Audric ran his hand through his lilac hair. It was over. Astra, the love of his life, was gone. She was gone forever. He had messed up. Things had to be done, and he had to do things she would never agree with. That he knew. He could handle that weight. But how could he live with himself knowing he had hurt her? The mother of his daughter?
“Finally,” Quinn muttered, sauntering into the room. “I thought we would never fix this mess. One distraction out of the way. Now, we can move onto bigger things.”
“You callous wench!” Audric cried. “I told you not to return here.”
“And I gave you the month that you needed to heal, did I not? I can’t give you centuries. You may not be aging, but the dimensions around you are. Things are happening around the world. We need to work together to stop the threats that are arising.”
“What threats?” He mumbled, not wanting to see her.
“You tell me!” She demanded. “You wanted to talk about something important and got distracted by a human. Are you ready to tell me? Or, are you happy wasting precious time?”
Audric rolled his eyes. “All you do is nag. Astra never nagged.”
“Get a grip,” Quinn demanded. “Our dimensions are falling apart! Millions of people could lose their homes, lives, memories! You’re going to sit down and listen to what I have to say. I’m not giving you an option.”
Audric listened to her drone on and on for what seemed like hours. “Well?” She asked, hands on her hips.
“Well what?” Audric asked.
“Were you even listening?” She cried. “You’ve got to be kidding me. Why does my dimension have to link to yours? Of all people…you!”
Audric rolled his eyes. “Stop talking and let me explain things.”
Quinn crossed her arms over her chest and glared at him. “Two minutes before I kill you myself.”
“There is someone trying to destroy all dimensions in the vicinity of mine,” Audric said. “They’re conversing with the guardians which tells me that they must be from my dimension, but have exploited the rifts to expand their horizons. Yours could be next, or others.”
Quinn’s eyes widened. “You’re joking…”
“I’m not,” He replied. “And my contact in the guardians is working for Mason, who has gone rogue.”
“So instead of fixing this, you’re sulking? How many dimensions have to be dragged into this Brainard? I have to do everything myself, don’t I?”
She got up to walk away. “Where are you going?” Audric asked.
“I need to double check this, contact the other dimensions it could affect. You know, things to keep our dimensions afloat. Stop sulking and when I come back, I want a real plan of action. Think about it long and hard, Audric. I’m not playing anymore games, I will not lose my people.”
Charlotte groaned, looking at the house around her. It was no honeymoon, but at least the kids were sleeping over their grandfather’s for the weekend. She’d have to thank her dad later for that. She stared at the wedding dress that lie in the corner of the room, her pajama shirt in the other. She was wearing a casual outfit now, but seeing how Jeff looked at her, and how the week had been going so far, they’d be off in a few minutes. She shouldn’t have wasted so much time getting dressed if- She laughed, thinking about it. No matter how many times she had been intimate with Jeff over the years, he had never failed to excite her. He knew just the way to touch her to make her feel perfect. She stared up at the ceiling, letting her mind wander.
“Morning beautiful, I see you’re dressed.” The ceiling was quickly replaced by her husband’s smiling face.
“I see you are too. Are we done with our fun?” She smirked.
“Never.” He shook his head. “But let’s not be like rabbits today. I wanted to talk, give me five minutes of your time.”
“You have every second of my time,” She whispered. “Whenever you want it. Now what’s on your mind?”
“Just close your eyes and listen. These are all the things I could never tell you.”
“What?” She whispered. “What are you talking about?”
“Just do it,” He mumbled softly. “Please.” Slowly, her eyelids fluttered closed and she focused on the sound of his breathing. “When I first laid eyes on you, I thought you were beautiful. But, I hated you so much. I tried so hard to get you to listen to me, and you pushed me away every chance you got. But there was something about you that I couldn’t fight, I wanted to know you. I…” He took a deep breath. “I love you more than anything in the world, you know that, right? I would give up my old life ten times over to be with you.”
“But…” There was always a but. She waited.
“But, I miss my children. I miss my family. I miss my siblings and my uncle.” He slowly traced her cheek with his index finger. “I never got to tell you how alone I’ve felt these past years. I see you and your sisters and I miss my siblings. At our wedding I told you that I didn’t care, but I do. I love your family, our family, but it’s not the same. ”
“No, wait,” He said. “I don’t regret this. I don’t want to go back. I would choose this life over the life I had with my other wife. There is no doubt in my mind about that. I love you more than anything in the world, and I do mean that. I love you so much.” She could see the tears forming at the corner of his eyes.
“Then what?” She whispered. “What are you saying?”
“The potion that would keep me young,” He began. “I can’t take it.” Why not? She waited for him to finish. “I don’t want to. Please don’t think this selfish of me, but when it’s my time, and our children are old enough to handle themselves I want to return to my family.”
“In the ground,” She mumbled. “You want to just die in some vain attempt to reach your family? It doesn’t work like that.”
“We don’t know that,” Jeff said. “And I’m a human. Let me live my course. I already cheated death once, but I can’t do it forever. I know it isn’t what you want to talk about now but-”
She shut her eyes tightly. “You just told me that you’re going to do to me what my grandfather did to Ethan. I’m supposed to be okay with that.”
“No,” He whispered. “You don’t have to be, but I know you are strong enough to take whatever life throws at you.”
“Because I have you.”
“I owe my life to you. My heart, my soul, my determination…they’re all because of you. I will never be able to thank you for all that you’ve done for me, for the family that you’ve given me.” She was crying now, and so was he. He laid down and pulled her close to him. “I love you. I will always love you. Nothing will change that.”
Astra tapped her fingers impatiently against the counter. A job…a single mother with a real job. She hadn’t had a normal life like this since she was living amongst humans. Knox was with Alistiar and Ethan, who swore they’d be good babysitters while she went job hunting. She wanted to raise him, but she needed money. Eventually, she heard a thump and saw a man walk into the room. “Hi, I’m so sorry about that. How can I help you…” The man’s voice trailed off when she noticed Astra. “Oh, the newbie.”
“Excuse me?” She demanded. “Don’t you dare treat me like that. I may be new, but that means nothing!”
He rolled his eyes at her. “My job requires me to be nice to you, but other than that I have no interest in talking to you. So if I can help you, let me know so we can make this as painless as possible.”
“I need a job,” She replied, biting her lip. “I have a son to support.”
“This place ain’t going to help much with that.” He motioned behind him to the books on the shelves. “Everything’s all digital now, even here in Fortitude. No one reads anymore, don’t need more than one clerk here.”
“I can do anything. Shelving, uhm…other book stuff.”
“You want to work in MY book store and you know nothing about books?” He chuckled. “Yeah right. Not happening.”
“Right. of course,” She mumbled. “This is because of who I am, where I come from and what you saw of me in the park.”
“It’s not,” He replied. “You don’t look like you’ve worked a day in your life. The father of your kid rich or something?”
“Yeah, he is,” She replied. “But he’s a dead beat traitor so I don’t really care about him. If you’re not going to offer me a job, then I’ll be on my way. Raising my kid with no money…”
“Wait…” She saw something flicker in his eyes and she knew she had him snared. “Can you work nights?”
She tilted her head. “I guess…?”
“Good,” he replied. “No one buys books at night, you can’t mess that up. And, then you’ll get to spend some time in the morning with your son.”
She looked at the hard hearted man, or so she had thought of him originally. She didn’t know his name. Waldorf perhaps? This was Waldorf’s Readatorium. No a clever name at all…Books were her last interest on the planet, but it seemed like the easy to work with. “Thank you!”
“Come on,” He replied, motioning for her to join him. “Let me show you what to do, but if you destroy anything I’m firing you.”
“I can handle it.”
“I hope you can.”
Alistair held the phone up out of Pax’s grip. “Let me talk to Callen!” He whined. “He said smores, I want part of that!”
“You eat too much,” Camilla commented, throwing her feet on top of the table. “Remember what happened last time? We’re not going to go camping at night.”
“She’s right,” Alistair said. He pulled the phone back up to his ear. “Callen, we have to decline. I appreciate you offering us to go camping with you and Braylen next weekend but my granddaughter doesn’t like the darkness.”
“It’s a morning trip,” Callen said on the other end of the phone. “We have a spot, Bray and I. We fish, eat smores, and have a good time. If Graciela doesn’t like that, we can do something else. But Braylen wants to make up for everything. We both do. We’re up for anything. Braylen will try anything once.”
“If Leon comes,” Nerissa began, poking Graciela’s shoe. “Will you come? We won’t let any meanies get you this time.”
“I don’t know,” Graciela mumbled. “I can try it. If Leon is there…” She bit her lip. She didn’t want to hold Nerissa back anymore. She was going to try to push herself out of her comfort zone.
“Graciela, sweetheart,” Alistair began. “You don’t have to go anywhere you don’t want to.”
“I want to try it,” She replied timidly. “Can we go home if I don’t like it?”
Alistair nodded. “Of course.” He pulled the phone back up to his ear. “Callen? This is a day trip right?”
“Bring Charlotte and Jeff along,” CAllen said. “The more the merrier. You guys can come and go as you please. I rent the place out sometimes for me and Braylen, so we have it anyway.”
“That’s a good idea. I’ll invite my daughter. Gracie…” Alistair looked at her. “Your parents can come too.”
“Mom and dad?” Her face lit up. “Okay! I’ll go!”
“Okay Callen, I guess we’ll see you after my daughter and son in law are out of the honeymoon phase.”
Callen chuckled. “Tell them to enjoy it. From what I heard, it’s been a long time coming.”
Alistair nodded, knowing the man couldn’t see him. “You have no idea. Anyway, I’ll see you next weekend.”