Chapter 49 - Confessions
“You’re my master, Marcus, and it chafes. You should understand since you were never comfortable being Victor’s right-hand man. You were born to rule and always denied. His bond wasn’t gentle, and it grated on you, but the hope that one day you would get what you deserved, kept you going,” Alena explained in quiet tones.
“You’re not like him, and I realize what your rights are. I have no illusions, but there’s more to you than him. I also remind you of someone, and despite the bad memory, you tolerate me,” Alena spoke the unvarnished truth. Her fangs were visible, and Marcus remained silent in the wake of her words, but she had more to say.
“I hated the idea of Rowan because it suggested my father loved her more. I took me a while to realize he only ever loved himself. I needed to hate her; otherwise, I would care. If I cared, then I had to accept my father was a monster and if he was, then I am too. The world has no place for monsters,” Alena finished, almost breathing hard in the wake of her emotions.
“Heroes are monsters, Alena. They just have a cause to justify their actions,” Marcus countered, and his manner became gentle, but his eyes still burned with some inner fire.
“They don’t drink the blood of the defeated,” Alena denied, although his words found their mark in her.
“You hated the killing, the torture, debauchery, pillaging, and the way soldiers harmed innocents in the name of your cause. Victor changed it all; for you. He saw what it did to you; the hardness it created in your eyes, and coldness in your heart. It reminded him of someone from his past, a mistake made out of arrogance. He gave you a choice, and it almost cost him his seat of power, so he had to be that much crueler,” Marcus explained, and Alena looked vulnerable when she heard his words. She wanted to believe him, but experience taught her Victor valued himself above all else.
“I wasn’t his priority, and he chose you over me,” Alena denied, and he pitied her for the damage Victor did to her self-confidence.
“I wasn’t his first choice,” Marcus admitted, and his admission took them by surprise, “Marius was, but he thought feeding off animals was for the weak,” Marcus clarified. Rowan lowered her head, Marius said much the same thing to her once, and it caused the first rift between them.
“That’s why I kept the distance between us,” Marcus admitted. “Victor had little use for mercy, and sometimes when you looked at me; you are as hard as he was,” Marcus glanced at Alena, and his thoughts troubled him.
“If you were a man, you would have challenged me for your coven,” Marcus said, and all of them understood the truth in his statement. “Victor drummed ruthlessness into you since you could carry a sword or ride a horse. You can be a dangerous adversary if you put your mind to it,” Marcus said while looking Alena straight in the eye. Rowan had to admit she saw that side of Alena on the boat when they fought the pirates.
“The first night when Rowan walked from the shadows, and I saw the resemblance, but she was so different from you,” Marcus’s gaze wandered to Rowan, and she couldn’t read his expression.
“Hostility and anger dominated her, and I wondered if she understood she hungered for more than revenge,” Marcus speculated, and Rowan observed him with her eyes carefully neutral. He had to admit she came a long way since then.
“You wanted what we had; to belong, fit in, and be part of something greater than yourself. You needed a family, a world that accepted you, and a place to call home. You hated us for living the life Victor denied you,” Rowan never heard those feelings expressed in words.
“In your mind, we took everything from you, and you would never have listened to us if your concern for your humans hadn’t weighed so heavily on your conscience,” Marcus challenged, and she didn’t lower her eyes before him or his words.
“Then you realized you weren’t strong enough to take even one of us on your own. Somewhere along the line, it all got confused, tangled, and complicated,” Marcus didn’t waiver in his assessment, and for the first time, she tried to stare him down. She wasn’t afraid of him anymore, Marcus deduced from her bravery.
“I hated Victor for abandoning me and then sending Marius to harm me. I hated Alena because Victor raised her, and it made me inferior. It took a while for me to learn, blood crawled where it couldn’t walk. It was easy to hate a stranger, but when you get to know someone, it changes your perspective. I would no more hurt Alena than myself. When Ariana turned us, she became the mother I never had, and I can’t explain that to you,” Rowan hesitated before she spoke again.
“How do I feel about you? It depends on you. Are you willing to be our family instead of our master? Are you our friend, or would our choice distance you from us?” Rowan asked in her direct manner. Marcus saw the way they were looking at him; they were wary and expected the worst.
“And this hinges on whether I do what you want?” Marcus asked.
“No, it has nothing to do with that,” Rowan denied, and Marcus watched them while he patiently waited.
“You have a choice to make; you’re either Victor or Marius,” Rowan said with a shrug, but now he understood.
“The ungentle hand which chafes, or the heavy hand that breaks,” Marcus guessed while he looked at them long and hard. He had to admit they challenged and intrigued him.
Marcus had a real family once, and when the plague wiped them out, he vowed he would let no one close to him again, but he did.
Marcus wasn’t fighting them; he fought himself. They had become his family. Alena reminded him so much of his sister, and Rowan needed protection; if only from herself.