Chapter Nineteen

Cc warred with herself. She wanted to climb through the window, rush down the path to the sea and hurl herself into its wet comfort. She missed Dylan, and, of course, she worried for him, too. She knew he waited for her, just as surely as she knew Sarpedon hunted for a way to possess her.

Her skin crawled at the memory of his glowing eyes and the touch of his hand on her skin. Gaea had told her not to be afraid of the merman's spirit, but Andras's use of the word we had frightened her. He had said we know that you are not pure. Did that mean Sarpedon knew she loved Dylan? Or was he talking about an imagined affair with An-dras? If Sarpedon had access to Andras's mind when he possessed the knight, he would know that Andras and Undine were not lovers, which gave the we an ominous meaning. He probably knew about Dylan. Wouldn't she just endanger Dylan if she went to him again?

And then, of course, she had to worry about the abbot. Before the incident in the courtyard, he already believed Undine was a Viking witch. The events of the day had done nothing but support his belief, and that definitely made CC uneasy.

Tossing fretfully in her narrow bed she wanted desper-ately to call to Gaea, but she knew she couldn't. Gaea would be busy with Lir, and CC couldn't interrupt her just to ask her a string of self-serving questions. CC sighed. She needed Dylan. She ached to have the comfort of his arms wash away the poison of Sarpedon's lust, and the pain of being separated from the sea, but tonight the answer had to be that she stay safely in her room and try to sleep. She closed her eyes. She'd dreamed of Dylan once before, maybe tonight she would again…

"Dylan swam restlessly back and forth along the shore. He could feel Christine's need as clearly as he had felt her fear earlier that night—a fear that had to have been caused by Sarpedon. The merman must have found her in the monastery and discovered some way to accost her. Dylan's jaw clenched. He could feel it when she used the power of the goddess to thwart Sarpedon's attack. If only he could be there beside her!

A school of giant angelfish fled from his path as his rage caused the surrounding waters to froth and boil. He felt another surge of frustration as Christine struggled alone on land against her need.

"By Lir's trident, there must be something I can do!" Dylan raged.

"To begin with, you could change your curses. Evoking the power of Lir will not aid you at all if what you desire is on land." Gaea's lilting voice was a song as it carried clearly over the waves.

"Gaea!" Dylan exclaimed.

With powerful strokes, he propelled himself to the shoreline. The goddess was sitting on an old piece of driftwood, dangling her feet in the surf. She was clothed in a dress the color of night, but it shimmered with the reflection of the water as if it was made of liquid velvet.

"Your daughter needs me, Great Mother," Dylan said respectfully. His chest heaved as he tried to catch his breath.

The goddess's gaze was sharp. "Are you saying that you feel her need, merman?"

Dylan's fist closed over his heart. "As if it were my own."

Gaea's eyes warmed. "Yes, I can see that. You and Christine are linked. Your souls have found their match. It is a rare and wondrous thing, but it is a double-edged sword. Her pain is yours, as yours is hers."

"I would have it no other way."

"What is it you wish of me, Dylan?" she asked so softly that the merman had to strain to hear her.

"Grant me human form!" he said in a rush of words. "Allow me to go to her and comfort her."

Gaea tapped one slender finger against the driftwood as she considered the merman's request.

"My father was of the land. That must bind me to you in some way," Dylan beseeched. "I ask only for a temporary form. Allow me the remainder of this one brief night as a human man."

"It is true that you have a tie to the Earth. But this bond is mortal, as was your father. If I gift you with the form of a human, it will strengthen the part of you that is mortal. The cost could be high, Dylan. You may age. You certainly will become more vulnerable to injury, especially if you are wounded by an immortal." Gaea's beautiful voice was sad.

"Christine needs me."

The goddess sought and held the merman's steady gaze. She read clearly there his love for Christine. And she could feel Christine's soul, too, as it yearned for the respite only her lover's arms could provide.

"I am ever weak when faced with true love." Gaea spoke more to herself than to Dylan, but her words made his face blaze with joy. The goddess held up her hand in a gesture of restraint. "Listen well, Dylan. The spell will last only a short length of time. You must return to the waters before the light of the new day touches the land. If you do not,"—she added power to her words which raised the hair on the nape of Dylan's neck—"you will be trapped. You will belong to neither realm—the land or the sea. You will perish, and your soul will roam without rest for eternity."

The merman nodded gravely. "I will not forget, Great Goddess."

"See that you do not. My daughter would be most displeased."

Dylan smiled. "As would I."

Gaea tried unsuccessfully to keep her lips from turning up. "I am beginning to understand why my daughter chose you, merman."

"She simply showed the discerning wisdom of her Great Mother." Dylan bowed gallantly.

The goddess's laughter glittered around her as she motioned for the merman to swim closer so that she could begin casting her spell.

Cc decided the night was never going to end. Her body ached and her mind wouldn't shut up.

"Wine," she said to the silent room as she lit the candle next to her bed. "That monk outside my room has to be good for something. I'll just act all regal and send him off to get me some wine." She spoke to the sputtering wick. "A couple cups of that thick red stuff I had the other night should do the trick."

Isabel had left her a fresh woolen robe, and CC wrapped it around her like a cloak. Satisfied the transparent chemise was well covered she walked quickly to the door, wincing at the cold of the stone floor against her bare feet. Mentally she made a note to stoke the fire to take the chill from the room.

She opened the door slowly, not wanting to startle the Brother. He was sitting with his back resting against the wall beside her door. His cowl was pulled up, and she couldn't see his face.

CC cleared her throat.

The monk didn't move.

"Urn, excuse me, Brother," she said.

"He sleeps." The deep voice came from the shadows. The sound of it made her heart leap in response.

"Who's there?" CC asked.

"Do you need to ask, my love?" Dylan said as he stepped toward her.

"Oh!" CC pressed her hand against her mouth, sure that she was hallucinating, or that Sarpedon was playing a horrible trick on her.

Dylan touched her face. "Am I so very different, Christine?"

Her eyes darted from the strong lines of his familiar face down his body. He was wearing a monk's robe, but peeking from beneath it were two very human, very bare feet.

"I… you… but how?" Had she dreamed him?

"Let us call it a gift from a goddess."

His smile convinced her. He couldn't be a trick. Sarpedon wasn't capable of using such joy as a masquerade. She grabbed his hand and pulled him into her room, closing the door carefully behind them.

"The monk will not awaken. Gaea has seen to that." Dylan's eyes were sparkling. Then he looked around with open curiosity. 'This is where you spend your days?"

"Well, not exactly," she said, surprised at her sudden nervousness. "I mean, I change my clothes here, and I sleep here, but I spend most of my day out there." She jerked her thumb in the direction of the door and ordered her mouth to quit babbling.

"It is…" Dylan hesitated. "… very gray," he finally concluded. Then he nodded at the narrow bed. "And that is where you rest your body at night?"

"In theory," CC sighed. "I don't seem to be having much success with resting lately."

Dylan turned to her and took her face in his hands. He noticed the dark circles under her eyes and the sallow tinge of her skin. He kissed her forehead and then gently kissed her lips. Her eyes fluttered shut.

"I have come to help you rest," he said.

Keeping her eyes closed, she leaned into him. "Now that you're here, I'm not tired at all."

She could feel the chuckle rumble through his chest.

'Then perhaps you would be willing to teach me something of this human body. It is an odd thing to have legs."

His kiss cut off her laughter. When they broke apart Dylan's eyes had darkened with desire. CC took his hand and led him to her bed. First, she dropped the robe from around her shoulders. Then she let the chemise fall from her body. She tugged on his robe, and he bent so that she could pull the rough woolen fabric over his head.

"Look at you," she said breathlessly. He was tall and had the build of an athlete. "Thank you, Gaea."

Dylan smiled. "I make an adequate man?"

CC raised one eyebrow as her gaze flicked down to the flesh that already stood erect between his long, muscular legs.

Her face warmed as her cheeks flushed pink. "Oh, yes. You make more than an adequate man."

Dylan pulled her into his arms. "Teach me how to love you as a human man loves a woman."

CC looked up at him and felt the restless pain within her loosen its stranglehold. "It's the same, my love. In any form you and I were made to fit perfectly together."

They sank down onto the bed, lost in one another.

Dylan knew that he hadn't banished the ache within her, but he had soothed it and made it bearable. She had needed him, and he had responded. No price was too great to pay to be with her. They would belong to each other for an eternity.

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