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“There is hope after despair and many suns after darkness.”


The sun rose just as Dom crossed the Wyoming-Montana border. Both of us could barely keep our eyes open from exhaustion. Considering the thirty hours we’d had, it wasn’t surprising. To add to my misery, my legs still throbbed where Callie ripped open my thigh. I never realized wounds from other shifters took longer to heal, but I’d be damned if I said I wasn’t discovering so now.

“I don’t know about you,” Dom said, “but I could use a nap. Are you okay if we stop at a hotel and crash for a bit?”

“God, yes. I’m so tired,” I admitted, stretching.

“You could’ve fallen asleep while I drove.”

“Yeah, but I didn’t think it fair to you. I figured if you were getting sleepy, I could keep you awake by talking or something.”

Dom chuckled. “Anna, I’m so tired, you could be taking off your shirt, and I wouldn’t notice.”

“Is that a challenge?” The words were out of my mouth before I could stop them, but Dom’s head snapped in my direction. Biting my lip, I smirked and peered out the window, feigning cockiness when, in reality, I was dying from embarrassment on the inside. “Any ideas on where to stay?”

“A bed and breakfast would be a safer bet than an actual hotel, but I think we might have to settle for anything we can find out here.” Dom surveyed the deserted landscape, only dotted by the occasional passing car.

“You have a GPS, you know. We could just use that,” I pointed out, flipping through the menu.

“Like I said, I’m tired.”

Smiling sympathetically, I perused the listings of places to stay, settling for one off the beaten path. Hopefully, it would be nice and clean enough so we could shower and sleep, not necessarily in that order. Dom followed the directions, pulling onto a dirt road and up to a quaint, two-story house.

“Looks normal,” I remarked, opening the car door while Dom grabbed our bags. We walked up the front steps and knocked on the door. An elderly woman opened it, and I said, “Hi, we were wondering if you had any rooms available for tonight?”

“Oh, yes! Come in, come in!” The woman moved aside. “I’m Mrs. Nicols. We don’t get many visitors this way this time of year.”

“Why’s that?”

“We’re off the beaten path, and the larger hotels have taken away our customer base, unfortunately. However, we own a few successful businesses in town, so we get by.” Mrs. Nicols stepped behind the front desk. “Since you’re the only guests we have here, I’m going to give you the largest room here. You’ll love it! It has beautiful views of the mountains. Just one night, darlings?”

“Yes, we traveled through the night to make up for some lost time, and we’re exhausted,” I replied, feeling sorry for the woman. “Maybe one day, we can come back and explore the town some more. It’s quite pretty here.”

“You just give me a call, and I’ll make sure we get the suite ready for you and your boyfriend!”

Dom sputtered. “Oh, we-”

I grabbed his hand and squeezed it. “We would be delighted! We’ll be sure to tell our family and friends about your place too.”

“I’d appreciate it!” Mrs. Nicols handed us two keys and led us up to a stunning suite at the end of the second-floor hallway. She gave us the brief tour, informed us breakfast would be ready at eight-thirty (unless we needed it earlier), and dinner would be at six. “You two enjoy, and don’t hesitate to call if you need anything!”

She left Dom and me be as we decided to scope out the suite. While Dom set the bags down in the small yet cozy living room, I checked the bedroom. Why I didn’t think to ask about having two beds, I didn’t know, but the realization hit me like a ton of bricks when I saw the king bed.

Also the only bed in the room.

“Hey, uh, Dom?” I called out. “We might have a slight problem.”

“What is it?” He asked, joining me in the room. Dom stared at the bed, and I waited for the epiphany to strike him. It didn’t take long. “Well, shit.”

“Since I’m smaller, I’ll take the couch,” I offered. “You take the bed. You’re the one who’s been driving the entire time.”

“Yeah, but I’m not trying to heal from life-threatening wounds,” Dom countered. “You take the bed. I’ll take the couch.”

“Your legs are going to be dangling off at the knees if you do.”

“Well, what do you propose we do? You’re apparently my girlfriend after all.”

“Firstly, I said you were my boyfriend to avoid rousing suspicion. If for some reason our families discover where we’ve been, I doubt they’d believe we’re dating.” Don’t do it, Anna. Don’t you fucking do it. You’re not in a romance novel! My conscience repeated itself multiple times, but naturally, I didn’t listen. “Secondly, what if we share it?”

Dom’s eyes widened. “Seriously?”

“Neither of us is going to concede to letting the other sleep on the couch, the bed is big enough for the both of us, and we can use pillows to separate us from each other. What do you say?”

“I guess…” Dom scratched the back of his head, staring at the bed. “Which side do you want?”


“Cool. I wanted the right.”

Awkwardly, Dom and I shuffled out of the room and began unpacking. I let Dom shower first and took one after him, keeping the bathroom door locked. It wasn’t that I didn’t trust him, but I still felt weird taking a shower while sharing a room with a guy I barely knew, let alone a guy I was supposed to despise. I wondered if Elsa experienced the same emotions I was going through when she began to like Spencer. I’d have to ask her next time I saw her…

After drying my hair and brushing my teeth, I crawled into the bed, collapsing into the silky, soft sheets. Dom slept soundly beside me. Closing my eyes, I slipped into a deep sleep, my body grateful for the rest. Surprisingly, pleasant dreams greeted me, mostly memories of my past when things were happier and simpler.

Suddenly, Elsa’s scream erupted in my head, and I heard myself screaming along with her. My eyes shot open in a panic. Dom hovered above me, eyes filled with grave concern. I pushed myself up, gasping for breath as I panted, “Elsa… pain… lots of it…”

“I’m sorry, Anna. I wish I knew how to help,” Dom said, looking helpless. “Can I do anything?”

I shook my head. “No, no. I’m sorry. Whenever the pain is severe, we can’t always control our connection. I don’t even think she realizes she did it.”

Dom placed his hand over mine. “Do you want to leave and head to Spencer’s now?”

I glanced at the time. We’d only been asleep two hours, which wasn’t near enough rest. I pointed this out, adding, “We’re useless to Elsa or Spencer in a fight if we’re sleep-deprived. No, let’s get some more rest. Maybe I’ll be able to reach her and find out where she is.”

“I’ll be right here if you need me.” Dom squeezed my hand. When he didn’t let go, I raised a questioning brow at him, and he said, “You’re shaking.”

Lifting my other hand, it was, in fact, trembling violently. “I guess the dream got to me more than I care to admit…”

Dom brushed a piece of hair out of my face. “Or maybe the past few months have finally caught up to you.”

“Shouldn’t you be having a near-breakdown then, too?” I asked, chuckling humorlessly as I tried to reign in my emotions and calm myself down.

“If Spencer and I were twins, and I could feel all the shit he was going through? Most likely, yeah. In fact, you’re probably holding up a hell of a lot better than I’d be.”

I smiled through my tears, wiping some off my cheek. “I know you’re saying that to make me feel better, but I still appreciate it. I, uh, I also appreciate you risking everything to help me find my sister. I know you’re doing it to find Spencer, but I’m still grateful. I could’ve done this alone, but I wouldn’t have wanted to.”

“I’m not doing this just to find Spencer,” Dom said gently.

“What other reason do you have?”

Dom gulped, and I swear I heard his heartbeat beat slightly faster. “Personal reasons. Listen, why don’t I go make you some tea? My mom and Lily swore chamomile always worked to settle their nerves, no matter how frayed.”

“You’re so tired, I don’t want to-”

“If I wasn’t up to it, I wouldn’t offer. I’ll be right back.” Kissing the top of my head, Dom got up and headed to the living room. I could hear the teapot beginning to boil and Dom tapping his fingers impatiently on the counter. I wanted to ask him what he meant by ‘personal reasons’ but thought he’d shut me down like he did all those months ago when I asked him about not being betrothed. We weren’t Elsa and Spencer. Dom wouldn’t open up to me unless we were more than friendly acquaintances.

Anna! Are you there?! Elsa’s voice shouted loud and crystal clear, and I clutched my head in surprise.

Elsa! I replied. Where are you?!

I don’t know. The Shadows have me. They- oh no, they’re coming. They’ve got-

She screamed, and our connection was cut off. Any modicum of self-control I had remaining left me entirely as I broke down, sobs wracking my body. I curled up in a ball, tightening my arms around my knees. Through the haze of my despair, I felt a pair of strong arms wrap around me, accompanied by a familiar cologne.

For once, I didn’t care about letting a near-stranger see me cry. All I could think about was Elsa and the limited time she had.

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