"Who gets the rip cord?"
"She does," Marcus said at once and when Divine glanced to him with surprise, he added, "Well, I'm sure not pulling it. I hate heights. We'd be sitting up there forever if it was left to me."
"You don't hate heights," she said on a laugh as the two girls attached their harnesses to the rig for the bungee drop. Divine and Marcus had been on the Zipper, the Yo-Yo, and every other high ride available and both of them had laughed their way through them as everyone else screamed. Divine hadn't known what she was missing never bothering with the rides at the carnival. Honest to God they were incredible; exhilarating, exciting, fun as fun could be. She'd been having a blast all evening, and Marcus had seemed to be too. The two of them had done the Zipper three times, the third time at his insistence. Divine felt like a kid again, or maybe for the first time, since she'd missed out on anything resembling a normal childhood when she'd actually been a child.
"I do hate heights," Marcus assured her, laughing even as he said it. "I mean I know I'd probably survive a fall even from incredible heights, but the healing . . ." He grimaced and shook his head.
"Well, why didn't you say so?" she said with exasperation. "We don't have to—"
Her words ended on a gasp as their legs were suddenly swept out from under them, leaving them dangling in the air Superman-style.
"Okay, I'm going to count to three and then say pull. When I say pull, you pull the rip cord, Divine," Kathy Walters instructed, drawing her attention. "When I say pull, you pull. Got it?"
"Yes, but—" Divine let her words die as they started to rise, pulled back and up by the cord the girls had attached to their connected harnesses. She glanced to Marcus uncertainly. "I could slip into her head and have her bring us down. I can do this alone."
Marcus just smiled and shook his head, reaching out with his left hand to rub her left arm where it was linked with his right arm. "Nah. I'm with you. If you go down, I do too."
"Hold on to your wrists," Kathy yelled from below. "Don't break the hold."
Marcus smiled wryly and returned to clasping his wrists with his hands as Divine was doing before muttering, "Let's just hope we land safely."
"I'm sure we will," Divine said. "They've never had an accident yet since I joined two years ago."
"So what you're saying is, they're due for an accident."
"No," Divine laughed. "I—"
"One!" Kathy shouted from below.
"Oh, are we up all the way already?" Divine asked with surprise, glancing around. Yep, they were up, pretty damned high too.
"Oh, look I can see Vincent at the Tilt-A-Whirl," she said brightly.
"Yeah, he looks like a bug from here. Just how far up are we?"
Rather than answer, Divine released her wrist long enough to pull the cord and then quickly caught her wrist again as they suddenly plummeted downward. Despite his claim that he didn't like heights, Marcus laughed his head off as they dropped, but Divine didn't join him at first. For those first five seconds it felt like they were going to plummet to the earth. It wasn't until their cord pulled tight and they suddenly swung forward, swinging on their stomachs in their harnesses, that she began to smile and then laugh. This was madness, crazy, awesome!
They were allowed three swings that took them out over the midway and then back above the back lot, before Kathy shouted at them to grab a rope she was holding up on a pole.
"Is she kidding?" Marcus asked with disbelief. "We'll pull her right off that stand she's on."
Divine shrugged and—trusting that the girl knew what she was doing—grabbed for the looped rope as they flew past. Marcus caught it first. It didn't jerk them to a halt or drag Kathy off the stand, instead the loop pulled out, showing that it was attached to a chain. It came out more slowly than they would have gone had they not held it and slowed them to a stop after thirty or forty feet, then began to pull them back toward the takeoff pad.
"Well," Marcus said and then grinned at her. "That was fun. Want to do it again?"
Divine laughed at him. "I thought you were afraid of heights?"
"Not afraid. I just don't like them," he corrected. "But I find with you there are a lot of things I didn't used to like or didn't care about that are suddenly interesting and fun."
"Same here," she acknowledged, her voice husky as she thought of some of those things.
Marcus's arm tightened on hers where they were linked at the elbows and he tugged her closer, his face moving in. She knew he was going to kiss her and closed her eyes as her body began to tingle at the very idea and then she blinked them open again in surprise as they suddenly jerked to a halt.
"How was that?" Kathy asked by her ear, and Divine tore her eyes from Marcus's and glanced around to see that Kathy and the greenie working with her had caught and positioned them over the landing pad. Even as she noted that, the back of their harness was released and they both swung to a standing position again.
"It was great," Divine said with a grin as the girls worked to unhook them.
"Want to do it again?" Kathy asked, pausing in unhooking them.
"It's up to you," Marcus said when she glanced his way. "I'm game if you are."
Divine hesitated, but then glanced to the line-up the girls had. "No. Thanks, Kathy, but you have a heck of a line-up there. Besides, I'm kind of hungry."
"Yeah, so am I," Marcus announced as the girls continued unhooking them. "We can always do this again later if you want."
"Come by at closing," Kathy suggested. "Lots of us take turns at it after the carnival closes."
"Sounds good," Marcus said, stepping out of his harness. He then turned to hold Divine's hands as she stepped out of hers and slid his arm around her waist to lead her away. "What do you feel like eating?"
"I'm not sure," Divine said with amusement. "That omelet this morning and last night's casserole are the only things I've eaten in ages."
"Me too," he acknowledged, and then let his hand drop from her waist to catch her fingers and said, "Come on. I have an idea."
She followed, surprised when he led them back to the trailers. He released her hand, then said, "Wait here," and slipped inside.
Divine stared at the trailer for a moment before it suddenly occurred to her that this was her chance. She was alone. She could slip away and make her escape now, go somewhere and start her new life . . . alone. Again.
She let that thought settle in her head and didn't have to wonder why that wasn't at all appealing. She'd been having fun with Marcus. They hadn't talked much or had long, deep conversations, mostly they'd run from ride to ride, laughing like children and basically just having fun. They had cracked the occasional joke, or commented on things they saw. A mother shrieking at a weeping child for dropping his ice cream had angered them both. Children dropped things, accidents happened. The child was already upset by it and the mother standing there yelling at the little boy that he was stupid and clumsy and useless hadn't impressed either of them. Marcus slipping into the mother's head and giving her an attitude adjustment had made Divine smile. She knew it wouldn't last long, but the boy's smile as the mother had suddenly hugged him and told him she loved him, that accidents happened and he was a good boy and she would buy him a new ice cream . . . well, at least he'd have one good night at the carnival to remember when he grew up.
They'd both grinned when they'd spotted a couple of plump teenagers making out on the Ferris wheel as they passed. The pair had been pretty into it and it was Marcus who noticed that Carl let their car swing by without making them get out.
"Our Carl's an old romantic," Divine had told him with amusement when he'd commented. "He'll let them go around two or three times before ending their ride."
They'd smiled and laughed over several things since coming out for their play evening three hours ago, and Divine had enjoyed every moment of it. She had gathered memories she could pull out and look at over the years ahead, she told herself. But now playtime was over. She had to go.
Sighing, she turned away and started around the RV, intending to slip up the opposite side of it to reach the back lot rather than risk Marcus coming out and spotting her slipping away between the two vehicles. She was about to turn down the far side and head for the back lot when Marcus suddenly said, "You aren't trying to escape me, are you?"
Divine turned quickly to see him jogging toward her, a smile on his face that looked a little concerned and even forced. Managing a smile of her own, she shook her head. "I just thought I'd—" She glanced around for an excuse, and finished, "—try my hand at the balloon game while I waited."
Marcus glanced to the game a few stalls ahead and then took her hand. "We'll both try it before we go."
"Go?" Divine asked with a frown. "Go where?"
"You'll see," Marcus said, squeezing her hand. "It's a surprise."
Divine frowned over that as they arrived at the balloon game stall. Marcus gave the game agent tickets for darts and they both began tossing them at the balloons. She had always considered herself a good aim, and she was, but the balloons weren't fully blown up and the darts sometimes just bounced off them until she began to put more strength in the throw. Marcus didn't miss a single balloon with his darts, and he was fast. He was working on his third round of darts by the time she finished her first. She stood back and just watched then, waiting for him to tire. Divine didn't realize he was working toward a goal until he suddenly stopped and put his head together with the game agent who nodded, turned, and retrieved a little brown bear with a heart on its stomach and handed it over.
Marcus turned and offered it to her at once. "For you."
Divine stared at the offering and then slowly reached for it. She couldn't say how many times she'd witnessed this scene, or something like it on the midway; a male winning a prize for his girl. She'd always thought it was sweet and had felt a pang of envy. Now she had her own prize, won for her by Marcus.
"We'll find someone to sew ‘Marcus and Basha' on it with the year," he announced with a crooked smile, and when she blushed, caught her hand and led her along the midway.
They were heading through the gates to the parking lot when Divine suddenly registered what he'd said. She came to an abrupt halt, sure she was as pale as a sheet. It certainly felt like all the blood had left her face.
"What?" Marcus asked with concern when he glanced around and saw her expression.
"Marcus and Basha?" she asked, trying not to panic.
He nodded. "Vincent, Jackie, Tiny, and Mirabeau can all read you, Divine. They can read both of us. But Mirabeau was the first one to pick up on your real name being Basha."
She tried to tug her hand free of his, but he held her fast.
"I know Madge has your motorcycle and you planned to run away on it, but I can't allow that," he said quietly, and then caught her other hand as she swung it at him. When she then tried a front kick, he turned her abruptly and slammed her up against a van they stood beside. "I can't allow that because there isn't room for me on the motorcycle and I'm going with you."
"What?" Divine asked with disbelief, suddenly going still.
"You're my life mate, Basha—"
"Don't call me that," she interrupted sharply.
"All right," he said patiently, "Then you're my life mate, Divine," Marcus corrected solemnly and then added, "Where you go, I go. Your future is my future. Your fate my own." Releasing her hands, he cupped her face gently and whispered, "I'm running away with you. That's the surprise. I borrowed the SUV Tiny and Mirabeau came here in. They think I'm taking you to dinner, and I am, but then we're running away together. We can go to Italy. My family is powerful. They can protect you from Lucian if necessary. Or we can go somewhere else if you want. But you aren't going alone."
Divine stared at him wide-eyed for a moment. In all the scenarios she'd imagined with Marcus, not once had she dared imagine this one. For a moment it seemed like she held the brass ring in her hand, but then her conscience kicked in. She'd be sentencing him to life as a Gypsy, always moving, never still, no home. And she'd be sentencing him to a life without children too, because she would never bring another child into the life she'd been forced to lead. She couldn't do that to an innocent baby, and she couldn't do it to Marcus either. No one should have to live the life she did, always running and hiding, always looking over their shoulder, always scared.
Sighing, Divine lowered her head and shook it sadly. "That's sweet, Marcus. But I can't ask you to do that."
"You're not asking," Marcus said, taking her hand and drawing her away from the van to lead her through the parking lot before adding, "I'm telling you how it's going to be. I've waited twenty-five hundred years for a life mate, Divine. I'm not letting you slip away now."
"You don't know what you're saying," she said quietly. "You don't even know who I am."
"I just told you who you were not minutes ago, Basha Argeneau, remember," he said dryly, pausing beside an SUV. He opened the door for her to get in.
Divine stopped beside him though and faced him grimly. "I'm a rogue."
"You're thought to possibly be a rogue," Marcus corrected firmly. "I don't think you are. But," he added quickly when she started to speak, "if you are, you must have had a good reason for whatever you did, or you were confused, or . . . something," he finished weakly and then shook his head and said with more certainty, "Whatever it is, we'll deal with it."
"Lucian is expected here this evening," he interrupted, drawing her up short. "I'm not sure what time he'll get here, but I'd rather we were gone before he arrived. You can tell me everything you want to. I want to hear it, just not right here, right now. Okay? Please? Just get into the SUV. We'll go have dinner and you can tell me whatever you want."
Divine hesitated one more moment, but then got into the SUV. Lucian was an old bogeyman for her; avoiding him was kind of priority number one. She remained silent as Marcus walked around and got in the driver's seat, but once he'd started the engine and steered them out of the lot and onto the road, she said, "This isn't a conversation we should have in a public place."
"Okay," Marcus said calmly. "Where?"
Divine hesitated briefly, considering their options. A hotel would work, but she wanted to be somewhere crowded and busy. It would help her slip away quickly and quietly. "How far are we from Vegas?"
"A little more than two hours I think," Marcus said quietly. "Did you want to go there?"
"Yes, please," Divine murmured, trying to make plans and contingency plans in her head. There was no way she was letting Marcus throw away his life to be with her, and the only way to stop that was by telling him everything. Once he knew the truth, he wouldn't want anything to do with her, she was sure. The problem was, he might then want to turn her behind in to Lucian to redeem himself. She needed a plan to avoid that. As depressing as the future seemed to her without Marcus in it, she wasn't suicidal quite yet.
"Vegas it is then," Marcus said, relaxing in his seat. "It'll be handy, actually. We can talk, sort things out, then visit one of those little chapels and get married while in town."
Divine blinked as those words hit her, and then simply closed her eyes. The man might know her name, but he hadn't accepted who she was. He'd be singing a different song once he knew the trut