Chapter Twenty Six: Stranger than Dreams
The Hooded Stranger was waiting for her in the gazebo outside the Mansion where the Angels' Gathering was going on. Ana picked up the hem of the white dress and ran towards him. He turned, and underneath the hood, Ana knew that he was smiling.
"How-I can't be in this dream. Not without Alexander. Only he can bring me into Memory Dreams. I-"
"Shh…" He was looking down at her when she blinked once. He raised a gloved hand, and caressed her heated cheeks. "Don't be scared. You will feel comfortable with me, Ana. You can't believe everything Alexander says, you know. Yes, he could bring you to Memory Dreams, but it is me who brought you into this Memory this time. However, you…" He ran his thumb down her cheek. "You can also come to Memory Dreams on your own. In fact, you can come and go whenever you feel like it."
She gazed up at the darkness beneath the hood, and felt warmth surging through her body. He wasn't human, so what could he be?
"Are you an Angel?" She asked, almost like a kid.
He laughed. A silvery, nice sort of laugh that made her blush nevertheless. She lowered her eyes, then a finger tilted her face up.
"Please don't hide your face. It is a very beautiful face, and I would really want to see it always." He brushed his thumb across her lips. "God, what did he do all those centuries ago to make you fall in love with him, Anastasia?"
"I don't know." She replied truthfully. "Hey, don't answer a question with a question, for the love of God."
He cocked his head to the side.
"Hmm… I see why Alex would be so taken with you. You got some fire in you, Ana. And I would do anything to burn that fire even higher…" He traced a finger down her cheek, slid it down her neck, to her shoulder blades. "You are so lovely. Why would you choose him to be your Mate?"
"I am not anyone's Mate, whoever you are." She flinched back from his touch, though it felt so familiar that she didn't really want to back away.
"Well then." He leaned back, and slid his hand down her arm and entwined his fingers with hers. "Let's stop playing word games. You asked me whether I am an Angel. But you know the answer already, don't you?"
"I don't-My God, stop cross-questioning me. I know nothing. I never know anything." She clapped her hands against the sides of her head. "No one will tell me. And… HE always says he's protecting me. I don't need protection. I don't-"
Arms wrapped around her body, and then the Stranger was holding her. Deja Vu ran across her mind.
I know him. I know this… whatever he is. Perhaps not in 1600, but definitely in the 21st century.
She pressed herself against him, feeling his arms tightened around her, his lips murmuring into her ear.
"You don't know how important you are, Ana. Not only to Giovanni, but also to God, and to me." He whispered. "No, I am not an Angel, Ana. But I am not human. I am the worst kind of angel. A... villain angel, who will stop at nothing to get you. A bad angel who will do anything for you, to win everything about you."
"I feel safe with you." She said without thinking.
He stilled, and pushed her back away from him gently.
"You shouldn't, Anastasia." He whispered. "You can't. Because I am here to save you, not destroy you."
She dug her fingers into his heavily cloaked chest, and clenched a fistful of his black robe to tug him closer.
His breath rippled across her face. It smelled like a fresh forest after a sleazy rainfall. She closed her eyes and took a whiff as the smell circled her brain. Hell, his breath was seductive itself. It also made her crave for something. But what?
"I don't care." She whispered. "You are the only one who told me the truth. I thought… I thought I was doing the right thing when I agreed to visit 1600 with Alexander. But now, here with you, it didn't seem likely I could ever do anything right." She pulled him closer till his hood was inches from her face. "Don't disappoint me, whoever you are. Who am I? Who are you?"
The Stranger's gloved hand cupped her cheek, and stroke it with a thumb. Ana's hand moved up to his hood, and he didn't move when she began to slip the heavy black material off. Then - Wings spread out in front of her, and she was thrown away from the hooded man. She cried out, and tumbled backward, falling into strong, warm arms. She gasped, and then she was behind gigantic snow-white wings and blinded by golden light.
"Stay away from her, you son of a bitch." Alexander growled at the Stranger, his arms spread wide, blocking Anastasia in a protective stance.
The other man cocked his head to the side.
"Yes, it's nice to see you too, Giovanni." He chuckled softly. "Hmm… I see why Anastasia is so taken with you. You feel so protective over her that you can't even leave her alone with a man who will never hurt her."
"Alexander, please." Ana leaped to her feet and pleaded in a low voice behind him. He was so beautiful, with his pure white wings and that golden light radiating off him. It made Ana feel so guilty, so ashamed, and so lowly. But that was between her and Alex. Right now, she had to fix this mess between the two men.
She approached Alexander and moved to put a hand on his shoulder. "Please."
He shrugged it off.
"God damn it, Ana, haven't you done enough? The least you can do to repair things is for you to stay behind me and NOT GET KILLED. So shut the hell up, and don't make anything worse."
The words stung her as if a knife was dragged across her heart. She deserved it, she knew. She deserved everything she got, for going after man. For hurting Alexander like this.
She drew a deep breath, and retreated, her eyes stinging horribly. Alexander gazed at her for a moment, then sighed, and turned back to the Stranger.
"I know who you are, you piece of shit." Alexander growled. "Don't play innocent with me. What do you want with her?"
"I was telling her what she needed to know. What she SHOULD know. Really, Giovanni, your foolish jealousy and possessiveness is making everything very complicated."
She saw him shiver, then color rose to his cheeks.
"She isn't prepared to know anything." He hissed. "I am not done preparing her, and everything was going fine in the 1600 dream sequence until YOU showed up and abducted her!"
His opponent laughed.
"Oh, say what you will, Giovanni, but I know the truth. You don't want to tell her the truth because you know very well that if she knows, you will lose her. Well can't you see, Alexander, then I am helping you? I spared you the… pain of telling her what she should know."
"Take her away then, Alex." He cut Alex off. "But I will always find her, and I will do anything for her to know who you really are."
Alex growled, and Ana saw ice slashing across the floor between the two men. The hooded Stranger threw out balls of fire, until the gazebo was hot and cold, and burning and melting at the same time.
"Don't do your little magic tricks, Alex." The hooded man said tauntingly. "She is watching you. Now hurry up and get her out of here. The three of us are done… for now."
"I am not done with you-" Alex began.
"I say we are. Goodbye, sweet Anastasia."
And then she was hurtling backward through a whirl of colors, and she fell… only to be gathered into Alexander's arms again.