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twenty - three


“Members of the jury, have you reached a verdict?” Sitting up on his pedestal, the judge held his gavel tightly in his grasp. His clean shaven face was nothing but melancholy as his gaze momentarily left the jury and stopped over everyone else in the courtroom. Briefly, his eyes stopped on Kieran, and a flicker of some unknown emotion sparkled in the judge’s irises. I held onto his gaze to see if he’d spare me a glance, but just as soon as his eyes left the jury, they were back.

“Yes, your honor, we have.” The standing jury member stated, matching the judge’s stare.

The judge continued to speak, but all focus left me.

I only came here for the verdict.

Kieran looked behind him, into the crowd, finding my impending stare.

Here we go, he said through the mindlink.

I can’t believe our lives were basically based on the jury’s decision; it was similar to life or death, but worse.

If the jury chose wrong, well, we’d be screwed. Kieran would be seriously f-d over.

“Your honor,” The same jury member spoke, clearing her throat briefly. “The members of the jury find the defendant . . .” She paused again, licking her dry lips. “ . . . guilty.”

Kieran turned completely around in his seat, shock filling his features. He never believed that the jury would actually reach the decision, he never quite realized how possible it actually was.

I nodded to him, encouraging him to turn back around in his seat.

“Members of the Jury, this Court dismisses you and thanks you for a job well done.” The judge turned his stare away from the Jury, where the one standing member now sat down. “Now, from the Jury’s unanimous decision, I sentence the defendant to incarceration of up to twenty years, with a five year probation, and a fine of five thousand dollars.”

At that, air audily left my chest. A possible twenty years in prison - that was more than a fifth of someone’s life. It’s insane to think that someone’s actions in less than a five minute increment could cause them to lose twenty years of their life.

Not that they don’t deserve it.

“Does the defendant have any closing remarks?” The judge asked, that unknown emotion swirling in his eyes once again.

Kieran held his breath.

“No,” Jessabel said.

“This court is adjourned.”

“I’m glad she was found guilty,” Mrs. Donna spoke from where she sat in the chair. She had one hand over Cleo’s, where she was rubbing over one of her knuckles with her own thumb. “That girl caused nothing but harm to Cleo.”

Nodding, I walked over to the only window in the room.

“I can’t believe it’s already been over a week.” I stated, refusing to look at the rest of the room.

“As surprised as I was, I’m glad that the trial commenced as quickly as it did.” Mrs. Donna continued. “I can’t believe she tried to get Cleo locked away in that hospital and then resorted to attempting to kill her when things went awry.”

“Well, she got her psychiatric license revoked.” I commented. Even though Jessabel was going to prison now and whether she had her license or not didn’t really matter anymore.

“I should’ve been there,” Kieran grumbled. “I should have been there to stop her.”

“Stop blaming yourself, it’s all you’ve been doing lately.” I turned away from the window and crossed my arms over my chest. “She doesn’t blame you; she understands that you were in jail because you had protected her previously - remember the Elisons?”

“I don’t give two shits what you’re saying Cleo is probably saying - because you don’t actually know what’s going on through her mind - in case you haven’t noticed - she is in a fucking coma!” Kieran sneered, ignoring our more than modest company. “She probably hates me for not being there for her. As her mate, I’m supposed to protect her, but what did I fucking do? Nothing.” He suddenly scoffed. “Well, I guess not nothing, because I still had to pay five-fucking-hundred dollars for grabbing that old fuckers wrist when he tried to touch her.”

“Kieran -” I started, but he cut me off with a wave of his hand.

“Cut the bullshit, Ezra. Stop making these assumptions. You don’t know how Cleo feels and you most certainly will not decide how I will feel. So shut the fuck up!” Turning out of the hospital room, he bolted down the hallway.

“I’m actually relieved he left,” Mrs. Donna quietly said. “Heather is dropping Alla off and I don’t want her near him.” When I caught her eyes with a confused look, she continued. “I’m afraid she will pick up some of those words he always seems to use.”

I forced a chuckle out of my chest. “And that’s the last thing we need.”

Looking at Mrs. Donna, she cast her gaze over Cleo’s unconscious form. The sound of the heart monitor beeping was the only thing to break the silence.

After a few minutes, there was a loud patter of footsteps, and then a small child with blonde pigtails bursted into the room. Her honeydew eyes quickly scanned over everything in the room before she stopped on the form of her once foster sister.

“Leo,” Alla murmured.

“Sorry, I tried to hold her back.” Someone said from the front of the room. A young girl around Cleo’s age was leaning against the open door, her arms crossed over her chest. She had darker hair, like Cleo, only her skin was a bit paler and her eyes were smaller; but it was difficult to tell the exact size of her eyes because the girl had them narrowed in an unknown emotion while she stared at Cleo.

“It’s quite alright, Heather. I’m sure you tried.”

Heather turned her stare onto me and crossed her arms further.

“I guess this is her little boyfriend or whatever,” She continued. Usually, I would’ve jumped at her words, since she basically claimed me to Cleo, but it seemed as if she were mocking the title. “Never knew you existed.”

This must be the girl Cleo despised back at the foster house. I can clearly see why Cleo would hate her. I had only been in her presence for under five minutes and I was already itching to introduce her to the back of my hand.

“Why hasn’t she woken up?” Alla asked, making my heart clench. “Why isn’t she okay?”

“Alla -” Mrs. Donna started, but she wasn’t able to finish.

“It’s been long enough!” Alla all but screamed, and she lurched forward, latching onto one of Cleo’s lifeless hands.

“Alla stop!” Mrs. Donna scolded, but she froze when Cleo’s heart monitor suddenly picked up, the beeping becoming more frequent.

“What’s happening?” Kieran suddenly bursted into the room, hope evident on his features. He ran past Heather, coming to stand near me as we waited.

Cleo’s heart rate was rapidly increasing; making all of us hold our breath.

Then she opened her eyes.

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