Vicious Bliss: broken update 4-26-10

Estimated reading time: 3 – 4 minutes

“I won’t hurt you, Katharina.” Mikhail bent over her, cheek pressed against soft hair, and whispered, “I won’t ever hurt you. I promise.”

“I’m not afraid of you, Mikhail. I’m just…”

“Afraid?”

“Yes.”

“I am too.”

Katherine looked up at him, one eyebrow drawn up ever-so-slightly. “You’re afraid? Why?”

His gaze flicked away, scattering the confidence there and replacing it with somber dimness. “Everything changes and yet it doesn’t. I’m afraid that this will end before it begins. I don’t want that. I don’t that to happen at all.”

She licked her lips. The urge to sink into his misery dominated. Katherine scuttled away from it. She had already invaded him too often since meeting him. Instead, she listened to the comforting thumps beneath her ear.

“Mikhail, you know this isn’t natural.”

“What?”

“Falling in love so quickly. Are you sure we’re not just falling in lust?”

“Lust isn’t like this, Katharina.”

“How is it?”

“Lust is all about taking. Love is about giving. I want to give you everything. Everything there is for me to give—I want to give it.”

A million warnings detonated. Naivety couldn’t drown out the realism of things. People did not just meet, fall in love, and live happily ever after. The likelihood of bucking the natural order of things was probably about nil.

But we’re not natural. Not me and definitely not him. Doesn’t it stand that maybe the rules don’t apply to us? Maybe love can happen just like this. Maybe it’s not as hard as I’ve seen it be.

“Do you believe me, Katharina?” Mikhail inhaled sharply. “No, don’t answer. It’s too soon. I know I can’t just rely on words alone. It’s something I must show. Prove. Words…they can’t…you can’t trust in them alone.”

Steps paraded past them. Different pitches, scuffles against gravel, and the pungent smell of cigarette smoke. They flicked against the glass walls erected about Katherine and Mikhail. Seen out in the open but hidden at the core.

“Mikhail, am I still shaking?”

His fingers slinked across the back of her neck. “Yes.”

“You’re right. I’m not used to being touched. No one really touches me and I’m not used to anyone doing it.”

“I’m sorry.”

Katherine’s mouth pressed down on instinct, trapping the ready words of, “Don’t feel sorry for me. I’m fine.” Instead, she murmured, “Thank you.”

“I like touching you but I won’t do it if you don’t like it.” He moved back, arms at the ready to let her go.

Katherine rushed forward, cheeks blazing with embarrassment over her boldness, but committed to keeping his touch. “Don’t let me go. Your touch…I don’t want to lose it.”

“You won’t.” He wrapped his arms about her. Fear shook his heart. Fear of what he was, of what he never wanted to be again, stalked him. It threatened to tear away this fragile beginning. He couldn’t let it grow any stronger.

I’ll bury it. Make it so it doesn’t exist. I can do it. I don’t want to lose Katherine. I can be a better man. I have to. She has nothing to do with Adria. Nothing to do with my family. My future.

Katherine is clean of all that.

“I’m not shaking that much anymore, Mikhail.”

He smiled. “No, you’re not.”

“See? Your touch is magic.”

Ghosts in My Head

Estimated reading time: 3 – 5 minutes

Image Credit: Foxtongue @ Flickr.

This drabble is inspired by Katherine and Mikhail from the Vicious Bliss series. I wrote it in one sitting so it’s probably rough around the edges. It really has been a practice in patience to write shorts. I hope that I continue to improve.


The silence between them left room for the ghosts to creep into her mind.

Katherine watched the scenery pass without care for detail. The gray sky reflected the colors inside her, inside Mikhail. Aware as she was of him, she wished she could say the same for the visions forming in her head.

Love.

The word turned the sky red, hinting at times drenched in blood and forgotten gods with unforgotten obsessions.

Katherine wondered just how much infamy had been committed in the name of love. Katherine hadn’t always been Katherine. Mikhail hadn’t always been Mikhail. She turned her attention from the colorless landscape to the man sitting beside her. Even after all the years, all the betrayal, Katherine found the sight of him intoxicating. To claim Mikhail handsome did him a severe injustice. Mikhail DeMontier was exquisite, beautiful to the point of effeminacy.

There had to be irony in how much he resembled Azer, the phoenix god she had encountered in her netherworld between life and death. Katherine touched her head, eyes cloudy with real memory. She remembered Azer’s fanatic devotion to her, his suffocating passion, and eventual sacrifice in letting her live even though it meant he remained trapped as he had for centuries. He loved her so very much.

No. Not to me. Azer loved Meili to the point of insanity.

Meili, was Katherine’s first incarnation thousands of years before. According to Azer, Meili was the mother of all DeMontier werewolves. It was her blood which gave them the ability to shift between human and wolf. Azer had been in love with Meili, so much so he battled her husband Lazai, a Fallen just like him, to take her away.

He didn’t win. Instead he got sealed for three thousand years. Was it worth it, Azer?

Somehow Katherine doubted it.

Azer loved Meili. While Nikolaus, Mikhail’s next incarnation, possessed Adria, Katherine’s incarnation after Meili. Did he love her? Mikhail seemed to think so. It made sense, after all, Mikhail claimed to have no memory of that time but he still loved Adria.

But who loves me? Azer saw Meili in me. Mikhail saw Adria. No one saw me.

The ghosts swirled in her mind. Katherine imagined the splinters in her soul. Faceless names, living in the memories of the men who possessed them. They lay trapped, embedded into a fabric designed by Fate. Katherine wrapped her arms about her waist and thought of the little life that had once nestled there.

Never seen, never acknowledged by me, your mother. You died—unknown. Is that my punishment? To be forgotten even as I stand before them? If so, I accept it. I do because it’s the least I can do for you.

Mikhail turned to look her. He smelled the tears she couldn’t shed. Katherine felt his compassion and knew he understood part of her pain. His hot hand hovered over hers. He kept his attention on the road but his near-touch communicated more than passing interest.

Katherine gave thought to the women she had once been. She wondered if happiness had been hers once. How many times had she lived with the man next to her? Just the two or were there many, many more lifetimes hidden away?

Being a ghost was awful but it was so much more awful while still alive.  

Vicious Bliss: broken Chapter Four

Estimated reading time: 8 – 14 minutes

CHAPTER FOUR
“Lies Can Be Beautiful”


I can be what you want.
I can remake this world in your image.
I can because I must.

Spring 1995
Southeastern United States

Gaudy lights, greasy smells, and a crush of people marked Katherine’s third date with Mikhail. The first being their initial encounter. The second date when they met for breakfast the morning after. That had been five days before and it had gone surprisingly well.

Most especially since Katherine had almost not gone.

She had spent the whole night prior debating on whether she should go. Distance dulled the very real connection she had made with Mikhail. Neurosis made it so Katherine began to believe maybe none of it had really happened the way she remembered.

For every reason why she should meet Mikhail she had two against.

In the end, she had gone.

Adrenaline beat back exhaustion when Katherine saw Mikhail standing by the restaurant door. She had shown up fifteen minutes early but he had done her better.

Mikhail had met her at the curb, grabbed her hand, and grinned.

Katherine’s stomach flip-flopped when she saw his smile. She didn’t have to read Mikhail to see the effect repeated. From there shy hellos had evolved into a three hour breakfast. Communication birthed as stilted, grew into a marvelous tandem of easy conversation despite the hovering waitress.

After the thirtieth “Can I get you anything else?” Mikhail had paid the check with a rather large bill. He then thanked the server for her superb service and had asked her to keep the change. Katherine’s had watched in bemusement as the sour face blossomed into a beautiful smile.

She found she wasn’t surprised at all to see Mikhail have that kind of power. After all, hadn’t she felt it as well?

When he asked her to meet him at the carnival that weekend Katherine didn’t have to look in a mirror to know her smile rivaled that of the waitress.

Now as she walked next to Mikhail, ever conscious of his closeness, Katherine wondered if perhaps she had been too hasty with everything.

Ever since I met him I’ve lost all control. And the thing is…I don’t even care. I like it. I like not having to calculate everything. I like feeling free. I like being able to touch him and not feel like I’m doing something evil. I just like the way I feel when I’m with him.

And that’s just so wrong.

She had been careful to not give into her empathic urges when Mikhail held her hand to help her disembark a ride. Given they went on every ride in the park, excluding the kiddy ones, she had to control herself numerous times.

And now this.

“Have you ever been in love?”

“What?” Training her gaze to stare straight ahead, Katherine tried to ignore the humiliating flush burning her cheeks.

“You know—love. Have you ever been in love?”

A nervous trill of laughter broke free. The bubblegum cotton candy she held began to droop in her slack fingers. It became sticky and wet against her chin. Glancing at his curiously determined expression, Katherine realized with a sinking stomach Mikhail wouldn’t be denied an answer.

Great.

Finding the carnival sweet in her fist infinitely fascinating, Katherine replied in a hesitant voice. “In love? You mean in love, right?”

“Yeah.”

“Oh, I see.” She felt her cheeks fill with even more blood. “Umm…actually…not really,” she stammered.

“Never?”

The shock in his voice made Katherine frown in self-conscious irritation. She met his jade-green eyes boldly. “No, I haven’t. I don’t think it makes me a mutant or anything. It’s just that I never found the right person before now—”

Realizing what she had just divulged, Katherine gasped in mortification. She dropped her panicked gaze and began to eat the spun candy with desperate nibbles while walking away.

“Now?” Mikhail halted her quickening steps with one strong hand. He tipped her chin until she had no choice but to look at him. “What do you mean by now?”

“Uh…nothing! I just meant…” Katherine’s voice trailed off into a humiliated whisper. It was true. She loved him. Even though she had only known him for a week, Mikhail had become the most important part of her life.

How can I admit that to him?

It was ridiculous and she knew it.

“I’ve never been in love before,” Mikhail admitted.

Sadly swallowing the lump in her throat, Katherine was poised to murmur something appropriate when he said it to her.

“Until now.”

Update 11-13-09

Katherine recoiled. She almost dropped her fairy-pink cotton candy. “What did you just say?”

He immediately crowded her; not wanting to let her move away from him. Mikhail dipped his head and placed warm lips next to her small ear. “I love you, Katherine.”

Standing there, clutched his embrace, she looked past his shoulder. Electric lighting blurred, becoming a chaotic representation of their unusual circumstance. With his touch, she found the emotional walls between them becoming paper-thin. Katherine tried to respect their construction, even though she knew all it would take is one well-placed thought to punch right through them.

“You’ve only known me a week.”

“Same as you. And just like you, I’m in love.”

“Huh?” Katherine craned her head back to search his face. “What do you mean by that?”

His eyes crinkled with teasing warmth. “You love me too.”

She sputtered; cheeks pink and mouth gaping like a fish. “Well…I mean…I really didn’t say…you…ah…”

“Yes, you did. I heard you.” Seeing she was going to continue to spout denial in a nonsensical string of broken phrases, Mikhail tapped her nose once. “My ears are very, very good. I heard you, Katharina.”

Katherine trembled from all the emotions trying to erupt. Her gaze skittered away from his.

Isn’t this what I always wanted? Someone to love me. Someone who wasn’t afraid of me. So why am I so afraid?

“Mikhail?”

“Yes?”

“Is this going to get sexual?”

He whipped away his hands from her arms. Mikhail shoved them in his pockets. “Wow. I…uh…wow! That came out fast.”

Katherine took courage from his distance. “Do you just want sleep with me?”

“No. Not just.” The uncomfortable creases in his face took on comic proportions. “I mean, if that’s where we go then yes.”

“Are you liar?”

Mikhail froze. His gaze became glass.

“Would you lie to me just to get me in bed?”

“No.” His whisper made Katherine infinitely sad and delirious all at once. “I would never use you like that. Never. I would never do anything that disgraceful to any woman. Ever.”

Katherine wanted to trust with her eyes and not with her touch. She wanted to but she knew herself better. So she came to him, hand sticky with sugar and touched his burning cheek. Feeling Mikhail made her eyes close in bliss. Katherine entered his mind and danced in his lovely emotions.

She saw them together, imaginings like smoke in his thoughts.

Oh, he does want me. Badly. But that’s not all. He…he loves me. I’m inside his heart. Even I know this is insane. We don’t know each other. I can’t believe I started this stupidity but here we are. He’s not lying to me. He’s not. He loves me. Me!

“Katharina?”

She hummed in answer.

“What are you doing?”

Katherine gasped, pulling out of his body with violent disconnect. She struggled to find normalcy in her phrasing. “I just…I just wanted to touch you. I’m sorry.”

“No, that’s okay.” He rushed to pull her hand against him again. “I like it when you touch me. You can do it whenever you want.”

Mikhail’s earnest smile set off guilt.

If only you knew what you were really agreeing to.

Update 2-27-10

Katherine sighed deeply, face troubled by a problem she couldn’t quite grasp. “I like you.” She said it slowly, deliberately, as if she were confessing to a heinous crime.

“Like? That’s all?”

His teasing grin curled her toes and robbed some of her severity. “That’s more than you should get for making me blush.”

Mikhail slid the back of one finger against her flushed cheek. “I like to see you blush. I like knowing I can make you blush.”

“You make me do a lot of things I’m not used to.” Katherine allowed a heady smile to overtake her. “I think I’m going to like it.”

He stared. Katherine’s grin contracted. She had the urge to bury her face back into cotton candy.

“I’ve never seen you smile like that. I thought all this time you were giving me…” Mikhail tucked her hair over her ear. “I want to continue to make you happy, Katharina. I never want to make you lose your smiles again.”

Katherine simply nodded.

“Come. Let us go see what else the night will find for us, yes?”

“Yes.” This time she placed her hand in his without hesitation.

“Oh, so sticky!” He kissed her knuckles. “Now I am sticky too.”

“I’m sorry. I’ll go wash them.”

He regarded the small, overly-concerned face in dismay. “Katharina, you take me too seriously. I was only teasing. I don’t care if your hand is sticky, dirty, clean, or otherwise. I love it as much as I love you.”

She ducked her head. Pink pleasure bloomed. The strain of touching him faded. Katherine stayed on her side of the world, allowing him the privacy he deserved. Instead, she focused on how nice it was to hold his hand.

“You don’t like being touched much, do you?”

“Why do you say that?”

“Because I can feel it.”

Katherine’s enraptured grin disappeared. She wiggled her hand free. She remembered their secrets. His secrets. “You can feel it.”

“Yes. Your body shakes. Deep inside…like it’s straining. Why?”

She thought of how much she liked the idea of him being different like her. Now she didn’t like it very much at all. “Mikhail…” A group of people crowded the space between them, cutting off her words. Katherine flinched when their limbs jostled her. She didn’t put up her walls fast enough. Slivers of emotional memories scraped across, filling her mind with things that didn’t belong.

“Feet hurt…”

“Can’t wait to get home so I can tell Tonya…”

“Hope I don’t get in trouble for being out later…”

“I like her but can’t let her know it…”

She sought his gaze from between the numbers of strange bodies. The crowd looked so happy but it was obvious they weren’t. They lied to one another, but never to themselves. Katherine wondered if it was humanity’s way. If so, did she belong there too? Or did she have to live by a different set of rules?

Mikhail slit the crush. He walked through and grasped her wrist. He pulled her to him and enclosed her in his arms. Katherine buried her face in his chest and just let herself feel.     

Image Credit: Hbregazzi @ Stock.Xchng

Previous | Next

Vicious Bliss: broken Chapter Three

Estimated reading time: 19 – 32 minutes

CHAPTER THREE
“Control is the Downfall of Us All”

You seek to trap me.
I seek to keep you.
Neither of us will win.

Winter 2002
Northeastern United States

“Where are you going?” The words curled, heavy with panic. “You were just going to leave without telling me, weren’t you?”

Katherine slipped her arms into her jacket. She noted the brown stains edging the collar probably matched the ones on her sweater and pants. Katherine presumed because they had been cut off and trashed during her emergency room excursion. Blood, lots of it, had apparently gushed out while she lay unconscious in her car just a few days ago.

I’m lucky the airbag just made my nose bleed and didn’t break it. At least I’ve got something to wear. I need to thank Mikhail.

Katherine’s suitcase still sat in the back of her car, which presently sat in the back lot of the local tow company. Luckily, Katherine kept her ID and credit cards wedged in the inside pocket of her coat. Now all she had to do was call a cab and go over to the tow company. The police report had stated the accident as a minor collision with minimal damage, but Katherine wouldn’t feel secure until she saw it for herself.

First she needed to come to an understanding with her husband.

“I wasn’t going to leave without saying goodbye, Mikhail. Even you weren’t that callous. At least in regards to that.”

Mikhail set the drinks in his hand down on the tiny counter flanking him. “You haven’t been released yet.”

“Actually, I just was.”

“Oh.” Mikhail tilted his head. “I wasn’t aware of that. I thought Dr. Kelrich was set to release you this afternoon.”

“I guess he changed his mind.”

Mikhail heard the impatience in her tone. He looked down for a moment before asking, “Why aren’t you wearing the new coat I got you?”

“I don’t need it. This one is good enough until I get home.” Katherine picked up the black jacket, neatly folded it, and slipped it into a plastic bag. “Here. The tags are still on so you can return it.”

Mikhail held his hand up. “No, please keep it.”

“But I don’t need it.”

“I bought it for you, Katharina. It’s yours.”

Katherine inhaled sharply. “I don’t mean to be rude but I don’t want to keep it. You’ve already done enough for me and I don’t want to take anything else.”

“You’re my wife.”

“In name only, Mikhail.”

His eyes glassed over with tears. “Katharina, please don’t say that. Not today.”

She set the bag down between them. “Whether I say it today or tomorrow doesn’t change the fact, Mikhail. We were only truly married for five months.
That’s all. I haven’t seen you in seven years. I don’t think either of us can honestly call the other spouse.”

“You’re not my spouse. You’re my mate.”

“No, Mikhail. I’m not.” Katherine watched his tears spill over. Once again she marveled at how different this Mikhail was from the one she remembered. Then, he had to been prone to fits of brooding, true, but he had never allowed his vulnerability to show to this degree.

Not to her. Not to anyone.

“I thought…I thought you were going to give it a try.”

“I said we’re going to face this together,” she reminded him gently. “I still mean that.”

Mikhail nodded his head in jerking motions. “You’re still my mate, Katharina. I know you don’t believe me but it’s true.”

“Mikhail, you don’t owe me anything. You don’t owe me any explanations. I know of,” Katherine looked away, still fighting to hold back unwarranted resentment, “the other women you’ve been with. Seven years has passed since then. I’m sure you’ve been—”

“You’re wrong.”

“No, you don’t have to say—”

“You’re wrong,” he repeated. “I haven’t touched anyone since that night. After I felt your…our…loss, I haven’t slept with another woman since.”

Katherine’s heart hammered. The audible reminder of her miscarriage as well as knowing that while Mikhail had been celibate she’d been whoring her body made her feel ill.

I wasn’t always this sick but it feels like forever.

The dirty memories tried to crowd her mind. They wanted their empty puppet back. They wanted to make her do shameful things for the hope of feeling something other than them. Katherine’s vicious demons were powerful and very thorough.

Too bad for them their puppet finally rebelled.

Katherine straightened her posture. She smiled and picked up the bag again. “Well, please don’t feel that you owe me that or any explanations. Your private life is just that—private. I appreciate you kindness, don’t think I don’t, but as I said before—I’m not here to make the same mistakes.” She placed it by his feet and stepped back. “I’m here to be someone better.”

“I wish you didn’t see me as a mistake. I don’t see you as one.”

“Mikhail—”

“No, you don’t have to defend how you feel, Katherine. It was selfish of me to say that. I know you have every right to feel the way you do. God knows I’ve been nothing but a blight on your life in every way imaginable. This life, all the others, and I’m sure I’ll be in the ones to come.” He took the bag and tucked it under his arm.

Katherine, suddenly uncomfortable with the offhanded reminder of who and what they were to the DeMontiers, asked, “Did you come here alone? I mean are any others here?”

Curiosity played with his answer. “A few. Did you want to meet them?”

“No, no.” She held her hands up in defense while shaking her head. “No, that’s okay. I was just asking.”

“They know, Katharina. They know who you really are.”

“Just them or all of them?”

“Just them.”

“Do the DeMontiers know you’re here?”

“The ones that need to know.”

“Why do they think you’re here?” Katherine really knew she shouldn’t hold his answer against him, but the temptation was proving to be too much.

Unfortunately, Mikhail gave her temptation a right to crow.

His gaze slid away. His posture mimicked that of a nervous dog.

“They don’t know.” Bitter triumph painted her lips with a sneer. “You see? This is why we don’t need to get too chummy with one another, Mikhail. This is also why I’m telling you that your business is yours. My business is mine. Never the two shall meet, understand?”

“Katharina, it’s not what you think it is.”

“Oh, you have no idea what I’m thinking right now.”

“Politics are never an easy thing. Throw bestiality into the mix and it becomes near impossible.”

“Speak plainly.”

He looked upwards, as if trying to find the answers painted somewhere among the pristine ceiling tiles. “The First Mother isn’t viewed with much respect. She’s…damned near hated.”

“Why?” Pain, unreasonable perhaps, bracketed her mouth.

“Because she betrayed us, Katharina. She abandoned us, the DeMontiers, and led us to near-extinction.”

Katherine considered her next words. She spoke in halting breaths. “I…I don’t believe that.”

“You don’t? Why not?”

Her gaze flitted about the room. “It just doesn’t seem…right.”

“It is. It’s the truth.” Agitation claimed his stance. “Azer showed you a bit of how it was between Nikolaus and Adria. You saw his predilection for pain and dominance.”

Katherine recoiled from the memory.


The distinct sound of leather boots clicking against stone echoed throughout the room. It alerted her that something was definitely wrong.

Before Katherine could turn back, she heard a falsely pleasant voice.

“Beauty…”

“What’s happening?”

Katherine felt a strong hand jerk her head back. She sucked in her breath when it slapped her cheek sharply.

“Pretty dolls should be seen and not heard.”

Katherine’s furious words remained stuck in her throat. Her body froze in absolute disbelief. The elegant man by Katherine’s side was no longer Azer, but a cold, beautiful stranger. She stared at him in horror. “Who are you?”

He answered in a deceptively gentle voice. “Apparently not only do you disobey me, but insolence is to be added to your list of misdeeds. You have mightily displeased your lord, Adria.”

‘Nikolaus!’

His thin mouth lifted with silent amusement as he patiently allowed Katherine to look her look fill of him. Dressed in a long sleeved black shirt, form-fitting breeches, crimson velvet doublet, and highly polished boots, he resembled a dashing figure out of a fairy tale.

However, not once had Katherine ever seen the prince depicted with such a look of menacing rage on his face.

Katherine shivered as she noted the heavily lashed eyes peering into hers were no longer emerald, but onyx. The hair framing his strikingly pale face no longer burned with living flame, but reflected the color of darkest night. Although he still towered over her petite frame, his lean muscular build was only an inch or two over six feet.

‘He’s pretty…pretty but very dangerous…’

Her reverie was broken with one electric touch.

“Beauty, Beauty, Beauty,” the stranger murmured sweetly as he ran a finger down Katherine’s flushed cheek. “Before this night is through I will teach you what happens when my little doll disobeys.”

Katherine felt his hand brush across her bare back. He pushed the heavy weight of her hair over one shoulder. Looking down, she observed in numb disbelief that it was no longer curly-blond, but extremely long and jet-black. Further studying her new body, Katherine saw her breasts were paler and smaller, as was as her waist and thighs.

His sudden, low laughter immediately produced a tremor of anxiety within her naked body.

‘I’m scared of this man. He frightens me.’

“Although it goes against my judgment, I have mercy for you, Beauty.” Guiding her chin with one finger, he brushed his lips against her violently trembling mouth. “I know you’re not going to be able to control your cries, so let me help you.”

He stuffed a thick square of fabric between her lips and used another to tie it securely in place. Ignoring her muffled whimpers, he whispered viciously in her ear. “Don’t be bashful. Scream all you want now, Beauty.”

Before Katherine could deny this nightmare, she felt a red-hot flame travel from her shoulder all the way to the small of her back. Moaning from pain, she barely recovered before suffering another strike.

‘Oh, my God! He’s whipping me!’

One lash fell after another until it was all she could do to keep from screaming.

‘How could he be this way! Is this really the person he was? It can’t be!’

Suddenly the blows stopped.

Katherine’s harsh breath echoed obscenely from behind the gag. She jerked from another sort of pain when his tongue traced each welt with languid grace.

‘How can he be this perverse?’

“You’re so seductive when you cry, did you know that? It makes me want to do…everything…to you.” He released the thin whip in his hand and continued to lave her back. The action instantly soothed each sting he had inflicted in cruelty. He rose up over her limp figure. “Shhh. Shhh, Beauty. It’s all right, my love, I’m no longer angry with you.”

He released her wrists and carried her shaking body over to an intricately carved throne. Seating himself, he arranged her delicate limbs across his. He tipped her head back, keeping the cloth in her mouth. He brushed the matted locks away from her flushed face. “You suffered it beautifully, Adria. I’m so proud of you.”

The soothing tone vanished as his voice dropped to a warning growl.

“However, the next time I find you giving your smiles to Stephan, I won’t be this forgiving. Do you understand?”


Katherine released a pent-up breath. She couldn’t sort through her feelings in regards to Nikolaus and Adria. Firsthand experience taught Katherine that S&M was rarely just about the pain and its pleasures. Their relationship was dark, twisted, perhaps even sick, but surely there had to be more than just what Azer had showed her?

Or maybe not. Maybe that’s why Adria betrayed them all. Maybe Nikolaus made her crazy.

“Do you remember anything about that time, Mikhail?”

He paused, eyes watchful and compelling with their indescribable mixture of longing and shame. “No. Maybe. I’ve been told that history so often that I don’t know if my imagination has filled in the blanks or if I’m really remembering things that have happened.”

“So the DeMontiers hate the First Mother. They hated me just for being human and that was before they knew about who I am.”

“Yes.”

“What else?”



Mikhail spared a weary smile. “I wish I could say nothing but we both know that’d be a lie.”

Katherine waited for more. He didn’t disappoint.

“We weren’t looked at very fondly, as you know. You were blamed, unfairly, for my defection. It didn’t matter that I had left a year before I ever met you. You were seen as the interloper. You were the reason why I wouldn’t come back. You were the human whore who had stolen their Alpha.” Self-mockery tinged the last word.

“And then I became one for real.”

“Katharina, that doesn’t matter.”

“I still say that’s debatable.” She crossed her arms. “We already had this conversation though. So let’s keep going.”

“Being with you again would mean total chaos for them. They saw you as beneath them. Even though leaving you was the reason for my broken heart, they blamed you for that too.”

“Great. No matter what it’s all my fault. I’m like the wicked step-mother in this story. Mikhail, how did you ever think that we could work knowing this?”

“Easy. I’m not giving you up.”

“And I say easy there, cowboy. I’m not exactly up for grabs for you anyways. The DeMontiers can rest easy.”

“Katherine.”

She responded to the chill in his voice. “What?”

“It’s not that easy.”

“Sure it is.”

“No. It’s not.” Mikhail looked so very sad. “I don’t think it was an accident.”

“What?”

“The mountain. I don’t think it was an accident.”

Katherine drew back, feeling gravity work against Mikhail. “Why not?”

“I think someone tried to kill you. For me.”

“Someone from your pack?”

“Yes.”

“Okay,” she sighed and followed it with a whistle. “It’s pretty heavy there, Mikhail.”

“Do you see why I don’t want you to leave by yourself?”

“If what you say is true won’t I be in more danger staying with you?”

“I can protect you.” He said this with all the instinctual arrogance of one of his species.

“Mikhail, why do you think that a DeMontier did this? How can you be so sure?”

He stepped closer. When she didn’t move, he ghosted his hand over her cheek. “Katharina?”

“Yes?”

“You know I love you? Before you answer, don’t judge me by my actions then but what you feel now.”

She nodded briskly.

“I love you beyond reason. I trust you with everything that makes any of this worth it. I don’t see you as inferior. I never did.”

Katherine clenched her fists. Not in anger but against the overwhelming urge to touch him. “But?”

“But I have to find this out in my way. I have to do things that will be foreign to you and just as infuriating.”

“You’re not going to tell me anything more.”

“No. Not for now. Maybe not ever.”

Katherine didn’t need to read him to see the suffering this caused. She knew it hurt Mikhail terribly to believe one of his blood could be guilty of treason against him.

Especially because they loved him as much, if not more, than he loved her.

Years ago she would’ve pushed. She would’ve picked at him, demanding answers before just taking them for herself. Katherine liked to think that maybe she’d grown since nearly dying on a mountain. She hoped she’d become someone better. She prayed she’d follow through on her promises to Azer.

Therefore, Katherine nodded her head and replied, “All right, Mikhail. We’ll do things your way.”

“You mean you’ll come with me?”

“Yes.”

“You’re not just saying that?”

“No.”

He looked and felt more than a little dumbfounded.

She couldn’t resist teasing, “What? Did you think I was going to stupidly fight you and say, ‘Oh, werewolves are trying to kill me? Well, I’m not going to let a man take care of me because I’m a strong woman and I don’t need anybody’s help! I’ll fight them on my own because I’m just too stupid to live!’”

Mikhail barked in a short burst of laughter. “Maybe something like that.”

“No, not for me. I may have been suicidal but I’m not that crazy to become dog food.”

“They wouldn’t eat you. Just tear out your throat.”

“Only if they were interested in making it quick.”

“True.”

“You werewolves are pretty coldblooded.”

“You have no idea.”



Katherine sensed the sadness entwined with wit. It sobered her. “Mikhail, how are we going to do this?”

“What exactly do you mean?”

“I can’t see where this is heading. As long as I’m dangerous to you we can’t risk spending that much time together. Which is probably best considering…well, you know. I can’t risk touching and hurting you. Anyway, how long is this supposed to go on?”

“Until you’re safe.”

“What if that means never?”

“I’m not going anywhere. I have forever.”

Katherine sighed in amused exasperation. “So you’re willing to shut yourself up in a box with me on a shelf forever?”

“If need be.” Mikhail picked up the bag containing her coat. “Are you ready?”

“Yes.” She took one step before halting. “Don’t you need to tell your…them…that we’re leaving.”

“I already did.” He gestured with one sweeping hand. “Telepathy.”

“Ah.” She walked out of the room and began the eager journey away from antiseptic walls and sickly patients. Katherine kept her walk easy and loose when all she really wanted to do was run the hell of there.

Hospitals sickened her. She hated them. That would never change.

The sliding glass doors beckoned. Katherine rubbed her wrist, fingers searching for the plastic catch to free her from septic identification. She undid the wristband just when she cleared the doors. Already she felt anonymous. Katherine liked it.

“Over here.”

She noticed Mikhail standing a few feet over to the left.

“The car’s this way, Katharina.”

Katherine nodded and made her way in his direction. Her feet slowed, unsure as to exactly what her easy agreement to his keeping would cost her.
“It’s okay, Katharina.” He spoke without turning around. Mikhail continued his easy navigation of the rather large parking lot. “You don’t have to be afraid of me or what I’ll do. I will respect you. I swear it.”

Katherine shifted her mental wards. She had allowed her thoughts to slip into his. Not very wise considering their impasse.

Old habits die hard if they die at all.

Although she was careful to keep the distance between them, Katherine wasn’t as immune to Mikhail as she wanted him to think. Staring at his back, she found herself making company with melancholy. He was different. Open, remorseful, and completely without shame. It should’ve sickened her, repulsed her instinctive need for strength.

Instead, she saw what she always saw—a kindred soul.

Mikhail was as broken as she was. He had allowed himself to become just as much a puppet of his own suffering as she had. This Mikhail DeMontier wanted love so badly even though he believed all he deserved was hate and abuse.

His world adored him, seeing Mikhail as everything they were not and feeling even more enamored because of his acceptance. Katherine was not immune. She expected the sharp lashing of his contempt for what she had become.

Yet he’s accepted me. He’s accepted my flaws because he believes his are so overwhelming that they decimate everything else.



Mikhail was clearly not the artificial villain she had built up over seven years. Katherine had spent all these years pinning all her hatred and contempt onto the surreal image of who she thought he had become—who he had shown himself to be the day he left.

Mikhail had never been anything but kind and loving to me before then. Remote, distant sometimes but he always reassured me when he got in a mood. Then…he pushed me away. He acted in a way that could leave no room for doubt that he was done with me. Mikhail became everything I ever feared.

Katherine had suffered that betrayal. It had warped her. She had forced herself to forget everything he had been since she had met him. She had relied on the hatred to define who Mikhail DeMontier was.

It doesn’t take back the fact that I never deserved what he did to me. It doesn’t change it…but I can understand a little better. I can understand that despite everything Mikhail’s just a man. He’s just as capable of making mistakes as anybody else. Just like me.

Azer, you were wrong. I’m not better than he is. He’s not better than me. And we’re both not better than you.

Mikhail stopped by a dark sedan. It was sensible and nondescript; dark exterior matched by a darker interior. Anonymous. Safe.

Katherine bobbed her head in thanks when he opened the passenger door. She caught sight of his unblemished hand when he closed it shut behind her. Katherine’s stomach clenched with guilt and more than a bit of self-disgust.

I did something that can’t be undone either. He hurt me on the inside and I hurt him on the outside. We’re both scarred and in love.

Mikhail slid in beside her. He smiled once before turning on the car. “Do you want the radio on?”

“Yes.”

The music couldn’t quite fill in the spaces of their awkward silence. Katherine turned her body sideways and propped her chin on her raised fist. “Mikhail, where are we going?”

“Oh, I’m sorry. I thought you knew. We’re going to the tow company to get your car.”

“Then what?”

“Then what what?”

She returned the smile she heard in his voice. It had been a phrase for them. The most she had ever gotten to was fifteen whats before breaking out into hysterical laughter. The urge to give into those innocent moments was too tempting.

“Then what what what?”

“Then what what what what?” Mikhail chortled. His beautiful eyes lightened with unfettered joy. He looked like the man she met. He looked happy.

Katherine’s smile faded.

“Why didn’t you just tell me?”

Happiness died. Mikhail’s mournful expression aged him immediately. “I didn’t know how.”

“Didn’t know how or didn’t want to?” Katherine asked without spite. Her voice held resigned curiosity, almost as if the answer couldn’t change her perception of those events.

“Definitely wanted to but didn’t know how.”

“You were very cruel.”

“I know.”

“You attacked my insecurities. You knew how I afraid I was of rejection. You went after it.”

“I did.”

“Why?”

“Quick kill. It was supposed to kill all feelings you had for me. I thought you’d move on that much faster. You were only seventeen. Too young to really feel love—or so I thought I understood. I didn’t.”

“No. You didn’t.” Katherine turned her attention back to the passenger side window. “I loved you, Mikhail, more than anything in the world.”



“I know now.”

“I wish you had known it then.”

“So do I.”

Katherine’s vision blurred. The urge to wallow in hedonistic forgetfulness became unbearable. She shifted, legs sliding against one another in habitual readiness. She heard Mikhail inhale sharply. No doubt he smelled her empty arousal.

“Katharina?”

She felt too weary to be ashamed. “It’ll pass. Try to ignore it.”

“Why?”

“Why ignore it or why do I want to fuck?” Katherine clarified crudely.

“Why are you aroused?”

Katherine’s caustic gaze assessed his perfect profile. She smirked. “Don’t take it personal. It has nothing to do with you. Or rather it has nothing to do with anybody but my messed up coping abilities.”

“You weren’t like that before.”

“How do you know? Maybe that accounted for why we spent the majority of our time naked.”

“I like to think I had a hand in that too.”

“Yeah, but I seem to remember that my sex drive was higher than yours.” She spared him a wicked smile.

“Only because I had to do all the work. You were lucky—you just got to lay there and have fun.”

“It was fun, wasn’t it?” Strangely, in spite of the conversation and the subsequent carnal memories, Katherine felt her self-destructive urges begin to dissipate.

“Very much so.” Mikhail’s hands tightened on the steering wheel. He kept his stare fixed on the road before them. It was obvious that neither were fooled by his apparent attention. However, both were surprised by his next words.

“I wish I didn’t love you. I wish I meant everything I said back then.”

Katherine inhaled sharply. Agony vied with breathing, making it so she could barely do one without the other. “What do you expect me to say to that?”

“Nothing.” Mikhail cleared his throat. “No, that’s not true.”

“It doesn’t matter.” She drew herself in, forgoing the temptation to probe his emotions and decipher the truth for herself. Perhaps, that’s what Mikhail wanted her to do just so he wouldn’t have to say whatever was behind his cryptic callousness.

Not gonna happen.

“Katharina?”

“What?”

“You think the worst of me now, don’t you?”

“Not anymore than I already did.”

Pained laughter crept forth from his taut mouth. “I don’t do anything to endear myself to you.”

“No, you don’t.”

“Even so I mean what I said, Katharina. I really wish I didn’t love you. Remember that.”

“Sure.” The flippant word couldn’t disguise her pain but Mikhail didn’t attempt to ease it for Katherine.

They spent the rest of the ride in silence.

Image Credit: txpotato @ Stock.Xchng

Previous | Next

Vicious Bliss: broken Chapter Two

Estimated reading time: 34 – 56 minutes

CHAPTER TWO
“What’s In A Name?”

Innocence leaves like a breath.
Desire colors them both.
Tragedy has been given life.

Spring 1995
Southeastern United States

“My name is Mikhail DeMontier. What’s yours?”

They were only seven words.

Seven separate thoughts that became a harmless, yet friendly, greeting between strangers. How could something so benign be anything but one of a million passing moments?

Unless these seven words themselves were one a million…

One in a million tears.

One in a million regrets.

One in a million possible lives.

Echoes from another time, another fate, had tried in vain to keep this tragedy from occurring, but only one knew of the seven words that would destroy their useless façade.


“She’ll be safe. No one will ever think to look here. The DeMontiers will never be able to harm her. Why are you so silent? We’ve done it. We changed what’s to come.”

“Nothing ever grows from deceit except more lies.”

“I don’t understand.”

“I know. But it’s enough that I do.”


So until those seven words had found life, Mikhail DeMontier was simply a sovereign running away from his crown.

And until those seven words had found life, Katherine Merror was simply a seventeen-year-old girl fighting to be common.

Therefore, until those seven words had found life, both could pretend to be something other than what they really were—pawns in their own misbegotten game of reincarnation.

Years later, lifetimes afterwards, both would wonder how seven words could have so much power. But in this moment, in this existence, seven words had never been so innocent.

“My name is Mikhail DeMontier. What’s yours?”

Oblivious to her fate, Katherine drew to an awkward stop. A living wave continued to course around her, impatiently burbling to reach a consumer’s destination of clearance items and reduced prices.

Why is someone standing in front of me? Wait. It’s a guy and he’s TALKING to me.

The stranger was tall, towering over Katherine by nearly a foot. Her assessing eyes quickly traveled up the youthful chest, noting the strength peeking from beneath a baggy blue shirt. She felt the pounding of his heart long before she saw the fluttering in his neck.

He’s so nervous. Because of me?

Curiosity stretched forth an insistent claw and pierced Katherine’s neutral state. Her mind suddenly hungered for a connection. Prodded by desires she couldn’t control, Katherine found herself unable to dismiss this boy named Mikhail DeMontier.

I want to know him. Just a little. I won’t go that far. I just want to see what he feels. Anyways, I haven’t done it to anyone for over a year. But it isn’t right to just do this…is it?

An indescribable sense of longing stirred the shadows in her heart. Katherine grappled between her temptation and conscience, wondering again how she came to be.

It wouldn’t be so bad if I had psychic powers that could actually DO something other than leave me drained and filled with emotions that don’t even belong to me. What a waste. It’s almost not worth using. Almost.

Once, Katherine believed she was normal, that everyone could see what was felt. However, silence and blindness became her legacy when she’d overheard her parents whispering THE word.


“Empath. It says here they’re persons gifted with extraordinary perception of human emotions.”

“We can’t tell anybody about this. Not even Pastor Davis.”

“Why not?”

“Because I think the Church would say it isn’t a divine gift but rather a curse from the devil.”


Maybe it was true. After all, most people would rather burn into nothingness than allow Katherine to violate them.
She didn’t speculate. She knew.


“Do you think that Kathy is possessed?”

“Possessed? Why…why are you asking? Did something happen?”

“No, but the more I think about it, the more I feel this just isn’t natural. She knows things that she shouldn’t.”

“I know. I hate to say it, but sometimes it just makes me uneasy to have her around.”

“Could this be why she was given up for adoption? Do you think that somehow her birth parents KNEW?


Katherine shook off the perpetual sadness related to Carolyn and Kevin Merror. Instead, her reddened mouth smirked in reckless glee.

I’ll never be a saint so why deny myself the pleasures that come with Hell? I want to know him and know him I will.

Katherine focused her entire being on Mikhail DeMontier. The living river surging around them immediately disappeared. Only the occasional brush of clothing or laughter gave clue to its existence.

Talk to me, Mikhail DeMontier.

Katherine watched in giddy pleasure as colors pulsed brilliantly to life. Her eyes glittered with euphoria as vibrant tints carefully layered themselves in a language only an Empath could understand.

Red for passion, gray for confusion, yellow for embarrassment, and myriad shades between defined a familiar collection of adolescent emotion. She blinked once. The world returned to its neutral palette, making Katherine regret her forced emotional myopia. However, she knew all she needed in less than a moment.

I got all your pretty colors.

Katherine smiled secretly beneath her serious stare.

He’s attracted to me and scared I’ll turn him away. I probably will but…

Katherine never finished her thought. Instead, she looked up. And just like that, the silken cord of Fate wrapped itself around her little heart. With only a minuscule whisper, Katherine Merror’s entire world came tumbling down.

Ah…

High cheekbones, dark brows, and an almost delicate jaw came together to form a picture of arresting male beauty. Blond hair kissed his pale temple, continuously falling forward to draw attention to his exotic eyes. Bright like jade, they stared into hers, whispering the question asked only seconds before.

My name is Mikhail DeMontier. What’s yours?

“Katherine Merror.” She found herself saying the words without conscious thought. Frowning, Katherine felt the emotional currents between them change course. Suddenly, she saw what others wouldn’t.

He almost doesn’t look human. Her heart thudded at the prospect. What if he’s not? It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve come across someone like that…

Empath. Devil. Unholy.

“Katherine. It’s a good name. I like it.”

A faint accent curled his vowels. She found it as pleasant as she found his arrogance irritating. Thoughts of his possible genetics vanished beneath a slow burn of anger.

“Well, it’s nice to know you approve of my name.” When provoked, Katherine’s soft, girlish voice could be as menacing as any scream without raising one decibel.

Superiority was just the impetus to provoke her.

Prick. Who does he think he is?

Something passing for mirth lightened his verdant orbs. Katherine watched his hand slip into his jeans pocket and come back empty. Although his expression remained the same, indescribable sadness brushed across her skin like a physical whisper.

What was he looking for that made me feel as if his heart just broke?

With the tragic emotions surrounding Mikhail, she expected him to drift away and become just another anonymous ripple lost in the river flowing around them. Instead, Mikhail DeMontier did something feel people could.

He surprised her.

“Would you like to get something to eat with me?”

Katherine’s lips parted. She could taste Mikhail’s manic joy. Her insides warmed, burning away the tragic melancholy of before. Katherine hummed with displaced giddiness. None of the emotions were hers. She liked it.

There’s something about Mikhail that makes me feel less lonely…

Katherine looked away but her voice managed to betray her.

“I don’t know you.”

It wasn’t a rejection and they both knew it.

“I know. That’s why you should let me buy you something to eat.”

His beautiful but cocky smile laid painless waste to Katherine’s defenses. Whereas his mannerism still irked her, it now made her want to smile too. Katherine’s stomach trembled with a sensation beyond hunger.

What an odd little boy I’ve found today. He’s different. Like me. Why?

She lifted her hand and pointed in the direction of the Food Court.

“Okay, Mikhail.”

Notes of pure happiness left his throat, calling to Katherine has potently as any siren. She looked at him once before walking ahead.

I want to know his secrets and then I’ll let him go.

The seven words succeeded all too well.

Innocent to the ruthlessness of Fate, Mikhail followed her lead, content with this small but important triumph.

She said yes. Thank you, God!

Mikhail’s body radiated proprietary intent as he walked behind Katherine. He’d already spent the last hour following her; it didn’t seem like a burden to continue. However, if Katherine thought his method odd, she did well to hide it. Her legs cut an elegant swath through the crowd, leading Mikhail with an unconscious dominance he found extremely desirable.

She’s strong. Good.

The anonymous crowd flowed, picked apart and discarded of threat by the instincts of this hidden predator. Mikhail let the overwhelming rhythms of life wash over him before focusing on the brilliant beacon a few paces ahead.

There! I hear Katherine’s heart. It’s singing to me.

His large body trembled with acute fascination. Mikhail leaned forward, sniffing her delicately. He bit his lip and immediately suppressed a whine. Her scent made him dizzy inside. Innocence whetted his lust but there was something else too.

Something broken.

What happened to make you feel so empty?

Compassion only strengthened the indescribable bond he felt for this little girl. Burnt amber pulsed in time with each step, turning Mikhail’s stare into a covetous canvas.

Katherine looked over her shoulder again. Mikhail simply dropped his gaze and smiled.

My blood is too close to the surface. She’ll know what I’m not.

Reaching the Food Court, they chose to stand away from the claustrophobic crush of bodies.

“Do you know what you want?” he asked, delightful accent curling around each syllable.

“Not really.” She turned her head, not wanting him to see the effect his voice had on her. Katherine’s eyes skimmed over the garishly lit signs. A familiar green, white, and red banner saved them both from indecision. “Maybe pizza?”

“I like pizza.”

“Me too.”

Pleasure danced along the surface of her invisible skin. His intense emotions were penetrating the wall she kept up.

I need to be careful. I could get so used to this.

Sobered by her thoughts, Katherine briskly stepped into line and kept quiet. She felt him take his place behind her, just a tiny bit too close for her comfort. Katherine looked over her shoulder, mouth ready to drop a subtle warning, when she crashed into his gaze.

The world turned upside down once more.

“Katherine?”

“Hmm?”

His eyes kept her locked. They were beautiful in a vicious sort of way. Kindness lit his eyes to a blinding emerald but Katherine just knew they could turn to chips of green ice on a principled turn. Mikhail was dangerous to her and her way of life. He was too many colors. He was the frenzy of fireworks blazing across the night sky, leaving her eager to see it all and not miss a single shattering display.

Mikhail was dangerous. If she was smart she’d walk away. Right. Now.

“Katherine?”

“What?” she whispered in lethargy.

“The line is moving.”

“I know.” She refused to look away and dared him to do it instead.

This time confusion watered down the color of his eyes. “Do you want something else?”

“Yes. Yes, I do.”

“Okay, let’s just get out of the way then.”

“No.” Katherine turned around and stepped forward to place her order. Her mouth spoke the dull, utilitarian words, but her body hummed with dark delight. She couldn’t help dipping into his crayon box of emotions and coming out with greedy hands filled to the brim.

She could paint with him for hours and still not be done.

But what held more importance was this—Mikhail was unsure of her yet unwilling to walk away.

Unwilling to walk away. No one feels that for me. Ever.

“Okay, your total is $4.85.”

Katherine dug into her pocket, ready to pull out her money, when Mikhail passed a bill over her head. Looking up at him, she insisted, “I had it.”

“No, I asked to buy you something to eat. Not to watch you buy something to eat.”

Katherine pursed her mouth, looked away, and shrugged. “Okay. Works for me.”

She dutifully slid down, crimson tray beneath damp fingers, all the while listening to Mikhail place his order.

What am I doing here with him? This is crazy, crazy, crazy! I don’t know him at all…he could be a serial killer, rapist, psycho…

A hiss of plastic against steel warned her too late that he had once again encroached upon her space. Mikhail’s arm brushed against hers and the world ignited into vivid color once again.

Confidence…protectiveness…lust…curiosity…I feel so good, so very, very good. I feel like I do anything. I feel free. I feel new and clean. I feel like running far, far away only to come right back again. I feel like fucking until I can’t move…I feel all this and none of it’s me.

Katherine slid away, breaking her dizzying connection with Mikhail. She kept her distance, moving a fraction of an inch in tandem with him. She accepted her plate and drink before dashing off.

I’m losing myself so quickly in him. I’ve never felt such a connection with anyone this fast. It’s like I’m him and the scary thing is that it feels so right.

The pavilion suddenly seemed claustrophobic. There were too many people and too many emotions burning through her. Katherine needed to get outside. Without noting if Mikhail would see where she went, Katherine forced her feet to walk calmly through the nearest door.

Fresh air vied with perfume, smoke, and body odor. Katherine sucked it all in anyways. The deep breaths cleared her mind. Her fascination waned with distance and she wondered if she should just dump her food and leave. She stared at the parking lot with something akin to longing and disgust.

I’m not a coward and that’s exactly what I’d be if I run away.

She spied a dingy cropping of tables and displaced chairs. Walking to one furthest away from the crowd, Katherine sat down. She had no sooner looked up when Mikhail pulled back a chair across from her.

“Napkin?”

Katherine took the proffered rectangle and murmured her thanks. The pizza slice no longer looked so appetizing. Still she made an effort to take a bite while making a bigger effort to ignore the man staring at her.

Why is he staring at me? Doesn’t he care how rude that is? Or is something else?

Temptation struck. All she had to do was drop the veil and she’d know exactly what was hidden beneath that pretty face.

The world already looks that much grayer than it did before I saw him…and that’s why I can’t do this. I should hurry up and eat so I can go without being too much of a bitch.

With that glum decision made, Katherine focused on everything but Mikhail. On some level she knew she was still coming off as a complete bitch, but it couldn’t matter.

No wonder I’m a head case. I can’t even deal with normal interactions. Why am I making such a big deal out of this?

After several agonizing minutes crawled by, Mikhail apparently felt comfortable enough to take the plunge.

“So how old are you?”

Katherine looked away from the milling crowd. She wondered again for the hundredth time what she was doing with this stranger.

Why did I say yes to coming with him? I don’t even know this guy.

“Okay, that’s a pretty nosy question, so how about I tell you how old I am first?” Receiving no response other than a slow blink, Mikhail gamely plowed ahead, uttering the first of many future lies. He ignored the fact she was obviously uncomfortable with him. “I’m twenty-four.”

Great. Now I’m really going to come off as a baby.

Katherine played with the straw in her soda. Nervously, she pushed down the bits of ice, hoping to find the courage to extract herself from this awkward situation. Despite her frosty façade, she did care about what he thought. She didn’t want Mikhail to walk away and think she had just used him for a free meal.

I should give him back his money. I’ll do it before he leaves.

Mikhail cupped his chin with his hand and leaned forward. “How about I guess your age?” Not waiting for a reply, Mikhail took on the appearance of a man deep in thought. “Hmm…now how do I go about this? If I guess too low you’ll think I’m a perv, but if I go too high then you’ll slap me right out of this chair.”

Katherine smiled and a bubble of laughter fought its way free.

He is kind of a perv to be talking to me.

His green eyes twinkled with delight. “I CAN make you smile. Now, if I can get you to talk to me, then my day will be complete!”

She cleared her throat and the burgeoning grin melted away. Katherine’s fingers continued to fiddle with the plastic straw.

This is so embarrassing! Why can’t I even answer a simple question! Argh!

“Oh, no. Quick, Mikhail—think of something. She almost laughed at the threat of your bodily harm. If you do something incredibly stupid and get hurt, maybe she’ll smile again.” Looking around him, he spied the metal railing a few feet away and came upon a solution.

Katherine watched him rise in determination. She realized Mikhail’s reckless intention of following through on his words. “Seventeen!” she cried as she rushed to her feet. “I’m seventeen.”

A crimson blush immediately flooded Katherine’s face. However, she held his penetrating gaze with her own, wordlessly daring him to mock her for her age.

A playful smirk graced his lips. It enchanted her despite the blatant masculine triumph it obviously represented.

“Good. I was right.”

“Right?”

“Yep. Right.”

She frowned and sat down. “How’d you guess?”

“I didn’t. I just knew.” He resumed his seated position. “Now that the dreaded first conversation has just taken place, do you want to eat now?”

Katherine’s lip curled in a combination of befuddlement and admiration. “Actually I do.”

I feel like such a load has been taken off me. I can hang out with him. What was wrong with me before—making such a big deal out of nothing? There’s no rule that says I can’t spend time with Mikhail, right? After all, it’s not like he’s proposing marriage. He just asked to buy me something to eat. No biggie. Calm down, Katherine. Just do whatever you’d normally do at home. Eat like a pig and pass out.

Conscience satisfied, Katherine took a large bite and moaned, “Oh, this is so good.” She devoured the rest and sucked down every bit of soda before leaning back with a happy sigh.

Mikhail reached forward with napkin in hand. “You’ve got some sauce on your face.”

She was too content and relaxed to move. Her eyes shut and she bit her lips to keep in a yawn. “You mind getting it for me?” He didn’t answer but Katherine soon felt a brush across her chin. “Thanks.”

“Do you want me to get you some ice cream?”

“No, maybe later.” She slit an eye open. Mikhail’s face was split in an infectious grin. She was unable to keep from returning it. The previous circle of doubt and dismay had vacated her spirit and Katherine found the unusual freedom intoxicating.

“Do I bore you that much, Katherine?”

His teasing inspired her to smile again. “Nope. I’m just full and sleepy. Let me just rest a bit and I swear I’ll be good as new.”

“Do you mind if I switch seats?”

She waved a hand. “Feel free, Mikhail.” She closed her eyes again and leaned her head back. A chair scraped against the concrete before another repeated the same sound. Katherine’s right arm tingled in pleasure. She didn’t have to look to know he had moved next to her.

The minutes slid by in companionable silence. She was more fatigued from traipsing through his emotions than inhaling a humongous slice of pizza. Obviously, it wasn’t on the share category of conversations.

He probably thinks I’m odd either way. Rather be thought of as a pig than a freak. Although, there was something not quite human about him…so I guess I wouldn’t be the only freak here.

Katherine’s neck rolled to the side. She peeked at Mikhail, somewhat expecting him to have fallen to the lure of a quick nap. Instead, his eyes were scanning the sidewalks and parking lots in methodical succession. Her gaze slid down. Mikhail had moved his chair in a way that effectively blocked her in the corner.

“Mikhail?”

He turned to her with a smile. “Yes?”

“You looking for something in particular?”

“No. Just looking.”

Katherine sat up. She didn’t even have to make an effort to read him to know he was lying.

He’s got secrets. He’s not exactly like them but more like me. Interesting.

She reached for her cup and shook it. She sipped the last bit of melted soda ice with a frown.

“Here. I still have lots left.”

Katherine eyed the drink in his hand. Sharing germs wasn’t usually the first option between strangers—not that she’d mind consuming another piece of him.

All right, girl. Show ‘em what you got.

“Thank you.” She took the plastic cup without hesitation or wiping off his straw. Katherine kept her gaze trained on his. Mikhail didn’t disappoint. After she handed him back his drink he placed his lips exactly where hers had been.

Katherine’s cheeks flushed rose. Not out of discomfort, embarrassment, or any one of a plethora of emotions ready to assault a teenage girl. Instead, something else made its ubiquitous home deep inside. Desire motivated Katherine’s coloring, making the profane exquisitely possible.

While in high school she had heard girls gossiping about sex and had usually listened with more than a polite ear. She hadn’t been immune to the giggles and sighs that drifted from behind the bleachers or in the far back of the library.

However, Katherine hadn’t ever truly been tempted to go there with any guy during school. She’d had a few dates with friends wondering if there could be more. Not surprisingly those ended with the obligatory, “I had a nice time/Yeah, me too,” kind of moments but nothing else.

Until now, Katherine had been content with just focusing on her life and problems, always rationalizing her issues were more than enough to keep busy.

Now was an entirely different creature.

Now was the clichéd apple, garden, and serpent all rolled in one.

Now was the moment Katherine could chose to run, make him run, or choose an option that had never been on the board before.

“I don’t have to be home for a couple more hours, Mikhail. Do you want to hang out here with me until then?”

Mikhail glanced down for a moment. His mouth drew in on itself. He blew out a discreet puff of air. Lust clouded the air between himself and Katherine. His wolven nature demanded he press the young girl to give him what her body was so prettily displaying.

Easy boy. Different time and different rules.

He blinked once. His blood receded as did his teeth and claws. Instinct made peace with logic, knowing in the end they had to work together to get Katherine.

She doesn’t know what she’s offering and I won’t be bastard by taking advantaging of that.

“Sure. Any place you want to go to first?”

She shook her head. “Nah.

“All right.” Mikhail stood up and pulled her chair back. He stepped aside so Katherine could pass. He hoped she hadn’t noticed his instinctual need to protect by placing himself between her and the crowd milling past. “Here, let me get that,” he asked while taking the tray from her hand. Mikhail noted her tiny smile and found himself eager to be responsible for many more.

After throwing away their trash and depositing the trays, Mikhail walked back to Katherine and lightly touched her back. He prayed she’d receive his touch favorably. Her small shudder did not go unnoticed for it echoed his.

She’s already inside me. I want her so badly.

Katherine looked over her shoulder. Her golden eyes darkened into what he knew as lust. “You ready?”

“Lead the way, Katherine.”

Mikhail kept pace with her, fingers itching to do more than rest on the middle of her back. Her skin scorched his, imprinting the truth of her scent and essence upon him. Mikhail’s gaze burned with conquest and adoration.

She’s so…I don’t know. Her moods are impossible to track for long. She’s inexperienced but more. Skittish and bold.

They continued walking, an attractive young couple watchful of their step and considerate of others. Civilized, polite, normal.

And a complete fabrication.

Mikhail bent his head and took several deep, yet discreet, breaths. Katherine’s delectable flavor invaded his senses, threatening to decimate the human façade he wore.

I want to taste her, stretch her until she’s filled with me. I want to make her cry, make her crazed, make her anything I want her to be. I want to fuck her into submission and worship her for letting me do it. I want it all.

Katherine shook inside. His touch enthralled her, throwing her into the middle of an explosion of sensation. She siphoned off his emotions, letting them ricochet inside her until she had difficulty distinguishing his from hers.

He fills me up till I feel like I’m going to burst. And I still want more.

Katherine bit her lip, pinching it with languorous pressure. Desire, thick and heavy, flowed between them in indivisible strands. Madly, she wondered if she could be one of those girls to take him to a hotel room. Katherine smothered a spurt of nervous laughter.

I can imagine it now—“Mikhail, I’m so hot for you and I know you are for me too. How? Oh, never mind that. Say, why don’t you like take me to a Holiday Inn and fuck me until I can’t walk. Sound good? Cool!”

Katherine looked about her with a heavy-lidded gaze. The mall pulsed with color. It was a riotous feast for her starved senses. She hummed with giddiness, wanting to reach out and sample a bit from everyone, despite being engorged with Mikhail.

She giggled as she passed by a small child. The little girl’s joy in her rapidly melting ice cream infected her, making her remember simple happiness. Katherine skipped past a scowling old woman. No, no need to skim through that one’s negative emotions. Instead, she lighted on the next couple. They seemed so happy and cheerful. Katherine wanted a little taste. Although she walked past them within a second, she wanted to wallow in their pleasure so allowed her arm to brush by the woman’s.

Katherine immediately clasped her hands over her mouth and laughed.

Oh, my God! They’re lesbians! I just thought they were friends! Now I know what it’s like to not be able to wait to go home and have sex with my girlfriend! I never knew a woman’s stuff could be so beautiful.

She risked a glance over her shoulder and noted the small signs of their intimate relationship.

“What is it? Did you see somewhere you want to stop at?”

Katherine’s panicked gaze shot up to Mikhail’s. She had been so intent on indulging herself she had forgotten he was still there. Her feet stumbled to an inelegant stop. “Uh, no, no. I just thought I saw someone I knew.”

Mikhail’s eyes narrowed and his mouth pulled a bit. “Really?”

“Hmm. Yeah.” Katherine didn’t need to dip into his feelings to see the doubt and confusion cluttering his mind. Feeling guilty at being caught in a lie, she started castigating herself for being so reckless.

Stupid, stupid, stupid! Now he’ll think I’m just some big liar who can’t even tell the truth…which is true. I can’t ever really tell the truth.

Katherine blinked and her emotional membrane shrunk back into gray. Lights out. Color gone. She retreated inside herself, neatly severing her connection with the world and with Mikhail. Katherine managed a smile despite the void spreading like an ink stain over her psyche. “Did you have somewhere you wanted to go?”

“No.” His eyes darkened with enigmatic emotion, taunting Katherine to open herself back up.

“Oh, okay.” She walked away and turned the corner, unsure if Mikhail still followed. Her back ached from the lack of imprint from his large hand. Katherine resisted the urge to wrap her arms around her waist. The loss of sensation was worse after experiencing the sweetness of touch. To say Katherine was starved for affection was a sad, pitiful understatement.

My parents sure as hell won’t touch me, not even when necessary. They’re so afraid of what I’ll see and feel. They’re afraid of what I’ll know. Just like those women would feel if they had any clue I knew what they did at home. What I do is wrong.

Katherine gritted her teeth. She rooted around, looking for some sliver of emotion that could fuel anything other than self-loathing. She came up empty. Her haunted stare flitted over the living stream of people flowing past. She cursed herself for being so alien. Once more Katherine wondered if Empath was the correct moniker. She considered herself to be more of an emotional succubus. She fed off of others but no matter how much she consumed it never filled the vacant wasteland inside.

I feel everything and nothing.

It was no wonder Katherine didn’t allow herself to do much of the first and lived everything in the second.

I was right. Mikhail’s dangerous to me. He makes me think there’s a chance for me to be a little normal. I’m not. I’m a freak.

A warm hand grasped her arm. It pulled her into a hallway, out from the crush. Katherine allowed herself to be maneuvered against the wall. She noted how Mikhail shielded her with his large body. He feathered his fingertips against her rounded cheek. She blinked in apathy.

“Katherine, what’s wrong?”

“Nothing.”

“Don’t lie to me.” Despite the brusque command, his hand continued to pet her. “I know something’s wrong. Did I do something to offend you? If so, I apologize. I’m very sorry.”

Katherine shook her head. Pity unfurled, finding a way to break through the barren landscape Katherine had retreated. “No, you didn’t do anything, Mikhail. You’ve been wonderful.” She realized with a bit of surprise she meant every word. “I’m sorry.”

“What’s the matter then? Did someone else offend you?”

She shook her head.

Mikhail ducked closer. His hand dropped to her shoulder, fingertips still caressing invisible patterns into her skin. “Then what is it?”

Katherine blinked owlishly, unsure of how to respond without lying. Oddly enough she found she very much wanted to respect his wishes for honesty. “Sometimes I get sad…I can’t say for no reason…but I can’t explain why.”

Mikhail’s beautiful gaze softened. “Oh, Katharina. I understand.”

She missed the lovely rolling syllables of his new name for her. “Yeah, right.” Katherine’s cheeks flushed with hot color. She didn’t mean to sound so spiteful and ungrateful but the thought that he understood was impossible. She risked touching his chest for a moment. “I’m sorry.”

Mikhail accepted her apology with a poignant smile. “Sorrow is an oppressive mistress to keep. She takes everything, never satisfied with living in a part of you—she wants it all.”

Bemused, Katherine found his speech odd in a wise, delightful way.

“She consumes you, letting you gather just enough strength so she can steal that away too. She keeps everyone away. She perches on your heart, making you think no one will ever be able to see YOU. She infects you until you cannot look around you without see HER.”

“Yes,” she breathed, fascinated.

Mikhail sighed. “She taints your view, making you feel like the stranger in a happy world that you can never be part of. Sorrow is addictive, oppressive, and terrible in her power.”

“How do you let her go?”

Mikhail shrugged. He trailed his fingers across her neck. “I don’t know.”

Katherine’s sight bled at the corners. She swallowed back the thick burn seeking to rob her of speech. “Sorrow seems to be a bitch to you too, Mikhail.”

He suddenly seemed too old and tired to continue standing, much less comfort her. “Let’s just say I’ve been acquainted with her for quite some time.”

Katherine sprinted out of her safe habits and poisoned comfort zone. She ran without fear, determined to be new with this beautiful boy who could be an old man. She arched up and kissed his cheek. “Thank you,” she whispered with gratitude. Cheeks flushed, eyes shiny, she stood there daring Sorrow to intrude on this moment with Mikhail.

He stared at Katherine in astonishment. His hand lifted away from her to touch his cheek. “You’re welcome.” He smiled and Katherine knew her world would never be the same.

Mikhail…

Her heart thudded in anxious beats. Transfixed, she kept her gaze trained on his. She had wondered if he was the same as her, unwanted and on the fringe of the world. She had allowed herself to be distracted from the question. Now, she knew.

Green and gold pulsed in time with her heart, flickering back and forth in an unnatural position of dominance. Katherine was positive Mikhail had no idea what secrets his eyes were giving away.

What are you?

Katherine crept forth from behind her shield. She moved forward, feeling the pull between them take on epic proportions. “Mikhail, I’m so glad I met you.” The words fell from her lips with a whispered promise of many more just like it. “You’re amazing.” Nervous laughter trailed the statement, but Katherine didn’t give into the urge to look away.

Mikhail’s stare edged out the verdant color, leaving it to shimmer gold.

Much like Katherine’s golden eye color.

The hum of the outside world provided the backdrop for secret world existing in plain sight. She didn’t have to muster up the courage to touch him again. He cupped the back of her head, tilting her chin up for what had to be a kiss.

Excitement claimed Katherine. She embraced folly, eager to know Mikhail’s true face and hoping to see hers. No longer content with ghostly sentiments, she entered his mind and saw he was so much more.

Forests, deep and gilded with age, rose up. Air heavy with animal, nature, and power entered his lungs. Running…always running.

Katherine’s lungs ached. Mikhail’s long, loping strides became hers.

A bevy of faces, exotic, memorable, and loved stared back. Their tongues lolled in happiness, flitting between humanity and animal.

Her skin itched, almost as if a coat that needed shedding.

Pride and responsibility. A beautiful but worn woman kneeling on the floor. A child kneeling with her. Sadness and regret staining his face with countless tears.

Katherine’s heart twisted with misery. It stained her, never leaving.

A fortress, burnt and abandoned, flashed crimson with the blood of hundreds. Children lay sprawled in the debris, still stuck between transformation. Their haunches dark with fur and rank with blood. Kinsmen slaughtered. Everything in ruins.

The memory spoke of imagination, but its likelihood of reality kept her held deep with unimaginable grief. “It’s my fault,” she whispered aloud, echoing the silent words embroidered across the scene.

“No, never,” Mikhail whispered back. Obviously, he believed she referred to her own private pain, never guessing she gave voice to his.

Another estate, newly made but not viewed with joy. Dark shapes throwing shadows across the manicured grass. Their legs human, their shadows not. Mikhail standing before them, eyes gold like sunrise, spirit darkening like sunset.

The multitude of people bowed their heads in respect. The moon rose overhead, full and luminous with power. Wolves dotted the landscape, heads thrown back with piercing howls. He surveyed them, hearing their adulation and knowing he was unworthy of such devotion.

He was not the Alpha werewolf they needed.

“Oh,” she breathed in child-like wonderment. Katherine stumbled out of his mind. She shook like a proverbial leaf in the wind. The knowledge of who and what Mikhail were obliterated the plain, colorless world. Nothing could ever be the same again. Katherine refused to let it. His precious adored face continued to descend, emphasizing that Katherine had spurred through this memories like a bullet—in less than a heartbeat.

She pursed her lips, anticipating his mouth to seal her fate to his.

You make me dizzy. You make the world sing in color. You’ve turned me inside out, upside down. I’m crazy to trust you but I know that I can. I’ll never betray you, Mikhail DeMontier. I’ll never let you know what I know. I’ll play pretend with you, believe in your secrets, and let you live a lie because I know all about that.

Mikhail pressed his mouth against her forehead. The skin tingled in a way most pleasant. Katherine turned her body into his, needing to keep his touch centered on her. A lifetime passed within a moment and then he pulled away.

His eyes, green with dull normalcy, peered into hers. “I want to see you again.”

“Okay.”

“When?”

Katherine’s fixation returned back to his mouth. She yearned for it, needed it without shame or guilt. She knew that mouth, those lips, his breath belonged to her. “Tomorrow.”

“When?” he repeated, needy and demanding.

She wanted to peel back his lips. She wanted to see his teeth, to see if the fangs of his heritage were hidden beneath. She wanted to feel those teeth scraping against her bare back and everywhere else. She wanted to be devoured by those fangs, picked neatly apart so she would always be part of him. “Breakfast. Across the street. Buffet.”

“What’s your number?”

“Here. I’ll write it down.” Katherine’s fingers fumbled with her purse. She soon had her number written on a scrap piece of paper. She passed it to him before yanking it back with a frown. “You can’t call me yet though.”

“Well, what time should I pick you up?” he asked in curiosity while prying the paper from her tightly clenched fist. She melted at his touch, leaving him to smile in subtle masculine appreciation.

“No.” Katherine tore her attention away from just how that lovely mouth came together and apart.

“Why not?”

She shook her head. “I don’t think it’s a good idea for you to come to my house just yet.”

Mikhail bit back his frustration. “Okay, but you’ll meet me at the restaurant?”

Katherine wanted to follow through on her temptations of nuzzling his throat with her nose. She never realized how sexy a man’s neck could be. Exposed to all. Vulnerable. “Absolutely. I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

Mikhail’s gaze flashed once more. He stepped back, lessening the crowding of his body on hers. “I’m hungry again. What about you?”

Katherine smiled. “Absolutely. Food Court?”

He returned her gesture. “Sure.” Mikhail held out his hand to her, wanting Katherine to make the next move.

She stared at it for a moment before carefully placing her fingers in his.

It feels so right. He feels so right…

Katherine naively allowed herself to believe something that felt so right had to be. She was too young and inexperienced to know differently. Mikhail wasn’t, but instead of naivety, he clung to blindness. As tightly as he clung to her hand and she to his…

Image Credit: kandy13 @ Stock.Xchng

Previous | Next

Vicious Bliss: broken Chapter One

Estimated reading time: 40 – 66 minutes

CHAPTER ONE
“Looking into the Mirror”

Show whatever part of me you’d like.
I won’t say a word.
Because finally I am real and you are not.

Winter 2002
Northeastern United States

My name is Katherine Merror and I will not make the same mistakes as before.

Her silent words rang somberly throughout the confines of a world not defined by human rules and expectations.

Do you hear me, Mikhail DeMontier? Husband, lover or enemy, you can’t stop me. I WILL be a different woman.

An inaudible growl colored the air. Katherine watched the physician, Dr. Kelrich, take one slow slide backwards. His face paled to match his bleached collar. Fear suffocated the small room with noxious asphyxiation.

“Is something the matter, Dr. Kelrich?” She spoke softly, cautiously, as if trying to gentle a creature ready to bolt.

His neck moved with a marionette’s grace. The physician fumbled with his words but only managed to sputter nonsensically.

Katherine turned to face the man on her right in frustration. She stabbed him with a fiery glare.

What are you doing to make this doctor want to piss himself?

Mikhail DeMontier’s proud shoulders immediately slid into a petulant slump. However, his back straightened with a snap when he met her angry gaze. Shock made his stunning features slack. Mikhail’s mouth parted with a horrified breath.

“No.”

What’s wrong? She spoke to him with her mind, instinctually conscious of the need for discretion. What’s happening?

No answer came—telepathic or otherwise. Mikhail’s pupils continued to dilate and his terror dwarfed Dr. Kelrich’s.

Katherine whispered his name. She screamed it silently but Mikhail continued to stare at her in fascinated horror. Katherine’s back quickly slicked with sweat.

“Mikhail?”

The tiny thread masquerading as her voice finally spurred him into action.

“Dr. Kelrich.” Gentle yet uncompromising, Mikhail’s tone beckoned the other man’s attention. “Surely there are other patients to see.”

“Patients?”

The word obviously failed to elicit the appropriate response. Mikhail stepped forward. The muted hospital lighting burnished his hair with the patina of an old, gold coin. His jade gaze glowed eerily from a white face. “As you can see, my wife is fine. There’s nothing the matter here.”

Frozen, Dr. Kelrich stared up at the much larger man.

“You can go now.”

Normalcy jolted the physician’s limbs. He rocked back slightly before recovering. “Oh, of course. Yes. You’re right.” Dr. Kelrich kept his eyes averted. Questions sped across his brow, jerking and relaxing before seemingly giving way to safe, infallible logic.

“She’s perfectly, perfectly fine. It’s true. Well, ah, Ms. Merror…I mean Mrs. DeMontier…Katherine…I’ll be making my rounds now. A nurse will be by to check your vitals. Tomorrow you’ll be free to go with your husband—” His throat closed before he added hastily. “Or by yourself.”

Katherine watched in confusion as the slender physician began inching his way back to the door. Despite his words, Dr. Kelrich’s fear still clung to the membrane of her empathic psyche.

“Good bye. Thank you again for all your care.”

He paused, his calm expression melting by degrees. “By the way, most accidents that happen this time of the year on that mountain don’t usually have a happy ending. You’re a lucky girl.”

“So you’ve told her,” Mikhail reminded him gently. “When you first came in.”

“Mmm. So I did.” Flustered, he glanced down at Katherine’s chart. “Still, you truly are one of the lucky ones, Ms. Merror.” The statement surfaced like a buried curse, surprising Dr. Kelrich if his pink color was any indication.

“Lucky. That’s me.” Despite Katherine’s attempt at keeping surface humor, traces of her melancholy laid claim to those words.

The physician paused and looked up. An air of compassion lightened his gaze as well as wary curiosity. However, he couldn’t bear to look into her eyes. Fear of what was or wasn’t there robbed him of cold intellect. The man of science instantly loathed Katherine for that alone.

“Ah, well.” Crimson spots of rage stained his smooth cheeks. His voice trembled. “I’ll be by to check on you in the evening. As I mentioned before, the nurse will be here to take your vitals soon.”

“Thank you. See you tonight.”

Dr. Kelrich merely grimaced before turning away.

Watching her doctor make his harried retreat, Katherine turned her attention to the subdued male a few feet away.

“What the hell is going on? Why are both of you so scared, Mikhail?”

He reached into his pocket without a word. A tiny, silver compact lay within his palm.

“How…I thought I left that behind.”

“You did.” Sadness plucked the corners of his soft mouth. Flicking the lid open with his thumb, Mikhail instructed, “Look.”

Katherine’s gaze slinked to the pretty mirror in his hand. She blinked several times, not allowing her mind to comprehend the vicious unnaturalness staring back.

“No. This can’t be right. It’s just the lighting. You told Dr. Kelrich the truth. I’m fine.”

“Katherine…”

The helplessness in Mikhail shrouded Katherine’s denial, rendering it invisible. She thrust his hand away, severing the awful reflection. Her breath grew choppier with each spoken word.

“My eyes…it shouldn’t…it’s not right!”

He sank onto the bed before she finished speaking. His arms clung to Katherine tightly while she clawed to get even closer.

“Why are my eyes red? Why are there fucking flames in them?!”

“You were caught between worlds. It’s just a temporary side-effect.”

“Don’t lie to me, Mikhail! Nobody—”

“Katherine.” The growl passing as her name silenced her immediately. “Remember there’s much that lies beneath the world most humans live by. You know this,” his hand passed through the air with graceful fluidity, “is only one side.”

She nodded her head slowly, ready for him to continue.

“What was the last thing you saw, Katharina?”

His accented use of her name instantly calmed Katherine. “Azer…the door…fire.”

“Okay. You’ll be fine. It’ll wear off within a few hours…a few days at most. After all, it’s just a little fire in the eyes. Nothing else.” Even to his jaundiced ears, it all seemed too cavalier. Doubt touched him and sent Katherine back into a frenzied state.

“A little fire? Nothing else?” She shrieked low in her throat. “That’s all you have to say?!”

“Calm down!” Mikhail clasped her face in his hands. “You need to stay focused!”

“Dr. Kelrich saw this. That’s why he was so terrified. Oh, God. What if he tells?”

“He won’t talk. Not and keep his reputation.”

“But what if—”

“He won’t.” Mikhail forced her head back, refusing to allow Katherine to look away. “You don’t have time to worry about the good doctor.”

“Why?”

Mikhail’s mouth parted slightly. Indecision crawled across his brow. “I want you to come with me.”

“Why?”

“Because I don’t want to leave you alone.”

“Why?” The low growl made Mikhail tense. “You’re not telling me everything. What are you keeping from me?”

Seeing his stubborn discretion, she reached out. Her golden eyes narrowed in rage when Mikhail moved away. Katherine lunged forward and her fingers managed to cling to Mikhail’s wrists.

“If you won’t tell me, then I’ll find out MY way. Either way, you WILL tell me what I want to know!”

In one moment, an invisible cinder became an unforgiving inferno.

Katherine’s lips parted with a frightened cry. She tried to release him, but she couldn’t. It was as if her skin was fused with Mikhail’s. Katherine’s gaze ricocheted from her grip to his.

“Pull me off!”

“What do you mean? Just let go.” His face tightened and fear flowed through their connection. “What did you see, Katherine?”

She shook her head in answer. Her fingers flexed and injustice controlled Katherine’s mind. Every cruel thing this man had ever done to her sprang to life.


_________________________________________________________________________________________

“This isn’t going to work. I should’ve never jumped into our relationship.”

“You’re beneath me.”

“We’re not in grade school, Katherine. This just proves that it was a mistake getting involved with a child like you!”

“Do you really have to make this harder than it has to be? Don’t you have any fucking pride?”

“Stay out of my goddamned mind!”

“I’m not coming back for my things. Sell them, give them away—do whatever you want.”

“I WILL NOT GIVE UP WHO I AM FOR YOU!”

“Good-bye.”


_________________________________________________________________________________________

Katherine moaned from the terrible agony ripping her heart to shreds. Heat burned the back of Katherine’s lids. She watched Mikhail’s haunting features dissolve in a torrent of fire. Hatred whispered his name. Katherine clenched her eyes shut in fresh terror.

I want you dead for what you did to me. But I could never really…

YES, YOU CAN.

The voice came from within, startling Katherine with its molten venom.

“What’s happening to you?” Mikhail watched helplessly as his wife fell into chaos. “Please don’t shut me out. What’s wrong?”

He didn’t hear anything. Not her thoughts and not the other.

“Mikhail…”

Low agonized moans erupted in her throat. The monitors began screaming Katherine’s distress. She felt her veins boil as something foreign burst to life.

“IT WILL STOP IF HE’S GONE.”

Self-preservation forced Katherine to listen to the darkness.

My heart hurts so much. He’s the reason why. What if he wasn’t here?

Mikhail’s mouth suddenly whitened. His pulse accelerated to her dangerous rhythm as he suffered Katherine’s trauma through their emotional and physical connection.

“IT WILL BE OVER IN LESS THAN MINUTE. JUST KEEP YOUR HOLD ON HIM.”

“NO!”Somehow, Katherine managed to rip her hands away. However, satisfaction lasted only a moment when hatred poisoned her mind. Katherine’s chest heaved as she fought violently to draw in breath.

“I…I don’t want…I don’t want to feel this!”

Helpless yet anxious to soothe her, Mikhail whispered, “I’m here, Katharina. I’m not going to leave you.” Dry lips brushed over her closed lids. Mikhail recoiled instantly with a loud hiss. “Open your eyes!”

Katherine saw crimson flames blazing in the darkness within her. She shook her head frantically.

“I can’t.”

“Why not?”

“Because I’m afraid of what will happen if I do.” And because I hate you so much right now. Katherine rocked back as Mikhail’s terror and hurt added to her own. “You heard me.”

“No…”

“Don’t lie.” Irrational anger blanketed any guilt she carried. “You heard me and now you’re afraid.”

“I’m not afraid of you.” He said the words in hoarse challenge, pitifully trying to convince them both. “I’m not.” I refuse to judge her. I refuse to fear my past. I’m in control. Not like before.

Mikhail’s silent words set off an inferno in Katherine’s soul. The tentative peace they had achieved in the hours before scattered like ashes. Overwhelmed by hatred, Katherine cut her unconscious connection with Mikhail.

“Judge me? What about judging yourself? And by the way, you are NOT in control, Mikhail. You never have been when you should be. At least not when it counted.” An evil grin spread across her face. “What do you see when you look in my eyes? Do you see yourself or what you fear?”

Mikhail’s features hardened. “I see fire.”

Her laughter cut through him. “You answered my question perfectly. It doesn’t burn. Did you know that? But I can feel something else. I can feel that whatever’s happened to me is unforgiving—just like the past. YOUR past. Isn’t that right?”

“No!”

“Go ahead and run, Mikhail. Run like you always do in every lifetime we’ve had the misfortune to spend together.”

“I didn’t—”

“Sure you did!” Katherine scrambled to her knees. Leaning forward, she taunted, “First as Lazai, then as Nikolaus, and now as Mikhail DeMontier—the coward wolf prince.”

His body tensed and rage transformed his eyes into something equally as frightening as Katherine’s. “I never ran from you then, Katharina. It was always YOU running from ME.”

“Always?”

Always.

“Mmm. It’s a relief knowing that maybe I wasn’t always so dumb. But then again it did take me three times to learn my lesson. Probably because you’re such a good goddamn liar.”

Mikhail slammed his hand against the bed railing. “I NEVER lied about who or what I was!”

“So offended!” Katherine’s mouth lifted in a rude smirk. “I’m just supposed to take that as gospel. I’m sorry but I can’t do that, darling. I didn’t even know who I was until yesterday—” Katherine shrugged her shoulder in a manner meant to be mocking and offensive. “But then again, I don’t need to know about THEN when I know so much about you NOW.”

Mikhail growled deep within his core. The rumble only charmed her spite.

“Did I touch a nerve?”

“You don’t know everything, Katherine.”

“Really? Hmm. But you never did give me a chance to know, did you? All you did was lie about everything.”

Defeat took him by the throat, bleeding Mikhail’s anger away along with his pride. “And I’ve regretted it everyday of my life since. I’ll regret it every day of my life from here on out.”

Katherine bit her lip hard, welcoming the pain instead of her constant confusion and shame. “You knew it couldn’t last.” The brittle statement dared him to lie.

Once more, Mikhail disappointed Katherine—this time with honesty.

“I didn’t want to think about it, but I knew it was a possibility.”

Katherine slammed her fist against the bed. “Goddamnit, Mikhail! If you knew, why the hell didn’t you just keep walking? Why did you fuck up my life?”

“Because I wanted you.” Mikhail’s fingers spread across the bridge of his nose and his tone deepened into notes of defiant disgrace. “Because I saw you and couldn’t say no.”

“To what?”

Mikhail struggled, opening his mouth several times. Nothing came out.

“TO WHAT?!” Crimson flames overtook her sight, promising hell if he continued his silence.

“To the dream your eyes said could be mine.” Mikhail heard the angry hiss of air and rushed to explain, “I saw it, Katharina. I swear I did. I saw the future…OUR future. I saw a lifetime of being together, building a life where who we were didn’t matter.”

Katherine’s gaze burned bright but for a different reason.

Emboldened by her tears, Mikhail’s hand reached out and pushed back the curls from her temple. “I saw you looking up at me with these eyes and I knew I was meant to be standing there on that sidewalk at that exact moment. How could I walk away from Fate?”

Her mouth tightened into an uneven slit. Her tears doused the terrifying flames, leaving a broken sadness behind.

“You can feel my touch, Katharina. If you read me now, you’ll know that I what I say is true.”

Katherine felt her heart lurch with regret. She was tempted to delve into his, but instead, she allowed herself to speak without censor.

“Nothing else mattered to me after that day. I wanted to grow old with you. I wanted to devote my entire life to you. I wanted to make you happy. I wanted to love you.”

“That’s what I wanted too.”

Katherine shook her head. “That’s not all you wanted.”

“No, I just wanted you.”

“Liar. You wanted something else. Something I couldn’t give you.”

“You’re wrong—”

“You’ve been lying to me from the beginning, Mikhail. Do you even know the truth anymore? You say things you don’t mean. You don’t do things even when you really want to. You’re as much a mess as I am. Were you always this weak, Mikhail? Why couldn’t I see it until now?” The last part was whispered in a small voice, making Katherine sound like a lost, little girl.

Mikhail murmured her name in an unfortunate plea.

She ignored him.

“You’re not American and neither is your family. You alone have millions of dollars to your name yet you lived like you were broke. Why?”

Mikhail drew back with an uncertain frown. “Money…I didn’t…” Even now he couldn’t discard centuries of breeding and secretive impulses.

“Stop.” Katherine refused to say another word until Mikhail finally folded.

“How did you know?”

“You’ve been my obsession for years,” she answered calmly. “Would you like to know more?”

His entire body vibrated wariness. Katherine took it as an affirmative answer.

“I know you own estates in France, Romania, Germany, China, and Japan. I know you’ve never owned any property in the United States until five years ago. I know that you hide the DeMontier name behind shell companies. I know you’ve built the bulk of your fortune in medical technology. I know that you’re NOT thirty-one. Should I go on?”

The even cadence of Katherine’s voice obviously unnerved Mikhail. His fingers jumped across the bed railing with anxious speed. “I never suspected…wait. What did you say about my age?”

“Don’t bother to lie to me, Mikhail. You’re at least a hundred and thirty.”

“There’s no way—”

“Wrong. There are at least two pictures of you in existence. One from Berlin in 1935 and the other from Paris circa 1895.”

He stilled, digesting her facts with an uneasy stare. “Maybe what you saw was one of my ancestors.”

Katherine whipped her hand through the air. “You’re still talking to me like I’m stupid! I know your fucking face, Mikhail. It’s all I know! It was YOU.”

Mikhail looked away. Softly, he stated, “It couldn’t have been easy to find.”

“No, it wasn’t.”

“Then how?”

“There was very little I wasn’t willing to do to know more about you,” Katherine admitted with a sickly smile.

Mikhail drew his own conclusions with reasonable accuracy. His jaw twitched but he remained silent.

“I need to know one thing from you, Mikhail. Why would a werewolf break away from the only thing that he knows? Why did you leave your pack?”

Mikhail violently turned away from Katherine. His long legs ate the distance between her bed and the door. Instead of flinging it open, he just laid his forehead against the wood.

“Are you reading me?”

“No. I haven’t done that since Dr. Kelrich left. Are you going to make me do it?”

“No.” Mikhail sighed in defeat. “It was before I met you. It has nothing to do with you.”

“Wrong. It has everything to do with me. You left me because you couldn’t leave them. So why did you in the first place?”

Mikhail turned around. He dropped his head back against the door. “I wanted to be a normal man with you. I never wanted you to know about the DeMontiers.”

“That’s not true.” Katherine clarified her statement with a caustic arch of her brow. “You didn’t want them to know about me.”

Mikhail dropped his gaze. “No.”

“And when they found out, you just tossed me aside.”

“I didn’t want to.”

“But you did it anyway.”

He kept his eyes lowered and whispered, “It was wrong.”

“I was your wife!”

“You’re still my wife.”

Katherine closed her eyes, wishing she could find a way out of her frenzied emotions.

Why didn’t you keep me? Why did you come back? Why do I feel so sick?

She still loved this man.

She still hated him as well.

Especially when his possessive claim of her once more stirred up memories of his faithlessness.


_________________________________________________________________________________________
“Holed up in that steel castle of his, he was screwing any human woman that walked. When you started having pains and vomit was tearing up your throat, he was engaged in a foursome.”

_________________________________________________________________________________________
Katherine felt her eyes burn with a pain greater than those of tears. “Was I still your wife when you were fucking those other women? Was I still your wife when I lost our baby?”

Mikhail’s head whipped up. His already pale face whitened even further. He didn’t bother to blink back his tears. “You were always my wife. Those women meant nothing.”

“Just like me?”

“No. Never like you.” The softly spoken words begged for compassion. Katherine had none.

“You’re like a beaten dog, Mikhail. All it does is piss me off even more. Fucking werewolf scum.”

“Katharina, please don’t say that. I love you so much.”

Katherine loathed his utter lack of pride. “You still love someone who hates you?”

“Yes.”

“You don’t love me, Mikhail. You’re obsessed with a past that no longer exists. If you love anything, it’s a ghost.”

“That’s not true. Remember? I didn’t know who you were this time, Katherine.”

“Meaning you would’ve been different?”

“Katherine, don’t twist my words. You don’t understand…”

“No, I do! It was okay to lie because I was just a disposable human. Just a pet, right? You get tired of it and you just leave it on the side of the road—or in our case—a tiny, one bedroom apartment.”

Mikhail lowered his head until Katherine couldn’t see his face anymore. His voice became rough and guttural. “It was better for us both, Katharina, that I didn’t know.”

She glowered in disgust at her former lover. “If you knew I was your precious First Mother you’d have been a different person. That’s what you’re saying to me?”

Mikhail’s foot connected with the door. The explosion of noise fell beneath his restrained yells. “Yes, I would’ve been different! I would’ve married you, I would’ve fucked you until you whelped, then I would’ve locked you away until it was time to do it again.”

“Locked me away?” Katherine’s eyes shimmered with tears even as her pain threatened to burn right through them both. “That’s very bloodless, Mikhail. I would’ve never agreed to it. And you know what? I think you’re still lying to me.”

Stirred by feral rage, Mikhail’s inheritance finally broke through surface humanity. Gold smothered every bit of jade, transforming his eyes into a cold, animal stare. Lips curled over a wicked, deadly smile.

“Lying? I don’t have to lie about this.”

Mikhail stalked back to Katherine. He didn’t bother to hide his hands, instead displaying the dangerous claws with every stride. With lengthened ears, Mikhail heard Katherine’s blood rush faster through her veins long before he reached the bed.

“I would’ve made you do whatever I wanted. I would’ve created you into an image of my choosing. I’ve done it before. I’d do it again. Only this time I would’ve been different.”

“How?”

Mikhail leaned forward, long canines glinting in warning, until his lips hovered over hers. “I would have DIED before I let you into my heart.”

Pain lanced Katherine before fueling her awesome rage.

“You’re right. You did make me into an image of your choosing. I was barely more than a little girl and you ripped me apart without conscience.”

“Katherine, I already told you—”

“SHUT-UP! You ABANDONED me. You abandoned US!”

Mikhail visibly turned inward. All anger dissipated in a show of defeat. His features shifted into their human mask.

“I’m sorry.”

“Did you do it because I was pregnant?”

“NO! If I had known I would’ve never left your side!”

Katherine wound her fingers into the blankets. “But you did.”

Mikhail tried to contain his misery. “I promise I’m not going to run away from you again. Not ever again.”

“Even if it means I’ll kill you?” Menace ebbed and flowed in frightening waves. Katherine’s stare pinned Mikhail in place, much like a predator with her prey. “Even if it means that I want you dead more than anything else in the world?”

Mikhail’s heartbeat captured the pain her question boldly stirred. A melancholic pall dimmed his vivid green eyes. “If it’s your wish.”

Katherine’s lips trembled. She swallowed several times before letting her spitefulness rule. “You’re so docile about it. Would this be the first time, Mikhail? Or did I already kill you before?”

Her observant gaze caught his imperceptible flinch.

“Which life was it—Mei Li or Adria?” Katherine watched his exquisite face tighten with stoic indifference. “Which one?”

“Just drop it, Katherine.”

“I’m not seventeen anymore. You’re not going to bully me into silence.”

Mikhail’s jaw flexed once. “I’m not trying to bully you.”

“But you won’t tell me.” Memory righted itself in the form of one name. “But you don’t have to because I already know.”

His eyes clouded in centuries-old pain. “Don’t say her name. Just don’t.”

Katherine recoiled. “My God. You still love her.”

“Stop. Don’t say her name.”

“Her name? Don’t you mean MY name?”

“You’re not the same!” he snarled. “You are not Adria.”

Katherine slammed her hands down on the bed. “ADRIA! ADRIA! ADRIA! ADRIA!” Her hateful screams dwindled into muted sobs. “I can’t believe it just clicked for me. Even after everything we’ve talked about I didn’t put the two together until right now. I remember how you whispered her name once. Right before you left. It ate me up inside to think you were cheating, that maybe you’d found someone else to love. Then later I thought maybe SHE was the reason why you left.”

He shook his head but remained quiet. This only spawned a dangerous reaction within Katherine.

“What’d she do, Mikhail? Did she eventually kill Nikolaus for being such a bastard? Huh?” His stubborn silence made her livid. Katherine clenched her teeth and hissed, “You’re a filthy fuck, Mikhail.”

“I know.”

“You’re a selfish, dirty bastard. The least you owe me is the truth.”

Mikhail’s breath caught in a soft sob of misery. “I’m sorry.”

“Sorry. That’s all you can say? That’s supposed to make the silence and lies okay?” Madness flowed from the open wounds scattered across her psyche. “Why’d you even get with me, Mikhail?”

“Don’t you understand yet? I’ve loved you for centuries. Nothing can change that. Not even me.”

Suddenly, words from recent memory entangled Katherine within another’s obsessive embrace. Carmine locks, emerald eyes, and wings tipped in black composed a palette drenched in compassionate madness.


_________________________________________________________________________________________

“I’m not forgotten.”

“When you cried tears of pain, I cried blood. No matter the distance, no matter the years, your humiliation was mine.”

“When you stood over at the edge of that forsaken bridge, it was ME who called your name. Not Mikhail, me! When you were covered in blood in that filthy motel room, it was MY voice you heard, not his!”

“I’ve wanted you for thousands of years. I’ve dreamt about you in ways you can’t possibly imagine. I’ve hated you. I’ve cursed you. But I have never abandoned you because I love you.”

“I love you. I love you. I love you.”

“I love you because there can never be anyone to replace you in my heart. I love you because my greatest wish is to see your happiness.”

“What you don’t get is that I finally understand you, Precious.”

“Love. It’s been a curse for us both, hasn’t it? Whether we will it or not, we can’t seem to break free from its binds. No matter how much we hate it.”

“Your world only sees what it wants. Honorable men fall over themselves to court their angel, but never bother to look past the smile to see her empty eyes. And you never force them to see differently.”


_________________________________________________________________________________________

This time Mikhail heard the voice reverberating in her mind.

“Azer.”

Everything disintegrated from that point.

“Katharina, it’s HIM, isn’t it?”

Exorcising her fury left Katherine psychically battered and defiled. The magnitude of what had just transpired defeated her will. Two tears scored a path down her ashen cheeks.

“Yes.”

“Oh, Jesus. It’s not temporary then.” Animosity forgotten, Mikhail slumped forward, carrying Katherine with him. She was too tired to fight his touch. They lay entwined in a momentary repose of utter desolation. “Azer did this to you. He made you into something else.”

“I know.” Katherine wanted to wail and die from her grief. She escaped a dream and returned, taking hell with her. She had no idea what was going to happen to any of them now.

I can’t even recognize who I was a few minutes ago. I wanted Mikhail dead. I wanted to make him suffer. How can I start over and be a better person if I’m carrying all this hate? I thought I had moved past that already. I’m damned. I’m fucking damned and I always will be.

She felt her insides roiling with suppressed rage and chaos. In response, the secret fire immediately heated her skin, this time burning Mikhail if his choked whimpers were any indication.

Katherine gasped. His physical pain became hers. “Let me go.”

“No.” He tightened his grip on her wrists and folded his body over hers.

“Mikhail, stop! You have to stop touching me!”

“NO!” He gritted his teeth and dominated his instincts. “I’m not abandoning you again. Not when you need me!”

“I don’t want to hurt you. Not like this,” she begged while watching his hands turn red. “Please let go. Don’t keep making me hurt you.”

“I…you’re not. It’s…okay.”

“We don’t know exactly what’s happening to me, Mikhail. We don’t know what my body’s capable of.” She arched away, attempting to keep even her hair from brushing against him in accidental violence. “Damnit! I could kill you if you don’t let go!”

Katherine’s tortured pleas finally broke through his stubborn pride. He rolled away, powerful chest heaving as the agony continued its course. A few minutes passed before Mikhail reluctantly left her and the bed. His feet stumbled to an inelegant stop. He raised his hand. The marks on his palms were gone, leaving his beautiful skin unblemished in a way it never was before.

“There’s no lines or scars.”

Katherine raised her head and stared at him in sick awe. “What?”

“It’s perfect.” His mouth trembled as he let out a watery sigh. “So fucking perfect…”

Katherine’s body seemed to right itself with their distance. The awful heat melted away into normalcy. She felt her eyes fill with more tears and whispered, “I’m so sorry I did that. I didn’t mean to…”

“Which means I can’t touch you anymore.” Mikhail’s body became rigid. He looked brittle, vulnerable to shattering at any moment. “I couldn’t have done it better myself. The thing I fear is what you possess…” Bitter laughter swept the room before dissolving into his murmur of despair. “What am I going to do now?”

Katherine’s hand reached out before recoiling violently.

I can’t.

Hearing her thought, Mikhail bowed his head. “This is Azer’s perfect revenge, Katharina.”

“How can you be so sure?”

Mikhail’s expression became grim. “Because I know exactly what he’s done, Katharina.”

She blinked slowly, never expecting Mikhail to have the answer this quickly. Katherine leaned forward, hanging in dreadful anticipation. “You know?”

Mikhail jerked his head once.

“What is it?” She opened their connection, still not trusting him to be completely honest. Her emotional skin immediately paid the price as impotence, helplessness, and terror raked across Katherine.

“IT is something SO fucked, SO wicked IT could only from the gods themselves.”

The pained sarcasm in Mikhail’s voice made Katherine wince. The air continued to thicken with impotence, making it difficult to breathe. “I know you’re angry, but please stay with me.”

Mikhail scowled in answer.

“Your rage is suffocating me, Mikhail. You’re losing yourself.”

His jaw tightened repeatedly. Many minutes expired before his large body went limp. Mikhail ran an agitated hand through his hair. “I’m sorry, my love.”

Katherine experienced immediate relief along with extreme exhaustion. Combining their natural bond along with her empathic nature was draining her quickly. She blinked several times in an effort to dispel the insidious weakness. “It’s okay.”

“No, it’s not, Katharina. I know better than that.” Mikhail walked over to the empty carafe next to the bed. Taking it to the sink, he filled it with water.

“Don’t be so hard on yourself. We haven’t exactly seen each other in seven years.”

“Which is proof of why I can’t afford to make any more mistakes with you. Especially now.” Mikhail returned, pitcher in hand, and poured her a cup of water. “Thirsty?”

“A little. Thank you.” Katherine took several small sips before passing the plastic tumbler back to him. “Mikhail?”

Satisfied that she looked less wilted, he responded to the unspoken question with one of his own. “Have you ever heard of Kundalini?” Mikhail waited until
Katherine shook her head. “It’s known as a divine fire. It can heal, change, and transform the body.”

Relief tinged her uncertain smile. “Then it’s good.”

“It can be. But right now your Kundalini is on a manic scale, one obviously not meant to be carried by any mortal.”

“How do you know? I mean, how do you know that this is Kundalini?”

“Because of this.” Mikhail held out his palms. “You couldn’t do this without Kundalini. What’s worse is your divine fire burns impurity away until it reaches perfection.”

“I don’t understand, Mikhail.”

“It means that with one quick touch you can cure physical flaws. Anything longer and you’ll melt the flesh away in order to free a soul.” Mikhail blew out a defeated puff of air. “This kind of divine fire burns through the imperfect shell of mortality so the perfect soul can fly free…like the phoenix.”

Katherine’s countenance crumbled. She shook her head in denial even while she fought to keep a never-ending scream locked inside. “No. I can’t believe Azer would purposely try to hurt me.”

“I told you he was a demon. What can you possibly expect from something so twisted? Honor? Affection? Selflessness?”

“You don’t understand what happened there. Azer let me go. He helped me come back—even though he knew it was probably to you.” Katherine dropped her gaze. The next mournful murmur admitted to uncomprehending betrayal. “He loved me…so very much.”

Mikhail’s jade eyes burned with unnatural splendor.

“This is what it means to be loved by one of us, Katharina. Forever apart, belonging to neither, and dying just to be loved again.” His words tumbled into one another. “Azer will continue to dog your every step, plotting and planning to find a way from his world into yours. He’ll never let you go—even if it destroys you.”

Time slid into hellish eternity. Katherine’s vision became a watery, white blur—a reminder of the unreal dimension she had shared with Azer.


_________________________________________________________________________________________
“So I should just hate everyone, even you, Katherine?”

“If it makes you happy.”

“And if my hate extends to wanting to hurt you, should I just make myself happy?”

“If you need it.”

“What do you get out of it?”

“Pleasure. Didn’t you know, Azer? I’m one of those masochist freaks. Pain makes me wet.”

“So I should just exorcise my demons on your willing body? Masochist? I don’t think so.”

“Then what would you call it?”

“I call it something far more disturbed. Martyrdom.”

“So the martyr makes her appearance—sacrificing herself for the greater good. So tell me—do you want my sacrifice or not?”

“Why are you like this?”

“Don’t try to understand something that already is. Just accept that it isn’t as it was.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Neither do I.”


_________________________________________________________________________________________
She’d spent years trying to numb her emotions. In destructive hedonism, Katherine turned away from the world’s kindness and sought only its filth.
All in the quest of destroying every trace of the girl she had been with Mikhail.

Like divine fire?

Katherine braved a glance from beneath wet lashes.

I can’t deny it. I don’t want him to go. And Azer knew that about me. He HATED that about me—more than he hated Mikhail.

She forced despair into submission. “Will you leave me again?”

In one moment of reckless resignation, Mikhail let his weakness rule him.

“I told you this is what it means to be loved by one of US.” The slash twisting Mikhail’s lips barely passed for a smile. He came closer, predatory in his fervor. “I’ve loved you for thousands of years. Strip away all my layers, my incarnations, and your soul is in the center of mine. I love you and I die for my love for you. And do you know what?”

Mikhail leaned forward, hands on either side of Katherine. His lips brushed hers and incandescent heat flared between them. With careful movements, his mouth feathered her skin, void of fear and hesitation despite the physical pain spiraling inside. His lips, red and raw from their testimony of devotion, stopped next to her ear.

“I’ll spend eternity dying if I can just be with you.”

Katherine understood that Mikhail was offering himself to her, beckoning with fatalistic glee to die in her embrace. Terrible desire threatened to consume Katherine’s conscience.

It was then that she knew what Azer had done and why.


_________________________________________________________________________________________
“How can you love me when you’re trying to turn me against Mikhail? How can you love me when you know how much I love him?!”

“You still love someone so cowardly and beneath contempt? Have you forgotten how he left you?”

“I’ll never forget but it doesn’t change my core. I know it’s sick, Azer. I know it’s fucked up. Goddamnit! Don’t you think I get that? But it doesn’t mean I want Mikhail back.”

“Liar. You won’t let him go.”

“Because I can’t right now.”

“Why?!”

“Because he taught me love! Even if I became corrupted by it! That’s not something I’ve been able to easily throw away!”

“I want your purity, Katherine. I want you to live a life without the disease of constant reincarnated pain!”


_________________________________________________________________________________________

Katherine’s gaze slid to meet Mikhail’s.

Azer thought I would fall back into his arms. He counted on it. So this is his punishment. I can’t touch Mikhail without hurting him. If we force it, Mikhail will die.

“I don’t care.”

The words slashed her faltering control, exposing horror and betrayal. “How can you say that?”

“Because it’s true.”

“No. Not you, Mikhail. You’re strong. You wouldn’t be Alpha if it wasn’t—”

“Katherine.”

The lifeless syllables silenced her. She sat there, arms limp and without grace.

“I’m a slave to my own genetics. My position isn’t due to strength or cunning or merit. I’m my family’s god because a random combination of DNA markers called my soul back into this body. It has nothing to do with nobility or worth.”

Katherine processed the words as if they belonged to a stranger. She had never seen Mikhail so despondent and without spirit. She probed his aura and found it to be as broken as hers.

“Why do you think I could forgive you for being a whore, Katharina?” Mikhail choked back a sob. “It’s because I know all about whoring yourself for comfort, safety, and greed.”

“That’s not why I did it.” The words fell hard with reproach. “I never did it for gain.”

“I know. You did it to escape life. I did it to cling to it. That’s why I’m a far more disgusting creature than you can ever think to be.” He coughed once. “I had hope when you came back to me. I thought we could start over again. But now…”

“Now…” she repeated numbly.

Mikhail’s eyes reflected hopeless insanity. “Consume me, Katharina. I’ve tried living without you for seven years and it’s been a slow death. After being with you now, I can’t go back to that again. If this is it, just let me die in your arms.”

Katherine suffered his weariness. It lay in direct contrast to what she heard only a day before when he had been fighting to keep her in this world. Now she understood his passion. He needed her alive. He needed her because Mikhail cared nothing for his own life.

She couldn’t allow that.

Just as she couldn’t allow anyone else to pull the strings guiding her fate.

So Katherine did what she did best. She pulled away.

“No.”

“Why not?” The feral challenge failed to hide its owner’s despair.

“Didn’t you just promise not to leave me ever again? What the hell do you think this is now? You’re willing to die. Why? Because it’s noble? It’s not! It’s selfish! Not only would I have to deal with this all by myself, but I’d have your death on my hands. What do you think that would do to me? First our son and now you?”

The truth forced Mikhail to fold into himself. He began to tremble violently with shame. “I’m sorry.”

“Look at me.”

He obeyed with reluctance. His eyes were liquid with remorse. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me…why I act this way. Everything I do only ends up hurting you, but I never see it until it’s too late.”

“I don’t want you to talk. I want you to listen. Can you do that?”

Mikhail swallowed once, quailing beneath her unforgiving glare. “I’m listening.”

“I swore not to make the same mistakes.” Katherine’s tone held neither softness nor compassion. “If you’re going to bail on me, Mikhail, then leave now and don’t ever come back. But don’t use me to make you into a martyr.”

Mikhail flinched. Each word was designed to flay open his frailty. “I didn’t know that was what I was doing. I’m sorry. I won’t let it happen again.”

Satisfied with his honesty, Katherine gentled his voice into one he was familiar with. “I want you to remember something, Mikhail. The martyr never saved anyone—least of all himself. Don’t ever be one.”

Mikhail’s features shuddered with loathing. “Sometimes it’s all I know.” He stepped back, regal grace transforming his posture. The weakness had passed, hiding away behind centuries of superior breeding.

Just as she didn’t recognize the recent side of her husband, Katherine didn’t recognize this one either. Mikhail appeared to be untouchable, above mortal concern. She picked at her blanket with nervous fingers.

Is he still going to stay?

“I’m not leaving. I’m going to stand by your side and be the man I should’ve been seven years ago.”

Katherine’s throat fluttered with emotion. “Thank you.”

“Can I ask you something?” Mikhail waited until she nodded her head. “What does this mean for us? You told me today you didn’t come back to be the same person. That you didn’t want to be with me. Do you still feel the same?”

Katherine paused several moments before replying. “Does my answer influence the amount of help you’re willing to give me?”

His imperial demeanor vanished. “No! I wasn’t trying to imply…” Mikhail took a deep breath before letting it out in exasperation. “Why do I lose all eloquence and meaning when I talk to you? I can’t seem to say anything right.”

Katherine laughed softly. “Mikhail, I think it’s just called being a man.”

He nodded his head in consternation before a rueful grin tugged at his lips. “I think you’re right. Let me start over.”

“No, it’s okay. I know what you’re trying to ask.” Katherine fought her impulse to cover his hand with hers. “My feelings are different than what they were fifteen minutes ago, but in some ways they’re still the same.”

“In what way?”

“It means we’re going to face this together. What happens afterwards…we’ll face together as well.”

While not exactly the answer he hoped for, Mikhail somehow managed to accept it with dignity. “All right, Katharina. It’s what a relationship is supposed to be, isn’t it? You make the decisions together because it belongs to you both.”

“Yes.”

Companionable silence encompassed them briefly before Mikhail cleared his throat and awkwardly admitted, “But I’ve never done it.”

“Neither have I.”

They smiled together, clinging to any bit of humor to make their present circumstances more bearable. The mood deepened when Mikhail reached out to brush her hair back only to let his hand fall.

“I don’t know where to go from here.”

“I do.” Katherine answered his unspoken question swiftly. “We have to find Azer.”

Mikhail’s posture radiated primitive rage as he sprang backwards. “I don’t want you anywhere near him!”

“We have to find Azer, Mikhail. He did this to me—there has to be a way for him to undo it.”

Mikhail came forward and dropped to his knees beside her bed. He visibly fought a battle to restrain his desperate anger. “Impossible, Katharina. No one can change this.”

“That’s where you’re wrong.” She ghosted her fingers over the melancholic lines bracketing his mouth. “There’s at least one person who can.”

“Who? Azer?” Mikhail spat the name like poison.

“No.”

“Then who?”

Katherine smiled brilliantly, despite the shadows in her future.

“Me.”

Image Credit: lunar @ Stock.Xchng

Previous |Next

Vicious Bliss: broken Prologue

Estimated reading time: 3 – 5 minutes

PROLOGUE
“The Journey Must Go On”

Letting you go leaves me without many things

Comfort, joy, and companionship.

But never the one thing I treasure above all others.

Winter 2012

Himalayan Mountains

“Did you know it’d end like this?”

“No. Did you?”

“How would I have known?”

Her tart reply brought a smile to his rosy lips. “Because you’ve been able to read my heart—long before I knew what it was like to have one.”

Laughter drifted like the snowflakes surrounding them.

“I think we would’ve saved ourselves a lot of time if only I had understood what I was reading.”

“And if only I had stopped fighting myself and you.”

His quiet admission encouraged her to ask, “Do you think we’ve gotten smarter this time?”

“Yes.” He paused, curious and calm, as had been his wont recently. “Do you think we’ll do better?”

“They say the third time’s the charm. I think they’re wrong.”

He continued his walk, gait graceful and measured. “The fourth then?”

“Maybe.” She yawned and laid her head on his shoulder. Eventually they reached their destination. Hidden away, far from the snows, she whispered, “Are we here?”

“Yes.”

The cold leeched away all residual fear. “I don’t have much longer, do I?”

“No.”

“I don’t think I ever told you, but I’m glad. I’m grateful that we went through what we did.”

“I know.” He leaned forward and pressed his lips hard against hers, eager and hungry for one last kiss, one last caress to take with him. Many minutes later he asked, “Do you mind if I keep holding you?”

“I would like that very much.” Her small hand crept out to play with several of his loose tendrils. “Will you be lonely without me?”

“Yes. But I’ve waited hundreds of lifetimes for you. I can wait another eternity as long as I know you’ll be waiting for me.”

“I’ll always wait for you.”

She smiled and then silence reigned.

The wind continued its brutal assault.

The world died.

Again.

But it was now they understood what love could really be. There was something greater than their lust, rage, pride, and fear. Something more than either of them could ever truly appreciate but something they always understood even with madness clouding their minds.

Holding one another when all was gone.

Knowing one end was simply the beginning of another.

Believing in one emotion beyond all others.

LOVE.

Image Credit: xymonau @ Stock.Xchng

Previous | Next

Vicious Bliss: broken Copyright

Estimated reading time: 1 – 2 minutes

Copyright © 2009 by Claudia D. Christian


All rights reserved. No part of this book shall be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without prior written permission from DelSin Publishing, LLC. DelSin Publishing, LLC and the author assume no liability assumed for damages resulting from the use of the information contained herein.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Published by:

DelSin Publishing, LLC

www.delsin-books.com

Image Credit: dimitri_c @ Stock.Xchng

Next