His eyelids squeezed shut. How the hell could she possibly be fine? Nadi continued talking, and Owen locked his hands together, sliding them down his neck. Both strength and soothing in her voice, the human relaxed his muscles. Slight shame sunk in at her last words, irritating but somewhat correcting him, his own tone now calm despite his stress. “It is one thing to see them when they were there to begin with. That is a story.” Arms dropping, Owen opened his eyes and turned back toward the woman. “Being there when they’re made makes it personal.” Curling his thumbs into his belt loops, he looked blankly at her shoes, slowly opening his mouth to speak and furrowing his brows. He sighed. “Chocolate milk?”
Nadi stared down at her hands as she tried to keep it together. She didn’t want him to be angry or worried for her or whatever it was he was feeling. “Owen, it doesn’t have to be personal. It’s over, they’re all dead. My fight for survival will never end, Owen. I tried to end it, I tried to get them to stop. There will always be those who want me dead.” Even when she had been with him, she got injured, a lot. The wounds usually healed before he was able to come see her so she ended up just forgetting to tell him. “Can I have a hug?”
A cold chill and a rigid body. Arms dropped to his sides—a feeling of defeat. His hand stung from punching the wall. He rolled in his lips and looked up at the tree he used to climb, trying like hell to contain himself. Not helping, Nadi.
Without a second thought, Owen glided into her sadness. His arms wrapped her up tightly. It was all he could do.
Her eyes opening against the harsh glare of the light through the curtains, it took a moment to fully comprehend what he’d said. “You what?” He didn’t mean it did he?
A wince crossed her features at the crest-fallen expression that followed her words. It wasn’t that she didn’t feel anything for him, but could it be classified as love? After her several failed attempts at it, she was afraid of opening herself to the possibility, of crossing that boundary. Not a word was said as he withdrew, leaving her alone in the bedroom. Ana let out a sigh, dropping her head in her hands. Great…now she’d upset him without meaning to. A moment or two to pull herself together then she followed, finding him in the other room drinking. Her steps were hesitant as she approached, eyes sad and smile gone. “I’m sorry, Owen…everything’s changing on me right now that I don’t know what I feel for you. I need time to figure that out; if I said it back, it would be forced. I owe you at least the honesty and time to figure out my own mind before speaking it.”
A creak in the floorboard suggested another sip. He sat there quietly as she spoke, let the hard truth simmer. Meanwhile, the coffee was finishing. Opening his eyes, the man stepped off the counter and took a drink. He stepped toward the maker. Grabbing the pot’s handle, with a tired voice, he answered, “I appreciate the honesty, honestly, I do.” Coffee mixed with alcohol. “And I know you have been through some shit. Not any details, but some shit.” Moved for a spoon; stirred; faced the woman. “But what the hell have we been doing for the last seven months, Ana? I’d like to know.”
His tongue burned, but what did that matter? It was not that he did not understand, nor was it he did not appreciate her sparing him a lie—it was the concept of another ending relationship. No, not even that. It was the idea that what they had meant nothing. He stumbled all over himself when they first met: his relationship with Nadi was over, not to mention this woman was so much like Mal. It was why he waited so long to say the words—though he was sure of her long before.
Falling silent as she watched him, her gaze dropped to the floor when he spoke again. Truthfully she didn’t know what she was doing anymore. The last few times her heart had been involved she’d been hurt terribly that to place it in the hands of another was something she wasn’t entirely sure she could do without hesitation. While she trusted Owen, there was just too much she hadn’t found a way to let go of. Before her secrets had kept him out and safe, now they kept them apart. He didn’t need to know the details, or so she kept telling herself. What did they really matter in the grand scheme of things? They were no more than faded memories, healed over scars that were never far from her mind. “Getting to know each other I guess?” She didn’t want to lose him but was it selfish of her to hang on when there was so much fear to let herself love again? “I can give you the details if you want them but I’ve lied to you enough by not saying what I was when we met. For so damn long I forced myself to feel nothing because when I did, it hurt. Now…I’m not some supernatural creature anymore and I don’t know what that means. I wish I had all the answers and the right things to say to you but I don’t.” A step closer to him, hesitating about placing her hand on his arm. “All I know is that out of everything I’ve seen and been through, you’re the only thing that makes sense and feels right to me. Being with you is the happiest I’ve felt in longer than I can remember and I have a very good memory.” Her lip caught between her teeth, a nervous swallow betrayed her fear that she’d lost him. “I don’t want to lose you, Owen, but I can’t expect you to wait when I don’t know how long it’ll take to get my head together.”
Seven months of introduction? He still barely knew her. Owen rolled his lips in and looked off to the side. He had to bite back the irritation. Just as quickly, her wind blew in. His irking tumbled at her offer, and his eyes hesitantly looked over her when she judged a lie. Never had he considered it as such.
She went on.
Brave. Open. Unready for the aftermath, but willing to burst for him, regardless. Analiese glided forward. The uncertain man stiffened. Until her touch. Spoken truths ignited a spark within the nobleman, swirls of smoke twisting and dissolving about his insides. Then she was vulnerable, understanding…
Owen turned his head and placed his drink on the counter. His eyes returned to hers, his eyebrows still furrowed. He wrapped his arms around Ana’s waist and pulled her against him. A moment passed. He rested his forehead against hers. Closed his eyes. A hand gently moved up to her hair, the other slightly tightening, securing her there. The nobleman’s fingers tenderly slipped into his grace’s curls. A breath. Calmed features. “Analiese,” he whispered, only wanting to say her name. She had told him her name…