“In dreams, and in love, there are no impossibilities.”
“Who are you?" I asked.
"You know who I am," he replied. "I'm yours."
~Clea / Sage, pg. 105”
“You're so convinced you'll disappoint people if you show them that you're not perfect. You don't realize you are perfect. Your imperfections are what make you perfect. They make you you. That's what people love. It's what I love too.”
“He always believed that people live up or down to the amount of trust you put in them.”
“Pleased to meet you." Sage said, offering his hand. "The pleasure is all mine," Rayna Purred. "Unless ofcourse, it's all Clea's which is even better."
Sage smiled and might have even blushed a bit, which was highly entertaining.”
“Clea and I were touring one of the cathedrals in Italy, and in front of the whole tour I go 'That's so cute! Look, they have birdbaths in the church!”
“That's so cute! They have birdbaths in the church!”
“I gave the Rayna back the phone and shook my head. "Ben and I are like brother and sister. That's gross."
"Hey, I read Flowers in the Attic. It was kind of hot.”
“This was real. And it was me. I had lived that life, and I had died that death. I was staring at the very end of me.”
“Dreams were the brain's way of sorting out things left unsettled in our waking lives”
“In dreams and in love, there are no impossibilities.”
“The eyes are the windows to the soul”
“I wish you could see yourself the way I see you. You have no idea how special you are. You can have everything you ever dreamed of. We both can”
“My silver iris necklace, like my father said have a meaning the petals represent faith, valor and wisdom.”
“He swung it open and presented me with a single red rose.
"For you," he said.
"Very gallant," I replied. "Of course you do realize I have the same cut flower in my room."
Ben glanced over his shoulder at the now empty bud vase sitting on his table. "Hmm. Didn't really think that out. Still gallant?"
"You happen to look ravishing tonight." He said it with a British accent that made me laugh out loud.
"As do you, sir," I responded in kind.
"Excellent. Shall we go, then?" He extended his arm and I linked my own through it, first shifting my camera bag to my other shoulder so it wouldn't bang between us.”
“Since George was at work, Dad ended up driving both women to the hospital. They clutched each other in the backseat-two huge-bellied, panting, moaning women, both of them freaking out about the work they were missing. Dad sped all the way to the hospital, sure he'd get pulled over and arrested for being a suspected polygamist with a taste for overachievers.”
“Apparently it was fine to believe in fate delivering you a soulmate every night, but crazy to believe fate might chafe at being told what to do. I believed Rayna gave fate far too much credit for benevolence.”
“He was beautiful.
Whatever else he was, Sage was by far the most magnetic man I had ever seen. I had felt it in my dreams, and it was even more true in real life. I welcomed the chance to study him without his knowledge.
He glanced up, and I quickly closed my eyes, feigning sleep. Had he seen me? The scratching stopped. He was looking at me, I knew it. I held my breath and willed my eyes not to pop open and see if he was staring.
Finally the scratching started up again. I forced myself to slowly count to ten before I opened my eyelids the tiniest bit and peeked through my lashes.
Good-he wasn’t looking at me.
I opened my eyes a little wider. What was he doing? Moving only my eyes, I glanced down at the dirt floor in front of him…
…and saw a picture of me, fast asleep.
It was incredible. I could see his tools laid out beside the picture: rocks in several sizes and shapes, a couple of twigs…the most rudimentary materials, and yet what he was etching into the floor wouldn’t look out of place on an art gallery wall. It was beautiful…far more beautiful than I thought I actually looked in my sleep. Is that how he saw me?
Sage lifted his head again, and I shut my eyes. I imagined him studying me, taking careful note of my features and filtering them through his own senses. My heartbeat quickened, and it took all my willpower to remain still.
“You can keep pretending to be asleep if you’d like, but I don’t see a career for you as an actress,” he teased.
My eyes sprang open. Sage’s head was again bent over his etching, but a grin played on his face as he worked.
“You knew?” I asked, mortified.
Sage put a finger to his lips, glancing toward Ben. “About two minutes before you woke up, I knew,” he whispered. “Your breathing hanged.” He bent back over the drawing, then impishly asked, “Pleasant dreams?”
My heart stopped, and I felt myself blush bright crimson as I remembered our encounter in the bottom of the rowboat. I sent a quick prayer to whoever or whatever might be listening that I hadn’t re-enacted any of it in my sleep, then said as nonchalantly as possible, “I don’t know, I can’t remember what I dreamed about. Why?”
He swapped out the rock in his hand for one with a thinner edge and worked for another moment. “No reason…just heard my name.”
I hoped the dim moonlight shadowed the worst of my blush. “Your name,” I reiterated. “That’s…interesting. They say dreams sort out things that happen when we’re awake.”
“Hmm. Did you sort anything out?” he asked.
“Like I said, I can’t remember.”
I knew he didn’t believe me. Time to change the subject. I nodded to the etching. “Can I come look?”
“How dare he? After what we did last night, how the hell dare he?
If he was my soulmate, my soul needed to develop better taste.”
“Okay, what do I do here?" he asked.
I didn't answer. I just danced.
"What are you doing? I can't do that. It's impossible. My hips don't go like that. How do your hips go like that?" He tried moving with frenzied baby steps, completely out of rhythm with the music.
I put my hands on his hips. "Slow down. It's okay. Just relax, and let your hips go."
"I am relaxed. My hips are very shy; they don't like to go off without the rest of my body.”
I recognized the voice-how had my dreams known his voice?-but when he crouched down next to me, I skittered away.
"Don't touch me!" I snapped.
He held up his hands to show he was harmless. "Okay, okay," he said with a smirk. "You were the one chasing me."
I glared at him. It was an impressive show of restraint on my part, when the truth was that having him physically in front of me was wreaking havoc on my body and my brain. My heart was pounding fast, and my mind played a loop of every moment we'd shared in my dreams.
I forced myself to remember he was a stranger. Quite possibly a dangerous stranger. I needed answers from him, but I also needed to stay strong.
"I'm sorry," he said. "I thought you were hurt."
"I am hurt. I twisted my ankle."
"Maybe you shouldn't be chasing strange men through the woods, then."
"Maybe you shouldn't pretend you don't know who I am."
His eyes widened in shock for a moment. "You reme-"
Then he twitched his head briefly to the side, as if flicking away an unwanted thought, and his face relaxed. Only the clenched muscle in his jaw gave away any tension.
"You must be mistaken. I don't think we've ever met."
"Really? You look at most girls like you were caught with your hand in their purse?"
"I don't know what you're talking-"
"And then you ran away. Full speed, even though you knew I was trying to catch up with you. That's not normal. That's not how you act with a stranger."
The man pursed his lips and pressed his right fist to his temple, a gesture I'd seen him make so many times I almost lost my grip. Somehow I managed to stay steely eyed.
He lowered his fist and smiled, though the smile didn't reach his eyes.
"I reacted poorly," he said stiffly. "I don't have a good answer for why, other than I like to keep to myself. I only came back because you were hurt, and it seemed irresponsible to leave a girl all alone in the middle of nowhere. But if you'd rather I left..."
"Fine. Let's take a look at your ankle.”
“I can't live well without certain people, but I can live.”
“Maybe that’s his game, though,” I said. “The hunt for one soul, again and again.”
“Then why are you still here?”
“The other women lived with him for a long time too. Maybe he wants to wait until my defenses are down, and then-“
“Wow, Clea, you are so jaded. You found your soulmate. People wait their whole lives for this. It’s the most amazing thing in the world, and it’s happened to you. Can’t you just accept it and be happy?”
What she said made sense, but…
I flopped back on the bed and stared at the ceiling. Without looking at Rayna, I said, “He doesn’t act like he’s my soulmate. Sometimes I think maybe he liked the other women more. I think maybe he wishes I was one of them.”
Rayna was silent. This was something I’d never heard. “This is seriously, deep,” she finally said. “You’re feeling insecure because you’re jealous…of yourself.”
“I didn’t say I was jealous…”
“You’d rather think he’s a serial killer than risk being with him and finding out he doesn’t like you as much as he liked…you?” She scrunched her brow and thought, then tried again. “Yous? Anyway, you know what I mean-the other yous.”
“Forget the jealousy thing, okay? There are other reasons to doubt him too. Ben doesn’t trust him at all. He thinks Sage is some kind of demon. He said there’s a spirit called an incubus that comes to women in their sleep, and-“
“Of course Ben said that.” Rayna shrugged. “He’s jealous.”
“Ben’s crazy in love with you, Clea. I’ve been saying that forever!”
“And I’ve been ignoring you forever, because it’s not true. You just want it to be true because it’s romantic.”
“Did you not see the pictures of you from Rio?”
I narrowed my eyes. “What are you talking about?”
Rayna pulled out her phone. “Honestly, I don’t know how you survive without Google Alerts on yourself. The paparazzi were out in full force for Carnival.”
She played with the phone for a minute, then handed it to me. It showed a close-up of Ben and me at the Sambadrome that could only have been taken with a serious zoom. I felt violated.
“I hate this,” I muttered.
“Why? You look cute!”
“I hate that people are sneaking around taking pictures of me!”
“I know you do. Ignore that for the moment. Just scroll through.”
There were five pictures of Ben and me. Four of them were moments I vividly remembered, pictures of the two of us facing each other, laughing as we did our best to imitate the dancers shimmying and strutting down the parade route.
The fifth one I didn’t remember. I wouldn’t have; in it I had my camera up to my face and was concentrating on lining up the perfect shot. Ben stood behind me, but he wasn’t wearing the goofy smile he’d had in the other pictures. He was staring right at me with those big puppydog eyes, and his smile wasn’t goofy at all, but…
“Uh-huh,” Rayna said triumphantly. She had climbed into my bed was looking at the picture over my shoulder. “Knew that one would stop you. There is only one word for the look on that boy’s face, Clea: love-struck. Which is probably why a bunch of websites are reporting he’s about to propose.”
“Messenger. Don’t kill the messenger.”
I looked back at the picture. Ben did look love-struck. Very love-struck.
“It could just be the picture,” I said. “They caught him at a weird moment.”
“Yeah, a weird moment when he thought no one was looking so he showed how he really felt.”
I gave Rayna back the phone and shook my head. “Ben and I are like brother and sister. That’s gross.”
“Hey, I read Flowers in the Attic. It was kind of hot.”
“Shut up!” I laughed.
“I’m just saying, think about it. Really think about it. Is it that hard to believe that Ben’s in love with you?”
“Ben had the most expressive face I’d ever seen. When he told a story, he dove into it, re-enacting each character with a new set of his jaw and cast of his brow. His eyes shone vibrantly, and every time he laughed, it showed in his whole body. Just watching him made me smile. I felt warm around him, and happy, and comfortable. I felt like flannel pajamas, hot cocoa, a teddy bear, and my favorite comedy on DVD. I felt like home.
I loved Ben, that’s what I felt. It popped into my head, and I didn’t doubt it for a second. I loved Ben.
Well that was settled then, wasn’t it?
Then my eyes darted to Sage, and I noticed he wasn’t focused on Ben’s story either. He was watching me. He was watching me watch Ben, to be precise, leaning back on his elbows and staring so fixedly that I could practically hear him scratching his way into my brain to listen to what I was thinking.
And the minute I felt that, I was desperate to take back what I’d thought, and make sure he hadn’t understood. Especially since I had this strong feeling that if he believed I loved Ben, he’d disappear. Maybe not right away, but as soon as he could. And that would be the end of the world.
“Okay, Sage, your turn,” Rayna said. “What’s the most embarrassing thing you’ve ever done in the middle of a social function?”
Instantly Sage’s intense stare was gone, replaced by a relaxed pose and a charming smile. “Um, I would say doing a spit take in front of Clea’s mom, several senators, and the Israeli foreign minister would probably cover it.”
“You did that?” I asked.
“Oh yes, he did,” Rayna nodded.
“And the minister still offered you his house in Tel Aviv for the honeymoon? That’s shocking.”
“Rayna is particularly charming,” Sage noted.
“Thank you, darling.” She batted her eyes at him like a Disney princess.
“What happened?” Ben asked. “Piri spiked your drink with garlic?”
“You say that like it’s a joke,” Sage said. “I’m pretty sure she did.”
“She must really have it out for you,” Ben said. “Palinka’s Hungarian holy water. You don’t mess with that.”
“Speaking of holy water, I so did not get that on our trip,” Rayna put in. “Clea and I were touring one of the cathedrals in Italy, and in front of the whole tour I go, “That’s too cute! Look, they have birdbaths in the church!”
“This is textbook Bad Idea. We're driving with a stranger, no one knows where we are, and we have no way of getting in touch with anyone. This is exactly how people become statistics."
"Exactly?" I asked, thinking of all the bizarre twists and turns that had led us to this place.
Ben ceded the point with a sideways shrug. "Maybe not exactly. But still..."
He let it go, and the cab eventually stopped at the edge of a remote, forested area. Sage got out and paid. "Everybody out!"
Ben looked at me, one eyebrow raised. He was leaving the choice to me. I gave his knee a quick squeeze before I opened the door and we piled out of the car.
Sage waited for the cab to drive away, then ducked onto a forest path, clearly assuming we'd follow.
The path through the thick foliage was stunning in the moonlight, and I automatically released my camera from its bag.
"I wish you wouldn't," Sage said without turning around. "You know I'm not one for visitors."
"I'll refrain from selling the pictures to Travel and Leisure, then," I said, already snapping away. "Besides, I need something to take my mind off my feet." My shoes were still on the beach, where I'd kicked them off to dance.
"Hey, I offered to carry you," Sage offered.
"No, thank you."
I suppose I should have been able to move swiftly and silently without my shoes, but I only managed to stab myself on something with every other footfall, giving me a sideways, hopping gait. Every few minutes Sage would hold out his arms, offering to carry me again. I grimaced and denied him each time.
After what felt like about ten miles, even the photos weren't distracting enough. "How much farther?" I asked.
There was nothing in front of us but more trees.
"Wow," Ben said, and I followed his eyes upward to see that several of the tree trunks were actually stilts supporting a beautifully hidden wood-and-glass cabin, set high among the branches. I was immediately charmed.
"You live in a tree house," I said. I aimed my camera the façade, answering Sage's objection before he even said it. "For me, not for Architectural Digest."
"Thank you," Sage said.”
“What do you see when you look at me?”
“I see you,” he answered as if it was obvious. “It’s not like I see a place, or a time, or a name: just you. Your essence. Your soul. That’s how I find you every time you come back. I know it’s hard to understand, but your soul calls me…and I’m drawn to it. I couldn’t keep away if I tried.”
Sage raised his hand to my cheek, cupping it gently. I closed my eyes, resting against the warmth of his palm. When I opened them he had moved closer.
I closed the distance between us and kissed him.
I felt dizzy and hot and floaty, like every cliché…but it was true. I couldn’t feel my feet. I finally felt like I was where my soul belonged.
There was only one problem. The gearshift was digging into my side.
“Ow!” I winced.
“Yeah…it’s just…” I gestured down, feeling like an idiot for ruining the moment.
Sage didn’t seem to mind. He reached down and moved his seat back to its maximum leg room, then held out his hand. I grabbed it and clambered over the center console, clumsily ducking and folding myself until I finally settled onto his lap, straddling his legs. It was the least coordinated act of seduction ever.
“Better?” he asked.
He kissed me, sliding his hands up the back of my shirt. It felt incredible. Without breaking away from his lips, I reached underneath his tee and felt his bare, sleek chest. My breath came faster, caught up in the frenzy of finally letting go and doing what I’d been dying to do from the second I’d seen Sage on the beach.
“Wait,” he said.
He reached down and pulled a lever. I let out a little scream as his seat back dropped all the way and I fell on top of him. I loved the feel of his body under mine. I didn’t want a single part of us not touching.
“Better now?” Sage murmured into my ear. It wasn’t fair of him to ask me a question when he was doing that. I could barely function, never mind put together an answer.
“Much better,” I said. “It’s practically a bed.”
“Is it?” Sage agreed, and in his eyes I saw exactly what that could mean.
“Oh,” I said, suddenly nervous. “But…we can’t. I mean, we don’t have…”
“I do,” he said, leaning down to kiss the hollow where my neck met my shoulder.
I tensed up. Why did he have one? For who?
The corner of Sage’s mouth turned up. “For us, Clea. The drugstore in Rio? I kind of had a feeling…”
He moved his lips back to my neck. He nibbled on my earlobe, and I whimpered.
“Oh,” I managed. “Well…then…”
“I love you, Clea.”
Everything tunneled in, and I heard the words echo in my head. Sage loved me. Me. I didn’t even realize I’d stopped breathing until he said my name, concerned.
I looked at him and immediately relaxed.
“I love you, too.”
We kissed, and I actually felt myself melting into him as my last coherent thoughts gave way to pure sensation.”
“If there was any doubt about the authenticity of his fake ID, it would now be put to the test. As Sage waited for the Secret Service to do their due diligence, I wondered how much our mission to find Dad would be set back by Sage taking a quick detour to federal prison.
“He’s clear,” the lead agent finally said.
Great, we could go in. Sage politely insisted that Rayna and I enter before him.
“Not sure that’s such a good idea,” I said, but he wouldn’t hear it. Rayna, Ben, and I shared a knowing smile. Then I shrugged and stepped over the threshold…immediately triggering the Piri alarm. I don’t know how she knew; she was all the way in the kitchen. But the minute I stepped into the foyer she raced in, arms waving in the air, a high-pitched scream keening from her lungs.
“He made me do it, Piri,” I said, happily tossing Sage under the bus. “I tried to tell him-“
Piri strode right up to Sage, her head barely reaching his sternum, and jabbed her finger into his chest to emphasize each scolding word. “You never let a woman enter this house before a man! Very bad luck! And when the senator’s doing business! Jaj!”
She pushed us back outside, closed the door, and spit three times on the porch (barely missing the shoes of one of the Secret Service agents), then turned her baleful eyes to Sage, asking him to do the same.
“I don’t think I really need to spit on Clea’s porch,” Sage said uncomfortably, but Piri’s glare only grew more and more violent until he withered under its power…and spit three times. Piri smiled smugly and opened the door, gesturing for Sage to enter. Ben went next, bending to Piri’s ear to murmur, “If it’d been me, I would have gone in first.”
“That’s because you’re a smart boy,” Piri said, kissing him on both cheeks.
Once we were all in, Piri greeted us as if for the first time, with huge hugs and two-cheeked kisses.
As she led us to the luncheon raging in the other room, Ben crowed to Sage, “You know, a real European scholar would be up on old-school superstitions.”
“Rayna beamed as she hugged everyone good-bye and accepted their wishes for a long and happy relationship. Sage looked dazed.
“How did it go?” I asked.
“I think your mother just arranged peace in the Middle East while brokering a marriage deal for Rayna and me.”
“I’m not surprised. How many kids are you having?”
“Four. But we can’t start until she’s twenty-six, three years after the wedding. Oh, and we’re honeymooning at the minister’s beach house in Tel Aviv.”
“That’s nice. I’ll have to pop in for a visit.”
Sage just shook his head, still shell-shocked.
“Piri forgive you yet?” Ben grinned.
“I don’t think so. She put an inch of garlic on everything she served me.”
“Don’t take it personally. There’s lots of garlic in Hungarian food,” I assured him.
“Including my chocolate torte,” Sage added.
“Okay, you can take that personally,” I admitted.”
“We have snacks, everybody!”
“Where’d you get them from, Delaware?” Ben asked. He was glaring behind me, where Sage leaned casually against the wall.
“Practically,” I said. “My fault-I was dying for Red Hots. Pretty much impossible to find. So what movie are we watching?”
Back in the cave, Sage had told me I wasn’t much of an actress, and apparently he was right. I thought I put on a brilliant show, but Ben’s eyes were filled with suspicion, Rayna looked like she was ready to pounce, and Sage seemed to be working very hard to stifle his laughter.
Rayna yawned. “Can’t do it. I’m so tired. I’m sorry, but I have to kick you guys out and get some sleep.”
She wasn’t much better at acting than I was. I knew she wanted to talk, but the idea of being away from Sage killed me.
“No worries,” I said. “I can bring he snacks to the guys’ room. We can watch there and let you sleep.”
“Great!” Ben said.
Rayna gaped, and in the space of ten seconds, she and I had a full conversation with only our eyes.
Rayna: “What the hell?”
Me: “I know! But I want to hang out with Sage.”
Rayna: “Are you insane?! You’ll be with him for the rest of your life. I’m only with you until morning!”
I couldn’t fight that one. She was right.
“Actually, I’m pretty tired too,” I said. I even forced a yawn, though judging from Sage’s smirk, it wasn’t terribly convincing.
“You sure?” Ben asked. He was staring at me in a way that made me feel X-rayed.
“Positive. Take some snacks, though. I got dark chocolate M&Ms and Fritos.”
“Sounds like a slumber party!” Rayna said.
“Absolutely,” Sage deadpanned. “Look out, Ben-I do a mean French braid.”
Ben paid no attention. He had moved closer and was looking at me suspiciously, like a dog whose owner comes from after playing with someone else’s pet. I almost thought he was going to smell me.
“G’night,” he said. He had to brush past Sage to get to the door, but he didn’t say a word to him. Sage raised an amused eyebrow to me.
“Good night, ladies,” he said, then turned and followed Ben out. It hurt to see him go, like someone had run an ice cream scoop through my core, but I knew that was melodramatic. I’d see him in the morning. We had our whole lives to be together. Tonight he could spend with Ben.
I laughed out loud, imagining the two of them actually cheating, snacking, and French braiding each other’s hair as they sat cross-legged on the bed.
Then a pillow smacked me in the side of the head.
“’We can watch there and let you sleep’?” Rayna wailed. “Are you crazy?”
“I know! I’m sorry. I took it back, though, right?”
“You have two seconds to start talking, or I reload.”
Before now, if anyone had told me that I could have a night like tonight and not want to tell Rayna everything, I’d have thought they were crazy. But being with Sage was different. It felt perfectly round and complete. If I said anything about it, I felt like I’d be giving away a giant scoop of it that I couldn’t ever get back.
“It was really nice,” I said. “Thanks.”
Rayna picked up another pillow, then let it drop. She wasn’t happy, but she understood. She also knew I wasn’t thanking her just for asking, but for everything.
“Ready for bed?” she asked. “We have to eat the guys to breakfast so they don’t steal all the cinnamon rolls.”
I loved her like crazy.”
“Tell me I'm not the only one who thought he'd set us up," he murmured.
"Totally imagined a huge dead end," I agreed.
We laughed with giddy relief as Sage emerged into the cave.”
“My dear girl, you don't consent to an abduction! You consent to an elopement, and I knew you wouldn't do that.”
“A Forge, and a Scythe"
One minute I had the windows open
and the sun was out. Warm breezes
blew through the room.
(I remarked on this in a letter.)
Then, while I watched, it grew dark.
The water began whitecapping.
All the sport-fishing boats turned
and headed in, a little fleet.
Those wind-chimes on the porch
blew down. The tops of our trees shook.
The stove pipe squeaked and rattled
around in its moorings.
I said, "A forge, and a scythe."
I talk to myself like this.
Saying the names of things --
capstan, hawser, loam, leaf, furnace.
Your face, your mouth, your shoulder
inconceivable to me now!
Where did they go? It's like
I dreamed them. The stones we brought
home from the beach lie face up
on the windowsill, cooling.
Come home. Do you hear?
My lungs are thick with the smoke
of your absence.”
“Traffic congestion is caused by vehicles, not by people in themselves.”
“If you have the patience to wait and watch, history will reshape truth (weakest of all forces, and weightless) in the image of opinion. What really happened will cease to matter and, eventually, cease to exist. ”
“Consider the turtle. Perchance you have worried, despaired of the world, meditated the end of life, and all things seem rushing to destruction; but nature has steadily and serenely advanced with the turtle’s pace. The young turtle spends its infancy within its shell. It gets experience and learns the way of the world through that wall. While it rests warily on the edge of its hole, rash schemes are undertaken by men and fail. French empires rise or fall, but the turtle is developed only so fast. What’s a summer? Time for a turtle’s egg to hatch. So is the turtle developed, fitted to endure, for he outlives twenty French dynasties. One turtle knows several Napoleons. They have no worries, have no cares, yet has not the great world existed for them as much as for you? —Henry David Thoreau Journal August 28, 1856”
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