Dark Impulse Ch. 03byAurora Black©
Gabriel returned to his room in a daze, his thoughts far away as he packed his duffel bag. He felt a yawning pit of fear open in his stomach at Gerde's warnings, and he swallowed hard as he tried to overcome a sudden feeling of nausea.
He didn't want it to be true; the idea of Grace being married, or having a child with another man was almost too much for him to take. But he would keep his word, both his silent promise to Grace and his verbal one to Gerde. He will help his old love, but he will not make things personal unless she wishes him to.
I hope to God that she does, though. It would kill me to leave her after so much time apart. But if she has built a life with someone else, it would kill me to stay.
Again, he cursed himself for not seeking her out sooner. What the hell was he waiting for all these years?
Gabriel knew, and was ashamed. He'd held onto the hope that she would someday return to him, not that he would go to her. If it was stubborn pride, refusal to acknowledge that he was in the wrong, or the fear of making himself vulnerable to a woman, he couldn't tell. Now, he knew that it was the biggest mistake of his life; an error that would be very difficult, if not impossible, to correct.
I have to try, or else I'll never find peace with myself or anyone else.
He was finished packing, but he needed to do one last thing before he could leave. Bag in hand, he left his room and strode down the corridor to enter Grace's old room.
It was exactly as she'd left it, and Gabriel imagined that he could still smell her scent in the air. Closing the door behind him, he went to sit on the bed, reaching his hand out to touch the chilled sheets. Lying back, he closed his eyes.
How many nights had he spent on this bed, longing for its former occupant? How many times had he wondered at what he could have possibly said or done to prevent Grace from leaving?
He opened his eyes with a sigh. So many nights, and so much time wasted. I wish that it would all end.
Gabriel sat up, his hands slipping into a nearby drawer and retrieving a small book. Grace's journal.
The slim volume covered the year between the Munich wolf killings and the Night Stalker case, and it was very revealing about Grace's emotions and desires. Soon after he returned from France, when he came across it one night in a fit of self-pity, it comforted him deeply and made him wish that he could hold her in his arms. From that night on, he went to the journal to soothe the ache inside him.
Gabriel gently turned the familiar pages, his artist's fingers caressing them as if they were a lover. Perhaps they were, because for a long time, they were his only link to Grace.
He found an entry which he must have read a thousand times before, and Grace's flowery script once again called to him.
* * *
Christmas Day, 1994
My God, where can I begin? Even while writing this, I can feel myself trembling from head to toe. I know that I have to pull myself together soon, but I still can't believe the fact that the kiss was real and not part of some feverish dream. I don't know if I should be jumping for joy or cringing with embarrassment. I'm so confused.
It all started a couple of days ago when I decided to arrange a nice, family-type Christmas celebration for the three of us: Gabriel, Gerde and myself. While Gabriel was working on his latest novel, Gerde and I drove to the countryside and picked up the hugest tree that we could find!
Right now I'm laughing from the size of that massive tree. You had to have been there, I guess. How the two of us thought we would be able to get that tree onto the car, as well as into the castle, I have no idea.
It turns out that we had to have the three burly guys at the tree site load it onto the car, and when we finally got back to Rittersburg (after driving very carefully and slowly), we had to enlist half the town to carry it into Schloss Ritter.
Thank god that Gabriel was in Munich for research at the time. "Blood Wolves" is practically writing itself, he says, but he still needs the occasional visit to make sure that he sets the scenes right. He's so thorough as a writer and as a person concerning detail; that's just one of the many qualities that impress me about him. There have been times when I'd look up from whatever I was doing, and notice him watching me with those enigmatic, cat-green eyes and I'd feel myself melt.
Okay, I'm heading into dangerous territory here. Back to the story.
With Gabriel out of the way, Gerde, our motley crew of townsfolk and I set up shop in the Shattenjager library. From there, Gerde and I decorated the tree with ornaments and lights. By the end of the night, the entire room was ready for Gabriel's arrival home on Christmas Eve. I kept thinking about how surprised he would be, and I couldn't stop smiling.
All day Christmas Eve, Gerde and I put together a bona fide feast worthy of the occasion: roasted turkey with stuffing, honey-baked ham, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, spiced wine, the works. When he finally arrived in the evening, calling our names in what appeared to be an empty castle, we let the smells of the different foods waft down to help him discover that we were waiting for him in the library.
He looked absolutely floored by the surprise, and I couldn't help but laugh at his expression. He was just so cute standing there with his mouth open in shock; he truly wasn't expecting anything like that to happen. He honestly thought that Christmas would come and go just like any other day.
Like hell, I thought. He deserves a decent Christmas after everything he's been through, and I wanted to be the one to give it to him.
After a moment, he finally spoke. "Whose idea was this?" He asked the question for Gerde's benefit, I knew, because his eyes never left mine. They sparkled with amusement and pleasure, and when he smiled at me I felt myself melting inside once again. I was so happy to see him.
Gerde beamed at Gabriel as she reached for me. "Grace was behind everything that you see here, except for maybe 80% of the cooking but hey! It's the thought that counts, right?"
Gabriel's gaze returned to me and I felt myself blush at Gerde's teasing. I felt as if I could feel his eyes touching my skin, and I was breathless.
"Yes, it does."
I watched his flawless lips form the words, and I wanted to trace them with my fingertips. I felt the pounding of my heart against my rib cage, the bite of my nails against my palms as I clenched my hands into fists. It was all I could do not to throw myself at him, kiss those lips and beg him to touch me all over.
I served him food instead, and I distanced myself from him the entire evening. I was such a coward.
We ate dinner at a long table which I had the townspeople bring up to the library. Gabriel feasted on the juicy, succulent meat with such gusto that I couldn't help but wonder, as I had so many times before, how passionately he would devote himself between the sheets or in affairs of the heart. I wished that I knew.
Last night, I would have given anything to find out.
The conversation flowed around me; I took a very small part in it, my mind otherwise engaged. When did it all begin, this change in my feelings for Gabriel? I found myself sifting through all of the special moments that had taken place in the course of our partnership, analyzing each event to see when I could have fallen so hard.
Then it hit me; of all the times that we've had together, the one moment that set itself apart from the rest was when Gabriel and I stood on the bridge overlooking Neuswanstein six months ago. It happened just after we finished the case in Munich, and it was a time when emotions were rubbed raw on both sides.
We were discussing his destiny and his future, and he seemed so resigned to his fate, yet he was determined to fulfill the role that he had been given. His eyes were so sad that I wanted to reach for him, hold him to my breast. I wanted to tell him that he had a home there.
It was then that I first realized that I loved him. And with that discovery, I remember that the happiness I felt became pain when I considered the possibility that he may not be able to love me back. We are as different as night and day, and we wouldn't suit each other in a relationship as a result of that imbalance.
In the years that I've known him, I've only seen Gabriel get involved with two kinds of women: the occasional, my-bra-size-is-larger-than-my-IQ bimbo, and the mysterious, sensual and beautiful Malia Gedde. I can easily ignore the former, but whenever I think of Malia, I feel deeply inadequate even though she's dead.
Gabriel truly loved her, and I fear that if and when he made the eventual comparison, I would look like a weed in a field of exotic orchids.
I am not either of those styles of women, and I don't want to be. I am myself, I am Grace. I am not willing to change for anything, or anyone.
Besides, if I were to get involved with him and it didn't work out, where would it leave our friendship? Our partnership on the Shattenjäger cases? I couldn't bear it if I had to give it all up because he would've tired of me as a lover. And I'm sure that he would give up on me as time passed, as I've seen him discard many women before without a second thought. I don't want to be like that. I refuse to be like that.
These were the thoughts that were in my mind when I offered to leave that day on the bridge, supposedly to continue my education. I still wanted to get my doctorate, but I knew that it would be best to get away from him and try to get on with my life before it was too late. Before I would find myself drawn even deeper into his world, and one day I wouldn't be able to imagine my life without him in it.
It was already too late for me, but I tried in vain to free myself and told Gabriel of my plans to return to America.
But then he said the words, "Don't do that," and it was out of my hands. I couldn't walk away from him. So I stayed on, knowing that I could never let him know how I feel. Nothing can come of this love, only disaster and misery.
I was startled out of my thoughts when Gerde suddenly stood up and bid us goodnight. She gave me a secret wink in the split second that Gabriel wasn't looking. Oh, God. I couldn't believe that she was trying to get us alone; I thought that she would know me well enough to know that it was the last thing I wanted.
No, she knows me too well. I did want to be alone with him, so much that it scared me at the time. Was it that obvious?
After Gerde left, I took my barely touched wine and sat on the rug in front of the fireplace. I could feel Gabriel's eyes on me as I stared into the flames. I didn't dare look at him, or else he would've been able to see my heart in my eyes.
I sipped my wine slowly, waiting for him to continue. I felt the potent mixture begin to take effect, and I felt very warm. My face flushed and I became achingly aware of the part of me that longed for him, that needed to take him inside.
I heard him get up from his seat and walk toward me. I dipped a finger into my glass, taking a few drops of the wine and spreading the wetness onto my lips. I licked my lips with a sigh, wishing that they were his. Since my back was still turned to him, I felt free to do this; liberated to desire him openly yet secretly, in a position where I could neither see nor be seen.
"I just wanted to thank you for all that you've done here, not just for Christmas. It really means a lot to me."
You mean a lot to me, I wanted to answer. I wanted him to thank me in an entirely different way than words. I wanted to grab him and pull him down to the rug on which I sat, slowly opening the buttons of his shirt...
He stepped closer. "I don't know what I would have done if it hadn't been for you."
I wanted to drip my wine onto his chest and lick it from his nipples, his stomach. I wanted to hear his groans as I leisurely worked my way down...
I felt his hand brush against my hair, caressing it. He whispered my name softly. He sat down a few inches behind me, yet I could feel the warmth of his chest against my back, as if he were embracing me. I was tempted beyond belief to just lie back and close the distance between our bodies, but I couldn't allow myself to move.
Having a relationship with Gabriel would be incredible, I thought then, but it would last as long as a falling star. It is best to keep my feelings locked away in my heart, but how can I continue to see him every day, knowing that he holds the key?
I felt a tear spill down my face before I could stop it, followed by a second and a third. I wanted him more than anything, but I couldn't have him.
I rushed to stand, dropping my wine glass in the process. It fell as if it were in slow motion to crash onto the floor, and I gasped through my tears.
Gabriel stood up in the next second, concern flooding his features.
"Gracie, what's wrong?"
I felt like screaming at the top of my lungs, "Don't you know, Gabriel? Don't you know that every time I see you, I feel an ache in my soul? That every time you smile at me or say my name in that special tone of voice, I feel the need to touch you? Don't you know that I have a fire inside of me that can never be quenched? Don't you know that I love you?"
But I couldn't speak. The words were stuck in my throat, choking me. I couldn't breathe around them.
Gabriel cupped my face in his hands, tenderly wiping my hair from my eyes. I wasn't even aware that it was in the way. His eyes met mine, and I gasped again. He was so beautiful. He stared into my eyes for several moments, and I felt my will dissolve. His hands massaged my neck, he murmured my name again and began to pull me closer.
His lips touched mine, and my world exploded. Wild horses couldn't drag me away from where I was. Before I knew what I was doing, I was standing on tiptoe and wrapping my arms around his neck to pull him down to me. He responded by holding my waist, bringing me to him. His tongue was so soft and warm against mine, and I sighed into his mouth at the wonder of it. His lips felt like magic, and I couldn't resist sucking on his bottom lip. I loved his groans, and I was dizzy with excitement as I felt him grow hard against my thigh.
With a soft moan, I pressed myself against his bulge, making him moan my name. His voice had changed, becoming husky and erotic. He then lifted me into his arms, and gently lowered us onto the carpet as one.
Falling deeper into the spell, I arched my back as he kissed my neck. He began unbuttoning my blouse as his lips traveled lower, teasing my sensitive skin. I ran my fingers through the blaze that was his hair, not caring if I caught on fire and burnt to ash. I let my hands slip underneath his shirt collar to stroke the muscles of his back. I couldn't stop touching him. At last, I thought. I needed him so much, I thought that I was going to die from it.
I couldn't hold back my words anymore. "Oh, Gabriel please...please make love to me. I need you."
Suddenly everything stopped, and I felt as if I had been thrown into an ice-cold sea. I closed my eyes against my own stupidity, against the knowledge of Gabriel's response to my plea. I just wanted to crawl into a hole and die at that point.
The silence was deafening and excruciatingly long. Finally, after what had to have been several minutes, Gabriel rolled off of me and stood up.
"I'm sorry, Gracie. I don't know what came over me. I didn't have the right to do that to you. You're a good friend."
Friend. Friend? Friend!
"You idiot," I wanted to shout, at him as well as myself. I felt like such a fool. How could I have ever thought that he wanted me as much as I wanted him?
I'm still amazed at how I managed to rise from the floor, straighten my clothes and make myself meet his gaze with dignity. I was wounded to the core by his rejection, but I didn't allow him to see it. I didn't want his pity.
My voice hardly shook when I replied, forcing a smile.
"Yes, that's exactly what I am, and there is nothing to forgive. Let's just forget that anything happened, okay?"
I left then without another word, waiting until I was safely in my bedroom before I let the tears come from deep within.
Last night, I drowned in them.
Now it's almost sunrise and I haven't slept all night from crying. It's inevitable that Gabriel and I are going to cross paths today, so I can only hope that I'll be strong enough to erect a barrier between him and my fragile heart.
What happened last night can never happen again, but I can't say that I'm sorry it did. I had a taste of what it was like to be in his arms, and I'll never regret that.
I'll only mourn the loss of what could have been.
* * *
Gabriel remembered that night well; he'd been touched by Grace's thoughtfulness and generosity, and he felt as if he was the luckiest person in the world to have her as a friend.
But that wasn't why he kissed her, not even close.
All night he'd noticed that she seemed lost in her thoughts, and that she avoided his eyes at every opportunity. It was so unlike her to be that way, and when he approached her before the fire, he'd meant to let her know that he was there for her if she needed to talk.
He was startled when she cried and dropped the wine; he wanted to help her, console her. That was before he looked into her eyes and saw into her soul. He saw torment and longing. Love? At the time, he told himself that he wasn't sure. But now, confronted by her words again, Gabriel had no choice but to admit that he did know how she felt for him.
He'd been scared half to death, but he was also filled with hope. He'd been through the emotional wringer the previous year, and during that time Grace had seen firsthand the worst that he had to offer. Christ, he was an actual werewolf for three months, and she still stuck by him! She had a lot of guts, his Gracie.
Any other woman would have run the first chance they got, but Grace was unlike any woman he'd ever known. She'd stayed with him, and he was both thrilled and frightened by her faith in him. He believed that he didn't deserve her, and with a perverse desire to test the limits of her love, he didn't hesitate to demonstrate to her what she was dealing with. In her presence, he became the bastard that he thought he needed to be.
To him, Grace's words marked the beginning of the last straw of her emotional tolerance. After that Christmas, other such instances happened with the same result; he always withdrew from her, leaving her in the cold. It didn't matter that he had wanted her just as much; he'd felt so unworthy of her affection that he had unknowingly made her feel that she was beneath his. She must have felt like a lowly plaything for his twisted amusement.
She didn't deserve that from me. My lovely Gracie, I'm so sorry.
Gabriel closed the diary and returned it to its drawer.
I swear that I'll make it up to you somehow.
Struck by a sudden flash of inspiration, Gabriel returned to the library, searching the shelves for the book that he wanted to take with him. He grinned triumphantly as he found the elusive volume and took it down to inspect it.
"Wuthering Heights," he read out loud.
It had been a much-loved favorite of Grace's while she stayed at the castle; he hoped that it would help with the idea that was rapidly taking shape in his mind.