"Now Liam dear, is that any way to talk to your sister on her wedding day?"
Lindsay held in a laugh at the blush that took over Liam's face. Finally, a woman his grouch of a brother couldn't intimidate.
"No ma'am," Liam murmured.
Patricia nodded complacently before turning to her daughter. "Honey Bun, now that you're a married woman, I hope you'll learn there are some men who will stand by you unconditionally."
"Yes, I see that now." She smiled at Lindsay appreciatively, letting the love she felt for him well within her.
"And I am very happy that you included your sister."
"It was the least I could do." Raedyn deserved a bit of excitement. The best route for that was to include the teenager in the ceremony.
"It was still very sweet of you. Very sisterly." Patricia turned to Lindsay to ask, "I thought you had eleven brothers?"
"But only three are here."
"Our brother Andrae lost his woman some months back," Liam answered, "The twins are with him during this time of grieving."
"Please send him my condolences," Patricia offered.
Lindsay nodded in acceptance before saying, "Actually, pretty much all of them are either out of town or out of the country for work. Couldn't get off."
"We'll plan a larger reception for the fifth anniversary," Jameson announced from across the bow, "Everyone will be here." He smiled when Alexis rolled his eyes heavenward and slapped his brother on the back affectionately. "Patricia, we need to talk drapes."
Lindsay shook his head in disbelief as he said, "Jameson is a little too serious about decorating the house."
"He just wants to make his brother happy," Patricia defended.
"Dinner's ready," Raedyn announced.
She watched as everyone save Lindsay rushed below deck to partake in the dining festivities. She was grateful for the moment alone with her new husband, and sighed contentedly when he pulled her into his arms. Beneath the stars, she was safe and she was loved. For this moment, everything she'd done and everything she'd gone through was worth the pain she'd been forced to endure.
He was hers, and she was his. Forever.
* * * * *
Lindsay was up and out of bed the moment he realized that he was alone. Panic gripped him for a split second as memories of another disappearing act came to him. It was completely illogical for him to think that the past would repeat itself, but as he rushed out of the bedroom, pulling on a pair of slacks on the way, logic was the last thing on his mind. The lights weren't on, which meant that she'd navigated through the dark house on her own. He didn't like that due to the fact that they'd only been in their new home for three nights. She could have easily crashed into something or tumbled down the stairs...
He grumbled as he shuffled through the dark house. Then he cursed Jameson and his overzealous decorating when he stubbed his toe on a large ceramic vase near the staircase. If he was able to crash in to something like that, there was no telling what she could have gotten herself into. "Baby?" he called. When there was no answer, he bounded down the stairs, and did not stop until he reached the landing. It was then that he saw the faint glow that came from the red light mounted above the back door. She was on the main level of the building. She was safe.
Lindsay still rushed downstairs, uncaring of the fact that he probably scared the life out of her. When he found her, he smiled; wrapped in only a thin bed sheet, she sat quietly in front of the piano he had moved from the studio on Jones Street. Her eyes were closed and she looked to be sleeping, but her left hand slowly moved over the ivory keys of the instrument. Lindsay quietly walked forward to take a place beside her on the piano bench.
"I don't know how you manage to sneak up on any demons, loud as you are."
He smiled at the comment as he placed his hands on the keys to slowly play the C Major scale. "What are you doing down here?"
"Just thinking," she sighed. She leaned into him, inhaling the rich scent that always tugged at her. Simply being near him still affected her to her core, and she was sure she would still want him on her death bed. Her second one, anyway. "So much has changed."
"You say that as if it's a bad thing."
"Not at all. But did you ever think that we'd be here, in our new house, married?" She turned to face him and felt the smile take over her face at the tender look in his eyes. It was obvious that he had thought of those things and had wanted them. "After everything that's happened between us?"
While he understood her hesitation, Lindsay couldn't comprehend why she couldn't put their past behind them. "We wouldn't be where we are now if those things hadn't happened."
"I get that, but don't you wish anything could have been done differently?"
He thought back to the night of his choice, and for a moment, a ball of pain formed in his stomach. He'd known that he'd made the right choice, but that hadn't stopped him from wondering how his life would have been had he chose differently. Would he have married? Lindsay liked to think that he would have; the thought of seeing her with anyone else would have driven him mad with rage and jealousy. And just imagining someone else's hand on her body, the body he'd touched and tasted... "I'm happy with the way things turned out. Stop dwelling on the past."
She said nothing as she looked down on the rings on her finger. Such small pieces of jewelry, but such incredible meaning. It was everything she ever wanted, but there was a pang of regret; someone had to die for her to get what she wanted. While she didn't quite care for the soul that had been sent to the afterlife, it was still a soul that cared deeply for Lindsay, a soul he'd loved. "It's an adjustment."
"Not as big as the one you made today."
"All I did was change my name, Lindsay."
"You didn't have to."
"It was only right that after everything, I have the name that best represents who I am now. I doesn't matter how long I waited; I would have always changed it. It was the right thing to do."
He couldn't argue with that. Instead, he stopped playing the scale to gently run his fingers through her hair. He watched as she began to play experimental notes. She wasn't particularly serious about what she was doing as her head was still on his shoulder. He didn't care; he would never grow tired of the sensation of her skin pressed against his.
She didn't pull away as she whispered, "I love you, Lindsay Royce."
With a light kiss on her forehead, he replied, "I love you, Alauria Jaedyn Royce." He blinked in surprise as she began to play in her awkward position, knowing that she had to be uncomfortable. But she refused to pull away, and the observation created a rush of arrogance to shoot through him. Yes, he'd made the right choice when he and his brothers fought to save her life.
"I thought you said that the abilities would have faded away."
Lindsay almost laughed at the memory of her furious gaze when she'd accidentally electrocuted the chicken she'd prepared for dinner. The magnitude of the unintentional bolt shot the chicken clear across the room before it landed on the floor, a blackened and charred mess. She had to order a pizza. "In theory, you shouldn't have them anymore, but Alexis thinks that since Raife's pre-Prygorian abilities were tied to a human soul, and she died first..."
"So now that I can do what people do around me, I'm extra special." Another wonderful adjustment to her life.
"You always were."
Alauria smiled as she straightened her posture. The happiness within her prompted her to play a familiar tune, one that was very significant to the moment she shared with her husband. The man who bought a three story building so that her new piano studio could rest on the first level. The man who'd gone as far as to call every single one of her students to announce the new location of their classes and schedule lessons for her.
Lindsay recognized the piece and smiled as he remembered standing outside of her old piano studio. Just as the first night, he was swept away by the music. Every note and chord pulled him into her world and the spell she wove around him. He remembered the first night he stood outside her window and the intense feelings of longing and desperation washed over him. Tonight, as he sat beside her, he was content and renewed. He looked at the woman beside him, the love his life. His wife. Never again would they have to worry for her safety. Never again would they have to endure the consequences of his decisions. Never again would he fail her. They only had the future to look forward to.
He was no longer haunted.
She was no longer prey.
And that concludes this installment of the series! It's been quite a ride and I thoroughly enjoyed making you guys hate me. Thank you so much for your comments and support. I'll be back with installment IV soon.
"Now Liam dear, is that any way to talk to your sister on her wedding day?"