Anyone else might have missed the catch in the back of his throat but Eden didn’t. She glanced up sharply and caught the pain in his eyes before he carefully masked it. She gasped, “Noah is right, isn’t he?”
Her guardian frowned. “What?”
“This isn’t you.” Relief flooded her only to be replaced by panic. By fear. And only one man caused her fear. “This is Darius’ doing.”
When Cyrus didn’t reply the anger returned. Darius wasn’t here. She was safe. For now. “Why are you protecting him? He’s doing this to me, isn’t he?!”
“Eden, please calm down. I will not discuss this if you continue to yell.”
She gulped, trying to collect herself. Finally, she nodded carefully, her hands curled into fists that held the rage in. “Why? What does Darius expect to gain from this?”
“Eden, you must understand…” he sighed again and drew towards her. They locked gazes, each begging the other for reassurance. Cyrus lowered himself to the couch and out of respect, so she wasn’t standing over him, Eden sat down too. “Darius is unlike the rest of the Ankh. He is favored. He is the first. Thus all he cares about is the protection of his people and the proper carriage of his duty.”
“What does that have to do with this?”
“Darius thinks logically, rationally, and for the most part he carries out actions without emotion coloring his decisions. He does only what is best for his warriors and for our purpose.” Cyrus stopped, his young face growing old with memories. “He makes decisions I am unable to but those are always the right decisions despite how distasteful they may be. He has only ever faltered from his path when his decision was affected by his feelings for Valeria and me. That is why he stays away now. He cares about us. It colors his actions. Afraid of growing attached to anyone else, Darius lives and hunts alone and refuses to take up his rightful place as Princeps.”
“But you do what he says anyway.”
“When it comes to Darius I am Princeps only in name.” Cyrus smiled sadly.
“So…” Eden tried not to tremble with nerves. “What’s his thought process behind the whole Romany thing?”
“When he met you, that day we arrived in Scotland, you were still a soul eater. He garnered enough from you then to agree that you should be allowed the transition, to turn, to train, to be Ankh.”
“Now… he… he believes that facing your enemy will decide your future.”
The heaviness of that sentence settled around them and Eden flinched from the fear in her guardian’s eyes. “Meaning if I go after her, if I hurt her…” Darius will kill me.
“He just needs to know you understand your duty, Eden. That when you became Ankh that overwhelming sense of justice, of right and wrong, of destiny… that it is a strong part of you. That when faced with Romany you will do what is right. That you will understand she was merely carrying out her duty and that she never meant to hurt you.”
He didn’t understand. Cyrus didn’t understand. Of all the people… shouldn’t he understand the pain of losing someone you love, of needing to kill the person responsible? Wasn’t that justice? An eye for an eye?
The agony of her turmoil tightened around her throat and she had to cough a little before she could get the words out. “She killed my brother. Don’t try to rationalize that, Cyrus. Especially after Val’s little revelation about our gift,” she spat the word gift, still disbelieving they had kept something so huge from her. “Stellan would be alive. He would be alive and human and I wouldn’t have been kept in the dark about the fact that I can save soul eaters from themselves without killing them.”
The Princeps stood up abruptly, taking offense at the edge in her words. His dark eyes glittered down at her dangerously. “As far as you are concerned you still are in the dark about your gift. Do not attempt to use it. And as for Romany… I am sorry that she is back in your life. If it had been up to me you would never have had to see her again. But this is Darius’ will, Eden. So play along.” His eyes softened. “For me? Play along.”
She felt like crying again. God, she was such a headcase. She stood up, shaking. “I feel like I’m going out of my mind. I have a gift I can’t use, The Tribunal has kidnapped the Douglas’, Cameron has had his soul stolen, Tobe won’t talk to me, Arcos is still out there somewhere and…” she ran out of breath, gulping for air.
She felt a warm hand on her shoulder and looked up to find Cyrus comforting her. “We will get through this,” he promised. “Please, Eden. Be as strong as I know you are. Play along.”
Not sure if she were agreeing for real or not, Eden nodded and allowed him to usher her from the room. Her bedroom surrounded her, the familiar scent of her Kenzo perfume alerting her to the fact that she had gotten back to her room somehow and was now sitting in a daze on her bed.
Play along, Eden. Please.
Even Cyrus was wary of Darius. So she should be terrified right?
Still… Eden wasn’t sure the threat of the terrifying god-like Ankh was enough to curb her thirst for a certain Neith’s blood.
Still reeling hours later from her conversation with Cyrus, Eden barely heard the knock on her door. She had secluded herself away in her room all day, afraid to be around anyone. The knock was a gentle tap, coaxing and unsure. She glanced up from her computer screen where she’d been downloading some mood music, to find Noah lounging in the doorway. Just the sight of his tall, strong figure, the smile in his eyes – that special look he reserved just for her – made her stomach twist with longing. She wished that for at least one night they could forget about all the things that were determined to drive a wedge between them, all the things that were determined to destroy her life with him, with them all.
“You feel like putting on some shoes?” Noah asked softly, his voice low and husky.
An insistent tug pulled at her lower belly and she arched a quizzical eyebrow. “Dude, what’s with the sexy?”
He grinned at her playful use of the word ‘dude’ and stepped into the room. “Cyrus gave me permission to take you for a drive.”
Both eyebrows arched this time, surprised after their recent discussion that her guardian would allow her that freedom. “Seriously?”
“Yeah. I think he realizes we need some timeout. Just for a few hours. You in?”
Was she in? Her heart was already racing with the anticipation of being out of the mansion. Eden was so sick and tired of fighting herself over the Romany issue. So sick of having to push her dark feelings down and pretend that she didn’t have them. It was made even harder being around the Ankh and the Neith; being around the constant talk of war, of strategy. Tonight, could she really drive off into the dark with Noah and leave it all behind?
She hoped so.
Shoving her feet into her Converse, Eden snatched up a light jacket and grabbed a hold of Noah’s hand. He smiled gently at her and leaned into kiss her, as if trying to distract her from the anxiety peeking out at her from the furthest reaches of his violet eyes.
Eden let him distract her.
They took the Audi, purring down the driveway, stopping at each security checkpoint. Noah drove with one hand, his other entwined in hers. She didn’t know where Noah was taking her and to be honest she didn’t care.
They drove in silence, following the Boston Post Road east.
Noah took a lot of twists and turns, never using his blinkers – clearly he was making sure no one was tailing them. Finally after an hour of just driving around, circling back on themselves, they eventually cut down into the empty parking lot of the Rose Art Museum. He turned off the engine, the only light coming from behind them filtering out of the nearby buildings of Brandeis University.
“It’s nice and quiet here,” he said softly, turning to look at her.
Eden felt a momentary panic. Did he want to talk about the Romany thing? She didn’t. She just wanted to pretend. But sitting there in the silence with him… she couldn’t pretend. It wasn’t like before where they could sit together and not say a word and it be the happiest, most content feeling in her life. No. Too much screamed around in her brain trying to force her to face their problems.
She wanted fire to kill the screams.
Before Noah could say another word, Eden unclipped her belt and reached for him, her hand wrapping tightly around the back of his neck, tugging his lips down to meet hers. He went willingly, like he knew what she needed.
The kiss turned furious almost immediately. The heat engulfed her entire body and mind and Eden clambered across the space between them, bracing her knees on either side of Noah’s thighs, pressing her body into his. His breath caught and Eden trembled at the sound, easing out of the ferociousness of the kiss, the burning flames dying down to flickers as their kisses grew deeper, wetter, slower. Noah groaned, one strong hand sliding up under her shirt, the warmth of his skin on her back fuelling her arousal. He left her lips, pressing languid kisses down her neck and she arched her back to let him, gasping out loud as his other hand brushed over her breast teasingly.
“God, I love you,” he whispered hoarsely, pressing his cheek to her chest, his own chest rising and falling beneath her hands.
Tears pricked her eyes and suddenly Eden was desperate. Desperate for nothing to take this away from her. Nothing. And no one. “I love you too,” she choked out and he glanced up to find the tears in her eyes. “Love me, Noah,” she demanded softly, her fingers trailing down to tug at the hem of his shirt. “I’m ready.”