“She’s weeping again.”
Liam’s softly spoken words had Ashleigh looking up from her book to see her son standing in the living room doorway. His large frame almost filled the entire space as he leaned against the side of the wall with his arms crossed. The anxiety in his eyes hurt her heart but she couldn’t bring herself to care about the woman lying in the room above her head.
Nors had said to give it time, but she still felt nothing but hatred for the former vampire who had tried to kill her son. Liam’s compassion shone from his eyes. It was simply beyond her comprehension how anyone could look at her baby and see a monster worth killing. Ashleigh had lost so much already in her life that the mere thought of losing her son was the final straw. Her heart had hardened and she didn’t know if it would ever thaw, despite the faith her mate had in her.
“I don’t know what to do, Mom.”
Turning away from Liam, she looked back down at her book though she couldn’t read a word through the tears swimming in her eyes. It hurt to turn away from him but she couldn’t help it. “You know I’m not the best person to speak to about this, Liam. You should talk to your father if you need advice in this matter.” God, even her voice sounded cold and hard; a far cry from what she was usually like.
“Mom, please don’t hate her.” Liam entered the room, coming to rest on his knees beside her chair at the open fire. He placed his hands against hers, closing the book and gripping her tightly. “I know what she did was wrong and understand why you find it hard to forgive, but she’s my mate. Hating her is like hating half of me.”
The tears she was struggling to hide fell and splashed on their joined hands. Ashleigh struggled to hold in a sob, hearing herself echo the woman above. “I wish I could do this for you, Liam, I really do, but I can’t forgive what she did to you. If you hadn’t been immune to that poison I would have lost you. I know you probably think I’m being selfish, son, but I can’t help the way I feel. I don’t mean to hurt you by rejecting her. I know I stand the chance of losing you by feeling this way and I hate her even more for that because, either way, that woman will have won and taken you from me.”
“Never!” Liam whispered, his eyes moist as he gathered his mother close. Surely she didn’t really believe that she would lose him? His parents were everything to him and always would be. He could feel his mom shaking as she tried to hold back her tears and it made him want to cry as much as Reasa’s weeping did. He had to comfort his mom somehow, so he held her even tighter and stroked a hand down her back. “No matter what happens I will always love you, Mom. You will never lose me. We’ll find some way to work through this, I know we will.”
Hugging him tightly Ashleigh was ashamed to let her tears flow. She was Liam’s mother and it was her job to comfort him and keep him safe, and yet, he was the one who comforted her despite his own pain. What kind of mother did that make her? Why couldn’t she be strong enough to work through her ambivalence and try to find something worth liking in her son’s mate?
Just the thought of it made her feel physically sick. How were they ever going to resolve this if she couldn’t learn to get over what had happened? “I’m so sorry, Liam. Forgive me.”
“I’ll take it from here, son.”
Nors entered the room, crossing quickly to retrieve his mate from his son and cradle her close. He had heard Liam’s passionate speech and felt so proud of him. He understood the dilemma his son was in, having suffered something similar with Freya and Ashleigh in the past. It was hard to love two people in different ways and have them at odds with each other. Maybe that was why it was easier for him having Reasa in their home. He didn’t want his son to lack support as he endured that awful feeling of being caught in the middle.
“Why don’t you head over to the community hall and help out?” he said, brushing away Ashleigh’s tears with a gentle hand. “I believe Lily is on lunch duty and we all know how interesting that will be.” Privately he sent a rush of love down their mate bond. “I’ll try and help Liam while you’re there, love.”
Pulling herself together, Ashleigh gave them both a weak smile and smoothed her hands down the side of her jeans. “Yes, someone has to save us all from Lily’s cooking.” She met Liam’s gaze and saw no condemnation there and her heart twisted painfully; he didn’t hate her for rejecting his mate. It made her feel even more ashamed.
“Stop, Ash. Liam understands and is willing to wait for you to work through this. Don’t think about yourself that way. You don’t deserve it.”
“I’m failing my son, Nors. Logically I know it, and yet my wolf will not accept that woman. I feel as if I’m being ripped apart inside and I should be strong enough to handle this.”
“Enough, Ashleigh. Go bang some pots and pans around until you work this self-loathing out of your system. It’s irritating my vampiric side and I think it’s better for Liam to have one of us balanced at the moment.” Nors’ tone was curt and it had the desired effect of shaking some sense into his mate. She straightened her spine and shot him a pointed look. He didn’t like being harsh with his Ashleigh but at the moment it seemed to be the only thing that helped shake away her melancholy.
“Fine, I’ll see you for lunch.”
The two males watched her leave, both frowning with concern. Ashleigh’s current behaviour was a worry. Nors was even considering discussing it with Mallen to see if there was some underlying medical diagnosis. If there was, then maybe they could treat it.
“I’m worried about mom.”
Nors sighed and clapped his son reassuringly on the back, his pride evident. “I know, son. I am too. I’m also worried about Reasa. She’s been inconsolable for an entire day now. What has Mallen had to say about that?”
Liam turned troubled eyes up to the ceiling. “He left something to put into her drink but I’m loath to do that. While it would knock her out for a while, it feels wrong to me, as if I would be breaking her trust in some way or lying to her. I don’t want to start my life with my mate by drugging her.”
“As opposed to your mate trying to murder you?”
His father’s dry quip teased a small smile onto Liam’s face. While the words were true, it still didn’t feel right to sneakily drug Reasa just because it hurt so much to hear her cry. She was going through so much pain that he felt he had to live each moment with her, that maybe if she saw him suffer too she would realise she wasn’t alone. “I can’t do it, Dad.”
“Then tell her,” Nors sighed, rubbing at the back of his neck. The constant noise of weeping was starting to give him a sore head and he’d barely been home ten minutes. He was ready to join Ashleigh at the community hall just for some peace and quiet. “Give her the choice of taking the sleeping potion or not. You never know, she may want the respite of oblivion from the emotions she’s going through.”
Liam hadn’t thought of that and he pondered it for a moment before nodding. It made sense. “Thanks, Dad.” He headed out of the room and upstairs towards his mate, mentally securing his defences as best he could against the onslaught of emotions coming from the room ahead.
Reasa was lying on the bed curled up in the foetal position. Her body shook with each sob, her voice sounding raw from the constant weeping. It would have been so easy to lie down and weep with her, but Liam knew he had to be the strong one. He had to find some way to help her come to terms with what had happened. For the hundredth time he wanted to curse Annie for what she’d done, even as his head told him that the alternative would have been so much worse.
He wasn’t really angry with Annie, not anymore. At the time, his mate’s screams and obvious pain had brought forth negative emotions he’d never experienced before. For a moment, he had hated Annie and Anakatrine, and everyone who had wanted to harm his mate. Now, he was as worried about where Annie was and the division between the pack and vampires, as everyone else was. His mate had caused a chasm so wide it may never be repaired; not unless Annie came home and somehow found a way to fix things.
He still had faith in Annie. She had to come back. That thought was a litany in his mind. Annie had to return soon because she may be the only person strong enough to reach Reasa’s wounded soul if he couldn’t get through to her. He couldn’t bear to think what the consequences would be if someone didn’t reach his mate soon.
“I have a potion that will help you sleep.” Liam spoke the words quietly into the room, the stiffening of Reasa’s body an indicator she had heard him. Her head turned slowly to regard him and he had to swallow hard at the wounded eyes that met his. There was pain there, but also an underlying venom that couldn’t be hidden.
“I don’t want anything from you except to be allowed to leave.” She’d said the same thing earlier to him, before the current fit of weeping.
“You know we can’t allow that, Reasa. We discussed it earlier.” Liam moved over to the window, staring out into the forest as he gathered his emotions in as tightly as he could. “You’re human now, so very fragile. You would be hurt out there and I can’t allow that to happen. You’re safer here with me.”
“So be it, abomination. Then you can live with my weeping and my hatred.”
He flinched at the disgust dripping from her tone, but tried to remain strong against her barbs. Thereasa’s mind wouldn’t change overnight, he knew that, but it still hurt to hear her hatred. His wolf ached to be with her. It paced restlessly, unable to understand why their mate rejected them. It was simple to his animal; they were mates and they were meant to be together. Everything else was inconsequential to that end.
If only it was that easy. Sighing, Liam ran a hand through his hair, turning to look at the woman lying on the bed. Despite her eyes being puffy and red from the prolonged weeping fit, she was still the most beautiful creature he’d ever seen. His fingers itched to stroke her caramel skin, to feel the texture of her jet black hair running through his fingers. His body cried out to be close to her, to feel her naked skin caressing his as he showed her how much she was loved. The hatred looking back at him told him it would be a very long time before he got that close to her.
“Why do you hate us, Thereasa? What have we ever done to you to make you fear us so?”
“If vampires and Weres were supposed to mate, our venom would not be instant death to an animal. That alone is proof enough that these matings are unnatural.” The words hissed out, fury dancing in her eyes as she sat up and pointed a finger at him. “What you are…you should never have been created. You are neither vampire nor wolf; a new species being born into a world that already has too many vying for dominance. You threaten everything, abomination. Vampire; Were; Human. You should not exist!”
“How, Reasa? How do we threaten the world? What have we done to suggest to you, to others, that we are a danger? Explain it to me, because I want to be able to understand why you think as you do. I want to be able to prove to you that you have nothing to fear from us – from me.”
She turned away, facing the wall and curling up with her arms protectively around body. “There is nothing you could ever do to convince me your creation isn’t a threat. “
Sighing again, Liam swallowed hard and tried to sooth his wolf who was becoming agitated at her continued rejection. He wasn’t going to win this argument with her at the moment, so it was pointless to keep trying. He would bide his time and wait for a better opportunity.
Crossing the room, he sat down on the side of the bed. “The offer of the sleeping potion is still there. I know this is difficult for you to come to terms with, this change in your circumstances. Just now, you said ‘our venom.’ You have no venom, Thereasa. You are human.”
Silence greeted his words for a long moment, and then she moved to lie on her back, staring up at the ceiling. “You think I don’t know that?!” She spat the words out, furious tears gathering once more. “You think I wasn’t there when that redheaded bitch stripped everything from me?! I know what she did! I may not understand how she did it or what she is, but I know.”
Haunted eyes turned to his. “I used to be able to hear everything and now I hear nothing but your voice. I used to be able to see everything and now the world is painted in muted colours, so dull and lifeless. I used to run with the wind and now a strong breeze would knock me over. I know that I am nothing now, abomination. The bitch should have allowed the other one to kill me! Death is preferable to this nothingness!”
There was so much pain in the words, lancing through him and shredding his soul. His mate meant every word she said; she did prefer death to being human. He had to find a way to keep her alive long enough for Annie to return; perhaps he could talk to her then, and beg her to reverse whatever she had done.