“A thing of beauty is a joy forever.” ― John Keats, Endymion
Mariah sat in a chair in the reading section of the old library with the works of the English poet, John Keats. She found herself absorbed in the study of his poem, Endymion. She loved the thought of Hyperion’s daughter, Selene, Goddess of the moon, falling in love with the young shepherd, Endymion. Keats called her Cynthia. She loved Keats’ romantic retelling of the old Greek myth.
She closed the book and looked up to the painted ceiling at the moon cloaked in clouds above her and dreamed of capturing Peter’s heart the same way Cynthia caught Endymion’s. Dreams of caresses and kisses filled her mind.
Her phone buzzed waking her from her daydream. She fumbled in her purse and looked at the display. It was Peter. Her heart raced as she imagined what could go wrong with her hello.
“Hello,” she whispered through her tight throat.
“Oh, hi Peter.”
“I called to confirm our meeting tomorrow . . . “
Mariah’s heart pounded as she felt her chest tighten. She blinked hard as she tried to think of something to say.
“Would it be okay to pick you up at 5:00?”
Mariah nodded her head in vigorous approval. She could barely breathe or speak.
“Mariah, are you there?”
“Oh, uh, yes Peter, yes, that would be great.”
She hated how desperate and squeaky her voice sounded.
“Okay. I’m looking forward to it.”
“Thank you, Peter. I’m so excited about our meeting. I can’t wait!”
Great. I’ll see you at 5:00 pm Friday evening.”
“Bye,” came the breathless voice from Mariah as Peter ended the call.
Mariah paced back and forth as her mind raced over the things she wanted to do to get ready. Panic gripped her. She tried to remember the details Jon shared with her about making a good impression.
She ran to Jon, hugged him, and kissed his cheek before disappearing out the exit. Jon looked at the door, bewildered. Mariah ran back in and told Jon she needed him to take her shopping to buy an outfit, perfume, and new lipstick in the coral shade he recommended.
“Where were you going just then?” Jon asked.
“Oh, I forgot I rode with you.”
Jon smiled and put his arm around his frantic friend and walked her out the door. He reassured her. She was going to do just fine. In the back of his mind, he feared for Mariah. A twinge of sadness tightened his chest. He knew that no matter the outcome, she must abandon him for her dream of living free of the invisible constraints of her Cybrid origin.
* * *
Trembling hands held the coral lipstick just off her lips. Mariah wanted to rock a hot red to match her mood, but Jon recommended she think more of using her lip color to show off her eyes instead. He told her to make eye contact and show interest, and the lip color will emphasize her green eyes. Mariah’s emerald eyes would ensure Peter felt his heart in her hands. The thought made Mariah’s skin tingle.
Mariah took one last look at her mid-thigh pencil skirt and pastel blouse. She was happy that everything seemed to find harmony and the symmetry Jon taught her. She looked at her cleavage from several angles. She wanted to have allure but not too much. Jon told her mystery drew a man to a woman. Don’t sate his hunger too soon Jon had said.
The doorbell ended the internal debate on cleavage and hip to shoulder ratios as Mariah tried to calm her startled heart and open the door.
Mariah looked up at the Cybrid male that filled her door frame. His serious look made her feel small and insecure.
“Miss St. Claire?”
“Yes.” Mariah heard her voice sound like a frightened school girl.
“Mr. Ivanovich is waiting for you in the car.”
The Cybrid stepped back as Mariah pushed past him. He followed her down to the curb, laughing at the girl’s struggle to keep her balance in high heels as she clop-clopped her way to the exit.
Mariah stopped and wiggled her dress hem down and straightened her blouse. The anxious schoolgirl gathered her composure. She lifted her chin. Hips swayed to the car with all the dignity and grace Mariah could muster. The Cybrid girl who dreamed of freedom and equality placed herself into the jaws of the Dragon.
The driver opened the door of the BMW and waited as Mariah slid in with a smooth continuous motion, like a velvet crème on a sinfully rich dessert.
“Wow, Mariah you look beautiful!” Peter exclaimed.
Mariah’s heart pounded as she looked into Peter’s eyes; wide open in the dim glow of the cabin light. His smile was not the greeting it was before. She saw his interest was more than the formal politeness of business intercourse. His crisp linen shirt and trousers emphasized his Slavic features and muscular build, holding her gaze like a magnet.
Her heightened senses registered the mingling erotic tones of perfume, cologne, and a scent of pressed cloth and leather from the car. A smile caused her eyes to sparkle in the light. Hormones coursed through veins of warming skin and Mariah felt a peculiar dampness she hadn’t experienced before.
Mariah could only smile and murmur a polite, “thank you,” and tried to return the compliment. She felt her cheeks burning with embarrassment at her response. The car sprinted from the curb catching Mariah off guard. She reached out to steady herself, touching Peter’s hand.
She turned to fasten her seat belt and tried to see if her cleavage was as rosy as her cheeks. Her mind raced to stop the flood of emotion. She wanted to touch Peter again and to throw herself out of the car at the same time. In the back of her mind, she thought it better if she were a machine that could shut itself off. She had no idea what was happening to her.
* * *
Peter looked across the table at Mariah. Her alluring look and schoolgirl shyness captivated him. He hadn’t felt this connected to a Cybrid before. They were like dear pets to him. Innocent and loyal, almost to a fault. But this one was special in a new way.
A waitress in a red silk dress with black dragon brocades approached the table and caught Peter’s eye. She gave him an almost imperceptible nod. Peter acknowledged the Dragon Sister with his eyes and a nod.
“Good evening Mr. Ivanovich. Can I get something to drink for you and your Cybrid?”
The Dragon Sister’s words cut Mariah like a knife, and she felt tears well up in her eyes.
“Her name is Mariah,” Peter replied.
Peter’s tone instantly rebuked the sister for her insult. She bowed as her cheeks flushed with embarrassment.
“I apologize for my rudeness.” “Mariah, may I get you something to drink. We have a delicious pear wine today.”
Mariah sat silent, her head down, unable to speak. Her eyes blinked hard to avoid humiliating herself. The comment from Gloria reminded her of the isolation she felt.
“We’ll have two glasses Gloria, and the grilled shrimp.”
The waitress hurried away. How could Gloria know someone of Peter’s stature would entertain a damned Cybrid female? Their powers were not the same as hers. She could kill the bitch with a single pulse of energy. Gloria smiled at the thought of frying the Cybrid. “I could suck the Cybrid’s life right out of her mouth,” she mused to herself. Her good mood returned with the idea of killing the Cybrid that intruded in her and Peter’s world.
Mariah looked up at Peter after the waitress left and caught the glint in his eye. His defense and the way he looked at her replaced the tears of shame with a warm flush. No human had ever come to her aid before. Forbidden thoughts and emotions swept through her mind like high tide.
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