Destiny, Roses & Romance
Part II: Chapter 51

Her skin was softer than he’d imagined.

His lips brushed her shoulder, still half asleep and trying to pretend he was still further gone than that.

She was breathing deeply, evenly, a smile on her lips as she dreamt, but of what he didn’t know. All he knew was that with his eyes closed they weren’t two people. They weren’t losing each other a little more as the minute hand marched forward.

They were just a tangled mass of warmth and love and flesh.

Too tangled to detect where he ended and she began, too warm to move from the bed and into the cold, too much in love to think of leaving.

There was a voice in the back of his mind calling him, and he tried to ignore it. Decided to pretend he couldn’t hear. But it was there, trying to force him to awaken, to tear himself away. A voice demanding a meeting, wanting it now.

With a troubled sigh, Rafe opened his eyes. Another kiss fell to her bare shoulder, then one on the top of her head. And despite the worries creeping back to him—sinking their teeth in and drawing his blood—he couldn’t stop the smile that came to him with the site of her sleeping form.

She slept with her mouth open, drooling just a little, the corner of her lips twisted into a smile. Her hair was as tasseled and tangled as it had ever been, off in every direction and across his pillow. But her hand was curled around his bicep, holding him close.

His fingertips danced across the small of her back in lazy circles absently, as he tried to calculate just how long he could stay here before ruffling feathers that he’d have to smooth down later.

Dawn was slowly slinking in, lighting up the room gradually. With his back to the window, he was content to watch the sunrise on her face. Too beautiful for words, how the darkness faded to bring daylight again, the knowledge in his blood—in the slayer that lay inside of him—that the evil was retreating, surrendering to the power of the sun. Soon it would be safer, without the demons that roamed the night, it gave him peace to know that she was less likely to fall to harm.

This had always been his favorite time of day. A time to have a drink and celebrate surviving another night. Because in his family, a lifetime was made of nights and the battle. Dawn marked another victory for a slayer, sunrise was loved because it meant another day.

Funny how his reason for loving it so much before came back now to bite him. Sunrise meant he was another day closer to losing her. Another day closer to dying again.  And even as he hated the sun for rising, he was falling in love with the way the early morning light fell across her features.

And he was struck with the knowledge that he’d do anything—give anything—just to be able to watch it again and again. To wake with her in his arms. Lost in the warmth and softness of her skin. Longing for the taste of her mouth but refusing to wake her.

Flashes of the night before were still lingering in his mind. Tongues dueling for control, not being able to breathe and not wanting to separate for a second, the fire of her flesh, her legs wrapped around him. The catch in her voice as she’d cried his name. Her fingers twined with his. Palm against palm, chest against chest, hearts beating wildly and almost in sync.

And knowing—with everything he was—knowing that Heaven didn’t compare.

In all his languages, all the words his mother cherished, he was left blank when searching for an adequate description.

She was his everything. Heart, mind, soul.

Every thought he had, every idea, every word that whispered inside his mind was all about her. Wanting her. Needing her. Searching for another way to stay. Loving her. Loving this feeling. Not ever wanting to leave the safety net of this bed and her arms. A war of the devil and the angel inside of him, to sign or not to sign.

It was a useless war. She was his mind, she’d made his choice.

This petite blonde held his heart inside of her hand, clutched it tightly with her slender fingers. Clutched it so tightly her fingernails, long and painted a pale pink, left tiny half moon shapes, made it bleed and still he wanted more.

They were soul mates, two halves of one soul that fit like two puzzle pieces that belonged together. It was a silly concept, one he’d snorted at multiple times when Nadia’s addiction to trashy paperback romance novels created a discussion. But it was true, he believed it now, knew it as fact. They were created for each other.

But somehow, when someone had decided to take destiny by the reigns, fate got messed up.

And they got screwed of the opportunity to live happily ever after like the books declared.

Life is pain. He remembered chuckling when Ela had told him that, back when he was still naive enough to believe her when she said that she wouldn’t do anything stupid. He’d thought she was joking, or maybe he’d only hoped because it took so much energy to explain away her bloodshot eyes. But he could see, after he died, the truth of the statement. Or maybe he saw it before that, but things blurred and he couldn’t be sure.

Life was pain. No one on this Earth was completely without it. And he knew it, could see it in people when he walked down the street, could sense it up there, read about it in all his case files. Living was just one big long stretch of pain and heartbreak. Emptiness, miscommunication, loneliness, yearning, wanting, never receiving, screaming, crying, loving, losing, fighting, screwing… The world was just one big pit of despair and an eternity battling people’s emotions wasn’t going to change that. Life. Was. Pain.

But, God, he wanted it back.

He wanted the cold back, wanted to burn his tongue on hot chocolate, wanted to twist his ankle fighting, wanted to sport a black eye because Nadia had days where she could kick his ass when they sparred. He wanted Alison to break his skin when she ran her nails down his back, he wanted to feel the sting later in the shower and flashback to that moment. He wanted the pain, the heartache, the life he kept getting a taste of only to have it yanked from his hand.

Wanted it so much it hurt.

The angel in his head sighed, pouted, and picked that time to play the big guns. ‘You can’t love her without a soul!’ it shouted, forcing him to pay attention, listen to reason.

He wasn’t going to sign it. He couldn’t. She was the one that stirred his soul, the one that took possession of it the first time she’d laughed in his presence. What right did he have to sell what didn’t even belong to him in the first place? And did he really want to be the thing he fought against his entire life? Did he wanted to let something soulless near this beautiful, perfect, innocent woman?

Alison sighed softly, contentment lacing the sound, shifted in her sleep and smiled just a little wider. And he could feel it against his skin. Her hand uncurled, sliding up his arm, causing him to take a deep breath. She fought for a second to wake up, then seemed to give up the urge as her hand settled flat against his back and he relaxed into her embrace.

“God,” he prayed, his voice not even a whisper. “Please give me strength.”

That’s what it all came down to. It wasn’t right or wrong. It wasn’t for her or for him. It wasn’t even did he love her enough or not. What it all came down to, was whether or not he was strong enough to walk away from her.

Was he strong enough to taste her, to hold her much longer, to have another morning like this and not drown in everything that he desired most in life and then in death? Was he strong enough to turn away from his every fantasy in order to let her led the life she deserved?

The voice was growing louder, more demanding and he knew it was time to go. But leaving her was hard, and it just kept getting harder. When the night finally came, it was going to be impossible.

Gently, determined not to wake her, he untangled his hand from her hair. Slowly, so as to savor every second of contact their skin had, he pulled away from her. Until his feet were on the floor and he was pulling on a pair of jeans.

That damn demanding voice was getting impatient. A shower would have to wait. Grumbling quietly to himself, he stood and finished a quick version of getting ready.

They used to have to do this all the time. Get up at a moments notice and be ready to go, ready to battle before a cup of coffee. And he used to be able to do it, didn’t take him ten minutes to be ready to fight whatever it was that needing to be fought, to protect whoever needed protecting. He could still remember the first time they’d had to do that drill, a teaching tool of his fathers. Nadia had stood at the bottom of the stairs, just barely twelve, still in her nightgown with her hands on her hips, threatening his father within an inch of his life if he ever tried that again.

She’d never gotten over that attitude when she had to rush. Always was more brutal in the fight because she was in a bad mood. That girl never had a good day that didn’t start with breakfast. And James never did that drill again, because if he was afraid of anything in his life that wasn’t death it was Nadia.

Shaking the memories from his head, Rafe smiled, missing his cousin and hating the flashes he’d been getting since coming to this town. Because she was his constant, his conscious from time to time, and the one that knew what was right, always without fail. She was the better of them, and she would know what he should do right now.

Boots in his hand, Rafe crossed back to the bed in socked feet and placed a kiss on his love’s forehead before walking into the living room. Only then did he pull on his boots, not bothering to tie them, and scribble a note just in case he didn’t get back before she woke up. With a sigh, he grabbed his coat as he slipped out the door.

He could just do a neat little transport thing, but he wanted to walk. His meeting could wait, he didn’t want it anyway. The sun was shining by now, bright across the white snow, though soon the snow would become the gray slush like it only could in cities. And there was a metaphor hidden in that, but he was far too tired to mull over it.

It was still so early, snow birds could be heard, and the streets were deserted. The few travelers actually going home, to rest in their warm beds after staying out all night some for work and some for play, and very few knew just how closely those two could be twined. Rafe smiled, hands buried in his pocket and the blue sky cloudless above him. Because, God, he’d never enjoyed a job more than this one. Long lost family and the woman that should have been his forever.

They’d been up most of the night, playing, talking, teasing. No more tears because they didn’t do a damn bit of good and if you wanted something in this world or any other you had to fight for it. She’d laughed, the sound something like music, her eyes bright, more alive than he could remember them being since he’d bumped into her and her overcooked muffins. And it seemed like a lifetime ago, and it seemed like he’d just left the bike shop with a smile all at the same time.

He figured maybe it was love that made him feel this way. Because moping wasn’t going to get him anywhere and he would like to think of himself as above it.

Most of the snow had been cleared from the streets, sand and salt replacing it. Occasionally, piles of gray and brown littered snow were on the sidewalk in front of him, forcing his attention to be somewhat kept on his surroundings, pulling him from the damn haze that was equal parts regrets, joy and wishful thinking. All parts Alison.

He’d always loved the winter, not here in this city, in this country even. But he remembered once with Nadia, skiing… somewhere, he’d forgotten the name of, just barely old enough to remember if he didn’t have death blocking his mind. The snow seemed to go on forever, and they’d laughed and thrown snowballs ‘til their hands were numb, and that was when his father decided Nadia had it. The ability to slay. Or at the very least damn perfect aim.

She blamed herself for his death, and he’d always known that she would. His best friend in the world and he missed her like mad because he’d finally found everything they’d searched their entire lives for, the light at the end of the endless darkness that was their existence, and she wasn’t even here to know it. And she was too wrapped up in guilt to find it for herself, for the both of them.

Alison was in their bed, naked beneath the covers, and he was out in the snow, walking towards a meeting that could very well be his doom. And anything would be better than thinking of her face if he didn’t return. Faded, stinging memories might just cut it for now, but soon enough it wouldn’t be enough.

There wasn’t enough to think of to not think of her, she’d taken him over so completely.

So his thoughts jumped, bounded around all over the place. Eyes searching for anything to catch his attention, but not, he assured himself, to sooth his nerves. Walking nearly blindly to a meeting he knew nothing about. He wasn’t sure he was ready for what was about to come, and he hated being unprepared.

It went against all his training. Being almost unaware of his surroundings, with nothing to protect himself from what would undoubtedly come when he was least ready for it.

Rafe stopped across the street from the entrance to the park, his eyes finally catching on something that caught up and rang in his mind, getting his full attention for a moment at least.


And Kevin.

Lucy and Kevin together. Kissing.

He grinned, almost laughed, gave himself a mental pat on the back and went to another entrance so as not to disturb them. Especially since Lucy had been so kind as to do the same for him. Although, that did explain why she hadn’t been waiting outside the bedroom door demanding to know if he was staying or not the minute he’d walked out of there.

He wished he knew the answer to that.

Could he really do it? Love her and leave her?

“You don’t have to, you know.”

Stopping a few feet short of his father, Rafe shrugged, eyes not landing on the other man. “I know.”

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