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Charlene A. Wilson
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We are of another plain. Our lives, seemingly never-ending. As strangers to your realm, we guard our knowledge firmly. Only by ancient covenant do few know our true natures.
Cole moved as smoke, his elements converted into a dark mass.
The southern hillside that separated his Manor from Shilo City passed quickly as he flew into town. The sweet aroma of apricots from the orchard gave way to the pungent odor of the East Side sewage facility. Though his speed of flight made the encounter brief, his senses noted the unpleasant change. Distaste filled him. How this dimension has changed over the last two thousand years. He scoffed at the thought. Things had changed, but then so had he.
Pedestrians rushed along the walkways, dodging the homeless on Beggars Row East. Neon-lit storefronts teased the impoverished with promises of treats and trinkets. Exhaust from the aged transport washed along his essence in waves of nauseating fumes. He bypassed the evening crowd and jetted through an alley to a more congenial atmosphere.
He emerged to a compacted neighborhood. Town houses displayed humble frontages. Children scrambled along the roadside, giving no heed to the chill that reddened their cheerful cheeks.
Cole paused, an undulating vapor, beside a copse of honeysuckle. In a billow, he reclaimed his elements to solid form and plucked a few of the blossomed twigs. Turning his attention to the directions on Charlotte’s note, he stepped from the seclusion.
He couldn’t hold back the grimace as he scanned the area. Weathered thresholds lined the motel’s cul-de-sac and bore dark smudges where someone scrubbed at obscene vandalism in an attempt to remove the disgrace. Chunks of siding were broken or missing, leaving a snaggle-toothed appearance along the eaves. The cement walkway lining the structure crumbled at the curbs, worn down to join with the gravel lot. A sign flickered in a feeble attempt to advertise. “Hightower Nights.” He double-checked the address. Correct destination. His heavy sigh misted in the spring air.
Courting isn’t what it used to be. He should be escorting his lady to a grand social in a silver-clad carriage.
Cole draped his overcoat on his arm and reminded himself this woman’s company was worth the inferior accommodations. He’d told her to spare no expense. Yet this was her choice of location. No wonder the invoice was so low.
He smoothed his long hair and crossed the parking lot to the sidewalk. The tarnished room numbers led his way. Thirty-three, thirty-two…
A door slammed and a dark head of curls hit his chest. The young woman stumbled back then pranced on her toes as she caught her balance.
He looked down at her, alarmed. “Forgive me. I should have been watching my steps.”
She shook her head as she caught her breath and smiled up at him with dark brown eyes. “Oh, my fault, really. I’m running late and…” her lips teetered. “Um,” she scanned him from head to foot.
Cole glanced down at his tailored black vest and trousers. No doubt, he was a conspicuous sight given their surroundings. His snowy white sleeves alone declared he didn’t belong among the stained, faded, and scuffed wear that was common there.
He caught her attention with his dark gaze as she lifted from her observation.
Her caramel complexion flushed. “Wow. Even your shoes are polished like glass. You’ve got be Tom.”
“Excuse me?” Few knew this alias. “Have we met?”
“I’m Amy.” She giggled and motioned down the way. “Charlotte’s my mother. She told me all about you. I thought she was exaggerating but,” she bit her lip, and her gaze flew over his lithe form again. “It’s so nice to meet you. I think it’s great Mother’s dating again. Oh, and I think it’s so romantic you have a special way of saying her name.”
Cole furled his brow.
She nodded. “Yeah, she told me all about it. ‘Sh’létte.’ She says it makes her melt.” She squinched her face, and he thought she was going to giggle again. “You make my mother melt.”
He blinked his gaze to the side.
Her eyes flitted to the honeysuckle he held. “Oh, you gathered her flowers, too. You know she loves honeysuckle. You are so sweet.”
Her hand flew to his arm, and he started at the serious expression she suddenly displayed. “And don’t worry about the age difference thing. She said you were more my age but you act like a true gentleman.” She nodded enthusiastically, and her curls bounced around her head. “Yeah, she told me everything. She’s worried it worries you. The age thing, that is. She’s afraid you might think she’s too old to, you know, have any more children. Since you don’t have any of your own.”
She rolled her eyes and blushed. “But she’s not. And I’d love to have a little brother or sister. I’d baby-sit anytime you two wanted to--well, you know--have private time.”
Cole cleared his throat.
She leaned close. “She really, really likes you, Tom. She finally admitted it to me. But I’ve known for months. She even bought a new dress to wear tonight.” She held a hand level. “Well, I bought her the dress. I just got paid. She’s worried the style is too young for her but I insisted ivory eyelets just aren’t what women my age wear. It’s beautiful on her, really.” She winked. “So you might mention it. Of course, as gentlemanly as you are, you’d probably mention it anyway.” This time she giggled, and Cole smiled.
“I’ll be sure to notice.”
She shrugged her shoulders and squealed. “Mother is so lucky. The way you two look tonight you should be in a horse-drawn carriage going to a ball.” She sighed. “Well, I’d love to stay and chat but I only took a break to run and get her some champagne. She wants tonight to be special.” She waved a hyper hand. “I have to get back to work.”
Turning to leave, she called to a woman across the lot. “Oh, Megan, grab that bus! Hey, you’ll never guess who the new mail clerk is.”
Cole shook his head and watched her leave. Does that girl ever shut up? Just listening to her wore on his nerves. He straightened to regain any dignity he’d lost through the discourse and continued down the path.
The number twenty-nine hung with the nine threatening to become a six. He slid the key in the lock. The door stuck. A wave of his finger released the swelled frame with a jolt.
He peered inside and caught sight of his date sitting on the floor. “Do I have the right place?” He smiled. “I wasn’t sure. I had to double-check the address.”
Charlotte looked up from her seat in front of the imitation fireplace. Her dark curls cascaded down her back leaving her tan shoulders bare. The dress’s ivory bodice hugged her slender form with tiny buttons that ran up the front. Its gathered skirt flaunted layers of light ruffles to emphasize her feminine nature. Her knees peeked from the hemline.
Amy was right. It was a beautiful choice. And in a time past, he would have loved to escort her to a ball in an embellished horse-drawn carriage.
She held out a hand. “Come sit with me.”
He tossed his coat on the bed and sat behind her. Pulling her into an embrace, he presented the honeysuckle. She smiled and accepted the sweet gesture, smelling the little buds.
“What are you doing on the floor?”
“I’m watching the fire.” She glanced back at him, her brown eyes twinkling. “I’ve always wanted to stay here. The fireplace makes it romantic.”
Cole’s brows tightened, and he looked at the rolling screen of flames. The hearth’s faux bricks curled at the corner for lack of adhesive, and the cardboard mantel dipped where someone sat a heavy object on the visual setting. A tiny “creak” sounded each time the fireplace’s rotating screen made its slow round.
He nodded. Of course. “Yes. Fires are romantic.”
He ran a hand around her waist and nuzzled her shoulder. “Is this a new gown?”
She smiled and cuddled closer against him. “Do you like it?”
“It’s lovely.” He leaned his head to her dark curls. “Did you have me in mind when you picked it out?”
Her cheeks flushed as an answer. His heart swelled. “Definitely a romantic evening.”
This was what he found joy in. Holding her. Having her heart touch his. He widened his perception to read her tender emotions. Rarely had he found one so open to him, and hope of a deeper connection afforded him to court her longer than any woman he’d seen in decades.
His black hair skimmed down her arm as he brushed his lips along her bare shoulder. A hint of cotton candy met him when he reached the hollow beneath her ear. He smiled. Flavored body spray. A youthful notion, no doubt encouraged by Amy. The innocent flavor encouraged his kisses where she’d placed the treat. Pleasure rode his breath.
She ran her fingers through his long hair and held him there. “I love that. I love your lips on me.” Her heated whisper fell to his palm as he reached to caress her cheek.
Her words spurred his wish. “Talk to me, Charlotte. Share everything with me. I want to know.”
“The way you feel, Tom.” She splayed her fingers over his head holding him tighter.
Her want echoed through his nerves. He raked his teeth down her neck.
“The way you--move.”
One by one, he released the tiny buttons down her front. He eased her to the floor, kissing along her collar. His hands slid beneath the fabric.
“All of it,” she exclaimed. “My heart just…”
Yes, speak to me. He led his kisses over her cleavage to her heart. A rumble sounded in his throat as his hot breath spoke against her skin. “You’re heart what?”
She cried with delectation.
Cole caressed her soft skin with his lips. “I joy in you. I want to hear from every part of you. Tonight, I want all of you.”
“I want you too, Tom. My heart couldn’t want you more.”
Cole lifted his black eyes to her. “Look at me.”
Her brown eyes fluttered open and locked onto his. Her lips moved with quiet breath. “I love you,” and he could hear it in her heart. She did love him. Pure acceptance radiated from her. But he was looking for more.
“Open to me, Charlotte,” he whispered, sending his thought’s voice with his words. “Speak to me with your soul.”
Her lips parted and a look of astonishment covered her face. “Did I just hear you--in my head?”
He waited, listened intently as her emotions flew through him. He needed to know this relationship would be more than those he’d ended in the past.
She blinked several times, as if confused but afraid to ask what he really meant.
“Call to me, Charlotte.” His voice was almost a plea. If only her soul would break its silence--offer some form of communication. “I don’t want this to end.”
Her eyes flew wide. “What? End? No. Tom, what do you mean? You have my whole heart. I couldn’t be more open to you--ever.” She nervously circled her fingers in his hair. “What is it? Is there something you worry about in our relationship? Is it my age? Are you worried I can’t give you a family? It’s not too late for me. I’d love to give you a child. I’m as open as I can possibly be to you.”
Cole’s heart ached. Her emotions were so intense that surely her soul would speak soon. He kept his eyes on hers as he lifted to kiss her chin. “Let me help you.”
With final hope, he called upon his foreign nature to share the most seductive blessing of his home realm. He released the sweet breeze of Zephyr, and the scent of licorice and cream fell from his lips. He kissed her gently, lovingly, caressed her tongue with his and sent his entreaty to bathe her senses. His breath became hers.
She inhaled his sensual gift and gasped for deeper intake as if she couldn’t quench her thirst. Her love coursed through his veins, and his muscles tightened with expectation.
His heart pounded in his chest. ”Call to me!” He bade with shared thought.
Her head pressed into the worn carpet as she was overpowered by the sensation. He held his position and framed her face with his hands to keep the connection. His soul listened for a sign. Please. Call to me.
She breathed him in, and as her body surrendered to the desire of the experience, she weakened. Her hands slid down his arms. Her soul remained silent.
Cole gently released her and peered into her eyes. They looked as if she were in heaven, intoxicated. He slowly released his breath.
She drunkenly looked up at him. “Oh, God, Tom. I love you.”
His lips teetered into a smile to hide his disappointment. He brushed his fingertips across her cheek and kissed her parted lips. He didn’t have anything else to try. Her soul was not to join his. A soul mate would have responded to such a call.
They were only a passing moment--and he couldn’t let her believe they were more. The knowledge bit at his heart. This would have to be their last night together.
~ * ~
The morning chill followed Cole through the cherry-wood door of Shilo Manor. Apricot blossoms rode the breeze and danced across the hardwood floor. His brothers looked to his homecoming from their conversation beside the marble staircase sentinel.
James smiled, his dimpled cheeks forcing his eyes to grin. “How’s Charlotte? I trust things went well.”
Cole glanced at him as he hung his coat on the gold rack. “Yeah.” His voice fell flat.
Vincent set his hands at his waist, and his chiseled features leered. “Don’t tell me. You dumped another one.”
James held up his large hand to halt further comment. His smile faded.
Cole crossed the hall to the parlor and glowered at the smiling cherubim that lined the wall. His youngest brother shook his unruly hair. “I had real hopes for this one. You’ve seen her longer than any of the others. It’s been what? A whole four months?”
He slammed the door and scowled. Irritating runt. He stepped to the cherry-wood bar and stared at the wide variety stretched before him. An entire wall displayed the finest liqueur this realm had to offer along with a few choice Ambrosias brought with them to this post. He consciously avoided the ancient keeps, unwilling to recall the joy of that era.
He smoothed his long hair with his hands and grabbed the nearest bottle. Brown liquid filled his glass to the brim. He downed half the bitter take before a tap came from the door. James entered and closed it quietly behind him. “Don’t mind Vince.”
Cole sent a resentful expression his way.
His brother sighed and looked out over the room.
“I wanted this woman more than any since…” He frowned and slugged his drink. “Her soul was silent.” He didn’t bother hiding the disillusionment in his voice. “I couldn’t reach her.”
“Don’t do this to yourself, Cole. You can’t expect another Mianna.”
“I can’t settle for less than a soul mate, James. Not now.”
“The fact that you feel you found a soul mate in her is phenomenal. But she’s gone. Rebirth doesn’t exist here. You have to let her go and move on.” He looked at him with compassion. “Let yourself love this woman for who she is.”
Cole lowered his glass to the bar and closed his eyes. The sting of reality pierced his heart. “I can’t, James.” He looked at his brother and swallowed hard. “I try. But my soul always pushes for more.”
James lowered his gaze, and his voice softened. “You know cross dimension mating is limited. Chances are you’re not going to find that kind of connection again. Not here.”
He looked away. It was true. And he knew he was foolish for allowing himself the hope of that kind of love with Charlotte. Mianna had been special.
Book Publisher: Class Act Books
No. of Pages: 233
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