April 25, 2018 Update: I wanted to let you all know you can engage with new content and follow my journey as I work towards revising the first draft of my original YA Fantasy novel called Changeling at A Bookish Mama, my personal blog/website.
….Over a year….I'm so sorry! School, I've had a lot of health problems, two surgeries, and my grandfather passed away, it's all sort of come to a head. So, FINALLY without further ado, the conclusion to the far too stretched out Fantasy Lover.
Chapter 11: Fly Me to the Moon
Darien sauntered out of the elevator, a satisfied grin on his face. "Honey, I'm home!" he called joking, swinging out of his jacket and laying it on the couch. The suite was strangely quiet and he wondered in dismay if Serena had already fallen asleep. His meeting had gone a little later than he'd thought but it had been very successful. He'd succeeded in securing the merger and they'd signed all the paperwork over a celebratory bottle of champagne.
"Serena?" he called again, passing to the bedroom. It was empty, the bed tidily made and a piece of notebook paper rested on his pillow. His heart gave a strange leap of fear as he crossed the room and picked it up. It was written in a neat, girlish hand, Serena's, he realized.
"Dear Darien," he read aloud, his voice echoing back at him tauntingly. "I'm afraid something has come up with my mother. I must return home immediately to take care of it. Please don't follow me. What he had this summer was special, but it wasn't real. You and I belong to two different worlds. You, to a glamorous, successful, bright one, and I to a seedy and despicable one. Maybe you've forgotten what I am, most of my clients try to convince themselves I'm just another girl, but I'm not. I'm a prostitute, a "Lady of the Night". You could never be happy with me knowing my past. Please, for my sake, forget me. Marry a good girl and have pure children. Live the life with her you could never have with me, I know it's what you want. Be happy. With good wishes, Serena."
Darien stared at the page long after he'd read her name aloud. He could not believe she was gone. That's she'd just disregarded their feelings for one another. He didn't care what was in her past. Everyone made mistakes. Sometimes life handed a crap hand to some people. He stood, dropping the paper to the floor and meandering to the living room. His footsteps echoed around the suddenly vast suite, his breathing and the beat of his heart his only companions. He's spent far too long living alone that the sudden appearance of Serena into his heart had thrown him off. He was haunted by the idea of not having her around. He knew he'd never love another person as he'd loved her.
He sat on the couch, staring blankly into the cold fireplace. Perhaps he loved her because she was damaged. He was damaged. The death of his parents made him different from everybody else he'd met in the upper class circle. But with Serena he didn't have to hide anything. Their relationship had been deep.
The whoosh of the message system stirred him from his thoughts and he stood to retrieve it, moving as if in a daze. He pulled the rolled up paper from the plastic container and gazed over the words, hardly absorbing them. It was from Brad, the VP. A surge of irritation swept through Darien at his intrusion in his turmoil.
"I was just wondering if I could entreat you and your lovely fiancé to join me for breakfast tomorrow to celebrate the merger. I would be honored by your presence."
Darien crumpled the paper and threw it at the fireplace, missing by a few inches. He sighed, leaning over to pick it up when he saw the charred paper. Most of it had turned to ash, but a small piece had been left smoldering just out of the pilot flame's reach. He reached for the still white tip and pulled it out. The charred part broke away, leaving a trail of ash on the stones of the fireplace. Only two words could be seen on the bit of paper. "…authorities. Brad." He clenched his fist over the paper as realization set in. She'd been scared away. He dropped the paper and rushed for the elevator, punching the floor number he knew Brad was on. He was going to get to the bottom of this.
Serena dragged her suitcase through the terminal, not bothering to stop and search for a luggage cart. She had to get out. She couldn't stay a second longer. She had to protect him. She ran up to the desk, dropping her suitcase, she rubbed a red hand across her damp forehead. "I need a ticket to New York City, leaving tonight, preferably in the next hour?" Serena rushed, cranking open her wallet and pulling out the emergency credit card Luna had given all her employees.
The lady behind the desk tapped at the computer, her brows pulled down in practiced concentration. "I'm afraid we're all booked up until tomorrow afternoon. Our earliest available seat is on the 747 at 2:00pm."
Serena sighed, extending her credit card. "That's fine." She didn't relish spending the next 14 hours in an airport terminal, especially this close to Brad. She hoped he wouldn't figure out where she'd gone and come tracking her. But it'd be worse if Darien came after her. She pulled her suitcase behind her and settled in the waiting area on one of the uniform, hard-plastic chairs. She flipped open her cell phone and was relieved to see that she had no messages. She hoped that by the time Darien returned he would think it was too late to come after her. She sighed again and stared around the terminal. It was slightly crowded, people walked back and forth from the cafeteria to the bathrooms to the various gates as flight departures were announced.
A woman tried to calm a wailing baby two rows over and a man chattered obnoxiously into his cell phone behind her, no doubt contributing to the baby's unwillingness to calm down. Children ran around as their harried parents rifled through belongings, searching for some necessity or another. Everyone seemed to have their own set of concerns, though Serena doubted any of them were as dark as hers. She wished her biggest worry was forgetting a child's favorite toy. She held the future of her employer's company and Darien's in the palm of her hand. It was a heavy burden.
"Lost in thought?" A familiar and bone-chilling voice murmured in her ear. Serena stood up, stumbling against her suitcase. Brad stood in front of her, a cocky grin tugging at his lips.
"What are you doing here?" Serena whispered, trying to control her voice. She didn't want to show fear. She didn't want Brad to know he held any power over her. Of course, if that were true she wouldn't have left.
"I heard you'd left and figured you could use some company until your flight departs. Perhaps we can have dinner at the airport hotel. We can rent a room and dine in peace. It could be quite pleasant."
"No, thank you." Serena replied politely, taking the seat beside the one she'd vacated.
"Oh, that's funny," he chuckled, moving closer and leaning towards her, he dropped his voice to a hoarse whisper. "You said that like you had a choice."
Serena's eyes widened in fear as he grabbed her upper arm and suitcase, pulling both with him effortlessly. A scream built in her throat but another whispered threat from Brad silenced her.
"If you scream I'll tell the police everything. You take me down, I'm taking the rest of you down with me."
A tear escaped down Serena's cheek as she realized he was right. She had no protection because of what she was. He would get away with whatever he was planning to do, and she had a pretty good idea what that was. He pulled her out of the airport terminal and towards a waiting cab, waving for the driver to open the trunk. He kept a firm grip on Serena's arm in case she decided to run as he threw her suitcase in the trunk, slamming it.
"Please don't do this," Serena begged quietly, tears flowing freely now and dampening her t-shirt.
"It's what you're for," Brad sneered. "Don't act like some a victim, you hypocrite. What makes Darien better than me?" He opened the cab's back door and pushed her in, following quickly. "I'm just as successful, just as eligible. Why would you flaunt yourself for him and not for me? Normal women find me quite desirable, you know?"
"I'm sorry if I hurt your pride, Brad, but I didn't mean anything personal. This was my last client. I'm planning on going to school. I don't want to be what I am."
"What a shame. I'm sure you're very good at what you do, for your sake, you'd better be." He chuckled again.
Serena bent over her lap and cried. She knew she would not be able to negotiate with him. He was too stubborn, too self-important. She had injured the pride of a very dangerous and unstable man.
"Is she alright?" the cab driver asked from the front seat, his voice somewhat muffled by the Plexiglas divider.
"Oh yes, she's just had some bad news from home. Her mother has taken ill." Brad lied smoothly and somewhat truthfully. Serena glared at him, knowing he'd been poking around in her private life.
"You are just evil." Serena growled, wiping tears from her cheeks and neck. She desperately wished she could tell the cab driver that she was being kidnapped but Brad's threat kept his incriminating secret.
They drove in silence a few minutes longer until Brad glanced out his window in confusion. "Where have you taken us? I told you the airport hotel, why are we on the freeway?"
"It's a short cut. There's a traffic jam on Third Street."
"Hmph," Brad leaned back against the car seat before returning to torturing his victim. "You can't seriously be opposed to this, you've had thousands of "clients", and I'm a catch compared to all of them."
"I have not had thousands of clients. I'm not that kind of…" Serena glanced at the cab driver and leaned back against the car seat as well. "You have no idea what you're talking about."
"I went to Yale," Brad laughed. "If anyone in this car is clueless, it's you, my dear naïve child."
"Obviously, your education went to waste."
The cab gave a sudden lurch before Brad could reply as the cab pulled onto the shoulder of the freeway. Cars whizzed by, honking angrily. The cab driver had jumped out and crossed to Brad's door before Serena realized what had happened. He pulled him out by the neck of his suit, throwing him against the car. He pulled the cab cap from his head.
"Darien!" Serena exclaimed, partly in fear, partly in relief.
"You really think you were going to get away with this?" Darien growled, slamming him against the car for emphasis.
Brad winced but he kept his smirk. "Yes, and I still will. I know her secret. And yours. You hit me or hurt me in anyway and I'll be on my way to the authorities before you can blink."
"I had something a little more permanent in mind than just hurting you."
Serena scrambled from the cab and pulled on Darien's arm. "Don't do anything to him, Darien. He could ruin you and my friends."
"I doubt that." Darien pushed him harder against the cab.
"Please, Darien. He's not worth it."
Darien sighed, clenching his fists over the now wrinkled fabric of Brad's suit before releasing him. Free from Darien's grasp, Brad sank against the car, a triumphant smile on his face.
"Just one little appointment with me will make this all go away, you know?" Brad offered, attempting to straighten his suit. Darien growled, turning back to Brad threateningly.
"Who the hell do you think you are?" he shouted.
"I think I'm the man who's carried this company on his back for the past ten years. I'm the man who's done all the dirty work to keep us going when you were too much of a sissy to do what needed to be done. And I'm a man of opportunity. When I see something I want, I take it."
"You're disgusting," Darien spat, wrapping a protective arm around Serena. "She isn't something you can just lay claim to, Serena is a person. A loving, deep person with emotions and a past and potential. And you will not lay a hand on her. I'll go to prison first."
"Well then, your wish may just come true." Brad taunted him, pulling out his cell phone.
"No!" Serena exclaimed, pulling from Darien's warm embrace. "I'll do it, just please, don't call the police."
"No, Serena!" Darien grabbed her hand, a desperate look in his eyes. "I won't let you do this. You're so much better than this!"
"I have to, Darien. For you, for Mina and Raye and Luna…" Her eyes were running with tears again. "For my mother." She pried her hand from his grip and turned to Brad with resignation.
"See?" Brad chuckled, reaching for Serena's arm. "I always get what I want."
Before his fingers could touch her skin, Darien's fist collided with Brad's nose, sending him reeling back. Blood poured from the wound as Brad turned towards him with an enraged look.
"You'll pay for that, big time." He shouted in a nasal voice.
"Darien," Serena pleaded.
"Just try to do something," Darien warned. "You won't do anything and you know it. You're a coward. I will not allow you to take advantage of her, or me. Back off, Brad."
Brad glared at Darien as his blood poured from his nose, over his lips and dripped from his chin. "Just take her. She isn't worth this much trouble anyway." Brad turned to walk away. "I can't believe you'd protect a piece of trash like her."
"I'm not trash!" Serena screamed before Darien could react. "You're the evil one here." She raised her head, tilting her chin proudly. "I'm a good person, a good daughter and a good friend. How many people can say the same about you?"
Brad snorted then winced before walking down the freeway's shoulder towards the hospital exit. They watched him disappear down the dimly lit asphalt. Serena turned to Darien, relief and anxiety warring within her. "How did you find out?" she finally whispered.
"I found part of the note he wrote you. When I went to confront him he was gone. I figured he'd gone after you so I followed you both to the airport and while he was inside I paid his taxi driver to let me borrow his car."
"Thank you," Serena said, awkwardly. "I…I couldn't let him destroy everything you worked so hard for."
Darien smoothed Serena's cheek with the back of his hand, running his thumb over her bottom lip. "None of that means anything without somebody to share it with. When I found your note, I felt something inside me die. Something new and tender that you had kindled, that without your care would wither away. I didn't want to lose that. Stay with me, Serena." He pleaded, his bottomless eyes pulling her in as a tide to the sea.
"What about Brad?"
"Don't worry about him. He won't say anything. He knows nobody will take his word over mine. He's only the VP of the company because his father was my prior VP. When he passed away I gave the job to his son, hoping he'd inherited some of his father's excellent business skills. The only skills he had were what he said before, back alley dealings that did more hurt than good for my company."
"Darien, Brad isn't the only person who could hurt you. If somebody else found out about my past, your competitors, they'd ruin you. I can only bring you embarrassment and ruin." Serena sobbed quietly.
Darien pulled her against his chest, cradling her head. "I don't care what anyone says, Serena. I don't care if I have to go to prison to earn my right to be with you. But it won't come to that. I will protect you anyway I can. If we have to move to the most remote place in the world, as long as you're with me, I couldn't care less. I love you."
Serena smiled up at Darien, though tears were still spilling down her cheeks. "I love you to." She replied. His lips met hers in a deep, slow kiss. Fire swelled in Serena's veins and gave her strength. With Darien beside her, she could do anything.
A Year Later…
Serena and Darien walked into their rehearsal dinner, arm in arm. Friends and family greeted them warmly, wishing them the best and raising glasses to a long and happy marriage. Squeals from a corner drew their attention and Serena was called over. She kissed Darien's cheek, blushing a little at the catcalls from the watching crowd and walked over to where her friends sat.
"Oh, Serena!" Mina squealed, jumping up and embracing her tightly. "I still can't believe you're getting married tomorrow!"
"Really? After all the bridesmaid stuff we had to do these past six months didn't prepare you?" Raye said sarcastically, grinning. Serena stuck her tongue out at her before they all erupted in giggles.
"Just like little girls," Luna sighed as she walked over from her table.
"Thanks for coming, Luna." Serena said, hugging her former employer. "None of this would have happened if it wasn't for you."
Luna smiled. "I believe it would have happened anyway. He's your soul mate. Soul mates have a way of finding each other." Serena smiled back.
Luna's had shut down her business nine months ago. She told Serena she couldn't bear to see another of her employees go through what Serena went through and she was tired of dealing with horny old men. Then she eloped with one of their best customers. Serena couldn't help but laugh at the irony. Raye had taken another job at a photography studio; she had a gift with cameras apparently. Mina enrolled as a freshman at the state university and joined a sorority as soon as she could. Serena had finished her first year at Columbia University with a G.P.A. of 4.0, a fact her fiancé was very proud of.
Serena waved goodbye to her friends and rejoined Darien, twining her hand in his and leaned against him happily. She sighed as he wrapped an arm around her waist, pulling her closer.
Brad had disappeared after that night on the freeway. His resignation came through an e-mail and nobody had seen him since. Serena was still nervous, but Darien had a way of reassuring her that completely cleared her mind. She smiled up at him. She was blindingly happy. She couldn't imagine a better life than the one she was planning with Darien.
A gasp arose from a corner of the room and Serena glanced over, tensing. Her cousins were staring, seemingly awestruck by the couple who stood in the doorway. Serena stood up to get a better look and felt her knees go weak. Darien gripped her elbow before she could fall, chuckling.
"Mom," Serena whispered, blinded by tears. She turned to Darien who only smiled mischievously back at her. "You planned this?" she asked, her voice barely a whisper.
"We planned it. I paid a visit to your mom to ask her permission to marry you. She said I could but only if she gave you away."
"But she doesn't remember me." Serena whispered as her mother and the nurse approached slowly.
"She seemed to know you pretty well when I asked. I asked the doctors about her condition and they said she was responding very well to treatments and she has stabilized for the moment." He turned her to face him. "It's not a cure though; she'll have bad days again. But I knew you wouldn't truly be happy without her here." Serena nodded. She understood her mother's condition was degenerative. But she'd never dreamed she'd get to do even this.
She left Darien's side and approached her mother, smiling tentatively. "Mom?" She asked.
"Serena," her mom murmured, holding out her arms. Serena wrapped herself in her mother's embrace, warm tears of happiness spilling down her cheeks. Now everything was truly perfect.
Phew! That took me awhile. Once again, I am sorry. If I ever write another Sailor Moon fan fiction, I promise to write the whole thing before uploading. It isn't fair to you, the readers, to get immersed in a story only to have to wait over a year for it to get finished. I only have a year and a half of school left so maybe then I'll come back. Or who knows? Maybe I'll be able to squeeze in a couple more stories between classes and work. Thanks for reading, constructive criticism is encouraged, flames are not. Lots of love!