The next days went by in a flash.
Malachy lived up to his promise, to only get out of bed for essential meal breaks.
It was Wednesday afternoon by now, when my cell phone rang and Darius’ number was shown on my display.
I took the call, greeting him in a good mood.
“Brother dear! How are you?”
Darius spoke euphorically, “Sis! Outstanding. With your happy voice, I don’t have to ask you how you are, but I’m curious about one thing: can you still walk?”
“Darius!” I replied indignantly.
Darius laughed out loud. You could always rely on his snipping humor, which was sometimes completely wrong and over the top.
“Joking aside, Sis”, now he was serious.
“The funeral home has Soraya’s burial scheduled for Saturday. I just wanted to let you know in advance, should you want to come.”
I thought about it for a moment and then made up my mind.
“I definitely want to be there. This is the last and only honour, I can still show her.”
My words seemed to make Malachy sit up and take notice. He interrupted the conversation. “Whom do you want to pay your last respects?”
I held my hand over the cell phone so Darius couldn’t hear my answer for Malachy. “Soraya, her funeral is on Saturday.”
Of course this attempt was in vain, as Darius had heard every word - warrior blood...
Malachy stepped closer to me and asked me to give him my mobile phone.
“Darius, just a moment. Malachy wants to talk to you. I’ll pass on the mobile.”
Then I handed the cell phone to Malachy and looked at him patiently.
“Darius!” He spoke into the mobile phone, being honestly happy to talk to him.
“Of course we will be there. Also, you could have given me this information directly.”
Darius answered something I didn’t understand - damn, not yet active warrior blood...
“Please be so kind and contact Andre. He has detailed instructions from me, regarding monetary support. I want this girl to have a beautiful and dignified burial.”
This time, too, I couldn’t understand Darius’ answer.
“Okay, we’ll be there,” Malachy replied and gave me my phone back.
“Darius would like to exchange a few more words with you. I’ll give you some privacy. ”
As soon as I had my mobile phone in my hand again, Malachy left the room.
“It’s me again, brother dearest”, I whistled into the mobile. “What else do you want to tell me? I thought you important men had everything sorted out without me.”
Darius replied mischievously: “You are a Fleur de Lys. We would never dare to do that. Anyway, I’m looking forward to seeing you again soon and then I’m curious to find out, why you generally address James by his middle name in private. And don’t tell me fairy tales. I noticed this small fact from the start, I just overlooked it in my generosity.”
I laughed at his words.
“I bet you would like to know that. Okay, but only if you tell me how long you and Amie really fooled me. Something was going on between you a long time before you told me, I’m sure of that.
“Deal,” came back from him a little sheepishly.
“Wonderful. See you on Saturday.”
“Wonderful,” came back from the other end of the line. “I hope you can walk again by Saturday.”
“Darius!” I rolled my eyes but had to grin slightly.
Still hearing his loud laughter through the mobile, I ended the call.
The next few days also passed quickly, as was usually the case with the beautiful things in life. Malachy and I used our alone time for long walks in the mountains of Norha and for even longer sensual evenings with extensive lovemaking.
Then, it was Friday already and we slowly had to say goodbye to this enchanted place and pack our things.
I could understand only too well, why Sophia had kidnapped her beloved Matteo here and was glad that Malachy had decided to do the same with me.
I had already packed my things and was standing down at the kitchen counter with a cup of coffee in my hands, when Malachy carried the first suitcases down and placed them in front of the chalet’s entrance.
“How long, till you’re finished?” I asked him. “I can pour you a cup of coffee as well, if you like.”
Malachy seemed lost in his thoughts.
“Do we have a big garbage bag that isn’t transparent”, he asked me absent-mindedly.
I frowned. What did he need a big garbage bag for? The cleaning and waste removal would be done by the staff after our departure.
“What do you need a big garbage bag for?” I asked confused.
He stopped in front of me and looked me straight in the eye. I had to put my head back slightly because he was quite a bit taller than me.
“We have to dispose of our blood-smeared clothes, so we don’t give reason for too many questions. We can explain everything, but it is still strange, when the maid finds a pile of blood-smeared laundry here.”
I nodded and replied, “I see.” Then I started looking for an adequate sack.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find anything in the kitchen or bathrooms.
After a while, Malachy came back in from outside and triumphantly held up a roll of black garbage bags in front of him.
“I knew I had seen something useful in the shed, behind the chalet. Give me a moment, then I’ll have everything stowed away and have a cup of coffee with you, before we load the car and drive back to Atonia.”
As soon as James had disappeared into the bathroom, he began to tamper with the laundry basket in the corner of the room. He reached into the container courageously and stuffed the clothes into the garbage bag, while being disgusted.
A small jar fell to the floor with a clang and drew James’ attention: Maggie’s blood-serum vial.
He had completely forgotten about it. It must have fallen out of his pocket, due to his rough handling of the dirty laundry. This is exactly where he’d put it, when he spotted it on the floor next to Maggie’s bed to hide the evidence.
Nothing had changed about his decision to protect Maggie under all circumstances.
If anything, after his time with her in Norha, he was only more determined to do so. And he would tell her about her vial too - no more secrets.
He took the vial in one hand and the trash bag in the other and went downstairs into the kitchen to join Maggie.
He stowed the garbage bag in a trolley that would travel back to Atonia with them. As soon as they had arrived at the castle, he would hand the trolley over to Andre, with the request, to discreetly burn it’s contents.
After the deed was done, he sat down on the large, upholstered bench in the kitchen and asked Maggie to take a seat next to him.
As soon as she was seated, he opened his hand and gave her a clear view of her vial.
“Where did you get this from?” Maggie asked him with a puzzled look on her face.
“From your bedroom in Ignis. It was on the floor next to your bed. Apparently Adrian had used your blood-serum from this exact vial, to kill Soraya.
I took it, so as not to leave any evidence of your involvement at the crime scene. ”
Maggie swallowed a few times, to get rid of the big lump that had formed in her throat.
“Thanks!” She replied motionless.
James put the vial in his pocket and pulled Maggie into his arms.
“Darling, I told you that I will protect you and that is exactly, what I intent to do. This vial of blood-serum will remain hidden forever. I’ll make sure of that.”
Maggie leaned against him and asked in a trembling voice, “But aren’t you making yourself an accomplice and committing a crime yourself, by doing so?”
James laughed bitterly.
“Darling… we all go to hell at some point, but please, let those who really deserve it go first. Then comes the rest of us, who have done forbidden deeds, to protect the ones we love.”