The Rise

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Chapter Fifty-Six

For the first time in months, I woke up feeling refreshed. I stretched in the bed and turned onto my side. Valerio laid next to me, his back toward me. Scars decorated his skin. Some looked fresh, while others looked like he’d had them for years. I grazed my finger down each one, careful not to wake him.

Last night we talked for the whole night. Not about the Challengers. Not about Damon or Luca. Not about Nakida. Just about us. We had spent so much time together, but I realized I didn’t know who Valerio was. It was always strictly business between us.

It felt good to talk to someone other than Aaisha about my life. She had grown up with me, but, in a way, so did Valerio. I had grown so much in the past year and he was there with me every step of the way.

And Valerio didn’t hold back when talking about his life. Unlike Damon, he didn’t try to bury most things. He had grown through his experiences and was somewhat comfortable analyzing them and learning from them.

“Valerio,” I whispered.

He groaned, mumbled something incoherent, and turned over. His hair was tousled and his lips were barely parted. A few red lines from the pillow he was lying on were imprinted on his face.

I inched closer to him and poked him in the cheek. “Valerio.”

His eyelids slowly fluttered open. “Yes?”

“I wanted to talk to you about Nakida,” I said.

He raised a brow and turned over his phone to see the time. 5:04am flashed on the screen. “This couldn’t have waited at least another hour?”

I shook my head and scooted up the bed until my back was against the headboard. “No.” It probably could’ve, but I hadn’t fallen asleep yet and this was still bothering me.

What was a proper punishment for her? Was any punishment good or was her brother’s death the most proper one? What about Ashur?

He laid on his side and propped up his head with his hand, flexing his bicep. “What do you want to talk about?”

“Do you think we should let Nakida meet Ashur?”

His eyes widened slightly. “Is that something you would like?”

I blew out a deep breath. “Well, a part of Ayodele is still here. They were so close. Ayodele never even visited her after we told him that she betrayed us.”

He nodded his head. “I think it’ll give her closure. She’s probably feeling shitty right now--like she should for what she’s done--but I think one last goodbye would be fine.”

I nodded my head. I forced myself to think this was the best solution. Mom would’ve been more ruthless with her. I could feel my thoughts swaying in that dark direction ever since the Night became a part of me. Throughout this past week, I reminded myself of my goodness. I wanted to stay open to new ideas and new people and new consequences without being a pushover, but I also didn’t want to punish anyone extremely.

Hopefully, Valerio would be the one to hold me down and keep me sane. I slouched into the bed and pulled the covers back over my body.

“What do you think you’re doing?” Valerio asked.

I opened one eye. “Going back to sleep.”

He tore the blankets off of me. “Oh, no, you’re not. You woke me up already. We’re going to talk.” He hopped out of bed, pulling on a pair of shorts, but leaving off his shirt.

We walked to the kitchen and grabbed some food from the fridge. Valerio started the frying pan and placed a few eggs in it. I raised a brow at him. “Do you remember the last time you tried cooking?”

He chuckled, hia back turned to me again. “That was dinner. I’m good at breakfast.” He added some spices to the eggs. “So… since you don’t plan on killing Luca to destroy Mother Nature, will you put Damon’s soul into Luca’s body?”

My eyes widened. That question was the one question I wasn’t prepared to answer. “Uhm…” My heart raced. “I haven’t thought about that yet.”

We both knew I was lying. I had thought about bringing Damon back since I had my vision and since we knew we weren’t going to kill Luca. And that was the only logical solution if I wanted to see both of them again. But I didn’t know if that was what I wanted.

For many different reasons, not just selfish ones, I was torn. Luca and Damon both had done some messed up things in their lives. Would bringing them back make them feel worse or better about their decisions? Were their wolves happy and finally at peace with each other and with themselves?

I pressed my lips together.

“There are many different things you need to consider, not just…” He turned around, spatula in hand, and paused for a few seconds. “”

I nodded. “I know,” I said quietly.

“I will support you with any decision.”

I paused and gazed at him, frowning. “I know. I just don’t want to make the wrong one.”

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