Today I got sucked into reading my own book, THE PROPHECY, book III in The Sanctum Trilogy – because I’m a total dork and I was too tired to think about what I was doing and did I mention I’m a total dork. Anyway, chapter five made me kind of happy so thought I would share it here because, I don’t know, why the fuck not?
The dark skies threatened rain and in the distance, a low rumble of thunder could be heard, but her fingers continued moving their way up the stone facade, finding joints to use as leverage, pulling herself up, then patiently beginning again.
Midway, the cold rain began pelting her face, lightly at first but within a matter of seconds, the skies opened and she was drenched. Clearing the top of the cliff, she took in her surroundings, her hand on the blade at her hip, her head cocked to the side, listening.
She studied the horizon, knowing the weather would break shortly, then checked her watch and frowned. She hated tardiness.
It reflected a lack of respect.
A belief that her time was not important.
And it pissed her off.
She paced, back and forth like a caged animal. Despite the vast amount of space she had to move, she traversed the same ten feet of land, over and over again, growing more irate with each step.
The rain slowed to a mere drizzle, a mist, and still she waited.
Running her hands over her soaked hair, she pushed the water away in irritation.
He smirked, purposefully making her wait, knowing it would enrage her. Her short temper was predictable. And endearing.
He moved from the shadows and into her line of vision.
“That is not happiness to see me,” he said calmly.
“In fact, I was on time,” he replied, “but could not help getting lost for a moment, watching you tear up the earth like that, so my tardiness is primarily your fault.”
She softened upon hearing those teasing words; he felt her relax just a bit.
“I won’t be bought with your sweet words,” she insisted.
He stepped towards her and twirled a lock of her wet hair between his fingertips, his eyes twinkling with mischief.
“My Sam,” he grinned, “always so tough.”
Sam thrilled at his nearness then gently pushed him away.
“Qi,” she whispered, “it’s been far too long.”
Qi leaned against a tree and studied her, contemplating the many possible meanings of her words, knowing their use was intentional.
“A day away from you is too long,” he replied.
Sam said nothing and for a moment they simply allowed their eyes to roam over one another in ways they would never allow their hands or hearts to do.
The day Sam spied Qi, as he stood with Maya and Philip, laughing softly so she could not hear the sound but could see the mirth in his eyes, she sensed she knew him, intimately so, from another lifetime, deep in her soul. Maya had grabbed her hand and insisted she meet their friend.
Before the wizard relayed Sam’s name to Qi, he knew her, everything about her shook him to his core and rendered him speechless. It was as if Anastasia had risen from the dead and returned to his side.
But that was years ago, Sam was already married and Qi was a Ramyan. Life predetermined their separate fates.
There existed those precious moments in the timeline of their history.
A first kiss, inescapable, tentative, just a taste.
A hand resting on a back, guiding, innocent.
A glance across a crowded room, finding one another without realizing they were searching.
Another kiss, deeper, more profound.
A night wrapped around one another.
And then years of silence.
Years of leading The Academy.
Building a palace.
One goal uniting them when nothing else could.
“What did you do to Wyatt?”
Sam laughed, not amused at all.
“He is not the same,” Sam replied.
Qi paused before he spoke again, choosing his words carefully.
“Of course he is not the same. Your son died and endured a most brutal journey, one you can never begin to understand. And then, he had to deal with the likes of me. It was not pleasant.”
Sam rolled her eyes.
“He had her.”
“Only with my urging,” Qi countered, “otherwise, he did not have her at all.”
“He had her the minute they laid eyes on each other,” Sam insisted.
“In his previous life, yes,” Qi agreed, “but in this new life, this lonely life of the Ramyan, no, he did not have her for she, too, is new at all of this business of living and dying and rebirth. His eyes startled.”
“What does that mean? They startled?” Sam asked, a hint of annoyance in her voice, “green eyes or blue, it’s plain as day that is Wyatt.”
“So says the mother.”
“Do not throw that nonsense at me,” Sam replied, “my giving birth to him is irrelevant.”
“Your giving birth to him is the only thing that matters. It is the only reason we are here after all this time.”
Sam crossed her arms and paced, knowing Qi was right, incapable of admitting it. For to do so meant admitting to so much more. She glanced at him from the corner of her eye, wondering what was going through his mind, seeing her after all this time. Did he even care?
“I will kill her nonetheless,” Sam growled.
Qi tossed his head back and laughed heartily, amused by Sam’s rarely-seen maternal streak.
“You will do no such thing,” he growled right back at her, “for I, too, was stunned by his appearance, hardly expecting him to return so oddly changed. More importantly, she has come around. They are more tied to one another than ever before. Fully devoted to the other’s needs and desires.”
Those words did little to calm Sam.
“That was hardly the plan,” Sam replied.
“The plan has evidently changed since we all decided to put this into motion,” Qi stated, his tone matter-of-fact.
“We decided to set the stage for a revolution, not a love match,” Sam hissed, “I am fully aware they are devoted to each other, more so than before. It is precisely why I am here. I want to know what you did to him, to Wyatt, to make him like that. He is putty in her hands.”
Without her having to say it, Qi knew what troubled Sam so about Wyatt, what irked her, and drove her to reach for him after so much time, and so much living, had passed between them. It was not anger, despite her furrowed brow and storm-tossed eyes, it was something quite the opposite. Something sad and perhaps just a little bitter.
And Qi knew to tread lightly.
“I spent time with him, Sam. He is not soft, even with her,” Qi explained, his tone gentle, “And you should not worry for even though he is tied to her, Dev is equally absorbed by anything and everything about Wyatt. It is a mutual love, shared in the deepest reaches of their souls.”
“It is a sick obsession that will only get in the way of our ultimate goal,” Sam spat, the small vein in her forehead pulsating as her temper flashed.
“Then so be it,” Qi said.
Sam stopped pacing and for the first time since Qi stepped into her line of vision, she studied him, wanting to do so with her fingertips, not daring to be so bold.
His weathered, brown skin and the laugh lines around his dark eyes made her ache with a lifetimes-old yearning, a need she could neither understand nor control. His calm in the face of her bluster angered her, made her wish to lash out and hurt him, inflict bodily harm in some manner. His mere presence brutalized her in ways she did not expect, could not foresee; he made her feel unmoored and adrift.
Qi sensed her conflict and pain and desired nothing more than to pull her into his arms and soothe her soul, but he knew such intimacy would only anger Sam, such were her moods and temper.
“So be it?” Sam finally asked, cutting through the silence enveloping them, her anger somewhat abated.
“Do not be angry their fate allows them to love one another,” Qi replied, ignoring her question, “and do not begrudge them their happiness. It is a balm for the road that lies ahead, some comfort from the tempest.”
Sam laughed, the sound ringing harshly in his ears.
“Spare me your emotional gibberish, Qi.”
“Oh, Sammy,” Qi stepped towards her and smiled, his eyes so sad, “please let down your guard, love.”
Sam instinctively stepped away from him, then changed course and gave in to a rare moment of recklessness, reaching out and touching Qi’s face, her fingertips tracing the hollow of his cheek and grazing his lips. Incredibly intimate and sensual.
And wholly inappropriate after so many years apart.
She moved to withdraw her hand, but Qi reached up and covered hers with his own, closing his eyes and leaning into her touch.
Sam gasped, but did not make to move away. Instead she stepped closer and allowed him to pull her into his embrace, Qi’s breath warm on her neck, his hands on her back, everything about him feeling so right.
And so very wrong.
Sam pushed herself away from him, then hesitated, leaning her head against his chest in frustration.
“It is not fair,” she whispered, feeling childish as the words left her lips.
Qi smiled, running his hands over her hair and kissing the top of her head.
“It never is,” he replied, “ at least for us. For them, it shall be different, of this I am certain.”
“I do not care about them,” she pouted, wearing her emotions on her sleeve.
Qi smiled sadly, kissed Sam again and continued.
“You and I are complicated. Life has intruded upon our journey together in ways that are both painful and extraordinary. We are an impossibility, an ideal. But Dev and Wyatt, they are something quite different and wholly fantastic.
“I laugh when I think to myself how badly we wanted Jools to fulfill the prophecy, how desperate we were for that to be true. For Wyatt is a greater embodiment of what this battle requires than any of us could have envisioned. He is calm, compassionate, and inquisitive. He is a brilliant warrior and his utter devotion to Dev will see us through the darkness that lies ahead.
“Their love is necessary for us to survive,” Qi whispered, “without it, there is no hope.”
“I hate them,” Sam insisted.
Qi laughed and hugged her to him. She closed her eyes and sank into his chest, allowing the vibrations of his amusement to flow through her. It did not compare to lying naked in his arms, but it was better than the many years of living without his touch, without his laughter.
Sam allowed herself a minute more in his arms, then pushed away and studied him for a moment.
“I see Ramyan don’t age,” she noted.
“It seems only fair after the journey we must endure,” he countered.
Sam rolled her eyes. She found Qi to be so melodramatic at times.
“Wyatt endured the same?” she asked.
Qi ran his fingers through her hair, pushing it behind her ears, as she had worn it the day they met. Sam closed her eyes and Qi smiled. She was so beautiful. Harsh, but stunning. The planes and hollows of her face so pronounced, the fullness of her lips sharply contrasting the angles of her cheeks. Against his better judgment, he leaned close and inhaled her scent, the essence that he carried with him from many lifetimes ago.
“I cannot speak to Wyatt’s journey,” Qi breathed against the nape of her neck, swearing he could hear Sam’s breath catch, “I can only speak to mine and it was horrid.”
“He returned for Dev,” Sam whispered, the note of bitterness hiding just beneath the surface.
“As I did for you,” Qi replied.
“Dev and I are nothing alike,” Sam spat, “and I am not Anastasia. I do not belong to you.”
Qi immediately released Sam.
He did not need her to say it; he knew he had gone too far, stepped over an invisible line she drew between them years ago. When she chose Josiah and her unborn son over him, a decision he would never hold against her, but that hurt nonetheless.
“Of course you do not. I would never want you to.”
Sam glared at him.
Qi touched her cheek and she swatted him away.
“Do not play any Ramyan games with me,” she sneered, “I do not want to be calmed.”
“I would never,” he defended.
“You might not intend it, but it will happen anyway. It’s in your touch. Everything about it soothes me. And I do not want to be soothed by you,” she explained, so frustrated, with herself and her situation.
Qi sensed her struggle, her desires pulling her in very different directions, confounding her.
“Sammy, let me make this easy for you. Just tell me what you want, why you called me here, and I will answer your questions and leave,” he promised.
Sam ran her hands over her hair, not knowing what to do with herself. Why did she call him after so much time? Why did she suddenly need to see him?
“I simply want to know about Wyatt,” she lied.
Qi shook his head.
“Please do not lie to me, love. As much as you try, and often succeed at playing the doting, devoted mother, fooling even your own children, it’s never been about Wyatt for you,” Qi replied, “but I will humor you. Wyatt will be fine. He has Dev and together they are quite formidable. I fear there is little they cannot accomplish and only hope, when this is all said and done, they can both forgive me for the games I have played with their lives.”
Sam sat on a fallen log and looked up at Qi.
“So it all comes back to love, does it?”
“That is a question for the gods. Only they know the path they’ve created for Dev and Wyatt,” Qi said, “I am merely their tool, forcing lives together that were so very determined to remain apart.”
“You could easily be speaking about us right now,” she whispered.
“Whoever said I am not?”
Sam shook her head, a gesture filled with sadness and resignation.
“I should not have called you,” she spoke after several, long minutes of silence, “for that I am sorry. But I cannot help wondering if the Gods have chosen wisely in Wyatt. I watched him say goodbye to Josiah and had to turn away from the sight. It offended every warrior sensibility in my body, so fraught with emotion are those two.”
Qi sat down next to Sam, maintaining a healthy distance from her, resting his elbows on his knees and looking straight ahead, lest he become too caught up in the sight of her.
“Do not let your jealous nature cloud your judgment,” he warned.
“I am not jealous of them,” she insisted.
“You are, and that is fine. Theirs is a bond you could never understand, so unique and rare. Josiah has watched over Wyatt for many lifetimes, long before you were ever even a thought. His every concern, hope, and desire is for the care of Wyatt. And now, finally, his aged soul will get some well-deserved rest.”
Sam’s head whipped around upon hearing those words.
“You have seen him…there?” she asked, unable to say the words on the tip of her tongue.
“I have not seen him among the dead,” Qi assured her, “but he has completed his task and will be rewarded.”
“Stop speaking in Ramyan riddles,” Sam slapped her thighs in irritation, “and for the love of the gods, look at me.”
Rather than oblige another of her demands, Qi rose to depart. He could only take so much of her tumultuous mood before he succumbed to her energy. The last thing he wished or desired was to shout at her as she did him.
Sam watched him rise and walk away from her, towards the woods. He could disappear any second, as was his way. She could not allow him to do so with this image of her seared into his memory.
“Qi!” she called after him, “please.”
He stopped but he did not turn back to her.
Sam approached Qi quietly, noting the tension he held in his arms and neck, immediately softening with the realization that this meeting was as difficult for him as it was for her. She came around so they were face-to-face and he had to look at her, witness her remorse.
“I am sorry.”
Qi closed his eyes and nodded.
“Please say something. Do not answer me with your stoic silence,” she paused, “as you did before.”
She caught his attention with that statement and he shot her a surprised look, but remained silent.
Such a small word holding a tremendous amount of meaning.
Before was when she chose Josiah.
Before was when he said nothing.
Before was when he let her slip through his fingers.
“I had no choice,” he finally replied.
“We all have choices, Qi,” Sam countered, “I made a choice that day, as did you. And never once did you try to make me yours.”
“You have been mine longer than you know.”
“Not in this body, with these needs and desires,” Sam replied.
Qi glanced at her for a moment, but only a moment, knowing to do so any longer would be disastrous.
“Our needs and desires no longer matter, Sammy,” Qi stated, hoping her pet name would blunt the sharp truth to his words, “I did then what was necessary.”
“Why did you let me go?” Sam asked the question that had plagued her for years, “why didn’t you fight for me?”
Qi closed his eyes to the pain in her voice, to the knowledge that she had questioned his love for years.
“It was not that simple,” Qi said.
“It was. You never even said you love me, nothing,” Sam whispered, “you just closed your eyes, nodded and disappeared. Poof! Just like that.”
“You must trust me when I say, nothing about you is just like that.”
“Then please, if you love me,” Sam touched his chin, turning him to her, “explain yourself. Because that moment, more than any other, has haunted me and will continue to do so.”
Qi removed her hand from his face, holding it in his own so she could not touch him again.
“You will survive,” he replied.
“I know that. It’s what I’ve been doing all these years. But that is no longer enough. Just help me understand,” she pleaded, “you do not have to love me, but allow my soul to rest without longing for you. Cut whatever tie exists between us and let me go.”
He often wondered if this day would come to pass, when she would ask him to release her. He told himself he would oblige any wish of hers he could fulfill, no matter the cost, but considering such an occurrence in the abstract was wholly different from its reality. Could he lie to her and tell her what she needed to hear to be free of him? And if he did, could he continue without her?
“I could not do that to Josiah,” he said, choosing to speak the truth.
Sam stared at Qi for a moment, wondering whether she heard him correctly, and then laughed at his ludicrous proclamation.
“You cannot be serious. You don’t even know him,” she stated, then wondered aloud, “what is this? Some kind of male loyalty thing?”
“You are forgetting, we have been plotting this coup together for quite some time. I do know Josiah.”
“Not like you know me!” she exclaimed.
“Just like I know you!” he retorted.
Sam shrank back from Qi, wanting him to take back his words, make them irrelevant.
“As you have been my love for many lifetimes, he has been my friend,” Qi explained as Sam shook her head in disbelief.
“No,” she whispered.
“Yes,” he insisted, “in another lifetime, Josiah and I fought side by side, laughed and learned. He was closer to me than many, save for yourself.”
“No,” she insisted.
“Then you were killed and I died and soon afterwards, the gods called him home as well. And as you can plainly see, we were all sent back to do their bidding. Your journey has been markedly different from ours as it took quite some time for our paths to cross again. But Josiah and I have known one another for eons.”
“Why didn’t you tell me this before?”
“We have journeyed together, preparing for this moment for some time, he and I,” Qi continued, ignoring both her question and her gaze, “Josiah has protected Wyatt for longer than I can imagine, never revealing to me his intentions, or his purpose. But as soon as I met Wyatt, I knew.”
“You knew what?” Sam hissed, “you knew nothing besides the fact you had a dead warrior on your hands.”
“I knew right away Wyatt was hers. That Wyatt was who we had been waiting for, all this time.”
“No,” Sam disagreed, “we were waiting for her.”
“We made her,” Qi corrected, “we were waiting for him.”
Sam stared at Qi for a moment, started to say something, changed her mind and stood. She took a few steps then turned back, only to find Qi standing as well, looking as if he was preparing to depart.
“Are you leaving?” she asked, failing to hide her surprise.
She did not know anymore.
“I came here because of this insatiable need to be near you; I’ve fought it time and time again. And then Wyatt showed up and he and Josiah share this profound bond and Dev pops on the scene and so easily becomes part of that energy. And I’m left with nothing but this plot to save some rotten institution so I can pass it along to Jools,” Sam blurted in frustration, knowing she sounded ridiculous, but unable to stop herself, “it is all too much.”
“It is only the beginning.”
Qi’s words and tone quieted Sam as she contemplated him, wishing for once in his centuries-long life, he would claim her. That this time he would not be so damn good.
But then he would not be Qi.
She turned away from him, not wanting him to see the devastation in her face, or the desperation in her eyes.
“And now that Josiah has completed his journey, am I free to love you?”
Qi stood and watched her in silence. Despite her back being to him, he could still make out the determined hold of her shoulders and the proud tilt of her chin. Aspects of her being he had loved many lifetimes ago, elements of herself she never shed.
Without a sound, he came to stand behind her, allowing her scent to wash over him, that fresh smell of grass and verbena. Qi closed his eyes and wrapped his arms around Sam’s waist, pulling her close, nuzzling her neck, and for the briefest of moments he pretended only he ever mattered.
Then just as quickly, he reclaimed himself and his place in the universe, and released her.
“You were always free to love me,” Qi replied, “you simply chose not to.”
Sam spun around, Qi’s words cutting to her core. Disbelief and anger clouded her features as she readied to defend herself and argue her reasons for choosing Josiah and Wyatt, for choosing The Hybrid and the prophecy: creating The Hybrid was the only way to bring about the prophecy, their goal for all of these many lifetimes.
She had little choice in the matter.
But she was very much alone.
As once before, without a word or warning, Qi was gone.
Hope you enjoyed that little tease. There’s more Qi and Sam later, when things have really gone to shit and all hope is lost and bleak doesn’t begin to describe it – they come back around. Together or apart? I will never tell. You’ll just have to grab the book for that piece of info.