#Chapter 35 She Is Dead
“Bastien,” Mom follows me, dogged even amidst her grief. She catches my shoulders, wrapping her arms around me before I can stop her. “I’m so sorry.” She keens. “She was inside.”
“No!” I say again, my voice a dull roar in my own ears, “You’re wrong. She can’t – she can’t be. I would know if she was dead, 1 would feel it!” i insist.
My mother buries her face in my neck, her tears hot and wet against my skin. “I know.” She laments, “I know sweetheart.” Her small hands rub circles over the rigid muscles of my back. “But she’s gone.”
“How do you know?” I struggle to push her off me without hurting her, “Is there a body? Show me her body?”
Mom’s arms clamp down around me more tightly, squeezing me with her supernatural strength. “They already took it.” She whimpers. “It’s at the morgue,”
The phone line opens with a fuzzy click, dissolving into a strange, droning roar punctuated by splintering wood and hollow crackling. “Bas-en.” Selene’s terrified voice cuts out as she attempts to cry my name, “I – eed. Th-re’s… el… Pl-elp!”
I listen to the voicemail over and over again on the way to the coroner’s office, trying to decipher any clear words or message from the jumbled sounds. Unfortunately no matter how many times I play the recording, I can’t make anything out.
I don’t want to believe it. I can hear the fire in the background, and I’ve seen what’s left of the cabin, but I cannot fathom that Selene might be dead. She was clearly in trouble, but that doesn’t mean she’s gone. After all, her phone cut out – if it ran out of battery she could be trying to find help this very moment and simply unable to call me again.
She isn’t dead. Axel says for the thousandth time. I would know.
How did this even happen? How did the fire start? And if Selene really was in the cabin when it began, why couldn’t she get out?
The obvious answer is too horrible to contemplate. My hands curl into fists, clenching and unclenching compulsively as the city flies by out the window. She isn’t dead. I think again. She can’t be.
Then whose body did they find? A small, cruel voice in the back of my mind wonders. And why did she reject me, if not for failing her when she needed me most.
My mother’s hand closes over mine, squeezing gently. I return her affection, but I refuse to look at her. I can’t bear to see her guilt and pain. I can’t bear to hear her apologize again, or say my mate is gone.
“Why did you leave the house?” I ask abruptly.
Mom hiccups, “We thought the kidnappers might be holding Arabella at the cabin.” She explains hoarsely, “It seemed like the only place they could pin to Selene. Garrick’s house never occurred to us – I didn’t even realize she owned it.”
“Owns.” I hiss, shaking off her hand. “Why didn’t you go back when you realized you were wrong?”
“Because the cabin was a right side nicer than being locked up with a bunch of enforcers.” Despite her words, there is no venom in her tone. “I didn’t think I never imagined…” She trails off.
“The enforcers were there to keep you safe.” I groan, “To prevent something like this from happening!”
“You told us they were there to keep her in custody!” Mom exclaims. “That was a cover!” I explode, “Somebody is trying to destroy this family any way they can. I lied to the enforcers to appease them, and to avoid frightening you!”
“How were we supposed to know that?” She cries. “You accused Selene of kidnapping Arabella!”
“That isn’t true!” I refute hotly, “I let them question her, that’s all! I know she didn’t have anything to do with it. She can’t possibly believe I thought otherwise.”
“Well she did.” Mom informs me thickly. She believed you were against her, that’s why we followed the lead ourselves instead of going to you.”
So this is my fault?” I demand, “It’s my fault she’s missing?”
“Of course not!” She objects immediately. “I didn’t mean that, Bastien. If anything it’s my fault… I’m the one who broke her out.”
She is and
“Stop it Alden barks from the front seat. “None of this is either of your faults. The only person responsible is whoever lit the fire in the first place Selene knew you loved her, both of you.”
“Stop talking about her in the past tensel” I order harshly
Tense silence fills the car for a long moment, until my mother returns her comforting touch to my arm. “Bastien.” She broaches genth, the salty scent of her tears filling the small space. “I don’t want it to be true either, but the longer you deny it, the more painful it will be to deal with “She cautions. “You need to accept it. Selene is dead.”
“No she isn’t I argue “Until the doctor says otherwise, we have to assume this is another trick.” The car rounds the corner and the hospital comes into view, its glaring lights stinging my eyes. “She’s not dead.”
“I’m very sorry, Alpha. “De kane proclaims softly, “The DNA was a match.”
“No,” I stand firmly. It can’t be”
The man offers me an infuriatingly sympathetic look. “I’m afraid the tests don’t lie, sir,“
Reason wars with my denial, and I conjure a last resort to maintain my stubborn refusal. ” want to see the body.” I command.
Mom’s eyes widen, “Sweetheart
“I don’t think that’s a good idea.” Aiden interjects.
“You should heed their advice, sir, Dr. Kane sighs, “Mrs. Durand’s remains are unrecognizable. Seeing them would only cause you further distress.”
” Want To see. The body.” I repeat authoritatively.
“As you wish, Alpha.”
Dr. Kane pushes open the morgue’s heavy double doors, leading me into the stark, chilly room with solemn finality. Aiden follows at my side, his bearing rigid with agitation. Don’t do this, Bastien. He pleads in my head. Don’t torture yourself this way.
I have to do this. I think back, watching the doctor pull one of the locker doors open and slide a gurney from the refrigerated compartment
A crisp white sheet covers the slab, draped over a small round lump rather than the typical shape of a prone body. He gingerly pulls back the covering, and my heart falls out of my chest, clattering to the ground at my feet.
A tiny, burnt husk is all that remains of my mate, her blackened limbs curled into a fetal position. Her scent is gone, replaced by the noxious perfume of soot and smoldering decay. My legs give out, and I crumple to the floor, smashing my disembodied heart to bits as I finally acknowledge what can no longer be denied.