Chapter 17: Forever, pt. 1

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This is the last chapter of the main text, kids. But don't fret! There are two epilogue sections after this.

...And then four other books...

17

FOREVER

Everett and I took off together running toward Moscow, but before we even topped the first hill, I collapsed from the pain in my side. I relented and let Everett tuck me close to his chest and run, holding me, all the way back to Moscow. There was no other way.

We didn't make my usual stop at a drug store before returning to the Hotel National, so there were gasps and stares and cross thoughts as we walked, rugged and filthy, through the hotel lobby and up to the suite. I didn't care. I had at least convinced Everett to stop outside the city and get a taxi so I could arrive on my feet and walk to the elevator. There were some lines I would not cross.

The minute I was inside the suite, I felt better. I had forgotten how luxury soothed me. I pulled off my rugged traveling coat and let it fall to the floor, then wiggled out of the high boots and grimy socks. I shed my sweater, too, leaving my arms bare in a sleeveless undershirt, and swapped my muddy jeans for clean track pants from my suitcase in one fluid movement out of Everett's line of sight. I wanted to bathe, but I wanted to look at him first.

I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror, and I looked positively terrible. My shirt had rips and holes along my side from the lynx's teeth, and red gashes underneath each tear. My eyes were sunken and rimmed in dark circles, the color in my face was off, and my hair was matted. My skin was covered in a rough layer of grit. A lovely picture.

Everett came up behind me, and slid his cold hands along my arms, wrist to shoulder. He kissed the side of my face, my jaw, my throat. "What is it?" he asked, kissing along my neck, across my shoulder.

"I'm dirty," I said.

"Then take a bath," he said, his sterling lips reaching the tip of my shoulder. His lips retreated, tracing back up the path they had made. "We have forever," he smiled.

I smiled, mine a weaker smile than his. "All right," I swallowed. I pulled myself into the bathroom and started running hot water.

  Forever. I knew the gravity of forever. I had already lived longer than most people's forever. I knew how long it would be.

  And I was painfully aware that every moment I spent with him like this-vulnerable, my defenses down-was bringing me closer to him, and making it more impossible to live without him. If he were going to promise forever, he'd better mean it. I would have to tell him this.

  I slid into a very hot bath. The water stung my wounds. I submerged my body completely at first, lying on the bottom of the oversized tub and looking up at the ceiling through the water, but I couldn't relax. So I sat up and washed quickly.

  I hadn't brought any clean clothes in with me, so I wrapped up in the giant hotel robe. When I emerged, I saw that Everett had turned the bed down and had soft music playing. The Harvey Nichols bag from London was sitting on the edge of the bed. "I hope you don't mind," he said. "I was trying to find you something soft and comfortable and...sleeplike," he said. The pajamas I bought when I was going to spend the night with Cole were inside.

  "Everett," I said, "You can't sleep. I can't sleep. What are you doing?"

  "You need to rest, and I wouldn't mind being close to you," he said. "I know it is not very nineteenth century of us, I'll admit. But I promise to be a perfect gentleman," he smiled and kissed my forehead. "My turn to get clean. You get comfy, and I'll be back in a flash."

  I pulled out the pajamas and put them on. Having an affinity for soft fabrics but also a desire for modesty considering the circumstances under which I bought the pajamas, I had selected a deep navy Calvin Klein pants and long-sleeve shirt set. I examined myself in the mirror. I tugged uncomfortably at the sleeves. It had been so long since I had felt comfortable with my arms-my scars-exposed that I hated to cover them up now. I changed into a soft, grey ribbed knit tank top. I didn't want to hide anymore.

  I was kind of alarmed with how badly my side still hurt. When I was still, it only ached, but when I moved it felt like harpoons were piercing my torso. After three years of letting people try to kill me, it was ironic I had been wounded seriously when I wasn't even trying.

  Everett returned quickly to find me standing next to the bed. He looked worried that I didn't want to lie down next to him, but, really, I just didn't want to be already lying down when he returned, and it hurt too badly to sit. I smiled at him reassuringly, and he relaxed.

  He looked gorgeous. His hair was damp and slicked back out of his face. A relaxed-fitting pair of green and grey pajama pants sloped off his hipbones, a fitted plain white T-shirt stretched across his muscular chest. The sleeves clung to his biceps, a V-neck dipping down past his collarbones, baring the hardened lines of his body. He looked like he was carved out of stone.

  It felt strangely domestic to me. I was not entirely comfortable with the situation, but it felt far less illicit than I thought it would. I felt capable of lying next to him and resting, talking.

  "This is a good look on you," he said as he crossed the room to me. "You're usually so put together. It's nice to see you deconstructed," he smiled.

  "I suppose that is my intent," I said. He ran his hands along my bare arms again. He had not missed that they were a symbol of my trust in him.

  "I like this better," he said. "You are such a perfect canvas, you don't need to cover it the way you do sometimes." I looked at the floor, embarrassed. He gently put a hand to my cheek and raised my face up so I was looking at him once more. "You're so beautiful," he said. "It takes my breath away every time."

  "You don't need your breath," I said, "so is that saying much?"

  "I suppose I shouldn't say my heart stops when you look at me this way either," he laughed.

  "You're going to have to be more original than that," I said. "Cliches just won't cut it when you're immortal." I smiled back at him.

  "How about this," he said. "When those pretty purple eyes look at me the way they're looking at me now, I feel heat radiating from my toes and fingers all the way into my chest. When you get this close to me, I feel every bit of skin on my body come alive, like each atom holds an intense electric current you're conducting." He was slowly leaning closer in to me, my face still in his hand. "And when your lips touch mine," his voice now softer than a whisper, "I'm connected to a part of my soul I had never been able to reach until you let me touch you, like there's a light in the midst of my darkness I couldn't see till you showed me, like the world outside the space between us has disappeared. And I've found the way I'd like to spend eternity. You," he breathed, "are my personal utopia."

  Then he kissed me.

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