Chapter Twenty Three: The Prodigal Returns
Roger Carter's wings flapped behind him angrily, and his eyes were black with fury. He smashed a fist down the wooden tabletop and it groaned dangerously.
"Sister, you have got to be sensible, you foolish girl." He hissed, his eyes burning into his sister's. "Alexander is important. He is the only one who could get us back in Heaven, and if only he would give up Anastasia…"
Josie rolled her eyes and her pearly pink wings moved in frustration.
"Oh yes, yes, yes. Your favorite topics. Ana and Heaven. Who in the world CARES about going back to Heaven? What's wrong with the Mortal World, Roger?"
"No, you will listen to me for once, Roger." She moved toward him and grabbed his shoulders. He flinched back angrily.
"Keep your hands-"
"Damn you, Roger Carter." She hissed, her hands, an iron grip on his shoulder. "You don't care for Anastasia, and you sure as hell don't care about Alexander. Why would you want to find him now, huh? I will answer for you: He is your KEY back to God's side. But don't you remember, my dear brother?" She squeezed his shoulders painfully. "You were once in love with Anastasia, and if you think I don't know that the flame you have for her had not died down, then you are the stupid one. You tore her away from Archangel Luke before he could even have a chance for her to love him as he did her. And then Alexander came along, and SHE fell in love with HIM, before YOU could have a chance for her to love you back. Gosh," She taunted. "All this drama makes me dizzy."
Roger growled, his face pale with rage. He leaped toward his sister, who floated up and was behind him, laughing.
"You wanted Alexander back because you don't want him to have a chance to get back with her, Roger." She said in a sweet voice. "You loved Anastasia, and I know you hated Alexander for loving her too. But most of all, you hate HER for falling in love with someone else. What can I say, brother? You wanted to possess her, not love her. How could she love a violent man like you?"
"Enough!" He shouted, his angelic face twisted in pain and rage. "Just… just don't kill me anymore, Josie. I can't… I don't want to do this with you anymore. Please, I am begging you." His eyes were shadowed with torture. "Find Alexander. And… and Anastasia too if you want. Just, please, go away."
Josie studied him, then heaved a sigh. She touched his shoulder.
He slapped her hand away and looked up at her.
"No. Get out of here. Do whatever you want. Leave me the hell alone."
Josie drew a deep breath.
And then she was out of the room, the door shutting behind her.
Alexander raised his head from his knees when Josie put a hand on his shoulder.
"You heard everything." She whispered.
It wasn't a question.
He nodded. "Yes. I heard everything."
"You didn't know?"
He knew what she was talking about instantly. He pressed his forehead to his kneecaps.
"No. I didn't know. I thought… I thought he hated her. When we were in Heaven, he never spoke a word to her. He couldn't stand being in the same room with her. If I had known… I would have taken Anastasia away."
Josie slid down to sit beside him.
"He never hated her. He just hated her for loving you. It's you he really hated most. You have to know that my brother never really loved anyone as much as he loved Ana. It killed him to know that she chose you over him before he could even have a chance." She laid her head upon his shoulder. "It's not your fault."
"It's too late now, anyway." He sighed, speaking to the darkness. "She left me."
"She is confused." She nuzzled her cheek against his arm. "She believed in what she thought, not what you feel, Alex."
"Oh God, you don't understand, Josie." He sprang up and pressed himself against the opposite wall, his face twisted in frustration. "It didn't matter what she believed in. I thought… I thought I had a chance with her. I was about to explain everything after the Memory Dream, but then, someone whisked her away from the Angels' Gathering in 1600. Luke couldn't tell me who took her, and I woke up with her too soon… It's my fault. God, it's really my fault."
Josie approached him slowly. She slid her hand down his arm to his hand.
"I care about Ana more than anyone, except you." She whispered. "And I have heard her thoughts. She is so confused. But then, her thoughts were always about Louis Vincenti and you. You are her dream, but Vincenti is her reality, Alex. You were damned to love her for the past three centuries... Maybe… just maybe, Alex, the Archangels are lifting up your punishment by giving her the choice of loving someone else?"
He dragged a hand over his face, and grabbed Josie's hand, pushing it gently away.
"No matter how many centuries I am punished, I will always choose her, over anyone."
"But it's not the same case for her, Alex. She had choices. The Archangels loved her enough to give her choices."
"Then I will make sure the guy she chooses is fit for her. That is what the Order says. It's the least I can do for her, God forbid." He drew a deep breath. "But God knows I would rather go on being punished by the Archangels for a hundred centuries… than to watch her fall for someone else. Damn it."
Josie took his hand again and raised it to her lips, pressing her lips on the back of it.
"Alex, I am here for you. I will always be here for you. We will protect each other, as you have protected me when we were in Heaven. I know…" She traced her finger across his palm. "I know that you don't think well of me, but you are the brother I could never have. And… and we are family, Alex. I would do anything for Anastasia to return to us, but without you, Alex, I can't bear it. I need my sister and my brother by my side, together. No more, and no less."
He stared down at her, then slowly slid his palm away down from her clutch. He cupped the back of her neck, and bent her head down. He pressed his lips briefly, even coldly, on her forehead. Then he stood up, and left her without a word.
He walked back towards his room, and fell flat on his back on the bed. He closed his eyes, and imagined what it would feel like to stay in the cool darkness forever…
When will the pain end?
A knock on his door made his eyes sprang open. He sat straight up in bed, the muscles on his whole body tensed up, his wings ready to spring out. Even in this Mansion, anything could happen. Anything... Especially when he didn't want to talk to anybody.
"Who is it?"
"It's me. Holland. May I come in, Alexander?" Master Holland's soft voice stung his heart.
He closed his eyes, and drew a deep, calming breath. He needed more air. More air from this stuffy room. This damn PRISON.
"Alex? I came with dinner. Josie told me you aren't feeling well. I just wanted to make sure you have something to eat, then I will go."
In a whirl he was at the door, flinging it open, his wings burst free behind his back. He tore the tray of food from a very surprised Master Holland's hands and shoved him back.
"Okay. I got the food. Now you can go. Get out of here."
Master Holland held up both hands.
"Look, Alex, you don't have to be in so much unnecessary pain." He whispered, holding Alex's eyes. "This obsession with her, it's unhealthy, and it's killing you from the inside out. We saw it. Everyone saw it. You can't do this to yourself."
Alex glared at him, and then his lips curled into a cold smile.
"And who do you think you are, Master Holland, to tell me that?" He smirked. "When you were head-over-heels in love with a woman who left you centuries ago?"
Holland's eyes darkened for a second, then they cleared and he crossed his arms over his chest.
"That is such a low blow, Alex."
"Is it?" Alexander pressed himself against the wall and laughed. "So you are still in love with Nicole Rochester. You loved her, but she left you, boohoo, end of story. If you think, Holland, that I don't know how much in pain you are when you saw her with another guy, you underestimated me."
"We are not here to discuss MY feelings, Alexander Giovanni." Master Holland was in front of Alex in a flash, his hand seized around Alex's throat. "Do not try to liken Nicole Rochester with Anastasia O'Johnson."
Alex shrugged. "Fine. Then what do you want, Holland? Me to forget Ana and act as if everything is fine? So that YOU and your precious little Roger Carter could return to Heaven and wear golden crowns again? Very tempting, isn't it?"
"When you fell, Alexander Giovanni, we fell with you." Holland said sharply. "Because we care about you. And we care about your feelings for an Archangel. But there is always a limit. If you don't stop killing yourself over a woman you must give away, then you will fall even lower. And I will always put you before anyone, Alex. Even before Anastasia."
Alexander's eyes widened, then the next second he had Holland flat on his back. Alex's eyes turned black.
"If you even dare touch Anastasia, Holland, I swear to God…"
He whirled around, and came face to face with… A poker-faced James Armstrong.