A Long Walk Home Ch. 10byJazCullen©
Here's a little extra chapter this week. Real life has made it impossible for me to answer emails and comments as I've wanted to. So here's a treat to make up for it :-)
Many thanks to mikothebaby for her editing skills and to the Guild and my Tweeps who keep me entertained.
Dayton sat shell shocked, disbelief coursing through him. He couldn't believe he'd lost control the way he had, that he'd actually thrown the knife at her. He couldn't believe that he was still alive; that she hadn't retaliated and taken his life as he'd tried to take hers. But the thing he couldn't believe the most was, how at the very last moment, a fraction of a second before the knife had left his hand, he'd changed the angle of his throw.
He was proficient with knives, an expert even. His aim had been true even if slightly weak from his injuries. The knife was destined to bury itself deep in her throat, incapacitating her long enough to allow him to get a sharper one so he could detach her lovely head from her shoulders. And at the last moment he'd change his angle, enough to merely wound her without leaving her helpless. It was staggering.
The hate he felt inside him twisted, turned around on itself until it was no longer focused on the vampire, but was directed at him. He'd almost killed Freya and what really was her crime? She had kissed him, shown some attraction to him and said a few uncomplimentary things about Faith. Hardly actions deserving the death he imagined for her.
Those things had hurt him, wounded him deeply but to try and kill her? It was unconscionable. He was better than that, a former Beta who would have laid down his life to protect any member of his pack. He didn't recognise the man he had been a moment ago.
Yes, Freya had hurt him but she had also saved his life, cared for him when he couldn't do so himself, cooked him food when she didn't eat, anticipated his every need in her own warped way. Rayne's words came back to him, his friend's appeal on behalf of the vampire.
He knew now that Rayne could feel other's emotions, that it had been his pain which had first attracted her to him. She had sensed the same pain in the vampire, had been amazed that Freya could hide it so well behind her serene mask. He hadn't wanted to listen to it, hadn't wanted to admit that maybe the vampire did hurt inside, maybe she did understand some of how he felt.
A pair of anguish filled green eyes filled his memory, raw pain in her voice as she damned him to hell. His gut twisted hard and he sucked in a deep breath, turning to look into those same green eyes which were still tinged with a fine circle of red.
"Your knife," Freya remarked calmly, handing him a clean one so he could finish his breakfast, not that he could stomach another bite.
"Finish it," she said in the same calm tone. "You need to be out of here by tomorrow morning at the latest. You need to regain your strength as quickly as possible." She walked back to her chair and sat down again as if nothing untoward had just happened.
"Why the deadline?" he finally asked quietly, forcing himself to eat some more, knowing she was right, that he did need to regain his strength quickly.
"You're interrupting my plans," she answered almost absentmindedly, turning a page in her hand to read the next one. "I have other things to do than care for a wolf who was too stupid to notice a trap."
There was more to it than that. He didn't know how he knew but he did. His wolf was stirring with agitation, unhappy with his actions. Dayton bit into a slice of toast and took a sip of coffee to wash it down.
"You're wrong," he said quietly, pushing his plate away, unable to eat any more. His words and sudden movement had Freya meeting his gaze again with a raised eyebrow.
Taking a deep breath, Dayton let it out slowly, swallowing hard. "About Faith," he said so quietly it was almost a whisper. "She would have kicked my ass if she could see me right now." His lips quirked slightly; a hint of warmth entering his eyes.
"She had a temper that was so hot everyone ducked out of the way when she blew, me faster than anyone else because it was usually my fault." A true smile crossed his face, his expression softening completely. "She hated being looked after and I was a Beta. It was my role to protect everyone and she was the one person I wanted to protect the most. It drove her insane sometimes."
"She sounds as if she was pretty feisty," Freya answered in a carefully neutral tone. "A strong mate for you."
"She was. The best mate ever. She loved life, dived into every new experience without a care in the world. When she laughed my heart sang with joy, when she yelled my heart sang with joy, when we loved I stopped being a single person and joined with her completely, two people living in one soul for the barest fraction of a moment. She was my life."
"And yet you hate her with every fibre of your being."
Her statement stunned him.
Denial ripped through him, his mouth opening automatically to protest but nothing came out. He stared at Freya, her words echoing around the room, crashing over him in a wave of raw agony. A choked sound ripped out of him, clawing its way out of his very soul.
"She left me!" The words were issued on a raw, primal scream of anguish, guilt and harshness in the air as he admitted the one thing he'd hidden from himself for over fifty years.
Freya watched him crumble, watched the sheer horror on his face as he gave voice to the truth he had hidden from himself for so long. Something cracked deep within her, something splintered as she watched a proud wolf disintegrate before her very eyes. Pain like nothing she had ever experienced before welled up inside her as her wolf bowed his beautiful head and began to sob such awful tears of anguish.
She sat rooted to the spot, unable to move or offer him any comfort. He didn't want it from her anyway. She would only add to his anguish if she placed her hands on him at that moment. Instead of going to him she forced her limbs to move, retrieved the dishes silently from the table and took them into the kitchen.
Leaning against the wall, hidden from the man in the other room, she closed her eyes tightly and wept silent tears with him, her heart breaking at his anguish. To love was to suffer, to feel nothing but pain and misery.
For two thousand years she'd done this to her brother, broken Nors' heart over and over again with her actions. She would do so again but it would be the last time he would ever have to suffer the misery she put him through. If she could only tell him that she understood now, how sorry she was for every tear she had ever caused him to shed over her.
If he only could know that just once she had known the same anguish, the same unrelenting torture of knowing someone she loved was slowly killing themselves, slowly wilting under the pressure of emotions they had hidden from for so long.
Listening to Dayton cry, seeing the agony she had put on his face by making him face up to what he'd been hiding from for so long, was the cruellest punishment ever, one that would haunt her until her dying day. But she had to do this for him, had to drag him back to living no matter what it cost her personally. It would only hurt for a short period of time. She could endure it.
He had stopped weeping by the time she returned to the room, a cup of coffee in both hands. Her face was as serene as ever, her gaze sweeping over the destruction written across his face.
"She couldn't help it," she said quietly. "I'm sure Faith would have preferred to remain with you rather than leave the mortal world as early as she did."
He took a deep breath, kept his gaze averted from hers even as he reached for the proffered coffee. "I know," he answered hoarsely, amazed at the weight that felt lifted from his shoulders.
"Your heart hasn't been ready to face it, Dayton. That is why it has taken you so long to admit to your feelings. You can't heal until you admit to the hate, understand the foolishness of it and let Faith go. She is dust. You can deny it all you want but it doesn't make it any less true. Faith is dead and she is never coming back. Accept it."
Dayton turned his eyes to hers, was once more struck by the red ring of fire around her irises. He knew he had just humiliated himself in front of the one person who couldn't even begin to understand what a true emotion was. And yet she'd said all the right things, pushed through his very last barrier until he was raw with no place left to hide. If she was so unfeeling then how could she know what to do?
He wanted to hate her for it, strove to find that bitter emotion he'd held so tightly to before, but he couldn't find it. It was as if his tears had washed away every bitter emotion he'd felt for the last fifty years. Instead of hate he actually found himself wanting to thank her. From the moment she'd entered his life she had pushed him relentlessly one way or another.
Because of her he had returned to the pack, begun the slow reintegration with his family and his people. Because of her he was alive when he should now be dead. Because of her he didn't hate Faith any more for leaving him. He could accept that it was just a horrendous accident; that his beautiful mate had laughed and loved with such wild abandon, that she had given everything to him in the time that they'd had together.
Because of Freya Eriksson he could finally let his Faith go as his mate would have wanted him to. He could finally start to look towards the future and maybe hope to find someone new to share his life with. "Why?"
Something danced across her face, an emotion so fleeting that he didn't have time to catch what is was before her mask slipped into place.
"Call it my apology, for taking that which you did not give freely," she answered before rising to leave the retreat. "You should rest some more, Dayton. You can use Nors' room. It's the first on the left through the door." The vampire slipped out into the early morning sunshine leaving him alone with his shaken emotions still whirling wildly through his mind.
Dayton was confused by her response, still feeling raw as he made his way to the bedrooms, heading towards the room that belonged to her brother. The door directly ahead caught his attention and he wondered if it was Freya's.
Just what was her room like? Who was the real Freya Eriksson? A person's private space reflected their personality more truthfully than anything else did. He was walking towards the closed door before he realised what he was doing, his wolf vocal in a way it hadn't been in a very long time. Reaching out he turned the knob and let the door fall open.
Shock rippled through him causing every muscle to tense in his body. His mouth gaped open and he fought to breathe as he stared at row after row of his paintings all one on top of the other. There was barely an inch of wall space between them.
They were all pieces from his showing in Japan years ago. It had been his best exhibition, a large number of his paintings attracting buyers. From the looks of things Freya Eriksson had been the one who had purchased most of them. Seeing them all together in light of his recent emotional backlash, he could easily see the pain and suffering within each painting, the harshness of each brush stroke like a knife wound.
His heart turned over in his chest, his thoughts in turmoil. Why did she have all these painting? Why did she surround herself with such misery? Was Rayne correct all along? Was Freya Eriksson really wounded so badly? His artwork seemed to say yes and yet her calm demeanour said otherwise.
The ring of fire around her eyes concerned him too. He didn't know why he cared at all but he did. There was something so badly wrong here that his wolf was reacting to it, his protective instincts kicking in when they shouldn't. Not for a vampire.
He was backtracking to the living area, his body aching with the exertion he was putting it under. He needed to rest, needed to gather his strength; but he was suddenly and perplexingly desperate to see Freya, to talk to her, ask her some questions.
He threw open the door and found her sitting on the steps of the porch. He stopped in surprise, blinking slowly. He had expected her to be miles away and yet she hadn't left the area.
"You should be resting," she said quietly not turning to look at him. "You need to leave tomorrow. Do I have to drug you again?"
He growled loudly before moving to sit carefully on the step beside her. "I thought you'd realise by now that I don't like being made to do things against my will."
"Sometimes a man needs a little push in the right direction. He can be pigheaded and stubborn and not always know what is best for him." Her head tilted to the side and he was once more staring at her eyes and their abnormal glow of red which appeared stronger in the morning sunlight.
"What does it mean; your eyes?"
Long dark lashes swept down hiding her gaze before they fluttered open again and she met his. "Nothing important. Nothing that need concern you."
Her evasiveness caused more unease to settle deep within him. "That's not an acceptable answer, Freya. Not one I'm willing to accept. You've just ripped me to shreds emotionally. I deserve the truth after what you've put me through."
Pain flickered in her eyes, the first honest emotion he'd witnessed since he'd woken up in her retreat. "Everyone has their demons, Dayton. You don't have a monopoly on pain and suffering. Everyone selfishly believes that their pain is stronger, that it hurts deeper than anyone else's. The truth; it's all relative. Each person's pain is as strong or as weak as they allow it to be."
There was such hopelessness in her voice that he reached out and caught a lock of thick brown hair, watching the sun glint off the blonde and red streaks hidden within it. It was instinctive to reach out to someone in pain. "Tell me your pain, Freya. I told you mine. Let me hear what demons haunt you."
It was so tempting, so overwhelming to feel him sit so close to her, to have him touch her voluntarily. Freya wanted to reach out to him, to succumb to his words, to the hypnotic sway in his voice that promised her he would listen to every word she said. No one had ever really listened to her. Nors had tried but their timing had always been wrong.
"I'm afraid that if you're still here tomorrow I will kill you," she answered honestly, her gaze never wavering from his.
Her answer surprised him but it didn't frighten him. "Why would you do that?"
"Because I wouldn't be able to stop myself," she whispered, a catch in her voice as her guards tumbled down around her. "The hunger is crippling. It's tearing me up inside until all I can think about is feeding."
The red fire around her eyes, it all suddenly fell into place. Rayne had mentioned once that when a vampire went hungry for too long their eyes began to glow red. It was a highly dangerous situation because their humanity was lost and they devolved, effectively turning Rogue. The only solution was for their peers to put them down as Weres put down a rabid wolf or cat.
Ashleigh's words came back to him too, her certainty that Freya would never return, that Nors believed his sister had left to find some way to die. His conversation with Freya when he'd asked if she was leaving and her cryptic response. It all fell into place and his wolf howled a mournful sound so loud it was all he could hear for a long moment.
"What have you done?" he whispered, horrified as her eyes glowed a little redder.
"I'm tired, Dayton. So very tired of it all," she answered quietly a tear rolling down one perfect cheekbone. "Tired of the memories, of the endless faces of lives I've ruined, lives I've taken. My very first act as a vampire was to slaughter an entire family. I would have killed them to the very last member if Nors hadn't spirited the children away. There was still more than enough for me to drink from, to bathe in their blood and feel their pulses beat their last. It was horrifying but it was glorious too. Heaven and Hell all rolled into one."
More tears fell, silent and yet screaming of an agony that ripped her soul apart. "I'm a monster and you should get as far away from me as possible, Dayton."
He was horrified at her words, imagining the destruction she had caused and yet he could see her pain, see the self hatred deep within her and knew that if she could go back she would do things differently. But she couldn't go back and she couldn't go on, not until she let go of the past the way she had forced him to let go of his.
"Let it go, Freya," he said firmly tightening his grip in her hair and pulling her face close to his. "The past can't be changed, you've shown me that. But we can learn from it and move forward. You just need to try."
"I can't," she whispered tremulously. "Not anymore. It's too late for me, Dayton, but it isn't too late for you. Leave while you can. I'll call The Council before I degenerate too far. They'll send a clean up crew and take care of me. You should be as far away as possible before that happens."
His wolf howled furiously, something broke deep within him and he was amazed that there was anything left inside him still to break. He had thought he wanted this woman dead and yet he couldn't walk away from her, couldn't leave her to self destruct the way she was intending.
Fight! The word resounded through his head and he heard it in a feminine voice, a tortured voice that had urged him to fight when he lay in a drugged sleep. He'd heard it in Freya's voice.
"Fight, damn you!" he growled harshly a second before he ground his lips hard against hers in a kiss so ruthless it brought cuts to both their lips. "Fight, Freya," he whispered against her mouth. "Don't give in."
For some reason it was suddenly crucial that he save her as he hadn't been able to save Faith. His wolf demanded it. The man he was demanded it. Somehow he had to reach into the soul of this broken woman and will her to fight.
Her sobs wrenched through the morning air, long, wracking sounds that made his wolf howl continuously and his own eyes fill with tears. He kissed her through her sobs, brushed his lips against her wet cheeks over and over again seeking to give her comfort, trying to imbue some of his strength to her. Letting her know, through a wolf's touch that someone cared enough to fight for her.
With a tortured groan he ripped himself away from her and forced his aching body into the house, grabbing the first sharp knife he could find. He didn't hesitate, didn't stop to think about what he was doing. He drew the blade across the side of his neck quickly and forced her mouth to him. "Feed, damn you! Fight!"
Dayton's blood filled her mouth, her stomach cramping in agony as the scent of him overcame her. Freya swallowed hard, savouring his precious life's blood and began to pull deeply, ravenously. It had been months since she had fed.
For years she had hurt herself, holding off feeding for as long as possible, until the agony was so crippling it was an unendurable torture, a fitting punishment for what she was. Years of planning, waiting for the right moment, the time when she would know it would be right to die. As she had known when she had stared into a pair of anguish filled blue eyes that had seen deep inside her and branded her the monster she truly was.
Long torturous months of slowly starving to death engulfed her. It had been excruciating, terrifying, and yet she had persisted, intent on finally having an end to her suffering.
Now she glutted herself unable to stop the pull against his neck. When his wound closed she sank her fangs deep into his tender flesh, feeling him stiffen at her bite and then moan softly as she continued to feed. It was only when he fell limply against her that reason took over and her heart stopped for an instant.