I packed as quickly as I could, more excited and happy than I’d been in a very long time. I felt amazing, especially because Elias had finally opened up to me. I knew that it would be a long, harsh journey, but I was willing to be by his side through it all, even if we didn’t work out. I felt better, knowing that there was something between us and that I hadn’t imagined the spark between us the first time we met. He couldn’t love me right now with half a heart that wasn’t his, but I felt like if we could get him a new one, that we could have something real. And that was worth it to me, the possibility.
As soon as I’d finished stuffing clothes into my overnight bag, I headed out to the gate, careful to avoid being stopped by anyone. When I got there, a black SUV awaited me. I got in on the passenger side, sitting up front next to Elias. I smiled, and he gave me a dazzling grin.
“I feel like we’re spies, performing some stealthy escape from a high-security fortress,” I giggled, and Elias winked at me. Ramsey joined us soon after, and we sped away to an airfield about an hour away. As we rolled up to a private hanger, I stared in awe at the plane outside. I should have expected that the royal family would have their own plane, but it was massive. Elias saw me staring, and smiled.
“You’ll get flies in your mouth if you don’t close it,” he joked, and I shot him a playful glare. We got out and followed Elias onto the plane, whose interior was sleek and modernly decorated. I knew this was Elias’s doing, as Valentina would have gone overboard with gaudy additions. We took our seats and prepared to lift off. Ramsey seemed nervous, and I gave her a friendly smile.
“It’s my first time,” she said, and Elias gave her a look. “Oh yeah. We drove to you. Two days with only 6 hours of sleep. Even if he won’t admit it, Niall loves to take his time and enjoy the views. Even after all these years, he can’t get enough of the world.”
Take off was easy and came with no complications. We reached cruising altitude quickly, and the pilot informed us we were allowed to unbuckle and walk around if we wished. Ramsey decided to sleep, putting in headphones to relax. Elias got up and made drinks for the two of us.
“I really appreciate you trusting me,” I said, taking a sip out of the glass he’d handed me. The alcohol was fruity and not too strong.
“I’d debated it for a while, honestly. Do you remember the day we first met?”
“Of course I do. I was so nervous that I could barely speak.”
“I’ve been wondering… Did you…”
“You felt it,” I said, astonished. Finally. I had an answer.
“I don’t know what it was, but it made me question everything. I tried to fight it, which resulted in the whiplash. I can’t love you now, given my situation… but once this is all over, I’d like to see what could grow between us.” He gave my hand a squeeze, and my heart burst with feelings I couldn’t express.
The flight was painfully long. We had to stop and refuel four different times. By the time we landed, it was the middle of the next day. We stepped off the plane and onto one of the most beautiful places I’d ever seen: Ireland. As we drove to his father’s house, the landscape awed me. Rolling green pastures with the bluest sky I’d ever experienced passed us by as we made our way. After an hour or so of driving, we pulled up outside of a small yet beautiful cottage on a cliff, overlooking the ocean. Elias got out slowly, a tight look on his face. Given the task’s phrasing, it had been a very long time since Elias had seen or spoken to his father, and the way they’d left things wasn’t in the best of shape. Ramsey breathed deeply, taking in the smells of the ocean.
“One good thing about hanging out with vamps: there’s always bound to be exotic locale at some point.” Her joke made me smile. She wasn’t wrong. Given the fact that we lived forever unless purposefully killed, we usually amassed a great fortune, and we liked to live in luxury, some more than others.
Elias knocked on the front door and entered when he heard his father say to come in. The inside of the cottage was decorated in modest taste, something Elias had clearly picked up from his father. Ramsey and I followed Elias to the kitchen, where his father stood cooking something that smelled delicious. He turned to face us, and I could have sworn that Elias teleported or something. Elias was the spitting image of his father, with the same unruly brown hair and the same playful emerald eyes. However, he had an angry look on his face.
“Why’re you here, boy?” He asked, and his accent definitely matched the place he lived, as opposed to Elias’s British accent that made me melt.
“I… I wanted to stop by, see how you were.”
“Didn’t know you needed escorts,” his dad said, waving a wooden spoon in our direction.
“Sorry. Dad, this is Ramsey and Lennox. Ladies, my father, Riecher.” Ramsey gave him a small wave, and I followed suit.
“Nice to meet you,” Riecher said, eyeing us with no real interest. He still had a sort of angry expression on his face. “What do you need from me?” His father asked, returning to his cooking.
“What?” Elias asked, looking a little taken aback.
“You don’t call, you don’t write, you don’t speak to me for seven hundred years, and now you show up at my doorstep. So what is it you want from me?”
“Look… I know it’s been a long time, and we didn’t really leave things in a good spot, but I want to mend things.” Elias sounded sincere, and I knew he was. I also knew that whatever had happened between them was going to take more than a simple ‘I’m sorry’ to mend.
“Well apologizing would be a good start,” his father hinted, and Elias frowned.
“What do you want me to say? That you were right about Valentina? That I should have listened to you and not married her? Then fine, you were right about everything,” Elias practically shouted, and he had to pause to calm himself. “But what’s done is done. I can’t change the past. I can only try to make my future a better one, and I’ve finally found a way. I just can’t start over without fixing what I can in my past. I want to make things right between us. I’m sorry for not listening. I’m sorry I said what I did the night I left. I’m sorry that I never tried to fix things before now.”
“I forgive you,” his father said, turning off the stove. “I suppose you all better stay for supper,” he added. “Set the table, will ya, Elias?” Riecher said, and Elias obliged.
The food was delicious, something hot and saucy and meaty. I wondered if Elias had learned to cook from his father, imagining him making us a romantic meal when this was all over. His father went out for a smoke, and Elias and Ramsey joined him to discuss the unbinding. I was left to roam the house. I eventually made my way to a room I was sure had been Elias’s at some point, before the fallout. It was decorated sparsely, with a bookshelf of first editions neatly aligned. A box of his old things sat on a chair in the corner, and I brought it to the bed, sitting on the edge. Absentmindedly, I sorted through the box, full of trophies and framed awards, and old toys. One, in particular, caught my eye, so I pulled it out of the box. It was an old ragged doll, probably a thousand years old, literally. I smiled as I held it, imagining a young Elias carrying it around everywhere he went and holding it to his chest as he slept at night. I didn’t notice I wasn’t alone until I heard Elias cough.
“Seems like you’ve found Belarus,” he said, giving me a smile. “The first toy I ever had. My mother gave it to me when I was an infant. It kept me calm and stopped me from fussing. I haven’t seen that thing in ages…” He trailed off, and then gave me a look. “Lennox… I think you’ve found it.”
“Found what?” I asked, confused.
“The thing I need for the second task.” He looked at me with awe, and I blushed, handing it to him.
“Bet you’re glad you brought me along, then,” I joked, and he gave me a serious look.
“There’s nowhere I’d rather be than with you.” I blushed harder and was about to say something when Ramsey came in.
“Hey... it’s getting dark. We should head to the hotel before it gets pitch black out,” she said, and Elias nodded in agreement.
“Coming, formosus?” He asked, extending a hand to me. I placed my hand in his, the warmth of his touch sending shivers down my spine.
“What does that even mean?” I asked as he helped me up.
“Beautiful,” he replied, and I felt my face get hot. We met up with Riecher in the living room, where things seemed to be all patched up between him and Elias. They hugged each other goodbye, and we were off to the hotel. When we got there, I was surprised to find that Elias had booked him and I together in one room, and Ramsey in the second.
“I need some space to divine the third task,” Ramsey explained when I asked her about it. The thought of spending the night next to Elias had me feeling extremely warm. Still, I wasn’t about to complain. We brought our things up to our respective rooms, and I said goodnight to Ramsey. I was nervous as hell as Elias showered, remembering the way he looked the one morning he greeted me in nothing but a towel. The memory of his toned, tattooed body stirred desires in me that I knew better than to give in to. He still had Valentina to deal with, and I didn’t want to start anything before I had broken things off with Arina. It wouldn’t be right. I tried to think about anything other than Elias, but he made that extremely difficult when he emerged from the bathroom wearing nothing but a pair of loose sweats that hung dangerously low on his hips, showing the delicious adonis belt he’d obtained from working out. I swallowed hard, and he noticed, giving me a mischievous grin.
“Like what you see?” He asked, sauntering over to me. The way his muscles moved beneath his skin made me feel like my cheeks were pressed to the sun.
“As if,” I retorted, trying to look away. He closed the distance between us, tilting my head up with his hand to meet his gaze.
“There’s no need to lie to me. You don’t have to pretend here. We’re alone, far from prying ears.” His green eyes were dark, full of some primal energy that terrified me but captivated me. I could barely breathe as he moved in closer, just inches from my face. Once again, he seemed completely aware of how he was affecting me, of how hard my heart was protesting in my ribcage. His eyes trailed slowly to my lips and rested there for a moment, and my head swam with the image of him pressing his soft lips to mine. He smiled a cruel half smile, returning his heated gaze to my eyes. He moved closer and I couldn’t take it anymore. I ducked out from under him, standing and trying to breathe.
“I need a shower,” I said, quickly rushing to the bathroom. I hoped that a freezing shower would calm me, but it did little for me when I realized that I’d left my clothes in the room with him and had only a towel to cover up with. I cursed quietly, folding a soft white towel around my body before creeping out. Elias sat on the edge of the bed where I had been, patiently awaiting my return. I couldn’t breathe as he slowly looked me up and down, his eyes growing dark again. He got up and closed the distance between us, closing the door behind me and pinning me in place with an arm on each side of my body.
“I don’t understand why you’d tempt me like this, love. It’s not nice… not nice at all.” His lips hovered inches from mine and I felt like I was about to pass out. He moved closer, but I turned my head. He sighed impatiently, pulling back a bit.
“I don’t understand. I know you feel this too. What is holding you back?” He asked, and my heart froze.
“I can’t do this, not until we’re back.”
“Being back there will only make this more complicated.”
“I can’t. Not until I’ve ended things with her.” Elias paused, his dark eyes shifting from lust to anger.
“Her? You mean Arina?”
“Yes,” I answered. “I’m not a cheater. I won’t do this to her, or anyone for that matter. I’m going to give her the same courtesy I’d expect of anyone else.”
“She doesn’t deserve anything from you, much less the courtesy of a heads-up,” he spat, crossing the room to put distance between us.
“What do you mean?” I asked, feeling anger well up in me. “Why would you say that? Everyone deserves to know the truth.”
“Oh, like how forthcoming she’s been with the truth with you?” He asked, his words stinging me like a slap in the face.
“She hasn’t lied to me,” I replied, trying to keep my cool.
“If you count half truths as lies, she’s done an awful lot of lying to you.”
“She’s a spy.”
“She told me that the day we met,” I replied.
“She’s been spying on you,” he hissed. “She’s been ordered by Valentina to learn everything about you… all your dark secrets, everywhere you go, everything you do… and she’s been ordered to kill you if you say anything bad about Valentina. And she won’t hesitate to do it, either. She’s killed over less.”
“You’re lying,” I said, my heart dropping to the floor.
“I had Jackson trailing you that week. He saw Arina at every place you were. He found out her orders and came to report them to me as you were accusing me. That’s what he had to say to me when I ordered you out. Arina is dangerous and she is certainly not your friend. You’d be wise to forget she exists.” I felt sick to my stomach.
“Why would you say that to me?” I asked, tears welling up in my eyes.
“Because you deserve to know the truth and I won’t lie to you. I want to protect you.”
“You’re doing one hell of a job,” I shouted, grabbing my bag.
“Where are you going?” Elias demanded, and I couldn’t face him.
“I’ll sleep on Ramsey’s floor if I have to. But I can’t share a room with you, not tonight, not after this.” I stormed out and made a break for Ramsey’s room, clutching my towel to me so I didn’t drop it. I knocked and she answered right away, looking confused.
“It’s a long story but can I stay with you tonight?” She nodded and let me into the room slowly shutting the door behind me.
“I thought you and Elias would be all over each other by now,” she joked.
“Yeah. Look I would love to talk about it, but I don't actually want to talk about it. Don't let me keep you from your work. I am just going to go to bed," was all I said before getting dressed and climbing into one side of the bed and falling asleep.
Waking up the next morning meant I had to face Elias and I wasn’t ready at all for that, but still I climbed out of the massive bed and got dressed. I realized that I only packed a sundress because I looked cute in it. After getting dressed, Ramsey and I went down to the lobby to wait for Elias but he was already there with a blank expression on his face.
“Hey,” I said, smiling slightly, but he just nodded and walked out where the SUV was pulling up. Reluctantly I climbed into the front seat. As soon as we all piled in, he sped off. The drive and the plane ride home were quiet and awkward. I wanted to talk to Elias, but each time I went to speak, I remembered his harsh words from the night before and I got angry again. The silence was killing me.