“Dramatic much?” Aden quipped into the silence.
Sighing, Kara closed her eyes, rubbing her face with her hands. She was so tired and they were just beginning. Everything that had happened in the throne room had left her feeling adrift and shattered. Even though she knew who the people around her were, at the same time she felt as if she did not know them at all. It was as if there were two versions of each of them super-imposed over the top of each other. Even her own mind was trying to decide which reality was the right one. The last forty years of her life or the countless years of her existence. The only one who seemed to stay in focus, who was solid, was Aden, and she clung to that surety like a lifeline. One that Tanis desperately want to yank out of her hands. How was she supposed to keep the two of the men who meant the universe to her from killing each other?
“Are you all right?” Aden asked quietly, wrapping his arms around Kara’s waist and pulling her back against him, ignoring Tanis’s warning. Kara was his, damn it. No possessive jealous immortal was going to keep her from him. When she sank against him, her hands clutching his arms as she shook, he held her closer, his lips in her hair. Gently he pushed his power out and through her, wrapping her in a warm cocoon of safety and love.
Closing her eyes again, her head lying back against his shoulder, Kara allowed her body to sink into that warmth that comfort, if only for a moments peace. After what had happened in the throne room she knew it was a false security. No one was safe from the presence she had seen and felt reaching for her, wanting to own her.
“I don’t know,” she whispered. “There are so many emotions, so many memories running through my head, and not all of them mine. Always before when we came together, the memory of who we are, why we were created would take over, pushing our lives as a mortal completely from our consciousness. Our spouses, our children would not exist and we would continue from where we left off two thousand years before. This time everything is mixed together. I do not know who I am, what I am supposed to do. Who I am supposed to be with.” She tightened her arms around Aden’s. “Except for you. I know I belong to you, as you belong to me.”
Kara’s words sent a thrill through Aden. Having her say out loud what he knew deep inside his soul settled something within him. He was where he was supposed to be, but he had many questions about what was myth and legend, and what was true.
“Tanis called Caius brother.”
“In a way we are brothers and sister. We were created at the same time by the Gods. We are equal in power.” She turned in Aden’s arms so she could look at him. “Aden, there is more to the prophecy then Caius has told you. It is a battle that has raged for eons between good and evil. That part is true. There has to be a balance between the two in order for the universe to survive. There cannot be all good, just as there cannot be all evil. Like all things, there are rules. Some of those rules can be bent, some of the minor ones broken, but the important ones. The ones that are necessary to keep the universe spinning, to keep life as we know it safe, cannot. Caius has broken one of those rules by living past mine and Tanis’s death. He has brought players into the game that are not part of the make-up of our universe.”
“The demon Tanis spoke about?” Aden asked.
Kara nodded, the memories of the days before her last death playing before her eyes. Her voice was a whisper when she spoke next. “We knew something was wrong. Caius was acting so strange, but we never thought….” Closing her eyes, Kara shuddered. “That…thing promised when it found me it would make me regret making it wait. That he would find me and….” Again she shuddered. The demon had kept its promise. There had been times in her existence where life had not been pleasant, down right abusive, but nothing compared to what she had gone through this lifetime. “I don’t think Colin finding me was as much of a coincidence as we think.”
“You think the demon sent him to you?” Aden frowned.
A memory long forgotten surged forward filling her eyes, and because the memory was so sudden and the connection still raw and new it bled into Aden and filled his vision as if it was his own.
Mist coated the floor of the forest, swirling around Kara’s bare feet as she slowly crept through the underbrush, her long white dress strangely not becoming entangled in the leaves and sticks. The moonlight shone in patches through the tree canopy giving just enough light to throw shadows. Shadows that seemed to move as she moved. There was no sound. The forest was deadly quiet, which in itself should have told her something was very wrong. Nevertheless, she kept moving forward, pulled by some unseen force that wanted her deeper in the forest.
Up ahead the light grew brighter, as if the trees were parting allowing more of the moon’s light to chase back the shadows. As she slowed, fear finally began to seep its way into her heart. Whatever was up there was not friendly, yet she kept moving forward. When she stepped out into the meadow she saw a man standing in the middle, smiling. He was older than her twenty-two years. Gray showed at his temples and throughout his short black hair. His blue eyes shone as if there was a dim light behind them. His face was as gentle as his smile, but there was an aura around him that spoke of malice contained. A few inches above Kara’s five foot seven, he was handsome in that older gentlemanly way. His clothes were strange. A black tunic with a strange design embroidered down the front that seemed to move as she watched. A trick of the shadows, or maybe…something else. Black pants tucked into knee high black boots, his black cape moved in a breeze that did not exist around his ankles. This man held power that Kara could only imagine. Power far beyond her own.
“Hello Kara. I have been waiting for you for a long time,” he greeted in his deep voice.
“How do you know me?” she asked stopping at the edge of the meadow. Something told her to go any closer would not be good.
“I know a great many things about you,” he mused. “Things that you can only imagine in your dreams. Shall I show you?”
Then he changed. He grew taller, his hair grew longer changing from its black to a deep blood red. The eyes also changed to red, and his smile was no longer gently, but full of that contained malice. He was beautiful. So beautiful that it took Kara’s breath away, but the evil radiating from him spoiled that beauty. She took an involuntary step back. She knew those eyes, that smile. It haunted her nightmares, promised her blood and pain. So much blood and pain.
“No,” she breathed shaking her head in disbelief. “You can’t be real.”
“I assure you I am very real. I have been waiting a very long time for you to reappear, Kara. Long, torturous years, but I have not been idle while you hid from me. Now I have found you we can begin.”
“No!” Kara screamed stumbling backwards. The wind whipped around her, making it hard to breathe. When it died she looked down and her dress had changed. It was the same white, but now the front plunged down to her navel. The sides slit up to above her hips, a panel that barely covered her ass and the front of her dropped to her feet, the back panel trailing on the ground. She felt the cool breeze on her back and knew that nothing covered her skin there. Her hair floated around her in the surge of her own power as it answered his as if it knew him.
“You cannot run from me Kara. Wherever you go, whoever owns you, I will come for you. I will have you.” He stepped towards her, his hand outstretched, his eyes flames. “There is no God or Goddess that can keep you from me now that I have found you. No one. You are mine!”
Just as he was about to touch her, his power caressing her skin, Kara screamed again and the world shifted.
“Yes, yes he has,” Kara breathed her skin running cold as the depth of the lies that Caius had fed her all these years, the betrayal. When they had found her, Caius had seemed her salvation from Colin’s cruelty. Now she knew differently. Caius knew all along who she was, what she was to him, yet he allowed the demon inside him use him as a mask to draw her in so he could wrap his spells around her. She was the key, the glue that kept the balance between good and evil so the universe kept spinning. To control her was to control the universe. And now it had all three of them.
“It was all lies,” Aden said softly, his voice strangled with the pain that revelation brought. “He knew who I was, what I was, and he won my trust, my love, and it was all lies.”
Kara turned to face him, her hand resting on his cheek as she stared into his pain filled eyes. “Not all of it,” she assured.
“How can you say that when his betrayal to you is far greater than to me?”
“Because I see how he looks at you when he thinks no one is watching. When the real Caius peeks through the demon’s eyes. The Caius I know would never use you in a bid for power. Not when he knows the part you play.”
“Then I am just a pawn to be played in this great game of chess,” Aden said bitterly.
“You are the son that he could never have,” Kara corrected gently. She understood his pain. Knew it was justified to a point. She just needed to make him see beyond that pain. “The demon may have whispered where you were, what part you played and Caius in turn found you earlier than was prophesized. That does not mean that he did not grow to love the boy who turned into a man as if he were his own. Caius may be labeled evil in words, but he has a heart and he loves deeply. Even as a mortal, when I first came here I saw that love. It wasn’t until the demon took complete control did that love turn to greed and hate.” Kara relaxed a fraction when she saw the anger and pain in Aden’s eyes turn to uncertainty. When he closed his eyes, his body shuddering, she felt him had push his pain back so they could focus on the danger at hand. When he opened his eyes, the pain was replaced with focused determination.
“If the demon has control of Caius, what can we do to free him. The prophecy was very clear that the catalyst only comes once. If we kill Caius’s body in an attempt to free him it may not kill the demon. The other side of that thought is, according to the prophecy this is the one and only time I, the catalyst, will be present. Killing Caius may cause a chain reaction that will destroy the universe. Is it a risk worth taking?” Aden asked his own horror filling his voice.
Aden was right. Killing Caius in an attempt to free him of the demon would not work. The demon would just jump to another body and be waiting for them when they emerged again. Kara shook her head.
“No, your right. Killing Caius will not work. If the universe survives, the demon will only be waiting for us to reemerge and we will start all over again. What we need to do is work together. If you, Tanis and I combine our powers we may be able to chase the demon out of him long enough to finish the prophecy. It’s the only way,” Kara answered.
“Even if we could without setting off the necklace, Tanis will never allow it. I can feel his presence pressing against mine. Fighting me. He does not want to share you,” Aden whispered his lips in her hair as his arms tightened around her.
“He is afraid you will take me from him,” she explained resting her check against his chest, snuggling closer. It felt so good to touch him. “This is new to him. For so long it has only been the three of us, no one else. Give him time to wrap his mind around you being a part of the prophecy, a part of us.”
“His stubbornness will only end up hurting you. I can’t trust him to keep you safe.” Aden cupped her cheek with his hand, moving her head so he could look into her eyes. “I could barely keep myself from killing everyone in the garrison this afternoon for what they did to you. I don’t want you to endure that again. I won’t allow it. I need to stay here, with you.”
Giving him a smile that was filled with sadness and did not reach her eyes, Kara put her hand over his.
“Don’t Aden,” she begged. “You must do as Caius ordered and go down to the planet. If you disobey he will either use me to force you to go, or I will lose you altogether. I barely survived when you were torn from me in the throne room. I can’t go through losing you again.”
Aden looked at her with such anguish she thought her heart would break.
“It felt as if you were being pulled from me cell by cell. The pain was so excruciating I couldn’t…breathe. I thought I was dying, and no matter how hard I tried I could not feel you even though you were right there in front of me.”
“But you feel me now?”
“Yes, but it’s not the same.”
She could see the uncertainty in his eyes. Feel the fear of losing her again tearing him up side. Even now, with Tanis in the other room, the link between them was growing stronger, binding tighter, trying to push out everything before this moment. Yet there was something about Aden, a feeling deep down inside her that told Kara no matter what happened between her, Tanis and Caius, she would always and forever belong to Aden. Once the ritual was completed, nothing in the known universe or beyond would ever tear them apart again. Ever.
“What I feel is…different. Distant,” Aden continued taking one of her hands in his, bringing it up and kissing her fingers while his other arm stayed firmly wrapped around her. Keeping his eyes on their hands he continued. “I know they insist I let you go, but I can’t.” He looked into her eyes. “I won’t, and I don’t think you want me to otherwise you would not have pulled me back to you. You are the only thing that makes my life bearable. Before you, I was floating through a haze of pain and hatred. I don’t want to go back to that. I can’t,” his voice was almost a whisper. He leaned closer, his eyes moving to her lips. “I am yours now and forever. I love you,” he said before kissing her.
With her heighten sense of awareness Kara not only felt the demand from his kiss, but the fierceness of Aden’s feelings for her like never before. It was not the need to possess her or own her like Anthony or Caius, but to have her love him as much as he loved her. To assure him that she still loved him. His emotions weaved themselves around hers, intertwining until she could no longer distinguish his emotions or his powers from hers.
Words so ancient Aden did not recognize the language but somehow knew the meaning played across his mind. A compulsion so strong there was no chance of fighting it consumed them both. Suddenly Aden knew what he must do to make Kara his until the end of time. Just as he was about to flash them to his room, pain exploded through his body right before Kara was ripped from his arms. Distantly, through the roaring of his blood rushing through his head, he heard her scream but all he could see was a white haze as he collapsed to his knees, his hands pressing either side of his head. It felt as if it was about to explode. Then as suddenly as it started it stopped.
“Kara?” he gasped trying to stand only to fall back to his hands and knees as the room spun.
“I’m here,” she hissed, her voice strained.
Something was wrong.
Looking up he found her across the room with Tanis in front of her half holding her up and half holding her back. Her face was pale, her body trembling. Whatever Tanis had done to him had spread to her, and that pissed Aden off.
“You bastard! Does your stupidity know no bounds?” Aden rasped his voice hoarse with pain as he staggered to his feet. “She is bound to me. Everything I feel she feels. You know this.”
“I will not allow you to finish what was started,” Tanis snarled.
“You can’t stop it,” Aden growled back pushing himself to his full height even though what he really wanted to do is collapse back onto the floor. Gods that had hurt! “Neither of you assholes can. Whether you or Caius like it or not, Kara belongs to me just as much as she belongs to you. Keeping us from finishing the ritual will not change that.”
Snarling, Tanis rushed Aden slamming him against the wall. “You will never touch her again, or by the Gods I will kill you.”
“You will try,” Aden hissed struggling to pull Tanis’s hand from his neck. As his breathing was being constricted he could see so was Kara’s.
“Tanis! Stop!” Kara cried pulling on his arm trying to force him to loosen his grip on Aden’s neck as she tried to suck in precious air.
“You kill me, you will kill her,” Aden gasped.
Before Tanis could comprehend what Aden had said, the door slid open and three men with guns rushed in. Without even looking, Tanis sent them crashing against the far walls. The moment they hit the hard surface Kara screamed in agony, crumpling to the floor. The pain lashed out taking Tanis to his knees. Aden dropped to the floor next to him gasping for air.
“What the hell was that?” Tanis gasped.
“What I’ve been trying to warn you about,” Aden snarled. “The prophecies portrayed you as intelligent, not an incompetent ass.”
“Watch it boy,” Tanis growled as he watched Aden push himself to his hands and knees. “You have no idea who you are dealing with.”
“Oh, I’ve seen enough,” Aden snapped crawling towards Kara who lay on the other side of Tanis barely conscious.
“Stay away from her,” Tanis warned grabbing Aden’s arm as he passed.
“I’ve had enough of your stupidity for one day,” Aden hissed.
Suddenly Tanis found himself flying across the room, but just before he hit the wall he stopped and dropped onto the floor in a heap.
“Stay out of my way,” Aden warned. Crawling to Kara he carefully pulled her into his arms. “Are you all right?” he breathed checking her over. When she could only nod he pulled her close and glared at Tanis who had managed to stagger to his feet with the help of the wall. “What will it take for you to understand you cannot fight any of them without hurting her?”
“What is it going to take for you to realize she is not yours?” Tanis countered glaring at him.
Before Aden could do more than narrow his eyes and growl in frustration, Captain Wells strode through the door. One glance around the room and what he had felt in the hall told him what had happened. That much show of power was not going to go unnoticed.
“My Lord,” he interjected calmly. “If I felt that in the hall, the Emperor will have felt it too. He will be here soon to see what the hell is going on. If we don’t leave now…,” he let that thought finish itself.
“Thank you, Captain,” Aden acknowledge mildly, unable to keep the weariness out of his eyes. It had been a very long day and too much had happened physically and emotionally for him to even try. Moving his eyes to Kara, he gentle removed a stray strand of hair off her face. He did not want to leave her. Not with Tanis this angry and so unwilling to listen. “Wait for me outside,” he ordered not taking his eyes off of her.
Captain Wells nodded then motioned the three soldiers who had groggily stumbled to their feet to follow him out the door.
Once they were gone and the door was closed Aden rested his lips on Kara’s forehead. Just from that small touch he could feel the link between them tighten, strengthen. It felt like small tendrils reaching out and intertwining with each other, making them one. How was he going to be able to walk out of this room? Just thinking about it viciously twisted his stomach. What will it be like leaving the ship? Movement caught his eye and he looked up to see Tanis standing over them.
“You stopped me from slamming into the wall because you knew it would hurt her,” Tanis said, his eyes thoughtful.
“I won’t do anything to hurt her.”
“Then let her go,” Tanis ordered quietly.
“You know I can’t,” Aden responded his eyes narrowing. “No more than you can. I don’t understand what is going on any more than you do, but somehow I am a part of this. A part of her. There is nothing you or Caius can do to change that.” As if his name conjured him, Aden felt Caius coming closer, and he was livid. “I must go.”
Standing a bit wobbly with Kara in his arms, Aden carried her to the couch and laid her down. Kneeling down next to her, he brushed her hair from her face as he looked into her eyes, seeing the same unease he felt. His voice showing just how unsteady he was not only in body but emotionally, he whispered, “I will try and find out why this is happening. In the meantime, be careful what you do or say. Try to make Tanis understand what is at stake if he doesn’t do as Caius commands. What he will do to you.”
“I will. Now go before it’s too late,” Kara urged.
Aden looked into her eyes not wanting to leave. With one last kiss he stood and glared at Tanis. “I know you have had more lifetimes with Kara than I can ever imagine, but I have been with her through this one and there are things that you do not know or can even begin to understand. I don’t have time to explain everything to you before I leave. All I ask is that you tread carefully with Caius. He’s been…unstable lately, and Kara has been paying the price of that instability. I don’t want to see her hurt anymore. Not like…,” Aden’s voice trailed off as his eyes found Kara’s.
“You say you love her, that you know better than I do what her life is like, yet you leave her here to face the demon without you,” Tanis said quietly, bringing Aden’s eyes up to his. The anguish in them shocked Tanis.
“You do not want to know what he will do to her if I stay,” Aden whispered.
Closing his eyes, Aden swallowed hard before turning and walking out of the room. Outside Captain Wells and his guards took up formation behind Aden as he headed towards the landing bay. As hard as it was to walk out of that room, he did not want to be anywhere near the destroyer when Tanis took Kara and finished the ritual. He could not promise he would not go back and rip her from his arms and kill him. What Aden did know was powerful immortals or not, Caius and Tanis could not keep him away from Kara forever. One day they would finish what they started.
Copyright © 2019 Heidi Barnes