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

“Knights often went off on long journeys and crusades, didn’t they?” I asked. “We can think of your trip like that. Except without all the pillaging or whatever.”

 

“They did travel often,” Dean said. “And always with a token from their lady. So I’ll need something of yours to take with me.”

 

“A token like what?”

 

“A scarf or a glove.” He shrugged. “Your underwear, maybe.”

 

“I am not sending you off with a pair of my panties. What if the airport security agent finds them in your bag?”

 

He grinned. “Trust you to worry about something like that.”

 

“Hold on.” I hurried back upstairs to our apartment and into the bedroom. I grabbed an item from a shoebox inside the closet, then went back outside.

 

“Here.” I held out my hand toward Dean. “A proper token of my love and devotion.”

 

He took the metal disk attached to a silver chain and ran his finger over the engraved Latin quote: Fortes fortuna iuvat.

 

Fortune favors the brave.

 

“Keep it safe for me,” I said.

 

“I will.” He tucked the necklace into the pocket of his jeans.

 

“So that’s the plan,” I said. “You’ll court me long-distance. And when you get back, we can go to dinner, the movies, that kind of thing. Dating. It’ll be fun.”

 

Heaven knew that after the turmoil of recent months, my husband and I needed some fun.

 

“I would love to date you all over again, Olivia Rose.” Dean put his hand against the side of my neck.

 

“I’d love it too.”

 

He moved closer, his deep voice rolling over me. “Give me a kiss, beauty.”

 

I stood on tiptoe to press my lips against his, my whole being filling with love and the belief that we would soon find our way back to each other. Dean cupped my face in his hands, his lips moving over mine in that perfect way that was both familiar and always new. Then he took me in his arms and pulled me against him in an embrace so tight I felt his heart beating against mine.

 

When we parted, I took a reluctant step back toward the building. Although I knew he had to go, my soul still cracked a little at the realization that he was actually leaving.

 

We gazed at each other for a moment, an arc of energy resonating between us. I memorized the way my husband looked in that instant, standing beside the car with a slight breeze ruffling his hair, faded jeans hugging his long legs, that warm brown gaze containing a thousand thoughts meant for me alone. So different from five years ago when he’d stood on the sidewalk looking at me… and yet somehow exactly the same.

 

“Promise me you’ll unbend a little while you’re in Tuscany,” I said. “Get your hands dirty. Eat good food. Enjoy discussing all things medieval with your colleagues. Laugh. Remember why you love doing what you do. Promise.”

 

“I promise.” He reached into his coat pocket for his keys. “Say it for me.”

 

“I’m yours.” I swallowed past the lump in my throat. “Say it back.”

 

“I’m yours. Always will be.”

 

He pressed his palm to his chest and lifted his hand to me. I gave him a little wave, then turned and went back inside so I wouldn’t have to watch him drive away.

 

He’s been in Italy for ten days now. And though I miss him terribly, I have things to do, goals to accomplish. I’ve been working at the bookstore every day, volunteering at the library, and helping organize a new exhibition at the Mirror Lake Historical Museum. And I need to find a new job, since Allie has lost the Happy Booker.

 

I go back to the children’s section and continue packing up picture books. I leaf through one about a boy and his pet dinosaur. Ever since the miscarriage, I’ve wondered at the aching sense of loss I feel, the realization that I’d started making plans. I’d even started imagining what it would be like—a baby wrapped up in a blanket, soft and warm as a muffin. Fuzzy tufts of hair, toothless smiles, tottering steps.

 

I’d pictured Dean cradling a newborn in his arms, and I’d felt that certain, bone-deep knowledge that he would love and protect our child with a fiercely devoted tenderness. That our child would be indescribably blessed to have Dean West as his or her father.

 

And while I hadn’t yet been able to imagine myself as a mother, I thought one day soon I’d be able to. I could at least see it on the horizon.

 

I still can.

 

“Liv, I’m going to label the boxes in the backroom,” Allie calls, her voice pulling me out of my thoughts. “Brent and I will get those loaded up first.”

 

I keep working on the picture books, pausing a couple of times to check my email. Dean and I exchange two or three emails a day, all wonderfully mundane messages about our work, a trip he took to Florence, a new sports shop that opened on Tulip Street, but we save most of our communication for our nightly phone calls.

 

After Allie and Brent head to the storage garage, I stay to help customers. At five o’clock, I start to lock up the store when my friend Kelsey March comes in, dressed in a gray pinstriped suit and heels, the swath of blue in her blond hair almost glowing.

 

“Hi, Kels. What’re you doing here?”