May 7, 2010

Artwork by Morris Minor (1954) Enhanced by Lauren T. Hart

Gus returned with flowers the next day, only to find Anna worse off than she'd been the day before. David had thought of an ingenious plan to help her heal faster using magnets to pull the tiny shards of metal to the surface faster. It did make the bleeding and bruising and pain worse in the short term, but it was worth it after all, as she had completely healed by the next afternoon.

She had to feign injury when Gus came around a couple days later with cherry ice cream and a head full of stories. She reclined comfortably on the sofa while he recounted the likes of Shakespeare, Keats, and Tennyson.

His next visit was on the same day new Familiars had arrived from Scotland, Mary Morgan and her twelve-year-old daughter, Judy.

While Anna had accepted the fact that she had been using someone else's room, she was not about to accept the idea of having to return to the plush and ornate suite designated for the Elite.

Gus arrived mid argument.

"Anna, be reasonable."

"I'm being very reasonable." Anna countered. "You're the one being unreasonable."

"And if Jonas were to visit, what then? What would he say? What would he think?"

"Now you're just being stupid."

"Pardon me Miss," Mary said, coming to stop on the landing. "There's a gentleman here to see you."

"This is not up for discussion David." Anna turned and took two steps past Mary to see Gus standing at the bottom of the stairs.

"Are you daft? Or are you trying to get yourself killed?" Mary scolded David under her breath.

Killed? Anna held up her finger to Gus and turned back to protest Mary's assertion just in time to see Mary smack David on the side of the head.

David looked annoyed but unfazed.

"Mrs. Morgan." Anna scolded.

"I beg your pardon My Lady, I know he means well but he's still got a lot to learn. Judy and I will have your room all made up for you before tea. My work on this one may take a little longer." Mary offered a curt smile, while motioning to David with a tilt of her head.

"You're head of this house David. Lead by learning," Anna said softly.

"Is everything alright?" Gus asked when she reached the bottom of the stairs.

Anna let out a breath of air as she nodded.

"I hope you and your brother aren't at odds because of me, because of... us."

Anna ran her hand down Gus's arm and took hold of his hand. "Actually, he thinks you're quite good for me."

"Good." Gus smiled at her hand in his.

A sharp thud from the direction of the study caused them both to turn. "Oops. No harm done," called a young voice. "All's well."

Anna smiled and shook her head. "Maybe I've just lived alone for too long," she sighed.

Gus suppressed a smile. "Feeling up for a drive?"

"Yes," Anna said. "I would love that. I'll just grab a sweater."

"I'll be happy to get it for you Miss," Judy said appearing suddenly from the study.

Anna nodded. Judy raced up the stairs at full speed.

"Judy and her mother, Mrs. Morgan just started today," Anna explained. "I'm afraid it's been a bit of a bumpy start but I'm sure things will settle soon enough and it will be nice to have the help."

Gus held the door for her on his grey 1954 Morris Minor, with red interior. Anna was happy to be out of the house and hadn't thought to ask were they were going until she realized the scenery had begun to repeat and wondered if they might be lost.

"You looked like you could use an escape." Gus offered. "I was hoping someplace would come to mind before it became obvious that I was driving in circles."

"Pull over just here," Anna suggested.

Gus pulled the car to a stop in front of a bookstore. "What's this place?" he asked.

"No idea," Anna said.

"Life is nothing if not an adventure. Is that it?" Gus smiled at her.

"Come on then," Anna said as she opened her door, "Let's explore."

Books lined the walls floor to ceiling, were stacked on rows of shelves and piled on tabletops. "Something I can help you find?" asked the shopkeeper.

"Just browsing," Gus informed.

They strolled slowly through the throng of books. Occasionally Gus would pull one of the books and give her a brief summary and more often a review. His voice trailed suddenly while they were deep within the trenches of the history section, near the back of the store. "Forgive me," he turned to her. "It must be very boring for you to listen to me prattle on like this."

"Not at all." Anna said, "I find your voice quite soothing. I imagine it must lull some of your students right off to sleep."

Gus chuckled. "From time to time," he admitted.

She took a step close to him.

"Anna," he said, sounding suddenly unsure.

He may have been uncertain, but she knew what she wanted. As she moved to kiss him he put his hands firmly on her shoulders and stepped backward, holding her firmly at arms length. His expression hinted at confusion or maybe it was pain, either way Anna couldn't escape the feeling she'd just made a huge mistake.

Gus took off his glasses and contemplated her with his unusually dark blue eyes.

"I... I've offended you," she said, realizing.

"No," he said quickly. "It just that... I don't know if this - if I..." he stepped close to her and took her hand in his, eyeing it carefully as he ran his thumb over the back of her hand. He reached his other hand toward her waist, but stopped and took hold of her other hand. "I want to know you, Anna, but I don't want to... hurt you."

Anna smiled. "I appreciate that quality in a man, but I'm tougher than I look."

She stepped close to him, pulling his hands behind her back. It was the closest they'd ever been. She could smell a faint hint of peanut butter on his breath, ivory soap and fresh starch on his shirt. Underneath it all was his own scent, a warm, woodsy musk that hinted at a deep passion, just beneath his well-mannered and modest exterior.

He searched her face in earnest. "This could be very dangerous, you and I."

"It could be very wonderful too," she replied.

Slowly he gave in and kissed her. It was a reluctant and timid kiss, but the sweet and savory taste of his lips was more than enough to make up for his reservations.

"I should take you home," he stammered returning his glasses to his face.

"To your home," she suggested.

"I... don't know if that's such a good idea," he cleared his throat and pulled away from her.

"If you don't want to." Anna said, busying herself with a convenient book. "I'm not ready to return to the fun-house just yet, but if you need to go, go. I don't want to keep you if you have somewhere else you'd rather be."

"That's not fair, Anna."

"I'm not trying to be fair, Gus."

"There's a lot to be considered here Anna. You couldn't possibly understand."

"What are you so afraid of?" She turned toward him.

"We've got time Anna. Can we just take this slow?"

He was right of course; she had all the time in the world. She wondered what that meant in mortal time. Weeks? Months? Years? "Answer me some things, honestly," she said.

He nodded. "All right."

"Is it a matter of religious beliefs? Or virtues?"

"I follow no religion, and while morality and ethics are important to me, I'm neither a moralist nor a prude."

"You are interested in women aren't you?"

A smile crept across his face.

"I won't think badly of you if you aren't," she said quickly. "And I would still very much like to be your friend. But if this is all just a put-on, well..."

"That's very understanding of you." He brushed a strand of hair behind her ear then cradled her cheek in his palm. "I assure you that my amorous pursuits are indeed for women."

"Mmm" Anna scowled. "Would you be willing to prove that?"

Gus eyed her for a moment, his jaw tight. "It's not that I haven't thought about us, I have. You are very lovely and I care for you a great deal but there is much that needs to be taken into account before even considering such a proposition. Besides, I believe that some things are worth waiting for."

"I'm not asking for a June wedding and a diamond ring, Gus." Anna countered. "All I wanted was a kiss. How else are we to know if all this waiting will be worth it in the end?"

"Just a kiss," Gus said.

She nodded.

"Just a kiss," he repeated. "Just me... kissing you." He sighed then pressed his lips gently against hers.

"Mmm," she moaned unimpressed.

And then the oddest thing happened. His dull and lifeless kiss erupted with passion, with conviction with emotion and desire that she could almost taste. It was far from average, by a thousand times over, and left her breathless and just a little lightheaded.

"If we are meant to be, I promise you the wait will be well worth it," he whispered softly.

"Yes," she agreed.


Chapter 19 - Meant To Be

(c) copyright 2010-2016 Lauren T. Hart