In the beginning of January, three days before my birthday, I found out that Eliza was moving when she called and excitedly gave me the news. Apparently Glenn had managed to find a little house for sale on an island off the coast of Virginia and he bought it for her as a place where she could have some kind of life, away from the influence of the Tremere. Silently I thanked him for hopefully making it so that Eliza could finally find some peace of mind.
I had visited her in Nashville a few times in the weeks between the funeral and Christmas, just to be sure that she was going to be okay. Getting over Mac’s death wasn’t something that she would get over quickly, nor was it something anyone expected her to do in a short amount of time. I wanted her to know that I was there for her if she needed me.
During those visits, I was relieved by the knowledge that she no longer had any of the visible cuts and bruises that she had received in the fight with the demon. But she still looked very withdrawn and gaunt while we were in Ireland with the family and later when I came to Nashville. I also noticed during those visits that she was jumpy; like she expected someone to come for her at any moment, but I didn’t know how I could take that edginess from her.
When I had asked Glenn how she was doing his answer hadn’t settled well with me. He vaguely said something about how she felt that it was time for her move on. He tried to tell me that even Nashville held memories of Mac and that both he and Siofra thought that she would be better with a change of scenery. That was when he had begun to look for a place where she could go that was untouched by any of the nightwalkers.
The excitement in Eliza’s voice was like an answered prayer as she told my about the house over the phone. She asked me if I wanted to come see it and to help her settle it.
“Of course I will,” I told her, knowing that I still had over a week before the new term started and that I couldn’t think of anything better then going to help her. Eliza told me that she would talk to Glenn and ask him to open a portal me the next day and then we said our goodbyes.
I was in the middle of throwing some warm weather clothes in a bag for the trip the next day when a knock sounded on the door. I glanced at my watch and saw that I still had a half an hour before Glenn was scheduled to arrive so I went to the door, wondering who it could be and silently reminding myself to call Brian to let him know I was going away.
As if produced by my own thoughts, there he stood when I looked out the peephole. “Surprise,” Brian said when I opened the door. He was holding a basket loaded with food in one hand and a blanket in the other, obviously prepared for a picnic regardless of the fact that it was about twenty degrees outside.
“Isn’t it a little cold for a picnic?” I asked with a smile as I stepped aside so he could enter.
“Not for an inside one,” he replied, his brows wagging with his characteristic good humor as he stopped long enough to kiss me before continuing into the apartment as I shut the door behind him. “I thought I would surpri-” his voice dropped off and I knew that he had seen my half packed bag on the couch. I could tell by the way he was standing ramrod straight that he was angry, but I wasn’t sure how to avoid it.
“I was going to call you,” I started as I slipped my hands in the back pockets of my jeans. “I have to go away for a few days.”
“Again?” he asked, quizzically as he turned to face me, hurt and confusion plainly written on his features.
I cleared my throat as I wondered how best to respond. “Yes. I know it’s really short notice and that you wanted me to go with you to see your parents this weekend, but-”
“But you have to jet off somewhere,” he finished for me curtly as he dropped the basket on the coffee table with a thud and threw the blanket on top of it. When he turned to face me again his features were set with determination as he crossed his arms across his chest. “And where is it this time Corrine? Ireland again? Nashville? Or is there some other secretive place that you will refuse to tell me about?”
“Brian,” I began, as I pulled my determination together for another round with him. Our relationship had suffered a great deal since Mac’s death and I would admit that it was mostly my fault. I had accepted that because of his relationship with Brenda, I couldn’t tell Brian where Eliza was staying because there was no way to expect it to remain between the two of us. Not that I didn’t trust him, but I just couldn’t take the chance of the knowledge slipping out during conversation or that Brenda might accidentally read it in his mind, or worse, do it under the direction of her clan. He wasn’t happy that I refused to talk about Eliza and while I knew it wasn’t fair to him, I also knew that I had to protect him and Eliza from the Tremere finding out where she was, no matter what the cost.
If he didn’t know then he couldn’t tell. End of story.
I had hoped that Brian would have taken the same position that Jared had. My mentor had asked about Eliza only once and had taken the fact that I said she was fine at face value and had never brought her up again. Even when I asked him to help me set up some wards around my apartment to guard against vampires he hadn’t said anything, but I was sure he knew that I had asked to keep the Tremere out. There was no other reason.
Brian had become a great deal more demanding on my time since Mac’s death and had started making vague suggestions again that I should stop my magick studies and go back to a full class load. He really thought that my decision to cut back on the amount of classes that I was taking to study dual Traditions was a bad idea and he thought that Samantha wasn’t spending enough time with Brendan. I ignored his comments for the most part because I had the feeling he was trying to pick a fight and I wasn’t falling for it. Maybe he hoped that if he badgered me enough about magick that I would forget about it. He had another thought coming.
He also started to talk more about children and settling down. Before Mac died I would have welcomed the thought of marrying Brian and having lots of kids with him, but now I wasn’t so sure. Aside from that fact that I still felt like I was too young to think about marriage at the moment, I couldn’t bear the thought that I might one day die like Mac had and leave Brian behind to pick up the pieces. I had witnessed first hand what Mac’s violent death had done to Eliza and I didn’t want Brian to go through that. And I definitely didn’t want to worry about children and how they might be affected. For now it was better to not put myself in that kind of a situation. Not until I felt more confident in my abilities.
I was beginning to doubt Brian’s place in my life and I knew I had good reason to. He didn’t have a place in my world. He was human, mortal and fragile. I was being selfish to hold onto him, but I didn’t think that we would make it much longer anyhow. The decision might be taken out of my hands. Maybe tonight by the look in his eyes.
I watched as he silently crossed to the back of the apartment to put some space between us, until he could look out the large window that faced downtown. “I can’t do this anymore, Corrine,” he said calmly and I felt my heart lurch. So it had begun.
I didn’t know how to respond. “Brian…” What could I say? Listen, I know that you are being hurt, but you just have to bear in mind that what I’m doing is for your best interest? Or what about this, I know you think I’m a bitch for lying to you and I’m sorry but…
“I need to know what our relationship means to you,” he continued evenly, still looking out the window. “Where do you and I fit into your life, Corrine? Because I’m pretty sure there are other people more important to you than I am.”
I crossed my arms over my chest and went to stand behind him. “Brian, you have to understand that there are going to be things that I can’t tell you,” I said, hating myself for the further pain I was causing him. “Not because I don’t trust you, but because I don’t want anything to happen to you.”
He turned to face me and lifted his hands to put them on my shoulders. “Is that why you won’t tell me where Eliza is? Is that why you always change the subject when I ask about her? Corrine, you have to know that I-”
“I know that you would never intentionally do anything to hurt me or Eliza,” I interrupted. I decided to attempt to be partially honest with him to see if he could accept what I offered, then go from there. “But you have to understand that my silence is meant to protect you, not hurt you.”
“Protect me?” he scoffed, his face contorting in disbelief. “Corrine, this is ridiculous. How would knowing where Eliza is put me in any danger?”
“It just would,” I said as I pulled away from him.
I watched as all the fight drained out of his features. The blue eyes that were usually filled with happiness or a mischievous twinkle were now dull and sad and I knew that I was to blame for it. It hurt to know that I was doing this to him, but I knew it was for the best. It wasn’t the answer I was hoping for, but in the back of my mind I knew it was the one I was going to get in the end.
Brian lifted his hand halfway and let it linger in the air between us. “I can’t do this anymore,” he whispered again and I reached out to firmly clasp his hand in mine.
I knew that I had no right to fight for him anymore. The time had come to face the bed that I had been made and to lie in it. “I am so sorry,” I told him; tears of regret pooling in my eyes so that I couldn’t see him anymore.
Without a word, Brian pulled me into his arms for what I knew would be the last time. I memorized the feel of him, knowing that when he walked out that door I would be alone and that these last lingering moments would have to carry me forward, maybe for the rest of my life because I didn’t know if I could become involved with anyone else ever again. His hands were warm and gentle as he moved them soothingly up and down my back, pulling me closer to him at the same time. I heard his voice as he told me that everything was going to be okay, but I heard it catch in the back of his throat and I pulled back to look at him.
“I didn’t mean for this to happen,” I chocked, but he put a finger to my lips as his other hand moved to the back of my head.
“Shh, it’s alright,” he told me as he wiped the tears from my cheeks. “I think that we both need this. I love you Corrine, really I do. I just can’t live like this. You are meant to do great things and me, I’m meant to be here and live a quiet life.”
He looked deep in my eyes for a moment then said, “I don’t know what life holds for either of us, but promise me this. Promise me that you will be careful. Don’t do anything stupid and never give up.”
I couldn’t speak. It was like he was seeing into the future and he knew something bad was going to happen. He was okay with us parting ways and he was giving one final gift before he took his leave of me.
Fresh tears slipped past my lashes as I nodded and leaned in to kiss him one last time. Our lips met and I felt the familiar softness that was Brian and I lingered there even though I knew it was wrong. His tongue pushed into my mouth and I welcomed it like food to a starving person. The kiss deepened and I found myself wishing that he would make love to me one last time.
I knew it wouldn’t be healthy for either of us, but dear Gaia I wanted something to be right for once. To not have everything toppled over in a world that didn’t seem to want to make sense anymore. A crazed world where people died before they were supposed to and when others were hunted for what they were. We lived in the twenty-first century for God’s sake, when were people going to understand the basic laws that were handed down to us from the loving nature of the eternal Mother? When would the hate and destruction stop?
It was Brian who pulled away first, as if sensing if this went on any longer something was going to happen between us. We stood there in each other’s arms as we breathed deeply to calm our racing hearts. I was clinging to him, but I knew he would eventually walk out the door and out of my life, perhaps forever.
“I gotta go,” he said finally and when he pulled away it took all my strength to not clench my fingers on the sweater that he wore and beg him to stay.
I nodded mutely. There was nothing more I could do to make things right between us and he walked out, quietly closing the door behind him. He was gone.
Somehow I was able to move after about five minutes or so. I was prodded by the fact that Glenn would be there soon and I knew that I didn’t want him to see me like I was. I went to the bathroom and splashed cold water on my face and pulled myself together enough to finish packing. I held on to the fact that soon I would be with Eliza and for the moment, that was where I belonged.
I knew that I should call Sam and tell her myself what had just happened between Brian and me, but I didn’t think I could keep my voice steady enough to talk to her. As I pulled closed the zipper on the case, I took the coward’s way out and told myself I would have to talk to her when I got back. I hated myself, but I did it anyway.
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