“Well, good evening to you too,” Damon teased.
Saraid took another glance at her surroundings and turned her curious eyes back to her father.
“You live here?”
Damon did not respond, he simply stepped out of her way and waved her inside. She and Grady accepted the invitation, thinking it would be better to be behind closed doors just in case someone was lurking in the shadows.
“I am sorry if I come across as rude Dad, but have you seen Liam? It’s a long story, but we were at the cabin and then I was transported to Purgatory and Liam was kidnapped or captured, or something along those lines.”
Damon smiled one of his most energetic smiles as he said, “I know all about it. I happened to stumble across him as I was taking a stroll in the woods. He’s here. Follow me.”
Damon led Saraid and Grady through the brightly lit foyer. Her mind was on Liam and why he was here at Damon’s instead of out looking for her. Did he know where had been? Is that why he wasn’t concerned for her well-being?
“Before we go to him, I must warn you that he is not the Liam you know.”
Damon’s words caused Saraid and Grady to stop their advancement. She felt a knot forming and moving into the pit of her stomach. She wasn’t sure she could handle it if he had been hurt. She took a moment to study her Father’s eyes before she asked the question that was hanging on the tip of her tongue.
“What do you mean by that?”
Damon caressed Saraid’s cheek with the back of two fingers until they rested under her chin, lifting her face enough so she met his eyes. His concern for her was evident in his eyes and it did nothing to assuage her worry.
“I have kept him here most of the evening in hopes of finding out what happened to him in the woods, but I have been unable to reverse it. It appears as though Liam does not remember himself or anything about his life.”
Saraid’s jaw fell slack and she stared at Damon with widened eyes full of disbelief. “You’re saying that Liam has amnesia?”
“Precisely, although I think it may have been a spell.”
Saraid’s body visibly relaxed. If it was a spell, she could siphon it away and then he would be as good as new. She waved her hand, signaling Damon to move forward so she could get to Liam. Taking her signal at face value Damon nodded his head and continued down the hall until he came to a stop in front of the entrance to the sitting room.
“Aaden, I would like to introduce you to my daughter Saraid and her friend Grady. I wasn’t expecting company, but you will find my lovely daughter can be the best of company.”
Saraid was taken aback by the sudden feel of Grady’s hand on her arm. She turned to face him and couldn’t ignore the knowing look on his face.
“What is it, Grady?”
“My Queen, I’m not sure what is going on exactly, but you should know that Aaden is the name given to Liam at birth.”
This information was new to her. She had never known that he went by any name other than Liam. In hindsight she figured she should have known. Liam was a pretty modern name for someone hundreds of years old.What she couldn’t understand was why he would go by a different name.
“Why did he change his name?”
Grady nodded his head just slightly as he answered, “All beings disowned by the Guardianship must renounce their names and take a new identity. It was meant to remove any and all relation to the Guardianship.”
“That’s the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard of,” Saraid protested.
“It is my Queen, but until you, we never had a leader who cared about the members rights, let alone their feelings.”
Saraid felt a twinge of remorse. If she had known of her destiny sooner, maybe she could have saved her people from all of their sufferings. There was nothing she could do to change the past, but she can make the future better. At least that was her end goal.
“Hi Li- uh Aaden. I’m Saraid,” she held her hand out to him in invitation. He eyed her hand for a brief moment before taking it in his own and placing a light kiss on the back of her palm.
“Damon did not tell me that he had such a beautiful daughter. Is this your husband?”
Liam’s eyes scrutinized Grady, as if he were measuring him up, trying to decide if he could take him on and win.
“I’m flattered. I am married, but this is not my husband. Grady is like a brother to me.”
Grady tensed beside her and she immediately felt guilty.The last thing she wanted to do was hurt his feelings. She reached over and laid her hand on Grady’s shoulder, offering him an apologetic half-smile. Only when receiving a nod from Grady, signaling that he was okay, Saraid moved around the chair Liam sat in until she was knelt on the floor in front of him. Liam’s eyes had widened with curiosity.
“You see, my husband and I were visiting our special cabin when he and I had become separated. I found my way back to the cabin and he was gone. So, my friend Grady and I tracked him by following his tracks in the woods. Those tracks led me here.”
His brows furrowed, and he shook his head, “I’m sorry ma’ lady, but I’m afraid you did not track him at all. There is no one here but me and your kind Father.
Saraid offered him a gentle smile and reached for his hand. Liam grasped her hand in his and turned her palm over, examining her fingers. She knew what he was looking at. He was curious of their binding mark.
“You have been coupled?” he asked, slight jealousy tinged his voice.
She nodded, “I have.”
He jumped from his seat, startling Saraid and causing her to fall on her butt. He examined his own hand and found the identical, red barbed wire mark that he had just seen on Saraid’s finger.
“I’m coupled? I haven’t been coupled. How?”
Saraid took Liam’s hand back into hers and looked into his beautiful, confused, sexy grey eyes. Her Liam and the way he looked at her was no where to be seen in them.
“You were coupled with me almost four years ago, only I know you as Liam Maddox, not Aaden.”
“I am sorry Miss, but it cannot be me. I am Aaden of the Guardian’s. I would take no other name and I have never seen you before tonight.”
She didn’t know how to approach this topic. How does she go about telling him that he had been cast out from the Guardianship? How does she explain that he is half vampire?
“I know you don’t know me Aaden, but will you trust me to try something with you that could possibly help you remember me?”
He eyed Saraid suspiciously. He was still uncertain of her and her motives. She needed some form of physical contact with him to try to siphon the spell away. As he continued to rake his gaze over her body, she offered him another smile and a nod.
“I suppose it wont hurt to try. Give it your best shot, witch.”
His words forced a slight giggle to escape her. Even without his memories of her he seemed to have a good time undressing her with his eyes. It didn’t matter of uncertain he was of her, he was still attracted to her and Saraid found that realization comforting.
She embraced both of his hands in hers and closed her eyes. The usual ignition of their joint magic wasn’t there like it usually was when they touched like this, but she wasn’t giving up. She closed her eyes and focused on drawing the spell from him. He had definitely been be-spelled, but she couldn’t tell if it was designed to take his memories or if it had been designed for something else. There in the deepest, darkest corner of his subconscious she found it.
Whatever the spell had been, it was a small one, but it was also a very powerful one too. She focused on the dark, transient ball of black magic and focused all of her energy on calling it into herself. She could see it grow larger as she worked to draw it to the surface before it retracted. The action reminded her of a rubber band that had been stretched to its limit and then released. She couldn’t undo the spell. Whomever had cast the spell on him must have been expecting Saraid to try to siphon it away.
“It’s not working. I can’t do it,” Saraid huffed with irritation.
She and Liam had made it through every obstacle thrown their way and the fact that Liam could not remember one aspect of their life together or their love left her feeling alone and defeated. She had the others, but they weren’t her Liam. She glanced down at her left hand in her lap, lingering on the red, barbed wire mark on her ring finger. Thoughts of their first night together bringing forth a stream of tears as she curled in on herself of the floor.
Her chest felt tight and breathing became a chore as her pulse quickened. “How did I lose him?” “What did we do so wrong to deserve this?” “Please God! I will do anything just bring him back to me!” Her silent pleas to the heavens answered only by the curious stare coming from the one she had lost.
Damon came to kneel beside Saraid on the floor, holding her tightly in his embrace. He made no attempts to speak, he provided comfort with his embrace. He rocked Saraid gently from side to side as her tears continued to fall. Grady’s voice could be heard whispering. “Aaden, would you mind showing me to the kitchen? I’m still feeling a bit parched.”
“Whatever has happened to our Liam, we will find a way to correct. Take solace in that my darling daughter,” Damon whispered in her ear.
“I can’t fix it, Dad. I tried. I can’t siphon it at all.”
Damon began stroking Saraid’s hair, brushing it away from her face. Placing both of his hands on either side of her face, he turned it gently until his eyes met hers.
“You can’t fix it yet, but that doesn’t mean you never will. All magic can be undone. Only death is permanent, and our Liam is still very much alive.”
She appreciated that Damon was trying to make her feel better, but she wasn’t naïve enough to think that she would find a way to reverse the spell. Her siphoning didn’t work, and it was supposed to work on all magic. She would still try of course. What kind of wife would she be if she didn’t try? She would spend the rest of her life trying to fix this, for him, for her, and most importantly, for Treasa.
“My siphoning is supposed to work on all magic. How can I do anything if the one thing that makes me who I am doesn’t work?”
Damon offered Saraid a half-smile and a snigger, “Your being a siphon doesn’t make you. It is merely a part of you. An important part I might add, but it is not all that you are.”
“That’s not what I meant. I’m sorry.”
“No apologies needed. Being a siphon was the first part of yourself that you had grown accustomed to. You have more strength than you give yourself credit for my child. That strength combined with your genuine love for others is what truly makes you who you are.”
She tried to wipe the few remaining tears from her face before Grady had reappeared with the man she had known as Liam. Stealing a glance at his left hand, her breath had caught in her throat. His mark of their coupling had vanished. It had been their earlier, of that she was positive.Not caring that he no longer knew who she was, she crossed the room and grabbed his hand, turning it over in her palm.
“Where did it go?”
“What?” he asked cautiously.
“Your coupling mark, where did it go? It couldn’t have just vanished.”
For whatever reason his mark had vanished and hers had stayed. “Just like his memory of me.” She pushed her thoughts to the back of her mind to review later. She couldn’t think about that or she would certainly break into hysterics again and something told her that it would not help her win this man over.
“Saraid, would you come with me, please?” Damon asked.
She knew he was seeking privacy so there was no need to reply. She followed Damon out of the room and into the hallway.
“I need you to tell me everything that happened while you were in Purgatory. This could all be related somehow.”
Never raising her voice above a whisper, Saraid began telling Damon of the day’s events, leaving nothing out.