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Introduction:

All characters in sexual scenes are above the age of 18.
This story contains a scene that might be upsetting for some. The scene in question is included for the purposes of this fictional story only, and nothing described therein should be attempted at home under any circumstances. Depression or strong feelings of hopelessness shouldn’t be taken lightly; help must be sought, whether in the form of a loved one or a professional. If suicide is a subject you find particularly distressing, then please proceed at your own discretion.

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“It is not meant to create a powerful effect; it is rather a Romance, calm and melancholy, giving the impression of someone looking gently towards a spot that calls to mind a thousand happy memories. It is a kind of reverie in the moonlight on a beautiful spring evening.”
—Frédéric Chopin, describing the mood of Romance (Larghetto), the second movement of his Piano Concerto No. 1, in a letter to his friend, Tytus Woyciechowski.

***

June, 2004

Darcy Ferris sat still as a statue in her chair. She had just passed her fortieth birthday a week ago in a quiet celebration with her close-knit family; but her porcelain face was still unlined and her blond hair, held back from her face in a loose braid, had no strands of gray.

Darcy hadn’t spoken for a whole minute. She was too shocked to say a word, and could only sit in stunned silence as her sister Elliott continued to speak in her typically measured manner.

The cool way Elliott spoke was a shock in and of itself to Darcy, when she considered the content of the speech—the fracture of their family circle.

Elliott reached for the china cup beside her and took a sip of her tea before she carried on speaking. “I hope you really don’t resent me for this, Dee, but you must be aware that I haven’t been happy in my marriage to Berty for a long time.” Her voice was calm, unruffled and reasonable. “I tried. I really did try. I’ve stuck with him for twenty-one years after all. I’m sorry for any hurt I might be causing you.”

Darcy found her tongue then. “Any hurt you might be causing me?” she repeated with obvious incredulity. “You can’t really be this dense, Ellie! Of course you’re bloody well hurting me! You’re going to hurt each and every one of us—me, Ian, Calla, Berty, Kit. The whole lot. You can’t do this. You can’t divorce Berty and bugger off halfway across the world with some strange man. Please tell me that this is all nonsense talk, some unfunny practical joke.”

Elliott smiled coolly. “Dee, please.” She collectedly folded her hands and placed them atop her elegantly crossed legs. “I tried for twenty-one years with Berty. You and I are forty now, and I don’t intend to spend the rest of my life in misery.”

“Misery? Don’t be ridiculous. The man adores you! What sort of misery is it to be in a happy marriage with a husband that loves you to bloody bits and a wonderful son? You have a beautiful life and you’re throwing it all away for nothing. People would kill to have what you have.”

Elliott met her sister’s eyes. “I’m not happy, Dee,” she said simply. “I haven’t been for years.”

The other recriminations on Darcy’s tongue slowly dissolved at the look in her sister’s eyes. How could one argue with such sad simplicity? Her tone turned to a pleading whisper. “But…but…Ellie, this will hurt us all, especially Kit.”

Elliott’s smile was equally sheepish and dismissive. “Kit is a big boy. He’s twenty after all, an age to realize that there are some things I simply have to do, regardless of the fact that I’m his mother.”

Darcy couldn’t speak for another moment. “So how long has the affair with this new man been going on?” she asked at last.

Elliott took another sip of tea. “One year, since he came here to write his novel. He said he was looking for scenery and inspiration and couldn’t find it holed up in his flat in New York.”

“What’s his name?”

“Conrad. Conrad Dunham.” Elliott was silent for a beat. “Now that his novel is finished, he’ll be returning to New York in a few weeks and my mind is made up to go with him.”

Darcy nodded. Her throat was tight. “Have you told Berty?”

“I will tonight, but I wanted to talk to you first.” Elliott reached over and put her hand over Darcy’s. “I understand that this is a lot to take in, but Dee, in this past year I’ve been so happy with Conrad. He brings out a side in me that I thought was lost and I don’t want to let go of that. I love him.”

Darcy’s throat tightened further. “Berty will be so crushed. So, so crushed.”

“I know, and the thought does give me pain. I care about him and I don’t want to hurt him. He’s Kit’s father and a lovely man. My unhappiness isn’t really his fault. It’s just that I don’t love him anymore.”

“And you’re willing to leave Kit and all of us for this writer. You’re leaving your family for someone you’ve only known for a year.”

Elliott pulled her hand away from Darcy’s. “I know it might seem selfish to you, but you’re happy with Ian. You love him as much as he loves you and so you don’t understand what it means to be in a marriage where all you feel is sexless affection for your partner.” Elliott’s tone chilled. “You don’t understand, and you don’t want to understand. I’m your sister, your twin sister. You should care for my feelings more than you care for keeping our precious little egg basket intact.”

“And what about you?” Darcy replied, a tad defensively. “You say you care so deeply for Berty but you’ve been carrying on with another man. You have no moral grounds to haul me over the coals.”

Elliott looked at her sister for a long time, and then she simply got to her feet. “I can see that talking to you is of no use,” she said calmly. “In three weeks I’ll be leaving with Conrad. I hope you all can forgive me, but I’ve sacrificed myself to keep the family intact for years and I’m not prepared to do it any longer. Not when I’ve found real love.” She turned. “Give me a ring whenever you’re ready to talk, Dee, or just pop round mine. You’re always welcome. I’ll see you later.”

Darcy watched as Elliott walked stiffly across the room. At the front door, she took her coat from the peg and put it on. Then she left without looking back and smoothly closed the door behind her.

Once Elliott was gone, Darcy clasped her hands together tightly. There was a gold wedding band on her finger. That ring was a symbol that she was married to Ian Ferris, and she’d worn it with pride since he’d put it on her finger seventeen years ago.

Yes, she and Ian were very happy. Darcy loved him and she believed in the sanctity of marriage. To fall out of love with her husband, to sully her vows with infidelity, were things her tender heart shrank from. It went against all her beliefs and rattled her. Perhaps that was the reason she’d been unable to offer support to her sister, who she knew had come to her seeking just that.

Darcy knew she’d hurt Elliott, but it was nothing to the hurt Elliott was about to inflict on all of them.

Darcy and Elliott Ferris, identical twin sisters, had been born Darcy and Elliott Harrison. In their late teens they had met the brothers Bertram and Ian Ferris, Bertram being a couple of years older than Ian. At nineteen, Elliott had married Bertram and a year later they’d had their son Kit. At twenty-three, Darcy married Ian and two years later, their daughter Calla had been born.

Naturally, their family had always been a loving and close one. Darcy had never thought she would see it broken in such a painful way. She sat in her living room that afternoon, sipping her tea without tasting it. She stayed sipping it even after it turned cold.

What happened over the next three weeks was as agonizing as she’d imagined; Elliott confessed the affair to Bertram and declared her resolution to leave with her lover. Bertram was heartbroken and Ian livid at Elliott on Bertram’s behalf. Kit openly sided with his father, and Calla was saddened at all the unexpected conflict.

The only thing that initially startled Darcy was that Kit decided to leave with Elliott and Conrad. His decision became less surprising when he confided in her that the only reason he was going was to protect his mother. Despite how angry he was with her, he wanted to stick around in New York for a while so that, in his words, “I can look out for her in case the bloke’s a pervert as well as a bastard.”

So, three weeks later, Elliott, Kit and Conrad left Cornwall for New York. Bertram, who admitted to being too miserable to stay behind rattling alone in a big house when his wife and son were gone, took a job up in London a few months later and moved away.

As the months and years passed, it seemed that Elliott truly was happy with Conrad. Her divorce from Bertram was finalized after a couple of years and she wedded Conrad in a civil ceremony which neither Darcy nor Ian flew over to attend. Elliott’s visits home were very occasional. Darcy supposed that New York was her home now. Bertram likewise stayed in London. Four years later, he too remarried.

And Kit? Kit returned home to Cornwall after five years in New York.

***

March, 2009

Arabella Crawford stood in the bathroom of the apartment she shared with one of her closest friends. She had just returned from visiting her grandparents in their care home. Her grandparents were the two people who had been kindest to her all her life. As a child, Arabella had preferred them to her own parents because being with them was so simple, so easy and made her so happy. She’d stayed with them every weekend until her teen years. And even after the weekend stays, she’d visited them regularly. Like today, at their care home.

Her grandfather, Henry, was sick and had been for a long time. He suffered from both terminal lung cancer and rheumatoid arthritis. She knew he’d be gone very soon. These were his last, precious days. Frances, her grandmother, was healthy enough in body but suffered from Alzheimer’s. She was now in the later stages and today had been an especially bad one for her; she’d been so agitated and upset, screaming and hurling verbal abuse at Arabella, Henry, and the caregivers in the room.

Arabella looked at her reflection in the mirror. There was a cloud of coiling brown hair about her golden face in a soft halo. Her eyes were also a warm brown—courtesy of a white father and a Trinidadian mother. The pair had divorced several years ago after a stormy marriage. This had happened while Arabella was ten, and since then she had primarily lived with her father. Until when she was sixteen and he’d been imprisoned; he’d worked at a prominent building society and had been implicated in a Libor scandal.

Naturally, she had gone to live with her mother and the deadbeat, ne'er-do-well loafer that was her second husband. Her mother was generally well-meaning, but she was so busy working to make ends meet and keep all three of them afloat that she had no time to really live, or to talk to her daughter. Or to see that her husband had repeatedly raped and abused that daughter for two years; until age eighteen and an admission to the Bath Spa University had thankfully taken her from the grotty London house.

That had been two years ago. Arabella was twenty now. Two weeks ago, her longtime boyfriend and rock had left her—for a man, no less. He’d told her he was in love with somebody called Gareth but that he cared for her as person and hoped they could still remain friends.

Yesterday, she’d lost her part-time job at the newsagents’ shop she’d worked at since her freshman year. It wasn’t through any fault of her own, but because the shop was closing down. The owners were packing up and moving on. They were thinking of a fresh start in Camden. To, Arabella it was a blow. She did receive some monetary support from her mother, but the job was important to her. Without it she wouldn’t make rent. Or have enough to eat. Bath wasn’t exactly a cheap city to live in.

Arabella looked at her reflection in the mirror. She stared at her face. It was blank—a contrast to her heart, which was bleeding. Bleeding beyond any words could express. She felt like Dorian Gray from the Oscar Wilde book. Dorian’s face had remained the same and beautiful while his heart and his portrait grew corrupted and unsalvageable; Arabella’s face was clear, even as her insides rotted in painful silence.

Unsalvageable. Yes, that was the word. Unsalvageable. She knew she was beyond saving. She didn’t want to be saved, anyway. She just wanted peace and rest. She just wanted to lie down.

Arabella looked at the jar of pills in her hand. The jar was labelled Kadian.

Nothing could be salvaged. It had been knock after knock in her short life. She couldn’t take any more knocks—and that was as simple as it was. She was tired, weary to the bone, and couldn’t take even one more hit.

Arabella opened the jar of morphine and let the pills spill into her cupped palm.

She was a good person. She never gossiped, tried not to lie, and was always as nice as she knew how to be. She considered other people’s feelings and didn’t step on any toes. She always tried to choose the right. She never cheated, tried to be cheerful, to keep up with her appointments and be reliable, to be there for her friends and to visit her father in prison as often as she could. She wasn’t envious and she wasn’t malicious or underhanded. She was loyal. She was polite. She was kind-hearted. She never stole—until today at the care home.

She had stolen her grandfather’s pain medication. With the way she felt inside, she definitely needed the pills more than he did. She felt sad that she’d taken his medication, but she was sure he’d get prescribed some more once he reported that he couldn’t find them. And she couldn’t get such pills anywhere else. She could have asked her friend Rami who sometimes messed around on the dark net for kicks, but he was intuitive and would want to know why the hell she suddenly wanted morphine. Arabella didn’t want to tip anyone off. She didn’t want drama. Which was why she wasn’t bothering to leave a note. Which was why she’d made sure to seem extra happy around the people who cared.

She’d been especially cheerful as she visited with her grandparents. Stealing her poor grandfather’s medication was the only way, she thought again as guilt pricked her for her theft. She had other mild sedatives, but modern sleeping pills had been specifically engineered to help prevent the very purpose she wanted them for; and one couldn’t just obtain morphine or similar opioids over the counter. They were prescribed by clinicians in controlled doses to certain patients, like her grandfather.

Arabella lifted the glass on the sink. It was filled with colorless liquid. This liquid wasn’t water; it was vodka neat. She had never taken morphine before, but she had read all about it. People who used it as a form of medication often built up a tolerance to it, making an OD progressively more difficult to achieve. She had never taken it before herself, and that was a good thing because her body would be very sensitive to it. She believed the proper term was “opioid-naïve.” She was drinking it with vodka because of the research she’d done—there were very serious warnings against mixing ethanol with codeine, heroin, methadone…or morphine. Even at non-lethal doses, ethanol caused the body to metabolize the drug so quickly that it could prove dangerous.

Arabella was very well aware of all this: ‘alcohol’ + ‘lethal dose’ + ‘opioid-naïve,’ = ‘fool-proof.’

She drank one pill with the vodka. And then another, and then another…until her hand, the glass, and the pill jar, were empty. Then she left the bathroom and crossed the tiny hall to her bedroom. She wasn’t too sure if her roommate and close friend was home yet, but all seemed quiet and that was good.

She went inside her room, turned off the lights and lay on her bed.

She turned on her side, waiting. She didn’t wait long…deep fatigue came, pinning her limbs to the bed as though anchored, pulling her head down under heavily even as ecstasy made it light. The fatigue pulled her under…under…under…

There was no pain…just bliss. Even though breathing became…difficult…she was ecstatic. She was underwater…long, languid breaths…jubilation… Everything was so warm…ecstatic…everything was euphoric…everything was perfect. Bliss…rapture. And she was so sleepy. So very, very, very sleepy… She had to sleep. She couldn’t help but…sleep…

As the final wave of deep lethargy overcame her, Arabella closed her warm brown eyes.

***

June, 2009

Calla Ferris was seated in the carriage of a southbound train with her luggage by her side. It was the end of the school year and she was going home from University for the summer. She pulled her jacket tighter around her body. Her hair, a deep and warm gold, was tied back into a loose ponytail. There was a light sprinkling of freckles across her nose and cheekbones. Her crystal-blue eyes were thoughtful and her soft pink lips turned down in a tiny frown.

She looked out the window at the gentle English countryside as the train rattled by on its tracks. The rolling hills were deeply green, extending as far as the eye could see into glittering, misty horizon. She saw simple beauty in it, which touched her heart.

Calla was a music student at the Bath Spa University in Somerset. Her home was lovely Cornwall, the southernmost county of the English mainland. It was on the lip of the sea and indisputably one of the prettiest spots in the country.

She’d been traveling for over five hours. She’d gotten on a train at the railway station in Bath which had taken her to Bristol Temple Meads where she’d gotten a connecting service to Penzance, the little Cornish town she called home.

Calla smiled slightly. It was odd that Penzance, despite its sleepy harbor, its miles of rocky beaches, its sweet mild climate and picturesque streets, was still best known as being the setting for Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic The Pirates of Penzance. Calla herself had sung the role of Mabel. She was a budding soprano and had sung Mabel as part of her studies at University. The crowd always went crazy when it was time for the baritone to sing the quick-paced, tongue-twisting Modern Major-General Song. The baritone would step out onto the stage in his costume—a large moustache, an army uniform and a girly little umbrella—to splutter in a silly, overdone, and completely hysterical way, “Yes, yes, I am a Major-General!”

Calla was smiling a little bit more, but she was drawn from her idle thoughts; she looked up as the train conductor announced on the voice-over, “Ladies and gentlemen, we will shortly be arriving at Penzance, where this train terminates. Please ensure you take all your personal belongings with you when leaving the train. We hope you’ve enjoyed your journey with us today. Again, Penzance is our final destination. All change, please. All change.”

Calla sighed. She had plied the route from Bath to Penzance many times and already knew that the journey was about to end. She wasn’t looking forward to getting off the train because her parents would be waiting for her at the station. Ever since the train had neared Penzance, calling at the nearby stations of St Austell, Truro, Redruth and St Erth, she’d been dreading the arrival. She knew that her parents would be all hugs and kisses and cuddles. That they would be watching her closely and that they would be worried about her.

Of course they’d be worried about her. Everybody was worried about her these days; her parents, her other friends, her classmates, her lecturers—even the Dean. Everybody looked at her with concern in their eyes and asked if she was okay and how she was doing. They thought she was sad and grieving. And she had been—at first. But now, she was mostly angry. Angry with herself. Calla was absolutely furious with herself for not knowing, for not seeing.

As the train pulled into the station at Penzance, an angry pink flush spread over her face. She grabbed her luggage and lurched to her feet, fury giving energy to her movements as she disembarked the train and stepped onto the platform. Cold air slapped at her cheeks, flushing them even more.

How hadn’t she seen? Calla thought as she weaved past the throng of people on the platform. How had she not seen that her roommate and dear friend Arabella had been in so much pain? How had she not seen that there’d been desperation behind Arabella’s bright smiles? How had she not seen that there had been agony behind the cheerful words? But she hadn’t even had a clue, and had been just as shocked as everyone else when Arabella had killed herself three months ago.

Arabella Crawford had swallowed handfuls of morphine. By the time Calla found her and called an ambulance, it had already been too late. Calla knew that Arabella had been going through some tough personal issues, but she hadn’t known it was that bad. She hadn’t thought Arabella would simply close her eyes…and never open them again. She hadn’t thought that a young, promising life would be extinguished just like that.

Twenty year old Calla Ferris had always considered herself the intuitive type and a good reader of people, but her roommate and close friend had been in enough pain to take her own life and she hadn’t even guessed. If she had been paying more attention, Arabella would be here today.

Calla walked off the platform. There, just beyond the barriers, were her parents. Her father Ian, blond and blue-eyed, wore his scruffy jacket over his T-shirt and his ancient jeans. Darcy, with the same burnished gold hair and crystalline blue eyes she had passed on to her daughter, was dressed much the same as her husband.

They smiled when they saw her. As she spotted them, Calla tried to control her facial expression. Despite the flush on her skin and the sheen of tears over her eyes as she thought of Arabella, she put a big, fake smile on.

Calla put her train ticket in at the gate and stepped past the barriers, her luggage in her hand. “Hey, you lot,” she said to them, going in for the group hug.

Ian hugged her tightly. Darcy gave her plenty of kisses and then held onto her hands as she asked, “You alright?”

Calla managed not to sigh aloud. “Yeah, I’m alright,” she replied as Ian picked up her luggage. They left the station and walked to the nearby parking bay. “The train at Bristol Temple Meads was delayed so I had to wait forty-five minutes there,” she said, smiling as she attempted light chat. “Nearly froze my bloody fingers off. You’d think it was the dead of winter and not June.”

“It’s supposed to be sunny tomorrow,” Ian said as they got to the car. He opened the trunk and put her luggage in.

“That’s bollocks, though, isn’t it? They never get it right,” Darcy replied as they got in the car and Ian pulled out of their parking slot. “The last time they said it was going to get warm there was frost on the ground.”

There was a moment of silence as they drove on, and then Ian met Calla’s eyes in the rearview mirror. “So how’s it been for you? I mean, at your flat. It’s been really quiet, hasn’t it? Bella’s parents have come to collect her things, I’d imagine.”

“For God’s sake, Dad,” Calla responded sharply as she turned to look out the window. “I don’t want to talk about that. I came home to get away from the Bella thing, not to have you shoving it in my bloody face first chance you get.”

Calla was deeply sorry the moment the words were out, because her father’s expression turned pinched and an awkward silence fell—too awkward for her to even attempt an apology. So the silence went on until they parked the car in the narrow driveway of their detached dormer bungalow.

Despite the chill of the day, white roses and original jasmines were blooming. Her mother must have giving the garden some extra love recently. The white flowers looked beautiful amongst the evergreen blue star juniper and the bay laurels. One thing Calla had always loved about home was the cottage garden.

Seeing her chance at breaking the ice, she said to her mother, “The roses look really good, Mom.”

“Yeah, they do actually, don’t they?” Darcy smiled with pride as they got out of the car. “You know Ellie came down to visit?”

“Aunt Ellie came down? Wow, that’s strange, isn’t it? She never visits. When did she come down?” Calla asked. She took her luggage from Ian and gave him an apologetic smile as she did. He smiled back, and she knew she was forgiven.

Since her Aunt Elliott left, she had only come back home once, for a whole summer. Calla had been sixteen at the time and had been away at summer camp so she hadn’t seen her; and it seemed that she had now missed her second visit.

“She came over in February,” Darcy replied. “That was when you had that big Mozart performance, wasn’t it? Anyway, she smuggled in some rose cuttings for me. They’re called Madame Plantier roses and I haven’t been able to get my hands on them before.”

“They smell amazing.” Calla sighed with simple pleasure as she buried her nose into one richly fragrant bloom. It filled her nose and brain with soft euphoria.

The fragrance of the garden lightly scented the air—the exquisite, narcotic roses and jasmines, the herbal, aromatic tang of the sweet bay. The blue star juniper was bringing nothing to the table in terms of scent right now—though the vibrant blue color was a definite winner to the eyes—but when burned, the wood was very fragrant.

“And they’re growing well,” Darcy added, sniffing one rose herself. “Hardy little buggers, they are. At first I thought they wouldn’t root, but they did and they’re coming on so well now. They’re shooting up tall and I’m sure they’re going to start climbing soon.”

Ian laughed. “Which means I’m going to be put to work building a trellis before too long.”

“So how long did Aunt Ellie stay when she came down to visit? Did she come with Conrad?” Calla asked as they got into the house. She smiled a little as she walked into the living room. The walls with their patterned wallpaper, the soft rugs, the warm fire in the hearth and the Queen Anne chairs around the lumpy sofa all brought their measure of comfort.

“Conrad?” Ian scoffed. “There’s no way that bloody bastard would show his face here. Ellie only stayed a week. Kit came with her but he didn’t go back to New York. He says he’s now back to stay. He’s now a Reservist at the Royal Airforce base in Newquay. And he works part time at The Old Colonial, that new swim shop that just opened a mile up the hill from Madderlea Cove.”

Calla’s heart tripped, and she felt something unfurl in the pit of her stomach; a mixture of nerves, shock, dread, surprise, displeasure, anxiety, disappointment…hope, anticipation, pleasure. “Kit is here?” she asked, torn between her dismay and that sneaky, lingering roll of pleasure in her belly that she couldn’t seem to get the better of. “Like here, here? Here in Penzance? Living here in Penzance? And an RAF Reserve?” She looked from Darcy to Ian and back, shifting her luggage from one hand to the other.

Darcy was walking into the kitchen and Ian was turning the heating up, so neither saw the look that flashed across their daughter’s face.

“Yeah, he is,” Darcy replied absently. “And he’s grown up such a good lad. Twenty-five now, isn’t he, Ian?”

“Yeah. He’s already had his birthday this year,” Ian replied. Then he banged on the thermostat. “Ah—bloody thing won’t get up past 15. Calla, Dee; the pair of you are better off wearing socks and a jumper indoors until I get it fixed.”

“Soon, hopefully,” was Darcy’s rejoinder. “Calla, do you want to go get changed? We’ve got splits with the cream and jam and I made pasties so I’ll just pop them in the microwave for two minutes. And which tea do you want? There’s none of that weird flowery one you used to like but there’s Assam, chamomile, white Darjeeling and Chai.”

“Darjeeling, please,” Calla replied.

She turned and walked up the short flight of stairs because she had the dormer bedroom above. She sighed when she got into her familiar old bedroom and closed the door behind her. It was a relief not to have to chatter and smile and pretend she was fine.

She dumped her luggage on her bed and walked over to the dormer window to look out at the back garden. She had come home to relax, to get away from it all, to try to find some measure of peace about Arabella—only to find that Kit was here too. Kit was an RAF Reserve. Kit was living here.

Bloody hell, Calla thought, gently slamming her head against the window. Bloody, bloody hell; why couldn’t he have stayed at a nice, far distance in America with the vast North Atlantic Ocean and all those lovely 4000 miles between them? Why did he have to come back home?

“Fuck my life,” she said aloud.

Kitchner Jaymes Ferris, or Kit as he was most commonly called, had been the bane of Calla’s existence ever since she could remember. Naturally, they had spent a mammoth amount of time around each other as children. For Calla, that time had not been pleasantly spent because Kit, five years her senior, had made it his life’s work to make hers miserable.

From when she was five till she turned fifteen and he moved away with Elliott, she had been put through all sorts of torture at his hands, all in the name of brotherly roughhousing. Countless ‘kick me’ signs had been pasted onto her back. Numerous jokes, teases and taunts had been made at her expense. If he found worms they went straight in her hair. If he happened to lay his hands on a marker pen her face was turned into a canvas.

Once when she was eight and he thirteen, he had played an elaborate April fool’s day prank on her. She’d written a letter to her favorite children’s show asking the host to let her go on the show. The show’s producers had ignored her letter but Kit had fabricated a response telling her that she had been invited the very next day. She had been so wildly excited and then had cried for hours after discovering the truth.

And then the very next day he had come begging her forgiveness and with an alleged peace offering—a candied apple. Upon biting into it, she had discovered that it was not an apple at all, but a raw onion which he had covered in toffee. He had laughed and laughed until he nearly cracked a rib. He’d laughed equally uncontrollably the time he’d spiked her lip balm with muscle-relaxing cream.

When she was thirteen, he had found out that she liked one of the boys in her school and he’d mercilessly teased her about it to the boy’s hearing. And those were just the tip of the iceberg.

Blushing anew from all the embarrassment, Calla went to her wardrobe and got out some warm clothes to change into. The day Kit Ferris had left had been the happiest day of her life. This was despite the fact that for the last couple of months before his departure, he had been oddly nice to her and hadn’t done anything worse than light jesting here and there.

The day before he’d left, Kit had been uncharacteristically dejected. They had been in the shelter of Madderlea Cove, and after a few minutes of his moping around as they splashed about near the shallows, he had suddenly come up to her and kissed her. At first, it had been complete and utter shock that kept her motionless as his lips had touched hers, brushed over hers and parted hers. Then what had kept her frozen was surprise at how soft the kiss was, at how warm the kiss was, at how enjoyably damp it was, at how sweet and fresh he tasted as his tongue twined with hers.

And then as his arms slid around her waist, molding her body into his, sense had begun to reassert itself. Heaven above, she’d thought. What was he doing kissing her? And what was she doing permitting it…enjoying it? Kit was kissing her like a lover; kissing her deeply, slowly and very thoroughly. Kit was kissing her. Kit, her cousin; Kit, her brother; Kit her brother-cousin.

Their relationship was convoluted. They were brother and sister and yet they were also cousins. Because their mothers were identical twins, they were genetic half-siblings. Additionally, because both sets of parents were siblings, they were double cousins, which also amounted to being half-siblings—but because their fathers were regular siblings, there was not enough consanguinity to render them fully brother and sister. So, genetically, they were somewhere between half and full siblings; three-quarter siblings.

Revulsion had stormed up in Calla then, as strongly as the novel pleasure. This was sick, wrong and…and…weird. Their parents would be horrified if they suspected that such a thing had ever taken place. So why wasn’t she pushing him away? Why wasn’t she stopping him? Why was she melting into his arms? Why were her lips starting to dance with his? Why were her hands magically around his neck? Why wasn’t she treating him like the sick pervert he was? He was kissing his little sister-cousin, for heaven’s sake. The little sister-cousin he had taunted and teased and protected and looked out for.

When the kiss had drawn out to its natural end, Kit had pulled back ever so slightly. “I love you, Cally-Wally,” he had whispered almost inaudibly against her lips. Then he had slowly set her away. And with a million contrasting feelings of pain, pleasure, victory and self-disgust in his eyes, Kit had turned and walked off, leaving her standing staring after him, trembling, wondering and shocked.

That was the last she had seen of him before he had gone to New York, and aside from a few short emails and brief phone calls where they had talked of nothing but the boring and mundane it was also the last she had heard from him. They had never even so much as alluded to the kiss.

But, oh, that kiss!—that bloody, bloody kiss! It had been her first real one. And it was Kit that had given it to her. She had never spoken of it to a soul. What would she say, after all? “My brother-cousin kissed me and I was in the seventh heaven?”

Her heart now starting to trip again, Calla put her fingers to her lips. She could almost swear that they were still warm and still soft.

“For God’s sake, Calla,” Ian called impatiently from downstairs. “How long does it take to put on a bloody jumper and some socks?”

Jerking guiltily out of her thoughts, Calla hurried to change. “I’m coming, I’m coming!” she yelled. “Mom, don’t let that vein in his forehead pop before I get there!”

They had the evening meal around the TV, watching Strictly Come Dancing and light-heartedly arguing about their favorite and least favorite competitors, and then Calla went up for a hot shower and an early night.

She tossed and turned for most of the night, eventually falling into a fitful sleep. She had the same dream that had plagued her for the last three months. She and Arabella were sitting around a warm fire in a huge room, with shadows all around them. At first, the fire kept the shadows at bay but then the darkness began to encroach and the fire began to die.

The shadows grew closer and closer, obscuring Arabella. Calla tried to fan the flames to push the shadows away as they began to engulf Arabella. It was to no avail, and as the last glowing embers turned to ash, she looked up. The darkness had almost totally consumed Arabella.

“Bella!” Calla cried, holding out her arm. “Take my hand. Take it now.”

But Arabella didn’t; she just smiled as the darkness overcame her.

“For fuck’s sake, Arabella Simone Crawford, grab my hand!”

But Arabella didn’t, and she was gone. There was only blackness around Calla—blackness so thick that she was sure she would never see the sunlight again.

And that was usually when she woke up.

Calla opened her eyes and sat up in bed. Shuddering a little, she looked out the window. It was still dark for the most part, but there was some brightness to the inky sky that hinted morning was coming. The sky was a fusion of blues, purples and greys; suspended in that ephemeral state that was neither night nor day.

Calla pushed her damp hair back from her face, feeling it spill over her shoulders and down to the middle of her back. She lurched out of bed, unable to stay there any longer. She tugged off her pajamas and changed into the first thing her fingers touched. It happened to be a sundress. She put on her shoes and her coat, picked up her bunch of keys and left her bedroom.

As her parents slept on, Calla soundlessly moved down the stairs and to the hallway, heading for the front door. She opened it and disappeared into the dawn.

It was a twenty minute walk from the house to Madderlea Cove, her favorite beach. It was a strip of pebbled land, with the cove along the coastal footpath towards Land’s End and lying halfway between Porthway and Mousehole. It was a very sheltered cove, with the beach lying below the quay. It received very few visitors, especially tourists whom Calla always strove to avoid during the summer months.

As she walked on, the houses and streets gave way to uncultivated land. The terrain grew steep. Intermittently, jagged-edged cliffs jutted from the ground. Picking her way carefully as she reached the beach with its sandy floor covered with fine pebbles polished by the tide, Calla walked up her favorite cliff. It was the highest one but the gradient was gentle and she fearlessly went higher and higher until she reached the summit. From there she could look down at the cove. She could see the silvery waters of the sea as they crashed and foamed against the rocky shores of Madderlea.

She sat down on the cliff, drawing her knees up to her chin. It seemed her father had been right; it was warm today. The heat was enjoyable, teamed with the sound of lapping water and the cool sea breeze.

Calla loved sea breeze; the freshness, the simplicity. It felt like the beginning of everything, like the washing away of old regrets and old troubles. It felt like freedom and infinity and contentment. She had always lived near the sea and wherever she made a home for herself, it would have to be beside the sea.

She watched the sun rise, watched everything brighten. She enjoyed seeing the day break. Since Arabella’s death, Calla only got small pockets of happiness—looking out to rolling views from a slow-rattling train, sniffing a Madame Plantier rose, watching a golden, sparkling sunrise.

She was just starting to wind down from the after-effects of the nightmare when she heard the unmistakable sound of pebbles crunching underfoot. Who was coming here to disturb her privacy? Nobody ever came here. Since her childhood, Madderlea Cove had been her playground, her haunt, her solace, her domain. Well, it had been the domain of her and Kit.

Kit…

Calla whipped around.

She hadn’t seen him in five years and since then he had grown to a man of twenty-five, but she still knew Kit Ferris the moment she saw him. His frame was taller and bigger, his shoulders broader and his muscles defined. His contours of his face were harder and leaner than she remembered—but still, it was Kit all the way. Kit with his vibrant, crystalline blue eyes; Kit with his waving golden blond hair; Kit with his cheeky smile and his easy gait.

Calla stared at him. Her stomach unfurled again. Her heart began to pound. She was unsure whether to hug him or slap him. It would depend on his first words.

“Calla,” he said softly, his eyes roving her face. His gaze was transfixed on her, as though he were a blind man seeing the sun for the very first time. His lips turned up in a warm smile of happiness and pleasure. “How are you, poppet?” He held his arms out.

Hug it was, then. Calla jumped up and closed the rest of the distance between them. She grabbed her brother and released a soft giggle as his strong arms went around her. “Kit Ferris, you bellend,” she said, kissing his cheek. He lifted her so that only the tips of her toes were touching the ground.

Kit laughed softly and gave her another squeeze before letting her go. “Is that how to greet your big bro-cuz, Cally-Wally?” he teased, using the silly nickname she hadn’t heard in five years, “With abuse?”

Calla smiled at him, her heart warming. “Yeah, well, you deserve it. You were a prick.”

“Ha—it was always so easy to wind you up.”

Calla gave him a teasing look. “So why don’t you look surprised to see me?”

“Why don’t you look surprised to see me?”

“Mom told me you’d moved back home.”

“Well, she told me that you’d be coming down from University this weekend, and this morning I saw you walking up the footpath as I was opening the shop.”

Calla couldn’t seem to contain her smile. “So you were watching me like a perv, and then you stalked me up here.”

Kit grinned back. “Pretty much, yeah,” he replied. He took her hands and his smile turned warm again. “I’m not going to lie. It’s really good to see you.” Then the smile turned naughty again. “You’re actually hot now.” He inclined his head, staring at her. “Calla Sienne Ferris, you are beautiful. My little sis-cuz is so absolutely, incredibly beautiful.”

“And my big bro-cuz is full of shit.” Calla pulled her hands away, covering the sudden thudding of her heart with cheery laughter. “So why did you come back? You stayed so long in New York that we all thought you were gone for good. Were you homesick?”

Kit paused a moment. “Maybe,” he replied cryptically. He took her hand once more as they walked back to the cliff’s edge.

“I heard you’re in the RAF now. That’s wonderful, Kit, it really is.”

He only smiled. “I’m not doing it so people will think I’m wonderful.”

“I know you’re not.” She gave him a bright, sweet smile. “You’re doing it for your country and yourself, and that’s why it’s wonderful. And you always were a bit of a daredevil, so I guess I’m not too surprised you’d enlist. Will you ever get deployed, do you think?” Then Calla paused. She hoped not. Words like Afghanistan and Iraq flitted through her mind, and her smile dimmed.

“I’m yet to do the full fifteen-day training block, but one never knows. I’m glad to do it, in any case.” He glanced at her as some of his own smile dimmed. “So, I also…heard. You must not be doing that great.”

Calla didn’t have to ask what he’d heard. He’d heard about Arabella’s suicide. Anger stormed up in her. Was it too much to ask that people stop slapping her across the face with Arabella? She hadn’t been in Kit’s company for two minutes after a five-year gap and he was already mentioning it. Why did people keep slapping her across the face?

She ripped her hand out of his grasp. “Who told you?”

He seemed surprised at the acidity of her tone. “Aunt Dee—your mom,” he replied. “Is there a problem?”

Of course, Calla thought angrily. Of course it had been her mom. Her mom had always had a huge mouth. She said nothing, staring angrily out to the sea. Fuming, really.

Kit smiled a little sadly. “Some things never change, eh, Calla? You always seem to be pissed off whenever I’m around.”

“And whose fault is that?” she retorted.

“Right now, it’s definitely not mine.”

“I’m supposed to be thanking you for your concern?”

“Frankly, yes—or aren’t you as grown-up as you look? And you shouldn’t be annoyed at Aunt Dee for telling me. She only talks about it because she can’t stop worrying about you.”

“Well I’m so very thankful to all of you for your prying and your pushing and your pity and the way you talk about me behind my back.”

“Stop acting like a twat.”

“Only if you stop acting like a dickhead.”

Kit looked at her for a moment, straight in the eyes, and then he shook his head. “You’ve changed, Calla,” he said quietly. “You were always easy to wind up, but you never used to be so bitter.”

The words cut at her. Was it true? Was she hateful? Was she resentful? Bitter? Breaking the death stare Kit was giving her, Calla turned to look out at the ocean again.

The only good part was that she could handle Kit when he was being like this. He was her brother-cousin after all; they could fight with each other, curse each other and abuse each other and she would be comfortable. But when he became the Kit who was so warm and affectionate, when he became the Kit who had awakened her, who had given her that first unmatched lover’s kiss, terrible in all its perfection…well, that was when she was out of her depth.

A few seconds later, she felt him step behind her. He put his hands on her shoulders and slowly pulled her body flat against his. Treacherous warmth rolled through her lower stomach.

“You’re angry and I think I know why,” Kit said softly. His lips were against her ear, his breath fluttering her hair. Calla felt a spark shoot down her spine…terribly perfect. “It’s not your fault she died.”

“And how would you know?” she managed to say, her heart speeding. “You weren’t there.”

“It’s alright to grieve, poppet.” Ever so softly, he kissed the spot just below her ear. “It’s alright to let go. Keeping it in, now that’s when you’re in trouble. That’s when you get bitter.”

At the contact of his lips on her skin, Calla’s pulse jumped. Her body shook a little. Why was he doing this to her? Why was he making her feel things that nobody else—people who weren’t her brother—had never been able to make her feel? Why was he making her feel these scary things?

She turned to meet his eyes, her own blazing with blue fire. “Look who jumps off a plane after five years away and becomes my bloody shrink. You think you know me so well.”

His blue eyes remained steady as they gazed into hers. He was not offended by her; the expression in his eyes was calm, as though he was waiting for something. As he just continued to look at her, Calla felt her temper slowly abate. She felt the anger burn out and then she felt a huge wave of depression come over her. Her rigid posture began to melt. She turned in Kit’s arms, shifting around to face him as her body sagged against his.

She sighed as she placed her hands flat against his chest. “Okay, okay, I know I’m being a pain. Sorry.” When another wave of depression came, her head dropped to his chest. “Kit,” she whispered. Her voice was ragged and raw. Her eyes stung. Her throat was tight. “I lived with Bella for two years. I lived with her for two years and I didn’t have the foggiest clue. What kind of person am I?”

“You’re a passionate person, a clever person. You’re sweet and talented.” One of his hands cupped the nape of her neck. The other slipped slowly down the line of her back and came to rest at her waist. There was another breathy little kiss below her ear. “You’re my sweet baby sister, my beautiful Cally-Wally.” Calla felt every tiny little movement of Kit’s fingers, every soft caress of his palm, every brush of his lips on her overheated skin. “It wasn’t your fault, poppet.” Yet another kiss below her ear. “She must have been very good at hiding whatever it was that troubled her.”

Trembling with many more feelings than she wanted to acknowledge, Calla stepped out of his arms. Suddenly, anger was rising again; anger at him and at herself. What was happening to her? For the last three months her emotions had been all over the place. One minute she was ready to declare a one-woman war on the entire planet and the next she was curling into a fragile little ball to cry like a defenseless lamb. And now she was letting herself be held and kissed and petted by the man who in all seriousness had just called her his ‘sweet baby sister.’ She pushed away from him.

He tried to catch her hand again, but she moved further away. “I hate it how everyone thinks they know what’s best for me,” she snapped at him. “Calla, do this. Calla, don’t do that. Calla, feel this. Calla, don’t feel that. And why are you even making excuses for me? I should have known, and that’s the end of the story.”

She stalked past him, heading down the other side of the cliff towards the cove. The side of the cliff she had just taken was much steeper than the side she had taken on the climb up. The path was less even, too. Considering how hazardous the terrain was, she was walking much faster than was safe.

“Calla,” he called after her. “You’re going too fast. Slow down.”

She didn’t respond. She just kept marching down the cliff.

“Stop, you foolish girl—you’ll slip and break your neck! Come back.”

“Why?” she stormed, spinning around again, her voice ringing out over the cliffs. The choppy breeze whipped her golden hair around her face. “So that you can maul me like you did five years ago?”

This was the first time either had ever mentioned the sweet, secret, forbidden incident out loud. At once, the leaden weight of it overtook the atmosphere.

Kit was frozen for a second, and then his eyes smoldered with anger as he repeated, “Maul? I don’t recall you putting up a fight. In fact, you didn’t complain at all. Quite the opposite—you put your arms around me. You kissed me back, so don’t turn it around on me like I forced the issue.”

A big red blush crept up Calla’s neck and suffused her face. Unable to find any words to outdo his, she swiftly spun around again.

Because of the speed and suddenness of the motion, her ankle took an odd turn. Ordinarily, this would only have made her teeter and then regain her balance, but at the same time the rock beneath the twisted foot dislodged and broke off from the cliff. Calla swayed towards the side and her other foot lost purchase. She began to tumble over. Straight from the top of the cliff towards the brilliant silvery waters and sharp, jutting rocks of the cove below; a distance of over 150 feet.

Kit’s blood ran cold as he saw her tip over. “Calla!” he yelled, bolting to her as quickly as lightning.

Calla saw the cove rushing up to meet her. Her head swam. At that split second when she genuinely thought she was about to die, she was more terrified than she could have believed at all possible. “Kit! Kit!” she screamed wildly, frightened out of her senses.

Desperate, screaming from pure terror, she held her hand out to him, scrambling to find purchase again as she began to slide down the edge of the cliff. “Kit!” she cried again, petrified tears scalding her cheeks. “Kit!”

He was almost by her side when she slipped further down, losing a few more feet. She cracked her head against a jutting rock as she slid down. The pain sent her reeling, and then there was blackness.

Just before Calla was plunged into total oblivion, she felt a hand curl around her arm. The grip was unbreakable.

***

Kit Ferris was still breathing hard from the exertion. It was a gorgeous day, warm and mild, with the skies clear and the air tasting of the sea. It seemed like a day when all was right with the world and nothing bad could happen. But it almost had; in the blink of an eye, his worst nightmare had nearly come true.

In the blink of an eye, he had nearly lost his beautiful Cally-Wally. His sister. His cousin. She was the one person that he loved the most, the one person that he would have done absolutely anything for; and he had very nearly witnessed her fall to her death.

Heaven forbid, Kit thought as he looked down at her motionless form. He thanked heaven over and over and over again that he had managed to grab her arm just in time; that he had kept his grip even as he was pulled down the side with her unconscious body; that he had managed to break their fall on an outcropping of rock several feet down and that he had been able to carry her in his arms and bring her safely down to the shelter of the cove.

He was on his knees beside her. Her eyes were closed and all her limbs were still, but this didn’t alarm him because her chest was slowly moving up and down and her pulse—which he had already checked several times—was strong and steady.

He had nearly lost her, he thought again, and literally shuddered. He put his hand to her forehead, where blood was oozing from a thin cut. The skin had broken when she hit her head.

Trying to get her comfortable, he peeled her jacket from her body and set it aside. She stirred ever so slightly. That was a good sign. It meant she would be coming round soon. Then he would carry her to the swim shop, put her in his car and drive her down to the Accident and Emergency so they could have a look at her head. It had been quite a hit but with any luck she wouldn’t be concussed.

Calla stirred ever so slightly again. Kit watched as her leg moved a little. The slight movement of the long, slender limb caught his eye. Unable to stop himself, his eyes moved up her body in its little sundress. She was slim, he thought; perhaps a tad too slim. She must not have been eating well lately. Still, there were enticing curves in all the right places. The light blue cotton material of her dress was thin, leaving very little of those curves to his imagination.

His eyes moved up, following her body from mile-long legs to softly flaring hips to a narrow waist. Considering the way her nipples, hardened to a point because of the breeze, were pressing against the translucent cotton and judging from how smooth and perfect the outline of her high, round breasts were against the fabric, she sure as hell was not wearing a bra.

Kit felt his jeans grow tighter as his eyes lingered on his sister’s pebbled nipples. He knew they would taste amazing. He just knew that they would taste as good as heaven if he were to close his lips around them, flick his tongue over them and take a good long suck on them. His palms itched to cup those perfect, perky breasts. His fingers ached to roll those sensitive little nipples around until she was a quivering wet mess beneath him; until she was begging him to be inside her, begging him to sink his aching cock into her sopping little slit and take her to their mutual fulfilment.

He wanted nothing more than to lift that little blue dress out of the way, to spread her thighs and sink his shaft all the way into her delicious little pussy. He wanted nothing more than to shudder into her as she cried out his name in ecstasy, rippling around him as she came with his name on her lips.

Shit, he thought, his cock throbbing angrily as it thickened further, lengthening, straining urgently against his jeans. He groaned a little, shifting as he tried to adjust himself. He was as hard as bloody iron.

For several years, Kit had wanted nothing more than to screw his sweet little Cally-Wally’s brains out. He could not count how many nights he had woken up from very vivid dreams about her and jerked off his hard, red, angry cock to the visions he had seen. He could not count how many times he had stared at her round behind, at her high sweet breasts and had needed to rush to the nearest bathroom to stroke a spectacular load of cum out of his swollen dick.

The first time he’d fantasized about his sister-cousin was as a teenager. One afternoon as they had been swimming in the cove together, he had idly noticed that she was growing up, and how well she was now filling out her bikini. He had shrugged off the thought immediately afterward, telling himself it was just a stupid, weird, passing thought.

But then the next day he had found his eyes following the magnetic roll of her hips and the curve of her bottom in her denim shorts.

And then the next day he found himself listening with rapt attention to the sound of her laughter—how come he had never noticed it was so warm and tinkling?

The day after that, he had been looking around her house for her and had checked her bedroom. It had been an innocent detour, but he had noticed a little piece of pink underwear on her bed. Unable to stop himself, he’d gone over and picked it up; brought it to his nose. The scent had been incredible. He had inhaled again, and found that his cock was stirring. That was when he had heard footsteps out in the hall. Alarmed, he had stuffed the underwear in his pocket just before she had come in.

The day after that, they had gone to the cove again and he had sat by and watched as she swam, the water gliding over skin that he now noticed was smooth and perfect, the sun shimmering over hair that he now saw was like spun gold. With shame, Kit had watched the swell of his cousin’s breasts and the hardening of her nipples. His cock had grown hard as he watched the water sluicing over her round bottom and long, limpid limbs.

That night was the first time he had dreamt about her, woken up to stroke his cock to lurid, filthy thoughts about her and proceeded to coat the sheets beneath him with a flood of hot cum—all because of her.

The orgasm had been powerful enough to leave him euphoric, but after it had passed, deep shame at what he had done filled him. Was he sick? This was his sister-cousin, his little Cally-Wally, his sweetheart. What was he doing? Frenziedly masturbating to dirty fantasies of one’s sister should be relegated to the works of Freud and of Greek playwrights.

But the shame had not been enough to stop the wanderings of his eyes, or the dreams and jerk off sessions he had at nights, or the fantasies he had during the days. In fact, his attraction to her had only kept growing stronger and stronger until it had overcome the shame.

After a while, Kit had begun to question why he was ashamed in the first place. Cousin or not, sister or not, Calla was growing into a very beautiful young woman. And the fact remained that he had loved her unconditionally right from the moment she was born. When he had come to visit his aunt in the hospital as a five year old, the new-born Calla had been carefully placed in his arms. He had cried with happiness, anxious because of how tiny and light she was, terrified of hurting or dropping her, and all the while placing sweet tear-filled kisses of true love over her pudgy little face.

Kit’s love for her had always been infinite—he couldn’t imagine anyone being capable of loving her half as much as he did. So what was there for him to be ashamed of? It made no sense for him to feel badly about his love having gained another dimension. He loved her so wholly, so completely. He loved Calla in every way that one human being could love another. He loved her as a brother, as a cousin, as a friend. And now he loved her as a man. What was the shame in that? No, there was no shame. There was only beauty.

Which was why he’d had no problem about kissing her before he had gone to New York. He had wanted to show her how much he loved her. He had wanted to show her a glimpse of the beauty that was in his heart. And she had seen it. Kit knew she had.

Calla stirred again, and this time her eyelids moved. She gave a soft little hum and her eyes opened. The expression in them was dazed. She blinked a few times and then her eyes focused on his. “Kit?” she said, her voice a mere thread of sound.

Kit pushed back a strand of her hair from her face. “It’s alright, poppet. You’re alright.”

Tears rushed to her eyes. “I hit my head,” she whimpered miserably.

“But you’re fine, Cally-Wally. You’re alright. We’ll just get you to the A&E so they can have a look.”

Calla reached up and took his hand. “You grabbed me, didn’t you? I felt you grab me just before I fell.” Her eyes searched his, the same shade of blue. “It was my fault,” she sighed, the tears rolling down her face. “I was being a stupid little prat and I put us both in danger.” She sucked in a shaky breath. “I’m sorry, Kit. I’m so terribly, terribly sorry.”

Everything about her tugged at his heartstrings. Leaning over, Kit pressed his lips to her damp cheek, kissing away the salty tears. As she continued to sob, he silently kissed all the tears away. Sinking down into the pebbled sand beside her, he rolled her onto her side and wrapped his arms around her. He drew her into his body, placing kisses over every inch of her face; her cheeks, her forehead, her eyelids, the tip of her nose, the point of her chin. He kissed all the tears away until she had no more to give, until she just lay quietly in his arms.

Continuing to kiss her, Kit followed the curve of her cheek from her forehead to the corner of her lips. Slowly, he kissed the very corner of her lips. Calla didn’t turn away. She didn’t move. He felt and heard the frantic racing of her heart. He shifted his head ever so slightly and their lips met.

Kit just let himself taste and feel. Kissing her was like being set free after years in prison. His arms pulled her tighter against his body as his lips devoured hers. Her lips opened under his own, giving him better access. Nothing had ever tasted better than his little cousin’s. No flavor had ever been richer or sweeter.

“Kit,” she whispered against his lips.

He kissed at those lips a few more times before turning his face to the side, pressing their cheeks together. Calla held onto him, sniffling a little. “I’m sorry,” she whispered. “I’m sorry I was quarreling with you. I’ve missed you so much. I love you so much. You know that, don’t you? I love you to bits. I’m happy you’re home again, and I’m sorry for rowing and nearly killing us.”

Kit kissed her cheek, as he had done when he was five and she was a new-born—he kissed it with endless love. “Don’t be sorry. It’s alright. I forgive you for everything.” He smiled a little. “I even forgive you for the bad things you haven’t done yet.”

She giggled a little even as she sniffled. “So I’m pre-approved?”

“Always. I’m your big bro-cuz so it’s my job to forgive you.” Kit pulled back a little, tucked a strand of gold hair behind her ear, and then dabbed at the cut on her forehead with his thumb. “We need to go to the hospital so they can have a look at your head. Do you have a headache?”

“A little bit, yes.” Calla winced though his touch was light. “But do we have to go to the A&E? I’m sure I’ll be fine.”

“If you’re concussed, we’ll need to find out. It can be dangerous to walk around with an untreated concussion.” Kit stood. He held his hand out to her to help her up.

Calla took it and got to her feet. “How will we get to the hospital?”

“We’ll take my car. It’s at the swim shop so we’ll have to walk down there first. Are you alright to walk?”

“Yeah, thank you.” She looked at him and away again, seeming shy of him.

Kit reached over and took her hand. She didn’t pull it away. She just let it lie inside his grasp. “We’ll take the easiest path back up to the cliff, okay?”

She just nodded in reply. She still seemed shy. She glanced at him, and he smiled at her. She smiled back a little, and then looked away again.

Kit didn’t let go of her hand as they walked up the cliff face again, slowly this time. He looked over at her every so often to be sure that she was getting on alright, and he kept the pace slow for her sake. Once they were up at the summit again, they began the walk down to the mouth of the cliff where the beach was, and then turning towards the path up to the swim shop.

She didn’t talk at all, just walking steadily beside him with her hand lying warmly in his. Kit gave her a smile. “You’re so quiet. Are you always this quiet nowadays?”

Calla chewed on her lip for a moment. “Well, no, not really.”

“Then say something.”

She looked into his eyes. “Why did you come home?”

Kit knew it was a serious question, requiring an honest answer. “Because I didn’t stop missing you.” His fingers curled around hers. “All the time I would think, I wonder what my Calla’s doing. Is she asleep? Would she be awake yet? How’s her day going across the pond? Does she miss me anywhere near as much as I miss her?” He paused walking, and leaned down to press another little kiss on her lips. “My body was there but my mind was here.”

She didn’t remove her hand from his, and neither had she attempted to prevent the kiss—but her eyes were troubled. “So you only came back because of me?”

Kit brushed a strand of gold from her cheek. “Yes. Yes, I really did. Does that…does this creep you out?” His voice lowered. “Are you disgusted with me?”

Calla looked into his eyes for a moment before breaking the gaze. “I don’t know. These past few months, and Bella…I don’t know anything anymore.”

Kit released the breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding. She didn’t know if she was disgusted by him. It hurt him, pierced his heart. But it was still better than her telling him he was a fucking dirty pervert and that she never wanted to see him again. He reminded himself that it could have been worse. She was here, wasn’t she? She was here, and allowing him to hold her hand and to kiss her in ways that a brother or cousin definitely shouldn’t.

Basking in the privilege, Kit leaned down and kissed her again. She still didn’t pull away, so he deepened the kiss, turned it warmer and wetter. She still didn’t pull away or stop him. He drew her into his arms as pleasure rolled through his heart and his body. He felt her hands slide gently around his neck, her tongue slowly play with his, her lips allowing his to have their way. Kit held her tight. Finally, their lips parted. He brushed his fingers over her face, looking into her eyes.

“Kit, do you love me?”

The question was so absurd that it made him burst out laughing despite everything. “Don’t be thick. Of course I love you, stupid. You’re my baby sis-cuz.”

Calla didn’t laugh with him. Her crystalline blue eyes stayed serious. “Are you in love with me?”

His laughter faded. He rubbed at her cheek again. “What do you think?”

She looked at him a moment more, and then she simply nodded and turned away. She resumed walking. Kit fell into step with her, reaching over for her hand again.

Again, she let him hold on to it. The rest of the walk was silent. Once they got to the shop, she waited as he brought his car round. There was still silence between them as he helped her into the car, and she sat in the passenger seat with her eyes closed as he drove to the A&E department of West Cornwall Hospital.

***

Calla had to wait for nearly an hour to be seen, and at that time Kit called her house to let her parents know where they were and what happened. It took fifteen solid minutes of continuous reassurances from Kit to dissuade Darcy from driving down to the hospital to meet them. Another hour from then went by before Kit’s car was pulling up in the drive of the house.

Darcy was immediately outside, worry in her eyes as Calla got out of the car. The wound had been dressed and she wasn’t concussed so she had been sent home with painkillers and a number to call should she feel faint or have trouble with memory. So far, however, she felt fine.

“Bloody hell, Calla Ferris!” Darcy breathed, rushing to the car and her daughter. “How stupid are you?”

Kit had got out of the car and gone round to Calla, putting his arm around her. He sent his aunt a look. “Aunt Dee, she slipped. It could have happened to anyone. It was an accident.”

But Darcy wasn’t listening. “God, Calla, you could have died!”

Calla sighed. “I’m sorry I worried you, Mom.”

“We’ve all warned you two ever since you were children and messing around on those cliffs, at that cove. We warned you two to be careful! God, Calla!”

“I’m sorry.”

“And to think you didn’t even tell me or your dad when you left the house. You just sneaked off to go fall off a cliff. You bloody, bloody girl!”

“I’m sorry.”

“And you only got home yesterday. Yesterday! And yet you’ve already nearly killed yourself!”

“Aunt Dee.” Kit gave her a warning look. “Please.”

Darcy was still fuming, and still rattled by the thought of her only child having fallen over the side of a cliff. But she held back on further recriminations and tipped Calla’s chin up. “Let me see,” she commanded, inspecting the dressing. Then she looked at Calla’s face. “Concussed?”

Calla shook her head.

“Headache?” Darcy asked.

“A little bit.”

“Did they give you painkillers?”

“Yes.” Calla gave her mother a wan smile. “I’m sorry.” She reached over and kissed Darcy’s cheek. “I’m really sorry.”

“You’d bloody well better be. That’s at least a year off my life.” Darcy shook her head. “And for the last time, if you two insist on going to that cove, then be careful.” She gave both of them a look, then she glanced at the watch on her wrist. “I had to ring the office to tell them I’d be late this morning. I wanted to make sure you got back alright.”

“Where’s Dad?”

“Already gone to work; I convinced him not to wait around since he’s got further to drive. So you’ve only got half your scolding, Calla. When he gets back he’ll tear his own strip out of you.”

Calla rolled her eyes. “Good to know.”

Darcy turned to Kit. “Do you have to go back to the swim shop, or can you stay with her until Ian or I get back?”

Calla was beginning an annoyed protest that she was twenty years old and didn’t need a babysitter when Kit smoothly said, “I can stay. I’ll call Indy to take my shift.”

“Thanks, love.” Darcy kissed his cheek, and then she unlocked her car. She threw her bag into the backseat before getting into the front. “Calla, make sure you take the painkillers.”

“Okay.”

“Kit, make sure she takes the painkillers.”

Calla scowled at her mother.

Kit laughed and said, “I will.”

Darcy shut the car door and started the engine. She backed out of the drive, reversing quickly into the road before making a neat turn. She waved to them as she trundled down the road and disappeared around a bend.

Calla glanced up at Kit once they were alone again. “I bet you’d forgotten how neurotic she can be.”

“She loves you.” Kit gave her another smile. “Not as much as I do, but there you go.”

Calla eyed him, unsure of how she felt, unsure of what she should feel, unsure of what her reaction should be, unsure of everything. Except that there was heat in her belly when he kissed her. She went to the door. “You don’t have to stay, you know. I’ll be fine.”

Kit slipped his hands into his pockets. “You’d rather I left, then?”

Calla sighed with the beginnings of annoyance. “I’m just saying you don’t have to stay if you’d rather not.”

“So, you do want me to leave?”

“I don’t know.”

“But you don’t actually want me to stay?”

“For fuck’s sake, Kit!” Then, with that annoyance storming up, with those mood swings rearing their head again, Calla shoved the door open. “Do whatever you want, I don’t care.”

She stalked inside the house without looking back at him, but she knew he’d followed her inside. She heard his footsteps and heard him close the door. Still, she marched into the kitchen. Again, he followed her inside. She ignored him as she got a glass of water and drank two pills down.

Kit sat at the kitchen table, just watching her with a calm, superior little smile. The same smile he’d had as a boy while she’d been railing and cursing him for some trick he’d played on her. The smile was all the more infuriating now. Fuming, Calla rinsed the glass. Then, pretending to want some food, she banged some pantry cupboards.

Finally, she turned to face him with an angry flush on her face. “Actually, I’ve decided I do want you to leave. Fuck off.”

He laughed the superior cool laugh from yesteryears; then he kicked back in his seat with all the ease in the world. “This is my house as well, I’ll have you remember.”

“No it’s not! Not as much as it’s mine, anyway!” Then realizing she sounded about five years old right now, she stopped talking and glared at him. What was wrong with Kit Ferris? One moment he was kissing her and it was heaven—the next minute he was her highly aggravating brother-cousin. How did he manage to get under her skin so thoroughly?

Calla glared at him, with his superior smirk. Then she turned on her heel and stormed out of the kitchen. She stalked down the short hall and up to her dormer bedroom. She slammed the door shut, and then went to sit on her bed in a huff.

After a moment, some rationality reasserted itself. Why was she being so nasty to him right now? What had he actually done? Then some anger came back—it was that bloody smile of his, the way he’d just sat there. It was his Kit-ness. But…should she really have sworn at him?

She got back up and went to the CD player on her desk. She put some music on to calm her. There were a few pieces that often helped calm her, and she had made an album of them. There was some Chopin, some Satie, some Rachmaninoff. She let out a sigh when the Romance came on. It was placid and soothing, reminiscent of sweeter moments.

With her mood mellowing, she went and sat at her bed again, half-listening to the music, letting it twine in and out of her mind as she thought her conflicting thoughts. She was sitting there like that when she heard footsteps just outside her door. It opened.

Calla looked up at him. She wanted to tell him to get out. It was on the tip of her tongue, but she didn’t say it. She looked away again, trying unsuccessfully to ignore him, her mood drifting on a cloud with the Romance.

Kit came over and sat beside her on the bed. His weight on the mattress made her slide closer to him. He put his arm around her shoulders and tenderly kissed her cheek without saying a word.

When he did that, Calla looked down at her hands, her heart swelling. “I’m sorry,” she whispered. “I don’t know what comes over me sometimes. I’m sorry. I don’t know…I have a feeling I’ll be apologizing to people a lot over this summer. Yesterday in the car I bit Dad’s head off, and he didn’t even do anything wrong.”

“You’re grieving.”

“It’s still not fair to you all.” She lifted her eyes from her hands. “I don’t mean to be a bitch.”

“You’re not.”

“We both know I was just then.”

“I told you, you already come pre-approved.” With his arm around her shoulders, Kit pulled her into the bed. “Let’s lie down together.”

Calla gave him a distrustful look.

“I won’t do anything you don’t want me to.” He tugged her with him onto the bed, lying so they were face to face and his arm was around her waist. He smiled and rubbed their noses together. “There. This is nice, isn’t it?”

She gave him a little smile back. “Yes.”

“And this is nice.” He let his lips brush over hers.

“Yes,” she replied after a moment.

“And this?” He let the kiss deepened, tasting her again.

“Yes.” Very faintly.

His hand moved down her waist, his fingers softly resting over the curve of her butt. He gave it a slow caress as he kissed her lips. “And this?” he murmured, stroking her butt through the thin barrier of her dress.

Calla’s stomach knotted. “Yes.” It was hardly audible.

His tongue slipped into her mouth, his lips rolling over hers. His hand drifted down her hip to wrap around her bare knee. Calla jumped a little at the contact, and heart began a faster thud as his hand slipped under the hem of her dress, ascending, stroking softly, barely perceptibly against her skin. The light touch sent her nerve endings screaming.

“And this, poppet? Is this nice?”

“Y…yes…”

Calla’s heart thudded faster as his fingers reached the edge of her cotton panties, just at the point where her hip met her ass. His hand paused there for a second, and then continued to ascend.

She released a gentle sigh. The feel of his hand on her bare ass was amazing. The knot in her stomach unfurled with deep warmth. His touch was gentle, fingers stroking over the soft, firm mound of her ass; then he spread his fingers over it to give a light squeeze.

Kit laughed a little against her lips. “Guess how long I’ve wanted to do this?”

“How long?”

“More than seven or eight years.” Kit gave her ass another caress, another squeeze.

Calla gazed at him. “So since you were…?”

“Yes. You didn’t know?”

“Of course I bloody well didn’t!”

Kit laughed, his fingers rubbing her ass, stroking, squeezing, caressing. “One day I came in here looking for you and you weren’t here. So I sniffed your underwear instead. And then I took it home to sniff it some more.”

He said it so bluntly to shock her and it worked; her blue eyes widened, and then she burst out laughing. “Kit, you dirty, dirty man! You should be ashamed of yourself!”

Kit laughed too. “I stopped being ashamed a long time ago.” He cupped her ass again, and gave the cheek one last squeeze before pulling his hand from underneath her dress.

Calla made a little disappointed sound at the loss of his touch. She only realized it herself once the sigh was out.

He rubbed their noses together again. “Is there anywhere else you want me to touch you?”

She said nothing. She did her best not to meet his eyes—no small feat as they were nose to nose.

Watching her face for a reaction, he brought his hand back up her body and let this palm rest ever so lightly over one breast. She didn’t move a muscle. Kit’s fingers began to move of their own volition. Her breast in his hand, even though through the barrier of her dress, had him groaning a little. He’d been right; she wasn’t wearing a bra. As his fingers cupped its fullness, he saw the nipple harden against the light cloth. Unable to resist, Kit moved his thumb over the excited peak.

Calla gasped sharply. It felt so good. At her gasp, he repeated the motion again, and then again. Her stomach was knotting again, warming. She felt her pussy turn hot between her legs as pleasure thrummed through it with every roll of his fingers on her engorged nipple. She felt moisture start to accompany the heat between her legs.

“Do you want me to stop, Cally-Wally?” he asked between soft little kisses as his hand sent shockwaves of pleasure through her body to her dampening mound. “Tell me if you want me to stop.” He rubbed the nipple again, hardening it to a little nub.

Calla closed her eyes, savoring the feeling for a moment before reminding herself that she needed to be sane. He had obviously gone crazy, and so one of them needed to be thinking clearly. She caught his wrist, trying to halt the motion of his fingers. “Stop,” she choked, meeting his eyes again.

His fingers stilled. Kit lifted his hand from her breast to her cheek. “If you want me to go, I’ll go.”

Calla slowly shook her head. “Don’t go. Just…hold me? Stay and just hold me. Please?”

“That I can do.” He pulled close to himself, wedging one arm under her neck and curling the other around her waist. When Calla curled into him, he rested his chin at the crown of her head. “Better?”

“Yes.” She sighed. “Thank you.”

Calla wrapped her own arms around his body, enjoying the simple comfort of lying next to her big brother. It was different from when he was touching her; the feelings were less complicated. Here, just lying cuddled up together, was happiness and rest. She needed that, and he was giving it to her.

“Kit?”

“Yeah?”

“I love you.”

He kissed the top of her head. “I love you. I always have.”

Calla’s head slipped onto his chest. His steady heartbeat combined with the soft Romance in the background was like a serenade. “If you’ve always loved me, what about all the nasty tricks? The time you put muscle-relaxing cream into my lip balm?”

She felt his body move as he laughed. “The tricks were funny at the time, that one especially so,” he replied. “I enjoy the memories. Why? You want me to play a few on you now? I can if you want.”

Calla smiled and cuddled closer. “You’re annoying and I hate your guts.”

He kissed her forehead. “Stupid girl.”

“Idiot man.”

“Twat.”

“Wanker.”

“Softheaded twerp.”

“Wasteman. Bellend. Dirty filthy sod.”

“Fucking pain in the backside.”

Calla laughed, and cuddled even closer, wrapping her body into his; held in loving arms. She pressed her cheek to his chest and closed her eyes, serenaded by his heartbeat again. His heartbeat alone, now, because the music had come to a close. The minutes passed in equally restful silence. The afternoon sun shone a little through the dormer window, almost as warm as Kit’s embrace. Almost, but not quite.

Calla only realized she’d fallen asleep when the dream began.

She and Arabella were sitting around a fire in a huge room, with shadows beyond the circle of the fire. At first, the fire kept the shadows at bay…then the darkness crept closer. The firelight grew dimmer.

The shadows crept closer and closer with a life of its own, hiding Arabella from her. Fear catching her throat, Calla began to fan the flames, trying to push the evil shadows away as they swallowed her friend.

But she just didn’t have the strength. The fanning was useless, and she watched in despair as the last ember of firelight turned to smoke and ash.

Calla looked up. Arabella was being taken by the evil, greedy shadow creatures. Desperate, Calla reached out to her, holding out her hand. “Bella, take my hand. Take it now. Bella!”

But Arabella didn’t; she just smiled as the darkness consumed her, body and soul.

“For fuck’s sake, Arabella Simone Crawford, grab my hand!”

But Arabella didn’t, and she was gone. There was only blackness around Calla—blackness so thick that she was sure she would never see the sunlight again.

She started to scream.

Calla woke up to the sound of her screaming. She was being rocked, she found. It was Kit. He was the one holding her, rocking her. Calla tried to jerk away from him, but he held fast. She wrestled in his grip for a moment, before she didn’t have the will to wrestle anymore.

Then, she cried. She just cried. In a way she hadn’t since finding her friend dead in her bedroom. That mild, sunny afternoon, in her bedroom at home, and in her elder brother’s arms, Calla Ferries cried herself out over her griefs. She didn’t hold back. Her broken heart bleeding anew, Calla cried for Arabella and for herself. For the sudden loss of a life and all the dreams and beliefs that had been lost with it.

Kit held on to her. He didn’t speak or soothe. He just held on as the endless minutes ticked by into nearly an hour. Still, the tears didn’t let up. This didn’t frighten him; rather, it gave him hope. Perhaps this could be the beginning of healing. He held her for many, many more minutes. Then, he pulled back to wipe the last tears from her cheeks. His voice was very tender when he said, “Have you ever cried like this, since?”

Calla cleared her throat and sniffed. Then she blinked to disperse the moisture over her eyes. “No.”

“Have you ever talked about it to anyone? About how you feel?”

“No.”

“Could you talk to me?”

“I don’t know.”

“Could you try?”

“Perhaps. I don’t know…I…I…I’m never going to be the same again.” She couldn’t look at him as the first hesitant words came out. “It’s just…every day, I will see Bella lying there as she was when I called the ambulance. Every day I’ll wonder what I could have done to stop it.” Tears welled again, burning her eyes and her throat. She didn’t stop them as they burned her cheeks. “I should have seen it coming a long way off. Even after she drank the morphine, I should have found her when her when her life still could have been saved. Every day, for the rest of my life, I will know that I could have saved a life but didn’t. Every day as I live and move on, I’ll wonder what Bella’s life would have been like—her career, her achievements, her milestones, the person she’d love, the children they’d have. I could have saved all those lives. Do you have any idea how that feels?”

Kit shook his head, his blue eyes dark with sadness. “No, baby, I don’t.”

The tears flowed down Calla’s face. They didn’t ease her jagged heart. They weren’t healing her—they were just an expression. Tears in and of themselves didn’t heal. But she cried them regardless. “I laughed for the first time about a month or so after she died. The TV was on in the background and a F.R.I.E.N.D.S rerun was on. Ross, Rachel and Chandler were moving Ross’s sofa up the stairs and he kept going ‘Pivot, pivot, pivot!’ and Chandler went ‘Shut up, shut up, shut up!’ I laughed at the scene. When I heard it, heard my laughter, I was horrified. I turned off the TV and just lay in bed. I didn’t eat, and I don’t even know if I slept. I just lay there. Just lay there. Turned my phone off so people couldn’t reach me. I only knew I’d been in there for over two days when friends nearly tore the door down looking for me.

“I’m laughing more and more every day. I’m enjoying the little things as well as the big things. I’m alive. Bella isn’t. I have dreams. Bella doesn’t. I have a future. Bella doesn’t. I can sing. Bella can’t. I can dance. Bella can’t. I can laugh. Bella can’t. I can smell a rose or a jasmine. Bella can’t. I can listen to music. Bella can’t. I can enjoy the sunlight, ride a bike, feel the breeze, see the ocean, walk the cliffs. And Bella can’t. And I have a part to play in that. And every single day for the rest of my life, I will never forget all the things Bella can’t do.”

Kit wiped the tears away from her cheeks, but more just came to take their place. “What was the dream about?”

“It’s a recurring dream. I often have it.”

“Frightening?”

“Yes, but because it’s realistic. There are no skeletons or monsters; just the two of us with a fire. The fire starts do burn out and I’m trying to fight it, but I can’t. The fire dies and she disappears in the dark. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what the dream means.”

“And the mood swings, baby? Why do you think you’re getting them? Have you been having them since?”

“Yes.” But she said nothing else.

He caressed her cheek. “Would you tell me why? I promise to try to understand.”

She still didn’t speak, and Kit let her be. Then she whispered, “It’s because I’m pissed off.”

“At what, exactly?”

She met his eyes. “At her. Bella. There are times when I’m not sad. There are times when I’m so pissed off with her for doing it. I’m so angry, Kit, and so hurt that she didn’t even think about all the people who’d care—she just killed herself. And then I say to myself, if she didn’t care enough not to kill herself, why should I care to cry? And then the moment passes and I start to grieve even worse than before for having thought such terrible thoughts. I start to blame myself even more. I start to apologize to her for being angry with her. She should be the one angry with me. Wherever she is, she should be furious with me for not doing and seeing enough to save her life. Wherever she is, she knows I failed her.”

Kit tirelessly brushed the fresh tears away. “Is this helping? Talking about it?”

“I don’t know. No. Maybe. I don’t know. No. It’s not helping. Nothing helps.”

He just held her in silence again, as the seconds rolled by into minutes and then an hour. Life was rolling, the world was turning, as it never stopped doing. Why? Calla wondered. Why? How? How could the world keep turning when it had already crashed around her feet? For hours, she cried soundless tears. Kit kept wiping them away in silence; holding her in silence.

The tears eventually stopped. By that time, the sun was going down. Evening was coming, which meant they’d lain together almost all day, holding each other almost all day.

Calla lifted her dry face. She hadn’t spoken for hours so her voice was hoarse when she asked dully, “Kit, who is Indy?”

“What?” he asked just as quietly.

“You told Mom you’d call someone called Indy to take your shift. Who is Indy?”

“Oh, Indy. India Fairfax. She also works at the swim shop.”

Calla searched Kit’s face. “Did you call her, then?”

“Yes, in the kitchen before I came up here.”

“Oh.” Calla paused. “How old is she? Middle-aged, or…?”

“Early twenties, I think. A couple years younger than me. Why?”

“Nothing. No reason.”

Kit stroked her golden hair, his steady eyes on hers. “There’s nothing going on there. She works with me and that’s all. Okay?”

“Okay,” she whispered. Then she whispered, “Kit?”

“Yes, baby?”

“Please don’t get deployed into active duty.” She looked at him with wide eyes.

“It’s not up to me, poppet.”

“Kit, these days, the number of Reservists getting called up to Iraq and Afghanistan is scarily high.”

He held her tighter. “If I get called up, then I get called up. I thought about that, and accepted that possibility before enlisting. But it might never happen, so it’s not worth your being afraid over.”

“It probably will.”

“Unless and until it does, don’t worry about it. Alright?” Kit looked at her, brushed her gold hair from her cheek. But she didn’t respond, just stared at him with those crystalline eyes wide. So he sighed, and changed the subject. “Your parents will be home soon. You think they’ll suspect anything if they see us lying here like this?”

“Perhaps. Perhaps not.” She tried shake off her fear, and began to sit up. “But I don’t want to find out.” She slipped out of his arms and pushed up, curling her legs under her thighs so she was sitting cross-legged.

Kit still lay back for a moment. “What about you?”

“What?”

“You asked me about India. Is there anyone in your life that I should know about?”

She shook her head, a little blush touching her cheeks. “I did go out with this one guy for a while, but I dumped him.”

Kit couldn’t help being pleased. “And why did the poor fool get dumped?”

Calla wrinkled her nose. “He could be so…I don’t know. So annoying sometimes. I don’t know. I just wasn’t feeling it. Sometimes he’d just say the stupidest, most insensitive things and I’d want to punch him. And I’m pretty sure he looked stuff up to seem smart. And he never admitted to being wrong—just a bloody know-it-all, really.”

Kit chuckled. “He sounds like an ass.”

“Trust me, he was. But enough about him.” She took Kit’s hand to pull him up. “They’ll be back soon, and may or may not think our lying here is strange. So, up.”

Kit sat up, facing her. “Do you?”

“Do I what?”

“Do you think our lying here was strange?”

“I…well, no. It made me feel better. When you just hold me, I’m weirdly happy—peaceful. I like being held by you.” Her blush deepened slightly. “Maybe that’s strange, but it doesn’t make it any less…good.”

He was watching her closely, but he said nothing. After a good long while he asked, “Do you trust me?”

Surprise at the question made her frown. “Of course I do.”

Kit’s blue eyes were deep, his tone serious. “I want you to go somewhere with me tonight.”

Calla frowned in further confusion. “Where?”

“The cove.”

“Why?”

“Do you trust me?”

“Yes.”

“So will you go to the cove with me tonight? No questions asked.”

Calla stared at him in perplexity, and then gave up with a sigh. “Okay, fine. But you’re not making an awful lot of sense.”

“We’ll tell your parents that India’s having a party and that we’re attending. But we’ll go up to the cove instead.”

“Alright.” She looked at the clock. “Dad’s usually home by now.”

“To tear his own strip out of you for falling off a cliff,” he added.

She rolled her eyes. “I’d forgotten that another round of yelling is coming my way. I bet he’ll come charging in and roar from the bottom of the stairs, ‘Calla Bloody Ferris!!!’”

Kit laughed. “I’d forgotten about that. Every time he’s pissed off with you, your middle name turns from ‘Sienne’ to ‘Bloody’.”

“Yes, and I can usually time it pretty well. He has a spot where he parks his car and it takes him seconds to get in because he has his house keys hooked onto his car keys. So from when we hear his car, just countdown from ten and it’ll be, ‘Calla Bloody Ferris!!!’” She laughed a little too. “So should we do something non-suspicious till he gets back? I have a deck of playing cards.”

“Alright, then.”

“Brilliant.” Feeling fractionally lighter of heart, Calla got off the bed and went over to her desk. She searched around in her drawer for a moment before finding her deck of playing cards. She smiled at Kit as she returned to the bed. “Pick a game.” She sat cross-legged opposite him again.

He gave her one of those teenage prank-playing Kit smiles. “Egyptian Ratscrew.”

She smiled. He’d taught her the game. “Want to deal?”

“You deal. I’ll start.”

Calla began to shuffle the deck. Then she paused and looked up. “Kit, before we play.” She cleared her throat. “Could you…kiss me?”

A slow, warm smile turned his lips up. “Gladly.”

Calla closed her eyes as he leaned over, grasped her chin and tilted her head up. She sighed softly as their lips touched yet again. It was weird, she thought—weird that so many things were happening to her because of such simple contact. For one sweet moment, she enjoyed his flavor, the touch of lip to lip and tongue to tongue; the brush of gentle fingers down the side of her face.

And then with pleasant regret, the kiss was over. She sighed, and opened her eyes.

He was still smiling at her. “Better?”

“Mm-hmm.” She tried not to blush. She sat back on her haunches and continued to shuffle.

They played in quiet peace, and the game hadn’t gone far when they heard the sound of a car pulling into the drive.

Kit had been about to draw a card to place on the central pile, but the sound of the car made them both pause. They both looked at each other—and they both grinned widely.

“Ten,” he said, as they heard the car engine cut.

“Nine,” she giggled.

“Eight.” He chuckled; the car door opened.

“Seven.” Calla put in; the car door shut.

“Six.”—Loud footsteps outside.

“Five.”—The key in the lock.

“Four.”—The front door opened.

“Three.”—The front door shut.

“Two.”—The sound of a briefcase being flung down.

“One.”—Footsteps to the foot of the stairs.

“Calla Bloody Ferris!!!”

Calla and Kit burst out laughing.

***

After Ian had scolded his daughter until he turned purple in the face, he invited Kit to stay and the three of them started on dinner together. Darcy came home about an hour later.

It was halfway through dinner, as they sat around the small table that Kit said, “I’ve been meaning to mention.” He looked at his aunt and then his uncle. “Indy’s having a little get-together tonight and I’m bringing Calla as my date.” He’d said it jokingly, and it wouldn’t raise any eyebrows at all. But Calla, knowing it meant more, choked on her wine a little. Kit sent her a sneaky grin.

Darcy handed Calla a tissue, and a smile. “I’m glad to hear that. Calla, I know you haven’t been to a party since Bella.”

“Hmm.” Calla coughed a little into the tissue. “You don’t mind it’s such short notice?”

“No, you go and have fun. When do you two go off?”

Calla looked to Kit.

“Maybe nine or ten,” he supplied. “India’s parties tend to be mellow and long, so I might be bringing Calla back late…or we might just stay at my house and come back in the morning to save me making two trips. Just don’t bother waiting up.”

“Alright.” Ian nodded. “But be sensible about drinking and smoking and noise and all that.”

“Of course.” Kit gave a guileless smile.

Calla rolled her eyes. The sneaky bastard. He could be such a charmer when he wanted to be.

They passed the evening together, Kit and Ian staying in to do the dishes and cleaning up while Calla went out with Darcy to the garden.

The evening was warm and mild, in typical Penzance fashion. As she knelt with her mother, pruning roses, Calla had another little pocket of happiness. Being home in her sweet sleepy town, her slice of heaven with all its quaint charms, had a therapeutic effect. Seeing the skies pinked as sunset came and scenting the gentle scents of rose, jasmine and laurel as the wind blew, was a simple pleasure.

She was humming as she watered the roses and patted the soil with her gloved hands. There was something to be said about gardening. There was something to be said about planting something, about nursing it and seeing it bloom into something beautiful. Something tangible. It was life. Life was beautiful. Tending to these plants reminded her that life still happened; that life was still being formed; that life was thriving.

Calla thought about that for a moment. Life. Flowers. She decided then that she always wanted them blooming, alive. Even when winter came and these roses went to sleep, she still wanted to see life. She looked up at Darcy. “Mom, why haven’t we ever planted winter bloomers?”

Darcy inclined her head to the side. “Hmm. I don’t know, really.”

“Can we?”

“Sure, if you like.”

“When the time comes, we’ll plant aconites and cyclamen. They’ll bloom in the late winter until spring.”

“Aconites and cyclamen in winter, and roses and jasmines in summer; it sounds like it’ll require some work, but I do like the concept—an evergreen garden.”

“Exactly.” Calla grinned and looked up at the sunset. There was a sunset now, but there would be a sunrise in the morning. The cycle of life went around again. Evergreen. She looked back at Darcy. “Can we do it, do you think?”

Darcy smiled as she pulled off her gloves. “I think.”

***

Darcy and Ian waved them off from the door later that evening, as they took Kit’s car ostensibly to go to India’s party. Calla waved back to them as the car pulled away from the house and down the road, beginning the short drive to their favorite haunt.

“So you still won’t tell me why we’re going to Madderlea?” she asked, glancing over at him.

He smiled as he kept his eyes on the dark night road, following the twists and turns and hairpin bends of the narrow, foliage-lined road. “You’ll see.” Then he changed the subject. “You know, it’s weird for me driving here again, especially here in Cornwall. Five years over there and I’d almost forgotten how these country lanes can be.”

“You’re handling it fine, though.”

“Except when I occasionally stray to the other side of the road.”

“You haven’t, not while driving me, at least.”

“I did a couple times on the way to the hospital. You had your eyes closed so you didn’t notice.”

Calla gave his profile a smile. “Well, it’s lucky you didn’t kill us. Bellend.”

He glanced at her, grinned. “Twerp.”

Calla smiled again, and turned to look out the window. She noticed then that they had taken a turn at the road that led to the swim shop, from which they would walk to the cove. She turned back to him. “Aren’t we going to Madderlea?”

“We are. We’re just stopping off at my apartment first. We need some supplies.”

“Supplies? What supplies? And what are they for?”

Kit smiled again. “You’ll see.”

“You’re being awfully mysterious.”

“You trust me?”

“I wouldn’t be sitting here otherwise.”

“Good. We won’t be too long.”

Calla said nothing else. She was wondering all the time what this plan of his could be.

When they arrived at the small house at the end of a narrow drive, Kit left the engine running as he made for the door. “I pick up the things we need, and I won’t be long.”

Calla, who had been reaching for her own door, turned back to him. “Can’t I come in?”

Kit turned too. Their eyes met in the half light. As their eyes held, something in the air changed. Something crackled, warmed. The air was thick as Kit smiled slowly. Darkly. “I don’t know, poppet. You can come in—the question is whether I’d let you out again.”

Calla flushed. “Stop it.”

He smiled another dark smile that made her stomach clench. “Stop what?”

“Saying things like that. Looking at me like that.”

Kit laughed as he turned away and got out of the car. When he was out, he bent to speak to her from the open window. “I’ll only be a minute. You can come in if you want.”

“Certainly not!”

He was laughing as he walked to the door and disappeared inside. Calla watched him go. He was still the same teasing Kit; except that his teasing had taken a different from. He’d once teased as a boy. Now, he teased as a man. She wanted to find it annoying. But it wasn’t. And that was a problem.

Calla twisted her fingers together. He had kissed her, touched her, and she had enjoyed every second of it. And that was a problem. He had told her he was in love with her, and she had liked hearing it. Hearing it had made her heart sing. Even now, she was hugging the wonderful knowledge to herself, savoring it. And that was a problem.

He emerged about five minutes later. One arm was laden with a basket which he handed to her. There was a large sleeping bag rolled under his other arm. He put the sleeping bag into the backseat and got in beside her again.

Intrigued, Calla poked through the basket he’d handed her. There were two thick blankets, a couple of hot water bottles, some blue star juniper firewood, tinder, kindling, a cigarette lighter, sealed packs of store-bought sandwiches, mini bottles of wine, bottled water, and a couple of large empty jars.

She looked up at him again. A huge smile spread over her face. A sparkle lit up her blue eyes. “We’re camping!”

He smiled back at her without saying a word as he pulled the car into the road again.

“But why?” she asked.

“You’ll see.”

He took one hand off the wheel to sling it around her shoulders. She obligingly leaned into him. They stayed that way until they got to the swim shop. He parked the car there, and they began the walk on the coastal footpath that led to Land’s End. Kit carried the heavy basket; Calla had the sleeping bag under her arm.

It was a different feeling walking the path at night rather than during the day. There was something relaxing about the near-darkness, the cool air on skin and the crunch of earth beneath their shoes.

They kept a steady pace, side by side as the landscape changed. Neither was surprised; they had walked this road many times together as tiny tots, as children, as teenagers, and now as young adults. They easily walked on as they went clear off the footpath and onto the steepening cliffs, under their blanket of peaceful, mild, breezy night.

There were stars, a tiny piece of moon, and solitude. Calla took a deep breath of fresh night air, and realized she was having another little pocket of happiness.

They walked up the cliffs together—these cliffs had always been theirs. It was off the beaten track so hardly any tourists trickled down, and the locals found this cove uninteresting too. They found it uninteresting because it was there. Yet, that was the precise reason Calla appreciated it. It was there, and it was theirs. It had previously been deserted and unloved, with the ocean crashing and lapping against the rocks in a lonely tide, making music that nobody cared to hear. Now, the music was being heard; now the rushing water was playing for an audience. Now the cove, the beach, the hills, the rocks and the water welcomed the only two people they knew. The only two people that knew them.

They went up their favorite cliff, higher, higher, slowly, slowly, until they reached the summit. Then they set their gear down and stood side by side, looking over it all. It was theirs—the endless view of the world.

Calla stood looking over it all, her heart in her throat. This was her favorite place to be—at the cove, with Kit. She could almost hear the lilting Romance in her mind’s ear, smooth as satin. This was the place for it. This was the spot for all her happy memories, sweet and warm, with him. This was heaven.

She turned to him, a slight film of tears over her eyes. “Kit. Why are we here?”

Kit touched her cheek with the back of his fingers. “The things you said about your friend touched me. They were true. You’ll always regret what happened, always grieve over what happened. It’s a part of you now, but it doesn’t have to destroy you. It can modify you, but it shouldn’t…reset you. Does that make sense?”

Then he cupped her face. “The grief is one thing, poppet. But dreams like that, dreams that make you wake up crying and screaming…I can’t stand it.” His blue eyes sank into hers. “It’s not normal, and you shouldn’t have to endure it. And if this is what it takes for you to know that darkness isn’t all that’s left, then it’s what we’re going to do.”

“What? What are we going to do?”

“We have firewood. We have a lighter. We have the night to ourselves.” Kit kissed her forehead. “We’re going to start a fire and stay here. You’ll sleep, and when you wake up thinking the fire’s gone and your companion with it, you’ll see that the fire will still be here. And so will I.”

Calla stared at him. She stared and stared. Then she put her fingers over his. “Kit, how have I never noticed how beautiful you are?”

He smiled dryly. “Because you were always angry with me.”

Calla laughed despite herself. “That’s probably it.” She curled their fingers together. “You’re beautiful. Thank you for this.”

He leaned over for a brief kiss. “I love you.”

There was a moment’s hesitation but she said, “I love you too.”

He gave her a doubtful look, another droll smile. “Do you? You’re not obligated to say it in return if you don’t mean it. I can certainly handle you not loving me. I’ll still feel the same way. Love doesn’t have conditions, little one.”

Calla stared again. “Stop being so perfect, you wanker!”

He laughed. “I apologize for my perfection.”

“Accepted.” She gave him a sweet peck on the lips. “I love you.”

“Accepted.” Then he stepped back. He hunkered down and spread out one blanket. “Sit.”

She did, watching as he built the fire; laying the tinder, forming a small teepee with the kindling. He threw the blue star juniper firewood around the little structure, and then lit the tinder. The blaze started.

She smiled teasingly at him. “Very manly of you.”

“I know. Now if you had some meat to roast for your man over the fire…”

“Sorry.” She laughed. “But I’ll roast some meat for my man next time.”

“You’d bloody well better.”

He sat beside her. Calla got the other blanket and wrapped it around them both. The fire crackled on, and with the blanket it was warm enough for her not to need the water bottles. He put his arms around her, and they sat that way until the peace and warmth began to work its magic. Her eyelids began to droop.

“Sleepy?”

“A little.”

He nudged her towards the sleeping bag. “Go on.”

Calla left his side to slip into the bag. “Aren’t you coming? It’s obviously a double.”

He smiled and shook his head.

“Why not?”

“Firstly, I’ll need to stay up—keeping the fire going and all that.” His blue eyes turned a deeper shade. “Secondly, I highly doubt I’d be able to keep my hands to myself if I lay in there with you. Because I’ve decided not to touch you unless you ask me to, I don’t need the added temptation.”

“Oh,” she said, because there was nothing else to say. She lay on her side, facing the fire.

She closed her eyes, and saw Arabella. She was sitting with Arabella. They were by a warm fire in a huge room, with shadows all around them. The fire began to die, and the darkness came closer. Calla fanned the flames, with no success. The greedy shadows just came, engulfing Arabella.

Calla looked up at her vanishing friend as the flames turned to ash. “Bella, take my hand!”

Arabella didn’t, of course; she just smiled as the darkness overcame her.

“For fuck’s sake, Arabella Simone Crawford, grab my hand! Please! Let me help! Take it!” But the smiling Arabella didn’t, and in an instant, she was gone. There was only pitch blackness around Calla.

Calla woke, with the cry on her lips. Yet, even before her eyes opened, a part of her knew what she would find. She found a fire, blazing as before. She found a friend sitting beside it, with her.

He was looking at her. “Did…?”

“Yes,” she whispered.

He handed her a bottle of water from the basket. She pushed out of the sleeping bag and accepted it, sitting up to drink. Then she drew her knees up and put her head between them. There was a hole in her heart where Arabella had once been. The hole would always be there. The jagged ends would heal, but the scar would be permanent.

There was no need to relive the fear, to relive the moment she had walked in to find her dear friend dead. There was no need to keep thinking she could somehow change things, that if she managed to take Arabella’s hand in the dream, she’d wake up to find that Arabella’s death itself had all been some horrendous dream. She couldn’t fix it. She couldn’t change death, no matter how hard she wished it. Arabella couldn’t come back, no matter how hard she wished it.

This was reality. Arabella was gone for good. Nothing would change that. She could only move forward the best way she knew how, with the people who were still with her.

Calla looked up at Kit, finding that he’d been watching her. At that moment, she knew. It had always been him. He had done this for her. He had been here with the fire as he had promised he would. He had sat awake outside, stoking a fire while she slept. Nobody had ever loved her as much. Nobody else would ever have done this for her.

She held out her hand to him. “Kit, come here. Please?”

His blue eyes were dark. “I already told you that it would be difficult to lie next to you like that, without…” It seemed he was trying to be delicate, but then he snarled and finished pithily, “Fucking your brains out.”

“Come, please.” She still held out her hand to him.

He paused, those dark blue eyes boring into hers. “Are you asking?”

“Yes. Yes. I love you, and I’m asking. Please.”

Calla watched as he approached her. She watched as his blue eyes deepened. She watched as his expression darkened. His face changed. He was still Kit…but a different version of Kit. There was something slightly predatory about the way he moved now. This was the Kit she had seen upon opening her eyes after having slipped on the cliff.

And when he smiled, she automatically moved back a little—even as her stomach fluttered.

Kit didn’t take her hand. Instead, his hands closed over her shoulders. He nudged her down in the name movement, applying firm pressure until she was lying on her back and he was above her. Calla watched his body lowered onto hers. When their lips were a breath apart, when she felt the weight of his body on hers, she closed her eyes.

Then she could only hear and feel. She heard the ocean lapping against the rocks, the Romance in her mind’s ear. She felt her heart crashing against her chest and the pressure of his lips on hers. His lips moved hers apart to make way for his tongue.

“So you want me to be inside you, Calla?” he snarled as his lips attacked hers. “You going to enjoy it when I fuck you, aren’t you poppet? You’ll come when I’m inside you.”

Hell. Calla felt her stomach tighten, she felt her pussy grow warm at hearing such filth coming from his lips, and sounding oddly beautiful as they did. Lovely filth. The movement was hesitant at first, but she put her arms around his neck, then slid her fingers into silky hair of deep gold. She sucked in a little breath, letting her tongue dance with his.

His hands moved around, to the zipper at the back of her dress. Calla trembled a little, hearing the soft hiss of the zip as he pulled it down; feeling the cool air on her body. Without breaking the kiss, Kit pulled the dress from her shoulders. His fingers were impatient, pulling the garment off her body and down to her knees before shoving it down with his feet.

Calla’s heart was racing. She was underneath her brother-cousin, naked but for a flimsy bra and panties. Panties that were growing dampened with the nectar coming from between her hot pussy lips. Hell. Her mind turned in on itself. Kit was undressing her. He was going to have her, and she was gladly letting him. She was enjoying letting him. And she didn’t even regret it. Not even a bit. She loved him. He was supposed to touch her like this. This was right. Here, now, with him. This was where they had always meant to end up. Here, at their cove at this dark, deep night, with the ocean singing with the rocks, the fire crackling to tell her that there was still life and a future. So deep, so deep was the night…

She curled her fingers around his hair, and then moved them down to his shoulders. His own quick fingers were at her bra. He snapped it off, ripped it from her body and tossed it to the side.

Calla gasped into his lips as she felt his large hands cup her bare tits for the first time, as her tits spilled into his waiting palms, as those large hands caressed and squeezed the soft, roundness of them. Then his fingers flicked over the nipples. She gasped again, sharply, as pleasure shot straight though her nipples, straight through her wet cunt.

She moved her head back, breaking the kiss, gasping again as he rolled her stiffening nipples between his fingers. “Kit,” she hissed, her spine arching up, her nipples pebbling under his fingers, the sensation ricocheting through her body. “Kit.”

“Are you enjoying this, little one?” he rasped in her ear, rolling those puffy pink nipples around, inflamed as they were with the sensations his fingers were providing. Over and over again as she shuddered under his body. “You have such hot tits, Calla. So perfect, do you know that? Ever since I saw them in that little bikini of yours, I’d stroke my cock and think of painting these tits with my cum. Can I, baby?” He laughed softly, darkly in her ear. “Can I cum on these perfect tits?” And he tugged on the engorged nipples again, slowly pulling them from her body until she cried out in extreme pleasure. “Is this making you wet, poppet?” He chuckled. “Are you wet for your big bro-cuz? Are you wet for my cock?”

Calla couldn’t think. She cried out again, both at the touch of his hands and at his words. Her panties dampened further, her clit pulsing slowly between her legs.

Kit ran the tip of tongue over her earlobe, and nibbled his way down her throat, moving down her body. His lips and teeth grazed over her heated skin; over her shoulder, to her collarbone. She knew where he was headed, but her body still quivered when she felt his lips latch onto one distended nipple and sucked it into his mouth.

His name was torn from her lips as tongue flicked over the peak. “Kit!” He sucked on her nipple, tasted it, nibbled on it like it was the sweetest thing he’d ever put in his mouth. He did this until she couldn’t stand it anymore. She was shaking beneath the onslaught, pleasure rolling through her body, yet it only stoked the flames. The pleasure didn’t satisfy her; it only provoked the need for more. “Kit,” she cried. Her hands found his shoulders, digging into them. “Please, Kit.”

But he took his time. He released the nipple from his mouth, but only to kiss over the flesh below, and then over to the other nipple.

Calla wanted to scream with mingled pleasure and frustration as he took the other nipple into his mouth, doing to it exactly what he had done to the other, making desire and need storm and swell through her body until she cried out again. Cried out as he attacked the nipple with lips and tongue, the occasional gaze of teeth. Calla had never been wetter. Her cunt had never cried out so much for the touch of anyone’s hand. She arched her body up, needing fulfilment, needing more until she thought she’d go insane if he didn’t give it.

“Kit, please…” she hissed, her voice hoarse. “Please!”

She nearly died with happiness when she felt his hand at her knee. She nearly wept as his palms and fingers brushed slowly up the skin of her thigh, sending sparks and gooseflesh through her body on its journey between her legs, towards her quivering slit.

Calla hissed in anticipation as his hand slipped between her legs, inching up to her hot, dripping mound; as he continued to suck and lave at the nipple in his mouth. His fingers reached the waistband of her soaked panties. He pulled the wet panties down to her knees, and then his fingers moved up again.

She cried out when she felt his fingers at her slippery cunt lips. She cried out louder as she felt him firmly part her cunt lips and rub the pads of his fingers over her dripping, puckered opening.

Kit released her nipple from his mouth, laughing softly as he buried his face between the valley of the tits he was enjoying playing with. He kissed over the damp skin between her tits, still chuckling deep in his throat as his fingers explored between her legs. “My little poppet. My little Cally-Wally. So wet for her cousin’s cock. So wet for her brother’s cock. So wet as I finger and rub her little pussy. So wet when I fuck her little pussy. As I will. As I certainly will.”

“Kit!” It was a shocked hiss. How much filthier could his mouth get?

He laughed, moving his fingers over her slit, swirling them through her cream as the pleasure shot though her shuddering body. With his fingers coated in her nectar, he brought them up to her clit.

Calla screamed. Her hands dug into his shoulders.

He just laughed, deep and soft. His fingers expertly tweaked her clit, stroking around the pulsing little nub, skirting around it, before finally pulling the hood back and skating lightly over the peak.

Calla’s scream echoed over the night air, over the cliffs and through the cove. It was the place for it. The sound was at home here. Her body was shaking under his hand as pleasure mounted. His touch was perfect. His touch was so indescribably perfect. She knew she would come under his hand. She would come as his fingers rubbed her clit, and then dipped down to swirl over her opening, sending nerve endings shouting.

“Kit, Kit, Kit…” she panted, feeling his lips on her skin, his fingers sending her cunt throbbing, about to implode in bright, colorful release.

Kit kissed back up to her neck, up to her ear, as his fingers hovered at her opening, barely penetrating her. “Tell me you’re in love with me,” he whispered. A soft, deep, tender order.

Calla’s breaths puffed out of her lips, so near to climax was she. Her body was alive; the most alive it had ever been. She opened her eyes. They were as dark as his; deep dark blue on deep dark blue. “I’m in love with you.”

Kit slipped one finger, barely penetrating her dripping slit, hovering just slightly inside as she clenched, as her heart raced and a flush spread over her skin. “Tell me that you’re mine now.”

“I’m yours now,” she whispered. “Kit, please. I…I love you and I’m yours. Please.”

His finger sank deeper into her, slipping into her wet, clenching cunt. Calla gasped again a she neared the brink. And when his finger curled inside her, making a ‘come here’ motion and the soft pad brushed firmly against the softly ribbed flesh of her front walls, her body crashed in on itself.

Calla threw her head back as her body flew into climax, as his finger on her sweet spot triggered the orgasm of a lifetime. She came around his finger, drenching it more juices, her pussy clenching and releasing; her stomach doing likewise in an unending dance that flowed through her body and set her screaming her rapture over the night cliffs. The climax took her higher than she’d ever gone before. She was alive. She was in the middle of acute, painful pleasure. She was living, breathing, high. The orgasm crashed over her like the sea did the rocks, again and again, washing and polishing. She heard his name, and realized she was the one saying it. She said it as she continued to ride high, and said it as the high began to drop.

Calla was still hissing, her skin reddened with her flush as the orgasm abated, petered into warm silence with little shocks. Her hot cunt dripping more than ever, more slippery and wet than ever around the thick finger still inside it.

Finally, it was over. The last little frisson was squeezed from her body, and she lay back, shaking on the sleeping bag. Finally, she opened her eyes.

Kit had been watching her the whole time, bearing witness to such a release. He smiled—a dark smile again, a wicked predatory smile that made her satisfied pussy jump. “That’s probably the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. You coming for me like that.”

He withdrew his finger from her cunt. It was glistening with her nectar. With his eyes on hers, he brought the finger to his lips and tasted. He closed his eyes, savoring. Calla watched in shock. He was so filthy. And she loved it.

He laughed yet again, as though sensing her thoughts, and opened his eyes as he licked his finger clean. “So delicious. You want a taste?” he teased. Then he kissed her, parting her lips, opening them to exchange flavors. “See how good you taste?” He kissed her again, his voice full of aroused amusement. “I want to taste you again. Right from the source.”

Calla wasn’t surprised then, when he pulled back, rising above her to support himself on his arms place at either side of her body. He looked over her naked body, from head to foot, and felt himself harden further in his jeans. His cock was screaming to be let out, wanting to plunge into her hot, delicious slit. To fuck it to ecstasy and fill it up with a copious load of hot cum.

His engorged cock jumped at the thought, bulging obscenely in his jeans. Soon. He’d be inside her soon. But he’d taste first. His eyes dark as midnight, Kit moved down her body. Moved until his lips were level with her knees. Smiling, he softly kissed the skin at the back of her knee. She jumped, making him laugh.

He kissed the warm skin there again, and then he kissed her inner thigh, teasing her. Kissing up and up, making a clear path to her fragrant pussy.

“Kit,” he heard her gasp again as his lips neared her outer cunt lips. “Kit!” The cry was louder as his fingers spread the outer lips. He sucked the inner lips into his mouth, licking the sweet nectar off them, causing shockwaves to go through her body as his lips and tongued dove into his sister-cousin’s cunt. Her taste drove him wild. So delicious, so musky, so her. When he’d cleaned all the sweet dew from her inner lips, he parted them with his tongue, in search of more.

She let out an incoherent cry as his tongue met her slippery opening, swirling around it the puckered hole to have more of her. She cried out again and again, until her voice ran out in continuous soft hisses, interspersed with his name.

Kit let his tongue shallowly penetrate her slit, pulling all her juices into his mouth, sending her craving again, making her body gear up for the next orgasmic explosion. He slid his tongue into her again, and then let it trace around her opening and inner lips a few more times. She was so hot, so aroused that even as he sucked in her nectar, her cunt only gave him more. This was the juiciest pussy he had ever had under his tongue. And he loved eating it. His cock stiffened further, throbbing hotly, angrily within his jeans. Soon. Soon he’d fuck this pussy as well as eat it.

His mouth journeyed up, searching for yet more, sucking in all the slippery sweetness on its way to her hot button clit. Still, he teased her; he kissed around the little nub for what seemed to her like an eternity. He blew soft breaths over it.

Calla felt like she was about to lose her mind in rabid pleasure. His lips and tongue were driving her crazy. So tantalizingly close to her vibrating clit, yet never touching it. Did he want her to beg? Did he want her to plead? She would. She didn’t care. She would, if it would end the torture. If she could feel his talented mouth on her yearning clit. The bloody man—always teasing her. Once a tease, always a bloody tease.

“Kit, please. Oh, please! Do it! You’re driving me insane. Just please!”

He laughed, inadvertently blowing more breaths over her clit. Making it, and her, shiver with longing. He pressed a few more teasing kisses around the throbbing little nub. And then his lips closed over it.

Calla screamed as pleasure surged through her body, burning it. She thrashed as his sucked on her clit. This was too much. This was far too much. She couldn’t take it. Her body was vibrating, her stomach and pussy clenching as Kit sucked and flicked at her clit. She was close again, to another release. Her stomach was tightening. All her muscles were tightening, anticipating the moment they would unfurl and send her body into paradise.

But he pulled back. Paradise, so close, didn’t come because he raised his head to smile provocatively. “Do you want to cum, poppet?”

“Yes,” she whimpered, almost pained by the loss of his mouth.

He laughed, and moved up her body again. He kissed her. Her flavor was strong on his breath. Calla found it unexpectedly hot, and she wrapped her arms around his neck, forcing his tongue to twine with hers and stay twined.

His weight came down on hers again. His hands went to the waistband of his jeans. As he unbuttoned it, unzipped, and tugged it down, his swollen cock nearly wept in glee. It was a step closer to what it wanted—her tight, wet cunt wrapped around its length.

Kit pulled the jeans down over his stiffly protruding cock. His boxers followed immediately, and he kicked them both away, clear of his ankles. He couldn’t recall a time when he had been this fucking hard. His cock jutted from his body, standing erect almost angrily, the thick head filled with blood, veins visible along its length. His cock was pulsating in animal eagerness, about to get what it had wanted for many long years—to be buried inside Calla.

Kit kissed her back as feverishly as she was kissing him. His body pressed into hers, his cock drawing closer to her deliciously wet pussy as his hips shifted between hers. His hands slipped around her waist as their lips and tongues moved together, their moans and hums filling their ears.

As his thick cock-head pressed against her sopping slit, his hand moved down between her body and the sleeping bag, cupping her hot, fleshy ass, squeezing it as he tilted her hips up to meet his painfully erect dick.

They gasped as one as the head of his organ spread his cousin’s opening, sank into it, stretching it to fit him, preparing it for the full penetration that was shortly to follow.

Kit broke the kiss as pleasure shot through his cock when the tip speared into her tight heat. His dark blue eyes closed from the sheer bliss and he thrust again, pushing in another inch. “Shit!” The word was wrenched from his lips. “How long I’ve wanted this,” he growled. “How fucking long. And I had no idea it would be this fucking amazing. Even in my wildest fantasies…Calla. Shit, Calla, baby.” He shoved in another inch. “Your pussy is so fucking amazing. Hell.” He thrust in again, sinking in deeper as madness overcame him. He couldn’t even think. He only knew that this moment was the singular most incredible one of his existence. The pleasure as he entered her was… “Oh, sweet, sweet fuck!” he growled.

Calla was panting under him. Her fingers were tangled in his dark gold hair. His large cock was filling her so completely. She had only ever been with one other, and he hadn’t been as large as Kit, and she’d broken things off with him over a year ago. So she was very much aware of this penetration; feeling every inch of his cock as it disappeared into her, stretching her nearly beyond her limit. Her fingers twisted in his hair.

She cried out as his hips sank deeper into hers, introducing more of his length and thickness into her body. His hands were kneading her ass, arching her hips, mounting her onto his dick even as he pushed in. She was so wet around him. Even so, she could feel him. She could feel everything, and her breath hitched when, with one smooth movement, he sank deeply into her and she had taken all of him. Just as he’d known she would.

Lodged deep within her but not yet moving, Kit pressed fevered kisses over her temples and cheekbones. For these first few moments, he was content to enjoy the rippling and stretching of her walls around his cock as she began to accommodate his size. They fit together like a lock and key, he thought, rocking within her slightly. They were created to be one. She was so hot and wet and so very tight, gripping his dick so wonderfully, so perfectly that he wondered if it were possible for him to climax simply by being inside her.

But the temptation to move was too great. It was impossible to simply stay still. He turned his head, opened his eyes to look into hers as she lay breathing heavily beneath him, their bodies joined, their forms pressed together. His blue eyes dark, Kit pulled back and plunged into her.

Calla cried out, her cunt clenching around him as it built to release again. That release he had denied her was coming again, with greater promise. She could help another cry as he withdrew again, his cock coated from base to tip with the slippery evidence of her eagerness, a string of her wetness following the head of his cock. Then he drove into her again, straight to the hilt.

His deep groan was the companion to her cry. “Do you love it, poppet?” Kit moaned, demented with the pleasure shooting through his cock as he began to thrust in earnest, to fuck his little sister-cousin, to stab her pussy with his cock, to feel her pussy hugging and milking his cock as it sank into her depths. “Are you glad I’m fucking you?” He pressed his lips to her ear, his voice lowering, his usual humor injecting into it. “Are you glad your big bro-cuz is fucking your wet little cunt with his fat cock?”

Calla’s heart tripped. It was so dirty. So utterly filthy…so utterly wonderful. “Yes!” she cried out as his cock drove into her, her body jerking with each thrust of his own, her tits bouncing as he picked up the pace. “Yes!”

Kit growled without words, her yeses maddening him further. He moved his hands from around her waist, slamming his palms down on either side of her as he fucked her. As his dick found a home in her over again with each powerful drive of his hips. Her body was shattering under his thrusts, his cock stroking her walls, stroking every inch of her, rubbing over that sweet spot time, his pubis grinding down onto hers every time he slammed in, pushing down on and stimulating her clit.

Despite the night breeze, Calla felt dampness break over her skin. Her skin was hot, flushed, her eyes wide open on his had their bodies met. Her cunt was screaming with the pleasure, pulsing, clenching, growing ever wetter as his thick organ stretched it, massaged it, filled it, loved it. Her body was bucking, her tits bouncing, nipples erect as he fucked her deeply, grinding into her again and again until there was nothing else left to give.

Their groans and hisses, sighs and grunts of pleasure filled the air along with the crashing of the ocean, the whistle of the breeze, the slap of skin as flesh met flesh in the carnal, loving, incredible copulation.

Kit couldn’t believe how amazing this felt. His cock was sheened in her wetness every time he pulled out, rippling in her wetness every time he sank in.

“Kit,” she cried out again, and then again as his movements stimulated all the sweet little spots of her cunt. She wrapped her hands tighter around his neck, stabbing her fingers into his skin as she began to fuck him back, raising up to meet him, trying to keep with buried inside her, curling her legs and hooking them around his waist, following his hips with her own as sighs and cries poured out of her. She found his rhythm, matched it, moved along to it.

All her muscles were tightening again; that anticipation of the moment they would unfurl was building. Paradise was beckoning. He ground firmly inside her, their warm, damp bodies fusing, pressing together as his hips surged into hers.

Kit closed his eyes again, unable to think of anything but concentrating on the pleasurable sensations in his dick as it drove in and out of his cousin. “Shit,” he moaned low again. “Calla, baby, I love you, do you know that? I love you.”

“I…” she gasped, barely able to get the words out. “I love you too. I love you…” Her fingers tightened around his neck. Her head fell back as a flush began to rise beneath her skin again. She raised her hips to meet his, matching him thrust for thrust now. Together, they quickened the pace. It seemed to pound along with their heartbeats. Everything seemed to come together to form one. A low-pitched grunt slipped past his lips as he felt himself draw close to what he knew would be an outstanding release. His cock, his whole body, his whole soul, was flung into a vortex of nothing but pleasure—carnal, sweet and so utterly fulfilling. With her. Calla. His sister-cousin. His soulmate.

He pulled back and stabbed into her, his cock throbbing threateningly, ready to explode. Calla flung her head back against the bed, her body shaking. She cried out his name one more time as everything unfurled; as her body exploded into release, a climax so acute, so pleasurable that she wondered if it might be pain.

The extra stimulation of her contracting walls pushed him to his own release. With another low grunt, he shoved himself deep into her one last time and gave himself over to intense pleasure. “I’m cumming,” he rasped, his voice almost unrecognizable. “Calla, I’m fucking cumming inside you.”

The words further tipped her over the edge, and Calla shuddered as the orgasm barreled through her body, sending it flying, whizzing. The tensed muscles unfurled as bliss found her; as her pussy rippled, tightened and squeezed his cock, as roll after roll and punch after punch of blissful squeezes clenched in her belly.

Kit came with her, exploded with her, and was plunged into paradise with her. They held on tightly to each other as they came together. The climax was everything he’d ever wanted and more. It made up for every time his teenaged self had stared after her, inflamed with seemingly hopeless lust. It made up for the five years he had been away from her, the five years he’d dated and fucked woman after woman, searching for the one that might satisfy him, hoping one would; but it had been a vain hope because only Calla could complete him. So he had given up the search and come back home after her. This climax made up for all the years of needing her, pining to have her in his arms, to hear her laughter, to talk with her, to share her bed and bask in her love. This moment made up for all the years of longing and pain.

Kit threw his head back, a deep, loud growl leaving his throat as he gave himself over to the moment. As he was lost in ecstasy as his cock erupted powerfully within her; as his balls released an abundant load of scorching hot cum deep in her pussy; as rope after rope of his thick, creamy seed fired into her; as jerk after jerk of pleasure shot through his erupting cock and all over his body.

Their pleasure fed each other’s. Calla was pulled higher as she felt his seed pour powerfully into her, hot, fast and for an endless moment. Kit was pulled higher as her pussy spasmed around his jerking cock, drawing forth more seed from his balls.

They coasted together, with arms wrapped tightly around each other’s, holding on for life and love as this peak rode with them for that moment where only they existed. They coasted together, and they drifted down together. He felt the squeezes around his cock, strong and fast at the start, begin to slow, getting softer and further apart. He felt the flow of his hot cream slow down, as the last jets left his cock with pleasurable little jerks. Until she was still around him and his balls had emptied their contents into her and filled her to overflowing, discharging from her around the base of his cock.

After a moment, Kit withdrew his half-hard cock from her, allowing his cum to seep more freely from between her legs. Once some was out, he pulled her away from the wet spot and into his arms. Then they just lay together, tangled and spent, breathing with the exertion. Kit kissed her, as his cock gradually softened and their breathing slowly came back to normal.

“Calla,” he murmured, his lips rocking over hers. “This is love.”

“Yes,” she whispered back, running her fingers over his back, his arms, through his hair. “This is love.”

Reaching over, Kit found the blanket. He pulled it over their bodies. They slept twisted together so warmly. They slept, and Calla had pleasant dreams.

***

It must have been the burgeoning light that woke them, or the rushing of the sea, or the sound of the gulls. Calla opened her eyes to find that it was dawn. It was nearly light. The fire had died down, and their basket and camping supplies were littered around.

She looked at Kit, who was just waking, too. Then she looked down at their naked bodies. Two days ago she had come home from Bath. She could hardly believe it had been just two days. It felt like more. How had they gotten to this point so quickly? How was she laying naked in his arms this way, with his dried cum on her thighs? How was her body feeling so fluid, alive and tingly? She looked back up to find his eyes open.

Calla blushed. “Good morning.”

Kit laughed a little. “Good morning.” He kissed her forehead in a very brotherly fashion. Then he pulled back. “It’s nearly light. We should pack up and go.”

“My mom and dad…?” she began, as he brushed her golden strands back from her face.

“We’ll tell them the party ended very late and so we just stayed over at my house.”

“Okay.” Calla reached for his hands. “Kit, I want to thank you—really thank you, for what you did for me last night. It was a beautiful gesture and it made me realize some things, so it helped.”

He smiled warmly. “Then I’m glad.”

She nodded, and cuddled him for a moment. “About Bella…I’d already started to heal, and last night was a big leap for me in that direction, but it’s not the end. I’ve still got some ways to go before I learn how to live with it.” She frowned, talking more to herself now than to him. “They say time heals all wounds, but I don’t think so. I think time just lets us get used to the ache, and lets us know how to move on even with the ache. I’m glad I’m realizing this.” She looked up at him. “I’m not there yet. I’m not at that point where I can live with the ache, where it’s modified me but not reset me. I’m not there yet. But I know that one day, I’ll take a breath and realize that I am.”

He gave her a little kiss on the lips. “And I’ll be there every step of the way, every time you need me.”

She gave him a little smile. “I know you will. It’s one of the things that make me confident about getting there one day soon.” There was a small moment of silence. Then with her smile fading Calla asked, “Kit?”

“Hmm?”

She met his crystalline blue eyes. “What are we going to do?”

Kit knew what she was asking—what they were going to do about themselves, what the future held.

Calla’s eyes widened. “Our parents…we can’t ever tell them. They’ll never understand. They’ll be…” She swallowed. “They’ll be devastated, Kit. If they could see us right now, it would hurt them so badly.”

“I know.” He sighed heavily.

“What will we do?”

He thought about it for a moment. “You still have two years left of University. So, for those two years, let this be our secret. Then perhaps, once those two years are over, we could go somewhere else together.”

“They’re not idiots, Kit. They’ll eventually suspect the truth if we go off to live together, neither of us ever getting married or being with other people. They’ll suspect, eventually. They’ll know, eventually. It may take years but it’ll come out.”

Kit cradled her face in his hands. “Perhaps. Yes, you’re probably right. But it’s still years. Many years. We’ll cross that bridge when we get there. Together. For now, let’s focus on you healing.” He kissed her. “And for the next few years, let’s focus on each other and loving each other, and getting this right. We have the time now. If and when the time comes for us to go away together, we will. And when they invariably find out, years down the line, we’d already be somewhere together, in our own home. Our own place.”

Calla looked into his eyes. It sounded so beautiful. It was something she wanted to believe. “Where?”

“Anywhere you’d like.”

“Somewhere close to the sea.”

“Alright.”

Then she looked around; at their cliffs, their cove, their domain, their world. “We’d always come back to visit this place, though, right? I mean, it’s ours. This cove is ours. It belongs to us.” She gave him an odd little look. “And I have a weird feeling that we belong to it, too.”

“Don’t worry; we’d always come back to Madderlea.”

“Good.” She curled into him again.

They got dressed and packed up their things shortly after that, gathering the wood, the bottles, the sleeping bag and the blankets. Armed with their supplies, they walked back down the cliff and onto the footpath, the same way they had come. They walked slowly, abreast of each other, and reached the swim shop as the sun rose in the sky.

They drove back to his house together, with Kit’s arm slung about her shoulders. She made no bones about coming in then, and they messed about in the shower together, kissing each other, teasing and laughing like carefree youngsters.

Once they were out, they called Darcy and Ian to let them know where they were, and that they’d be coming back later in the afternoon. Calla almost felt bad because of how cheerful and unsuspecting they were, but she wasn’t weighed down for long because today was a new day. A day she’d found love and made a big leap towards healing. Of course she couldn’t be down for long.

And when Kit took her to his bed, putting his hands and lips on her body again, she certainly couldn’t be unhappy. They took it slowly that morning, with long, deep kisses, languid touches, as the sun streamed from the window over their joined bodies.

Calla rippled around him as she had done the night before, her moist pussy welcoming him again as he sank into her, moving slowly and fluidly.

They started the drive back to her home rather later than they’d expected, during the evening rather than in the afternoon, because the whole morning and afternoon was spent shamelessly indulging in all the sick, base, crude, filthy ideas Kit could dream up, drawing orgasm after shattering orgasm from their bodies until they couldn’t stand it any longer.

He took her on the bed, against the wall, in the bathroom, on the floor…each time growing more uninhibited than the last. He put his thumb in her ass, slowly fingering it as he fucked her and drenched her pussy with his hot cum afresh. She’d sucked him off, pleasuring his thick, aching cock with her lips and tongue until he erupted into her mouth and down her throat, filling her with his sweet, salty, tangy taste. With her mouth filled, struggling to swallow, he’d pulled out and stroked his spewing cock, ejecting the last reams of creamy cum over her tits, painting her skin with his cum, decorating her chest with it, enjoying the sight of it staining her skin and dripping off her nipples.

He’d indulged a little fantasy of hers, too; one she’d suddenly thought up on a humorous whim—he’d put on his RAF uniform. Calla was honestly proud of him for being a member of the armed forces, although she hoped he’d remain a Reservist and never get deployed…and she also couldn’t deny he’d looked extremely sexy in the uniform. And he’d laughed as she’d taken it off him, peeling it off one garment after another, unwrapping him like a present.

He’d been chuckling the whole time, squeezing her ass, slipping fingers into her tight back hole as she’d peeled his pants off after having taken off the hat and the jacket. “I’ll have you know, Miss, that in wearing the uniform in public, Service personnel are required to display the utmost in dignified behavior as they are in effect, representing the Service.” Then he grinned. “Would you say that my fingering your hot little ass hole in the middle of the afternoon is the utmost in dignified behavior?” He’d sunk his finger deeper. “Would you?”

Calla hadn’t known whether to laugh or moan. What had come out was a mix of both. “Should I be apologizing?”

He’d given her a mock stern look. “Yes, you should. Just look how you’re making me behave in a less than dignified manner. Apologize at once, and in a proper manner. And do attempt to sound like you mean it.”

“I’m sorry,” she’d moaned, closing her eyes as the finger in her ass brought her closer to yet another release.

Kit chuckled throatily. “I don’t think you meant it. You didn’t sound sorry at all. Try again.”

“Ah…um…sorry. I couldn’t help myself.”

“So I suppose it’s true what they say about a man in uniform?” he’d teased, his finger likewise teasing her; tracing a pattern around her hole before sinking into her ass again.

“Not all men in uniforms; just handsome and sexy young men in patriotic, brave uniforms. You know, ah, like Naval uniforms, Army uniforms…” She’d gasped and arched her hips as his other finger slipped into her pussy, already sticky with his seed from a recent fucking.

“RAF uniforms?” he’d added with a chuckle, his blue eyes dark.

“Yes,” she’d gasped again, arching her spine back, causing her stiff nipples to poke out. Causing him to take one in his mouth, gently graze it with his teeth as he finger-fucked her ass and pussy. “Yes, exactly.”

They’d loved each other for ours. Finally, wrung out and sore, they’d enjoyed a long cuddle and another frolic in the shower before driving back to Ian and Darcy.

As they made the trip back, Calla sat in the passenger seat, smiling at Kit as they drove down the narrow, twisting country lanes with the windows rolled down during a golden English sunset. It was a beautiful world, she thought. A beautiful life.

“What should we do tomorrow?” she asked him.

He sent her a typical teasing Kit-like grin. “Each other, perhaps?”

She laughed, finding that despite all they’d been doing since the night before, he could still make her blush. “No, you bellend. I mean, what should we do? A real activity.”

“So all our recent activities have been pretend? If so, then why are you walking funny?”

Calla laughed again and gently punched his arm. She was indeed sore and taking more care as she moved, a result of all his attentions to her pussy and ass. “Stop it. I’m serious. We’re here for the whole summer. We should do fun things. Well, when you have the time because you’ll often be at the base in Newquay.”

“Not to the exclusion of you or anything else. I’ve elected to put in fifty days this year, so we’ll definitely work around it.”

Calla smiled at his profile. The minimum number of days a Reservist could commit to in a year was twenty-seven, but Kit had decided to do fifty. She was proud of him for that. “So what should we do tomorrow? And also, is it okay if I hang around at the swim shop with you during some of your shifts? We’ll need reasons to be alone together so frequently. Not that they’ll suspect anything in us being joined at the hip. They’ll be pleased that we’re bonding, but we’ll still need some sort of…um, alibi.”

“Fair point.” He tapped the wheel with his fingers. “Yes, I’ll come around and pick you up on my way to the swim shop for shifts. That way we could even have lunch at the cove. And about tomorrow, how about we go down to the harbor in the morning? I haven’t seen the Scillonian III leave harbor in five years. I think it’s heading off to the Isles at half past nine, so we’ll go down there early to watch it sail. Or perhaps we can even get aboard ourselves and go to St Mary’s for the day.” He tossed her a smile. “How does that sound?”

Calla inclined her head to the side, pretending to think about it. “Hmm, well, I don’t know. It sounds…” She gave him a bright, lovely smile, her eyes lighting up. “Perfect.”

He gave her a droll look, and she was laughing as she turned her gaze back out to the window, watching the English sunset, watching the clear skies, breathing in the gloriously pure evening air. She smiled brightly. Life was worth living.

As she reflected on hers so far, she had reasons to be grateful. She had family that loved her, she was doing a degree she loved at a University she enjoyed. She had health, had breath in her body and a future she could look to.

Plus, she had something more. She reached over for Kit’s hand. He took one off the wheel to twine his fingers with hers. Yes, she had something more; a place that she could come back to, a place that she belonged to and that belonged to her—at the cove, with Kit.

The cove was the place that had marked some milestones and so many happy memories. It was the place where the Romance could flit through her mind; the place that had always been there for her and welcomed her. It was the happiest spot in the world. It wasn’t a brash, exuberant sort of happiness, but a tranquil one; sweetness that was slightly touched with the bitterness of melancholy remembrances. The melancholy was there, but it was happy nonetheless; because the melancholy was a part of the sweet. It made it whole, a full bouquet. Just like though the scar of Arabella on her heart would always be there, the heart would continue to beat despite it. Perhaps it would beat more strongly for having the scar.

Madderlea was the happiest place in the world, and they would always return to it. She had played there as a child, she’d had her first kiss there, and she had made a huge leap in healing from a tragedy there.

She’d fallen in love there.

It was a place where the world was theirs. A place to get lost in a reverie; to reminisce; to dream and perhaps even have some of the dreams come true.

Everything wasn’t perfect; everything wasn’t fixed. Her grief was still a work in progress. There would still be days when she would doubt. There would still be days when she would cry. But those days would get fewer and far between, until healing came. There was still so much of life to be dealt with, the darkness as well as the light—Kit might one day get deployed into active service; their parents would one day find out about them and they’d have to deal with the fallout from that; plus the everyday knocks that life dished out, knocks that couldn’t be foreseen and would just have to be overcome or endured.

Yes, everything wasn’t perfect or fixed. And yes, the future was never completely set in stone. And yes, there would be difficult days, days that would be a test of strength. But that summer evening, as sunset painted the English skies golden-pink, as the fresh, crisp air whipped her hair around her face, as the unsoiled green lands rolled out as far as the eye could see into a clear horizon, as her brother’s strong fingers tightened around hers, Calla Ferris realized something.

She realized that, for the first time in three months, she wasn’t having a pocket of happiness.

She was simply happy.

***

Particular thanks to one of my friends, who gave Arabella a name. I hope you enjoyed the story, and seeing the name in it :)

5 comments

DesiredUsername35Report

2017-08-02 00:24:40
My thanks to each commenter for their kind remarks on the story. I'm glad you liked the story, and thanks for reading!

Petronicus8Report

2017-07-28 15:21:31
This was one of the finest stories I have read for a long time. Crafted brilliantly and dealing with a sensitive subject beautifully. Well done and thank you.

pyroclastReport

2017-07-28 06:53:59
Wonderfully intense and thoughtful story, memorable in fact.

NoPerksReport

2017-07-27 05:12:27
Great story, I loved it!!

Don'sdickReport

2017-07-25 20:58:02
GREAT story! Thanks!

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