“You can cut me, love,” she whispers, turning her back to me so that I can see the scars I put there, and just imagining it makes me hard. “I know it’s been a long time. How have you managed?”
I step away from her when really what I want to do is give in, to feel her underneath me again, to taste her love for me again.
But I can’t. All I see in front of me is Cassia. Maybe it’s the long, blonde hair, or that she’s wearing no makeup, I don’t know, but all I see is Cassia. And I could never hurt her like that.
“What’s wrong with you?” Seraphina asks, starting to get impatient.
She looks up into my tortured eyes with her perplexed soft brown ones and then she steps closer, her mouth turned downward, her expression full of remorse.
I can’t do this.
“I…Seraphina, I can’t do this.” My hands come up and I spear my fingers through the top of my dark hair and then hold them there. “You betrayed me.” I feel my voice rising, the anger inside of me rising. “I loved you. You were everything to me. My dark angel. My salvation. My sanity.” I’m the one with tortured eyes now, I know. I look right at her. “I’ve looked for you for six years. SIX YEARS!”
My hands fall away from my head and become half-fists in front of me.
She steps even closer, her hands out in front of her too, reaching for me in her slow and careful steps.
“I know, Fredrik…I know and I can never forgive myself.”
“You betrayed me!” I feel my face twisting in anger.
“I know!” Seraphina’s eyes begin to glisten with moisture. “But I betrayed you because I loved you! Not because I loved someone else!”
“YOU DESTROYED ME, SERAPHINA!” My voice rips through the house.
She flings herself into my arms.
“But I love you! I’ve always loved you! Why can’t you forgive me?” With her arms bent between us, her fingers grasp desperately at my shirt. “If you loved me so much, why couldn’t you forgive me?!”
“I DID!” I thought I pushed her away, but I guess it was just my mind that did it—I’m holding her now instead. “I forgave you a long time ago, Seraphina. For years, I kept telling myself that when I found you I’d kill you.” A tear falls from both of her eyes and trails down her cheeks. “But I knew, the deepest part of me knew, that I wouldn’t be able to go through with it. I would’ve tortured you. Yes, I would’ve done that much. But I couldn’t kill you.”
Her hands move up to the sides of my neck and her touch sends a warm shiver through my body as if I’d just downed a shot of whiskey.
“But I’m here now,” she says, looking into my eyes with all of her dark passion and love and sincerity—all of the things about her that I’ve hungered for for so long. “I’m here now and we can be together again. We can be like we used to be.” She grasps my shirt tighter with emphasis. “We are a one of a kind pair, Fredrik. There is no one else out there like us. Apart, we’d die alone. Together, the way we were meant to be, we can be happy again.”
Like the angel on my shoulder telling me to do the right thing no matter how sweet the wrong thing tastes, I see Cassia again. Cassia’s face in front of me speaking with Seraphina’s delicious, poisonous lips.
And I know that nothing can ever be the way it was.
Finally, I manage to pull away from her, shaking my head not only at the words coming out of her mouth that I want nothing more than to believe, but at myself for giving them too much thought.
Her bright brown eyes narrow suspiciously.
“Who is it?” she asks with acid in her voice.
Stunned by her sudden change of attitude, I just look at her.
“Who is what?” I finally say.
“Was it—”she rears her head back, her eyebrows thickening in her forehead—“was it the old woman? Did you forget about me and replace me with an old woman?”
“No,” I say with my hands out at her, trying to calm her down.
But I’m stunned again when instead of shouts and anger and accusations, she cries.
Seraphina falls to her knees, her face buried in her hands.
“I’m so sorry, love,” she says in a shuddering, tortured voice. “I shouldn’t have left you. I shouldn’t have given myself to that man—I can’t even remember his name.”
“Marcus,” I say it for her and I’m no less bitter about it today than I was six years ago.
“It’s my own fault,” she says. “I was afraid of love. I was afraid of you.”
I kneel on the floor beside her and pull her against me wrapping my arms around her. This isn’t the Seraphina that I remember. This isn’t the woman I fell in love with. Seraphina was strong and proud and the only time I ever saw her cry was that night she killed that woman in my interrogation chair because she thought she was someone else.
Because she thought the woman was Cassia.
“Seraphina?” I say softly into her wet hair. I squeeze her tighter and stroke her back. “It wasn’t Greta. I didn’t fall in love with Greta.”
Seraphina lifts her head from the crook of my arm and peers into my eyes.
I take her face into both of my hands and lean in kissing her softly on the forehead.
She appears confused. Worried.
“I fell in love with Cassia,” I say.
Her whole body becomes rigid underneath my hands. Her eyes widen and lock in place as if she’d just seen the most traumatizing thing ever.
Then she shoves me away and jumps to her feet so fast that all I can do is jump back to mine.
“CASSIA?!” she roars. “You love Cassia?!”
I reach out grabbing her by her upper arms.
“YES!” I scream into her enraged face plagued by the worst betrayal. “You are Cassia! Don’t you see?! Please tell me that you understand!” Tears are burning the back of my throat and the backs of my eyes, but I won’t let them fall.
I shake her again, roughly, as if I could shake Cassia back to the surface again, but I know deep down that I’ve lost her.
I’ve lost her.
I’ve lost both of them, every part of the only woman I’ve ever loved or ever will love.
I’ve lost her…
“She betrayed me, Fredrik!” Seraphina shoves her body against mine, but I hold her still. “I spent years of my life in a goddamn mental institution because of her!”