Falling In Love With The King Of Beasts

Chapter 40: Our History - Part 2


Chapter 40:Our History – Part 2

ELIA

Their eyes met again and Elia swallowed, her breath catching. “You never told me—”

“I didn’t know how,” he said simply. “I still hadn’t really understood the differences between Human and Anima. I still thought you were being stubborn, refusing to believe I’d tried to help you. It hurt me that you’d believe I wanted to hurt you. My pride was wounded…” He looked away then, down at his own hands. “Then there was the night your parents fought. About me.”

“I tried,” she gasped. “I tried to tell them—I knew you wouldn’t hurt me again. And I missed you.”

He nodded, but his eyes, still alight with that odd glow, only flicked up to meet hers, then he dropped them again. “I didn’t understand them. I’d never heard your family shout like that before. I thought you were in danger…”

She brought her hands up to her mouth, suddenly seeing that night so differently.

“When I went to your window that night it was to make sure you were okay. That they weren’t harming you. I could hear you crying and I was worried.”

“I knew you just wanted to talk. But when my father found you at my window—”

“He called me a pervert. I didn’t know what that meant for years. When I found out it made me sick.”

“I always knew he was wrong about that, Gareth. I did.”

He nodded, his eyes glowing even brighter.

Elia couldn’t believe it was him. Couldn’t believe he’d come back for her. She’d always wondered what happened to him—always wished she could see him as an adult. She’d known he would be strong. Knew he wasn’t… what her father had accused him of. But she’d also wondered… he was very different to the other children. She’d seen that even more later, after he was gone, and she made other friends. Sometimes… sometimes she’d wondered what was wrong with him.

The thought made her sick to her stomach.

She was about to throw herself off the bed and into his arms and plead with him to forgive her for questioning, when she blinked. Because… he’d broken his promise. It had been hard for him, she could see that now. And it was forgiveable, she supposed. But… “You never even left me a note,” she said, the anguish of her eight-year-old self in her voice. “You just disappeared. I thought you were angry and—”

“No, Elia, no,” he shushed her, stalking back to where she sat and kneeling in front of her again—and now she knew. Now she could see. This was what he’d always done back then, too. He’d always been so much bigger than her. Whenever there was something they worked on together, he’d always brought himself down to her height, made himself smaller. It was what had tipped her memory the day before.

It was, she realized, why she’d been so sure she could trust him. Something in her had known, even though she hadn’t recognized him. He was so much bigger now, so handsome, and… so vital. When she looked at him now, it was almost impossible to reconcile this beast of a man with that child.

He put a hand on her knee and stared up at her. “The timing was unfortunate,” he said quietly, his eyes pleading. “Right after that night when your father found me at your window, my parents called for us to return to Anima. We’d known it would happen soon—it’s one reason I was so determined to spend time with you while I could. I was a child being groomed to be King. I didn’t know… I thought my father ruled all worlds. I’d actually written him and asked him to order your parents to allow you to return to Anima with us.”

She gasped and clapped her hands to her mouth, half in delight, and half sad for the child who’d been so na?ve. “I didn’t even know about this place.”

“I wanted to tell you. I’d even practiced writing down what I would say. But my guardians found it. Then there was the fight with your father, then my father said safety had returned. They made the decision to get me out of there without warning so I wouldn’t risk sharing our secrets with you. I… was very angry.”

A shiver rocked through him and his fingers tightened on her knee.

“I knew, I think, even back then,” he said, his eyes on where his hand touched her. “I was too young to understand what it meant, what it would become. But something in me knew that you were the one for me,” he breathed, awed. Then he looked up at her, a question in his eyes.

Elia’s eyes widened, emotions chasing themselves through her so she could barely keep them safe.

She’d felt the same, if she was honest. She’d never met anyone who made her feel more comfortable, or safe, than her little friend Gareth. She’d been so angry when he left. She felt betrayed. And that colored her memories. She’d told herself he was a strange boy, and she was lucky he disappeared.

Her father had always reminded her of those events when he questioned her judgment—his proof that she was too trusting. To innocent to know what the world might do to her. And his insistence had made her question.

But then again… then again…

“You should have told me. You should have told me this last night, Gareth! Hell, you should have told me before they even put me in that clearing!”

Reth stared into her eyes. “I didn’t know, Elia. I swear. I had no idea you’d be there last night until I walked and saw you… scented you…” he said. She blinked. He had to be lying. Surely? But he held her gaze unwavering, his fingers warm on her thigh. “Please, Elia,” he whispered.

She almost gave in to it, almost leaned in to take his beautiful face—then she remembered. “But… I asked you. I asked you outright at breakfast! I asked you if we’d met before because I kept getting this feeling… like déjà vu. Like I’d been with you before. I asked you, Gareth!”

He dropped his head to her knee and she pushed him off, scrambling up from the bed, careful to keep the furs wrapped tightly around herself.

*****

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