Raven collected the rejected drawings into a pile and tapped them into God’s perfect order. “What do you wish to do, Missy?” He set the stack on the kitchen counter and smoothed the top sheet flat.
Missy didn’t respond.
Raven returned to the table. “Missy?” He sat beside her. “What are you thinking?”
She looked down at the two papers left on the table: the drawing of the house and the drawing of the man.
He studied her expression and waited for her to speak.
“I don’t know what I want. I want to go home I want to meet this man I want to know who I am I want him to tell me that I was missed I want to know that he’s still alive.” She ran her index finger across the man’s forehead. “I want to know that I was loved.”
“Very well. When did you wish to go?”
“I don’t know.”
He gave her a questioning look.
“I’m scared, Raven. What if that house no longer exists what if it got turned into a Starbucks what if someone else lives there now what if this man is a grizzled beer chugger who abuses his wives and he sent me to The Institute what if.”
She bowed her head.
“What if he doesn’t even recognize me? What if I see him and I feel nothing? No rush of memories. No sense of ‘I know you’. What if I don’t even like him?”
She spread her hand on his drawn face. “What if he’s dead?”
Raven quietly considered her words.
“What if things go wrong what if I wish I hadn’t come what if—”
He touched her hand.
She looked up at him.
“That is a tremendous amount of what ifs, Missy. I understand your fears. They are reasonable. They are legitimate.” He smiled. “But what is it you want to do?”
She opened her mouth to speak.
“For right now, disregard your fears. Speak as if they weren’t there. Speak your mind. Speak from your heart. What do you want?”
She smiled. “Right now?”
“At this moment. Right here. Right now. I want to kiss you so I’m going to kiss you.” She stood.
He looked up at her.
She sat down in his lap, straddling him.
He gasped. “Missy.”
She leaned in and kissed him.
He closed his eyes.
For all of my life, I have been Arden, butler to the Farlington family. Then, I became Raven, caretaker of hopeless case vampires. I have been tied down to my families, my sense of honor, my responsibilities, my notions of propriety.
A pleasant shiver rode down his spine as her kisses became a whole lot more energetic. Oh, now I just want to be James, my own self. My own master. I want to stay in this moment and see where it leads us. Forget propriety. Forget everything I believe.
She stopped in mid-kiss. “What’s wrong?”
“Please.” He grabbed the seat of his chair. “You must get off my lap. Please. I’m…I’m uncomfortable. I’m very uncomfortable right now.”
Missy looked disappointed, but she obeyed. She returned to her seat and lowered her gaze to the drawing of the house.
Raven counted slowly to twelve before releasing the seat. He smoothed down his jacket and checked the buttons on his gloves. His jacket didn’t need the smoothing and his gloves were perfectly fine.
And he knew it.
But the familiar gesture helped redirect his focus and soothed him.
“Should I go?”
He stopped. “I beg your pardon?”
“Should I go find this house? Find that man?”
“It isn’t my place to say, miss. It is something you must decide on your own. It is your past. Your unknown memories.”
“If you were me, what would you do?”
He set his hands in his lap. “I would think it over. Weigh the pros versus the cons. I would ask myself if it matters and why does it matter.”
“Of course, you would do all that, but what would you do? Would you go?”
“If I felt there was a need to do so…”
That is a horrible answer. It is stiff and unfeeling.
What would I do? If I were without my memories of home and family and I had a chance to discover them, what would I do?
More than that.
Deeper than that.
If I lost my memories of May Rose and I had a chance to regain them, yes. I would go.
“Yes. You should go.”