tagNonHumanTears of the Fallen Ch. 21

Tears of the Fallen Ch. 21


Apologies for the long delay. Hope everyone has a wonderful festive period and keep your eyes peeled...for the remaining chapters :)



Pietro closed and locked the main doors to the Dive, knowing he couldn't put off the inevitable any longer. Cassia was upstairs in his apartment, where she had been all night since he'd returned to the nightclub.

He'd stayed away for as long as he could, finally returning when he received a particularly blunt voicemail message from Andrei telling him to get his ass back to work. Now he had to go upstairs and talk to his wolf, even though he had no idea what he was going to say.

What could he say? She had announced that he was her mate and for Cassia, that was the end of any discussion. She was more wolf than vampire, and she followed her animal genealogy. That was what made her so pack orientated. That was why she'd had no choice but to protect Reasa that day. He was finally beginning to understand that a wolf pack wasn't that different from a vampire coven, and his wolf had claimed him as hers.

Sighing, he headed upstairs, still stunned by Cassia's revelation but he supposed that explained many things. Like why he had been ready to rip Fox apart for daring to think he had any kind of claim over Cassia; why he had been so unaccountably drawn to the blonde wolf from the moment he had first laid eyes on her. He had been willing to risk Alexei's wrath to be with her, not to mention Andrei's, and that wasn't something he did lightly.

Cassia was his mate.

He ran the words through his mind, testing them out, examining the emotional appeal to them. They brought forth such strong feelings of belonging, and of ownership, only that wasn't the correct word. No, he didn't own Cassia; he belonged to her, as she belonged to him.

She belonged to him.

Pietro let himself into his apartment, his gaze travelling over the living area and finding it empty. He knew she was still there...he could scent her in the apartment. A quick check inside the small kitchenette showed it was empty too though there were clean dishes on the draining board.

Crossing to the refrigerator, he opened it, not really surprised to see the food inside it. Cassia must have gone out at some point. She must have taken the back stairs down to the basement exit, which meant Andrei had given her the code to let herself back in. For a moment he wanted to throttle his friend. Andrei was having too much fun at his expense with this one, but then, he had enjoyed himself when Loretta claimed his friend so he supposed he couldn't really complain.

That only left one place she could be and he inhaled deeply before he silently opened the bedroom door. Cassia was curled up on top of the bed, the bedspread half covering her lower body. She was still dressed though it appeared that she'd been asleep for a while. Her curls were tumbled across her face, one arm supporting her head as she slept. She looked so adorable he wanted to cross the room and climb in beside her. He wanted to lose himself in her arms and pretend that they didn't have to deal with all the issues complicating everything.

He couldn't though, he knew that. They had to talk and that meant waking her. Crossing the room quietly, he sat down on the side of the bed, unable to resist the urge to brush her silky curls away from her face. Cassia murmured in her sleep, rolling onto her back as her eyes fluttered opened. "Pietro."

"You shouldn't be here, Cassia. You should be home safe at the compound." He watched the sleepiness leave her face, a small frown marring her forehead.

"I should be wherever you are," she answered, moving to sit up until they were bare inches apart. "I meant what I said earlier, Pietro. You are my mate."

He hadn't expected anything less than the total conviction in her expression. If only it were that simple, though. Pietro couldn't deny the way his heart sped up at the thought of being mated with her, at how much he longed to know that sense of belonging that only true mates experienced. Yet, how could he make her understand just how difficult this was for him? Yes, she was empathic enough to understand, but she didn't appear to see that the issues they faced weren't that easy to overcome.

"Cass...even if that's true; you have to know how impossible this situation is."

"I know there are issues we need to overcome, Pietro, believe me, I completely understand that. What I don't understand is why you're not willing to try. You are so convinced that you will fail at any attempt to compromise that you just don't appear to want to even contemplate it. Don't you feel the mating pull? Am I not worth the attempt?"

If ever there was a woman who was worth just that and so much more, it was definitely Cassia Romanov, but still he hesitated, still he wasn't sure he could be the man that she believed him to be.

"This isn't about you," he argued, rising from the bed to pace in agitation. "This is about me, Niña. I am not the forgiving kind. I have spent centuries alone, dealing out justice as and when required. Even before Europe I was this man and I don't know how to be anything else." He stopped to look at her, his expression haunted. "I am flawed, Cassia and it has nothing to do with these scars I wear now. I can't forgive, Reasa, not even for you."

Cassia stared at him, hearing the subtle plea in his words. He truly believed everything he said and it was hurting him as much as the feelings of continued rejection were hurting her. She wasn't willing to give up trying, though. She wasn't willing to concede that he couldn't learn to compromise for the good of the pack. He wanted her as much as she wanted him, of that she was certain. Well, she would fight for him; she would be his strength even as he doubted himself.

"I'm not willing to accept that," she finally replied, rising slowly from the bed, her hands placed on her hips. An idea was slowly forming in her mind, something so outside the box it would probably call to the vampire within him.

"I challenge you..."

Pietro frowned, confusion dancing across his face at her sudden change in tactics. "To what?"

"A sparring match, the best of three. If you win, we mate and I live here with you outside the pack. If I win, we mate and you live with me at the compound."

His expression turned incredulous. "I'm not fighting you."

Cassia's head cocked to the side, a small smile teasing her lips. "Scared I will beat you?"

"You're Vârcolac...of course you'll beat me."

She hadn't considered that and her brow puckered as she thought it through. "Okay, that's a valid point. I will promise only to use one part of me, the vampiric side. That way we will be evenly matched; vampire to vampire."

This had his expression turning thoughtful, and she could see that him wavering. He had never seen her vampiric side. That surely had to tempt his own vampire...the urge to see just what she was when she embraced the other half of her nature.

"Your wolf is your stronger side," he pointed out.

"Exactly, this way it will be fairer to you and I give you my word not to use any magical abilities as well. We will be an even match, Pietro."

His eyes flashed with excitement and for a moment she thought she had him, and then he shook his head. "I'm still not fighting you. I can't, Cassia. It goes against everything I believe in. I'm supposed to protect you whether or not you actually need my protection."

Lord, he was stubborn and utterly frustrating at times. It was all she could do not to let her irritation show. "You're not fighting me. We're sparring. I spar all the time when we're training at the pack. You'll be honing my self-preservation skills."

Cassia could see he was going to continue being stubborn so she opted to take the decision out of his hands. Without waiting for his response, she coaxed her wolf down within herself and slowly gave over more control to her vampire. It was an odd sensation given she didn't typically interact with that half of her psyche on a conscious level. She was surprised to find that doing so was actually quite exciting.

"Cassia, I..." Whatever Pietro was going to say cut off when she leapt towards his, talons extended. He reacted instinctually, spinning out of her way by dropping low and pivoting to the right.

Wow, he was so fast, faster than she had anticipated he would be. This sparring match may not be as simple as she had first imagined. Still, she would keep to her word. If he won...she would leave the pack, however she didn't have any intention of losing so she would have to beat him fair and square.

"Fine," Pietro growled, anticipation crossing his face, as he watched her closely. "If you're intent on playing, then let's play, Niña." He was countering her attack even before he finished speaking, landing a glancing blow to her arm that she didn't have time to fully deflect. It hurt a bit but didn't inflict any real damage.

She countered with a kick to his side, dancing out of reach before he could counter-strike. He was moving so fast he blurred out of her line of sight before she realised what he intended, and she uttered a shriek of dismay as her legs were kicked from under her and she landed with a dull thud on the carpet.

Pietro landed on her chest, one hand encompassing her throat, pinning her in a submissive position. "One - nil," he laughed, delight shining in his eyes.

He looked so gorgeous as he held her immobile she was almost ready to give up and concede defeat, but her pride wouldn't let her. It wasn't even just about her pride either. Pietro needed the pack more than he knew. He would never completely heal until he had confronted and defeated all his demons from his time in Europe. That meant finding some way to come to terms with Reasa. That meant she couldn't afford to lose to him.

"Best of three remember," she answered, trying to ignore the feel of his hard body pressing so intimately with hers. She wanted to wrap her arms and legs around him until there wasn't even a fraction of an inch between them.

"Yes you did say that," he grinned, jumping up and holding out his hand to help her to her feet.

He looked so confident, so completely sure of himself that she was tempted to smack his hand away but she didn't. Instead, she accepted his hand and made sure to accidentally rub her body against his. The way his eyes dilated and the sharp intake of breath was all that she needed to tell her he was sufficiently distracted.

Cassia spun to the left, twisting Pietro's arm up his back as she kicked him behind his right knee causing it to buckle from the hard blow. As he gasped and sank to his knees, she brought her right hand around his neck. "One all," she whispered, laughing at his outraged snort.

"I was helping you up! We hadn't started the second round..."

"An enemy does not wait for you to be prepared for his or her attack. They strike in a moment of weakness."

For a moment she thought he would continue to protest and then a wicked smile crossed his face as she stepped back to allow him up. His expression sent a chill down her spine when he turned to face her. "Touché, Niña. I will not make that mistake again."

Oh Lord, she was in for a world of hurt. His eyes told her that she pricked his male ego and any reluctance he'd had about fighting her was a thing of the past. Whoever won the next fight decided their fate. Pietro was determined that he was going to win this one, as determined as she was.

Pietro came straight towards her, so fast that she barely had time to move out of the way. The slight tensing of his right leg was all she needed to tell her he was going to leap, so she dropped low, diving forward into a roll as she did. He jumped and she rolled under through his legs, coming back to her feet facing him at the same time he turned.

Only he didn't pause as he turned, he was flowing back at her in the same movement, and the only thing that saved her was the small armchair to her left that she hit him with.

"Fuck!" Pietro yelled as he took the chair full on to his face, but she didn't stop to see what his reaction was. Cassia sailed over the bed in one leap, grabbing the bedside cabinet and cracking him again as he followed her movement.

"Oh, Niña, you are so going to pay for that." This time Pietro took a moment to pause, scrubbing blood from his forehead to clear his vision.

The healer in Cassia noted that the cut on his brow had healed instantly but she didn't let her sigh of relief come out. If he noted that she was even slightly concerned about any damage she may inflict, he would use that weakness against her. He was crafty like that, and she had been around her father and uncle way too long to underestimate a vampire of his cunning.

"You would have to actually lay hands on me to make me pay, Pietro. You appear to be having a little trouble in that department. Would you like me to tie one hand behind my back? I mean, I did think I had hampered myself enough with the 'no wolf, no magic' offer but it appears my vamp is a little too much for you too."

Oh, that bit him deep, so much so, he hissed at her, his hazel eye darkening to almost black. It probably wasn't wise to taunt him but she was feeling particularly reckless...or to be more exact her vampiric side was. Cassia had no idea her vampire was so wild. She filed that thought away for later perusal; she needed to be totally focused on the male before her.

"I would have thought Alexei and Andrei would have taught you not to poke a sleeping tiger, Niña. Apparently, they were very remiss in your upbringing. Allow me to educate you..."

"Shit!" Cassia feinted left and then left again as Pietro came at her in a flurry of movements that were so fast she was acting more on instinct than any real evasion skills. She ignored the pain in her side where his talons bit deep, and scrambled backwards as they veered towards her face.

He was cornering her...backing her towards the farthest wall where there was nothing she could use in her defence. If she didn't stop reacting and start acting, he was going to have her boxed in with nowhere to go.

"Dad! No! Wait!"

Pietro spun around at her shriek, cursing as she jumped onto his back, wrapping her legs around his waist and an arm around his neck.

"You little..." He pitched forward, digging talons into her thighs and yanking hard.

Cassia shrieked again but this time it was because she was sailing over his head, heading straight towards the large mirrored wardrobe face first. Oh, crap that was going to hurt. Pietro snaked an arm around her waist and spun her backwards before she hit the glass, the move driving the wind from her body.

He was following her down onto the bed as her back hit the mattress hard, and she knew that if he completed the move, he would win their contest. So she did the one thing that her father had drilled into her since the moment she hit puberty. Cassia brought up her knee and gasped as pain shot through her leg.

The pain was nothing compared to the roar that issued from her vampire as his groin area connected with her knee, his full body weight behind the blow. She didn't hesitate though. She rolled at supernatural speed, her talons wrapped around Pietro's throat, pinning him to the bed as his eyes watered.

"Two - one."

Still sucking air into her sore lungs, Cassia slid from his body and lay panting on her back beside him. For a long time there was only the sound of their laboured breathing, and then Pietro turned his head to look at her. "Alexei or Andrei?"


"That figures."

When he didn't say anything further, she glanced in his direction to find him staring up at the ceiling, his expression giving nothing away.

"I'm sorry. That was a bit of a low blow."

His lips twitched a little, and then his head turned and she could see amusement dancing in his eyes. "No pun intended?"

Now the match was over, she was starting to feel guilty at the underhand tactics she'd used, even if he did appear to find it funny. Dear Lord, she'd broken furniture across his body, not to mention...

"I didn't mean to hurt you."

"No, you meant to win and you used everything in your arsenal to achieve that. Don't ever apologise for doing what is necessary, Niña. You do what you must to win. No holds barred. Though I must confess being bested by what is technically a Youngling is quite ego bruising, but your vampire...she is spectacular."

Cassia laughed, her heart still thudding in her chest. "She scared the crap out of me," she admitted. "I didn't know I could be that sneaky."

Pietro half sat up, his head supported by his hand as he looked down at her. "Yes, the Alexei distraction worked excellently. I can't believe I fell for one of the oldest tricks in the book. I almost had you up until that point." Her sheepish grin teased another laugh from him.

"I didn't know if that would work but it was the only thing I could think of in the spur of the moment."

Pietro's expression turned serious, his finger lightly brushing her cheek before twirling around a golden curl, his gaze intent on the way it clung to his skin. "You're completely certain?"

Cassia knew what he was asking her. "At first I wasn't," she admitted, because he deserved nothing but the truth from her. "My wolf appeared undecided and that confused me for a while but now she has claimed you. You are my mate."

Her wolf didn't know. He didn't think that was possible, not from what he'd learned about Weres over the centuries. Cassia's honesty was refreshing, but there was something she was holding back.

"When did you know for sure?" He asked the question but deep in his heart he already knew the answer. He could still hear the mournful howl of the wolf that day, when he had rejected the woman lying beside him...when he had accused her of betraying him.

"Does that really matter, Pietro? We belong to each other. That's the only thing that matters."

She was letting him off the hook, granting him forgiveness for the harsh words he'd said that day. It would have been so easy to accept her generosity but he had never been one to take the easy route. "It matters, Cass...to me. That last day at the compound, I was so consumed with the need for revenge. I was more than aware of what the pack meant to you, and yet, I still said those things to you, accused you of betrayal."

Sitting up, Cassia pushed him backwards, until their positions were reversed and she was the one leaning over him. "I understood. It just took my wolf a little longer to and as you know I tend to follow my animal as opposed to my vampiric side. For a short time I needed to allow my wolf to come to terms with your rejection but I was never in any danger of going rogue. I don't think the Vârcolac can go rogue, not in the same sense that a Were can. I was hurt but I was never in any danger, Pietro. I need you to believe that."

His beautiful wolf was reassuring him when he was the one who had caused her so much anguish. Everything she had ever done since the first moment they'd met was to think of his needs, to put him first and he had selfishly lashed out and hurt her. She deserved someone so much better than him, someone with far less emotional scars.

"You did not just say that," Cassia laughed, her curls tumbling around her face as she shook her head. "My dad and uncle are two of your best friends."

He hadn't realised he'd said the words out aloud until she started laughing. Yeah right, who was he trying to kid? She'd grown up surrounded by two of the most emotionally challenged vampires he'd ever known and she'd still turned out pretty amazing. Taking him on would be a piece of cake after that.

"You're not going to be dissuaded, are you?" The fierceness that blazed from her eyes was the only answer he needed, her possessiveness making his heart stutter. She was claiming him, and he couldn't deny that he wanted that as much as she did. Cassia had such faith in him, such belief that they could conquer anything as long as they were together. He'd be a fool to walk away from the love she was offering him, and though he may have acted foolish in Europe, he had no intention of continuing that streak.

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