Chapter 62 - Unbound
Alena and Rowan were both shamefaced when they woke, while Marcus seemed almost unnaturally calm, which concerned them. He kissed each of them gently, and chastely, almost as if he were saying goodbye before he hugged them briefly.
His behavior conveyed a deep sadness to them that puzzled them, and they dressed quietly. Byron awaited them on the deck with the rowboat already in the water, and all the way to shore, Marcus stared wordlessly into the darkness. Byron noticed the odd mood of his master and the way it concerned his companions.
Marcus watched them earlier with a pressing sense of time running out on him, and he had to admit he would have liked to see the woman Alena would become. She flourished now that she was no longer cast in Victor’s shadow, or subjugated to the expectation of their people. He knew she would be powerful in her own right, but without Victor’s callousness, his manipulative personality, his unbending will or his lack of compassion.
His eyes lingered the longest on Rowan and his chest constricted with pain. She may not agree, but she was so young. He would love to watch her grow into the potential he saw in her, and he would like to see her strengthening sense of self turn her into the strong, noble, charming, sensible, and forthright woman that would stand for what she believed in.
Marcus wished he could be there when she didn’t look at him like a trusting half-child, and at the same time, a woman hurt too soon. He wanted her to see him with the eyes of a woman who knows what she wants and how to get it.
He wanted to teach her the things she never learned; that kindness was real and not followed by harm. Sharing didn’t always have a price, and love didn’t have to tear the heart from you. Gentleness wasn’t a lie to blind the mind and that she could belong. Home had nothing to do with walls, and feeling safe wasn’t a fleeting thing. If he could whisk them away now, Marcus would raise Rowan for himself. Her origins no longer mattered to him; he would be proud to have her bear his child and love her until she was whole again.
Marcus wouldn’t allow her to guess what he felt, take her heart and allow her to live their forever, alone. He wouldn’t let her feel the way she would feel and then live to watch him die. A younger version of him might take the chance, but he lived too much life to cause another such agony, and she already suffered too much.
Marcus’ eyes strayed to Alena with a sense of guilt. If it weren’t for Rowan, he would eventually have taken Alena for himself, just as Victor intended, and she would have seen their union as her duty.
It wouldn’t be this painful love he held so tenderly and fragilely to his heart, but they would have shared affection for each other.
Alena trusted him, and they may even have tasted happiness together, but he was man enough to admit that she merited better. She deserved a man who swept her off her feet, gave her his heart, took hers in its stead, and devoted his life to her and their family.
A sire like Marius would have taken them both to ensure his line and retain the power of theirs. Marcus wasn’t that selfish, and he couldn’t let them become easy prey for another. They would need protection, and they may not have a choice in who becomes their next master if they were with child.
No, he would give them something precious instead; he would not leave them vulnerable. He would allow them their freedom and show them how to use their strength, will, knowledge and intelligence to defend themselves.
“Stay here Byron,” Marcus instructed when Byron followed them onto the beach. “Bring the boat again in the hour before dawn,” he added, and Byron hesitated. He sensed something in Marcus that made him think they might need his help, but one look into that steady gaze and Byron submitted to Marcus’ will.
“You cannot follow where we go, Byron,” he relented, and Byron nodded. Marcus didn’t need to explain. He would be a liability to them if they had to flee. Marcus would do what is best for them all, and although he didn’t like being left behind again, he obeyed. He didn’t like feeling helpless, but this wasn’t a situation where he could be of use.
Rowan touched his shoulder briefly as she made her way past him. She was the most human of the three, but sometimes he saw something in her; a hardness that she conquered with her will. He hoped that nothing would cement that expression in her eyes.
She reminded him so much of his own Sera, but she hadn’t had the benefit of a loving father or the memory of a devoted mother to temper the volatile emotions inside of her. He didn’t know what would happen if she lost Alena and Marcus. He didn’t think there would be anything left inside of her if someone took the only real family she ever had.
His eyes lingered on Alena. Sometimes she reminded him of his wife, Lorna, in the way she handled Marcus; the love, compassion, and understanding she displayed around Rowan, but although Alena was capable of gentleness, it wasn’t an instinct with her like it was with his Lorna. Sometimes it even seemed to require an effort from Alena. She had a fierce nature which someone tempered into a coolness that sometimes turned to ice, but Alena's passion remained beneath it all.
Byron caught the way Alena looked at Marcus when she thought Marcus didn’t notice her. She wasn’t in love with Marcus, but Alena loved him with a sure and steady devotion to which she would never admit, and never allow Marcus to see.
Byron also knew that Alena noticed the way Marcus looked at Rowan; with the eyes of a man who saw what was beyond his reach, and it worried Alena, not out of jealousy, but the concern that Marcus would inadvertently hurt Rowan. Byron didn’t approve of the way Marcus looked at Rowan. Marcus was too old for Rowan, and their lives were too precarious. He would never allow a man like Marcus near his Sera, no matter that he thought the world of his master.
Rowan needed someone, her own age, to sweep her off her feet, show her the stars, give her passion, madness, love, and laughter. It didn’t matter if it wasn’t the forever love Marcus could offer her, but she needed to be young, carefree, unbound, and star-struck first. All the things her former life never gave her, and of which Marius robbed her.