Eternal Flame - Book 6
Book 6 of The Ruby Ring Saga
Copyright © 2014 by Chrissy Peebles
Edited by: Autumn J. Conley
Cover Art: Cora Graphics
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.
(The formatting is a little off with gaps. I have no idea why. Every time I fix it, they come back. LOL.)
I was in complete awe, and a tear of utter gratefulness dripped down my face. I couldn’t believe I was holding my baby in my arms. I smiled as my eyes met his little blue ones. The weight of the world seemed to disappear around me as I peered lovingly down at his tiny face, his chubby cheeks, and his sweet, tiny lips. I’d known what he was going to look like from my visions, but nothing could’ve have prepared me for the very first moment I laid eyes on him. Overwhelming gratitude and intense happiness flooded my soul, right to my core, and if there had ever been a case of love at first sight, that was it. “I will cherish you forever, my little one,” I whispered as I ran my finger playfully through his soft, black curls.
“He’s perfect,” Victor said.
“I couldn’t agree more,” I said with a sniffle, wiping the tear from my cheek.
Victor was so overcome with emotion, staring at his beloved son as if he was the greatest thing he’d ever seen. I knew he was going to be a great father.
I smiled, then touched my lover’s cheek. “Would you like to hold Alexander?”
Smiling, he nodded. He slid his strong hands under the baby’s small head and body and gently picked him up. “I love you so much son,” he said, staring into our child’s blue eyes. “I don’t deserve you though. You’re beautiful in every way, far more like your mother than your father. My child, I have made so many mistakes along the way, but I swear to be a better man for you, from now on, the father you deserve. Your mama says every day is another chance to change our lives, and I’m trying, son. I swear to you that things will be different for your generation, for you and for my grandchildren. I vow to give to you all that my own father failed to give me. You and your mother are the light of my life, and I’ll love you forever.”
Another tear fell down my face as Victor choked up, his stubbled chin glistening with tears of his own. After another moment of precious father/son bonding, Victor placed little Alexander snugly into my waiting arms.
“What is that?” he suddenly said, spotting a plane flying toward the island.
My heart raced. “I don’t know, but I’ll wait here, with the baby, while you check it out,” I said.
Life had a way of really throwing me for a loop. I never would have expected to give birth to my baby on a strange and mysterious island. I thought I’d be in a hospital room, with Liz and my mom cheering me on through the labor pains, but life had other plans for me and Alexander.
I glanced down at my precious baby, the product of mine and Victor’s love. I had no idea how he survived being in my womb, with that surge of powerful energy coursing through his developing little body. Certainly, it would have killed any other child. But now he was healthy, a living and breathing miracle, and I knew my son was destined for something special. The fact that he was even there, in my arms, against all odds was all the proof I needed that my son was the child of the spoken prophecy.
That prophecy declared that Alexander would choose the path of his mother or that of his father. I planned to do everything in my power to make sure Alexander would take after my bloodline. Victor was a changed man, and he had given up everything to be with me, including his great and vast kingdom of Tastia. He now had a clean slate, and we vowed to raise our son in the path of integrity, goodness, morality, honesty, and purity. We both knew how much Ethano wanted our son so he could corrupt him and steer him onto the path of evil, but I swore I would never let that happen.
Alexander slept in my arms as I gently rocked him. I wasn’t even supposed to be alive to see my beautiful son all swaddled up in Victor’s shirt, but the eternal bloom had saved my life. I was alive to watch his cute, bottom lip quiver in the most adorable way, and it was the most incredible moment of my life, a moment that had almost been stolen from me countless times. I fell more in love with Alexander every second I held him. He had a head full of dark hair and pretty blue eyes like his daddy’s. He was nothing less than perfect, so small and fragile, yet so beautiful, handsome, and alert.
I was overwhelmed with a sense of love and joy and a burning maternal desire to protect him at all costs. It was such a tense, powerful emotion that it consumed me. In that special moment, when we locked eyes, we bonded in a way I knew could ever be broken, even if it was tested. I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that motherhood was a sacred, special club, and I felt blessed to be part of it. I refused to waste that opportunity, and I had every intention of being the best mother I could be.
“Sarah!” Victor suddenly called, jolting me out of my reverie.
I glanced up as he broke through a cluster of pink cherry blossoms. He’d been gone for longer than I realized, and I was happy to see him. I was so happy to know we were going home, all three of us, but the look on Victor’s face didn’t mirror my glee. When I saw his lips press into a grim line, I knew something was terribly wrong, and I swallowed hard. “What is it?” I asked, worry spreading across my face. “What’s happening, Victor?”
He bolted over to me. “We must go!” he said frantically.
“Why? Was that Jackson’s men, looking for us?” I asked, confused and frightened, pulling Alexander tightly up against me.
“No.” His gaze narrowed. “It’s the blue-ringed immortals.”
I gasped. I held my baby close as I contemplated what our best move would be. Should we run? Hide? I wondered nervously, my mind engulfed in panic. “Wh-what do they want?” I stuttered.
“Obviously, they are after us, Sarah. As I said, we must go.”
“Go where and do what? Jump into the ocean and swim with a newborn?”
“All I know is that we need to get off this island.”
“Wherever we go, I’m sure they’ll be waiting for us.”
“You needn’t worry. If they confront us, I will protect you,” he said.
I looked at my king and wanted to believe him, but I knew it was more than he could handle on his own. The blue-ringed immortals were far more powerful than us, and fighting them would mean breaking White Coyote’s sacred rules. “You can’t fight them,” I said, shaking my head. “We have to follow the rules of the island.”
“Why? They certainly will not,” he said.
“I know they won’t play fair, but that’ll be their downfall. It’ll get them kicked off the island by White Coyote.”
He said nothing, but the serious look on his face had me worried. I knew he’d die, if need be, fighting to protect us.
“Look, Victor, I know you were born with the heart of a warrior, but you can’t harm them. If you do, we’ll lose everything we came for. The island will not tolerate their presence here. Just follow their laws and let the island handle things. No violence.”
He softly touched my face. “You are so wise, my Queen. I know I sometimes fail to give things the proper consideration. We must find White Coyote and seek his protection.”
I blew out a breath, a sigh of relief. “I feel so guilty for luring the immortals to the island. The chief helped us, and this is how we repay him and his people.”
He sighed deeply, betraying his own regret. “We had no malicious intent,” he said.
“I know,” I whispered.
I held Alexander as close as I could to my body, and we walked briskly through the cherry blossom meadow. We reached the gates and pushed them open with a squeak, and I anxiously looked around in all directions, hoping we wouldn’t be ambushed.
“Looks like the coast is clear,” I said. “Let’s find White Coyote. He’ll know what to do and how to get rid of them.”
“The immortals have no idea of what they’re up against. White Coyote’s powers are extraordinary.”
Alexander began to cry, and I realized he was sensing his mother’s fear and uneasiness. I needed to calm down and think rationally, because panic would do none of us any good. I stared at the orchids growing amidst the huge rocks. The plants were at least fourteen feet long, with purple petals stretching two feet across. I breathed in through my nose slowly, then exhaled slowly.
“This way,” Victor said, motioning.
As we quickly trekked through a copse of giant, towering ferns and other jungle plants, our senses were on high alert. My baby began to calm down as we walked.
“We’re being tracked,” Victor said.
“How do you know?”
“I’m immortal, my Queen.”
“But we’re not supposed to use our powers.”
“I’m not. ‘Tis only my natural senses.”
I swallowed hard as droplets of sweat rolled down my face. “My energies are still realigning themselves. I can’t get a fix on them, can’t hear their footsteps. How close are they to—”
I covered Alexander’s head with my hand, and we crashed through dozens of bushes dotted with red, white, and pink poinsettias. When Victor stopped to get a make on where our enemy was, I frantically glanced around. I didn’t see any enemies; the only living things around seemed to be hummingbirds and butterflies, lazily drinking nectar from colorful, paddle-shaped petals.
Victor pointed to a stream, hoping if we ran through it, it would conceal our scent from the immortals. We headed upstream in a hurry, then marched our sloshy feet through the jungle overgrowth. I held my newborn close, my heart racing.
Suddenly, Victor stopped.
I blinked. “What?”
“Hide here!” he said. “I will throw them off our trail.”
“No powers!” I reminded him.
“Yes, Sarah. I am well aware.” He held his hand out. “Watch your step.”
I climbed out of the muddy stream and onto a bed of brightly colored flowers, a rainbow of reds, oranges, purples, and blues. The plants speckled the ground, rocks, and even other plants. Had we not been running for our lives, it would have been a beautiful place. I tried to keep my footing on the slick, mossy surface as Victor led me to the mouth of a cave. I peeked inside and saw that it was dark but mostly empty, other than a few orange-spotted salamanders scaling the moist walls. I had never been a fan of creepy-crawlies, but at the moment, they were the least of my worries.
“Stay here,” he instructed.
I kissed his lips. “Victor, you stay too. Don’t leave us. We can just wait it out, and White Coyote will—”
He cupped my cheek. “I’ll be back soon, my love.” Then, just like that, he darted away, through the thick vegetation.
My heart sank as I watched him go, even though I knew he would do everything in his power to protect his wife and child. Biting my lip hard, I crept deep into the cave. Minutes ticked by. I tried not to panic, and I was certain my Victor would come back unscathed. I concentrated on the beautiful birdsongs, the chirping of insects, and the croaking of frogs, a natural choir echoing in my ears from every direction.
Suddenly, Alexander let out a small cry.
I started to rock him. “Don’t worry. Your daddy will be back any minute.”
“Your mother tells you no lies, my son,” Victor’s deep voice echoed through the cave.
“Victor!” I said, my heart skipping a beat as I leapt into his arms, where I felt safe.
“They are no longer on our trail,” he said proudly.
“No wonder they call you Victor,” I said, grinning. “You always seem to have a few tricks up your royal sleeves.”
He smiled back at me, his white teeth glimmering in the darkness of the cave. “We should wait here. White Coyote will know strangers have intruded, and he will send reinforcements.”
Alexander started to cry again.
I rocked him, gently patting his back. “There, there. Everything is going to be okay…isn’t it?” I looked up at Victor, my rock. I needed his comfort and encouragement.
He softly kissed me, then our son. “I promise I won’t let anything happen to you or Alexander.”
Tears welled up in my eyes. I had a perfect little family, and I was alive to take care of Alexander, to raise him to be a shining star in all the darkness of the world. Still, I was irked that I’d survived a death sentence only to be pursued by enemies again. The blue-ringed immortals had stormed the island, and I wondered why. Do they need me for more experiments? Why would they come all the way to the island to hunt me down? Why wouldn’t they just wait for us to get back? I knew there had to be more to it, some bigger agenda or motive, and the thought drove me about mad. They were coming for us, one way or another, for whatever reason, and I knew no amount of crying or begging was going to change that.
I couldn’t bear the thought of immortals ripping our happy family apart. We’d worked so hard to find a way for me to live so we could all be together, and now all of that was threatened. On top of that, a deep guilt tore at me. The immortals were there, invaders on a peaceful paradise, because of me. My stomach clenched at the thought of them hurting White Coyote or any of his clan, and the pain gripping me was far stronger than labor had been.
“Worrying will not help, my love,” Victor said, noticing the distressed look on my face. “If you do not stop, I fear you’ll bite a hole through those luscious lips of yours.”
“I can’t help it. What if they found out about the prophecy, and they’re coming to claim Alexander?” I shook my head. “No! I won’t let them steal my little boy away from me.”
“And neither will I. But if they are here because of Alexander, how do you think they found out about him?” he asked.
“Who knows? Maybe they tortured Dr. Meyers or Jackson, because he seemed to know a lot. I think Dr. Meyers tells him everything.”
“She trusts him.”
“Yeah…maybe a little too much.”
“No one will lay a hand on my son,” Victor said sternly. .
“Even if we were allowed to fight, what good would it do? The blue-ringed immortals can drain us of our powers. We’re no match against them.”
He gripped my shaking hand. “Try to stay calm, my dear.”
I squeezed his fingers tightly. “I can’t, Victor. We need to get off this island, as far away from those immortals as we can get.”
He pulled me close, into a comforting embrace.
“I’m scared,” I admitted. “I’m in a nightmare I can’t wake up from.”
“All will be well, Sarah,” he said.
I pondered his words and tried to believe him, but my hands still would not stop shaking. I was running for my life with a sleeping newborn in my arms. It was no longer just the two of us against the world; now, we had a baby who depended on us. I breathed deeply and looked into Victor’s gorgeous eyes. “What made us think a baby would even fit into our dangerous lives? He’s already in danger because of me. He’s only hours old, and we’re on the run from our enemy. What kind of mother does that make me?”
He touched my face ever so softly, as if to reassure me everything was going to be okay.
“My life now revolves around this tiny, helpless bundle of joy, and he needs me,” I continued. “I’m already off to a horrible start.”
“There have been unavoidable complications, but that does not mean we are poor parents,” Victor said. “The very fact that Alexander is alive is a testament to our love for him and for each other. Now, we will do all we can, everything in our power, to keep this family safe and intact. Any child should be so lucky to have you for a mother, my Queen.”
“I guess,” I whispered. “I’m so hormonal and crazy right now.”
“There will be ups and downs, Sarah,” Victor said.
“I know, but I look down at this beautiful boy, and I wonder if I’m good enough for him.”
“Good enough? Of course you are…and more.”
I stared down at my angel’s face. “I knew having a baby would change things, have some impact on my life, but he’s already the center of my universe. The strange thing is that I don’t mind one little tiny bit.”
“Nor do I. I’ve wanted a child for hundreds of years, but I had to wait for the perfect moment…and the perfect woman to bear him.”
Alexander wrapped his fingers around one of mine and began to coo, as if basking in the love of his parents right there in that dark cavern.
“I can’t believe we created this little being,” I said in awe, smiling up at his father.
Victor softly stroked our baby’s face. “There is something very special about creating a life together.”
“Yes, and we’ll take care of this little life as a team. We’ll share a bond like never before, love each other in a whole new way.”
“Definitely, my love. We have transitioned from a couple to a family. The happiness and love Alexander has already brought into my life is beyond measure.”
“I’m as anxious as any first-time mother would be, I guess. I mean, before, my world revolved around you, work, and trying to stay alive.”
“You have taken on the role of a lifetime, Sarah, and I am flattered by the opportunity to share this time with you.”
“You are the sweetest,” I said. “I couldn’t ask for a better husband.”
“And I could not have asked for a better wife. You’re everything I have dreamt of through so many long, lonely eras. You are all of that and more.”
I kissed his lips softly, then looked at him with a serious expression. “Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if Ethano never would have interfered in our lives.”
“I imagine we would still be at the castle.”
“Can you show me?” I asked. “Can you put us in your dream state, or is that too dangerous right now?”
“I can, but we mustn’t tarry there for long.”
“Will you still be able to hear them if they come?”
“From a mile away.”
I gripped his hand. “I know the drill.” I then closed my eyes and concentrated, ready to let him take control.
When I opened my eyes, we were sitting in the garden, back at the castle. A cool breeze blew through my hair, and a sweet fragrance from all the colorful blooms drifted all around us. Alexander was nestled in my arms, swaddled in white linens. Victor was dressed majestically, like a real king, and my garb consisted of a red and white silk gown with a sweetheart neckline.
Victor brushed his lips softly across mine.
“Gosh. This is beautiful,” I said. “I feel like I belong here.”
“Do you really?” he asked.
“Yes. Lately, I’ve been living a life I thought I couldn’t leave behind, but I know now that I can. This is your world, Victor, and you were born to rule this kingdom. It’s what you were meant to do. You have given up so much for me, but something about this place feels right, feels like…home. Our life has changed in wonderful, unexpected ways, and I couldn’t be happier. I think our son would be happy here, maybe safer here. I want Alexander to have a life in this beautiful world. I want to watch him play in this very garden and chase butterflies in the summer. I want this fairytale to be his reality.”
“Does this mean you wish to go back?” he asked.
I smiled and stared up into his twinkling eyes, like sapphires illuminating the darkness. “Yes. We need to take back your kingdom and kick Ethano out. We need to make him pay for what he’s put us through. The castle is our home. It’s Alexander’s home and his legacy, and we should raise him there.”
“Children are very impressionable. Wherever we rear the boy, he will not want to leave the world he grows up in, or he will always suffer from homesickness.”
“I can live without all the fancy technology, and I’m pretty sure I can still boil water without a microwave. A simple life with you and Alexander is all I want. I know we can all be happy in that kind of life, as long as we have each other.”
“That is all I have ever wanted,” he said. “I never wanted anything more than a life in the castle, ruling over Tastia, surrounded by the people I love.”
“I could embrace the simple life. I know that now, and I’m so sorry it took me so long to figure it out.”
Life in Tastia wouldn’t really be simple, because we would be a king and queen, living in a castle, a life of luxury. We were royalty and would be entitled and given everything such esteemed positions could offer. Still, without a cell phone, my computer, and all the modern-day conveniences I was accustomed to, it seemed like a simple life to me. I wouldn’t be cruising down the highway with the windows down and the stereo blasting anymore; in a wagon or carriage, the best I could expect was trotting along with the occasional pit stop for the horsepower to take a potty break.
“Having the choice to live my life as I see fit is the greatest freedom I’ll ever have. Thank you for letting me come to this decision myself, Victor, for giving me the time I needed instead of forcing me into it.”
“You’re a very independent woman, and I will never force you in to anything. I think we both know that, dear. It swells my heart just to hear you say you wish to come back to my world, so we can reign there together, and you and Alexander will have the best that world has to offer. Still, it may not be an easy quest to return to our rightful place.”
“Don’t you worry about that, Your Highness. We’ll get your kingdom back. We’re like a train that can’t be stopped.”
“I love your spirit so, my Queen. Giving up my kingdom was the hardest thing I ever did, but I would do it all over again to make you happy.”
I stared into his eyes. Tears welled up in mine, and I couldn’t speak. His words touched my heart, and I still could not believe he was mine.
He cupped my face. “I love you,” he said.
“I love you too. Together, we’ll make it through the good, the bad, and the ugly.”
“Speaking of the ugly, I believe it is best to tell you everything. I do not wish there to be secrets lurking between us.”
“Secrets?” I asked, a bit worried that he was going to confess something to me about some well-endowed handmaiden flashing her petticoats at him or something.
“You must know about Ethano and how our feud started.”
I touched his lips, feeling a bit relieved. “I’m happy that you are ready to confide in me, but let’s not ruin this wonderful moment, our Alexander’s birthday, with tales of that jerk. Tell me when we get back.”
“That I will, Sarah. I want to tell you…everything.”
It meant so much to me that he was finally ready to open up to me, to answer so many of my questions. I was dying to know the truth, the whole story, but for the moment, I wanted to bask in the joy of our son rather than going over gloomy details from his past.
A chill shot down my spine when the twig broke, and I wondered if the immortals had found us after all. I squeezed my son even closer to me, ready to protect him at all costs.
Victor sprang up and motioned for me to be still.
My chest tightened, and I held my breath.
End of sample.
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Eternal Flame - Book 6 in The Ruby Ring Raga has been released.