He smiled at me, and it was an ugly, mean smile-a bitter, heart-wrenching smile. It hurt me as much as it was meant to. “Not hurt? That’s how you see it?”
We had a long and sordid past that spanned more than half of a normal human’s life span. He had loved me since he was barely more than a child. His feelings had embarrassed me at first, since I was far from a child myself, but my reluctance had never thwarted his devotion. Eventually, when he was grown, he had managed to seduce me, and my heart had never been safe from him after that. But I had hurt him, time and again. I broke promises, and I ran. It was a cycle that I doubted I could ever break.
I couldn’t look him in the eye for a minute. When I finally met his angry eyes again, mine were pleading. “I warned you, again and again, that he was going to try to kill you. Everyone could see it but you. And he flat out told me what he planned-”
His bark of a laugh was painful to my ears. “I suppose I should have guessed it then, when you kept running into him and getting all worked up about his plans. Fool that I was, I trusted you.”
“You didn’t trust me enough to listen to me about him. And he never would have quit making attempts on your life. Sneaky, underhanded attempts. So to answer your question, I felt only relief when you killed him. Relief that he wasn’t a threat to you anymore.”
His eyes went a little crazy after I finished talking, and I knew that wasn’t good. “Are you somehow trying to imply that you f**ked him for my sake? That you knew I’d challenge him and eliminate the threat to my own life? Please tell me you aren’t trying to make me believe that you f**ked him to save my life!” His voice was close to a roar at the end.
“I didn’t say that.” I stayed silent after that, seeing clearly that my every word was antagonizing him even more.
He paced angrily for several long moments before looking at me again. His eyes were tormented. “You wouldn’t believe what I turned into when you left. I had so little control over my rage that I did things that would have made you hate me. Perhaps I did them so that you would.”
“I killed Declan’s guard without a qualm, just slaughtered them like sheep. I didn’t know why they served him. They may have been loyal to him, or just doing their duty. But I unleashed my rage on them without hesitation, and it was a bloodbath. I had enough control not to involve any of my own people, to do it myself, but that was where my control ended. Or perhaps I wanted the carnage all to myself. I honestly can’t recall. It still sits in my memories like a dark red haze.”
“There were ten men guarding him. He thought to hide from me. He seemed to think that if I couldn’t speak to him, I couldn’t challenge him. I warned his guard once to leave or die, but they were dutiful. Misguided, but dutiful. It wasn’t even a challenge to decapitate them, one by one. And then there was Declan. I was an inch away from killing him on sight, but I drew it out in the arena. I wanted an audience to see his humiliation. I wanted you to hear about it, about the brutality of it. I wanted you to hear about how I toyed with him. I drew it out, to make him scared, to make him suffer, and cry, and beg. And he did. I wanted you to know that I tore him into tiny pieces and bathed in his blood. I wanted you to know that I drank his blood, and ate his heart, and took his power as my own with no remorse. Perhaps it’s better that I didn’t find you early on.” He came to stand above me on the bed, that mis-matched gaze boring down at me. His wolf’s eye was wild with the beast. It’s cobalt twin wasn’t far behind.
“When we found Christian, on the verge of leaving town, I snapped. Did he tell you about what happened?”
I nodded, never looking away from him.
“I tortured him relentlessly. I did it myself. There was scarce an inch of him unscathed when I was through. I sliced him to ribbons.”
That I hadn’t known. I felt a sickness deep into my soul.
“I was just so sure that he knew where you were, or at least, how to get ahold of you. And I was just as certain I could break him. And when I realized that nothing would make him talk, whether he knew or not, I came so close to killing him. You don’t understand how close. I could taste his severed jugular in my mouth. That’s how close I was to taking his life. I even wanted you to know about it, if only to make you reappear, even if it was just so you could come after me. I still don’t know what stopped me, but I think not killing him is what snapped me out of the rage I’d been living in. At least enough to function again.”
“Did you know that’s what you left behind?” he continued relentlessly. “An animal so wounded it didn’t care who it hurt. If you had known it would turn me into a monster, would you still have done it?”
I didn’t begin to know how to answer that. Though angry, he was no animal now. I couldn’t picture the things he described. Dom and self-control had always just been a fact to me. And a point of pride for him. A symbol of his power. Could I even begin to imagine all I’d taken from him when I left? I’d always thought I could. The parting had cost me, as well. I hadn’t had a moment of affectionate human contact since we’d parted. I simply couldn’t bear it. But, of course, there were some pieces of the destruction I had failed to anticipate. Like how it would make him hate himself. I had been so certain that all of the loathing, both from him and from myself, would fall squarely on my shoulders.
“I just don’t know. I felt so desperate, so powerless over the events taking place. So much of what I did was panic and instinct. And once the running starts, it’s impossible to stop. It’s a familiar pattern that’s almost a comfort to me.” My answer was quiet.
So was his response. “Get dressed and get out.”
I took a quick shower, re-donning my burnt up clothes as a last resort. If Dom had any clothes I could wear in his apartments, I didn’t particularly want to know about it, so I made a point of not asking. Most of my holsters were still intact, and I armed myself, my guns and knives now fully visible.
“Your phone’s been ringing,” Dom told me as I re-entered his bedroom. He waved in the direction of his nightstand, where my cel was sitting, miraculously unharmed by the nights violence.
I’d missed several calls from Caleb. His messages sounded borderline panicked, and I can’t tell you how good that wasn’t for my peace of mind. The gist of the messages was, “Get to Club Dante. Some shit’s going down.” He didn’t pick up when I called.