Damon had never kissed me. He thought that the act of kissing was useless; it didn’t bring one’s sexual needs into satisfaction, and it was as mechanical as eating a banana for him was.
I’d been so happy he didn’t like kissing. At least one part of me stayed untouched, stayed clean.
Shade’s lips on mine turned my world on its axis. Not because of the sudden way it happened; mostly because when his lips touched mine and I tensed, ready for my wolf to claw at my insides, for my brain to change into warning mode and push him away, none of it happened.
Instead, something mad and desperate snapped in my head. I didn’t want to be this weak, broken Daisy. I didn’t want to be the one who needed to rely on someone else for her well being. I didn’t want to let that asshole ruin my life forever for me. I wanted to be with my mate, to be good enough for him just as he was trying to be for me, to mate with him, to not be able to freak out.
And so, completely, utterly, desperately, I grabbed the collar of his shirt and smashed my lips harder against his. He went taut, but then, almost hesitantly, his hands cupped the nape of my neck, his thumbs caressing my cheeks. But this innocent kiss, the peck, wasn’t enough. It was too tame.
If I was actually doing this, I might as well give it my all.
His lips part at that exact thought and I didn’t let myself cower away from the invitation; instead I launched my tongue right inside, finding his and intertwining them together. He responded to it, only his motions were slower, more cautious, as though he didn’t want to hurt me.
And it just made me want for him to kiss me more aggressively. I wanted to feel encompassed. I wanted this to turn wild. I needed this to be as hurtful as a kiss could be so I would be ready –
He pushed his lips away from as though tearing a plaster from a hot wound and then caught me when my knees buckled and I almost slid to the floor.
This time I knew what was wrong. I’d pushed myself too far. My entire body was shaking, and my throat was clogged. In my mind, I wasn’t here, but in that cabin, seeing the Deity walking forward, the bottle of lube in his hands, his face as cold as ice.
“Focus on me, Daisy.”
My eyes snapped to his, but I saw those evil hazel eyes instead.
“I know, Daisy. I’m seeing them too.”
“You see him right now. I see Cristiona and Ivan. Fight it. Don’t let it consume you. Don’t let him win. Because if he wins, that means you’ll never get better. So fight. Break through. Focus on me like I’m focusing on you.”
How could I not let it consume me? How could I fight it when, for three months, I’d been unable to do so?
“You’re not weak, and you’ve never been weak,” the growl finally made me focus, and I saw jungle eyes intense on mine. “You’re strong enough to come out of this. I believe in you. Believe in yourself and you’ll make the first true step to getting better.”
I just stared at him, drinking in his sight, chanting inside my head that I wasn’t back in Maine, that I was in this island with Shade, that I was completely safe. And once I got head under control a few minutes later, I knew what needed to be done.
And so this time I kissed him.
He tensed, but seemed to sense my intention and let himself relax. I closed my eyes, pressing my lips to him, this time not pushing myself any farther. The memories surfaced again, the mental strain almost too much to bear, but then his hands were on my shoulders, massaging and soothing an ache I didn’t even know I had, I found myself calming down. The imaged in my mind soared, but, remaining still like I did, they eventually faded away into the background, only as a nudging reminded but not as a constant baggage.
I opened my eyes a little and saw Shade’s statue-like face. His eyes were open, and I could see in the jungle of his irises that he was fighting exactly what I was fighting. That he was determined to overcome his own demons in this aspect. And it reminded me of that day so long ago when I kissed him in the woods near Lumen, and his painful reaction to it. It made so much sense to me now. So much fucking sense.
The need to heal him just as much I wanted myself to heal as well was so strong all of a sudden, that my wolf rose to the forefront of my mind. She knew what to do, I could tell. She wanted me to let her help. Wanted me to let go of the walls of my mind and let her take charge while I was still in human body. Because when it came to taking care of your mate, wolves were way better at that than the human.
And Shade was the one who needed my help this time.
I unleashed her presence in my head and everything turned sharper. Then, we were more one than we’d been for a very long time.
A burning feel sprouted inside of me, and I when I reached for it, I sensed it was my healing magic, only it felt much more powerful than before, almost like it was when I played the violin to heal. My amplification must’ve been activated somehow, triggered but what was going on, and I accepted it. Welcomed it.
Putting my arms around his neck, I drew him closer and softly nudged his lips apart. Then I thrusted me tongue, mixing it with his slowly, softly, delicately this time, and then let the healing power wash upward, toward my lips and my tongue, and shoved them outside. The healing felt different than usual; I wasn’t healing a physical injury.
No, I was healing something else. Healing both Shade and me at the same time.
Shade’s arms went around my waist, tucking me closer tightly. He responded to me in kind, his lips dancing with mine, his lips nipping softly at mine, and I let more healing energy thorough, more magic to pour out of me.
And as we kissed, our arms around each other, a sense of peace befell us. No memories interrupted the act. I had a hunch it was like this for him as well. Our bodies, while still unaffected in the way they should be by that kiss, were no longer recoiling from touch, instead taking a tentative step to lean into it, to try it out, to give it another chance not to hurt.
But in my head, and I knew with my wolf’s instinct that in his too, something fell into place, another puzzle piece coming together. The kiss might not be the passionate one we needed to have by protocol of being mates, but it was better than that. Better than passion. It was comforting, soothing, healing. It was everything both of us needed at the moment. Passion could wait.
And when I began feeling drained of the healing magic I poured inside him and me, I let the kiss come to an end and draw my head back. My eyes were kind of sleepy, and Shade’s too, but we no longer battling anything in our mind. And that was a huge step.
His hand cupped my cheek and he looked at me in wonder. “What kind of healing did you use?”
“I have no idea,” I replied, feeling a little sheepish all of a sudden. “I’m sorry I used it on you without asking.” It felt needed for an unfathomable reason that I apologized.
“You don’t need to apologize,” he said, almost as though he was reading my mind, “have you ever apologized for healing wounds?”
“But this time I did something else,” I said, still trying to wrap my head around what exactly it was that I did.
“I think I know what you did,” he said, and then gave me a smile. And that smile was so peaceful and so proud for me, that my heart kicked in my chest. “There’s a theory that werewolf healers can heal not just physical wounds but mental ones as well. The theory was never tested, however.”
“You think I actually have that kind of power?” I asked, and felt tears in my eyes. Dammit. I needed to stop crying all the time. “Because that’s kind of... awesome.”
“I think you do,” Shade’s smile faded. “And I think it means you’re on the right path to recovery if you managed to use that.”
I mulled it all over, staring at him as I did so, and then... I felt it. Hope bloomed so fast and hard inside me that I gasped. I could actually do this. I could actually overcome this freaking nightmare. I would never be the old me again, that was a given I’d refused to accept before but now understood better, but I could be someone else. I could make myself from scratch. I could become a person far stronger than I ever believed myself to be.
And I knew the way to do this.
I didn’t know about other victims of rape, how they went back to have a normal life, how they fought their own nightmares. I didn’t know about how they felt, how they survived. I only knew how I would. Even if it might seem like pushing myself again, or even if it was way too soon, I knew that it needed to be done, and not just for me, but for Shade too. We were in this together. We were almost bound by it.
It would take a few hours. It would take a few times. But it would be worth in the long run.
“Shade?” I asked, looking up at him.
“Yeah?” he stared back.
“I’m taking you up on your suggestion,” I told him, my heart pounding way too loud in response. “I think you were right all along. We need to have sex.”
He tensed, and I could see the uncertainty this time in his eyes, which I missed the last time he suggested it. He was aware this was an optional route to take, yet he wasn’t sure if both of us could handle it. I got that. I wondered about that too.
“We at least have to try,” I said softly, “like you said. We can stop at any time if either of us feels anything negative.”
“Of course,” he said, but sighed. “And while I know it’s my suggestion, I’m still wondering if maybe it’s too soon. I don’t want to push you, and I don’t want you to push yourself – “
“I’m not,” I said, giving him a look filled with determination, this time on my part. “I’m willing to try it out. We might not be able to go through the entire act, but at least we can try. Trying is better than spending our days here wondering and letting our demons win.”
He contemplated this, and finally gave a jerky nod. “Let’s talk. We have to be prepared for it.”
We sat at the sofa farther out on the balcony and faced each other. Shade tore a blank page from his sketchbook and grabbed his pencil. “First,” he said, all business, “I need to get a Viagra pill.”
I gave him a serious look. “Do you think it will work? You said so yourself that your impotency is absolutely psychosomatic.”
“I know,” he said, returning my look with his own serious one, “but there are special Viagra pills for werewolves, and while they’re intended for elderly male werewolves, I believe they can help me. At least it’s worth a shot.”
With that I didn’t argue. “Okay, then. What’s next?”
He scribbled the word “Viagra” down and then looked at me. “It might bring back some serious shitty memories for you, but we’ll need to get lube.”
I tensed, but I could see his point. Still. “Don’t you think we can do it even if I’m not... wet?” I winced just thinking about it. It would take time for the shame to leave, after all.
“You know we can’t,” his eyes went a little soft. “If I’ll... penetrate you – “ we both winced this time “ - without you being wet, I might hurt you. That is something I don’t want to risk.”
While I got it, it still didn’t make me feel better about this whole lube thing. But just like he was willing to take Viagra, I was willing to give it a shot as well. “Trying doesn’t hurt,” I said like a mantra.
Nodding, Shade scribbled “Lube” and then frowned. “Now we need to speak about the harder part.”
“Which is?” I asked, not following his trail of mind this time.
He sighed again. “I know it might feel unnatural to discuss it this way, but I think both of us need to know the... positions we can’t bear as of right now.”
Yes, it was purely technicalities we were talking about. It might not be romantic and spontaneous and instinctive like it should be for most werewolves and humans. It might not be natural, either. But nothing about our situation was either natural or normal. And this way, we assured we would be as much prepared for it as we could, which meant we were being smart and cautious.
And that was all I could hope for.
“I can’t stand missionary,” I said boldly as a show of faith. Then I found myself blanching a bit when Shade’s eyes snapped to me. “It was... Damon’s favorite position. I felt too vulnerable. I can’t be like that again.”
“I get it,” he said, jaw clenching, hands fisting. “I can have the woman on top of me, though. Just the thought is enough to...” he let his voice trail off, rage flashing in his eyes.
I understood it, welcoming it in my own as well. We shouldn’t be here feeling like this about sex. It was against our nature. It was the fault of twisted, sick assholes that we were this way. We would get our revenge eventually. I was sure of it. And the first step toward it was to overcome all the scars, mental or physical, they left on us.
“So neither of us can be at the bottom,” I summed it up, thinking. “Well, it means we’ll have to try a different approach. A different position.”
“Yes,” he looked back at me. “So it doesn’t matter which position as long as neither of us is on top.”
Nodding my acceptance, he scribbled it down, and then folded the paper. “When do you want to do this?” he asked.
That was the question, wasn’t it? “I think we need to sleep on it a little,” I said, grimacing. “Then we can do it tomorrow night?”
“I think it’s a good plan,” Shade said, nodding, “and it give us time tomorrow to go to the town and buy everything we need.”
“Town?” I asked, frowning. “Is there a town on this island?”
A loaded emotion flickered in his eyes. “Yes,” he said, “there’s a town. In there the werewolf community of Freedom Island lives.”
The word community sent a shiver down my spine. “Community?” I asked, and my face must’ve shown what I though because Shade gave me a faint smile and grabbed my hand.
“The community here is nothing like what mine was. Besides, they know that if they break the law, I’d come at them with vengeance.” His smile turned into a snarl full of sharp wolf teeth.
“You?” I asked, feeling like there was something I needed to catch on. “How are you connected to this community? I thought you only owned this house and the fields around it.”
He gave me the answer then. “Once I turned eighteen, I bought this island with almost all the money I had,” he said, capturing my gaze, “when a banished community asked for me to stay here, I agreed on the condition they follow my rules. They signed a contract and they lived peacefully ever since, not breaking any of the laws I gave them.”
“Why did you buy this island, though?” I asked, that feeling getting stronger.
“I named it Freedom Island,” he said, voice lowering, “because its previous name was Redway Island.”
And the understanding came. “This is the island you grew up on.”
He nodded. “I renovated it, however, so it wouldn’t look the same again. And now...” he gave me a crooked smile, “I can safely call my once hell my personal heaven.”
And with this, the hope and determination grew exponentially stronger inside me. Because if Shade managed to turn the place he used to think of as hell on Earth into the place he ran away to when he needed some peace of mind, I could overcome any darkness that lingered inside me. Time was not a parameter here. It was one’s own strength that mattered.
Other women might take months, even years, to heal from an experience like that. But I wasn’t other women. I was me. I was a different me. And Shade, my strong, scarred mate, was here with me. Not everyone had a Shade in their life. Not everyone had their mate by their side. I was lucky to have mine.
I was lucky to find him before everything went to shit.
My resolve settled, unwavering.