“No…,” I whispered, the words choking out of my throat.
Almost a whole day. I‘d slept for almost a whole day. My vision hadn‘t taken place just after sunset, it had been just before sunrise. And now an hour or so had already passed since then.
I felt myself go completely numb, releasing Lucy‘s hand from my grip.
There was a crumbling beginning within me. Like I was falling… falling into an Abyss that was completely of my own making. One that was a hole I‘d been desperately trying to swim away from these last four years, trying so goddamn hard to believe that there was still good in people. That even though I had been rejected, killed and abandoned by everyone around me, that there was still potential for people to do better. That I could do better.
And now it seemed the final betrayal had embedded its dagger. The one I knew I wouldn‘t ever survive. And, apparently, neither would my parents.
… There was no one left.‘
…I was alone.‘
Just as fate seemed to have always planned for me.
And everything felt… so empty.
“Oh… I didn‘t… I didn‘t realise,” I whispered to myself in a daze, the world slowly moving around me.
“…I didn‘t realise we were playing that sort of game.”
… Ready to do this my way?‘ My prior self‘s voice then whispered in my head, offering to give me the support I so desperately craved right now.
It was the kind of help I would have instantly turned down before… but now?
Honestly, I was starting to wonder why I‘d been so opposed the entire time. She had managed to endure years of hell, doing whatever it took to survive and prove her worth. If anyone knew how to keep working when it felt like the world was falling apart, it was her. Only she possessed the strength I would need now.
…What did I even have to lose anymore? Myra? Cai? My parents?
And I felt myself slip deeper into the hole inside.
“There‘s something I need to tell you but I…,” Lucy said to me, disjointedly. “But I–I can‘t, I‘m sorry… –.”
“It‘s okay,” I said, stopping her, my body quickly becoming calm. “I already know he ordered you to stay quiet about what happened in the hospital. I already know about….”
I couldn‘t finish my sentence though. Speaking of my parent‘s demise still felt wrong.
Surprise crossed Lucy‘s features, my knowledge taking her aback since there was no way I should have known.
“Miss? How do you…?”
“Don‘t worry about that. We have bigger things to concern ourselves with now and I need your full concentration.”
Without waiting, I then walked over to where Lucy had laid out the outfit I was going to wear today and began changing tugging on the long sleeve dress over my head.
“But the plan is ruined,” she objected. “Plan A is now far too risky and Plan B is…”
Her voice choked to a stop as the Alpha order constricted her. But I didn‘t need her to elaborate. I already knew what she was trying to say.
Plan A would now mean ordering not just one, but two Alpha bloods. A feat I wasn‘t sure I was capable of pulling off even when it had just been for Tytus with wolfsbane in his system.
you‘re right,” I said, fastening the finishing touches to my attire. “Which is exactly why we‘re going ahead with PLan C.
Miss? Plan C? You never mentioned there was a Plan C.”
Contact Iris. Tell her it’s time,” I instructed, proceeding to grab the last of everything I needed.
The reason Lucy didn‘t know about Plan C was because no one knew about it except for me.
It was something I‘d come up with at the same time I had the others. A plan I had continually pushed away, knowing it shouldn‘t ever be used, knowing it was something that only *she would do. However, it wasn‘t a backup for if I failed to order Tytus, or if Aleric failed to challenge him.
No, it was what I‘d come up with for in the event the worst–case scenario happened, the absolute point of all else failing.
It was a plan that had to be completely hidden from everyone else in order for it to work. The ultimate trump card, the final stand. I had never wanted to resort to it, let alone consider implementing it. But I had prepared for it nonetheless.
Because Plan C was for in the event Aleric betrayed me.
End suddenly I found myself in that very position.
Contrary to Aleric‘s request, I did not seek him out before the meeting.
From everything Lucy was forbidden from telling me, yet everything I had already witnessed myself anyway, I knew it was too dangerous. Who wouldn‘t be expecting some sort of trap?
After all, if he could kill my parents so easily then what else was he capable of? He‘d deliberately chosen not to challenge Tytus once the order came through, showing his alliance to him over me. Hell, he most
rely was the one who had leaked the information about the poisoning to begin with.
No, he‘d made his message clear….
He wanted to take his succession naturally, not by force alongside me.
Of course, I did wonder whether our argument yesterday really was enough to drive this kind of response; whether it really had demolished our trust to the point of him making the first move. But there was another posibility also one where I recalled his dark eyes the day before, already knowing what monster was possibly dormant inside of him.
But none of that really mattered right now. Wondering about the motives wasn‘t going to bring my parents back to life. No, it was too late for that.
My safest strategy here was to go through with what I needed to do, get through the day, and then reassess once it was all over. On even the slightest chance that Aleric really was planning something before the meeting I couldn‘t risk seeking him out privately on my own if anything, his belief that I was completely oblivious to what had transpired the night before was only going to work in my favour.
And so, I busily went about the remainder of my last few hours, pushing myself to stay focused on wh needed to do; never staying in one spot for too long, never giving in to the pain threatening to fester within me. Every single second of today was going to be crucial, and I hadn‘t even made it halfway through yet.
But then, finally, it was time for the big event.
I pushed open the double doors of the meeting hall as I entered and the entire room on the other side immediately switched to hushed voices, whispering amongst themselves.
I couldn‘t hear what they were saying but I didn‘t need to. Their faces said it all… Sympathy, sadness… caution, disgust. It seemed I was once again the daughter of a traitor; this scenario being one I was already painfully familiar with.
Holding my head up high, I walked over to where Aleric stood, refusing to meet his eyes. I probably
should have wanted to confront him, to scream at him, maybe worse, but inside all I felt was complete calmness; my mind entirely focused on what I needed to do.
Now the only one who was left to arrive was Tytus himself.
“Where the f#ck have you been?” Aleric hissed in a low voice, his hand grabbing my elbow.
Apparently not low enough as a few Elders turned their heads in our direction.
I quickly forced a polite smile on my face and pulled my arm free of his grasp. The same hands that had been covered in my parent‘s blood only hours earlier.
“Aleric,” | greeted back loudly so the entire room would hear. “It‘s good to see you. Apologies, I‘ve been a little busy this morning. But what‘s a few hours when we have our entire lives together, right? It seems as though you‘re so excited about marking me that you couldn‘t even bear a few hours without seeing me.”
‘Disgusting,‘ the voice inside me added.
“What are you–”
But then Tytus entered, ending all chances of continuing the conversation, and I looked up as the man himself walked in.
‘He trapped us, degraded us, tried to force us into a union… and then had our parents killed.‘
“Greetings everyone. You may be seated,” Tytus said as he walked to his chair.
The council at the table then all sat back down, filling the space around him. Or, at least they did for all but one chair… my father’s.
“I understand that today was meant to be a joyous one of celebrating not only young Aria‘s birthday, but also her union with my son, Aleric,” Tytus said to the council and warriors present. “However, it is with a heavy heart that I announce to you all now that there are some who will not be present for this monumental day. A day where every daughter deserves to be with their parents. It is something I wished were not true.”
I knew he didn‘t actually give a shit about me.
“I‘m sure most of you have already heard,” he continued. “But a situation arose yesterday whereby I was made aware of a plan. A plan to poison me during a routine doctor‘s appointment. Upon ordering the arrest of the individual in question, an altercation, unfortunately, broke out that tragically resulted in the loss of two very special people that I hold dearow pace Bettid Mootout I could feel everyone‘s eyes on me but I refused to let them at the everything from me, they would not get this.
“Aria..I am truly sorry for your loss and that it happened l focused on mine. “Naturally, I have some questions for you see is can still find some happiness today in what is otherwise a desweh.”
*Thank you, Alpha,” I said, bowing my head respectfully “side the o dedication you put into this pack. And whilst, of course, number realise their actions are ones more befitting than those of all, 2014, it is just unfortunate that not everyone can share in your vie! .
Tytus gave me a small smile, his face softening “I know we have had hope you feel you can come to me with anything should but through circumstance, you will also be gaining a new one.”
I bit my tongue and bowed once more, acknowledging his olles which, 10 latxa better word, was suggesting he replace my parents.
“Very well,” Tytus then said, standing back up. “Let‘s get this over with these were Aria is itching to get the collar off after all of these months and believe the statt off either.”
*Thump, thump… My chest began pounding…
And I watched Tyus start approaching me, walking with intent as he
“Aria,” Aleric‘s voice hissed next to me, desperate to get my attention,
But I ignored him. It was too late for anything he could possibly say to me now. The boot would be forever on his hands, never truly washing off.
Sinking ever deeper…
…Falling further and further into the hole inside…
… There was no turning back now as I relinquished myself over to it.
“Now, then…,” Tytus mumbled to himself as he moved his hands to my neck
Hands that made quick work of the collar…
And, after the key was turned several times, the satisfying click then echoed into the room.
…And suddenly I was free.
The metal fell to the ground next to me with a heavy clank… but I barely noticed
Because immediately it felt as though my body was alight, coming alive with the mass amount of energy that poured through me, and I gasped at the air as if breathing for the very first time
After spending so long severely deprived of my natural abilities, the difference in my strength was extremely noticeable. Noticeable enough that I struggled to even remain standing, having to take a few seconds just to balance myself once more.
However, it felt different than from even before. All these months I‘d trained with a resuaint that essentially made me human, forcing me to work harder to get results. Now it appeared as though I was stronger than ever before.
But the euphoric feeling, unfortunately, didn‘t last long though as a shiver of nausea then quickly travelled up my spine, chasing right behind the new sensations.
And I knew exactly what it was.
It meant I didn‘t have long.
“Alec, please go ahead,” Tytus instructed, gesturing towards myself.
I‘d managed to collect myself once more, knowing I needed to remain focused now more than ever. Though it appeared Aleric was currently struggling more than me.
I pulled my hair to the side, giving clear access to my neck, and presented myself to him.
He didn‘t move though, his gaze still fixated on Tytus as if internally wondering what he should be doing. Funny how he was seemingly only having second thoughts after murdering my family.
“Aleric?” | prompted after he still hadn‘t moved. “What are you waiting for? Isn‘t this what you wanted? To make me yours?”
Finally, he looked away from Tytus and down towards me. But as he met my eyes I watched as his then glazed over for just a few seconds… before he snapped out of it, taking a step back as he shook his head.
“Wait… wait a second,” he said flustered, trying to remain focused. “I don‘t… Aria? What do you want me to do here?”
But I just simply smiled back before closing the distance between us, now only inches away.
“…I want you to mark me,” I said quietly, looking up at his face. “Please… mark me, Aleric.”
It was as though an internal battle then ensued within his own head as he struggled with what to do. One! was only privy to as I watched his eyes continue to flicker in colour, his wolf seemingly getting the better of him over my display of acceptance.
But it was as another shiver went up my spine that I was reminded of how I was running out of time.
“Aleric,” I repeated, grabbing his hand. “…Come on.”
And I pulled him towards me, allowing him to then grab me by my waist and neck….
Wrapping my arms around his shoulders in kind….
Feeling for that exact moment I needed….
… The moment i‘d been waiting for….
… The moment I‘d feel his breath on my neck….
“…I challenge you, Aleric Dumont, for the title of Alpha,” I whispered into his ear.
And then, without any hesitation, I flicked my wrist out, dislodging the item I had stashed away up my sleeve. It was so quick that, even if anyone had seen me do it, there wasn‘t any time to react.
No, they were helpless to stop me from stabbing the needle into his back, immediately injecting him with the drug I‘d had my mother prepare for me almost two months ago.
It was the last thing I ever asked of her, back then being something I didn’t think I would ever actually need. Now it had become a lifeline from her beyond the grave.
But the battle wasn‘t over yet.
Just as I was anticipating, Aleric‘s grip on me instantly began to loosen, and I easily slipped out his arms, taking a few steps backwards.
“Alec?!” Tytus shouted, alarmed at his son‘s state. “What‘s wrong? What‘s happened?”
But I merely watched silently as Aleric‘s face then turned quickly from confusion, to shock, to anger, his body barely able to hold himself up now.
“Aria… What did… What did you do to me?!” he choked out.
I couldn‘t stop now though. No, this was just the beginning.
After Aleric’s accusation, Tytus‘ eyes then instantly turned to me, ready to demand answers.
Only I never gave him that chance.
If only he hadn‘t been so distracted by Aleric, he would have seen what I‘d stashed away for him instead. What I‘d immediately unsheathed from the strap around my thigh the second his attention had been diverted elsewhere.
In fact, it ended up being so quick that it was almost pitiful when my silver dagger slid across his neck, swiftly making him begin to bleed out.
It was done.
It only took a few seconds for him to fall to his knees before me, his hand pointlessly trying to cover the wound. But I knew he was already dead the second he‘d taken his eyes off me.
That was for my parents.
For the collar.
For the humiliation and captivity.
For my freedoms being so completely stripped from me… even to the point of who I should let claim me.
“I want you to know something,” I said, leaning forward to speak into his ear.
Naturally, he tried to recoil away but I grabbed at his head, holding him in place.
“Listen to me! I wanted you to know that you brought this upon yourself, that I had no choice but to do this … but that doesn‘t mean I won‘t enjoy it,” I whispered. “Truthfully, I want to remember this. All of this. I want to remember seeing you slowly realise that all of your actions led you here. That this is the fate ** have chosen for you, Tytus.”
Pushing his body away, I then watched as he flailed pathetically on the ground, the whites in his eyes distressed as he struggled to come to terms with what was happening.
“…Enjoy reliving this moment for all eternity inside the Abyss, Tytus,” | spat.
…And then his body became still.
Almost as if by second nature now without the collar, the new ability to feel for oncoming harm alerted me to something next to me. Though, I had already expected an attack of some sort given what I‘d just done.
Rolling out of the way, I quickly came back up into a defensive position, my hand poised with the dagger prepared for anything. However, it ended up just being a false alarm.
Aleric only managed to take two steps towards me before the drugs finally came into full effect, his body finally falling to the ground beside his fathers.