Chapter 21 - Eyes Wide Open
Ayla Romanov’s P.O.V.
A white ceiling greets me, the bright light of the room almost blinding me. I groan in protest, raising my arm to cover my eyes but freezing when I notice the IV stuck in it. Looking around the room, I recognize it as the infirmary but I’m so disorientated as to how I got here.
I push myself up using my arms, my limbs aching in protest. Just as I’ve managed to take a sip of water, the door opens and in walks Doctor Ilias. His eyes widen when he sees me before a bright smile takes over his expression.
“Good morning, Ayla! I’m glad to see you’re awake, how are you feeling?” He grins, taking off his stethoscope and placing a clipboard on my bed.
“Okay but I feel some pain, what happened?” I run a hand through my hair, feeling like I haven’t showered in days.
“You don’t remember?” He frowns, shining a light into my eyes. “You teleported and were attacked, Asher killed Blithe and brought you...”
His voice fades away as everything comes back to me; Blithe controlling my body and mind, forcing me to teleport and trying to kill me. I remember Asher appearing out of nowhere and her body collapsed in the tunnel, and then pain. So much pain. I felt as if I could still hear Ivanna howling and whimpering in agony.
“M-My wolf. She was struck by the witch, is she okay?” I question frantically, feeling my heart clench in pain at his sad expression.
He leaves the room for a moment before walking back in with a woman called Sasha, explaining that she’s the best healer of the castle. She smiles at me gently as she takes a seat on the bed, but her eyes are worried. Doctor Ilias nods at her when she glances at him unsure. I frown when she takes my hand, a heavy sigh escaping her. Tears brim my eyes when I know what she’s about to say. I can feel Ivanna but, something is terribly wrong.
“When witches strike someone with the intention to kill, it’s difficult to escape. Your wolf saved you but she was also extremely injured and shocked. Her pain is what you felt before you slipped in a coma, Blithe damaged her to the point where she can’t shift or heal you.” Sasha explains, making me cover my mouth in shock with a trembling hand. “We helped heal her as much as we could, your vampire also tried healing her with us. But we could only do so much, I’m sorry Ayla.”
I nod, quickly wiping away a traitorous tear that had escaped. “How long have I been here?”
“You slipped into a two-month coma as your wolf needed time to heal and get over the shock. She shut down and your human side felt the effects too.” Doctor Ilias explains as he checks all my vitals while I sit there in slight disbelief.
“Where’s Asher?” I whisper, wanting to feel his comforting embrace.
“I finally convinced him to take a shower, he hasn’t left your side much these two months. Smelt awful.” She scrunches her nose, making me smile humorlessly.
“C-Can I go see him...please?” I plead to Doctor Ilias, watching as he struggles to speak.
“He just left. How about you take a shower and freshen up? By that time, the King will be back.” He smiles gently and it wasn’t that hard for me to agree. I felt disgusting.
I take the pieces of clothing that apparently Asher had put in here for when I would wake up. After assuring them that I can take a shower on my own, I lock the door and turn the water on. Although my body felt quite lazy and weak, I felt good enough to not need any help. Taking off my hospital gown, I step under the warm spray and let my tears mix in with the water. After a long moment of silence, I take a deep breath.
She replies in a heartbeat. “I’m here.”
My knees buckle in relief and I sink to the floor, trying to stifle my sobs. “I’m so sorry about what happened.”
“Last I remember, I took over and tried protecting you.” I can sense her amusement.
“No!” I shake my head vehemently. “If Blithe hadn’t forced me to teleport, you would have never shifted. I wasn’t strong enough to fight her compulsion!”
“Stop feeling guilty, you humans are so sensitive.” She snorts and I can feel her rolling her eyes. “I wanted to protect you, granted I should have waited for Zoya but I lost control and now I pay the price for it. You didn’t give me control, I took it. You didn’t tell me to protect you, it was my first instinct. If I hear or feel you blaming yourself ever again for my state, I’ll find a way to shift and kill you myself!”
A half sob, half laugh escapes me at her words. I feel her soothing my mind, making me sigh heavily and rest my head against the tiled wall. “Aren’t you sad that you can’t shift anymore?”
“I am.” She murmurs and I can sense her resting her head on her paws. “But I can’t moan about it forever, can I?”
“Absolutely not! I’ll find a way to remove myself from you two if you annoy me.” I chuckle lightly when Zoya interrupts.
“Zoya! Did you miss me?!” Ivanna teases cheekily as I stand and grab the shampoo bottle.
“Would’ve preferred that witch to have killed you if I’m honest.” Zoya replies in a bored tone but I can feel the slight worry she holds for Ivanna.
I wash my hair and body as quickly as I can, sighing in content when I finally feel clean. Turning off the water, I dry myself off and change into a pair of black leggings with a white sweater and shoes. When I come out of the bathroom, nobody is in the room so I put my clothes on my bed and decide to leave. I’m desperate to see Asher and have him hold me in his arms again.
Opening the door, I step out but jump in surprise when two bodies move with me. Looking up, I see Vito and Corbin’s eyes lighting up at the sight of me. They hug me gently before following me up to mine and Asher’s bedroom. Standing by the doors, I send them both a shaky smile before twisting the doorknob and entering.
The door shuts behind me as I take in the familiar room, it’s neat and clean which confirms that Asher really didn’t leave my side much. The sound of water coming from the bathroom alerts me that he’s here, my nerves going haywire instantly. I take a seat on our bed, waiting for him to be done with his shower.
All too soon, I hear the water turn off and within minutes, Asher walks out of the bathroom in a black sweatshirt and jeans. He’s drying his hair with the towel as he walks but freezes when his eyes land on mine.
“Hi.” I whisper, waving slightly.
“You’re...what...how?” He walks over to me slowly, eyes wide in disbelief. “Please don’t tell me I’m dreaming.”
“You’re not. I woke up in the infirmary and – Asher!” I yelp when he drops to his knees, wrapping his arms around my back as he nestles his nose into the crook of my neck.
I start to cry at the sound of his sobs, his body shaking underneath my touch. Wrapping my arms around him tightly, I soothe him as best as I can. He pulls away, peppering kisses over every inch of bare skin he can find. I laugh at his actions, wiping tears from his cheeks.
“I missed you so much.” He breathes, cupping my face with one hand and resting his forehead against mine.
I can’t help but to embrace him again, resting my head where his heart lies. The beats are slow yet steady, occurring every few minutes. I remember how freaked out I was at the start but now it calms me immensely. He kisses the base of my neck every now and then while rubbing my back.
“I missed you too,” I murmur, although it’s slightly muffled. “Even though I was asleep for a long time, I still missed you.”
It’s like his entire body stills before he snaps out of it, a startled yelp escaping me when he picks me up bridal style. “Asher, put me down!”
“You should be in the infirmary, you’re not strong enough to be walking around!” He growls protectively, placing me on the bed and trying to cover me with the blanket.
I stop him, clutching his sweater in my hands tightly. “I’m fine, I just need you.”
He sighs, crouching in front of me and cupping my cheek. “I’m always here.”
He gets under the covers, turning me so that I’m lying on my side and facing his chest. I cuddle closer, wrapping an arm around his waist. We lay in silence, basking in the feel of each other. I start to feel sleepy again the more he strokes my hair, his body is cold against mine yet his touch warms my skin with every caress.
“Are Ivanna and Zoya okay?”
I shake my head with a heavy sigh. “Zoya is fine but Ivanna...she can’t shift or heal me anymore because of how badly she was struck. I can still talk to her though but I can’t help but feel guilty.”
“Why would you feel guilty? She took over to protect you, Ayla. I heard you screaming for her not to.” He looks down at me sternly, making me avert my teary eyes.
“If I had been strong enough to fight Blithe’s control; to fight her when she tried to kill me maybe Ivanna wouldn’t –”
“Ayla, stop.” Asher growls protectively, his eyes burning bright red in anger. At the same time, Ivanna threatens to never talk to me again in my mind. “You haven’t been trained properly to fight anyone with all that’s been going on. Blithe was an elder witch with decades of practice, not many people can fight off compulsions that strong. I don’t want to hear you blaming yourself ever again, do you understand?”
“It’s just hard not to.” I whisper, resting my cheek against his chest.
“I know, angel. But if you keep feeling guilty you’ll never heal. How is Ivanna taking it?” He asks, rubbing my back comfortingly.
“Ivanna’s fine and doesn’t blame me. She also just threatened to never talk to me again if I keep feeling guilty about what happened to her.” I chuckle, hearing him laugh above me.
“See, Ivanna is so much smarter than you!”
“Hey!” I pout, smacking his chest playfully.
He smacks my bottom lightly as he leans down to kiss my nose. I sigh in content, cuddling up to him. Lapsing into silence once more, I close my eyes to the feel of him running his fingers through my hair.
“Blithe told me why she did it.” I whisper, feeling him tense underneath me. “Silvano got scared when she threatened to make him pay for cheating on her. He started rumors about her abusing her powers and using false evidence, he made you sign the papers that banned her from practicing witchcraft. She wanted to kill me to hurt you.”
Asher’s body starts trembling uncontrollably, vengeful anger burning bright in his eyes. “She could have talked to me. Not once did she reach out to defend herself.”
“I told her that you didn’t know but she was so set on hurting me to get revenge. She wouldn’t listen to reason no matter what.” I shuddered at the memories of that night. They’re going to haunt me for a long time, that I’m sure of.
“I’m going to kill Silvano for what he did to you and to our people.” He seethes, tightening his hold on me in a protective manner.
I know that he won’t do that to his own blood but I also agree that Silvano shouldn’t be let off easy either. His lies are the reason that so many people were killed and injured. The kingdom itself is in pieces and will take months to rebuild from what I saw through the windows on my way here.
I almost died.
I remember staring at Asher and telling him I love him right before I slipped into a coma. Pain fills me as I think about being apart from him, even for a second. I want to spend the rest of my life with him, showing him just how much he means to me. Although the beginning of our relationship started off rocky with many obstacles I’m ready to do whatever it takes for us to spend eternity together happy.
“Hey, what’s wrong?” His soft voice brings me out of my thoughts, looking down to see his hand covering my fist that’s clenching his sweater in my grasp.
“I love you. You heard me, right?” I ask, kissing his jawline and feeling him shiver in response.
“Loud and clear.” He smiles down at me breathtakingly, pressing a tender kiss to my lips. “I love you too.”