry.” He informs me as his lips start to trail down the line of my neck.
My body lights up like a star filled night in response. A moment ago nothing but darkness now the most brilliant displays of color and light shooting throughout every cell of my body. Max and I spend the rest of our day just being with each other until the sun starts its descent in the western sky and I groan in displeasure as I pull myself into the shower to get ready for work.
As I stand looking at myself in the foggy bathroom mirror I’m amazed. My skin is practically glowing. My lips look permanently plump and bruised from being ravaged so much. The skin on my lips is no longer dried and cracked from years of fire breathing. I caress them gently in wonder as a statue materializes behind me winding his strong arms around my waist looking over my shoulder at the reflection of our bodies in the mirror as well.
I close my eyes and let my love for this amazing man fill me completely and I gasp in shock as I open my eyes to see both of our eyes glowing with a burning blue flame. I reach up to gently caress his cheek leaning over my shoulder and his smile is brilliant as I continue to watch our reflection.
We look like we were made to fit together. The perfect harmony of strength and power surrounding the fragileness of such mortal beauty. I feel his hands caress the length of my body possessively and I smile wickedly at him in our reflection.
“We have to go to work.” I scold him playfully. He delivers a perfectly sinful smile in return.
“And so we shall, later.” He delivers the sensual threat and my entire body falls back against him in compliance. I have no will to refuse him ever. I will grant every request he ever asks of except the one I no he truly wants. I will never be able to stay with him forever.
When Max and I finally arrive at the club Vladik glares at us as we interrupt his preopen pep talk. I shrug apologetically at him while Max slips his arm around my waist and pulls me back against him securely. Max fixes Vladik with a dark glare before he continues his pep talk. I glance at Nina who is trying to stifle her laughter behind her hand as she looks at me.
I shake my head at her in disapproval as she starts to make lude gestures trying to get me to laugh as well. As Vladik’s talk comes to a close he makes the announcement.
“We also have orders from our owner to reinstate the Angle of Salvation routine at the end of the evening.” Everyone’s eyes look at me expectantly as I hear Max growl in his throat. I simply nod in response, careful not to let my feelings show. The meeting is dispersed and Vladik gives the order to open the doors.
I look at Max understandingly as I try to pry his hand from my waist unsuccessfully. He looks down at me with his eyes that swirl of obsidian and ocean blue and I can almost feel his heavy heart in my own chest. I reach up to caress his cheek. I smile reassuringly at him. “I’ll be right over here.” I placate him pointing towards the bar. He looks towards the bar like I just pointed to Antarctica.
I laugh at him lightly. “I’ll be fine. You can be with me for the shows tonight.” I tell him sweetly. He huffs in disgust.
“Like I would trust anyone else to protect you.” He declares indignantly. I smile at him as I give Justin the signal to open the doors as Max reluctantly tears himself away from me to join Justin at the door. The night begins as I start breathing flames onto the drinks at the bar and the patrons are impressed.
The music is pumping its base through the floor and I watch as the crowd moves with the rhythm. The bar tenders are smashing out drinks like people are on fire and I smile seductively as I light up another tray of shots for a customer. Just another night in Diablos Dungeon. I think to myself wryly as I see Nina dancing away in her cage smiling seductively at the crowd like a siren.