Fallen grace, p.12
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       Fallen Grace, p.12

           Jessica Cartwright
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  I rose late in the morning, enjoying the fact that my day was free. The ball was not until 7:00pm that night and I knew that Alex had no plans for leaving the house today. I would not need to be on guard the whole time. Allowing me the luxury of remaining in bed until the sun had fully risen was something I usually only did when I was on a rest period. Eventually, I pulled myself from bed and padded into the bathroom. I took a long hot shower, breathing in the floral scents of my shampoo. The water running over my body was calming and I enjoyed watching the droplets run down my arms and legs. I stepped from the shower and dried myself slowly with a thick Egyptian cotton towel. I smiled, thinking about the adjustment it would be to go back to my normal protection duties. Army cots and survival packs were a far cry from my experience of Lucas’s house.

  Wrapping myself in my black satin robe, I made my way to the sofa. I poured myself a glass of blood and opened my laptop. I logged into my email account and gave Marius an update on the current situation and my lack of progress on Stephan. I knew he would not share my concern but he was still my leader and required my assessment. I then replied to various other emails from protectors located throughout the world. I was not a sociable person by any stretch of the imagination and given the choice, until recently, I would have chosen a life of solitude. These emails were work related. Given the highly dangerous nature of our work it was important to keep each other up to date on new developments such as increases in the number of rouge vampires and all too often, the loss of protectors. As far as the other protectors were concerned, I was currently on a required six month rest period. I ensured that my emails reflected this assumption and routed my IP address through multiple spots around the globe so that even if I was traced, they would not locate me at Lucas’s manor.

  It was late morning by the time I had completed my correspondence. The sun, streaming through my windows, created a sense of warmth in the room. I finished my pitcher of blood as I watched the dust particles dancing the in air and sunlight. I was aware that Alex was in his room, playing on his computer. Lucas was in his study and the staff were moving around the house, carrying out their various chores. Through my window I could see George out in the grounds, tending to his gardens. Katherine was climbing the stairs and making her way to my room. I was filled with a sense of tension. What could she possible want from me now? Answering the door before she knocked made Katherine look slightly startled when we came face to face.

  “Of course, I should have expected you to know I was coming,” she remarked as I stepped aside, allowing her to enter my room.

  “How can I assist you Katherine?” I asked. I remained standing, hoping that she would take that as an indication that her presence in my room was not to be long term.

  “I just wanted to make sure there was nothing you needed for the ball tonight,” Katherine questioned, looking a little unsure.

  “I have all the necessary preparations thankyou,” I replied.

  “Oh… Of course,” Katherine said unsure of how to proceed.

  “Is there something else I can assist you with Katherine?” I wanted to return to my peaceful morning, however Katherine appeared to have something that was concerning her and it was my duty to assist her if I could.

  “It’s just…well… may I sit with you a moment?” she asked gesturing to my lounge area.

  “Of course Katherine. You know I am at your disposal,” I replied dutifully making my way to one of the arm chairs, wishing I was dressed and not still in my robe.

  “I know that you are not happy with me Grace,” Katherine conceded.

  “My feelings have nothing to do with my assignment Katherine. I find feelings have little place in protection duties and therefore, I do not rely on them,” I said honestly.

  “Please, do not misunderstand me. I was not questioning your diligence or commitment. I know how dedicated you are to your work and I have only the upmost respect and gratitude for you. I suppose I just wanted to speak with you about… oh I don’t know. I am not like you Grace. I am a mother and a wife. That is all I have ever wanted to be. I never fit in with the partners of other protectors. Given the choice, I would never have fallen in love with a protector. It was not my ideal situation but we don’t choose our other half. They choose us. John was and is the love of my life. I care for Stephan but he knows it is not the same. I do worry about the day that he meets his other half and leaves me,” Katherine admitted.

  “Whilst I appreciate your candour Katherine, I am not sure how this is pertinent to my assignment or information I should be privy to.” I stated unclear of where she was headed with this sudden admission.

  “I just want you to understand why I do the things I do. Do you remember when you first came to our home?” she asked.

  “Of course I do,” I replied.

  “You were a refined and proper lady. The most important things in your life were social etiquette and afternoon tea. You looked forward to finding a husband and creating a home of your own. After you became like us you changed. Do not misunderstand me, you retained all of your social graces but your priorities shifted. You wanted to rid the world of evil.” Katherine recalled.

  “I feel you give me too much credit Katherine. I wanted vengeance. If fighting evil was part of that, so be it. But please, do not make me more noble than I am,” I corrected her.

  “Whatever your intent, your focus became training, strategy and fighting. You and William were so determined. It was hard to believe that you were ever a society lady. I never made that change, Grace. I am still the lady you met all those years ago. The most important things in my life are Alex and Stephan. My life consists of parties and society events. I know how difficult it is to understand this. Believe me, John often questioned me but I am who I am,” Katherine concluded.

  “It is not your lifestyle that I question,” I replied to Katherine. “It is your inability to follow direction.”

  “What?” Katherine asked, obviously a bit confused.

  “I can understand you wanting to be a society lady. I do not have an issue with that life choice but, I find it difficult to comprehend that a person who has made their life around being a mother would risk the life of their only son,” I said honestly.

  “I’m not…” Katherine replied.

  “Katherine, you appear unable to follow the simple instructions I put in place. I can understand, you wish for your life to remain the same as it has. However, the prophecy changed that and you need to do whatever necessary to protect him.” I interrupted her, probably over stepping my boundaries but at this point, I really did not care.

  “I am doing whatever necessary to protect him Grace. But unlike you, I am thinking beyond the next three months. I am thinking about the rest of his life,” Katherine said.

  “He won’t have the rest of his life, at least, not the way you would like it, if the Acelades get him. I am not saying that you should put him isolation and I know you don’t want him to know the truth about us but you need to work even harder if you want him to be safe. Just remember Katherine, they got to John and he was well trained and knew the risks, Alex is running blind out there,” I stated, hoping that she would understand.

  “I can appreciate what you are saying Grace, believe me. My father has had the same conversation with me. I will do as you wish because I know you are doing what is best for Alex under circumstances that you are not happy with. Just be patient with me Grace,” she said softly.

  “Patience is a virtue I am neither endowed with nor find relevant to my abilities. I will provide you with some concession, given your candid explanations, and the fact that I can see you mean the best for Alex. But do not mistake me, Katherine. Those concessions are limited. And if I find you violating a clear instruction that I have put in place, I will instruct Lucas that Alex is to be moved into isolation far away from here, until his eighteenth birthday. Do we have an agreement?” I asked, knowing that I had not really given her a choice.

  “That seems reasonable,
” Katherine replied, a little shakily. Obviously she was not use to being given an ultimatum.

  “Well, if there is nothing further, I best begin my preparations for the ball. The afternoon is now upon us and I must be ready by 6:00pm,” I said standing, hoping that Katherine would take the hint that I wished to be left alone.

  “Of course,” she replied. She stood and made her way to the door. “I will send Sienna up with another pitcher and to assist you with whatever is necessary.” And with that, she closed to door and I was once again alone.

  I returned to the bathroom and sat on the upholstered stool in front of my vanity, appraising my appearance. The feed last night had served me well. My skin was more cream than translucent and there was brightness to my eyes. As I looked at my reflection, I remembered the last time I had readied myself for a ball. I was sixteen and living in Ireland at my parent’s home. I was sitting in front of my vanity in a floor length pale pink dress made of satin and lace. The dress surrounded me as I sat, due to the three hoops used to support it. The corset I was wearing was highly uncomfortable but I had pleaded with my mother to allow me to wear it so that I might appear more womanly. My hair had been set in rags all day to allow it to curl and was now pinned up with curls falling down my shoulders. Applying powder to my face, then rouge and lipstick, I appraised my appearance and was happy with the result.

  I was not happy however, with the reason for the ball. My parents were throwing a magnificent party for William who was to leave the next day with Benedict Acelades. He had been chosen by Benedict as his new junior and was headed to London to learn all of the business. Benedict Acelades had owned an estate home near my parents since before I was born and often spent summers there. My parents and he had become close friends. Everyone was thrilled when William was asked to join his company. I sat back in a melancholy mood, torn between my love for parties and my desire to keep William close to me. There was a knock at my door and I knew it was William.

  “Come in,” I said haughtily, trying my best impression of the girls I saw at parties. William opened the door and entered wearing a dashing black suit.

  “It is not good manners in society to enter a lady’s room,” I stated, turning back to the mirror.

  “Just as well you’re my sister and not a lady then.” William countered, taking a seat facing me on my bed.

  “Sister? Not for long. Soon I shall merely be an acquaintance you remember dimly whilst you sip tea in London,” I sulked.

  “Oh, come here now Grace,” William said, pulling me towards him by the arm. He was caught off guard by the shear volume of my dress. We ended up tumbling very ungraciously to the ground landing in a pile, laughing on the floor.

  “Now See! How could I forget you?” William said, helping me up.

  “I just wish you didn’t have to go. I will miss you terribly William,” I said, wrapping my arms around him.

  “And I will miss you my dear, dear sister. But just think soon you will be able to come and visit me in London. We will attend fabulous parties and you can buy all new dresses.” William consoled me.

  “Until you find yourself a wife, that is. Mother said that once you marry, it will no longer be proper for me to attend your home,” I said sadly.

  “What utter nonsense!” William refuted. “Mother just doesn’t want me to steal you away from her and pa. You know I couldn’t go too long without seeing you. I promise that I will be home for Christmas and you will spend at least two months with me in the New Year.” William promised.

  I looked up at him and I could tell he truly meant his promises. William and I had always been close. Even when we were younger, we would invent our own language and spend entire days playing in the grounds. I hated the thought of him leaving me but I knew how excited he was to be travelling to London and working with Benedict. I also knew that if I complained enough he would stay and be miserable just for me. I could not do that to William. So, I smiled widely at him and grasped his hand.

  “Well then. Now that that is settled, I think it’s time for us to join the party. So many suitors so little time.” I laughed as I walked towards the door with William.

  “I don’t think so my little one. You are far too young to be looking for a suitor. Besides, I have already put the fear of God into all of the boys in this county. You will have to travel if you want a husband.” William smiled. I feigned shock and anger but could not hold it as a giggle took over me. William, my protective big brother, was always looking out for me.

  A knock at the door disturbed my memory and I was glad. Remembering how I let William leave with Benedict Acelades was a constant source of pain for me. Sienna entered the bathroom and placed a large pitcher of blood on the edge of the bath pouring me a goblet. Thanking her, I drained the goblet and focused on the task at hand. Sienna evidently had more experience with modern day balls than I did so I allowed her to lead the way with regards to preparations.

  Sienna seemed to enjoy getting me ready for the ball. She had brought up a selection of nail varnishes and buffers, curlers and a hair straightener. For the most part, I allowed her to take control of my preparations. She decided upon a French manicure for my fingers and claret that matched my dress and shoes for my toes. I waited out my time while they dried and soon became lost in my thoughts of William again. I remembered the morning he left. The sun had not yet risen and the fields were full of mist when Benedict arrived in his carriage. William was already waiting with his bags packed in the hall, his excitement evident on his face. I was seated on the stairs in my dressing gown and night dress. My hair was still curled from the night before and fell around my shoulders, framing my tear streaked face. One of William’s handkerchiefs was scrunched in my hand as I leaned against the banister, memorising how William looked at this very moment.

  “My dear sweet Grace, you should not have risen so early to wish your brother goodbye. You have barely been in bed three hours and this is not good for your health to be so saddened. It will not be long before you see me again,” William said, taking a seat next to me on the stairs.

  “William, did you really think that I would allow you to leave without saying a final goodbye?” I asked. William’s appearance was bleary through my tears.

  “Of course not, Grace. Just as you would not think that I would allow you to rise so early without being chided,” he said, wrapping his arm around me so my head was resting on his shoulder.

  There was a knock at the front door and William jumped up at once. Our butler Deacon opened the door to Benedict. He stood dressed in a black cape and hat. I was immediately struck with a sense of foreboding, wishing that I had insisted on William staying with me. He greeted William and me warmly, eyeing my nightwear with interest. I was too emotional to be embarrassed by my appearance and continued to hold William’s arm as Deacon loaded his bags on the carriage. Benedict bid me farewell and returned to his carriage. I threw my arms around William as I choked back a sob.

  “Write me as soon as you get off the ship and every day until I see you again!” I demanded of William irrationally.

  “I promise my darling, darling Grace. I will soon make you the talk of London,” he said kissing me on both cheeks and holding me at an arm’s length for one last glance. He then quickly kissed the top of my head and hurried to the carriage, his eyes wet with tears. I managed to wait until Deacon closed the door before I fell to the ground in sobs. It took Deacon and three other house staff to get me back to my room and to me calm enough to accept a cup of tea.

  That afternoon, I wrote the first of many letters to William none of which he ever received. Every day after that, I wrote him a letter telling him about my day, the news of the village and our parents. I always asked him how he was and what he was doing. Every letter became more desperate, more insistent upon a response. At first, my parents told me to be patient, that William was just settling into his new life and that he would write when he was available. But, I knew they were worried. Months passed and we heard no
thing, Father attempted to contact Benedict however, no one seemed to know where he was or that he even had plans to go to London. Almost a year went by and we received no news from William. So Father set off to London to recover his son. He returned a month later down hearted and in despair. It appeared that William and Benedict had disappeared from the face of the earth.

  Sienna cleared her throat, snapping me back to reality. She was holding both the curlers and a straightener in her hands, clearly uncertain of my preference.

  “I think curls would be most appropriate thank you Sienna.” I decided as I was walking over to pour myself a drink and offering one to Sienna. She kindly refused, attempting to keep the distaste from her face. I smiled kindly at her. “It’s ok, Sienna. Most people find my lifestyle choice unusual.”

  Sienna placed my hair in hot curlers which thankfully took far less time to set than the curlers I was used to wearing. Whilst I was waiting for the curlers to set, I applied my makeup carefully in the mirror. I layered greys, charcoals and blacks around my eyes to give them a smoky appearance. I kept the rest of my makeup simple, with a slight blush on my cheeks and a clear gloss on my lips. My lips where already ruby as a result of my recent feed.

  Satisfied that my hair had enough time to set, she commenced removing the curlers from my hair. It fell into a mass of curls around my face. Sienna slowly pinned my hair back in sections creating a dramatic style. My hair was pinned back from both sides with sections weaved into each other; highlighted by pins that had red stones to complement my dress. When she was finished, Sienna looked thrilled with herself. I appraised myself in the mirror and was sightly startled by what I saw. I looked so like the girl I once was, I almost lost myself for a moment.

  “Thank you Sienna. You have done a wonderful job,” I said graciously.

  “You are very welcome Grace. Do you need assistance to dress?” she asked.

  “No thank you Sienna. I will be fine from here,” I replied, as I walked her to the door.

  I stood for a moment listening in to Alex. I could hear him getting ready down the hall. He was singing to himself in the shower. I smiled to myself as I made my way to the wardrobe. I was consistently amazed at how unaware Alex was about things. Katherine, Stephan and Lucas had really done an amazing job in keeping him ignorant of their lifestyle and the danger he was in. I shook my head slightly, hoping that I would be able to keep that façade alive for him. I found my dress, shoes and jewellery had all been laid out for me in the wardrobe. I stood for a moment, admiring the beauty of these items. It was unlikely that I would have cause to wear such extravagant things again for quite some time. Dressing slowly, I took time to make the small adjustments to my dress and jewellery to make sure they sat just right. Eventually I put on my shoes and placed the few items I would need in my clutch. Finally, I opened the satchel I had taken to school all week and removed my knife. I slid up my dress and strapped my knife to the inside of my thigh. I knew there was not a high chance that I would need it tonight but I felt naked without it.

  There was a quiet knock at my door and I knew immediately it would be Lucas. Taking one last look at my appearance before I left, I quickly crossed the room and answered the door. A warm smile crept across Lucas’s face when he saw me.

  “Ah. I knew there was a lady in there somewhere. You look breathtaking Grace.” Lucas complemented me taking a small bow and holding out his hand. I smiled at the old world gesture, though I should not have been surprised. In our day, a lady was never to arrive to a gentleman caller unattended even if it was just a plutonic arrangement.

  “I am full of surprises Lucas. Don’t forget, blending in seamlessly is part of my job description.” I replied with a small courtesy, before taking his hand.

  Lucas guided me towards the stairs and I could hear Katherine fussing over Alex in the hall, clearly not impressed with the way he had his tie. We made our way down the stairs. Katherine sighed with delight when she saw me descending the stair case. Alex stared, not blinking until his eyes met Lucas’ and mine. A red blush then began to crawl up his cheeks. He attempted to move forward too quickly and stumbled over his feet. They had apparently not received the message to move. I withheld my laughter and waited until he righted himself before allowing Lucas to present me.

  “May I present to you Miss Grace Kennedy?” Lucas announced, with a sense of formality.

  “Grace... I mean wow… you look amazing!” Alex said, his eyes moving up and down my body.

  “Thank you Alex. You look very handsome,” I replied.

  “I thought it would be nice if Alistair drove you to the ball tonight,” Katherine asked me.

  “That’s a wonderful idea Katherine. It would be rather difficult to drive in these heels.” I admitted, pleased that Katherine had thought to have another vampire in the area, and especially given it was an evening event.

  “Well, we best let these two make their way or they will be late,” Lucas said, nodding to Michael to open to door.

  “Well have a wonderful time tonight I am sure you will be the envy of the ball,” Katherine gushed.

  “Goodnight Grace, Alex. Just call us if you need anything” Lucas said directing the last part to me.

  We said our goodbyes and made our way to the car where Alistair was waiting. Alex opened my door and helped me into the car. As his hand grasped my elbow, I felt my body respond to his touch and hesitated momentarily. I felt overwhelmed as the blood rushed through my body and a million butterflies flew around my stomach. I could not understand the intensity of my emotions. I had heard about the blood lust from other vampires but they had never described it like this. It was more than just a desire to feed. I sat in the car using the few moments I had alone to control myself. I had no idea how I was to stay focused all night. Alistair silently drove us to the ball that was to be held in the school auditorium. I stared out the window into the darkening sky, scanning the area as we drove, for any sign of the Acelades. I could feel Alex sitting restlessly next to me, shuffling every few seconds.

  “So, are you looking forward to tonight?” I asked, trying to break the silence, my voice faltering slightly as I met his gaze.

  “Yeah. It should be fun, all of us hanging out,” Alex replied, his tone unsure. I was highly conscious of Alistair, in the driver’s seat, able to hear our awkward interactions.

  “Of course it will be. I mean, after all of the talking up Lauren did, I am expecting wonders.” I smiled, trying to lighten the tense mood.

  ‘Well, I’ll tell her that you have high expectations when we arrive,” he replied. The mood eased and we talked easily the rest of the way about what we thought the ball would be like and about any other dances we had been to in the past.

  When we arrived, Alistair pulled the car up to the front of the auditorium and exited quickly, rounding the car to open my door. Alex looked slightly dismayed at Alistair’s quick actions but I was glad for the break and the opportunity to speak with Alistair.

  “I want you to stay close and stay with the car at all times. If the Acelades are going to strike at night, this would be the perfect opportunity. Regardless of what happens, I need you to get Alex to the car and back to the manor, no questions asked. You don’t wait for me and do not try to help me, understood?” I asked.

  “Yes, Grace.” Alistair replied solemnly.

  “I will call out if I need you. I don’t want you to be concerned about subtlety, just come and I will make the explanations later. Alex’s safety is paramount.” I concluded as Alex joined us. Alistair gave me a nod and returned to the car.

  Daniel and Lauren were waiting for us when arrived. Lauren looked elegant in her ivory satin and pale blue chiffon dress. I smiled seeing that Daniel had resisted the temptation to wear his sneakers. He looked very handsome in his suit. Somehow, even though everyone around us was wearing formal attire, Alex and I seemed to stand out. It wasn’t the designer labels. Everyone here had those on, but there was a subtle difference. I wondered if Alex could t
ell the difference. He looked godlike standing next to me and I could only imagine how incredibly beautiful he would be if he decided to make the change and become a vampire. I had little time to dwell on it however, as Lauren came rushing towards us her excitement evident. Perhaps that was the difference the elegance and poise of having lived in different times or having parents whose etiquette had developed over centuries.

  “Oh my God, you two look unbelievable!” Lauren exclaimed kissing us both lightly on the cheeks. Her forthright affection startled me but I recovered before Daniel leaned in and kissed my cheek, then shook Alex’s hand.

  “You two do scrub up alright.” He smiled.

  “Lauren, you look fantastic. And Daniel, apart from your shoes you look very handsome.” I replied smiling at Daniel.

  We walked into the ball and were soon swept up into another world. The auditorium had been transformed. Round white tables were surrounding a large dance floor. There were snow flakes hanging in vertical rows from the ceiling and ice sculptures, depicting various winter themes around the room. To complement this, there were also fires burning in large brass pots on pillars around the room and burning candles galore. Each table had a different centrepiece depicting fire or ice. We stood for a few moments absorbing the sights before being met by a waiter who took us to our table.

  Arriving at our table, I saw that we were seated with two other couples who looked vaguely familiar. Alex stood beside my chair, waiting for me to take my seat. I smiled appreciatively as I sat and was immediately overcome by our closeness. Alex brushed past me as he took his seat. My skin tingled. I made sure that I censured my reactions, knowing that Lauren was ever vigilant in her monitoring of our interactions. I did not desire any questioning. Conversation flowed easily around the table and it was soon time for the Principal to open the ball. Thankfully his speech was short and the waiters soon began carrying out trays of various types of cocktail food. I was able to politely refuse the various delicacies all of which smelt like dirt to me. I claimed that I had eaten before I left home and did not want to spill anything on my dress. Lauren sympathised and was taking the same approach. Alex and Daniel made up for our lack of appetite by consuming vast amounts from the platters each time the waiters came by our table.

  Eventually, Lauren made her impatience obvious and Daniel invited her to dance. Alex and I were left alone at the table and the butterflies in my stomach returned. We sat quietly for a few minutes watching the couples dancing, I found myself smiling at their disjointed movements which mostly consisted of swaying from side to side. It was nothing like the graceful dancing of my day.

  “Would you like to dance?” Alex asked quietly in my ear. I could feel his breath on my skin. I turned around more quickly than intended, surprised by his closeness and his apparent nerves.

  “It would be my pleasure,” I replied, taking Alex’s hand and allowing him to lead me to the dance floor. My skin burned with a pleasant tingling sensation wherever Alex touched me. I allowed myself to enjoy the feel of his hands on my arm and waist as he led me into the centre of the floor. Looking around I began to feel unprepared as I observed the closeness of the couples dancing. I felt inept at reproducing their unfamiliar and clunky moves. My worries were disrupted by Alex who spun me around to face him. Our gazes locked. He placed his arm around my waist and set our bodies into a waltz hold. I followed his lead, placed my hand on his shoulder and allowed him to lead. We began to dance and I lost sight of everything else in the room except for Alex. I felt the sheer pleasure of twirling around the floor and was amazed at Alex’s dancing abilities. His eyes never left mine as we danced. The intensity of his gaze was almost unbearable. I could feel the pressure on my skin where he was holding me tightly in his arms. He still maintained the appropriate distance of a gentleman.

  Finally, the song finished, and I realised that our dancing had become the centre of attention. A large circle had formed around the edges of the dance floor. Some couples still dancing, but mostly, people were watching Alex and me as we spun around the floor. I looked at Alex who smiled impishly and seeing the look of discomfort on my face leaned in closer and whispered “Let’s get some air.”

  I nodded and allowed him to lead me out of the auditorium and into the night, passing Lauren and Daniel on the way. Their faces looked stunned to put it mildly. Once we were outside, Alex continued to hold my hand as we wandered up the path to a small garden and sat on a bench. Alex sat so close to me that our legs were touching. I could feel his anticipation and desire as he sat next to me. I hated that I was going to have to refuse him and then remain with him for the next few months, which would undoubtedly be unbearable. Alex made swirls with his thumb into the palm of my hand while our fingers remained intertwined. His actions sent lines of tingling sensations through my body. I could feel the heat coming from his body warming my skin. I stared off into the dark night, trying to gain my focus which was difficult when I was being consumed by Alex’s scent with every breath I inhaled. I could stop my breathing but I was sure in a dress this tight, it would be evident and no doubt lead to even more questions. I figured my best option was to make conversation until someone else came outside.

  “Where did you learn to waltz?” I asked, making the mistake of turning to face Alex. I found temporarily lost in his gaze.

  “My mother taught me. She said the only way to get the best girl is to be able to waltz,” he replied, squeezing my hand lightly as he moved our hands to his lap closing what little distance there was between us.

  “Oh. Well uh… you dance every well,” I stammered, surprised by the adrenaline surging through my body. I could not make myself move even though I knew I needed to put some distance between Alex and me.

  “Thank you. I had a very good partner. You were amazing out there. Everyone was staring at you,” he replied, his eyes bright with admiration. We were quiet for a few moments and allowed the sounds of the night to fill the air. I could hear the dull sound of the music coming from the auditorium and the hum of the different conversations occurring in there. I could hear the drivers out the front talking during their poker game and the manic rush in the kitchen.

  “Grace,” Alex’s quiet voice captured my attention. Our faces were only a few inches from each other and I could feel the urge to close that gap, fighting with reason in my mind.

  “I’m really glad you came with me tonight. I can’t imagine anyone else I would rather be here with than you.” He continued his eyes were hesitant as he attempted to gauge my response. I needed to end this now.

  “Alex I…” My response was interrupted by Alex’s lips softly pressing themselves against mine. He was hesitant at first, applying soft pressure to show his intentions but not forcing himself. My body took control and began to respond. Our lips were slowly curving in harmony with each other. His tongue skimmed my teeth and my body shivered in response. Alex slowly released my hand and wrapped his arm around my waist. His other hand softly cupped my face, his fingers brushing my cheek. My hands moved around his neck so that my fingers were able to ruffle through his hair. I could feel the restrained urgency in his kiss and felt my will being completely overpowered. My mind was flooded with images of our life together and my body ached to be completely aligned with his body.

  Suddenly, I heard a branch snap and reality came crushing down on me!

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