Authors: Rebecca Gober,Courtney Nuckels
By: Rebecca Gober and Courtney Nuckels
2013 by: Rebecca Gober and Courtney Nuckels
Cover Work: Marya Heiman
Typography: Courtney Nuckels
Amazon Edition, License Notes
Thank you for downloading this ebook. It remains the copyrighted property of the author, and may not be reproduced, copied and distributed for commercial or non-commercial purposes. If you enjoyed this book, please encourage your friends to download their own copy at Amazon.com, where they can also discover other works by this author. Thank you for your support.
The sound of a log losing its hearty fight against the raging fire startles me awake. My heart is racing, but I don’t know why. I refuse to open my eyes, worried that I’ll see the stark fluorescent lights and grey concrete walls of a place I vaguely remember. A terror strong enough to taste fills my senses. The memory of what it is that I’m afraid of is hidden in the furthest recesses of my mind. I try to grasp ahold of it in hopes that the fear will dissolve when I recognize what it is that scares me. The search for the memory feels like swimming through a foggy ocean, which causes my head to pound.
panic dissipates when I force myself to open my eyes and I see the wooden rafters of Tony’s cabin. I blink my eyes a few times, trying to force the exhausted haziness from my vision. I look over at the piece of wood that has fallen through the grate in the fireplace. It morphs into brilliant, orange-red glowing embers. My heart rate steadies out as I watch the embers slowly progress to nothing more than grey ash.
The steady rise and fall of Tony
’s breathing behind me, comforts me.
He’s here and I have nothing to fear,
I remind myself. But deep down, I know that there is a darkness making its way towards us and there is only so much time left before it swallows us whole.
Don’t think about it—not today,”
Tony says to me in our special form of mind speak, which only the two of us share.
I want to ask him what it is that I shouldn
’t think about, but I don’t. Instead, I decide to relish in this moment. To allow myself to feel safe and secure with his warm arm draped across my middle. To memorize the way my head fits perfectly under his chin. Suddenly, I feel as if we aren’t close enough. The stubble on his cheek tickles my forehead as I look up at him. His eyes are still closed and he looks endearingly innocent in his partial slumber. I stretch up and give him a small kiss on his sleeping lips. He smiles and his eyes flutter open. I can’t get enough of those eyes, with the colors that mimic mine so perfectly. They are still a deep navy blue that leaves me trying to remember when he last healed, but the memory evades me. The prism of other colors are still visible when the light hits them just right and the ever-present red fleck sits towards the inside portion of his irises.
Morning,” he says aloud in a scratchy voice.
’t help but feel a longing to hold him closer, to somehow become a single entity. “Morning,” I say before I brush my lips against his once again. This time his lips crush into mine as he melts into our kiss.
Happy Valentine’s Day,” Tony tells me.
I look at him confused.
Is it Valentine’s Day already?
For some reason, this seems odd and out of place, like time passed without me being aware of it.
Tony gives me a half grin.
“You don’t even remember the big day of love?”
He chuckles more so to himself, as if I amuse him in a completely adorable, loving kind of way.
I shove his chest lightly in a playful gesture.
“With all that’s been going on, I’m surprised you remembered.”
Actually, Sabby reminded me. He said I better get you something good.” He winks at me.
That startles me into a new dimension of reality. I dart up from the couch and my heart starts racing as I look around the empty living room.
Tony is in front of me before I can complete my question. He braces me with his hands on my shoulders.
“Whoa, it’s okay, Willow. They’re safe, remember?”
My eyes are wide as I stare at him.
No, I don’t remember
. I keep the thought locked away.
Tony raises his eyebrow at me.
“He’s with the others—he’s safe.” Tony raises his hand to my forehead as if checking for a fever.
’t stop him. Instead, I stare at the reflection of my silver eyes in the decorative mirror hanging on the wall, just behind Tony.
Tony moves into my line of
sight, blocking my view of the mirror. He looks worried. “Willow, are you okay?”
I’m not sure,” I stutter. “This all... It seems so surreal. Like something is not quite right,” I answer honestly.
That’s probably because nothing about these circumstances is right.” He pulls me into him and I crush my face into his chest. The smell of earth and soap comforts me. “But I told you, we aren’t going to think about that today,” he reminds me, rubbing his hand across my back.
I nod my head against his chest and wrap my arms around him
, holding him tightly. A twister of emotions stirs within me.
He gently pushes me from him just enough so he can see my face. He reaches his hand up and gently wipes a tear away from my cheek. I hadn
’t realized I was crying and I have no idea what’s caused these feelings within me. “Why are you blocking yourself from me?” he asks, emotion apparent in his tone.
stronghold crumbles as I realize what I’m doing. I drop the shield that I had not meant to put up in the first place. “I’m sorry,” I tell him.
His face lightens when he sees the silver fade from my eyes. He kisses me on the tip of my
nose and lets me go just long enough to place another log into the fire. The fire crackles and comes back to life. Pulling me back into his arms, he kisses the top of my head. He gently caresses my back with his hand, sending goose bumps down to my toes.
I feel his body shift as he brings my face up to his.
“Will you come upstairs for a second? There’s something I want to give to you.”
I nod my head and give him a smile.
He knows how much I like presents—especially from him.
He takes my hand in his and leads me to
his parent’s room. I look at him inquisitively as he opens the door and gestures for me to take a seat on the red chaise lounge near the bay window. I watch him in anticipation as he rummages through the closet. He removes a panel in the wall to reveal a safe. Excitedly, he turns to grin at me before he looks back at the safe and turns the dial several times. A second later, I hear a click as the safe is opened. While I can’t see the contents, I can hear him shift papers and items around inside it before he carefully takes out a long, black box.
Close your eyes,” he says to me with a goofy grin.
I bite my lip but oblige.
My legs bounce in anticipation as I hear him moving things around inside the black box. Then it snaps shut and I can hear him placing it back in the safe, securing it. The panel on the wall snaps back and I listen to him walk over to where I’m sitting. With my eyes still shut, he takes my hand in his.
Can I open them now?” I ask impatiently. I like surprises but the wait is killing me. He doesn’t answer me immediately and I get more fidgety. I can feel his palm sweating in my hand.
Why is he so nervous
? I think to myself.
Okay, you can open them now,” he tells me. His voice is soft, almost a whisper.
Now that the moment has come
, I’m nervous too. I squeeze my eyes one last time and then open them. Tony is kneeling in front of me with my hand still in his. His other hand holds a small box and he places it in my lap.
My mouth goes dry and
I suddenly forget how to speak. I blink a few times, trying to figure out what to do.
Open it,” he urges me. I take a deep breath and slowly remove the lid to the tiny box. Inside sits the most beautiful ring I’ve ever seen. My breathing goes ragged as I look back at him. My tongue is tied and I can’t seem to speak. Instead, I hold his gaze, looking deep into his eyes.
Tony clears his throat.
“Willow Mosby...” Just the way he says my name makes my heart get caught in my throat. “You mean everything to me; you’re my whole world. My life begins and ends with you. After my parents died, I never thought I could love again, never thought I could be normal... until you came along. You turned my world upside down and taught me what it is to be a man. You showed me how to live and that love can happen, even in the darkest of times.” He squeezes my hand in his. “I want you to have this ring, as a symbol of my love. I know that we’re young, but I also know that a love like ours can only come along once and I don’t want to ever chance losing it. I was going to give you this as a promise ring... a promise to you that we would someday marry. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized how badly I wanted it to mean more... now.” The way he says ‘now’ makes my toes curl.
I suck in a breath
at the realization of what he’s about to say. His palm’s hot in my hand, even though it is exceptionally cold up here. I swallow hard, waiting for him to say it.
Willow Mosby, I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Would you do me the honor of becoming my wife?”
Tears spring to my eyes as the weight of what he just said sinks in.
The expression on his face is so full of vulnerability that it makes me weep. I love this man in front of me all the way to the core of my being. But we are both still so young. What would my dad say? Then I understand what all this means. It means that Tony doesn’t know what’s going to happen from day to day. How much time we may have together... or lack thereof. But marriage? It’s such a huge commitment and I’m not even a legal adult yet, and... and... I love him. I love him so much it hurts. I stare deeply into Tony’s eyes. I can tell the silence is killing him. The uncertainty of my answer is like a half-ton weight sitting on his shoulders.
As he senses my
hesitation, he adds, “Willow, we don’t have to get married now, or in five years, or ten years. This ring signifies our love and commitment to each other. As much as it kills me to wait to become your husband, I’ll wait as long as I have to. I owe you that much and you are worth every second.”
A tear slips down my cheek as my heart soars.
I purse my lips to keep from crying and nod my head. “Yes.” My voice catches.
A huge smile
spreads across his face and all the nervousness he was experiencing is now gone in an instant. He wastes no time taking the ring from the box and gliding it on my finger. As if he’d had it sized just for me, it fits perfectly. The other half of the ring lies in the box, the part I will receive when we say our vows.
, I say over and over again in my mind.
he corrects me with a proud smile. Then he adds out loud, “This ring belonged to my mom. I brought their rings back here... after they died.” This time his voice catches.
My eyes well with tears.
That fact makes the significance of this gift all the more meaningful. I hold my hand up in the light and admire the stunning ring. It’s platinum, set with a beautiful, princess-cut sapphire surrounded by six intricately cut diamonds.
I am immediately lost in Tony
’s arms, clinging to the man I deeply love. I don’t want to let him go. I don’t want to return to our reality. Then I’m flooded with grief. Grief about our situation, about how we may never remain alive long enough to get married. About how I’m only sixteen and no longer allowed to be a child, or allowed to grow up in a sheltered environment and have sleepovers with Claire—not allowed to ignore the danger that consistently lies all around us. The unfairness of it all angers me, but at the same time, Tony is making the best out of a difficult situation... and I love him for that.