Audric let out a bitter chuckle. “I had to do it, didn’t I?”
“Do what?” Astra pondered. “It seems to me like Dionysus was doing all of the work with this Sierra girl. Is she related to us somehow?”
“She is the mother of your founder,” Audric answered. Adding after seeing her confused look, “Athena Gray is considered the founder because it is where this whole thing began. The fiasco with your family.”
“I don’t know much about my family, if I’m being honest with you,” Astra confided. “I mean, I know about my family that was in Moonlight Falls but dad never spoke about his siblings much. I don’t know about my past.”
“You should, it’s important to who you are and why you’re here.” He stroked her arm lovingly and she eased into his touch. “You can’t hide from your past, even if you want to.” That part was more for him than her. “I wish I never met her.”
“What happened?” She could see the animosity in his eyes once again. It terrified her. He had an intense hatred for Sierra Gray and she needed to know more. Sierra was related to her, and what significance did that hold? She didn’t want to seem too eager but couldn’t resist leaning in to hear more.
The wind felt cold against Audric’s skin. How many more times would they meet like this? She made no effort to hide her presence, and neither did he. “You’re here to see Dionysus again?” Audric asked the young girl. She had to be in her early twenties. “How many times are you going to do your so called time travelling to meet him?”
She grinned. “Why, are you jealous?” She posed, batting her eyelashes at him. Audric could feel his face heat up but he quickly shook her off. “I hate to inform you that your presence is causing nothing but a stir in the Elven community. You can’t keep coming here and playing games with someone of Dionysus’ status. He is high ranking.”
“He’s not like you,” She said. “Why do you all insist on dragging him into your tribe when he doesn’t belong amongst you?” Sierra asked.
“It’d be like asking why you never come dressed appropriately when it snows.” Audric scoffed. “Because we want to.”
“Whatever, it’s not my business. It’s up to you guys and Dio-”
Audric cut her off sharply. “Don’t use those pet names with him. You’re an outsider. A true outsider.”
She shrugged. “So, what? Bash the human is it?”
She threw her arms around him and hugged him tightly. “I’m just messing with you, I know you get tense when I talk about Dionysus. You have great respect for him, as does he for you.”
“You’e making it so hard. Please, just go home and stay there. Humans don’t belong here.” But no matter how many times he told the girl to stop coming, the more she came. She popped in all the time, gushing about her lavish journeys to him and Dionysus. Audric began looking forward to seeing her, and anticipating when she would drop by next. But it was wrong to want something more with a human. This correspondence had to stop if he were to become the next Elder.
“I don’t want to.” She shook her head defiantly. “I’m going to keep coming back to see how you and Dio are doing. You guys are my friends, and I care about you both very much.”
“If you care, then you’ll stop,” Audric said faintly. “You are putting us both at risk. We could get banished from our tribe. Maybe Dionysus has another life to fall back onto, but I don’t.”
“I don’t see what the big deal is,” She insisted. “So what? A single human is here. What can I possibly do?”
“I don’t want to find out, Sierra.” He shook his head firmly and began to walk away.
“Audric wait!” She grabbed his arm fiercely. “Don’t just walk away. Please.”
He let out a drawn out sigh, but turned around and listened to her sweet words. “Don’t beg me. It’s unbecoming.”
“I want you to know how important you are to me, okay?” She mumbled. “I come to see you because I really do care. It’s like…every time I do something I think about how you’d feel if you were there with me. So, I’m sorry if me acting that way causes you discomfort. I’ll stop if that’s what you truly want. But just know that it’ll hurt me a lot.”
He couldn’t look at the beautiful woman in front of him. He didn’t deserve her kind words towards him. “I think about you often as well.”
“Then why do we have to fight this? Why should we stop seeing each other? It’s ridiculous to expect me to stay away because I’m a human.” She took a step closer to him. “I don’t want to be looked at like that anymore.”
“Stop,” He mumbled, but reached out to touch her porcelain skin anyway. “We need to go somewhere more secluded to talk about this. Besides the privacy, you must be freezing.”
She rubbed her arms but shrugged. “To see you, it’s no big deal.”
“Isn’t this room supposed to be a secret?” She asked in awe. “Only elves are allowed in here, that’s what you said.”
Audric nodded. “But no one should be studying down here at this time. It’s usually cleared out. We should be fine to talk.”
She nodded. “I know that you want me to leave, but the thought of never seeing you again makes my heart hurt. Dio too, but it’s different with you.”
“Please don’t say it.” Audric could feel the desperation rising in his voice.
“If you don’t want me to tell you that I love you than I won’t. But it’s true, that’s how I feel. It’s why I keep coming back no matter how bad the stares get.” She kicked her feet up. “There are no people like you where I’m from.”
“I knew I shouldn’t have entertained you with my attention.” Audric tried to stand but her grip on his arm was tight. “You did nothing but make me doubt my position.. You put me in a terrible spot.”
“I would never ask you to give up what you’re destined to do, all I know is that I love you and I wanted you to know. Alright? It was selfish of me to divulge that information, but I’m beginning to see more and more that you only live once.”
“So, I’ll leave. But not before I get to taste your lips.” Audric couldn’t process her words fast enough, and just like that her lips were on his in a forcefully passionate kiss. He couldn’t fight the feelings and leaned into her thin frame. His arms wrapped around her waist and he pulled her closer to him.
“I love you,” She mumbled again. “Come, travel with me. We could be the next best time traveling duo.”
“No,” He mumbled, pulling away from her delicious lips. “My place is here.”
She leaned up and kissed him once more. “How can you have a kiss like this and want to go back to the life you had before? Don’t you feel the spark?” And he did feel it. It pulsed through his body. “I don’t want to ever leave you.”
“You think I want to lose you?” Audric whispered. “You think I enjoy seeing you scrutinized every time you step foot into here? No, I hate it. It eats me up inside. I want you and nothing more. But, I don’t deserve you or the elves.”
As the nigh went on, they talked more and more with their pointless back and forths. Sierra throwing her words of love at him, and Audric failing to fight back with more than just his words. Soon, the two found themselves tangled up in each other. Clothes began to come off, and that’s when Audric had to put a stop to this. “No.” He shook his head. “Not down here. Not now. Not ever.”
“I…” Her voice trailed off. “I’m sorry.”
“Kissing is one thing, but sex is another-” He dropped his voice. “I think it’s about time you leave.”
“You…my ancestor?” Astra blinked. “I’m sorry, did I hear you right?”
“I didn’t go through with it,” He mumbled. “I couldn’t. My people were more important to me than her physical temptations and that’s all they were. She was a wretched woman.”
“What do you mean?”
“After I told her to leave, we heard voices near the door. It was too dangerous to let her leave. I would have gotten in trouble for having her down in a sanctioned area. So I claimed that I was pulling an all nighter and studying. Nobody came down to bother me.”
“She spent the night?” Astra could feel her throat closing. Was this what Audric felt when he found out that she had slept with Dionysus?
Audric nodded. “She slept on the couch, me on the floor. When I awoke she was gone and so was the book. She used me to get into the cellar and steal knowledge from us.”
“I can’t say. I’ve been forbidden to ever speak it’s name again. But it has an immense amount of power in it’s words. Without it, the elves were not able to maintain their spot in the power hierarchy. Considering I was the one who allowed her into the lair…” He ran a hand through his lilac hair. “Jonah didn’t want to but he had to banish me. I committed a crime of the severest degree. I let a human into our sanctuary and she took our knowledge to who knows where…or when. Then Dionysus was the only one left capable of taking over the elves and he led them for hundreds of years.”
Astra swallowed the bile she felt rising in her throat. “This whole situation is because of my ancestor?”
Despite his arms around her, she could see his vacant eyes. “You really cared about her?”
“I was enraptured by her presence. She was a mystery. One that seemed to like Dionysus so much more than me. She would come and talk to him for hours, and I would get but a few words. When it was me she said she chose, I couldn’t resist. I wanted to be the popular one with the power, don’t you get it? My insolence caused all of this.” He motioned around the room of the empty castle. “My actions caused the downfall of the Elves. That book was vital to them. They were not able to recover so quickly and the fairies took over to join the big three. Not only that, but she was human and that was a fundamental rule that I was breaking.”
“So why me then? I’m not anything like her…this isn’t some kind of act of revenge, is it?”
Audric shook his head. “I adore you. I tried my hardest to neglect you, but every time I pushed you away, you just kept coming back and back. I’m angry that Dionysus was able to take away your virtue, but I’m not shocked. He always had the clearer head of us two…” He leaned forward so that his head was touching hers. Sierra Gray is nothing liek you. You share the same blood, but unlike her you’re truthful about your endeavors.”
“I’m not.” She shook her head. “I did the same thing that she did, but I used my charm on Dionysus to get what I wanted. I’m a shitty person.”
He pushed his lips against hers to silence her. “Don’t. You are nothing like that wench. She’s doomed me to eternal…whatever this is.” He sighed. “I’ll live forever and watch over this dimension as my punishment for destroying the elves. I didn’t even know she knew about the book…” As he talked about Sierra, she could see distance in his eyes.
“You don’t need to lie to me,” She said suddenly. “I know that your story is true, but you don’t have to pretend like I’m your first choice.”
She shrugged, feeling her own heart drop in her chest. “You say that I’m nothing like her, when clearly I am. But it was Dionysus who got the short end of the stick this time, and not you. So, you don’t care. You’re willing to overlook it.” She tucked her hair behind her ear. “Or maybe you want me because I’m the only one with sucker written across my forehead that will give you the time of day. Or, maybe it’s because I’m a Gray and you have this fantasy-”
“Astra!” Audric said aggressively. “Do you hear yourself?”
“You want a family as much as I do, so you reeled me in….”She blinked back the tears. “I tried to keep it together during your story, but I just can’t last any longer. You expect me to drop everything, after a story like that. She’s related to me, not just some stranger you know. It’s complicated…” How could she put this feeling into words? “I’m pregnant with your child, how is that not different than what Sierra did to you? You entrapped me. But, I entrapped Dionysus…Looks like we’re both pretty messed up.” He reached out to grab her but she shoved his arm away. “Except, this time I have children to worry about. Two apparently, and I will not sit here and listen to whatever sorry excuse you have. Save the family history for someone like Charlotte. But just not me. Please.”