“Angel! Dove!” Xavier’s voice boomed through the quiet house as he rushed through the door as I made my way down the hallway. I knew I must have looked horrible by the way his face hardened as I stepped into view. Tomlin and Della came through next, both breathing heavily, eyes falling on me.
“My god, Dove...is that your blood?” Della pushed forward. I shook my head, finding it difficult to get words to form. I had been in such a daze after the appearance of Silas and the subsequent childbirth that I hadn’t taken the time to wash myself clean. My skin crawled as I realized I was covered in Silas’s blood. I wanted to claw at my flesh, scrape myself clean from the remnants of the man who had been haunting me.
Xavier’s breathing was shallow, a guarded light in his eyes, “What happened? Where’s angel? Tell me she’s alive, Dove. Tell me she’s okay...” There was a silent plea in his words that made my heart ache. Things could have gone down definitely, but they hadn’t. We had survived Silas.
“She’s alive. She and the baby are resting easy in her bedroom.” I replied with a slight tremble I hoped none of them noticed.
I watched him stagger back a bit in surprise, “Baby? She had the baby?” I nodded, lips twitching upward in a small forced encouraging smile. His breath hitched, “I’m a father?”
Tomlin grabbed hold of Xavier’s shoulders, giving them a squeeze, “You’re a dad, man!” The tension in the room turned to elation as the three of them seemed eager to rush off to see Angel and the new addition to the pack. I didn’t think to say anything to them about the dead body in the kitchen, that could be handled later.
Della rushed over to me, pulling me into a hug that had me wincing, “We were so worried when Rhys called and said you might be in trouble. We rushed home expecting the worst. I’m so glad you’re both okay.” She nuzzled me, pressing her cheek to mine. It was a sentiment that I had seen pack members do to one another. It was more an animal act of familiarity than human but I appreciated the comfort that the act brought me. She pulled back, “Thank you for taking care of Angel like you did...”
I nodded my head, lips pressed together, “Go on. I’ll be fine on my own...kind of feel like I could use a shower...” And a good long cry. They hesitated only for a moment before the siblings were ushering Xavier off to see his child and his mate.
I felt the strength in my body waver for a moment, my vision blurring as my emotions overwhelmed me. I reached out and pressed my hand to the wall, body sagging as I rested against it. I felt the burden of my freedom like the weight of the world had been thrust upon me. I always suspected that this was how things would end between Silas and I. I couldn’t deny that; my pistol and silver bullets were proof enough. Still, I had hoped for a different outcome. I never wanted to turn into a killer, but that what I was now. I knew what it was to take life, and with that knowledge an innocent part of me had died.
I pushed away from the wall, shuffling toward the kitchen. I couldn’t leave my mess for other people to deal with. I had already done enough of that. I sucked in a deep breath, steeling myself before I pushed the swinging door open. My eyes connected with Silas feet, heart speeding up as my gaze slowly trekked up his still body. I swallowed hard as I took my first tentative step into the room then another. I felt my blood as it rushed through my limbs, muscles coiled tight.
A part of me was ready for him to lunge up off the ground and grab me, despite the stillness of his body. My mind was having trouble comprehending that he was indeed gone. That I had killed such a formidable beast. I searched his blank gaze, remembering the first time that I looked into them. They had been filled with possibilities and life. Now, they were fixed and listless. We had been poison to each other, each moment we had spent together slowly killing us.
We had been wrong for each other from the beginning, so wrong. Being with Rhys had shown me that. I sucked in a shaky breath as unshed tears began to fill my eyes. I had loved Silas at one point. I couldn’t deny that, and I knew he had loved me as much as someone as black and twisted as him could love. I wished that things could have been different, he had been a beast and that had turned me into a beast.
“Dove...” Rhys’s voice rumbled through the room, dancing over my skin. I shuddered as a new desperation clawed its way out of my chest. I spun around, to find him staring down at Silas. I wanted to hide myself from him. I didn’t want him to see what I had done. I didn’t want him to know what I had become. His face lifted, jaw clenched tightly as he searched my eyes, “Is any of that your blood? Did he hurt you?”
I shook my head, finding it hard to breathe. He sagged in relief but his expression was full of guilt and regret. It bothered me to see those emotions playing on his handsome face when I was the one who was the guilty one, “I am sorry. I am so sorry I wasn’t here for you.”
His words tore at my aching heart, “Rhys...don’t...”
“I should have protected you better. This should never have happened, but don’t worry I’ll make sure all those responsible get what is coming to them...” I didn’t know exactly what or who he was talking about anymore. My breath hitched as he quickly closed the distance between our bodies. He grabbed my face in his hands, stealing away the tension in my body, “God, I don’t know what I would have done if something had happened to you. I can’t loose you, Dove.” The vulnerability in his eyes was my final undoing.
I found my walls crumbling away, “I didn’t want to do that but I had too. He had Angel. He was never going to stop...” I felt the heat of my tears as they spilled down cheeks.
His green eyes, darkened as his thumbs wiped up my trail of tears, “He was a bastard and he deserved what he got.”
I shook my head, sniffling, “I didn’t want to...”
I watched his expression soften as he understood the deeper meaning of my words, “I know, Dove. I am sorry you I left that burden on you. I promise that nothing like this will ever happen again. I’m never leave you like that, Okay?”
I stared at him, lips trembling, “How do I get over this? How do I forget what I’ve done, Rhys?”
He pushed me into his chest, cradling the back of my head with large hand, “Oh, Dove. I wish it worked like that. You just have to remind yourself that you had to do what you did because you wanted to live. There isn’t anything wrong with that, baby. You aren’t bad person for fighting for your right to be alive. You’re not a victim, or a killer...you’re a survivor.”
I pushed away from him, lifting face, “How can you...”
Rhys swooped down, silencing my rebuttal with a kiss. He pulled back, holding my gaze, “Listen to me Dove, you are a survivor.” The words came out pointed, “Do you understand me? You’re a survivor. Nothing more.” His voice had a firmness to it that had me nodding my head. Even though I felt conflicted over what had happened, I wanted to believe in what Rhys was telling me. I wanted to agree that I had survived. That I hadn’t killed Silas simply because I wanted him dead, not because there was malice in my heart...but because he had threatened my right to be alive.
“Is she okay?” Dace asked as he came into the room, the door banging against the wall.
Rhys turned us around, holding me close to him, “She’s a little shocked but she is going to be okay.” He rubbed circles into my back. I leaned into his touch, keeping my gaze focused on Dace. I didn’t want to look at Silas anymore; not now, not ever again.
Dace gave me a soft look as his gaze left the body on the floor, “You did good, Dove. Astrid would be proud of you. I know I am.”
“I survived.” I spoke the words softly, testing them out.
“You did, and now you get to live, Dove.” Rhys whispered as he dropped a kiss to the top of my head. His words settled over me. I was going to finally be free to live. The burden of what I had done, lifted slightly as I got to peek into the future that I wanted to build for myself. There was nothing else standing in my way.
I let out a slow breath, lifting my face to look him in the eyes, “I’m ready to leave. Take me home, please...”
I knew that we were going to be okay. It was going to take some time for me to heal from my past but those scars would fade. They had already begun, thanks to Rhys and the time we had spent together. The bad memories would be replaced with good ones, until I could no longer recall them. Silas would become nothing but a smudge in our timeline.
His lips twitched upward in a ghost of a smile, “Whatever you want, Dove.”
“You two go on ahead. I’ll help Kendrick with the clean-up.” Dace remarked from the doorway.
I turned to him with a grateful smile, “Thanks for everything.”
“No need to thank me. Body disposal sounds a whole lot more enticing than being stuck in a car with you two eye-fucking each other the whole way home.”
My cheeks heated at his remark and Rhys shrugged his shoulders as he began walking us across the room, using his body to block my view of Silas. He paused in the doorway, “You’re just jealous nobody wants to eye-fuck you, Dace.” He patted him on the back in mock sympathy as we passed.