Within the time limit,
Richie had showered, and dressed with surprising sophistication,
considering the rough work for which he had packed his bag.
He stood alone in the bunkhouse, brushing the dust, which seemed
to get everywhere in the dry atmosphere, off the second pair
of boots he had brought. The air about him was casual, jeans
and a shirt, but the even creases and obvious care in the final
appearance gave him something extra. Once upon a time, Richard
Ryan would not have thought twice about stains on his clothing,
or brushing his hair, but he smiled to himself as, staring in
the mirror, he recognised Tessa's touch on him. He still missed
the European beauty, her understanding of the excitement of
youth, that sometimes, Mac could overlook. He was glad that
her influence was still with him.
The young man turned
from the small mirror and knew full well that Duncan's coaching
came into play as his eyes rested on the long thin black pouch
containing his sword. He hesitated for a moment as he considered
whether to take the dangerous blade; he was leaving the ranch,
the town was not on holy ground, but he was in the company of
friends. It was the Immortal who made the decision, he reached
for the weapon with the paranoia that helped all of his race
live that little bit longer. The rapier slipped easily into
the folds of the jacket he carried, and feeling that strange
security which off set the internal warning system, the driver
went out to find his transport.
Naomi was waiting
outside for him as he entered the encroaching night. He was
all eyes; the young woman stood on the walkway, smiling coyly
at him as she gauged his reaction to her effort. Richie started
at her ankles hidden by leather boots and worked up. He decided
very quickly that the modern cowgirl image suited the slender
frame. Legs, perfect in every proportion, stretched up for a
time which sent the youth's heart a little faster until eventually
being topped just below the buttock with a neat denim mini belted
at a wonderfully trim waist. The girl's shirt was black and
translucent, and excentuated her torso which was silhouetted
by a lycra body. Naomi was his goddess without even trying,
but the set of her hair and the depth that black eye pencil
gave her eyes was enough to take her beyond description. The
youth stopped his jaw from going slack, but as their gazes met,
it was obvious to both what the other was thinking; it appeared
that Naomi was not altogether unimpressed by her companion's
choice of attire and the curl of her lips showed it.
"You look wonderful,"
Richie complimented, giving the young woman a light kiss on
the cheek and wrapping an arm around her waist.
The female body so
close felt good, but the youth kept firm hold of his hormones
as the truth of their relationship stayed at the forefront of
his mind. Yet, as his comrade's own arm slipped about his hips,
an instinct caught in his brain and he glanced down at the soft
features. He saw her smile, the twinkle in her visage and knew
it was not the same. There was something about the girl's reaction
which did not feel the same as it had ten months previously
when the gesture had been accepted with a knowledge of friendship.
The oddness that was a vague feeling left Richie bewildered
by his own observational skills. There were mixed up signals
that always passed between them, there had been since the day
they had met, but this was something extra that gave even more
of the wrong impression to his male instincts. It was quite
a confused beau who walked into the main house to find the others.
Everyone was gathered
in the dining room, the only place big enough to hold them all,
and it was quite obvious who had, and who hadn't taken up the
invitation due to the states of attire. Kim and Tay were sat
at one end of the window seat that ran along the length of the
room, talking and generally being ignored by their comrades
- they were not planning on going anywhere. Annie was running
around the room in her night clothes, being chased, by of all
people, Biff, whose face was lit up in fun as she played tag
- the tomboy was also not ready for a night out. Yet, her three
friends seemed to have voted for the dance, all of them with
their hair brushed and faces washed. No one else, except Agatha,
Kathleen, Jon and Garion were not dolled up: Mimi was at her
most outrageous, gold and makeup everywhere; all the youths
had done fairly well in selecting neat, well presented clothing,
and there was a distinct scent of after-shave in the room; Emily,
Mary and Martha seemed to have shared out clothing belonging
to the two `sisters', and there was no sign of the more demure
girl as she tried out a Goth image for the evening; Amber was
stood in the corner, looking as attractive as usual and drawing
more than one pair of eyes; Luke was keeping a firm, proud hold
on Jessie, who was happy to be appreciated by the love of her
Richie released his
companion and with a whoop, grabbed the small body which charged
up to him. Her giggles as his strong arms whirled her around
him like a large doll brought anyone who hadn't recognised his
presence around to the fact that the enigmatic man was back.
Jake made a show of looking at his watch, but was still grinning.
The other just shrugged
and continued to play with his tiny charge. His return to the
disclosure was by the way and teasing as he mused, "Well
if you don't want me to drive you all to town..."
There were calls
and murmurs from all the company in response, and the youth
grinned impishly; he was in a buoyant mood, refreshed and ready
for a good time.
go!" he called enthusiastically, and bodies were moving
Harry went out with
the youngsters to get them into the van as the elder two partiers
stayed behind to say their goodbyes.
"Keep an eye
on them," Kathleen advised, but did not seem too serious
as her bright face followed the packing of the van outside.
"Oh, it wasn't
so long ago I was one of them," Richie returned with assurity,
"they won't get up to much."
The woman raised
an eyebrow, but said no more.
Agatha held out her
arms for Annie, and the Immortal handed her over with a little
regret in his soul. At the lowest level of his subconscious,
he didn't want to leave the unusual child, and he felt the instinct
as a pang of guilt. Yet, the girl smiled at him, her eyes sleepy
as she laid her head on the older woman's shoulder. Impulsively,
the youth laid a kiss on the bonnie curls and whispered, "You
go to sleep when Agatha tells you, and I promise I'll come look
in you when I get back."
There was a brief
nod of response; there would be no debate about sleeping tonight,
the child was exhausted by the late night and the long day.
"Have a good
time," the ranch owner told him as his attention moved
up to her face.
"We will, thanks,"
Naomi responded and slipped her hand into the crook of her companion's
arm, giving him a gentle pull towards the door.
the pair continued in unison and them were gone.
The dance was being
held in the church hall, the only building in the town itself
large enough to house such an event. Even without Naomi's directions,
it would not have been difficult to discover which building
was the right one; the town of Indian Rock was not very large,
one street mainly shops, a bar, a bus stop, a church and a couple
of houses, but most of the people who frequented the place were
from the surrounding farms. There were plenty of four-wheel-drives
parked around the only building that, save the church, more
than a storey high, and there was music coming from within.
There were whistles and whoops of delight as the youngsters
recognised the quality of a live band which was favouring modern
country rather than the more usual impression of the music that
had been joked about in the van on the way in.
Inside, the place
was lit with various coloured lights and filled with the sound
of the band at the far end. There were quite a few bodies already
on the dance floor, moving in unison in one of the group hops,
and others were scattered around in bunches, talking more with
hand signals than voice. Some also stood by a table offering
punch. A few looked round at the invasion of so many young strangers,
but most were involved in their own thing. Only two people responded
to the newcomers, one was a tall man in his forties, whose smile
and the small pin of a cross in his collar gave him away as
the minister, the other was an elegant woman of roughly the
same age, who was led gracefully over on his arm.
Harriet," Naomi greeted and accepted a light peck of a
kiss as a greeting, and then turned to introduce anyone who
stayed around long enough; only Richie was still by her side.
"This is Richie Ryan," she breathed a look passing
between her and her friends that the youth could not interpret,
"and the mass heading that way are the group I told you
about last week," she waved after the excited bunch.
our town," Josh stuck out a hand.
"Glad to be
here," the young man returned and shook the offered palm
In the few minutes
before Naomi dragged him onto the dance floor, Richie decided
that he liked the Reverend Josh Wilks and his wife Harriet.
They were a couple, who, at first, didn't strike him as the
religious type; the man was not in a black shirt and white collar,
the normal way he expected a priest to be, and Harriet certainly
didn't dress in floral and deny herself makeup, as his in-built
ideas told him a minister's wife should look. Both were warm,
friendly souls, who seemed at peace with their world, happy
with each other and their three sons, who were all enjoying
The music was loud,
the atmosphere comfortable and full of fun, but it took Naomi
and Richie's lead to prize any of the strangers from the walls.
The music varied through ordinary dancing music to the group
moves, and the couple took the opportunity to encourage their
charges onto the floor when the next universal number came along.
The locals were welcoming and happily showed the newcomers the
steps that went along with the rhythmic chords. The dance wasn't
hard, and soon there was total accord in the dancers as they
enjoyed the tune.
The band recognised
the mood and continued for a good twenty minutes in similar
fashion, and succeeded in mixing the two very different sets
of people. By the time the music slowed to a track for couples,
those without partners were quite happy to leave the floor and
find some refreshments with their new friends. It did not go
unnoticed who stayed with the tune; Luke and Jessie were no
surprise, but Jake and Martha, as he picked up the courage to
ask her, was a pleasant turn up for the books. There were a
few looks and smiles when Naomi persuaded her companion to stay
close, but Richie chose to ignore them and winked instead at
his younger comrade in support.
It felt so good to
be holding the slender figure close to him, and quickly, the
rest of the world didn't matter to Richard Ryan. His universe
centred around the gentle beauty who placed her head against
his chest in a manner which made his heart jump a beat. Her
touch was divine, so light it was like silk drifting over the
small of his back through the thick cloth of his shirt. He had
made love to women before, but he knew at that moment that if
this was as close as he ever came to consummating the union
of their souls, then it was close enough. There was more than
the physical satisfaction of pleasant shivers up his spine that
the young woman's `innocent' grasp around him inspired; he felt
the calm and depth of mental alliance. The supernatural sense
of possibility sung in harmony with the soft music and took
him to planes of life that rose a heat inside him. Slowly, the
intensity in his spirit grew, with each shift of the adorable
creature, maybe to the music, the man perceived his grip on
resistance drifting out of reach. At first, he didn't really
recognise the tension in his muscles, as Naomi aroused his feelings
for her, as a problem; the feeling was pleasant, he felt whole
and natural with his soul mate. It was as his desire looked
up into his gaze, her face open and showing a love he couldn't
deny, that he understood the instinct in his soul. He could
have easily bent a little and placed a passionate kiss on the
sensuous lips that were asking him to respond, but reality was
not that far away. The large wooden cross now sat on the young
woman's wall and had been replaced with a smaller, gold necklace
of the same symbol, and it glinted up at the possessed male.
It presence reminded him of vows that Naomi seemed to have forgotten,
and very suddenly, the young man refused his ardour. His reaction
was sharp, jarred by the self-destruction of the moment, he
released the girl and backed away. The youth didn't understand
the sadness and shock in the eyes of his love, and he turned
from it rapidly, confused and angry at how close he had come
to forgetting. There was more than one pair of eyes on his back
as he retreated from the building at speed.
The air outside was
beginning to cool, and its freshness was welcome to damp the
heat inside the young Immortal. Yet, it did not calm the angst
that the encounter had caused in his spirit. The young man was
shivering as he flattened himself against the outside wall in
some kind of defence to the feelings that were running about
inside his being. The youth was angry, but couldn't find the
source - was it his near indiscretion, or his awkward reaction
to it, or at Naomi for just being there, or the fact that he
hadn't taken up the offer that had been presented? Richie didn't
know which, maybe it was a mixture of them all, but it wasn't
an agreeable emotion. Yet, it wouldn't go away.
Diversion came in
an unexpected guise; first Richie stared madly up at the clear,
starry sky, but its midnight blue held no solace, so he turned
instead to glance down the deserted street. He recognised a
short, surreptitious figure heading towards the bar; it was
Randy. The prospect was not good, and quickly, the chaperone
was back in control and headed after his wayward quarry. His
personal emotions were drowned by the responsibility he felt
for the teenager, it was a welcome distraction.
Richie wasn't sure
what he was going to say, or do, as he stepped inside the door,
but he knew it would result in Randy being propelled from the
public bar in one form or another. It was almost a hunting instinct
that the boy's wanderings caused in the young man, and his eyes
were alert, his body taut as he scanned the smoky interior for
his charge. As his gaze fell on the young form, a sense of,
I-should-have- known, sunk into the group leader; Randy was
standing by the pool table, already in aggressive conversation
with those who were playing. There was money on the cushion
surround, and it was obvious by the stance, that the cowboy
on whom the youth was centred was taking the bait. As soon as
he gauged what was happening, Ryan moved in to stop it.
he called on his way over, "put that money away now."
Not one, but two
hostile pairs of eyes laid themselves on the newcomer and he
stopped a few paces away from the large pool player.
you, Man," the ex-street-punk disclosed, and then gritted
his teeth as the response from the man's companions was laughter.
The young man was
enough of a judge of character to see the adverse reaction that
such amusement caused in the bar patron. His shoulders raised,
he straightened, and the glare that Richie received told him
that such news was not welcomed.
is it to you?" the cowboy demanded coldly.
There was not much
point in responding, the youth was not going to rise to any
confrontation. Instead, Ryan turned to his subordinate, who
by now was looking no more than defeated.
"Pick up your
money, we're leaving," the Immortal ordered firmly.
There was no defiance
in the boy, he just turned and reached for the ten dollars he
had lain on the table a few moments ago. However, it wasn't
going to be that easy, as another palm dwarfed Randy's as it
covered his fingers and held him down on the wood.
"Leave the money,"
came from the mouth which was fast becoming clear was affected
Richie reasoned as calmly as possible, "give him his bill
back and get on with your game."
"We made a bargain,"
the giant turned on the newcomer and stared down on him, "and
he ain't gonna back out now, kid or no kid, that money's mine
The elder youth snorted,
he was no going to be intimidated by a half drunk lout, and
he snarled back, "You'd have lost anyway."
That caused some
more laughter from the three other men around the table, and
with a sinking feeling, Ryan realised he too had been baited.
The cowboy's eyebrows raised and he sneered, "Well, lets
His lips pursed,
hands on hips in consternation, the young man glanced over to
his immature hustler. The look in the boy's eyes said lets take
them, and coupled with the hostile attitude of the challenger,
Richie couldn't deny his sense of mischief. His gaze was set
hard as he glared back up at the stranger; he paused for a moment,
and then shrugged, "It's your funeral."
There was a gleam
of predatory guile in Randy's eyes as he watched the balls being
set up. His chaperone bit his tongue and backed away from the
game, well aware that he'd just done the wrong thing as a responsible
adult. He hovered guiltily in the semi-gloom around the pool
table where its covered light didn't reach, and watched. The
game unfolded quickly, and it was obvious who was the better
player. Richie tried to dim his sense of satisfaction as the
unnamed cowboy began to lose badly. The teenager was an expert,
and he toyed with the man, letting him catch up and then potting
ball after ball. Yet, Randy was aware of the position in which
he had put his superior, and he hurried the game to a close.
Within a few minutes, the black ball went down with a final,
sufficient clunk. The boy grinned up his opponent, grabbed the
two bills on the table and then turned rapidly to his companion.
The look on the elder player's face was not happy, so, with
a quick nod of dismissal, the pair headed towards the door at
as casual a pace as they could manage.
A call of `hey!'
followed the hustlers out of the door, and they were well aware
that the part inebriated rival was heading after them.
"The hall, now,"
Richie urged, speeding up considerably once they were in the
Randy was not arguing,
and they were trotting as they crossed the street. Both tactfully
ignored the call which daggered across the quiet night, but
there were fast sounds of boots on tarmac as their pursuer tried
to catch them. However, a saviour appeared at the door to the
hall in the shape of Minister Wilks. Richie thought quickly;
he grabbed the collar of his companion and hissed, "Remember
the poor box?"
He received the affirmative
and continued, "Well, we're gonna do a version of that,"
then he turned to Josh and called, "Minister Wilks, Randy
has a contribution for your roof fund."
There was a groan
from beside him, and the young man empathised with the emotion
he perceived; he remembered such situations with Father Macey
only too well. The young man grinned broadly and brought his
charge to a smart halt in front of the holy man. There was a
pause as Josh looked expectantly towards the boy, and with a
tap on his shoulder from his companion, Randy eventually held
out the money in his hand. The Immortal glanced backwards, and
grimaced as he turned to his comrades; greeting the local churchman
didn't seem to have thwarted the big cowboy, and he was still
coming. His meaning was understood by the perceptive priest,
and he was wearing a serious frown as the pool player approached.
The look was aimed at the newcomer, and it slowed him; the set
of his features began to change into a consideration of what
he was doing and whom he was approaching. The giant stopped
a few feet away, hovering uncertainly as the heavy gaze was
laid upon him.
can do for you, Kyle?" the broad preacher questioned ominously.
man shifted on the spot, looking a little sheepish, "we
were playing pool, and.."
Josh demanded, his tone sharp.
the cowboy quickly changed his mind and turned on his heel.
"Shame on you
Kyle Gravels," Josh called after him, but he was smiling
to himself as he scolded the man's folly, "betting on a
child. Go home to Dolly and sober up."
However, the gaze
he then laid on both Randy and his chaperone was a mask of seriousness
over his amusement.
"This type of
behaviour will get you nothing but trouble," the man advised
the teenager carefully.
Randy did have the
conscience to look guilty, but Richie knew that one hiccup would
not stop the young hustler for long. Instead of dwelling on
the point, however, he patted the kid on the back and told him,
"Go on inside; ask Amber for a dance, you might be surprised."
The street kid coloured
at the suggestion, but he was grinning stupidly to himself as
he quickly took the opportunity to escape a lecture. The young
man watched him go, but was not about to follow, he knew what
kind of impression he had given in the hall only a few minutes
ago, and he wasn't ready to face Naomi with his feelings in
the mess that they were whenever he thought about it. Josh did
not seem at odds with his companion's reluctance to join the
party, in fact, there was a look in his eyes as the youth turned
back to him which spoke of an understanding. It may have been
the chaotic nature to his new friend's face, or something he
had been considering for some time, but Richie wasn't surprised
when his comrade took a deep breath and began quietly, "I
wonder if you'd mind if we had a talk?"
There was no need
to vocalise what it would be about, that was obvious to both
men. The youth stood silent for a moment, judging his own emotional
state as well as his associate's intentions; this was a relative
stranger, but the manner of the address told him that however
unfamiliar he was with the minister, the preacher knew him rather
well. The decision did not take much, there did not seem to
be any reason to object, so Richie nodded meekly. The other
gave him a supportive smile and indicated away from the noise
of the dance.
was the suggestion and the younger fell in beside the cogitative
There was silence
for a few moments as each man contemplated their own thoughts;
Josh was considering an opening sentence, Richie was caught
by the turmoil that returned to his being with the ending of
the Randy incident. The anger had abated, but there was still
confusion in his spirit when it came to the jumble of signals
that his desire had been displaying. Despite the smooth image
he could portray when it came to handling the opposite sex,
when it came down to it, the Immortal was still young and was
wondering if he was misinterpreting the messages. Inside, he
hoped that talking to someone who had known Naomi for the months
in between their last meeting would answer some of his doubts.
There was something about a holy man, whatever creed, and the
air about Josh Wilks put aside any pretence that Richie might
have been carrying around with him; when the elder glanced at
him, he saw the perplexed, unsure boy that the disastrous moment
had inspired. His tone was calm and reassuring as he disclosed,
"Naomi came to me almost as soon as she arrived here, at
first just to offer her help with the church (in which capacity
she had been a great boon to both Harriet and myself),"
the man smiled and his companion recognised the young woman's
generous touch on him. "But later I encouraged her to talk
to me about her calling and then she began to tell me about
Have you and she
discussed your feelings for each other recently?"
"Not in any
practical way since the night we first admitted it," Richie
answered, his manner pained, and ironic as he continued, "I
thought that was obvious."
"Yes, I thought
as much," Josh nodded to himself and there was a deeper
consideration in his eyes as he paused the flow; there was no
urge from the second to break the moment, and so it lasted for
quite some time as they continued up the dark street.
The music was a distant,
hollow sound, being replaced by the wild night as the small
piece of urbania gave way to an open road and the wide valley.
There was a light breeze and the Immortal let it run through
him, cooling the passion, easing the tension. He was more collected
when Josh finally stopped their pace and faced him. There was
careful examination in the man's eyes as he thought his words
through one more time, and wondered if he was doing the right
"What is it,
Josh?" Richard Ryan asked smoothly, feeling more in control
of his emotions.
"I really think
Naomi should be telling this to you herself, and maybe she will,
but after picking up the pieces you so hastily left in the hall,
I believe that this is something you ought to know," came
out quite fast, more for justification than information; the
youth merely waited for further explanation, and it came more
slowly as the minister caught himself, "When Naomi came
here, she and her siblings were still in shock over the loss
of their father, her faith was a great help to her in the first
few months and I encouraged her to explore it. That has led
to it changing in ways neither of us really recognised at first,
but in he last few months, she's been examining the nature of
her calling and how it relates to her life - in one aspect,
Richie's face was
darkening as he picked up on the edge to the disclosure. His
suspicion was obvious to the priest, who was looking for the
light dawning, and a hand was laid quickly on his arm to emphasise
the next revelation, "Naomi is considering revoking her
novice vows and becoming a lay member of our church."
The youth backed
away, unable to contend with the idea; the girl was everything
to him, and the taboo nature of their relationship was so ingrained
that the contradiction was frightening. He had seen the strength
that the faith had given his beloved, and at that moment, the
very thought of anything else meant destruction of something
that was exquisitely perfect. He was angry at the thought, as
enraged as he had been at the consideration that he had nearly
crossed the line himself only minutes ago. Josh began to tame
the fire that rose so suddenly.
get mad about this. Please listen to the rest of what I have
to say," the man was emphatic.
Ryan stood where
he was, resisting the urge to deny all and walk away from the
conversation. He was a taut, uncomfortable statue, his brow
creased into a frown, his eyes flaring occasionally as the statement
went round and round in his mind. Yet, he listened.
up among Nuns, a demonstration of faith at its extreme, all,
or nothing, very noble, but not for everyone," the reverend
told his companion slowly and deliberately. "She chose
to follow that faith when she experienced a trauma, some kind
of news about her life that she still hasn't revealed to me.
At that time, it was a comfortable choice, she would still be
near her family, and she went into vows with their blessing.
Yet, you all went through another horrific time when Patrick
was killed, and she was torn away from that life through necessity,
more than that, she met you and questioned her decision for
the first time. At first, she was afraid that admitting she
wanted something else from life, other than the convent would
mean losing her faith. She came to me for guidance, and I tried
to give her enough information and reassurance to make a decision.
I have not tried to influence her one way or another,
but slowly, considering that completing her vows would mean
leaving her brothers and sister over whom she now sees herself
as a guardian, and also knowing what she feels for you, her
choice has nearly been made."
"And I'm the
only deciding line left," the youth nodded to himself,
feeling oddly guilty and illogically angry at his position.
"If I'm honest,
then yes," Josh answered flatly, "her decision could
still go either way at the moment, her faith is very important
to her. Naomi is still a little confused about what she wants,
and your presence here has brought a long time of contemplation
to a head. What happened in the hall tonight was a result of
her indecision; you know her well enough to realise that she
wasn't intending to lead you on, it just happened that way.
She's very upset about it, feeling guilty and wondering if you'll
ever go near her again. All I can tell you is that she needs
to talk to you."
Richie just stared
at his associate, at a loss to meet the truth in the statement.
At that moment, it wasn't only his goddess who was feeling mixed
up and in emotional turmoil. In reality, he had only
been close to Naomi for a matter of days, the time in between
had been spent a long distance apart with only phone calls and
letters to keep the relationship alive. A few days ago, he'd
been so sure about the ground on which they stood, however hard
it may have been - now, in a few minutes, everything to which
he had come to terms was shifting and it swallowed his sanity
when he thought about it. At once there were passionate possibilities,
but also devastation of what was running about in his thoughts,
and it was all very hot to handle.
Yet, even as he considered
that his mind would never come back under control, something
cut through the tumult, a sweet, gentle touch of knowing to
be. Josh was surprised when the young man's gaze faltered and
he turned his head, there had been no sound he had heard, but
sure enough, there was someone approaching. Naomi had been crying,
there were streaks down her sculpted cheeks and she carried
a handkerchief, but there was purpose in her eyes as she neared.
The mess of thoughts didn't go away, but it dimmed to manageable
proportions as the sight of resolve inspired the youth back
to ground. His action was instinctive as he held out a hand
to the slight figure. There was a creature close to him once
more in moments as the offer was gladly taken, and despite the
insecurity he was facing, Richie felt a warmth at the embrace.
you two alone," the Minster disclosed quickly, and with
a helpful smile, was gone with diplomatic speed.
a mess of this one," the young man broke the short silence
which followed with the heavy irony he felt.
Naomi laughed, half
a sob, half a girlish giggle, for the first time, her companion
wasn't sure how to interpret it. Only as she pulled away and
looked up into his face did he see the choice in her eyes. There
was so much emotion between the couple, so much that had not
yet been spoken, and before he faced the possibility of being
the means by which the young woman broke her vows, he needed
to vocalise his concerns. He was serious and almost a little
cold as he chose the roll of devil's advocate.
"This is a big
decision," he murmured, standing away from the body which
he wanted so badly.
"And I've had
a long time to make it," came the almost rehearsed response.
you change your mind?" the young man challenged, hiding
his chagrin at the hurt the icy question inspired in his deity.
Richie turned half
away from the beauty, trying to ignore his own internal conflict
and listen to her words as she pressed with heartfelt emotion,
"Lots of things. The thought of leaving the others - I
mean there isn't a convent within two hundred miles of here
and I'm responsible for them now with Patrick gone. The other
alternatives - Josh and Harriet both serve God every day, and
they haven't abandoned life to do it."
"Being a Nun
doesn't mean abandoning life," the youth found himself
perversely arguing the case against his own happiness as he
considered the awful possibility of destroying his love's faith
if the decision was wrong. "Darius was a friend, he was
a monk, and he loved life and people. Don't ever see your vows
as running away."
"Why not, that's
what I was doing," Naomi screamed, and her companion turned
rapidly to face the storm in the delicate body; the girl calmed
a little at his attention, but continued in a vehement hiss,
"I was terrified of the idea of living forever - looking
at Annie and Garion and Tay and Harry, I couldn't handle the
idea, so I used God as a security blanket. Then you came along,
and I started to wonder if there was more to life, and eventually
I realised that I want you, Richie."
Immortal, man, boy,
Richard Ryan heard the words and couldn't understand his reaction;
the youth was frozen by the clear, coherent reasoning and he
couldn't define why. His pause was taken as rejection by his
Venus, and she yelled at him again in defence of her own sanity,
"What is it, Richie, after all this don't you want me?"
There was a desperation
in her tone, and it inspired the youth to action; he was rough,
uncontrolled as he grabbed her by the shoulders and stared deep
into her soul. The man was poignant in his madness as he tried
to explain, "I want you more than life, and that scares
me. I felt everything for you all at once the first moment I
saw you; I can't think when I try to work out all of this. Look
at us, we're shouting at each other and neither of us can think
straight. Yesterday, everything was plain, now, I see myself
destroying something that makes you what you are. I can't handle
this so fast, Naomi, we've only been back together for a day.
Please, I know what you were asking in the dance, and at the
moment, I don't think I'm safe to give it. Please can we take
our time, we have four more days, lets use them to work this
Richie wasn't sure
what the look in his darling's eyes meant, only that she had
listened to his words, but had maybe not understood his reasoning
- hell, he didn't comprehend it either. All he could do was
turn and walk away from the docile creature his tone had formed,
his sane, logical mind telling him he was mad and the crazy
part of his soul controlling the helpless psyche.
Richie, as promised,
looked in on Annie when they returned to the ranch, but she
did not stir even as their spirits touched, a house full of
Immortals making her immune to the feeling. He left quickly,
painfully aware that Naomi was waiting in the kitchen for him
to finish in her bedroom; the trip back had been silent between
them, the only pair of four couples now formed, who were stiffly
awkward with each other. Most of the passengers noticed, but
no one chose to comment on the cold, wet look in Naomi's eyes
or the steel in her companion's. It was only as the youth entered
the bunk house that the younger Romeos decided to offer some
The group leader
was silent and looked weary as he walked into the hubbub of
a discussion on the dance. However, he soon became the focus
of attention when Jake called across the room, "What is
wrong with you, Man?"
The look the teenager
received was hostile, as the confused soul's first reaction
was defence; however, his gaze softened as he remembered from
whom the comment had come, and he turned absently back to finding
himself a towel for the bathroom.
"What are you
doing back here?" Luke joined in with enthusiasm, "she's
hot for you, you got it made."
"Naomi is a
novice Nun," the young man responded flatly, the argument
sounding hollow and insufficient.
That fact had not
been left out of the Immortal's previous descriptions of the
young woman, and Randy came in quickly with, "Doesn't being
a novice mean she can change her mind."
is very important," Richie countered without much enthusiasm,
drained by the confusing pit of emotion that was his spirit.
"I would be encouraging her to break her vows."
need any encouragement!" came a quip from an unexpected
source in Michael, "she wants to get into your pants all
on her own."
There was no verbal
response to the effrontery, only a glare that if had been physical
would have killed. Yet, the kids weren't going to let the subject
drop that easily. Despite their companion's obvious hostility
to the conversation, Jake came in again with, "Look, Rich,
I've seen couples before, and I can tell when things are right.
You two are hot, Man. I've never seen two people give off so
the young man ordered suddenly, his eyes blazing, unable to
handle the good-natured observations.
The room was ominously
silent as the tense figure stalked quickly to the shower.
Of Part 4