653 B.C. Carrara
Alex stirred sleepily and opened his eyes. He shook his head in mild amusement; even in her sleep she needed to possess him! Kristiana was lying naked, except for the long crystal that was strung on a leather cord and permanently bound around her neck. Her soft body, with its delicious curves, straddled his, as her arms and legs wrapped around him in ownership. She was beautiful, he had to admit. Her curves, along with her sexual appetites, were intoxicating, taking him to pleasures he had only previously imagined.
To have lived his long existence without the secret knowledge of a woman…then to feel Kristiana alive in his arms, and to make love to her, was extraordinary! It was a welcome distraction from the previous 500 years of extreme loneliness and devastation that had been his life.
Mani and Melitta had been right; it wasn’t good for Alex to spend his life mourning. Cassandra was dead and gone and nothing could be done about it. Alex was immortal and would live forever…and his soul mate, his symbolon, was gone.
And if, in fact, he would live forever, he had to find something more in his life! As Mani had said, Alex had been gifted with immortality for a reason. Still, it struck him as unjust that he should have survived the drowning. Over the years, he had continued to believe that the gods would smile on him and bring Cassandra back…somehow. But now it really was time to find some way, impossible as it seemed, to move on.
Melitta had told Alex that the first step to a new life was for him to at least attempt to be distracted by something other than Cassandra. He had tried. But it seemed that any activity that didn’t include thoughts of her were wrought with a never-ending grief.
Once, he went an entire year without sculpting or painting her. He had kept his mind engrossed in the precarious task of climbing the great mountains north of his home. This was an enterprise that should have occupied his mind completely but several times, during the night, despite his exhaustion, he had caught himself beginning to draw her face in the ground.
He almost held his breath as he counted down the final days of the year. On the last night, he didn’t sleep. He sat perched, waiting for the sun to crest the mountains. Then, leaving behind all of his supplies, he ran possessed by the need to see and touch the paintings and sculptures that were all that he had left of her.
He wondered what was wrong with him. How could a woman that he barely knew, except for his visions of her and their brief time together as children, affect him even after all these years? But thankfully now, because of Kristiana, thoughts of Cassandra had become only a dull ache in his heart. He tried to shake off the melancholy that had become his constant companion over the years.
Trying to convince Kristiana that he was not the man for her had been a challenge equivalent to convincing a hungry lioness that a bleeding lamb would cause her indigestion. Once her sights were set, she persevered regardless of the cost! He knew it was a tremendous hardship on her to be married to a man that seemed only capable of loving a memory, but she felt certain that she could make him love her. And her physical efforts were certainly proof of that, he thought with a wry smile.
Kristiana’s long bronze hair spilled over most of her face. He brushed it back, noticing the occasional gold strands, from their time in the sun. The honeymoon had been fairly brief—only a month, too short from her perspective, too long from his. Alex was not an idle man and now that rendering artistic representations of Cassandra were no longer appropriate he struggled to find worth.
Still Kristiana seemed happy and her insecurities were reasonable considering that he was still obsessed with his Cassandra. During their first sculpting lessons, three years prior, Kristiana had tried to get him to sculpt someone or something else. He had explained to her that he was there only for Cassandra, and if Kristiana wasn’t able to help him with that, he would find another tutor. With the sizable remuneration he was paying her for her services, Alex knew that Kristiana could not afford to turn him down. He was certain that she had been hurt, but she needed to know the truth.
It had never been his intention to lead her along and he often thought that he should have refused to marry her. But after that early June evening he had agreed, not out of the joy of new love, but to resolve her desperate need for him and his desperate need to have something in his life other than grief.
Their courtship, if it could be considered that, had begun recently, after three years of Kristiana’s constant flirtations. She had asked him to join the townspeople at her home to celebrate the sale of one of her sculptures. When he arrived, it was evident that he was the only guest…and her dress suggested that no one else was invited. Alex decided that he should leave. But she begged him to stay. Of course, he knew that she had not invited anyone else. The men and boys in town would have flocked in had they been asked. Kristiana had offered Alex a drink and he sipped it. When she began to dance provocatively, he told her it was time for him to leave. Alex stood and realized that he was incapable of walking. That was all he remembered.
The next morning he awoke, stunned to find that they were both naked in her bed. Kristiana arose, almost covering herself with a blanket, and spoke of Alex’s promises and seduction the night before.
He knew it was all a lie but watching her, despite his headache, he felt something other than grief. It certainly wasn’t love. He knew she was not to be trusted. There were rumors around Carrara that she could cast spells and Alex had suspected that her interest in growing and blending various herbs was not purely medicinal. However, it was the first time in 500 years that he had been distracted by other thoughts.
He felt a touch of exhilaration at the possibility that he could enjoy life. And frankly, he had been flattered by her efforts. Within minutes, Kristiana’s brother burst through the door—no doubt to witness the impropriety. Paolo stomped through the room, insisting that Alex had taken advantage of his poor sister and demanded that the pair marry. Alex had difficulty containing his snickers at her brother’s sanctimonious shock as Paolo was known for his legions of sexual exploits! And although Alex was quite certain that nothing had happened, he ensured that there was no further question of his conduct while they discussed what the future might hold.
Despite his attempts to convince Kristiana that she should marry someone else, she had no doubt that he would eventually love her. And perhaps she was right. It wouldn’t be the same as his love for Cassandra—a connection and love that he could only have with his symbolon. But perhaps he could have something that, it appeared, he could never have with Cassandra—a life.
Even after the wedding, Alex’s obsession continued to be like a burr under the saddle to Kristiana. During their honeymoon she had insisted on seeing his home, Morgana. He knew that despite what he had told her, she expected far more than the simplicity that he preferred…and he had warned her! She had been shocked to find the simple shack that had been built by his father. Of course, he had fortified the structure with more modern enhancements but Kristiana was stunned into a rare silence to see its contents; almost every open space was occupied by artworks of Cassandra.
Still, he felt that Kristiana had handled it better than expected. She had merely asked what he would do with them now that they were married…and refused to sleep there. And she did that all without breaking a single thing, Alex recalled, with some relief! Before leaving, she asked him if he would torch the shack along with his tribute to Cassandra. It had never occurred to him that Kristiana would want his centuries of work destroyed. Alex had tried to reason with her and hoped that she would understand that this was his life’s work. But in truth, to destroy it would be like killing Cassandra and that, he could not do. In order to maintain their marital bliss, Alex had agreed that they would return to Carrara and build a home that would be more to Kristiana’s liking.
Watching her sleep, Alex realized that even now she appeared to be scheming. Then she drew a deep breath and stretched, pushing the long, clear crystal around her neck into him. He reached over to move it and she jumped up now wide awake, her eyes alarmed. She snatched the pendant from his fingers then seeing his surprise she relaxed and gave him a sensual smile as her mouth moved to his.
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Genre – Paranormal
Rating – PG
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