Expect the Unexpected (Part 4, Conclusion)
Location: Lake Michigan
Timeline: Friday, August 20, 2010/Evening
Talia laughed, grabbing a napkin as she slid off of the table. The rattled redhead dabbed the tears off of her face carefully, thankful that her light, waterproof makeup kept her from getting those ugly raccoon eyes. She was already feeling vulnerable and being unmade and ugly on top of it all just wouldn’t do. “And that is one of the reasons that I adore you. You can make me smile, even when I feel like crying.”
She shook her head and returned to her chair, motioning for him to take the one with the packet of identity changing paperwork sitting in front of it, fluidly shifting from personal to business, as was her way. “So, what name would you like to give yourself, lover? Cecily will need to choose her own when we go home so that it’s easier for her to remember.”
“Oh...bloody hell, I don’t know!” Xander said. “Edward is my given name, though I’ve always been Xander, since my father is also Edward.” He paused. “Might be fitting, though,” he said solemnly. “Wot’s all the rage with boys’ names now?” he asked Talia. “Might need to think about that,” he said with a soft smile.
Talia returned the smile and nodded, her cheeks turning a bit pink. She’d never considered baby names before, always taken precautions to guard against having to do so, but it had come to mind as she had done the research for their names. “We’ll come up with something. There is a list of the top one hundred baby names in ninety-two in that packet. Edward tends to be more of a family name, rather than a popular name, but it does seem fitting. How do you feel about being called Eddie? Or Ward?” she asked playfully, that mischievous glint returning to her eyes.
Xander considered. “I’ve been Xander for so long,” he said. “All my life,” he chuckled. “But...Eddie could be good,” he said. “What do you like, luv?” he asked her.
After tilting her head, first one way, then the other, her slender brow furrowing in thought, Talia shook her head. “Ward just seems too...stiff for you. Eddie doesn’t seem quite right either, but then, like you mentioned, you’ve always been Xander to me. I think Eddie fits you better, though. I suggest that you choose an entirely different middle name, and for your surname I’ve been doing some research, though I must admit that I’m not entirely certain that I have all of the information correct.
“I assume that you know where the name originates, of course,” Talia continued, then paused to sip at her water again briefly. As she set the bottle back on the table she said, “I found something interesting that might work. It’s an old, pre-Roman British personal name, Luguvalos. The original name of the place where it came from was Luguvallium. Wall of the god Lugus. The Old Welsh form is Caer Liwelyd. I know that your heritage is important to you, so I thought that perhaps something that tied you directly to the lands without it being completely obvious to most people, might be fitting.”
“Yes, I know where Carlisle comes from,” Xander smiled. “Old Welsh, eh? Would have thought more Scottish,” he mused. “How about Scott?” he mused. “Or if we go the Celtic route, Llewellyn? Or Carl or Lisle? Carleton?”
“Which would you and Cece prefer? I was simply trying to avoid anything too close to what it already is, but something still fitting,” Talia responded with a soft smile and a delicate shrug of her shoulders. “I’ve researched your name for days, you’ve studied it for a lifetime. You are far more qualified to make that decision than I am, lover.”
Xander considered a moment. “Well, might be best to go with something very blandly American,” he said. “Eddie Carlton would work, and I could do American,” he told Talia, dropping his proper Etonian pronunciation for something more American.
“Now I know what it must have sounded like for you to hear my accent,” Talia said with a bright laugh, dropping the proper British and continuing on in her natural, rolling accent, humor dancing in her eyes. “It is probably passable. Far more convincing American than I am capable of. Eddie Carlton... I suppose that will do.”
“I grew up half my life in Chicago, and my mother was American,” Xander pointed out. “And I think your Slavic accent is hot,” he murmured, leaning in to capture her lips. “Someday you’ll tell me where you’re from, luv.”
Talia smiled into the kiss then looked into Xander’s dark, chocolate-colored eyes and said softly, a sad edge to her tone, “Or, with any luck, perhaps one day soon I can forget where I came from and save us both a lot of grief. But if you like the accent, I will think about keeping it around. For you, at least.”
Xander laughed. “I just want you to know you can be yourself around me, luv,” he said, his own posh voice returning. “I love you just how you are.” He pulled her in to kiss her softly.
At first, Talia simply fell into the kiss with a happy, contented sigh, her hand moving up to caress his face. Then she paused and pulled back, slightly wide eyed, blinking a bit. The dreaded “L” word was one that both of them tended to avoid using and it caught her rather off guard when her mind finally rested on that. “That is not a word to throw around lightly, Xander,” she said softly, her hand slipping to his chest, coming to rest over his heart, eyes following the motion down. The feelings that the vibrant young woman had developed for the dashing young noble were definitely new, sometimes overwhelming, and while she thought it might just be that scariest of words, the idea of saying it terrified her for some reason.
Xander bit his lip. “Yes,” he admitted. “It kind of...slipped. But...well, shouldn’t it be said?” he asked, resting a hand over her stomach. “I take it back, if you want,” he promised her, surprised himself that he had said it.
“Please don’t take it back,” Talia nearly whispered, her eyes still downcast. She took a shaky breath and continued, one hand running lightly over Xander’s chest, the other moving to his hand on her stomach as she continued, “What I feel for you frightens me. I have never felt like this about anyone before.” There was a pause as she looked back up at the father of her child and she gave him a weak, vulnerable smile, tears shining in her eyes. “I do love you, Xander. And for the first time in my life, I am terrified of losing someone.”
Xander swallowed. “I felt this way once,” he said. “It was foolish, childish. The first girl I ever slept with. Then I found out she was paid by my uncle to make me a man.” He looked away. “I swore I’d never let any woman make me feel like that again,” he admitted quietly, holding Talia close.
“That’s disturbing...slimy...” Talia said, making a bit of a sour face as she laid her head on Xander’s shoulder, nuzzling his neck, her arms sliding around him and holding him close. “But I understand. My life changed completely the day that my mother died. I learned quickly to not allow myself to be drawn in by flattering words and handsome faces. To use what I have been given to accomplish what I must in order to attain my goals. Love was never a part of that equation. I have always seen it as a hindrance.”
There was a pause and a soft, shuddering sigh as Talia simply revelled in that sweet moment, then she continued, “I feel foolish, even childish, but now I don’t want to have to face my days or nights without you. I ache for you when I cannot be near you. I do not want to lose you, Xander. I don’t want this to end.”
“But you have to go back to school,” Xander reminded, caressing Talia’s back. “You shouldn’t put your life on hold because of me. I’m not going anywhere, luv,” he promised .It wasn’t like he could. He had sort of thrown his life away when he fled his uncle to protect his sister.
Talia shook her head and said softly, “I’ve lied to you, Xander. An attempt at keeping you at arm’s length so that we could both walk away when the time came.” The young woman pulled away enough to look Xander in the eyes again, as she admitted, “I am not returning for school. Going back to Europe means conducting my father’s business, full time, and I no longer wish to do so. I...I don’t know what to do. He is dangerous. If I defy him, I do not know what he will do. But the cost of obeying him... I just don’t think I can bear it. I want out. For you, for me. Most importantly, for our child.”
Xander frowned. “Then get out,” he said. “Come with me. We can go anywhere!” he told her, gripping her arms emphatically. “I’ll...I’ll find a job, somehow. Cece will help out. We’ll get by. It’s just a couple more years, until I’m old enough I can come out and claim my trust from my uncle.”
“It is not so simple as that, lover,” Talia said with a strained smile, reaching up to take his face in her hands. “My father would hunt us. We would never be able to live a normal life, always wondering where the assassin might come from...when they will come. He will destroy everything precious to me, lock me away in some dank tower like an ogre of old, to keep me in line. It would kill me if something happened to you and Cecily because of me. I have feared that for months as it is.”
“If you hadn’t noticed, luv, I’m kind of good at hiding,” Xander smiled at Talia. “Don’t you worry about me.” He ran his thumb lightly over her full lips.
Talia sighed softly, her eyes closing at Xander’s gentle touch on her lips and she leaned against his hand. After a moment, she looked back to him, her eyes searching his. “I am worried, but I have plans. If we’re really going to be...together, I want a good life for us, for our child. I can get out, it’s just not easy, and I’m not so sure father will allow it without a battle. I want to make sure you’re safe first. Thus all of the paperwork. Which I would like to finish so that we can move on to other, more pleasant, activities,” the fiery young woman said teasingly, giving him a playful smile.
Xander laughed. “What better incentive could I have?” he said, taking a seat again and pulling Talia onto his lap. “Just show me where to sign.” It wasn’t long before his hands started to wander.
NPC Bethany Davies