Walking out of my room, I was greeted by Liam, who came over and looped his arm through mine like we were best buddies. “And what adventure are we going on today, my Queen?” he asks, and I chuckle, looking around for Dustin.
“Dustin went to get your breakfast,” Liam says as I glance around.
“I’m not hungry. I just want to see Abbie,” I tell him with a frown as I walk down the steps toward Gannon’s room. Abbie hadn’t left the room since that first night back, and I know that is why Gannon wanted to take her somewhere, and I wanted to see Abbie before she left.
Kyson told me she was leaving through the mindlink. It always freaked me out when he used it. Not used to having someone in my head, let alone being a part of something. Abbie was a rogue again, and I hated that, but she refused to let Gannon mark her. Every time I asked Kyson to make her part of the pack, he said she refused and he couldn’t unless he changed her.
I knew why. She didn’t think she was worthy of having good things, but that wasn’t all. If Gannon couldn’t change her, then she wouldn’t be a Lycan, and I don’t know what I would do without Abbie. Gannon stopped by not long after the King left to let me know he was taking her somewhere and that they were leaving after lunch.
Walking through the winding corridors and toward the back of the castle I finally arrived at their door. I knocked but got no answer. Looking up at Liam, he gripped the door handle and pushed the door open, and stuck his head in the door.
“I think she is showering.” Liam whispers, although he had a strange look on his face like he knew something I didn’t, so I push the door open wider and step inside.
“I will wait here. Gannon isn’t here,” Liam says, sniffing the air and looking away from me awkwardly. I give him a nod before stepping into the darkroom. The curtains were closed, and no light made it a little difficult to see as my eyes adjusted to the darkroom. I managed to kick my toe on a coffee table and felt like cursing the damn thing. Making my way to the bathroom, I knocked on the door.
*Abbie? It’s me.” I call out to her, but I get no answer. However, it sounded like she was crying behind the door, and I suddenly knew why Liam didn’t want to come in. Glancing around the room. I open the door and close it behind me. Turning to face the dark bathroom. I find the mirrors are covered over with large sheets of black paper, the bathroom darker than the main room, the air thick with the salt of her tears and the billowing steam.
I instantly broke out in a sweat. It was like a sauna in here. Muttering could be heard from the huge glass shower stall that was fogged up.
“Abbie? I whisper, opening the shower screen. I find her in the bottom of the shower, scrubbing herself viciously while pressed into the corner. Her skin is bright red from the heat of the scalding water. I knew she wasn’t okay. Everyone knew that but seeing her like this broke my heart. She stops like she hadn’t realized I was here. Her head lifted and she just stared vacantly ahead. A scourer clutched in her hand, something you would clean a heavily stained pot with, not skin.
*1 can still feel his hands Az. Still taste his vileness in my mouth,” she whispers while staring off vacantly. A tear slips down her cheek before disappearing down the drain along with cascading water. Her lip quivered as I stepped into the shower, my clothes becoming saturated, and the water was scalding hot. I move over to her near the far wall and sit beside her. Some parts of her skin were bleeding like she had scrubbed herself raw. The scars that littered her body are raw and angry but thankfully healed, now just raised from the scrubbing.
“Sometimes it is okay to remember the dark parts, Abbie. Just don’t stay there too long. Don’t let it trap you, don’t give him the control he no longer has over you,” I tell her, and she turns her head to look at me. I grabbed her hand, clutching the scourer, and laced my fingers through hers.
“I don’t want control. I want to forget. I want to hate him and not still love him. How can you still love someone even after they do something like that? I should have listened to Gannon. I should have stayed,” Abbie whispers.
“It was the mate bond. That wasn’t really love, just some twisted version of what you perceived as love,” I tell her.
“I was naive! And stupid!” she scolds herself.
“No, you wanted something more than what we have been given. And that’s not your fault,” I tell her. I sat with her, letting the boiling water scald my legs. Thankfully she only had her legs under the water, the rest of her was pressed against the wall. Yet her skin was raw and raised.
“I can’t live like this, Az. I don’t want to anymore. I don’t want to be the broken doll,”
This wasn’t my Abbie, this Abbie had given up. This was what was left. She looked as helpless now as she did when we first stepped into that orphanage. Only then we were younger, and children. Children only know what we are told, accepting of whatever fate we are handed because we don’t know better.
Yet now that we are older we see the horrors of the world with a different light. We see the monsters, the lies and understand nothing about our childhood was normal. What we thought was normal no longer is, and this new normal we are still uncertain of. Comfortable with pain because it was normal, comfortable in our own misery that was normal, so broken was normal. How do you fix normal?
How do you break the cycle of a thought pattern? Pain is not normal yet it was all we know, or I did know until I met Kyson, Abbie hasn’t met her new normal, she is still suffering in the version we grew up with. And I knew she was tired, tired of the old normal. She wears her resilience like armor, but now laid bare I knew for once she didn’t want to keep carrying it.
“You’re not broken.” I whisper despite the fact she looked it.
“I am. I don’t know who I am anymore.” she whispers, staring off vacantly.
“You’re my best friend. My sister. You are more than my life,’ I tell her, squeezing her hand.
“No, we are you! We are rogue. We are whatever they let us be and nothing more,’ she says.
“Only if you let yourself be. You are not what he did to you Abbie. You are not what the butcher did to you, and we are not what Mrs. Daley made us believe,
“You aren’t. You are a princess and soon to be Queen you are Azalea Ivy Landeena. I am rogue. I am nothing, and now everyone knows what they did. Everyone knows the dirty things I wished I could forget! I am sick of them looking at me with pity! Sick them looking at me with disgust! Sick of being what he made me!”
“Then be Abbie,” I tell her putting my head on her shoulder.
“But I don’t know who she is” Abbie murmurs, her voice emotionless.
“What they did to you is not you, but a reflection of them. That is who they were, Abbie. They are dead, and you are still breathing. They don’t get another chance, but you do. So take it, don’t let them chain you down in the memory of what they did. They don’t deserve it. Live because you can and want to,’ I tell her and she shakes her head and pulls her knees to her chest.
Abbie puts her head in her hands, and cries. Her shoulders shook, and I couldn’t begin to imagine what she was going through, but she would get through this. She had to because this world wasn’t worth being in without her.
“You sound like Gannon, but even he looks at me the same as everyone else. Even you do. I know you can’t help it, but …” she choked out, her entire body shaking.
“I don’t look at you with pity. Abbie. I know who you are, and that is all I see. I see you, and this is not you. You are better than them. I see the girl I am willing to die beside. The girl I jumped with. The girl that kept me going when she wanted to give up herself. And you are not giving up. More than my life Abbie. I am right here, and you are staying right here with me. You go, I go. So which is it? Are you jumping? Because if you are, I am jumping with you.”
“You have a mate and a are Queen, so don’t say that. I am nothing compared to you,” she says and I hear in her voice how much she truly believed that
“You are everything to me. You always have been. My title doesn’t change that. And you have Gannon and will be my Beta. So don’t tell me you are nothing because the only reason I am still here for any of this, is because of you.”
Abbie chuckles and shakes her head but lifts it placing it against the wall. “I am a werewolf. You are a Lycan, I can’t be your Beta, and I wouldn’t know the first thing about being a Beta.”
“You think I know how to be Queen?” I laugh, sitting up to look at her.
“I can’t even read. But we have people here that will help us. I have Kyson. You have Gannon, and me.”
*Yeah, until he tosses me aside, when I can’t give him what he wants,”
“He wants to change you and mark you. He isn’t going anywhere. And even if he does, I am still right here,” I tell her.
“You would change me?” she asks.
“Wouldn’t think twice about it! But we may have to ask how though, because I am not sure how to,” I chuckle, and so does she before her smile falls
“Who would have thought freedom would be worse than the chains that restricted us,” she whispers.
“Freedom isn’t something given, Abbie. It’s a mindset. Only we can free ourselves.”
“Do you feel free?” she asks, and I sigh.
“I don’t know. But I know we aren’t the orphan rogues anymore. I don’t know who I am either, but I am determined to find out. And I prefer we find out together,” I tell her and she swallows
“More than my life,” she whispers
“More than my life,” I reply.
“More than my life,” Gannon’s deep voice says, making us both jump. Neither of us heard him come in, and I swiped my hand down the glass to find him leaning against the sink basin.
“Gannon?” Abbie sighs, shaking her head beside me.
“How long have you been there?”
“Long enough. Now hop out, we are leaving,” he tells her but she doesn’t move.
“I told you I am not going.” Abbie says, staring vacantly ahead.
“You are. You can’t stay in here, love. So please,” Gannon begs, crouching down in front of us when he opens the door. I look to Abbie, who makes herself smaller like she was trying to hide her body away from him.
Gannon’s eyes flitto me for a second before he scrubs a hand down his face, and I see the blacked-out mirror behind him, glancing back at Abbie and looking at her scarred skin, we nearly looked the same.
Hers were jagged, but my back looked like it had gone through a mincer, and so did my arms and the backs of my legs, yet the front of me wasn’t so bad. Abbie however, was marred, but hers were less jagged, though I had no doubt hers caused her more pain because the scars would heal, but the marks on her heart, I wasn’t so sure.
Nonetheless, I could tell she was ashamed of her body, what had become of it, and if that was what was preventing her from leaving the room, she needed to know she had nothing to be ashamed of. Her scars couldn’t be hidden by clothes like mine could, but that didn’t mean she should feel ashamed of them.
*Can you get out, please?” she whispers, her knees close to her chest.
“I have already seen you n*ked, Abbie,” Gannon tells her. Her face flamed red, and her lips quivered, and I knew I was right. And by the way she scrubbed her skin raw, I knew she felt dirty, felt on display by the marks that marred her.
“I can’t go out there,” she whispers, and I look at the scars that ran down her neck and mutilated her shoulders and the cuts on her face that left white lines once healed. To me though, she was still beautiful. I remember the shame I felt when the King asked me to get changed in front of him, the way Abbie begged at his feet for me. Gannon sighs but gets to his feet and walks out, he looked angry but never once voiced that anger at her.
“It’s just skin, Abbie,” I whisper. Yet to her, they were memories, and I understood that, and I hated mine too. Hated the way it looked against my skin. Hated the reminder.
“He mutilated me. It is one thing that everyone here knows, another having the world see,” she croaks.
Trying to feel for the mindlink, I push on it, hoping I could open it myself, yet when I struggle, Kyson opens it for me. It was so weird trying to feel for him in my head. The bond was one thing, but the mind was something else, and Kyson made it look easy, but it wasn’t.
“Why do you feel embarrassed?” Kyson asks.
*Abbie hates her body.” I tell him.
- And that makes you embarrassed?” he asks, and my face heated as hot as my shame.
“Hmm, I don’t like this feeling. Where are you?” The King asks.
“In the shower with Abbie,”
” I see.”
‘Not like that. I have clothes on. But..”
“I want to take them off”
“Your both girls, I don’t see a problem with that,” my face heated even more. I was not afraid to be n*ked in front of Abbie. God knows how many times I had been n*ked in front of her and her me.
“Spit it out, Azalea. Your worry is making me queasy. What is it?”
“Say I want to walk around in the castle n*ked?”
“Definitely not,” Kyson growls. Which angers me and fuels my next answer.
“I wasn’t asking permission,” I tell him, though I was kind of hoping he would give it because I didn’t exactly want this to cause an argument.
“Then why are you telling me?” “So you don’t have to find out from the staff,” I tell him.
“Azalea!” he snaps.
“Will be n*ked walking the corridors!” I answer.
“Like hell you are!” I cut him off, only for the mindlink to open up again as he forced his way back in my head.
“Somebody shut off the damn cameras!” Kyson snarled through the mind-link, opening it for all the castle staff. Their voices flitted through my head making me dizzy.
“Do we have cameras?” I asked.
“Yes. They were installed two days ago. You are not doing this.” Kyson tells me.
“Why are we cutting off the cameras?” Gannon’s voice says suddenly through the mindlink. So many voices were making my head hurt and I struggled trying to shut them off only for Kyson to force back in my head.
“Do not let Azalea leave the bathroom!” Kyson growls at him.
“Pardon, my King?” Gannon answers. Abbie touches my arm as she stands, making me jump and pulling me back to focus on the room.
I watch her grab a towel and wrap it around herself, and I stand, stepping out of the shower. My face is already heating. I start shredding my clothes, dropping them in a wet heap as Abbie sticks her head out the door. Kyson was yelling at me through the mind-link and the guards and I tried my best to ignore him.
“I will get you some spare clothes,” Abbie says.
“Don’t bother,” I tell her, and she glances at me but quickly rushed into the room. Kyson was still talking through the mindlink, arguing with guards to leave Gannon’s quarters. While Liam asked neverending questions, it was hard trying to keep tabs on how many people’s voices were suddenly flitting through my head.
I grab a towel and dry myself, and Abbie runs back into the room with a cami and shorts, trying to pass them to me while she starts pulling on a turtle neck and long pants.
“Here,” she whispers, but I shake my head.
“Az?” I went to step past her when she stops in front of me.
“Gannon is out there,” she says, gripping my arm when he suddenly opens the door standing completely n*ked. I had no idea where to look, so I stared up at the roof, and so did he. This is awkward.
“Hang on, we’re doing this in style,” Liam says through the mind-link and I look at Gannon who sends me a wink.
“I swear, Azalea when I get home …” Kyson starts.
“Well, that sounds like a challenge, my King.” I tell him.
“Put some clothes on! And Liam, stay away from my mate!” he snaps.
“What? Na, I am streaking with her. Got my best apron for this! If Gannon is strutting his stuff, so is me! Sometimes you gotta air out the skinsuit,” Liam says.
“I said clear the halls!” The King commanded.
“Everyone remains at their posts!” I commanded back a little shocked at how easily I did.
The King growls “Azalea!”
“My King?” Clarice says, through the mindlink.
I could hear Abbie asking what was going on, but I grabbed her hand almost blindly as everyone’s faces flitted through my head along with their voices
“I can’t do this with you in my damn head!” I tell Kyson.
“Good because you aren’t doing it!” he growls.
“What is going on?” Clarice asks
“Azalea is about to streak through the damn halls!” Kyson tells her.
I focus on the mindlink, trying to get him out of my head. When I manage it, I am still standing in the bathroom though now I can see Gannon. I made sure to keep my eyes above the waist. I did not want to see more than I needed to. However, I was shocked to find his flesh torn apart more than ours.
“Are we doing this?” he asks, looking at me.
“Doing what?” Abbie squeaks looking between us.
“Oh good, I am not late,” Liam says, busting into the bathroom with only a floral apron on.
“Oh la la, my Queen! Lovely birthday suit,” he said, not even being subtle as he looked at me. I swallowed under his leering gaze.
“Eyes off my mate Liam!”
“Hitting above your belt there, my King,” Liam chuckles, earning a growl through the mindlink Kyson kept forcing open. Liam reaches past Gannon. grabbing my wrist jerking me to him, and loops his arm through mine while Abbie stands stunned. She grabs my arm as Liam tugs me toward the door.
“What are you doing?”
“We are showing you. You aren’t the only one a little broken,” Gannon says, offering his arm to her.
“Man, the King doesn’t shut up. Bit bossy if you ask me. How do you put up with him?” Liam says. As Kyson kept trying to order his men out, when I realized something, his commands on Liam and Gannon were not working. That realization hit me at the same time it hit Kyson that I knew something was amiss.
“Azalea?” he asks.
“I love you, but I am doing this for Abbie,” I tell him, and he growls.
“Them cameras better be f*cking off?” he calls through the open mindlink.
“Already off,” I hear Dustin call back.
*Well, now this is definitely an adventure, so I guess we are off” Liam says, opening the door and bowing. Abbie giggles behind me, and I glance over my shoulder to see Gannon put his hands over her eyes when Liam Shakes his ass at her. I try not to laugh and close my eyes, willing myself to step out the doors and not run back for the bathroom.
“You are in so much trouble when I get home!” Kyson snaps at me.
Anger courses through me, and Abbie gasps. I open my eyes at the sound and gasp myself. All the guards were still stationed where they were, their clothes at their feet in a heap, their eyes straight ahead and hands over their privates. I look at Abbie, who was fully clothed, gripping Gannon’s arm tightly, looking like she wanted to run back into the room.
“Ready, my Queen?” Liam laughs, looping his arm back through mine. I nod my breathing heavy and look straight ahead before I start walking. I headed for the King’s quarters, and I could hear Abbie crying behind me as she followed Gannon. Every staff member lined the halls n*ked, eyes straight ahead, thankfully. My chest warmed knowing they did this for her. Kyson growled through the bond angrily, and I could almost sense the angry look on his face.
As we walked the halls, I felt a strange weight lift from not only me but Abbie as her crying stopped. Each person we passed bowed or nodded and she looped her arm through mine. She rests her head on my shoulder as we climb the last set of stairs to find Clarice and Dustin standing up top n*ked.
“I knew you were a fine lady, Clarice, but damn!” Liam says, giving a whistle.
“Liam, you are not too big for me to spank or wash your mouth out with soap!” she scolds.
“Lucky me! Which knee would you like me over?” he laughs, and she folds her arms across her chest and her eyes narrow at the man.
“My Queen,” she says and nods. Dustin walks over and opens the door for me.
“Abbie?” I whisper.
“You didn’t have to do this,” she tells me, yet the tension in her body had left, she looked more relaxed.
“Yes I did, you needed to see,” she looks out at all the n*ked guards and staff.
“Did you have to make them do it too?”
“No one made them do it, Love,” Gannon whispers, and everyone in the hall bows or tips their heads to her, and her cheeks flush pink.
“So, can I take you somewhere now and can I put some pants on, it is a little chilly?” Gannon asks, and I give her a nudge.
“Go, no one cares what you look like,” I tell her, and tears brim in her eyes as she hugs me.
“More than my life,” she whispers.
“More than my life,” I tell her.
“More than my life,” all the guards and staff murmur in unison, making my heart skip a beat.
I look at Dustin, who nods, keeping his eyes on mine. I wait for Abbie to disappear around the corner near the stairs before racing to the cupboard for clothes.
“You’re a good friend,” Clarice says, wrapping a sheet around herself.
“I can’t believe everyone did it for her,” I chuckle. Clarice chuckles.
“Yes, but also you. You are our Queen, where you go, we follow, even if it is doing something as silly as being n*ked,” she says when Kyson’s voice booms through the link.
“For god’s sake, please tell me she has clothes on now!” he growls.
“I have clothes on.” I tell him, and he growls and goes to say something, but I cut him off.
“I will deal with you when you get home,” I tell him.
“With me? You better bloody run when I get home!” he snarls.
“Good, I will do it n*ked,” I tell him, and he growls, but I shove him out of my head.
“He is a little angry.” I sigh.
“Don’t worry, my Queen, you have an entire castle to back you,” she says, and my brows furrow, remembering how I was able to override the commands of Kyson.
“How?” I ask her.
“How what?” Clarice asks.
“They all listened. Kyson commanded them, and they listened to me instead,”
“Ah, now that is something you need to ask your King about, my Queen,” she chuckles before walking out. I sigh and sit on the bed. Now to deal with my King when he comes home.
The day passed by quickly, I had a doctor stop by to take blood. I worked on my reading with Liam and Dustin. At first I was a little embarrassed by my earlier spectacle, but as I walked the halls it was like it never happened, everyone was completely normal despite all of us being n*ked this morning.
After dinner, I went to bed, yet I could feel Kyson’s burning anger dissipate, he almost seemed giddy and excited to get home which thought odd and it made me wonder why his mood had switched, because his anger festered all day through the bond. It was still there yet not even a quarter of what it was earlier.
Crawling into my nest, I was rearranging the edges, twisting them as I tried to get comfortable looking for my mates scent that had only gotten weaker throughout the day, it was making me anxious. My eyes opened when I heard the door open and Kyson stepped in. I sat up waiting for his wrath, having decided I was too tired to argue with him, so I would just listen to his ranting if it meant I could sleep.
Kyson was quiet as he moved toward me. He stopped next to the bed and shrugged off his jacket tossing it on the end of the bed. His silence was worse as he watched me, undoing his cufflinks, he set them on the bedside table before unbuttoning his shirt. His scent filled the room, making me purr involuntarily. He smirks when I do, watching me fight the urge to throw myself at him.
“You are in trouble,” he says and I gulp, waiting to hear it.
“But I think I can forgive you,”
“You think, or you have?” I ask, forcing myself to remain where I am. I wanted to bite him, taste his skin and inhale his scent, like a damn animal. It infuriated me yet my mouth watered all the same. Kyson raises an eyebrow at me before taking his shirt off and offering it to me, I reach out for it wondering what he is playing at. He lets me take it before walking off into the bathroom. I hear the shower turn on yet he still hasn’t answered me and his silence was almost worse than his wrath.
“Kyson?” I called
“My Queen,” he says in return, making me purse my lips at his weird behaviour. When he finishes showering he comes out and tugs the duvet back I was huddled under.
“You didn’t eat all your dinner,” he growls, reaching for me. My skin tingles from his touch and his warmth instantly bleeds into me as he lays me on top of him.
“I wasn’t hungry.” I tell him, nipping at his chest, he lets me, brushing his fingers through my hair, as the calling slips out of him.
“I thought you were angry?” I ask.
“I am,” he answers and I sit up, straddling his waist.
“You don’t seem angry?” I tell him.
“Clarice said you didn’t eat your lunch either?” Kyson growls, his fingers tangling in my hair, he tugs me back down and pulls my head back before brushing his lips against mine gently.
“Who cares if I ate, did you find out anything about the murdered rogues?”
“No, nothing, and I care if you aren’t eating and so should you,” I roll my eyes pushing off his chest only for him to tug me back again. His lips brush gently across mine.
“Because you’re eating for two,” he purrs before his tongue invades my mouth.