I put down my cup and turned to him. “Give me your hand,” I ordered quietly.
He didn’t respond. Instead he rose and went to the rail, putting his bloody, dirty hands on it and squeezing so tight, the biceps on his arms bulged. If he went on this way, the rail would bend.
Walking after him I put my hands on his. Staring at his clenched jaw, I focused on my power and brought it forward, letting it trail down my arms and into my palms. Then I expelled it outward and let it heal his injuries
He didn’t relax his stance while I did that, but eventually he turned to look at me. “You’re the one person in this corrupted, twisted world I didn’t want going through this,” he said quietly, his voice harsh and raspy. “You’re so inherently good, Daisy. So fucking good. You were this one pure thing that appeared in my life. Knowing that you’ve been through something like that, knowing how it’d changed me, and now seeing how it’s changed you...”
I didn’t speak. When I lifted my hands off his, his injuries all sealed now, his hands snatched them, still bloody and coffee-stained, and he turned so he faced me fully. “You’re the one woman who made me believe there’s some hope in this world,” the voice were rough, his face still contorted, his eyes a brilliant silver, “having you not giving up on me, being so kind, so good, trying to make me believe and hope again when no other woman ever tried... And now this...”
“There was nothing you could’ve done,” I said, my voice softer than it’d been, “Damon cast a barrier. Even Kalypso couldn’t find me. You couldn’t have done anything.”
He came closely to me, his eyes boring into mine, as though seeking for me very soul. “I searched for you ever since the day you were gone,” he said, voice taut, “I searched every place in Lumen, then in Oregon, then in the entire territory of the West Coast Pack. And when my search was fruitless, I was about to lost my mind.”
He closed his eyes, and pain etched into his features. “If Kalypso hadn’t come after weeks of search and told me she was sent to help me...”
It was time he understood something. “Damon told me that my kidnapping was temporary,” I said, and his eyes opened, looking at me almost frantically, “he told me you were searching for me, told me that he sent Kalypso your way to help you. It was to give him time to... repay his debt,” the words tasted bitter in my mouth.
Shade stilled. “Debt?”
I sighed and tugged at my hands he still held. Obviously reluctant, he let go and I turned to face the scenery, placing my hands on the rail. “My father, Webb Montgomery, had saved his life. He killed him before he had a chance to return the favor. Then he found out about me, and knew it was his chance to evade getting retribution from the universe for overlooking such a heavyweight debt.”
“He repaid the debt by raping you for three months?” he asked in utter disbelief.
“Damon is a Negative Deity,” I told him, “that means his way of thinking is different than normal people. He does things he believes are right but in his own twisted kind of right. He believed that since you’ve been sexually abused for six years when you were just a pup, we wouldn’t be able to mate until I went through something similar, albeit for a shorter time period. That was his way to repay his debt; by making sure I would be accepted by my mate and have a good, mated life.”
Shade said nothing. Glancing at him, I saw him staring at the view, enraged. “That’s the most fucked up thing I’ve ever heard.”
I shrugged, returning my eyes back forward. “I never said it was a logical reason. But Damon’s neural paths are not something I want to get a farther look into.” Three months had been enough. “But if it makes you feel any better, I know you’ve been searching. And I knew the entire thing had a time limit. So I knew you would eventually come.” It was the only ray of light in that situation, the only thing that kept me going every day there. I knew it wouldn’t be for long; all Damon had wanted to do was to give me a taste of what Shade had been through so I would understand him better or something.
Shade was silent for a few long minutes. Then he said, “From what you’ve just said, then, I guess you know about what happened to know.”
“I know only what Damon told me,” I responded flatly.
He went silent again. I glanced once more at him, and saw he’d closed his eyes and was trying to do something. Collect himself, maybe? That reminded me something I’d been meaning to ask. “What happened to you?”
His eyes opened and went to me. “You happened, Daisy.”
I think my heart tried to skip a beat, but I couldn’t be sure. I couldn’t trust my body’s reaction to anything anymore, and surely I couldn’t trust my emotions. Damon did get one thing he wanted; I was able to understand why Shade had been so closed off. Feeling was something that only hurt at this point. “It can’t be just me, Shade,” I told him, “you’ve never been this... emotionally open.”
He didn’t look like he wanted to talk about it, which was such a Shade thing, that I was about to prepare myself for him closing off on me, like how he used to do, even if it felt like ages ago. However, he managed to surprise me. “You know that saying about how you appreciate things only when you lose them?” I nodded. “That’s an understatement of how I felt when I found out you were gone.”
His eyes turned haunted. “I never realized how much you meant to me until that moment. Up from the moment we realized we were mates until the moment you were gone, I haven’t realized that you gradually grew on me. So much so that knowing you weren’t there to make us coffee, weren’t there to try and seduce me, weren’t there to lash at me for not accepting you as my mate... I realized just how much I got used to having you around me, to scenting your sweet scent all day, to having you smile and laugh and roll your eyes and get angry and sassy with me. You’ve become an integral part of my life just by breathing, slithering under my skin without me noticing.”
Looking down at his dirty hands, he crooked a smile. It was bitter. “I missed just looking at you moving around and fighting for everything you believed in. I missed just seeing your gorgeous eyes lighting up every time you came up with some sort of plan. I missed just seeing you. I missed you. And when you were gone... It was like all my baggage from the past disappeared. It was like nothing else mattered but finding you and returning you to my side so I could feel your radiance again. Without you,” he looked back up at me, “my life threatened to return to dark void it was before you.”
I didn’t miss it this time; my heart pounded in my chest, louder than it had in a long time.
“I didn’t realize how much I counted on you for the short while I knew you were my mate,” his voice was softer now, “I always wanted to never find my mate, because I knew I wouldn’t be able to give her what she needs, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to take anything from her in return. And when I realized you, a healer, a pure hearted woman, was it for me, the mate I’d been trying to avoid for so long, I tried to shut you out. I tried to push you away. Yet you fought to carve your way inside me, and when I thought you would surely not succeed, the moment you were gone, I knew I was full of shit. Because you succeeded. You’re inside me, whether you want to be or not now.”
Something wet touched my cheek. I blinked, raising my hand to see what it was, and realized it was a tear.
His hands suddenly grabbed my face, cupping my cheeks, brushing the tears away. “Three months might not sound like a long time, but it was long for me,” he stepped closer so I was forced to tilt my head, because I couldn’t breath the eye contact with him. My eyes didn’t allow me to do so. “So long that, once I realized giving you up was not even an option, I knew I needed to become better. A better man. A better mate for you. Because I knew that once I found you, no matter the condition you would be at, I wouldn’t let you go again. I wouldn’t let you out of my sight. I would make you mine, no matter how long it would take. So I worked to become that man, someone who deserves someone like you, someone who wasn’t still clogged by the demons of his past. And so, every time Raphael forced me to go to sleep because I couldn’t, I stayed awake and thought of everything I went through. I relived everything. I let it engulf me. I let it torture me. And every time I managed to conquer one memory, no matter how tough it was, I went to the next one, until I reached the last and ugliest, and was finally able to break through.”
He leaned his forehead against mine. “I’m still not over everything. I’m still impotent, even through the Season. But I made the first step. And I know that now we can help each other take the next. We can do this together. Because I’m sure as hell not going anywhere.” His eyes reached out for mine. “Please believe it, Daisy. I’m not going to push you away again. I might still not be the man you deserve, but I believe I can actually be if you let me work on it some more, if you can let yourself help me too. And I will help you,” determination entered his gaze, “I will help you through your demons. Just promise me you’ll let me help you. Promise me you won’t become like me. Promise me this icy shield you cloaked yourself with can be broken.”
He was breathing hard, having spoken more than I’d ever thought he could. He looked at me with his need to protect me, to keep me safe, something I’d seen Raphael and Zachary do to their mates all the time. Something I’d never thought Shade would ever even want to do to me.
All the things he’d said... Everything he’d just divulged... Old me would’ve been so happy to hear them. Old me would’ve thanked God for having me finally recognize me as someone he needed, someone he wanted, someone he craved her presence. But me now... The me now was...
“I don’t think I can be that old Daisy again,” I said, my voice a mere whisper, “I don’t have it in me to be kind anymore. I don’t have it in me to fight.”
“I didn’t have it in me either,” he said, cradling my face so gently that my hear pounded faster. “I didn’t believe I had that power, to fight my past, to crave the future, but I did it. I’ve done at least a part of it. If I have it in me, then you surely do too.”
“He used my Haze against me,” I blurted out, and now I felt the tears, surly and truly, burning in my eyes. “He used my lust to make me think I’m enjoying what he did. But while my body needed it, neither my wolf nor I were okay with it. We needed you. We needed you so much but you weren’t there. I don’t know my own body anymore.”
“I know,” he said softly, pained, “and I can’t be more sorry that I wasn’t there for you, that I wasn’t there when you needed me so.”
“My wolf retreated so deep inside me I can’t reach for her,” my voice broke, and it was like a switched was turned on inside me and the tears came harder, rougher, “she can’t forgive me those times I didn’t bother to fight and just let him do whatever he did and hope for him to get it over with. I can’t ever forgive myself. My body is not mine, anymore, and it isn’t yours, too.”
“Our bodies are ours,” he argued, voice turning into a growl, “that sick fuck didn’t take your body away from you; he manipulated you, mentally tried to destroy you, but he didn’t succeed, because you’re still you, and your body is still here with you.”
“He made me come,” the ugliness of everything came to the forefront of my mind, “he made me come against my will. He relieved that Haze when I didn’t want him to.”
A growl erupted from him, his eyes flashing dangerous silver, before his arms went around me and he squeezed me tight to him. “Fuck, Daisy,” he snarled, “fuck!”
I couldn’t move. All I could do was let the tears fall. “Physically I’m fine. The sex didn’t hurt me physically.”
He crushed me to him farther.
“But I don’t think I can ever be mentally fine anymore,” I whispered, “I don’t think it’s in the cards for me.”
The only sound after that was his growls. For long minutes we stood there, him hugging me, me staring up at the stars as the tears slid down my cheeks. There was nothing more to be said. It was all out there. Both of us were now aligned in pain, just like Damon had wanted it to happen. In his twisted, sinister way, he did repay his debt. But now he owed me another debt. A debt for making me feel filthy and worthless.
After a while, Shade finally stopped growling. He let go a little so he could face me and his face was the epitome of cold rage. “The Season ended a month ago,” he said, and while his voice was as flat as it used to be, it wasn’t devoid of feelings; not, it was furious. “What happened then?”
I looked down from his eyes. Shame filled me, and I fought it, trying to leash it back in like I did everything else. But the shame was unstoppable. “He kept on raping me,” I said, trying for a flat voice but failing when it crack. “only this time, he had to use lube.”
He froze. “Lube?”
“Not in the way you think,” I said lamely. No, he hadn’t penetrated my other hole. In fact, he had gone to specifically get the lube. He was in shock that he even needed it. He couldn’t wrap his head around why I would need it.
“Tell me, Daisy,” he said, and I could feel his dominance shoving against me, willing me to answer him, despite the fact that the shame choked me, suffocating my very insides. “Look at me, and tell me.”
I couldn’t look at him. I shook my head no.
He brought a hand and put it on my chin, lifting my face up. I had no choice but drag my eyes upward as well. “Tell me,” he said, eyes stormy on me, absolute command in his voice.
And because his dominance was so much greater than mine, I had no choice but to answer. “I can’t get wet.”