#Chapter 34 | reject you, Bastien!
My body crashes into the door with a dull thump, and I bounce away from the wood for the dozenth time. If I ever get out of this tinderbox, I’m sure I will have bruises all down my sides- but getting out is seeming less and less likely.
I did not waste a single moment after Arabella locked me in the closet, immediately beginning to scream and yank at the immovable door k**b. When that didn’t work I tried climbing the shelves to reach the vent in the ceiling, but they collapsed beneath my weight and built a veritable pyre of linen on the closet floor,
At least when the fire reaches me I’ll go fast.
A sob wrenches from my throat, true terror enveloping me as the reality of my circumstances set in. When Arabella first struck the match, I thought only of what I must do to escape. I did not let myself dwell on what would happen if I failed. I did not contemplate the agony awaiting me.
I throw myself into the door again and again, the prospect of burning to death riddling my body with panic and adrenaline. As smoke slips beneath the crack in the door and clogs the air around me, I remember my phone, yanking it from my pocket with shaking fingers.
I fumble for the touch keys, my lungs already burning with acrid smog. Bastien’s number flies from my fingers on auto-pilot, and I strain to hear the tinny ringing over the rising whirr of flames. The temperature is rising every second, and blazing orange light now shines through every crack in the door.
“Pick up, pick up, pick up!” I beg as prayers race through my mind. Please, I implore the Goddess internally, Do whatever you want with me, but please don’t do this to my baby. Please don’t take it too.
The line rings and rings, chiming in my ear like a relentless death knell. Please Bastien!” I shout into the roaring inferno. “I need
The moon and stars have disappeared behind black clouds, as if the Goddess can hear my grim thoughts and is reordering creation to match them. Aiden still sits beside me, a hulking gray wolf gazing longingly into the trees, hoping for signs of prey.
Ambient light from the city radiates a golden halo over the ridge at our backs, but the wild mountains before us lie in full shadow. I howl into the darkness, channeling every ounce of my rage and frustration into the call.
My dread only increases as the minutes tick by. I agreed to rest before setting back to Elysium, caving to Aiden’s nagging if only to make the lecture stop. However being away from the pack when so much chaos reigns makes my skin crawl.
A knot has been lodged in the pit of my stomach since I first heard Arabella was missing, but since we’ve been out here, the knot has expanded to a wrecking ball. I try to tell myself it’s only my anxiety spinning out of control. If anything new had developed, my men would have notified me – our mental link can travel any distance.
Mom and Selene are safe with my sentries and Donovan is overseeing the enforcers searching for Arabella; everyone is accounted for. I would know if something was wrong.
So why do I feel such a horrible sense of foreboding? I roll my neck, stretching my restless muscles and shaking out my fur. Perhaps my instincts are trying to alert me to something already happening, but a crisis yet to come.
I want to go back. I relay to Aiden.
We should try to find some food first. He answers. You’ve got to keep up your strength.
A fresh wave of alarm slams into me as his thoughts travel to mine, and my claws dig compulsively into the soft earth. No. I can’t stand to be away any longer.
Fine.Aiden relents, but if you collapse before we get back to the city, you’ll have only yourself to blame.
I’m already running, my powerful haunches launching me through the trees like a speeding bullet. Aiden struggles to keep up. yelling after me to slow down more than once.
But I can’t. With every inch I draw closer to home, the more certain I am that something is very, very wrong.
My tears streak through the soot on my cheeks, leaving pale tracks in thick gray powder. Ash fills my lungs, melding with my bodily fluids to form a foul tasting slime the strained organs continuously expel in their efforts to keep me breathing. The coughing is as painful as it is disgusting, but nothing hurts worse than knowing no one is coming to save us.
I barely spoke two words to Bastien’s voicemail before my phone died. Being locked in the safe room all day without entertainment or a charger had drained its battery, and my lovesick instincts to call my husband for help rather than the pack emergency line stole my last chance of salvation.
We’re going to die.
I wrap my arms around my belly, futilely shielding the precious life within. “I’m sorry.” I weep, clutching the spot where my baby rests. “I’m so sorry. You deserved so much more than this, so much better.”
I should have killed Arabella. I never should have allowed her into the cabin. I knew she was up to no good, but some idiotic part of me thought I could talk her down. After all, what else was supposed to do? I didn’t have any way to escape.
The only safety I’ve ever known has come from Bastien. Without his protection I’m helpless, and I stopped being able to count on him the moment Arabella returned.
Odette had known Gabriel was in trouble simply by instinct. If Arabella was right and Bastien and I really were supposed to be mates, wouldn’t he sense something was wrong? Enough to at least answer the phone?
I know he has the device glued to his side because of the “kidnapping,” and every time I’ve called him recently it’s been because something was wrong. Shouldn’t he know by now that I don’t pick up the phone without good reason?
The truth is he doesn’t care. Not when Arabella is missing and in danger – and especially not when he believes I’m responsible. He’s already put me under house arrest, for all I know he’s currently making arrangements for my trial and exile, if not my execution.
Whatever affection Bastien once held for me is gone. If I’m being honest, it wasn’t ever true affection: it was pity and obligation cemented by l**t. Over time the combination grew to fondness, but the sort of fondness one has for their pets: patronizing if benevolent.
It was a mistake to let myself become so dependent on him. At first I didn’t have a choice. When we met I was frail and traumatized, without a friend in the world or a penny to my name – and bearing no skills to earn any. I needed him to survive. But I should have put a stop to it after I found my feet, I was just too in love with him to think of my own best interest.
This is the result. I never learned how to stand on my own, and fondness is not love. It doesn’t last. It doesn’t conquer all.
Sweat pours off my body in heavy torrents, and I’m actually beginning to hope dehydration might take me out before the flames can breach the door. The room grows hotter and hotter every second, and my stomach leaps into my throat. I vomit black bile onto the pile of towels and sheets under my feet, still gagging and retching once my stomach is empty.
My shoulders collide with the wall as my knees give out, and I howl the way Luna used to before Garrick stole her from me. “Goddess d**n you, Bastien!” I cry, “All I ever did was love you!”
He never wanted me. He made me believe in a future he never intended on giving to me, playing with my heart and throwing it away the moment his duty was fulfilled. Three years of marriage, and he turned his back on me despite all logic and common sense.
Now my baby is going to die because he’d rather be with a psychopathic barbie doll than a halfling.
My head whips manically back and forth, “No.” Igasp deliriously. “You don’t get to reject me.” I slur, “I reject you, Bastien! Do you hear me?” I shout the words into the conflagration, “1. Reject. You!”
1 slide down the wall until my bottom connects with the floor, hugging my legs to my chest. Black spots smatter my vision, the air around me feeling completely solid. This is it. Woozy heat dulls my thoughts, whirling them through my scattered mind in a lightheaded maelstrom. I’m dying.
It’s not the first time I’ve thought this, but I know this time it’s real.
My sorrow is for my child. My fear is for the pain. However I also feel relief; relief that all this torment will finally be over
No one knows exactly what the afterlife is like, but everyone has seen glimpses. When the Goddess ushers in the dark half of the year on All Souls Night, the veil between worlds becomes so thin that you can almost see across. On those nights you can feel your loved ones watching over you so keenly that there is comfort even in the unknown.
Wherever I’m going, I’ll be with my mother again. With Luna.
I’ll finally be safe.
As my eyes close for the last time, I whisper my final thought. “I won’t have to hurt anymore.”
5 Shets Dead
When Alden and I get back to our clothes, my phone is ringing in my jacket pocket. I untangle the device from the garment, noticing a missed call from Selene and 16 from my mother in addition to the incoming line from an unknown number
The dread I’d begun to feel on the cliffside had transformed suddenly and horrifically into a riot of agony as an impassable rift rent my heart in two. Something deep in my bones told me that Selene was rejecting me, and now,
I hadn’t known how profoundly it would affect me, at least, not in terms of the rebuff itself. I knew losing my mate would test the very limits of my being, just didn’t understand how immediate the impact would be, even from such a distance. And I don’t know what happened to cause it
I certainly left things on bad terms, but why now? Could she be rejecting me simply for my misleading comments about house arrest? Was that the last straw after one too many wrongs?
I’m gasping for air as i fumble to accept the call, my anxiety snowballing into a blinding, deafening avalanche of worry as I whip my phone up to my ear, “Hello?”
It’s Danvers, his familiar voice low and subdued.
Did you find her?” I ask immediately.
“No, sir. It’s not Ms. Winters.” He hedges, clearly unfinished but struggling to find the right words.
*Then what is it?” I prompt harshly. yanking on my trousers.
T’m afraid it’s Mrs. Durand.” Danvers replies resignedly.
I freeze, renewed panic zinging through my body. Though Axel was just in control mere moments ago, he’s already clawing to get out again. “Which Mrs. Durand?”
Aiden stops halfway through buttoning his shirt, watching me with apprehension.
Danvers clears his throat. “Actually it’s both of them.” He says. “They snuck out of the pack house and went to your family cabin.”
*They what?!” 1 thunder,
“That’s not all, sir.” He continues grimly. “There’s been a fire.”
Flashing red and blue lights blot out the cinders of the cabin, framed by billows of black smoke spiraling up from the ashes as firefighters douse the embers with industrial water hoses. There are too many emergency vehicles to count: firetrucks, ambulances and patrol cruisers lined up through the clearing like a wall
The scent permeates through the sheet metal and fiberglass of Aiden’s car, but rather than the cozy aroma of a bonfire, it’s a foul blend of burnt plastic, metal and – most sickeningly-flesh. Bright orange sparks float in the air, carried on the wind and blazing bright until winking out in the damp autumn air.
Through the haze of smog and glaring lights I see my mother standing next to Danvers wrapped in a heavy woolen shawl. I can hear her weeping even from this distance, then meet her bloodshot eyes when her head turns in my direction.
I charge toward them through the raining ash, taken aback when my mother begins retreating rather than moving to meet me. *1 was only gone for half an hour,” She s**s, “I don’t know what happened. Everything was fine when I left.”
*Where’s Selene?” i demand, aching to comfort her but unable to focus on anything until I know where my mate is.
*Bastien,” Mom chokes, shaking her head as fresh tears spill from her lashes
My stomach lurches, “Where is she?” I repeat gutturally.
She wrings her hands, gazing at me with such sympathy my heart begins to splinter. I know, before she opens her mouth, what she’s about to tell me. “No.” I jerk away from her, backing out of reach when she extends her hands toward me