Guarded

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CHAPTER THIRTEEN

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

Elias

“Good morning, formosus,” I whispered to Lennox, who smiled at me. She looked so amazing, with her long dark hair resting around her face. It was something I was never able to fully appreciate until now. I could see the way her hair complimented her features and made her eyes stand out. I could admire the depth in her eyes and see all the pain that she held. This love I felt was more than any love I had ever known. This love ran deeper than a well. My father explained a love like this once. He tried convincing me that Valentina wasn’t the one. Back then, I didn’t understand what he meant when he said love is something you never have to question. Here in this moment, I knew I would never have to question if she felt the same way. Everything she had done since the moment we met proved that she felt everything I felt, if not more.

“What's that look for?” She whispered, pulling me out of my daze.

“What look?” I replied, wondering what she saw. She sat up on her elbows so we were face to face.

“You look deep in thought,” she said, leaning in to kiss my nose. It was such an innocent act, but it sent chills up my spine. It was an effect only she had on me. “What were you thinking about?”

“I was thinking about how beautiful you truly are. Something I never was able to fully see until now.” Her eyes lit up at my words.

“Oh stop, I am far from beautiful.” She shoved me, and I pulled her with me as I fell back. “That's not fair, you know.” She giggled. Her laugh could satisfy me forever.

“Promise me something,” I said as she sat on top of me, her fingers tracing her favorite tattoo on my chest.

“Depends on what you want me to promise. Like for instance, I can’t promise you I won’t call myself ugly or that I won’t get fat over time. But I can promise things like I promise Hawaiian Pizza will always be my favorite.” She was laughing again and I couldn’t help but laugh along.

“On a serious note. Promise me something,” I said, sitting up so she was now facing me with her legs wrapped around my waist. She pushed the hair that fell out of my face and wrapped her arms around my neck.

“Okay, shoot.” She grinned from ear to ear.

“Promise me if you ever feel the need to leave, you will tell me.” While I knew she loved me, I also knew that we had a long road ahead. Once Valentina found out, we both knew we would more than likely lose our lives. If that day never came, I still knew we would have much more to overcome. I was expecting anger to come from her, but instead, her eyes filled with an unreadable expression. “Talk to me,” I whispered, preparing myself for the worst.

“Eli...” She sighed and with that alone, my nerves calmed. “I can’t promise you that because that is the stupidest promise I have ever heard.”

“How is it stupid?” I questioned, confused on where this conversation was going.

“Because I am not going anywhere.” She replied, putting her forehead against mine.

“You don’t know that,” was all I said.

“Yes, I do. I spent 500 years waiting for the man who literally killed me to come back. I loved him for 500 years, and even when I came face to face with him, I knew deep down I still did. Maybe not the same way I did back then, but still in a way. It hurt to watch him die. That love wasn’t even half as strong as the love I feel for you. Don’t you get that by now?” She got up off of my lap and was pacing the floor now, trying to find the words to make me understand what she felt. “That is why I can promise: I promise that no matter what happens, I will never leave you.” She stopped, turning to face me. “I love you, Elias Benjamin Reinhardt.”

“How did you know my middle name?” I questioned, shocked that she knew. Even Valentina never asked.

“You father told me. Now are you going to get off that bed and kiss me, or am I going to have to go to my room kissless?” She was smiling again, which meant that the seriousness was gone.

“We can’t have you leave unkissed,” I said, climbing off the bed and wrapping her in my arms. No matter what was going on around us, as long as I could have moments like these where her sad eyes lit up and her smiled matched them, I would be forever content. I softly pressed my lips to hers, breathing in her warmth. When the kiss broke, she sighed contently, resting her head on my chest. “I love you too, Lennox Rayne Kreznakova.” She looked up at me in shock. “I have my ways,” I said before she pulled away and exited, leaving me to my thoughts.

I spent the day going through papers, but my mind couldn’t be further from my work. All I could think about was Lennox. It certainly made the day go faster, because before I knew it, the sun had set and the stars had come out to play. The night brought me surprisingly good sleep. For the first time in centuries, I had pleasant dreams, full of Lennox’s laughter and her warm smiles. I woke up feeling amazing, and I left for a little bit, just to grab some blood. When I returned, I visited Niall, who was curled up with Ramsey.

“We’ve got to fly home today,” I said, and Niall groaned.

“Way to ruin my perfectly good morning,” he grumbled, making me smile. “As much as I don’t want Ramsey staying with you because of Valentina, she refuses to go home with me. I’m afraid Lennox is stealing her away from me,” he accused, pulling Ramsey tighter to him. She let out a giggle, struggling to get free.

“If anything, it’s his library,” Rams defended, and she looked to me. “Is it alright if I stay for a while with you?”

“I’m sure Lennox could use the company. You’re more than welcome to stay as well, Niall,” I offered, and for a moment, I could see him seriously considering it.

“But then who would run my company in New York? I’ve already been away for too long as it is.” He frowned, burying his face on Ramsey’s neck, which caused another round of giggles.

“The offer is always open,” I stated, leaving them to visit Lennox. She answered the door quickly, and a huge grin spread across her face when she saw me. I could get used to that reaction. She let me in and softly closed the door behind us.

“So we’re flying to New York today, and I have a question…” I trailed off, and she got a confused look on her face. “I was thinking that we could take some time to ourselves before heading home. We can give Rams and Niall some privacy by getting a hotel for just us two in the city. You and I can maybe catch a movie, see the sights, go shopping, get some of the famous pizza… What do you say?”

“Are you… asking me out on a date?” Lennox asked, a smile spreading across her lips. I could see the amusement in her eyes, and I smirked.

“Only if your answer is yes,” I replied, walking over to her to pull her into my arms.

“Of course I will,” she laughed, hugging me tight. “How could I say no to a beautiful face like yours?” She reached up on her toes to kiss me softly, and I smiled against her lips. She removed herself from my embrace and began to pack her things. I loved how eager she seemed to spend time with me. Even though she’d told me time and time again how she wanted to be with me, it was still astonishing to me that someone like her would be interested in someone like me.

I headed back to my own room to pack my things, and after grabbing my brother and Ramsey and checking out at the front desk, we were on our way. One day, when everything had died down, I would love to revisit London with Lennox by my side. We hadn’t gotten any time to see the sights or explore the city, but now I had all the time in the world.

Lennox

While we were in the air, Elias proposed the plan to Niall, who excitedly agreed, and decided to save the plan as a surprise for when we landed. Sure enough, when we got off the plane and Elias and I went to take a separate car, Ramsey became confused.

“You and I have three days to ourselves,” Niall revealed, and she still had a look on her face. “Elias and Lennox are going sightseeing, which means I’ve got you all to myself. I’ll show you the company, and the penthouse where I stay, and we’ll do all sorts of fun things,” he finished, giving her a wink that made her cheeks flush deep shades of red. I found it adorable, and I wondered if Elias saw me the same way every time he made me blush. I said my goodbye to Ramsey and Niall, and then Elias whisked me away from the airport and into the city.

I’d been all over the world, especially in the past few weeks, but New York City was a world within itself. Massive buildings as tall as the eye could see lined the streets, and the whole city thrummed with life. Just driving along the crowded roads and looking at everything gave me a new sense of perspective. When you live forever, sometimes it helps to take a step back and just watch the world work around you.

Elias left the car in a parking garage, and we began to walk the streets of the city. He led me into one store after another, and had me try on a bunch of clothes in each of them. I balked at the prices attached to the items, thinking it was insane that people would pay so much for something they’d probably use once and then forget about, but Elias insisted on getting them for me.

After we dropped the bags full of merchandise at the car, Elias drove me to a pizza joint to eat. He raved about how good the food was before we even got it, and I wasn’t let down. I wondered just how much of the world he’d gotten to see, and I became envious, and he seemed to notice.

“I know that look on your face. What’s wrong?” He asked, putting down the slice of pizza he’d been holding.

“I just… I’m kind of jealous of you.”

“Of me? Whatever for?” He questioned, genuinely confused.

“You’ve gotten to do so much, see so much. I wish I could do the same.”

Elias took my hand, staring into my eyes. “When the dust has settled back home, I will take you anywhere and everywhere you want to go. I will give you the chance to explore the world, to find all the good places to eat, to go swimming in all the oceans, to talk to people of all walks of life. I promise, formosus.” He rubbed the top of my hand with his thumb, and I felt a little better.

We stayed out until the sun began to hide behind the skyscrapers, walking the avenues and seeing the sights. Elias drove me to a huge hotel, one that looked expensive. I gave him a look when a valet came to get our car and a doorman opened the door for us, but he just gave me a smile, as if to say I shouldn’t worry about it. Once we had settled into our room, He held me for a while, just relaxing.

I got up to shower, and then had a devious thought. It had been a while since we’d done anything intimate, and it would be a great way to start off our little vacation. When I was finished showering, I came out in just a towel, much to Elias’ surprise. I walked over to him and placed a kiss on his lips, and it didn’t take long for him to kiss me back. I let the towel fall off before I climbed onto the bed, moving to sit on his lap. I looked down at him, loving the heat that had already begun to blossom in his dark green eyes. I leaned down to kiss him again, my black curls falling around my face. He reached up to pin it back with his fingers, pulling me into him.

As our lips worked together, I reached down to let my hands travel across his bare skin, enjoying the sensation of the energy between us leaping from his skin to mine and back again. As I tried to deepen our embrace, he pushed me away gently, confusing me. He paused to catch his breath before explaining why he’d stopped me.

“I want this. I want you, I do. But I think we should… I don’t know. Take it slow for a while. We only just really started dating, and-”

“We’re… dating?” I asked, and he looked panicked for a moment.

“I mean, if that’s okay with you…” He trailed off, afraid to look me in the eyes. I lightly grabbed his chin and made him look at me, smiling at him with every ounce of happiness I felt.

“There is nothing I want more than that,” I replied quietly, kissing him softly before getting off his lap to snuggled up to him. He sighed happily as he pulled me into him. We fell asleep like that, intertwined with each other.

The next morning, Elias brought me breakfast in bed. He handed me a warm cup, and when I looked inside, I knew what it was. He’d brought me a heated cup of blood, O-negative to be precise. I paused, wondering how he knew it was my favorite type, but I figured I must have told him at some point.

“Where did you get this?” I asked, taking a sip. It went down smooth and warm, making me feel instantly better.

“I went out while you were still asleep. I got it from a hospital in Manhattan. I can’t really bring someone here for you, because I’d lose control, or I would. I’m sorry,” Elias apologized, and I shot him a look.

“There’s no need to apologize. I appreciate that you thought to bring me breakfast.” He gave me a grin, and it made me smile as well. After I’d eaten, I got dressed and Elias took me out for another day of shopping, sightseeing, and good food. He took me to a Broadway play, and even got backstage passes to meet the actors. After a long day of activities, we headed back to the hotel room for another night of excellent cuddles and excellent sleep.

The next morning, Elias and I packed for the airport. He had to get an extra suitcase for all the stuff he had bought me. We checked out of the hotel and headed for the business district of New York, where Niall’s company was located.

“So what does your brother even do?” I asked as we pulled up outside of a tall glass building.

“He owns his own record label,” Elias replied, parking in one of the employee spots. We got out and headed up to the top floor, which is when everything went to hell.

When the elevator doors opened, I got out, expecting Elias to follow, but he just stood there, frozen in place. I looked at him, and he didn’t seem to see me. I followed his line of sight to the receptionist desk, where a very pretty blonde sat, typing away on a computer. She looked up to us, and got a look on her face that I could only guess was a mixture of surprise and lust. I tugged on Elias’s hand, and he slowly exited the lift.

“Hello,” the woman said, her voice already irritating me. She spoke with a tone that told me there was something going on, something that had happened between her and Elias that he’d never told me about. The image of the woman he’d slept with back home flashed in my mind, and everything clicked. I whirled around to face him, angry and hurt.

“Hi,” he murmured, trying to look anywhere but at her or me. I turned back to her, and she hadn’t taken her eyes off of him. She was looking at him the way a lion would look at a zebra. I knew that look. I stormed up to the desk and slapped my hand down on it, startling her. She looked up to me, her eyes narrowing.

“We’re here to see Niall,” I said, and her eyes narrowed even further.

“Do you have an appointment?” She hissed, her eyes assessing me.

“We don’t need one.”

“Everyone needs one, honey,” she replied, the venom dripping in her voice. It took all of my self-control not to leap over the desk and strangle the life from her.

“I’m here to see my brother,” Elias finally chimed in, sensing my fury. He walked up behind me and placed his arm around me, as if he thought it would make me feel any less angry. Instead, all it did was aggravate me further. I shrugged his arm off and leaned forward into the secretary’s face.

“I suggest you tell us where he is, and fast. I’d hate to tell him how incompetent his secretary is, and how poorly she handled potential customers,” I seethed. She didn’t need to know I wasn’t here for business. My threat did the job, and she pulled back, flustered. She picked up the phone on her desk and rang him, nodding as he talked in her ear. She informed him that we were there to see him, and nodded once more before hanging up.

“He’s in his office, in the back,” the girl said to Elias, giving him a smile. “Nice to see you again,” she finished, dropping her smile as she looked to me. I didn’t wait around for Elias. I stormed to the back of the building, through hallways connecting recording studios. I finally reached the office, which conveniently had his name plastered on the window. I entered without knocking, regretting it immediately when I saw Niall kissing Ramsey on his desk.

“Christ,” I hissed, and they broke apart quickly. “Every time I open a door, you two are there making out.”

“Who put a bee in your undies?” Ramsey asked, shooting me a look. I realized that I was taking my frustrations out on them and I apologized. Elias walked into the room and gave Niall a look.

“Why is Elaina sitting at your secretary desk?” He asked, and Niall looked confused.

“You know her?”

“I uh… We were acquaintances a while back,” he tried, and I scowled.

“Apparently, they were screwing each other,” I corrected, and Ramsey went white. “A fact he conveniently left out.”

“We should get going,” Ramsey tried to say, but Elias decided it was time to blow up on me.

“What I did before we were together is in the past,” he defended, getting angry. “You can’t hold me accountable for that.”

“Together?” Niall asked, but his words went unnoticed.

“So you expect me to be okay with you sleeping with every blonde you can get your hands on?”

“I expect you to be an adult and understand that who I was is not who I am. I did things before that I can’t take back, but I’ve changed.”

“Be an adult?” I nearly screamed, and Niall and Ramsey exchanged glances. “You’re the juvenile, having sex with any and every girl! Is Ramsey the only girl you haven’t been with, or is there more I don’t know?”

“For the love of God, Lennox, I-”

“SHUT UP!” Niall and Ramsey screamed in unison, causing Elias and me to fall quiet. “We may have soundproof booths for the artists, but their managers and editors are not in soundproof rooms and can hear every damned word you two are saying,” Niall hissed, giving us angry glances. “I have a business to run. Fight it out on your plane ride home, please. I love you, Rams,” he said softly, turning to hug her tightly. “Call me when you’re home safe, okay?”

“But you’re my home,” she said quietly, giving him a small kiss before picking up her suitcase. She didn’t meet my gaze as she asked if we could leave now. I pushed past Elias and headed for the elevator, feeling eyes follow me as we walked down the halls toward the lift. I got in, with Ramsey right on my heels. I glared at the secretary while I waited for Elias. As he stepped into the elevator, the woman decided to speak up.

“Hey Elias, the next time you’re in town alone,” she said, glaring at me with the last word, “give me a call.” I heard Ramsey suck in a breath beside me, and Elias stiffened.

“Hold the door,” I commanded, stepping out to walk over to her. She looked terrified as I pulled my fist back and let it fly right into her face. I felt the satisfying crunch of her nose breaking, and I grinned as she howled, nearly falling out of her chair. I walked back into the elevator, watching the doors slide closed in front of me. You could practically feel the tension as we rode down to the ground floor, but no one said a word. We got in the car and rode to the airport in silence.

I knew that at some point, I would have to talk to Elias about what had happened, but I was putting it off for as long as I could. Ramsey pulled me aside on the plane before we took off.

“You should cut him some slack, Noxx. I’m not saying he’s in the right here, but he really does love you and whatever happened between them is in the past. He is with you now. Just… try to keep that in mind.”

We buckled in for take-off and as soon as we had reached cruising altitude, I got up to talk to Elias.

“I’m sorry,” we both said together, and I motioned for him to go first.

“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you about Elaina. I’ve made choices in the past that I definitely regret now, but I can’t take it back. I can’t go back and change the past. I can promise you that it’s been you and only you since we started, since even before that. I understand if you are upset and want to end things between us. I understand if my past is too much for you to deal with, and I won’t blame you if you leave. All I ask is that you give us a chance.”

“I’m sorry I blew up on you like that in Niall’s office. I let my temper get the best of me, and that’s my fault. I just… I’m so in love with you and it’s just hard when we come across ex-lovers of yours, knowing that they got to have you as well.”

“They may have had my body, Lennox, but this heart literally beats because of you. You are the only person I want to be with, from now until the end of time. Let me prove it to you,” Elias pleaded with me, taking my hand and holding it tight. It was impossible to say no to those beautiful green eyes. I sighed and nodded my head, making him smile. I returned to my seat and napped while I waited for the flight to be over.

We landed in the afternoon, and the drive back home was quiet. We were all nervous about what kind of wreckage we would be coming back to. From what I understood about the old heart, Valentina could feel Elias, and vice versa. So when I had removed the heart, I’m pretty sure she had felt it. I knew there would be aftermath because of what we did, but none of us knew what would be waiting for us.

“So why are we driving to our deaths?” Ramsey asked from the back seat, making me jump. The silence had gotten us all wrapped up in our thoughts so the break in them came as a startle.

“Huh?” I asked, seeing a sign on the side of the road that said we were only twenty miles out from home.

“I’m pretty sure Val knows what we did. And you can’t honestly expect her to not be angry or want revenge. She will eviscerate us with her bare hands, and I’m sorry, but I don’t want the last time I saw Niall to be the argument you two had.”

“I’ll protect you… both of you,” Elias replied, his grip tightening on the wheel until his knuckles turned white. “I won’t let anything happen to you,” he vowed, giving me a serious look.

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