Rosalie was received with a round of applause and she frowned at each and everyone. 'You have no idea how stupid all of you look right now' . 'Come on, Rose!' Raven bend down to whisper in her ear, 'It's not every day one turns 110' . 'Look who's talking…' she whispered back, making him laugh.
Marina watched their exchange from the kitchen and received a nudge from Jane. 'She likes him. I'd say that's a sign you can take the next step forward. Help me with these will you?' she pushed a plate of cupcakes into Marina's hand.
'Cupcakes? Really Jane?! The woman is 110 years old!'
'She asked for them FYI and I'm not stupid. They're cholesterol-free and were made with diabetic sugar, so it's perfectly safe for her'
'Diabetic sugar—you do know that that's sweeter than regular sugar, right?' Marina asked, eyeing the heavily iced cupcakes.
'Are you serious?' Jane looked a bit frightened at her plate.
'Pretty so, dad was a diabetic! I would know, I made his tea and sometimes I'd drink it with him… Did you put in as much as you would normal sugar? You know, with the measuring cup?'
'Uh, no, I went light on the sugar. They always taste better when they're not too sweet. I can't believe I didn't know that!'
'Not many people do— If you've put in less, it's good, but we'll keep an eye on her just the same; She shouldn't eat too many! I, on the other hand, LOVE cupcakes!' Marina took a bite out of a chocolate one with pistachio icing.
They set up a nice table in the living room full of cupcakes, fruit juice and the also cholesterol free chocolate cake with strawberries that Marina decorated earlier, before turning to the various activities planned for that day. The karaoke machine last year proved a big hit and was rented this year too, but after too much champagne combined with the juice-barrel-punch, even the karaoke happy birthday song was sung an octave too low and exploded in a fit of giggles. Julie was also having a blast walking around with a mistletoe tied to a broomstick, holding it above everyone's head even though there were still a few days left before Christmas. Pretty soon a new game started—How to avoid Julie and the Mistletoe—and everyone spoke to each other at arm's length away.
Day became evening; evening became night and it was time to say goodbye to the guests. Cupcake in one hand, a piece of cake in the other everyone went their merry way. It was then that Marina noticed she hadn't seen Raven in a while. He wasn't where the party was cause she just came from there… Maybe he was with Rosalie- the comfort in which they spoke and laughed with each other showed a certain amount of trust between them; even if they'd just met. Marina said goodbye to the last guest; an aunt she had never met before and walked back inside to search for her grandmother.
Julie was sitting on the couch flirting with Dante who was still here. They seemed too taken in with each other to even notice her. She asked Jane, who was halfway up the stairs to her room, and was told that Rosalie had just come out of the shower and is getting ready for bed, so it would be highly unlikely Raven was with her. 'Maybe he's in the bathroom or something' Jane added and continued up the stairs. 'Yeah, maybe' Marina thought and walked back out the front door for some air. She wouldn't stay in the room with the lovey-dovey couple; the thought alone was unpleasant. If Raven was done in the bathroom, she'd see him eventually.
Closing the door behind her to keep the chill out of the house and leaning against the balustrade she closed her coat up to her neck as soon as the wind caught her. She took it back, this wasn't a chill, it was freezing tonight; finally a sign that it was indeed winter time. The past days had been deceiving to say the least. The sun was out shining and the temperature was that of an all-day AC that someone left on. Taking a few short breaths to get her lungs accustomed to the night air she looked up at the sky. There were no stars out tonight indicating either rain or the long-awaited snow that had yet to fall this December. Marina wondered if the moon was also hidden from view. She had a strange fascination with it and always looked for her through her bedroom window at home. Just as she rounded the corner in search of the great white orb her eyes fell on the figure standing just a bit off the kitchen, leaning against the balustrade.
His eyes were on her lacking surprise. As if he knew she was there even though she knew that she had made no sound since stepping outside. 'Hey…'
'Hey', he whispered.
The phone kept ringing until the busy signal sounded. Jane pressed the call end button and looked at his name on the screen. 'He's probably busy… or asleep' she thought, looking at the clock and put the phone on her bed grabbing her pajama's and towel. That warm bath was just what she needed to sooth her tired muscles she concluded returning to her room 20 minutes later. Right on time for the 'Room Service' romantic songs program that started every day at 11. It calmed her down helping her fall asleep easier, but no sooner had she turned on the radio when Dante came into her room.
'There you are', he said walking up to her. Jane wanted to ask why he was searching for her when he pressed his lips on her still open mouth, pulling her into him with his hands around her back. For exactly one minute Jane was stunned and tried to register what was happening. He was kissing her; Dante was kissing her. Not rough, but very passionate as if he was kissing… She groaned inside his mouth and shoved him back roughly. 'What the hell are you doing? I'm not Julie!' she screamed and wondered if he was just lucky that day at yoga when he managed to separate the two of them.
'Do you really think I'm not aware of that Jane?', he answered, a smug smile on his face. That and his answer angered Jane and she struck him clear across his left cheek making his head snap to the right; the sound still resounding in her room. How dare he? Did have the audacity to think he'd have both her and Julie? Jane saw him caressing his sore cheek and he turned his head back to look at her- simply looked.
'Get out of my room!', she said and pointed at the door. Dante kept his eyes on her and spoke again.
'Does that answer your question?'
Jane frowned at him. 'What?'
'Yes', Julie's voice came from the hall and she entered Jane's room. 'Yes, it does'
Jane was thoroughly confused now. What was going on here? She looked from her sister to Dante and back again. Dante moved away from her to where Julie stood and stopped in front of her pointing at his cheek. 'She slapped me! Right here, Julie! It stings… I'll need comforting- lots and lots of comforting'
Julie stroked his cheek lovingly. 'I'll make it up to you in a bit'
'I'll be in the hallway'
'What's going on Julie?', Jane said when she had her sister's attention again. 'Just a little test. To see how strong Damian's roots are compared to Jason's'
'I told you I'd be okay with you and Dante, why would you-?'
'This wasn't for you okay, this was for me! You can say whatever you want, I know you! I know how deep you feel when you let yourself go. Saying something and acting on it are two different things. I just needed to be sure… and tonight I am!'
Julie walked up and rested her forehead against Jane's, just like they used to do when they were children. 'I just didn't want to choose between you two. If I had to, I'd choose you, you know that! You’re my sister, my other half', she gave Jane a short smile, '…but I wouldn't really be happy about it. Jason's a part of what makes me whole too'
Jane nodded against her sister's head, so emotional she almost couldn't form words. 'I know Jules, I really do…'
'I'm sorry I had to test it like that', Julie smiled, 'Jason was against it so you know… I kind of forced/bribed him into doing it. I just wanted to draw a line behind all of this and have my sister back… I love you Janey!'
'I love you too Jules', Jane whispered, tears of joy flooding both their eyes. They smiled and cried as they held on to each other. Two sisters, two halves once again one…
'I'm still hurting over here, you know', Dante's voice sounded from the hall after a while, making the twins giggle.
'I'm sorry I hit him', Jane apologized releasing her sister from the vice-grip hug. 'He deserved it', Julie shook her head, 'From where I was standing, he put a little too much into that kiss. I believe he may have even enjoyed it', she winked at Jane and walked to the door. 'Pick up your phone Janey'
Jane turned her head towards the bed and saw the display light flash. She closed the door and got between the covers before picking up. 'Hey beautiful', Jane smiled at the sound of his voice, 'You called me…'
'Yeah, I missed you… wanted to hear your voice! You didn't pick up, so I thought you were sleeping', Jane put in her earpiece, so her arm wouldn't get tired holding the phone.
'It's 8 pm here Jane. I just came out of a business dinner with the curator, that's why I couldn't pick up… are you okay? You sound like you've been crying'
'I'm good- I just had a touchy moment with Julie, that's all'
'How was the party?'
'A bit tiring', she partially yawned, 'but grams was happy, so it was worth it. It would've been better if you were here…'
'I wish I was there right now'
'When's your flight?'
'Tomorrow morning… Time to say goodbye to the pyramids and come home… I don't have any jobs lined up for the next 3 weeks and I want to spend them with you in those beautiful hills… what time is it there?'
'Almost 11.30', she yawned again.
'I should let you sleep'
'No, I'm not tired, I want to hear your voice some more', Jane smiled into her pillow. She traced circles on her mattress, remembering his scent and the little tingles he left when he caressed her skin. 'Damian?' she whispered when it grew quiet on the other side of the line, 'Are you still there?'
'I'm still here…' he whispered in her ear.
'What are you thinking about?'
'…you…', he whispered, his voice hoarse with emotion it stirred something in Jane.
'Shhhh…', his voice was low, no longer just a whisper, '…what are you wearing Jane?'
'I hope you weren't too bored'
'Are you kidding? I rather enjoyed myself. You have a fun-filled loving family, Marina. I'm glad I was a part of that today.' Again. 'You enjoyed yourself?' Marina asked a bit surprised, 'Even with Julie breathing down your neck every second?'
'I'll admit, she's a pest… but in a good way. She can brighten up a room and give you a headache at the same time. I like her… Your grandmother too; She's a feisty one', Raven smiled.
'I'm sorry, I should've warned you about her…'
'You told me she wasn't a witch. I think she is! She made me fall in love with her even with all the threats she issued'
'She threatened you? That's why she threw me out of the room?'
'Among other things. She wanted to know how I knew you and I told her about how I was brought to you. Then came the usual 'sounds like danger' – 'stay away from her' – 'I will hurt you' threats that I'll admit I was looking forward to—what is that galling sound?'
'Galling?', Marina frowned.
'Irritating if you will'
'I don't hear anything?', she leaned against the balustrade.
'It's very faint…', Raven slowly stalked towards her and stopped when he stood in front of her, making her take in a shaky breath, '…and coming from your coat… whenever you move'
Raven carefully let his hand slide into her pocket and smiled when he recognized the object in his hand. 'Julie…', he chuckled, opening his hand for Marina to see. 'At least now we know where that mistletoe went… I had a feeling she was creative, but in your coat? Smart!', Raven turned her palm upwards and let the mistletoe fall into it. The entire party, Raven took care not to stand too close to her to avoid Julie and that darned leaf. She was a little disappointed he did, because it would've been the perfect excuse to kiss him, without putting any other meaning behind it, or to at least get that out of the way… Marina lifted her eyes to his face and caught him staring at her mouth before he looked away and leaned against the balcony again.
'Why did you stop?'
'Why did I stop what, Marina?', Raven sighed.
'Oh, come on Raven, you know what I'm talking about… in the woods, you were going to kiss me! Why did you stop?', Marina surprised herself that she actually asked him. She had been wondering about it ever since that afternoon, but couldn't bring up the guts to actually say anything. If talking to Jane brought this out, maybe she should talk to Jane more often.
'You were uncomfortable, that's why. I would never do anything to you against your will'
'How would you know what I was feeling? I wasn't at all un-… yes, maybe a little', she admitted when he cocked an eyebrow at her, 'But that doesn't mean I didn't want you to…'
Raven's face relaxed and tensed at the same time as he studied her face. 'I'm not gonna beat around the bush or act like a nervous teenager, Raven. I like you! I have since the day I walked into your room when you were conscious. There's been this insane strong pull towards you ever since…', Marina's voice shifted into the next gear and it all came out fast, '…and to tell you the truth I was kind of glad when that happened in the field. By being glad I knew then that it wasn't all in my head and that maybe the feeling…'
The train of words slowed down when she found herself pressed against his chest, 'It is mutual, Marina', Raven whispered, 'It is…'.
His lips were so close to hers she could feel his warm breath on them as he breathed out. He was waiting. In the woods he made a move and she was uncomfortable. This time she had to come to him; let him know that she was sure about what she wanted. For a moment Marina wondered why he was just holding her, but quickly realized she had to make her move this time. He already admitted to feeling the same, so the next step would have to be hers.
She sighed and tilted her head a bit so that her lips brushed his. He still didn't move. Marina lowered her head and stared at his half open lips before repeating the action. It was still a brush of their lips, but a bit firmer this time and he caved. Raven leaned over and pressed his lips tightly to hers, keeping her locked in his embrace. It was a hungry kiss, but the softness of her lips left him no choice but to be gentle. He pulled her bottom lip inside his mouth gently sucking on it, before doing the same to her upper lip.
Marina let out a soft moan and lifted her arms around his neck, pulling him in deeper. She felt his tongue caressing along the seam of her lips requesting entrance. She sighed inside his mouth and opened her lips inviting him inside. Raven let out a tortured moan and no sooner had he gained entrance, his tongue was already dancing around hers, tasting the sweetness of her mouth. After all this time of pent up desires, finally having this contact felt incredible.
The kiss started off as gentle and soft, but quickly became somewhat aggressive. Raven was surprised since it was Marina that shifted gears. She moaned inside his mouth and sucked on his tongue hard, pressing her body up against him even more. He was taller than her, so she had to stand on her toes to be able to kiss him and by pressing against him it resulted in her moving up and down his body. The friction it created send shivers up her spine and she liked it. She wanted more… needed more!
'Raven… I-I need you…'
It felt unreal she would say that. She slid up and down his body once more trying to break through his cool demeanor and she was chipping away at the wall of control he was trying to keep up. Raven snaked his hands up and down her back. He kissed her more fervently after hearing that and felt her body grow heavy in his arms as her held her up. This was spiraling out of control fast. If this were just some woman in some other place, he'd take her right there on the railing, but she was not…
Suddenly grabbing her hips, he pushed her back against the railing, making sure she leaned firmly against it and pulled back. Both for a breather and to cool the situation down a bit. Marina frowned when he did and held onto his arm before the warmth of his skin had left her completely. 'Raven…?'
He hung his head at the sound of her desire laced voice as she spoke his name and breathed in deeply.
'Too soon, too fast', he whispered between breaths.
'I don't feel that way', she said and took his face in her hands and stroked a wayward lock out of his face, 'All this time of maybe, maybe not and pulling back… too long… I don't want to play the cat and mouse game anymore, Raven!'. She closed the distance between them once more and pressed feathery kisses along his chin, and he closed his eyes.
'What I want right now is you…', she whispered and claimed his lips again.
'… just you…'