- 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 mental/emotional abuse/manipulation.
She awoke surrounded by white. For a moment, she dared to hope that all of her fears of what came after were ill-founded. They escaped. When she opened her eyes, she’d feel the warmth of the mid-western sun on her cheeks. Damien would greet her with a smile — a promise of coffee when they found a place to stop.
The sound of a heart monitor beeping steadfast beside her squashed those hopes.
It wasn’t long before her vision became less blurred, focusing on the foam tiles overhead. The ugly speckled pattern did little to stop the ache that awoke behind her eyes. One that quickly started to turn into so much more. A searing wave of agony crashed over her. Eli was too aware of the pain she felt radiating – from the crown of her head to the tips of her fingers and toes.
Memories came to her. Lightning cracks of things she’d rather forget.
First, of Landyn, teeth bared with hellfire alight in his eyes. The Devil reigned down on her until there was nothing left. When she felt the grim reaper rake his talons across the name of her neck, she had welcomed – parted her lips to his for a kiss. What she wanted was an end to her suffering. An end to her heartache.
But the reaper turned his back on her.
Not even he wanted her.
She then thought of Damien. The suddenness in which he went still. The half-glazed, adoring look he’d wear forever. The only kindness done was that he wouldn’t live long enough for her to disappoint him. Nor long enough for her to rot him from the inside out, the way she had.
Tears blurred her vision, her lungs seizing, refusing to move.
It was her fault. Everything was her fault. If he hadn’t tried to help her – if he hadn’t loved her…
“You’re awake,” a familiar voice croaked from the side of her bed.
Not even this moment was sacred.
Her heart rate climbed, her hands clenching into fists at her side. Surprisingly, they were the only part of her that didn’t throb. She didn’t want to look at him. Didn’t want to see his face in the aftermath of his destruction. Seeing the pride in his eyes would shatter her.
Why? She wanted to ask. Why didn’t you just finish the job?
Because it would have been too easy, the Devil would whisper. Because this is what you deserve.
She wouldn’t have been able to argue, either. She deserved this and so much more. Lives had been ruined just by coming into contact with her. She had welcomed the Devil into her bed, and when she became his Queen, she became Damnation.
“Elizaveta,” he rasped, his voice growing closer with the creak of a faux-leather chair.
Still, she didn’t look at him.
“I’m so sorry,” he wept, his clammy hands finding hers.
She choked on her response, her arm tensing as she tried to wrench herself away from him.
“Please, Elizaveta,” he implored. “I’m so… I’m so sorry.”
Her head shook from side to side, her lungs burning with their absence of air. She couldn’t breathe. Not with him so close.
Landyn let her pull her hand away.
She hadn’t looked at him, but she was still too aware of his presence. She could sense him – his very aura, rolling over her like a toxic fog. Every part of her being demanded that she flee. That she run away and never look back. But her legs remained stiff – frozen in fear, leaden in agony.
In her current state, she knew she wouldn’t make it. It would be a miracle if she could even walk.
Once again, the Devil had a captive audience to his theatrics. The same old song and dance.
“I didn’t mean for it to go so far,” he choked, his knuckles whitening in her peripheral where he gripped the hospital bed’s bar. “I was just so angry at you for lying to me about having a baby. You know how much that means to me,” he let out a shivered exhale. “And then to see you running off with another man….” He shook his head.
She remained perfectly still, her eyes burning with tears.
“Say something,” he implored.
She flinched, her head shaking slowly. “I don’t know what you want me to say.” Her voice came out as a rasped croak.
Landyn made a fretful noise, moving from her side to reach for something. The crinkle of cellophane alerted her to a plastic cup. Try as she might to resist its siren call, she couldn’t. With a violently trembling hand, she reached for it. His hand reached toward her – a peace offering as he cradled the back of her head and helped her drink.
“Look at me,” he whispered.
She shut her eyes tight.
“Elizaveta, I need you to see how sorry I am. Look. At. Me.”
She braced, feeling his fingers tighten in her hair. But no rough tug came.
Her tongue darted over her lips as she forced herself to indulge him. If she wasn’t so used to these theatrics, she might have been moved to believe there was something to his words. That he was sorry for what he had done. However, there was an unending list of things for him to be apologetic for. This had happened one too many times for her to ever believe this was an exception – a temporary madness.
One time had been one time too many.
It took her a moment to see him. Truly see him. His cheeks were ruddy, his nose and eyes red. Heavy bags had formed under his eyes. To anyone else, he looked like the model of grief. But she knew better than to believe him. She knew better than to think that a single one of those tears was for her.
“I thought I lost you,” he said, reaching for her, his fingers brushing some hair away from her face.
She jerked away from his touch, wincing as pain lanced up her side. He frowned.
“I promise you, it will never get like that again,” he whispered, leaning over the edge of the bed. He took her hand in his and pressed a sweet kiss to her knuckles. Again, she tried to pull herself free, but he remained steadfast. Unflinching, unwavering as he gripped her hand tighter.
“I was just so angry that you would lie to me. And when I realized that there was someone else – that you would leave me, I just… I snapped,” he pressed another kiss to her skin, and her insides revolted. “I can’t lose you, Elizaveta. You’re my Mate. You’re my heart. You’re my everything. I don’t think I could survive without you.”
She swallowed hard, struggling to speak past the bile in her throat. She wanted to scream. She wanted to shout. She wanted to throw her fists into his face until he was little more than a bloody pulp. She wanted to reenact every single one of the beatings. She wanted to break him the way that he broke her.
What pained her the most was that she felt his hurt tugging at her heartstrings. The same person who broke her was the only person to help her put the pieces back together. With masterful execution, he shattered her and made her feel like he was the only person she reached for to find comfort. It was a song and dance they had perfected over the years. One whose steps were too easy to fall into.
She had to get out. She had to get out as fast as she could.
A feat that would be even harder to accomplish now, no doubt.
“I love you,” he whispered.
She knew her life would be a series of unannounced check-ins. He’d track her every move from here on out. It will be harder to leave. But she had to.
Fight. Flight. Befriend.
“I love you too,” she lied.
She allowed him to take her hand. To press kisses to her knuckles, to her wrist. “I never want to hurt you like that again.”
“Then don’t,” she said before she could think better of it.
“Don’t give me a reason to,” he countered.
They both went quiet, sans the sound of her heart monitor droning on beside them. She held her breath and hoped it would go still.
I never do.
She just wanted it all to stop.
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