I walked up to the attic with Lennox, leaving Ramsey to her work. It was already well past noon. We wouldn’t be heading back to the hotel until Ramsey was done and Dad and Niall were back. Until then, I just needed to be in Lennox’s presence. Last night, I found out that the human girl that sent me back to the light was the very same woman that was still saving my life. I watched her take a seat on her couch and pictured a life like this, just us. It seemed like it was so close, just in my reach, but so far at the same time. She watched the snow fall from the window, taking in its beauty, while I took in the beauty that was her.
“If you keep staring at me, your eyes are going to freeze open,” she beamed, ripping her eyes from the window to look at me.
“If you weren’t my angel, I wouldn’t stare at you like this. But you have to keep saving my life without even trying.” I said, sitting down next to her and pulling her legs onto my lap.
“What are you talking about, weirdo?” She giggled.
“The first time we met, I was in a very dark place. It was right after Valentina ripped my heart out of my chest. I traveled the world, killing anyone and anything that came into my path. Braddock was my first defeat. He caught me feeding on a man in the back of his master's farm house and went after me. Barely escaping only made the rage inside of me multiply. I made it my mission to end him. Low and behold, three days later I would have that chance. When I heard someone banging on the door, I was furious that someone had the gall to disturb me, being as the whole neighborhood knew I was there and to pretty much stay away.
‘When I threw open the door, there she was: the saddest girl I had ever seen, crying, begging, and pleading for me to save the man I so badly wanted to murder. After I saved Braddock, I went back to think but I couldn’t get those eyes out of my mind. I saw how much you loved him and how badly I wanted someone to look at me like that again. I told myself that I would go home and try to make it work with my wife. From that moment on I never killed another creature. I fed in other ways, ways I would rather not talk about because I don't want to think about what happened to get the blood I needed to survive... but I stopped.
“I learned right away that Valentina and I would never work and I gave up all hope for a love like the one I had seen, but your eyes never left my mind. So that's when I began my research and found out about the heart. Then you showed up and one look at you and I felt like I had known you for a billion years. How perfect was it that right after you showed up my brother comes to tell me he found the way.” I paused, not knowing how to sum up what I was trying to say.
“I get it, what you are saying. It seems like the fates wove our strings together before we even met.” She smiled, moving to crawl on my lap. “I just hope the future they planned for us is better than the present so far.” She straddled me, wrapping her hands around my neck.
“You mean free of the psycho exes,” I joked. She threw her head back and laughed. It was heaven to my ears.
“A life without them period would have been great. Could you imagine if we met each other first? Theoretically, say I was born a vampire, just like yourself... can you imagine where we would both be if we met first?” Her eyes lit up at the thought. “Should we play the imagine if game?” She asked as strands of her hair fell in her face. I ran my hand through them, pushing them out of her face.
“Sure, but ladies first,” I teased. She stuck her tongue out.
“Now you decide to be a gentleman?” She poked “Not even an hour ago you wanted to take me right in my dining room in front of my best friend, and now you want to be proper?” She groaned. I leaned up to catch her mouth, placing a soft kiss on her lips. It seemed no matter where she was or what time of day it was, she always tasted of chocolate and strawberries. “That's cheating,” she said. “That won’t always work, you know.”
“It does right now, and that's all that matters,” I remarked, and she pouted.
“Back to the game, I imagine us in a decently sized house, happily married.” She beamed.
“With a baby on the way and three others playing in the back yard,” I added.
“Hold on now, 4 kids?” She questioned.
“This is just the start,” I poked and she shook her head.
“We would live in Ireland so your dad could see the kids every day.” She smiled warmly. I could tell that she had taken a liking to my father as he had her, and it made me feel good that in his eyes, I finally found Mrs. Right.
“We could name our first daughter after my mom,” I said softly.
“What was her name?” She asked.
“What a beautiful name to match a beautiful person.”
“Why do you say that?” I questioned, curious what she knew.
“She had to have been to raise such a strong man with a heart of pure gold.”
“She would have loved you,” I said to her and her eyes began to water.
“Your father told me the same thing earlier today,” she whispered, laying her head on my chest. We sat in silence for a while and I thought about the life we were talking about and wondered if it could ever happen like that for us, but even I didn’t know what the future held or what side effects came with this heart transplant. I could have stayed like this forever but soon Ramsey's voice rang through the air and I was on high alert.
Lennox and I bolted downstairs and found Ramsey sitting on the floor.
“I don’t understand,” she muttered, and Lennox dropped to her knees beside Ramsey.
“What’s wrong?” she asked, trying to comfort Rams by rubbing circles on her back.
“I don’t understand,” she repeated, looking up to us. “I saw… the house. Here. I saw your house, Noxx.” Lennox looked to me, and I saw the same fear in her eyes that had me paralyzed.
“I think he’s here…” Ramsey whispered, her eyes wide with worry. Of course, that was when Niall and Riecher entered the house. They found us and paused when they saw Ramsey on the floor, about to cry.
“Shhhh…” I admonished Niall before he could finish, and he shot me a look. “He’s here,” I mouthed to my brother and father, who instantly got into defensive position. It wasn’t long till the creek formed from the top of the stairs.
“Well, well, well... Look who just walked into the bear's den. Didn’t anyone tell you not to wake the sleeping bear during hibernation?” The Russian accent rang through the air. It was a voice I had hoped to never hear again. Lennox stood up and raced to my side.
“Last time I checked, bears didn’t really bother me,” I commented as he finished descending the staircase. He stood a few inches shorter than me, with messy brown hair and blue grey eyes that locked onto me like a laser sight on a gun. His face was angular and rugged, a smattering of facial hair on his jawline and chin. I could see how he’d made her fall for him by looks alone, but as he approached us with his predatory walk, I could also see how he’d broken her to pieces.
“Actually, the last time I checked, you were limping your way back into hiding.” He spat, looking behind me to take Lennox in. “Looking as beautiful as the last day I saw you slipping into your deathly slumber. Glad to see you still managed to live with yourself.”
“You have 3 seconds to back away or I swear to god I will kill you where you stand,” I threatened, being the only thing in between him and my Noxx.
“Do you really think that you scare me?” He got up in my face. “Amazing how the one who changed me and the one who had me changed are off in their own little world, playing games imagining lives without the ones that got them to where they are now.” My stomach churned. He was there the entire time. He was watching, waiting for the exact moment to make himself known and here he was.
“Don’t you have somewhere else to be?” Lennox bit. “Like I don’t know, disappearing again.” It amazed me how strong she could be in this situation, but soon she was doing the unthinkable and putting herself in between Braddock and me.
“What are you doing?” I asked, trying to pull her back.
“My job.” Was all she said before drawing her fist back and connecting it to his jaw, taking him completely off guard. It wasn’t long before the two of them were exchanging blows. I didn’t know where to even begin to get her out of it. “Get Ramsey out of here,” Lennox yelled after knocking Braddock down, and Niall and my father complied.
“Noxx, we have to get out of here, now!” I screamed and she tried to make a run for it but she didn’t make very far and before I knew it, she was gone and so was he. I sped through the house looking for them but found neither. I raced out into the yard and to the barn, where the other three huddled in a corner.
“Did he come by here?” I asked, not bothering to restrain the panic in my voice.
“No,” Niall replied, worry in his own voice. “Why?”
“She’s gone… He took her.” I could barely speak the words.
It all happened way too fast to even process. One minute I was running for Elias and the door and the next I was tied to a tree in the middle of nowhere. The fear crept up and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t push it down. Everywhere I looked, there were just trees. Nothing looked familiar or sparked any memory.
“Don’t bother trying to plan an escape; you won’t leave these woods alive.” There was a time when his voice calmed my fears, but now they just ignited them. “I wonder how long your new playtoy will take to come find you.” He whispered finally coming into view.
“Playtoy?” I asked trying to sound as confident as possible.
“Well that's what you do with men, is it not? Get them to love you and then you destroy them.” He smirked, the look in his eyes saying that he was more than just angry with the events of the past... he was furious.
“He’s not my plaything. If you think he will come and find you for me, you are wrong.”
“Oh am I? Because it seems to me the queen’s husband is very much in love with you, even after he shouldn’t be able to. I wonder what kind of love this must be if it defies the laws of magic?” His words were colder than winter air.
“How do you know about that?” It worried me just how much he actually knew about why we were here.
“First things first, tell me what happened to your beautiful accent I loved so much.” Over the years my accent had faded. When I went to the America's 100 years ago, it seemed to be wiped completely away the more I pretended to blend in.
“It left me almost as fast as you did,” I commented.
“Leaving you there alone to deal with your fate was the smartest thing I thought I ever did. However, like always, you seemed to prove me wrong and have made yourself a cute little life, even redecorated MY house.” I watched him spit out the emphasis on those words.
“You gave me no other choice. If you would have been there when I woke up, we could have figured this all out together. Instead, you chose to run like the coward you always said you weren’t.” His fist contacted my stomach so hard it cracked the tree I was tied to.
“Coward? I am the coward? You are the pathetic woman that couldn’t free your own self from a man who made you a whore. Instead, you laid on your back every day, letting men use you. I stood up to him to free you, and instead of running and letting me die, you took me to that thing’s house and changed me. Then you went back to Ronah as if what I had done didn’t matter at all. I should have killed you right then and there.”
“I went to Elias because I needed you to survive. You were the love of my life, my best friend. I would have traded my life for yours in a heartbeat.” His anger wasn’t fading. In fact, at that point in time, I knew I was making it worse.
“So all this was to save me? That is what you are implying?”
“Yes. I loved you. After that night, I spent years looking for you, trying to bring you home.” I whispered and he stepped closer to me, lifting my head up to look him in the eyes. I prayed silently to see any semblance of his former self in that gaze, but all I got was the ice that had replaced his heart.
“When your loverboy comes, you get to watch me kill him. You get a front row seat to watching the life drain from his body.” His face twisted into a manic grin, one that terrified me to the core. I knew he meant every word he said. I thought quickly, trying to buy time.
“He won’t come here to rescue me. He will come here to kill you. You are the final piece, not me. I am not afraid to die,” I said before headbutting him, knocking him a few paces back.
“You stupid bitch,” he growled, staring me straight in the eyes. They flared with anger as a small trail of blood worked its way down the bridge of his nose where my forehead had connected to it. “I should kill you right now, but there are other plans for you.”
“What other plans?” My heart froze in my chest as I feared the answer.
“Turns out you are a very wanted vampire. The queen wants to kill you herself.” My heart sunk. I wasn’t sure where he was going with this, but I was hoping I wouldn’t find out. “And when I tell her all the cute little things her husband was saying to the whore he has hired to aid him in his recent adventures, I am sure she will give me your heart as a reward.”
“The queen sent you?” I frantically asked. “How do you even know her?”
“I met her 3 days after I left. Been working for her ever since,” he smiled. The anger inside me welled up. This whole time he was right in our grasp. All those years searching, thinking he was dead. “I was there when you were brought in for the reformation project. Of course, you wouldn’t have seen me because you were too busy screaming that you were innocent.
“I was innocent!” I interjected. “It wasn’t supposed to be a death match!”
“No, it was. You were just told differently.” He screamed back. My heart was breaking all over again. I knew what he was saying. Everything that had happened so far was his doing to get right here to the point we were at now.
“Baby, calm down. She has to be brought back alive.” Another voice surfaced from the trees behind me. “You know Valentina will get upset if she isn’t.” I felt like I was just smacked in the face when Arina walked up, wrapping her arms around Braddock and kissing him softly.
“What the hell is going on?” I barely got out before I started getting lightheaded from all the information.
“Well that’s easy to figure out, isn’t it?” Arina turned around with a huge grin on her face. “You trust people too easily. You know, I do have to admit, you really bought the whole ‘in love with the queen’ bit. Guess I am a better actress than I thought.”
“What is wrong with all of you people?” I screamed, throwing my head back against the tree.
“You are what's wrong with us,” Arina said before moving quickly to snap my neck, sending me into darkness.