The next morning, despite the pointed looks her mother gave her, Taylor kept her uneasiness to herself.
“I am going out with Daimhin again. We’re going up north and he said something about the most northern tip of Ireland. To be honest, I don’t even know where it is.”
Her mother came up behind her and put an arm around her waist. She shocked Taylor when she asked softly, “Do you love him?”
Taylor blinked back tears. “That’s the only thing I am sure of right now in my monumentally messed up life.”
“Then what’s the problem? You love him, he loves you.”
Taylor looked down at her hands, tears dropping from her jaw. Her throat was so tight she could barely squeeze words out of it. “He does not love me, Mum. He’s just being nice.”
Her mother hugged her close. “Of course, he loves you. I’ve seen the way he looks at you.”
Taylor shook her head in denial.
Her mother turned her around to face her and tipped up her chin. “You know you can stop this if it is hurting you too much. Just say the word.”
“I don’t want to,” Taylor sobbed. Despite the potential for immense pain, she knew she wanted to spend this last day with him.
With her thumb, her mother wiped the tears from her cheeks gently. “Then pull your shoulders up, smile and go out there. Be happy, Taylor. There aren’t many people who find love or who fall in love like you have. Don’t worry about anything, just enjoy it, my baby.”
Taylor took a deep breath. She felt the air rush into her body as it lifted her chest, and in the process pushed her shoulders back.
After her mother handed her a tissue, and Taylor blew her nose loudly, they both started laughing.
Daimhin stopped in front of Taylor’s house in his borrowed Porsche, at exactly the agreed time.
When he knocked at the door, Michelle opened it. She did not greet him, but turned away from him and called up to Taylor, “Taylor, Daimhin’s here.” She turned back to him. “You break her heart and you’ll have me to deal with,” she warned him.
“You don’t understand, Mrs. Fergusson.”
“Young man, there is nothing for me to understand but the happiness of my daughter. We’ll talk tonight. Taylor has told me about your agreement and that you’ll stop seeing each other after tonight, and I agree. Think of this as your last day with her.”
Taylor ran down the stairs.
Michelle turned back to her. “Don’t run down the stairs, Taylor.”
Before she rushed past her mother, she hugged her mum tightly to her chest. “See you later, and stop worrying.”
Taylor looked at Daimhin. He took her breath away. He radiated strength and warmth. His green eyes were beautiful, clear and bright. He had gorgeous features. He had swapped his usual blue denim and white t-shirt for a black denim and a dark blue button up shirt. It made him look tanned. His hair looked messy as if he had pulled his hand through it repeatedly. Shyly she said, “Hey.”
He smiled widely when his eyes settled on her. She was wearing a white summer dress with a little blue flower print. She had a chunky white scarf wrapped around her neck. Her shoulders were bare and he felt the urge to touch them. “Good morning.”
Taylor walked out the door and immediately Daimhin lifted his arm to place his hand gently on her lower back.
“Goodbye, Michelle, I won’t have Taylor home late.”
“Bye, Taylor, have fun, my girl.” Her mother only glanced in Daimhin’s direction admonishingly.
Taylor smiled back at her mum. There was a radiance on her face. “Bye, Mum.”
Daimhin steered Taylor to the car and opened the door for her before he walked around to the other side of the car. He slipped into the seat and Taylor could feel his calming presence next to her, even though her heart literally tripped over itself.
Taylor waved as they drove away from Michelle.
When they left the city, Taylor turned to Daimhin. “I never said thank you for coming to dinner and meeting my crazy family. I thought it would be awkward, but it was actually nice.”
Daimhin glanced at her. His shoulders relaxed a little. “It was nice meeting your family and I had fun. They are nice people.”
“They are all very close, which I am glad about. They’ll be there to support my mum when I die.”
His brow furrowed.
Taylor continued, “I know there is nothing left to do and all I can do now is hope that they’ll be able to manage the pain, so I can die peacefully.”
“You wouldn’t rather want to stay?”
“Obviously, but I know what is. I was thinking about what you said in the church the other day. About reincarnation.”
“Maybe we shouldn’t talk about this now. Let’s just enjoy the day and not worry about what it would be like in death.”
Taylor rolled her eyes. She laughed, but he could hear a sad underlying tone in her voice, when she asked, “So, what would you like to talk about instead?”
“How you stole my heart.”
Taylor laughed nervously.
He continued anxiously, “This morning when I was coming over to your place, I realized that from the morning I met you everything had changed and I had to be with you every moment of every day.”
Taylor reached her hand across to him and placed it over his where it was resting on the gear-lever. “No. Don’t.”
“You don’t have to make me feel better. I am here because I want to be here. I know you probably feel sorry for me, and that is okay, but you don’t have to pretend that you love me and that you’ll be unable to live without me.”
He fixed his gaze on the road ahead.
Surely he understood there was no future for them. She knew it was only pity he felt for her, and he was confusing it with feelings of love.
They drove without talking, each one lost in their own thoughts until they reached the scenic coastal views of Malin Head.
As Daimhin drove the Porsche into the little village, a chill ran down his spine. He recognized two guardian angels in a serious conversation with each other on the corner of the road which he had to take to turn off to the beach.
He continued driving straight, without taking the turn-off. Looking in the rear-view mirror, he noticed with relief that they were not paying attention to him or his car. They expected him to turn down to the beach. He felt a feeling of betrayal rush through him.
Daimhin continued driving. He had to gather his thoughts and figure out a plan of action. He felt Taylor slipping through his fingers. Now the office knew all about how, for years, Daimhin had refused to touch her. He was going to be sent to a place he never considered he would have to go to after his deliverance hearing, or maybe he would have to do this job into the next hundred millenniums. Pushing the thought aside, he decided he did not care about himself. He wanted to be the one to escort Taylor to the other side, but he wanted to do it after she went to the hospital and was that really so much to ask for. He felt desperate.
Before they left the village, Daimhin recognized three more guardians.
As they left the last building in the village behind them, Taylor asked, “I thought this was the most northern point?” She pointed her thumb back to the village. “There was a sign that said so.”
“We are going further north than the village. This time of the year, there is a possibility we could see the northern lights.”
A few kilometres later, Daimhin steered the car away from the tarmac onto a tiny one lane road. He followed the road up a steep incline into the mountains. The large rocks and boulders on the lane scraped the undercarriage of the low car.
Taylor laughed. “You should have borrowed a more rugged car.”
Daimhin smiled when he heard the sound of her nervous laughter. “Almost there. There is a stone cottage up ahead.”
“How do you know that?”
“It belongs to my family.” He cleared his throat. “Distant family.”
“You never talk about your family?”
Daimhin cringed when a loud scraping noise erupted from under the car. “Not much to say, really.”
After he negotiated the car around a particularly large boulder, he glanced at her anxiously. “It’s just around the bend. Would you be able to manage a short walk?”
He stopped the car and when Taylor reached for the door handle, Daimhin put his hand out to stop her. “Stay here,” he ordered.
“You don’t need to open the door for me, you know,” she insisted as she pulled the handle toward herself.
He grabbed her hand. “Taylor, stay here. Lock the door after me.”
Taylor looked around nervously. She felt a tinge of fear along her spine, as she swung the door shut again and locked it. “What’s going on?”
“I am just going to run up to the cottage and make sure there aren’t any vagrants or dangerous animals and then I’ll be back for you.”
She looked up at him and as their eyes connected, she said, “Okay. I suppose my mum will kill you if you let anything happen to me.”
He laughed forced. “Exactly. I’ll be back now.”
After he slipped out of the car, he motioned to her to lock the door from the inside.
She watched him jog up the hill and as he disappeared around the bend, Taylor shivered, looking around her. It felt as if someone was watching her.
Cautiously, Daimhin approached the cottage. He was afraid there would be guardian angels waiting for them at the lonely desolate building. He walked into the little cold hut watchful and prepared. He let the breath he was holding escape his lips when he found it unoccupied.
Taylor saw him appear around the bend again. As he approached the car, he gestured for her to unlock the car door. By the time he got to the car, Taylor was standing next to the vehicle.
Daimhin helped her over the large stones and boulders up the uneven pathway, around the bend and then Taylor gasped as she looked at the cottage. “It’s so pretty.”
The small rectangular cottage was built into the mountain. Flat rocks were stacked one atop another until they formed the three outer walls. There were shutters hanging in front of the glassless windows, and the front door hung skew across the open door. The thatch roof looked intact in some places.
His fingers traced down her arm from her elbow, which he was holding onto when he helped her over the rocky road and twirled through her fingers. He pulled her toward the cottage.
As Taylor walked ahead of him into the cottage, he mumbled, “This is not exactly what I had in mind for today, but it is perfect in a tragic sort of way.”
She did not hear him.
In the cottage, Daimhin walked straight toward the hearth and looked around for anything to burn. He went back outside and found a pile of firewood. Somebody must still use the cottage. He built the fire and soon the flames from the fireplace warmed up the little cottage.
He looked at her concerned. “You should take a nap before we go and explore. I’ll watch over you.”
Amused Taylor asked, “What’s there to explore here?”
“If we walk up the hill further past the cottage and we get to the top, there are magnificent views of the ocean, and if there are lights in the sky tonight, it’s the perfect place to see them from. I used to sit there often.”
“You did?” He did not talk about himself and Taylor wanted to know everything there was to know about him.
He smiled patiently. “Have a nap first.”
She looked around the room unsure.
“Wait.” Daimhin ran from the cottage without an explanation. Minutes later he was back, holding a folded blanket in his hands. “I remembered this was in the car,” he said as he spread it out across the dingy mattress of the single metal bed pushed into a corner.
He sat down on the bed and pushed himself back until his back rested against the stone wall. His legs were hanging over the side of the bed. “You can use my legs as a cushion.”
Nervously, she climbed onto the bed. She was feeling tired and if she had a quick nap, rested her eyes for a little bit, she would be able to enjoy the rest of the day.
Taylor fell asleep quickly, probably a mixture of exhaustion and pain pills.
He looked down at her sleeping face and he felt a certain responsibility for some of the stress edged on her face. His constant lapses in judgement. Gently, so as not to disturb her, he played with her hair. If he could not curl up beside her, curve his body against hers, he would at least allow himself a few silent moments with her. How could he possibly let her go? Never see her again? He wanted her, even now. He wanted to touch her all over, trace his fingers along her warm skin. Touch his lips to hers. He wanted to wake up with her every morning. Make a life with her. He sensed at times that she liked him. But love? Love was not in the equation. He just knew he could not let her go, not yet.
Taylor stirred, squeezing her eyes shut as if the late afternoon light was disturbing her sleep. She stretched and when she opened her eyes she wondered for a moment where she was until she turned and looked up into the brilliant green eyes of Daimhin.
Taylor smiled up at him shyly and then feeling embarrassed she quickly got up to her feet. As she tried to get her feet steady under her, she swayed and sat back down.
Daimhin got to his feet and taking her hand he pulled her up from the bed. He lifted her and wrapping his arm around her waist, he said, “It’s getting late. Let’s walk up to the top of the mountain.” He stared down at her, obsessed with her.
Her lips parted. She was surprised at the look on his face and her breath caught in her throat.
His frame of mind was too undisciplined, if he tried to convince her now how much he loved her, he would make a mess of the words. He stood over her, hardly any space between them. “I’ve tried really hard,” he whispered.
She nodded, not able to use her voice.
The heat in his eyes burned her to the core. “I didn’t want anything to get in the way.”
“It’s too late don’t you think?” The challenge in her voice shocked him. She stunned him even more when she reached for him, pressing her hand against his cheek and pulling him down to kiss her.
Would being with her heal his tortured soul?
With her eyes shut, she felt his skin against her palm, his mouth was stroking hers softly, his tongue was tracing along the seam of her lips. His hands moved, one folded tighter around her waist, the other cupped behind her head. His chest felt warm under the shirt he wore. She wanted everything all at once. She wanted his hands everywhere on her body and hers on his.
Daimhin groaned and pulled her tighter to him until she fitted snugly against him.
Taylor wanted to pull him down onto the bed behind her, she had so little self-control left. She could not be bothered with the consequences because there was none. The consequence could not be worse than a broken heart.
Out of desperation for more, Daimhin allowed her to drag his shirt from the waist of his jeans, to slide her hands underneath and to let her push it up and off.
He kissed her in every way he ever wanted to.
When Taylor moaned softly, he eased away from her and lifted her in his arms.
Taylor felt a little dizzy and she considered briefly that it was probably excitement. Gently he laid her down on the bed, standing over her. His chest was rising and falling as he dragged air into his lungs. His gaze on her felt as intense as his touch.
Then he leaned over and with slow deliberation he started to unbutton the little buttons on the front of her dress. He peeled the dress from her, over her hips and down her legs. He pulled off her shoes one by one and then tossed the dress and shoes aside.
Taylor shivered as cool air whispered over her warm skin. Goosebumps erupted on every part of her body where she was not covered by her underwear.
Sitting on the edge of the bed, Daimhin pressed his mouth against hers.
“You’re cold,” he said worriedly.
She smiled up at him. “I need your help warming me up.”
He pulled his jeans and shoes off quickly and then settled down onto the bed next to her. His heat soaked into her immediately. She leaned closer to him.
His arms wrapped around her and then he kissed her. Feathery touches with his lips against hers, then across her cheek, along her jaw, down her throat. He fitted one leg between hers. His lips explored her collarbone, her sternum, the rise of her breasts, leaving a burning desire in its wake, enfolding Taylor in a world of sensation and feeling.
He used every ounce of self-control which he could find, and he pulled away from her reluctantly. “We shouldn’t.”
“Because tomorrow you will make me leave you.”
“No,” she said softly.
He looked down at her searchingly.
“I want you,” she whispered, her hands moving slowly down his back. She could feel every ridge of his muscled back.
He hesitated, staring down at her again, and for a moment Taylor thought she saw love for her in his eyes as he lowered his body to hers.
After rapturous hours, Daimhin eased away from her and lay down next to her. He pulled her closely into his arms as he tried to control his breathing.
As sanity returned, his breathing still unsteady and difficult, he became aware of her body pulled snugly next to his. Her arms were wrapped tightly around his chest.
The light was gone, night had fallen outside the cottage and the orange glare from the fire in the fireplace played on the grey walls.
Taylor felt close to tears but pushed them away, afraid he would think her tears were from sadness instead of pure joy. She burned to tell him she loved him, but instead she snuggled closer to him in silence, grateful for the feeling of closeness.
He eased away from her and turned onto his side. He propped his head up on his upheld palm. His green eyes looked bright in the orange glow surrounding them. “You make me crazy,” he murmured.
She smiled up at him shyly. “No more than you make me.”
“I don’t want to let you go, Taylor.”
Shock ran through her at the determination of his voice. Did he not realize this was all there would ever be between them? There was no future – ever. Already she was starting to pay the consequences, she was paying in heartache.
“I could never love you more than I do.”
Unsure she asked, “You love me?”
He pulled her head tightly against his chest. “Isn’t it obvious?”
Taylor felt herself die inside.
Then he lifted her face to his again, kissing her, touching her, pulling her back into the whirlpool of passion. She shouted her love for him silently. She could not say it aloud, she had to let him go tomorrow. Her heart and her soul were living for this moment only. Soon she had to close the door between him and her, and she would have to throw away the key forever and ever.