Here we are, Little Ones! Welcome to the final journey!
This one is a little different, but as always, I ask for some faith as I lead you on this wild adventure.
Thank you endlessly to Mel, Jill, and Paige!
.: Prologue :.
The air is heavy with the threat of an incoming storm. It has been rolling in the sky all day, the grey clouds swelling greater and greater until they block out the blazing summer sun, trapping the heat it left behind on the city below.
He is not of this land, but business has brought him to Europe.
It's farther from home than he ever thought he'd go.
He thinks of his home, leagues away, across the great Atlantic Ocean. Virginia is nowhere near as large as the cities of Europe, and though it has far less to offer, on occasion he does find he misses it.
Virginia could have storms, but never so sweltering as this.
He hurries along the cobbled street, his smart dress shoes, that he's bought custom-made, snap against the stones. He has wealth beyond measure now, but it is still not enough to quell the restlessness of his heart.
Always, his whole being yearns for her.
He remembers the night she died, vividly.
He did not know he could experience such perfect joy then such complete heartbreak within the same breath.
She promised him she would come back, but he buried her body in the fertile Virginia soil. How could she possibly return from that?
He rounds a corner, reaching up to tug at his collar. He regrets not hiring a carriage to drive him. He shall be sweat-stained by the time he arrives for his meeting.
Overhead, thunder cracks, making the glass in the windows nearest him jingle and rattle. He glances at the panes before looking up at the heavens.
He doubles his pace.
He is about to turn down the next street, when a breeze picks up, carrying to him the scent of honey and rose. He stops, his body going rigid as the scent drifts through him.
They are common enough scents on their own, but it is the combination of them, mixed with the undertones of something richer, that makes his heart leap into his throat.
Before he can reason with himself, his eyes are scanning the street, searching.
She's dead. She died in his arms, with barely enough time left to tell him she would see him again one day.
He believed it to be the desperate hope of a woman on death's door, but now…
There is hardly a soul out because of the oncoming storm, but still, he cannot find the source of that scent.
Perhaps it is wishful thinking, he says to himself. A trick of the mind.
He wants to believe that, but his heart is stubborn, just as it's always been.
He turns the corner, intent on chasing a ghost when two young women nearly collide with him.
He reaches out to steady them as they sway on the spot.
"My apologies, Mademoiselles," he says, letting go of them as soon as they are stable.
"You should be more careful," one criticizes in heavily accented English. She turns to her companion, who is working to right her parasol.
"Let me help you, please," he says, reaching for the blue lace umbrella. He gently plucks it from her hands, untangling it from her purse before handing it back to her.
She looks up to meet his gaze, and the world falls out from under him.
It cannot be.
The same upturned nose, the same wide brown eyes. She even bears the same beauty mark just below her eyebrow.
How can this be?
"Sarah," he breathes, his knees nearly giving out under him.
She blinks, taken aback by the intensity of his gaze.
"I beg your pardon, sir. My name is Lina, not Sarah." Her voice is light, colored by a Prussian accent, but even despite that, he knows it to be the same voice.
Beside her, her companion tugs gently on her arm.
"Miss Lina, come. We must get back before the rain," she insists.
Lina lets herself be urged away, and he turns, his heart thundering in his chest as he watches them hurry down the street.
She looks back at him once, her face confused and curious, as if she recognizes him but can't quite place him.
Her companion hurries her along, and he lets out a harsh breath.
She's here; she's alive, just as she said she would be.
And within a matter of days, he will die.