“Brother please,” she begged him. Dirtied nails gripped the iron bars that held her captive. Even from her position she could see the reddening in his eyes. She almost reached out for him but feared he might pull away. If he pulled away then he was truly lost. “You don’t have to do this…”
“But don’t you see?” He asked quietly. His long fingers curled against the palms of his hands. “I do.” He turned to face her just in time to see the first tear fall. “I will not lose you to that Easterner, Evie, I won’t.”
“Can’t you see? We take their memories and offer them a life of peace."
"Slaves, you mean.”
“Hopefuls,” he corrected her. “Hopeful for the fabled bite that would never work. They bow to any whim because they want to. They would do anything for that one chance to become something…more. They want to be you. They want to touch you. Love you. Let them. Otherwise they will die in these mountains.”
She thought of those who’s faces surged through the crowd, angry and unbent. She couldn’t help but think he was wrong.
“The ancestors have only given me one child and I will not throw him with the enemy.” Cecilia reached out and grabbed his wrist and tugged on his arm slightly. Was that a touch of concern laced in her words? How touching, but he knew better. Still, the little boy that remained begged for it to be real, begged for her concern to be genuine. “My legacy will not end with you.”
He took his hand back and felt as if he had been slapped in the face. His head turned to the side slightly unable to look at her. Another verbal victory for his mother. It almost compelled him to applaud her. My legacy, he thought. If words could taste like ashes, the flavor layered over his tongue leaving a sour taste in the back of his mouth. She had hurt him. Wounds come and go but she made his fester. He wondered if he brought her a daughter if she would love him.
He could feel her gaze lingering on him. She watched his every move and not that he could blame her for that, of course. He did the same for her so he supposed that it was only appropriate. A hint of a smile played across his lips as he brought up a hand and scratched at his jawline. His eyes flickered up in time to see her look away quickly.
“Why haven’t I seen you with any women?”
“I’ve been with plenty of women, sister.”
Of course it was the truth. Plenty but there had ever only been one. The one who understood him. The one who’s love he wanted the most. The one who he couldn’t have.
“That still doesn’t answer my question.”
“Nor will I ever.”
No. That was a lie. He would. He would tell her why, answer her question. She would understand. She would welcome it…welcome him. He ran a tongue over his lower lip. It would be a beautiful day. A day to remember. For a man only had one breath of life, and she was his.
The Wolf King is a broken soul. The weight of a dying race is a heavy burden. It was his fault that his sister was lost. He told her too soon of the fate that would await her. They were purebloods after all. Ruthless behavior brought enemies but it kept his pack alive. He bows to no master. He bends the knee to no king. He’s a killer and pride his sin. Wrath fits him and lust will bring his end.
Jacelyn started to pull back her hood when she found him. Sebastian smiled but it wasn’t to her. Her heart stopped when his eyes finally found hers. But there was no recognition to be found. She drew a sharp breath and quickly looked away. Never forget, was the last thing he said to her. She promised not to but how could he?
Maybe it was the way that he said it that made her paused. Her lips slightly parted as she took in the sight of her brother. He was tall, gallant, and worthy of the hero status in the tales that had yet to come about their family. He was the type of man she should have dreamt about. He lifted a cautious hand and his fingers stroked beneath her chin lightly before his thumb ran across her lower lip.
“Ash,” she whispered.
“Shall we go meet father?” He asked. The corners of his lips twitched into a smile as he started to lead the way towards the council chambers.
Lost looks of longing plagued Jacelyn whenever she watched Sebastian. His hair was shorter and the mark was gone. He smiled at those around him but when a glance was spare her way, it faded into confusion. Something deep inside knew her and if she could get close enough perhaps a smile from him could fight the cold of the mountains, springing hope into her reasons for even being there.
“You’ve come home.” His voice was low but she heard him as if he were standing next to her. She didn’t know what to say to him but just lowered her eyes. “You don’t remember me?” The pain in his voice was clear as the underlying anger had been.
She looked back at him and shook her head. “Should I?"
He seemed to be a long lost memory. His hair, flowing in the wind, the lean build, and matching eyes stirred feelings that she had never experienced. The man just smiled at her confusion. "You will.”
He had become the whispers of a touch on her shoulder. He was the wind against her face, the faint pressure against her lips and the heat that kept her warm at night. But it wasn’t real. His hand touching her chin, the small caress. She could feel it all when she closed her eyes.
In her dreams, he smiled. When she walked away, he cried. When he called her name, her heart broke. She gave silent apologies because she knew if spoken they would fall on deaf ears. Dreams were supposed to be comforting, and at time they were. Eventually though, she had to wake up. Reality awaited her no matter how hard she fought.
They said Ash had been the mad one but Evie knew better.
She looked at him, eyes wide and lips parted. He cupped her chin and ran his thumb over her lower lip as she smiled. A sharp breath hissed through his teeth as his finger tips brushed her jawline.
One last time, he told himself. One last time to defy the ancestors. Gods forsake him, the sinner, the monster that he was but he prayed that they kept an ever watchful eye on her. She would see him for who and what he truly was, he knew that the time was running towards them. They would be pulled apart. He didn’t want to let go though. He didn’t want her to see.
He hand dropped and watched her fade before his eyes. He was decaying. Mind, body and soul were doomed to rot and mock him. He would not stand for it but he had no choice. She had been there. He had felt her. Ashlar blinked back tears and closed his hand into a fist. “I’m doing this for you,” he whispered as his arms wrapped around his body. “It’s always for you.
Curled against a tree in the high gardens, Evelyn quietly cried to herself. Thin lines of tears rolled down her flushed cheeks. A princess never cried aloud and she knew that her sobs would go unheard. An empress died that night and it was her fault. If she hadn’t been so stupid, hadn’t been so young and naive…if she had just listened…she would have never stormed off. Her mother would have never chased after her.
Evie shut her eyes tightly. Her fingers curled against the rough white bark of the tree. She swallowed hard as her chest heaved, forcing herself to breath. But as she thought about it in that moment, maybe not breathing would be a good thing. Maybe then her father would be able to look at her. Maybe then her brother might forgive her.