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Chapters 1 & 2 

of my latest book!

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All I’ve ever known about Vampires is a lie…

Now, I might be one of them.

NATASHA

 

“Natasha, I want you to meet Dresden Von Reinheit, Supreme Alpha of the North American ReinheitWölfe Pack, and his wife Anastasia Roşu, Viscountess of the North American Vampiri Clan… 

“Your parents.”

Isis’ words resounded in my ears as the teacup shattered on the ground, pieces scattering all over my feet. 

“I…” I blinked, glancing at the million pieces of fine porcelain—the tiny, hand-painted flowers that glittered with gold now ripped apart, never to be whole again. I focused on the spilled tea that stained my white pants and the hot feeling spreading over my skin. On the droplets wetting the luxurious dark wood floors… 

I focused on everything but the truth I’d seen shining in Isis’ eyes.

“It doesn’t matter,” Anastasia instantly offered, taking a step closer.

“It was a few centuries old, anyway. Time to get a new one,” Dresden joked, probably trying to lighten the situation, but silence heavily descended around us instead.

Soft, caring hands closed over mine, and I realized I was shaking. My gaze lifted to the woman who had become my best friend over the years, the closest thing to a mother I had ever known, as I finally grasped the emotion encumbering her features. 

“No,” I answered, slightly shaking my head. Unable to understand how there could be truth glistening in Isis’ golden-brown eyes when I’d spent my entire life with only her love by my side. 

“I’m sorry,” I rasped, glancing at the hopeful couple standing before me. “I’m afraid you’ve made a mistake. You are not my parents. You are not. You couldn’t possibly be.”

“Tasha, I know this is a shock, and legit not the way I intended to tell—”

“No, Isis!” The words cut through the fiery anger, and resentment suddenly engulfing my entire being. “My parents are dead.” My gaze returned to the couple as pain began to taint their expressions. “They were killed by Vampires.”

The disdain that swirled around my voice with that single word couldn’t be helped, it steamed from years of pain, loneliness, and a heart torn by self-hatred. From years of believing I’d been the cause of my parents’ loss. Most of all, it couldn’t be repressed because the feeling scorched Starlight just as strongly as it scorched me.

“No, sweetie. That is a despicable lie Dresden’s brother made you believe so you would hate us,” Anastasia hurried to explain, though the sight of my disdain had already caused hurt to glisten in her eyes. 

“Arnoldt sought to force—”

“You are not my parents,” I argued, interrupting Dresden while the anger brought with it fiery anguish, blazing through my soul. “You couldn’t possibly be, because parents who truly loved me, would have never left me behind.” 

“Baby girl, I know this is a lot to process, but please don’t be hurtful,” Isis begged. “Don’t say something you will regret. Just let us—”

“What else am I supposed to be? I am hurt!” I cried, feeling Starlight’s pain crash against my heart over and over, feeling as betrayed and discarded as I did. 

“Natasha—”

“It’s okay, Isis,” Dresden offered, lifting a hand towards her. “Thank you for your help but I think it’s best if you leave us to talk to our daughter alone.”

“Don’t speak to her like that,” I demanded, insulted he would dare throw her out. 

“Don’t raise your voice at your father,” Anastasia demanded in response.

“Ladies, please—”

“Not now, Dresden!” 

“Stay out of this!”

Both Anastasia and I snapped.

His eyes widened, and he released a frustrated sigh. “Dear Goddess, they are the same person,” Dresden mumbled, rubbing his forehead.

“Who do you think you are?” I asked. “You don’t get to walk into my life from one day to the other and treat Isis like that. Not after everything she’s done, after everything she’s been to me.” Emotion gripped my throat as I stared at him, the memory of Isis when we finally pulled her from the river playing before my eyes. “She almost died to save me,” I whispered.

The pain that flared inside Starlight and me, reflected in his eyes, as though he could see it in me too.

“I am sorry, Natasha. I horribly misspoke,” Dresden offered, face falling with regret as his attention shifted from me to Isis. “Please forgive me, Isis, it was never my intention to—” 

“I know, Dresden. Thank you.”

“Well, I don’t know…” I confessed. “Because I don’t know you.”

Taking a calming breath, Anastasia focused on me. “Natasha. Your father and I didn’t leave you behind. We could never. You have no idea what we’ve been through.”

“What about everything we’ve been through?” Starlight’s question echoed inside my being, bringing tears to my eyes.

Anastasia seemed sincere, unfortunately, the flames rising inside me and stocking the agony Starlight and I felt could not be contained. 

“What you’ve been through?” I asked disbelieving. “Here, in your castle? While living like kings as the heads of the Vampire Clan and the Super Wolf Pack? With people serving you, driving you, fighting for you?” 

Their faces fell at my insinuation, and my anger died as I glanced at the luxury surrounding us—the golden paint accentuating the carved flowers at the top of the walls, the polished wooden furniture, the massive fireplace, and soft, delicately embroidered linens on the bed—leaving only the pain. 

“I know you can see my future, but what about my past?” The stinging intensified in my eyes when my gaze returned to Anastasia. “Do you know how many times my uncle tortured me? How many times I was forced to shift without magic? No?” I nodded, the first teardrop falling down my face. “Isis does…” 

Muscles jerked violently along Dresden’s jaw from the rage he was trying to repress, but it was still evident in his eyes—perhaps his anguish too. A couple of tears escaped Anastasia, cutting a clear path over her perfectly flawless makeup. 

“I know what my bones look like…” I added, lips trembling. “It isn’t normal for someone to say that, is it?” 

The slight shake of Isis’ head answered me, her own pain brimming in her gaze. 

“Only now do I realize how not normal my life has been.”

“Natasha, I—” 

“Do you know what the first memory I ever had was?” I asked, cutting Anastasia off, my gaze leaving Isis to settle on her and Dresden. “It was of me, sitting somewhere in the forest, and eating grass from the ground while tears fell freely over my cheeks because my stomach hurt so badly—” A sob caught in my throat, swallowing my words. “I don’t even know how old I was.”

“Three, you were three years old,” Isis whispered, calling my attention back to her. She knew exactly what memory that was.

“It was the day she came to me. I was naked, on my own, and afraid, but I remember Isis’ beautiful smile, her arms wrapping around my trembling body and picking me up. She carried me out of there when no one else in the pack dared to even touch me. She took me to the only home I would know from that day on, gave me a bath, fed me, clothed me, and held me against her chest so tightly that I instantly knew I was safe.”

Isis’ trembling hand covered her mouth as she re-lived that day with my words, her grim expression saying my situation had been much worse through her eyes than through mine. 

Sorrow darkened Dresden’s eyes, but the expression of horror and distress in Anastasia's gaze said she never knew. When her demanding eyes connected with Dresden’s, shame tinged his features, revealing he’d learned the truth about that day but never told her. 

“I’m sorry, my love. I didn’t want to cause you more pain,” he admitted, taking her hand, and placing a tender kiss on it.

“I don’t understand how you could just leave me there,” I confessed through broken sobs, unable to fully speak. “Why didn’t you go back for me? Why didn’t you fight to get me back?!” Resentment burned through me while I shook my head, slowly carving my being. “You might have sent Isis to care for me, but you weren’t there. She was. And she’s been more of a mother to me than you will ever be.”

Tears streaming down my face, I suddenly realized the pain I’d repressed all these years was greater than I imagined. Fresh sobs caught in my throat as I fought to contain it, but I could no longer hold it back. It slashed through my heart as I watched my hurtful words slice through Anastasia too. 

Her anguish was visible for a mere second, a perfect mask of coldness falling over her stunning features while she held my gaze. A million thoughts swirled in her eyes, but she didn’t voice a single one.

“Dante…”

Starlight cried for him, and I turned around when his shadows materialized around me. His arms wrapped around my body, cradling me into his chest and his scent inundated my senses, providing instant relief. His arms were my home.

The door swung open at the same instant, and D barged into the room. His eyes took in the scene, features hardening when he saw the hardly-contained sobs threatening my being. 

“Perhaps you should leave,” he ordered the Viscountess and Dresden, his voice stern and unyielding. 

Her mask flickered between indifference and anger, but she held her tongue as they stared at each other in what seemed like a battle of wills.

“This was not the way…” D added, seeming both furious and disappointed.

“Viscountess, Natasha has been through a lot in the last few days,” Dante added, being more polite than D. “Please give her time to rest properly… and process.”

Slowly, Anastasia nodded. Her eyes returned to D as she walked by him, lowering before she left the room without another word. For a second, I wondered if that was a sign of submission for Vampires like it was for us Wolf Shifters. 

“Whenever you are ready to get the answers you need, I’ll be here.” Sending one last heartbroken glance my way, Dresden followed her.

“You should go rest too,” D offered to Isis, who glanced at me.

“I just need time,” I whispered, and she slowly nodded, placing a kiss on my temple before leaving the room. 

The moment Isis closed the door, the pain spilled out of me, tears falling freely from my eyes as the sobs left me breathless… 

Starlight’s howled cries echoed inside me.

* * *

The next morning, I woke up with my cheek still on Dante’s bare chest. 

After what happened, he’d spent the full day in bed with me, resting, and replenishing me with his healing shadows. He’d only left the room to get us food.

D had stayed too, sitting on the large armchair close to the window, and silently watching the hurt and resentment tear through me. At some point yesterday afternoon my tears had finally stopped, but Dante and D never left my side. I wasn’t sure I could express to them how much their soothing presence meant; I truly appreciate it.

I held D’s gaze, so many questions floating through my mind. Starlight had called Dante to us, but she had no way of calling D. How did he know what was happening? Did he hear us arguing? Did he feel my distress through our bond?

“We are all yours…” Dante’s confession returned.

D’s tormented eyes glanced back at me, saying so much he didn’t dare to tell me. Still, I already knew. D wanted to hold me too, caress my skin like Dante was doing, kiss me, and be the one who caught my tears. 

As the raw need he felt for me exuded from his every pore, seeping into my being, I dared to ask myself if I feared him, the Vampire, or the need I secretly felt for him. No matter how much I wanted to fight it, the answer was clear…

Slowly, my eyes traveled over his face, hating the way the blue flecks that adorned his hazel irises dimmed with anguish for me. I wanted to see them spark golden again. D’s tattoo was fully visible along the left side of his neck and arm, thanks to the white T-shirt he wore. He’d ripped the sleeves off, the fabric curling at the edges. 

Noticing my attention on his arm, D moved closer to us, switching from the chair to the bed, and my fingers instantly reached for the wolf.

“Sexy Vampire boy…” 

My brow furrowed at Starlight’s commentary. Clearly, she was feeling better too, but this was so not the time.

“I could hold you too…” D huskily murmured, seeming roused by my hand still on his arm—I couldn’t seem to stop caressing his tattoo. “If you want me to.” His thumb lifted to my face, and he gently stroked my jaw. 

“Yes! Please do naughty things to us too. Oooh, now there’s an idea. Dante and D… Mmm.”

“I…” My cheeks flushed, my eyes slightly widening at Starlight’s audacity.

A light of recognition flashed in his eyes, and his full lips slowly lifted in one corner. That maddening crooked grin returned. “It’s okay, Meu coração… I’ll be here when you are ready for me.”

His voice was soft yet filled with the absolute certainty that one day I’d come to him, and I’d be his. The notion made my heart stutter in my chest.

“What makes you think one day I’ll reach for you?” There was no malice in my question, only a sincere need to hear him say it. 

“You already have,” he murmured, lifting my wandering hand from his arm to press it against his lips, kissing it softly. The naughty grin on his lips turned adoring as he leaned over me. “I’ve seen it all, every kiss, every embrace. You’ve already given yourself to me. I know what you feel like, what you taste like, the way you smile when true happiness captures your being, and I’ll hold on to those memories of you until you are ready to claim me again…” 

“You are already mine, Natasha. I’m not letting you go, no matter how long I have to wait for you to realize I'm already yours too.”

“My mate…” Starlight echoed.

His breath fanned my mouth with his vow, making a delicious shudder travel down my spine and harden my nipples. I was shaken by the truth in his hazel eyes. Sadly, D didn’t kiss me, and my wolf stirred inside me in protest, the need for him pooling between my thighs like she knew his words were true. Like she had already tasted him too and wanted more.

Tilting his head, D slowly pressed his soft lips to my neck instead, to the tender spot only he and Dante had ever kissed. My head leaned to the side in response, giving in to the feeling while my eyes fell closed, but I swallowed the need growing inside me for him. 

Without warning, or waiting for a real answer, D stood, leaving my neck tingling as he left the room—not before a secret exchange occurred between him and Dante.

I breathed deeply, trying to calm my body from everything he’d just made me feel. My cheeks flushed with both arousal and embarrassment as I slowly looked up at Dante, expecting to find a sarcastic smirk on his face. Instead, a thoughtful expression captured his features. 

He’d been so quiet. 

“Are you okay?” I asked, dragging myself up on the bed until our faces were merely an inch away.

“Are you?” he asked in return, his hand still stroking the length of my back soothingly.

For a moment, I thought about it. “I don’t know.” 

Grabbing my waist, he finished pulling me on top of him, our bodies pressing together more intimately than I anticipated. I blinked, realizing only then that I could feel him fully against my belly. 

“I thought coming here would be a special occasion.”

“A special occasion?” I asked, even when the meaning behind his words seemed clear.

A saddened sigh sank his chest. “You reuniting with your parents.”

“So, it’s true…” I whispered, although I already knew it in my bones. “They are my parents.” My heart squeezed as I remembered our encounter.

“They are.”

“But she’s a—” 

“Vampire,” he finished for me knowingly. “Your mother is a Vampire, Natasha, and your father is a Wolf Shifter.”

The pain threatened to return as I shook my head, trying to understand something that should otherwise be impossible. 

“What does that make me?” I asked barely above a whisper.

“Special, Cuore mio…” Cradling my face, he pressed his forehead to mine. “It makes you so damn special.”

Dante claimed my lips, kissing me long and passionately, adoringly, making me forget the hurt once again stirring inside me. The need D had awakened in me mixed with my growing need for Dante, and a small moan escaped me when I felt him getting hard against me.

“I want you…” I murmured against his mouth, just as shadows swirled around us, taking us to his room in the castle.

Instead of his bed, we both landed in the shower, our clothes taken away by the retreating darkness as he pulled me under the steamy water stream. 

“The shower?” I asked confused, seeing him step back and squeeze the shower gel onto his hand. 

“I don’t want to shower,” Starlight complained, and I wholeheartedly agreed. 

Her growl engulfed my voice. “I want you—”

The words failed me when Dante pressed his naked body against mine, pushing my back to the wall while his hand slipped between my thighs. A half gasp, half moan finished my lingering sentence. 

“We take it back. We take it all back. Please wash us clean because we’ve been dirty, dirty girls…”

Dante’s laughter at Starlight’s shenanigans mixed with our kiss when his mouth closed over mine, the gel foaming as he stroked my center. My arms wrapped around his neck, fiercely holding onto him when his finger slid between my delicate skin, eliciting a whimper. It easily glided over the most sensitive part of me. 

“Yes!” I breathed, finally getting some relief.

“Please make us come…”

“Please make me come…”

“Your wish is my command, ladies,” he whispered, washing the soap away from my center, and driving me crazy with each movement of his hand. 

Reaching for him, I reveled in the feel of Dante fully hard in my hand, and I began to stroke him, squeezing his head firmly with each stroke. I loved the feel of his head between my fingers. 

A grunt left his throat with my anxious touch, and he pulled out of my hold. “Open your legs for me.”

His order was clear, and I was all too eager to comply. 

Two fingers slid inside me, effortlessly slipping in and out with my wetness. His thumb joined the party, caressing the most sensitive part of me in tiny circles, and robbing me of sanity. “Dante…”

“I know,” he murmured, his mouth creating a path to my neck. “I know you want me inside you, Cuore mio, but I want you to come for me first.”

A third finger joined, feeling almost like his hard length did inside me, and he began to suck the tender spot on my neck. The combination sent me flying so high. My nipples ached from the increasing need, tightening even more, begging for his touch as thin streams of hot water slipped between us, sliding down my searing body teasingly. 

Dante’s other hand suddenly squeezed my tender breast, gliding from one to the other with the gel and lathering my whole chest. His heated, possessive touch brought the relief I didn’t know I desperately craved, especially when his thumb played with my nipples.

Starlight and I growled when his touch briefly left my breast, causing a devilish smirk to tilt his pouty lips, but he swiftly took my hand and returned it to his hardness. 

Thank the Goddess! 

I loved feeling him like this. My fingers slipped over him effortlessly with the first stroke, and I realized he’d dripped gel over himself too. 

Squeezing him even harder with each stroke while the edge of desire and pleasure loomed before me, I began to rock my hips against his hand, riding it. The feel of him massaging my breasts, thrusting his fingers into me while rubbing my throbbing center, and sucking my neck so passionately, forced me over the edge. 

Loud moans escaped my throat when I tumbled into the abyss, my thighs trembling around Dante’s hand, and causing a smile to stretch his lips over my neck.

“Mmm, good girl,” he grunted in my ear.

Dante leaned away to look at me before I could even compose myself from the wild ecstasy that he’d just unleashed through me. Panting for breath, I forced my eyes open to see him smile.

“You’ve never looked as beautiful as you do when you come for me.”

Pulling his hardness from my hand, he grabbed my waist and flipped me against the tile wall, the coldness of it rubbing against my tender nipples just as his hard length pressed to my ass. 

“Please, Dante,” I begged. “Slide inside me.”

“Just the head,” he whispered wickedly in my ear, his chest pressing me into the wall as he lifted my ass, parting my cheeks until I was open for him. 

“I love it when he does that…” 

“Me too…”

I was about to beg once more when his head slid into me, the breath catching in my throat. He pushed a couple of inches inside me before pulling out and then thrusting back in over and over again, teasing the part of me he called the G-spot, and my eyes almost rolled back from the delicious sensation. 

“Dante!” I gasped when his speed increased, rubbing my G-spot with his swollen head, and pushing me higher and higher with each thrust. Before I knew it, I was falling again. My entire body shook from the pleasure, but I still wanted more. I wanted all of him.

Whimpering, I held on to the wall and pushed my ass into him, rubbing myself against his shaft. 

A ragged groan escaped the depths of him, and Dante pulled my arms back, slamming me into his chest. His hardness plunged inside me fully with the movement, and a wild moan erupted from me. 

“Holy fuck, yes!” 

“I know what you want, Cuore mio. You never have to beg,” Dante promised in my ear. 

His hands squeezed my breast as he held me impossibly closer, until my body arched backward into him, my head falling onto his shoulder.

Pushing his hips into me, he thrust harder, making my ass bounce against his groin. 

“Harder!” Starlight ordered as we rapidly rose to the summit of our desire, and I loved that he could hear her through the shadows like he heard me, it made our bond even more special. 

“Fuck, Natasha!” Dante violently jerked inside me before he deliciously obeyed, the movement adding to the sensations he caused in me. “I cannot begin to express what you do to me,” he grunted in my ear. “You and Starlight.”

With the way his raged breaths crashed against my neck, I knew he was close to exploding for me, and the notion sent my body into a frenzy.

“Come with me, Dante,” I pleaded, feeling myself a mere thrust away from falling apart in his arms.

Plunging into me faster and faster, he squeezed both my breasts before hiding his face in my neck and kissing it. Dante gave in to my wish, his hips crashing against my ass until we plummeted into the abyss of ecstasy we’d created together. 

His body deliciously shook against mine with his release, his moans fanning my neck as we became undone together.

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NATASHA

 

“What did you tell him?” I asked Dante while he held me to him, the steamy water still pouring down our bodies.

If all showers with him were like this, I was sure as hell getting filthy in an hour.

He raised a single eyebrow. “To whom?”

“D…”

Once again amusement and naughtiness filtered into his bottomless eyes. “Thinking about another man while in my arms, huh?”

“Stop it.”

“Hey, I don’t mind. All I ask is for you to tell me about it so the three of us can have some fun.”

“The three of us?!” 

For the first time in my life, my cheeks flushed bright red, but not from embarrassment. Desire instantly awoke in me, and I couldn’t help the visions the single mention of “us” stirred… visions I was certain came from Starlight. 

“I mean…” Dante leaned into my ear, pressing my breasts against his chest. “Knowing D, he’d probably rouse every single inch of you before he even slides inside you.” His lips dragged over the curve of my neck, landing on the secret stop. “I’m not as patient as him. I love making you come, yet I like it hard, fast, and to the point, D, however…” 

The insinuation made my breath accelerate. I yearned to discover what D would do to me if I gave myself to him, if I gave in to the instincts filling even the most remote corners of my soul. What would his touch feel like, what would his body against mine arouse?

Leaning away, Dante smirked as he looked into my eyes, noticing the ragged breaths already leaving my lips with his taunting. 

Starlight stirred inside me then, her emotion squeezing my heart. “D is more than that…”

Her statement brought back the soft way D always treated me, with the few kisses we’d shared, with each touch, even with the simple way he walked towards me. His every approach was perfectly measured and designed to set me at ease, not to scare me away. 

The more I remembered each moment with him, the more I realized that unlike Dante—who had me in his arms in 2.5 seconds flat after we met—D had always controlled himself. He gauged my reactions, making sure he didn’t cross a line from which there would be no return. D treated me as though I was precious to him, and this was the only chance he would ever get. 

Still, could I truly give him a chance?

Sadness filtered into my heart. I didn’t want anyone walking on eggshells for me, I wanted D to be his true self, and to show me who that was… even if it was hard for me to admit it. 

Dante’s gaze turned softer, certain, and even hopeful as he looked down at me, his thumb caressing my cheekbone. 

“You feel something for him already, Natasha. You can deny it to yourself but not to me because our astral bond is strong within you. I can sense your need to feel him close, to know him, even your desire for him every time he’s near… Do us all a favor, and don’t fight it.”

My brows deeply furrowed as I did exactly what he asked me not to do, fight the wave of emotions stirring inside me when it came to D. “It’s too complicated…”

Holding my gaze for a few more seconds, Dante sighed. “I told him things were changing within you. That I sensed your internal battle was almost over, and that soon you would welcome him too.”

“You did?” I breathed, feeling Starlight ache for her second mate even when I wasn’t so sure yet.

Dante nodded. “Like me, D has waited five years for you, Cuore mio. Don’t make him wait any longer.”

His mouth closed over mine and I gave in to him, feeling his shadows course through me soothingly. When Dante's lips began a trail to my chest, my stomach dipped, wanting him to love me again and douse the fire he awoke in me for D.

I watched him lower over my body, but as he reached my chest his focus shifted, kissing a path over the top of my chest, between my breasts, and then below them—his lips caressing my skin all the way to my stomach. As his gaze lifted to me, a mix of emotions darkened his eyes. 

He wasn’t kissing my breasts; it was the site of my injury.

The scream of rage and anguish that escaped him, and the unadulterated horror and helplessness in D’s eyes once they saw me bleeding from the crawler’s attack replayed in my mind. It broke my heart to cause them both such pain. 

I pulled him up to me, cradling his face with my hands. “It was not your fault,” I assured, but instead of relief, my statement brought renewed anger out of him. 

“No. It was Hannes’.”

“Hannes?” I repeated. “He wasn’t even there.”

“Exactly. He was supposed to be there, Natasha. He’s meant to be your shield.”

My shield? I had no idea what he was talking about, but it was clear that his statement was the end of our conversation. 

“We should get ready and go eat something. You need breakfast.”

Taking my hands from his face, he kissed them and turned around, leaving the shower, and stepping into the closet. 

Blinking as he stepped away, I tried to understand. “Do you have any idea what that means?”

“Not a clue,” Starlight replied, sighing. 

The water stopped the instant I stepped out of the shower, like it could sense it was no longer needed. Joining my wolf in her sigh, I reached for the towel that hung next to me and wrapped it around myself. 

“I’m going to see what the chef has on the menu for us this morning,” Dante added, walking out of the closet in a sleek, three-piece suit. The expensive-looking material seemed to gleam under the lights, it was way fancier than anything I’d seen him wear. 

If that was even possible. 

The smirk I loved returned to his lips as my cheeks warmed with the delicious sight of him. “Careful, Cuore mio. You are drooling.”

His laughter rang when I smacked him in the arm, his eyes shimmering with moonlight. “Thank you… I love it when you are rough.”

I narrowed my eyes at him, but it only made his lips twitch. 

“We are at Roşu Castle now, I have to dress accordingly.” With a final peck on my lips, he disappeared into the shadows. “I’ll come for you in a bit…”

The words rang through the dissipating darkness.

Walking to the vanity, I stared at myself for a few minutes. Memories from the attack awakened in my mind’s eye with Dante’s proclamation that it was Hannes’ fault. I couldn’t really support blaming him for what happened, but a single scene replayed in my mind over and over, unwilling to let me go.

“Burn…”

My gaze dropped to my hands, almost seeing the blue flames that had consumed the crawler within seconds and stopped the others in their tracks, even if for a moment. “Was that you?”

Uneasiness spread through Starlight in my chest. “I don’t know…”

Confused, I glanced at myself in the mirror again, trying to see Starlight through my eyes. “How don’t you know?”

“I’m locked inside of you,” she reminded, sadness engulfing her words. “So are any shifter powers I may have. I don’t know yet what I’m capable of, but I did want to protect you more than anything… maybe it was me.”

My eyes stung with the shame I felt exuding from her with the admission, and I shook my head, looking intently into my eyes. “You have nothing to be ashamed of,” I assured out loud, a soft smile gracing my lips as Vane’s promise echoed in my ears. “What we are able or unable to achieve right now, doesn’t stop what we are destined to become…” 

An unexpected wave of hope coursed through me then, followed by strength.

“Now, let’s try to do it again,” I declared, feeling Starlight stand at attention, eager to try with me.

“Wait. Are you sure we should? The blue fire incinerated that monster.”

“It did,” I whispered, considering her hesitation. “Hey, it’s our fire, that means we can manage it, right? We are not going to make a campfire, just a few flames. What’s the worst that can happen?”

“I wish you hadn’t asked that.”

My lips twitched at her grunting. “Okay, how do we do his?”

“No fucking clue.”

Deflated, I looked at my hands. “Maybe if I take a deep breath, relax, and kind of picture the flames on my hands they will show up?”

“We are visualizing, really?”

“Well, if you have a better idea…” Absolute silence. “I didn’t think so.”

Feeling the oxygen fill my lungs slowly, I let it all out and focused on my fingers, imagining blue flames dancing along my fingers as they jumped onto the crawler, consuming him whole while he screamed. 

Nothing.

“Maybe you need to try harder.”

“Me? We’re supposed to be doing this together.”

“Oh.”

Sighing, I took another settling breath and closed my eyes. 

This time, instead of the shrieking monster, I saw tiny gold flames exuding from the magical fire crystals where I stood. A certain longing filled the memory because it was the day I stepped onto the sacred pathway where I would endure the fire trial and shift. 

I knew then this wasn’t my impression of the blue fire, but Starlight’s. She was reminiscing about the power she hoped would finally set her free.

The tiny flames graciously licked my toes before jumping onto my ankles, suddenly turning blue. The memory was more powerful than I could have guessed, bringing with it a surge of tingling along my limbs. I opened my eyes, expecting to see the flames on my hands. Nothing.

Blue light did glow past my hands, though, reflecting on the mirror-like floor tiles. 

“My feet!” I gasped, dropping my hands to watch the tiny flickers of fire licking my skin. 

“Holy shit. We did it!”

“We sure fucking did.” I grinned, lifting one foot and then the other as the flames swayed with each movement. 

“What do we do now?”

That was the question.

“I don’t know. Turn them off?”

“Turn them off?! It’s literal fire, not a TV.”

“Well, I just wanted to know if we could bring them back. We did. Now let them go.”

“I don’t know how. They only disappeared after they had killed the crawler and served their purpose.”

True. 

“Oh! Water.” Excited by my brilliant strategy, I rushed towards the shower… stepping on the lush rug on the way there. “Shit!” 

Flames sparked to life as they caught onto the thick fabric, rushing over it like wildfire and sending blue and golden ambers all over the place. 

“Do something!”

Heart racing, I tried to pick up the now disintegrating rug, but a surge of flames caught onto the edge of the towel that wrapped around my body. I yanked it off me, threw it into the shower, and saw the water gush out of the six heads on the walls and ceiling, fully drenching it. 

Unfortunately, the blue fire seemed to have a life of its own. 

Its blaze grew swiftly, despite being under the water that should have snuffed it. Reaching the walls, it spread to the ceiling, melting the multiple heads until liquid metal dripped onto the title. 

My head jerked to the left just in time to watch the blue fire leave the place where the rug had been and climb onto the elegant curtains by the large window, continuing onto the wooden vanity—its hunger not satiated yet. 

“Stop!”

With an explosion, the blaze became impossibly large—fed by the masterfully carved wooden piece that became ash under its power. The porcelain sinks cracked from the increasing heat, sharp pieces shooting out of them, straight towards me. 

I staggered back from the horror, but strong arms caught me, whipping me around to protect me against a solid chest. 

Panting, I looked up as D’s wings swiftly wrapped around us, forming the perfect armor. 

“Are you okay?” His hazel eyes darkened with concern, even as the flames moved on to consuming the mirrors and chandelier. 

“I can’t stop them!” I urged. “Why are they destroying everything?”

“I don't know.” He winced when the mirrors exploded too, moving us out of the bathroom and into the closet faster than I could register. 

“No! I’m going to burn everything here!” I protested, trying to get out of his arms, but his hold only tightened on me. 

“It’s not on you anymore.” 

“What?” Shocked, I glanced down at my feet. They were perfectly smooth, no fire to be found… I, however, was fully naked in D’s arms. 

Though nudity had been something natural for me my entire life, it felt incredibly intimate with him. My eyes grew wide as I stared at him, horrified. 

Disappointment dimmed his gaze. “You have nothing to fear with me, Meu coração…” D assured before reaching for something behind me. “I will never touch you like that if you don’t want me to.” Stepping back, he covered my body with Dante’s plush robe, his gaze never leaving mine.

“Oh, she wants you to touch her. Trust me.”

“No, D. It didn’t mean that,” I assured, ignoring Starlight. “I wasn’t—”

“It’s okay.” A soft smile tilted his lips, but it was tainted by sadness. “You don’t have to lie. I know what I am scares you, and I’m sorry. I wish I could change that, but I can’t.”

“D, I…” Although I wanted to deny it, words failed me. Even when Starlight fought inside me, urging me to make it right. 

Shadows suddenly dashed by the door to our right and into the bathroom. 

“Svanire!” Dante ordered the fire. “Svanire in questo istante!”

Smoke rose from the opening, and I walked toward him, seeing only scattered cinders remaining of what had been a luxurious space befitting of a king. As my gaze roamed the destruction I had caused, I wondered if Dante’s ancient magic had been the force to finally stop my fire, or if its hunger had simply been satiated. 

I wasn’t sure why, but I feared it was the latter.

“I’m fine,” I assured Dante the moment he whirled around to check on me. “D got me out of the way in time… but I don’t think my fire would have hurt me.”

My words didn’t ease his concern, if anything, they increased it. Cradling my face, he kissed me, pulling me into his arms. When his gaze shifted behind me, I followed it to find D cringing as he tried to retract his wings. There were several pieces of glass from the mirror impaling their membrane.

“Oh, my Goddess!” I tried to go to him, but Dante pulled me back, immediately building a wall of darkness between him and us.

D flapped his wings with force the next second, sending all the large glass shards flying along the entire closet. The action left his leathery wings completely smooth, as though they had never been speared by the explosion. 

Shocked, I watched him walk towards us, just as Dante’s swirling shadow wall dissipated. 

“Thank you. Now I need a new wardrobe,” Dante protested.

“Well, you also need a new bathroom, so…” D shrugged while both their mouths twitched. His amusement promptly faded when his gaze tried to lower to me. He pulled his eyes away before they could connect with mine, leaving the room. 

“No…”

“What happened?” Dante asked, calling my attention from the door D disappeared through back to him. 

“I think I hurt him,” I confessed. “He thinks I was afraid of him.”

“Aren’t you? He’s a Vampire.” The sarcasm in Dante’s comment wasn’t lost on me, but he was right. 

All I’d ever done was accuse him of being a Vampire, regardless of what D had done for me. 

“But so is our mother…” Starlight reminded. “And maybe, we are too.”

~*~

© 2024 Stephany Wallace, S.W. Creative Publishing co.

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