– The Magus of the Tarot. Mayan, the Maker of Illusion. The Seer in Illusion – Lilith.1 –
“If they tell me I’m condemned, I won’t doubt it.
It’s of my own free will that I dive into the darkness that, with arms wide open, invites me in.
And, for your arms of ice around my trembling, naked body, condemning my Soul seems a small price to pay …”
That night it took me a very long time to fall asleep, my head too full to grant me a moment of peace.
I tried reading a book, like I used to do when I couldn’t sleep, but just couldn’t focus enough, ending up having to read the same sentences more than once. Inevitably, I hoped and waited for Gabriel’s return, constantly searching the air for his presence, but he never came back.
I tortured myself with questions, wondering where he’d gone or what he was doing after leaving like that. I feared he’d gone after Telane, and only the idea that Lea had gone after him left me a bit more at ease.
I finally ended up falling asleep, too tired to keep waiting any longer, and the dream where Michael was lying dead at my feet came back to torment me. I was sure that I’d be seeing the same nightmare the whole night, as it frequently happened with my recurring dreams, but suddenly the scene around me changed, and I was no longer sitting on that cold, hard floor.
I was outside, it was night, and it was raining. The cold made me shiver but even so I didn’t look for a place to take shelter. The icy cold water drenched my hair, dripping down my face, making me colder by the minute, and I opened a hand, allowing the drops of rain to slowly slide over my skin.
The cold rain touched my lips, almost as it was kissing me, and I closed my eyes as my blood slowly warmed, pushing the cold away.
I jumped suddenly awake and was immediately still, not knowing if I was really awake. But, as I looked into those eerily eyes gleaming in the darkness, my heart raced, stealing my breath away.
The tip of his fingers touched my lips again, sliding over my skin, and I knew that he’d been the one who’d save me from my nightmare, and that I’d been dreaming about him. And yet, I could very well still be dreaming, I mused, too dazed by his surreal appearance, certain that someone like him couldn’t possibly exist in the same world I did.
“I’m sorry I woke you,” he whispered and slightly pulled away, making me feel cold again at the loss of his touch. “I didn’t want to, but ... I just needed to make sure you could still look at me, that you wouldn’t reject me.”
My feelings were a mix of anger for his constant doubts and happiness that he’d come back; of desire for his touch, and pain for the pain in his voice.
In an impulse I pulled the quilt back and, as he watched me with a disturbed expression, crawled on my hands and knees across the bed, and sat on his lap. I grabbed the collar of his shirt and he was immediately stiff as if his muscles had turned into stone.
“Did you put the phone back?” I asked and he nodded, almost automatically. “And the hole in the wall?” His expression became darker as if the question had reminded him of something he’d rather forget. “If you still haven’t fixed it, do it in the morning.” I demanded, noticing he wasn’t going to answer, and dared touch the skin of his neck, ending up wrapping my arms around him.
“Mariane!” His warning tone made me aware of just how close our faces were and I faced him with a teasing smile.
“If you’re so afraid to break me, as if I were some porcelain doll, just be still,” I told him, almost touching his lips, and kissed him, giving way to my irresistible desire to feel the contrast between his cold lips and the warmth of his mouth against mine.
I tangled my fingers in his soft hair, the strange feeling making me shiver, and pressed my body against his, trying to provoke him, to draw a reaction out of him, any reaction, even if painful, as long as it showed me that he wanted me at least as much as I wanted him. And yet, no matter what I did, he remained that unfeeling, cold statue.
Gabriel sat still, allowing his lips to be dragged by mine as if he’d given them as a plaything to a child. His cold tranquility, compared to my labored breath made me annoyingly flustered, and even more desperate to break his stone-like face.
I kissed my way down his neck, addicted to the electrifying feeling of his skin, and was even more frustrated when I felt his heartbeat under my lips, calm and rhythmic, and as indifferent as he looked. I still remembered the feverish gaze with which he’d looked at me before. And told myself it couldn’t all have disappeared over a single phone call!
I felt sick and dizzy at the memory of Michael’s voice. It was exactly as I’d predicted; I was losing them both. And just the idea of that being possible left my mind submerged in chaos.
Desperately, I told myself that at least Gabriel wouldn’t be able to leave me that easily, and yet I recalled seeing his Contract mark cut in two, almost an indistinct red smear over his white skin. My trembling nervous hands were moving before I could even think, undoing the buttons of his shirt as fast as my clumsy fingers would allow it. And there it was, I almost sighed in relief, touching the small mark over his heart, as perfect as I remembered it, not a single hint that it had been so savagely cut. Its color had grown paler, like my mark, but the lines of the strange symbol were intact and, like my own, unnoticeable to the touch. I smiled melancholically as I remembered just how hard I’d tried to find a way to get rid of it, in a time where those marks had meant my complete destruction. Now, only the thought that that might happen made me cringe, sick to the stomach, about to drown in total despair. And so, as if to reinforce that frail link that bound us, I placed a light kiss on that exact place, the same place I’d kissed when we’d first met.
I felt him shudder ever so slightly and yet that had been a reaction! A deep feeling of happiness washed over me. I wondered if it felt differently, being touched there, and I recalled the burning sensation his kiss had left on my wrist. Either way, the simple idea of having been able to break the block of ice he had become, even if it meant that it hurt, was enough to make me kiss him again, and again, and again, torturing him repeatedly, a wave of pleasure cursing through me every time his body unwillingly shuddered.
“Mariane … enough.” I heard his voice in a low whisper that made me smile since he was even talking now, and I kissed him one more time.
I couldn’t tell exactly what happened. Just that a huge hand was suddenly wrapped around my arm, cooling my skin even through my clothes, and I was pulled up. Cold fingers tangled in my hair, pulling it painfully, making me raise my head. And harsh lips kissed mine, hungrily stealing my breath and any words of complaint.
I was lost for a moment between the pain his hands gave me and the intensity of his kiss, a kiss that I had longed for, free of fears and restrictions. I couldn’t recall ever feeling his hands so real, so firm, on my body, and the way he was kissing me was quickly sweeping away any rational thoughts.
And yet, beyond the restlessness that filled me, and the desire that he would kiss me like that forever, I clearly knew I could never allow him to hurt me. If anything went wrong because we were together, he’d probably use that as an excuse to leave me again. And so I made use of my free hand, pushing his chin back, and placed my hand between our lips, since the way he held me wouldn’t allow me any other movements. The hand entangled in my hair pulled my head back even more, making me groan in pain, and cold lips attacked my throat, almost as if he wanted to devour me.
I stared up at the ceiling lost in the darkness around us and had to fight once more against my will to simply allow him to do as he pleased, as long as he kept kissing me and touching me. By then, part of my mind was even trying to convince me that it was okay even if he killed me, as long as he wouldn’t let go of me. At least I would die in his arms and would never have to live through the devastating pain that awaited me once he left again, which would inevitably happen.
I used my free hand to caress his soft hair and forced my brain to focus on what was important, searching for the right words, anticipating how disturbed he would be once he was back to himself and aware that he’d lost control over his own emotions. The hand around my arm was becoming really painful and I was sure his fingers would be marked in dark bruises on my skin for a long time. Besides, I was beginning to fear that any more strength and my bones would end up cracking, the thought making my mind even clearer, free from the dreaming enchantment brought by his touch.
I took a deep breath, looking for my voice, and he nibbled my earlobe making my body quiver.
“Nyx, let go of my hair,” I asked, but he didn’t seem to hear me, his mouth dancing and licking my neck. I placed my hand over his and tried to pry his stone hard fingers open. “Nyx!” I complained, as his hand was practically unmovable and, incredibly enough his fingers gave in, releasing me, allowing me to finally move my head again. I placed a brief kiss on his bare shoulder, since his opened shirt had slid down his back, and tried to figure out the best way to make him release my arm next.
In the next moment, and before I could understand what had happened, he’d already done it, and his arms wrapped around me, squeezing me with too much strength against his chest.
I couldn’t breathe and, even when I tried, the pressure on my ribs wouldn’t allow the air to fill my lunges. His scent invaded my brain, making me dizzy, and the way he held me made me uncomfortably aware of all the forms of his perfect body and of just how much he really desired me. His mouth searched for mine, once again, and mercilessly ravaged my lips, tearing the soft skin, leaving a coppery taste in my mouth. I put my arms around his neck to hold him close, as if that would be enough to stop him from running away, and pulled his hair as hard as I could to put an end to that delicious, but completely twisted kiss.
My gasping breath filled the air once again, and I looked at him, fearing I’d find something like guilt or remorse. The feverish glow of his gaze made me blush, setting my chest on fire, as he kept trying to reach my lips again, which made me pull his hair even harder, hoping to keep him still for a few seconds.
“Your arms ... less strength,” I whispered and, to my surprise, he released me again, leaving that frightening feeling of emptiness in his place.
However, in the next moment, he was holding my wrists, making me dizzy at how fast he’d moved, forcing me to relinquish the hold I had on him. His arm wrapped around my waist, pulling me against his hard chest, and then I was lying on my back, and he was kissing me avidly.
My heart felt like it was about to explode when his hand slid up my leg, pulling it up against his waist. It was the first time I felt his full weight over me, and the way our bodies seemed to mold themselves to one another erased all other thoughts from my mind. I thought that I had finally succumbed to the addicting drug that was his kiss, but, right then, even if that was so I couldn’t care less. The way he was holding me and manipulating my body left me completely lost in sensations I’d never experienced before. And although I couldn’t help feeling scared of his intensity, my body kept reflexively answering his, making sure he wouldn’t pull away.
His cold hands traced the soft curves of my chest, awaking a fiery desire I could hardly keep under control, and finally slid under my top, directly against my skin, making me shiver. His lips left mine, kissing my face and neck again, and I bit the back of my hand making sure that I’d seal my embarrassing voice when his cold fingers drew circles over my skin.
“Mariane.” The sound of my name in his voice sent an electrical current throughout my entire body, and his warm sigh left me completely surrendered. “If you knew how much I want you ... I can hardly restrain myself.”
My heart beat even faster, if that was possible, and fear burned in my stomach. But still I found myself smiling while I caressed the soft hair gently brushing against my face.
“It’s okay,” I promised and he took a deep breath, raising his head to look at me. I immediately noticed that his eyes were different, that he was finally back to himself, that he’d managed to put his own desire under control, and that he’d gone back to acting according to his mind and not according to the frighteningly intense and unstopping river that were his chaotic emotions.
“If I made you mine, right now,” he whispered gently, touching my face with the tips of his fingers and I felt completely captivated by the magnetic pull of his voice. “The marks I’d leave in your being, no one would ever be able to erase them. Because, even among Human standards, you’re still a child, and this soft, warm body is as pure and untouched as your Soul. If someone like me breaks that Seal, even if I do not wish to steal your light, it will leave an eternal mark on your Soul. Because I’m Shedim, I’d probably end up corrupting you. You would belong to me for the rest of your eternity,” he claimed and I smiled, touching his soft lips that had kissed me so many times.
“I don’t mind.”
“I do. You would belong to me, but not because you chose me ... only because I made you mine first.” I felt the blood freeze in my veins and he smiled coldly as if he were aware of it. “It would be the same as manipulating your will, all because of one night. It’s too easy for me, to do that to a Human child like you. You wouldn’t even notice you were being manipulated, believing that this was really your choice. Only I would know the truth.”
“I want to be with you!” I declared and he placed a soft kiss on my forehead, as if to comfort or appease me.
“I believe you.”
“You don’t understand you at all!” I accused and buried my nails in his bare shoulder as if that could make him pay closer attention to what I was trying to say. “I love you! I can’t live without you!” I told him in one breath, embarrassed and flustered, but his expression didn’t even flicker.
“Those are two completely different things, from which I can only understand the second one. Of course I’m not going to doubt what you say you feel just because I’m unable to understand it ... and yet ... I know all too well about the doubts in your mind, and how much if I were to choose for you it would make things much easier.” I looked at him in disbelief, hurt by his words, but he was serious. “As much as I want you, in the end I’m still too selfish. I’ve stopped wanting only parts of you a long time ago. And I can’t help wonder what you would do if it were Michael here with you, and not me. If you would allow him to touch you and kiss you like you allow me ... If you’d surrender to him. And yet, I’m perfectly aware that not making you mine, right now, leaves an open space, an open possibility that that might really happen. But even so I’d rather take the risk. Not for your sake, but for mine. Because I want you to choose me!”
The anger that took over my pain made me tremble even more, and I hit him with clenched fists as hard I as I could, even though it was like hitting a wall. How could he make me want him that much and then refuse me! How could he make me need him as much as I did and then push me away! And tell me those things about Michael, when I’d never ... and everything else too! How could he ask me to choose when he’d been the one trampling all over my life, destroying everything around me? How could I feel how I felt ... for someone like him? And how was he able to look at me with that gentle expression, hopelessly captivating me, when all that was supposed to exist between us was a cold bargain, empty of any kind of feelings besides pain and resentment?
Everything was just wrong, anyway! And his attempts of somehow making things right just went to show me just how much it was really wrong, leaving me frustrated and angry. It was as if he were telling me that, in truth, what existed between us could not be; that, probably, all that would end up destroying me, and since it was so, it was a decision only I could make.
Still, he would only accept me if I could give up everything else, as if I could just press a button and delete all the doubts he, himself, had planted inside me. In the end it all came back to the same. For one reason or the other, he would end up leaving me. Our worlds were too different and he would never be able to understand the complexity of Human emotions.
Gabriel held my useless hands, unable to hurt him, and pinned them against the soft mattress, as I sobbed bitterly.
“I hate you!” I declared and he laughed, kissing the tip of my nose.
“No you don’t,” he told me with that smug smile that annoyed me so much, his violet eyes glowing, making him look suddenly very dangerous. “In truth, you already belong to me. You just haven’t noticed yet.” I frowned which made him smile again. “Partly because you’re definitely one of the most stubborn Humans I’ve ever known. But mainly because there are things you still don’t know. Which make you repeat to yourself nonsensical things, like that you love that idiot. Actually, you’ve never loved him, and I’d rather wait until you understand that on your own. And when you do, remember that it was for your sake that I stopped now.”
I felt confused. How had he been able to solve things that easily? And it was it for my sake? How come? When he’d just told me all that stuff about he wanting me to choose, and he wanting me to give up on everything else. No matter how I looked at it, he stopped for the sake of what he wanted, like always!
His hands released me, bringing me back from my thoughts, leaving me completely frozen as if his touch, even though cold, had the ability to warm me, and I instinctively held him by his open shirt, stopping him from pulling away any further.
“I don’t understand, but fine,” I conceded and he seemed surprised. “I accept your decision and can even understand that ... kissing me, and touching me after, hearing what I said downstairs can be ... disgusting, that I can be ... nauseating.”
“I’m not usually that morally inclined,” he said, laughing, “at least not enough to take that kind of thing into account. If I want something I just take it. The only difference, this time, is that what I want is all that much harder to get. And, as if it weren’t enough, I have to constantly be on alert so that I won’t end up breaking you into pieces before I can claim what I want.”
I immediately noticed the change in his face, as his expression became harder and darker.
“I’m very much aware of the damage my hands inflict on your body,” he added in a whisper and frowned, as if struggling against something. “You’re too small and too frail. But the scent and warmth of your body make you practically irresistible. Apparently, and contrary to what I’d thought, even if I try to keep calm and remain rational, I do have my limits, and that can be very dangerous. If I allow myself to be swept away by the moment, if I hold you with just a bit of too much strength ...”
I placed a hand over his lips, interrupting his increasingly pained voice.
“I’m all right.”
“Yes, I’ve noticed you seem to have adopted that answer no matter what happens,” he declared sarcastically. “I know why you do it, and I pretend I believe your words, using them as an excuse to remain by your side.”
“But it’s the truth!” I insisted.
“No, it’s not!” he contradicted, his voice now dry and bitter. “The truth is that I almost broke your arm. That I had to struggle against the strength of my own fingers. That I had to keep stopping myself from losing myself in the warmth of your kiss. I look at you and the desire to touch every single inch of your body leaves the palms of my hands burning. I can’t think, and I can’t distance myself, and that’s extremely dangerous. I’ve never wanted anything as much as I want you. And knowing that, even when you kiss me, your mind is divided and confused, has the ability to erase the only small spark of self-control that I’m able to maintain near you.”
He smiled as he caressed my hair, even though his expression was cold and distant.
“To tell you the truth,” he continued, “there are times when I even find myself wanting to cause you pain, because I know that at least while you fear me nothing else goes through your head. And yet, that’s not what I want at all.”
His fingers moved gently over my face and the pain that took over his eyes left me breathless.
“Your terrified expression, when you used to look at me, was always terrible to bear,” he confessed. “I find myself feeling conflicted and that has never happened before, and it makes me ... unstable. Because of who I am, I’ve always made sure to be absolutely certain, absolutely under control. But right now I just don’t know what I may end up doing. And I don’t want to have to find your dead body lying next to me once I’m back to being myself after some furious episode or moment of uncontrollable desire.”
I raised a hand to caress his face and took a deep breath. The way he’d kept searching for the right words told me that those hadn’t been easy things for him to say.
“I know all that,” I replied and he looked defeated, but somehow relieved. “When you came back and I asked you to stay, because I practically demanded it from you, I promised myself that I’d never allow you to hurt me.”
“Is that why you pretended nothing happened when I almost broke your ribs?” he asked with an ironic smile as he held my hand. “You thought I wouldn’t notice? You wouldn’t be able to hide a single splinter stuck on your finger from me! The scent of your skin changes when you’re in pain. And the way you walked or would always press your right side when you stood up, or sat down ...”
“That was an accident!” I hurriedly countered.
“Why? Because I was unconscious? I made Lea tell me what had happened.”
“Because you were in pain! And had just suffered a terrible injury! And I unintentionally hurt you! It was only a defense mechanism. You didn’t even know what you were doing! Nor that I was standing there, beside you, or that I just wanted to help you. That’s why it was an accident!”
“That is hardly an excuse!” he said angrily. “I could still easily have killed you! Things like that cannot happen, and yet I know they do! But because I’m selfish and want to stay beside you, I accept your silence and pretend that nothing happened. Like I’ll do for the next few days, for as long as that arm hurts!”
My face burned and I looked at him fiercely.
“There’s nothing wrong with my arm!” I declared and the rage that took over his face made my heart stop.
His cold, hard hands grabbed the collar of my top and, before I could even try to stop him, pulled it apart, tearing the fabric and making buttons jump all over the place. Instinctively I tried to hold what was left of the top in its place, but the strength of his hands was too great, ripping it away from my fingers as he pulled it down, undressing my arm to the elbow.
I cringed in fear, wrapping my arms around my bare chest, and closed my eyes trying to turn away from him, too embarrassed to keep facing him.
Everything was quiet for a moment, and my constant trembling became even worse at the idea of him hovering like that, just staring down at me.
His cold fingers on my arm, over the exact place that still hurt, startled me, and he placed a butterfly kiss on my aching skin.
“Even like this, I’m still not able to convince myself that I shouldn’t stay by your side.”
The pain in his voice forced me to ignore my embarrassment and I opened my eyes to look at him. I refused to look at the arm he was still gently caressing, and raised a hand to touch his perfect face.
“Stop tormenting yourself over something like that. It’s nothing.”
“You’re nothing but a child. You don’t know what you’re saying.”
Anger returned smoldering hot, mixing with my blood. It was the third time he’d used that argument and it really, really annoyed me!
“Is that your new subterfuge?” I asked accusingly. “You repeat to yourself that I’m nothing but a frail, unguarded child and that’s why you can’t stay with me?”
“I am not a child!” I contested and pulled him by his ear, his sudden expression of pain erasing all the stupid words he was probably about to say. “Besides, as I understand, I have something that you don’t! Free will! And I want you to stay with me! And don’t you dare use time to pull us apart only because you’ve been living for hundreds of years, because that’s a wall too high, too thick for me to climb.”
My voice broke in a sob and he delicately held my hand, easily freeing his ear, and kissed me softly silencing my tearless crying.
“You need to sleep,” he finally told me, placing another soft kiss on my eyelid, and I grabbed his shirt again, determined not to let him go.
“Stay with me!” I commanded and he rubbed his nose against my face, and down my neck, to place another cold kiss on my collarbone.
“You won’t be able to sleep if I stay,” he whispered against my skin. “Your body won’t stop shaking.” His lazy kiss kept going down, his lips now over my chest, making me do strange sounds with my voice, even though I was trying as hard as I could to keep it quiet. A jolt coursed through my body when he slowly licked my skin.
“Stop ... torturing me,” I mumbled, fighting to maintain some measure of rational thinking, and he raised his head to look at me, smiling darkly and mischievously.
“I love the way your scent changes when I touch you ... how your heart beats even faster ... how your body shudders differently ... and the way your voice changes.”
“Stop that!” I demanded, flustered, and he chuckled.
“I also love the way you blush. It makes me want to do even worse,” he confessed and all he had to do was smile and I could already feel all the symptoms he’d just described. “If I stay, I will probably not let you sleep.”
“It’s okay, even if you hurt me. It’s okay.”
His eyes froze and a defeated sigh left his lips.
He let himself rollover off me, and his body fell at my side. I was taken by surprise, for a moment, and then sat up just to look at him. His black hair, even short, spread over my pillow like shadows. His perfect face was looking straight at me, watching me in silence, emotionless like a renaissance statue. The unbuttoned shirt that he’d stubbornly kept around his arms failing completely in its task, didn’t even coveri his bare shoulders. Contrary to his almost lean and delicate appearance when he was dressed, his white marble chest showed surprisingly strong defined muscles, the fine line of his abdomen drifting down and disappearing into the waist of his pants. And even the way his hands rested, abandoned on the mattress, his long fingers slightly flexed, seemed to have been purposely designed to complete that perfect picture of pure seduction. I was immediately and painfully aware that no Human Being would ever be able to resist him, or stop himself from wanting him. He was too perfect, and it wasn’t only his body that was perfect. All around him there was this magnetic, irresistible field, as if even the anarchic way his hair fell over his forehead, casting bluish shadows over his skin, was meant to make him even more desirable.
I felt small, and insignificant, and I squeezed even harder the top of my pajamas that he had so easily rendered useless. How could I ever believe that someone like him had chosen someone like me? That he wanted ... me? And I was suddenly too conscious of my own appearance. I recalled that, before, that was a constant thought in my mind, always worrying about how big my eyes were, or how my hair looked like some bird’s nest most of the time. But even that had changed, once he’d come into my life, breaking and destroying everything in his way, making it impossible for me to worry about such small, insignificant things. And yet, sitting there, next to him, I couldn’t help but feel my dull human appearance all too heavy, and I lowered my gaze in a way that I’d forgotten to do, always making sure I faced him for as long as I could, just to show I wasn’t afraid of him.
“Mariane.” His voice startled me and I was looking at him again, even before I noticed. My eyes fell on his white hand, stretched in my direction, waiting, and all I had to do was touch it and everything else disappeared.
I allowed him to pull me gently and lay down between his arms, my head resting on his chest. He kissed my forehead all too softly and took a deep breath, gently playing with my hair.
“You must tell me if you’re unable to sleep,” he insisted and I shook my head stubbornly, wishing I could stay like that, near him, for the rest of my life. “I never held anyone like this, in my arms. And I never felt so … at peace, as I feel now, near you. I really think I may very well get addicted to your presence.” He chuckled lightly and I smiled, snuggling my head against his chest.
“But if that happens, I’ll never allow you to leave me, even if I have to make you my prisoner,” he added, sounding suddenly threatening, and I nodded.
“It’s okay, even if you do. It’s just like you said, I already belong to you.”