Everything was chaotic when we arrived back at the castle. One moment, I was walking through the castle doors. The next, Damian was screaming for help with the King. Gannon had to follow Dustin to the King’s quarter, where they took Azalea, who was still unconscious. It was weird calling her that. Ivy, she had been Ivy to me all our lives, yet I understood her desire to get rid of the name Della or, should I say Marissa, had given her.
Standing in the corridor, I didn’t know what to do with myself as Damian, and another man carried the King to his quarters. The King mumbled, but his words made little sense. I wanted to go to Azalea but knew it was not the time, but now I found myself lost as I stood there watching the flurry of people rushing around crazily.
Did I just go back to my old tasks when I was here? Should I look for Gannon or maybe Clarice? I wasn’t sure what to do with myself, and I found myself walking around blindly until I was suddenly in my old room. I hesitantly knocked in case Beta Damian had got himself a new personal servant. However no one answers, and I push the door open and peer inside. It was getting late, and I assumed I would see Clarice in the morning to ask where she wanted to put me.
Stepping into the room, I find the bed bare, so I walk down the hall to the closet and retrieve some blankets and pillows. The task was made more difficult by my wounds. The stitches pulled so tight that some were cutting through my skin like cheese wire.
Bloodstained nearly every inch of me. It was congealed in my hair and under my fingernails. I quickly made the bed and then decided I couldn’t sleep in this state, so I made my way to the laundry searching for clothes. Finding the uniform for servants, pajamas, and some socks, I grabbed them off the shelf before retrieving a towel and rummaging through the first aid kit for antibacterial soap. Limping to the servants’ bathrooms, my bones ached. Every inch of me did.
Stepping inside, I find it empty. One side of the bathroom held stalls for showering while a half wall divided up the middle to the toilets and basins, long mirrors ran the entire length of the center wall on both sides.
As I passed it to head into one of the shower stalls, I glanced at the state I was in. My normal auburn hair was matted, twigs and leaves tangled in the knots. The clothes I was wearing were torn, and I could still smell his scent all over me. Gannon’s too, but Kade’s was still there. My heart panged at the thought of him.
The way he lay dead in the dirt. My mate, though cruel, was mine, or supposed to be. Looking at what was left of me as I peeled off my clothes, I was disgusted.
My skin marred from years in the orphanage was already horrifying to look at, though my scars were never as deep or jagged as Azaleas. I
always felt terrible for how she hated her appearance and the lashes that marred her.
She had taken so many whippings reserved for me and I had done the same for her. Looking at them, I used to think it was a reminder of what we endured and survived. Though the marks that were left at the hands of Kade, I saw something so much worse.
I never survived at all. Moved from one hell to another. Looking at my ravaged flesh, I wasn’t sure anyone would look at me again and be anything but disgusted by the sight of me. The multiple marks on my neck from him had turned my flesh black like it was rotting away my skin, the skin raised and jagged, same as the scars etched into my heart. The hollow void felt like it would never be filled again and remain bottomless. I pressed my lips together to stop from crying out when I peeled my shirt off, dumping it on the floor.
i hiss as i force my pants down my legs. The blood saturating my pants stuck to my skin and made me feel like I was being skinned alive. Tears blurred my vision, and I bit back the sob as my stitches opened and blood cascaded down my leg in a stream. I tried to step out of my pants when hands fell on my hips, making me jump and hiss as the stitches along my arms and ribs tugged from the movement.
“I was looking for you.” Gannon murmurs. He kneels, peeling them off, and I grip his shoulder, stepping out of them. He kisses my hip bone, which protrudes beneath my skin. The blood rushed to my cheeks, knowing I was now standing n*ked in front of the man.
“Why are you in the servants’ bathroom?” he asks, standing back up. Keeping my back to him, I covered my breast. Not that there was much point with giant mirrors. I knew he could see every vile inch of me if he glanced at them.
“I didn’t know where else to go. You disappeared, and I didn’t want to bother Clarice to find out where I was stationed. So I went back to my old station,’ I tell him.
“You should have just gone to our room,” Gannon whispers.
“I am Beta Damian’s servant. I don’t think he has another. No one was in the room when I went in there,” I tell him. I grab my soap, placing it on the niche before hissing as I start the shower. Gannon growls behind me while I examine my arm, which is black and blue, where Kade mauled me, the stitches pinching my skin holding it together. The water sprays out, bursting from the showerhead in a wide spray, making my injuries burn and sting.
“Can you shut the door?” I ask him, not wanting to turn around. I hear the door close and sigh, stepping under the water, only to cringe away. My head throbs as I wet my hair before turning around. I rub my eyes to rid them of the water. When I opened them, Gannon was standing in front of me.
The door closed behind him, but he was inside the stall. I quickly tried to cover my breasts, though I had no idea why. When I asked him to close the door, I didn’t mean for him to come into the shower with me.
Gannon’s eyes run the length of me, then quickly dart away. My stomach sinks. This was why I didn’t want to turn around. I knew what he would see, and my mutilated skin was anything but pretty. I looked disgusting. My skin carved up, and the pieces forced back together like
broken puzzle pieces. Turning to face the back wall, a lump forms in my throat.
“Can you get out? Pease.” I whisper, though I knew he would hear me with his heightened hearing.
Embarrassment washed over every inch of me, and I suddenly wanted to scrub myself raw, as if I could clean away the vile marks that laced my skin.
“Am I scaring you? I won’t hurt you, Abbie,” Gannon murmurs next to my ear before his chest presses against my back. He reaches past me, grabbing the soap out of the niche in the wall.
“I saw the way you looked at me, Gannon. Just go. I don’t want your pity.” I tell him. He growls, the sound vibrating against my back.
“The way I looked at you?” he asks, sweeping my hair over my shoulder. He dips his face into my neck, his nose runs up the side of my jaw.
I swallowed before answering, my voice coming out shakier than intended.
“Yes. I know I look disgusting, so please, leave,” Gannon growls before his hand holding the bar of soap wraps around my waist, tugging me flush against him. I became startlingly aware that he was indeed n*ked behind me. Felt every ridge of muscle and bump press against my back and as*s.
“I only looked away because I could tell you were uncomfortable with me staring Abbie, not because I didn’t like what I could see.” he purrs.
“But he ruined me. I’m broken,” I tell him, my voice cracks at speaking those words aloud. Like suddenly saying them made the realization sit heavier on my shoulders. I was like a broken doll, the porcelain all broken and cracked, held together with glue, marred and made ugly, never to be whole again.
“We are all a little broken Abbie. You’re still beautiful. You always have been. And you always will be. Nothing he has done to you changes that.” Gannon says while reaching for my arm that was shielding my chest and the stitching. Gannon kisses my shoulder, and I shiver at his gentle touch.
“Don’t hide from me. You never have to hide from me Abbie,” Gannon whispers before gripping my wrist, his thumb rubbing over the back of my hand. I sighed and dropped my arm while his hand holding the soap moved over my torn-up flesh. Gannon purrs, and I found his scent soothing as the steam heated the small space.
My body relaxes, and my shoulders drop as I lean back against him, letting Gannon help wash me. I nearly fall asleep against him when he washes my hair, my body putty in this man’s huge hands. Despite the sheer size of him and the way he could break me in half, he was gentle. His fingers massaging my scalp and removing the congealed blood and gunk. Gannon chuckles, the sound making my eyes open to notice I was falling asleep.
“I wish I could heal you,” he murmured as he turned me around to rinse the soap from my hair. My eyes trail over him. I had never seen him without at least a tank top on. Of course, I had seen him with no shirt on when he shifted, but he was covered in fur and never in the light. His skin was as ravaged as mine.
Littered with scars that went all the way to his hips. My eyes went to his honey-colored ones when I gasped at the sight of the thick scars branding his skin. My hand reaches to touch the enormous deep scar in the center of his chest. Claw marks raked across his flesh like someone had tried to rip his heart from him. The lines were brutal and ridged, and his chest rose and fell heavily as I traced my fingertips gently over them. Gannon’s hand moves, his fingers move under my chin, and he tilts my face up, so I meet his gaze.
“Don’t hide yours, and I won’t hide mine,” he whispers, his thumb brushing over my bottom lip.
“Are these from the wars?” I asked, a little shocked. I thought Lycan could heal quickly
“No. They are self-inflicted.” Gannon says, looking down at his torso.
“You did that to yourself?” I ask, horrified. He tilts his head to the side, examining my face.
“Why?” I blurted.
*The same reason you gave yourself that. To end it,” he says, his hand moving to the side of my face, his fingertips trail down the scar behind my ear. My hand moves over his, and I touch the scar and swallow. The memory of how I got it and Azalea hers will forever haunt me. That day, I wished I could remove it from my memory entirely. If only the rope held and didn’t snap.
“More than my life,” Gannon murmurs.
“That is what you and Azalea say?” he whispers. I swallow and nod.
“More than my life Abbie. You are worth so much more than mine. You hold on, and I will for you. I have for you.”
“Azalea told you?” I asked him, suddenly feeling dirty.
“No, the King did. Azalea wouldn’t betray you. She explained how you both shared similar scars and the meaning behind the words you speak with each other. Not what the butcher did, but I got the picture. Doyle confessed when I found him.”
“You met him?” I ask, feeling bile rise in the back of my throat.
“Yes, and we killed him for what he did. Mrs. Daley too. He will never come after you again. I will never let anyone touch you again.”
“You killed him?” I ask. I was surprised at how little I felt about that information. He had confessed to murdering someone, but I felt nothing.
“He hurt you, so I made him hurt too,” Gannon tells me, and I nod, biting my lip. What do you say to someone that confesses to killing for you? I should be worried he would, yet I felt nothing. Not sadness, not relief, just, nothing.
“I wish I could heal you,” he murmurs, and my eyes dart to him, his eyes roaming over my marred flesh before moving to the marks on my neck
“Kade never deserved you. I hate that his marks lay on your beautiful neck.” I touch them, and they feel bruised, the movement making me wince.
“You will let me remove his mark from you one day. I can be patient, Abbie,” Gannon says, and my brows furrow at his words.
“Can you remove them?” Gannon chuckles darkly.
“Yes. When I mark you, when you agree to let me be yours,” he says, and I step back. I wasn’t sure I wanted anyone to have that sort of control over me again. Not after what Kade did.
“Shh, not now. When you’re ready. I will wait. For now, having you back is enough for me,” he says, stepping closer. His arm goes behind me, and the water cuts off.
“What if I am never ready?” I ask, wondering if he would walk away.
I wasn’t sure if I could be with anyone, though I used to want to be with Gannon. I still do. I just wasn’t sure how that would be possible now. So much has changed. I have changed, and I knew it wasn’t for the better.
“I’m immortal, Abbie. I have all the time in the world to wait for you,” he says before turning and grabbing the towel hanging on the hook. He wraps it around me before pulling me closer. His lips press to my forehead.
“You’re worth waiting for,” he murmurs, and I sighed, closing my eyes and just enjoying his closeness.