It was a couple hours later when the sound of someone pounding on the door woke them up. Audra bolted upright, startling Colton awake.
“Auds? What’s wrong?” he murmured, rubbing his eye with the palm of his hand. “It’s late…”
She stood and helped Colton, who was still waking himself up, to his feet. “Someone’s at the door.”
His brow furrowed as he followed her to the door. Audra paused, reached down to grab his hand and lace her fingers with his, then opened the door.
To her surprise, her cousin Asa was standing there, a panicked look on his face. Beside him, Ersa stood with her hands cuffed in front of her and a bandana around her mouth.
Audra felt Colton’s grasp in her hand tighten, and she gently pressed his hand. “Asa?”
A look of relief flooded his face as he led Ersa inside, forcing her to sit at the table. “Thank the stars! She showed up at your old house with the intention of killing you. I managed to sedate her, but I needed to tell you and see what to do about this.”
Dozens of angry and fearful voices flooded her mind as she and Colton walked over to where they were. “What do you mean? There’s only one thing to do.”
The voices in her head stopped at those words.
“We have the whole family here. We can do it now,” she continued.
Ersa somehow managed to remove the bandana covering her mouth and barked out a laugh. “You’ll mark me?! Oh how fitting!”
Colton had fully woken up now and looked over at Audra. “What is she talking about?”
Audra took a deep breath, then looked over at him. “When her mother and my father were wed, they performed a ceremony that essentially made them full members of our family. It’s complicated though… But if the whole family is unanimous in their decision, that whole process can be taken away. Otherwise it won’t work entirely.. She won’t be any part of the family, and she’ll be forced to stay a certain distance away from anyone in that family. So… it’s like the star version of a restraining order.”
“Are you sure Audra? You know this can’t be undone…” Asa said quietly.
Audra looked down at the ground, still holding on to Colton’s hand. “I know…”
“She tried to kill you. She tried tearing us apart, and kidnapping me. That alone is reason and justification enough to know this is the right thing.” Colton took a step closer to her, then reached up and tilted her head up to meet him, gently caressing her cheek. “This is the right thing to do. I’ll support you no matter what.”
She smiled a little, wrapping her free hand around his. “Thank you.”
He nodded, smiling a little. “Of course.”
She took a deep breath, then slowly turned to Asa and Ersa. “This should’ve been done a long time ago.”
Ersa scoffed. “You don’t have the guts to burn me off the tree. You’re weak, and you’re soft. No matter what you tell yourself, you’ll always think of me as a sister!”
Audra turned her head away from her, fighting back the pressure building in the back of her throat and the burning of her eyes. “You were never my sister, Ersa,” she whispered hoarsely, not daring to look over at her.
She laughed mockingly, then. “Ha! That’s the stupidest-“
Asa was quick in covering her mouth to prevent her from saying anything more. He looked over at Audra. “We have to get it over with now, before it becomes more difficult.”
Everyone jumped into action, then. Blue light filled the room as the souls of her family materialized, their faces grave. Ersa’s eyes widened as she realized that they were being completely serious. Colton was simply standing there, taking everything in.
The ceremony was only moments later, and by the time they were done, Ersa had vanished completely, as she had been within the restriction limit.
The moment she was gone, Audra collapsed into Colton’s arms, too tired to keep standing. He simply readjusted her so that she was bridal style in his arms, thanked Asa, then laid her down in the living room.
Audra smiled over at him, watching as he showed Asa to the door, thanking him again before he locked the door, coming back over to her.
They were asleep only moments later.