Shadow & Light

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in my head

Dominic

I think those cars are following us.

His brows knit together as her words sink in. He shifts his eyes to the rear view mirror, barely making out three sets of headlights in the oceanside fog.

He focuses his eyes forward again, navigating his car effortlessly through a side alleyway in the beachside town which they pass through, before pulling back onto a main street, then shifts his gaze back to the rear view mirror, only to spot the same three sets of headlights behind him.

The city of Chatham is a ghost town at 1 AM, the oceanfront nearly frozen solid. Dominic brings his speed to seventy, speeding through a yellow left turn, careful not to lose control of the car as he speeds toward the freeway. The three cars follow through the light as it turns red; he can make out the color now, each of them black.

“Aurora,” he says, focusing intently on the road ahead as he addresses her. “I have three jobs for you.” His voice is tense, but steady. She nods, sensing the urgency of the situation as she stares forward at the road ahead of them. She resists the urge to ask one of the many questions questions circling her mind.

“First, when I say, I want you to unbuckle your seat belt, and climb into the back. The middle seat, not the sides,”

“Dominic-” her voice shakes at the urgency in his.

“Shh, baby. When I say, alright?”

He brings his speed to eighty at a straight away, gripping the wheel tightly. His jaw clenches painfully tight.

“Now.”

She unbuckles her seatbelt quickly, sliding carefully into the back. He can hear the abrupt click of her seatbelt as she settles into the middle seat.

“Good girl,” he praises, forcing his voice to stay calm. If he panics, she will. “Are you ready for your second job?”

“Yes, Dom.”

Warmth floods his heart despite everything, but only for a moment. He makes an abrupt right turn. He can hear the tires of the other cars screeching against the asphalt as they follow closely.

“My phone is in my briefcase back there, on the floorboard. The passcode to the case is two six zero one.”

He hears her turn the lock into place before it clicks open. She grabs his phone, looking up to him from the backseat. “What’s your passcode?”

“Zero one two four. I need you to call Caspar.”

She doesn’t search his contact, dialing quickly the number which she knows by heart. The phone rings all around them, resonating through the speakers in the car. Aurora clenches his phone tightly in her hand.

He answers on the third ring.

“This better be fucking important.”

“Caspar, I need you to run a license plate,” Dominic cuts in.

“Now?”

“Now.”

There is scrambling on the other end, Caspar yelling at someone in the background before shifting a few papers and setting down the phone.

“What’s the number.”

Dominic takes a deep breath, looking into the rearview mirror for a moment before glancing over his shoulder.

“Aurora, baby, are you ready for your third job?”

“You have Aurora with you?!”

“Not now, Caspar!” Dominic all but shouts. His voice returns to normal as he addresses her. She shudders at the way he can so quickly switch between.

“Go onto my camera. I want you to turn and zoom in on the license plate. The car closest to us, don’t worry about the others. Try and make it as clear as you can.”

Dominic pulls onto the straightaway leading to the freeway while she unbuckles her seatbelt, turning to kneel atop the seat and face the back window. She lifts the iPhone camera with shaking hands, zooming in as carefully as she can without blurring the image. When she is close enough, she refocuses the image and holds down the white button.

Immediately, she slumps back down into the seat and buckles her seat belt, trying hard not to focus on how fast he is going and instead on reading the image.

“Caspar?” she asks, making sure is still on the line.

“On your cue, Princess.”

“Okay,” she zooms in, narrowing her eyes to try and read.

“Two, C, F,” she reads aloud.

“Okay.”

“J... Seven, Zero.”

She can hear him typing frantically on the other end. There is silence as he reads.

“Fucking hell,” she hears him mutter under his breath.

“You need to lose him, Dom,” Caspar’s voice breathes out, louder this time. She has a sinking feeling that Caspar left out any details for her sake.

Dominic hits a button on the screen, transferring the call from speaker back to the phone. “Aurora,” he says, “I want you to close your eyes and talk to Caspar, understand?”

She brings the phone to her ear. “Yes, Dom.”

“Good girl.”

“H-hi Caspar,” he hears her sweet voice from the back seat. He looks in the rearview mirror to see her holding her legs to her chest and shutting her eyes tightly as she listens to him. His eyes return to the road and he brings his speed to 100.

A plan gradually unfolds in his mind as he speeds along the interstate, half-hoping a freeway patrol officer will pull one of them over, including himself. But minutes pass like hours with no sign of sirens, he can only make out headlights as the black Mercedes gains on him to his right. He is pushing 110 already.

Checking over his shoulder, he eases the car to ninety, and then eighty abruptly, swerving behind the car and onto the exit just at the last moment. When he pulls onto the road, only two sets of headlights follow behind him. He speeds along the ocean side, the sweet sound of Aurora’s voice from the backseat the only thing stopping him from pulling the gun out from the glove compartment and shooting at their tires.

He pulls onto a dirt road which lines the ocean side. The mountains lie to their right as he speeds past up a steady incline with an effortless precision that, after a mile or so, becomes too narrow for the SUV which trails the black BMW. He last sees it reversing down the incline before he turns the corner, losing it.

And that is when the first gun shot fires.

It echoes hauntingly through the winter air, reverberating off the windows followed by a tense silence. Until another follows it.

Dominic risks a glance over his shoulder to see the figure of a man leaning out the car window. His hand-gun is aimed down towards the road, likely aiming at his tires.

Aurora’s eyes are wide open, staring dazedly at the dashboard.

He brings his speed back up to eighty, focusing hard on keeping traction on the slick incline. Another shot fires. Three seconds, then another.

Three seconds. Is all it takes for the man to orient his aim. And it’s all it takes for Dominic to accelerate through a sharp turn just as he fires again. The bullet hits the asphalt, ricocheting back and shattering the other car’s windshield.

Silence.

He keeps driving. He won’t know if the man survived the hit. But he has seen worse. He keeps driving.

Along the mountain road at a small incline for a mile or so, neither of them speaking the entire way. He turns left into a wooded area, parking the car in a clearing and shutting off the engine.

Only then does the tension flood through his body. He leans down against the wheel, running his hands through the dark strands of his hair and pulling at the ends.

If anything had happened to her, he would never be able to live with himself.

His hands shake violently in his hair as the anxiety which he had repressed all comes flooding in and consumes every piece of him. So much that he doesn’t hear Aurora click open her seat belt. He doesn’t hear her slide across the seats and open the door. He doesn’t notice her open the driver’s side door until she is next to him, resting her hand gently on the sleeve of his suit jacket.

He lifts his head from the wheel to face her, his bloodshot eyes meeting her own, which seem to question him without speaking. And they seem to understand his hurt more than any other person could. He looks down to her neck, suddenly needing to escape her sadness, the kind she wore beautifully without meaning to. It is heartbreaking, knowing that you’ve taken something good and perfect. And wrecked it.

She waits for a moment but he won’t look back up to her. His eyes focus on her neck as if in a daze, the kind her mother used to be in, always. She places her hands gently on his leg, atop the fabric of his slacks. She pulls gently, first his right and then his left until he is sitting facing her, and she is standing between his legs. He is her height now, sitting down. Her small hands grip the sides of his face, forcing him to lift his eyes and meet hers, the way he always does to her.

His eyes meet hers reluctantly, red with shame and anxiety.

He waits for her to retract from him, for her to pull away in disgust at the weakness in his eyes but she doesn’t. Instead, she runs her gentle hands softly down the length of his cheeks, over the stubble along his jawline to his neck. He shuts his eyes softly, breathing in deeply and reveling in the feeling of her small hands running soothingly against his skin like an Angel sent to comfort him. If she is one, then let her be.

“Why?” she asks softly, her melodic voice breaking through the heavy silence and warming it slightly with her innocence. “Why were they shooting?” He shuts his eyes, breathing in deeply as he leans into her touch.

“Are you in trouble?” she asks, quieter this time.

A deep breath out. He looks up from beneath his lashes and meets her eyes again. He forces a half smile. “No, baby. Everything is okay.”

She isn’t convinced. Her brows knit together softly in confusion as she tries to step back, but Dominic’s hands at her waist lock her gently in place. She shakes her head.

“Nothing is okay.”

She didn’t mean to say it. The words escape her lips like a sad understanding. Still, a weight lifts from her chest from saying them out loud. He meets her eyes thoughtfully, with an intensity that could hold her in place on its own, without the help of his hands encircling her waist. His large hand runs softly along her skin, sweeping her hair gently behind her ear and bracing her cheek. She finds herself unconsciously leaning into his touch for one moment before pulling away the next.

“It’s easier to shut your eyes and pretend it was a dream, but it doesn’t work like that. I want to know, Dominic. I can handle it.”

I will not sit here, Aurora, and throw away my only chance to make a better life for you.

Is this what he meant? It occurs to Aurora that maybe no one truly has it good. Maybe everyone is pushing and shoving and scrambling to get to a better place that doesn’t exist.

She meets his eyes, which seem to pick apart every thought that runs through her mind.

“Someday,” he murmurs softly, sweeping her hair over her shoulder and running his fingers through the damp strands. “I want to explain everything to you.”

A shiver runs down her spine at the feeling of his hands playing with her hair. He leans down, wrapping his forearms around her thighs, and lifts her up into his arms this way, so that she can brace her hands against his shoulders and he can look up to her. “Someday. When it isn’t two AM,” he smiles sadly, “and when you’re better dressed for the cold.”

He leans down until her feet are planted firmly on the ground, then meets her eyes intently. “Everything is going to be okay,” he says, resting his hand soothingly against her soft neck. He leans forward, pressing a kiss to her forehead which has her shutting her eyes involuntarily, breathing in the intoxicating scent of his cologne. “I promise.”

He locks his pinky with hers before he steps back, enveloping her freezing hand in his warmer one.

The forest he leads her through is hauntingly beautiful; the trees are different than the ones behind the group home, the dense branches twist and break through the Earth like bony hands reaching up toward the sky. After walking in a comfortable silence for a few minutes, she trusts his lead enough to turn her gaze up to see the moonlight which filters through the trees, creating little beams of white light which cast dark shadows along the forest floor. She breathes in deeply the ocean breeze, breathing out to see how the freezing air clouds up in front of her.

Dominic looks back. The intensity in his expression doesn’t ease but his eyes smile softly at her actions.

As they pass through the woods he pulls her gently along a dirt path which runs along the side of a cliff, overlooking the ocean, the crashing waves which slide gracefully along the icy shore, the forest behind them. The stars reflect onto the frozen surface, blinking in tune with each crash of the waves. She stops without thinking, looking up to take in the entire scene and commit it to her memory. She has never seen the sky in such a passion of kindness.

Dominic stops beside her. “Are you tired? Let me carry you-”

“No,” she breathes out, lowering her face to let the ocean mist breathe against her skin. “I just want to watch.”

He pauses for a moment before stepping closer beside her, his arm brushing lightly against her shoulder as he looks out from the cliff at the intersection of sky and sea, the one he has often observed but never truly seen.

“It’s so pretty,” Aurora speaks so softly, he thinks he might have imagined it.

She tilts her head up to meet the stars again, watching as her breath clouds the air above her as she speaks. “I used to think that stars were holes in the floor of heaven.”

A smile pulls at Dominic’s lips but she doesn’t see it. She can feel it, in the way he clutches tighter to her hand.

“You don’t think so anymore?”

She shakes her head.

“Why is that?”

She turns her head, her brows knitting together softly as she looks up at him. It’s a silly question. Stars are luminous spheroids of plasma. Held together by their own gravity.

But he doesn’t look at her like she’s silly. He looks at her like she has a thousand galaxies exploding in every inch of her, like the strength of her hand in his is the same force that holds the entire planet together.

She lifts her shoulders in a shrug. “I’m not a little kid anymore.”

The words settle heavily in the cool air, an inescapable truth.

“No,” his eyes darken dangerously, “you’re not.”

A heavy silence settles between them, and Aurora looks back up to the sky.

“I still believe in heaven, though.”

“I never want you to stop.”

“Even though you don’t believe in it?”

He nods, staring thoughtfully at the frozen shore. “If you believe inside your heart that God created the goodness inside of you, then I never want you to stop believing in Him. Even if I don’t.”

She turns to study the side of his face, his jaw clenched tightly as he thinks deeply about something. He always knows exactly what to say.

“Dominic?”

“Yes?”

“I don’t think heaven is up there,” she says, turning back to face the water, watching the snow drift down from where it starts. “I think heaven is here.”

“I love you,” Dominic breathes out, facing the water.

She says nothing. The melody of the water fills the silence. Slowly, hesitantly, she unfolds her fingers and laces them through his.

Sometime, perhaps minutes or eons later, they had continued walking, along the dense trees of the forest until the foliage thinned out so that nothing separated the mountainside and frozen sea besides the man carrying the small girl.

Dominic did carry Aurora, the snow having soaked through the soles and laces of her converse until she could hardly feel her feet anymore. She might have fallen asleep on his shoulder if the scene around them wasn’t so breathtaking. The mist from the ocean and freezing air settles so heavily along the mountainside, she hardly realizes they have reached a house until Dominic is walking slowly up the front pathway.

She looks up. Tucked quietly between the mountain and sea is a white two-story house, with beautifully tended gardens surrounding the perimeter, with no fence to cage them in. You would never see it if you weren’t looking for it, but once you did there is no looking away.

Dominic reaches into the pocket of his slacks with the hand that doesn’t hold Aurora. Pulling out his keys, he runs his fingers along them until they find the correct one. The door slides open with a soft creak, and they are instantly hit with warm air, the alarm system beeping once before he disables it. He sets her down softly to her feet.

Aurora

She meets his eyes nervously before she traces hers across the rest of the first floor. There are windows everywhere, allowing space for the starlight to filter through the darkness and dance across the wooden floors, and for the ocean mist to breathe against the glass. It is dark but also light, the only furnishings are ones completely necessary, leaving most of the space open. It doesn’t feel empty though. The details in the walls and ceilings remind her of the architecture in Spain or Portugal, or something she has seen in a history textbook. It is quite beautiful, too much so to touch anything. She feels his hand grabbing hers and turns to look at him again.

“Let’s change you into something warm,” he says, pulling gently at her hand and guiding her along up at wide set of wooden stairs. The trail of water their shoes are leaving doesn’t seem to bother him.

They reach the second floor, an open hallway with five different rooms, three and two on each side. The ceiling rises high above them; he flicks on a light switch and an elegant chandelier bathes them in soft golden light. There isn’t much time to look around as he guides her into a bedroom to the far left of the stairs.

The door slides open quietly, he nudges her inside by the small of her back before following her in and switching on a set of Christmas lights which lines the ceiling.

This room is different from the rest of what she’s seen. The ceilings rise high, but not as much as they do in the hall. The walls span straight from the door before rounding off at the other end where there are three tall, paned windows. The furniture is simple, most of it a white color which glows gold in the light. It is beautiful, what Aurora always imagined the small room in the top of a tower would look like, the one the princess always lives in.

He guides her to sit down on the bed and leans down in front of her, removing her shoes first, and then her socks, before standing and walking quietly back into the hallway. When he has been gone for two minutes, she stands slowly and begins to wander the room, running her fingers gently across the decorations along the dresser. Each looks like a momento from a place far from here. The snow falls heavily outside the window, casting moving shadows along each object she touches.

She hears what sounds like a closet door opening, and Dominic returns moments later with a pair of knitted socks, a long-sleeve thermal, and an old pair of sweats that looks like it would no longer fit him. He sets the clothes down on the dresser beside her, his eyes focused intently on something below her neck. She looks down in confusion as his hands wander to the edge of her sweater and jersey, and as he runs his fingers thoughtfully along the fabric.

“This isn’t yours.” It is more a statement than it is a question. His eyes meet hers and he tilts his head curiously.

She doesn’t answer, running her fingers along the school’s emblem. Dominic forces her eyes to meet his with his hand beneath her chin.

“Who’s is it?”

“My friend’s,” she steps back nervously. “He started in the game today and asked me to wear it.”

He runs his fingers thoughtfully along the soft fabric before meeting her eyes again. “Your friend’s?”

Yes. Isn’t that what she just said?

She nods, hoping he doesn’t catch the way that just thinking the name in her head sends nervous chills along her skin.

“Is he someone to you?”

She meets his eyes curiously, not understanding what he means.

He laughs, but it is more like a soft release of breath. It seems as though this is not a typical conversation for him. “Do you want to kiss him?”

Her cheeks flush a bright red, and despite her still freezing skin she suddenly feels unbearably warm.

“He’s not my boyfriend.”

“That’s not what I asked.”

“I don’t want to kiss him.”

He studies her eyes intently for a moment, and then another, before tearing them away to hand her the clothes which lie atop the dresser.

“I should hope not,” he says, unfolding the shirt for her, “I’d have to kill him.”

He waits a moment to meet her eyes. When he does, they are as wide as saucers. He smirks teasingly, the only sign that he is at least somewhat teasing as he hands her the clothes.

She holds them in her arms, looking up at him expectantly.

He doesn’t seem to understand.

“Turn around,” she demands, the same way he had done to her in the school parking lot just a few days before. His eyes darken dangerously as a smirk teases his lips. She makes a turning motion with her finger and, reluctantly, he crosses his arms and turns to face the wall.

She turns, sliding off the jersey, then the sweater beneath it. The gray thermal rests loosely atop her shoulders, and smells faintly of his cologne. She checks over her shoulder to make sure he isn’t looking, then buries her nose into the fabric as she slides of her leggings which are soaked from the snow. The sweats, although too small for him, are still way too large on her.

She walks over to the dresser to grab the socks he brought, sliding them on quickly. Seeing her dressed, Dominic turns back around, his hands falling to the drawstrings of the sweats as he pulls them tightly, looping them twice around so they stay up on her waist.

He nods in content, stepping back to look at her like a finished masterpiece.

“You are more beautiful each time I look at you.”

The words should be teasing, given the way his clothes practically swallow her, but his eyes are serious. Then again, they always seem to be that way.

She rolls her eyes, smiling softly as she turns away from him. He grabs her wrist, pulling her to face him.

He speaks lowly. “But that attitude of yours, Aurora Davis, could get a pretty girl like you in a lot of trouble.”

She tugs her wrist away, crossing her arms and meeting his eyes straight on. “Oh yeah? With who?”

Dominic holds back a smile as he steps closer still, close enough that he could reach out his hand and trace his fingers down the side of her face and curl a lock of brown hair around his finger, if he wanted.

“With me.” He murmurs softly.

A step closer has Aurora stumbling backwards, quickly stepping up onto the bed behind her. She holds her arms out on her each side as she tries to balance atop the covers.

She is just barely taller than him now, but the height from where she stands is enough to make her feel more centered; she doesn’t like him looking down at her. Her confidence quickly turns to confusion, however, when she looks down at him. Dominic doesn’t look intimidated in the least. He looks as though he has seen heaven for the first time.

“I wouldn’t mind getting in trouble with you,” she says, hoping to stir a reaction from him other than whatever this emotion is.

His eyes darken dangerously. God, if this girl only knew what she was saying. He plays along.

“Oh yeah?”

She nods, wrapping her arms around her waist, the loose fabric of the gray thermal bunching up around her arms as she looks down at him. She speaks with the confidence of the young girl who once had this man wrapped around her little finger.

“You don’t scare me.”

He smiles. The kind which comes so suddenly and easily that there is no point in holding it back. His eyes light up as he shakes his head, biting back a laugh.

Her heart stops in her chest as he lights up in front of her. For a moment he looked like Dom.

The only light filtering into the room at 3:30 AM is the light from the moon, casting eerie shadows along the floorboards which move with the swaying of a willow tree outside her window.

She isn’t sure if she ever fell asleep, each time she closes her eyes she sees her father’s lifeless body from where one of his older friends holds her up above his casket with his hands bracing her tiny body. She sees her mother’s tears which eventually turn to blood until she lies motionless on their bathroom floor no matter how many times she tells her wake up. She isn’t sure why. It could be from the memory of Everett’s hands against her, or the sound of the gunshots that the man shot at Dominic’s tires, or just from sleeping alone in a strange room. Either way, she is wide awake.

She checks the clock again, 3:34 AM. With a deep breath she sits up atop the impossibly soft mattress and comforter. Her legs are bare, having taken off the sweats when she felt too confined by them. Dominic’s gray long-sleeve nearly reaches her knees anyway. She shifts to the edge of the bed until her feet touch the cool floor and stands.

The hallway is dark as she navigates carefully to the stairs, gripping tightly the banister as she tries not to slip on the polished wood. When she reaches the first floor, she walks quietly to the side of the house which is closed off slightly by an intricate brick structure. Her socks bunch up on her feet and allow her to slide around the corner, her eyes scanning over every inch of the stunning architecture before focusing back on her search for a water glass.

She opens first a cabinet above the sink, which seems like the most likely place to keep cups and glasses. Sure enough, this is where he keeps them. She reaches up to grab one, but her reach comes up short, and a deep chuckle resonates throughout the kitchen, causing her heart to skip in her chest.

She turns to see Dominic, leaning against the doorway, staring at her with humor in his eyes.

He seems to be in a teasing mood still, but something is darker about his expression since just an hour ago. Still, she turns defiantly toward the cabinet, bracing her hands against the counter to try and lift herself up onto it.

“No you don’t,” he is behind her in a second, lifting her from beneath her arms and placing her atop the counter in the center of the kitchen. He steps toward the sink, reaching up and grabbing a glass from the cabinet and shutting it. Her eyes fall to the tanned skin which peaks out from under his shirt as he reaches up.

Dominic

When he turns back to face her, she snaps her eyes quickly up to his. He fails to hide the smirk which pulls at the corner of his lips as he sets the glass in her hands. She holds it there, not leaving her spot atop the counter.

“Why are you awake?” she asks.

“I could ask you the same thing.”

She shrugs as if to say yeah, but you didn’t.

He laughs under his breath, stepping back. “I had to make a few phone calls,” he says vaguely, his eyes leaving no room for her to pry any further. “You couldn’t sleep?”

She shrugs, fiddling with the glass in her hands. Dominic begins rummaging through the cabinets for certain ingredients. She watches curiously as he moves methodically around the kitchen, his hair sticking up in all directions as though he’d run his hands through it a hundred times over.

She sits quietly, listening as he hums softly to himself while working over the stove. Just the sound alone could lull her to sleep if she wasn’t so intrigued by his presence.

As he sprinkles something into the mixture atop the stove, she remembers something she was supposed to tell him.

“Caspar wanted me to tell you that he needs you to call him tomorrow,” she says, watching his back tense slightly before his movements become fluid once again.

“Did he?”

She nods, even though he isn’t facing her. He seems to anticipate this.

“Was it about someone named Moretti?”

She lifts her shoulders in a shrug. “He didn’t tell me.”

“I’m sure that’s what it is.” He stirs a wooden spoon through the steaming liquid on the stove. “What else did he say?”

She swings her legs absently back and forth, her small feet hitting the cabinets lightly as she does so. “He said I shouldn’t ask you why those cars followed us. That you would tell me when you were ready.”

Dominic is silent after that, shutting off the stove and rinsing off the wooden spoon in the sink. He reaches for the glass in her hands, taking it in his own and pouring the steaming drink inside of it, sprinkling what looks like cinnamon on top. He turns to face her, holding out the glass of spiced milk. Miss Amy used to make it to help them sleep.

She takes the glass in both hands, having forgotten why she came downstairs in the first place. He hadn’t.

“Thank you,” she murmurs quietly. He hums in response, and she brings the drink to her lips and sips from it. The vanilla flavor soothes her nervous stomach instantly. He looks intently at her for a moment before nodding, turning back toward the sink.

He begins cleaning the area around the stove, placing the spices back into the cabinet and setting the milk in the fridge. When she is halfway done with her drink, she sets it beside her, and the soft sound of the glass against the counter catches his attention. He lifts his eyes to meet hers.

“Is it because of what happened today?” he asks suddenly. “Is that why you couldn’t sleep?”

She meets his eyes again, which are filled with regret for the second time tonight. He tries to disguise it with coldness, which may have worked if she didn’t know him the way she did.

“No.”

“Aurora.”

“It doesn’t matter.” She sets the half empty glass beside her. Suddenly, she struggles to keep her eyes open.

“Doesn’t it?” Dominic asks quietly, lifting her from atop the counter and into his arms. She didn’t realize he was standing right in front of her. He begins walking toward the stairs.

She rests her head softly into the warm surface of his shoulder, breathing in his comforting smell, the one that is still there when his cologne wears off. He always smells like dark coffee and firewood.

The muscles of his shoulder shift against her cheek as he walks up the stairs. She buries her face into his shirt, muffling her voice slightly as she speaks.

“Doesn’t it matter that a man shot at you from his car? I think so. But you say that it doesn’t and I have to trust you because you control my entire life.”

There is no bitterness, no rise in her voice; the words spill out without much thought. She always used to do this when she was especially tired, speak everything on her mind. Every other facet of Dominic’s life is filled with lies and deceit, and this makes Aurora’s pure honesty even more precious. How could such a small thing be so powerful?

With a beautiful mind and unwavering innocence like that, how could she still be his?

He reaches her room, the one designed with her in mind, fit for a princess, though he would never tell her that. She never wanted to be a princess, always a painter or an astronaut.

The door opens quietly, and he steps inside, watching through the windows the snowfall which seems to fall heavier with each passing moment. His eyes fall to Aurora then, her soft breathing against his neck. Before he knows what he is doing, he is pressing a soft kiss to her temple, and then to her cheek, then shifting his hold on her to grip her waist, lacing his fingers through her hair and pressing his lips up and down the length of her neck. A soft hum resonates from the back of her throat as she responds to him, half-asleep. The sound brings every piece of him to life, but also brings him back down to Earth. She trusts him. Even if she won’t admit it, she trusts him with her safety and by God will he do everything to deserve that trust. He wants to spend every minute of his life trying to deserve the precious things she gives to him.

He leans forward, setting her down gently onto the bed. She rolls over onto her stomach, and his loose gray shirt bunches up around her waist, exposing the smooth, untouched skin of her thighs. He has never felt such a lack of control before.

He kneels down beside her bed and parts her soft hair gently down the middle, running his fingers through the strands and applying just enough pressure to be pleasurable. If she isn’t already sleep, she will be in minutes. This always lulls her to sleep.

“Dominic?” she asks sleepily, her voice muffled slightly by her pillow. Her tiny voice wraps itself around his heart and warms it slightly with her innocence.

“Yes, baby?” His hands continue their course through her hair. She giggles softly into her blankets, and God if that isn’t the most precious sound.

A few moments pass and she doesn’t stop giggling. He smiles adoringly, turning her over onto her back by her shoulder. She smiles up at the ceiling.

“You always call me that.”

Is that what she is laughing about?

She sighs gently, her tired, glassy eyes tracing along the soft designs in the ceiling. “I’m not a baby anymore. Even though everyone treats me like one.”

The words spill from her lips without any thought. He watches as her expression falls, her brows knitting together softly as her peace is replaced with the sadness inside of her. Her eyes become glassy.

“Dominic?” she asks again, more quietly this time.

He nods, hanging on her every word as he watches her.

“What’s the probability of a comet striking the same place twice?”

His eyes widen in surprise. When she turns her head to look at him, it is clear her words holding a deeper meaning that he doesn’t understand. He shakes his head softly, sweeping her hair away from her eyes.

“I’m not sure, Little-bit. I imagine it’s nearly impossible.”

She turns her head back to face the ceiling, her eyes fluttering shut to hide the pain in them, but it’s useless, because he can feel it in the way she tenses at his touch.

“I’m going to miss you, Dominic. When you leave again.”

She is asleep before he can say anything.

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