TABLE OF CONTENTS!
- 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
- Chapter Fourteen
- Chapter Fifteen
- Chapter Sixteen
It felt like a bomb went off behind her eyes. It was impossible to focus on anything but the war drum pulsing between her ears. With every beat of her heart, her vision clouded.
The last thing she remembered was being with Aria. The image of her arched and whimpering had been tattooed on her brain. When she awoke, she was in the woods, alone, discarded like a plaything. It was no small blessing that she still had her things. Her cell phone, a bag full of her destroyed clothes, her wallet, and a few of her essentials. She had tried to probe her skull for any sign of contusion, but it had healed, or perhaps, a blow to the head wasn’t what knocked her out.
More than a bit confused, she forced herself to begin walking.
She wondered if Salena had caught her and Aria in the throes of their passion. Salena didn’t have a dangerous air about her, but she certainly didn’t seem like someone who had complete control of her emotions.
Her heart twinged thinking about Aria and the mess she must have made of things. Eli knew a thing or two about being in an unhappy relationship, but she also knew what it was like to have everything turned on its ear without preamble. It didn’t matter how good one was at adjusting. It was still discombobulating.
Eli couldn’t shake the feeling that so much more was going on. Her mind was screaming out to her to remember. Something. Anything. But every time she tried to think back to the moments leading up to the blackout, her mind answered her with static.
It would have been easy to assume the worst, being so close to the full moon, but she hadn’t scented blood on herself. Besides, if she had harmed Aria or Salena with her transformation, she wouldn’t have been cleaned up and tidily deposited in the woods.
The same place she had been shot, nonetheless.
Despite her ever-growing confusion, she felt relief at finally being able to return to Yui. She waited until she was back in town to unlock her cell phone. Much to her chagrin, it was out of power.
She quietly cursed under her breath as she walked through town. The eerie feeling of being watched hadn’t dissipated. Instead, she felt the sensation worsen. It crawled up her spine like hundreds of tiny spiders. She was desperate to return to the safe house’s relative safety.
After what felt like a lifetime, she found her way back to the house. She could see that Yui had been making the best of her stay there. It was subtle, but to those actively looking, it was clear that someone was squatting. There was a bucket and a laundry line. A plastic crinkling greeted her with every sigh of the breeze, alerting her to a few safely hidden trash bags.
The scent of a wood-burning stove struck something within her. An urgency awoke in the pit of her stomach.
Slowly, she climbed the front steps and then slipped in through the now significantly loosened boards. “Yui?” She whisper-called. “Yuina?”
There was a clamor followed soon after by heavy, plodded footfalls. “Eli?”
The Siren threw herself into Eli’s arms and clung, squeezing her so tight she feared her soul would leave her body.
“I’ve been so, so worried! Where have you been?”
Eli rested her chin on top of her head. “I’ve been with Aria.”
“Wait,” Yui pulled back, her dark eyes widening in confusion. “The Aria.”
“That’s… I can’t….” Yuina grimaced and shook her head. Soon, her confusion was replaced with outrage. “That bitch!” She growled. “I found her. A few days ago. I told her that I was looking for you! And I gave her my number! She promised.”
Eli nodded. “I know.” She plodded toward the couch, keen to rest her aching feet.
“So… wait. You were with Aria the entire time? Why didn’t she just tell me?”
Eli shrugged, her head shaking in bewilderment. “I don’t know. She didn’t say anything to me about you either.”
“I’m,” Yui exhaled sharply and pinched the bridge of her nose. “I’m so confused. Just… tell me everything.”
Eli sneezed and rubbed her nose with the back of her hand. “Yeah. I have a lot to fill you in on.”
She started from the beginning, sparing no detail about what happened when she found the woods and the strange town buried deep within the woods. Yui hung onto her every word as she recounted her reunion with Aria. Before long, she was acting much like a child being read a bedtime story. She gasped and ‘awed’ at the appropriate moments, not bothering to hide that she was hanging on her every word.
“I guess, maybe, she might have been worried that you were someone here to come get me?” She sneezed.
“So, what happened that you were finally able to leave?”
“I—” I don’t know. Eli sneezed into her hands.
“I don’t remember,” she said after a brief pause. “I remember going down on Aria and then….” She frowned, shaking her head. “I don’t….”
Yuina made a small, implacable sound and knelt between her legs. Her head craned from side to side, inspecting her.
“She used something on you,” Yui snarled, framing her face in her hands.
“What? You mean, like, drugged me?”
“Your pupils are the size of saucers,” she commented, her gaze shifting listlessly from one eye to the other.
“Jesus Christ,” Eli growled, rubbing her forehead. “That makes… So much sense.”
“I woke up in the woods. Where I was shot.”
Yui stiffened, her spine straightening. “I can…” She touched her throat self-consciously. “I can make you remember,” she said after an uneasy pause.
The Siren nodded, worrying her lip between her teeth. “At least, I think so. You experienced something, which means that the brain still remembers. It may be buried or cloudy, but if it’s there, I can clear out the fog.”
“Huh,” Eli grunted, searching her eyes. “I mean… I… Sure. Why not.”
Yui nodded, settling back on her haunches.
“So, like. How does this work?”
“Close your eyes,” Yui murmured, pressing her hand to her forehead like a mother checking for a fever. “Relax. I’m going to sing to you.”
Eli chuckled but did as instructed. “Will closing my eyes help?”
“Yes and no. It’s mostly just awkward to sing for one person when they’re looking at you.”
The quiet between them was easy. With a few deep breaths, Eli felt herself begin to relax. The walls she had erected since finding herself in Aria’s care began to crumble. And then Yui began to sing.
Eli had heard her sing before. Her voice was a beautiful, sultry alto, straight out of a smoky film noir. But this was unlike anything she had heard before. It was like the melody itself weaved around her, cradling her in its protective warmth. Within seconds, she was entirely ensnared.
Its magic carved its way through her mind, weaving tunnels through the forgotten spaces, picking the locks of all the doors she had slammed shut on her memories. Eli could feel Yui gently probing, seeking out the answers that were lost to her.
She felt something splinter apart. The haze in her mind’s eye faded until clarity swam to the forefront. The scene came back to her as if played on rewind.
“What are you, Eli?”
Her breath froze in her lungs.
“A werewolf,” she had replied.
Eli’s blood turned to ice. She sneezed.
She could smell Aria in this place. She remembered the scent of damp autumn leaves and wood smoke.
“We have to go!” Eli barked.
Yui was quick to action, forcing herself to her feet. “What happened?”
“What? What does she know?”
“What I am,” Eli pinwheeled in place, looking in the dim lighting to find their bags—clothes, cash, supplies. “I think she’s a hunter.”
“Fuck,” Yui hissed.
“Yeah. Fuck is right.”
“No, Eli.” She grasped her wrist, holding her still.
Eli’s eyes darted to her profile. Yui had gone bloodless.
She swallowed hard, her eyes falling closed. “I don’t want to turn around,” she whispered.
“You have to,” a too-familiar voice said. “Turn around, Elizaveta.”
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