Fatima sat on the front porch as she watched Lombard put his suitcase into the trunk of the car. She felt really sad that her father was sending him off to acquire a piece of property in Venice. She rested her chin on her knees, wanting to cry. He came over to her, dropping down on one knee so he could look her in the eye. “Why so sad?” He asked and she felt her lower lip tremble. How could she tell him she loved him and wanted him, that she had dreams about him every night.
“I don’t want you to go. Why is daddy sending you and not going himself?” A tear slipped down her face and he brushed it away.
“Because he is still dealing with the Rutherford’s and his business here. He trusts me to get the job done in a timely manner.”
She wrapped her arms around his neck, wanting to kiss him before he left, but unable to do so. He gave her a squeeze and then pulled back to look into her eyes. “Just hurry back and be careful.”
“I will, I promise.” He stood and got in the car. She had to cover her mouth with her hand to keep from calling him back. He smiled one more time before the car pulled away.
Lombard felt himself grow suddenly depressed at the thought of leaving Fatima behind. His heart ached, a lump rose in his throat. She had grown into such a beautiful woman with a warm and loving heart. He wanted her with him, wanted the chance to tell her how he had started to fall in love with her. He frowned, feeling ashamed. He had watched her grow up from a baby, had been the second man to hold her after she was born. Now he lived and breathed her, hung on her every word and did anything she asked him. He ran his fingers through his hair and tried so hard not to think about her.
She went back inside after she had finished crying. She went to her room and flopped down on her bed, burying her face in her pillow. She wanted him to come back, wanted to curl up next to him on her bed and fall asleep in his arms. There was a tapping on her door and then it opened. It was her mother with a glass of chocolate milk. “Hey sweety, are you alright?” Ruth asked as she closed the door and sat down on the edge of the bed.
“No, I’m very sad.” She answered.
“He’ll be back honey.”
She sat up and took the glass of milk from her mother. “Can I tell you something and will you promise not to tell dad?”
“Of course baby, it’ll stay between just you and me.”
She took a drink and then sat the glass down on her table. She cleared her throat and grabbed her wolf. “I think I love Lombard.” Her mother just sat there with a smile on her face and that twinkle on her eye. “Well, say something.”
“Oh honey, I knew that. The way you’ve been looking at him lately. I’m surprised you haven’t jumped him yet.” She replied.
“What? He’s an attractive man and you are an attractive young woman. These things happen.”
“So you don’t think it’s weird because, you know, he helped raise me?”
Her mother shook her head and patted her on the knee. “No dear, I don’t. You are both adults and what you do is your business. Now, have you told him how you feel?”
“No, I can’t. He looks at me like I’m still that same sweet little girl. He’s not interested and I don’t want to freak him out and make him move away.” She hugged her wolf tightly to her.
“All in good time then. You’re going to have to find something to do for the week though instead of pining over him. Go out and have some fun tonight. Ask Deana to go dancing.”
She nodded then hugged her mom. “Thanks for listening and remember you can’t tell dad.”
“You are very welcome and I promise I won’t say a word.” She left Fatima’s room. She decided her mom was right. She had to take her mind off Lombard for the week if she was going to function. She ran downstairs and called Deana. She answered and Fatima asked her to go clubbing tonight. She said yes and that she would be by at nine.
Lombard sat on the plane, his mind drifting to Fatima. He wanted kiss her lips, touch her soft skin. He stared out the window, watching the clouds drifting by. He needed her more than he needed anything. Even his need for human flesh was nothing compared to his desire for her. He inhaled sharply as an image of her standing in her panties flitted through his mind. She always did that, thinking nothing of it. She would have him help her pick out clothes. He had the hardest time being good, wanted to lock her door and throw her on her bed and make love to her until she collapsed. This can’t be happening, he thought to himself. The woman he used to read bedtime stories to could not be the object of his desire. He wanted to cry with the effort it took to push her out of his mind. He focused on the sun falling below the horizon.
“Keep it to yourself, ignore it.” He whispered. “She’s young and beautiful and not for you, never for you.”
Fatima went throu her closet, feeling at a loss. She was no good with fashion. She finally settled on a strapless red dress that fit her like a second skin and went to mid thigh. She pulled on a pair of black pantyhose and red platform heels. She did her hair in curls that she let cascade down her back then did her make up. The sun had already fallen and it was getting closer to nine. She checked herself in the mirror then grabbed the red leather jacket Lombard had both for her birthday. She thought she looked sexy. She wished he could see her in this. She went downstairs and ate dinner. Her father choked on his food when she sat down, but said nothing. He knew she was an adult now and could dress how she wanted.
At nine there was a knock on the door and she kissed both her parents bye. She went outside and Deana just stared at her, mouth hanging open. “Holy shit, when did you get sexy?” She teased.
“I’ve always been sexy.” They hugged and got in Deana’s car. They drove to a club with blue neon lights and a really ig guy out front. He saw them approaching and immediately let them in. Deana was excited. Fatima found a booth and sat down, feeling down again.
“What’s wrong honey pie?” Deana asked.
“Lombard had to go to Venice and I’m sad he’s gone.” She answered.
“That butler is cute. You should hit that while you have the chance.”
“Oh stop and besides he doesn’t see me that way. He helped raise me.”
“If he doesn’t think you’re hot then he must be gay.”
“I doubt that, but anyway lets just stop talking about him. It just makes me miss him more. Why don’t you order us drinks?”
“Alright grumpy pants.” She got up and went to the bar. It was long before a man sauntered over and sat down in the seat across from her. He had deep green eyes and brown hair.
“Hey beautiful, by you a drink?” He asked and it took every ounce of her self control not to roll her eyes and laugh in his face.
“No thank you. My friend is already getting me one.” She answered politely.
“A girl can always use an extra beer or two in her.”
“Why? So you can maybe talk me into a quick fuck in your dirty apartment because you don’t have a girlfriend and live like a filthy bachelor?” His eyes widened in shock. “I must have hit the nail on the head. Get lost creep before I smash you in the face with one of my heels.” He stared at her for a moment, obviously not used to rejection then got up and walked over to a group of guys that were laughing at him.
“Who was that?” Deana asked as she handed her a vodka and cranberry juice.
“Some creep who thought he could use some lame lines on me and I’d just drop my panties and spread my legs right here on the table.” Deana started laughing hard, her eyes tearing up.
“You really know how to run them off. Drink and let loose girl. You don’t have to screw someone, but don’t chase them all away.” They drank and then Deana went back for refills. Fatima wasn’t a heavy drinker like her friend so she was already starting to feel the effects of her first drink. On of idiot number one’s friends walked over and she held up her hand to shut him up. He turned and walked away. Another guy approached her, this one looking nervous and a bit out of place. He sat down and she arched an eyebrow.
“Look, I don’t want to have sex with you or whatever, but my friends bet me forty bucks each that I couldn’t get you to dance with me and kiss me. If you get up and get on the dance floor with me right now, I’ll split it with you.” He said. She tapped her finger against her lips as if in deep thought. She glanced at his whore friends then back at him.
“Alright deal.” She said and he smiled then stood and held out his hand. She took it and winked at Deana as she was coming back to their booth.
She moved with Rick to the music. It beat through her, blocked out all other noise. She wrapped her arms around his neck and smiled at him. He looked so nervous. She put her lips close to his ear and said, “Ready to win a lot of money?” He nodded and she kissed him, her lips moving roughly over his so his friends would think she was really into it. He rest his hands on her hips and out of the corner of her eye she caught the look of disbelief on his friends faces. She pulled back and grinned at his flushed cheeks and the dreamy look in his eyes.
“Wow, I know we were supposed to be pretending, but damn.” He said and she laughed. “You are really good at that. Thanks by the way, now I’ll never be able to kiss another girl again without thinking of you.” She kissed him on the cheek and gave him a hug.
“Collect your bounty and then come over with me and my friend Deana. You can spend the rest of the night telling your buddies how you almost went home with Fatima Hicks.” She replied and his eyes widened in shock.
“Oh no, I’m so sorry. I didn’t know.” She put a finger against his lips, silencing him.
“Don’t worry about it. It was all in good fun and you aren’t a pervert like your buddies. Now go and get that cash.”
She went back to her booth and sat next to Deana. “You kissed that guy.” Deana said as she sipped her second drink.
“He asked very politely if I would help him win some money.”
“That was all for show?”
“I know I should be an actress.” She picked up her drink and sipped it. Rick came over and sat down across from her. He looked very happy.
“Do you still want half?” He asked over the music. Fatima shook her head then pointed at Deana. Rick counted out half and slid it over to Deana like he was trying to touch her hand. She slid her hand under his, smiled then took the money. “They can’t stop talking now.”
“Good.” Fatima said, “Let them talk. Hold your head high.” They talked until it was nearly midnight and Fatima kissed his cheek again before standing. Deana slipped him her number and he blushed then put it in his pocket. They both told him bye and walked out of the club, her feeling tipsy. They walked arm in arm, knowing they wouldn’t be driving.
“Hey, lets go to the cemetary and be weird for a few minutes like those little goth kids.” Deana said and slipped off her heels. Fatima followed suit, not wanting to break her ankle.
Lombard stared up at the ceiling of his hotel room, having a hard time sleeping. He had never felt so alone in his life. He wondered what Fatima was up to and hoped she was staying out of trouble. He frowned, doubting that. She was very free spirited and adventurous. He suddenly became jealous when he thought of her going out and spending time with another man. What if they were having sex? He growled and got out of bed, going out onto the balcony and gripping the railing angrily. He didn’t want her with another man. He sat down, knowing he had no right to dictate her love life and hating it. He was afraid of what would happen if he told her how he felt. What if her father kicked him out or worse she thought he was some sort of creep? He shook his head, telling himself he had to keep those feelings at bay for as long as he could. If he became to weak, if he gave in to temptation then he hoped she could forgive him.
Fatima and Deana climbed the cemetary fence, trying hard not to giggle to loud. There was a caretaker that watched over this place and they didn’t want to wake him. They stumbled through the grave yard and Fatima suddenly felt her foot get caught in something and she fell. She looked down, expecting overgrown tree roots, but instead found a hand gripping her and attached to it a very putrid zombie. Deana screamed and Fatima kicked at the monster. She finally got loose and got to her feet, suddenly very sober. Three other zombies came to their feet and she felt her heart hammering out a fearful beat.
Fatima kept Deana behind her and braced herself as the first zombie attacked. She hit it in the side of the head, her heel imbedding itself in the creatures skull and into its brain. It died instantly and she jerked her shoe free as two more came at her. She kicked out at one, hitting it in the chest and knocking it back. The other swung at her and she dodged and kicked it too. Deana screamed and Fatima turned to see her grappling with another zombie. Fatima grabbed it and threw to away from her friend. “Did it bite you?” She screamed and Dean shook her head. She grabbed her hand and took off running.
She could hear the monsters behind them and shoved Deana into a mausoleum, shutting the gate and facing the zombies. If she was going to die she was going to go down fighting. She couldn’t catch the zombie disease, but they could still consume her. She killed the first one that came at her and then found herself grappling with the second while trying to keep the third at bay. She heard a whistling sound and the one she was fighting with collapsed. The second went down next and she just stood there in shock. She let Deana out of the mausoleum and they hugged.
“What are you two doing in here?” A male voice asked and she turned to see Rick with a sniper rifle and his friends behind him.
“Rick?” She was still shocked.
“Sorry, I forgot to mention my name is Rick Dante, zombie hunter.” He held out his hand and Fatima found herself getting very angry. He smiled shyly at her and she balled her hands into fists. She punched him so hard in the face that he dropped his rifle and fell on his ass. She took a step toward him and Deana grabbed her.
“You piece of shit.” She snapped, seeing red. “I will drain all of you dry.” She jerked her arm away moving toward Rick. Idiot number one tried stoping her and she punched his twice in the face then kicked him in the stomach. The other guy held up his hands and stepped smartly aside. She gripped Rick’s shirt and lifted him up to nose level. “Was that shit back in the club just a fucking act?”
“No, I swear. I really am shy and not a pervert.” He whispered and she dropped him back on the ground. He stood and rubbed his jaw. “Holy shit you have a mean hook.”
“I need to go home before I kill you.” She moved passed him, kicking his idiot friend in the ribs before stepping over him. She mumbled every curse word she knew under her breath.
“Hey wait a minute, we could use a woman like you.” Rick said, following her.
“Fuck you.” She spat and kept walking.
“Come on, what else do you have to do? Help us kill zombies. You took two out on your own.” She stopped and turned on him, her eyes blazing with rage. He took a step back, hands up. “Look, I’m sorry okay.”
“How could you do that to her? She helped you.” Deana defended her.
“I know and I’m sorry. I didn’t think you two would be in the cemetary. I’ll make it up to you some how. Please just help us.”
She knew she was going to regret this, but she needed something to do while Lombard was away. “Give me your number you stupid fucking ass hole and I’ll call you when the sun goes back down when I’ve made up my mind.” He smiled and pulled a pen out of his pocket and wrote it on her hand. “Now go away before I murder you and bury you with those corpses.” He backed away a few steps before turning and walking back to his friends.
Fatima hailed a cab and made it home at three in the morning. She told Deana goodnight and let the cab driver take her away. She went quietly inside and up to her room. She flopped down on the bed and closed her eyes, sleep finding her with a vengeance. She dreamed that Lombard was making love to her, his mouth at her shoulder biting her and he thrust into her. His bite suddenly hurt and she pushed him back. She screamed at the sight of him rotting and mad. She tried to get away, but he was so strong. He bit into her throat and she choked on her blood. Her eyes flew open and she sat bolt upright in bed. She was shaking and drenched in sweat. She felt sick to her stomach. She ran to her bathroom, throwing up everything she had left on her stomach which was mostly vodka and cranberry juice. She flushed the toilet and switched on the shower then stripped down and stepped on. She sat under the water, knees pulled up to her chest and cried.
Lombard sat across from a Mr. Donzel. The man thought he could cheat Shane Hicks out of more money than his land was worth. He simply stare cooly onto the man’s eyes, knowing it was making him uncomfortable. He watched him begin to fidget in his seat, his eyes darted around and then back to Lombard’s face. Sweat beaded the man’s forehead and then he sighed. “So do we have a deal Mr. Donzel?” Lombard asked.
“Damn it, yes. Mr. Hicks knew what he was doing when he sent you. You are very intimidating.” Mr. Donzel said as they both stood.
“Am I? I am afraid I never noticed.” He shook the other man’s hand and then exited the office. Shane would take care of everything else, the paper work and the exchange of money. He had been given the week off to close this deal even though he had known he would not need it. He thought he would spend the rest of his time finding something for Fatima.
Fatima finically got out of the shower when all her makeup was washed off and she had cried herself completely out of tears. She dried and dressed in a pair of shorts and a tank top. She rubbed her sunscreen on and went downstairs to the dining room where her parents were already eating breakfast. “You go home late, did anything happen?” Her father asked, looking worried.
“We were attacked by zombies.” She answered and her mother looked shocked.
“Are you okay, is Deana okay?” Ruth asked.
“Yeah, I killed two and then these zombie hunters killed the rest.”
“I didn’t know a group was living here, but then again they tend to keep to themselves.” Shane said.
“They offered me a job.”
The room went silent and stayed that way until her breakfast had been brought out along with some tea and a glass of blood. “How did you feel when you were fighting those zombies?” Shane asked and took a sip of tea.
“Terrified, absolutely terrified.” She answered honestly.
“Good, as long as you understand that zombie hunting is no laughing matter then I don’t have an issue with you helping out. How about you Ruth?”
“I’ll worry about you when you are out there, but your father is right. If you keep your eyes and ears open and don’t allow yourself to be lured into a false sense of security then I will support you.” Ruth replied. “It’s not like we could have stopped you anyway, you’re an adult.”
She ate happily, finishing quickly. She drank her tea and blood then hugged both of her parents. She was still very tired and decided to go back to bed until the sun went down and she could call Rick. She looked at the palm of her hand. The number had thankfully not been washed away. She ran up to her room and wrote it down on a piece of paper then flopped down on her bed and held tightly to her wolf. She needed Lomard more than ever, needed to know he was safe and normal. Fighting for her life had only brought forth one of her biggest fears, that she would lose him to the sickness and he would be the monster she would have to kill.
Lombard had found a couple of small trinkets he thought Fatima would love. A small wolf carved from soap stone and a necklace with a dragonfly hanging on a chain. He smiled at the thought of her excited face. He wanted only to see her happy. He went back to his room and sat the packages down on the desk. He went out on the balcony, breathing in the fresh air. The sun had finally fallen and the city lights were beautiful. He would bring Fatima here. As far as he could remember she had never been to Venice. He wanted to take her out on the canals.
Fatima jerked awake around six. She stood and stretched then grabbed the piece of paper and went downstairs to use the phone. She called Rick who answered on the first ring. “That eager to talk to me?” She teased.
“Well you are the prettiest girl I have ever kissed.” He cleared his throat. “Anyway, thanks for calling. Me and the boys are going out tonight to an old abandoned house. There have been reports of zombie activity and not the good kind.”
“Where should I meet you?”
“On the corner of thirty-six and Martin.”
“I’ll be there in an hour.”
She hung up and went through her closet. She found a long sleeve black turtle neck and a pair of black athletic pants that went to her ankles. She undressed and pulled them on. She pulled on her running shoes and then brushed her hair up into a ponytail. She opened the bottom drawer of her chest of drawers and pulled out the metal box. The key was already in the lock so she unlocked it a pulled out her Smith & Wesson and the shoulder holster. She slipped into the shoulder holster then slid her gun inside. She ran downstairs, passing her mother, and out the door. She had Keith take her to the address Rick had given her. She told him to wait across the street.
Rick and his boys smiled at her when she walked up. Idiot number one, whose name she didn’t care to learn, snickered. “Do we have a problem?” She asked.
“Look at you. What are you some sort of burglar?” He said and she glared at him.
“Would you like me to black your other eye?” He glared back and moved toward her. Her gun was in her hand in an instant, pointed right at his face. “Try it and I’ll blow your brains out all over this sidewalk.” He froze and air I laughed.
“I would listen to her Paul. She looks dead serious.” Rick said with a smile. “Now, we should get in there. I don’t know how many there are, but stay on your guard.” Rick in with Paul and the other guy behind her. She could smell he putrid flesh. It had been trapped in this building for what seemed like forever. “You and I will head upstairs while the boys search here and the basement.” Rick whispered and she nodded. She followed him upstairs, her ears and eyes open to all sounds and sights. They moved quietly. A sad moaning sound filled the air and a zombie came stumbling out of one of the rooms. It spotted them then growled before rushing them. She leveled her gun at it and shot it in the head. It fell down dead, a black goo seeping out of its skull.
“Good one.” Rick said and more moans filled the air.
There were so many zombies that Fatima couldn’t count them on two hands. She kicked and punched, firing her gun when she had too. One grabbed her and she grappled with it. It slammed her back into one of the blacked out windows, it teeth snapping at her and to hands tearing at her shirt until half of it was missing. Its teeth were so close to her face. It pushed against her and the window gave way. They both plummeted two stories into the bright sunlight.
Fatima screamed as she hit the pavement. The zombie was still trying to get at her. She shot it and shoved it off of her. Keith ran to her, pulling his long trench coat off and throwing it over her. She cried in agony, her arms and hands shaking. Keith lifted her in his arms and carried her into the shade. Rick came out after half an hour and ran to her. “Are you okay?” He asked and she pulled the coat away from her face. Air hissed out from between his teeth. “Your face is sunburned.”
“I have blisters on my stomach and chest. If it had not been for Keith it could have been a lot worse.” She replied with a shaky smile.
“Do we need to get you to the hospital?”
“The burns aren’t bad enough. They’ll heal quickly.” She wiped at the tears on her face.
“Are you sure, you’re shaking.”
“It’s just the adrenaline, I’ll be fine. Did you kill the rest of them?” He nodded. “Oh good, that’s enough excitement for one day.” She stood and draped the coat back over her head. She was ready to go home and rest. He body hurt from the fall and from the burns. She had smacked the back of her head while trying to get that abomination off of her. “This isn’t the end of our business Rick. Give me a call in a week when these burns are gone.”
“Alright, get well soon.” He said and she ran to the car. Keith jerked the door open and she got in, keeping herself covered. He drove her quickly home. He carried her inside since she was in too much pain to get out on her own and upstairs to her room. He was gone on the blink of an eye and came back with her mother.
“Oh sweety, are you okay?” Ruth asked as she sat down on the edge of the bed. She had a bottle of aloe in her hand.
“I’m fine mom, just a little burned.”
Her mother helped her get her shirt off then rubbed aloe over the redness and blisters. She couldn’t believe she had forgot to put sunscreen on, not that it would have mattered after losing half her shirt. “You just relax honey. I’ll have lunch and dinner brought up to you.”
“Thank you mom oh and please don’t tell Lombard about this. He would give me one of his talks, you know the ones where he makes you feel like a little girl again.”
“Oh yes, I know very well sweety. I won’t say anything, but he will find out about the zombie hunting regardless. He’s not an idiot.”
Lombard walked the streets of Venice, enjoying the smell of fresh baked goods. He bought himself a cupcake and ate slowly as he studied all the buildings. He found himself in front of an antique store and went inside. He loved old things. They reminded him of a time long ago. He looked around, smiling at the sweet looking old woman sitting behind the counter.
“Is there anything in particular you are looking for sir?” She asked and stood slowly.
“There is someone dear to me that I need something special for.” He answered.
“Yes ma’am, how did you know?”
She smiled, a twinkle on her eyes. “You got that look in your eye that all young men get when they speak of the one they love. She must be beautiful too and young.”
“She’s strong, smart, and adventurous. She has the warmest amber eyes and the most understanding nature. She deserves something special, something more than jewelry and makeup.” He said with a smile on his face.
“I think I have just the thing.” She moved slowly around the counter and over to one of the shelves. He waited patiently and she brought back a gold box with a horse engraved in the lid. “It’s a jewelry box p, very old and very beautiful.”
“How much do you want for it?”
“You can’t put a price on love, just take it.” He shook his head and pulled his wallet out. He took some money out and sat it on the counter. She put the box on a paper bag and he thanked her. He left the store before she could see how much money he had left.
The sting had finally left Fatima’s skin and the blisters were starting to go away. Her face barely look red anymore and she was glad because she really didn’t need Lombard seeing her sunburn. Never again would she forget her sunscreen. Of course she had been expecting the job to take all night and had not been able to check her watch while she was fighting for her life. She was going to start setting an alarm on it so she would know when it was an hour before daylight. Lunch was brought up to her by Lizzie and she thanked her. She ate quickly and handed the plate back. She really didn’t want to stay in her room, but she knew her mother would fuss over her of she didn’t.
“Lizzie, can you grab me a book? It doesn’t matter what, just a book.” She asked.
“Of course I can, I’ll be back in a moment.” She left the room with the plate, closing the door behind her. Fatima decided she needed to take a shower. She still had some blood splatter from the zombie on her and she smelled bad from being so close to so many. She went into her bathroom and switched on the water then pulled off the rest of her clothes and got in. She had made the water luke warm so as not to irritate the left over blisters. She heard her bedroom door open and yelled a thank you to Lizzie. She stuck her head in the bathroom and said it was no problem.
She washed and rinsed then dried and pulled on a pair of sweats and a sports bra. She sat down on the bed, lifting the book of poetry Lizzie had brought her. This was one of Lombard’s favorites. She flipped it open, finding a dog eared page. The poem was called Choice by Angela Morgan. It was a beautiful, but sad love poem that described perfectly how she felt about Lombard. It tugged at her heart. She knew he read this book often and had probably stopped on this page and marked it so he would remember his place. She had to fight back her tears as she read the poem over and over. She finally had to turn the page before she broke down. Darkness came and Lizzie brought dinner.
“Thank you so much. You know you don’t have to do this Lizzie.” Fatima said and sat the book down.
“Yes I do miss, you had a hard night and morning. Just let us older women fuss.” She replied with a smile and sat down on the edge of the bed.
“Would you read to me while I eat?”
“I would love to dear.” Lizzie picked up the book and read poem after poem until Fatima finished dinner. She sat the book down and took the plate. “Get a good nights rest sweety.”
Lombard stared at the glowing red numbers on the alarm clock in his room. He had to be up and get ready in thirty minutes and he had not got a wink of sleep. He sighed and sat up, deciding he might as well get ready to go home now. He took a quick shower then dried and dressed. He braided his hair and started packing his suitcase. He placed Fatima’s gifts carefully inside, but on top of everything so if his bag was searched they wouldn’t have to dig deep inside to find what he knew they would want. He got a glass of water and went out on the balcony, sitting down at the table there. The sun was just beginning to rise, bringing life to the very quiet streets of Venice. He checked his watch and pulled on socks and shoes. He grabbed his bag, made sure he had his ticket and headed out of the hotel. He would be on a plane and home with Fatima soon.
Fatima read until she couldn’t keep her eyes open anymore. She fell asleep with the book open to the poem Lombard had dog eared. Her hand rested on the page and the words followed her onto her dreams. She was sitting with him on his bed between his legs and laying back against his chest. He was reading to her, his warm breath hitting her cheek and giving her goosebumps. She loved his voice, how lovingly he said each word as if they were all for her. She traced her fingers over his arms and he kissed her cheek. “You have no idea how much I love you.” She said softly and turned her head to be kissed.
Lombard sat staring out the plane window. His heart was pounding very loudly in his ears at the thought of seeing Fatima again. He had never been a nervous man, was always level headed and logical. He couldn’t wait to see her happy smile when he walked through the front door. She would run and hug him like she always did, wrapping him in her light and warmth. He would be arriving at the airport at about two then it would take him an hour to get home. He couldn’t wait. He leaned back his seat and closed his eyes, planning on sleeping to make time go seemingly faster.
She woke around noon and got out of bed. Her stomach growled, having missed breakfast. She checked her burns on the mirror and was happy to see that there were only red marks left on her torso. Her face was completely healed. She hurried downstairs and into the kitchen, grabbing a couple of apples put of a basket and kissing the cook happily on the cheek for getting them. She guessed he had gone shopping to make his apple fritters. She ate as she wondered around the house and then went back to the kitchen to throw the cores away. She went back upstairs and put sunscreen on her still exposed skin, pulled on a t-shirt then grabbed the book and went out to the garden. She sat down and read as bees buzzed nearby and birds sang brightly in the warm sun.
When he woke his plane was landing. It shocked him into full wakefulness and he leaned his seat up. The plane touched down and his heart was hammering again. He bounced his leg impatiently as it finally slowed to a stop and they were allowed to disembark. He found his suitcase and hailed a taxi. He jumped in, paying extra for the man to hurry. He stared out the window, hoping Fatima would be happy with her gifts. Half an hour later he was home and he thanked the driver for taken shortcuts. He grabbed his suitcase out of the trunk and hurried inside. He took his case upstairs and grabbed the gifts out of it. He went to her room first, but she was it there. Lizzie saw him coming down the hall and greeted him with a smile.
“Lombard, you’re back early. I take it negotiations went well?” She said.
“Extremely well, all I had to do was stare him down.” He replied and she laughed.
“That’s our Lombard, always intimidating.”
“Have you seen Fatima, I brought her back some souvinears.”
“She’s in the garden reading.”
He did his best not to run down the stairs. He didn’t need Lizzie gossiping about how he had been overly excited to see the daughter of his boss. He smiled when he saw her sitting with her back to him. He moved silently up behind her and put his head close to hers. “What are you reading?” He asked, making her jump and close the book.
She couldn’t believe he was back. She had closed the book as quickly as possible so he wouldn’t see she was reading the poem he had marked. She looked up at him, smiling and blushing. “What are you doing back so early?” She asked and he moved to sit in the chair next to hers.
“I do my job very well Fatima, I have some things for you.” He answered and handed her the smaller bag first. She opened it and pulled out the little wolf. Her eyes lit up and she sat it gently on the table. Next, she took out the jewelry box and opened it. She ran her fingers over the pretty dragonfly necklace.
“Will you put it on?”
“Of course.” He handed her the bigger bag and took the box from her, pulling the necklace out. She sat the bigger bag on her lap and held her hair up for him. His fingers brushed the back of her neck as he clasped it, giving her chills. “It looks good. Open the big bag.” He sat bag down and she opened the top of the paper bag. She reached in and pulled out a beautiful gold box with a rearing horse carved in the lid. It was a jewelry box, lovely and old. “Do you like it?” He asked.
“I love it so much Lombard. It’s so perfect.” She sat it on the table and hugged him tightly. “Thank you for bringing me these beautiful things.”
“Beautiful things for a beautiful princess.”
“I’m going to take them upstairs right now and find a spot for them.” She kissed his cheek and picked up the jewelry box and wolf then hurried inside. He stuffed the small bag and box in the larger bag and picked up the book she had been reading. He flipped it open, seeing the page he had marked was no longer dog eared. He wondered if she had read this poem. It was everything he wanted to say and more. He closed it and took it and the bags inside. He threw away the bags and handed her the book as she came back downstairs.
“I need to get to work, dinner at five.” Was all he could say.
Fatima sat in her room until dinner time and ate quickly. She told her parents that she was very tired and went upstairs. She fell asleep with the book open to his poem again. Lombard went in to check on her, to see if she needed anything. She was sleeping, her hand resting on the book of poetry. He covered her and lifted her hand off the book and placed it on the bed. He picked up the book, sighing when he saw it open to Choice. He closed it and sat it on the table next to her bed. He sat down next to her and leaned in so his lips were near her ear.
“I love you Fatima and I always will.” He kissed her cheek and turned off her light then left her room. His heart aching. He went to bed, dreaming only of her.