Chapter 5: Into the Sun

If your heart is a volcano, how shall you expect flowers to bloom?

--Kahlil Gibran

She had never felt, known, the true essence of that word. Cocoon. That's what she was: cocooned in an embrace that seemed like a vice, the shackles of sin that clung to one's spirit, requiring its presence to be sensed. It wasn't just any embrace. It was his.

Wholly, unfailingly, his.

Her eyes drooped heavily, wanting to just sink, bury her face amidst the circle of heat and forget, lose herself. Oh, that she had already done, she realized rather numbingly. She walked, talked, saw, a different Hitomi. This was not the reserved, polite, well-mannered, Hitomi Kanzaki she had known all her life. With him, she was bold, brash, saucy at times, and infinitely crude in behavior. With him, she felt alive, naughty, and...beautiful.

But oh, there were some things she had not allowed herself to sample, some things she guarded like a lion safeguarding his cubs.

Desire. Need.

There wasn't anyone she had needed so desperately, so unreasonably that it decayed all the bits of practicality and shrewd judgment she possessed. She had become what she had feared, despised most in her sex: needy.

It was unconscious, really. She would even demand he pay heed to her, not the random babe that crossed the way. But he didn't pay attention to the random babe. He gazed at her as if he was the only female alive to him and his survival depended on her happiness. But, like all animals and people, there were always other ways of surviving, living, and she knew his...devotion, his interest?...in her would be evanescent. Like all good things...fade away. Nothing was immortal, why would their attraction be anything even close to that?

But he made her weak, she realized, weak and strong at the same time.

And she hated that.

Her eyes slowly skated over to his face that was a mere inch away from hers. She bit her lip, trying to hide the reluctant smile that fought to grace her countenance. If side-effects were written on people's foreheads like on medicine labels, she knew his list would be infinite, starting with...

Warning: Sinful! May cause heartbreak, possible insanity, and often may indulge in unwanted/wanted (always "wanted" after future reflection, though) passion that has an overwhelming probability for being a detriment to future prospects with other men...

Her stubborn heart reminded her: she even liked that.

She liked him all too much.

Too much for a woman who was almost promised to another man. She was being bland in admitting she "liked" him. That was an injury to him, an understatement. Illicit passion, fathomless giving of one-self, emotion so devastatingly brimming until she couldn't take it anymore...that was the way she felt with him; those were the things associated with him.

It wasn't so much troubling that she felt those things...but she feared that it was only one-sided. Did he feel any of those things?

Her eyes once again swept up to his face where beams of sunlight danced. She told herself she wasn't disappointed, she wasn't sorry, she wasn't many things—

But she was.

Sunlight meant the snow was melting and melted snow would mean good-bye to the raven haired man she had gotten so unconsciously attached to. She couldn't hold back a certain bitterness that crawled in her heart. This world was heartless, Fate was heartless, God was heartless. Why had she, of all the females in the universe, had the misfortune of meeting this forsaken man who could twist her into knots, untangle her and mold her into anything he wanted—and have no intention of having some sort of commitment? Maybe it has to do with your non-existent luck, Hitomi!

A low groan was effective in bringing her back to the present moment. The present moment in which Van Fanel was nibbling on her collarbone and running his hands over her waist, her body feeling jolted as if she was sitting...er...lounging on an electric chair. She writhed like a snake caught in a bush until maroon eyes lazily opened, their effect as shocking as that of headlights that suddenly turned on in the stillness of the dark.

She sucked in her breath.

His dark, straight eyebrows furrowed and he muttered gruffly, "Sorry."

It came as no surprise that with the morning sun, rose a certain male anatomy part as well and the insistent poke below proved that. She had to avoid a gasp as he switched positions and he sealed her beneath himself and in that torrid breath, he spoke in a thick authentic accent. "Buena mañana, mi amor."

"You speak Spanish?" she breathed shallowly, her voice coming in that shade of softness with a slight un-threatening hiss, while trying to regulate her beats, trying to not go on a complete meltdown. His harmless words had the potential of seduction, his voice smoky and scratchy.

"Yeah," he grinned. "My mother is Spanish."

Visions of beautiful Spanish females filled her mind, pale, dark eyed, ebony haired goddess. Right. I am sure he has many of those faceless women crawling over him if he ever goes to visit.

She put a lid to her growing thoughts of uncertainty and smiled sideways. "Gutenmorgen, mein Teufel."

He raised an eyebrow. "And let me guess—you just spoke German?"

She rolled her eyes dramatically and giggled faintly, "Brilliant, Van."

He winked, "You echo my thoughts, chica." She stopped smiling when she realized his breaths were so close, his lips mere inches away. She blinked twice. Clear your head, girl. Breathe, breathe...His voice was husky, "And how did you learn German?"

She looked away, away from his face that she'd started to find so endearing. "My father is German," and as if she had read his mind, she answered, "my mother was an exchange in student there from Ireland when they met and fell in love."

His fingertips were gentle when they touched the corner of her eyes, though still making her blink, then close them. "Your eyes are greener than the hills in Ireland."

Her lids opened to show laughter peeking from its depths. "I hope you don't take this the wrong way—" his eyes were encouraging, "but your eyes are like Spanish saffron."

He fought hard to keep his face straight, struggled to keep his composure, but his face twisted. "Spanish saffron? Very original, I must say." He threw back his head and laughed, the bed shaking with him. To make her join his merriment, he did the most horrifying thing: he started tickling her. They rolled on the bed, laughing as though they were two careless children, having no cares.

Thump.

They landed on the floor, her atop him. There was an awkward pause, a kind dangerous calm that had the possibility of changing everything between two individuals. A volta. Jump, jump! Her conscience bickered within her. Do it. The look in his eyes was like a fierce fire that seemed to make her face burn with embarrassment, not even wanting to guess as to what he was thinking.

She did, what later she reflected was one of the smartest things she could've done.

She pulled herself together and lifted herself from him, not hearing the insistent whisper, "Hitomi..." Perhaps, it was better that she hadn't.

Van Fanel: age 26, was the kind of personage who had the ability to mold her to whatever he wanted, elicit any type of reaction he desired from her... but what made him different from a intimidating person who had such control was the fact that he encouraged her to be what she wanted to be, he brought forth the hidden depths of Hitomi Kanzaki that had been unknown to her to the surface.

She sighed as she fingered the material of the bed-skirt. Now, where would this all go?

Grew up in a small town
And when the rain would fall down
I just stared out my window
Dreaming of a could-be
And if I'd end up happy
I would pray (I would pray)

oooo

Some said it was an aprosodiac, that it generated endorphins, the creamy, velvety richness that children and adults alike loved to indulge their senses in. Currently, it was the object of much concentration: chocolate.

"Van," she frowned, "It's looking too thin."

He looked over her head to the pot where the substance was boiling. They were making chocolate mousse and waiting for the mixture to thicken, and the watery consistency was not even a bit close to the airy feel they desired for the mousse.

Chuckling, while beads of sweat lined her eyebrows, he stirred the liquid. "The corn flour will thicken it and then we have to beat it with the whipping cream." He ruffled her hair affectionately, "Don't worry your pretty head over that." Feeling more whimsical than he had in a while, he dipped his fingers in the separate bowl of thick melted chocolate and before she could speak—splat!—he had painted her face with chocolate, lines running across her right cheek.

The others turned their heads and laughed and Hitomi gave him a mock glare, a bubble of laughter waiting to erupt on her lips. She grabbed hold of the straps of his apron (which had mini red hearts printed all over the white cloth, and had taken Hitomi quite some convincement for him to wear), "You Mister, you're going to have to clean up the mess!" His eyes danced, a merry mix of cinnamon and wine.

"As you say, your Highness." He winked.

After getting someone else to look after their creation, they entered the empty half-bath. She stood in front of the mirror, his figure towering over her in the mirror. She raised her brow, a silent order, as she looked through the mirror at him.

A split second was all it took.

Clasping her around the shoulder and turning her so that she faced him, his mouth latched onto her cheek, and to her shock, his lips skated over her cheek, using his tongue, he licked all the chocolate away.

She blinked, still astonished, and her face turned an odd shade of tomato when he whispered into the shell of her ear, his breath faintly ticklish and... exciting? "You taste delicious."

She wrenched away, her eyes confused whether to be shocked or laugh, "And your sense of decency is disgusting."

He wasn't fazed, observing her as if she was humoring him. "Really?" he drawled. "Somehow," his fingertips touched her cheek, "you deprive me of all decency."

She gasped slightly, ignoring the shiver and the tremble of her hands.

She'd already closed her eyes when his lips descended, gently skating on hers, sweetly and tenderly. He nipped on corner of her mouth, then meeting her lips again and pulling them into a fierce mating.

Later, as they had silently entered the kitchen, Hitomi's face was still red and the cooks and employees nudged each other on their shoulders and masked their grins. Apparently, Hitomi's "husband" was still very much, err...physically interested in her and they all approved of the fact; God knew they were in so much love. Or so the cooks thought.

oooo

He fixed the collar of his shirt casually as he spoke, "You never told me what you do.

She smiled, warming to the subject as she picked on some of her lasagna. She'd always liked her work, "I work with foreign relations for Macrotile Industries."

He raised his eyebrow, "You like your work?"

She nodded firmly, "I always did like people, interaction." She smiled widely, "I get an excuse to travel! But sometimes, I volunteer at the animal shelter."

Presently, she was dressed in a lavender cable sweater that outlined her curvaceous figure and Van Fanel for the love of God, thought of how he would be able to keep his hands off of her. She was blissfully unaware that her mere existence was seductive. Settling her eyes on him, she asked what he knew she would. "What do you do?"

He gave her a slow smile, and kept his lashes down sheepishly, "I am the manager of a locally successful department store."

There was just a slight flash of surprise in her eyes but that faded and she looked at him as she would normally. "And do you enjoy your job?" Somehow she was surprised that Van Fanel, with his superior behavior would be a, well, manager. Not that she had anything against that, she thought hastily, secretly wishing that she did. Atleast that would dampen his allure. But, Hitomi Kanzaki, unfortunately, was not one to chase after money.

He shrugged, "Always looking for a higher position."

It was when they went outside to watch the melting snow when the fight occurred, when their path was made separate as light differed from darkness.

He had been awfully quiet during the whole night and it was a surprise when his arms came around her waist, and he tucked her under his chin, pulling her to his length.

She gasped, "Van."

"Shh...let me hold you."

Her voice softened into an accusatory tone. "You always take advantage of me at every opportunity. The more I run from you, the closer you pull me; if I want to forget you, you leave an insistent reminder that forces me not to." He released her, his hands immediately turning cold, very cold.

Her eyes met his, an honest, nakedness to it. "What do you want from me, Van?"

He gazed steadily, wanting to cage her in his arms because the expression on her face resembled that of a child's with her hair rumpled, her face looking small, her lashes long, but instead he answered her question truthfully. "I don't know."

He ignored the hope that flickered in her eyes. "Do we have a future together, Van? Do we?" She looked at her shoe, "I wouldn't ask too much of you—" a wobbly smile crossed her lips, "I'm not 'high maintenance' either."

He didn't answer, his throat suddenly constricting, unable to utter a word. What kind of response was he supposed to give? If he was decent, he would snatch her into an embrace, smell her fragrant hair and confess his undying love—except he did not feel love. No, this was absolutely not love. She deserved something better than a hotel fling.

The silence was like a knife that sliced through her heart, turning it into shreds.

Finally, he spoke, "I don't know."

"At least I know I won't be around waiting for the day that you do know." She bit her lip, trying not to choke on the words, looking at her fingers, "I think I'd like to be left alone."

He nodded, taking one good look at her, and then he turned back, closing the door behind her. Sighing, he leaned against it, sealing his eyes as if willing to escape from a nightmare. Outside the door, she leaned as well, a wistful sigh escaping her lips.

Their charade couldn't have lasted forever, anyway. The snow was on its way to melting and the sun shone brilliantly, quite as unpredictably as the changes in their relationship which had started out as mere strangers.

But, it was time to move on. Move on to whatever their destinies held. It was time for goodbye.

oooo

Trying not to reach out
But when I'd try to speak out
Felt like no one could hear me
Wanted to belong here
But something felt so wrong here
So I pray (I would pray)
I could breakaway

They had spent the rest of the afternoon separately, each going their way. She had reflected on her past life, thought of the storms that she had to overcome...mainly Allen's when he found out that she would not marry him.

A wan smile graced her features when her eyes struck the picture of her family. Mamoru...mother... she had missed them so much. Her father. It was an ache that she tried to suppress, but it was ever-present: her father had passed away in an automobile accident five years ago. There were still nights when she would awaken screaming, have nightmares about the phone call that delivered the horrifying news.

Placing the picture in her purse, she zipped it with a final deep exhale. Turning, her eyes met rust colored ones, and it felt as though her eyes weren't the only thing colliding...maybe it was their souls, their beings.

She gave him a vague, polite smile. "Farewell." The employees busied themselves, pretending not to look, but they knew what went on. Van had lied, saying that Hitomi had to tend to her sick mother and had to leave immediately. Ha! She thought sarcastically, it's at least partially true. I'm leaving to tend to my sick heart.

She lifted her bag, and more confidently than she felt, she smiled once more.

He was unnerving, a silent, unmoving figure with eyes hidden under those thick eyelashes. Her heart beat frantically, the thought of never seeing him was unbearable, something she actually hadn't even considered. What if she forgot him later on? He wasn't one to be forgotten, no, he was like an angry scar that adamantly refused to fade with the day.

A flash of hair, a strong pull, even more strapping arms and she was being held tight. If he had squeezed all the life out of her in that moment, she wouldn't have cared, or maybe even noticed. When she had turned, he had dramatically caught her wrist, pulled her with such force that even if she wanted to fight it away, she couldn't.

"Won't even hug your husband good-bye?" he asked, teasingly, though his voice was serious.

Not trusting her voice, she shook her head, but moments later when he still didn't release her, she rasped, "Let me go, Van."

Slowly, he pulled away and he produced a folded paper, which he gently handed to her. "Read it when you reach home."

She sniffed (hopefully thinking that he thought it was attributed to a cold) and turned to the direction of the door.

An unpurposeful slam of the door and she was gone, disappeared into the sunlight that seemed like the end of the tunnel, the end of the tunnel to their relationship.

He shoved his hands in his pocket and as he was about to clamber the stairs, one of the employees handed him an envelope. "For you, sir."

He raised a brow, nevertheless taking it. It was when he opened the envelope, did he gape, speechless, eyes widening. Oh my God.

oooo

I'll spread my wings and I'll learn how to fly
I'll do what it takes til' I touch the sky
I'll make a wish
Take a chance
Make a change
And breakaway

The air zipped passed him, rippling his hair in a wild dance in the wind. His estimations had been wrong about missing Hitomi a lot.

Hell, the oceans wouldn't contain enough water to show how much he missed her. It was with every breath, every second, he was reminded of her, her smile, her voice, her thoughts...

What was worse was that he was turning into a complete romantic, his definition in those who believed in such drivel like serendipity. It was almost this knowledge that if he turned, he'd find her standing there, her eyes being the embrace he'd be locked into. And he turned, drove and drove, looking for the snow-covered angel he'd let slip from his hands.

It didn't help when he saw his sister so happy with a glow that he'd never observed before lingering on her face, and her teasing on how he'd grown so serious overnight. Was he that transparent? He frowned; his little chit of a sister was getting smart.

This was his third drive alone and officially the one that set his sister into a lapse of worries. There was absolutely something horribly wrong with her brother that she had known for so long. She often suspected she knew him better than she knew herself, and was simply positive that this broody man who lived in the shell of her brother's body was somehow different.

It wasn't that he didn't try, she smiled wryly. He tried to hide it; more the reason to dig deeper, Merle, his sister thought. The man was absolutely mourning, she snorted, and it wasn't because he somehow felt he was "losing his little sister." In fact, he had greeted her husband-to-be, Gaddes, heartily, of-course, only after eyeing the man and making quick judgments after his first impression. She shook her head, smoothing her hair onto her scalp, his approval was essential to the marriage. She wouldn't have married if Van had deemed him unfit. For a man that had been so annoying as a boy and still was, he had a way, from the moment of his birth, of knowing what was right for her. He had a way of fixing things.

And, with a determined smile, she decided she was going to fix things for him finally. All I have to do is tunnel deeper into the heart of problem. Ironically, Merle didn't realize how close to the problem she was.

oooo

This was the third message he'd left on her answering machine in two hours. It was enough to irritate Allen Schezar and make him lose some of the restraint he'd been using.

Furious was an understatement. His anger was molten, a volcano that was going to explode into flames of fury any moment. He grit his teeth, and tapped the floor, if she didn't call very soon—

The phone rang and like an over-excited, teenager, he snatched it off the cradle, "What the hell do you think you're doing?" He reasoned, he had every right to ask her why she had disappeared completely for days, and for days he'd expected her call, and the more annoyed he got. God, they were practically engaged! What did he lack, he thought bitterly, that she would have think it over before she responded to his question?

"Would you calm down, Allen," the voice on the other end responded with a composure that caught him off-guard, Allen being ready to bite like a snake, already winding his fingers through the phone cord.

"Hitomi?" instead he asked with suspicion, as a father would ask a daughter if she'd been drinking. "Are you alright?"

"Of-course." It was funny how she felt so dead inside. Yet, it was as if she was finally aware of everything, observing herself from far away and suddenly realizing how spineless, submissive, and damned weak she had been with Allen. "How are you doing?"

Allen was dumbstruck. This was not his Hitomi; it couldn't be. Her voice almost had an unconscious sexy allure, mysterious, husky, a voice a man could make love to. "Fine. Damn it, Hitomi, you had me worried. Where were you?"

A soft sigh escaped her lips, "Yes, about that. I think we need to talk."

"We're doing that right now," he reminded smoothly.

"No, not like this. We need to meet in person." Her manner was confident, and possessed something else he couldn't place. "I'll see you at Sarabande in an hour, is that alright?"

He was indignant; she couldn't ask to meet him like that any time she wanted. He was a busy man. Yet, he found himself reluctantly agreeing, "Fine. I'll see you there, then."

He waited in anticipation, pausing for her usual farewell words. "Bye. Talk to you later." The phone clicked.

Oh my God. It hadn't come. The words he'd grown accustomed to hearing. I love you, bye.

Straightening his tie, Allen Schezar decided that something was terribly amiss with his soon to be fiancée. However, whatever was wrong, he decided, their engagement would not be delayed, or hindered in any manner.

Hitomi lay still on the bed just thinking, her fingers, not realizing touching the lips that had been branded forever. A slow smile grew on her face, wobbly at first, then firmer; he was a beautiful experience, something she'd never forget.

Out of the darkness and into the sun
But I won't forget all the ones that I loved
I'll take a risk
Take a chance
Make a change
And breakaway

Moisture trickled down her cheeks and she was mortified to realize a tear had slipped out of her eyes. Wiping it away hastily, she frowned and walked into the bathroom to get ready for Allen. Pathetic, Hitomi...you will absolutely not cry again!

Sarabande was a popular café whose elegance was belied by defining it as a café. It was fashionably decorated with warm, decorative, low hanging lamps, and cheerful tables set for couples with attentive waiters, the ambience of luxury wafting as languorous business men dominated the area with their respective female companions.

She sipped her coffee, inhaling its fragrance, "And?" he asked impatiently, "when will you finally decide to tell me of where you vanished? "

Raising her eyes, she met his, and her face deepened into a troubling thought. Speaking softly she said, "I can't be your fiancée."

He quirked his eyebrow, dismissing her statement, "What does that have to do with your disappearance?" She wasn't serious...

...was she?

"I fell in love," she said simply. It was then he took notice of her face. Her skin was shimmery, and she possessed an air of confidence he'd never noticed before...her hair was glossy, thick, and quite...endearing, almost...and eyes the color of spring grass. Then, the betrayal kicked in, the fury...

"What?" he hissed, "Have I been some sort of funny game you've been playing, huh? Pretending you cared about me?"

She closed her eyes, her anger mounting as he continued, "Hitomi, you owe me something. I saved your brother from all sorts of legal trouble, I cared for you—"

"Stop!" Her eyes flashed, a green fire ready to lash out and Allen almost gasped. "Is that how you'll plan to bind me, huh? Just because you didn't press charges to my brother for hacking into your database? I don't even know what kind of person you are, Allen."

"Hitomi—"

"No! I want to talk right now! Dammit, you've always controlled me and I'm sick of it. My brother didn't harm you, and if you had an ounce of humanity you would forgive him provided he wouldn't do it again—which I can assure you he won't." She was shaking, livid, not knowing she even possessed the anger she displayed. People stared at her, but she ignored them, her target fixed. "All these years you've taken advantage of that, used me, and truth be told, I never loved you. I am sick of you being a tyrant in my life!" Her breaths calmed, and with a strange dignity that kept him awe, she finished. "The last time I checked, happy marriages resulted from love which both you and I don't feel for each other, it is apparent."

In a controlled voice, he asked, "Who is that bastard?" He was astonished to realize the feeling that coursed through his veins...desire. He wanted her even more, not realizing the fire, the depth she possessed.

She laughed bitterly, getting up from the table, "As far as I know, you're the only bastard I've come across."

His mouth was agape as she exited. And he wanted her even more. He would have her, he decided, leaning against his chair.

oooo

Heavily lidded eyes calmly watched the strawberry blonde as she leaned towards her husband, kissing his cheek. The wedding had been beautiful, the happiness evident on the lucky couple's faces like the sky that suddenly shone brilliantly.

Feeling his eyes on her, Merle turned towards her brother and opened her arms towards him. He obliged, holding her close, "You have never looked more beautiful," he said sincerely. "Positively glowing like the sun."

She grinned onto his sleeve and extracted herself from him, tilted her head to gaze into his eyes. "I have never been more happier in my life."

Her eyes suggested something else and he could only look at her with question. "Van Fanel, I was not born today to notice that you," she smiled, "you are absolutely in love." She frowned, ignoring his gaping mouth, "the only dilemma that lingers is that I don't know who is the object of your such...such...deep affections." She grinned widely at him. "Too bad we couldn't have two couples getting married the same day."

She had continued non-stop, not letting him say even a thing, and he looked as if he'd seen a ghost. His voice was crusty as he spoke, "Am I that transparent?"

She giggled gleefully, "Only to me. Now, fess up, big brother. Who is the one you love?"

He flinched at the word. Love. The word had something final about it, like the conclusion to a movie...the ending of a story...the end of a sentence...but there was no ending to what he felt in his thoughts. Their story would be no happily-ever-after. "It's not love."

She rolled her eyes, dramatically. "Then whatever it is, suit yourself. But I want to know who she is."

He didn't say a word, just carefully removed two pictures out of his wallet, watching Merle as her eyes widened. "...God."

oooo

Wanna feel the warm breeze
Sleep under a palm tree
Feel the rush of the ocean
Get onboard a fast train
Travel on a jet plane, far away (I will)
And breakaway

He was in denial, he knew it. Two days after he wedding, Van had made his exit, ignoring his parents' protests and their hurt expressions. The tumult in his mind was about to explode if he stayed one more minute in a household where everyone was married except him. Funny how he got a pang of an unidentifiable emotion (it simply couldn't be jealous, he reasoned firmly) whenever he saw his older brother Folken wrap his arms around his wife's waist.

He was like a teenager, wanting to just sleep off the problem. The elevator seemed to take an eternity as it reached the fifth floor on the high rise apartment. Exhaustedly, he flicked the card and the door automatically opened.

If he had just been more observant, a little more aware, he would've realized there was a distinctly different smell in his room, a faint musk of nauseating vanilla.

"What the hell—" he gaped. Clad in red lingerie which showed more than covered with its lacy fabric, she wore a two-piece that was probably out of a Victoria's Secret catalogue and walked to him seductively. A woman who was not Hitomi. A growl sprung onto his lips and he wanted to pull his hair in frustration because he knew the woman's target. "Denise! What are you doing here?"

The woman curved her lips, her tongue purposely peeking out to moisten her lips, a seductive act performed to bait him, but it only succeeded in making him angrier. "Darling, I thought you wanted a warm welcome back." She batted her lashes, and touched his cheek, a touch that repulsed him.

He turned away so that he didn't face her and spoke in an alien, cold voice. "Put some clothes on and get out of here."

Convinced that he was playing hard to get, she smiled and ran her hands over his back, making him shudder, shudder with disgust. "You really don't mean that, honey, do you? I've missed you so much."

Cursing himself, his sudden movement to face her took her off-guard. The fury in his eyes was even more surprising. "Get the hell out of here, Denise, before I drag you out like that." He referred to her state of dress, or more accurately, undress.

She only pouted.

oooo

Dryden Fassa watched his sleeping fourteen-month old daughter and gently smoothed the blond curls on her head. Perhaps marrying was the best investment he had ever made, the CEO of a multi-national company thought broodingly with a smile. His wife, Millerna, or Milly as he called her affectionately, had departed yesterday for a medical conference leaving him to take care of their daughter. Oohh he would show her he was competent enough to take care of their daughter. She had worried, fretted overly too much, giving him detailed instructions for her care. His eyes crinkled into a smile, he would bloody well take care of the lil' angel.

So, it was with a surprise when the bell rung, for surely it wasn't Milly, and not many people called at such late times. When he opened the door, he was pleasantly surprised to meet him. Hair wild and needing a comb, eyes possessing an untamed quality like a beast caged, Van Fanel, he decided looked troubled.

"Van! Come on in!" he ushered him inside, closing the door quietly, remembering his sleeping daughter.

The men clapped each other's backs, a truly male practice that brought about a smile on their faces. "What do I owe the honor of your visit?" Dryden's kind brown eyes questioned.

He ran a hand through his hair, ignoring his friend's query. "How's Millerna? And Madeline?"

Dryden sighed, a smile curling on his lips, a look in his eyes that gave him the perfect image of a lover. "Both are doing well. Milly's away to a conference and Maddie's sleeping."

He knew not to poke, this man that he'd come to respect would open up when he was ready.

"I," he sighed, "I am just in trouble."

"Trouble? What kind?" Dryden inquired, "Legal or personal?"

"Personal," he croaked.

This was about to get interesting, more interesting than the show he had planned to watch—World's Unsolvable Mysteries.

"Spill, man."

Van inhaled, dismissing his thoughts of how he escaped Denise, that wretch. "It's a long story..." Thus, he told the tale, the way he met, leaving out the passionate details. "So what do you think?" he asked finally.

"Van, have you ever considered why I married Millerna?" Dryden tried to hide his smile.

"You loved her," he said matter-of-factly.

"Yes, I do love her. But before that, I couldn't bare it if a man even looked at her, grazed her arm, talked to her. I wanted her for myself." He gave a small laugh. "It's our animal instinct. It's possessive, dark, and selfish. And as far as I am aware, you wouldn't be very happy if she married that bloke, Allen, am I right?"

Out of the darkness and into the sun
But I won't forget all the ones that I loved
I'll take a risk
Take a chance
Make a change
And breakaway

He didn't need an answer to confirm his suspicions. "All I'm saying is that you need to

trust yourself."

"How were you sure that one day you wouldn't be attracted to some other woman, not have time for Millerna, you know—" he made a face, "get annoyed by her?" His face sobered. "And hurt her."

He raked a hand through his wavy chocolate brown hair, "With Milly, I just knew. When I married her, I took a risk, a calculated risk." He grinned, "The best risk I ever took. There is no woman I want, I need except Millerna." He forced Van to meet his eyes by insistently staring at him, "Everything in this world has a risk. You have to decide that this is worth taking."

His cinnamon-maroon eyes sharpened a look of steely determination dwelled in the shiny orbs.

Miles and miles away, a green eyed woman opened the unfolded piece of paper that her beloved had given her.

Reading, she wept and wept, immediately dissolving her earlier promise.

By God. She loved him, loved him even if he rejected her.

The heart of a man to the heart of a

maid - Light of my tents, be fleet –

Morning awaits at the end of the world,

And the world is all at our feet.

--Rudyard Kipling

A/N: takes a deep shuddering breath Aye, this is me. I am alive. My hiatus was long, and I couldn't have done with all the support all of you reviewers gave me. I wanted to individually write a message for all of you but that would mean delaying the update of the chapter and I wanted to deliver this to you, ASAP. It was with the steady friendship of Dariel and Ryuu Angel that I even decided to write. Ryuu Angel was aware of a time that I decided to quit. Returning from my summer, I was bombarded with so much work with reports, tests, (in the first week of school!) and summer homework. It's now been about a month and half and I am successfully maintaining an A in all my four AP classes.

The pressure was mounting, to perform well, to stand out and shine amongst the hundreds of students and I had to pull myself together, and I couldn't simply write when the world around me was slipping away with my weekends punctuated with serious crying sessions. --;; I was severely weighed down, trying to re-adjust.

Aye, I think that had been some of the most darkest times in my life. And I canna thank all the people enough. A whole chapter worth of thank-yous wouldn't be enough. Thank you, thank you, thank you! You know who you are.

So, thus, I pulled myself together and decided to let my characters rise from the ashes and be immortalized once again in another chapter. There's a stubborn streak that runs in our family. I will be a doctor, please my parents, yes, but I will also continue writing no matter what anyone says. That's something that's wholly mine and something that nobody can take away. It's too precious for me to let go. I am incorrigible and I simply cannot stop dreaming and if I am not writing physically, I'll be writing in my mind, mentally. But, I am also moving on. After Dearly Beloved, I think there will be a three-shot VH called Sanctuary (please, don't copy my title anyone...) that will come out in December. After that, I don't have any more VHs planned and I will quietly depart from the community unless I spring up with some other ideas that I simply canna resist. I don't know about the other unfinished fics yet. Still thinking.

I am busy with other projects that I am working on, an original that I hope to have finished by February.

As for happier things, my summer was fabulously exotic in India. Crazy days of shopping, spotting an extremely a rare good-looking guy with a girl I fancy that couldn't be the belle of many a ball, making me cheer for her and him. Rise to the wallflowers!! grins madly and winks at Ryuu Angel What else?—I attended parties almost everyday, checked into cooking classes rolls eyes (looong story...doona ask), sneaked out for movies, went for long walks beside the ocean, and thought of a plot for a story, another original. :D

Disclaimer: I do not own the song "Breakaway." The lyrics were written by Avril Lavigne and sung by Kelly Clarkson. I suggest you listen to this wonderful song. You'll see it again.

What to expect for the next chapter: I simply could not resist. I think Van and Allen will meet. They just have to. XD But I felt it was important first for 'Tomi to meet and face her past and stand up for herself and not have Van rescue her. :D And o'course, Van and 'Tomi will meet again. Naturally.

Oh God, it feels great to be back.

Hope to see you soon in another chapter. Oh yes, do review.