He had used his magic and I knew it only brought him closer to the edge. I watched Kai become a beast, desperate to find his other two brothers and the dark fae working with them.

Over the past week, he’s been on the search. It feels as if I’ve barely seen him. Every time he looked at me, I could see the shame in his eyes, his worry that if he got too close, he’d turn on me. Our time was coming to an end, and it terrified me. I could see it as plain as day; my vision would come to fruition.

It was getting late, and the sun slowly disappeared behind the mountains in the distance. I hadn’t seen Kai in hours, even though I could feel his presence nearby. I’d spent most of my time staring out at the frozen lake, trying to think of ways to save him and coming up empty every time. I wanted to go to him, but the last thing I wanted to do was lose him. I wasn’t ready for that yet, but I couldn’t sit around, waiting for the darkness to take him.

I decided to go and find him and turned on my heel only to stop in my tracks. He appeared by the cabin door, his body tense as he stared at me. It was almost as if he was the predator and I was the prey. I wasn’t afraid of him, just fearful of what I would have to do if he tried to attack me.

I took a step toward him and he held out a hand. “Stop! I can’t fight it, Ella. I’m trying so fucking hard to, but I can’t.” He spun around and slammed his hands against the cabin door, his voice animalistic. “I want you so goddamn bad I can’t see straight. I can’t think. All I want to do is touch you, but when I think of that, I get urges to wrap my hands around your throat.” He gripped handfuls of his hair and growled. “You have to get the hell away from me.”

Cautiously, I walked up to him and held out my hands, wanting desperately to touch him. “You can fight this. I know you can.”

He had evaded me for the entire week, not letting me get too close. It was the only thing I could think of to try.

Before I could place my hands on him, he whirled around and slammed me against the door with his hands at my throat. However, I was just as quick and had my dagger at his neck.

“We have to stop meeting like this,” I said. His grip tightened and I could see the turmoil in his gray gaze. “You don’t want to hurt me, Kai. I can see it.”

His hands started to shake and loosen. “And I don’t,” he countered, “but it gets harder to fight the darkness. The more I feel your presence, the more I lose control. There is nowhere I can go where I can’t feel you.”

“Is that what you need?” I asked. “For me to leave?”

He released his hold and rested his forehead on mine. “I’m so afraid to say yes. I don’t think I can.”

It killed me to leave him, but I had to see if it helped. “Then, I’ll do it for you.”

Sliding away from the door, I stepped away from him and felt the light build inside me, connecting me to the Hereafter. It was the only place I could go where he couldn’t feel or find me.

Without waiting for him to face me, I let the magic take me away. When I arrived at mine and Merrick’s favorite spot in the Hereafter, I walked down to the lake and sat down in the soft green grass while the sun above warmed my Winter skin. It was vastly different from mine and Kai’s secret cabin by the frozen lake.

Closing my eyes, I lay down and breathed in the sweet scent of the faerie flowers around me. Kai needed time and I was going to give it to him. But unfortunately, I didn’t know how long that needed to be.

* * *

Time was never measuredin the Hereafter. It could be daylight all day, or it could be night. It all depended on what you wanted. For me, since I wasn’t dead, it was always daylight. I didn’t get to conjure up my own settings like Merrick and all the others. I wouldn’t get the privilege until my final day came. As grand as that might seem, I wasnotin a hurry for that.

With a heavy sigh, I sat up and peered at the lake one last time. I was shocked Merrick never showed up, but I was happy he had other things to do besides hang around with me.

Getting to my feet, I took a deep breath and pictured Kai in my mind. When the portal opened, I could feel him on the other side. However, I wasn’t in our secret cabin in the Wyoming wilderness when I stepped through. Instead, I was inside a musty-smelling warehouse surrounded by darkness.

Cautiously, I looked around; something wasn’t right.

A few seconds later, glowing red lights appeared around me, illuminating the faces above them—darkfae. There were ten of them, all wearing stones around their necks just like Bane did; they were siphoning my energy.

Ridge stepped out of the shadows, tossing another stone up and down in the air, except instead of a black stone, it was green with gold swirls. Coming from it was Kai’s energy.

Ridge leered at me and slid the stone into his pocket. “I honestly didn’t think it’d be that easy. You must really have it bad for my brother,” he taunted.

Behind him, Aric appeared, the stone around his neck beaming red. I could feel my energy draining quickly. It felt as if I’d run ten thousand miles. There were twelve of them sucking away my power.

Ridge’s gaze narrowed curiously as he cocked his head to the side. “Are things not going so well in paradise?”

I reached for my dagger and glared at him. “Why don’t you shut the fuck up and come get me. I’m sick of hearing your voice.”

Ridge threw his head back and laughed. “Happy to.”

I’ve fought off numerous warriors at the same time but never twelve of them. The dark fae came at me from both sides while Ridge and Aric stayed back, watching on with smiles on their faces. Every time I got one of the dark fae down, another would pounce. It was never-ending, and I could feel myself edging toward exhaustion.

Ridge’s laugh grated on my ears. “Is there something wrong, Princess? You seem tired.”

Tags: L.P. Dover Fantasy
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