The Female

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Chapter 49 - Bonded

GRAY

The noisy chatter surrounding me keeps my mind from racing as I sit at the bar nursing my drink. I can feel Aziel’s presence to my right, his shoulder only inches from my own, but neither of us takes the initiative to start a conversation.

I’m willing to bet that if it weren’t for Charlie’s scared cries, Aziel would have never agreed to sit down with me. I sure know that I wouldn’t. Even now, knowing that we aren’t welcome back in the manor until we’ve settled our differences, I still can’t bring myself to speak to him.

In his own twisted, indifferent way, I thought that he cared for me. Loved me even. These past few months have proved to me that I was wrong. He cares only for himself, and there’s no room in his cold dead heart for anybody else.

His end of the bond prods at mine, the first bit of acknowledgment we’ve had with one another in the hours that we’ve been sitting here, but I ignore it and take a big swig of my drink. It burns as it slides down my throat, and I spin around in my seat so I’m facing the room of people.

My eyes fall to the corner where Charlie and I played pool the one time I took her here. She was so nervous, the smell of fear seeping out of her pores the entire time, but I still think she enjoyed it. I sure know I did.

Best date I’ve ever been on.

My lips twitch as I remember how she found herself comfortable enough to tease me near the end of it, spreading her legs and distracting me on my turns. I want to take her back here sometime. Now that she’s welcome to my touch, I think it would be fun to turn the tables and put her on edge while she played.

I could come up behind her and whisper naughty things in her ear while she leans over the table and lines up her cue. I’d slip my hand around her waist and between her legs to rub at her sex while she takes her turn.

Maybe I could even bring Silas along to block the view of the other patrons as I get her to orgasm in the dark corner, urging her to keep quiet so they don’t know. Of course, they all will anyway, but they’re smart enough to keep their eyes averted.

That’d be fun.

“Why are you aroused?” Aziel breaks the silence.

I take my time responding, my eyes lingering on the table for a moment longer before sliding over to him. He’s turned in his chair to face me, his glass held tightly in his fist as he stares me down.

“I took Charlie on a date here once.” I state, offering no further information.

He knew that I brought her out to the city of Wrath once for a date, but never bothered to ask me how it went. I would have happily told him if he ever showed any interest, but now I don’t care to tell him the details.

He clearly doesn’t care about me or my life, so why should I burden him with it.

“Pool was a human game.” He notes, his voice tapering off at the end.

I hum, and bring my drink up to my mouth to finish it. Aziel’s gaze is heavy as he watches my every movement, but I pretend to be oblivious as I set my now-empty glass down on the counter and gesture for the bartender to make me another.

The woman catches my eye immediately, hers widening before settling into a smolder as she approaches. I haven’t seen her before, and figure she must have just started her shift.

“What can I get you?” She purrs as she comes to a halt on the other side of the counter.

I ignore her straightforward advances and curtly give her my order. She leans forward as she listens, but I hardly find myself caring to even look at the view she’s offering. Charlie may have only asked me not to feed on others, but I won’t insult her by checking out other women.

The bartender doesn’t seem to sense my disinterest as she reaches out and trails a finger along my wrist. I pull my arm away with a scowl and turn around so I’m no longer facing her. She scoffs at my rude actions, and I listen as she snatches my empty glass and walks away.

“That was cold.” Aziel mutters. “You love to flirt.”

“Charlie wouldn’t like it.” I retort, his stupid observations grating. “She’s possessive. You’d know that if you ever bothered to get to know her.”

“She told you that you can’t even flirt with other women?” Aziel scoffs, his annoyance only furthering mine. “You’re an Incubus!” He continues, his surprise only showing how little he knows about me.

Sure, I enjoy flirting, always have, but I enjoy Charlie more. I want to make her happy, and that is such a small thing to give up to make her feel good. Besides, when I’m not in the constant state of starvation that Aziel so enjoyed to keep me in, the need to seduce isn’t nearly as strong.

The bartender comes back with my drink, but I wait until she’s turned away again before swiveling toward the bar and grabbing it.

Aziel continues to watch me, and I continue to ignore it.

“Was she excited when you brought her here?” He speaks up after a long silence. “I’m sure she was surprised to see Demons playing pool.”

Glancing down in my glass, I watch the foam on the top pop and dissipate as the drink settles. The strong scent of the alcohol burns my nose, and I let myself feel the pain before lifting the cup to my mouth. I thought it was only fitting to serve Human alcohol here, but each time I come, I forget why.

It’s not particularly enjoyable.

“She didn’t know what pool was. The Human world is different now than it was when we used to frequent it.” I state.

Prior to the auction, it had been a good eighty years since we had last visited their realm. They are such a small breed, and never gave us a good reason to come. If they need to discuss business, they are expected to travel to us. Even when we went to the auction we did no exploration.

We shifted directly into the building, and neither Silas nor Aziel bothered to even step a foot outside before leaving. It wasn’t until I went into Charlie’s home that I realized how bad it was.

My lips purse, and I’m sure that Aziel can hear my pulse race as I turn to face him.

“I want to show you something.” I state, holding out my hand.

He glances down at my outstretched arm with a frown and tightens his grip on his glass. The action has my anger flaring, but I force it down and wiggle my fingers. I know why he’s nervous about letting me shift him, his lack of belief in my strength infuriating.

“Tell me where you want to go and I’ll bring us there.” He suggests.

My jaw snaps shut with a click, and I narrow my eyes at him until he gives in and places his hand on mine. I grip his fingers harder than necessary as I shut my eyes and visualize my destination. I can feel my body draining with the energy it takes to inter-realm shift both of us, and mentally hope that Charlie will not be angry with me using up so much of what she gave me during our last feed.

She’s still mad, and I don’t want to take advantage of what she provides and force her to feed me more than necessary.

The overwhelming smell of mold and dust invades my nostrils as the world materializes around us, and I release Aziel with a pained cough. His hand slips underneath my elbow, silently stabilizing me while I work to collect myself after such a big shift.

Fingertips dig into the muscle of my arm, holding me tightly until I shake him away with a huff. I don’t need his help.

“Where are we?” Aziel asks.

I straighten back up and look around, my heart aching at just how run-down Charlie’s home has become over the past few months. The entire place is covered in a thick layer of dust, and I can hear the scampering of rats within the walls and underneath the floorboards.

She would be devastated to see her childhood home looking so bad, and I make a mental note to send some Shadows here every couple of weeks to keep it clean. I didn’t realize just how dirty it would get in such a short period of time, and didn’t bother checking in after purchasing it from the Humans.

Aziel clears his throat and approaches one of the picture frames on the mantle. I skipped over them when I took all of her things to our home, unable to bring myself to take them with me. He steps over the moldy, bug-infested area on the carpet where her dad once laid, and reaches forward to grab one of the smaller images.

Even without looking I know which one it is, and silently watch as Aziel inspects it. Charlie is young in the image, and its contents break my heart. It must have been so hard for her parents to raise a child with no interaction to the outside world. It’s clear from the images that they tried, their desperation visibly growing with each passing year.

The picture he holds is of Charlie on her sixth birthday, a wide grin on her face as she sits at a table surrounded by cardboard children. They all wear birthday hats and Human clothing, probably having been dressed up by her parents while she was still in bed.

It hurts to know that she never had a birthday surrounded by friends and family, and resorted to fake ones. Nonetheless, there are no signs of longing in her face as she stands facing the camera with her arm thrown around one of the cardboard cutouts.

Her mother crouches to her left holding up a cake with six candles, her red-rimmed eyes telling me that she had been crying just minutes prior.

“Come.” I order, turning and walking down the narrow hallway that leads to her bedroom.

My palms grow unusually sweaty as I think about where I’m heading, and I unintentionally sink my teeth into my lower lip as we approach it. I avoided this area when I came last time, unable to handle being inside, but Aziel needs to see.

I need to see.

I can smell his worry as he takes in my anxious state, but he remains silent as he follows behind me.

I clench my jaw shut as I push open her bedroom door and head over to the hidden latch on the floor. There’s a bundled-up rug next to the small handle, probably set there to hide any sign of the secret underground hideaway.

My mind never went to the female report when I came here, but after her accusations that our selfish hoarding of information resulted in this, I can’t get the small room out of my mind. I did this to her. Maybe not directly, but if I had done the right thing and spread the news, the Humans would have never resorted to such measures.

I can feel my eyes brimming with unwanted tears as I pull open the door and peer down into the dark hole. It’s pitch black inside, and swarming with rats that I’m sure were here even before the capture.

Aziel sucks in a sharp breath as the scent of Charlie’s fear seeps up out of the hole. Even after months, the smell hasn’t diminished. The amount of time she spent here forced the walls to absorb her pain and fear.

I could barely bring myself to go in here when my feelings for her were minimal, but now that she holds my heart, the thought is suffocating. Nonetheless, I step forward and slip inside.

I choke on the smell as I crawl to the small chair in the corner and sit on the floor in front of it. Aziel follows, and I gesture for him to close the door.

“Why?” He probes, hesitating with his hand on the latch.

“We deserve to know what we’ve forced the females to endure. I want to know how Charlie felt in here.” I state.

“We can smell how she felt.” Aziel argues, his voice falling silent as I shoot him an angry glare.

He sighs before following my instruction and closing the door. Immediately we are thrown into complete darkness, and I frown as my eyes quickly adjust. Charlie’s eyesight is not this good. She wouldn’t have been able to see anything.

Aziel tilts his head to the side as I pull off my shirt and tear it into strips. I hand one to Aziel before tying the other around my eyes to block my vision. This has the added benefit of hiding my tears from the older Demon, too, and I wait and listen for him to repeat the action on himself.

We sit in silence for hours, neither one of us working up the courage to speak as we suffocate on Charlie’s overwhelming fear. I don’t even want to know how long she spent in here surrounded by the rats, her little hands fiddling with her clothing as she waited for the Seekers to come and find her.

The day they took her must have been horrific. She was torn from her family, forced to look at her father’s corpse, and shoved into a facility where she was treated no better than cattle. I went to that facility and purchased her, so excited at the thought of feeding as she was forced to stand naked on a stage in front of so many dirty males.

I was a dirty male.

I am a dirty male.

“I love her.” I murmur, breaking the silence.

Aziel is quiet for a long minute before he clears his throat and sniffles. I pretend like I don’t hear it as I wait for him to respond.

“Why?” He asks, his voice lacking the sarcastic tone I’ve grown accustomed to recently.

“I initially liked her because she didn’t care who we were. She was kind and persistent, always eager to learn. I love her because she’s strong and genuine and so full of compassion. She’s everything we’re not.” I admit softly, my voice no louder than a whisper.

It feels wrong to shout in here. This is a room for quiet and secrecy. For being hidden. Charlie would have never shouted in here.

A rat scampers across my foot, and I let out a choked cry at the sensation. Human pests are disgusting and full of disease. They could have killed her.

“Why don’t you want me to be happy?” I eventually spit out, my voice cracking.

Under normal circumstances, I would be embarrassed by the emotions I’m spilling, but I feel different when I’m in here. I can’t think straight when I’m surrounded by so much pain and fear, the scent of it seeping from the floor and walls and soaking into every one of my pores.

I know it’s affecting Aziel, too. This is a common torture method among the Demons. We are sensitive to these negative emotions, Incubi more than the others, but Wraths still struggle with it.

I don’t fight against the hands that latch onto my forearms and pull me forward. Aziel’s chin rests on the top of my head as he holds me to him, his heart thumping unevenly beneath my ear.

“I do. You know I do.” He murmurs.

Shaking my head, I move to pull away but am shoved back down against his chest before I can get too far.

“No. You don’t. If you wanted me to be happy, you wouldn’t be dismissing Charlie so easily. You won’t even give her a chance.” I argue.

Aziel sighs and trails his fingers down my back. I don’t like the gentle touch, unused to receiving them from him. Even when we are at our best, we keep a level of distance between us.

He’s made it more than clear that he doesn’t want intimacy from me.

“I’m choosing Shay because I want you to be happy. Both you and Silas will find comfort with her.” Aziel states, clearly misreading our relationships with her. She was a fun fuck, but that’s all it ever was.

We tolerated her because she was easy and willing, and didn’t make us work for it. I would never want her as a bonded. She’s selfish and vindictive, and an all-around bad person.

I tug my blindfold off with a grunt and wait for him to do the same. Why is he so dense?

“I don’t want her, and neither does Silas. We will both be happy with Charlie, and I know you care for her too.” I point out.

My heart thumps painfully in my chest as I reach out and touch Aziel’s cheek. He doesn’t usually like it when I touch him, finding my actions too intimate, but doesn’t stop me. His eyes bore into my own as I trail my finger across his cheek before sliding up to his eyebrow and down the bridge of his nose to his lips.

“The Wraths will revolt.” He states, continuing to allow my touch. “They want a strong ruler.”

I sigh and shake my head, still not understanding this logic.

“You have a strong leader in Silas. Most Wraths only take one mate. You will have three. There’s no reason why all three of them need to be strong. Silas is strong, I’m the son of Lust, which makes me good for alliances, and Charlie is for love. They’re getting what they want, and if they are so upset by it, then they can leave for Greed.” I point out, my anger getting the best of me as I place my fingers on both of his cheeks and squeeze.

Aziel grunts as I crush his jaw between my fingers, and pulls away as the bone cracks.

“I can’t put myself before my people.” He whispers, the quiet words giving me my answer. “I will not bond Charlie, but I also won’t sit here and tell you that you can’t. I will remain true to my word and protect her for as long as she lives, even if you take it upon yourself to bond with and have a family with her.” Aziel continues.

I suck in a sharp breath and clear my throat, not enjoying how much of a goodbye this feels like. Aziel and I will always be bonded, that will never change, but that doesn’t mean we have to honor it. We don’t have to share the same female, even if that’s what I want.

“I do love you, Gray, and I’m willing to give you up if that’s what will make you happy.” He whispers, his voice oddly rough.

He sniffles and runs his hands through my hair as I sit silently with him. In the hundred-something years that we’ve known one another, he’s never held me like this. There have been the occasional hugs and even less frequent strokes, but never anything so emotional.

Deep down inside I know that this is the only time I’ll ever get this out of him, and I remain still and enjoy it while it lasts. We both know that when we return I’ll go back to Charlie.

I’ll tell her of my moment with Aziel, and that we can move forward with bonding. We can have one another, no baggage attached.

Someday Charlie and I will leave to our own home, but for the time being, the safest place for her is the manor. I need to be around Aziel without fighting. We both need that.

“Thank you.” I eventually murmur.

The light brushing of his lips across my temple is the only response I get.

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2 chapters in a row?? GASP! There’s 1 chapter left of this book, so am trying to get it all wrapped up before I go on vacation 🏝

Read 50+ chapters ahead on Patreon! patreon.com/inviwright

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