Three days of nonstop swimming had pushed my body beyond its limits. Three days of sustaining such powerful magic had strained my mind until I broke. I had been a short distance from shore when my body changed back to human form. I should have drowned. I remember sinking into the water; remember the gentle closing of the dark. Something pulled me back to the surface, a strong, unusual current, and the waves pushed me into shore. I might have lain on that beach forever had I not heard the mad barking of that horrible beast. I cannot begin to explain what it cost me to get up and crawl to Ryan's body but I would do it again. I would do it all over again.
She slept as if death had already stolen her away. Ryan stared down at her with the blank look of a man whose emotions had tired of warring and surrendered, leaving behind numbness. As he had countless times before he reach out, his fingers touching her pale face as it were delicately spun glass. It was the sixth morning of her return and still she had not woken.
Sarah stood beside Liona in the doorway, watching her brother. Quietly, so Ryan couldn't hear she spoke.
"He has not left this room since he brought her here. What if she never awakens?" They both watched as Ryan's head dropped to rest on his and Aisha's entwined hands.
"Then he may never leave." There were a few more moments of silence and then Sarah said,
"I still cannot comprehend how she got here. Ryan said nothing when he brought her inside but she was naked and soaked through…" Sarah trailed off her attention focused intensely on the still woman. Liona's gaze had followed Sarah's and without looking away from the scene in front of them she said,
"She is more." The odd sentence and even odder tone had Sarah looking sharply at Liona. Sarah's mouth opened but Liona raised her hand. "Shh, look." Sarah quickly turned back to the bedroom.
Wakening was a slow, lazy stretching of the senses. Cool, soft linen rested against one hand while the other was enveloped in a deliciously warm heat. I could smell the heady scent of fall, heightened by a soft rain, which still dripped quietly outside the window. After several weak attempts my eyes fluttered open and I noted the muted gray lighting and the general familiarity of the bedroom. Sarah and Liona stood watching in the doorway and with surprising ease I raised my fingers to my lips, asking for quiet. Then there was nothing but him. I vaguely sensed Liona ushering a silently protesting Sarah from the room but it wouldn't have mattered. I took my time, savoring the sight of the sleeping Ryan. His face was shadowed by beard and those same, weary bruises lingered around his eyes. I let my fingers dance over the tips of his hair and watched, with some amusement, as he jerked awake.
He stared at me for several moments and then, without so much as a flicker of warning, got up and stormed from the room. I sat there stunned, looking from the seat he had just vacated, to the door, and back again. Then the fury swept through me and I threw back the blankets and ran after him. He was striding down the hallway, his long legs eating up the distance so that I had to sprint to catch up.
"Ryan!" I hadn't expected him to actually stop so when he suddenly spun around, I ran straight into him. He had braced himself and caught me by the shoulders. Before I could utter another word he was shaking me.
"What in the seven hells were you thinking, Aisha? I don't know how you got yourself here but it almost killed you! Losing you but knowing you were safe was a pain I could live with but if I had lost you to death, I-" He broke off as if unable to finish the thought. I pushed him away, the anger sparking out of my eyes.
"If I hadn't come I would have died anyways! Don't you understand? I love you and everyday I spent away was-" The rest of my words were lost to Ryan's mouth which was crushed greedy and desperate to mine. I grabbed fistfuls of his shirt and pulled him closer. After what might have been days, though it felt like only a few brief moments, Ryan pulled away. I sent him a teasing glare but his look remained serious.
"Aisha, we have things we need to talk about." I thought about it and decided the best tactic would be diversion. I fully intended to tell Ryan everything, but I also intended to have a lifetime in which to do it. I smiled up at him and then placed a gentle kiss on his neck.
"Yes, we do." I said before trailing a few more kisses down his neck.
"The first of which being the fact that you are able to" I nipped his collarbone and listened in satisfaction to his sharp intake of breath and the gallant attempt he made at finishing his sentence, "to…umm..speak. You can speak." I grinned against his neck.
"Did I ever say I couldn't?" For a moment that seemed to puzzle him and I knew from the look in his stormy eyes that he wasn't thinking clearly.
"Well no, of course not…you were mute." With a small laugh I recaptured his lips and after lazily tasting every bit of them I said, with my lips still pressed lightly to his,
"We can discuss it later" I slowly began walking us back toward the bedroom. "Much later." Ryan seemed to realize what I was doing because he pulled away looking flustered. I had never seen him flustered and watched with avid interest as a flush rose steadily up his neck.
"Aisha, we can't…" He cleared his throat, "We aren't, ah, married." There was some more muttering and a good bit of stuttering before I placed a quieting hand over his mouth.
"Love, I think it is undeniable that our hearts are joined. Later we can find a priest but now, now is just for us." He stared at me and he must have seen the steely edge of determination glinting in my eyes because he made no more protests. Instead, a slow smile spread across his face and this time it was him who began backing us toward the bedroom.
"We will talk, Aisha." His voice was a low growl next to my ear but I hardly noticed as his hands ran up and down my body. He closed the door behind us. "But, you're right, it will be much, much later."
A/N: This is the last chapter. There will be an epilogue but I have yet to determine how far in the future I want it to be, if anyone should care to tell me how far into Aisha and Ryan's future they would like to see I will take it into consideration. I can't believe it's done...my baby, the first story I've ever finished...sort of. I think I would feel more sentimental if I was really done with it but I'm not. I'm going to go back, sophisticate, complexiate, and juicy up the entire story, and, as one of my lovely reviewers mentioned, slow it down because it IS rather rushed. But as far as fictionpress goes this is Fire Mermaid. I know the ending isn't some explosive thing but that's not life, I just wanted to end it with something soft, sweet, and, hmmm ,normal I guess just to keep you willingly suspended in disbelief . Starting out I put everything I had into this story and because it helped me grow I now have more to give. But anyways, I am asking you people to review and tell me your sincere thoughts, including, ESPECIALLY including your criticism. So with much love and endless thanks I say good-bye...at least until the epilogue ;o)
A last shout-out to my a-mazing reviewers!!
CrimsonSentry(thank you for pointing that out!! I went right back and fixed it!), chic rebel, ayala28, sakurelle, volleychick89, RoxyFairy(I went to France with my uber hot French teacher and 3 other kids but it wasn't really through school...), Aytheria(She left the circlet behind but Ryan knows she's a princess via Cullen. Hope you had fun in France!!), krystal-jasna, whisper, Jade elf, ElementalGoddesses, and, Hannah Banana (Thank you for the criticism! I completely agree that is came out rushed, which is part of the reason I'm going to go back and work on it. Plus there is just so much there and it would help to really understand my characters because I was just getting to know them as I hurriedly spat out this story so some of their reasoning for some things weren't entirely clear to me, which I'll work on.;o))