- Meet The Girls
- Meet The Guys
- Chapter One
- Chapter Two
- Chapter Three
- Chapter Four
- Chapter Five
- Chapter Six
- Chapter Seven
- Chapter Eight
- Chapter Nine
- Chapter Ten
- Chapter Eleven
- Chapter Twelve
- Chapter Thirteen
This story is rated Mature for adult language, sexual content, references to graphic violence, drug, and substance abuse. This means that this is intended for audiences 18 and up.
This chapter includes violence, gun violence, and assault.
Eli was giddy with a sort of anticipation she hadn’t known she could feel. It wasn’t uncommon for her stomach to twist into knots or to outright rebel against her. But this – a feeling of lightness, of optimism, of hope. It would break her just as readily as it would save her.
She spent hours counting down to when she would see Damien. To when she would be free.
He left her with precise instructions on how she was supposed to act. What she was supposed to do. What she could and could not bring with her. The plan was to behave as naturally as possible and walk out the front door. Which meant she was limited to what she could bring. They had made plans to pick up the necessities when they were far away from Vegas. When they settled… wherever that was. They hadn’t made any concrete plans.
Instead, they would allow the road to leave them wherever. To take them through new, uncharted territories until they found a place they could call home. The three of them.
She thought of Aria then. Wondering if she had gone back to her hometown or if she realized that the world was bigger than her. If she finally took the plunge and traveled the world – fell in love, started a family.
Her stomach twisted again. The creature within her let out a low, feral growl. It didn’t matter how long they had been apart; Eli would always feel like she was hers. And the creature within her felt the same. It was likely for the best that they were no longer a part of each other’s lives.
She couldn’t love someone like this. Not truly. Not without the claws of jealousy leaving gaping wounds in their wake. And she knew she couldn’t be loved, either.
Not even by Damien, who smiled so sweetly and did his best to convince her that it was the case. Damien who wanted to move heaven and earth themselves to get her out of a situation of her own creation. Damien who was now risking everything to get her to safety. Leaving everything he had ever known and loved behind in the process. Once they left Vegas, there would be no coming back. There would be no Sunday brunches with his family. No meeting his sister’s child.
No part of her deserved his love and his kindness, but she got it anyway. He accepted whatever she could give, even knowing that she might not ever love him back.
The hours leading to their departure were filled with more thinking than was likely good for her. She thought first about how he deserved so much better than her but then realized that she was not so good that she would let him go to pursue his own happiness. She was greedy, eager to sink her fingertips into him and keep him for as long as he would allow. Her thoughts took a darker turn when she realized that a day might come when he had to leave her, too. When he realized that, despite all the times she cried damsel in distress, she was a monster in her own right.
Would she let him leave?
Everything within her pleaded with a future-her for the right answer. That yes, she would let him be free. That she would let him find happiness, even if it wasn’t at her side. But the knot in her stomach was otherwise unconvinced.
It was natural to want everything. But to what end?
The Devil was greedy, too. And it was the Devil who wouldn’t let her go.
Being unable to pack anything, she felt the beginnings of stir-craziness washing over her. There was never anything to do in this apartment. She could clean, but it was already spotless. She could watch a movie, a show, navigate her way to Youtube and watch some of those “oddly satisfying” compilation videos. Instead, she sat in silence, staring at the four walls.
She needed something to settle her nerves. To get her out of her own head.
Soundlessly, as if the guards on the other side of her door could hear the path she carved through her apartment, she made her way to the bathroom. She reached into her hiding place and produced her pack of cigarettes. She groped around for her birth control. Her fingers closed around nothing. She groped blindly in the dark for it but felt only the cool metal sliding beneath her arm.
Shit, she stood up on her tiptoes to see if she had accidentally pushed it too far back. There was a ninety-degree drop through the ductwork she had done her best to be mindful of. But it seemed that the news of their escape had lent her to be a little bit jumpy. A little bit careless.
Cigarettes in hand, she made her way to the balcony, eager to watch the Las Vegas sunset for one last time. Draping herself over the balcony, she lit her smoke and pressed it to her lips.
She recalled a time when she loved this city. When she felt like she had finally found a home. It was a place where she thought she could be anyone. At the time, she had aspirations of becoming a well-known tattoo artist. Dreams that Landyn crushed beneath his toe almost as soon as they arrived.
The purpose of her being here wasn’t to start something for herself. It was to be Landyn’s girlfriend. His Mate. His Queen.
Many cigarettes later, the sun was finally down. Night-time chaos erupted beneath her. Squalls of too drunk tourists crawled up the building until they settled on the balcony beside her. She made friends with these strangers. Stole their jubilation as her own.
Her burner phone dinged in her pocket, jarring her from her thoughts.
Damien: Let’s go.
She did as he instructed, down to the letter. Her personal phone remained abandoned on the table, wiped of all conversation but Landyn’s, as they always were. She stuck her pack of cigarettes into her bag and slipped on her jacket. Then, as an afterthought, she filled up a reusable water bottle and snagged a few of the energy bars Landyn insisted she stop eating.
The guards offered her a polite nod as she stepped out. She tucked the bag tight to her side, hoping to stop the sloshing sound from following her down the hallway, to no avail. Fortunately, neither seemed to really care as they stared ahead, looking more like guards from Buckingham Palace than hired goons.
She didn’t recognize them, which, in of itself, was concerning.
The elevator closed behind her, and she found herself dwelling on the gnawing sensation in the back of her head.
Something was up. Something was wrong.
She cut her usual course out of the lobby, walking straight out the front doors. It wasn’t until she was on the strip that she took a path less traveled down a few blocks and through a parking garage. Then, finally, she found the spot Damien had texted her.
With a slow, hesitant smile, she climbed into the passenger seat. He greeted her with a bright smile, his hand finding her cheek, his lips claiming hers.
“Let’s go,” he whispered.
Eli nodded emphatically, her eyes sweeping the parking garage for any signs of a tail.
“Yui is already on the move,” he said, putting the car in drive.
“That doesn’t mean much of anything,” she laughed. “That girl will find a way to be late to anything.”
“Hopefully, today is an exception.”
She lifted her brows in silent agreement but certainly didn’t seem convinced.
It was hard to bring themselves to speak as they drove, finding themselves in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the way out. Damien did his best to pretend that he wasn’t nervous, but she could see his gaze dart from side to side, see his knuckles whitening. They were both waiting for something terrible to happen — for the Devil and his men to stalk them down and drag them both back to Hell.
Eli wouldn’t believe they were free until they were out of Vegas. Once she saw the sign flash by them, then, and only then, she would allow herself to relax. But not a moment before then. A belief she was glad to see they both shared.
She glanced at him over her shoulder, his jaw tight as he stared straight ahead. They were soon to slip out of the city – through some surrounding neighborhoods. Yui would be waiting for them outside of a shipping yard. From there, it was an easy hop onto the interstate, and off they would go. To their new lives.
“Where do you think we’ll go first?”
He smiled at her, sincere warmth and affection in his gaze when he turned to look at her. “I’ve never seen the snow,” he said, after a brief moment’s consideration. “Maybe north?”
“Northeast would be better,” she smiled.
“Same difference,” he waved a hand, shooting her an oafish grin.
“No, not the same difference,” she laughed, swatting his chest.
“Still North. Still has snow!”
She shook her head from side to side.
The tension rolled off them now that they were out of the city. Finally, the car rolled to a stop and was pushed into park. He killed the engine and let his hand fall to her knee.
“We’re almost out,” he said, his smile slow, disbelieving.
“We’re almost safe,” she agreed, her hand closing around his.
He brought her knuckles to his lips, her smile softening as he studied her face. She felt her insides twist into knots like her breath was too much for her body to contain.
They were almost there. Almost safe. And this man — the one who smiled so sweetly, who kissed her so gently — would be there at her side. A tidal wave of emotion washed over her, pinprick heat stinging her eyes.
“It’s almost too good to be true —”
Damien went still.
His eyes were wide, staring straight into hers as blood pooled from a hole at his temple.
The world slowed until it went perfectly still. She found the point of entry – a bullet hole in the windshield. A lone figure approached, clad in black, their gun still leveled at the car.
She scrambled for the keys, turning him in the ignition. Her hand closed around the steering wheel, her other on the shifter.
A fist pounded against the driver’s side window. She didn’t need to look up to see who was there.
The glass cracked. It splintered. Another thump, and it shattered. A predatory snarl ripped through the night as she was dragged over Damien’s corpse through the window. Shards scraped through her belly, her thighs. Despite the pain, she kicked, and she wailed. She snarled, willing the Beast to take over. To fight. Tooth, nail, claw.
The world was still spinning as she was thrown to the ground. Backward, on her hands and knees, she tried to crawl away. The events played over in her mind – a rapid picture show of everything that had gone wrong leading to this moment.
Damien’s eyes wide. Face hopeful.
He died with love in his eyes.
Landyn made his slow approach, his teeth bared to her in a monstrous growl. The first hit was no surprise, sending her sprawling onto her side. The pain barely registered.
A small, pink clamshell container clattered to the ground next to her head.
“You’re a filthy fucking liar,” Landyn hissed through his teeth.
Another blow. The wind gone from her lungs.
“You’re a real piece of fucking work, did you know that?”
Her head spun. Blood filled her mouth.
The assault was unending. Over and over again, the blows came. The pain was otherworldly, the darkness in her vision spreading. She felt detached from this body, straddling the precarious line between life and death. Cold crept over her bones. The pain had started to flee.
She was dying. And still, h›e wouldn’t stop.
Through the haze, she saw Yui watching from afar, her face a slack-jawed mask of terror.
Eli smiled, wanting her to see what she did before Damien left. She wanted her last memory to be of the love in her eyes as she mouthed “go.”
She managed to hold on long enough to see her disappear.
She let go.
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