Audric leaned forward and kissed the top of my head. I shut my eyes and relished in the moment. I didn’t know much about Audric, and I desperately wanted to. But, part of me said that moments like these were enough. I don’t know how deep Audric’s thoughts for me ran, but it was just us in this large empty castle. Who else could he have been thinking about?
“So much, yet so little.” He smoothed my hair out once more before taking a step back. “We’ve trained for two years, I don’t want to depart, yet, we must. Soon, you’ll have to return home. But, that choice will be up to you. I will not force you to stay, but know that once you leave, you cannot return. It is not that I wouldn’t dream of having you return to me, but my palace, like everything about me, is forbidden.”
Forbidden. How could he ever be forbidden? What would stop me from seeing him once more? Did I want to live another life of isolation?
“Isolation is different. I will allow you to leave, and will you to come back as you please. If you choose to stay, you grant me that power. But, you must give yourself to me fully. In body, spirit and mind. I must be your one and only. It is why I ask you with a heavy heart to think clearly about this.” I tilted my head to the side. I didn’t understand, and he knew that. “I mean only that you must love me wholeheartedly and trust me. When you go off to your family, the bond we share is what allows you to return. But, if you cannot feel that bond towards me, you cannot ever find the palace again. Such is my curse.”
“I love you,” I blurted out. He took a step away from me, a smile still on his perfect doll-like face.
“You say such pretty words, Astra Gray. Your heavenly voice should not be wasted on words you do not mean.”
“I mean it,” I protested. The first time I had ever felt the need to argue with Audric.
Astra bit her lip thinking about the past. The first time she had wanted to argue with Audric, was also the first time that she knew she’d never be able to live without him. She wanted to fight for him, and he doubted her affection. Did he see now? That she wasn’t lying when she said she loved him?
Now, she was angry at the man once again, but for a different reason. Mason was the topic of conversation…she didn’t want to ever see the man, yet Audric wanted him to reside in their home.
“The house is big darling, we’d barely ever see him,” He had told her.
Didn’t Audric realize what that man had done to her family? HIS family, now? He almost broke up Charlotte and Jeff, and who knew what else? How could he want her to raise children with him so close by?
“It’s for the best of the dimension, that I keep an eye on him,” He had said. But what about their kids? Here they were again, back with the isolation and she let him lead her here willingly. She’d give u her life for him, but not her kids. They wouldn’t be near Mason Moon if she could help it. Angrily she stood up, collapsing back onto the love seat, seeing a note that had been carefully laid out in front of her.
My beautiful princess, please forgive me. Meet me on the top floor. I’ve acquired a dress that will look stunning on you, please wear it. I’d like to see your radiance. She scoffed. Audric was so old fashioned. A dress wasn’t going to make this better. Mason not living in their house would.
“Audric Brainard,” I whispered. “I love him.”
“Of course. Audric.” Dionysus stood up and pulled out his phone. “It’s always Audric with you people.”
“What?” I asked. “What does that mea-n?”
“Nothing,” Dionysus stated. “But you’re wrong. You can’t love him.”
“I can, and I do!” I felt my confidence grow as I defended the man I was positive I was in love with.
“Maybe I said that wrong. What I mean is that it isn’t smart. He can’t love you back. He’s incapable.”
“No.” My hand flew up to her heart. “He said he did. I know he does.”
“Do you really know who he is?” Dionysus demanded. “Honestly?”
“Of course I do, he…” I dropped her voice. He owned a castle. He did some forbidden magic and he took me in during my time of need.
“You don’t know who he really is!” Dionysus turned to face me. “Do yourself a favor and run far away before he breaks your heart. His line of work leaves no room for a significant other.”
Was Dionysus right? Would Audric always put his job before her? She knew she was selfish for thinking of herself when he had an entire dimension to watch over. But she was human, and she had needs. She wanted him to communicate with her. They had children on the way Not one, but two. Could he never be a father? She was snapped out of her thoughts when she saw Audric’s outstretched hand.
Bringing Astra’s small hand up to his face, Audric laid a gentle kiss on her knuckles. “You look amazing.”
“You think so?” She asked quietly.
“Always,” he replied. The way he looked at her…he really did love her. She knew that. “I’m sorry about earlier. I should have behaved in a more proper manner.” But he wasn’t apologizing for what he had suggested. “Astra, do not think those things about me,” He said, as if pained.
She blinked. “You read my thoughts?”
“I haven’t had to in so long, but it’s different now. We’re not on the same page as we used to be. I thought…I thought you had known about what you were getting into. I warned you.”
“Dionysus warned me too,” Astra said. “Yet, I’m still here. I accept your duty as dimension watcher, but this doesn’t seem like it’s life or death.”
Audric pulled her closer to him. “It never does, but it always is,” He said softly. “Come now, I didn’t make you get all dressed up to argue with me. Care for a dance?”
“No,” She answered simply. “I don’t think I do.”
He frowned. “Are you going to be angry at me forever?”
“No,” she whispered. He raised his brow. “But right now I feel like you’re trying to skirt this issue!” She pushed back from his chest. “What am I to you? Some girl who stays in this big house with you so you don’t feel so lonely?”
“Astra…is that how you feel?” He couldn’t hide the shock on his face. He had often put his work first but he didn’t know that it affected Astra so much. Had he made a mistake by bringing her into is world? “I love you. More than life itself. I’m doing what I’m doing to protect the future for our children and for you.Don’t you want a world for them to grow up in?”
“Of course I do!” She cried. “But I want you too! I want you to sit with me sometimes, and watch stupid television shows. or, come to family functions. I visited Charlotte’s place last week to see my niece and nephews and you were off doing Watcher knows what! I want you to be a part of my world, not just me be a part of yours. I want you to know what it’s like to have a real family. Show my sisters how amazing you truly are, show them the reason I love you so much!”
He crashed his lips onto hers. She reached up, tangling her hands in his hair. She had so much pent up desire. She had wanted him to lay her down right where they stood. But he never would.
Alistair nodded. He turned to Audric one last time. “If you’re really here to help us, then I’ll think about letting my daughter run off with you.”
He chuckled. “Mr. Gray, you must let go eventually. If she does not ever want to come with me, I won’t stop her. I want her to be happy.”
I sighed. “It’s not fair. I want you to stay.”
He grabbed me by my waist and dipped me. “First kiss, my love?” I grabbed him tightly, putting as much of myself into the kiss as I could. “You’re beautiful.”
“You’re changing the subject,” I whispered.
He smiled and kissed my forehead. “We cannot have the conventional relationship like your sisters. Children is not an option for us.”
Things were different now. They were going to have kids. They were having a conventional relationship…sort of. Things could change. To hold on to her, Audric would do anything. He was sure that if he had to choose her or the world, he’d choose her. But for now, he’d fight to have them both. “What are you doing?” She whispered as he fell to his knee. “Please don’t.”
“Astra, I don’t want you to feel like you’re some play thing.” They hadn’t even slept in the same bed…that’s what Astra was thinking of? He was down on one knee and she was recounting his faults? “Please don’t leave me. I love you.”
“What are you saying?”
“I want to be with you for the rest of eternity. Marry me? I promise I’ll be more attentive. I’ll change, I’m trying my best. Make me the happiest man alive, officially.”
She shook her head. “I can’t do that, Audric.”
“What?” He dropped the box, as he fumbled to compose himself. This entire night had been planned out. She was going to walk in and he would be playing Piano, but she was early. He was going to dance with her, but she pushed him away. He was going to propose and she said no. He stood up and dusted his pants off. She had enough of him, hadn’t she?
“Wait, Audric! Don’t leave!” She called after him as he sauntered out of the room.
Hearing the man’s name, caused a lump to grow in my throat. “You know about Dionysus and I?”
He pulled me closer to him. “I’d be lying if I said it didn’t hurt me, but I can’t really blame you, can I?”
“Yes you can. I slept with someone who’s like a brother to you. You should be angry. You should hate me. I hate me.”
“I can’t hate you, my love.” He kissed the top of my nose. “I was gone for ten years. Could I expect you to stay faithful?”
“Why did you say it like that?” I asked. “Faithful…we weren’t really even together. You don’t leave someone for over a decade and call it a relationship.”
“Astra, the two of us were in a mutual agreement. I told you that I’d return for you, did I not? We were both well aware of our relationship. You were mine, and I was yours.” She could see the hatred in his eyes for a brief moment. “You had sex with Dionysus, of all people. You’re having his baby, and here I am with open arms for you. I gave you the child you wanted from us.”
She chased after him. She had stepped on his toes time and time again, and he had been patient with her. She slept with Dionysus, and he was patient with her. He was willing to raise someone else’s child! She didn’t feel she was being unreasonable, but she needed to be more patient with him. She loved him, and he loved her. they both had their faults that they needed to work out. “Audric, babe.”
He looked up at her. “Did you just call me babe?”
She nodded. “I did, yes. We could use little pet names. You always call me darling and princess. Let me call you something cute.” He looked upset, as if he was crying. “I’m sorry, please don’t take me saying no as a bad thing. Let me explain.” He patted the spot next to him on the bed and she joined him. “I didn’t say no because I’m mad at you. I didn’t say no because I don’t love you.”
“Because we’re not Adeline and Erik. We don’t need a marriage to make this official. The minute you took me into your home, was the minute it became official. Audric, a ring is a piece of metal. I know you think it’s what I want, but it’s not. You don’t need to be tied down to me, and I don’t need to be tied down to you because of a ring. I love you. You love me. That’s all that matters at the end of the day. And when I say I want more, it’s not this I’m talking about. I don’t need lavish and expensive dates or this huge house. I just want an hour or two alone with you. I want conversations that don’t matter and inside jokes. Cute unexpected kisses, cuddles when it’s cold.”
He pulled her into a tight hug. “I’ve never been in a relationship before. But I don’t want to lose you.”
“You won’t. Ever. I promise.” He ran his hand down her smooth back, the heat rising within himself. He laid a tender kiss on her neck before pulling her backwards onto the bed with him.
“Can we cuddle now?” She nodded, snuggling up to him.
“I forgot to tell you how handsome you looked today, Audric,” She said quietly, playing with his bow tie. “Like such a gentleman. Will you dress up more often for me?”
“I’d do anything for you.”