‘Let's take a minute. I need a breather before I tear her heart out.’ I hissed over mind-link.
The darkness in my veins was crooning, ‘kill her, kill her, kill her.’ The possibility that she’d open her
mouth again and say something that eroded the last shred of my willpower was terrifying enough to
make me want to run.
Still holding Asher’s hand, I pulled him away from Rowena. The traitor was reclined in her seat, lazy
smile on her face. She could act like being here was her choice, like this was some five-star resort, but
I had a feeling she’d quickly change her mind once
Asher began drawing blood.
The mere thought of hearing her screams had my hands shaking, twitching with the urge to let my
magic take control.
There was clear reluctance on Asher’s end, but he relented and let me lead him into the observation
room. As Rowena’s cell door swung shut, I closed in on my mate. The others in the room faded into the
background, the prickling sensation that was their eyes smothered by fear.
I fumbled to grab both of his hands, capturing them with my own so that he had no choice but to stop
and listen to what I was saying. There was no time for his stubbornness, not when his life was so
clearly on the line.
‘You better wipe that look off of your face, and don’t act like I don’t know what it means.’ I snarled,
sucking in deep breaths to calm my frantic heart. ‘You're not sacrificing yourself. It's not an option, you
hear me? I will lock you in one of these cells. if it means keeping you safe, and I’m willing to bet
anything that Zeke and the others will help me.’
‘What kind of Alpha would I be if I didn’t do this?’ Asher’s voice was lower than normal, thickened by
grief and guilt.
More than anything, I wanted to wash it away. I wanted to be the balm that soothed his soul and the
rock that the waves crashed against, but some things couldn't be fixed. I knew that firsthand, because
the hole in my chest where my brother once was would never close-never heal.
I hated that he had to throw my earlier words back in my face. He knew I couldn’t argue against it, not
when I was so willing to do the same thing. It was pure selfishness that kept me from backing him up,
but as hard as I tried, I couldn’t seem to change my own mind.
‘Asher, I’m not living a life without you in it.
I won't do it. I don’t care if it makes me selfish. Becoming a Luna was never something I wanted, not
until I met you and realized what you are to me. If I lose you, I lose my reason for everything.’
Flecks of shimmering gold filled his eyes, warming my cold and clammy skin.
‘You'd take care of this pack, I know it. You'd be alive and breathing. That's all I want.’ He finished; his
voice filled with such absolution that a shard of panic pierced my chest.
‘No, no I wouldn't.’ I closed my eyes, facing the ugly truth behind my many flaws. There was such rage
boiling beneath the surface, staining my soul, and turning it black, feeding the darkness that poisoned
my blood. When I opened them, I let every bit of that anger show, praying it would be enough to deter
him. ‘If I lost you, I'd lose myself. The darkness would take over, and I'd let it. Asher, I’d kill every last
witch that walked this earth. I’d kill every single person that led to me losing you.’
Surprise and dread flooded the mate-bond in chords of steel and silk, rippling across Asher’s rugged
face until his guilt and grief morphed into sheer determination. The sea that was his thoughts began to
churn, kicking up into a hurricane that caused the waves to funnel and whirlpool.
‘Then there has to be another way. Rowena was far too enthusiastic telling us how to break the spell.
She wants us to focus on what she said, rather than what she didn't.’
He said, eyes darting over to the far wall, through the window that gave us a glimpse of Rowena in her
An idea popped into my head; one I’d thought of weeks ago but hadn’t given much thought to. It was
nearly impossible, but it beat losing Asher or someone else I loved. The smallest glimmer of hope filled
my body, smoothing over the ragged edges of the hole in my chest. I couldn’t embrace the emotion the
way I wanted to. There was no telling if this would work.
‘We could kill the blood witch...’ I said after several seconds of silence. ‘She's the one casting the spell.
She's the one trying to control me. If we kill her, then the spell is broken and the only person capable of
controlling me is gone.’
Asher’s eyebrows slid closer together, his face pinched in a grimace. ‘It would work, but we have no
idea where the blood witch is.
They could be in any town, and we’d never know. Even if you found a way to break through the illusion
magic Rowena was talking about, we don’t have the time to go through every single human town within
a two-hundred-mile radius.’ 1
He was right, but there was another option- a faster and much more satisfying one.
My attention drifted over to the observation window, to where Rowena sat. Her eyes were locked on my
own even though there was no way she could see past the two-way glass.
‘Let's see how enthusiastic she is when pain is involved.’
While Asher went to grab a few things, I stayed put with the others. I didn’t need a cart full of
instruments to peel her flesh from bone. Even without the aid of my magic, I’d much rather use my bare
Tristan and Giovanni were both leaning against the wall. Neither acknowledged the other, but they
didn’t seem to be fighting anymore. I hoped whatever feud they had going on had come to an end,
because we needed all hands-on deck to get through this. Breyona, Zeke, and Tessa were huddled
around the single table in the room, exhaustion clear on all their faces.
“The sun will be coming up soon.” I warned both Tristan and Giovanni. “You guys might want to get out
“We're staying.” Giovanni grunted in his thick accent, staring at me with eyes even as dark as his
Tristan nodded, still not looking at Giovanni, but said nothing. Just then, Asher returned to the
observation room, pushing a large metal cart in front of him. The blades, drill bits, and various vials of
chemicals rattled as they hit one another. From where I stood several feet away, I could make out the
subtle tang of old blood coating many of the instruments.
“Would you mind going to check on Holly? She was at the hospital the last time I saw her.” I asked
Tristan, smothering the worry that threatened to shine through my eyes.
It wasn't what Rowena said that had me fumbling, but the potential that my half- sister was in danger
too. There wasn’t a single doubt in my mind that Holly could be used by the witches, molded into a
weapon of mass destruction. She’d been an object in my father’s eyes, something to possess and use,
and I knew that wouldn't change with the witches involved. It was one of the many reasons why I’d
never asked for her help.
“She's safe with Mason and Clara. They’ve been keeping me updated.” Tristan replied, pulling a
cellphone out of his back pocket. He swiped his finger across the screen and held it up for me to see.
There was a text thread between him and Mason, along with several texts about both Holly and my
Tristan cleared his throat, the sound somewhat awkward. Brushing away the strands of his golden hair
that fell in his face, he regarded me without his usual scowl.
“You need us right now, and not as your seconds-in-command,’ but as your friends‘” He grumbled.
The pressure in the room increased, weighing on my shoulders. It was the only sign I had that told me
Asher had approached.
Just when I thought he'd snap and lash out at Tristan, he surprised me by doing the exact opposite.
“We need all the help we can get.” He said, then gestured to the cart he'd pushed into the room. “How
do you feel about drawing some blood?”
I was positive I'd been devoured by the darkness and forced into an alternate universe because
Tristan’s slender lips peeled upwards in a devastatingly eager smile.
“Are you kidding? I love blood.”
Five minutes later and the floors of Rowena’s cell were stained red. Staring down at the growing
puddle, I silently wondered if it would seep into the concrete if we’d return to this very room a decade
later to find the evidence of what we once did.
I'd always known Asher as one of those rare individuals who excelled at everything he did, and this
only reaffirmed that belief.
The way he moved, gliding the blade through the flesh and muscle, was nothing short of an artform.
Seeing my fair share of death, I assumed that watching the man I love torture someone would fill me
with disgust and shame.
Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d be standing here, fighting the urge to jump in and do far
worse than carve off a finger or two. The dark magic I'd dabbled in tainted my thoughts and fought to
express its will over my own. It was why instead of helping my mate, I stood off to the side with hands
clasped behind my back.
“You're going to tell us where the witches are. It doesn’t matter if it’s with your last, gurgling breath.”
Tristan said coldly, hovering over Rowena.
He played the part of Asher’s partner in crime with more joy than I'd ever seen him express. I would’ve
never pegged him as one for torture, but where Asher was rough and brutal, Tristan was cold and
calculated. They balanced one another out perfectly, keeping Rowena teetering on the cusp of
Coated in a thick sheen of sweat and blood,
Rowena’s head lolled to the side. Her auburn hair was matted and slicked back from her head. The
flesh along her arms was gone, laying on the floor in piles that made my stomach turn. Her chest
heaved, her eyes glossy with both tears and rage.
“Where are they?” Asher bellowed, slamming his hands down on the arms of the chair. Rowena jolted
but did not move.
Her eyes, however, tracked Asher wherever he went. “Where is the blood witch?!”
Slowly, her lips curled into the smallest of smiles, her teeth painted pink from blood. From behind my
back, my fingers twitched, every joint aching as a voice far darker than the shadows danced through
‘Kill her, kill her, kill her.’
‘Make her pay. Make them all pay.’
‘Use us to bend them to your will.’
‘We will rule the ashes, not them.’
The only thing that kept me from finishing what I'd started was the stinging pain that came from biting
the inside of my cheek.
Blood filled my mouth, but its scent was drowned out by Rowena’s. The wound healed within seconds,
forcing me to bite it open a second time, and then a third.
Just when I thought I couldn't take it anymore and feared I'd truly snap, Rowena belted out a wet,
agonizing laugh that made
Asher go completely still.
“You idiot.” Rowena wheezed, the whites of her eyes bright against all that blood. “She’s already here.”
The growl he let out was low enough to make my hair stand on end.
“She's here, in my pack?”
Rowena hummed, lips curling at the edges. She’s been here this entire time, Alpha Asher. Living right
under your nose.”
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