“It’s nice to have this body back,” she observed. “I feel so,” she paused, “young—beautiful even.” She giggled. “My voice even seems more like my own again.”
“You have been beautiful throughout the ages,” he whispered into her long, blond hair as he inhaled deeply.
“I was a crone,” she chuckled.
“I think that you and I have very different conceptions of the word ‘crone,’” he kissed her temple. “You have always been my girl—as beautiful as the moment I first saw you. Do you remember?”
“Even three millennia could not take away such a good memory,” she assured.
“Your hair was spun gold. It feels even softer now than it did then.” He sighed as he tried to get even closer to her. He was leaning against some cushions in the bower he’d made for them, and she was leaning against him—her back to his chest; her bare legs touching his; her head resting on his shoulder; her hands touching his hand and knee; his hands touching her hand and hair; his lips on her temple, behind her ear, on her chin; his cheek against hers. She would never be close enough.
He would never let her go again.
“Yes, but my hair was gray by the time I was made a vampire. I was old—a crone.”
“Gold became silver,” he kissed her hair. “But it was no less beautiful—no less precious.”
“You are biased.”
“You are beautiful.”
She turned her head a little so that she could reach his lips with hers. Their kiss was languid and unhurried—silk floating on a lazy breeze.
“I thought I would have no body here,” she remarked as their lips parted. “I thought we’d be spirits or something.”
He growled into her ear a little. “I—for one—am very glad that I have this body to touch.” His fingers ghosted along the sides of her breasts.
She giggled and then sighed as she laid her head back onto his shoulder. “Where are we?”
“I have no idea,” he smiled into her cheek as he kissed it.
“You don’t?” she asked. “But you’ve been dead for so long.”
“Dead?” he asked playfully, as he swirled his fingertips around her nipples. “I am definitely not dead.”
She felt his generous erection against her back and gasped as her lust rose—again. The fact that they’d been making love for hours—or was it days?—since she’d gotten there told her that neither one of them was truly dead.
“Is this the Summerlands?” she asked as he moved his hands onto her stomach.
“Perhaps,” he said. “I have seen all kinds of Fae since I came here—Sky, Water, and Earth Fae and Fire Fae too. But there are more here as well.”
“Humans?” she asked.
“Yes and more,” he answered even as he began to move his hands a little lower, rubbing small circles into her soft flesh as he went. “Species I knew of before my death and those I could not even imagine have passed through this place, but I was waiting for only one—for you—my beloved.”
She turned to face him, biting her lip as his intense blue eyes captivated her.
“I thought that I had remembered your eyes so perfectly. They were the last thing I thought of each day before my sleep, and they woke me—always. But,” she sighed breathlessly, “my memory was dim in comparison to the sight I see before me now.”
He grinned boyishly. “Do you remember our first kiss?”
She nodded and returned his grin, “Under the nata tree behind my parents’ home?” She raised an eyebrow. “Do you remember what happened after that?”
Artegal growled. “Oh yes. You took me against that tree, woman.”
She giggled again. “As I remember it, you were the one who took me.”
He brought her hand up to his lips and placed the gentlest of kisses on her palm. “I am no fool, my love. I recognized that you were in charge—even then. You were just letting me think that I was.”
She tickled his side. “Do not try to goad me,” she teased.
He chuckled as he grabbed both of her wrists so that she couldn’t continue her tickling. He remembered well how relentless she was once she got started.
“I have never been able to help that.” He pulled her closer and—soon—she was taking him again.
It was several hours—or was it days?—later when their gasps once more became steady breaths and their moans once more turned into words.
They were lying down, facing each other. Their legs were tangled together. Her expression, which had been a soft, contented smile, turned to worry.
“What is wrong, my love?” he asked as he pulled her into his embrace.
“Will they be alright?” she asked, as she curled into him.
“Yes,” he said gently, knowing whom she was talking about without her needing to tell him. He kissed his beautiful mate’s temple comfortingly. He’d always loved that spot.
“How do you know?” she asked. “I can no longer see their future.”
“Nor can I,” he observed. “Here, I have learned to watch over those I care for without knowing what will happen.”
“Then how do you know they will be well?” she asked.
“Here,” he answered, placing his hand over her once more beating heart and then pulling her hand over his heart. “From here, I always knew that you would come to me. From here, I always knew that your plans for them would come to fruition.”
“You were watching over me?” she asked, knowing his response already. Still, she wanted to hear it from him.
“Of course. Always. Where else could my eyes have lived except upon your beauty, my love?”
A clear tear slipped from her eye. “I had always hoped you were watching over me.”
“I thought I felt you sometimes.”
“I hoped you did,” he said.
They were quiet for a few moments.
“So they will be safe?” she asked, still trying to get used to the fact that she no longer had the burden—or the luxury—of future-sight to guide her.
He shrugged. “I know nothing of their safety. It means very little in the grand scheme of things. You asked me if they would be alright—if they would be well, and they will be. Their love will guide them.”
“Like ours?” she asked.
“Exactly.” His blue eyes relit with molten desire. “I have been without your body for too long, my love.”
She chuckled. “You had me minutes ago.”
“One minute is too long,” he purred. “And after all the time that we were apart, I will never get my fill of you.”
“I know,” she whispered as he began to make long caresses from her hip to her neck and back again. “We were without each other for so long,” she lamented as she placed her palm onto his cheek. “But I always knew—always.”
“Knew what?” he asked.
“I always knew that I would make my way back to you.”
“And I always knew that you would come.”
“And they will be the same,” she whispered confidently―even as she lost herself in the arms of her beloved.
No. As she found herself there.
A/N: Sigh. I continue to be floored by the support for this story! And now that it’s over, I cannot help but to feel both happy and sad. Thank you for going on this journey with me.
I have written an extended Author’s Note/Thank you letter to readers. If you want to know what is up next in California Kat’s wheelhouse of stories, then check it out (below). If you want to hear me go on and on (and you know I can do it too!) about how much I appreciate you all, then I hope you read it.
If you are not interested, then let me just say this: Thanks and I hope I will “see” you at my next story.
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