All the color drains from Julian’s face and flashbacks of all the things I’ve done are running through my mind. I can still feel the blood on my hands, how I scrubbed my fingers for what felt like hours. I kept scrubbing until it hurt too much and leaving them raw and blistered, desperately trying to get rid of the dreaded feeling I would feel for days on end. I drop my elbows on the island and push the palms of my hands against my eyes.
“23 men,” I whisper. “I killed 23 men in the last three years. Do you know what they’ve done to get killed by my hand?” I ask Julian. He shakes his head. The fire in his eyes disappeared and is replaced by confusion.
“Neither do I,” I state.
Gideon reaches out his hand to take mine, stroking his thumb over my knuckles while searching my face.
“Then why do it?” he asks softly. I stare into his eyes. There’s no judgment, only genuine curiosity.
I drop my eyes again, looking at the figures his thumb makes, and without looking at him I start explaining.
“Because I was selfish. It’s pretty cliché actually. It was them or me. Honestly, I just didn’t want to die. I wanted to escape, change my name, find the love of my life and just simply live. But I wanted to live on my own terms, doing things because it would be my choice and not his.”
Getting antsy I stand up and start collecting the remains of our food. They’re all looking at me with pity in their eyes and it makes my skin itch. Well, except for Julian of course, but I don’t want his pity. My life sucked, it truly did, but I can’t change the past. None of them can.
Filling the sink with water and soap, I feel someone coming up behind me, shortly touching my shoulder. Roan. Without saying anything he takes a towel and waits patiently until I'm done scrubbing the oven dish. We finish quickly in silence, but it’s a comfortable one for a change.
When I turn around to walk back to the room, he snatches my wrist and lifts my chin between his thumb and finger so I'm forced to look at him.
“You weren’t selfish you know. There is nothing wrong with what you wanted. I would’ve done the same thing.” I drop my eyes and look at the place where he touches my wrist and shrug.
“It didn’t change anything, did it? I got killed anyway.” Together we walk back to the rest of the guys who are all still sitting at the same place we left them. The tension hangs heavily in the air. Great. Now I'm responsible for that too.
Gideon looks at Julian with a cold look on his face. Julian only nods sharply. He looks at me and the hatred on his face is unmistakable.
“I’ll help you, but just know that I’m not doing this for you. I still think you should reconsider. He’s The Beast and he’s not immortal. Sooner or later he’ll get himself killed. You shouldn’t get them involved in cleaning up you’re own mess.”
Hearing those words, with so much judgment in his voice, does it. I've had enough of his bullshit and something inside of me snaps and it fully ignites m power. My blood turns cold and instinctively I raise my arms and without warning, Julian flies across the room. He slams against the wall, leaving a dent in the bricks where his head was just a second ago
Slowly I put my arms down, My eyes start rolling to the back of my head and I slowly walk in Julian’s direction who is now panting on the floor. It’s kind of freeing to let my power out and it makes me feel like I'm walking on a deck of clouds, feeling powerful for a few minutes.
“Jaleena!” Cass’s voice snaps me out of a daze and I quickly glance at him over my shoulders. He looks at me in shock.
“Fuck. Your eyes are completely black,” he mutters.
I wince. “Yeah, I forgot to tell you, sorry.” I noticed it a few days ago when I was trying not to crack the mirror in my bedroom. I played with my powers in front of it but only managed to keep it in one piece for the last two days. Every time I was almost out of control, my eye color started to change. From my original color to ash grey and eventually turn completely black. It freaked me out the first time but the longer I looked at myself, the more beautiful I felt. That feeling crashed every time the black disappeared leaving me confused as fuck.
I turn back to Julian and reach out my arm. Hesitantly he takes it. Before I pull him onto his feet I say: “You know, I wouldn’t have killed you.” He scowls at me. I take his elbow and lead him back to his seat.
“Let me tell you a story.” I walk away to get him a glass of water so I can gather myself and take my place next to him so I don't have to look at him.
“Once upon a time, there was a little girl. Her mom died and all of a sudden she was all alone. Her father didn’t love her but with her mom gone, he needed someone to look after her. So, her father got her a personal bodyguard. It was good for a while but when the girl turned twelve…” I pause, taking a deep shaky breath. I know I need to get it over with but I never told anyone about this. Well, except my father, but we all know how that ended. Wiping my sweaty palms over my thighs I continue.
“Her body started changing and her bodyguard noticed that. In the beginning, it wasn’t too bad, just some looks and comments, but she didn’t fully understand at that age.” I whisper.
I can feel I'm distancing myself from the girl in the story. It’s easier to tell it in the third person and I don’t see anything anymore. It’s like my life plays in front of me like a movie. I welcome the feeling of darkness, of becoming numb so I don’t feel. I don’t feel anything anymore.
“She was raped for the first time on her thirteenth birthday. ‘A birthday present’ he called it. Said he could see the flirting, the looks she gave him and getting all dressed up for him.” I scoff when I think back to one of the worst days of my life.
“She cried and yelled, kept begging him to stop...” I stare in the distance. He didn’t listen. Not that day and not in the years after that.
“She asked her father for a new bodyguard but he just laughed. He laughed with that cruel voice of him and said to man up. Do what he says, follow the rules or die when her bodyguard fucked her and split her in half.”
I swallow the bile in the back of my throat, feeling sick to my stomach while the images of my rape flash before my eyes.
The numbness slowly starts to disappear and I desperately try to summon it back, but it doesn’t. I don’t know how to do it anymore. It feels so good, going to my happy place so I don’t feel anything that’s being done to me. Apparently, that went out the window as soon as I died. Great.
I open my eyes and my vision blurs. Roan slowly raises his hand to wipe away a tear that rolls down my cheek. I didn’t even realize I was crying.
“This was her life for a few years,” I say, wanting to get it out there.
“But she got training, learned how to fight and how to kill. Her bodyguard realized she could easily take him out, so one day, it just stopped. She was too scared to kill him though. She was forced to kill people when her father demanded it. With the threat of the bodyguard above her head, she did just that. Being her father’s personal little puppet while he pulled the strings.”
I take a deep breath for the last part. Then it’s done. Then they know everything they need to know and realize what they’re up against.
“As I said before, it turned out my father double-crossed an associate. I’ve seen him around the house before but didn’t know anything about him. I don’t know the details, I don’t really care either, but when I saw that man standing outside that building I knew I was being sold and that my father had something to do with it. I didn't learn his name until later though. A guy beat the shit out of me and kept telling me about my buyer, how he would play with me until I was his perfect little pet. Nikolas came into my cell and after we fought for a while he eventually killed me. I guess he realized I’m just another crazy bitch whole was not made for following orders.”
Gideon pales and his body turns rigid. I look wearily at him.
“Fuck, fuck, fuck,” he mutters under his breath. He stands abruptly.
“Are you sure?” He asks with a trembling voice.
I nod. “Yeah, I’m pretty sure.” He lets his head fall and the others share a look. Apparently even in death men are still the same. They're keeping something from me, I realize.
“What don’t I know?” I ask cautiously.
Gideon looks around the room, almost as if he wants to make sure we’re still alone.
“Not here,” he states, jerking his head towards the door and he stalks away, trusting that I’ll follow him. I walk quietly beside him and he leads me towards the gym. Taking place at the bench, he sighs in defeat.