Chapter 50 - Deal
Marcus wasn’t afraid they would try to break his hold on them; it terrified him that he felt unworthy of their trust. Many of their kind became warped and so drunk on power as to be almost without conscience. After a while, they felt nothing. He never wanted to be like that, and for these two girls, he would keep life from doing that to him as long as there was breath in his body.
“I am Marcus,” he said with fake arrogance. They watched him with so much trepidation that he couldn’t take it anymore. “There have to be rules,” he sighed, and they nodded.
“Alena, I struck you once because I was unsure how to handle you,” Marcus admitted, and she nodded.
“I know that now, and I suspected it then,” Alena admitted. “My father struck me more than once. He even had me whipped when I told him I held him responsible for my mother’s death. There have to be rules, barriers,” Alena revealed with barely any expression on her face, but they both sensed intense emotions beneath the surface.
“If I do this thing you ask and give you the power to stay my hand, would you?” Marcus asked, and she stared at him for a long time with odd emotions flitting through her eyes.
“Yes, your displeasure should be enough,” Alena challenged.
“And if it isn’t?” He forced the issue, and Alena remained silent for such a long time he thought she would not answer.
“Then you will do as you must,” Alena decided, and for the first time, she truly bowed her will to him, if only for a brief moment.
“Would you interfere?” He asked of Rowan, and she nodded.
“And if you can’t?” Marcus insisted
“Then I will take her punishment instead,” the words seemed to rip loose from deep inside Rowan to reveal her love for her sister. Alena’s heart warmed at the sentiment and to her surprise, echoed it.
“No matter what?” He asked, and her eyes were clear as she looked at him.
“No matter what,” Rowan agreed, and something in his expression changed.
“And if she won’t let you?” Marcus insisted, and Rowan looked straight at him.
“The choice is yours,” Rowan answered with finality.
“We understand, Marcus,” Alena clarified. “We will know our place when it matters,” she qualified. “Even among our kind,” she seemed at ease with him for the first time, and he observed them for the longest moment.
“It’s almost dawn,” Alena reminded as she rose.
“Come,” he ordered and held out his hands to them. They came without offering any resistance. “Before I change my mind,” he teased with a smile, and they laughed at him. Marcus loved the sound.
It was only the second time he ever initiated a bond, but he knew what to do. They held hands, and when he touched them, he saw something of the feelings inside them. The last bit of his unease settled, and he was about to remove his hand when a faint howl of fury touched their bond before it faded.
The link had severed as they intended. They were his now, and for only the second time ever, Marcus felt the comforting, possessive love of family. He wiped the blood from their lips and necks; they were sleeping soundly and deeply. He placed them inside the chests and kissed each of them gently on the forehead before he closed the lids.
The only other time he did this, he was infatuated with a woman. She wanted only what he could give, and she had been a conniving witch. Their bond conceived of passion and lust, not this gentle exchange. They were his equals, and he cherished the idea.
Marcus just cleaned the blood from his neck and put away the letter, when Talmud appeared in the doorway.
“We leave at daybreak. We found what we have come for,” Marcus informed Talmud, and he nodded.
“For the boat?” He asked, and Marcus realized the full moon had come and gone. The second one would be on its way when they made it back.
“The ship won’t be in the harbor. We’ll see about passage when we get there,” Marcus answered with a smile. Talmud almost said something and then thought the better of it.
“To your rest then Sahib?” He suggested, and Marcus nodded. He had no idea how pale and worn he looked.
Sometimes he wondered what Talmud thought about all of this. He was as good as his word and better. He seemed to enjoy this search, and yet he never asked questions. He must have some idea of what they were. He was too astute and well read not to guess. Yet Talmud kept their presence here a secret and did as Marcus bade. He even did more than he needed to do, and sometimes Marcus wondered if Talmud knew more about this place than he should.
The trip back was somehow worse for him, especially since it would be impossible to find the trail again. The war destroyed the library at Alexandria a long time ago. Their true message lay in the fact that the trail ended here and yet that howl of fury, and the disconnection proved intriguing.
The monster knew where they were all this time, and now they were lost to him. They were too far from Ariana for him to follow them through her. The feeling of anger inside Marcus subsided.
Twice more Marcus performed the turning, despite it being unnecessary. He wanted to make sure the connection was completely severed, and that they were as strong as possible. If he died, they needed to be able to give that thing the fight of his life.
He saw the changes in them before, and he wondered if Alena had somehow performed the sway on her own and he was angry, but he had no proof. When he saw the way they worked together on that pirate ship, he felt that perhaps it was better this way.
Marcus wanted to confront them but there was always something that kept him back, and now he understood. The dream he had in the soothsayer's house was a dream, now that he saw her face he could see it in his dream, yet it had been more than a dream.
He was so distracted by her body; he never paid attention to the words that kept him from questioning, quieted his anger and held his disappointment in check. Now Marcus could hear her words, and absurdly he felt grateful.
She gave him the chance to work through his emotions. Instead of loneliness and dreams, he had a family that depended on him, even when they didn’t need him anymore. He was part of them, and it was their choice, just like her sway had been their choice.