Chapter Four

"No, we can't do this, I'm mad at you."

"Can't you just trust me for once, love?"

"Why the bloody hell would I do that?"

For the very first time since Syrenne had discovered alcohol, she did not want to get drunk. She didn't want to swallow a single drop of beer that night, not even to help her forget the day's events. For some reason, she wanted to remember everything as clearly as she could. She felt as though she hadn't experienced such a variety of pure, raw, genuine emotion in a while, and she wanted to remember how it felt. Not only the ecstasy and the shivers, but also the sadness. Syrenne wasn't sure what exactly was running through her mind on that night, as the men and women around her drank their alcohol and danced on tables. She just did not want to get drunk. She sat at a table with Zael, Yurick, Mirania, and Lowell, and while the mug sat temptingly in front of her, not once did she reach out for it. And she was all too aware of the stares of surprise the others were giving her.

"Are you...gonna drink that?" Zael asked.

"What? No, I don't think so." she shrugged. They all looked at each other in sincere bewilderment.

"You're not?" Lowell gasped. "What is happening to the world. Everybody, Syrenne doesn't want to drink! The apocalypse is near!"

"Shut it, you," she said with a smile. He held her gaze, smiled back, and made her feel uncomfortable and comfortable all at once.

"You've been acting weird today," Yurick observed. "Is something wrong?"

"This really isn't like you, especially after a victory at the arena," Mirania agreed. She looked at Syrenne with a knowing eye, under which Syrenne couldn't help but shudder.

"Is it really that odd? I just don't want a drink, 'kay?"

"Well, if you don't want a drink..."

Lowell stood up and made his way around to Syrenne's seat. Every step he took felt like an earthquake beneath her, and she struggled to stay in her seat and face the disaster that was walking toward her. She hated what he was doing to her, and she tried to remember what had made her so angry with him in the first place...and she couldn't. The only thing she could remember at that second, watching Lowell approach her, was the kiss.

"Do you want to dance?"

Syrenne was no longer in control of her words or her actions.

"Why not?"

He took her calloused hand in his own and led her to the center of the tavern, where the music could be heard the loudest. Syrenne knew that her friends were chuckling amongst themselves, sneaking glances at the two of them and making witty comments, but she put all of that aside for a moment. She disregarded anything that anyone else would have to say, including the more logical side of herself, which was telling her to run away as fast as she could. In the back of her mind, in a place where she put her deepest and darkest secrets and regrets, the woman from the night before stood taunting her. But at that second, Syrenne couldn't see her. She only saw the bright, wide smile on Lowell's face in front of her and she only heard the laughter that escaped melodiously from his lips. His hands grasped hers as if he were afraid she would disappear if he loosened his grip.

Off-beat and ungracefully, the two of them jumped around to the music, unaware of their surroundings. They had eyes only for each other. For a time that seemed much too short, they danced and spun around and let their voices fill the air. Syrenne watched his face, the contortions of his muscles as he smiled and winked and howled joyfully. Then her eyes moved to his arms, intertwined with hers and continuously swinging back and forth. Finally, she watched his feet, clumsily stumbling over each other and forcing her to stumble along with him. She couldn't help but laugh loudly and purely, for it was the first time since Lowell nearly died that she felt the pieces of the puzzle were starting to fall into place. The sound of clapping reached her eyes, and she blinked out of her trance to see that the customers had made a circle around the two of them and were clapping to the beat.

"You could be a bit more graceful, you know," Lowell teased. He pulled her toward him until her back was against his chest and his chin rested on her shoulder.

"Look who's talkin'," she whispered, letting her lips graze his ear. Then she spun herself away from him.

When Syrenne met his eyes again, she recognized a hunger in them that she had never seen before. Even last night, while he had stood above a naked woman in a bed with flushed cheeks and jittery movements, she hadn't seen that hunger. Not the same kind. That one had been beastly, animalistic, pure instinct. This one was passionate, though she wasn't sure if it was only her wishful mind playing tricks on her.

Suddenly, everybody was dancing. The tavern became crowded with the bodies bumping against each other and stepping on toes, all the while crying out in happiness. Drinks spilled on the floor and strangers held hands, but every single person had stood up and followed Syrenne and Lowell's lead. Now, she was no longer dancing only with him; she was dancing with everybody, but his grip on her fingers only appeared to have grown tighter.

"Syrenne!" he called over the din. The sound of her name on his lips was delicious. She then found herself being pushed out of the crowd, toward the stairs. Finally, she and Lowell emerged from the crowd.

"What d'you want?" she laughed.

"Come upstairs, I want to show you something."

"But I ain't finished dancin'!"

"Come on, it's really important."

Though she protested with what little determination she had, Lowell dragged her forcefully up the stairs and toward her own room. The music almost fell to silence when he closed the door behind them.

"All right, hurry up and show me—"

Suddenly, he pushed Syrenne up against the nearest wall and, with his hands at her neck, kissed her with as much force as he could muster. In the mist that overcame her mind, the only thing she could think to do was grab desperately at his shirt, pull him closer, and open her mouth wider. They did not begin gently, with hesitant advances and romantic gestures. They were forceful and passionate and thirsty from the moment his lips touched hers. Syrenne felt her senses become heightened to a completely new level, practically inhuman—she was aware of everything. She could taste the hunger and desperation on his tongue, hear the lust in his heavy breathing, see the desire in the way he pushed her back and then pulled her toward him again, feel the strong, almost painful grip of his hands around her forearms.

"Stop, Lowell, stop..."

An image was beginning to come back to her. She let her head rest back against the wall as his lips moved down to her jaw bone, his fingers traced her collarbone, and his mouth found the tender skin of her neck. She closed her eyes and twirled his blonde hair in her shaky fingers, trying to resist the image that was reappearing behind her closed eyelids.

"Stop it..."

"Can't you shut up for two seconds?" he laughed darkly, reaching for her lips once more. The image was swiftly become clearer and clearer.

"No, we can't do this, I'm mad at you."

"Can't you just trust me for once, love?"

"Why the bloody hell would I do that?"

As much as her body told her not to, she pushed him away, panting and glaring at him with menacingly narrowed eyes. She suddenly remembered why she had wanted to go to the arena, why she had found herself standing in front of Dagran's grave, why she had willingly and deliberately shown Lowell her naked body the previous night. She remembered why she had been troubled all day, why her brain had been whirring and fighting a fierce battle with her heart.

"I guess you've already forgotten what happened last night, yeah?"

Lowell stared at her silently, his chest rising and falling.

"Why the hell would I trust you after that?" Her voice was growing louder. "Tell me, why? You never change, Lowell!"

"How could I have forgotten last night," he smiled.

"Don't you dare smile at me like that, you bastard! You betrayed me..."

She cursed the tears that were appearing.

"You haven't been all that welcoming, either," he shrugged. She didn't even realize that he was slowly creeping closer. "Tell me, love, what is it you want?"

"I want..."

Syrenne didn't know what she wanted. She was trapped.

Do you want him?

Does he want you?

"I want you to stop havin' sex with other girls."

Really? That's what you came up with?



"Because you love me?"

His face was now inches from hers, and when he licked his lips, Syrenne felt her resolve get weaker.

"Tell me you love me," he breathed into her lips. Her knees buckled a bit, and her skin felt as if it were on fire. He put his hands on her hips, pressed her against the wall, and brought his mouth to her ear. "Because I love you. Only you."

"How d'you expect me to believe you...?"

He chuckled a cold, sensual chuckle.

"Tell me you love me." He wiped a tear that escaped her eye with his thumb, and kissed her cheek. "Say that...and I'll be yours."

She put her hands on his cheeks in a gesture that was out of her control and stared into his eyes as intently as she could. Syrenne wanted more than anything to see the love from him that she so craved. She wanted to see it sparkling in his eyes, she wanted to see it in his movements and hear it in his words and feel it in his touch. But she could not lie anymore. When she closed her eyes, she saw him lying at her feet, gasping for breath and reaching for her hand. She had watched him slip away from her before, watched him die in her arms. And now he was in her arms once more, pleading for her love.

What more can I do?

"I love you," she finally said. The only three words that could've come from her mouth.

Lowell smiled, touched his forehead to hers, and said, "Then I'm yours. And you're mine."

They were chest to chest once more, grasping for each other, making sure there wasn't a single inch between them. Their breathing mingled, their salty skin seemed to fuse together, and the beating of their hearts became one and the same. As Syrenne clawed at his scarf, threw it forcefully to the ground, he pressed his hips against hers and began to untie the already loosened string behind her back. Syrenne opened her mouth, only to have it smothered again by his. Almost by instinct, she slipped her hands under his shirt to feel the smooth skin of his chest, and he obediently lifted his arms and let the shirt fall to the ground. Then, while his tongue began tracing the line of her lips, she put her hands against his bare shoulders and shoved him back. She pushed and pushed and pushed, keeping her mouth upon his, until he fell backward onto the bed with a sound that was a combination of a moan and a laugh.

Syrenne wanted to explore his mind, body, and soul. She wanted to know and feel everything about him, learn to love every little thing. She wanted to learn what no woman had ever learned about Lowell before, and she wanted to show him everything about her, as well. As she lay on top of him, her bare chest against his bare chest and her lips hovering hauntingly above his, she let her fingers run through his hair. They undid the tangles, then moved to the corners of his eyes. His smile faded into an expression that showed complete immersion. He watched her watch him as if he had never seen anything like it. They sat like that for what seemed like years, staring into each other's eyes and wanting nothing more in life than to stay that way forever. She bent down and kissed his forehead. Then his eyes, his nose, his lips, his chin, his neck, kissed his chest as her fingers undid the buckle on his pants. All the while, his fingers traced patterns on her back, ran up and down the ridges of her spine.

Finally, they were there. The two of them, with nothing but their bodies and their souls to offer, passionate and hungry and lustful.

"What are you waitin' for?" Syrenne asked between her long, desperate kisses. "Didn't you say I was yours?"

"Yeah...I did..." Lowell mumbled, and then flipped her onto her back. She sighed heavily and stared up at him with her emerald eyes, opened her mouth as she exhaled, and traced his lower lip with her finger.

"Well if I'm yours," she continued, "take me."

Lowell gave her that crooked smile and bit his lip. And with that Syrenne knew that in his arms was where she was meant to be.