“Not really,” she said, staring out at the water. “Unless you count her telling me what a good man you are and how you’d do anything for the ones you love, and second to William and her father, you’re the best man she’s ever known.” She grinned over at me, looking so damn beautiful. “Just that kind of stuff.” Next time I saw Bryn, I was going to give her one hell of a bear hug and buy her some new-fangled espresso machine because whatever she’d said, whatever path she paved for me, had worked. Emma was sitting next to me, smiling at me like she used to, acting mostly unconcerned about the whole Immortal thing.
“I’m glad that girl finally admitted I’m a pretty good guy,” I said lightly. “I’ve only saved her life a few million times.”
I returned her smile, brushing the coppery auburn hair over her shoulder. Her stare stayed on me, those green eyes seeing everything. I felt nak*d, and not in the way I wanted to be.
“It’s her, isn’t it?”
I tried to act like I hadn’t just been punched in the gut.
“What’s her?” I said, about an octave too high.
“The girl who broke your heart. The girl you loved,” she said softly, her eyes holding no hint of jealousy or insecurity. Just wonder.
Honesty, Patrick. Honesty. It didn’t seem right that I had to remind myself to be honest with Emma.
I blew out a slow breath. “Yeah,” I said. “It was Bryn.”
Emma nodded once. “I thought so.”
Her mouth slid to the side, contemplating. “It’s the way she talked about you, and the way you talk about her, too,” she began, chewing on her lip. “There’s just enough guilt in her eyes when she talks about you, enough sadness to give her away. And you.” She looked over at me, studying me again. “It’s the way you try to understate anything Bryn related, like you’re trying to mask your feelings for her.” I made a face.
“No, love,” she said, grabbing my arm. “You don’t understate anything, least of all women, so when you do, I take notice.”
“Damn,” I said under my breath, “so much for playing it cool, huh?” This woman saw through all my crap, most especially the crap I really didn’t want her to see through. It made for some awkward moments, but it was also kind of freeing.
“It’s all right,” she said, squeezing my arm. “We all have pasts. Histories.” Her voice trailed off, her eyes following it. “At least the person you chose to love was a good person. Someone who deserved to be loved.”
I didn’t need another reason to hate Ty Steele, but the sadness that clouded Emma’s eyes was reason number infinity and one.
“Em,” I began.
“Save it, Patrick,” she said. “You picked the right person to love when I picked the wrong person.
The point is it’s a good thing neither one of the people we loved worked out.”
“That’s the point indeed.” I kissed her forehead. “Now can we not talk about Bryn any more tonight?” I was glad this conversation was off the books, but I was more than ready to shelf it. “In fact, can we not talk any more at all tonight?” I asked, wagging my brows.
She shoved me playfully. “Given what I recently learned about you and that you were in love with a goddess of a woman who is married to your older brother, I’d say you better buckle up and deal with a night of chit chat.”
“Okay, I’m buckled up,” I said. “And Bryn is just a woman. My brother’s woman who never was, would be, or will be my any kind of woman, so don’t put her up on some pedestal.”
“No, she’s great,” Emma said. “If you loved someone like her, I must be pretty great too.” She said it quietly, like she wasn’t quite certain about the whole thing.
“Your lack of self-confidence is still astounding, Em,” I said, holding her to me. I wished I didn’t know why her self-esteem was wavering a little above zero, but I did.
“I’m working on it,” she replied, playing with the hem of her dress.
It was one of those moments, one of the many we’d be faced with in the future, where I was a ball of emotions, not sure if I wanted to cry or punch a hole in something. “Well, you are amazing,” I said, taking a breath. “And I know you don’t believe it, but I know it and I’m a superb judge of character.” She smiled. “You should be,” she said. “You’ve only been around since the 1700s.”
“Man,” I said through a cringe, “you even know my age. Did Blabber Mouth Bryn tell you everything?” In a way, I hoped she had because if Emma was still here, able to profess love to me knowing everything there was to know, we were going to make it.
“Not everything, but the basics, I guess,” she said. “I have some questions I only want answered by you.”
“Well, here I am, all yours for the questioning,” I said, hooking an arm around her, “until rise and shine at cell nine-three-two in seven hours.”
I could see the flood of questions waiting to rush from her, but something blocked them.
“Come on. Any question you have and any answer I give won’t change the way I feel about you and hopefully the way you feel about me, right?”
She nodded and then rolled her shoulders back. “So you can teleport?” The term was like foreign word on her tongue. She couldn’t quite say it right or with confidence.
“Yes,” I answered, wondering if I should give her a personal demonstration, but decided against that. Talking about teleportation in theory was surely easier to swallow than giving a live demonstration.
“And that’s how you were at Stanford that night?”
I nodded once, working a muscle in my jaw. The memory made me tense.
“And someone was following me?”
I didn’t want to confess that something supernatural and evil was stalking Emma that night, but I couldn’t lie to her about it either. “Yes,” I answered, looking her in the eye.
There was one moment where fear flashed into her eyes, and then it was gone. “Who?”
“I’m not exactly sure,” I said, feeling my fists balling, my body tensing, everything ready and needing to destroy something. “But I will find out, Em. I promise you, and when I do…”—how could I put this gently?—”there’s going to be hell to pay.” That might be a simplification of everything I would do to whoever was responsible for that night, but it summed up my general intent.
Emma considered this for a moment, the skin between her brows lining. Tucking her chin over her knees, she glanced over at me. “So you come see me every night?” I cursed under my breath. A legendary dose of payback—Patrick Hayward style—was in order for squealing about that one to Emma. “Should I even try to deny it?” I muttered.
“No,” she said, the corners of her mouth pulling up. “I think it’s romantic. You teleporting out of prison to stare at your sleeping girlfriend.” I shot a brow up, and her grin pulled higher. “In a weird, kind of creepy, romantic way.”
“Yeah, yeah,” I said. “Keep it coming. I guarantee you can’t throw anything at me my family hasn’t already.”
She laughed, so I knew I was in the clear. “I’ll have to make sure I stop going to bed nak*d from now on.” She gave me a coy smile, her cheeks reddening just barely.
“No need to break time-honored and boyfriend approved habits on my account,” I said, heat flashing through my veins just thinking about Emma sleeping nak*d. “Besides, I’ve heard it’s important to let your skin air out at night. So you might want to lose those sheets and comforter too.” Shaking her head, she elbowed me. “What am I going to do with you?” God, I loved that question. “Sleep nak*d tomorrow night and I’ll gladly show you.” This one earned me a two handed shove and a two second sigh.
After our laughter dimmed, her face flattened as she stared at the lake. “You’ll never grow old.” It sounded like more of a statement than a question, so I replied by scooting behind her and wrapping both arms tight around her.
“You’ll never die.”
I tucked my chin over her shoulder, pressing my chest as hard as I could against her back, trying to let nothing come between us.
“What kind of a future do you envision for us, Patrick?”
This was a question, a sad one. I tried to never ask myself this because it always dead ended with Emma’s aging body failing one day while mine continued on until the end of time. It was, perhaps, the saddest question ever asked.
I replied with a favored tactic of mine. Answer a question with another question. “What kind of a future do you want?”
“One with you,” she answered instantly, her fingers winding around my wrists, binding me to her.
“I can manage that,” I said.
A few moments of silence passed where I could only imagine what she was thinking. “How can this work?” she asked, her voice quiet.
“Because I want it to,” I answered, forcing myself to sound strong. “I’ll do anything to make us work, Em, and I’m the most stubborn, determined guy you’ll ever meet.” Again, the silence, but this time I knew what she was thinking, because it was the same thing I was.
No matter how much determination I had, I couldn’t stop time, and no matter how stubborn I was, I couldn’t keep death from finding Emma’s Mortal form one day. She could have a lifetime with me, but I wouldn’t have the same. That should bother me more than it did her, but I got the distinct feeling that this was what bothered her the most about everything. Leaving me behind, assuming she’d be nothing more than a chapter in a never ending story.
What she failed to realize is that she’d become my story. My life before her was just a flat prologue and my life after would be dismal epilogue.
“We better get back,” she said at last, twisting out of my arms to stand.
“Em,” I said, popping up beside her. I didn’t want to leave anything unsaid between us.
“No, Patrick,” she said, facing me. “I need some time to just think. To process, okay?” How much time? What specifically did she need to process? Did she want me to help? These were several of the many questions that exploded to mind, but I shoved them down and answered, “Okay.”
The voices and shouts and laughter flowed from William and Bryn’s house as Emma and I made our way up the stone walkway. Against every instinct and every urge, I managed to keep silent and give Emma the space and silence she’d requested.
As I discovered, when willpower fails you, a sharp biting of your tongue works rather effectively.
I couldn’t imagine what Emma was thinking, I couldn’t even imagine what she was feeling, I just wanted to say or do something that would make all of this all right with her.
“Doing all right over there?” I asked, grabbing her hand as we headed up the porch.