Chapter Thirty-One

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The haze of gray light seeping through the shutters paint the slope of Cassandra's back with raindrops that reflect from the wet window.

My second favorite part of the day. Watching the dawn arise against her body. It's a moment only bested by the setting of the sun, the proof that we've lived to see another day. The arrival of the night sets in my purpose: to get this woman from one day to the next. To give her life, and protect her throughout every hour of every day.

Nighttime is the moment I get to hold her in my arms and appreciate her weight in them... because it means I've succeeded in granting us another day. It means the world can still turn, because if she were gone, I would make it stop.

It's true the morning is also a gift. The morning is when I watch her experience actual peace. Her mind isn't playing tricks on her. She isn't concerned with who may be wanting her or spying on her. She closed her eyes beside me, releasing her concerns and fears to my care.

Cassandra de Ricci.

My wife.

I have a wife.

How did this happen? How did I manage this? The seven centuries I've spent without a thought of that title drudges up the vast moments of my very long life. The important ones. The ones that shaped me. Many of them in this very city, right outside these windows.

With my death went my hope for a family, for the extension of my family name.

Even now, the words we vowed last night were spoken to mere air, with no witnesses, and yet, I know we weren't alone. Before God, we were wed. Jehovah knows it. He didn't intervene, which means it's been accepted.

At least now if our hourglass pours its last grain of sand, we'll have this.

My hand, after so many years of bareness, feels odd. The wedding band—black in color—has found a home exactly where she placed it. My eyes wander to her hand on the pillow where she wears my mother's ring. At the time, it was the only thing I had of my mother. Not anymore.

The objects I bartered for in that antique shop, my old home, are nothing more than inconsequential material items that serve my ghost-like memory, but to possess items that are so deeply connected to the people that birthed me, people I haven't had a connection to in a very long time, I'm overjoyed. Yesterday will go down as one of the important days of my long life.

Cassandra shifts onto her side, uncurling her fingers against the bedding, revealing the thin but swollen gash across her palm.

You took my soul, and that should have terrified me. But what you took, you gave...

Her vows to me have been constant, a companion in the night when I must endure the hours without her, allowing her the rest I know she needs but rarely gets.

The obstacles I would still face, the sacrifices I would make to see you smile... If I could give you everything you want...

I'd find you in death, Elijah. I'd never stop until we were together...

I bring my hand up to my mouth, pressing my index finger to the tip of my fang until I hear my flesh break open. Around her, especially unfed, it's not difficult to initiate the primal part of me. My blood will not heal the wound as quickly as it once would have, but it will speed up the process. Reaching over her, I gently glide my finger over the incision, applying my blood and all its healing properties to the area. She stirs. Glancing over her shoulder curiously after observing her hand, a tired, amused smile appears.

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