“I know it’s not. It just… is.”
She picked her head up, narrowed her eyes on him, then leaned forward, shocking him when her lips met his.
It was everything. So much more than the liquid quality of their dreams, Ava’s lips were heat and life. His mouth opened to her tongue as she forced her way inside. Tasting him. Drawing back to bite the edge of his lip as he groaned in pleasure. He buried his hands in her hair, pressing her closer. Their teeth clashed. She drew back, only to have him pull her forward again.
He could live on the taste of her tongue in his mouth. The reality of her. The bitter edge of coffee and the salt of tears. And the taste of her. Her. It was no dream. She was real beneath his hands. Her flesh gave, and the sharp crescents of her fingernails dug into his shoulders.
Malachi heard murmuring around them, but he ignored it.
Ava finally pulled back, her lips swollen and red. Her eyes wide. “It’s really you.”
“Would you like to test some more?”
She blinked. “Maybe not while we’re being watched.”
For the first time, Malachi broke into a smile. The relief coursed through him. Ava smiled tentatively, lifting a hand to touch the lips she’d just kissed.
He closed his eyes at the tender touch and whispered, “Hello, Ava.”
“I thinkI’m going to hold off on flying to London for a while.”
He frowned, looking down at her as they sat on the couch and drank coffee with Max and Renata, Sari, Damien, Rhys and Leo. Half of them were sitting on the floor, allowing Ava to stretch out at Malachi’s side. She had her arm around his waist and he had his around her shoulders. They spoke quietly to each other as the others made small talk and pretended not to watch them.
“You were going to London?”
“I was not in a good place a few days ago.”
He frowned. “That dream. I tried so hard to ask you where you were that I frightened you.”
“It didn’t make sense to me. I still thought they were only dreams. How could a dream feel so real? I guess my mind rebelled against it.”
“It still doesn’t feel real, does it?”
She shook her head and turned her face into his shoulder. “No.”
“It’s real. I’m really here.”
“I don’t care. If I’ve finally lost it and this is all a hallucination in the loony bin, I’m just going to go with it.”
“Maybe we both died,” he whispered. “Maybe this is heaven.”
Rhys leaned over and slapped the back of Malachi’s head so hard his teeth rattled. “That feel heavenly, brother?”
Ava fought back a smile and drew her legs up and over his so she was almost sitting in his lap. “Don’t damage my mate, Rhys.” There was the first spark of playfulness in her eyes. “I just got him back.”
Rhys smiled at her, a smile so full of love and relief that Malachi was almost jealous. Almost, but not. It was his lap that Ava sat in. Her skin against his. He could feel the calm energy between them. It would occasionally heat when he flashed to a memory of their dreams, and he wondered when he would be able to have her alone. He needed her. Almost desperately. But hers was the greater shock, and he was wary.
“You’re waiting for me to start crying again, aren’t you?”
He cautiously said, “There was a lot of crying.”
He pressed his cheek to the top of her head. “It was understandable. It was very difficult for me to listen to them try to tell you. We thought it would be best if I didn’t just…”
“Walk up and say, ‘Hey, how’s it going? By the way, I’m not dead’?”
“Your reaction might have been somewhat violent.”
“I don’t think you’re wrong.” She let out a sigh and he felt more of the tension leave her shoulders. “Rhys?”
Malachi and Rhys exchanged glances. It was the hardest question to answer, past the mystery of how Ava had managed to call him down from heaven.
“I don’t know, darling,” Rhys said. “We didn’t plan much past this moment. He was a bit of a mess in Turkey.”
“I was fine.” Malachi bristled.
“You didn’t even remember your name,” Leo said from the other side of Ava. “You’ve years to go before your talesm are back to normal, and—”
“What?” Ava’s head shot up and clipped the bottom of his chin. “What’s wrong with his talesm?”
Would it change how she saw him? Malachi had never felt the loss of his powers more keenly. Was it possible she would no longer find him a worthy mate? He glared at Leo, who did not get the message.
“They disappeared. It was like the day he was born,” Leo told her blithely. “Well, not completely, of course. But not a single spell remained. All his scars are gone, too.”
“What?” He could feel Ava tense in his arms.
“Leo,” Rhys started. “Perhaps you should let Malachi—”
“He used to have this great nasty gash across his ribs—I’m sure you noticed it, Ava—and it’s completely gone. Of course, it’s possible that when his memory comes back—”
The whole room fell silent.