Chapter Thirty

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Cassandra

  Florence

A trip to Florence is only a little over an hour away from Rome.

The high-speed train is full of passengers, pummeling towards Tuscany. Guards bar the exits with sharp expressions. Every so often, their eyes wander to my companion with knowing suspicion. Humans are enlightened of other species that disguise themselves among the masses. It is for that reason that the world has become much more cautious. More officers, tighter security, unwarranted judgment has become a new reality since the leaks of vampires started.

Elijah is and always has been noticeably inhuman. Even wearing contemporary clothing of this time, his features have an etched sharpness, a carved beauty that humans today have evolved from. His hair, thick with waves and sparsely braided like some timeless Viking warrior draws the eyes, but its Elijah's eyes that hold onto the soul. If he grants you them, those emerald depths trap you to him, prying out your secrets. Any human is helpless to those eyes. The guards at the doors don't stand a chance, and they know it. It's why they refuse to goad him.

Elijah's gaze occasionally finds interest in the passing world outside the windows while my attention remains solely on him.

"What are you thinking about?" I ask.

"Damien and Paris," he replies softly. "I worry of leaving them."

"They told you to go. They wanted you to."

"I know." He extends his fingers while I stretch them, hoping to provide some comfort in this uncertain time. He looks down at our hands together. "I worry about what will become of them... if we should fail."

I know my current faith is stronger than his. He is in the dark, being tested by Jehovah for a position beyond his natural comprehension. I am striving to keep faith, despite feeling so disheartened. Since China, it has been difficult. Functioning has been difficult.

It's a rare day when Elijah willingly lets me into his past. There was no passing up this experience, despite how badly I wanted to remain in bed. I find that now I'm lying against him in our seats, frozen to the bone, I'm actually glad he roused me from my depressive state. Despite the looks of distain from the other passengers, I'm appreciative of our time alone.

"We have to trust we won't," I whisper finally.

He nods but the worry creasing his features doesn't leave him with the acknowledgement. Damien and Paris were eager for time alone, despite the dangers. Erika gave him leave to go, which was hilarious to witness. Now that we're on the road, I'm not surprised his mind lingers on what could go wrong.

Once the train has slowed and we're free of the confining train car and its nosy riders, he's relaxed quite a bit. It isn't until we realize there is even more security on the ground than in travel, more security than there was in the very large city of Rome here in Florence, that his guard comes back up. Guarding me at his side, he guides me from the platform with an assured stride.

He knows this land. He knows where he's from, no matter how long he's been away.

It's written on his face. All of the memories have come rushing to him like a tidal wave. Noticing me studying him, his lips turn up and he sweeps his arm around my shoulder, molding me to his body. His lips linger against my hair as we walk into the sun.

"So, where are you taking me first?" I ask eagerly.

"We're already here. Santa Croce."

Being a weekday in the middle of an Italian winter, the crowds exiting the metro disperse in every which direction for their destinations, giving us the space to walk freely down the streets with full-view of the overwhelming renaissance architecture this city is built on. It's mid-day and despite the rainfall we witnessed from the train car, the sun is out in full force, shining down on the piazza.

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