The Rise

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Chapter Nineteen

I didn’t know how to help Luca. I didn’t know when he was her or when he was him. I didn’t know if this was a trap or not. But I did know where Luca would be tonight if he was himself.

With a basket of moon flowers in my hand and my full moon glowing above, I stepped into the meadow. I was here to plant moon flowers like I promised him I would during every full moon. The old Luca - the Real Luca - deserved that much.

For over an hour, I dug my fingers into the dirt and planted flower after flower, waiting for Luca to come. Stupid me forgot to bring a shovel, so my fingers were stained brown. Dirt wedged itself underneath my fingernails desperately trying to become one with me.

After planting the last moon flower, I smiled. This was for him. I just wished he was here to share the moment with me.

When I stood back up and gazed around at the dark eerie woods that surrounded the meadow, I sucked in a breath. A single tree branch snapped to my left and I knew someone was watching me.

The smell neither belonged to Valerio nor Luca.

White and Black emerged from my palms and stood next to me. I wasn’t going to take any chances. Aeron could pop out at any moment and decided tonight was the night he wanted me dead… or worse.

The person moved around the tree, and I pressed my lips together. “Come out, now.”

For the next few moments, everything was deathly quiet. I was getting angry, annoying, nervous. Just as I was about ready to release White and Black to hunt whoever was watching me, a man walked out from behind the trees.

Not just any man.

Luca.

He didn’t walk closer to me. He just stood there, watching.

I sucked in a breath. Luca - the man who was killing these innocent pups. Even if this was really him, I couldn’t look at him the same anymore.

Suddenly he stepped into the meadow, but I stepped back. I didn’t know how to defend myself against this divine yet, and I wasn’t sure now was a great time to learn, especially since I was alone.

“I won’t hurt you,” he whispered, so quietly that I could barely hear him. He held his hands up. “I need help. Help me, Mae, please. She’s-she’s destroying me.”

Hearing his voice, seeing this man – one of my best friends – walk toward me for the first time since his death, made me want to hold him again. It was such a surreal moment. My emotions and thoughts were all over the place.

I wanted to hold him, but I wanted to keep him at a distance. I wanted to tell him that everything would be okay, but I wanted to kill him for the actions he’s committed.

For some reason, I trusted him in this moment. He wasn’t tearing apart pups, he wasn’t acting out like the divine did. He was acting like himself before he died.

He stopped a few feet away from me. His once lively brown eyes were dull and empty and speckled with green.

“How do I know you’re not her?” I asked carefully.

“She’s away,” he said. “She goes away sometimes. Leaves me to rest or my body doesn’t work for her. Kind of like… sleeping.” He attempted a smile, but it didn’t reach his eyes.

I brushed a stray tear from my cheek.

“Mae, I can’t stop myself. I can’t stop killing them. I have no control of my body when she’s awake. None.” He held out a moon flower.

I grasped it, our fingers barely touching. Cold. That’s all I felt.

His jaw trembled, but he steadied it. “Sorry, it’s just… I can’t believe I’m talking to you again, seeing you again.” His eyes took me in, but he didn’t attempt to touch me. “Tell me it’s going to be okay.”

“It’s going to be okay, Luca.” I lied.

He stared at me for a few more moments, his eyes saying more than his words ever could. And I craved his touch again - the touch of a man who loved me and who I loved - so I wrapped my arms around his waist and pulled him in. Placing my head on his chest, I listened to his faint heartbeat.

He wrapped his arms around me so tightly that a part of me didn’t feel broken anymore. “Mae, you have to promise me that you’ll do anything… anything to kill her.”

“I will,” I said.

“Anything,” he repeated, shaking lightly in my embrace. Suddenly he tensed and pulled away. His eyes flickered to pure green. “You have to go.”

My lips trembled. I didn’t want to leave him. I wanted to stay with his arms wrapped around me. “I love you,” I whispered.

Again, his eyes flickered green. He pushed me away, quite hard. “Go, Mae. She’s too strong for you right now. She’ll kill y-you. Right here…now. Find Aeron…” He struggled to control himself. “Make stronger.”

I nodded my head and ran to the edge of the woods, watching him transform into his wolf - the same wolf that had been lurking around my woods. He tore a few moon flowers out of the ground by his teeth and sprinted in the direction he came from.

I gulped hard and teleported back to the car, making Valerio step on it, tears streaming down my cheeks. He asked me why, but I couldn’t answer. I was too heartbroken.

A/N

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