THERON II

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THREE.

THERON

It’s darker in this house.

Colder...

A shadow hangs above all of us, casting shade over our souls and bringing forth an eternal winter. It is almost as if Theon was the sun... forever holding us hostage in perpetual summer ecstasy. Now that he is gone, however, the loss of warmth has seeped into our veins, freezing our hearts.

Lina has stopped crying. And while that would normally be a good thing, currently it is more concerning for me. She lays her head on my chest, empty eyes staring off into nothingness, void of the light that usually fulfills her.

Arabella is under my other arm. Her sobs have quieted to mere sniffles but she still clings to me, as if I am the only thing giving her strength.

A strength I definitely do not feel.

DeLoren is consoling Coconuts. Her thick eyeliner has streamed down her cheeks, coloring every tear that falls black. Her once bright lipstick has all but faded, leaving her lips a purplish hue. She rocks back and forth on the couch, DeLoren whispering reassurances in her ear while rubbing her back.

Anthony and Kai silently pick up the debris scattered about the room. Normally, I would use some sort of tornado metaphor to describe this room but seeing as that is exactly what swept through it, my mind doesn’t have the energy for witty one-liners.

Marius and Rhys talk in hushed whispers, discussing a private jet to Barbados but even with their fast, fancy planes, the trip could still take almost five hours. Without knowing Mavina’s plans for Theon, we also cannot guarantee we would get to him in time. We need a miracle at this point and I do not know which god to pray to, as this life is still quite new to me.

"Theron,” a female voice gasps...

A voice I do not recognize.

My head snaps to the left, a hazy vision standing before me. She has long auburn hair and striking green eyes—petite, not much taller than Bug. She can’t be older than nineteen. But her form is not clear... it’s translucent almost as if the reception is not strong enough; billowy, like rising smoke.

“Evie,” Kai’s shocked exclamation catches the attention of everyone else in the room and now all eyes are on this Evie.

Lina shoots out from underneath my arm, her speed startling and impressing me at the same time. “What the hell are you doing here?” She roars, her own eyes flash black, her hands ball into tight fists.

“Why didn’t the alarm go off,” Bug looks to me as if I have all the answers but even I am stooped on this one. Their security system is sensitive and it detected Mavina almost immediately, so why not this Evie girl?

“Because she is not really here,” Anthony says. He tilts his baseball cap forward, rubbing the back of his neck, “Right Evangeline?” The girl nods, grimly, “I am astral projecting, yes. It is not a violation of my abeyance.”

Astral projecting, abeyance, shifting forms... this world confuses the fuck out of me.

Lina’s acidic laughter echos through the room, “Well, of fucking course! Pretty damn convenient too since it also prevents me from ripping your face off!”

“Lina,” Marius clips, his tone too condescending for my liking, especially in this specific moment. I growl through clenched teeth, “Stay the fuck out of it, Marius.” If Lina wants to kill a bitch then I support her. I don’t know what the hell is happening but I’ll side with Lina every time.

“I have nothing to do with Theon’s kidnapping,” Evie rushes, her hands held up in submission, “that’s my mother.” But that was not the right thing to say to Lina. She snarls, her voice layered in chilling undertones, “You knew?!” I can almost visualize the fury that is burning within her. Bug taps my arm, whispering, “Should I fix popcorn?” I shake my head in silent rejection of the idea. Now is not the time and we are not a Michael Jackson meme.

“I tried to stop her, Catalina! I did! I don’t want any harm to befall Theon, but...” her voice falls to nothing but a whisper, losing all confidence, “I am sorry.” Lina glares, her eyes still black as a starless night, “Then why are you here?”

“To warn you,” the girl fidgets with her hands, wringing them like a dishtowel.

“That’s it? To warn us?” DeLoren sighs, falling back on the couch and crossing his arms over his chest, “Well, thanks for that. You did your good deed for the day so you can leave now.” He waves her off, like a fly buzzing around his face. But Coconuts isn’t ready just yet. “What will she do to him,” she whimpers, despairingly. Her pleading eyes look to Evie as if the answer to that question will make any of us feel better.

Evie takes a deep breath, her chest filling with courage and conviction she doesn’t seem to honestly have, “She will drain him—the only child with the blood of two powerful Ancients. He is rare, after all. She will then share his blood with every witch that walks this earth and they will drink his essence. Once that happens there is no stopping them. They will be too powerful. And your kind is at the top of their revenge list.”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” now it’s my turn to play twenty fucking questions before the room smothers me in apprehension, “why? What are they seeking revenge for?”

The girl appears taken aback, her face pinches in pure confusion and bewilderment as if my question is the dumbest thing she has yet to be asked, “You were there. You should know this already.”

“Lady, I just learned my name like two fucking days ago so let’s keep the high expectations to a minimum,” I can’t with this chick. I realize that it’s possible by the look on her face and the gasp from her throat when she first saw me that she must have rightfully assumed I was still dead and I sure the fuck cannot blame her for that. I should be more understanding... polite... considerate—blah, fucking blah, whatever, but if Lina has an issue with her then so do I.

No explanation is needed.

Lina turns to me, her expression softens and her black eyes fading to brown, “Not long after you and your brothers were created, a war broke out among all supernaturals. Your creation uprooted the balance of mystics, disrupting the natural order of things. To prevent further bloodshed and human involvement, a treaty was drawn up—Dravenha, they called it... and it resulted in the restriction of certain powers. Apparently, the witches are still holding a grudge.”

“If she is your mother and you do not condone this, then help us,” I rise from the couch, proceeding closer to Evie, “You obviously have powers too so fucking use them. Save him.”

“I can’t. I—”

“She is on a ten-year abeyance of all magic,” Kai informs me before she can finish herself, “Even if she could use her powers, Mavina is the High Witch. It won’t work on her.”

Is he speaking English? Someone get a crayon and draw this fucking picture because I am so very lost, “What do you mean it won’t fucking work? And why is she in abeyance?”

“It’s a safeguard,” Evie says slowly, hesitant of my bewilderment, “The title of High Witch only transfers to another in the event of the former’s death. The protection spell is meant to prevent another witch from murdering the Grand Witch to steal her throne. Her passing has to happen naturally or through outside forces to be considered a legal change in title.” Her eyes flicker to Kai before returning to me, “I am on abeyance as a punishment for breaking the Treaty.”

The abeyance means nothing to me, I couldn’t give two shits less what she did but she is a witch nonetheless. And that is a miracle I can work with. I just need to be placed in front of Mavina... I just need to be close enough. I will handle it from there. “Fine,” I threw my hands up, “Take me to her then! I’ll be the outside force.” I’ll tear her throat out. She can be another tally mark that sits right beside Joey.

I just want my son back.

“Theron,” Kai chuckles lightly, his head rolling back to look at the ceiling like there just might be something more interesting there.

“She has my son! My only son...” Now that I’m thinking about it though, I better check. My brothers have a shit ton of kids so maybe I do too. I cock my head at Lina, “He is my only child, right?” She snorts as if I should already know this—how quickly they all seem to forget I am motherfucking clueless.

“Can you do that, Evie?” Marius’s booming voice reminds me he is still here and though I purposely don’t glance at him, I know his fucking

brows are getting a workout. “Can you take us to Barbados?”

Evie ponders, her sad eyes searching mine before she turns to Marius and Rhys, “End my abeyance.”

“Done,” I snap my fingers, ready and willing to get this show on the road. Theon is not the son of Rhys or Marius so they don’t get a fucking say.

“Now hold on a minute,” Rhys steps forward, ”You can’t pass that motion, Theron. You weren’t there to hand it out. Besides, what’s to say she won’t screw us the first chance she gets?”

I lull my head, “Oh for fucks sake!” When did he think we needed his two fucking cents? Was there something on this face that indicated I cared? If so, someone let me know so I can correct that shit before it gets out of hand. “Evie, are you going to ‘screw us’ the first chance you get?” I ask her flatly. Might as well check for Rhys’s fucking peace of mind.

Idiot.

“No, I—”

I throw my arms out wide, “Good enough for me!” Pointing at Rhys without sparing him a second glance, I snarl, “Now end it!”

I expected Marius to be the one to grant Evie this demand. I am surprised, however, that it is Lina that does the deed, all previous anger towards the witch now completely dissipated, “I release you from your sentence, Evangeline Davina Dubois.”

The atmosphere crackles and pops just like before. The lights switch off and the alarm sounds and we rewind this fucking scenario and play it again for a second time. And when the siren ends and the LED’s light up the room once more, the girl is standing in front of us, looking very normal. “I can only take two of you,” she says... probably something she should have let us know before now but what the fuck ever. Before anyone else can volunteer, I got this in the bag, “Me and Lina.”

“You just learned to shift back to human two hours ago!” I do not need to look behind me to know Rhys has a problem with my vehemence, “And you still haven’t discovered your lycan yet! I don’t think it’s a good idea to go strutting in the lair of the High Witch.”

Is this guy for real?

I’m not chocolate, I won’t fucking melt.

“Okay, two things,” I count on my hand, “A. I don’t fucking care what you think and B...” Wait. B? B... What’s B again? Oh, that’s right— “No, there isn’t a B. Just A. So fuck off.”

“You can’t protect her,” He juts his jaw towards Lina and I feel a fire explode inside me. I can’t protect her? I fucking died protecting her! I don’t remember it but that’s neither here nor there. What the fuck was he doing at that time? Playing with a fucking grenade launcher in the safety of a tower? Fuck him. “You want to say that again, Chocolate bar?”

He eyes me warily, “You know I am right,”

“If that were the case then both of us would be wrong,” I snapped. I don’t have time for this but if he wants to keep poking me then so be it. The thought of tearing out his jugular seems like it would be very satisfying right now.

“STOP,” Lina’s face is red, no longer colored by anguish and despair, but something darker, angrier, “Theron goes.” Would it be rude of me to stick my tongue out at him? Is that too childish? Fuck all. I hate being an adult. She turns her head back to the girl, “What can we expect, Evie?”

“She will do it in the auditorium, at the assembly...” Evie calmly explains, “in front of seven hundred other witches. Now, I can freeze them to give you some time but my powers will not work on her so you must be quick. Do not stand in front of her hand. It’s the direct line of her magic. Think of it like a gun... and avoid it at all costs.”

She holds her hands out, one for Lina and one for me. I make sure to give Rhys the middle finger before we disappear, transported to whatever hell awaits us.

It happens fast, like the blink of an eye, leaving my head spinning and my stomach queasy. Gasps and squeals of surprise resound throughout the auditorium, our entrance shocking and unexpected. I peer out into the audience just now realizing we’re on a stage, left of center.

Evie drops our hands just as a chosen few jump from their seats, intent on abracadabraing our asses into next week.

...and then everything freezes.

Witches are suspended in motion, their eyes the only thing granted permission to move. Evie has her arms out in front of her, manipulating any and all free will of movement. “Hurry,” she insists, “I can’t do this for long!”

“Mom!” The husky voice grabs my attention, pulling my eyes to the middle of the stage. There is a man, strapped to an altar. He lays on his stomach, his head raised and his eyes wide with panic, “Dad!”

Lina reels, falling into me. “Theon?” She cries, the disbelief and excitement in her tone has me doing a double-take. And there is no room for doubt as to who this man is—my eyes, my hair, my nose, my facial structure... Lina’s mouth.

My son.

But this is no toddler.

This is no tiny, drooling, babbling, barking Theon.

This is a man.

I don’t know which emotion to give the most recognition to right now: Relief? Sadness? Curiosity? Pissivity? What am I supposed to feel? I missed all his firsts... and now I will miss everything that was to come after. He is a grown-ass man, skipping over puberty, his first crush, his sweet sixteen, his high school graduation... Every moment we could have had to watch him grow and mature has been stolen from us.

What is considered the appropriate response to such a thing?

Lina grabs my hand, linking her pinkie around mine. It is soft and delicate, yet speaks more than hand-holding ever could and I am filled with all-consuming love. It lights my soul on fire, sending a fresh gust of air into my lungs and causing me to stumble backward.

A bright light explodes around me, memories hitting me from all sides.

“Promise?”

“I promise.”

“Swear it.”

“Today, tomorrow, and forever...”

My mind seems to seize. The pain is sharp—stabbing and poking and burning me... and bringing me to my knees. I clutch my head, the agony too much—if I could just apply some pressure to it, maybe it would lessen the hurt.

Wrong.

Visions flash before me, chaotic and scattered. Voices spin through me, hectic and short—I can’t make out what I am seeing nor what is being said because one does not completely end before another begins.

My body jerks, pushing and pulling my kneeling form, forcing me to bawl out in discomfort. My muscles contract, spasm, and twitch, I can feel the ripples from beneath my skin... my clothes pulling away from my shrinking form.

And as quickly as it began, it is over.

I feel lighter...

More comfortable...

More confident...

And PISSED THE FUCK OFF.

My eyes lock on Mavina. Her face gives away nothing but her dilated pupils tell a different story.

Her racing heart betrays her.

Her brain is screaming at her to run.

To flee.

Because there is no more confusion.

There are no more questions.

No more fogginess.

No more uncertainty or hesitation.

I know who I am.

I know what I am.

And I remember everything.

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