The Queen in Shadows

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Chapter 43

"She's waking up," Alex's voice quiets the room.

I force my eyes open, finding Alex, Sloane and Mercer staring at me. For a split second, I forget. I almost ask them where he is.

The weight of the realization forces the air out of my lungs.

"Breathe, Elle," Alex says as he moves toward me, "your heartrate went through the roof and you had to be sedated."

I cluch my chest, trying to put pressure on the unending ache. My eyes burn but there are no tears, I've cried them all.

"How could you leave him there?" I don't recognize the sound of my own voice.

"We couldn't get him out. He was surrounded. I promised him that if anything like that happened I would leave, I would make sure you got out. You were bleeding out, Noelle, you didn't have much time left."

"We're making a plan, we're going to go get that son of a bitch," Mercer speaks, his bloodshot eyes meet mine, "come with us."

I lay back against the pillow, my body too weak to even sit up any longer.

"We're sneaking in through the old tunnels, they've been sealed but we have a way in. Mercer has been hidden in the woods, removing collars with Titus. We lost some wolves," Alex looks sadly at the ground, "we are building our numbers again."

"We're at your old packlands," Sloane quietly adds.

I don't speak but I look toward the window.

"When things started to go south we evacuated as many wolves and humans as we could. We have a large number of humans here also."

"What's the plan? How are we going to get to Arius and the King?"

They all look surprised. I don't care about anything other than getting to Arius and ripping his spine out through his throat.

"The tunnels run under the castle grounds, one of the tunnels collapsed years ago and we can get in from there, then, using phosphoric acid we dissolve the seals. We've already started the acid, the process takes a few days. Once the hole it's large enough, we raid the castle grounds."

It sounds too simple.

"What do our numbers look like?"

"We'll have about six hundred wolves, over one hundred humans and... our best guess is, at least a thousand vampires on our side."

"The vampires will still be on our side...without..."
I can't bring myself to actually say it.

"Yes, no one knows about Phoenix, when they find out, there will be outrage. Almost everyone was happy he was going to be King."

The words settle into the pit of my stomach.

He was.

Talking about him in the past tense... I feel sick again.

"Noelle," Sloane gets my attention, "lets go burn it all to the ground."

I look at her. Really look at her, for the first time, she looks broken and battered. I can see the pain on her face like a physical feature.

I know that her heart is broken. I know she didn't want to leave him there.

"I'm so angry," I whisper.

"Me too," Mercer says quietly, his voice sounds as tired as his face looks.

"Milli did this to my neck," I touch the bandage, "I went to Celine's and she was there, we fought... I killed her. She told Arius about me, that's how he knew."

They sit in stunned silence for a moment.

"Milli?" Mercer whispers, "she didn't strike me as smart enough for espionage."

"No kidding," Sloane adds, shaking her head, "I wonder how much Celine knew... I know she didn't trust her with details but..."

Alex stands and brings me a map, showing me the route we will take into the tunnels.

"It will bring us here," he points and my heart stops, "we can take this road up to the castle."

"There is a trail here," I point at an area of trees and he looks at me, "umm... I went to the lake with... we went once... he..."

I cover my face in my hands and sob. The memory feels acid in my torn open heart. The lake where we spent the day, eating eclairs, talking, walking hand in hand, loving each other, making future plans.

"Elle?"

I feel Alex's hand on my shoulder, he's trying to comfort me through our bond but there is no comfort. Nothing can ease this. I have to feel it all.

"When will the seal be dissolved enough for us to go?" I croak in a gravelly voice.

"Two days, the cement is weaker though, a few passes with a sledgehammer and it will crumble away easily."

I nod my head.

"I'll be ready."

I don't care what I have to do, I will get to them. They don't get to continue living while he is gone. I will right this.

"We will let you rest, we're all right outside of you need anything," they all leave the room.

I lay back and feel myself starting to drift. I reach out again, like searching for something in total darkness. I feel for him, but there is nothing there. I reach and reach but there isn't anything to grab ahold of.

I feel the sun on my skin, I feel it shining down on my face. There is grass beneath me.

When I open my eyes the light is almost blinding.

"Ellie."

I snap my head up, searching for him.

He has a carefree smile on his face, "you have to wake up, my beloved, you aren't safe. They're coming for you. Get everyone out."

"I don't want to go, I don't want to leave you," I sob.

When he touches my arm I feel a jolt, a tingle, life. My blood feels warmer and I can breathe a little easier.

"Wake up, baby, warn them," he wipes a tear from my cheek, "no more crying."

"Phoenix! Wait!" I wake up, not screaming but calling out to him. My fingers instinctively run across my arm and cheek. I swear I can feel his touch, like he was really just here.

Celine and Alex run into the room, they both look prepared for the worst.

I'm disoriented, "it felt so real..."

"Was it a memory?" Celine asks softly.

"No! He was warning me, warning us. We have to get everyone out of here! They're coming!"

Alex's shoulders tense and he runs from the room. Celine helps me get dressed, pulling clothes from a bag for me to put on.

I feel renewed. His touch lingering on my skin.

I'm ready.

Arius had better be.





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