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Chapter 1: Jason

The smell of the grass and earth was strong. It was the first think I noticed as I became aware. I glanced around, not realizing where I was for the split second that it took me to raise my head. It was dark and I was surrounded by tombstones. The air was warm, the July heat making the moisture from the ground create a thick fog in the air. My heart started hammering in my chest. I knew where I was. It was a place I never wanted to see again. The place where my life ceased to have meaning. I dreaded looking up, but I knew it was inevitable.

There she was, beautiful and deadly. Victoria was wearing the same dress, long and black and flowing, her curves shown off to perfection. My heart ached when I looked at her, knowing what was about to happen. I didn’t want to watch it. I felt a stab of shame at the thought though and looked back up at her. If she had to go through it then I had to be able to watch it, or I was not worthy of trying to win her back.

It was different than I remembered though, the alter that held the shrouded woman was piled high on top of bodies of animals. There were calves with slit throats, goats with torn open bellies and a number of other small mammals mutilated and blank eyed. Their blood soaked the grass, coating every blade in a rich, candy red layer. It was grotesque. The body on the alter slab thrashed and moved under the black silk covering, whimpers floated to me on the whispers of the night air, and my heart was in my throat.

This wasn’t right. This was not how things were supposed to go. The victim was not supposed to be aware. She should have been able to slip away and not have to feel the terror of the moment. Pulled my body up from the ground in a kneeling position, eyes seeking Victoria again. Her eyes were not blank. They held malice and vile thoughts, and it was like looking into my father’s eyes. It made bile rise in the back of my throat. I swallowed convulsively, trying not to breathe through my nose, not wanting the smell of blood to push me over the edge.

I had to do a double take of Victoria. I could have sworn the first time I looked at her she was still clean, her pale skin milky and free of the red stain that decorated the animal corpses. When I looked at her now though, with the dark look in her eyes, she was covered in blood like a fine mist of it had been sprayed at her. The sprinkling of red became more and more concentrated as my eyes slowly traveled from her face. I trailed my eyes down her neck to her shoulders, the blood growing thicker as it reached her elbows, to the point it was opaque from her forearms down. It looked as if she had plunged her hands into one of the still animal bodies to play in the paint of its life.

She smiled at me and it was eerie, like a monster was peaking out from behind her eyes. She held the blade in her hand, the one my father had places there, and it was drenched in blood, strands of it dripping thickly to the ground. I was sickened. This was not her. She hadn’t been aware the first time, under my father's spell, this was all wrong. I tried to call out to her but when I tried I realized that I had been gagged. I hadn’t been a moment ago. I lifted my hands to remove the gag, but I saw my wrists bound together. I felt the panic rise in my chest. I hadn’t been bound before, remembering feeling the grass beneath my hands as I knelt. I blinked, trying to clear the illusion, if that’s what it had been, but when I opened my eyes everything was black, like I had gone blind. I heard myself whimper and felt the cool stone slab underneath me.

I screamed against the gag as I felt the silk cover slide off of me. Victoria stood above me, grinning like an evil clown, and I could see the blood in stark contrast against her skin. Her eyes turned warm, and her blood soaked hand came up to caress my cheek. I was filled with terror, knowing what was going to come, and I flinched away from her fingers. The blood felt hot still as it left steaks across my face.

“It doesn’t have to be this way, Jason.” Her voice was like poison dipped in honey, sweet but deadly. “Join me, join us. I’m ready and waiting for you. I need you Jason.”

I couldn’t respond verbally because the gag was still firmly in place, but I shook my head no. I couldn’t do it. I was supposed to save her, not join her. This is not where she was meant to be the was not her. Her eyes filled with sorrow for a moment before the malice took over, making her face look bestial and feral.

“I will have you with me. Remember Jason, this was your choice.” She lifted the blade, slicing through the thin shirt I wore, baring my chest.

My breath raced in an out, the terror of the moment making it hard for me to think. All I could think was that the blade was too close, and that she intended to use it on me. She was going to sacrifice me and take my power, or at least she was going to try to. I tried to escape but it was like my limbs weighed a ton, I couldn’t move. She lifted the blade, slicing a neat cross on my chest. An “x” marks the spot. I screamed around the gag at the pain. It was like she had dragged a torch across my skin. She smiled warmly again, and petted my face again, like she was trying to comfort me. It was unnerving, the way she was acting, and I could feel tears threatening to spill from my eyes.

"Don't cry, my love, everything will be over soon," she crooned at me, like she was trying to assuage my fears, which only made me want to panic more.

I did not have time to form another thought when I saw her arm lift, the jeweled handle firmly in her grasp. Her eyes had a wild gleam that chilled me to my core, like she was delighted that she was going to plunge the blade through my body. Her arm began the down stroke, blade aimed for the x on my heart, time slowed, and I watched in frozen horror as the blade fell with deadly intent.

Just as the tip of the blade pierced my chest, I jolted upright, the blaring sound of my alarm ripping me from my nightmare. It took me a moment to catch my bearings, taking in my bedroom and the mess of sheets on my bed as I must have thrashed in my sleep. I felt the sweat trickling down my spine and down my chest as I tried to catch my breath. I have been having a similar dream for the last month and a half. This was the first time that I was on the alter though, and it had my heart racing, refusing to slow back to a normal pace.

I ran a hand across my bare chest, swiping at the sweat that decorated it. I winced at the burning sting I felt on my chest. I pulled my fingers away and they were decorated with blood. My blood. Looked down at my chest and saw the bloody lines there. I scrambled out of the bed, the tangle of sheets that clung to me almost making me fall in my rush to get to the bathroom mirror.

I knew what I was going to see but it was still a shock when I my eyes took it in. An X was carved into my chest. It was shallow enough that it wouldn’t need stitches, but it oozed thick lines of blood down my chest. My racing heart did nothing to slow the flow of blood. The wound had followed me out of the dream, and I couldn’t help but think what would have happened if my alarm hadn’t woke me up.

I cleaned up the blood and put an ointment on the wound, wouldn’t be good to get an infection. I stared at my reflection and barely recognized myself. There were deep circles under my eyes, and I could see the stress and frustration in the way my brows drew together in a deep V. I looked down at the sink counter, running my fingertips over the cool smooth surface. A memory of Victoria slammed into me like a punch in the gut.

Her head was thrown back, her hands gripping the edge of this counter, crying out in pleasure. I could taste her on my tongue at the thought, her sweat tasting like cinnamon and vanilla. The sound of her cries and panting breaths as her lips searched for mine. The snap of her hips as out bodies joined in our shared love and power.

My body reacted to the memory, and all I wanted was to hold her in my arms again. The image of Victoria covered in blood popped into my mind and I had to suppress a sob. This was my new reality. She would never come back to me willingly now. She said she felt free this way, her shackles gone. I shook my head trying to clear that image out of my mind, but it was hard. When I looked back up at the mirror I could see the haunted look in my eyes, and it pissed me off. I was never this pathetic before, and I hated that it affected me so deeply.

My mental health had taken a nose dive after Victoria cut off communication. I needed her. Even my magic seemed to suffer without being able to connect to her and her power. I could barely manage basic things anymore. I wanted to just go over to her apartment, but I knew that she was there with her new lovers. Both of them. How was I going to compare to that? I physically had to shake the image of the woman I loved being held by other men out of my head. It was too damn painful.

Its been almost two months since that night.

I had walked away from her, and regretted it bitterly. I couldn't help but think of different scenarios that could have played out if I had stayed. I would have joined her. I know I would have. I have wouldn't have been able to resist being with her. She would not be with her two other lovers. I would have kept them apart and she would have had me, needed only me.

I had come back to my apartment after taking one of my fathers cars. It felt too large, to much space for just me, and I hated it. The scent of Victoria and sex had still lingered in the air and it had felt like there was a vice on my heart and lungs. I had collapsed on the living room floor, and had stayed there for what must have been days. I didn't want to eat, and I couldn't sleep. Every time I closed my eyes all I saw were flashes of Victoria and her blank eyes as she stepped up and took my father's hand.

Victoria had cut off all communication with me, with her mother, even Margo. She even quit the marketing firm that we worked for. The career that she had put above all else. Everyone had looked to me, since I had been her assistant, wondering at the cause, and I had no answer that I could give them. I was tempted to quit immediately. I didn't want to be surrounded by the ghost of Victoria, but I knew that the rumors that had surrounded Victoria quitting would be linked to me. It would all look suspicious, and I didn’t want to draw anymore attention to the situation.

I finally worked up the courage to start getting ready for work, starting with a cold shower. I scrubbed at my face angrily as images of Victoria and I kept intruding on my morning routine. She permeated everything that I did. I got no solace, not that I deserved any after walking away from her. I climbed out of the shower, drying off and doing my best not to touch myself too much. I did not want a release unless it was with Victoria and I was not going to put myself through more physical torture than necessary.

I got dressed, carefully choosing a black dress shirt with red and purple tie, and black slacks. I knew I looked good, but it didn’t please me like it would have before. No one that really mattered was going to see me. The transfer to the finance department meant that I was in a small cubical all by myself, the supervisor only ever coming over if they had more work for me.

I left the garage of my apartment building and drove through the early morning traffic, letting my mind be blank, and my body moving on auto pilot. I snapped out of my blank stare when I saw Daemian and Marcus walking shoulder to shoulder down the side walk, their breaths puffing out on the frosty, September morning air. I slammed on the breaks and yanked the car into a parking spot, almost causing an accident. I didn't have a plan per-say, but I knew that they had a connection to Victoria, and I had to try, no matter what.

They were on the sidewalk ahead of me, and I called out to Daemian. Her turned with a look of confusion that quickly turned into a look of distaste. He turned back around quickly and pulled Marcus along with him, hastening his pace. I jogged to try and catch up, calling out to them, but they got swallowed by a group of people and I lost sight of them. My heart was hammering. I just wanted to ask how Victoria was doing, but from the look on Daemian’s face he was not willing to speak to me now that he had what he wanted. I would be a threat to everything he held dear. I lost them in the crowd so there was nothing else I could do but get back into my car and continue on my commute to work.

I don't know what I had expected but I kept looking at the sidewalk, hoping that I would see Daemian and Marcus, or even Victoria herself. I knew that last thought was never going to happen. she had cloaked herself from me so that even if she had been walking out in public, my eyes would not see her even if she was directly in front of me. I could pass right by her and not even see her unless she wanted me to see her.

I was jittery from my almost encounter with Daemian and Marcus on my way to work that I was on auto pilot. I made it into the building and through the lobby without really seeing it, and was so engrossed with my thoughts that I didn’t even notice Margo as she stepped up beside me in front of the elevator. I didn’t know what to say to her. I was pretty sure that she blamed me for Victoria’s disappearing act. We went out the weekend before Victoria had cut everyone off, so it was a logical assumption. It was a correct assumption, and shame welled within me as I stepped up next to her.

“Hello, Jason,” Margo’s voice was sharp and unyielding. “Have you heard anything from Victoria?” Her eyes cut through me, slicing me up with unsaid accusations. I was guilty, and maybe that’s why it affected me so much, but I did my best not to flinch.

“No, I haven’t heard from her.” Was all I could say. Margo was mad and she deserved more. She had been friends with Victoria for years, and the whole situation was not fair. I made an impulsive decision to tell her everything. What would it hurt? Just not here at work. “I know I’ve told you that I don’t know what happened, but it was a lie. I’m sorry. I will tell you everything I know when I get the chance. Just not here at work.”

“I know you lied. I'm not fucking stupid. Victoria wouldn't cut me off just because she got into a fight with her flavor of the moment. I’ll call you when I have the time to spare for liars.” Her face was contorted with rage and I stepped back from her. She stormed past me and went into the elevator, closing the doors behind her without letting me on. That was probably better anyway. She was pissed and I did not want to be trapped in a small space with her.

I made it to my desk on time but honestly I didn’t even care. The days go by in a blur of numbers and spreadsheets and graphs and pie-charts. It was busy work, and I threw my self into it. Keeping my mind and my hands so busy that thoughts of Victoria and my pending conversation with Margo could not creep in. The next thing to sink in was that work was done, and it was time to go home.

It was dark when I finally opened the door to my apartment, and upon entering my bedroom, I collapsed in my bed after stripping down to my boxers. Another day down, who knew how many more to go with out Victoria. I felt pathetic. I was tired, and after everything that happened today, I was ready to pass out. I lay there drifting in and out of consciousness, wondering if Victoria missed me the way I missed her. I liked to think that she did, and as my mind drifted off into blessed dreamless sleep, her face, smiling and eyes full of love lingered, lulling me into a peaceful, dreamless sleep.

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