Chapter Nine

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Cassandra

The wine bar closes at 3 AM.

It's 2:58. Wooden chairs are being stored on tables. The counters are being wiped down.

Our lively crew is still conversing in a small booth, surrounded by full bottles of nearly untouched Cabernets. Elijah holds me near the old phonograph player, swaying me gently to the last bluesy ballad on the disc. It began three songs ago, when he pulled me up without a word, pulling me into a dance in a place lacking a dance floor.

The songs are blending together, perhaps because I don't want to acknowledge an end and have to sit down. Lacking skills I once possessed in where dance came easily, Elijah hasn't required much of me. The slow, romantic composition requires only two eager partners.

While through the first two songs he had a hand at my back and one clasping my hand against his chest, we've gradually surrendered to the music. We're barely moving. Both of his hands are cooling my flushed cheeks, his forehead pressed up to my own. Our feet shuffle off rhythm because the melody doesn't matter anymore. The alcohol in my system keeps me from shivering under his touch, not that I'd make him stop—ever.

I live for these moments. Moments where I feel so much, even breathing is difficult.

We've been left alone, given a rare moment of normalcy. In some other life, maybe we'd have met another way, maybe by chance. Maybe we'd have lived cookie-cutter lives, dance on date nights while the babysitter took care of our rowdy children.

That dream is so far out of reach I cannot sit on it for long before I'm clasping onto Elijah's sweater tighter, taking whatever of him I can get. What we know, what we can rely on, is devotion no matter the circumstances.

We don't need a home. We don't need a car, or a job, or fancy things.

We could return to that cabin the middle of Siberia with nothing but the clothes we're wearing and I know we'd both be content to spend the rest of our lives with nothing more. The running, the constant danger has proved one thing, given us one answer we wouldn't have had in that alternate life.

We'd die for each other.

In a normal life, we wouldn't have to contemplate loving someone so deeply that you'd bargain to save their lives. I've done it more times than I can count now... begging for his life.

He's done it too, and he'd do it again, without a doubt. I know that.

While the effects of our separation will be lasting, a strain that may leave a permanent mark on our already weary souls, tonight, I feel light, free of emotional atrophy. My partner's lips graze my cheeks lightly in tender affection as the song fades into nothing, the last song of the night.

The manager has been overpaid for the trouble of keeping us till close. Elijah spoke privately to him earlier. I think the small man was intimidated into complying with whatever the freakishly tall specimen said, not that Elijah would ever be impolite in asking a favor. All he really has to do is lure him into a corner and the man will fold anyways.

We're beginning to pull away from each other when the owner, who has been playing with the phonograph player, selects another song, blurting out "One last song for the newlyweds!"

Like mine, Elijah head snaps in our table's direction. Every single occupant grins.

"Newlyweds?" I chuckle underneath my breath. "What are they playing at?"

"I'd wager they're trying to score us another three minutes."

I beam at him as his arm winds around my waist. "Smart people."

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