Chapter 18 - Ruin It All
Ayla Romanov’s P.O.V.
I spent most of today sleeping, resting in bed so that my sore limbs can recover. But come night fall, Asher returns from his meeting with Astra and Fabian. I perk up, wondering if they’re ready to separate Blithe and I. He shakes his head, leaning over to peck my lips.
“An hour more. Fabian just arrived with the things needed to reverse the spell and Astra is setting everything up as fast as she can.” He picks me up gently, making me look up at him in confusion. “While they do that, I believe I owe my beautiful beloved a date night.”
I chuckle, letting him carry me through the hallways. I know this is his way to distract my anxiety ridden self. He opens a door that I didn’t notice before, stepping through and carrying me upstairs. Hushing me when I ask where this leads to, he tells me to be patient. Eventually, we reach another door and when Asher opens that, my jaw drops at the sight before me.
It’s a large and circular room, white marble covering the floor with pillars and statues intricately carved into the walls. The dome ceiling mesmerizes me as it’s all glass and I can see the moon and the stars shining bright in the night sky. My gaze lands on the blow-up mattress in the middle of the floor, blankets and pillows covering it. By the bed, there’s various snacks and drinks.
“I thought we could do some stargazing.” He whispers in my ear, placing me on the bed.
“I love this.” I breathe in amazement, lying down and staring up at the twinkling stars.
He hums in agreement, lying beside me and intertwining our hands. Pointing out all the constellations, he tells me stories about them. I curl up to him, wrapping an arm around his waist as his soothing voice fills my ears. We spend the night talking under the moon and the stars, talking about anything and everything while munching on snacks.
But I should have known my happiness wasn’t going to last long.
At some point after midnight, I get the overwhelming urge to stand up. It almost doubles me over as something forces me to get up and start walking towards the door. Asher asks me what’s wrong but I can’t talk anymore, my mouth forced shut. All I want to do is get out of here.
“Ayla, where are you going?!” He calls but I don’t look back.
Breaking out into a run, I feel the urge to get to the library. Sprinting down the hallways, I make it there in a few seconds and run over to the bookshelf. Grabbing the book on Vampire Gifts, I jump off the ladder and flip through the pages. It’s a completely different page than what Blithe had forced me to learn, I don’t even have time to see what it’s about. I hear her cackling in my mind, forcing my arms up which instantly makes me struggle.
“Blithe, why are you doing this to me?!” I cry, dread filling me.
“So, you finally found out who I am, huh?” She chuckles darkly, making my blood run cold at her words. “Silvano didn’t just cheat on me. When he realized that I knew and I was going to make him pay, he circulated rumors and false evidence of me abusing my powers. When I saw you with him at the courthouse, I assumed you were his beloved. But what a surprise to find out you belong to the King; the same man who signed the form to ban me from practicing witchcraft.”
“Silvano has only told us that you’re doing all this just because he cheated on you! He probably lied to Asher too!” I scream when the portal appears, feeling the strings of power flowing through my veins.
She ignores me and forces me to step through the portal. I teleport out of the library but instead of landing somewhere else, I find myself trapped in the tunnel of electric blue and silver light that facilitates my teleportation. I focus on teleporting back to the library, holding my arms up shakily.
I scream, losing my concentration when a woman appears right in front of me and I realize that this is Blithe. Terror runs through my veins when I catch the evil glint in her eyes as she throws a dagger at me, but her expression suddenly turns into one of shock. I gasp in both relief and surprise when Asher covers me with his body. He catches the dagger with one hand, throwing it right back at her. He must have turned invisible and teleported with me.
While she’s distracted trying to avoid getting hit, Asher stretches his hand in her direction and her face contorts in pain. She clutches her head, screaming in pain but rage fills her eyes as she tries to fight it. Blood starts spilling out of her nose, eyes, ears and mouth which makes me gag at the gruesome sight. Asher’s hand wraps around the back of my neck and he pulls me into his chest so that I can’t see what he’s doing to her. I hear her final scream before everything turns silent.
Turning, I spot her on the ground but feel bile rise within me when I see the missing chunks of her body scattered around her. Asher walks up to her, making sure he didn’t let go of me. He’s just about to thrust the dagger in her heart when her eyes open and she grins manically. I hear Zoya scream in my mind, feeling Ivanna take over as I yell at her not to. Just as she’s halfway shifted, we’re struck by Blithe’s magic and pain seizes my body. Involuntarily, Ivanna is forced to shift back and I drop to my knees.
It felt like my entire body stopped working and I almost wish it had. For the pain that came next was excruciating. The searing hot pain burns me from the inside out and I scream in agony, gripping Asher’s hand. He moves towards me just as the blue and silver lights start flickering and when the adrenaline rush leaves my body I feel as if all my energy is being drained. I’m assuming it’s because Blithe forced me to use my gift to maintain the tunnel and now that my attention is focused elsewhere, it’s getting harder to maintain it.
“Ayla, focus! You need to get us back to the castle!” Asher shouts, cupping my face with one hand as he looks at me in horror.
I nod through the pain, concentrating hard on imagining us back at the castle. The tunnel remains still and I cry out in pain and frustration when it doesn’t work after numerous times. Summoning all the strength I have left, I squeeze Asher’s hand and close my eyes. I think of the castle’s foyer; the tiled floors, the double doors, the antique paintings and the old furniture.
And eventually, I feel my feet touch the floor. Opening my eyes, I see us back at the castle but I can’t stop screaming. My knees buckle just as Astra, Fabian, Corbin and Vito run out, their eyes widening in terror.
“I got you, angel.” Asher murmurs, catching me before I hit the floor. “I’m here.”
I fist his shirt in my hands, tears streaming down my cheeks and screams escaping my lips. He picks me up and uses his speed to reach the infirmary of the castle, yelling for a doctor while placing me on a bed. I writhe uncontrollably, feeling like my body is burning up but also like somebody is ripping my insides to pieces. Ivanna is howling and whimpering in my mind, she’s in so much pain. I can tell that Zoya is working hard to heal us both but she can only do so much.
“Asher!” I half sob, half scream in agony. He was explaining what happened to the doctor but rushed over to me as soon as I called him.
“I’m here, hush.” He soothes, stroking my cheek. “She’s burning up, do something!”
Suddenly, I shift back into Ivanna...and then back to my human form. Screams and broken cries escape me every time and Ivanna howls loudly in pain every time she shifts. Everyone’s eyes are wide in horror, not knowing what to do as we switch bodies repeatedly. I feel her pain and it’s unbearable, like every bone is breaking all over again but ten times worse than my first shift.
“I can’t...take this!” I grit out, more tears escaping the corners of my eyes. “It hurts so much!”
“Ayla, please just hold on. It’s going to be alright.” Asher says, brushing my matted hair away from my sweaty skin.
There’s so much I want to say; to him, to my parents, my siblings. But I can’t do anything except feel tears wet my cheeks and my heartbeat slow and skip. My beasts have given up, they’ve been drained of everything. There’s no way I’m going to survive this without them. I remember Mom telling me of what the vampires did to her once, the type of pain she experienced so similar to mine. More tears escape the corner of my eyes as I think about her, wishing she was here. Maybe she could have helped me to keep going.
The doctor realizes that I’m giving up and he looks at me with a grave expression as the heart monitor starts to beep out of sync. The healers work fast, their hands roaming over my body as they try and heal Ivanna and I.
“I’m sorry Ivanna and Zoya.” I whisper to them, their screams quietening just enough to whimper in response. “I love you both.”
“Asher,” I turn to him, catching his arm and pulling him closer. “Tell my family that I –”
“Don’t you fucking dare leave me!” He snarls thunderously, sadness and longing in his chocolate brown eyes. “I swear Ayla, I’m following you wherever you go and that includes death!”
“Asher, please...” I cry, placing a hand on his cheek and wiping away his tears with my thumb.
“I love you, Ayla. I only wish I spent more time showing you just how much.” He admits hoarsely, resting his forehead against mine. “Please don’t leave me angel, you know I can’t spend eternity without you.”
“Don’t say that.” I sob, screaming when intense pain shoots down my spine.
There’s a loud ringing sound in my ears, my vision is blurry and I can’t seem to keep my eyes open anymore. I feel scorching pain in every part of my body, making me wish for darkness to take me away. My beasts are screaming in pain, their yells echoing inside my mind repeatedly.
“Ayla!” He yells, screaming something at the doctor that I can’t hear anymore.
Is this my end? I wonder to myself. If only I hadn’t teleported maybe Asher and I would have met under better circumstances. If only Blithe had talked to Asher, she wouldn’t have done what she did. If only I could spend the rest of my life with Asher.
My eyes open for a moment, just a fraction enough to see the chaos erupting around me. Doctors and nurses frantically work to help me, healers running in with terror in their eyes. Asher shouts out orders while holding my hand tightly, his warm touch igniting a frenzy of tingles across my skin.
I smile contently, brushing my lips against the inside of his wrist. If only I could tell him one last time how much I love the way he makes me feel. His panicked eyes meet mine, tears escaping them freely. I’ll miss those warm brown eyes of his so much. I focus on the feeling he gives me, letting it consume me and making it the last thing I remember alongside his face.
“I love you too.”
Occurring at the same time.
Vulcan Romanov’s P.O.V.
I growl in frustration as I step out of the portal. A crowd of warriors follow behind as Kaden Reid falls into step with me. Jezebel comes up on my right side, exhausted but lost in thought. We had failed to get into the Vampire Kingdom yet again.
Almost a month ago, Vanessa reported an unresponsive call from what we traced out to be the Vampire Kingdom. Thankfully, my tracker Matthew was quick to trace it because seconds after we heard what seemed to be buildings blowing up and people screaming. Ever since then, I knew my daughter was in that realm. But what I don’t understand is why the kingdom is inaccessible. We’re able to travel to every other realm but the Vampire Kingdom; it’s like it doesn’t exist anymore.
I had called Kaden as soon as I realized where Ayla is, needing his warriors should a war occur between Asher Antonov and I. If he’s the one keeping her hostage I’m going to kill him slowly and painfully, I think to myself angrily. What would he gain from keeping a Romanov when we signed a treaty to be peaceful years ago? This is so fucking confusing!
I asked Jezebel to help me and see if she can make sense of all of this. Instead of the portal opening up to the gloomy scenery of the Vampire Kingdom, we kept meeting a dark void. Instantly, she knew that a fellow witch had done something. Apparently, a witch called Blithe had been reported from this kingdom for abusing her powers. Asher had banned her from practicing ever again but I’m guessing she wanted revenge and is now wreaking havoc inside the realm. Jezebel heard of the kingdom becoming inaccessible long before Ayla disappeared so we know that Ayla teleported straight into it instead of ending up there some other way.
I have tried multiple times to use my gift of dream walking to talk to Ayla but with no luck. I was so worried for my daughter that, at first, I didn’t even think to do it. But when I tried, it was like hitting a dead end. On top of that, Ivan has sensed her pain multiple times and like something is off. He’s become extremely unwell and weak, claiming that it’s because of Ayla; that something is happening to her which is affecting him too because of the bond that they share.
Ever since she disappeared four months ago he hasn’t been the same. In fact, none of the family have. I hate the fact that I’m going to walk back inside my home yet again without my daughter. I hate the disappointment and sadness I’m going to be met with on my mate and children’s faces. I hate the fact that I’m going to hear Aurora crying but pretend to be strong as soon as I find her. I’ve failed my daughter and my family. I couldn’t protect Ayla and from hearing what Ivan has been saying, it doesn’t sound like she’s safe either.
“Now that you’ve seen it, can you not do anything to make the kingdom accessible?” Kaden asks Jezebel.
“Give me a day,” She exhales deeply, staring up at me in pity. “I’m going to find a way to get us in there, I promise.”
I nod gratefully, sighing when we break through the treeline and the sight of my territory comes into view. I thank the warriors as they leave for the pack house, walking with Jezebel and Kaden back to my house. But as soon as I start up the driveway I hear panicked screaming. Sprinting, I burst through the doors and run up the stairs to where I hear Aurora yell Ivan’s name. I enter his room to see my son doubled over on the floor, trembling and pale.
“Tell me what’s wrong! Ivan, please - Vulcan!” Aurora cries as soon as she sees me, making me kneel before them. “H-He’s in pain, I don’t know what’s happening!”
“Son,” I start, taking hold of his shoulder and tilting his head up. There’s tears streaming down his cheeks and he’s shivering. “Tell me what’s wrong, is it Ayla?”
He nods, growling in pain. “S-She...so much...pain. Someone’s h-hurting...her.”
“Get Jezebel.” I order Aurora, holding Ivan down when he starts to protest and thrash wildly.
“No!” He snarls, eyes burning bright red. “We need to find her! Did you not hear me?! Someone is hurting her, Dad! You can’t get Jezebel to take away the pain, I can take it!”
“I let you endure it and look what it’s done to you!” I growl, wiping his tears. “You’ve weakened Ivan, the bond is affecting you too much. I know you’re strong but please, I’ve already lost your sister. I can’t lose you too.”
It hurts me to admit it but it’s true. I don’t know when or if I’ll find Ayla but I can’t lose my son. It would kill me to know that I’ve failed my kids; that I didn’t protect them. If I could take away the pain from both I would do it in a heartbeat. He starts convulsing just as Jezebel, Kaden and Aurora run in. I hold him while Jezebel tries to stop the pain, feeling Aurora’s devastation at the sight of our son.
“He’s going to be alright, Aurora,” I try and reassure her through our mind link.
She looks up at me with so much sadness in her eyes that it almost shatters my heart. “He’s never been so bad before, Vulcan. I just want my babies to be okay. I want Ayla back.”
“D-Dad...” Ivan suddenly grunts in pain, making me hover over him expectantly. “Find A-Ayla, something is s-seriously wrong.”
And with that he takes a sharp breath, his eyes rolling closed.