TouchStone for ever (The Story of Us Trilogy) (9 page)

BOOK: TouchStone for ever (The Story of Us Trilogy)
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9

I
feel
familiar fingers, a masculine palm and a thumb encasing my hand as it rests
across Ayden’s chest. My first thought is to pull away. But I reconsider and
relax my hand, allowing the stranger in my bed to caress it and savour the
sensation of my body melded to his.

And so our
adventure
begins …

 

When I feel able to
face the day, I open my eyes slowly, with some trepidation, unsure of what I’ll
see. I retrieve my hand and roll onto my back, preparing to slither out of bed.

“Good morning, Beth.”

Hearing Ayden’s
voice, causes me to flinch a little, knowing the words are not his own.

He rolls over and
props his head on his right palm, looking every bit the man I adore; eyes
alight with morning glory.

“Morning, Ayden. Did
you sleep well?” I sense my cue and manufacture a smile.

“Yes, I did. You kept
me warm.” He smiles cheekily and, unprepared for an early morning assault upon
my senses, I reach out and cup his face in my right hand.

“You kept me warm
too. We have a busy day ahead, so I’ll leave you to shower while I rustle up
some breakfast.” I edge away to my right.

He takes my right
hand and returns it to his face, closes his eyes and draws it across his mouth
sensually. My heart is beginning to flutter. This is something Ayden would do …

When he opens his
eyes, I see a familiar colour; deep, dark sapphire.

Oh shit!

“What do you have
planned for us, darling?”

Darling? Ayden,
doesn’t call me darling…

“Erm … I thought you
should go and see your parents: Sylvia and Patrick. They’ll be worried about
you.”

He raises an
inquisitive brow. “Is that necessary?”

I nod. “Yes. They’re
your family. You should reassure them you’re all right after your accident.
Elise was
killed
, you know!”

He glares at me with
wide eyes. “I am perfectly aware of that.”

“Then … you should
know how worried they’ll be.”

“That really isn’t
necessary. They were at the hospital when I … when your husband awoke. We
exchanged embraces and I had Lester drive them back to Hove.”

“Oh! I didn’t know
that.”

“And now you do.” He
manufactures a ‘gotcha’ smile. “That being the case, I assume a family outing
is unnecessary?”

I’m shaking my head.
“You make it sound like a chore. If you want to ... fit in, you should try to
be more human.”

He pushes an erect
penis into my hip. “I am.”

I swallow deeply,
unable to suppress the kind of visceral response that has me blushing. “Tell
me. Do you know what it’s like to have a family and to be loved,
unconditionally?”

He looks to the side
to consider his answer; turns back and pins me to the pillow with an intense
stare. “Not as such.”

“And yet you said you
wanted to be loved … by me? Love takes many forms, you know, and physical love
isn’t the be all and end all. For all your universal greatness, I would have
thought you’d know that.”

His mouth twitches.
“Who better than you to teach me?”

“Ask me about
punctuation and poetry and I’m your girl. Ask me about love and I … I only know
what Ayden has taught me. Consider the irony in that!”

“I am. It’s poetic in
a paradoxical kind of way.”

“It’s crazy! In a
fucked up kind of way.”

He chuckles and
shakes his head. “And that is precisely why you are perfect for the job. You
recognise the significance of the moment but aren’t overwhelmed by it.”

“You think!” I
guffaw. “You must have done this before? Taken a body and claimed it?”

He’s nodding.

“When was the last
time?”

“Over 30 years ago.”

What!

“Thirty years ago!
Bloody hell! No wonder you have a hard-on!”

He falls backwards onto
the bed in a fit of laughter. I can’t help but laugh too.

I step from the bed.
“This is too crazy to even contemplate. I’m going to make tea.”

“Beth!” he calls,
making me turn to face him, his eyes still full of laughter. “Thank you.”

“For what?”

“For reassuring me I
had not misjudged you.”

“You didn’t.” I leave
the room, a little relieved but under no illusions; six months is going to be a
long time.

 

By 11.30 a.m. we are
stepping from the Rolls. Lester seems eager to speak to Ayden about something
but he seems oblivious to the clues.

“I’ll leave you two
to chat for a couple of minutes.”

Ayden gives me a
strange look.

“Thank you, Mrs.
Stone,” Lester replies, with a half-smile.

I turn to my right
and walk a couple of feet away to check my phone for texts off Charlie. I read
it and listen in, catching the occasional word.

“The Inspector …
funeral … the press … Mr. Harrison …”

I read Charlie’s
text:

 

I rang the hospital!
They said Ayden had discharged you! Are you really OK? So he woke up? He’s a
resilient bastard, I’ll give him that! As long as you’re OK & resting up.
I’ll call round later and make a house call. Love ya. C x

 

I reply with a
reassuring text, wondering what the hell she will make of my appearance minus
scratches and bruises. I’ve never looked so good! I’ll put it down to modern
medicine, knowing full well it won’t satisfy her curiosity.

Ayden returns to my
side. “So what was all that about?”

“Apparently our D.I.
Bowker has been sniffing around and has taken it upon himself to investigate my
private life.”

“Is that bad?”

“Not necessarily, but
he may unearth a few things that are better left unseen.”

I nod in agreement.”
You mean about Bright Hill and the incident with Elise?”

“I believe so. But I
won’t let it get out of hand.” He’s smiling and taking my arm. “Shall we?”

“What do you mean,
‘you won’t let it get out of hand,’ What can
you
do?”

He shrugs his
shoulders nonchalantly. “Why anything, Beth.”

I stand perfectly
still, unable to move. “What do you mean ‘anything’?”

He lifts my hand,
kisses it and takes a step forward. “You’ll see.”

 

We’re standing on the
north bank of The Thames, looking up at The Tower of London. The Tower is a
complex of several buildings dating as far back as 1066, set within two
concentric rings of defensive walls and a moat; once a palace, but better known
as a prison with a dismal reputation.

The Beefeater clad in
black and red begins our tour, using voice and gestures to recount the troubled
history of the Tower. Every so often Ayden turns to me to offer a correction,
which begins,

“That’s not how it
happened. She did not resist or, in the case of Anne Boleyn, she was very
beautiful.”

The Crown Jewels
glisten in glass cases, every crown and sceptre a relic of past monarchies -
most of who failed to keep their heads.

I’m not sure who is
more entertaining, the tour guide or my escort who appears to have first-hand
accounts of every historical event. I test his knowledge further. “So tell me
about Elizabeth I. She was mentioned a lot.”

He shrugs his
shoulders, the way someone does when faced with tedium. “What would you like to
know?”

“What was she like?”

“The Virgin Queen was
born 7th September 1533 and died 4th March 1603.  She was the daughter of Henry
VIII and the fifth and last monarch of the Tudor dynasty…”

“ ... I can Google
that.” I’m folding my arms, looking impatient. “Tell me about the woman. Did
you meet her? How did she die?”

“She had a
melancholic disposition that resulted from being abused as a child ...”

I’m taken aback. “How
do you know that?”

“Because I know
everything,” he replies, assuredly.

“Do you know who
abused her?”

“Of course.”

“Was he ever
punished?” I enquire further.

“I would say
they
were.”

Now he has my
attention. “They?”

“Yes. Catherine and
Thomas Seymour came to rather unpleasant ends, as I recall.”

“What happened?”

“She died in
childbirth, and he was beheaded,” he states, glancing at his watch, wearied by
my questions.

I offer a smile.
“Well, I didn’t know that.”

“I’m sure it’s well
documented.” He takes my hand. “Shall we find a less depressing location?”

I pick up the pace to
match his stride, then stop abruptly. “Where? Where can I take you in this
historical city that you don’t already know more about than the tour guide?”

He takes a moment to
consider. “That’s a very good question.”

“And …”

“I really can’t say.
I have visited every part of the globe at some time or another.” He looks
positively dejected.

I’m wracking my
brain. “I know somewhere you haven’t been. Come with me.”

A smile forms slowly.
“Lead on, Macduff …”

The Macbeth quote has
me rolling my eyes.

 

Our taxi takes
fifteen minutes to make the two mile journey across the city to Covent Garden.
It’s bustling with activity; there’s nothing unusual about that, but what I
want him to experience is the street performers. Directly in front of us is a
man wearing no more than purple shorts; he’s juggling and telling jokes at the
same time. People are laughing.

“Have you been here
before?” I ask.

He nods slowly.

“But I bet you
weren’t laughing then.”

He smiles and shakes
his head. “No. I wasn’t laughing. As I recall, it was a red-light district in
1800’s, and didn’t regain some of its dignity until the beginning of twentieth
century.” He looks around. “There are people here from around the world.”

“Yes, it’s a tourist
attraction now. Let’s walk around.” I take his hand and lead him through the
jostling crowd. I sense female heads turning and wonder if he can read their
thoughts. I stretch up to speak into his ear. “You’re getting a lot of
attention from the ladies,” I point out.

“You’re getting a lot
of attention from the men,” he states.

 I screw up my face
into a grimace. “I think you’re imagining things.”

I lead him towards
the red canopy advertising Balthazar Boulangerie and keep walking past the row
of motorbikes to the restaurant next door. This is an all-day brasserie I have
visited before with Charlie. It has a cosy atmosphere that I think he’ll like.
“Let’s go eat something.”

He follows me inside
and we are quickly seated by the waiter at a small table slotted into a row,
partially concealed behind a glass divider. It’s a little noisy, but if we
concentrate we’ll be able to hear each other speak.

“What do you think?”
I ask, watching him scanning the room.

“It’s tastefully
decorated but much too noisy. I can barely hear …”

I wrinkle my nose,
not catching the last part of his sentence. “Pardon?”

Seeming perturbed by
the rowdiness, he beckons me over. “I think we need a little quiet, don’t you?”
He raises his left hand a clicks his fingers. Instantly the deafening chatter
becomes a distant hum. He unfolds his napkin and lays it across his lap as if
he’s done nothing at all.

I simply stare and
look around the room; I’m watching a movie with the sound turned down. People
are laughing and waving their hands about, but there is no sound.

“Another one of your
party tricks?” I enquire, opening the menu. “You should join the street
performers out there. You’d make a fortune.”

“I prefer to keep my
tricks to ourselves, Beth.” He looks down checking the list of hors d’oeuvres
but I can see a smirk forming. “After all, we don’t want to draw a crowd, do
we?”

“No we don’t.” I look
up. “You’ll have to try to fit in or people will notice the change. I’ll be
able to help, but I can only do so much.”

His eyes meet mine.
“I’m aware of that. But I’ll be able to modify my behaviour when necessary.”

“How?”

“By reading their
thoughts and acting accordingly.”

“Oh yes. There’s
always that.” I sigh resignedly.

“Does that bother
you?”

“What? The fact I
have no privacy around you? That I’m having to edit what I’m thinking, knowing
you’re listening in? No, that doesn’t bother me.”

An eyebrow lifts
disparagingly. “Do I detect sarcasm?”

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