Gray slanted through the horizontal blinds as he woke. Beside him, Sophia was curled into his body. An arm and a leg were casually thrown over his body. Her head was on his shoulder. It settled him. He relaxed back into the bed, content to watch her sleep.
He carefully locked his arm about her waist and a hand on her arm to anchor her against him. He was amazed that such a small, fragile body contained so much courage and tenacity.
She was amazing. A true gift and if he was lucky enough, he would choose to have her around him for a long time to come.
His beating heart turned to stone. There could be no future. He was Death and she was mortal. One day she would die and he would reap her soul so she could enter the afterlife. She would forever be lost to him.
For the first time in his long, long existence, he wanted something different. He wanted something for himself.
He didn’t want to be lonely any more.
He wanted Sophia.
Her eyes opened as though woken by his roiling thoughts and he peered into those large blue orbs that had seen and known far too much.
“I have to go.”
He didn’t know if she was talking about leaving to go and rescue Melody, or if she was going to leave him.
He pressed his lips to her forehead, breathing in her scent that had somehow intensified while she slept. “I will come with you.”
“If they see anyone else but me, they’ll kill her.”
“Then I won’t reap her soul. She won’t die.”
A strange look stole over her face. “You can do that?”
The urge was irresistible. “For you, I will fight it.”
She came up on her elbow and rested her chin in his chest. “I think it’s asking too much of you, Death. You’re Death incarnate. You separate souls from their bodies. You don’t keep them there.”
An image filtered into his mind. An apartment building with black mist seeping into the brickwork, through the seams of the windows and under the front door. The urge to reap manifested. His grip on her arm firmed. “You can’t go there.”
“Death, I thought we’d just spoken about this,” she said.
“I mean, you can’t go there. When I harvest souls, the mist takes them first and that building is filling with mist. Sophia, I can’t let you go there. You’ll be swallowed by the mist and I won’t have any option but to reap your soul.” It would be like walking into a war zone. He’d reaped many wars and battles, and with mist like that there were more deaths than those left living. She would not be taken. He would not let her.
She rose above him, eyes wide and pleading. “What about Melody? She’s in the building now.”
He paused. He was shown the black mist, but he didn’t know the time. He only knew he would be called there to harvest. “Then I’ll go there first. I’ll surprise Jim just as he surprised us at the bridge.”
“I’ll go with you,” she said.
He clutched her arm when she went to leave. “No. I’ll go on my own. I can’t… won’t have you anywhere near that building. I won’t risk you, Sophia.”
Her expression remained fierce. Beautiful, stubborn woman. “I’ll go and save Melody. You can’t reap souls and save them at the same time. Surely even you can’t do that, Death.”
It was true. He couldn’t. The problem was he was damn good at his job. “I can’t allow it.”
“She’ll be scared. She’ll run from you. I’ll hide and then when I save her, I’ll take her right away. You won’t see me.”
It was a shaky plan. A not-very-good, shaky plan, but if he knew anything about Sophia, it was that she would do what she would do. It was best knowing what she planned rather than being taken by surprise.
“Then we should go now. There and back before the sun rises to its zenith,” Death said.
“It’ll work out. Just wait and see.”
He kissed her and held her to him for as long as she let him before he had to let her go. They showered and dressed and she fed him something that she made from the bananas, noticing that she peeled them before she used them. Then she fed the kitten before they went outside to the limo.
They settled in the back seat and he put an arm about her and locked her to his side as he ordered it to drive. The car idled.
There was a pause before the door clicked shut and they pulled away from the curb. Reaping souls had never felt like this, as though he was walking through sludge. He never had to contend with the guilt from a beating heart either.
He tried to rub the pain from his chest, but the rubbing didn’t take it away. It made it worse. The closer they arrived the more his heart strained and the heavier his gut dropped.
The limo pulled to the curb. He looked out of the window. It was the same building as his vision. The urge simmered in the back of his mind. Maybe his plan would work. He only needed to reap when he couldn’t resist the urge. Until then, they had time. “Is this the right address?”
She checked the address. “Yeah. Fourth floor. Apartment C.”
“Don’t say it, Death.”
He was going to ask her to stay in the limo and not put herself at risk. He was going to say he would never reap her soul. He was going to ask her if she would stay with him and not choose to go away. Instead he said, “One day you will die, Sophia. I don’t want you to die today.”
“One day I will die, Death. But before I die, I want to live every other day.” She kissed him and slid across the seat and out of the door.