While Kieran casts the circle and prepares everything for the ritual, I am waiting with Jayden at a hotel not far from the monument.
My stomach grumbles discontentedly, and I hold my hand to it as I feel it spasm. “I am hungry,” I complain.
Jayden says apologetically, “It is because you have not eaten all day.” He shakes his head in disbelieve and mumbles, “I do not know why Kieran insisted on this. Starving yourself does nothing to make your awareness any greater.”
Unsure, I ask hesitantly, “Must I go and have a bath now?”
He nods his head unhappily. “I have added a few drops of ylang-ylang, it will help you to relax.”
I walk into the bathroom, with Jayden following me. I turn to him, frowning and then I smile, trying to lighten the depressing mood, which is threatening to suffocate me. “Excuse me. You can leave now.”
He smiles widely and pulls the door closed behind me. I lock the door.
Dropping my clothes on the floor, I test the water with my toes. It is a perfect temperature and I get in completely. I sit down and then as I lean back, the water rushes over me. The fragrance of the drops of essential oil fills the whole bathroom and I breathe it in deeply.
I feel uncomfortable though, lying in the bath naked with the shadows swirling above my head like a thundercloud ready to burst.
This thought propels me out of the bath, and hurriedly I dry myself and then I pull the long loose cotton dress over my head. I look like a virgin being led to slaughter, I grimace when I see my reflection in the mirror.
When I walk back into the hotel room, Jayden is standing by the window, staring reflectively across the green hills, into the distance.
He smiles when he sees me. “You look pretty.”
“No, I don’t. This thing is ridiculous.” I pull it away from my body with both hands. “I look awful.”
“We still have some time before we have to go. I thought you would be in the bath for longer.”
“It’s creepy being in a bath with all those things.” I pull my face sourly and glance up at the ceiling.
He sits down on the bed and smiling invitingly, he pats the mattress next to him.
I walk to him and sit down next to him.
He looks at me with a worried look. “What if this doesn’t work?”
I assure him, although I am feeling unsure myself, “I’ll be okay.”
“He is giving them your soul so that the curse will be broken. If it does not work, you will die.”
My voice wobbles a little. “I’ll be okay.”
“No. It does not help when you keep saying that, what if you are not okay. The curse will be broken, and Kieran and I will grow old and eventually die, but what would life be like without the prospect of you ever coming back? Through all the years, when you have died, I always knew it was temporary and I would see you again. I was prepared to wait through the years until I could sense you again. Now, there is the possibility I will never see you again.” He turns to me, and his eyes are begging me silently. His lips say, “Don’t do it.”
“But I must, there is no choice.”
“Yes, there is.”
“No, Jayden. We need to break the curse. You and Kieran will be free, and if we are lucky, so will I.”
“There is one more thing.”
I look at him inquisitively, waiting for him to speak.
“I love you, Heather.”
I smile sadly. “I know you do. If you didn’t, we wouldn’t be in this dilemma.”
“Even if I said before that I only used to love you.” He takes my hand into his and looks down at our hands nestled in each other. “I was only trying to guard myself against my feelings for you. Every single time you got back, I have loved you more and deeper. After the last time, I just wanted the curse to be broken. I was tired of fighting against Kieran for your love, so I promised him, I would not convince you to love me in return and you would then choose him over me, but now I do not want it to be over anymore. I would rather you came back repeatedly and love me, as you always do.”
I feel a tear escape from the corner of my eye. “I am sorry.”
“So am I.”
I can feel it in my heart and there is no denying I have chosen Jayden each and every time before. I feel the love I have for him in my very soul, and I know without a doubt that given the choice, he would be my preference. However, to break this curse for once and for all I have to choose Kieran and I believe the me, from three hundred years ago, would have chosen the safe option rather than the obsessive, infatuated alternative to marry. Thus, when the witch put the curse on me, it was when I was already betrothed to Kieran.
He stands up and pulls me up with him. He says softly, miserably, “Come, it is almost three o’clock, the witching hour.”
Silently I walk with him to the door. Outside I see the full moon high up in the sky, illuminating everything it shines upon. Dark clouds are gathering on the horizon. Lightening bounces around within them and I hear a low, angry grumble across the distance.
As if we are in a funeral march, we walk along the passage, and then toward his car.
Quietly, he opens the door for me, and as I step forward to get into the car, he says desperately, his voice is soft, wishful, “No wait.”
Pulling me by the arm away from the car unexpectedly, he turns me toward him.
Unsure, I look up at him.
The light in his eyes shifts and I see him hesitate for a moment before he lifts his hand to my face. Gently he touches his palm to my cheek.
I lean my face into his hand, and I close my eyes for a short, brief moment.
Slowly he leans down toward me, as he pulls me into his arms. My eyes glance at his lips for an instant and then his lips are on mine. Lips I have wanted to kiss since I met him.
I feel my heart beat so fast, I fear it might bang right through my ribs. For a second, just a small second, I consider Kieran, but an abrupt wave of bliss erases the thought from my mind instantaneously.
Jayden pulls me into him tightly, and I feel him pressed against me. In his kiss, I feel his desire, his need and his yearning.
All of a sudden, I am pushed back into the side of the car, and then I hear him moan deep in his throat, the sound rumbles through his chest. It sounds primitive and full of longing.
My arms move up to his shoulders and my hands tangle in his hair by themselves. I pull him closer into me. He folds his hands around my thighs and he pulls me up against him until my legs fold around his hips. His hands move up against my legs, over my hips until he wraps his arms around my shoulders and he crushes me to his chest.
Then I feel it.
It is the oddest, strangest sensation I have ever experienced. It bubbles up from the pit of my stomach, past my lungs, through my throat and then it bursts out of me. I murmur against his lips, “I love you.”
Never have I thought of saying it to him before. I did not wonder if I should say it now, I just said it and I meant it. The feeling in me is so familiar; it feels natural, ancient and bursting with memories.
He pulls away from me, and there is a blaze of hunger burning in his eyes. “Say it,” he demands.
I know what I have to say. “Jayden, I choose you.” Doubt fills my mind as I belatedly remember Kieran’s caution to be patient.
I wait to die.
Apprehensively I frown as I see the sky around me get clearer and brighter and the frightening and terrifying shadows around me dissolve away.
With an exalted sigh, Jayden says softly, “At last, you have made the right choice.”