Sherdan poured himself into his work that evening. Every time he pulled another few bricks out of Anya’s walls she retreated from him or got angry. Now she’d started reading the Bible in front of him and the message was clear: she wanted him to back off because she was a well behaved Christian girl who didn’t get involved with the likes of him.
Anya went to bed at her usual time and Sherdan sighed with relief. The evening had been horribly awkward. He’d actually done more work than he needed because he hadn’t wanted to stop and have to force another conversation with her.
As soon as he was alone, he got up and poured a drink. Tonight he needed it. He sat and thought over his problem with Anya for another hour.
He felt like they were getting close to a tipping point and, if he didn’t have her won over by then, she would leave forever. Sherdan knew he needed help again so he went to call on Nathan’s advice.
Nathan was as quick to join him in the study as the last time.
“What can I do for you, sir?” Nathan said, taking a seat but refusing a drink again.
“I need more help with Anya. The kitten worked very well but I’m not all the way there yet.”
“How did talking to her about her faith go?”
“I’ve not done so yet. I don’t really know where to begin,” Sherdan explained.
“Ask her what convinced her to become a Christian. If you can understand why she chose that faith she’ll be less confusing to you in general.”
“Maybe. I don’t know if I can talk to her about what she thinks without arguing. She sat here with her Bible all evening to show me she thought her moral opinions to be more sound than mine.”
“Had it occurred to you that she may have read her Bible in front of you because she wanted you to understand it meant a lot to her and to ask about it?” Sherdan looked at Nathan as if he’d been slapped and he had to stop himself responding in his anger. The guard was just trying to help.
“She wants to come to the ball on Friday.” Sherdan changed the subject.
“So let her come.”
“I don’t want to put her at risk.”
“At risk of what?”
“If she comes, people will know she’s been here. If she then leaves, the British government might capture her and torture her for information. I promised her that would never happen to her again.”
“With her ability she could just walk out. Just like she can here,” Nathan pointed out.
“I didn’t think of that.”
“Does Anya know of your reasoning?”
“Not exactly, no.”
“Then I’d explain it to her and give her the choice,” Nathan said and got up.
“It sounds like most of your troubles are caused by not communicating with her properly. Talk to her. If you still need help after that, I’ll be more than happy to sit down with you again.” Sherdan nodded and let Nathan leave.
He poured himself another drink as he mulled over their conversation in his head. A lot of what Nathan said made sense and, whether he was right or not about her reasons for reading the Bible in front of him, it was worth talking to her about what she believed.
With a resolution in mind, he finally got some sleep. He needed to stop getting such late nights. It was the early hours of the morning again. Hopefully, Hitchin would have some good news about his ability the following day, and he would also make some more progress with Anya.
Sherdan was woken up before his alarm by none other than Anya. She still wore her pyjamas and had a slightly tear stained face.
“I had another nightmare,” she told him as if it explained everything. He went to get out of bed to hug her before he thought that she might not want to see him in just his boxers. Instead, he patted the edge of the bed. She shook her head.
“I just wanted to say that I was sorry I was so argumentative yesterday. I’m finding everything that has happened in the last six weeks very difficult.”
“That’s okay, I understand. I’ve not always done much to help,” Sherdan glanced at the clock and notice his alarm was going to go off in less than five minutes. “Why don’t we talk about this later? I’m needed in the compound shortly.”
She nodded and left, leaving him unable to follow. He hastily pulled on some clothes and went through to her room. She’d got back into bed again but she was sitting rather than lying.
“Are you going to be okay?” She nodded at his concern.
“I’ve got a karate lesson in an hour.”
He reluctantly left her and headed over to the compound. Hitchin awaited him in his easy room. He smiled at his friend who appeared much happier since Sherdan had let him run all his tests.
“How is everything?” Sherdan asked.
“We have a delightful new batch of test subjects… perhaps one female in particular. Quite the bright young lady. I may train her as an assistant.”
Sherdan recognised the familiar twinkle in his friend’s eye. This particular woman had evidently caught his eye for more than professional reasons.
“I’m here to let you know that all your tests came back perfectly fine. You don’t even seem to be fatigued enough to explain it. I can only assume it has something to do with Anya,” Hitchin continued.
“So, if Anya stays, I won’t get my ability back?”
“Not necessarily. I won’t know for sure unless I can find out what gave her the ability she has.”
“Fair enough. I’ll bring her in for more tests as soon as I can make her see it’s necessary.”
Sherdan went into the command room to get away from Hitchin before he could continue talking about Anya. She wasn’t going to be made to do anything. He was still determined to win her over properly and had a couple more things he could try.
“He’d sent an email with Anya’s measurements to one of his colleagues. They were picking up a ball gown for her today. That evening he would present it to her.
For the majority of the day, Sherdan had to deal with the American President. The Americans were demanding some of his defence technology in return for becoming allies. He wouldn’t let them have anything they still used regularly so he instead tried to offer them some of the country’s other advances, something that affected less military matters.
There had been other breakthroughs in medical treatments as well as food production thanks to studying the abilities and how they worked. Parting with things like that would benefit whoever received it but not increase any potential threat to Sherdan.
The Americans believed they were a powerful enough country that Sherdan would give anything to be allies. They were wrong. America had very little to offer them and other countries were willing to be amicable for less.
Sherdan repeatedly said no until the President got so cross he slammed the phone down on him. He left his diplomatist, Sharon, to continue trying to deal with it while he got on with other work. His work was never finished.
It was gone eight before he got away from the compound. Anya wasn’t anywhere downstairs so Sherdan rushed up to his room to check on the dress he’d had Anne smuggle up for him. It was a gorgeous, deep-blue, floor length ball gown.
He picked it up off the bed where it lay as he heard a rap on the door frame behind him. Anya gasped as he turned around. She stood there with her hands over her mouth.
“Yes, it is for you,” Sherdan said as he held it out to her. She didn’t take it.
“It’s gorgeous, but I haven’t decided if I am staying.”
“I know. I’m letting you come to the ball, if that’s what you wish to do.”
“Really?” Her eyes lit up.
“Yes, but please understand, if you leave it could put you in danger, being seen here, with me.”
“I know. I appreciate your concern but I’d like it to be my choice, just like leaving or staying should be.” Sherdan nodded and walked towards her to place the dress in her hands. This time she took it. She held it up against herself.
“You’ll look gorgeous in it.”
“Thank you.” She beamed and scurried off. He slowly walked out into the hallway. Her door was shut so he waited outside. He didn’t have to wait long before she flung the door open and came out wearing the dress. She twirled.
“So what do you think?”
“It really suits you.” She spun again, obviously pleased. “So will you come to the ball with me then?” Sherdan asked. She stopped spinning and paused for a moment.
“Yes, yes, I think I will.”
“Really?” He took her hands and pulled her towards him. She nodded and his heart beat faster. He wrapped his arms around her in another embrace but she pulled away after only a few seconds.
“You don’t want to crease it, let me get changed again.”
“She rushed off before he could reply and shut her door on him again. He chuckled to himself and he went to find some food. Anne had gone home earlier than normal as it was one of her son’s birthdays.
It was his turn to be surprised when he walked into the kitchen. Two trays were already laid out ready and, a casserole and some roast potatoes were in the oven. He noticed there was ten minutes left on the oven timer. Anya came up behind him as he stood, unsure what to do.
“Anne assured me you liked sausage casserole so I made one for dinner.”
“Umm… thank you. I have to admit it’s quite unexpected.”
“I thought I might as well. When Anne said she had to go but you weren’t back yet.”
“Thank you. I don’t think I’ve ever had a woman, other than my mother or housekeeper, cook for me.” She blushed at this and busied herself tidying the kitchen to cover her embarrassment
Sherdan was touched by the effort she had gone to and hoped it was a sign their evening would go well. He planned on trying to talk to her about her faith, if he could find a way to bring it up. It could wait until after the food, however. He intended to enjoy her company and her cooking.
They ate right there in the kitchen, sat on stools at the breakfast bar. Something Sherdan had never actually done. He didn’t spend that much time in the kitchen so he’d allowed Anne to design the room how she wanted it.
Anya finished eating first, evidently hungry from waiting. He wasn’t far behind, enjoying the meal she had made him.
A smile lit up her face when he had cleaned his plate and put his knife and fork together. It had been delicious.
“Thank you. You’re a good cook.”
“Not really. I know how to make one or two things well. It’s good to have a few dishes that can be cooked well,” Anya replied, her cheeks flushing red again. He laughed at her sound logic.
“The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.” He got up and went to her, took her by the hands and led her through to the living room. They sat side by side on the sofa with her hands in his for some time. She blushed a lot but didn’t pull away.
“Has your God said anything lately about why you’re here?” He asked and then frowned. It had come out sounding a little harsher than he had meant it.
She pulled her hands away from him.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it like that. I am trying to understand.”
“Understand what?” she demanded.
“I know your faith means a lot to you. I love you. I want to understand you and your beliefs better.”
“Oh… I… I don’t really know how to explain it entirely.”
“You said God told you to come here and has said to stay. Did he literally speak to you?”
“No, I don’t know if God literally says things out loud. For me, it’s more like thoughts that come into your head, combined with feelings. It feels ‘right’ to do as God asks.”
“And He’s asked you to stay here?” Sherdan asked.
“For now, I think so yes, but I will have to leave at some point.”
“I will need to go back to my church.”
“But you are here now, did God say why?”
“I’m not sure. I had a dream but I didn’t completely understand it,” Sherdan nodded, “so I’m waiting here until I know why.” He reached up a hand and stroked her cheek.
“I am very glad He asked you to stay longer. I would not have known the feelings I have now.”
“I’m glad I’m here too but I don’t think I can stay. At some point I will have to go Sherdan.” She looked away, “I’m sorry.” He lifted her chin back up.
“But you are here now and God wants that.”
“Yes, I am here now…” Whatever she had been about to say was lost as he lent forward and pressed his lips to hers. When he pulled back to look at her she followed and kissed him again, more passionately than he’d expected.
He smiled as he wrapped his arms around her and pulled her even closer.
“I love you,” he whispered. The words sounded so foreign to him but, in that moment, felt so right.
“I… I love you too.” He kissed her again, wanting to show her the delight and joy her words stirred in him.
He had dreamt of this moment on several occasions but the reality was so much sweeter. His fingers caressed her cheek as his lips touched hers again and again.
After many minutes she pulled away. Her eyes shone and she smiled in a way he had never seen before. She breathed heavily and had a brightness to her he liked. He remembered the only other time he had seen her like this. It had been right after she had gained her ability but before they had fallen out.
“You do know I can’t… Before marriage I’m not meant to…” He put his finger up against her mouth.
“I understand. We don’t have to go that far. I’ve… Well, there have been many women I have rushed into bed with and I do not want us to be like that. We can go much slower.” She nodded her gratitude and he pulled her in close to him again, studying her features.
She blushed at his intense gaze, making him chuckle.
“Are all Christian girls so delicate and shy? You’re perfect. Had I known I would have found one of you sooner.” She frowned. “I’m teasing. I’ve never met anyone like you and I am really not used to feeling like this, about anyone.”
He shrugged. His feelings couldn’t be easily explained and it frustrated him a little. Without hesitating, she settled back against the sofa back and pulled his arm around behind her so they were cuddled up close.
They talked of happy subjects like family memories and silly things they did as children, whiling away the time. Occasionally he would give her another kiss as if he couldn’t believe she was reciprocating.
Neither of them mentioned the future and where they would go after that evening. He couldn’t bring it up in case she still said she intended to leave.
Sherdan didn’t know if he believed in her God but, in that moment, he prayed anyway; that He wouldn’t take Anya away from him. He’d found his little piece of heaven and he didn’t want to lose it.