Charlaine Harris owns almost everything. I own the rest.
When I was planning their trip to NYC, Symphonic Poem suggested they go to the Garden, which was a brilliant idea. For those of you that have read my profile, you understand why a trip to the New York Botanical Garden was a must. Finally, that degree of mine is coming in handy! Serious Crush, you have my undying love and support for all you do for me. You have given me the courage and strength to do what I love, cheering me on along the way. Thank you. I also wanted to thank each and every one of you that loved and reviewed the last chapter, you put my worries to rest, and encouraged me to go on.
It was our last night in New York City. After sunset, Eric opened the blinds to find large flakes of snow swirling around the window. The city was coated with a pristine blanket of snow.
We showered, and as I was looking through my clothes, trying to decide what to wear, Eric said, “Dress warmly, I want to show you something.” I obediently pulled on my warmest clothes, followed by my boots, coat, hat and gloves.
“Ok, I’m ready. Where are we going?”
We walked out of the hotel and down the sidewalk, enjoying the silence and beauty of the city. The snow squeaked under our feet, packing into little mats of snow. Eric took my gloved hand and took me into the city. We stopped at a little café for a quick dinner for me. When I was full and warm, we went to a secluded ally. He opened his arms to me and told me to get on. I jumped and wrapped myself around him, and he took off.
“Where are we going?” I asked again, muffled against his chest.
That didn’t help. I sighed, resigned to let him have his surprise. He landed outside the gates of the New York Botanical Gardens. He must have arranged a private tour in advance, since a staff member was waiting for us at the Haupt Conservatory. The Conservatory was a series of connected greenhouses, all radiating from a central structure so beautiful that I couldn’t stop staring at the ceiling, which was a delicate framework of metal and rounded glass. My skin prickled from the temperature change. I peeled my outerwear off, feeling hot instantly.
Our guide was a thin woman, about the same height as I am. She had dark short hair, blue-grey eyes, dark framed glasses, and I would find out later that she had a sharp wit mixed with very nerdy humor. “My name is Anne, and I’ll be your guide this evening.” She beckoned for us to follow her. She walked out of the small welcome booth near the entrance, and I immediately admired her hot pink wooly clogs. Who knew that scientists wore very sensible, yet cute shoes?
Anne took us through the greenhouses, separated by habitat. She was passionate about her work here, and the excited way she talked about the Euphorbias and succulents of South Africa, was almost enough to make me want to go back to school. I listened to her thoughts for a few minutes and the list of Latin names she was translating into common names was more than I could keep up with. I decided to keep out of her mind and enjoy the tour like a regular person. The greenhouses were stunning, filled with jungles and deserts like I had never seen. Anne was particularly fond of the carnivorous plants, showing us pitcher plants, Venus’ fly traps, sundews, and many others. She had an unfortunate victim in a pair of tweezers, a housefly, which would be the meal for the night. She flicked the fly’s body against a Venus’ fly trap and we watched in silence as the trap snapped shut around its body. Her eyes twinkled as she explained the mechanics of the trap.
The tour continued into the greenhouse with The Orchid Show, which was, as Anne put it, ‘the most popular room for a reason!’ The heady scent of the room is the first thing I noticed, spicy and sweet. The room was filled with large tropical trees, which made me feel like we were in a jungle again. The Phalaenopsis orchids were the most prevalent, in the most delicate white and purple, hanging over our heads. The flush of color around the base of the trees was comprised of thousands of Cymbidium varieties, each sporting a stalk loaded with heavy flower heads. The Arachnis and Paphiopedilum display was my favorite. The odd shapes reminded me of spiders, scorpions, and fuzzy golden, green and purple slippers.
“The smell is delicious!” I said as I closed my eyes again and inhaled deeply.
“It’s surprising you notice it, most people don’t.” Anne answered getting very close to a Cymbidium to sniff. “The only time I could really smell these was when I was pregnant. This was my favorite room to walk through then. Now the scent is a memory to me, but it doesn’t stop me from trying!” She smiled warmly at us. “This concludes the guided tour, so unless either of you have any questions for me, I will leave you to enjoy the greenhouses and the grounds at your leisure.” She adjusted her glasses and waited for questions. I was satisfied with the tour and thanked her for being such a wonderful guide. She nodded, smiled and disappeared into the jungle back to the main house.
“Oh, Eric, this is stunning. Thank you for bringing me here!” I leaned against his body and hugged him. He was just as happy as I was, and we enjoyed each other’s presence for quite some time surrounded by these wild and beautiful plants.
“If you’re warm enough, I think we should explore the grounds.” We walked towards the exit as I put my coat, hat and gloves back on. In the few feet remaining inside the greenhouse, I thought I was going to roast to death. The cold air and snow hit my face and I inhaled deeply, settling the lightheaded feeling I got when I was too hot.
We explored the trails. The Garden grounds were massive, and very meticulously cared for. The trails were lined with giant trees, their naked branches embracing each other over our heads, blocking most of the snow that was still falling. We stopped on a bridge, there were soft lights placed around the trails; I saw a river under our feet, the surface frozen in intricate crystalline patterns. The river bubbled and trickled under the ice, and the ice responded by creaking and groaning. We were listening to the secret language of water. I closed my eyes and relaxed, feeling incredibly peaceful. Eric shifted next to me and it was then that I realized how long we had been standing there. My legs were stiff and my nose was cold. I rubbed my arms and jumped up and down a little to get the blood flowing in my body again. Eric laughed at me and said, “We could just go back to the Conservatory!” I shook my head. This was far more beautiful.
“This is the most beautiful place. Surrounded by this vast sleeping wilderness.”
“I am in no rush. I could spend eternity here with you.”
I looked up into his face and begged him not to go there. He ignored me and waited for my response.
“I love my life. I don’t want it to change.” I started.
“It wouldn’t have to. Much.”
“Yes, no change, except that one tiny detail, the one where I would be dead.” I sassed.
“It’s more than that. It would be a chance for you to experience life in a new way. Being undead doesn’t mean you would be someone else, or miss out on anything. Except the sun.” He added quickly.
“You know I take my sun worship very seriously. How could I live without being able to feel the sun on my face, not to mention food?! What would I do without chocolate, bread, cheese, gin…”
“You would get a very good trade. You would get me.” He answered giving me a stunning smile. He was quite a prize, and he knew it.
“Yes, for a while.” I looked down and thought of everything I had heard about the vampire culture. Vampires do not mate for life.
“There are always exceptions.” He said calmly.
“Like who?” I asked, crossing my arms across my chest.
“Like Sophie-Anne and Andre.”
“You’re not seriously suggesting we fashion our relationship after the creepiest teenage couple in the history of mankind?” I couldn’t believe him.
“No, I’m not saying that we would be them, I’m just pointing out that it is possible.”
I still couldn’t get over the ewiness of it, but I did consider his point.
“I will not pressure you. This is a decision you must make with your eyes wide open. I could not bare it if you were turned against your will, forcing you into a life you did not choose. It is rare for someone to embrace their new life when they were not ready to leave their old life. I would never want that for you, everyone deserves a choice. What I am asking, is for you to consider the possibility of a future with me. A future where you are never ill, you never grow old, where your strength and speed will improve as the years pass. I am offering myself to you, forever. Nothing would make me happier.”
I felt overwhelmed and lightheaded again, but not from heat this time. How could he offer this to me? Offer himself; for all time? I didn’t doubt his resolve. I doubted mine. I was so young and inexperienced, and I was not ready to change my life. I waved my hands in front of my face and shook my head. “I am not ready to make any kind of life changing decision. Not yet.”
His anxious face brightened. “You are the love of my life, and when you are ready, I will be too.” He didn’t say another word; he just held me against his body and caressed my puffy coated arms.
I stood there, staring down at the icy river, thinking. He was offering me an amazing gift. That’s how I saw it, anyway. I’m sure it might have been horrifying to someone else, but I wasn’t anyone else. I was in love with him, and love has always been the driving force behind change. How would this be any different than any other sacrifice made in the name of love? “I need to warm up.” I whispered.
Eric scooped me up in his arms and flew us to the side entrance of the Conservatory. We landed in the snow and found ourselves inside the gift shop. The shelves were full of pretty botanically themed dishes, towels, placemats, lotions, soaps and so much more! Eric followed me through the shop, pointing out souvenirs that he suggested we take home with us. I found a small honey jar, shaped like an old-fashioned beehive, with a small bee resting on top. I wasn’t sure where I would put it once we got home, but I really wanted it. Eric smiled and paid for it. When the package was safely tucked inside a sturdy bag, Eric and I made our way back to the hotel.
“Why don’t we watch a movie, something sweet and funny?” Eric suggested. I nodded, still a little shell-shocked by our conversation this evening. One of the many channels playing on our TV was showing ‘Love, Actually.’ It was one of my favorites, and we even managed to catch it close to the beginning. We snuggled down into the bed, watched the movie and laughed together.
While the credits rolled, Eric moved on top of me. Without a word he undressed me and kissed every inch of my skin. I closed my eyes and absorbed the love gently pouring from his being into mine. I started to get impatient, tugging at his clothes, urging him to move things along, get down to business. He shook his head slowly, tickling my body with his silky hair. I took a deep breath and willed myself to calm down and enjoy this new pace. He was methodical, sensuous, and patient. He flicked the TV off; the room was illuminated only with the soft light by the side of the bed.
Eric kneeled in front of me, and pulled his shirt off. I reached up to touch him, and he brought my fingers to his mouth. He kissed each one and held my hands under his against his chest. His fingers resumed their journey down, removing his pants in the same leisurely way.
He lifted one of my feet up to his mouth and trailed kisses down my leg. He pulled his mouth away when he reached my thigh, only to repeat the process with my other leg. He rubbed small circles over my hip bones, the contact was delicate enough to tickle. I squirmed under him and he increased the pressure of his touch just enough to turn the tickle into something much more carnal. I moaned and arched my body, wordlessly begging him to proceed. He tugged me down the bed, possessively holding my hips, never releasing his grip. His thumbs skated across to my sex, barely brushing against my moist lips. His hands worked their way under me, and effortlessly lifted my lower body off the bed. Eric’s mouth was on me, tenderly licking and sucking. I was struggling to maintain control of my senses as he teased and flicked my clit. His tongue pushed inside me, as his fingers stroked my clit. My orgasm shot through me, leaving me aching for more. He took his time, licking as I writhed against his mouth. He released his hold on my body, slowly setting me back down on the bed. I watched every single deliberate move he made. He pushed my legs apart, bending my knees and stroking my thighs. I stretched my arms above my head. I gripped a pillow, and dug my fingernails into the soft material. My body tensed as he continued to tantalize me with his gifted body, mere inches away.
Eric hovered over me, using his hand to guide the head of his cock against me. He rubbed against my slit, dipping inside me until he was coated with my slippery fluids. He moved to rub small circles around my clit, making me gasp with each complete circle. A small tremor worked its way through me. As I relaxed, Eric pushed into me, extending and enhancing the sensations. I tested the limits of what he would allow, and when I started moving too fast, and too hard, he slowed me down by pinning me to the bed with his body. He was determined to make this slow and sweet. Once I obeyed him and let him continue this languid rate, he pushed my bent legs against my chest, and thrust into me deeply. I tilted my hips to meet his thrusts, and found the pressure on my clit more than I could handle and came in gentle waves that rippled through my body. He rotated his dick inside me, rubbing against the inner walls of my pussy, shocking my body with another, more powerful orgasm. This time, Eric joined me. As he came, he whispered, “I love you” and kissed me passionately. I hugged his body against mine until I couldn’t breathe. We adjusted our bodies so we were spooning, under the covers.
I felt safe and warm in his arms, not to mention completely satisfied! I don’t know how it was that I could have gotten so lucky. The more I thought about life, the more I didn’t really believe in luck. I had made choices that brought me to this moment, and I congratulated myself for each and every one of them.
I finally spoke, my words filling the silence of the room, “Thank you for always knowing just what I need.” I pulled his hand up to my mouth and kissed it.
“I will always give you everything that I have, everything that I am.” He answered.
I smiled and fell asleep.
I woke several hours later. Eric was packing. “Sorry to wake you, Lover. Sunrise is approaching, and our flight leaves tonight. I don’t want to be rushed.” He pulled the final zipper shut on his luggage and walked over to the alarm next to the bed. “I will set the alarm for 5:00 tonight. It will give you plenty of time to pack and get ready for the flight.” After closing the blinds, he crawled onto the bed, and pulled my body against his. He stroked my hair soothing me back to sleep.
I’m dying to hear your reviews…you know they give me secondary xylem. (I’m a botanical nerd…look it up!)