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   Chapter 33 32.

On Her Knees By Chyna McCartney Characters: 20502

Updated: 2018-07-13 14:45

It had begun to rain by the time our car approached the front gates of the Venetian mansion. Two guards, their ivory skin in stark contrast with the black of their attire, silently swung the gates open, allowing Berthold to proceed through.

The entire property was bathed in moonlight with the occasional glow of the lantern looming side beside with the huge oak trees. I had been told that for obvious reasons, insisting on having kerosene lanterns installed that would have to be hand-lit every evening and put out every morning was an outright fire hazard, especially near trees but, I could not stand the color of artificial illumination. Besides, I had never encountered a flame that I could not tame and that included those that I did not necessarily generate; a fire was the least of my worries.

Of course, the contractors did not need to be made aware of such things.

I turned my gaze to Teryn, who had shifted in my arms from lying limply against my chest to staring somewhat in awe out the window at the structure looming just ahead.

It only then occurred to me that this woman really had no knowledge of who I was or what I had accumulated in my lifetime aside from what I had told her. In that way, though we had known each other for some time, we barely knew each other.

It was like any normal relationship though not quite, given my nature and how quickly my feelings had developed and been reciprocated in spite of that obvious lack of knowledge, but it would seem that now we were starting from square one and that thought excited me.

"This is where you live?" she asked, the bewilderment on her face also evident in her voice.

Berthold and I chuckled simultaneously. "Indeed, it is my dear, " I replied.

"I can see that there is quite a lot you do not know about Gio, " Berthold continued. "He has amassed quite a lot of wealth, though he is not at all keen on admitting that... among other things."

"What other things?" she asked. Her innate propensity for curiosity was now rearing its head. Though, I was little disheartened that she might even question my truthfulness or be even slightly suspicious.

"Oh, just his dungeons and torture chambers and his shares in the sex trafficking industry. I mean why else might a man of his strength play undercover investigator in an establishment such as the one we just escaped? What do you think Teryn? An investment gone wrong perhaps?"

Her head instantly turned toward me, though there was no hint of an accusation in her eyes. I rolled mine at my friend's comment. "You of all people know why I was there, Teryn. You know that I only sought justice for Christa."

"As did I, Remy Buxaplenty, " came his defiant response.

"And I suggest you discontinue your obsession with these trivial cartoons, Berthold. Especially those currently out of commission, it is starting to become painfully obvious; that is if Melanie will allow you too."

He grunted something low in his throat, "Awfully grumpy today are we not?"

"You two squabble like children, " Teryn interjected, shaking her head in somewhat disbelief. "How long did it take you to build all this?"

"About a year, or so. Our kind is in less of a need for rest but you might be surprised at how vehemently they insist on breaks and vacations. The construction was made even trickier by my insistence on it being built near the bay."

"Like Venice on the water." It was a statement of realization rather than a question. Her eyes glimmered with the amazement in her bell-like voice, the light of the passing lanterns complimenting the olive tone of her skin and enhancing the rich, amber undertones.

"Exactly. Like Italy of my birth. Of course, it was not quite the tourist attraction then, as it is now but its beauty today is but a shadow of what it once was. I wanted to capture that and I would like to show it to you."

Her smile was the sweetest thing mine eyes had ever seen-- like a cherub fallen to earth. "I would love to see it."

"And I would appreciate it, " Berthold interrupted. "if you might continue this conversation in an environment that I am preferably not in." The vehicle came to a stop on the gravel in front of the French doors. The brief rumble of thunder sounded from the heavens above and the sound of raindrops in the air around us seemed louder.

"You cannot afford me the same courtesy that I have extended to you, brother? Can you imagine how uncomfortable it has been for me to cohabit with the two of you? I endure your affection for Melanie, no matter how suffocating yet endearing it might be. Yet still, you have the nerve to seem so repulsed?" Even as I asked, the affirmative response from him seemed probable in my mind. It was impossible for Berthold to be serious and even more impossible for him not to be self-absorbed.

He smiled, pressing the button to unlock the car doors. "No, I am not truly so repulsed. But speaking of her, might I..." The blonde man trailed off, glancing back at me. I could see the anxiety on his face; he was hoping that I did not require his assistance anymore so that he might run off to his beloved.

"Indeed, Berthold. Go ahead. I am more than capable of handling this, " I chuckled.

The man gave a polite nod, hopping out of the car and contrary to what I expected, he turned to the rear door closest to Teryn, opening it and reaching out for her hand, despite the rain that was falling in a torrent around him.

His eyes were all for the woman in my arms. "I am not repulsed by the love you two obviously share. In fact, it is only right that I thank you for all that you have done. I thank you for what you have done for my brother, for how you have changed him. Though it may not be evident yet, there is hope I now see within him that I had never been fortunate enough to bear witness to; not for one moment in the nearly a century that I have enjoyed his friendship. Though I am even more grateful for your commitment to keeping Melanie out of harm's way and if you do not already know how important that is me, you will understand soon enough." His words were sealed by a gentle kiss on

lestone to her.

"It was a first for me as well, " I whispered against her soft cheek before placing a kiss there. "But now you're sick. I will run you a bath. Do you need my assistance in getting undressed?"

The suggestion really came from a place of genuine concern but a more primitive side of me was mesmerized by the way the cloth clung to her.

My request incited a laugh from her. "I think I can handle it, Giovanni. Can you turn on a light for me?"

"Of course." It had not occurred to me that though my vision was fine, hers might not be. I calmly sauntered over to the lone light switch on the far wall, flipping it and adjusting my eyes to the illuminating light of the electric chandelier.

"It is a bit eccentric, I know, " I started to say, turning to her as if an explanation was in order for the state of my room. Apart from the smartphone that weighed heavily in my pocket, I had never fully embraced what modernity really equated to in any time period, let alone this age. My one true love, after my mother had been antiquity.

Now I had another love.

"The chandelier was unnecessary in theory; an ordinary fixture would do, but the distribution of the light, the way the crystals refract is--" My words were cut off by the sight before me.

Teryn made a low hissing sound, from the opened bathroom door—somehow, she had managed to find it on her own. From the doorway, I could see her figure standing amidst the other ivory porcelain fixtures, and but a muffled moan to stifle the pain she obviously felt as she shimmied out of the dress with its fabric which, by such time had nearly dried.

She had squeezed her arms out of the bodice, the cloth draping around her waist and baring her back to me. For the first time, I saw the wounds but in a twisted light, though I would never have thought it possible for something like an injury to be any more twisted than it already inherently was.

The skin on her back was smooth, the olive tone of her complexion warm even under the artificial glow. But then, such beauty and perfection were marred by the mottled tears in her flesh."

"It has not healed..." the words slipped out of my mouth uninhibited. The wounds were inflamed, red, ragged and somewhat discolored by clusters of viscous yellow-green pus. My heart was grieved by the sight of it.

She let out a harsh chuckle but still, her voice shook. "I will admit that I haven't had a shower in quite a while. I imagine you can understand that being locked away in a room might do that to you."

"How much pain are you?" I asked. I feared that I was already aware of the potential severity. Her response was a very nonchalant shrug of her small shoulders.

"And this inability to clean yourself regularly has made you completely oblivious to the pain that you are obviously in?" I knew that the tone of my voice was far from forgiving. The more I stared, the more anger welled up inside of me. Was I more angry at the individuals who were the source of her pain? Or was it her obvious lack of concern for what might easily become, a life-threatening condition? In truth, I was unsure but the rage alone was undeniable.

She sighed, her head slumping forward and sending a curtain of dark locks falling over her forehead. "Giovanni..."

I found myself sighing as well. "I thought not. You may be less reluctant to come to terms with your own fragility but I am not. I have let you suffer long enough but no longer. I will take care of this. Just wait for me here. I will return shortly."

Without another word, I turned for the door, reaching into my pocket and brushing aside the small jewelry box in favor of the phone.

This recent turn of events played out like the punch line to a cruel joke. Like a literal fist to the gut; an unpleasant jolt to the heart at knowing that even when I thought everything was fine, it never truly was.

What I would not give for just a moment of uninterrupted bliss, especially now that I knew with whom I wished to spend all of my time. What lengths I would not go to for all to be well for once...

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