“I don’t have anybody. Not friends, nor family. I believe I can say that I have you now though, Miss Blackcrest?”
Ana turned her hand over, palm up, to hold his hand, squeezing it gently when he touched hers, asking if he had her. And did he? Her gaze would remain upwards, still on the stars in the night sky, telling him in return that her family had all been murdered, all but one, her sister, who was such because they shared a father, although neither of them had known of the others existence until just a few short months earlier.
“We’re but a shadow of what we were though, the Blackcrests.”
And she was aware that she was stalling answering his question. Why was she doing that? She knew the answer already, and it was on the tip of her tongue, but still she allowed herself a moment to think over just why he did have her, and why she would now do anything for him, be anything for him. It seemed impossible that she would even be feeling this way at all. After all that she had been through in the last year.
She’d found her first love, her reason, her purpose for living. And look how that had ended. It had all been a lie. A careful series of manipulations, of creative and masterfully crafted lies and deceptions. That one, that man, had been like a drug dealer, but all that he sold, the addictive drug of love, had been a lie, and once she’d had a small taste of it, she was hooked, going back for more, over and over again, until there was a point of no turning back, and she’d lost herself. He’d been everything, and said everything that she wanted to hear. Until it was all ripped away, leaving her in a devastated state of withdrawal, utterly broken and desperate for the fix she could no longer get her hands on again.
And who was to say that this man was any different? Couldn’t he also be conveniently giving her what she needed, at moments when it was most opportune to do so as part of some kind of hidden agenda of his own? After all, he had saved her life, taken her in, given her refuge, fed her desires and caused her to dare to hope that she had found something real.
This is a dangerous game, Ana.
Still, recklessly, perhaps, it was a game that she wanted to play. She turned to him, smiling and answered simply, and honestly.
“You have had me since the very first morning that I woke up in your arms.”
The morning after the night before. The night when they’d sat at his dinner table, having a meal together, a stew that he’d cooked himself, the fine wine that she’d consumed far too much of. The intoxication that she’d felt not just from the wine itself, but by his very presence. His voice, his movements, his entire being.
“You know, back on that ship, I’ve never felt so pathetic … and weak. Do you even know how embarrassed I was with the was I reacted to that whole ordeal?”
“I didn’t see you as pathetic, Miss Blackcrest. You were in need of a hand, I offered one to you, and you took it. You were hungry and worn out. There is no need for you to ever feel pathetic.” His voice, sinfully deep, rolled across his tongue as a seductive purr. She wasn’t imagining that, was she? Was it just him, was it the wine, or was it simply just both that made her perceive things the way that she did at that moment?
She leaned back in her seat, the towel she wore loosening a little, but she might as well not have even been aware of her current state of semi undress, for the way he made her feel just by looking at her in the way that he was now, and she stretched languidly for a moment before straightening up again, her eyes not on the food now, or the drink, or even the surroundings, but on him. She licked her lips slowly as she drank in the deep tone of his voice, and picked up the wine glass in front of her, still watching him as he warned her not to drink it too quickly. But it was good, and she was thirsty for more of it, of the food, of all of … this. And something else that she couldn’t quite identify.
“Mmm, “she hummed, after swallowing some more of the sweet wine, “well, I’m grateful that you did. I feel so much better.” And she grinned at him, her eyes sparkling, more animated than she had been in days.
A large smirk crossed his features, and while his poise remained reserved and he kept his distance for now, his eyes were on her frame, no doubt watching the towel dangerously close to slipping from her body, and she knew it, yet didn’t care.
“You’re a fascinating woman, Miss Blackcrest. Has anybody ever told you that? There’s more to you than meets the naked eye. Your soul is … not just any soul.”
“Mmm, “she hummed again, a huge grin crossing her features, “Do tell me about my soul. What do you see?”
He tapped a poetic rhythm against the top of his cane with his fingers, pausing for a moment to think.
“You’ve been graced with fine features. A gorgeous face. A stunning figure. But that is something one appreciates in passing, or … in other sinful activities, “that seductive purr again, before he continued, “your soul has played many lives of all different measures, and it’s knowledge now manifests in this woman, Miss Blackcrest. There’s a certain aura about you … it’s addictive. But it seems so lost. Perhaps not in a confused form but lost in a way that it is wanting something. It’s craving something…”
He leaned in closer then and in response she leaned forward in her seat, folding her arms on the table so that she could rest her chin on her hands, eyeing him a little closer.
“It’s craving something, yes, it is. You’re right, “and her own voice now held a similar seductive tone to it, but she was either unaware of it, or uncaring. “Are you … “she licked her lips again, looking at the wine glass in front of her hands, again empty, but this time she didn’t move to pour herself another. The giddiness had set in now, and if she drank more she would then have to chase it up with more food to counteract the slightly drunk feeling she now had, and she couldn’t possibly fit in one more bite. She chewed on her bottom lip instead, and then asked him.
“Is this the part where you tell me exactly what that is?”
“This is the part where you realize that your towel is falling off, but you carelessly ignore it on purpose. Afterwards, the fabric will fall from your form and you’ll likely engage to straddle me in this chair where I sit now. And then … “a wicked grin crossed his features, “and then, that will be the part where I give you exactly what it is that you crave, Miss Blackcrest.”
And sitting there on that bench, near the Walk of Elders, under the night sky, she turned to look at him, pressing her palm to his cheek when he leaned down to kiss her, and when she pulled away she
swallowed any doubt or fear that she might have felt, even if it was fleeting and voiced the words that she felt she needed to. If this was a game, one in where the loser was determined by who said those words first, then she was happy to forfeit the game.
She wasn’t even aware that he was talking when she interrupted him.
“One could argue that it’s never too soon, “he kissed the tip of her nose, and then their noses and foreheads were resting together, “but it isn’t a decision time can make. It is a decision you and your heart make, and if you believe it is …” Her words caused him to stop, blinking at her, looking surprised, as if what she said was the last thing that he’d ever expected from her, and she wondered if, despite what he said, that it was too soon, but then he tilted his head, smiling at her, and said,
“I can honestly say that I love you too, Anaveya.”