Vincent pulled Elaina into a tight embrace and stroked her strawberry hair. Warmth seeped through his shirt as her tears dampened his shoulder. His heart tugged at his chest. “Don’t cry. I told you Cole was moody. Don’t let him get to you.”
“Vince, you didn’t hear him.” A sob punctuated her words. “I was only trying to help. I don’t understand why he doesn’t just—wave a hand or something and make her better.”
“Elaina.” He leaned back to gaze into her eyes. “Sometimes we can manipulate flesh to heal, but we don’t have power over life. We’re not gods.”
She wrinkled her brow. “Vince, if your magic keeps you alive for so long, how can it not keep her alive?”
A small smile touched his lips. “Our magic doesn’t prolong our lives. Our nature does. It’s how we were created.” He brushed his forefinger cross her chin. “Your gods chose a shorter life-cycle for their children.” His grin inched up his cheek. “Some say we have long lives because it takes that long to get anything to sink into our thick skulls.”
Instead of the joke lightening the mood, another serious topic rolled from her tongue.
“Our gods? We don’t have the same gods?”
“Each realm is distinct in their creation. Each has its set of gods.”
Elaina paled as quickly as she flushed, and her gaze shifted to the tapestries that hung beside the hearth. Meridian’s blue sun sank below fields of amber and white weeping woodlands woven within the threads. No doubt a myriad of questions ran through her mind. Viewing the difference between the most ancient, distant realm in the depictions must conjure all sorts of alter-realities.
He nodded and stepped beside the artwork, taking the opportunity to get her mind off Cole’s rash behavior. Motioning to the image on the third wall-hanging, he lifted his brows in fondness. “This is Meridian, my home. It’s the oldest dimension in the Arched Spectrum of Realms. You might call it the mother of the planes. She’s the original that all others are patterned after.” He glanced at her with a wink. “I tried to explain that to you in the park. One day, the other realms may progress to the point we are now. But they have many millennia to go before that can happen.”
She gnawed on her lip with a little grin. “But we don’t have a blue sun or five moons.”
“No. Terra’s a cornerstone dimension and has a yellow one. Midway dimensions have white.” A breath of humor puffed from his nostrils. “Don’t ask me why. But it’s symbolic somehow.”
“Hm. Perhaps. And the five moons are reflections of the other dimensions’ moons…aside from our own. Many think of them as a crown. All other planes see one.” He shrugged.
“Who are your gods, Vince?”
Reverenced by the thought, he looked at the crystal globes that sat at the center of the bookshelf behind Cole’s desk. Stepping to them, he placed his hand on the left sphere. “This crystal was given to my mother and father when Cole was born. It was a gift from Dyas, God of Knowledge.” He brushed his fingers across the next in line. “This one was given fifty years later when James was born. A gift from Iradal, God of Life. And this one,” he picked up the last, and it glowed at his touch. “Was given to them three-hundred years after that, when I was born. It’s from Aditi, God of Creation.”
His voice hushed as he gazed into the token. “It’s not often a Meridian couple is blessed with three children. Long life spans hinder re-incarnation somewhat. The fact that Dyas presented a Triad crystal to my parents when Cole was born signified they were chosen. They knew Iradal would intervene and birth a new soul, if needed.”
Honor filled him. “This is my first life cycle.”
“Your first… You mean James and Cole have lived before? Re-incarnation really exists?”
Glancing at her, he realized he’d offered much more information than he intended. He set the crystal back on its plinth and turned to her. “Rebirth exists throughout the realms, Elaina. It’s how our souls progress, learn. Cole and James are both living in their third lifetime.”
Placing his hands on Elaina’s shoulders, Vincent gazed into her blue eyes. “Anna is Cole’s last wife, Elaina. Her name was Mianna, and she is his soul mate. He’s been lost since her death nearly four-hundred years ago. He just found her again in Anna, and nothing’s going to keep him from doing everything in his power to save her. You need to trust him.”
Elaina’s wide gaze searched his, and as she flexed her wrist, he knew the promise band told her of the truthfulness of his statement. A slow nod lifted her chin as she pulled him close and rested her head on his collar.
“Wow,” she said with a breath. “I could have never imagined this. But it’s like I’ve always known.” She wrapped her arms around his waist and bunched his shirt in her fists. “Oh, Vince, I’m so proud to be part of your family. I’ll help any way I can. I promise I’ll be right here.”
“I know.” He held her in a tight embrace. “Right now, just comfort her. Much more happened than what you see. She’s very confused. And when the time comes for us to undo the harm, your support will be very important.”
Her gaze met his, and her words came without hesitation. “I’ll be there, Vince.”
Elaina’s love flowed through every vein in Vincent’s body, and for the first time, he realized what it meant. Her soul called to his, penetrated his being, and bound him to her like none ever had or would. Eternity stretched before him, filled with Elaina’s love.
Vincent flushed with understanding. Cole experiences this when he looks at Anna. Gods, the pain he must be going through at what happened.
He set his jaw as determination swelled in his heart. Whatever it took, he’d be there to support his brother through what he knew would be the most difficult process ever undertaken.