Chapter 17 - I Spy
Asher Antonov’s P.O.V.
“What are you doing?” Vito questions me as I stand before the doors of Ayla’s old bedroom.
“Just...don’t come in. I mean it.” I order, watching them nod.
Ayla had run off again suddenly while we were having lunch, using the same excuse of wanting to go to the library because she didn’t feel well. Except I followed her, Vito and Corbin and watched as she lied and told them she would like to go to her bedroom. Not the one we share, but her old one.
Immediately, I use my gift to turn invisible. Vito and Corbin are some of the few people that know about my gift so it isn’t a surprise to them when I disappear but they do frown in concern. I walk through the door, my eyes landing on Ayla mumbling to herself in the middle of the room. Tears are streaming down her cheeks and she looks exhausted.
“Please...I-I don’t w-want to do t-this anymore!” She cries hysterically, clutching her head in pain. “Leave m-me alone!”
I struggle to maintain my invisible form, desperate to comfort her. But I had to find out why she keeps coming back here. Usually she disappears when I’m not around but today, it’s like she didn’t care to be subtle. Her arms rise, palms facing outward, but they shake uncontrollably; as if she’s struggling with her own body. She cries out when they snap up, as if someone forced her to keep them straight.
“No, no, no!” She clenches her jaw, clearly trying hard to resist.
Electric blue and silver light illuminates the room chaotically, as if Ayla is trying to teleport but also stopping herself at the same time. I take a step towards her but before I can turn back into my real form, a portal appears in front of her and she vanishes. I stand there in shock, wondering why she would be trying to teleport when I specifically told her that Blithe can manipulate gifts.
My blood runs cold as it all hits me like a freight train. Blithe cast a spell on Ayla and she’s been controlling her body and mind. That’s why she never remembers how she ended up in a room, why she cries for help and for someone to leave her alone during her nightmares, why she’s always drained, why she seems miserable and can never tell me what’s really on her mind.
What I don’t understand is why Blithe is targeting her. Maybe because Silvano is my cousin? But why get back at me by hurting my beloved? How is that getting revenge on Silvano? I think to myself.
Before I can ponder over my thoughts, Ayla teleports back to the room and slumps to the ground. Her skin is as white as a sheet as she mumbles for someone to leave her alone now that she’s done. I assume Blithe is talking to her in her mind, watching as her entire body relaxes. While Blithe was controlling Ayla, her eyes were bright white and now they aren’t. Realizing that Blithe has left her now, I turn back to my real form and run over to her.
Ayla doesn’t respond no matter how hard I try to get her to talk and eventually she falls asleep. I just hug her to me and can’t help but feel guilty at the sight of her so exhausted, clearly terrified and hurting. If only I caught on quicker to what was happening in my own home rather than focusing on how to capture Blithe.
“I’m going to fix this, angel. You won’t hurt anymore, I promise.” I breathe shakily before picking her up. “I’ll do whatever it takes.”
“Vito! Corbin! Has Astra arrived?!” I call as I open the door, their eyes widening when they see Ayla passed out in my arms.
“Yes, she arrived a few minutes ago and is being taken to the east wing’s tower just like you asked.” Corbin replies as they follow behind.
I rush across to my room, laying her down on the bed. Covering her with the blankets, I check her breathing and heart rate again and sigh in relief when it’s normal. Vito can’t take it anymore and asks me what’s going on, his eyes flickering from mine to Ayla. Standing, I make my way over to them and grasp their shoulders.
“I need you two to stay in this room and distract her when she wakes up. Do not let her leave but don’t upset her either.” I order, fixating them with a stern look.
“What the fuck is going on?! What’s happening to her?” Corbin breathes, blue eyes shining with worry.
“No time to explain, I need to find Astra.” I rush, starting towards the door before turning to look at them one last time. “I’m begging you two, don’t leave her side.”
“Understood.” Vito nods, gesturing for me to go.
Thanking them both, I sprint down the hallways and in a matter of seconds I’m in the east wing and racing up the steps of the tower. Not bothering to knock, I step inside and see Astra sitting in a chair. She hardly notices me, her features scrunched pensively as she scribbles something in her notebook that’s filled with writing and drawings.
“Astra.” I greet, taking a seat opposite her on the wooden chair.
“Why can’t Ayla see me or know that I’m in the castle?” She frowns in confusion, barely looking up from her book.
“Because the witch is controlling her.”
Her eyes widen as she leans forward in her seat. “I translated the meaning of the spell just minutes before you came in! How did you find out?!”
And so, I tell her about what I saw just moments ago along with the times I’ve seen Ayla acting weird; how she’s not been herself after the attack at the courthouse. The times I’d catch her in the library or her room with no recollection of how she got there, her hands squeezing mine and her features contorted in pain as she struggles to tell me something but eventually giving up. How she’s tired and sleeps more often, as if something is draining her daily.
I tell her of all the times I’ve woken up to Ayla crying in her sleep, begging someone to leave her alone or sneaking out of our bedroom instead and mumbling away in her room. A room that she refuses to sleep in alone at night, a room that hasn’t been lived in once she moved her things into mine. All my frustration and terror pours out of me and I find myself confiding in her.
“We need to do something now, Astra. I can’t take it anymore, Blithe is going to kill Ayla.” I stand, pacing the room. I couldn’t sit still knowing I should be working to find a way to remove Blithe from Ayla.
“Okay, the spell Blithe used is a very old one that witches would use back before it was prohibited. Obviously, she doesn’t follow by the rules.” She mutters, anger lighting up her eyes. “I know how to reverse it and separate them two, but I need a few things.”
“Can you do it by tonight?” I ask, hope rising within me only to die out when she shakes her head in regret.
“I’m going to ask Fabian to bring back some things as he’s in that part of the city right now. We will separate them tomorrow, I’m sorry but you’ll have to wait just a little longer. In the meantime, distract her as much as you can and don’t let her leave your side. From hearing what you noticed about her behavior, Blithe forces her teleport when she’s alone and vulnerable. And the fact that she made Ayla leave in the middle of lunch knowing that it could raise suspicion only means our time is running out faster than we thought. ”
I don’t like having to wait but agree regardless, calling out to the guard outside her door to fetch the maids so that Astra can gather whatever it is she needs for tomorrow. Thanking her for her help, I leave the room in determination. Just one more day and my Ayla would be free.
Ayla Romanov’s P.O.V.
I wake up from a dreamless sleep, groaning in discomfort when I feel my limbs ache in protest at the slight movement. I don’t remember what happened and how I ended up in bed, like usual. I sigh sadly, jumping out of my skin when I hear someone cough. Crying out in pain, I look to the side to see Corbin staring at me with wide eyes and a closed fist raised to his mouth.
“Ayla,” I look at Vito when he rounds the bed to hover over me, eyes shining in concern. “What’s wrong? Are you in pain?”
“Yes,” I whimper, thanking him as he helps me sit up gently. “I don’t know why though – I don’t remember anything.”
They look at each other and I can tell they don’t know either. But weren’t they guarding me like usual? I think to myself in confusion. Corbin holds up a glass of water to my lips and I take small sips. I’m starving, wanting to get some food in me.
Just as Corbin puts the glass down, the door opens and Asher walks in. He looks up, relief shining in his eyes for a fleeting second before it disappears. Thanking Vito and Corbin, he dismisses them and closes the door after they leave. Slipping under the covers with me, I immediately cuddle up to his side, wrapping an arm around his waist. He presses a kiss into my hair, draping an arm across my shoulders.
We sit there in silence until he finally speaks. “So, someone – who I believe to be Blithe – is controlling your mind and making you teleport.”
My eyes widen, tears filling them instantly. He knows! He finally knows even when I couldn’t tell him! Sobs of relief escape me, overjoyed that Asher understands what’s going on with me. He turns and picks me up, making me straddle his waist. His eyes are pained as he hushes me, rubbing my back in a soothing manner.
“I have the gift of invisibility.” He murmurs, wiping my tears away with his thumbs. “I only regret not using it sooner, otherwise you wouldn’t have suffered this much – you would not be suffering still. You were in your room again and when I entered, I saw you crying and screaming. She was forcing your mind and body to teleport. She drained you completely and you passed out when you came back.”
I nod, squeezing my eyes shut as I cry harder. He sits up and pulls me into his comforting embrace, whispering soothing words into my ear to reassure me that he’s here and that he won’t let this go on any longer.
“Your eyes turn white at the edges when she’s controlling you; I only noticed it when I was in the room because she always gets you alone when she wants to force you to teleport.” He explains, chocolate brown meeting bright green. “Now I know when I can speak to you about this.”
“Asher please, help me!” I clutch his shirt in my fists. “I try so hard to stop myself but it’s no use. It only drains me more.”
“I will, angel.” He strokes my hair, pecking my lips. “Tomorrow, Astra will separate you two. We just need to wait a little longer, can you do that for me?”
I nod, wrapping my arms around his neck and resting my cheek in the crook of his neck. “It’s so scary, Asher.”
“I know, baby.” He murmurs, rocking us from side to side. “It’ll be over soon, I promise. What’s the distance she’s making you teleport?”
“I can do –” He pulls away and looks down at me, pain filling his eyes when I struggle to speak before giving up.
“She’s stopped you from talking about it or mentioning her.” He nods in understanding, his grip tightening on me as his eyes light up in anger. “I’m going to fucking kill her for doing this to you.”
We sit there in silence and I’m content in knowing that everything will be okay soon. Asher is here, he knows and he’ll help me. I must wait until tomorrow and it will all be over once and for all. Smiling softly, I close my eyes and bask in the feeling of my mate, his delicious scent calming me.
And then, my stomach growls loudly.
I blush fiercely when he bursts out laughing, swatting his arm with a pout. He picks up the phone and calls the kitchen, asking Grace to bring up some food before turning to me. Without warning, he tackles me and attacks my skin with kisses making me squeal and giggle uncontrollably.
Everything is going to be okay, finally.