Authors: Morris Fenris,Jasmine Bowen
“What’s going on?” she asked
Brock who was sitting on the steps watching. The youngest brother was about to answer when Gregory protested.
Rosa, darling, it looks fine, it really does.”
“No, there’s something wrong with it, and I’m doing to make a fool of myself on stage tonight
,” Rosa moaned. Again.”
Knox was trying to be kind, but Annalise felt like he wanted to rip Rosa’s head off. Or at least her ballet shoes. “We’ve been at this for hours.”
“And we will be at this all day if I don’t get it right.
raised an eyebrow, realizing the power this woman had, the two of them wrapped around her little finger. She would never dare speak to the Initials like that, but Rosa had no fear.
Arthur?” she asked Brock, who shrugged.
“He came down for about 3 seconds, and then was
scandalized by Rosa. He doesn’t take for granted that staring at scantily-clad women is part of modern day.”
Uh huh,” Annalise turned back up the stairs, not particularly wanting to watch either, especially with Brock’s gaping. Rosa’s long lean body made her feel insecure in her own. Annalise had never felt beautiful, or ugly, or anything really. She just looked in the mirror and saw herself. The fact that she had once been popular and fawned over was as much a shock to her as it was anyone else. But now, when your body attacked itself daily, beauty wasn’t really something one thought about. Unless a perfect specimen of a woman forced you to focus on your own flaws.
’s door was closed and she knocked, leaning against the wall.
Arthur? I don’t want to watch Rosa either.”
There was a
moment of silence and then Arthur opened the door. He was dressed casually in tan slacks and a half open dress shirt, his hair slicked back so it fell at the nape of his neck. Annalise tried to keep her composure, but it was a bit difficult. Casual, not focused or stressed, his chiseled features looked stunning in the morning light. For the first time, she saw that he really was handsome. She had been so focused on trying to help him and get out of here that she hadn’t properly looked at him until now.
“Are they still?” he asked, clearly a bit put
out. He and Annalise had a brief lesson on the changing fashions, and Arthur had expressed his embarrassment and dislike of the shortening hemlines and plunging neck lines as the years went on. A true gentleman, he never looked anywhere but the girls’ faces.
She had never seen his room before, but it didn’t surprise her to see that it was perfectly clean. He always took care to put their worksheets and books back
exactly where they were supposed to be, and now always helped clear the dishes after dinner. Cleaning up was something familiar that transcended the ages and didn’t require modern knowledge to do so, really. There was a huge bay window and a canopy bed fit for a king with a few books and paintings. Obviously, he didn’t have a lot of items that he had carried with him through the centuries.
“They are,” she replied. “I think it looks fine. Do you think she’ll be wearing more clothes on stage tonight?”
“Hopefully,” Arthur held the door open wider. “Would you like to hide here?”
She snorted at that, grinning broadly. It was the first time he had used real sarcasm or made a joke, and it made her brim with pride.
“Sure,” she said, slipping in. Out of decency, he didn’t close the door, leaving it open to ensure there was no questionable behaviors. She settled at the foot of the bed and he strolled over to take a seat on the windowsill. “So, what do you want to do today?”
glanced out the window for a moment and then turned back to her.
“I want to see the Waterfalls.”
“The Waterfalls,” she had heard about the natural beauty less than half an hour walk from their property. “Those are old.”
“So am I,” he replied, pressing his face against the glass. “They are there, through that path.”
“Arthur,” she got off the bed to try and see if she could see them, and he scooted over to allow room for her to sit. “I’m sure that’s a good idea … but your brother is going to kill me if we go and waste time looking at something that isn’t … educational.”
“I want to see something
“I know,” she replied, her heart racing in
its sadness. “But you have to understand, I’m not here of my own volition. I have to do what Gregory wants if I want to go home.”
He turned his face towards her, as if realizing this for the first time, although he must have known.
“What you’re teaching me now is that no one cares about Waterfalls anymore.”
She made a face.
“That’s not … entirely inaccurate. And it’s sad commentary on humans these days.”
Annalise,” his hand slipped a bit on the window and fell on top of hers. “Is this not what you wish?”
“What do you mean?”
“Being here, doing this. If you wish it, I can send you away. I am Gregory’s regent, not his slave. If you want to go home … to be away from here …”
She met his eyes
desperately. Such a short time ago, she would have said yes to that, would have begged to be sent home. But now, in the quiet with Arthur, their faces inches apart, everything was different. The rules of the world didn’t seem to matter with him this close to her.
Before she knew what was happening, their lips met. It was a soft kiss, gentle, barely touching each other, and it was quick. Before she fully enjoyed it, they were
separated, pulled apart, their eyes frantic as they searched each other for meaning.
They both jumped up at the same time, not wanting to be too close, not sure what it meant.
“I want to go to the Waterfalls,” he said, stumbling over the words.
“Well, you can ask your brother, maybe,” she said, and
Arthur shook his head, heading for the door.
“I’m not going to ask
Gregory anything. I’m going to tell him.”
She could hear him thudding down the stairs, and she sank onto the windowsill again, trying to catch her breath.
Oh my God, Oh my God
, she thought, her chest heaving. She had kissed him, kissed an Initial, the Initial she was supposed to be teaching.
What if he demanded more and she wasn’t ready and this ended badly? That certainly wasn’t the way she wanted to go out.
And what about Tony, back home? Although he was married, and although they weren’t together, there was always something unspoken between the two of them, certainly strong enough that she shouldn’t be running around kissing other boys.
She buried her head in her hands, slowing her breath down until her head stopped spinning.
It was nothing, it meant nothing. A moment, swept up in the beautiful sight from the window, in the romance of a waterfall, and being united by not wanting to be downstairs. It didn’t matter. Arthur was a prince, after all, and he could have anything he wanted. She couldn’t see herself fitting into that equation at any point.
But after that day, something changed. They didn’t kiss again, but their physical
intimacy grew. Watching movies were snuggle fests, her head on his shoulder and his arm around her. When they were walking somewhere alone, their hands were clasped together, swinging between them. And whenever somebody came into the room, they pulled apart, acting as if nothing happened. They never spoke of it, never discussed what was happening, it was just something natural that happened.
Rosa’s show, the Nutcracker, their hands brushed, playing games with their fingers. And the next day, watching the Nutcracker movie so that Annalise could take him through it plot point by plot, they were practically on top of each other.
, who never missed a beat, no matter how careful they were, brought it up to Rosa one night while they were getting ready for bed.
“Do you think that it’s dangerous, what’s happening?”
She raised an eyebrow at him, pulling her long hair up into a bun.
“What do you mean? That
Arthur’s going to suddenly snap her neck?”
“That after she dies, all the good
she’s done will be undone. I’ve been thinking about this for awhile.”
“I don’t know,” she sat on the bed, fluffing the pillows. “Do you think they are fools and believe in epic love?”
“I think something is happening,” Gregory said. “What they think it is, or what it is, doesn’t really matter. But Annalise’s time is drawing close.”
“How can you tell? She looks
… flickering,” Gregory said and Rosa cocked her head. “It’s a vampire term that only we can see.”
“When I’m not around,” she interjected.
“When you’re not around. We see differently than humans, of course, and it’s like she flickers from this life to the next on occasion. She’ll be sleeping on the couch, or closing her eyes for a moment, taking a break, and her life force just stops, just for a moment.”
Rosa considered this. “Have you told her doctor?”
“He knows. We’ve made the agreement already. She’ll probably last through Christmas and the New Year and maybe until mid
February, but that’s all. But I’m also not impressed with the relationship that is developing between Arthur and her. She’s liable to send him into another depression when she perishes, no matter what good she is doing now. The sooner we separate them, the better.” He felt pain in his heart for saying that, but it was only slight. Gregory had been heartbroken as a human, and he never wanted anyone to deal with it again. If he had to pull Arthur apart and have him suffer initial separation, then so be it.
understood this, although they never spoke of it. This was not a love affair they were having. Words of love or jealously never passed between their lips. When they were together, they were together, and apart, they existed separately, coming and going as they pleased.
Rosa shook her head. “She’s making stupid choices.”
“Regardless, her wishes are clear.”
“Well,” Rosa slid her long legs under the bed. “I guess there’s nothing you can do but wait and see what happens.”
“Wait and see are not terms you are used to when you are a king, nor terms you like to hear.”
“Take yourself down a notch and come to bed,
Gregory. Stop thinking about the world.”
“You were radiant on stage tonight, my dear. A ray of energy in a dark world.”
So come to bed and I'll show you some of the moves.” She wiggled her eyebrows and he laughed at last, sliding under the covers. What he did or didn`t feel for Rosa didn`t matter. At the moment, he was infinitely glad that he would have an immortal eternity with her to dwell on it.
A cure. Quiet.
…” Annalise was curled up on the couch a week later, a blanket over her legs and wearing two layers of warm clothing. She was freezing and exhausted today, but she knew nothing was an excuse to stop with lessons.
It was an extremely childish activity, but they were writing Christmas lists. She had explained yesterday about the legend of Santa and he had seen
firsthand how commercialized Christmas had become. Today, for something that didn’t require much brain power, she thought she’d explain about Christmas lists and their cultural meaning. However, Arthur’s list, in badly written scrawl, was not exactly the way a Christmas list was supposed to be written.
of things that can be wrapped and put under a tree,” she said, her voice hoarse. “A big jolly man in a red suit can’t wrap any of those things. And neither can your brothers.”
“What did you write?” he asked, confused.
Armani sweater, blue. Amazon gift certificate. Hollister coat.
She read them off to him, stopping for an
explanation every time. He looked at his own list.
Knox could give me one day of not talking to me if he knew that’s what I wanted.”
’s language had improved in leaps and bounds recently. The only time he had trouble was when he was flustered, thinking faster than his brain could process. So far, none of that was a problem. Annalise hardly ever had to scramble for the dictionary anymore, although his accent could use some work.
bringing humor to her tired eyes. “But he can’t wrap that.”
“But that’s what I wish.”
“My, you’re difficult today,” she teased him, trying to distract from a wave of pain that went through her body. She couldn’t stop shivering, and she knew that she had broken out into a cold sweat. It was probably just a side effect of the medication. The drugs she was on were strong. She had called Dr. Hever a few times, but he told her it was normal, and she said nothing more about it. “What we need is for your brothers to write lists too, so we can shop for them. Then, you can understand the real meaning of shoving people out of the way to get the last mass produced wallet the store has.”