Today we continue Awakenings! Enjoy Part 4.
“You haven’t seen your sister’s ghost?”
“No. Part of me wishes I would.” For a moment the world seemed to still around them. The breeze stopped, and the trees no longer spoke with rustlings and whispers. “Tell me about yourself, Miss Jones. Your grandfather seems very protective of you.”
His request surprised her; no one ever wanted to know her background. She turned the big hat around in her hands. “My grandparents took over my guardianship when I was six after my parents were killed in a carriage accident. They tried to curb my abilities, but realized they couldn’t. Instead they saw it as a good way to make money. And so did I.”
His mouth dropped open and his brow wrinkled a little. “I wouldn’t expect you to admit that.”
“I only do because I’m honest. I am a real medium, Cullen. I don’t need the money; my parents were well off and so are my grandparents. But that doesn’t stop my grandparents from wanting to put away more money for me. They think I’m on the way to spinsterhood and believe the money will keep me well in my old age.”
He chuckled softly. “I’m sure you’ll find a husband soon enough, Miss Jones. But I can understand them wanting you well provided for.”
She sighed. “They mean well. But I also told them that after today I’m no longer taking clients for pay. I don’t need the money, and I don’t want to be on display any longer.”
He took a step nearer, his gaze so intent and serious she almost held her breath.
“There must be disadvantages to being as famous as you are,” he said.
She wandered a step or two away, looking back at the asylum with its dark visage and painful history. “Oh, yes. Many disadvantages. Yet I have so much to be thankful for. That’s what I concentrate on if I can. I have other plans for my future.”
She paused. “Women’s suffrage.”
He nodded, expression approving. “A noble cause in my estimation.”
She smiled. “You surprise me. Most men throw scorn my way and want nothing to do with me after hearing my conviction. My grandparents say that’s why I’ll never marry.”
“I’m not most men, Miss Jones.”
“I can see that. Please call me Edie.”
His eyes turned warm with interest, and that steady glow inside her ignited into a full appreciation for him. She liked him more than any man she could recall. An image flashed through her mind of his sister, and she turned her gaze back to the asylum.
“Is my sister here?” he asked.
She drew in one deep breath and relaxed. “She was, perhaps. But not now. She ran away with the young man because she believed he could take her away from all the pain she’d suffered during her life. The repression. The anger. She ran to escape.”
“I suspected that. I tried to tell my parents she didn’t deserve what happened to her.”
She touched him on the shoulder, wanting his strength under her fingers. “You did everything you could. You aren’t to blame for her death.”
His gaze met hers and the grief felt like a live thing; for a moment she couldn’t shield herself from his pain, and she didn’t wish to.
“My parents blamed everyone including me when they discovered she’d run off with this man from the asylum. My sister and her man didn’t have enough money to pay for first or even second class. They were in third class and so many of the people in third class died.”
“What were they doing in Europe?” she asked.
He rubbed a hand over his face and sighed. “They’d run to Ireland where the rest of his family is. My parents decided having her back in the United States was more important than being angry over her leaving. They sent word to her that they forgave her and wished to meet her betrothed. So my sister and her betrothed booked the passage on the Titanic.”
“Your sister isn’t trapped here, Cullen. She has visited your parents and the people here at the asylum. And she’s visited you. But she isn’t trapped anywhere or at the site where Titanic sank.”
He wandered toward a big rock on the edge of the cemetery and sat on it, his hands on his thighs as he stared at her.
“She’s visited you when … while you’ve been grieving. She worries because you blame yourself far too much.” She walked toward him, drawn to his presence and the hurt she felt still burned within him. “Have you smelled her rose water around you on occasion?”
His head snapped up, his expression surprised. “Yes.”
“That’s when she’s visited you.” She waited for any sign that Elaine might still be here. “But she never lingers. Grieve for her as much as you need, but don’t blame yourself for what happened to her. She’s at peace and only visits you to bring peace.”
Moisture brightened his eyes, and he let out a ragged sigh. “It isn’t fair how she died. Why didn’t she get to a lifeboat? What happened to her?”
“I’ll see if she’ll come to me and explain.” Edie closed her eyes and drew in two deep, slow breaths. She waited until one picture arose in her mind. “Elaine was with her betrothed. They were …” Nausea touched her stomach as another scene flickered into her mind. “They tried to get out of the third class area but there’s a gate across an entrance. They can’t get out.”
“God.” His whisper was broken and sad.
She opened her eyes and took in his sad expression. “I can’t see anything else. But perhaps we don’t want to. It may hurt too much to think of it.”
He nodded. “She was cheated of life. The life she deserved.” His fists clenched, and his face transferred to anger. “Damn it.”
She drew in another deep breath to maintain some mental distance from his pain. Yet it didn’t work. She felt his pain and anger.
“There’s nothing you can do.” She knew her words were little comfort, but she said them anyway. “She isn’t suffering any more. She’s at peace and with her betrothed. They’re happy.”
Conner nodded. He smelled of man and leather, and she wanted desperately to touch him again.
“Thank you. I feel much better knowing,” he said.
“Good. She’s your guardian now. She’ll be there when you need her.”
Tight grief eased from his eyes and mouth. He touched the side of her face, the gesture startling and yet wonderful. “You’re a beautiful soul, Edie. Thank you for helping me.”
“Of course.” A little breathless, she absorbed the heavy attraction overwhelming her. She liked his touch and wanted more of it.
He must have sensed what she wished, and he leaned in to meet her halfway.
Next week is Part 5!