Matt woke up at midnight. His last dream was of Juanita smiling and nodding. She had given her blessing. She would rest in peace now. And he would return to the land of the living.
He felt as if he had been Orpheus seeking Eurydice, or Dante as he went through hell seeking his beloved. He had been blind to what he had needed. Seeking desperately to keep hold on a past love, he had failed to see that he needed to build upon it with a new one. He looked over at the sleeping form of Amanda.
He was lucky. He had found another one-in-a-million woman. She shared his passion. His desire. His drive.
She was his equal. And now, very soon, she would be his wife. He was ready. And through her acceptance, she had admitted being ready as well. He smiled.
No more nightmares. No more treks through the past to find out what he had done that was so wrong. Now, he would begin making new memories. Memories of life with Amanda.
He was so grateful to Egypt and all who had plotted with her. They had seen, even if he couldn’t, what he needed. They had seen that he needed to keep a single promise. One he had avoided, preferring pain instead.
He slipped his arm around her and fell back to sleep. Tomorrow was a new day. A better day. The first day of the rest of his life.
Morning came too soon. Amanda rolled over so that she was partially on top of Matt, but looking into his eyes. “Good morning, sexy.”
He grinned sleepily. “Good morning, beautiful.”
She kissed him. “How did you sleep?”
He blinked, then kissed her back. “Like a log.”
She lay her head on his chest. “I felt you wake up in the middle of the night again. Bad dream?”
He sighed peacefully. “No, a good one. My search is over, my time in the past is done. She gave me one more visit to let me know that she approved. There will be no more doubt. I have finally kept my promise to her.”
She propped her head up so she could look in his eyes again, an apprehensive look in her eyes. “And that was?”
He smiled, satisfied. “To move on with my life. Just before she died, she made me promise to find someone and move on with my life. Until you came into my life, I didn’t understand how I could. Not after a love like that.”
She smiled, satisfied with his explanation. “At one time, neither did I. Of course campus life wasn’t exactly helping any. Many of those young boys were simply walking hormones. Out for a quickie. nothing more. I didn’t date to find bed partners and many of them decided that I wasn’t worth sticking around for simply because I wouldn’t put out for them.
“But I also guarded my heart a little too well. I wouldn’t let anyone in. And then I met you.”
It was Matt’s turn to be apprehensive. “And?”
She Lay her head back on his chest. “I saw your pain. Your anguish. And knew that you had seen what I had.
“I knew you were dying inside and that I needed to rescue you. Love you. I needed to pick up where whoever was before me had left off. You were just begging to be loved, Matt. and I fell for you immediately.
“When you asked me to be your date at your son’s party. When we sat together and played the duets. I knew we were supposed to be. I just didn’t like the deception and plotting the rest had gone through to get us together.”
He played with her hair. “How many were in on our meeting?”
She kissed his chest. “All of them. Your children. Your brothers and sisters. Even your business partners. They love you Matthew.
“They all told me how you saved all of them from the life your mother chose. How you took them and placed them in the care of an aunt until you, yourself could take them in and raise them. the most poignant story came from your youngest Sister.”
Matt was surprised. “Lady Jane?”
Amanda shook her head. “No, silly. Lena.”
He scratched his head. “Lena? Here? When?”
She smiled. “She was here last year with your nephew Frank. She didn’t have time enough to stop and see you, or so she said, but was able to spare a little time for their family meeting.”
He sat up. “Lena never visited me when I was drinking. She said it reminded her too much of mama. Mindless. Idiotic. Stupid.
“I never knew how she could remember. She was only two when I removed her from the home. By then, mama was already dying. Bedridden. And she begged me for forgiveness. I never gave it to her.
“Not that I didn’t forgive her, I did. I just never told her. Never said it out loud. I have regretted it ever since. I think if I had, she would have had peace those last days.”
Amanda sat up beside him. “I think she knew. Just like she knew that you had given your siblings a better life than she could have. A lot better.” She hugged him. “What you did was wonderful. Selfless. You have given of yourself and never expected anything in return. And that is why they did this for you. That is why they sought me out and brought me into your life. Because they wanted to give something back before it was too late.”
He smiled. “I think you’re right.”
She put her arm around him. “Come here, you.”
He slid back down in the bed and pulled her down on top of him. “I just want to lay here and enjoy some alone time with my future wife. No brothers, no sisters, no kids. Just you and me.”
She smiled. “And what, exactly, do you want to do with me?”
He kissed her lips, then her neck. “Anything your heart desires.”