The rest of the conversation was a blur. Afterwards, I wondered how I'd managed to explain it all, because I was completely lost in my mind and had barely a clue as to what was going on around me. Yet despite the panic, pain and sadness that was consuming me, I talked. I talked and Thea listened. Thea listened and nodded and accepted it all.
Which was about the worst thing that could have happened.
For a wolf, telling his imprint about the bond is one of the most important things in his life. It means exposing himself, putting his life in her hands; literally. She can either accept him, and his life will be complete, or reject him, and his world will end. We all hope for the first; hope that the woman who is our everything will accept the imprint, and better yet, return the feelings. So I should have been happy that Thea didn't seem bothered that she was my soul mate. I should have been happy that she accepted it.
Because she accepted the idea that we were meant to be together as easily as if I'd told her the sky was blue. She was emotionless, so neutral, so calm about it; as if really didn't matter at all. And that was exactly what I hadn't wanted.
I'd wanted her to remember, but she hadn't. I hadn't expected her to care for me – how could she, when she didn't know who she even was? – so it didn't bother me that she didn't. But given she didn't remember, I would have been far more happy for her to rage at me about the stupidity of it than for her to just agree. Then, at least, I would have felt something from her. Then, at least, I would have seen some life in her.
Instead, I got nothing but her emptiness. Crushing emptiness. Emptiness that meant she was gone. Thea was gone. There was no Thea anymore, only her body, only a shell of herself keeping it working. And unless I got her back soon, I knew, intuitively, that she would stay like this forever.
Time passed. I didn't know how much, and I didn't care. I thought that maybe Thea and I spoke, but I was on autopilot, consumed by my fear.
I was going to lose her. I was losing her right this very moment.
I was losing my imprint.
And the memories it brought up… god, I wanted to claw my brain out of my head because it seemed to be the only way to make it stop. An endless parade of visions in my mind, each as bad as the last.
Thea, murmuring softly under her breath, 'Gone.'
Her voice in my head, desperate and pleading for me to help her.
Thea's fear slamming into me as I padded away from her house, only to realise it was the biggest mistake I'd ever make.
Her limp body, her arms covered with blood and cuts.
Hearing Thea's terrible screams through Brady's memories.
My back being torn apart by deep slashes from an invisible knife, and Thea's agony only enhancing my own.
Spending hours in the woods, searching for her as her terror tore through me.
Leon sinking the sword into her heart.
Thea being held prisoner in Leon's arms, blood dripping down her body.
Realising with horror that the sword was laced with vampire venom.
Holding her in my arms as I ordered her, begged her not to die.
Feeling my arm snap–
Wait a second.
I stiffened, forcing my mind to back track. What was it that I had just remembered?
Thea, bloody and limp with a sword speared through her chest. She looked inches from death, and without thinking I found myself pleading for her to live, alpha orders spilling in a frantic rush from my lips.
Orders. I had ordered her. I had ordered her to live, to not die, and she had. She had lived. If that was because of the order, I didn't know, but if it had been… If the order had worked… I could order her again.
I could order her to remember.
For a moment, I was stunned by the thought. It seemed too easy, too simple; how could one word said slightly differently bring back the woman I needed more than anything else? And when I was so desperate, so wildly in need of something, anything, to make Thea remember… It seemed strange, almost suspicious, that such an easy solution had suddenly come to mind. Part of me – a large part – thought that I should just forget the idea entirely, before I got excited and hopeful over nothing.
But the rest of me just couldn't let it go.
Alpha ordering. Why hadn't I thought of it before? So what if I didn't know if it even affected her? It was a chance. And right now, I couldn't afford to pass up a chance. I couldn't afford to not consider it, not when both our lives were hanging in the balance. And against my better judgement, I was more than just considering it; I was hoping. I could feel hope, hesitant and small, stirring in my stomach. Hope that was probably going to be crushed, but I couldn't stop myself.
Something about this idea just felt right.
I was probably imagining it. I was probably so desperate to get her back that this was all just wishful thinking. But even if I was, I couldn't stop. The idea had taken root, taken hold of my mind, my body. I was going to do it. I was going to order Thea to remember. I was about half a second away from lurching out of my chair towards the bed that she was laying on, unable to spend another moment wondering about how crazy this was and if it would work. Except, just as I was about to all eagerly throw myself forward, I stopped. I stopped, all my slowly growing hope and excitement coming crashing to a halt. Because a horrible, horrible thought had just occurred to me.
What if Thea didn't want her memories back?
I sagged in my chair, dumbstruck. Surely… surely she would want to remember? She couldn't… she wouldn't want to stay like this? I wanted to believe it. I wanted to believe that what she wanted, what was best, was for me to march right over and try and bring it all back. But almost against my will, a thought I'd had before floated to the forefront of my mind.
If she got her memories back, she would remember the pain. Lots of pain, terrible pain; the ignorant bliss she had now would be swept away. And maybe, just maybe, she thought this was preferable. After everything that had happened… sometimes I wished that I could forget, even if it did mean losing myself. The hurt was so sharp, the sight of her so horrible… why would she want to remember that? I wouldn't blame her if she didn't. I would understand if she didn't want her memories back. But if she didn't, if she wanted to stay this way, I would lose her.
I would lose her.
And I couldn't. I couldn't let it happen. Perhaps I was just being selfish in wanting her back the way she was, but I didn't think so; it wasn't just me that needed this. She needed this. She couldn't stay like this, confused and empty. Remembering might be a harder life, but at least it was a life. She needed to remember.
The trouble would be in convincing her of that. I didn't know for sure if she wanted them or not, but I had a bad feeling that maybe she didn't. She had never asked me about why she was injured, or why she'd lost her memory; perhaps that meant she didn't want to know. And if she didn't want her memories, I couldn't force her. I would never do anything she didn't want me to do; I wouldn't, couldn't, go against her like that. I would have to try and persuade her, if she didn't understand. I didn't know how, but I would do it. The problem was, I didn't have enough time. In this state, who knew how long it would take to explain it all? Who knew how long it would take for her to understand? I couldn't afford to wait. I really needed her to understand now, to want her memories back now. And so, almost without permission, the question burst from my lips.
'Do you want your memories back?'
'Do you want your memories back?' I jerked at Jake's almost hesitant voice, my gaze moving away from the ceiling I'd been staring at for the last few hours. Laid down on top of my bed, it was difficult to glance at him in the chair at the end of the mattress.
'What?' I asked, not having caught his question. With a sigh I didn't understand the reason for, Jake stood, walking over to me as he repeated his query.
'Do you want your memories back?' I felt my eyebrow furrow at the question, though not because I didn't know the answer. Jake's expression as he waited for me to respond was one I'd never seen before, a conflicting mix of need, anticipation, and… fear?
'Yes.' I replied with certainty, throwing Jake a confused look. 'Why wouldn't I?' He sighed again, sitting down on the bed next to me.
'I think by now you've figured out that something… bad happened. Something I haven't told you about. And, well… you've never asked about it.' I nodded, not understanding where this was going, or why Jake looked so tense.
'So I've spent the last few days wracking my brain to try and find a way to help you remember, and it just suddenly occurred to me that maybe the reason you never asked was that you didn't actually want to know.' He sounded sad, so sad, saying the words. Part of me wondered why, but it was drowned out by the far larger part of me that was almost stunned by his words.
'Jake, how could you ever think I didn't want my memories back?' Now he was the one that looked surprised. He didn't move as I sat up slowly, my body now right next to his. 'Do you think I like being like this? Do you think I like not having a clue who I am? Do you think I want to be confused every second I'm awake because nothing makes sense anymore?' My words quiet but strong. For once, I didn't sound flat and emotionless, my voice edged with sadness.
'Well, I don't. I don't care how terrible my real memories are, and I don't care if they haunt me; they're my memories and I want them back.'
Silence followed my words. Jake seemed to be stunned, his eyes staring at me fiercely as he registered the spiel I had just delivered. But then, in the blink of an eye, he was changing. His gaze was softening, his hand rising up to ever so slightly cup my cheek. I stiffened at the contact, the intimacy of the gesture unfamiliar. I would have wondered why he was touching me, would have asked why he was staring at me like that, except he was talking now.
'Thea,' He said my name so incredibly softly, I almost didn't hear it. But I forgot all about it, forgot everything in just a second. Because he was speaking again now, the hardness of his voice a stark contrast to just moment earlier. His voice was deep, powerful, resonating; I couldn't not listen. I couldn't not obey.
The order hit me hard, slamming into me and stealing my breath. For a moment, I wasn't even sure what he'd actually said, too overwhelmed by the power in it. But then, in an instant, it was burning into my brain.
And I did. The impenetrable wall that had been built around my memories, that had been keeping them locked away, shattered. And then, like the breaking of a dam, the information was flowing over me in a tidal wave.
Blood. Sword. Jake. Pain. Trapped. Venom. Leap. Can't. Screams. Run. Stabbed. No. Leon.
I screamed. I screamed, but it came out as more of an agonised cry, the sound tearing through me as my body seized up.
Oh god. Oh god oh god oh god. Leon. Where was he? Where was he? I had to go, I had to get away, I had to run!
I had to RUN.
I lurched, unfreezing in an instant.
I threw myself off the bed.
Warm, iron strong hands locked around my waist, yanking me back.
I screamed again, fighting furiously against the hold. No! I had to get away.
I had to run!
But I couldn't. I couldn't escape the unbreakable hold the werewolf had on me, couldn't escape as I found myself on my back, a heavy weight pinning me to the bed.
One of my arms was already trapped by a large hand around my wrist, but that didn't stop me from clawing out with the other. I felt my nails scrape and dig into flesh, but milliseconds later that hand too was restrained.
My frantic thrashing was doing nothing.
God dammit! I needed to leave! I wouldn't, couldn't, stay here. I refused. Not after everything had happened–
The flat blade of a cold knife was pressed against my cheek, tracing the path of my jaw. And then, with a tremendous roar, Leon's fingers were digging deep into the gash on my forearm–
A red hot knife was slicing across my back, my body pinned to the ground by Leon's far stronger one. Yet another agonised scream ripped through the air, my throat hoarse from the countless cries that had already escaped me–
'TALK! Or I will carve my name into what little bare skin you have left, and I'll make sure that it hurts!' Leon roared at me in fury–
Leon was holding me prisoner in his grip, easily stopping my faint struggles as he pressed the knife harder into my throat. I felt it break the skin, hot wet blood trailing down my skin–
The sword plunged deep into my chest as I exploded with pain, pain I had never felt before, pain that was going to kill me because nobody, nobody, could live through this–