Awaken: A Spiral of Bliss Novel (Book Three)
Author:Lane, Nina

Frances was livid that Dean had dared set foot on campus when he’d been unofficially suspended. And she was even more upset by the fact that Maggie Hamilton’s father had contacted her with threats about obtaining a restraining order against Dean if he didn’t stop “stalking” Maggie.

 

“If you’re not careful, things are going to get worse than they already are,” Frances warned him. “A restraining order, Dean, for God’s sake. You won’t need a suspension from the university if Edward Hamilton hits you with a legal order forbidding you from going anywhere near King’s University. Do you think for one second we could keep that quiet?”

 

Then Frances had looked at me. Dean saw that look. And I knew exactly what hard conclusion he’d reached in that one instant—if he left Mirror Lake, if he removed himself as a target for Maggie Hamilton and her father, he had a better chance of keeping the arrows from hitting me. Protecting me was the only thing that could force him to leave.

 

He left for the airport at dawn the following morning. I could feel the sadness and anger radiating from him, and I almost wavered in my insistence that I couldn’t go with him because of my own responsibilities in Mirror Lake.

 

But I didn’t waver. He had to leave, and I had to stay.

 

“I don’t know where we go from here,” Dean said, reaching out to touch my cheek as we stood by the front door.

 

“I don’t know either,” I admitted. “But why does either of us have to know? There doesn’t always have to be a plan.”

 

“Yes, there does.”

 

I turned to pick up his travel bag. I know my husband. He likes plans and schedules. He needs to be in control. He’s accustomed to getting what he wants. The avalanche of recent events—our separation last fall, the miscarriage, and now the threat to his career—hit us both with unimagined and heart-wrenching force.

 

And he hadn’t been able to prevent or stop any of it.

 

In that moment, I thought of something I’d written in my manifesto a couple of months ago.

 

I will remember how it was when we first met.

 

How I cherished those early months of slow exploration, learning all the spaces of each other’s bodies and hearts. Feeling as if the world had narrowed to us alone, as if nothing could invade our intimacy. The place of Liv and Dean.

 

I followed him downstairs and out into the cold, gray morning. He unlocked the trunk of his car and hefted his suitcase and travel bag inside.

 

I watched him—my tall, handsome husband with his dark, rumpled hair and strong features enhanced by thick-lashed, brown eyes. His powerful body and broad shoulders that looked as if they could bear any weight in the world.

 

“Dean?”

 

“Right here.” He slammed the trunk closed, his shoulders tight.

 

“Remember the first few months of our relationship and how good we were?”

 

“I’ll never forget.”

 

“Me either.” I stepped closer to him. “So I was thinking that when you get back, maybe we could just… date.”

 

“Date?”

 

“Like we did at the beginning,” I suggested. “Maybe you could court me a little.”

 

“Court you?”

 

He looked as if I were speaking a foreign language. I reached out to brush a speck of lint from the lapel of his peacoat.

 

“On our second date, you told me you’d loved the King Arthur tales when you were a boy,” I said. “Sir Galahad was your favorite. The greatest knight ever. You loved stories about the Holy Grail, Excalibur, Lancelot. Do you remember?”

 

“I remember.”

 

“In addition to all their adventures, I’m sure the knights did a great deal of wooing their ladies,” I continued. “Wasn’t that the basis of courtly love? You must know something about that.”

 

“I’ve done some research, yeah.”

 

“Well?”

 

I could almost see his mind shift to the comforting ground of scholarship. The tension in his shoulders eased a little.

 

“The idea of courtly love dates to about the eleventh century,” he explained. “In literature it was a concept of secret love usually between members of the nobility. A cross between erotic and spiritual desire. The knight has to prove himself worthy of the lady’s love by undergoing a series of trials while also accepting her independence. And he does indeed court her with rituals, songs, gifts, elaborate gestures.”

 

“Sounds promising,” I remarked. “For the lady, anyway.”

 

“The lady was called the domina,” Dean said. “She was the exalted, commanding mistress. The knight was the servus, her lowly but faithful servant.”

 

“Really?”

 

“Really.” He reached out to tuck a lock of hair behind my ear.

 

“This is sounding better and better.” I smiled.

 

“Yes, it is.” Dean looked at me, his eyes warming. “I haven’t seen that pretty smile in too long.”

 

Tenderness swirled through me. I brushed my hand over his chest again, feeling the heat of his muscles through his shirt. He bent to press his mouth against mine, a warm pressure that made my blood run like melted honey.

 

Oh, lovely pleasure.

 

“Good start, faithful servant,” I whispered.

 

“Thank you, exalted mistress.” And there it was—that crinkling at the corners of his eyes, the amused twinkle that never failed to lighten my heart.