I could hear my heart thudding loudly in the silence of the room, the blood rushing to my face. Ian lay on his side in the bed, his head still cradled in his hands. A million thoughts raced through my mind. I remembered how careful I had been to avoid any questions that would lead to him having to tell me if he had a girlfriend, or worse, a wife. Maybe it was simply that I did not want to risk breaking the magic of the moment, of the meeting, of losing the possibility of making love. I knew, intellectually, that the question would come up, no matter how hard I tried to ignore the possibility. Looking back, I realised that he, too, had been stepping around that question. Neither of us wore rings, but in my case that certainly did not mean I was free and clear. Even though the man I had been seeing back home had not proposed, our relationship seemed to be heading in that direction. And then this day had happened. I was ready to abandon everything and everyone for Ian. But he still hadn’t looked up.
“Are you married,” I asked gently?
He finally met my gaze.
“No,” he said, “but I am in a relationship.”
“No,” Ian said again, “I asked her but she said she didn’t want to marry.”
My heart soared. He wasn’t married! Even better, she had turned him down when asked. Surely there was hope!
“I didn’t know it could be like this,” he moaned, “All my life I’ve been living on scraps and didn’t know it. And now I’ve experienced this… this Marian buffet of pleasure and love and passion. I don’t know how I’m going to go back… back to a normal, ordinary life.”
“Do you have to?” I said, the words barely audible, not believing what I was asking.
“I do,” he said, his voice cracking, “She’s pregnant, Marian. I can’t walk out on her while she’s carrying my child.”
“Oh,” I said, feeling the earth falling away beneath me, taking this gorgeous, honourable man with it. “I’m sorry, I didn’t know. I shouldn’t have asked.”
“My darling,” Ian said, pulling me close and wrapping me up in his strong arms, “You were right to ask. What we have found is precious. And it kills me to have to walk away from it. But there is a child. My child.”
I nodded against him, my tears moistening the scattered dark hairs on his chest.
“What happened two hundred, five hundred, seven hundred years ago that we were kept apart?” Ian whispered in my hair, “How many times have our souls crossed paths through the millennia and leapt with joy and recognition only to be ripped apart again because of circumstances?”
“I don’t know darling,” I said, “But we’re about to do it again, aren’t we?”
“Oh Marian,” Ian moaned, crushing me against, “If there was any other way…”
I was aching, but we only had a few hours left, and I didn’t want to spend them wallowing in self pity or wasting them on sleep.
“Make love to me again,” I said, my voice stronger than I felt.
And he did. Ian covered me with his body and with his words. As I lay face down, he hovered over me, his lips grazing my back as he whispered the sweet, sweet words of love and tenderness, of lust and need.
“You are precious,” Ian said, the heat of his breath against my spine, “You are a treasure. You are brilliant. You are incredible. And against all reason, given the short time we’ve had together, I love you.”
At his declaration, I turned over so I could see his face. His eyes glistened with tears, matching my own.
“I love you, Ian,” I said, caressing the side of his face with my warm hand, “I have always loved you. I just hadn’t met you yet.”
Our lips joined and the kisses were flavored with the salt of our tears—so tender, so bittersweet, so heartbreaking. He entered me again as the first rays of dawn’s early light broke through the sheer curtains covering the window. The world fell away and for those last moments of coupling there was nothing else. There was only us. And then, much too soon, our magical night was over. I had a plane to catch in less than five hours.