Athanasios has the most precious gift for Ava and their wedding made.
Previously: 11 / Time for Comfort 12/ Time to Rest
With This Ring…
The Morning Of
I awake when it’s still dark with Athanasios stirring beside me. He’s curled into me, spooning me with a hand over a breast, clamping me to him through the nightshirt I am wearing. I feel warm, even though there’s just a sheet over us both.
“Keep your eyes closed, ómorfi,” he tells me as he leans in and kisses my neck. “It is bad luck for a bride and groom to see each other before the ceremony,” he reminds me.
“Old wives tale,” I tell him and he chuckles. But my eyes are still closed.
“I know. But by this time tomorrow,” I feel a wave of anticipation, warmth, lust and desire emanate from him. “I will see you at sunset, my bride,” and with that, he pushes away from me. The weight on the bed shifts as it gets lighter. I hear him put on clothes, the sound of the belt is unmistakeable, then a few moments later, the door closes softly behind him. Unable to control my feelings, I let a few tears fall.
Peeling myself away from Ava is hard. We only slept, nothing more, but she felt so right in my arms, curled into me. I cannot wait until our bridal night, but I know I have to. Her father nods to me as I leave the room and I smile, though I can feel her distress. I close my eyes, talking with Alexandros, calming him. It will take a few hours to prepare and we have things to organise with the pack I remind him, including a ring. He huffs at me, not wishing to be away from Ava, but traditions are just that: something to honour. And this is for a very good reason.
The Darkness of Truth
Archie coughs and I tell Alexandros to bide his time. Opening my eyes, I see Archie holding out a mug of hot coffee for me, motioning for me to follow him to the kitchen. With a wave of love and a pang of regret sent to Ava, I follow him.
“I’ll take you to the Castle from here,” he says. “Have you… a ring to give her?” He asks and I nod.
“One from my ancestors,” I tell him and his face falls. I look at him quizzically.
“I have her mother’s…” he says, holding out a beautiful Celtic white gold band. It is not customary for shifters to wear jewellery, but Ava is not a shifter. However, there are two things I can do here and I chose to accept the olive branch he offers.
“I have an idea, but I need to see the ring that the pack bought with them,” I tell him and he nods. He takes the ring back, putting it in the box, which he pockets to keep it safe. Once we finish our coffee, we’re heading back down the tunnel to the Castle.
“You must think I’m a heartless git,” he tells me as we walk in the flickering light.
“Not heartless,” I reply with caution. He stops and turns to me.
“No… Careless, though, probably. I don’t mean to,” he shares. “This divorce,” I nod, grimacing.
“It is never easy, but if you are concerned that I will divorce Ava, or reject her,” I begin and he shakes his head.
“No, yer fated. You wouldn’t even if you could, I know that. But… I haven’t been a great father to her. Or Alison and Aonghus… I hadn’t realised until a few years ago how my wife affected me, my relationship with my children.” He turns and begins walking towards the castle again.
“How do you intend to fix your relationship with them?” I ask him as we walk. “I am not yet a father, but I would hate to not know my children. Ava, when we join, will be extended the same length of life as I,” he stops, making me almost walk into him. He turns and looks at me wide-eyed.
“Any mistakes I make, I will have time to fix. You non-shifters have less. I would not delay in fixing the bridge between you all, time is too precious.”
“I’ll bear that in mind,” he says and turns to walk. “Treat her well, for me, please. Better than I have,” he asks me, tears in his eyes.
“I shall. But, will you give her to me, as is tradition?” I ask, confirming his intentions.
“I would be honoured to give her safety over to you. I’ve done a shite job of it,” he slaps me in a friendly way on the arm, then we make haste to the castle as my pack begins to wake up.
As we leave the tunnel, I see several of my pack gathering, aware that they are probably still running on Greek time, which is a few hours ahead.
“Aeolus!” I hail one of the pack’s betas, our fastest runner, hence his name.
“Athanasios!” We hug and greet each other warmly, then Anastasia steps forward, bows and hands me the box I knew they would bring. Turning to Archie, I open it, revealing the contents inside.
Archie stands beside me, taking in the design and colour of the ring that Anastasia presents us with. I nod to him and he extracts the ring from his pocket and I lay it next to the ring from my ancestors. The brilliant sea-blue sapphire and the knot of the family ring give me an idea and I turn to Anastasia.
“I need a way to merge these,” I ask her and she walks over to the fountain in the middle of the courtyard, setting the boxes down on the side and holding the rings in her fingers, playing with them like a complex puzzle toy. A few moments later, her fair head bobs she nods to me.
“I can do something, but I need a fair few hours and tools.” Archie looks blank and I grin, explaining to them that Ava’s father doesn’t understand her, but he doesn’t need to.
“Let us find James,” I say, once to Archie for his benefit, the next in Greek. Then I instruct my pack to help out with whatever is needed and to ensure that they use a translator at all times. Since the pack bought three with them who can speak broken English, there will be four in each helping group.
Two Become One
It is an hour before James comes into the great hall and he greets me warmly. I introduce Anastasia to him, explaining that she requires jewellery making tools and why.
“I think I know who… Come,” he motions for Anastasia and I to follow him. As we walk, he is met by others of his pack, who ask him questions, he gives answers and they run off to do as he says. Some of those answers are to go and find his wife, Emily. On the edge of the compound, is the smithy and Anastasia’s eyes go wide.
“Too cumbersome,” she tells me in Greek. We do not stop at the Smithy, we’re taken around to the house at the back and a lady greets James. He introduces us and Anastasia shows the lady the rings. The lady nods and beckons for us to follow.
“This is Trudy,” he tells us and I nod. “She used to make jewellery but with wee ones around, she stopped. However,” he explains as we stop at a small, wooden building. The woman opens it up and Anastasia gasps.
“This is perfect,” she tells me, motioning her hand over the tools here in awe. “Give me a few hours, Alpha,” she tells me with a glint of excitement in her eye as she and Trudy begin to get the workshop and its tools, up and running.
Hours later, as I’m helping to raise the marquee, Anastasia finds me and shows me the merging of the two rings. I hug her and thank her: the merging of the rings is perfect. The ring takes in a Celtic Triquetral Knot, but the Sapphire is now a heart-shaped stone, with the white Grecian diamonds used to enhance the blue. The extra metal has been melted to a smoothing band inside. I slide the white-gold ring onto my small finger. Anastasia smiles in return as my smile shows my feelings.
“As requested,” Anastasia tells me. I smile broadly in acknowledgement and happiness.
“Perfectly,” I answer, pleased with today’s effort so far.
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