I never asked where Andreas put the tracking device. I was just happy to have it out of me, and happy to be free of the council’s pending sentence. My home wasn’t safe, the greenhouse wasn’t either. Grant’s was probably on the radar, as well. Andreas decreed that the safest place to spend the night would be at a hotel in an unexpected city out of the country.
Who was I to argue with that logic? I had wanted to teleport to my bedroom for some fresh clothes, but he shook his head, claiming that it was too unsecure. If anyone saw me, and realized I didn’t still have that tracking device, our little ruse was up. He magnanimously decreed that he would buy me the moon to wear, if I so wanted it, just as long as I didn’t go home. I giggled, and agreed.
At any rate, I found myself an hour later staring out the curtain windows in a luxurious hotel room at the Brussels skyline. Andreas came up behind me and kissed the top of my head. “Don’t say I never took you anywhere.”
I laughed. “Yeah, like fugitives on the run and in hiding. Great vacation.” I elbowed him in the ribs.
He chuckled. “And I plan on staying up late and sleeping in til noon,” he declared.
“Andreas, it’s already 3 o’clock in the morning here,” I pointed out. “And there’s a what – nine hour time difference? By noon it will only be 3 a.m. in Seattle.”
He spun me around and kissed my cheek. “Yes, but check-out time is noon.”
I rolled my eyes and extricated myself from his grasp. “So rent it for another night. I plan on sleeping in til 4!”
He seemed to be in a particularly playful mood. Having a sentence hanging over both our heads finally withdrawn had made us both feel worlds lighter. I sauntered over and jumped on the bed, stretching out, enjoying the feel of the fine brocade linen against my skin. “Can we order room service?” I grinned foolishly.
He rolled his eyes, but picked up the phone and dialed room service. “I want an omelet,” I announced. “With extra salsa!” Thinking of eggs reminded me of breakfast with Grant. I realized I ought to call him. While Andreas was busy on the phone, I scrambled off the bed and padded into the sitting room, grabbed my cell phone out of my purse and dialed his familiar number.
“Rhiannon!” he answered, sounding relieved. “I haven’t heard from you since last night, don’t go up and disappearing on me like that anymore!”
“Sorry, Grant,” I apologized. “A lot’s happened.”
“I know, I know. Your fairy friends filled me in on most of the details this afternoon. I just felt like giving you a hard time,” he said. “But they talked so fast it was hard to follow.”
I laughed. “Let me give you the slow version, then.” I filled him in on our trip to Lewis’ estate, and my subsequent capture, and all that Lewis had told me. Lastly, I told him about the visit to the Atlantean Council, and what had transpired there.
“Figures,” muttered Grant. “They’re always so great at pointing fingers and waving their rules, trying to boss the rest of us around, but when something actually happens, they’re like the United Nations – powerless to actually do something. Well, not powerless, just reluctant to get off their thrones and get their hands dirty.”
“I gathered,” I said dryly. “How’s the greenhouse doing?”
“Just fine. We miss you. I hope this blows over quick. The fairies seem to have taken carte blanche to set up shop in the rafters.” He let out a little laugh. “You should see Frankincense, though. He’s been prancing around like he was the fairy king himself. I’ve never seen a fairy more proud. I wonder if the Atlantean Council took that into consideration before they asked him to testify.”
I laughed. “Well, after all their help, I think a little leeway is okay, Grant. Take it easy on them.”
“I will for a little bit, but by god Rhiannon, do not let them move in,” he ordered. “We’ll never get a moment’s rest if you do!”
“Ok, ok, I’ll take care of it.” I hung up and dialed Kat. She answered. She sounded frantic. “I don’t know what to tell Rob!” she whispered. “I have to go to work tomorrow, Rhiannon. How can I possibly go work at a company owned by TerraGen now? How can I even look my boss in the eye?”
“Calm down, Kat. Don’t tell Rob anything! Just go to work, and live your life like you always have, everything will be ok. Just because there are some bad seeds in TerraGen doesn’t mean they all are. I should be home in a couple of days, just hang tight until then, alright?”
I hung up and took a deep breath, and dialed my voice mail to check my messages. Lucas’ voice came on, dark and sultry. “How’s my cheesecake doing? Call me tonight so I know you’re still amongst the living.” My stomach twisted at the sound of his voice of its own accord.
I started to dial his number, and then thought about it, and hung up. Calling him and hearing his voice would be too distracting. Plus it would probably piss Andreas off. I sent him a text message instead: “alive and kicking, no time to talk, will call you tomorrow evening. Big news.”
“Has Aislinn called yet?” Andreas asked, coming out of the bedroom.
“What?” I turned and looked at him. “Oh, no. I better call her.” I dialed her number.
She answered on the second ring. “Marshall Lewis’ private jet just landed at SeaTac,” she whispered conspiratorially. “Are you sure you want to do this?”
“Absolutely. I’m tired of running, Aislinn. This has to end one way or another, and I’d rather it end in our favor,” I nodded my head affirmatively.
“Well then, get a pen, I have a number for you!” I could practically hear her grinning on the other end. I grabbed a pen out of my purse, and she gave me Lewis’ private number.
“I’m not even going to ask how you got this,” I said, laughing. Things felt like they were starting to work in our favor finally.
“I have to say, Rhiannon, I haven’t had this much fun in years. Just don’t do anything rash. I’ll see you tomorrow!” She hung up.
I looked up at Andreas and smiled broadly, waving Lewis’ number in my hand. “Time to check in with the enemy.” I dialed the number.
I recognized his voice immediately. “How’s your San Diego lab, Mr. Lewis?” I said sweetly.
“Why, Rhiannon Maddox!” he said, drawing my name out. “I certainly didn’t expect to hear from you so soon! To what do I owe the pleasure?”
I rolled my eyes. “Cut the crap, Lewis. I have what you want,” I said firmly.
“Oh? And are you ready to make a deal? What brought about this change of mind?” he asked innocently.
Lordy, I just wanted to punch him. I gritted my teeth instead, forcing myself to remain calm. “Listen to me, you pig,” I hissed. “If you promise to leave me and my friends alone, I am willing to give you the key.”
“Well, I’m pleased you’ve agreed to cooperate with me. I’ve already had to destroy two laboratories because of you and your meddlesome friends, I’d hate to waste more resources,” he said, his voice very tight and controlled. “I have an office in downtown Seattle. I can be there by tomorrow, why don’t you meet me there and we can negotiate?”
I laughed. “You’re such a liar. I know your plane just landed in Seattle, but I tell you what, you have my father there with you, and you have a deal. Just you and him and me,” I said firmly, “None of your bodyguards.”
“And you’ll leave your angel at home,” he demanded.
“Yeah yeah, fine,” I agreed. “But I warn you, any attempt to capture me, and I will kill you. If you doubt that I can, you severely underestimate me.”
“Fair enough,” he said darkly. “Shall we say ten a.m.?”
“Agreed.” I hung up and exhaled slowly. “I think he took the bait,” I said to Andreas.
He shook his head. “This is a bad idea, Rhiannon. Walking in there alone? Unguarded?”
“You won’t be very far away,” I whispered. “And you can always pop in. Besides, I plan on taking the fairies in with me.”
He frowned, but he nodded. “Whatever you do, don’t you dare tell him what he wants to know,” he ordered firmly.
I shook my head. “I wouldn’t dare. That would be like giving him a loaded weapon and pointing it at our own heads.”
At that point we were interrupted by a knock at the door. Room service had arrived. We ate in companionable silence. My omelet was good, but not as good as the Pancake House.
“How are you feeling?” he asked, as soon as we finished eating.
I laughed. “Like you don’t know. Alive. Free. For the first time since this all started.” I walked over to the couch and sat down, stretching.
“And determined,” Andreas added, sitting down next to me. “You were pretty good back there at the Council. Thank you.”
I reflected back on that council meeting. I hadn’t had much time to think about it yet. “What did Saphiel mean by transfiguration?” I asked him. “Wasn’t that when Jesus was resurrected or something?”
He laughed. “That’s the word that’s used, yes.” He picked up my hand. “Metamorphosis, like a caterpillar emerging from a cocoon, my little butterfly.” He kissed my fingertips.
“The rakshasa said that if you turned me you’d be free,” I murmured, thinking about Nikumbha’s discussion.
He nodded his head. “Yes he did.” He brushed his hand across my hair softly, tucking a stray lock behind my ear.
I leaned back in the couch and turned to look at him. “What would happen if you did?”
He leaned forward, brushing his lips along my jawline. “You would be exactly as you are right now, unchanged forever, frozen in time, a perfect – ” he kissed my ear lobe – “specimen.” His lips were making my pulse race and my stomach flip. I shivered.
“And whosoever partaketh of my blood shall have everlasting life,” I softly said, flashing back to my comparative religions class in college. “I finally get what the bible meant.” I shook my head ruefully.
Andreas laughed. “There is a lot of truth in there mixed in with fiction.”
“You wouldn’t die if I did it,” I whispered.
“No,” he replied, peering into my eyes, stroking my cheek with his hand. “Is that what you want?”
I gulped. I hadn’t really thought about it. “Yes, no, I don’t know.” I leaned forward, pulling out of his arms, and stood up. “Andreas, of course I don’t want you do die, but how can I want something I don’t even understand?” I demanded.
He groaned, and punched the couch. “Rhiannon Maddox, I have lived on six continents, I speak fifteen languages, I have known countless women, but in three hundred years, you are positively the most infuriating woman I have ever met!” He stood up and strode off to the other side of the room. “I can’t even tell if what I’m feeling is what I’m feeling or what you’re feeling when I’m around you! He spun around and glared at me intensely. “Do you have any idea how distracting that is? Is this me, or is this you?” he thundered.
I took a step towards him. I felt… I didn’t know what I felt, actually. Conflicted. Torn. “Does it even matter, Andreas?” I asked heatedly.
He rushed towards me, and grabbed me by my shoulders. “Yes, it matters! This is driving me crazy,” he said raggedly. “Every time you’re worried, or in danger, I just want to wrap you up and protect you. Every time you’re mad at me I just want to go hide in a hole. And then there are the times you look at me like you’re looking at me now, and I just want to…” he drifted off, unable to finish.
I did the only thing I could think of, I finished his sentence for him. I grabbed him by the head and kissed him fiercely, wrapping my arms around him, and clinging to him like a desperate woman. This wonderful, confused, overbearing, overprotective, beautiful angel. I just wanted to lose myself in him, and I urgently wanted, for once, to know exactly what he was feeling. He groaned, and devoured my lips. I wrapped my legs around his waist, and he picked me up, and carried me into the bedroom, setting me ever so gently on the bed.
He pulled his head away from mine and looked down at me in wonder. “And the worst part of it,” he whispered softly, “Is that I don’t know if I want this to change.” He bent down and nuzzled my neck.
“Could we just try it?” I gasped, shivering as a rash of goose bumps spread outward from his lips on my neck.
“Try what?” he murmured, brushing his lips with mine, his fingers blazing a trail down my sides.
“Just a little tiny bit of blood,” I breathed. “Wouldn’t it be like when I had vampire blood? A temporary thing that wore off after a day?” I pulled him close and kissed him again, wanting more, wanting him.
He pulled away giving me a look of uncertainty. “I don’t know what will happen if we do that.”
I grabbed his face in my hands and pulled him back down to me and kissed him firmly. “I want to know what you feel for once,” I said to him. I forcefully rolled him over until he was underneath me. I kneeled over him, my legs on either side of his torso. “Do you feel me?” I smiled.
He laughed softly. “Loud and clear. I just don’t know that it will work. We don’t ever… try it out,” he said wryly, kissing my chin. “I don’t know what, if anything, will happen. Don’t get your hopes up.”
I lay a finger across his lips, silencing him. “Don’t worry my angel, whatever happens will be gone in a day anyway.”
He bit my finger playfully, and nodded his head. “All right,” he said, pulling my finger out of his mouth. “You win.” He rolled me over onto my side.
My stomach churned. I was a little nervous, but excited all at the same time. “Ok, what does this transfiguration require?”
He leaned over and trailed kisses from my earlobe my collar bone. “Blood, of course.” He licked my clavicle. I shuddered.
“Like a vampire?” I whispered.
“Pretty much,” he agreed. “We’re closely related.” As if to prove his point he nipped my neck playfully. I hissed and twitched. He chuckled. “We’re just as equipped as vampires.” He kissed me deeply, and I felt them slide out over his eyeteeth, just like a vampires – twin sharp pricks of fangs. I moaned into his mouth as he explored mine with his. He pulled away, leaving me gasping for breath, and reeling with surprise. He propped himself on his elbow and looked at me, smirking. “The difference is that angels don’t require blood for sustenance. We use our fangs for blood linking. But you cannot tell anyone that, ever.” It was his turn to place his finger across my lips, silencing me, his expression gravely serious.
I was suddenly nervous, and felt a little self-conscious. I sat up abruptly. He found that amusing. “Why so worried?” he grinned. He kissed the tip of my nose.
I stuck my tongue out at him. “Ok, how do we do this?”
He sat up, and gently grabbed me by my shoulders. “Well, for starters, lay down and relax.” He pushed me slowly back down onto my back, and knelt, hovering over me. “Are you sure you want to do this?”
I nodded my head. “I want to know. I need to understand, Andreas,” I said softly. How could I ever understand what they were asking of me if I didn’t at least try this?
He nodded his head. He leaned over me carefully, his eyes traveling across my skin, as if he was determining the best place to bite me. “On my neck,” I whispered.
He smiled and kissed my lips softly. “I need a vein, not an artery, but the jugular will do.”
“It matters?” I whispered. My nerves were firing in overdrive with every touch of his. He brushed his fingers across my neck, looking at my vein. I squirmed underneath him, letting out an uncontainable moan.
“Mmhmm,” he breathed. “Vampires go for arteries. They need oxygenated blood. For us it doesn’t matter, we don’t need the hemoglobin. Veins bleed slower,” he murmured, nipping my neck. “And we don’t need a lot of blood for this experiment, little butterfly.”
I twitched underneath him as he ran his teeth across my skin. He chuckled. “Hold still, would you?”
“You’re driving me crazy,” I whimpered, unable to think straight.
He pulled his face away from my neck and looked me in the eyes. “I like you distracted.” With that, he bent down, opened his mouth, and slid his fangs into my vein. The sharp sting of pain faded away, into pure white light. It was swift, and clean, and pure, and gloriously beautiful, like the heavenly hosts singing anthems in my veins. Tears filled my eyes with the wonder of it. “Oh my!” I gasped.
He pulled his teeth out and licked my neck, all too soon, and the white light faded, and the humming in my veins subsided. He looked down at me, and he was glowing, soft white, like he was the night he met me, having relaxed his control over his glow. He brought his wrist up to his lips and bit, and held it out to my mouth. “Now it’s your turn, and quick!” he demanded.
I pulled his wrist to my lips, and I drank, and he was clean and pure and perfect, as if I drank the nectar of life itself from the hand of God. My heart sang, and I let go, and my glow merged and joined his. He pulled his wrist away from my mouth, clutching it to his chest, and hovered over me in concern.
He was worried about me, afraid he had made a mistake. I felt a deep strength, and wisdom mixed in with fear and hesitation and desire. I opened my eyes wide, and covered my mouth. “My god,” I whispered in awe. A wave of relief swept out from him, pouring into me. I smiled, and I reached out and touched his face, and I felt the echo of my touch on my own skin, lingering. I saw him through all new eyes, and I saw myself through his eyes.
I grinned and laughed out loud, in relief and in wonder. He laughed too, his emotions rolling over me like thunderous waves, blending in with my own, creating a whole new, more perfect union, where there was him, and me, and an intangible us.
He grabbed my hand and held it against his cheek. “It’s still here,” he whispered. I realized then he was worried we would damage his link to me, and I was stunned finding out he truly didn’t want to lose it. He was surprised at my surprise. He grinned. “I told you.”
“Oh my…” I trailed off, not knowing what to say. “It’s here, too.” My eyes felt wet, and I wanted to weep for the sheer joy and beauty of it. “I had no idea, Andreas,” I said to him, laughing. He was joyful, almost triumphantly so. I feel… I feel…” I didn’t know how to articulate this, the utter perfectness of being I felt right then. I just shook my head and looked at him in awe.
“Perfect,” he said, completing my sentence. He kissed me then, and it was glorious. I felt his desire and joy permeate every fiber of my being, joining mine, and flowing back into him, and I felt an echo of myself in him.
He wrapped his arms around me. “Thank god,” he whispered, holding me tightly.
I could take no more, and I began fumbling with his shirt, ripping it off of him. “Help me,” I begged. “I need you, I need this.”
He pulled his shirt off, then his pants, and I marveled at the beauty of him, touching every inch, feeling him, and I felt his desire and his wonder at the sheer completeness of this crashing over me. He tossed me onto my back with a laugh, and slowly removed my dress, marveling at every inch of my flesh. He felt I was beautiful, and I had never before felt more beautiful or adored. “Oh, I’ve wanted this,” he said, kissing my stomach. I felt his controlled aggression, reigned in tightly, as if he had been tiptoeing around me for days. “This is good,” he growled into my ear, as he slipped inside me.
I cried out for the sheer joy and pleasure of it all. He drove into my flesh, and his emotions drove into my soul. “This is right,” he whispered.
It was. “Oh!” I cried out, as an orgasm over took me, tearing my breath clear out of me and I saw white, and my spirit soared. It was perfect.
I came back down to earth and looked up into his beautiful face, filled with hope and strength, and at that moment it rang with a rightness to the very core of my being. I pulled his head down to mine, and we kissed.
We made love, and it was as if two souls merged into one for one brief glorious night. When we were both done, and we were both spent, I lay there on the bed in the hotel in the middle of Brussels, resting my head on his chest, just soaking up his feelings like a sponge, instead of just his abilities.
“Mortals aren’t meant to feel this, are they?” I looked at him in wonder.
His eyes sparkled gloriously. He shook his head, and kissed my eyelids. “This is our greatest secret, and our greatest gift.”
Once again my eyes brimmed with tears, as I found myself unable to contain the emotions of two persons filling my small being. “Thank you,” I whispered. “Thank you for showing me.”
He held me tightly and stroked my hair. “If you let me, I would like to show you the world,” he whispered fiercely. And he meant it, too, I knew it, I felt it, and it dawned on me then that I wanted him to, as well.
I nodded my head. “But for tonight, this is enough.”
“Oh is it?” he chuckled. “Liar,” he teased. I know full well you aren’t ready to just roll over and go to sleep yet. He kissed me, and rolled me over, and we proceeded to make love again, and he proved his point over and over until the world melted away and all that was left was him and me and us.
By the time I drifted off to sleep, deliciously sore and aching, the sun was already rising.