THERON

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ONE.

“Cera?” I asked, dubiously breathless.

“Actually, it’s S-A-R-A now,” she smirks, lazily. “Got to keep up with the times and all.”

My world tilts on its axis.

Dizzy and lightheaded, I can do nothing but lay my head against the chair and close my eyes, waiting for it to pass. A flash of heat flares up the back of my neck and for the first time in my long existence, I suddenly experience the urge to vomit.

My eyes begin to water. I stifle a cough as her scent hits the back of my throat with the force of a thousand tons, knocking the air clean out of me.

She reeks of sourness—not spoiled like milk that had passed its expiration but more akin to green apple candy; looks sweet but one can fucking bet it’s going to make the lips pucker and the eyes water.

It’s thick, intense, and suffocating.

My saliva glands go into overdrive, the feeling of nausea twists my stomach once more and increases my breathing. Swallowing numerous times, I try desperately to force my vomit to stay locked within its confines.

I will not appear weak.

Nate hauls a single chair in, placing it right in front of the one I am currently confined to. Cera sits, crossing her legs and folding her hands in front of her. “You look like shit, darling. Eternity sucks, don’t you agree?” A single, satisfied smile paints her bright red lips.

The same lips I used to devour... lips that haunted my dreams and tortured my waking life whenever I even chanced a simple blink.

And yet, I still have to remind myself that this is real.

She is real.

Cera is alive and existent and right in before me.

Everything I think I’ve ever known seems meaningless in comparison. For the third time in the last two hours, I’m speechless. Words that usually come so easily, now seem lost in a never-ending black hole inside my brain.

“Wha.... how? I don’t... I don’t understand... ” I stare at her, a sort of awe washing over me. Time hasn’t seemed to age her. She’s stuck, like me; forever youthful, always desirable, and yet... different. She can fake a smile all she wants but I sense the truth—eyes never lie. Cold and lifeless, they lack the sparkle I had remembered so well.

Of course, I understand the toll an endless lifetime can take upon one’s soul... it wasn’t all that long ago that it had affected mine in a much similar way.

Cer—

No.

Sara.

She said it’s Sara now...

She eyes me, studying my confusion without judgment. She sits calmly, prim and proper.

My beast returns her stare warily.

He does not like this female.

He does not trust this female.

She quirks one thinly shaped brow, “You didn’t think you and your brothers were the only ones that fucking moon goddess cursed, did you?”

Her words instantly freeze me.

My eyes search hers, not entirely sure what I’m looking for. Truth, possibly? The verity that maybe, just maybe, the goddess had not been completely satisfied with merely four creations.

“Oh, Theron” she sighs, “I pictured this going so differently but I guess I can understand your confusion, my love. I spent days mourning... mending my broken heart. Days quickly turned into months and mourning turned to anger. I couldn’t fathom the reality of it all... the loss of you—of us! I wasn’t moving on... wasn’t living...” Her face softens as she leans in to grab my hand. A long time ago, I would have yearned for her touch, been helpless to fight the hold she had on me, but now... now, not so much. A low rumble vibrates my chest, a natural reaction for an animal that feels perilously cornered.

I do not miss the flash of hurt that sweeps over her blue eyes... it is quickly covered by resolve but I caught it nonetheless.

“I get it. I hurt you. I was scared and young—immature in more ways than I realized. I cursed the moon... screamed and sobbed to the sky. I know now what a mistake that was but it was too late. Insulted by my actions, the goddess appeared to me...” Her memory brings forth an aura of melancholy that hovers just above the surface and for half a fucking second I almost believe she might have felt even half of what I had when things between us went south but once again, it’s quickly painted over with a wicked grin. She pats my thigh and motions to herself, “So, now, here I am.”

“I searched for you, you know,” leaning back in her chair, her perfectly manicured nails wave the air nonchalantly, “Followed every lead, every whisper hoping we could make amends but you... you never stayed in one place long enough, always slipping through my grasp.”

I’m not sure she knows how to read the room. Hell, I am not entirely convinced whether she’s telling me this for my benefit or hers but I am certain that I do not give one fuck about any of it. I lived through that heartbreak—I endured it. I held it tightly, coddled it, and whispered calming lullabies to that shit every fucking night and the one thing I learned very quickly was that Hurt ran deeper than Anger.

Anger is a surface emotion, fleeting and finicky... the inevitable result of Hurt. However, Hurt is a different storm altogether, bringing with it anguish, despair, and self-loathing. Anger, on the other hand, comes only as Anger—no disguise, no extended family, just simply dressed in its pure and rawest form. Once any other emotion overshadows Hurt, one would be on the path to healing.

It had taken her months to feel Anger?

Fuck her!

I spent centuries wishing for Anger, only to find it most recently by way of staring down the barrel of a gun. So excuse me if I am a little less than fucking impressed.

Always the one to get straight to the point, I deadpan, “Why am I here, Sara?” I need no more details. I should not be surprised by the moon goddess’ actions, she is easily insulted—exhibit number one: me.

“You, DeLoren, Kai, and Marius spread your seed like wildfire but what about me? Did you know female immortals cannot reproduce? I’m barren. Cursed not only to live my life forever but without the possibility of ever being with child.” She shoots me a look of desperation and throws her hands into the air, “I’m tired, Theron! I’m tired of this endless, mundane existence! I want a baby and a husband and a white picket fence! I want the same things that all women dream of! Things only you can give me!”

Me?

Pft.

That ship sailed long ago.

“I can offer you nothing of the sort.”

“Now see, that’s where you’re wrong,” Abandoning her chair for mine, she places her hands on the armrests, caging me in. “Every curse has a loophole and every loophole is meant to be found,” her eyes burn holes through mine, a searing uneasiness I feel deep within my soul, “And I found that loophole.”

I have no fucking idea what she is going on about. You cannot undo the will of the gods, believe me, we tried numerous times. My brothers and I spent years exhausting every possibility until nothing remained. There is no hope of going back to what we once were. We eventually discovered that a curse placed by the gods carries a sort of seal... one placed directly upon the soul and branded with the specific mark of whichever god or goddess you had chosen to royally piss off at the time. To free yourself from immortality, you have to break the seal and that just isn’t possible. “I’m not really following your crazy train here...”

“We are connected,” she insists passionately, ”Bonded if you will. An invisible thread that connects our immortality... and I intend to sever it.”

I roar with laughter, unashamed that I am literally cackling in her face, “What?! You can’t do that, Sara! It does not work that way!” There’s nothing on earth more powerful than the will of the gods.

But Sara is unphased, “I’m removing your immortality, Theron. And in turn, it will erase mine as well. Imagine it! Really living because every day could be our last! No more just moving through life day after endless day!”

I exhale heavily, not wanting to waste any more energy trying to convince her that this fucking plan isn’t going to work.

Whatever.

Her eyes harden and her lips press together in a thin, straight line, “You scoff at me now but you’ll see. When every bullet you take doesn’t eject itself; When each bone you break doesn’t mend and simple common cold could be so much more; When every enemy you face can be your last... Life feels different when you’re mortal.”

“Hard pass,” I replied, dryly. I spent my time loathing forever–wanting nothing more than an end to my suffering but that was before Lina. Things have shifted and I will happily spend as much time by her side as Fate grants me. In fact, eternity suddenly does not seem to be long enough.

“Oh sweetie,” she caresses my cheek lovingly, “you don’t have a choice.” The desire to vomit comes back full force and I yank my head away from her with a fierce growl, “Do not fucking touch me.”

Her voice drops to a whisper, low and sultry, “You never used to deny my touch...”

She’s right.

I used to relish in the feeling of her skin against mine.

I loved it.

Craved it.

Begged for it.

Unfortunately for her, she lost that privilege a long time ago.

“And you never used to be a bitch either, yet here we are.”

“You are mine, Theron. Never forget that,” she snarls through clenched teeth.

And there it is.

The moment I have been waiting for.

While they say time heals all wounds, I do not believe that to be true. Time is cruel, grueling, and insufferable and has done nothing to mend my shattered soul. The only thing that pulled me from the depths was a chance meeting with Catalina Bakkas. Fifteen measly years did what centuries could not. Every single ounce of heartache and despair, hate and desperation, is all worth it for this moment—the exact moment where Sara can see that things have changed. I’ve changed.

She no longer holds any power over me.

Pulling the collar of my shirt down, I grin slyly, “Not anymore.”

Sara’s eyes land right on the crook of my neck, on my mark—a mark of possession given to me by Lina on the very night of our coupling.

I witness a flurry of emotions pass through her blue eyes: shock, sadness, anger. And lastly... rage.

Blue eyes turn serpent-like—slitted, green, and spiteful, taking me by surprise. I expected swirling colors, not any different from me and my brothers but this... this is much, much different.

She is not a lycan.

Her lips thin, expanding and stretching. Overtaking her face. Human teeth elongate and readjust, the tips angling and becoming sharper, more pointed, and deadly.

She lets loose a venomous hiss before snatching up the chair she had once sat in and chucking it across the room. It splinters against the tiled wall, the ceramic pieces crumbling to the floor like rocks tumbling down a mountainside.

I watch her stomp away. Slamming the door behind her, the impact crushing and weakening the metal as if it had just been sent through a trash compactor.

I want to maintain the smug look on my face.

I want her to see that whatever the fuck she is doesn’t terrify me as much as it does.

However, I cannot hold my façade.

Confusion and fear grip me tightly and for another first in my life, I am truly scared.

***

I don’t know how long I’ve been here.

Hours?

Days?

Time seems to blend into itself within this quiet, windowless room.

In my head, I run through a mental list of all known and cataloged supernaturals, and for the life of me, I can’t pinpoint whatever the fuck Sara is.

I have seen many horrors in my time, each less shocking than the last, but whatever her form is, whatever the goddess created, is not your common, garden variety monster.

Sara is the only one.

I imagine how lonely she must be. While I have my brothers and their kin, she has none. With no way to reproduce and no beast that matches her exact traits, she is an anomaly.

And in some small way, I pity her.

Of course, my compassion does not last that fucking long, and its but only moments later that Sara waltzes through the door as if anything from before is nothing more than a figment of my imagination.

A small, mousey girl follows closely behind her. Short and thin, she sports long brown hair which hangs loosely over her shoulders and cascades down her back. Clothed in a basic brown tunic dress, she keeps her large eyes glued to the floor as if she’s afraid to even take a glance at me... but I know what she was.

Good ’ole reliable instinct...

“A witch?” I roll my head incredulously, “Sara... it’s been tried before. A simple witch is not powerful enough to alter immortality.”

Why do I feel like a broken fucking record?

Sara places a hand on the girl’s shoulder, startling her, “Be a dear and explain your lineage to Theron, sweetie.”

“M-m-my mother was a simple witch. My father i-is Charon,” she stammers. Whether this is a born disability or the product of fear, I know not but it’s only a small drop of detail in a presently vast ocean of strangeness.

I do not believe in Hades nor the realm he governs and yet I’m not sure why that is. If a goddess of the moon can personally curse me, and a God of the sun can create a vampire, is it entirely out of the sphere of possibility that there was also a God of Hell? Probably not, but still... It’s a bit far-fetched for me.

Ah, fuck it.

I’ll play.

“Charon? The Ferrier of the Underworld?” I snort, “Since when did he crawl from the depths for a quick lay?”

The mousey witch looks to Sara, not sure how to handle my attitude. The vein in Sara’s neck throbs but she waves me off, “Don’t worry about him. He gets a bit grouchy when he’s hungry.”

Well, I do not think I’m that hungry but since she mentioned it, “Actually, I’m always like this but a Snickers wouldn’t hurt.”

My request falls on deaf ears.

“And if I-I do th-this, you’ll spare them?” The mouse asks Sara, uncertainly full and thick in her timid voice.

Them?

Who is ”them?”

I cock a brow at Sara, tilting my head in curiosity, “Making another deal, eh?” My attention then flashes to the witch, “You best read the fine print before you sign on the line, little one,” I give a single nod towards Sara, “This one is tricky.” I know she understands I am referring to Lina, who she claimed would be safe if I gave myself up. Unfortunately, I had learned the hard way and did not read that fine fucking print... best to give the girl a heads up.

No one can say I didn’t warn her.

“A deal is a deal,” Sara grits stiffly, ignoring my comment entirely.

That pisses me off.

“Until it’s not,” I snarl.

The snake bitch of the west shoots me a deathly glare, “Your mate is no concern of mine, Theron.”

“Oh, but she should be, Sara,” I retort flatly, “she really should be.”

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