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Forty-One

Roman

I grabbed Ava’s plastic shopping bags and shouldered them, despite her protests. She was quiet. Okay, I’ll admit she did try starting up a conversation- probably in an attempt to get my mind off of what David had said.

“She’s a gem. You should hide her as best you can- as long as you refuse to Mark her,” his taunting voice echoed in my head. I wanted to rip out my hair. I didn’t know what to do. I had absolutely no idea how I was supposed to handle a situation like this.

I reached into my pocket, feeling the comfort of the note Joseph had written me a before he died. He’d told me not to open it until he wasn’t there to see it.

I really don’t think he’s coming back, I thought sourly.

Ava

Roman refused to talk to me, so I was forced to simply enjoy the view of the beach, the sun hanging low on the water as its orange glow was reflected on the surface. It looked like something off a post card. Most families were walking around holding maps of the island while I just wandered next to Roman.

Marked, I remembered. “Hide her as best you can- as long as you refuse to Mark her.” David’s voice taunted me. I needed to know what was going on. I felt like a freak. I mean, I was obviously new to this stuff- the whole world, for that matter- but they could at least try to explain stuff to me.

We all climbed back on the boat, and I took my seat in the front with Jace once again. As we sped away from the shore, we crashed into the waves, sending water misting over us.

The wind was blowing toward us, sending goose bumps up my arm. I spared a glance at Jace, whose gaze was focused on me.

I felt a blush rise to my face, and I forced myself to look away, onto the ocean.

Without even a sound to warn me, I felt strong, warm arms wrap around me, chasing the chills away. I smiled and looked up at Jace. His embrace was familiar, and it was comforting overall. I didn’t want to admit it, but Roman was being an ***. I wasn’t sure why Jace had started to get all nice and weird, but hey- I’m not going to object. Okay, okay, I wanted to have a talk with Roman, but he seemed to be acting like any other guy.

As if he could care less what I had to say.

Breaking my contemplations, Jace whispered in my ear, “Are you cold?”

I smiled. “No… Okay, what gave it away? Was it the goose bumps? The chills? My teeth chattering? Huh, was that it?”

“Oh, no. Of course not, Ava.”

“What do you-“

“I noticed the blush, though. You are absolutely adorable when you blush- did you know that?” He sent the warmth crawling to my cheeks again. I laughed. “See? You’re beautiful.”

I nestled my head into his chest and allowed him to stroke my hair. I didn’t want to think about Alex or Roman or whoever. I just wanted a little comfort and security. Is that too much to ask? Obviously, my eyes were tired out by the thought because they soon drifted closed.

Jace

  Roman moved towards the front of the boat. Before he could say anything, I gathered Ava up in my arms and held her close to me. Her breathing was completely even, her eyelids closed so lightly that I could see a bit of her eye whites peeking out, her long lashes holding her eyes in place. I dropped a kiss onto each eye before stepping off the boat onto the wooden platform, the girl still in my hands. Her breathing hitched for just a moment, and she lifted her arms up, winding one around my neck, and the other resting on my chest.

           I didn’t dare spare a glance Roman’s way. I knew he’d be fuming because of what David had said. But he should’ve told Ava what was at stake from the beginning. After all, I was next in line for Alpha, wasn’t I? And I’d need a mate…

 

           I carefully rolled her onto what had, more or less, become her bed. Gently, I placed her delicate head on the pillow, her damp, dark hair fanning out behind her. Her rosy lips were parted slightly, eyelids not daring to move.

           I stroked my finger along her beautiful face, her skin cool to the touch. I pulled the blankets around her and grabbed the spare pillow and the throw blanket from the other room and settled on the little floor space available.

           It wasn’t that I didn’t want to sleep in the same bed as Ava- just the opposite, really. However, I feared that if she awoke without immediately remembering the previous day’s events, she might be angered and start yelling.

           Or she’d try to hit me.

           Okay, the last thought made me chuckle a bit. Ava. Hurt me- physically, at least, seeing ***he’d already convinced me that she could both mentally and emotionally tear me to pieces. Though I knew it was possible if- and when- she came to the full realization of what her magical abilities did, in fact, imply, she could probably kill me.

           Not that I’d have to worry, though.

           She could also bring me back to life. The thought was terrifying, and I knew that Ava was intelligent enough to figure out her powers. It was only a matter of time. And, with Infinity here on the island, that amount of time might be even less.

           I understood Roman’s hesitance to Mark her- really, I did. He didn’t know how she’d react- I could see that much in his eyes. The fear of rejection, the fear of her anger. Overall, it was safe to say he was terrified that she had that much control over her emotions.

           But being an *** hole obviously wasn’t helping the whole situation- well, maybe it helped me, just a little. But only because it set him back. I’d recently decided that the best way to win Ava’s heart was trust. And, to get her trust, I’d have to be completely honest to her, whether I wanted her to hear it or not. The answer was probably usually going to be not.

           But, ****, there was nothing I could do about that.

           Shoving the thoughts to the back of my head, I concentrated on new ones. Nature had always calmed me. I wasn’t sure if it was because I was half wild, or what, but it was a nice method. I pictured the beach, the ocean stretching out infinitively in front of me, like a bright blue blanket with an orange circle in the middle- the sun’s glow.

           I fell into an easy sleep.

            “Jace! Jace! Jace, over here! Jace!” Ava called. I spun around, to find her in a bikini. I am really going to have to find an excuse for her to change into something that skimpy more, I thought to myself with a grin.

           I pulled her into my arms, and her body shaped to mine, her head on my chest. 

           I pushed her away, bringing her back to kiss her flat on the mouth. Her lips tasted like the most wonderful food- like a strawberry and banana smoothie that could get me drunk without the taste of alcohol.

           She made my head spin.

           I kissed her, covering every inch of her face until finally grabbing her hand and pulling her into the water.

           She laughed and splashed me, now knee-deep. The sun was shining on her body, illuminating her beautiful skin and giving it a gorgeous glow. I grabbed her shoulders and dragged her in, laughing with her.

           “Mi amor!” called a voice. I turned to see a figure in the distance, standing upright on the bridges. We were near the village. “Mi amor!” Roman called again.

           I’d never bothered to learn Spanish, but that particular phrase sounded alike in many languages.

           Ava asked, “Jace, d-d’you hear something?” 

           I shook my head. “Nope,” I lied, “nothing.”

           “Alright, then. I just thought… Oh, never mind.”

           I smiled and pulled her to me. She placed her lips on my bare chest. I’m only wearing swim trunks, I thought blurrily. I don’t even remember changing…

           Holding on to Ava, I jumped into the water, forcing her down with me. She straddled my back, grabbing onto my hair, so that she could stay with me while still being above the water’s surface.

           “No fair!” I called to her, grabbing her.

            

           We both fell under.

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