Timo and Erica had been stranded in the desert when their small plane crashed near Cairo. Sunburnt, exhausted, and thirsty, they were shocked to see an Oasis.
“An Oasis Timo, we’re saved. There’s water and even a chalice to drink from,” Erica yelled.
“You’re seeing things Erica, there’s no water and no chalice.”
“Really look, it’s only a few steps away — we’re here,” Erica said rushing forward to drink from a beautiful pale blue spring; however, whenever she tried to cup the spring water with her hands, it slide away.
“It won’t let me drink and I’m half-dead,” she cried.
Timo rubbed his eyes, finally believing the blue spring underneath a palm tree existed. A chalice made with a human skull sat in the middle of a stone alter as well. It gave him a feeling of dread.
“Erica, to drink the water you need the chalice but don’t do it. There’s something terrifying and evil about this cup.”
She turned to Timo, giving him a dark stare, “I’ll drink from the chalice if I want.” Erica strode to the alter, bowed mockingly and lifted the chalice to kiss the skull on the mouth.
Timo grimaced as she scooped it into the water and drank. It was an Indiana Jones’ movie come to life as Erica’s life force was sucked from her body which disintegrated until she was dust.
He decide to try drinking from the spring without the chalice. Timo drank all the water he could then sat down beneath the large palm tree in the shade. He wondered why cupping his hands worked for him and not for poor Erica as he drifted asleep.
When he awoke, Timo heard the blessed noise of rescuers in the distance and hollered for help. To his amazement the Oasis had disappeared along with the chalice.
He contemplated what he should say happened to Erica as no one would believe the truth.
(I truly meant for this to be Flash Fiction, but the story just developed. Sorry about the way – over word count.)
Grandma June huffed at Natalie, her granddaughter visiting her at home.”You’re not getting any younger, you’re thirty-eight. You can’t barely have babies anymore!”
Natalie rolled her eyes at Grandma June,”Gran, I’m an elementary school teacher. I like going home and not having to worry about kids.”
June sighed,”It was that man, you were supposed to marry. He’s a thief and stole your heart; I’m right aren’t I?”
Natalie ignored June’s question. She hated when her Grandma or anyone, talked about Christopher. She’d never admit he was her one.
He hadbeen since she was in grade ten and Christopher an attractive senior in high school. It was when he had first asked Natalie out. They’d broken-up, having had incompatible lives with Christopher away at university soon after.
Then, seven-years-ago, they’d ran into each other and started talking and dating again. Natalie had convinced herself this was finally it. Sadly, a few weeks before the wedding, Christopher had disappeared; the memories were agony for her.
Two-week’s later, Grandma June called Natalie up to invite her to a wine and cheese night she was hosting for her neighbours. She had tried to decline but June was adamant Natalie attend.
She arrived at her Grandma June’s surprisingly lively wine party, in jeans and a white t-shirt. She had barely bothered to apply makeup as Natalie had come from the gym and was worn out.
“Oh you came,” Grandma June said excitedly, approaching Natalie as she let herself inside. She hugged June and kissed her cheek, as June poured Natalie a large glass of red wine and filled her plate with bread and cheese. She winked at Natalie and left her alone in a small sitting room to rest before joining the other guests.
“Natalie?” A deep voice said. She turned on the sofa towards the sitting room door. Christopher’s voice shocked her, she had almost doused herself in red wine. His familiar timber filled Natalie with great pain. She peered up at him feeling raw, as if he’d only left her yesterday without explanation.
Tears began dripping down Natalie’s cheeks; she was crying and couldn’t stop herself. Christopher immediately sat down on the sofa beside Natalie and pulled her close; he wiped her tears away with his thumb. She tried to jerk out of his arms, but he wouldn’t let her move.
“I’m not letting you go, ever again,” Christopher swore.”I can’t explain much about why I had to leave you, only that I didn’t have a choice.”
Natalie shoved him hard, “You have nothing more to say, nothing at all?”
Christopher was noticeably upset, “I told you I worked as an IT consultant. But I could never tell you or anyone who I worked for until recently. I worked for Special Forces in the army and I was called out to a job. It’s the only thing I can’t about. The job lasted years, and I wasn’t allowed to contact anyone. We saved countless lives, but it was awful what I did to you and being without you. I’m sorry.”
Natalie rubbed her swollen eyes, “You’re a liar Christopher. You could’ve mentioned something, anything. What do you want now? To stay for a while and then leave?To rip me apart again?”
Christopher buried his face in his hand, before gazing up at her: “I’m out now Natalie. I swear to you I work for regular businesses now, nothing to do with Special Forces or the army. I’ve no more secrets other than experiences of war and blood. I came back here for you, I even moved into a house on your Grandma June’s street. I hoped somehow, you and I could be together again. I love you.”
Natalie made a sound of frustration. Emotions of both anger and feeling relieved assaulted her. Despite her anger at Christopher, Natalie knew inside, there would never be another man for her but him.
To Christopher’ surprise, Natalie moved to sit in Christopher’s lap and be closer to him, to breathe in how delicious he smelt.
“Marry me now and we can do whatever celebration our families want later. I’m still mad at you Christopher but you’re it for me. I’ve always loved you and always will. If you can be with me and never leave me like that again, I can forgive you.”
Christopher nodded at Natalie, saying: “I promise.” He held Natalie tightly and kissed her lips hungrily.
Suddenly, there was a loud knock on the sitting room door and Grandma June walked in, a smile on her face. June’s boyfriend Nigel was with her and so was the local United Church minister.
Natalie looked at Christopher, “Did you do all this?”
Christopher shook his head, squeezing Natalie tight and kissing her cheek. He pulled out a beautiful sapphire and diamond ring set from his pocket. He slid the engagement ring on Natalie’s finger, and Grandma June handed Natalie a ring which had been her Grandfather’s wedding ring.
June smiled at Natalie and Christopher, a gleam in her clever blue-eyes. All was at it should be, she thought as her and Nigel witnessed her granddaughter’s wedding ceremony.
Thanks to MindLoveMisery’s Menagerie for Friday’s music prompt, “I Don’t Want To Talk About It” by Rod Stewart. The song is loosely used in part three. Warning Part Three contains Adult Content.
“I Don’t Want To Talk About It” – Rod Stewart
Tallia drove back to Fairy Dust as fast as her Vespa would take her without losing the giant fish off the Vespa’s back compartment. She was feeling afraid because she knew Teegan would be nearly awake, but felt certain he would be in enough of a fog she would have time to make the potion he required. She prayed the tonic took his darkness away, the shadow that stalked him. But at the same time Tallia knew, the shadow was Teegan.
The presence of darkness lurked as Tallia quietly opened the back door, slipping inside her shop. She set the goldfish in his bag, down on a countertop and stood for a moment blinking tiredly. It was the middle of the afternoon and a wave of fatigue overwhelmed her. She had been up late thinking about Teegan, what he could have possibly done hundreds of years ago to be cursed so wickedly. She was thinking about him in other ways too, Tallia realized blushing.
She wasn’t sure what she’d do if Teegan knew she’d drugged him, what he’d say or do. She didn’t know how much in control Teegan was of his darkness right now. The wisest thing Tallia could do was make him his potion whenever he needed it, whatever kind of potion it was. She thought about the wisdom Teegan hopefully acquired in his centuries alive. Would it make him extra understanding?
Then again, she could be wrong. Some people never learned their lessons despite experience. Yet Tallia was sure, in Teegan’s startling green eyes had been knowledge of dark deeds and lessons learned with difficulty. The blackness in his gaze almost had the affect of repelling Tallia at first.
At the same time, his emerald eyes were seductive and drew her too Teegan. No matter his real age, he appeared to be in his thirties. He was ridiculously good looking in the truest sense. She could smell his particular pleasing scent from where she leaned against the counter in the back of her store. Where she put together potions and caste spells for magical items customer’s required.
Perhaps, it was her heightened sense of smell which brought to life Teegan’s addictive scent, or maybe her memories were more vivid due to her attraction to him.
Tallia jumped when a voice whispered in her ear.
“Where’d you go? How come my potion’s not made? I need it now Tallia,” he whispered.
“Yep, I’m awake, thanks for the nap by the way. Did you find out what you needed too? I see you got the giant gold fish. You’re worried about me and the shadow around me which makes you sick. You went and talked to Jude. He’s been around over a century. Old for most humans, but not as old as me, Tallia.”
“I didn’t talk to Jude, he’s in the hospital because he had a stroke and isn’t doing well,” Tallia sad with sadness.” I talked to his great-grandson Aspen. He run’s the store now I guess. He said you were cursed, that you did something terrible. That’s why you’ve so much darkness. How do you make it go away Teegan? What happens if you don’t take this potion?”
Tallia felt warm and comfortable and realized Teegan had moved to hold her from behind, his arms crossed against her stomach. Teegan’s head suddenly lay against hers and she could feel him sigh as if he could finally relax. Tallia had never been so near to Teegan, she felt dizzy in good way. It felt wonderful to be held so gently, though she wondered if Teegan realized he had moved to comfort her.
Moments later, Tallia felt Teegan’s lips firmly on the side of her neck, traveling up under her ear and sucking gently on her earlobe. His lips moved back down her neck to the v-neck of her sweater. He kissed her over her heart and Tallia shivered when his lips traced her neck, went over her chin, and landed on her lips. Her heart was racing, she felt hot and cold all over.
Teegan bit her lip gently, seeking access to her mouth. His tongue met hears with need. Tallia couldn’t think, could only feel. Her connection with Teegan was something new to her. This sense of knowing him and recognizing him, beyond the physical sense. In her mind, she could feel him encouraging her to relax.
“I’ll take care of you,” he whispered.
Teegan kissed Tallia until she was breathless, his hands massaging her stomach, sides, and hips. His hand moved up to squeezing her breast over her sweater and short coat. She moaned when he broke off his the kiss leaving Tallia wanting. He breathed in the crook of her neck, his hand not moving, but not leaving either. It seemed as if hours had passed but it had only been minutes.
Teegan collected himself and moved a distance from Tallia as he spoke: “Tallia, I can’t. I want to, but I shouldn’t have done that; it confused you. I need you to make my potion nowplease. You’re the only one who can do it. It has to be one of your bloodline. And if you don’t I’ll turn evil. I’ll be a curse myself, a terrible man. I’ve done such evil because I’m cursed, or was before your gifted ancestor came up with this potion. It’s the only way to keep me from turning, Tallia. You and I, we’re tied together because of your ancestor. You remind me of her,” Teegan remarked.
“You need to tell me the entire story. This isn’t fair Teegan. Of course, I’ll make the potion. But my Aunt never told me any of this. The cancer took her a way in so little time. I need more answers from you,” Tallia pleaded.
“I don’t want to talk about it Tallia. Make the potion. You’re breaking my heart here,” Teegan said rolling his eyes.
“What if I don’t?”
“I’ll be evil, as I’ve said and as I’m sure Aspen told you. I’ll hurt you, probably kill you, and I don’t want to do that. If I kill you, I’ll be evil forever — until someone kills me. You’re the last in your line. Make the potion, Tallia, we could be happy.”
“Tallia, make it now! You know I’m not trying to deceive you. You can feel it.”
“Yes, you’re right. I do feel you’re being genuine. I’ll make it as fast I can.”
Tallia gathered all the ingredients she had laid out earlier and brought them to an extremely large mixing bowl. She measured all the ingredients into the bowl quickly and accurately, barely thinking. She followed the directions in Aunt Willow’s tome and chanted the right words when she needed to say them. Pouring out the water of the giant gold fish’s bag in a sink, she slid the giant flopping gold fish into her bowl. With wide eyes she watched the potion simmer and turn scarlet.
Aspen had been right, the goldfish was a sacrifice of life. Although a mouse or anything small would’ve done the job, but her ancestor’s writing said the giant goldfish was preferred. Tallia strained the chunks of ingredients from the mixture; the goldfish had disintegrated.
Tallia pulled a beer stein out of her cupboard to Teegan’s surprise. She poured half of the scarlet liquid into the earthen beer stein. Teegan had been watching Tallia create the potion the entire time. He hadn’t said anything, only watched her, familiar with her actions. He’d probably watched her Aunt Willow and her Great-Aunt do the same. And many of Tallia’s ancestors, if she could believe his story.
She turned around from the giant bowl and found Teegan beside her, leaning against the counter studying her. His hand moved, pushing her light purple-grey hair behind her ear. He was so much taller than her, Tallia thought.
Teegan smiled when she offered him the beer stein.”Where’s yours?”he asked her.
“Where’s my what?”
“Yourhalf of the potion? You have to drink it with me,” Teegan told her.
Tallia was about to protest but he was gazing at her in a particular way. She noticed the pain usually hidden in his eyes present. She felt it through herbeing and it softened her heart; her protests crumbled.
” I wish I wasn’t so intuitive, Teegan. You do really need me to drink your tonic with you? Do you promise I’ll be okay?”
“I promise. Your Aunt, she was always fine. You’ll find it invigorating actually,” he said.
Tallia nodded reading what Teegan had told her in the tome beside her on the counter. How did she miss that direction? Peeringup she noticed him pouring her a beer stein of the remaining liquid. She took the potion from him, grimacing because she knew the ingredients in it. She tasted a bit of the potion, testing the flavour. It tasted like cinnamon and a woodsy red wine. How could that be?
“Bottoms up?” Teegan said holding up his stein.
Talia clinked her stein with his, “Slainte,” she said.
Teegan’s potion was easy going down. Tallia could feel a lightness, as if her cares were floating free. She felt energy, Teegan was right. His potion did feel invigorating. Her mind felt intensely perceptive as well. Swallowing the remenants of the liquid she saw Teegan had already finished his.
“Better, huh?” he asked.
“Yeah, it’s amazing stuff,” she said peering everywhere, everything around her was completelycrystal clear. Her early fatigue was gone. Tallia noticed Teegan’s dark circles had faded. He appeared younger, his few wrinkles smoothed out. He was gazing at her again in certain way, and she knew from the flicker in his green-eyes what he wanted. Tallia felt almost drunk, except the potion made everything feel real.
She laughed aloud and Teegan frowned,”What?”
“No you’re not getting that from me,” she said.
“It wasn’t difficult to get a kiss and more from you before. You like me. I can tell, I like you too,” Teegan said, eyes darkening and meeting her own.
“No,” Tallia said laughing again. “You have to earn it. Take me out. Tell me about yourself and my ancestors. Did you sleep with one of my great- great – female relatives?”
“Don’t you feel like you’re burning up inside? I don’t know what I’ll do if I can’t . . .” he said approaching Tallia, following her as if she were prey. “I slept with the first of your ancestors I knew, she was my . . . my woman, for a while. But she died and we never had a child.”
Tallia backed away from Teegan smiling, wary but turnedon at the same time. He was irresistible and Tallia found herself trapped against a wall. She laughed more as Teegan stripped off his shirt and unbuckled his belt. Her mouth ran dry seeing his finely sculpted body. He grinned and grabbed both her hands, holding her hands above her head. Tallia whimpered and Teegan chuckled.
“I’m not, I’m not a one night type of girl and you’re . . . you smell so good. But you’ve lived so much longer than me, what could you possibly see in me,” she murmured.
“You’re not one night Tallia. I was thinking many many and I see you’re beautiful and gifted; you’re also intelligent.You didn’t immediately trust me.”
“Okay . . .” Tallia began but Teegan’s lips roughly met hers and she gasped as his tongue invaded sliding against hers. His hands were everywhere beneath her shirt and bralette. Then her shirt and bralette were gone and his mouth was there and she couldn’t contain her cries. “Oh no . . .”
He removed his mouth breathing hard, “Stop?”
“Oh please no!” Tallia said.
He chuckled and continued loving her with his mouth. “Teegan . . .” she whispered, feeling her body melt into his.
He pulled off the rest of her clothes, kissing her slightly round stomach and turning her around to kiss Tallia all over back and to her surprise, over her hips and bottom. His fingers found her center and rubbed below, circling her sweet spot, his thumb pressing against her.
“Please please. . .”
Teegan kissed her bottom again and turned her around so his head was level with Tallia’s belly button. He kissed her stomach before thrusting two fingers into her core, she shook and nearly screamed. It hurt but it was okay because the pleasure of his fingers going in and out of her was intense. She wailed when his fingers took her over the edge.
He kissed her, his lips and tongue centered on her core. The sensations Tallia felt were indescribable. Teegan was teasing her, he knew she need to come again but wasn’t letting her; he was making her wait for him. Teegan removed the rest of his clothes and gently lifted Tallia’s body onto the counter. He pushed both his fingers inside her again, adding a third.
“I’ve never . . .” she whispered suddenly shy.
“At your age? I’m flattered, no one values that these days,” Teegan whispered.
Tallia flushed, “Well it’s complicated. It’s gone but, I never had sex.”
“What do you mean?” Teegan asked stopping. His voice sounded grim.
“Don’t stop, don’t,” Tallia begged.
“Okay, but I will kill whoever did it to you,” he promised.
Tallia believed Teegan, he appeared dead serious even though they were having sex.”It’s fine,” she mumbled. “It was a university party. I was too drunk and fell asleep and he was there sometime. When I woke up he was gone and I hurt,” Tallia admitted anxious for Teegan to continue loving her.
“Are you okay, are . . .”
“Please don’t, don’t stop. Please I need you.”
Teegan nodded, understanding. “You’ve got me,” he replied.He guided himself to her entrance and gently pushed inside.
“Good, more.” Tallia said gripping his sides until Teegan was completely inside her. It stung and hurt but it was also the best feeling she could imagine when he began to move. She wrapped her legs around his waist and he whispered dirty things in her ear, all the things he wanted to do to her.
She felt his rhythm increase and her own body released again, more powerfully this time. She felt the final pushes of him in her body as he came. Teegan breathed heavily, holding Tallia and kissing her forehead.
Then, Tallia was crying, amazed tears were falling down her face. But Teegan gently hushed her and kissed her tears. It was hard for her to believe Teegan could ever be an evil monster. Tallia needed to know more about his past, when he was ready to tell her; she hoped it was soon.
Nina and Rianne stood in the kitchen preparing a mid-afternoon supper for John’s family.
“What are you cooking?” Rianne asked
” Marinated vegetables and baby potatoes. I’ve got a couple salads I’m working on, a Kale salad and a Chinese Noodle Salad.What kind of chicken did you decide to make?”
“Oh, uh spinach and goat cheese. The goat cheese hides the spinach. It’s tasty, and Sam and Eric don’t notice the spinach in it.”
Nina and Rianne heard Edith gasp in the living room and they turned to observe John from the kitchen island, explaining to Edith, Robert, and his brothers, where he had been the last four-months.
Nina had decided John needed to be alone with his family when he told them what occurred. She wasn’t entirely sure what parts of his experiences, John wanted to share and which parts he was keeping to himself. She would ask him tomorrow when they were alone.
Nina filled Rianne in on John’s experiences, speaking quietly, her voice not much above a whisper as they chopped fruit for dessert. She knew Rianne would hear about what John said from Jasper on the ride home.
Jasper had brought his two small sons with him and Rianne. Sam and Eric excitedly, hugged their Uncle John when they arrived, nearly catching Uncle John and Aunt Nina half-naked. Nina and John had been quick to adjust their clothes and appear decent. It had been difficult given the time they had been apart.
“We thought you was never coming back.” Sam told John. “Grandma said you went to heaven but Rianne said Grandma didn’t know. She said you were coming back soon. Right Rianne?”
“Yes, Sam. And I was right wasn’t I? Uncle John is home.” Sam nodded enthusiastically unwilling to let go of his Uncle. His little arms clung to John’s neck and played with the silver chain John wore.
“How come you were gone?” Eric asked. He was the younger brother.
“I was sleeping Eric. I was so so tired. When I woke up I was on a beach and I met a man who helped me come home. Then, this morning I saw your Auntie Nina and she was so pretty and happy to see me. I’ve never seen her so pleased.” John said trying to keep his story simple.
“Did you get the witch?” Sam asked John. John looked at Jasper wondering what he should say.
Jasper chimed in: “She wasn’t a witch, only a bad woman. But she’s gone right?” Jasper asked staring at John who nodded encouragingly.
“Let’s go play in the living room with your trucks. While you play, I can tell the grown-ups what happened in detail.” John said cheerfully, he glanced back at Nina tiredly. She knew from his expression he wanted to relax and be alone with her.
Nina, however,knew John’s family needed an explanation. They needed to know why it seemed he had come back to life after dying. They needed to see John was alive and touch him for themselves.
Jasper coaxed Sam to let go of his Uncle John and play with a new construction truck with Eric on the living room floor. Edith hugged John hard and kissed both his cheeks. Hear head barely reached the middle of John’s chest.
“Nina and Jordan kept saying you’d be back. I didn’t believe them. I thought they’d only a wing and a prayer. But you’re here and you look amazing. You’ve a healthy tan and you appear more rested than I have seen you in years. Does this mean your curse is broken and you can be together with Nina now? Will your curse ever effect our family again?” Edith asked, hope in her voice.
“Please Mom, everyone, sit down.” John’s family surrounded him as he sat on a couch. Nina heard John say, “Yes, the curse is broken. It’s why I’m back. As in fairy tales, well almost, Nina and I get to be together now and they’ll be more horrible events occurring in my life or yours.” Edith squealed and John’s Dad, Robert patted him on the back cheerfully.
“Good news son. Very good news. We need to hear the whole story. Everything from the night you left on Jordan’s motor boat to go find the dagger in Talise’s cave. We’ve heard what happened from Nina and Jordan. We need to hear your version now and why you let us think you were dead.”
John appeared shocked: “I didn’t have much choice in the matter, Dad . . .”
Nina returned to chopping fruit in the kitchen. Pulling out an ice cream cake to sit and thaw a bit for dessert. She tuned out John and his family, having heard and talked about that awful night with Talise in the Sirene too often in the last few months.
John’s return from the in-between place of life and death had been Nina’s and John’s conversation topic all day and Nina was sure John’s family wouldn’t be able to stop talking about what happened to John for many months to come.
Rianne put her chicken into cook in a second oven in John and Nina’s kitchen.
“John’s place is beautiful Nina. Right on the beach. I have to say it was no hardship visiting you here when you feared John wouldn’t come back. Even though I had to do the grocery shopping and the cooking to make sure you ate at first, it was worth it to walk down the beach and watch movies on a giant cinema-like room downstairs.”
Nina put her hand on Rianne’s arm and squeezed it gently,”I’m sorry I was such a pain. I know I was miserable to be around for months on end. Something inside me always told me to keep having faith and believing. I’m still shocked to be able to say this, but I was right; John came home.”
“It sounded like he had to learn a few vital lessons first,” Rianne remarked. “From what you told me, it was John who didn’t have faith the curse would be broken. He couldn’t come home to you unless he believed their was benevolent magic working to break the curse so you too could be a couple and live a normal life.”
“Yeah, it’s exactly what John told me Norman said to him. I can’t believe Norman was the homeless guy who saved you.”
“Me neither,” said Rianne. “But I think we had God looking out for us. Or He had someone keeping watch over us all in Norman. It’s nice to know someone up there cares what goes on in our lives.”
“So, what’s new with you and Jasper?” Nina remarked changing the subject. Rianne sighed gazing at Nina with sad chocolate brown eyes. They reminded Nina of the eyes of a lab dog begging.
“It’s, it’s okay – only, when John was missing, it was hard on us. Especially with Sam and Eric. You know how all three Eric brothers are close and have always been. When Jasper thought John was dead, it was as if a piece of himself died with John.”
“I don’t know how to explain it well, but Jasper’s been cold. Really cold. He didn’t want me to come over often. Partly, why I ended up staying with you so much was because Jasper didn’t want me there. And I would go home and there would be this yawning emptiness in my condo. I couldn’t bear it.” Rianne said softly. She wasn’t a crier but Nina knew her friend was near the point of tears..
“I loved it when you came over Ri. I wish you would’ve said something about was happening between you and Jasper. I love you and care about you and I want you to tell me what’s wrong even when I’m not in the best of places myself.” Nina said quietly.
“I know you didn’t want to burden me, but it would’ve helped me keep my mind off John, listening to you and finding a way to help Jasper open-up to you. And I think you would’ve felt much better too, not keeping this trapped inside.”
“Shhhh” Rianne said suddenly. Jasper was staring at Rianne while her and Nina talked and the chicken baked.
“He can’t hear us,” Nina said.
“I think he knows what I’m talking to you about.”
” How could he know. Besides, John’s back now. Things will become better between Jasper and you too because he won’t be mourning his brother’s death.” Nina remarked confidently.
“Maybe,” Rianne said unconvinced.” Death is a tricky subject with Jasper. His first wife, Sam and Eric’s mom, died of cancer a few years ago. I don’t know if he’s ready for a serious relationship with another woman yet. I thought so but now, I’m not so sure.”
“But it’s been five-years or so hasn’t it?”
“I don’t know he won’t talk about his wife, not at all. I know his boys come first and before that night with Talise, we were practically living together. We were seeing how the boys liked it if I lived with them.” Rianne said, tears starting to fall without her being aware of them.
“Now, I wouldn’t even consider sleeping over at Jasper’s house. It feels as if there’s this big angry river between Jasper and I and I don’t know how to jump over it or swim through it. I miss playing with Sam and Eric so much.”
“It will work out Rianne. It will get better, I know it will.” Nina said encouragingly. Rianne sighed, wiping her eyes with the back of her hand and checking the chicken in the oven cooking.
Nina sighed. John and her might have at last found happiness together. But it seemed those closest to them, weren’t happy at all. Nina felt awful Rianne hadn’t thought she could share her problems with Jasper with her, the past few months. She had been too consumed with thoughts of John and too selfish to be a reliable friend to Rianne.
Nina hugged Rianne after she had taken the chicken out of the oven to let it cool a few moments.
“I’ll help you get through this Rianne. You’re my best friend and I’d do anything for you. You’ve helped me so much since I’ve met John and suffered too much for it. You can stay with John and I as long as you want.” Rianne smiled.
“Won’t John mind?”
Nina laughed, “he doesn’t have a choice, but he doesn’t know that yet.”
Rianne smiled but Nina could tell her smile was forced. She studied Rianne for a moment as she transferred the chicken into a serving dish. Rianne wasn’t saying a great deal of what was going on between her and Jasper, and Nina knew it.
“Mom, hello? Is that you?” John said, pressing Nina’s IPhone against his ear.
“Jordan is that you? Why are you using Nina’s phone I was just talking to you. . .” Edith replied.
“No, Mom. It’s me John. I’m alive, here with Nina. You need to stop the funeral.”
“Jordan this isn’t funny. We discussed this. Your brother is dead. He’s passed on and we need to move on too, even if we don’t have a body to bury. You and Nina can hope forever, but eventually you are going to have to come terms with it. I know my son. If he was alive, he would’ve found his way home.”
“This isn’t Jordan Mom. It’s John. I am home. I came home early this morning. I ran into Nina walking on the beach in front of our house.” John told his Mom beseechingly.
“John?” Edith’s voice was muffled and he could the tears in her voice.”This better be you. Where have you been young man it’s been over four-months?”
“There’s a lot to explain Mom . . .” Edith cut John off.
“Take a selfie, show me a me picture of how you look with Nina right now.” John and Nina obliged Edith, taking a few photos on Nina’s phone and sending them to Jon’s Mom.
Edith called back minutes after receiving the pictures, “I’m coming over to your house now and I’m bringing everyone.”
Nina gazed at John putting her hair back into a tighter ponytail. “What did Edith say?”
“She thought I was Jordan. She was crying, but the selfies convinced her I’m alive. Mom’s coming over now and bringing my Dad and brothers.”
Nina swore. “The house is kind of a mess John. I haven’t felt much like cleaning the last couple of weeks . . .”
“It’ll be okay Nina. She won’t care about the mess until later. Mom needs to see me for herself first.” Nina wrapped her arm around John’s waist and he put his arm around her shoulders, they began walking back to John’s beachfront house, kicking sand up as they walked.
“How will you explain it all to Edith and Robert, your Dad? To the rest of your family?” Nina asked John.
“Well, I’ll explain as best as I can. I’m not sure where I was for most of four-months. . . I’d rather talk with you first but I’m sure the family is half-way here by now. As if a curse isn’t weird enough, coming back to life after being between life and death for months, will be shocking.” John reasoned.
“I think,” Nina countered, “You’re family will be overjoyed to see you safe and healthy. Not to mention, such as in every happily ever after, the curse is broken. I think your family will be happy you and I, and they can live normal lives without worrying about awful events occurring around you and affecting them. Your family loves you and will be enthused you did not die that night as they all thought.”
Nina kissed John’s cheek with a smacking kiss and he laughed, messing her hair up lightly. “Tell them the truth as best as you can. Tell us all. I would love to hear your story from after the point I thought you died, and you disappeared into the water and sky, when Talise broke the curse.”
John kissed Nina softly. “I’ll try to tell you first. The drive up here will take everyone a bit to get here.” The house loomed before them and they walked up the porch steps together through the back door.
John and Nina both showered together. They wanted to spend their time loving each other in the shower, but knowing Edith could barge in the house soon, stopped them from going too far with each other.
Nina wouldn’t put it past Edith to walk right into the bathroom to see John, even if he and Nina were both naked.
Nina and John both wore jeans and soft t-shirts. Nina blew dry her hair and curled it with a flat iron before applying her makeup minimally and the fastest she had ever had to apply it before. She didn’t like meeting John’s family without her ‘face’ on. The makeup was a bit of shield for her, against what she might hear from John and his family.
Nina applied foundation and mascara. Next came a gold sheen of an eye shadow color on her eyelid and a darker brown crease shade. A fluff of blush on each cheek and some gold hoop earrings were followed by Nina applying a pink lip gloss. She met John in the kitchen so relieved and overjoyed he was home. She could almost cry, but she didn’t. She needed to hear John’s story about Norman and life in-between life and death.
“You must be starving,” Nina told John.
“I had a huge steak dinner last night with Norman. I’m okay right now, it’s not even lunch. The fridge is packed with food I see though.” John commented.
“I’m happy you’ve been eating. It bothers me when you don’t eat because you’re worried, sick, or keeping secrets.” John remarked smiling knowingly at Nina.
Nina smirked.” I think you’re the one with secrets right now John; not me.” John laughed amused.
“I tried to eat when I remembered and at first, I forgot a lot. Rianne has been terrific and she grocery shopped for me when I was grieving. She’s literally, the only way I was able to handle losing you. She believed me when I said you were alive out there, even when your family stopped believing me.” A stray tear leaked down Nina’s cheek.
John stopped her tear with his thumb, ” I’m here now. I couldn’t come back any sooner, but I would’ve if I knew how. I was stuck and sleeping in a vibrant place. You know what it was like you said, because you were there in that place in-between life and death that night when Talise’s bite poisoned you.”
“Yeah,” Nina nodded remembering. “It was tranquil and I had no troubling thoughts or worries. There was so many beautiful colours. Bold and magnificent colours there isn’t enough words in the human language to describe.”
“Exactly,” John said. “I’m glad I didn’t know how gone you were that night. When I was ended up in the place of colours, I couldn’t imagine so many colours existed. There were colours there and they don’t exist here on earth.”
“I was so fatigued and in that place I could rest and be done with the whole curse, with everything. I wanted to give in and I let myself for a long time, but then I pictured you and I was awake and I was wandering an endless beach.” John said.
He leaned against the kitchen island and Nina stood close to him. She smelled his woodsy and citrus cologne and breathed it in. It was the scent on the shirt she’d been sleeping with for over four-months.
“I’m ecstatic your back John and grateful. If remembering me brought you out of that in-between place, I’m glad.” Nine hesitated,” Do you think it was God who brought you to the beach, not only your thoughts?”
“I don’t know. Norman wasn’t God but I have the feeling he might have worked for God. He saved Rianne Norman told me and he was there to help me. He said he can take many forms. He came into my cottage, my home on the beach. After supper and beers, he answered all my questions and taught me a few things too.”
“Just like that?” Nina questioned.”What did Norman say exactly? You seem lighter now and carefree. I know it’s probably because the curse is gone, but I think something else has changed too. Just a feeling I have knowing you as I do.” Nina surmised, smiling contently.
John didn’t answer right away. He kissed Nina on the lips a few times, lingering over her mouth and Nina could tell he was holding back, trying to be gentle. She began to feel warm and she ached for John inside as heat and attraction simmered between them. Nina had missed John incredibly and wanted to demonstrate to him how much she had missed him in their bed.
John smiled at Nina chuckling: “I want to too Nina, but right now isn’t a good time with my family arriving soon.” He pulled back from kissing her. John must have seen the wounded look in Nina’s eyes, because he brushed her cheeks with his thumbs. Nina put her head against John’s chest, hearing his heart beat was comforting and his hug calmed Nina.
“Tell me more,” Nina said after a while, stepping back from John’s arms and peering up at him. John gently moved back from Nina some more and leaned against the kitchen island once again. Nina stood in front of him, hands in her jean pockets, full of curiosity.
“Well, I told you about Talise. She’s not dead. I’m not sure how. Norman said Talise saw something in Jordan that night. She broke the curse and she let Jordan kill her. This makes Talise redeemable,” John muttered, his anger at Talise present.
“Talise told me that the curse was a deeper magic than the magic she possessed. It was why she couldn’t save you John.”
“Indeed, I’m quite sure the curse magic and other magic is deeper than Talise’s magic. Norman said he was a kind of magic . . . Anyways, about Talise and Jordan, Norman said what Talise saw in Jordan was like what I saw in you when I first met you at The Manhattan.”
“Really?” Nina said shocked. John shrugged.
“I don’t understand it but Norman said Talise was Jordan’s responsibility the same way you are mine. I have tell Jordan what Norman told me. I’m scared to say anything to him. Norman explained about the ring Talise put her soul in for Jordan and the dagger that altered after Jordan killed Talise.”
” Jordan will be okay,” Nina said.”He hasn’t been in a good place since he thought you died but I think having his older brother back will make him much happier.”
“He despises Talise as I said, I don’t know how he’ll ever see her as more than an evil sea witch. Honestly, I don’t know if can see her as anything but an evil person, despite what she did in the end that night.” Nina admitted. John nodded in agreement.
“What else did Norman say?” Nina asked. John sighed, wishing he could keep some of what Norman told him to himself. But John knew he had to be truthful with Nina, in this most significantly
“Norman said, I had no faith. He referenced a Bible verse John 1:5 which talks about light always shining in the darkness and chasing it away. It’s a verse I remembered from Sunday School.”
“No faith in God?” Nina said. ” I know you have faith in God John. You told me He was the only one looking out for you when everything in life goes badly for you. You go to church too. I went with you a few times if you recall.” Nina said.
“It wasn’t only faith in God, Norman was telling me about. He told me I was missing the bigger picture of life, so caught up in details and my own problems. Makes sense I guess, I’m an editor by craft.” John mused.
“But Norman also said I didn’t have faith my curse would ever be broken. He told me about you telling Rianne about people wanting magic solutions but not believing in them.”
Nina smiled. “It’s one of my favourite quotes from Alice in Wonderland. And yes, I believe in magic both good and bad.”
“Norman said I didn’t believe the curse could have good magic. I didn’t have faith God would work things out for me. I didn’t have faith I would live when the curse was broken. I didn’t have faith in you, that we could ever spend our lives together. I didn’t believe in my dreams.”
John appeared tired to Nina again, but she thought it was more the weight of finally having unburdened himself of the truths Norman had revealed to him, that had exhausted him. She hoped the lightness John felt earlier would return.
“Was Norman right John?” Nina asked.
“At the time, he was exactly right. I didn’t have faith in much of anything. It’s why I spent a good seven or eight-years doing nothing but working and going through women. Even when I met you and I hoped for more, I thought keeping you was a long shot.”
“When I knew I loved you and believed you were met for me, Talise was back causing trouble and targeting you. I always thought it wouldn’t work out in the end because Talise wouldn’t let me go until I was dead.” John admitted.
Nina patted John’s arm soothingly before grabbing his hand with her smaller one. ” Before you went away that night, you didn’t have much faith. You were afraid for me and you broke up with me. You loved me I know, but you didn’t believe that their could be a good side to magic, that a curse broken might end well.”
Even the magic Talise was wielding wasn’t always wicked. Your Dad said that night we all had dinner, most sea witches use both light and dark magic. They need a balance. When Talise became evil, the effects of malevolent magic on her were obvious.”
“I think that goes with your belief in magic too. You can’t believe it’s all bad, that a curse would end tragically. You needed to believe in life and have faith things would work out in the end for the good. I believed you would return time. I’m not saying I never doubted you would come home, but today you did. My prayers and faith rewarded.” Nina squeezed John’s hand tighter.
“I know. I understand now my Nina. It’s why Norman told me the Bible verse from John. No matter how dark it seems, light is always there to drive the darkness back, to drive evil back. It even drove the darkness out of Talise.” John said.
Nina smiled.”I told Talise as I lay dying from her poison bite, she had a choice. She didn’t have to be evil. She changed in that moment. So even though she cast the curse originally, and had little power over its eventual outcome, light and benevolent magic won out.”
John gazed at Nina admiring her soft skin and the way her thin T-shirt hung on her breasts. He noted how her waist dipped in and her hips flared, creating the beautiful curves of her body. ”
“You’re amazing, stubborn, smart, and beautiful Nina. I can’t believe not having faith, almost made me lose everything, lose you.” John reached for Nina, grasping her around her waist and holding her as close as he could while tracing her face with his lips.
Nina could feel the inescapable and enthralling heat and electricity moving between her and John. She ran her hand under John’s shirt and gasped at the feel of his smooth naked skin. John’s lips kissed Nina’s neck teasingly before he bit her gently. His kisses moved up Nina’s jaw about to meet her lips and his hands were under her T-shirt, ready to tear it off her when the door bell rang.
Not waiting a moment, John’s family burst in through the door.
Genevieve lost her tour group. She was relieved to spy a man looking over the castle wall ahead of her. He looked at Genevieve, and a smile washed over his gorgeous face.
He put his hand up to her cheek, “You have the softest skin I have ever felt,” he said with awe.” You must be a Lady to have the privilege of beauty,” the man remarked.
“I’m no Lady, only a woman on vacation,” Genevieve said.”Do you live around here?”
“I live here until Merida’s heiress arrives. I’m Keith.” The man said.
” Merida’s heiress doesn’t seem to be coming.” Genevieve said smiling, “Why Merida’s heiress, why not Merida?” Genevieve asked.
Keith remarked:”You’re the only woman to have seen me standing here in hundreds of years, you must be Merida’s heiress. Merida and I were running from the English. We were supposed to escape through the tunnels. But Merida was kidnapped and married to an English Lord.” Keith said sadly.
“Merida was a gifted witch and cast a spell. She promised me her first female offspring of twenty-five-years, after the millennium, because she couldn’t be with me.” Keith told Genevieve. She backed away from Keith and he grasped Genevieve’s hand.
In an instant, Genevieve found herself in another world. She was standing next to Keith at the head of a two long tables in a brightly decorated castle hall. Her dress was flowing white silk.
Keith smiled at Genevieve kissing her softly.”Genevieve, I’ve been awaiting Merida’s promise of you for ages. Together, we will build our lives, as Merida and I never had the chance to do.” Genevieve fainted.
John was searching for Nina beneath debris inside the farmer’s market. He was worried about Nina and he couldn’t find her. He had lost her and their bags when they had dived for the floor as a booth had blown towards them.
John could see other people searching for friends or family in the warehouse. He watched a grey-haired man aid some other men caught underneath a table. Everyone at the farmer’s market was injured someway. The worst were broken limbs and large abrasions. John hoped Nina had escaped with nothing but a few scrapes. John’s breathing stopped for a moment when he saw a soft pile of pink fabric out of the corner of his eye.
Nina was lying on the cement floor of the warehouse her right hand covered in blood. John carefully removed the items that had landed on top of Nina from the wind. He removed the bags with some of her purchases from her slack hand. John gently shook Nina. When she didn’t wake up he realized Nina was unconscious.
John ran his hand gently through Nina’s hair and was startled when his hand came out dripping blood. He grimaced at the awful wound Nina had acquired on her head. She was going to need stitches and John wouldn’t doubt it if she had a concussion. He unwound the the pink scarf around her neck gently and pressed the scarf to Nina’s head injury. The scarf was ruined but hopefully it would stop the remaining bleeding.
Oddly enough, the storm had only affected a small area of Adare, close to Sirene Lake. It didn’t surprise John. He was sure Tia drew her power from the water as a sea witch. She was the one who had caused Nina’s head injury he thought hatefully. John grabbed Samsung and called 911. Ambulances were no doubt in the area assisting people from the market because the paramedics were helping Nina in a flash.
John watched worriedly as Nina was put onto a stretcher. A brace was put around her neck and the paramedics put bandages on Nina’s head wound. John gathered Nina’s bags and rode in the ambulance saying he was Nina’s fiancé so he could accompany her to the hospital. On the way, John found Nina’s phone in her purse and called Jasper to help Rianne bring some of Nina’s clothes and toiletries to the Adare General Hospital.
John told Jasper Nina had hurt her head. Then he mentioned that Tia had returned. Jasper was aghast.
“After all this time?” Jasper wondered.
“Yes Tia’s back Jasper and she’s vengeful. She wants me, but she wants to hurt me too. She’s nothing like the sweet girl I used to know. Who laughed and partied with us years ago.” John said.
“The best way she can hurt me is through Nina. Tia’s jealous of her. I’m positive it was Tia who hurt Nina drawing power from the water of the Sirene for the storm. Nina said Tia was at the fundraiser last night dating a guy named Malcolm, one of our editors from Mergers. Tia called herself Talise. Nina ran into her at the farmer’s market today too. Tia hurt Nina on purpose today.”
“Are you sure John?”
“Yes, Jasper. She told me ‘my heart or Nina’s’ I don’t think she could be much clearer. I think she wants one of our hearts literally.”
John ended the call as the ambulance pulled up to emergency. The wait in emergency was painfully long and Nina remained unconscious the entire time. Doctor Kenner eventually examined Nina’s head and said she would be out for awhile. Nina had a nasty gash on her scalp and the doctor stitched up the wound carefully. Doctor Kenner noted that Nina would need three or four weeks to heal from what he thought was a mild concussion. Dr Kenner ordered a CT scan and x-ray to be sure of Nina’s condition.
John set Nina’s shopping bags down by the window sill in her hospital room. He saw there were some different spices in one bag and a beat up apple pie in the other. He was starving and managing to procure a plastic fork, John ate half the pie. It was delicious, and was well worth the necklace he bought Nina. John had never bought a woman such a personal gift before, except Tia. He remembered having bought her a bracelet with an opal stone. Tia’s favourite colour was teal. She had been ecstatic when John given her the bracelet years ago.
“John it’s gorgeous. It reminds me of the ocean and the waves.” A young Tia had said to him admiring her wrist. “You have good taste.”
” I saw it and knew you would like it. It was in Tiffany’s.” John remarked, his hands tangled in Tia’s blond waves.
“Tiffany’s wow, it must have been expensive John. I love it. And I love being here on the beach with a bonfire and only us. No one for you to do business with. No brothers for you to rough house with and meet clients with. Just us, when we get married promise we’ll go to Greece, somewhere the water is santorini blue. . .”
“Oh, umm,” John said nervously. “I have a heaping pile of work to do for the next while and building Mergers right now is exceptionally important to my brother’s and I. It’s our dream you know. We’ll have to wait awhile. We can always have a good time as we are. I don’t need a piece of paper to say we’re a sure thing. We don’t need to be married yet.”
Tia sighed sadly, “If you say so John. In a year or two right?” Tia said holding up her bracelet and looking adorable.
John kissed her wrist, “Sounds about right, Tia.” He kissed her slowly by the bonfire.
It wasn’t long after Tia cursed John because Tia thought John was using her. Despite searching the lake for her in his sailing boat and inquiring about her from Tia’s old friends, John hadn’t seen Tia in eight years. When John saw Tia at the market she looked almost the same. Her skin was smooth and dewy and her hair was a sun-kissed blond. Only, her personality was colder. She was devious. She wasn’t an innocent girl anymore. John had helped cause her Tia to become hateful what she was today — vengeful. He felt guilty, despite how irate Tia made him feel for the curse she had caste on John.
John clasped the less expensive but beautiful pearl on the gold necklace he’d bought for Nina. The necklace lay around her neck as she slept. When he bought it for Nina he knew it was a gift for Nina which had more meaning to him then Tia’s expensive bracelet. He wanted Nina to be his ‘beloved’ as the charm on the necklace read. He wanted to do better with Nina and work was no longer such an interference in his life. He had enough money that he could take time off when he needed. In that moment, John realized he wanted a future with Nina. If he had it his way — a lifetime.
Rianne and Jasper arrived when visiting hours were almost over. Rianne wasn’t looking to well with her arm in a cast and sling. She was in pain but tried to be cheerful with Jasper at her side. Jasper had helped Rianne gather some clothes and personal items Nina would require in hospital for a few days. Rianne kissed Nina’s cheek and she brought home Nina’s spices from the market. John had finished the pie refusing to leave Nina before she woke up.
Nina awoke from unconsciousness later in the night. She was groggy as he took her hand and kissed her cheek.”John… is that you? I couldn’t find you. I looked but you were gone and this table it hit me and then my head was bleeding.”
“It’s okay Nina,” John said “I called an ambulance and you’re in a hospital room now. Doctor Kenner has ordered a CT scan and an x-ray but he thinks you should be yourself in a few weeks if you’re careful. You have a little concussion, that’s all.”
“Oh” Nina said softly,”I don’t feel good at all…so queasy.” John quickly grabbed a bedpan and Nina threw up. She wiped her mouth with some Kleenex John gave her.
“It’s going to take some time for you to heal Nina, take it slow, honey.” Nina smiled at the endearment and weakly brushed John’s hand with hers before letting her hand drop and resting back in bed.
“I intend to…” Nina whispered. She was going to sleep again when she mumbled, “Call my Mom. Call Heather –”
John sighed. Talking to Nina’s Mother for the first time to tell her Nina’s injured, great…
Nina counted to ten in her head before telling Talise what she had already told her about John before; he wasn’t the same person he used to be.
” Talise,” Nina said, “people change. John is repentant for his past. He doesn’t use woman anymore. He has only dated women who want to date him and he likes, in the past few years.Some relationships aren’t meant to be. He loved and lost his first girlfriend when he was twenty-five. John said the wrong words, as he sometimes does. He lost Tia forever and she disappeared. But he has paid for his mistakes with Tia everyday of his life.” Nina smiled meaningfully at Talise. “John and I make each other happy Talise. Every person deserves to be happy at least some of their life. All humans make mistakes and suffer the consequences. Better to enjoy life while we are able.”
Talise laughed darkly.” You think you and John are meant to be? Malcolm tells me you’ve only known each other not even a week at best.”
” I’m taking my relationship with John day by day. Our relationship has blossomed quickly. It’s none of your business actually. I’ve told you way more then I should have, but I feel bad for you because your stuck at a place in your life which was obviously a difficult time for you. But I believe it would be best for you to move on.” Nina cautioned Talise.
“I feel something life changing with John. I have never felt like this for any guy I’ve dated before, even when the relationship lasted a year or more. John feels the same as I do for him, for me.”
Talise flushed in anger. She was frustrated with Nina and upset Nina was ignoring her heartfelt advice.” Just leave,” Talise shouted at Nina. The people around Nina looked at Talise curiously when she shouted. Talise’s eyes were a stormy green and she looked murderous.
Nina glanced at the large door of the warehouse which remained open when the weather wasn’t too cold at the market. She smelled the distinctive scent of rain before it began to drop outside. It was noisy and harsh against the warehouse made from metal sheeting.
Nina moved away from Talise and closer to the entrance to see outside. The sky was taking on a blackish- purple hue. The wind was blowing against the building with bursts of intense noise and outside a storm awoke. Hard pebbles of hail clanged against the warehouse of the market. A few men struggled to close the metal doors to keep out the wind, hail, and rain.
Nina searched for John amidst the dismayed crowd. She spotted John and he was yelling at Talise. ” Tia is that you?” he asked with surprise and distress. “After all these years? You’ve finally come back to see me? To ruin my life more!” John loathed Tia for what she had done to him. Living a life where everyday something dreadful or sad happened was harsh.
John was a meter away from Nina in the crowded market but she could see he was transfixed by Talise. He was staring at Talise with a mixture of emotions on his face, his hands gripping his hair. She could see the expressions on John’s face as he went through the emotions of regret, pain, anger, and abborance.
Talise sauntered around her table of scarves to John and whispered something in John’s ear. Her actions were flirtatious and she touched John as a lover who knew him well. Nina felt the first stings of jealousy beginning to threaten but John’s manner towards Tia was stone cold. John wasn’t about to forgive Tia for all the suffering he, his family, and old girlfriends had endured. John backed up from Tia with revulsion and he looked for Nina fearful for her safety. When he saw Nina he realized she had observed his reunion with Tia, short for Talise.
“Stay away from that woman Nina,” John said rushing to Nina and sternly gripping her upper arms.”She’s a witch, a sea witch. I can’t believe it. After all this time . . .Tia is back, and you’re wearing one of her scarves!” John’s words were incensed and loud. He had to be loud to be heard over the storm battering the warehouse. John’s temper was making it difficult for him not to be irritated with Nina. The words flew out of Nina’s mouth as she tried to explain to John she was on his side.
” I didn’t know Talise was Tia. I meant her at the fundraiser yesterday. Talise told me she’s dating Malcolm, an editor at Mergers. It’s her friends scarves and she’s only filling in. I hope the vendor of the scarves booth is actually a friend. I hope Tia didn’t hurt the woman so she could be here to tell me to stop seeing you.” Nina said fervently.
“Tia keeps warning me away from you John. She told me bits about her relationship with you. She said you threw her away. I didn’t understand why I saw her at the fundraiser and here today, but I do now. If Talise is Tia, she hates you John. Time has only made her deteste you more.”Nina was talking so fast she had hardly breathed.
“You saw her at the fundraiser?” John said horrified. ” I knew she was there. But whenever I tried to get a look at her she turned away. She’s trying to reach me through you. Please don’t speak or be with her again alone Nina. Never, she’s cunning and desperate.” John warned.
“She hates you John. But at the same time, I think she wants you back. She is jealous of me, I can tell.”
“Of course Tia is jealous,” John raged. “She only wants for me to suffer. To live without another woman’s love until I die. I’m not going to do that. You and I, we have something together. Leave Talise or Tia to her schemes.” John was passionate as he spoke. Nina glanced behind her to see the beautiful Talise waving at Nina with a smirk on her face. Talise was probably gloating because Nina hadn’t figured out she was John’s first love Tia. Nina had even told Talise about Talise’s own past. Tia disappeared eerily into the crowd.
“What did Tia say to you John, when she was whispering. I saw her talking to you?” John grimaced and looked at his feet. He started to talk but couldn’t complete his words. He tried again with a look of frustration and sorrow in his bright blue eyes:
“She says my heart or yours, Nina. I don’t know what she means yet, but I think Tia has a violent streak. She wants revenge and she wants me back. Errrr….last night I had a nightmare. Tia was in it and she said to me the same phrase she whispered to me a few moments ago.” Nina gasped.
“Why is she still so angry at you John. You’ve suffered so much. How can she be so malevolent? Does she literally want my heart out of my chest?”
John nodded grimacing. He held Nina in his arms and stood behind her. He kissed the crown of her head. “I won’t let her hurt you,” John murmured over and over again, soothing Nina and himself. The storm raged on outside.
Without warning, the roof of the aluminum warehouse started to lift with a powerful gust of wind. The wind was blowing produce, goods, booths, and tables around the inside of the warehouse. The people at the market were left to huddle low to the ground and attempt to avoid debris the wind had picked-up. Many people sported cuts, bruises, and even broken bones. Nina glanced at John as smaller objects streamed around them. John had been gripping a couple of their bags full of produce in his hands, his knuckles white with anger as they crouched on the floor.
Abruptly, the table of scarves blew over. Scarves fluttered everywhere like displaced butterflies and the table was caught in another giant gust of wind. Everyone caught in the warehouse crouched low, their hands shielding their faces. Nina dove with her bags to the ground with John, when they were almost hit by a former fruit booth.
Nina looked around her hoping the worst was over. With fear in her pale blue eyes, she observed the table from the scarves making a pathway right for her before she could think to move. The table bashed Nina in the side of her head and landed on the cement floor. Nina was stunned and felt blood oozing from an open wound. She felt a searing pain as she lay on the floor miserably, her hand trying to stop the bleeding in her blond hair.
The storm passed away as fast as it had arrived. The roof sat awkwardly half-back in place on walls of the warehouse. Nina lay on the floor beneath her bags including John’s apple pie. She tried not to cry and held her head as she sat up feeling nauseous and sick. She felt dizzy as she attempted to locate John. This time, he hadn’t been able to protect her. But Nina had a feeling this event was more a product of Tia’s rage and not a product of John’s curse. Nina hurt everywhere and her eyes kept closing without her being able to stop them. Nina felt herself sliding back to the floor. She faded into unconsciousness.
Chapter 10: Waking Up at John’s House and The Nightmare
Nina awoke from a deep sleep. She was incredibly comfortable and spread out across the bed. She didn’t think she’d moved at all after she’d showered and gone to sleep. Remembering she was sleeping with John, Nina grinned and turned to look at him.
John appeared young and carefree as he slept.The slight laugh lines around his eyes weren’t as deep and the dark circles beneath his eyes were gone. His skin was smooth except where there was stubble. Nina had never seen John with a five o’clock shadow. Nina knew John kept up a pristine appearance for work and to look as if he had his life together. Sometimes clothes and other people’s perceptions of John’s careful grooming helped to keep people from finding out why certain events happened when John was in the vicinity.
Nina reached tentatively for John’s face and she stroked his whiskered cheek. She yawned and fell back on her pillows deciding she needed more sleep. Nina drifted and soon surrendered to her dreams.
The sun was in John’s eyes. It was annoying. He always kept the roman shade closed in his bedroom. The housekeeper must have put the blind up. Life left John with little but fires he had to keep putting out so he needed all the sleep he could get.
John felt Nina before he dreamed about her. The sensation of her hand stroking his stubbled cheek. He was afraid for her and thought he should tell her to go home before she ended up in the hospital; but to do that felt like an even worse idea.
Nina’s touch was special. John could feel the magnetic pull they felt with each other. His Nina. He dreamed of her soft long blond hair and cherub pink lips. He dreamed of her beautiful curves, her hips, her stomach, her breasts, and it made him want her. John dreamt Nina and he were sitting out in front of his house on the beach, sitting in anorak chairs.
The tide from the lake went in and out on the shore and was a soothing rhythm as he held Nina’s hand and stroked it. He wasn’t worried, he wasn’t afraid. Nothing problematic was going to happen. He enjoyed serenity for seconds.
Then the sky grew dark and the thunder clouds rolled in. Nina was begging him not to go into Sirene Lake. John kept telling her he had to go. And it was if his worst fears had come to life when Tia emerged from the water — gorgeous but deadly. A sea witch in a dress of blue and green scales. She had a dagger in her hand and she came close to his face brushing his cheek with hers and whispered: ‘your heart for hers.’
Tia was looking at Nina and telling him to choose. John wanted to save Nina. He chose her, but Tia only laughed and dragged John into the water. When she could swim with her mermaid’s tale, Tia drove the dagger through John’s heart. He could feel the pain so acute and agonizing.
John could hear Nina crying, wadding into Sirene Lake after him. And Tia was laughing malevolently and swimming further into the lake with John’s bleeding body where no one would see him again. Nina followed Tia and John. He realized Tia was leading Nina into deeper waters, where Nina could not swim. She was to die as well. John felt a pain stronger than Tia’s dagger to his heart, a searing pain that wouldn’t end. John blacked out.
John awoke from his nightmare in a cold sweat. He felt his heart beat rapidly where he was sure he had been stabbed or was having some kind of heart episode. But John’s heartbeat slowed and all he could feel with his hand was his bare chest, no bloody wound. John breathed deeply, realizing he had been holding his breath as he dreamt Tia had pulled him into the lake to drown him as he died from a stab wound. She had been attempting to drown Nina too. It took John a few minutes to realize he had only been experiencing a horrific nightmare.
John looked beside him and saw Nina was stretched across three-quarters of his king sized bed. He had been huddled in the last quarter of the bed she had left him. John thought he should be annoyed by Nina hogging his bed but he wasn’t. Nina was too cute to annoy him right now.
She looked peaceful as she slept. He knew Nina was about twenty-nine or thirty but she looked twenty-three with her face bare of makeup and her beautiful hair tangled about her head. Nina’s body was warm where it touched his. John sidled closer to Nina and stroked her pale hair away from her face. He kept stroking her cheek as he kissed her closed lips gently. He kissed her eyelids and the corner of her lips. John kissed her cheeks and began to trail wet kisses down her neck. He reached for the blue dress shirt of his Nina slept in, and began to unbutton the shirt.
Nina sighed in her sleep and her eyes flew open when he gently bit the place her shoulder and neck met. She opened her grey-blue eyes and smiled at him sleepily.
“Good morning.” John said “Funny I should find you in my bed. I think I’ll have to do something about that.”
Nina giggled and stretched her arms above her head. ” Way to take advantage of a poor defenceless woman. I wasn’t sure you’d take the bate,” Nina murmured. Her morning voice was croaky.
“How could I resist,” John mumbled kissing Nina where buttons had once covered her skin.He kissed Nina’s heart thinking back to his nightmare which he remembered so vividly: ‘Your heart or hers.’ Tia had said.
John had an inkling Tia might be making him a visit in person sooner or later. Such as he felt a terrible event which was going to occur around him, John felt sure Tia was coming to check up on him as she had threatened years ago. She’d be watching John, Tia had said. Last night if he was honest, he could have sworn he saw her a couple times at the fundraiser. He thought he was seeing things. Had Tia finally returned? He felt a pang of sorrow for the love he once felt for Tia. But after all she had put John through, all the suffering and broken relationships, he felt little but anger and bitterness towards Tia now. If she was here again it would be because of Nina, and Nina he was sure he could protect.
“John,” Nina asked him sitting up, “are you okay?”
“Fine. Great,” John said realizing he had stopped kissing Nina abruptly and was looking through her. He smiled at her rubbed her cheek. The situation needed to be remedied. He forgot about Tia for the moment. John’s life was full of Nina for the present. A spark was growing within him for her, a spark no past love could compare with. Whether John’s dream was a warning or not, he would protect Nina. He would keep her safe. Nina and John had only known each other over a week and he cared for her so much already. For now he would show her how he felt giving praise to her body and through it, her heart.
Nina sat on a barstool in John’s kitchen. She was eating scrambled eggs, breakfast sausage, and hash browns. She knew she was going to pay for all the calories she’d been ingesting this weekend when she went to the gym next week. Tiredly, she regretted she’d have to increase her cardio.
John and Nina hadn’t returned to John’s house until 2:00 am in the morning. At 4:00 am they’d showered and went to bed. As she ate breakfast in the afternoon, Nina went over the night’s events. The biggest aspects being meeting the strange young woman named Talise who said she had been a woman John had thrown away. Talise’s friend had loved John and John had forgot about her as well. Nina also thought about the fire. The smoke and fire damage which occurred to the beautiful venue the fundraiser had been held in and potential fatalities which might have occurred.
John sat on the stool beside Nina wearing sweatpants and nothing more. He devoured his breakfast while reading the Adare Gazette. He looked up at Nina now and then with a contented look on his face before reading the paper again. Nina spied a small story in the gazette about the fire at the Country club. She noticed John skipped over it with his eyes and pulled out the sports section.
” Edmonton won last night.” John muttered. “I’m kind of shocked. They’ve been winning quite a bit lately. I wonder if they’ll be playoff contenders.”
” Of course they will.” Nina chirped, “McDavid’s back.” John chuckled.
“Anything you want to do today Nina,” John asked.
“Well it would be fun to veg but I had planned on trying to go to the Farmer’s market downtown before it closes at 4:00 pm. It’s Winter so it’s inside this huge building and not outside, but it’s still pretty good. It’s 2 pm we could still make it .”
“Alright, I suppose that will be fun.” John said. She could tell John wasn’t much thrilled by the idea of going to the Farmer’s Market but Nina wanted to do coupley things with John and get to know him better, even if he didn’t always like what they were doing. Nina laid her head against John’s shoulder. She had finished eating and was content.
“You’ll like it. Fresh food. I will cook you a great supper,” Nina reassured John.
He smiled, “Okay deal.” But Nina could tell something was bothering John and he wasn’t saying what it was. As he had been when they were kissing in bed, John was distracted. Nina wished she knew by what.
It had been months since Graham had seen Allie. He missed her terribly. Allie’s kidnapper Jax had asked for increasingly more money in exchange for Allie.
Now here Graham was with ten-million-dollars in a drab duffle bag, waiting in the front of a big rig truck for Jax to come get the money. He did not know what Jax’s problem was. He remembered him from school and his day’s at Stanford University in Business. Jax was extremely competitive.
They had been friends once, but then Jax became exasperated one evening after Graham had picked-up a girl Jax had his eye on. He told Graham he was tired of how Graham’s family always paid for Graham and Graham never had to work for anything. Jax was tired of coming in second in everything in life to Graham. When Graham’s sister Cassandra, Jax’s on again off again girlfriend, dumped him for one of Graham’s other friends, Jax blamed Graham. Now Jax was a powerful criminal and Graham was at his mercy.
Graham waited and waited for Jax to come get the money so he would return his beloved Allie. But when Allie showed up with a gun pointed at Graham and took the money Graham was shocked. She hit Graham over the back of the head with the gun and darkness took him and his heart broke when he saw Allie through the window kissing Jax and riding off into the sunset without Graham.