There was nothing in his eyes but agony. Not a hint of recognition or understanding, only pain so
intense that it rendered me speechless.
Asher’s memories still lingered in my vision, imprinted on the back of my eyelids every time I blinked.
Sean’s face covered in blood, the way grandma stared at Asher, seeing so clearly that it wasn’t him
behind those golden eyes, hearing Asher’s screams- the way every bit of ferocity and strength left him
when he realized what he'd done.
All of it was too much, too overwhelming, but my reason for staying strong was right here, inches away
and crumbling to dust in my hands.
Tears streamed down Asher’s face, down his cheeks where they trickled off his jaw, tickling my wrists
from where I cradled his head. I curled into his chest, holding his empty stare with every sob he held
His pain and guilt were a sandstorm that tore into me, scraping away at my skin, but no matter how
badly I wanted to cry out and shield myself, I held back. I’d take the pain and weather it if it meant he’d
“How am I supposed to live with what I’ve done? How do you ask forgiveness for something like that?”
Asher asked in a raspy voice.
Before I could reply, there was a loud crash from downstairs. Some small, selfish part of me was the
tiniest bit relieved because in truth, I had no clue what to tell my mate. I could only tell him I didn’t
blame him so many times. Even then, words did nothing to erase the kind of pain he was enduring.
It filled my body with an icy, numbing fear that grew exponentially worse when I heard thunderous
footsteps, followed by my dad's voice.
“Where is he?!” Dad bellowed. “Where is the man that killed my son?”
The blood drained from my face. “Let me talk to him. He'll understand, Asher. I know he will.” I urged,
hoping just this once he’d listen to me.
Asher shook his head and stood, swiping at his face angrily though his eyes were still glossy, and the
evidence still shimmered on his cheeks. When he squared his broad shoulders, I caught a glimpse of
his sheer strength and knew he hadn't lost it the way he believed.
“No, I won't hide from what I’ve done. It doesn’t matter if it wasn’t me. I’m the reason the blood witch
can do the spell to enslave you. My body was the weapon that killed him-that killed the others.” He said
quietly, exiting the bedroom and leaving me to scramble to catch up.
I clipped my shoulder on the corner as I raced down the hall, nearly tumbling headfirst down the stairs
to catch up to Asher. My muscles turned to lead the moment we stepped into the living room, rooting
me in place under my dad’s intense stare.
He hadn't changed since I last saw him at the hospital. If anything, he looked worse. His eyes were
bloodshot, his face tense and marred with dark circles of exhaustion. Tristan and Giovanni surrounded
him, speaking in low voices that he didn’t appear to be hearing. The others: Breyona, Holly, Mason,
and Clara, stood off to the side. Flora hovered behind my father, and as our eyes met, I read the
warning in them loud and clear.
He wasn’t okay, and there was no promise that he ever would be.
“Let him go.” Asher said to Giovanni and Tristan.
The two Vampire's reluctantly stepped away but remained close by. Tristan looked my way, a question
burning in his eyes. I nodded ever so slightly, assuming he was asking if I was on board with all of this.
I wasn't, not exactly, but Asher needed this confrontation. My only hope was that it didn’t break him-that
it didn’t break them both.
As Asher and my dad stared at one another, I realized both men looked irreparably broken. The light in
their eyes was fractured, letting pain bleed through the cracks.
Neither one looked as strong as they once had. Not Asher, who was an Alpha known for his ferocity,
and not my dad, who had fought on countless battlefields and ended hundreds of lives.
Two of the most important men in my life were nothing more than mere shadows of themselves.
Asher broke the silence first.
“I accept whatever punishment you see fit to give me.” He rasped, and I swore I wasn't the only one in
the room to stiffen. The silence was deafening, as were the stares I exchanged with Breyona and
Mason. Asher didn't so much as look our way when he said with dark conviction, “No one will stop
The tension in the room was suffocating, drawing the air from my lungs until I couldn’t take it anymore.
“Asher, don't-” I whispered, but my warning was cut short when my dad charged.
He bulldozed his way to Asher, a mass of muscle and writhing pain. Time slowed and my heart wailed
in my chest, the gaping hole in it weeping with bloodstained tears. Asher didn’t move, didn’t so much as
flinch as he stood there, waiting for the blow to come.
None of us, not even myself, could have anticipated what happened next.
Just when the tension in the room reached its head and it appeared as though dad was going to lay
into Asher, he did the opposite. Grabbing him by the shoulder, my dad pulled Asher into his arms,
wrapping one around his neck and the other below his arms.
He was hugging him.
Even Asher was stunned, his body going stiff, harder than granite. It didn’t last long, though. How could
it when both of them were irreparably broken in the same way? They were two sides of the same
horrible. coin. Their guilt went hand in hand, as did their pain-their shame.
The stone-cold mask Asher donned split in two when my dad’s shoulders trembled in a poorly
suppressed sob. Slowly, with a tentativeness I’d never seen him show before, Asher hugged my dad
I watched in silence, the hole in my chest torn open, as my mate and dad shattered entirely.
There wasn't a single dry eye in the room, not even from the two Vampire’s watching nearby. It took
every crumb of strength in my wounded soul not to break down, but as I watched the men I loved
reduced to tears by their guilt and grief, it became easier to reign it in.
Even if we won this battle, life would never be the same.
They would never be the same.
It was this moment that made me realize what I needed to do. Perhaps the darkness whispering in my
veins helped motivate me to make a decision, but it was Asher and my dad that ultimately made up my
The plan I had brewing, the one so heinous I didn’t dare speak the words aloud, was our only hope to
fix the damage the blood witch had brought to all of us.
I had assumed I hid my thoughts well, but there was one set of eyes that wasn’t on the two men crying
in the middle of the living room.
Holly stared into the pits of my soul; her appearance so eerily similar to my own that it felt like I was
looking into a mirror. I turned away to give Asher and my dad but all I could think was that she space,
Holly knows what I’m going to do.
Slowly, we all migrated into the kitchen while Asher and dad slipped outside. My nerves were raw
without him close by, but he needed this. They both did. I picked at the edge of the blood bag I was
currently drinking from, mulling over how the hell I was going to leave without everyone noticing. With
tonight being the full moon and the most likely day for the blood witch to act, I needed to fix things
Aset of eyes burned into my skin, pulling my attention away from the crimson liquid sloshing in the
blood bag. I looked up, instantly catching Holly's eyes from where she stared at me from across the
Swallowing back the guilt of what I planned to do, I slipped into the living room. My ass had just hit the
couch when Cassidy's voice popped into my head.
‘You there, Lola?’ She asked over mind-link, her voice etched with concern.
‘Sure am.’ I managed to reply, pulling from the blood bag deeply.
Warmth spread throughout my limbs, but not my hands-not where the darkness stained my skin. That
part of me remained ice cold.
‘I heard what happened.’ Cassidy's voice lowered to a broken whisper. ‘I'm so sorry, Lola. How...how is
I bit back a sigh. ‘He's as well as can be expected.’
‘That doesn’t sound good.' She said softly.
‘It's not. None of this is good.’ I replied, swallowing the scrap of irritation that crawled beneath my skin.
The urge to lash out clogged my throat, but what good would it do to rage at Cassidy? It wouldn't take
away this anger festering inside of me, anger reserved for one person alone. There was a crash
through the mind- link, followed by a burst of obnoxious laughter and the heavy thump of music pulsing
I grimaced, not at all hiding the contempt in my voice. ‘Are you really at a party right now, Cassidy?’
‘Not for the reason you're thinking, trust me. ‘Her reply came quickly, with just a hint of defensiveness to
it. ‘Look, I’m not one to admit when I’m wrong, because usually I'm never wrong...but I think Asher was
‘You think Asher was right about what?’ I asked slowly.
‘I think something happened to Brandon.’ She whispered reluctantly. ‘I've gone to every college party
within a two-hundred- mile radius, and believe me, it's a lot of fucking parties. Do these college
students. not have anything better to do? It's like they don't have homework or exam’s anymore-'
‘Cassidy.’ I deadpanned, cutting her rant short.
‘Right, sorry. I ramble when I’m on the verge of freaking the hell out.’ She sputtered. ‘Anyway, I've gone
to over a dozen parties and Brandon isn't at any of them. From what I can get out of these drunken
idiots, no one’s seen him in days.
Do you think there's any possibility he went to that safe haven you and Asher have been working on?’
‘I don't see why he would've. There’s no reason for him to be there, but I suppose it's always a
possibility.’ I frowned, glancing towards the back door where I could see the silhouettes of Asher and
my dad talking.
‘I can go there and check if you want. I'm wasting time searching these damn parties and as much as I
could use a drink or twelve, I'm too wound up to consider it.’ She huffed.
‘Let me talk to Asher about it and I'll get back to you, okay?’ I lied, tapping my guilt deep down where it
would never see the light of day.
Cassidy sighed softly, not at all suspicious. Yeah, that's fine. Just don’t forget, please. I'm seriously
worried about him...'
‘I won't forget.’ I said quickly, then sliced the link in two.
It wasn't that I didn’t care about Brandon.
Even though he was an obnoxious dickhead, he was still Asher’s brother. He mattered, he really did,
but I had limited time and needed every spare second I could manage.
If I was still standing tomorrow, still in control of my body and magic, then we'd look for him. Until then,
wherever Brandon was, he'd have to wait.
‘You're making the right choice. You have this power for a reason. Use it.’ The darkness in my veins
Its voice wasn't human, but that didn't stop me from understanding it’s meaning.
Amid the chatter of Breyona, Mason, and the others, it became hard to breathe. Every glance they cast
me stung my skin, bringing up a wave of acidic paranoia that burned my tongue and throat.
Could they see I had something planned? Something that didn’t involve them? I stood abruptly, earning
a frown from
Breyona. She took a step in my direction, her brows furrowed with concern. I shook my head, backing
“Just need some air.” I muttered, slipping out of the living room and into the kitchen.
Their voices continued, overlapping one another until I could no longer tell what they were talking
about. I yanked open the refrigerator and found there was no more blood bags left inside. Shutting it, I
turned and opened the door beside the pantry, stepping into the dimly lit garage.
Two of Asher's cars sat parked off to the side and along the far wall was an icebox where I stashed
another case of blood.
Inhaling the crisp scent of gasoline and machine oil, I padded over to the fridge and opened it, pulling
out another dozen blood bags. A pair of small feet clicked against the floor, following me into the
garage. I knew who it was before I turned around and knew whose stare would soon meet my own.
“Hey.” I said awkwardly, shifting my weight between each foot.
Holly stood a few feet in front of the door, her hair a mass of inky darkness down her back and her
arms crossed over her chest. The blues of her eyes were bright, the same shade I imagined mine
“You're planning something-something the others won't agree with.” She stated in a low, silky voice. 1
I cursed inwardly. Tristan had already told her about our plan to use her blood to locate her mother,
which meant she knew about my other plan, the one too insane to dare speak aloud.
Reigning in a flinch, I steeled my spine and stared into her eyes with ease. There was a storm brewing
in my chest, raging beneath my skin, but I'd never let it show.
“What's it to you, Holly?” I asked, simply put.
My fingers began to twitch, stinging with icy numbness. I slipped my hands behind my back, a
movement Holly undoubtedly tracked.
She blinked, her eyes sliding from my hidden hands back up to my face.
“Let me help you.”
Suspicion curled in my head, carried by the seductive song coursing through my veins. I narrowed my
eyes at her, disbelief staining my voice.
“Why would you do that?” I pondered.
She had no reason to help me, not with this. The thought of her lying to my face, turning me in to Asher
and the others before I had a chance to fix this, it was maddening. Rage simmered, coming to a boil
that I had to physically fight to contain.
Holly lowered her voice even more, the words coming out in barely a whisper.
“My blood is magic, Lola. You can use it to find my mother, but there’s also so much more you can do
with it. I’m your sister, and I want to help you. You deserve it after...after all you’ve been through.”
‘She’s telling the truth. Let her help us. Use her power.’ The dark magic sang.
“I'll let you help me on one condition.” I told her. “We leave here, right now, without telling the others.”
Holly didn’t so much as hesitate to reply.
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