Chapter 7. // More Birthday Presents
They drove for about twenty more minutes before the house Raphael, Val, Hunter, and Grey’s cousin Sam had agreed on, came into view.
Valentina didn’t like where Grey lived; she always felt uneasy, and was pretty sure the entire neighbourhood was haunted.
Sam didn’t like the place either, but it was the least expensive apartment that they could find, and was close enough to the action, and work. Hunter was also concerned for Grey’s safety, and thought it would be better for her to be close to Raphael, who wholeheartedly agreed.
It was nothing for Raphael. He would buy his soulmate an entire country if he had to, for her. He very much preferred having her at his house, but he took her family into consideration; she spoke with them daily, and he could sense her sadness and longing for them. When he discussed with Val, she relayed the message to her older brother; the Augustine family had been surprised and refused to accept, but with a lot of Valentina persuasion, they finally gave in.
The house was only five minutes away from Raphael’s, and ten from Val’s.
Grey was still glancing out the window, enjoying the greenery, but as the car started to slow down, she focused before her, her eyebrows raising. The driveway wasn’t very lengthy, but it was long enough to have a tiny fountain at the centre, supported on the backs of snarling wolves. The house itself was a sight; two stories of beautiful French architecture. It was enough to render Grey awestruck.
She has lived for millennia, drifting through different eras and timelines, trying to keep a certain danger-magnet Royal safe, but, she never really… lived.
It was one of her greatest regrets. Alice had an even bigger responsibility, and a bigger danger-magnet of a Royal, but she still had time to really experience each era, even through her heartbreaks over the loss of her love. She lived, because her soulmate would have wanted nothing less.
’Katherina sat next to her friend; a feared, powerful woman throughout multiple dimensions and timelines. She wept bitterly, gripping onto an article of clothing that belonged to her soulmate. Silently, Katherina cursed the Goddess who did this to her; who cursed her friend.
Her head lay on Katherina’s shoulder, tears spilling onto her dress; she didn’t mind, nor did she ever. Minutes had passed and the weeping came to a stop. Katherina thought that Alice had cried herself into exhaustion, which was not uncommon for the sapphire haired woman to do. Instead, she spoke with a shaky voice.
“I saw him again; in my dreams. We were in a valley filled with the most beautiful flowers; all from home. And he was there, standing under the Giant tree that grew near the castle, looking so carefree and happy. We talked and danced like we used to;” she laughed sadly, and Katherina’s heart clenched. “And just before I woke up, he told me to live, to live for him, until we could be together again. He made me promise, so I must do it, I must live for him.” ’
A tug on her hand pulled her out of her memory. Glancing around, slightly disoriented, she allowed herself to be pulled out of the car. It was Raphael, a look of concern clear in his eyes. Everyone stood silently, facing the house. Taj, standing on the other side of Raphael, leaned in closer to him and whispered, “You outdid yourself, big brother.”
Raphael smiled, shrugging his shoulders. “I’d do anything for her.” He glanced at his younger brother, who cooed and tried pinching his cheeks. Slapping his hand away, he turned his attention to his little awestruck angel.
“Whose house is this? Is it yours? It’s beautiful.” She finally said and he chuckled, shaking his head. “No, mia regina. It’s not my house; this is your house.” Grey was too shocked by the fact that Raphael said that the house was hers to notice what he had called her.
“It’s… it’s what?” she asked again, blinking rapidly. Raphael began to tug her towards the intricately carved door, a smile forming on his face. “It’s your house, mia regina.” He unlocked the door, and gently pushed her inside.
Grey remembered the house she grew up in. It wasn’t as large as this one, but it had a good size, enough for two studios (one for each parent, so their work wouldn’t get mixed up), two guest rooms and two bathrooms, a master bedroom for her parents, and two others for the siblings to share; the girls in one room and the boys in the other. Most nights however, they all managed to convene in their parents room, all huddled up on their bed or the floor.
Focusing on the sight before her, she suppressed a gasp. It looked just like… home.
No, not home-home.
Earth home; when they lived in the Italian countryside a century and a half ago. It was classic vintage; beautiful paintings and intricately carved furniture, chandelier lit by warm candlelight. Straight ahead, water poured out of flagons held by chubby naked angels, their mouths parted and eyes closed. There was the occasional splash, and Grey walked towards the fountain’s edge, squealing with delight. “Koi!”
The Japanese fish paid no attention to her as she dipped her fingers into the water, feeling their scales brush against her fingers as they swam about. Grey turned to face her family and friends, to already find them smiling at her. She beamed, slightly bouncing on the tips of her toes. “Is anyone going to show me around? Or are we just going to stand here, smiling like crazy people?” Grey asked, and rolling her eyes, Val grabbed her hand and pulled her out of the foyer and up a set of black marble stairs. The staircase was on either side of the fountain, with black banisters.
There were more rooms than Grey could count on her fingers and toes, each spacious and very well-lit naturally; the curtains were drawn in each room, revealing a backyard through a wall length window.
Grey had to be dragged away by Jett, Sam and Cyan from the very spacious library. “You don’t have to give me a room. Just put a bed in the library and I’ll be happy as a clam.”
After the tour, Sam had pulled her away from the group as they chatted, unnoticed as they slipped into one of the rooms. Recognizing her belongings, she guessed that this was her room now. Sam walked to a far corner, and pulled a lamp that was attached to the wall. Effortlessly and silently, a door opened. The man faced his cousin, beckoning her to follow him.
The tunnel was wide enough for two people to walk side by side, and a torch lit the darkness at intervals. It was a short walk, before there was a fork in the path.
Sam pointed to the far left. “This leads to the weapons and strategy room.” He pointed straight ahead.” This leads to another fork in the path, and if you use an opening rune on the tile facing the central path, you get to the safe room. The three paths are just dead ends.”
Finally, he pointed to the far right. “Another fork in the path; far left is the artifacts room, central is a dungeon, and far right leads you outside the house.”
Grey nodded, absorbing the information and memorizing the paths. They turned around and walked back to Grey’s room, Sam’s arm slung around her shoulder. “So…” he drawled, wiggling his eyebrows as they made their way to the backyard, where everyone else was. Grey huffed, a blush already forming on her cheeks. Sam chuckled, squeezing his cousin’s shoulder.
“When do you think they’ll start to regain their memories?” he asked, and it was Grey’s turn to chuckle. “Probably as soon as Alice steps foot here.”
Sam grinned, shaking his head. He instantly grew somber, as did she. “I don’t think I’m ready for what’s to come.” Grey squeezed his shoulder. “Neither am I, but,” she inhaled deeply, then let it go. “We have to do it. We took the oath and adopted the mandate. Only way out is banishment.” Sam laughed harshly. “They’re the ones who needs to be banished, not us.”
“And we’ll be the ones to do it.” Sam recognized the steeliness of her voice, and as much as it shocked him, he felt nostalgic, recalling how he watched with pride filling his chest as his cousin barked out orders and inspired warriors before battle; reminded them of their duty to their kingdom. But he was afraid that no one will be prepared for the one to come.
The somber mood dissolved as they exited the house, music playing from a pair of Bluetooth speakers, and two picnic tables pushed together, filled with food.
Hunter stood with Sage and Valentina, laughing at something one of them said, and Grey’s jaw dropped before she sprinted towards him, tackling him to the ground and showering him with punches, uncaring of where she hit. “Why didn’t you tell me you were here, you piece of crap! I thought you would have sent someone to help when the office was attacked.”
The man yelled, attempting to block the hits his ex-girlfriend showered upon him, but still managing to take a few blows. He steeled himself, hoping that his body wouldn’t betray him and reveal that he was still attracted to the cloudy haired woman.
“I’m sorry! I’m sorry!” was all Hunter could yell, attempting to grab her hands to stop the fist shower. “You better be!” Grey yelled back, evading his grabbing hands. She stopped, and climbed off him, holding out a hand to help him to his feet. He ignored it and stood on his own, then swept his arms open. “Hugs?” he asked, grinning innocently.
Grey huffed, and stepped into his arms for an embrace.
‘Raphael’s hugs are better.’
Shaking away the thought, Grey released Hunter, but not before landing another punch to his abdomen, inciting a groan of pain. Satisfied, she walked towards the table of food, and made herself a plate. Everyone else followed suit, and they sat down, talking and laughing. Her sibling shared one too many embarrassing memories, and now Taj and Val won’t stop teasing her. Nonetheless, Grey enjoyed herself, happy to be in the presence of the people closest to her heart.
~Another filler chapter.