She was the most beautiful being I’d ever seen other than Phoenix. Radiant beyond measure, I could barely look at her without gasping. She simply stole my breath away. She stood in the clearing, the moon shining down as she held Phoenix in her arms.
She smiled at them as they giggled, kicking their little toes as they waved their fingers, making the leaves swirl around them in a funnel of orange and green.
“They will be so powerful, like their Dada,” she mumbled as I walked the path to reach them.
Dressed in flowing white silk, a train covered in leaves and flower petals flowed from her back and down a different clearing path. The dress itself hugged and shaped her form, managing to instigate a garment version of peekaboo that left me speechless. My eyes traveled perfect calves, to full hips and waist, and ever upwards. They landed on lips, lush and full, that curled into a smile as she glanced down at our miracle.
Looking over at me, as I reached her, her brown eyes lit up, darkening to a radiant red, ringed by black. I loved that look. When she showed me her truth, I always knew she was really with me in the moment.
And this was the ultimate moment. The moment I made Carmen my wife.
“Forever, Gabby,” she stated softly, a finger tracing my jawline.
“Forever, Carmen.” I grinned like an idiot. Honestly, I’d never been happier. Finally, no more hiding. No more secrets. No more danger. No more fucking Mich—
She turned quickly, placing her finger at my temple. “We don’t give him the power of our thoughts. Today is ours.”
I nodded, leaning in close to kiss her lips softly, delicately. She liked it soft, extra soft, in the beginning. I growled against her lips, cupping the back of her neck, pulling her closer as the kiss deepened.
We were swirling, falling, becoming one, even as we stood still in the clearing. I couldn’t get enough of her taste, even as she bit my lip and pulled away. “Vows first, greedy boy. Claiming comes later.”
My eyes flashed a vibrant violet. “You’ve already claimed me, Carmen.” I licked my lips, tasting the blood there, oddly craving more of it. More of her. “That happened decades ago, over a simple coffee.”
Her eyes flared as she leaned forward, glaring at me. “And yet you left me to him, so you could go to her.
“Who?” The confusion laced word barely made it past my lips before I felt the glorious sting of her bite.
Sting. Rip. Tear.
Blood flowed freely as she drank, splashes of red landing on her white gown.
I cupped her head, holding her closer, feeling our bond deepen with each pull. I smiled down at Phoenix, our miracle, and knew true, pure happiness.
A throat cleared behind us. “Perhaps the vows should come before the claiming, Miss?”
She growled low, before moving. There was a tug, on some hidden part of me, as she pulled away. Then, I just…I felt…lost.
I couldn’t catch my breath.
The synergy of this world was off, tilted, twisted.
What the fuck was happening? Had Medea let me into the super potent Fire Wine again? Was this some trick of First Woman?
Angel Boy, I’m way more direct than this bitch. I heard Lilith mumble in my head.
Why was she in my head again?
Lips crashed into mine, devouring me. Then I was swimming again, in my happy place, coming up for air to hold Phoenix in my arms as we turned toward the officiant.
Tall, sturdy, and exceptional the official towered over us and the clearing. Phoenix looked up at the living oak adoringly, playing with its leaves as they fell.
“Are we ready?” He asked, enunciating clearly like a bell chiming in my mind.
“As I’ll ever be,” Carmen said, gripping my arm as she smiled over at me coyly, my blood staining her lips…her neck…her dress.
“I have waited forever.”
Then it began. The words were binding but pointless. The living oak sang a song of eternity in my head and heart.
Roots are placed and ever grown
Lies forsaken for truths known
Hearts are bound by spirit ties
With growing wisdom power will rise
Fated 3, 1 Restored
Circle back, nevermore
“You are bound through eternity and lives. No soul can split or break you, for your roots are planted here, in a field of power and truth.”
“Power and truth,” I mumbled, grinning.
Phoenix cooed, kicking.
“Power and truth,” Carmen repeated, her eyes a vibrant red. She looked away shyly. A short woman appeared suddenly at her side, handing her a silver-handled dagger as she handed Phoenix to the woman. I smiled as Phoenix waved and cooed their goodbye.
Then, my eyes watched the dagger as she sliced her arm. I gasped, shocked. Licking her lips slowly, she dropped the dagger as she brought her wrist to my lips. “Drink, Gabby. See my truth.” Her lips touched my forehead in a soft imploring kiss and I did as I was instructed.
The liquid essence flooded my mouth, easing down my throat like an ever-flowing stream. Lost in its metallic tartness, I swam in the sea of her knowledge that came with every drop I took in.
Decades upon decades of pain, despair, loneliness. Birthing children for Michael out of duty, trust, but never love or desire. She had never loved him as he had her. My breath caught as I was assaulted by the vivid proof of what he’d forced her to do…to give up.
She’d had to. She had to live. She couldn’t leave her children motherless. Not with a monster for a father. But once she’d done it, crossed the untraceable path he’d demanded she take, he’d taken them away from her. The ultimate lesson…torture…on loving what you can not touch. Then he locked her, his most prized treasure, in a gilded cage.
I’d found her. I’d released her.
For that, she’d forgiven me my lapses in judgment. Forgiven me for ever contemplating the idea I could love another. I knew better. She knew better. We were bonded and rooted, and Phoenix was ours. They were the miracle I owed her.
I gulped greedily, pulling one last rush of her inside myself. I understood.
Forcing my mouth away from her wrist, I arched upwards, my lips crashing harshly against hers, our blood mingling with our need. “I understand, love,” I whispered solemnly.
She growled, cupping my head tightly, pulling me closer to her, her body hungrily grinding against mine. I could feel every inch of her against me. I could still feel her swimming inside me, with me forever, where she belonged.
Suddenly, she pushed me away, her eyes fire red as she stood, staring, dripping in our blood. She’d never looked more beautiful. And she was mine. I understood all she’d done for this to be so.
“Do not disappoint me again, Gabby.” She demanded curtly, her voice whisper-soft, laced with love and power.
“I won’t. I can’t.” I spoke the truest truth I knew.
“Then you know what you must do.” Her eyes were redder than fired coals and looked backed by the sun.
I nodded. “I do.”
“Good.” Turning on her heels, she walked away. Her silk train, covered in leaves and petals, trailed slowly behind her. “Then go get our baby from that witch-bitch.”