“Come in,” I called out, expecting it to be Rosey but my heart leapt into my throat when Eran’s face came into view.
He had grown back into the strikingly handsome man I had remembered him as. That had been a century ago, and he once again boasted muscles carved into his strong limbs, breathtaking blue-green eyes that missed nothing, and a face that still involuntarily wooed women.
He entered and closed the door before coming to a halt. Surveying me from head to toe and back again, by the time he reached my face he was speechless with wide eyes.
“I’m ready,” I confirmed.
“Yes, I see that,” he said compulsorily. He opened his mouth to speak again, but couldn’t seem to find the words. Realizing it, his frustration took over and he grunted as he strode across the room. “I am not. Do you have a few minutes?”
I glanced around, realizing that the ceremony couldn’t possibly begin without the two people in this room. “All right…”
He reached me and then seemed to hesitate again. “What we are about to do will be condemned by our peers and…others, despite it being largely ceremonial.”
Largely? I thought. It was supposed to be entirely to make it easier for him to guard me.
“But they aren’t my concern. You are. We’ve never discussed our thoughts on the topic and, to be frank, I’ve never given marriage much thought. My responsibilities limit me and, to be truthful, only one person has ever interested me in that way.”
One person? I thought. What one person?
“I’m still not entirely certain about the way you feel about me,” he admitted, “and I’m being sincere when I say that I apologize for having to force your hand into this arrangement.”
“I don’t feel forced.”
“Good,” he said, firmly, before falling silent.
He seemed to be reflecting on something when his hand rose and gently laid his fingertips on my scar, and as he did my belly lit on fire. Palpable tension became evident between us as his touch lingered on my skin, where the heat of him both comforted and excited me.
It was the first time he’d touched me since the picnic when we were ten years old, since Abaddon had attacked me that very night. He still felt responsible for not having saved me, I knew this, despite him having to fight off four Fallen Ones on his own in a ten-year-old’s body.
Almost inaudibly he whispered, “You’re so beautiful…”
His hand fell away suddenly then, as if he had crossed a line.
He hadn’t. I wanted it back.
Stepping away, he rolled his shoulders to a more rigid stance. “It’ll be a fortunate soul who secures you as a wife, Magdalene.”
Trying to lighten the situation, I reminded him, “That will be you in a few minutes…”
He grinned lightly at me, not sarcastically but with sadness in his eyes, before he replied softly, “You know what I mean.”
“Yes, a bona fide wife.”
“Yes,” he said wistfully. “A bona fide wife.”
Drawing in a heavy breath, he took another step back. “I’ll see you downstairs.”
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