I grasped onto Eden tighter and made my way down the dark stairway, relying on memory alone. Feeling along the stone wall, I smiled—the first true smile in a long time—when my hand made contact with the lantern that had always been there. I fiddled with it until a ball of light illuminated the stairway in front of me.
I shot back and nearly fell, almost dropping Eden when the darkness lifted to reveal a dozen men and women all pointing guns in my direction.
“Who the hell are you?” one man demanded. “How did you find this place?”
I put up one hand, trying my best to show I meant no harm. “My name is Loic. I was once part of the resistance.” I knew it didn’t look good. I was in Pike’s uniform and had a nude woman lifeless over my body. “I’m trying to get this woman to safety.”
The people all looked at each other and the bodies slowly parted as a man made his way toward the front. “Loic?” an aging man asked. “Is that really you? We thought you were dead.”
I recognized him the minute he walked into the light. “Father?” My heart stopped and tears filled my eyes. “I thought you were all dead. I had word that the entire resistance was crushed.” I rushed toward him and wanted to embrace the man I thought I had lost so many years ago, but the stairway made it difficult, as did Eden’s body.
“Come,” my father said. “Let’s get downstairs.”
I followed all the people to the underground bunker. One of many that I had called home. Walking over to a cot in the far corner of the room, I placed Eden’s body gently down. I covered her with a blanket to maintain her modesty the best I could.
My father walked up behind me and placed his hand on my shoulder. “What happened to you? Where have you been all these years?”
“Prisoner,” I responded. “I was prisoner to my own evil.”
I was so ashamed. So very ashamed. I looked down at the ground, not sure if I could speak of all the awful things I had done at the compound.
“Son,” he started softly. “We have all done awful things. Things that no man should ever have to do. We are at war. War with the world, and war with Pike.”
I shook my head. “These women. These poor women…”
“You’re back now, son. You are back now, and we will continue where we left off.”
I turned to look my father in the eye. “I don’t deserve your forgiveness, or that of any of the women I abused.”
“I’m not giving it. I am simply acknowledging it. But I will never judge you, just as you would never judge me. I should never have left you there. I thought you were dead, but I should have made sure.” My father hugged me, and I could see what was left of the resistance standing behind him, giving us the privacy we needed for our reunion.
“I will make this right again,” I declared. “Pike will die and we will rescue all those prisoners. I will make sure of it. Even if I die trying.”
Eden moaned again, pulling my attention back toward her.
I knelt down beside her and placed her hand in mine. She was so beautiful. Her long golden hair framed her tiny face, and she looked so peaceful. Her pouty lips beckoned to me, and her tiny whimpers as her mind struggled to fight off the sleeping potion filled me with such warmth.
“Wake up, sleeping beauty. You are safe.”
I could hear his voice long before I could open my eyes. Was this the same man? There was tenderness in his voice. Concern, even.
“Come on, open those eyes, beauty,” I heard him say again. I tried to open my eyes, but I couldn’t. The drug still was too strong.
I could feel the touch of his hand. The soft caress of my arm. He moved the stray hairs away from my face and was so close I could feel his warmth. There was some type of fabric placed over my body.
“You saved me, Eden,” he said to me. “I was swallowed whole by something so powerful that it consumed me. What started as sadness turned to devastation. What started as vengeance toward evil only revolted and turned inward on me. I was so very dark. So very evil. I had become everything I had once wanted to give my life to destroy. But I had lost that battle. I had completely lost the battle to darkness. Until you. My very own sleeping beauty. You saved me.” He leaned down so close to my face that I could feel his breath against it. “Wake up, sleeping beauty.”
With the most gentle of touches, he placed his lips to mine with a kiss. Heat pumped through my veins and tiny jolts of pleasure sizzled through every nerve ending in my body. My eyes fluttered open as his mouth conquered mine. His kiss had woken me from my slumber. I returned the kiss with a tiny moan as I wrapped my arms around his neck and pulled him closer, deeper to what had become my salvation. He said that I had saved him. But this man had saved me, as well. And this kiss was forever bonding us as one.