Grace danced on the stage, twirling and writhing around the pole. One grey eye and one hazel eye watched the crowd, looking for one man. She spotted him leaning against the bar, his hazel eyes staring at her. She had been looking for him for three years. What she was, was his fault. Neither living nor dead, but caught somewhere in between and a necromancer. She was being hounded by a group that called themselves Nexus for her ability to raise the dead. She didn’t know what they wanted, but she had been told by a White Witch that it was for a dark purpose. She knew the only way to draw Ardan McNassa out was to do something that would make him angry. He had been her savior, coming out of the darkness to give her soul back. He was the The Lord of the Dead, the Father of Souls, the Grim Reaper. He was her only hope. The music stopped and she walked off the stage and into the dressing room. She quickly dressed and pulled her long chocolate waves into a ponytail. She exited out back.
“Stripping?” She jumped at the voice and spun around. She forgot he didn’t have to use doors. She looked nervously into his eyes. One grey, one hazel the mirror image of her own. This had happened when he had given her soul back. They had taken a part of each other. Some of his reaping abilities had rubbed off on her.
“Ardan, how nice to see you.” She said.
“When did you stoop so low?”
“Oh shut up. I don’t actually work here.”
His face was suddenly inches from hers and she swallowed, her heart giving a familiar flutter. She hated that he could do that. Scare her and make her love him all at once. She mentally shook herself. Never again, she couldn’t afford to open herself to him again. Not after he had made her leave without an explanation. She straightened and pushed him back. The top two buttons of his dress shirt were undone and she could feel how warm his skin was. She tried to pull away and he trapped her hand against his chest. “You did this to tempt me, knowing I was watching you.” He said, his voice like ice. “Why would you do that?”
“Because I’m in trouble. I’m being stalked by an organization called Nexus because of my abilities.” She explained.
“I told you to stop resurrecting people Grace, I told you people would blabber. No one can keep quiet about that.”
“Look, we need to go somewhere else. I have a room at a motel just outside of town. We can talk more freely there plus I need to pack what little I have and get on the road. I saw one of their trackers last night. They’ll find where I’m staying soon and I don’t want anyone getting hurt.”
“Fine, we can take your car.”
They walked together to her car with Grace putting as much distance as possible between the two of them. Ardan looked completely serious as he looked straight forward. Grace just hopped they could solve this all quickly so she could get away from him again. Over the years her sadness just turned into anger about him just kicking her out without even giving her a reason why. She deserved atleast a damn reason. Grace thought to herself as she got in the car.
She drove to her hotel wich wasn’t much. Grace had to stay in the cheapest hotels since she couldn’t get a real job due to moving all the time. They still didn’t speak as they walked up to her hotel room. When they were inside she dropped her keys on the dresser then sat in a little chair that was in front of a small table as he went over and sat on her bed. Her bed was the last place she wanted to be with him.
“When people are after you sitting by a window isn’t a good idea. Come here” He was right so she got up and sat beside him on her bed. She had to hold it in because she really needed his help so it was more important to just deal with what was at hand rather than yell at him for what he did.
“They don’t want me dead. If they have a sniper he’ll have tranquilizer darts. I’m not worried about it. I seem to have amazing evasion skills.” She said, laughing nervously.
“So far. You can’t keep helping people.” She glared at him, itching to slap him.
“You don’t get to tell me what to do. I brought you here so you can watch my back until I figure out how to stop these people, not to boss me around.”
“Have you forgotten who gave you your little gift?”
“Believe me I’ve tried, but every morning I look in the mirror and see your stupid grey eye looking right back at me. I’ll keep helping people as long as this heart is beating and from what you told me before so much of you rubbed off on me that I get to be around for a very long time. This gift was an accident, not something you wanted to give me so stop pretending you did something noble. You cursed me.” She came to her feet angrily. “I’m going to shower and then pack what little I have. Make yourself useful and shut up.” She went into the bathroom, slamming the door and locking it. She knew it wouldn’t stop him from coming in, but it felt good to do it.
Ardan had not seen her this angry in a long time. He stood and looked out the window. He opened it and stuck his head out. It was pitch black outside, but it didn’t matter. He didn’t need his eyes to see into the shadows. There was someone there. He whispered to the shadows, calling on his hell hounds. Dark shapes darted into the darkness and he heard someone scream. He laughed at the retreating footsteps. The man following Grace would probably think she had done this. She didn’t have the power or authority to call forth such beasts. He wanted to know who this Nexus was. The tracker would be back, probably with a gun.
He was glad that she called on him to help her. It had driven him mad with jealousy when he found out she was dancing for men at a strip club. He still loved Grace very much. He hoped she’d never do a thing like that again just to get him to come. It was nice just to see her. Ardan had missed her so much over the years. He wanted to go in the bathroom and continue to talk to her about things but she was already mad enough.
Ardan decided to just wait there so she could calm down. Grace stood there in the shower just letting the warm water hit her. She realized she’d have to go out naked since she hadn’t brought any clothing in with her. It didn’t matter, it may have been years but he’d seen her naked many times. Grace simply turned off the water and walked out with her towel. She dried and then started digging for clothes acting like Ardan wasn’t there atall
Seeing her like that felt like a punch to the gut. All the air woodshed out of his lungs in one long involuntary exhalation. She was still the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. She had scars on her back from where she had been hit by the car that had taken her life. She had been in so much pain, but had pulled through much to the doctors surprise. He slammed the window and frowned when she didn’t so much as jump. He remembered a time when he intimidated her beyond words. She had worried that he would take her life like he was some cold blooded monster. He didn’t have the same attitude about people as his three brothers. They hurt people and he was left to guide the souls to the afterlife. He leaned against the window sill and watched her dress. He wanted her back, wanted to beg for her forgiveness even though he never begged for anything. He had chased her away because his brothers believed her presence was hurting his work. He had to agree. Being with her left many souls to wander in between, lost and alone. He regretted hurting her, making her cry. He had hated that look of betrayal.
“Do you need help packing?” He asked, just wanting a distraction.
“Can you grab my stuff out of the bathroom please.” She answered, but still wouldn’t look at him. He sighed and ventured into the bathroom. She had only the essentials, shampoo, conditioner, a brush, and a couple of ponytail holders. He scooped up her dirty clothes and carried everything out. He handed them to her and she stuffed them into her suitcase. She pulled on her shoes and then made sure she had left nothing. “I think we’re ready to go.”
“To where exactly?” He lifted her suitcase and followed her out into the night.
“What’s in Utah?” She popped the trunk of her car and he lifted her back inside.
“I’m sure you noticed I walk just fine. Please don’t pick me up again.”
“I’m sorry, I guess it’s habit.”
“Habit? How can you have that as a habit when you havent seen me in three years?”
“Stop” she interrupted. “Thank you for coming, for staying to help me. I just don’t like you touching me. I’m grateful, but really just want you to not touch me unless it is absolutely necessary.” Grace spoke looking at his chest. Her words and her still not looking at his face were destroying him. It had been so hard to stay away from her all this time. He thought about Grace every day, she was his last thoughts before he went to sleep at night.
“I wont do it again” he said trying not to sound as heartbroken as he felt. “where do you want me to sleep Grace?”
“I may not like you but I dont hate you. You can sleep on the bed as long as you stay on your side” Ardan nodded, he was afraid if he spoke again his words might brake showing all the despair he felt. Grace turned and got into bed after setting an alarm for six am. Ardan got on the other side laying as close to the edge as possible. He didn’t want her to speak to him in such a cool, emotionless tone again. Grace layed on her side staring at the window.
She had enjoyed being in his arms so much. She missed him but didn’t realize the extent until she was close to his heart. She had to keep him away or she’d do somthing she would only regret. Grace couldn’t make herself stop loving Ardan but she could keep him from stabbing her in the heart again. She slowly drifted off to sleep and fell from her side to her back. Her hand laying open beside her head.
Ardan almost always had trouble sleeping after moving between worlds. Even though his body was exhausted his mind remained awake. There were times when he would spend days collecting souls before finally getting a good nights rest. When Grace had been with him he slept every night. He turned over, admiring her. Here she was now and he wasn’t even drowsy. He knew it was because she didn’t want him. He laced his fingers through hers and gently raised her hand to kiss her knuckles. “Will you ever forgive me?” He asked softly. She was sound asleep. He closed his eyes and remembered when they were happy. He could hear her warm laughter and see her bright smile. He let them carry him off into sleep.
Grace woke before the alarm. Ardan was facing her. Even after all these years he was still as handsome as ever. He looked for all the world like he should be the head of some law firm or CEO of some corporation. He was all charm and good looks. His smile could bring any woman to her knees and his cold icy stare could make any man pee his pants. It wasn’t fair that she still loved him, that her heart still ached. She wondered if it had been a mistake to bring him back into her life. Things weren’t perfect, but she had stopped crying. He was holding her hand, his fingers gently laced through hers, connecting them. She savored the feel of his skin for a moment, wishing that fate hadn’t been so cruel. She managed to slide her hand out from under his and get quietly off the bed. She switched off the alarm and went out front to sit on the small walkway that connected all the rooms. The air felt amazing on her face and smelled incredibly fresh. Early morning was her favorite time of day. Everything was new and clean it seemed. It was like the darkness that followed her was pushed back for a little while.
When six came around Grace went inside and gently shook Ardan. He looked sad when his eyes met hers. “we need to get going.” Ardan got up and they headed out the door and into her car. It would take five hours to get to Utah. Grace decided it would be too awkward to ride all that time in silence so she asked “It’s kind of a silly question but it’s the only one I can think of. How’s life been?” Ardan smiled glad she was speaking to him. Grace took it as mockery and regretted opening her mouth.
“It’s been ok, I’m sorry yours has been so hard.”
“I guess i did do it to myself. It’s not always hard though.” Now all Ardan wanted to say was sorry but couldn’t figure out how to even start. Should he tell her how depressed he was after she was gone? How he longed for her? How he’d do anything to make it up to her and get her back? It left him pondering a very long time. Grace had developed a habit of singing in the car so she began to without thinking to fill the silence.
It cleared Ardans thoughts. Her voice sounded like an angels. It was such a sweet sound that he could listen to forever. When she stopped Ardan said “That was absolutely beautiful. Just like I remember.”
“I normally sing at clubs for money.”
“Yeah, I like to listen to you”
“Youre awfully stalkery for a man who couldn’t stand me so much he just threw me out of his home without explanation or a single word afterwards.” Her words quick and angry. They shocked Ardan “I really am sorry Grace.”
“Don’t be, I’m sorry I snapped at you. You didn’t love me anymore and that’s fine.”
“That’s not true Grace. I still love you.” Grace didn’t speak, she found the nearest gas station and pulled over “Don’t be such a liar and play with me like that Ardan. It was really hard to move on from you. No matter how hard I try I can’t stop loving you. You only came because I pissed you off. You’ll leave again never bothering to look back so don’t do that to me.” Grace started crying. Ardan pulled her into his arms and kissed her head. “I’ve missed you so much. I’m sorry, please let me explain to you Grace.”
“Just stop.” She pushed against his chest, but he held her tighter. She cried into his shoulder, wishing he was gone. “Why did you make me go away? What did I do wrong?”
“You did nothing. It was me. I loved you so much I started neglecting the dying. I let their souls wander scared and alone. I was afraid of what you would say or do when you realized how dark my job was so I stopped working. My brothers pointed it out to me and they were right.” He explained it as well as he could. “You don’t know what it’s like for a soul to have no destination. Some of them can continue living, but most of them become tormented and angry. They can hurt people.”
“So why didn’t you just say that? Are you so afraid of being teased by your stupid brothers? You rarely see each other anyway.”
“It wasn’t that. I was so proud of my work, proud to shepherd those souls even though it was sometimes hard. Especially the children. They broke my heart. Then I met you and you turned my world upside down. You made me feel ashamed, like I was stealing something precious from those people.”
He looked so broken in that moment. Her heart went out to him. She sighed and got out of the car. She needed a few moments to think about things. She went into the small store in front of the gas station and grabbed some snacks and drinks. She paid for both the food and the gas, giving the cashier the pump number so he could turn it on. She thanked him and hurried to the car. Ardan was already pumping the gas and she gave him a small smile.
Ardan smiled back, he wasn’t sure where he stood with Grace but a smile was better than before. She got in the car still just needing a moment. It was a lot to take in that she hadn’t done anything. Over the years she had played over and over again the last month she was with him. It drove her crazy and pissed her off more when she couldn’t pinpoint what suddenly changed him. Three years later she finds out it was his work and brothers. Even if Ardan wanted her back how was she to know he’d never do it again.
She wondered if her heart could take a second time even though she wanted to be with him again. She caught herself thinking it was worth the risk because she just loved him so much. Ardan got in the car and she started to drive again. Arden looked at her desperately wanting to know what she was thinking and if she would be his again. He missed seeing her every day, missed holding and kissing her. Ardan missed absolutely everything about Grace. Grace wasn’t ready to make a decision on the subject yet and just drove on.
Never ending desert rose up around them, the sun beat down on the car causing them to sweat. Her AC was broken so she rolled down the windows, letting the wind cool their skin. They would hit Utah soon and closer to her destination. She had to know why they wanted her. She knew her curiosity was dangerous, but it was important. She wasn’t afraid of dying because she couldn’t, but she could still feel pain, could be tortured until her brain shut down from shock. She sighed, remembering when life was simple.
“Are you alright?” Ardan asked and gently took one of her hands in his.
“Just thinking.” She answered.
“That’s never good, terrifying actually.”
Her lips twitched and before she knew it she was laughing. “Why is that so scary exactly?”
“When God gave women minds of their own he made sure they would be able to drive men crazy. We men never know what it means when you say you’re thinking. You could be thinking of how good looking I am or of slitting my throat.”
She laughed again and he smiled at the sound. “I promise I’m not thinking of killing you.” She drove until the sun started to fall and quickly found an exit with a hotel. They pulled into the parking lot and were both happy that this place was nicer than the last. They got out and Ardan grabbed her suitcase, following her into the lobby where she paid for a room.
They walked up to their room and Ardan set Graces suitcase down. Grace sprawled out on the bed. “I hate how much my muscles tense when I drive for hours.”
“Can I massage you?” Ardan asked hoping she’d let him. “Please do” She got up further in the bed so she could lay flat out on her stomach. Ardan sat on her hips and began rubbing her back and shoulders. Ardan just enjoyed the contact with her. She sighed contentedly and smiled which made Ardan happy. He had a lot of making up to do if she’d let him. He kept going until Grace said “Thank you so much. I’m good now, you can stop.”
“Are you sure? I’m more than happy to do this.”
“I’m sure.” He got off slightly sad and sat down on the bed. Grace rolled to her back placing an arm over her head. Arden looked over at her taking in how beautiful she was, wishing he was holding her. “Ardan”
“Yes” he answerd quickly. “Come here” He crawled on the bed settling himself down beside her. Grace rolled over to lay on his chest. She was crossed armed looking down into his eyes. “Are you asking for me back or just to forgive you?”
“I need you back Grace. I miss you so badly. Every night your the last thing I think about. I long for your lips against mine and to be able to hold you daily. I want you to forgive me and be mine so badly.” Ardan said as he placed a hand on her cheek. “How do I know you wont just throw me out again?”
“I’ll work this time, I know it wont upset you. I know my word is no good but I swear it’ll never happen again. The past three years have been torture. The worst pain I’ve ever experienced. I’d never be stupid enough to make you leave again.” His face was full of worry as the words seemed to spill out of his mouth. “Don’t look so terrified Ardan” Grace said softly “I’ve never been in a scarier situation. You’re deciding if you want me or not. I’m not much, I was cruel when I kicked you out.” He started to choke up. Grace leaned down and kissed him. When her lips touched his he began to cry. He was shaking with his tears.
Grace pulled back “I love you Ardan.”
“I love you too Grace”
“I want to be with you again. This is your final chance though Ardan. You do what you did again and I’ll never take you back.” Ardan pulled her back down into another kiss. It was desperate and passionate. Three years without kissing her had been too much. He felt so lucky she was forgiving him and taking him back.
“I’ve missed you so much. I haven’t slept, I hardly eat. I’ve just been going through the motions.” He brushed his fingers through her hair.
“Now that’s somewhat scary and funny to imagine. The Grim Reaper going through the motions. Excuse me sir, but I’m afraid you’ll have to follow me. See you’re dead and I don’t really have time to explain it in detail right now.” She laughed and he frowned. “Oh come on, I was just teasing you a little.”
“I don’t like thinking about what I did to you. It makes me uncomfortable.” He held her tightly against him. “Can we take a shower?”
She smiled and crawled off the bed, grabbing his hand and pulling him with her. She turned to him once they were in the bathroom and started unbuttoning his shirt. She pushed it from his shoulders, noticing a new scar on his chest. “What happened here?” She brushed her fingers over the smooth white patch of skin.
“I got into it with Maynard. You know how The Lord of War is, hot tempered and stubborn. Our argument came to blows and we wound up rolling across the floor and into my fireplace. When he noticed I was burning he pulled me out of the fire. It wouldn’t have killed me. It’s weird how people like us can scar, but not die. Probably a sign of our humanity.” He answered. “It was worse while it was healing.”
“I should have a talk with your brother about his temper.”
“You’re the only he listens too which is amazing. He always argues with me, Roddy, and Jonas.” He sat down and pulled his shoes off while she undressed. “Hey that’s my job.” She stuck her tongue out and threw her shirt at him.
Ardan felt so happy in that moment. It felt amazing for her to be playing with him like she used to. They got in the shower together and Ardan pulled Grace against him. “I wanted to get clean” Grace said in a slightly laughing voice. “This is a hotel, the hot water wont run out so we have time. I haven’t been able to hold you in so long. I’m sorry i cried like a baby a second ago.”
“Well I’m pretty hard to live without” Grace said winking. Ardan smiled then kissed her. “Ok we’ll get clean as long as you let me wash you.”
“If you must” she said playing at being annoyed. He opened the packet of soap and rubbed it in his hands under the water then started scrubbing Grace. He enjoyed running his hands all over her astounding body. His eyes going over her admiringly. That look made her heart flutter. “Why do you look at me like that”
“You’re just so spectacular, I will never be able to describe to you the depths of how much I love you and how much I’ve missed you. I’ve never known the happiness you bring me. My heart is always warm, my stomach is always filled with butterflies when you’re near me Grace.” Grace rinsed then scrubbed Ardan. He took a slight breath in looking positively flushed at her touch. Her hands on him was the greatest feeling in the world. He grabbed her hands when they were on his chest and held them there for awhile.
When he let them go she finished cleaning him then he rinsed following her out of the shower. They dried and Grace just got into bed naked. Ardan blushed a little and got in bed without his clothes aswell. “You seem so nervous Ardan. You’ve seen me naked many times.”
“I know, It’s just been so long. You look better than I remembered.” Grace smiled asking “will you hold me”
“I’d love that more than anything. As long as you’re willing to let me rub you with atleast one hand. The feel of your skin is just so wonderful.” They laid wrapped together as he gently stroked her skin. It relaxed Grace so much she was asleep in just a few moments. Arden smiled, he was glad she was so comfortable. This was how they always slept before. Things were finally back to perfect. No matter what came his way he wasn’t losing her again. Arden was going to try and make her even happier than last time.
She heard whispers in her mind, a soft chanting that drew her in. It was not malicious or hurtful. She suddenly found herself standing next to a small pond. She dropped to her knees and stared down at her reflection. It suddenly changed to that of another woman with deep brown eyes and honey blonde hair. They smiled at each other. The White Witch, who would not give her name, was about fifty years old, but looked younger. “Why have you brought me here?” Grace asked.
“You are getting closer to them. I was worried.” She answered, her voice soft, almost motherly.
“I have to know what they want me for. I have to stop them.”
“I sense you are not alone. I can feel his shadow close. It has wrapped itself around you, a protective second skin. Your energy is also lighter. Is he staying?”
“He’s coming with me to make sure I stay alive.”
She nodded and tapped her index finger against her lips as if in deep thought. “Tell him that when the time comes he must call on the other three. War, Pestilence, and Famine. He’s going to need them whether he knows it or not.”
“I’ll be sure to relay that to him. He probably won’t listen. He’s the youngest of the four and always seems to think he has to prove himself.” She said, sounding exasperated even now.
“When the time comes he must set aside their differences. If he does not, it will mean losing the most important thing in his life.” She rubbed her temples and frowned. “I must go child. Talking with you long distances quickly drains my energy. Please be careful and don’t let fear blind you.” She disappeared and Grace awoke with a gasp. She checked the clock. It had only been a few minutes since she had fallen asleep. Ardan mumbled something as she turned to face away from him. His arm was suddenly around her waist, holding her tightly against him. She smiled, allowing his warmth to wrap around her. She had missed everything about him. His touch, his scent that reminded her of how fresh the air smelled after the rain, and his voice always warm when he spoke to her. That was unless he was angry, but even then he had been the most wonderful thing in her life. She closed her eyes and drifted back asleep, this time her dreams uneventful.
When she woke again it felt like it was too soon. Grace felt so much comfort laying with Ardan like this. They had to get going and would have plenty of time later for this later. Grace put her fingers in Ardans hair. “wake up handsome” His eyes slowly opened. He smiled when he looked at Grace then kissed her. “Good morning beautiful” Ardan said in a soft voice. What the white witch said was playing in Graces head. She decided to atleast let the man get up and have breakfast before springing that on him.
They got up and dressed “There’s breakfast downstairs”
“Ok” Ardan said happily. How amazing he felt was beaming off of him. When they were in the elevator Grace asked “why are you so happy?”
“That’s a silly question my love. I’m so happy because I have you back.” Grace smiled. “You havn’t even gotten to have sex with me yet.”
“Like that matters” Ardan said looking at her with those love filled eyes. Grace laughed and they ate their breakfast after taking their things to the car. “Would you like me to drive Grace?” Ardan asked. “No, if I’m in the car you know I prefer to drive.”
“I just thought I’d check” They got in the car. They were almost there which made Grace both tense and excited. Once they were on the highway Grace cleared her throat. “A white witch has been helping me through my life since you kicked me to the curb” Ardan frowned and averted his gaze. “What?”
“Why do you have to say it like that?” Ardan said sadly feeling ashamed. “I’m sorry babe but it’s true. Anyway back to the point she says i needed to tell you that when the time comes you will have to call your brothers for help even though you wont want to. I’m not sure why but that’s what she said.” Ardans frown turned into a very serious face. “I don’t need those asses.”
“She’s very wise. I’m sure you will.”
“You think they are better than me?”
“Ardan, of course i don’t. Don’t be like that.” Ardan started looking out the window and sighed “ok”
“How long until we get there?” He asked.
“We have forty miles to go. I have to find a way inside.” She said as she reached into the back seat and rifled through the plastic bag of snacks.
“Would you like me to get something for you?”
“I got it.” She pulled out a bear claw and used her teeth to tear the package. She smiled at him and took a big bite. She was starving. “Don’t look so freaked out. I don’t plan on wrecking.”
“You are dangerous. I think from now on I should drive.”
“No way man, my car my rules. Get your own if you want to be in charge.” he shook his, but held his tongue. She was incredibly headstrong.
“So how do you plan on getting into their headquarters?”
“You’re taking me. You can step between the worlds and you have taken me before. You can take us into the ventilation shafts. We can crawl around until we find something that looks important.”
Ardan wasn’t sure about that plan. Something didn’t set right in his gut. He wanted to take her back to his home. No one could get to her there, but he knew that the human world was just as important to her. She would not forsake everything she loved about her world and he knew she was tired of hiding. He waited until she was done eating then took her hand. He kissed her knuckles and stared worriedly out the window. He just wanted her safe and happy. He would walk through the very fires of hell for her. “I love you Grace.” He said softly.
“I know you do and I love you too.” She flashed him a bright reassuring smile, but it did nothing to make him feel better.
“Can I do anything to make you feel better mr worry wart?”
“Would you sing for me again?”
“I’m gonna take my timeMake sure that the feeling’s rightInstead of staying up all nightWondering where you areMiles and miles awayIn a town in another stateI wanna know if you just can’t takeThe thought of us apartIf I’m gonna fall in loveThere’s gotta be more than just enoughI gotta get that old feelingI gotta get that old highI come from an empty townFar away from the city soundsI’d like to settle down somedayAnd I need to know your pastSomething that’ll take you back’cause I wanna live like that one dayIf I’m gonna fall in loveIt’s gotta be more than just enoughI gotta get that old feelingI gotta get that old highYou gotta love to rollGotta live life like a rolling stoneI gotta get that old feelingI gotta get that old highIf I’m gonna fall in loveI can’t stop wondering whyYou’re taking so long to findMaybe I should just let goBut baby all I know…Is I’m gonna fall in loveSomeday, somewhere you’ll show upI’m gonna get that old feelingI’m gonna get that old highIf I’m gonna fall in loveThere’s gotta be more than just enoughI gotta get that old feelingI gotta get that old highYou gotta love to rollGotta live life like a rolling stoneI gotta get that old feelingI gotta get that old highIf I’m gonna fall in loveI gotta get that old highI gotta get that old highIf I’m gonna fall in love”
Her beautiful voice did relax him slightly but he couldn’t help but worry. He wouldn’t be able to really relax again until she was safe inside his house. He held tightly to her hand until they finally got into Utah. He grew even more tense with them being so close. Grace could see it “Arden, I have complete faith in you. You should have faith in yourself. You’re more amazing than you let yourself believe. Also the white witch has faith in you and your brothers. She’s sure they will come when you need them.”
“When I need them?” He emphasized the when because he was hurt by her thinking he would need them.
“Ardan, what did I tell you about that? She’s never steered me wrong. She’s a very wise woman. You are a great man and both her and I know it so have some faith in yourself and stop getting so offended by the fact you may need your brothers help.” Ardan sighed “I just really love you. This is a very horrible situation.”
“it’ll be over soon. Then you and I can resume life together.” She smiled again and he just looked at her. Soon they were pulling up to the building. Ardan held her hand as tightly as he could without hurting her. “You ready Ardan?” He took a deep breath “as ready as I can possibly be.”
They got out of the car and he wrapped his arms around her waist. She closed her eyes, feeling a strange wrenching sensation. It was like they were drifting through quicksand, her lungs feeling almost compressed. She started to gasp and Ardan covered her mouth. She opened her eyes. She was on her back in the dimly lit interior of a ventilation shaft. He shifted off of her and she moved slowly to her hands and knees. She crawled a little ways until she found a grate. She looked down into a utility closet. She would remember where it was just in case. She moved on, quieter than a whisper. She could here voices as she came to another grate. There were people in white coats working in some sort of lab. She didn’t recognize any of the chemicals, but did see someone injecting something into a rabbit. There was a file cabinet in the far left corner.
“We’ll have to wait here until they leave.” She whispered.
“It was noon when we got here so lets hope they actually leave at sun down.” He replied.
She lay down on her stomach and watched the scientists. Ardan moved in next to and lay on his side, propping his head up and just staring at her. She found herself smiling and he brushed stray strands of her hair behind her ear. “Like what you see?”
“Oh yes, very much so my love.” One of the scientist’s phone started ringing and she quickly tugged it out of her pocket. Neither Grace nor Ardan could hear what she was saying. She hung up and suddenly stood and told the others it was time to close for the day. The others followed her out, switching off the lights and closing the doors. They came to their hands and knees and Ardan helped her lifted the grate quietly up. He went down first then helped her down. They moved quickly across the room to the file cabinet. It was locked.
“There have to be keys somewhere.” She said, exasperated. The lights suddenly flashed back on and they both spun around, facing scientists and three men with guns. “Oh shit.”
“You must be Grace. Our tracker said you came this way. Very stupid.” The female scientist said. “Who is this you have brought with you?”
“None of your business.” Grace said.
“It doesn’t really matter. All we want is you. You will come with us or we will kill him.” Grace could tell she was serious. She knew Ardan couldn’t die, but she didn’t want him hurt.
“Alright, fine.” She put her hands up.
“Don’t do it.” Ardan said.
“It’s okay, I’ll be fine.” She crossed over and two of the guards grabbed her.
“Now, to your little friend.” The third guard moved forward and opened fire. Grace screamed as Ardan was gunned down. Blood spattered against the wall behind him and the force of the bullets spun him around so he fell face down. “Take her to processing and get rid of this body.” The two guards dragged her away, kicking, screaming and crying.
“Why would you guys do that! You lieing bastards!” She wailed at the guards. “Shut up, you’re getting annoying little brat.” They took her into a room where there were two doctors and a few other guards. The men that already had her forced Grace into a chair. A male doctor named Fredrick approached her with a needle and a tube. “We need some of your blood first my dear. Do calm down, this part will be just like a yearly check up.” His voice was actually nice although firm at the same time. She decided to hold still since she didn’t want to jerk around the needle.
She couldn’t stop the tears rolling down her face. She was worried about Ardan even though he couldn’t die. Grace thought to herself, he must be in so much pain. The man took the needle out and she began to struggle again. Fredrick slapped her. “I’m trying to be nice to you but you can’t be so difficult! Choose now if you Jekyll or Hyde? Him slapping her pissed her off beyond any reasoning with her. She spit right in his face since it was so near hers. This time it was a punch rather than a slap. “Well you’ve made your choice bitch”The rest of her exam was rough and she fought them all the way. Her adrenaline giving her endless energy.
Ardan woke, his chest and stomach burned and felt like he’d been punched by a golden glove boxer. He was laying on a metal slide out table. He concluded he was probably in a morgue. He knew he had lost a lot of blood. He was shaking and dizzy. He started knocking on the inside of his tomb and then lay perfectly still. The door opened, letting in light. “Hello.” A male voice said. The table was pulled out and his eyes snapped open, startling the technician. His hand shot out, gripping the terrified man’s throat. “Impossible.” The man choked out.
“Would you mind directing me to where they are keeping the woman I came here with?” He said cooly.
“Other side of building, but you’ll never make it. She’s ours now.” He moved into a setting position and then stood, never releasing his grip on the man’s throat.
“She belongs to me.” He slammed the man’s head into the table, knocking him unconscious. He managed to lift him onto the table and slid it in then closed the door. He slowly searched the room, gripping his abdomen with one hand while he steadied himself with the other. There had to be a map of the building that showed the exits in case of a fire. He coughed, spitting blood onto the floor. There was no way he could fight in this condition. He sighed and swallowed his pride. “Maynard, Roddy, Jonas I need your help. Please come to me.” He said as he slid to the floor. “Please, I’m in trouble here.” He closed his eyes.
“You have to learn to tak cover baby bro.” He looked up and frowned at Maynard.
“Just heal me. The bullets were all through and throughs.”
Roddy and Jonas helped him to his feet and all three brothers laid hands on him, pushing healing heat into him. His wounds closed, leaving small white scars. “May is right Arddie, you have to learn to hide.” Jonas, the second youngest said.
Grace was pulled out of the chair and forced to stand still as the doctor undressed her. “Don’t touch me.” She screamed.
The doctor punched her in her stomach. “Shut your mouth or I’ll sedate you.” He snapped.
She kicked out, catching him in the testicles. He dropped and she jerked her arms loose from the guards who were stunned. She ran, grabbing a scalpel. She heard a gun go off and felt fire tear through her shoulder. She burst through the door, moving quickly down a hall as an alarm went off. She made her way to the utility closet and hid inside. She flipped on the light and tipped one of the shelves over, blocking the door. She sat down in the back, scared and crying. Everything had gone terribly wrong. All she had wanted to know was what they had planned for her. If she made it out of this alive, she was taking every file in that lab.
A very angry Fredrick started pounding on the door and tried getting it open but the shelf stopped him. The guards tried to help him but there was no getting past it. “Go get an axe now!” Fredrick yelled to one of the guards. He ran off quickly coming back. Grace held tightly to her scalpel terrified. She had really pissed him off now and she had no idea when Arden would get to her. When he got in she was going to stab him as much as she possibly could.
Each time he swung and hit the door Grace couldn’t help but jump. Her mind was yelling for Arden. Fredrick could finally push through over the shelf. There was pure evil in his eyes. Even though he was still holding the axe Grace lunged at him like a panther might stabbing him as fast as she could in her terror. A guard grabbed her and flipped her out of the closet. Another two started to try and grab at her to take her back in the examination room.
The struggle was making Grace bleed more and she was getting dizzy. She had to keep fighting them off until Arden came. She knew he would save her as soon as he was conscious. Fredrick ran to the exam room to get a syringe to knock her out. Two of the guards were trying to beat Grace into submission when Fredrick came back out. He yelled for them to stop then stabbed the needle into her arm making her almost instantly black out.
Ardan pushed the morgue door open just a little. He looked down the hall, listened. Nothing. That worried him more than anything. The sound of silence often meant something horrible had happened. He moved slowly out, his brothers close behind. “Alright, Maynard you and I will search this way. Roddy, Jonas, you go the other way. Leave no room unsearched and kill anyone who gets in your way. Roddy and Jonas nodded and moved off.
“Someone’s taking charge.” Maynard said as he followed Ardan.
“I have to. Grace means everything to me. If you took a moment to open your heart to something other than war you would understand.”
“I’m not some cold hearted bastard. I had someone once, way before you were born and given the title of Death. She died in a war that I didn’t even start.”
“Then start acting like you had someone you gave a damn about instead of being a cold hearted angry bastard all the time. We all follow you because you are older. You say something and we all agree. You tell me to get rid of Grace so I do. It makes me unhappy, but to you that means nothing. Sometimes I think you have something against me because I’m younger.” He slowed at a turn and looked around the corner.
“You are my brother and I care for you. I have to admit that I am somewhat jealous at times and it gets the best of me.” He watched behind them in case someone was flanking them.
“Jealous of what?” They moved down the hall and Ardan notices drops and smears of blood. Someone had been hurt.
“You have the biggest job of us all. You are the most compassionate of the four of us. You usher the souls to the meeting place so the can be sent to where they must go. Without you this whole world would fall into disarray. Is that blood?”
“Yes.” He crouched down and dipped his index finger in it. He could feel the life force still in it. It was Grace’s. “She’s been injured. You should call the Hellhounds.” Maynard put his fingers in his mouth and gave a sharp whistle. The smell of sulfur filled the air and two large wolf like creatures with fire playing over their fur stepped out of the wall. “Come here.” Ardan commanded and the hounds approached him. He held up his finger and let them sniff the blood. “Find.”
Ardan and Maynard followed the hounds closely as they took off. “I’m sorry I ever told you to make her leave Ardan. She’s a wonderful woman and I shouldn’t have let my jealously get the best of me.”
“We just need to get Grace back for now.” Ardan said wanting to concentrate on getting her. He knew she couldn’t die but he wanted her to go through as little misery as possible. He couldn’t bare the thought of her in pain.The dogs burst into a door where Fredrick had just gotten Graces shirt off and was working on her pants. All the men jumped at the sight of the horrifying beasts before them. When Fredrick saw Ardan come in behind them with his brother he couldn’t help but gasp “how the hell? You should’ve been dead!”
Ardans eyes had been on Grace, her bruised and shirtless body. Blood coming from her bullet wound and a busted face from the guards. Ardans eyes jumped to Fredrick when he quit talking. They sent a chill through Fredrick. Ardans eyes were boiling with fury. Maynard was also very enraged when he saw that state of Grace. “Rip them to shreds” Maynard commanded of the dogs. Ardan held up his hand “wait.”
“For what Ardan look at Grace”
“She came here wanting to know why they wanted her. She’ll know that when she wakes up. Why the hell were you after her? You better answer me quickly or I’ll let the hounds treat you like a chew toy.” Fredrick and the guards were shaking as they stood against the wall huddled together. The female scientist Leigha was bounding to the examination room with the other scientists who wanted Grace and more guards. They were not going to lose her and now wanted to collect Ardan too.
Ardan crossed the room and lifted Grace into his arms. He backed away from the men, his eyes never leaving their faces. “Now tell us why you want her.” He commanded.
“We’ve been working on a project to try to make soldiers less vulnerable. When we found out that Grace could raise the dead we decided we needed to harness her powers.” Fredrick said nervously.
“Who’s paying you?”
“No one. This project is secret.”
“You were going to auction her off.” He felt rage sweep through him. The hounds could sense it and moved forward. “Stay.” He yelled and the beasts froze. “She’s not a car you can just sell whenever you feel like it. What were you planning on doing to her? Drugging her? Raping her? You are monsters.” There were footsteps behind them and Ardan turned so he could keep both groups in his sights.
“You should be dead.” Leigha said. “You’ll make a great addition.”
“We are leaving, but you will not see the light of another day.” He turned to the hounds. “Kill.” Fredrick and his guards screamed as the wolves tore them to pieces. Leigha looked on in horror, the men with her began to back away. Roddy and Jonas were suddenly behind them, filling them with disease and draining the life from them so they were nothing but dried up husks. “Maynard please get rid of this woman.” Ardan said and his brother grabbed Leigha by the throat. She screamed as she burst into flames, her entire body turned to ash in a matter of seconds. “Is everyone dead?”
“Yes, everyone on the other side of the building has been destroyed.” Roddy said.
“Then lets grab the files and get Grace out of here.” They hurried to the lab and Maynard broke the lock so Roddy and Jonas could clear out all the files. There were six in all. Three had Grace’s name on them. The other three had the names of three other people. One in particular caught his attention. Ariadne Ophelia and in parenthesis “White Witch”. “We need to get out of here.” Ardan said.
“Lets go to your home so you can lay Grace in your bed.” Maynard said. “That’s a good idea” Ardan responded kissing Graces forehead. Grace jumped when she woke up. She expected to be in some kind of cage or tied up but she was in a bed. She looked around and noticed it was Ardans room. It hadn’t changed a bit. Not even a single picture of the two of them was missing. She was surprised at everything. He really had missed her and never quit loving her.
Grace felt her shoulder, it was healed completely. She got up and checked to see if any of the clothes she left was still there or that he atleast brought in her clothes. All the ones she had plus the ones she left were in her old dresser. With how his room was you’d think she never left. Grace put clothes on and took a deep breath in and out. She hoped Ardan hadn’t left the files. She was also curious how he handled everything.
Grace opened his bedroom door and shut it back. She quietly walked down his steps to search for him. If his brothers were still there he’d be in the living room. Ardan heard her coming and got up. HIs three brothers smiled as Ardan ran out the room. “I’m glad she took him back.” Roddy said, the other two nodded. He wrapped Grace in a tight hug then leaned her back for a kiss. Grace couldn’t help but giggle lightly. “You got their files before we left right?”
“Of course I did my love.” He lifted her into his arms “Come with me to the living room”
She sat down in his lap and he handed her one of the manila folders. “I thought you’d be interested in this.” He said and she looked at the name, her eyes widening.
“Her name is Ariadne. Beautiful name.” She flipped it open and started reading. “They think she’s some sort of psychic.”
“No, she’s a witch. She doesn’t use a psychic gift she uses nature. She talked to me in my dreams through a pool of water. She has a small pond behind her house that looks identical. It’s just a connectedness to nature, to all things. Mother Earth, Spirit above. She’s also a healer. She likes to make me tea and salves when I visit.”
“But she knows things are going to happen before they happen. She knew I would need my brothers.”
“There are many beings she talks to that know things, secret things. She tells me she only divulges what is important, but not exactly what will happen. She says the spirits don’t mind if she spills a little. She has a pact with them, but it’s something else she doesn’t talk about. She wouldn’t even give me her name because she says it would give me power over her.” She closed the file and sat it down.
“We should warn her she’s being tracked.” Maynard said.
“Why don’t you go May.” She replied. He smiled. May was the nickname she had given him. To most it sounded girly and Roddy and Jonas would sometimes pick on him, but to him it sounded sweet and endearing.
“Do you have an address?”
“In my bag, front pocket. Don’t worry I don’t think you’ll rummage around in it. She’ll know what you are when she sees you. You’ll like her. She’s not afraid to tell you exactly what she thinks you should know.” She leaned back into Ardan, still feeling exhausted and weak.
“You need to eat something and maybe drink some juice. You are very pale.” He said and lifted her, carrying her into the kitchen.
“Can we eat too?” Jonas asked and Ardan sighed.
“Of course you can. Come in here and help your brother.” Grace answered and she heard them get up and hurry into the kitchen as Ardan sat her down. Ardan and Roddy made grilled cheese while Jonas chopped apples for a pie. “I didn’t know you could bake.”
“Well Gracey, these two and May wouldn’t know a real apple pie from a store bought one like the ones in your world. That is until they taste it. They think it doesn’t matter because an apple pie is an apple pie. I make the best apple pie in the universe and that’s not me boasting, it’s a fact. Just wait until you taste it. You will think you have died and gone to heaven.”
Grace smiled and soon everything was ready. When Grace tried the pie Jonas stared intently. “It really is the best apple pie I’ve ever had”
“see I told you.” Jonas smiled triumphantly. Arden was happy to see Grace in his home again. Eating and talking with his brothers. It finally felt like a home again. If he wasn’t so grateful for his brothers help he would’ve thrown them out to be alone with Grace. He hoped they would be thoughtful enough to leave soon. Ardan wasn’t sure though because he could tell they all missed her too with how excitedly they spoke to her. Normally they showed very little emotion. They stayed and talked for hours until Maynard laughed saying “we better get going before Arddie kills us to get some alone time with Grace.”
Each of the brothers gave Grace a kiss on the cheek and a hug before disappearing. Ardan almost instantly had Grace in his arms again and was going to his room. Grace smiled up at him when he got on the bed with her. Ardan kissed her deeply. “I love you so much Grace. I need you, it was pure misery being in this house without you.”
“I see you left everything as it was.”
“As much as the pictures of you hurt me I couldn’t rid myself of them or put them away. Same goes with the few things you left here.” Ardan cupped one of her cheeks and started kissing her again. His tongue dancing in her mouth. The taste of her was absolutely amazing, just as he remembered it. Grace started to undress Ardan but he grabbed her hands as he pulled away “Not tonight, You’ve been through a lot. Just relax. I’m only kissing you like that because your taste is so amazing. I’ll stop.”
Ardan laid beside her and pressed her tightly against his chest. He felt so warm as his heart beat faster. His love for her sending tingles through his body. Ardan kissed her cheek “Sleep, we’ll make love in the morning if you feel like it.” Grace just laid there enjoying his tight embrace. She felt safe in his arms. It was an amazing feeling after being followed for so long by those monsters. His grip on Grace never loosened as they drifted off. Ardan woke first happy to see Grace there sleeping soundly.
Grace had fallen asleep hard, she hadn’t felt secure enough to seep in a long time so her slumber now was almost coma like. Ardan figured she would. He just layed there not able to get the huge grin off his face. He had his beautiful Grace back. He pressed his forehead into hers relaxing. “I love you” he whispered even though she couldn’t hear it.
“Who is this you have sent my way?” Ariadne asked through the pond.
“His name is Maynard, he’s Ardan’s oldest brother.” Grace said with a smile.
“The Lord of War. He got a face full of one of my concoctions. Poor man will be out for another hour.”
“Did you know Nexus was after you?”
“Of course I did. That’s why I live in the middle of the woods dear. They can’t find me out here without looking really hard. I’m guessing the folder had my name on it.” She said.
“Yes, I know your name, but I have no reason to use it. You’ll always be the White Witch to me.” She said, reassuring the older woman. “I don’t want control over you.”
“Well I must be going. I need to check on your friend. Waking up in a strange place can be shocking. Next time tell him to just knock on the door instead of appearing in my living room. I thought he was a demon.”
“Yes ma’am.” She woke with a gasp, startling Ardan who was reading a book. She was a little confused at first, feeling odd and out of place. She blinked and took a deep breath. She was in his home, an estate somewhere between life and death. His home acted as a sort of gateway for souls.
Ardan put his book down then came over to Grace. She got up and hugged him. “the white witch knocked your bother out” Ardan laughed. “it seemed you were sleeping very well, it’s almost lunch time you know.”
“You could’ve woken me up”
“I doubt you’ve gotten good rest in a long time. Besides there was no reason for you to get up.”
“Can i make you lunch?”
“That would be amazing” Ardan said with a look of such contentment it forced a smile to appear on Graces face. “Come on dreamy eyes” she giggled then pulled him to the kitchen. She made Ardan and herself lunch. They ate together happily talking until Grace asked “so what happened to all those people? How’d you get me back?” his happy expression almost immediately changed to shame. “we killed them all, but they were really evil Grace” He started speaking fast wanting to explain. Grace kissed him to make him stop “I understand, if you took a life you needed to do it my love.”
He sighed and she added “Don’t worry so much”
“I just dont want you to go back to thinking I’m some sort of monster.”
“I could never think that of you Ardan” Grace hugged Ardan and he hugged her back tightly. “what are we going to do about the other two people were after? There may be other locations with more evil people like that searching for them.” In this moment Ardan felt a bit selfish. He didn’t want to deal with it. He just wanted to stay in his home safely with Grace. “what do you want to do about them?”
“We should find them and warn them too.”
He sighed and ran his fingers through his hair. “I’ll get Roddy and Jonas to go. I don’t want you out there right now. I came so close to losing you.” She pressed her fingers against his lips and moved to set on his lap. She kissed him and tugged at his lower lip with her teeth. She unbuttoned his shirt and ran her fingers over his chest. He had three round scars from being shot. They were so faint she almost didn’t notice them.
“These are my fault.” She said softly as she traced them with her fingers.
“No they’re not. I blame Nexus, not you. I could never blame you.” He lifted her and carried her into his room. He lowered her to her feet and undressed her. His hands explored, worshipped. He pushed her gently back onto the bed and pulled his own clothes off. He ran his hands up her legs to her thighs as he crawled onto the bed. His lips found hers as he thrust into her, catching her soft cry. He made love to her slowly, gently. He savored her taste and the feel of her skin. He lost himself in her warmth and love. He was so overwhelmed by his feelings for her that tears burning in his eyes. “I love you so much.” He whispered.
“I love you too.” She gasped, her fingers gripping his shoulders. Her back arched off the bed as orgasm after orgasm rolled over her. She cried out, holding him tightly to her as he finished. She noticed he had tears on his cheeks and wiped at his face. “What’s wrong?” She asked, worried.
“Nothing. I’m just happy to have you here with me, alive. When we brought you back here, I thought you would never wake up. I was sick with worry. I was only downstairs because Ardan made me go and look through the files. He told me I was going to worry myself to death.” She cracked a smile and before she knew it she was laughing. “I know, I know a Grim Reaper joke. It made me smile too.”
“I’ll always be here Ardan. Always and forever. I don’t want you to be afraid that I’ll leave. I understand why you pushed me away before.” He untangled their bodies and lay next to her, pulling her into his arms.
“You mean the world to me. Making you leave was the hardest thing I have ever done. I kept tabs on you, wanting to make sure you were okay. I saw you crying and longed to come to you, to comfort you and beg on my knees for forgiveness. I had to force myself to look away.”
“Can I ask how you were able to see me?”
“Because of our bond. I am permanently attached to you so I always know where you are and what you are doing.”
“Such a stalker, but least you’re a sexy one.” They laughed and she kissed his chest. “I think I’m going to sleep a little. I still feel a little weak. You should call Roddy and Jonas and tell them to find those other people.”
“I will as soon as you’re resting”
“Ok” Grace said as she shut her eyes to let herself fade. When her breaths were slow and even against his chest he got up and stood outside their bedroom door. “Jonas, Roddy, I need the two of you to find the other two people in those files. Report back to me as soon as you’ve warned them about the danger they may be in.” When he heard them agree he went back into his bedroom and wrapped himself around Grace again. “I wish I didn’t have to work and could just enjoy you forever Grace.” He said softly. He had to get back to shepherding souls soon. He could feel them coming.
He layed there until he absolutely had to get up then went back to work. He comforted himself in the fact that Grace was sleeping right now so he couldn’t spend time with her anyway. He helped all the souls that needed him then made his way back home where Roddy and Jonas were animatedly talking with Grace. “They are warned Arddie” Jonas said mockingly saluting Ardan. They got up and each hugged Grace “well now that he’s here we’ll go. It’s so nice to be able to talk to you again Grace. We all missed you”
“I missed you all too” They dissapeared “how long have you been up my love?”
“A few hours.”
“I didn’t realize I was gone that long.”
“It’s fine, they’ve been keeping me company most the time I’ve been awake.”
“good” He pulled her into his arms again “what would you like to do?”
“Dance with me?” Ardan smiled “it’s been so long, I doubt I’m any good still”
“doesnt matter, it’s fun”
“Anything you want” Ardan said as he walked over to turn some soft music on. It came naturally back to him with Grace in his arms. He delighted in her laughter and occasional kiss. “You must have been dancing with some other girl while i was gone. You’re still so good.” Grace winked “Of course not, you’re the only girl I’ve ever danced with.” He dipped her into a kiss.