Work in progress
“What’s your deal, Levi?” Tristan asked, stretching his crossed legs in front of him and his arms over his head as he reclined in the leather armchair. Levi raised an eyebrow in question as he gazed around the room. It was decorated much too ‘old world’ for his taste. He liked his simple and rustic cottage in the woods. He didn’t need much in the way of luxury and he would trade any of it for the privacy that his isolated location offered him.
“What do you mean?” he asked. He sat perched on the edge of a matching chair, elbows resting on his knees and hands clasped between them. His eyes fell on Tristan. He was a hard man to read. Tall and broad with blonde hair that he kept cut short and cold blue eyes.
“You’re distracted.” Well he couldn’t deny that, all he was really thinking about was getting back to Aurelia and making sure she was alright. What was wrong with him? One day and he could hardly recognize himself.
“I’m a busy man,” he said, only half joking, “Can we get to the point?”
“Fine,” Tristan said, brusquely, “I have a job for you.” Levi frowned, he didn’t want a job for Tristan right now. Jobs for Tristan meant bloodshed, usually by him. He needed to lay low until Ellie was well enough to leave, then he could get back to his usually ways.
“I can’t,” he shook his head, knowing Tristan wouldn’t like his answer, “Not right now. Maybe in a week or 2.” Tristan’s answering frown was angry.
“This isn’t an optional job, Levi. Do it or become one,” he snapped. Levi narrowed his eyes.
“I’ve been loyal to you for decades, Tristan. This is the first time I have ever told you no. You can give me this.” Tristan pursed his lips, thinking, then shook his head.
“No, I can’t. I need it done and it has to be you. “
“Why?” Levi growled.
“Because I can put my trust in you. The vampires think I am unaware of their tactics, that before long they will control the city and then they can face me on even footing. They’re wrong. I need you to show them that.”
“You want me to take out Marius,” Levi stated. Tristan nodded slowly and Levi heaved a sigh. This was Tristan’s usual way of dealing with enemies, assassination.
“The Lycan are massing, they know the vampires are doing the same. why not let them fight it out and then claim the city when they decimate each other?” Levi asked. Tristan met his gaze with a level look, a sick sort of smile tugging at the corner of his chiseled lips. Levi sighed again. He knew this man too well.
“You don’t really think the Vampires will turn to you just because you take out Marius? He’s not their only leader and you’re not even a vampire.”
“No,” Tristan said evenly, “I’m not. I am, in fact, one better these days.” Levi froze. His stomach seemed to sink slowly. He suspected he knew what that meant and it wasn’t good.
He had been involved in these games of power and murder for far too long, he didn’t want to play anymore. But once you were in, you were trapped in, when it came to Tristan. Almost 50 years ago now, Tristan had saved Levi’s life. He had served him ever since, the debt had no end.
Levi remembered it well. He had been captured by Selina; a strange woman, even for a sorceress, which he unfortunately hadn’t recognized at the time. She liked to experiment on whatever creatures she could get her hands on, so when a foolish and drunken shape shifter had stumbled into her bar she took advantage. After a century of life he had given up trying to find any meaning to it and was simply drinking his days away. Everyone he had loved was long dead and the curse of what he was felt like a sentence he could not escape. Selina had kept him prisoner for months, alternately lavishing him with affection and luxuries, and treating him like a lab rat as she tortured him with procedures and potions. He only remembered about half of the experience but that was more than enough. Tristan had heard rumors that Salina had a shapeshifter and broken in to free him, bringing Selina’s wrath down on his own head. He had the scars to remind him of that rescue.
“What have you done, Tristan?” he asked, quietly. Tristan’s answering smile was sinister. He lifted a hand, twisting his fingers before his face and small ball of red fire appeared to hover in the air before him. Levi gulped. Warlock powers.
“Selina was willing to trade just about anything for her life,” Tristan told him absently, twirling his fingers and watching the fire dance in the dim room. “She realized her mistake, I think. But not soon enough to stop it.”
“Where is Selina now?” Levi asked, trying to keep his voice even. She was a powerful sorceress and if she was out for revenge on Tristan there was a good chance Levi was going to end up tangled up this as well. He needed to get Ellie away from him as soon as possible.
“Wandering the land, powerless,” Tristan replied, with a grin, “She’s no longer a threat.” Levi doubted that was true but didn’t say so.
“So which Lycan leader are you going to remove?” he asked him and Tristan’s answering smile was pleased, he had known Levi would figure out his plan.
“Amos,” he said with a shrug. Levi cursed and Tristan laughed.
“Well you can rope someone else in to that job, I am not keen on suicide missions,” he snapped. Tristan laughed again.
“Give it time my friend and the right opportunity will arise, and then you can pounce. It will, of course, be you. I wouldn’t trust anyone else with such an important part of my plan.” And then the city would be under Tristan’s control. It would just be a matter of joining packs and clans to expand his territory. It was ambitious, but it would probably succeed. Levi felt sick thinking about it.
“I need to go,” he stood, “When do you want it done?”
“2 nights from now,” Tristan answered, “He’s having a party. His security will be occupied with all the guests. I’d like you to make sure he doesn’t show up. Good opportunity to make a show of it, I thought.”
Levi didn’t want to make a show of it. He wanted to hide out at the cabin with Ellie and never see or hear of any of these people again. This was his life though, the path he had been following for many years and walking away would not be easy. He probably wouldn’t survive the attempt.
He nodded and walked out.
Levi didn’t keep a lot of food in the house, preferring to hunt in the form of a wolf or predatory bird. He cooked occasionally, when the activity took his fancy and he felt like acting like some kind of normal human. He stared at the fridge, now significantly better stocked and wondered what she actually like to eat. Did she like to cook? He shrugged to himself. He was doing his best. He wasn’t exactly used to having company. He never brought people here to the cabin. On rare occasions Tristan showed up, but he much preferred to summon Levi to him. He had never brought a woman here. any women he was involved with were one night only, somewhere in the city. There was no romance involved and nothing that stretched beyond a bit of fun in bed. It was sex for the sake of sex, he had no feelings for them. When he was young, nearly a century and half ago, he had loved a girl. They had grown up together and he had thought they would be together all their lives. Then he had changed. He had never meant to hurt her but he couldn’t control it in the early days and he couldn’t blame her for getting as far away from him as possible after the incident. He had never even considered being with anyone since. He couldn’t consider it now. His life was not one he should share and Ellie would not be safe if she stayed involved with him. There was nothing more to it.
He tried to move quietly down the hall in case she was asleep. When he stepped into the doorway of the bedroom her eyes snapped open, immediately alert.
“It’s OK, just me,” he tried to smile at her but his meeting with Tristan was still playing on his mind. He had been gone most of the day and the sun was low in the sky. Something was clearly on her mind also, her smile was strained. He looked out the window a moment and thought. There was no one around, he had scouted the area on his way back.
“How about some fresh air?” he suggested and her expression brightened slightly, “Are you up for sitting outside for a bit?”
“Yes, please,” her voice was hoarse.
“Can you stand?” She nodded at him, and pushed herself up from bed. He offered an arm for support and she took it, hobbling beside him as he led her down the hall and through a large space that served as his kitchen and living room. She looked around her, clearly interested.
“And that’s it,” he told her with a light laugh, “Now you’ve seen the whole place.” She smiled.
“It’s nice,” she said, “Simple, peaceful. I’d like it here.” There was something wistful in her voice and he wondered if it had anything to do with him, or simply a longing for peace. Don’t be stupid, he scolded himself, she probably can’t wait to get out of here. He pushed open the only door outside in the place and led her onto a wide porch. Her smile widened as she sank into one of the two wicker chairs that sat there.
“Pretty,” she muttered. He agreed and sat down beside her. The silence stretched between them but it was comfortable, companionable. He couldn’t remember ever feeling so at ease with someone else around. She would be a good teacher, he thought, he imagined she was patient and kind. There was a playfulness in her personality, even when she was so unwell, that made him sure she would make learning fun for children. She would be good with children. She probably wanted to have some someday. He shook his head slightly. He must be losing his mind, thinking about children and what she might want. It didn’t matter, she was leaving and he could never give her a family or any kind of happy future.
Ellie watched the woods around her, spotting the movement of small animals here and there. She wondered what Levi was thinking. His lips were tight, he was clearly stressed. There was no reason he should confide anything in her but, oddly, she wished he would. she knew she couldn’t stay here much longer, she needed to leave and let him carry on with his life without her in the way. She needed to get her things from the room she had rented and move on, before Wyatt tracked her again. He was in her nightmares, as usual, even though she was confident he wouldn’t find her here. It made her reluctant to leave, knowing she was out of his reach but unsure how far behind her he might be. As she kept moving from place to place she wondered if he would ever give up. She had thought, as months and then years passed, that he would get tired of chasing her. Could she really be that important to him? He didn’t love her, or care for her. He had abused and tortured her and she didn’t expect to ever know why. The moment she stepped back out into the world she would be on the run again and she dreaded it. That was all that her life had become, running.
“Don’t you have anyone who will worry where you are?” he asked, suddenly, “I mean, won’t someone notice that you haven’t come home?” These were the questions that she didn’t want to answer. She took a long, slow breath.
“Do you live in the city?”
“No,” she said again, keeping her eyes on the trees, “I’m just passing through.”
“Where were you staying?”
“Whiteking St,” she told him, knowing he would know exactly what kind of area it was. From the corner of her eye, she saw his eyebrows rise. It was a rough neighborhood, on the other side of the city from the even rougher neighborhood that he had found her in. only locals who were up to no good should have been anywhere near where she was. What on earth could she have been looking for there?
“So what were you doing wandering around alone in the middle of the night?” his tone was somehow both concerned, and accusatory.
“I got lost,” she said on a sigh.
“You got lost in the middle of the night?” he sounded almost angry.
“No, I got lost a few hours earlier.”
“Then why the fuck didn’t you ask for directions or something?” he snapped.
“Hey!” she admonished, her head whipping around, affronted at the way he spoke to her.
“Sorry,” his voice lowered and he closed his eyes for a moment, trying to control the anger he felt at the way she had got herself into so much trouble. She would have died that night if he hadn’t been there, if he hadn’t intervened. The silence was tense this time and she broke it after a few long moments.
“I didn’t want to draw attention,” she said softly, wanting him to understand, “I was just trying to keep to myself.”
“The attention you did get almost killed you, Aurelia.”
“Yeah, I noticed,” her voice was wry.
“So you have things at the place in Whiteking St?” he asked. She glanced up, surprised.
“Um, yeah,” she replied, unsure where he was going, “Just a bag full, really.” He nodded, she obviously hadn’t planned on staying long.
“I’ll go and get it for you,” he told her, “I don’t want you to go back into the city.” She felt like she should protest at being told what to do, but she didn’t actually want to go back into the city. She simply nodded and they returned to silence. As the light faded and the sound of crickets rose in volume, Levi stood. Holding a hand out to her.
“Come on, I’ll make you something to eat. You must be hungry be now,” it wasn’t a question. She was a little hungry. She let him pull her up and lead her slowly inside, where he left her on the small couch in the living room.
“Is this what you have been sleeping on?” she asked, appalled. He laughed.
“I actually haven’t had much chance since you got here.”
“Oh. I’m s –“
“Do not say you’re sorry,” he cut her off and she laughed in response.
“Can I say thank you, then?” she asked.
“Sure. You’re welcome.” As he began pulling food out of the fridge he paused.
“Um, is there anything you don’t eat?” he asked. She blushed.
“Actually, meat,” she said, sounding guilty. She had picked around the chunks in the stew her gave her, hoping he wouldn’t notice.
“What? You don’t eat meat?” Why hadn’t she said anything yesterday when he gave her the stew? She shook her head.
“No. Sorry,” she said. He narrowed his eyes at her.
“For what?” he asked, shrugging.
“Being a pain in the ass?” she suggested.
“Ha! As if this is the start of it,” he teased. He felt strange, he didn’t think he was this easy going around anyone else he knew. She laughed. He really liked that sound.
They had eaten together and there was an ease to the atmosphere that warmed them both. For different reasons, and in different ways, they both lived in a kind of isolation. A lonely existence that neither was willing to let down their walls in order to change. Something had changed now, they found a kind of comfort, a degree of intimacy, with each other that they were both drawn to. It wouldn’t be enough, in the end. This was temporary, whatever feelings it elicited.
She lay back on the bed while her unwrapped the bandages again. He nodded, satisfied, as he viewed the bites. she was healing, which relieved them both. She would be well enough to leave within a few days. He wanted her to be out of the way when he got involved in starting a war with the vampires. She wanted to get moving before she wore out her welcome and try to get ahead of Wyatt, hoping he had lost her trail during her time in the woods. She decided to voice the idea.
“I will be right to get going soon,” she said, trying to keep her voice light, “Leave you in peace again.” His hands paused a moment before resuming their wrapping. He didn’t look at her.
“Yeah, you’re definitely on the mend,” there was something odd in his voice, she couldn’t tell what he was thinking.
“That’s a good thing, you know,” she prompted, teasingly, trying to lighten whatever kind of mood it was that had settled over him. He smiled, but he was still distracted, and she wondered what he had been doing when he left her.
“I know, you’ll be fine,” he frowned down at this hands, “Where do you live, Ellie?” She swallowed, uncertain what to say. She could lie, pick a random town far away and tell him that’s where she was from. But she didn’t want to lie to Levi. What would he think of her nomadic existence? She definitely didn’t want to tell him about Wyatt, she wasn’t sure why but felt as though his protective nature toward her would make him want to interfere there. That seemed like a bad idea, whatever the motivation.
“Um,” she hesitated, truth or lie, she had to decide. He waited for her answer.
“I don’t really live anywhere at the moment. I guess you could say I was in the process of moving.” He frowned, this was not the full story, he was sure.
“I see,” he said, “Moving with no idea where you’re going and no more than a bag of stuff?” His tone was one of clear disapproval. Ellie shrugged.
“I just needed a fresh start,” she said, keeping her voice light, “Bad break-up, you know, same old story. Just moving on to somewhere new.” Definitely not the full story, but he didn’t ask any further for now.
When he was finished he sat back in the chair by the bedside, kicking his shoes off and propping his feet on the edge of the bed. He tilted his head back, closing his eyes for a moment. The conversation with Tristan and what he now knew was to come had him on edge. He didn’t want Ellie to see his stress though, he didn’t want her to think that it had anything to do with her.
“What do you like to read?” she asked, out of the blue.
“What?” he asked, looking back at her. She was looking at the small stack of books on the bedside table.
“I noticed a pretty eclectic collection in your bookcase out there and I reckon books make up about three quarters of everything in this place,” she told him. He smiled; she was probably right.
“So what do you most like to read?”
He thought a moment before answering. Everything, anything. They talked about books, the conversation light and easy. They moved on to music, history, religion, politics, all of the topics you aren’t supposed to raise in polite company. She liked that he was intelligent and well read. He enjoyed her curiosity about the world. He had never talked so easily with anyone in his life. It was an odd feeling, a pleasure he hadn’t imagined or realized he was missing. She laughed a lot as they talked and the warmth that he felt around her seemed to grow in his chest until it was almost hard to breath.
The night wore on as they talked as though neither had a care in the world. As Levi began to blink heavily, his weariness showing, Ellie shuffled over on the bed and patted the space beside her. She knew it was a boundary she probably shouldn’t cross but she liked having him nearby and he was clearly exhausted.
“You sure?” he asked, carefully. She nodded and wriggled herself until she was under the blanket. Then nestled into the pillow and closed her eyes.
“Lie down and get some sleep,” she muttered, yawning. She felt the bed shift as he climbed on and got comfortable. He lay on top of the blanket, leaving it a barrier between them. The way he felt scared him, laying there beside her. Ellie kept her eyes closed, letting him think she was going to sleep but lay hyper aware of how close he was. She felt calm, safe, laying there beside him. She felt drawn to him, wanting to curl her body into his. But she lay still, keeping the distance between them and told herself to get a grip. Nothing could happen here and they both knew it.
Levi was woken by her frantic voice crying out. He turned toward her. Her head was tossing restlessly.
“Ellie,” he whispered, touching her shoulder. She woke with a gasp, her pale eyes wide as they stared at him in the moonlight.
“It’s OK, you’re OK,” he told her. She drew in a deep breath, and tried to let it out slowly, evenly. He brushed her hair back, stroking it softly. She calmed at his touch. His hand rested on the nape of her neck. Their eyes still locked, she lifted her hand and brushed his cheek with her finger tips and his heart beat faster at their closeness. With feather lightness, she ran her thumb over his bottom lip and he couldn’t help a short, sharp inhale. They lay that way for long moments, something tangible throbbing between them. Neither moved, nor spoke. Eventually, they both drifted back to sleep.
Her eyes flew open, confusion muddling her thoughts. Cabin in the woods, Levi, she was safe. She breathed a sigh of relief. Glancing over, she realized she was in the bed alone. Had she dreamed him lying beside her, hand outstretched during the night? The memory of it seemed far away and fuzzy after the dreams that followed. She always dreamed when she slept, almost always dreams of fear and dread. She didn’t wake feel refreshed or rested, except this morning. She stretched slowly, she still hurt but she could move more easily now. She felt better, in so many ways. She could hear a shower running across the hall. Shower, that would be amazing. She was embarrassingly aware of the fact that she had been wearing the same underwear for at least three days now and that the fear sweat that her soaked her clothes meant she must smell pretty awful.
She didn’t hear the water stop or the door creak open as she lay gazing out the window. Levi stood in the doorway. He knew he hadn’t dreamed of the way she touched him last night. She lay stretched in the bed, hair tossed about. He had a momentary insight to what it would be like to wake up by her each day and, much as he tried to shake the thought, it lingered. But he had only one more night before he had to murder a vampire leader at Tristan’s request and she could not be here by then. If the vampires came for vengeance her life would be at risk. If he copped the wrong end of the fight then he would never return and she would be stranded in this cabin in the woods. Tristan could never know about her, he would use her as leverage. Levi did not want her to ever see the side of him that was involved in that world, the side of him that was dark and cold. The side that knew death and thought little of it. She brought something else out in him that he had not known was there and he wanted that to be all she saw, for the brief time she was here. Tomorrow, he would have to take her as far away as he could, and say goodbye.
She turned her face toward him and his stomach clenched. How could he let her go?
“How you feeling?” he asked her. She smiled and stretched. His body reacted to the movements of her lean body and the content expression on her face and he gulped.
“Not bad, actually,” she murmured. Yes, he needed to get her out of here, before anything happened.
“Thought you might like a shower,” he told her.
“Oh God yes,” she moaned, sitting up, “Can’t imagine how nice I must smell by now with all your potions.” He chuckled.
“I’m going to go and get your stuff, so you have some clothes or whatever. Where were you staying?”
She hesitated, looking a little embarrassed. She knew the place she stayed had a reputation and she wasn’t sure what he would think of her choice. This almost meant giving more information that would make him suspicious of exactly what kind of life she was living before they met and she wasn’t sure she wanted to do that.
“Um, Redmayne,” she told him and he blinked, shocked. It was known for being cheap and full of shady people. Why the hell had she stayed there?”
“OK, do you have a key or something?” She shook her head in response, biting her lip, before sighing and answering him.
“You’ll have to collect it from the desk, it’s under the name, um,” she paused, “Sarah Smith.” For a long moment he said nothing.
“Is Aurelia really your name?” he asked, tone tense.
“Yes, honestly,” she answered, quickly, “I just, I didn’t want to use my name there. I didn’t want anyone to know I’d been there.” There, that was more than she wanted him to know but she didn’t want him to think she had lied to him.
“Are you hiding from someone, Aurelia?” he asked her, there was something dangerous in his voice and she wasn’t sure if it was directed at her or at whoever it was he thought might be threatening her. What could she say? She knew she need to leave him and soon, she needed to move on before Wyatt or his men found her and dragged Levi into something that had nothing to do with him. She didn’t want him to get hurt on her behalf. But would he let her go if he thought she was in danger? Why couldn’t she just lie to him like she did everyone else?
“It’s a long story,” she said finally, voice barely more than a whisper. She sat there, not looking at him, as he stood in the doorway. She could feel his eyes on her.
“Alright, I’ll be as quick as I can,” there was still an edge to his voice, “I left a towel in the bathroom. Take your time, the hot water should last. There’s coffee in the kitchen, make yourself at home.”
She looked up at him, blinking away tears that formed in her eyes. No one had taken care of her like this since she was 6 years old.
“Levi, thank you,” she put as much heartfelt gratitude as she could into her words. He smiled, then turned and left.
The shower felt amazing, despite the vicious sting of the water on her broken skin. The bites were showing signs of healing now and she was feeling more like herself. Sliding down the glass, she sat on the floor of the shower, head bent, for a long time. Where was she was going to go from here? She felt as though she had been on the run her whole life. She supposed she had been actually, from the time that her mother had died when she was 6. She had been dragged from place to place by her father, a harsh man who mostly ignored her as he struggled with his own demons. If he took any notice of her it was usually to yell, scream, curse or hit her. She had been afraid of him as long as she could remember. He had traded her when she was thirteen, for what she thought she would never know. Her life had been that of a captive, used and abused at Wyatt’s will. It was not a period she liked to reminisce. She had finally escaped from him when she was 17 and had thought she had found freedom, normality. It seemed an impossibility for someone like her. She had fallen in love, she had created a life, she had felt happiness. She should not have been surprised by the way that it came to an end. The years passed and she alternated wildly between regretting that time for the pain it had caused and relishing it for the window of joy it was in her life of fear and loneliness. It seemed now that she would never be able to stop running. That’s probably why this place, isolated in the woods, with Levi, was such a refuge that she wished never to leave. But she had to leave, and soon, before her resolve crumbled. Tomorrow, she would tell Levi that she needed to leave tomorrow.
The towel he had left her was huge, wrapping it under her arms it reached past her knees. She couldn’t bring herself to put dirty clothes on again now that she felt clean and decided to stay wearing only the towel. She lay on her stomach across the bed and picked up Little Women, losing herself in the plights of some of her favorite fictional characters. She felt a level of peace that had rarely come to her in her life as she lay reading with the morning light streaming through the window.
So relaxed in the setting and absorbed in the book, despite having read it many times before, she did not hear Levi come into the cabin. A kind of complacency had settled in and her usual alertness was dulled. Levi paused in the bedroom doorway. She lay with her back to him, feet dangling off the side of the bed and crossed at the ankles. She was wearing nothing but the towel he had left her and she lay on her front, propped on her elbows with the book open before her. His eyes followed the gentle curve of her back and her round behind, down her slender legs. They would be scarred now. Her hair fell in damp tangles around her naked shoulders and his palms itched with a desire to run them over the smooth skin he could see there. He had to stop wanting what he couldn’t have.
clearing his throat, he stepped into the room, depositing the large backpack he carried on the bed beside her. She looked up, surprised by his entrance. He fingered the tag on the bag as he put it down. ‘Amy Porter’ it read. When he had noticed it he had wondered how many different names this woman goes by, and why. Did she not tell him the truth because she didn’t trust him, or because she thought he would be disappointed by who she really is? He had kept plenty of truths from her and knew she would be disappointed in his past. In everything about him really.
“I don’t think I left anything behind,” he told her, “And no one else had come asking after you.”
“Oh,” she said, realizing what it meant that he had thought to check that. He obviously read her better than she thought. “Thank you.”
“I’ll let you get dressed,” he said with a nod, “Then come and eat something.” Turning he left the room. She swallowed, he seemed unhappy. She touched the tag on her bag. Another name. he would have seen it. She sighed. He would think she was lying to him. She couldn’t blame him if he didn’t trust her. She never used her real name anywhere she went. He was the first person she had told in years.
Pulling clothes from the bag, she dug her hand around inside until she found a battered make-up case. She almost never wore any, but that wasn’t really what this was for. Upending it onto the bedspread, a small collection of lipsticks, pencils, brushes and mascara fell out along with a number of coins. she pulled an eyeshadow palette, wedged awkwardly into the small case, out and opened it. She let out a small sigh of relief. This was her most valuable possession. Flicking open the lid, she carefully picked a chipped corner with her fingernail until the tray of colors lifted out. beneath it was a stack of money, pressed tightly into the thin space. It was all the money she had, hidden as thoroughly as she was able while on the move.
Putting the make-up case back together, she buried it back in the backpack and began rifling through her clothing. Jeans were her standard option but would be too uncomfortable with her still healing legs. She found clean clothes, dressed and stretched. She felt pretty good considering; clean, safe, healing. she wished it didn’t have to change. When she limped into the kitchen Levi looked up from his cooking. He blinked in surprise. She looked different with her hair pulled back, older and somehow even more elven than when he had first seen her. She would move gracefully, he thought, when she wasn’t nursing injuries.
“Feeling better?” he asked, tipping the steaming eggs onto two plates. He enjoyed eating this kind of food, when he could be bothered cooking, but hunting in his wolf form always gave him the most strength. He would need that for tomorrow night. Perhaps he could sneak out tonight when she was still asleep. He didn’t really want her wondering what he was up to in the woods in the middle of the night.
“Oh so much better,” she declared with a grin. “Um, Levi?”
“Thank you,” she said, softly, “For everything you’ve done for me.”
“You’re welcome,” he told her, his tone full of warmth. He almost didn’t recognize it himself. Ellie thought nothing of it; she saw him as warm, warm and safe.
“Um,” she hesitated, unsure how to bring up her next query, “Well…I –“
“I know, Ellie,” he interrupted. He smiled gently at her. “Tomorrow I’ll drive you to Weston. You can go anywhere you want from there.”
“Weston?!” she cried, shocked, “How long will it take us to get to Weston?” Unless she was much mistaken, Weston was close to 7 hours drive from Vici City. It would take him the entire day to drive her there and come back.
“Hm, maybe 3 hours,” he mused, “Why? Weston’s no good?”
“Um, Weston is fine,” she stammered, “I, well, I thought it was much further than that from Vici.” He froze, his back still turned to her. If he told her the truth, that they were in fact further from Vici City than from Weston, then she would want to know how he had gotten there and back to retrieve her things so quickly. Then he would have to lie, or tell her what he was.
“I know the back roads,” he said, giving her a knowing smile. It was for her own good to keep the truth from her. He wouldn’t put her in anymore danger.
“That’s a lot of travelling for you,” she said, skeptically.
“Honestly, Ellie, I don’t mind. I’ll take you tomorrow.” He didn’t mind, it would mean hours spent close to her before he had to say a final goodbye.
“Oh, well if you’re sure, then thank you,” she said, nodding thoughtfully as she took a mouthful of eggs. Weston would do just fine. She wouldn’t be staying there of course, but it had a major bus terminal and she could easily go anywhere in the country from there. A couple of days, a couple of buses and a couple of switches, no one would be able to follow her. It was exactly what she needed.
She opened her mouth to speak, but the right words wouldn’t come. She wanted to tell him that she would miss him but knew that she shouldn’t. she wanted to tell him that she didn’t want to go but knew that she shouldn’t. She wanted to say something that would tell him how she felt for him, but she knew that she shouldn’t.
“What’s wrong, Ellie?” his voice was soft.
“Some things are better left unsaid, I guess,” she told him, sadly, hoping that he would understand. He did. Reaching across the space between them, he gently stroked her cheek. He said nothing. She was right, sometimes there were no words. Tomorrow she would be gone, and his life would go back to what it had been. When he had first brought her to the cabin he was wishing for that, now he didn’t relish the thought at all; especially with Tristan’s job hanging over his head like a dark cloud ready to break into violent storm.