• He was dead.

    I was by his bedside when he uttered his last words, a simple command, ordering me to be strong. With a groan, he fell silent, and died, leaving me alone in the world.

    My father was dead.

    I would never allow love, of a friend, of a family, or of a lover, to enter my heart again. The pain that love created was simply, indiscribably, unbearable.

    But that was two weeks ago. At the moment, I was with Erik in the underground cavern. A strained silence enveloped us, which was odd in itself, for usually Erik and I talked non-stop about everything and anything.

    "Erik?" I asked, turning towards him. "Are you alright? Is something wrong?"

    After a moment's hesitation, he said, "Gemma... what would you do if someone told you they loved you?"

    I paused. What an odd question. "I don't know," I answered truthfully. "Why?"

    "Because I love you." With that, Erik finally faced me, his eyes eminating a passionate burning. That look frightened me, and I backed away, but Erik embraced me and gently murmured sweet words of love into my ear. Then he stopped, and whispered:

    "I'm frightening you, aren't I?"

    "I'm not afraid of you," I replied, but I couldn't meet his eyes.

    "Yes you are," he replied. "You're trembling. Don't worry; I won't let anything happen to you."

    "I told you already, I'm not..." I made the mistake of looking into his electrifying eyes. "... afraid." Erik smelled like an exotic perfume at this closeness.

    "Of course you're not, my love," he murmured, and gently, oh so gently, our lips parted and met.

    Bliss. Total bliss. I was flying, yet I was still on the ground. Absolute perfection. My fingers instinctively entwined in his hair as I pulled him closer. How could one kiss mean so much?

    Then my resolution came back to me. "No!" I cried, pushing Erik away. A look of pure hurt crossed his face, and we both turned away from each other. I couldn't allow myself to fall ing love. Love and heartache went hand-in-hand, or so my father's death taught me. In order to be strong, I would have to be impervious to pain. In order to be impervious to pain, I could never fall in love, even with Erik. After a time, I spoke again:

    I'm so sorry, Erik," my cheeks turning red, "but I don't love you. We're friends, that's all." Erik placed his hand under my chin, turning my head to face him. Our eyes met; a tingling crept down my spine.

    "Your lips say that," his look of hurt had turned into one of bemusement, "but your eyes tell me otherwise." He leaned into me, his sweet breath caressing my face with his next words:

    "I will wait, Gemma. I will wait until you discover your true feeling for me."

    Part One
    Part Two
    Part Three
    Part Four
    Part Six