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Instantly I drop the clothes and run to his side. “Bridge? Bridge, are you alright?”
I raise him in my arms, wondering again at how light he is. It’s as if his bones are hollow. Is it because he is fey?
“He fell, Luma. There was nothing we could do; no time. He was standing watching you and then suddenly he just fell.”
“He exhausted himself. I should have stopped it. I should have known this would happen. He really doesn’t have the energy for something like this.”
“Is he going to be alright?”
“For now, I think so.” He is already stirring, the long, long lashes fluttering as he sighs deeply and nestles his head into my shoulder.
I look up at Star. I don’t need to say anything, they all know the score.
“What happened?” Bridge whispers into my neck as I carry him back into the house.
“You overdid things, just like I said you would. You passed out.”
He sighs. “I’m tired, Luma.”
“That doesn’t surprise me.”
“No… I’m tired, Luma. I can’t…”
“Ssh… It will be fine, Bridge. You’re going to be okay.”
“Will you stay with me tonight?”
“Of course I will.”
“We all will.” Star says impulsively and I glance at him. He drops his eyes and turns away. I feel like I’ve swallowed glass.
Bridge is asleep by the time we get to the bedroom. He wakes briefly when I tuck him under the covers and he even makes a real effort to talk to us but it isn’t really working, he’s exhausted and incoherent and it is a huge relief for him when I lie down next to him and gently stroke his hair and shoulder.
“Go to sleep now.”
“Sorry? What on earth are you sorry for?”
“Being so much trouble.”
“No matter what you do you could never be trouble to me, little one. You are a light that illuminates my life. I would do anything to keep it shining brightly.”
He gives me a strange look and does his best to smile. “I know,” he whispers, “but…”
“Ssh.” I touch his lips with my finger. “There is no but. Sleep, and tomorrow you will be feeling much better.”
“Right here; all night.” I lean forward and breathe as much sweetness as I can muster into him, holding him close as he sinks into sleep.
Afterwards, I can’t let him go. I breathe in his sweet smell and listen to his soft sighs and let myself fill with him. I hadn’t realised I was crying until I feel Star’s arms slide around me and his light kisses on my hair. Although I don’t want to let go he draws me slowly and carefully away from Bridge and into his arms.
When I feel his arms around me and his warm, silk covered chest under my cheek and I think how different he is to Bridge who is always so cold, the pain washes over me in wave after wave of sorrow and I weep. Star cradles and sooths me like a child and for once I am happy to let go the control and allow him to.
Shockingly I fall asleep in his arms. I don’t do that. I don’t cry myself to sleep and I don’t let myself be weak and most of all I don’t fall asleep in the arms of someone who is protecting me, taking care of me, loving me.
I wake up in the darkness of the night and find that I am still in his arms as he sleeps. Careful not to wake him I slide out from under him and stand up. Bridge is still fast asleep in Sacha’s arms and they both look peaceful. Bridge even has a slight smile on his face and it tugs at my heart.
Unable to bear the confines of the room any longer I go out into the garden and breathe deeply the fragrant night air. I feel feverish. I have never been so reluctant to see the sun rise. I walk and wonder. Would it really be so bad to just leave him to recover his strength for another day? Wouldn’t it be possible just to give him a little energy, just a boost to help him withstand the rest of the treatments? And besides, he’s surprised me every day, he’s so much stronger than he looks. He’ll be able to withstand one more… won’t he? If I could just have one more day, one more chance. I will take the chance and finish it today. If he is strong when he wakes I will end it. I will take the sickness away completely and if…
The touch on my shoulder makes me jump. When I turn I have to bite back a cry of shock. It is absolutely the last person I would ever have expected.
“I saw you walking alone and wondered if you wanted some company.”
“I… I thought you would have been in bed long since.”
“I thought you knew me better than that.”
Despite myself I have to smile. We fall into step side by side and the comfortable silence of old friends falls between us.
“So what are you brooding about this time? As I remember it the last thing you got this worked up about was the First World War… and before that the French Revolution.”
“They got in the way of my plans for world domination.”
“There is only one thing you have ever sought to dominate, and that’s not really a ‘thing’ at all is it?”
I give him a piercing look and he returns it with his wide eyed, innocent smile.
“You were always too perceptive.”
“Me? Perceptive? You have to Aksaray Escort be joking.” The innocent smile doesn’t slip for a moment.
“I never joke about things like that.”
“No. You have never been one for jokes, although you used to smile more.”
“I used to have more to smile about.”
“No you didn’t. You’ve never had more to smile about, not ever.”
“You’re talking through your arse.” I grind out.
“Oh my, aren’t we waxing lyrical this morning?”
“I don’t feel very lyrical.”
We walk on in silence until we reach the rose garden. He pauses to touch the petals of a red rose. “It’s beautiful isn’t it?”
“The rose; it’s beautiful.” He picks it and holds it delicately to his nose. He is truly beautiful in the pale pre dawn light and the smile on his face is gentle and sweet. “It smells as beautiful as it looks.” He holds it in the palm of his hand and offers it to me. Puzzled I reach for it but before I can touch it he closes his hand and crushes it. I stare in shock as rivulets of blood trickle through his fingers. He smiles.
“Beauty like this is captivating but fleeting and when it’s crushed it makes you bleed, when it wilts it’s even worse because then there is no blood, there is only dust. Is it better to not let it grow close to your heart; to turn away from the garden and stop smelling its sweetness? Or is it better to open your heart to be torn to shreds by the thorns?”
He pauses, looking at me. “Are you really expecting me to answer that?” I snap.
The direct, piercing look continues for a long moment and then he smiles. He opens his hand and the smell of crushed roses rises into the night air. It makes me feel sick. Then he purses his pretty lips and blows gently on his hand. I blink as a crowd of delicate pink butterflies rise and I follow them with my eyes as they soar into the sky.
“What is that supposed to mean?”
“You know the answer. You’ve always known the answer, but even when you were told you wouldn’t accept it. You can’t do it on your own, you never could.” I lower my eyes to meet his as he slides his arms around me and I stare into his baby blue eyes.
“What are you?”
He smiles, his lips parting as he draws closer. It seems as if his eyes are growing larger and larger, dominating my vision and I am hardly breathing when our lips meet. He is like a peach; soft, rounded and smooth on the outside, but with a centre of stone.
His lips leave mine and wander down to the base of my throat making me tremble. I gasp as he kisses me, slowly and with incredible sensuousness. I let my head fall back, feeling dizzy. “What are you?” I find myself asking again.
“Think of me as your guardian angel,” he whispers into my neck, his lips and breath tickling the sensitive skin, “here to stop you making the biggest mistake of your life. It’s up to you Lumin’el. You’ve been on your own too long, the question is will you realise it in time; will you end this day with a handful of crushed rose petals or a cloud of butterflies flying for the moon.”
“I…” Before I can speak I find myself falling backwards to the sound of soft laughter. My last thought was ‘How does he know my name?’ and then… and then…
I open my eyes and blink in the bright sunlight. I am lying in Star’s arms. How did I get here? Was it a dream? Confused I slide carefully out from under Star’s arm. He stirs but doesn’t wake. The other two are fast asleep, just as they had been the last time. I stand looking down at them and I now have two things to be concerned about.
With a sigh I turn and walk out of the room. The sunlight is streaming through the windows and it is going to be another beautiful day. I take a quick shower and dress simply. It’s still only eight o clock so I wander aimlessly for a while and find myself outside a door. I put my hand on it to open it and then I pause and knock. A surprised voice calls, “Come in.”
He’s lying on the bed; ankles crossed, arms behind his head, staring out of the window. As usual, every flat surface, including the floor is scattered with paper and discarded clothes. The door of the wardrobe is open spilling more clothes onto the floor. The television is buried under a pile of clothes and the computer is about to vanish under the papers stacked on the desk. Something crackles when I take a step inside and I bend to pick up a piece of paper. It bears a water colour painting of a pink butterfly, so delicate and so detailed I could swear it is about to fly away.
I gently place it on a nearby table and look around at the rest of the papers that have been scattered around seemingly haphazardly. They are all paintings, all of individual subjects, all in watercolour and ink in shades of lilac and pale pink. There is a rose, a five pointed star with flowers at each point, an angel, a claw, a chalice… frankly they creep me out and I can’t really say why.
Shuffling the paintings together I place them carefully on the table with the butterfly while he watches me thoughtfully. I glance around the room. The only part of it that is neat Aksaray Escort Bayan and organised is the part he uses as an art studio. There is an easel, a set of drawers that house paper, paints, pencils and various other things I ignorantly think of as useless tat. He is a talented artist, but careless with his work.
“What have you been working on?” I know him well enough that, when I see work scattered in some kind of order on the floor I know he has been spending time sitting cross legged on the bed frowning at them.
“I don’t know.” He shrugs. “It came to me but now it’s done I don’t know what it means.”
“They’re very beautiful.” I pick up the rose and stare at it. I can almost smell it. I trace the delicate petals with my finger.
“Did you come here to discuss my art, My Lord?” He always gives a very slight emphasis to the ‘My Lord’ that, coupled with the hint of a smile on his face, makes it sound as if he’s mocking me. Maybe he is.
“Much as I would like to discuss your art and much as I realise how long I’ve neglected doing that…” I suddenly find myself caught up with my own words and I raise my eyes again to really look around me. The walls are covered with artwork in different mediums, often pinned carelessly; overlapping, complimenting, clashing. With the mounds of clothes the room is a cacophony of colour and…
Something is bothering me. Something about the art… the colour, the subjects. Something is screaming at me but I can’t see it.
I drag my eyes back to the boy who is smiling at me with a look in his eyes that, for some reason, makes me shiver.
“I’m sorry. I got… distracted. Was it you?”
He raises an eyebrow. “Was what me?”
“You know what I’m talking about.”
“Uh oh, that sounds serious. What am I supposed to have done now… My Lord?” He’s playing with me. I have often had this feeling with him before and nothing has changed, but this time I am watching and it is clear. I look into his big blue eyes, gazing innocently up at my through his thick lashes and his perfect lips lifted in a slightly mocking smile and suddenly I laugh.
“What are you?”
The smile slips from his lips and his eyes stop mocking me, filling instead with a smouldering look that makes my own smile vanish. I shiver. An enormous natural force is rising up in front of me and I feel like a butterfly pinned to a board.
He stares into my eyes and lifts a hand to touch my cheek, making me shiver. “You’ve asked me that before,” he whispers through those beautiful soft lips that I suddenly want to kiss so badly I can taste it.
“You never answered me.”
He circles me and I turn with him, like dancers in a sensual tango. “I think I did.”
“So it was you… in the garden?”
He stops circling and brushes his lips over mine, making me tingle. “Who else?”
“You said you are my guardian angel.”
He smiles a strange smile. “I have a strange sense of humour.”
“Everything about you is strange.”
“Not everything.” He kisses me harder, smelling of smoke and roses. His hands press against my back and I swear he is drugging me with his breath.
“Ssh,” he murmurs without taking his lips from mine. I feel his tongue slip into my mouth and then everything… changes. The room seems to melt into a kaleidoscope of swirling colour and the only thing that is stable is his face, his eyes. I feel as if he is lifting me and then I am lying down and he is on me, skin against skin. His lips… his wonderful soft lips are roving over my body and his tongue flicks fire into me.
“Relax, My Lord. This is my time. Open to me.” This time there is no mistaking the mockery, or the command in his voice. A kernel of doubt worms in my mind. When I spoke to Astaria and Star of the companion who has been with me the longest, it is him. He has been at my side for more than three hundred years. When I took him he was a boy of eighteen and now… he still looks like a boy of eighteen. What if… what if when I took him he only seemed to be eighteen? What if…?
“What if I really am your guardian angel?” He slides up my body like a snake and presses his lips against mine. “After all… you named me yourself.”
I try to speak but I can’t, and then I lose my ability to form coherent thoughts as he raises his hips and slides his hand between us, sending me spinning on a journey such as I have never been on before. Occasionally, I am aware of his face, his eyes unblinking and wide, his lips curving, his tongue… oh Hel the things that tongue is doing to me.
Gradually, the swirling colours change. At first they are blue and green and purple, shot through with dark reds and black, but they slowly change and the red becomes crimson and the black turns spiky, striking sparks and igniting flames in my guts. I burn. Oh Hel I burn.
I become aware of a desperate grunting noise interspersed with whimpers and I gradually come to realise that it is me. My body is on fire, shaking uncontrollably. I have never been out of control of my Escort Aksaray body before and I am not sure I entirely like it.
“Of course you like it.” The sweet voice whispers in my ear. “Or at least you’re about to.”
The world explodes and my gut turns to fire. I feel him enter me but it feels huge, as if it is no longer our bodies that are joined but two worlds, worlds of fire, worlds of heat, worlds of… of…
He rides me hard and fast, his head thrown back, his hair cascading in waves of gold down his back. His skin is sunkissed, sparkling with a diamond sheen. He is a god, a creature of legend a… a…
“It’s taken a while,” he says smiling down at me his angel face surrounded by golden flames, his eyes exploding, each pupil a supernova, a galaxy of exploding stars. For a moment time stops, the earth stops spinning, the universe holds its breath. For a moment we are suspended in nothing. For a moment he is as big as a planet, as wild as the wind, as beautiful as a mother’s smile.
And then it all crashes back and he plunges into me and triggers a climax I swear shakes the foundations of the house.
I lie, gasping for breath like a fish out of water and slowly become aware of someone stroking my chest. Two realisations hit me… I am naked and I am naked with Him.
“What…?” I gasp looking up into his eyes. Serif smiles a gentle smile that is more open than any I have ever seen on his face.
“But… But how…? Why? Why did you never say anything?”
“You weren’t ready to hear.”
“But… you have been with me for over three hundred years. How have you hidden it for so long?”
“I haven’t,” he says smiling. “I never hid anything; you just chose not to see.”
“But you have… you must have…”
“You’ve tasted my blood, Luma. I’ve seen it in your eyes that you have always known, from the start, that I am not human. When you drained me yesterday you knew you had gone beyond what a human could recover from. You knew from the moment you raised your head that I should have been long dead. You knew… you just didn’t want to see.”
“What would you have done, Luma? Three hundred years ago, what would you have done if I had said to you that I am as you are; if I had shown you what lies in my soul? Would you have taken me to your breast? Would you have loved me? Would you have kept me with you? Two hundred years ago? A hundred; fifty; ten? What would you have done a year ago, Luma?”
I look away but he forces my face back to look into his eyes. “What would you have done, Luma,” he asks softly. “Would you have run?”
I shake my head and tell the truth. “No. I would have fought you to the death.”
He smiles. “I would have expected nothing else.”
“What changed? Why now? Why have you revealed yourself now?”
“I told you, Luma, I have never hidden. You were the one who was hiding. It wasn’t me who changed; it was you.”
“Much as I would like to believe that, I know it isn’t true.” I smile and reach up to touch the wonderful spun gold hair. Now I know, I can see it, of course I can, of course I always have. I can practically see the shadow of wings on his back. “Are you first generation?” I ask, not really knowing why.
“Depends what you mean by that. I was there when you fell but I didn’t stand by you in the fall. I didn’t believe what you believed; not then. I wasn’t banished. I was a spoiled child, a cosseted spoiled brat. I thought I knew everything.”
He climbs off me and lies down at my side, making himself comfortable and wrapping a blanket around us. “I did.” A thousand years is a long time; five, six. I grew up. Things didn’t stop when you left, they carried on and they didn’t get any better. The Council got more and more powerful and they used the threat of what happened to you to quell any kind of resistance.
“Over time they became corrupt.” He laughs shortly. “No, they were already corrupt, but after you were banished there was no one left to show up the corruption. There were others who saw and, as the centuries wore on there were more and more and they started to speak up.” He frowns and gives me an appraising look, then continues.
“At first the Council tried to quash the rebellious talk. They got harsher and harsher until it was practically a dictatorship and people lived in fear. It couldn’t last. There were outbreaks of rebellion, wars if you like, and the Council kept coming down harder and harder on anyone who spoke against them. One of them was my best friend…” He hesitates. “My lover. He just couldn’t keep quiet anymore and he had to confront the injustice.”
He pauses again and his eyes are bright with tears. “They ‘made an example’ of him. They… took him into the square in front of the temple and stripped him. They beat him and humiliated him… and then… then they burned him.”
“Yeah. Yeah I am a Seraph. I didn’t take part but my friends and family did. The people I loved and trusted did. The people I looked up to; that I cared for; that had reassured me and comforted me… they all did. They wanted me to take part. They demanded that I help destroy the one person who had ever touched my soul. They threatened me and warned me, segregated me and constantly chipped away at my resolve.
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