Home > Torn (Demon Kissed #3)(8)

Torn (Demon Kissed #3)(8)
Author: H.M. Ward

The need to comfort him consumed me. I wanted to wrap my arms around him and tell him it was all right, but I couldn't. His behavior was too suspicious. Was this a ploy? Was Kreturus controlling him or was this Collin speaking to me? There was no way to know. I should have turned around and walked away. I shouldn't have listened to his words. But I did. It was one of those times where I knew I was doing something wrong, something that would screw me later, but I did it anyway. Compassion is a bitch.

Swallowing hard, I pushed back my suspicion, and said, "Those things did happen. But I didn't die." I reached to touch his shoulder, but withdrew my hand at the last second.

He looked up at me with desperation in his eyes. The expression was haunted. "After everything I did, I lost her. I tried to save her. I tried to stop the prophecy. I tried to keep her safe. But, I lost her anyway. And in the end...I was the one who killed her." Glassy eyes overflowed with tears as he stared vacantly ahead. The pain in his voice was too great. Suddenly it didn't matter to me if he had an ancient demon inside of him, or not. He needed me. He was Collin, completely and utterly in that second. The emotions flowing through the bond revealed everything he said and more. He took the blame for my death. He thought he was the reason I'd died.

Without hesitation, I reached for him. My hand rested gently on his cheek, as I turned his face to look at me. "I'm right here. It's all right, Collin. I'm alive." But his expression didn't change. It was like he locked down his mind to not accept what his eyes were seeing. I took his hand in my mine and pressed his fingers to my heart. "See? My heart's still beating. I'm alive. You didn't kill me."

At first nothing changed. He stared at me with haunted horror, like I was an aberration of his mind messing with him. I kept my hand over his with my heart racing under his touch. His deep blue eyes were locked with mine, and I could see him slowly accepting what his senses were telling him - I was alive. Shock had buried him so deeply in grief that it took him a bit to dig his way out. I stood in front him, silently waiting for the pain to flow out of his eyes and recognition to return. When it did, fear collided with longing. We were so close, and in that lost state, he was himself. There was no way Kreturus would allow himself to be ruled by someone so broken. Very little was penetrating Collin's mind. But, now that he actually saw me and realized that I was all right, well, now what?

He blinked back tears and spoke so softly that I could barely hear him, "The fang sliced you. I saw it."

I shook my head, "But I didn't die. It wasn't your fault. And I healed." I slid my fingers along my neckline just above my hidden scar. "See there's nothing there." Okay, that was a lie. But, he didn't need to know that I was still dying right then. My tank top covered the scar and thin blue line of sapphire serum that was still poisoning me. I took his face between my palms, "I'm alive."

It was in that moment that he allowed hope to penetrate him, and he heard me. Sometimes when things seem too far gone, hope is a fool's dream. And when the human mind passes that point, there is no bringing it back. I flirted with the edge of that line for a year. It was Collin who kept me from falling over the edge. It was Collin who carried my grief with me. And now, I was the one calling him back from the edge. In that moment I didn't care about Hell, demons, or Kreturus. Collin was the only one that mattered. The bond flared to life and filled me with joy, relief, and thankfulness.

Collin's gaze intensified as he realized that I was still alive and in his arms. His fingers clasped the sides of my face, as he lowered his head and pressed his lips to mine, tasting me as if he couldn't believe I was really there. The kiss was soft and warm. My stomach stirred as I leaned into him. His arms wrapped around my waist and he pulled me closer. Heart pounding in my chest, I allowed the magic of the moment to overcome me. I didn't think about the things that I should have considered. I didn't think about Lorren telling me that a Valefar could give a demon kiss to anyone, at any time. I didn't think about stealing my soul back. I didn't think about Collin setting me up to steal the rest of the power locked within me. I didn't think at all. We were all there was, all that mattered.

Breathless, he pulled away. Questions were all over his face, "How'd you survive? I thought the sapphire serum killed you."

I hesitated, not knowing what to do. Confide in Collin or not? Could Kreturus hear me? Was he still inside of him? I didn't know. I didn't sense the demon, but it was possible he was hiding. It was possible that I couldn't sense him. And if Kreturus was still possessing Collin, then he could use the knowledge against me. He could make sure I never healed. He could end my life as soon as he realized that Collin had part of my soul in his body, and that if I died, he'd have all my power.

Looking up into Collin's face, I made my decision to lie. Besides wondering about Kreturus' whereabouts, there was another reason not to tell him the truth yet. Collin thought he caused my death, and he couldn't live with himself. It broke him. Finding him like this let me know that he had a severe weakness - he couldn't handle losing me. If I told him that I had been poisoned and that the poison was still inside of me - slowly killing me - Collin would do whatever I asked to save me, even give his own life. He'd done that before. I couldn't risk losing him again. Maybe it was selfish, but I couldn't do it.

So I lied. I shrugged, and looked away saying, "I must be immune. It hurt like hell, but it didn't kill me."

Collin pressed kisses to the side of my temples and pulled me into his arms again. When he released me, a look of hesitation came over him. "Why were you acting like you were afraid of me before?"

Swallowing hard, I said, "I was afraid of you. I thought you were Kreturus." His expression shifted wildly as I explained what happened, and how it looked as I watched. "What else would I think? It looked like he took possession of you. I was terrified."

His fingers played with the long curls by my face, "And what about now?" A slow smile spread across his lips.

My heart pounded in my chest. Should I lie or tell the truth? Why did my life feel like a free fall? It was like I was clutching at the air trying to stop the inevitable impact that was destined to come. I hedged, "You've always scared me, Collin." I smiled at him, and turned away shyly, talking over my shoulder. I could feel his eyes on my back. "You said things I didn't want to hear, called me back from the edge of insanity, and challenged me to live my life better than I was. You're everything I've ever wanted, and feared, all wrapped up together. Of course you terrify me." My arms wrapped around my waist. The confession made me shiver. It wasn't the answer he was looking for, but it was the truth. And the bond let him know it.

Thinking back to the first time I met Collin, I knew our lives would be intertwined; I just had no idea to what extent - turns out that it was much more than I would have ever dreamed.


Reckless was the word that described me best. I kept doing what I thought was right, even if it was incredibly reckless. I was flirting with disaster and I was a terrible tease. Walking with Collin, and being so close to him felt good. I didn't want it to end. I revealed my plans to sneak to the surface to speak with Al. Throwing messages into the wind didn't work too great for me. Although I tried, I didn't know if she ever go them, and there was no way for me to hear her in return. A trip to the surface was necessary. But, when Collin found out that I'd planned on using the portal at the Roman catacombs, he cautioned me against it.

"You can't go that way," he said shaking his head. "Not if the Martis knew you entered there. And you said they followed you guys down here." We'd been walking through the Underworld like it was normal. Hand in hand, we strolled past the jagged cliffs that tore through the cavern floor and stretched up into the inky sky and out of sight. His dragon was nearby, but didn't get closer. The beast's massive wings were hypnotic looking. They seemed impossibly thin to carry such a massive creature. When the dull red glow that illuminated the caverns lit the dragon's wings he looked terrifyingly beautiful. So, I did my best to ignore the beast or acknowledge him the same way I would a cat or some other normal creature that decided to stalk me. Collin didn't acknowledge the dragon, but then why would he, if it was his? I didn't really care that the dragon was there, and the creature did keep the demons and grackles away. Collin and I walked on in silence with the beast looming in the distance like a dark cloud.

Collin hadn't asked what happened to my friends yet. I told him that they'd come down here to help me, but I didn't mention what happened after that. As we traced the paths that I'd walked with Eric and Shannon, emotions began to bubble from deep within me. They were too strong to hide and I could tell that Collin could sense my dismay through the bond.

"Ivy," he started hesitantly, pushing his dark hair away from his eyes, "if you don't want to talk about it, we won't - but, what happened to them? Where are Shannon and Eric?"

We stopped walking suddenly, as I was unable to control a shudder. What happened to them? It was the question I was dreading. I wrapped my arms around my middle to chase away the chill that shook me, but it didn't help. Nothing could help. Nothing could change what happened on the way to rescue Collin. I lost both of them. Taking a deep breath, I looked up into his eyes. Collin's face was full of compassion. He knew something was very wrong. But he was right; I didn't want to talk about it. Staring into his eyes, I knew that I couldn't admit that I drained Eric's soul. And, I could barely talk about Shannon without spewing venom so thick that it made my throat hurt. No. I didn't want to talk about them at all. Blinking, I looked away from his gaze.

My voice was flat, concealing the tremors that were shaking me apart inside, "Shannon turned on me. She said that I was corrupt from the time Apryl died. She'd been pretending to be my friend since then. We fought. She tried to kill me. So, I sent her to the surface by shoving her through a black glass. And Eric..." I paused, swallowing hard. How was I supposed to admit to Collin that I turned someone into a Valefar? The one thing that Collin wanted the most was his soul. The thing he confessed to me from the very beginning was that he would do whatever it took to undo the Valefar curse. And here I was, adding people to the Valefar army of the damned. Collin was understanding, but I didn't think he would understand my actions.

Not this time.

To confess that I turned Eric would poison our relationship. Collin would never look at me the same way again. The last time Collin and I spoke of souls and demon kisses, I was terrified. And now? Now, I admitted the idea held some appeal. A demon kiss - the act itself was horrendous - but I was part Valefar and it called to me. And at some point during my time in the Underworld, I noticed that I didn't have to try to act Valefar anymore. I just was. I didn't have to flip off my Martis side and intentionally change to my Valefar side. Somehow they became equally accessible, anytime I needed that part of me.

Swallowing hard, I said the only thing that I could admit that wouldn't skew Collin's perception of me, "Eric's dead." That was all that I could admit. And it was true. The Eric I knew was dead. The new terrifying version was still around, but I was too ashamed to admit it. I tried to save him, and failed. The old Eric, the boy I knew, was dead.

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