The Rise

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Chapter Forty-Four

The moon, although not full, was glowing brightly. The night sky swarmed around it, surrounding it. I shivered thinking about how that was Aeron.

I laid down, resting my head on his lap. He smiled down at me and I stared up at him. “Sometimes I get scared that I will ruin this, I feel that power that’s uncontrollable inside of me.”

I remembered all of the days I had an urge to do bad, bad things and I knew if I absorbed the darkness I would do something that I couldn’t stop. I had told no one. But I thought that telling Valerio was something I had to do. Valerio had been with me since day one. He always tried to make me stronger and he helped me through the worst.

“Do you remember what I told you months ago?” His eyes were glowing like the moon.

I brushed my finger against his cheek. “What did you tell me?”

“I will never let the darkness consume you. I will never let you fall into the footsteps of your mother.”

“How? That force is uncontrollable.”

“By stopping you from digging holes you can’t climb out of. By helping you ever step of the way. By being honest with you until the day I die,” Valerio said.

I sighed. “The last time I heard those words - until the day I die - Damon died minutes later.” I brushed my fingers against his cheek. “Just tell me you’ll always be by my side, protecting me, because I’m always going to be by your side, protecting you.”

He chuckled. “Okay…” His words began slowly. “I’ll always… always be by your side.” I trailed a finger over his plump pink bottom lip.

A branch snapped deep within the forest. Both Valerio and I gazed in the same direction. He tensed. Another branch snapped. Then another. Then another. Someone was here and whoever it was obviously wanted us to know it.

Valerio wrapped his arms around me and helped me stand up. “Mae, go inside.”

“But-”

“Mae, go inside.” His words were final. “Now.”

If I didn’t feel like I was going to pass out, I wouldn’t have followed his orders. I stood and stumbled a bit, but he caught me. Valerio rushed me to the back door and helped me inside. Through the glass door, he told me to lock it.

I did as I was told and watched Valerio shed his clothes and shift into his wolf. His fur was beige under the moon.

He stalked toward the forest, slowly and quietly. Two green eyes pierced through the trees. My heart nearly stopped. Luca.

He left us a clue earlier, but why had he come back? Why was he here? If this was really the Divine and the Hunter was in control of his body at the moment, Valerio was going to die. I had no doubts.

“Valerio. Come back now,” I ordered.

He let out a ferocious growl that echoed throughout the whole forest. Everyone around us could probably hear it.

Luca should’ve ran away, but he stayed. He gazed right up at me as Valerio growled again. Then, his snout pointed in the direction of the Oak. I opened the door, calming down.

It was just Luca, making sure I got the notice. I walked out a few steps and nodded my head to him.

Valerio growled, hearing the door open. Luca sprinted into the woods and Valerio started after him. “Valerio. No.”

He stopped immediately, growling at the edge of the woods. He wanted to go after him, to hurt him, to kill him, but I couldn’t let that happen. We needed Luca alive.

“No,” I repeated.

Valerio turned to me, immediately shifting into his human. “Why didn’t you listen? He could’ve attacked you.”

“It was just Luca,” I said. “If it was a real threat, I would’ve stayed in.” I said those words like I’d actually follow them, but we both knew that if it was the divine, I would fight for Valerio no matter what. I would be out there before he could growl at me to tell me to stop. I would be fighting with every last breath.

He took my hand, leading me back in the house and locking the glass door behind us. Instead of letting me go, he brought me to my bedroom and locked the door. “Lie down.”

“We have to go look at the clue,” I said. “Luca seemed pretty urgent about it. What if its happening tomorrow?”

Valerio let out a low growl under his breath. “Please, Mae. I don’t want to argue with you. If it is happening tomorrow, you wouldn’t be going, so you don’t need to look at it right now. Now, get into bed and rest.”

I raised a brow, but complied. He was right. I didn’t have it in me right now, but I really really wanted to.

I sighed and walked to the bed, resting my phone on the bedside table. I undid the buttons on my dress and let it fall to the floor. Valerio watched me intently, like if he took his eyes off of me for a single moment I would teleport away from him. But, truth was, I didn’t have the energy to teleport right now.

Once I removed my bra, I slid into bed and pulled the blankets over myself. When he saw that I wasn’t going to leave the bed, he sighed, pulled a chair by the door, and sat.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“I don’t trust you not to leave this room,” he said.

“You think sitting by the door is going to stop me from leaving.”

He shook his head. “No, but I’d still like to be here when you try to climb out of the window.” He turned off the lights. “Now, go to bed.”

I threw him a pillow in the dark. “Lay in bed with me or leave. You’re not sleeping on a chair the whole night.”

He paused for a long time. Then, a few moments later, the edge of the bed dipped and I felt him climb in. “Please, don’t leave this room, Mae.”

I turned over to face him. He laid a distance away from me. “I won’t,” I said. “But promise me that we’ll go to the Oak tomorrow morning.”

“We will.”

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