Saturday, 22 February 2014

Tears of the Fallen Ch 13 Teaser

Okay, this is almost the full chapter bar about 2.5K words. As I worked this edit, I was so overcome with emotion reading it, having long forgotten how emotionally impactful it was to me personally when I wrote it. I had to complete Liam's journey through his past with the Teaser. It would have been wrong not to do so...it just means you will have less newer bits to read when the chapter posts up to Lit

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Chapter Thirteen

Thereasa wanted to groan at her choice of room to teach Liam, but her options had been limited due to her current status. The pack was hardly likely to let her leave or go to a less secure house, so she had to make do with what she had.

She quickly ran her eyes around the interior of the bedroom; it was patently obvious that though it contained a large King-sized bed, it was clearly furnished for one occupant. There was a single, large upholstered chair beside the empty fireplace, and a smaller chair beside the vanity table. Liam’s huge size ruled out the smaller chair and brought the larger one into doubt as well. That only left the bed.

There was nothing else for it, so she squared her shoulders and turned around to look at the V├órcolac. “Do not get any ideas. After choosing a position at the head of the bed, she faced him as she crossed her legs and got comfortable. She motioned for him to join her, and the mattress dipped under his weight as he mirrored her position at the foot of the bed.  Liam placed the book between them.

“Before we start, will you please stop that?”

Liam blinked slowly, unable to hide the confusion that crossed his face. “Stop what?”

“Looking at me like you’re about to eat me up,” she snapped, as she added glare for good measure. “You are extraordinarily powerful, and you will need your full concentration for what I am going to teach you. We don’t have the luxury of time here, Liam. Who knows how much longer those people up at the Praetorian Compound have? It’s been days since the incident.”

Her words appeared to sober him, and he nodded in agreement as guilt flashed across his face.

“We don’t have time for that either,” Reasa remarked, though her tone was slightly less acerbic. “It happened. Deal with it. The important task now is to see if we can fix it. Put all your energy into that and just maybe we have a chance of doing the impossible. “

“It’s that easy for you, Reasa? You do something wrong and you just deal with it?”

There was curiosity in Liam’s tone as well as a hint of reproof. It was clear they wouldn’t be able to begin the tutoring straight away as she’d hoped. The large male before her had too much empathy, too strong a belief in right and wrong. Everything was black and white to him; he had to learn that there were shades of grey too.

Taking a deep breath, Reasa closed her eyes while searching for the words that might help him understand. “Everything moves at a fast pace when you live in the covens. It’s a completely different world to the one you live in, Liam. Here, you have the luxury of being protected by those who love you. From what I have seen during the short time I’ve been here, you are vastly overprotected—to your detriment—and that’s why the incident occurred up at the other compound. In the covens, you have to prove your worth daily. You have to be stronger, faster, and have a unique talent that sets you above everyone else. Only then would you attain the protection of your coven leader. It has to be earned.”

His eagerness to absorb every word was dampened by the thoughtful frown that settled across his face. Reasa took another deep breath and continued. “If you make a mistake you have to deal with it swiftly. You can’t afford to wallow in self-pity and ‘if onlys’. If you do that, you’re dead. So, yes, Liam, it is that easy for me. It’s how I’ve stayed alive for as long as I have. I learn from my mistakes and I move on.” She let her words sink in, and fought to keep a smile from tilting her lips upwards. She could see almost see the wheels turning in his head as he processed what she had said.

He finally nodded, his gaze intent. “You have had to struggle all of your life, Reasa, I can see that. You don’t have to struggle any more. The pack will protect you. I will protect you.”

It was on the tip of her tongue to snap out that she didn’t need his protection, but she did. She was human now, frail and easily hurt as had so recently been demonstrated. Until she was immortal once more, she would need their protection and that was something she was just going to have to accept—for now.

Reasa rolled her shoulders and focused back on the task at hand. “The shields you wove earlier are very good. You learn quickly, so that should speed things along. Did you sample the emotions in the house when we were all together?”

A wide smile split his face and she had to stop herself from sucking in another deep breath. He lit up when he smiled—a different kind of beauty from the savage, feral animal he had been when she was hurt—but beautiful none the less. It concerned her that she was noticing how attractive he was. She had meant what she said; she was not his mate and never would be. Still, she was so enthralled it took her a moment to realise he was talking again.

“The emotions were there but so muted. They didn’t overwhelm me at all; in fact, they felt sort of comforting.”

“Good, that is the way it should be. I will teach you how to separate the emotions and apply them to each individual, but first you need to understand how a mind works, how to use the deftest of touches. I have years of experience but lack your strength. If someone has a very strong mind, they can keep me out without realising it. For this exercise, you will need to allow me into your mind.”

“My mind is always open to you, Reasa. You need never ask to join with me.”

His voice was filled with so much honesty and trust that, for a moment, all she could do was stare at him with her mouth open. Then she pulled herself together and gave herself a mental shake. If what he said was true, she could enter his mind and wipe it completely. He would put up no resistance, would allow her to do as she willed. If she really wanted to, she could finish what she started up at the Praetorian Compound, but she found herself oddly loathe to do so.

She told herself it was because the others would kill her on the spot if she harmed him, that she would never learn to Dream Walk or help the injured vampires. She would lose any chance of ever becoming immortal again. It had nothing to do with the fact that the male before her had defended her not once, but twice. No, it was about what she could gain from the situation, what she could learn to protect herself.

“You might find it easier if you close your eyes and just relax. I will keep my delving slow so you can follow what I’m doing within your mind. I will continue to talk out aloud as opposed to telepathic communication. It will help keep you grounded in reality. It is very important to remember that, when you delve, you are in the physical world as well as in the mind.”

When he obeyed her without question, she swallowed hard. She let her gaze trace his strong features, and for some reason her heart twisted at the trust he exhibited. He was probably at his most defenceless right now, and yet, he was completely relaxed. Oh, how she wished she could trust as easily as he did.

Reasa reached out with her mind, and slipped into Liam’s, passing his outer defences with agile precision as he laid himself bare to her. “You should view the mind as an infinite corridor with doors running down either side. Behind each door is a memory of the past or the present.” She breathed softly, smiling as he quickly grasped her meaning, and suddenly the long corridor was before her psychic self. The doors were brightly hued in a perfect rendition of a colour chart, from light to darker shades. He’d even placed numbers on the doors, though they were out of sequence numerically.

“Excellent, Liam. You have a wonderfully structured mind for one who is so strong in empathy. Usually empaths have a more random structure, the corridor twisting and turning haphazardly, flowing downwards and then rising sharply. It is a testament to your increasing control that you can formulate a more logical arrangement.”

“It feels easy to do this, Reasa. Should it be harder? Do you like the colours? I was initially thinking of white, but figured that would be too harsh on your eyes.”

She could feel his happiness and pride. Being in his mind amplified the emotions and she couldn’t help but smile at the almost childlike glow coming from him. He was happy because he had done something she approved of. While she smiled, a shiver of concern washed over her, which quickly began to escalate. He was projecting without realising it!

“Liam, dial back your emotions a bit. I know you’re pleased with your easy grasp of the concept, but you’re projecting that happiness onto me. I know I said you needed to let me in, but you do still need to maintain shields around your emotions. Projecting is dangerous as you’ve learned to your cost.”

Immediately, the building euphoria died down and Reasa felt more able to function under her own emotions. She took a moment to calm her racing heart, then she met Liam’s gaze and saw concern in his deep brown eyes. “It’s okay,” she quickly reassured him. “I’m fine, though I’m sure the others out in the main room will be wondering why they were suddenly walking around with silly grins on their faces for a moment.”

As if on cue, there was a knock on the door and Elina’s concerned head peeked in. “Is everything okay? Liam?”

“Sorry, Elle, I projected outwards without thinking. Everything is fine. I won’t do it again.”
His cousin looked doubtful though she disappeared again, closing the door quietly.

“Oops,” Liam smiled with a chagrined expression, and a soft giggle escaped Reasa unbidden, as amusement danced in her eyes.

“Oops, indeed. Now concentrate. We need to get back to the task at hand.” She was surprised to find that instead of being annoyed at his mistake, she was actually enjoying the experience. She attributed it to the fact she’d never had the opportunity to explore her talent with anyone before. Truth be told, she was equally fascinated by Liam’s mental strength and what she could learn from him as he learned to control his powers. Anything that could benefit her was a good thing, at least, that was what she kept telling herself.

“As I was saying, behind each door is a memory, but some of them will actually contain a part of you. Those are usually grouped closely together, as they need to be close to make you into a whole individual. Someone fully in tune with themselves can gather all the fragments into one room, for want of a better word. The Dalai Lama has an amazing mind. He is one of those individuals. For the most part, everyone else has to make do with having their essence as closely packed together as possible. People with mental health issues generally are more scattered within their minds.”

“You’ve met the Dalai Lama and been inside his mind?”

With his permission,” she sighed. “And that’s a story for another time. Will you please focus now?”

“Sorry, Reasa. This is all just so fascinating that I keep getting side-tracked.”

Reasa sighed again, her expression grave as she nudged at his knee until he opened his eyes to look at her. “You can’t get side-tracked when you’re in someone’s mind, Liam. You could damage them that way. You have to focus. If you won’t, then I cannot teach you. In fact, I will refuse to teach you if there is any hint you might endanger someone.”

It was hard not to soften a bit as she looked at his crestfallen expression, but she really needed to hammer home the point otherwise he could potentially cause devastation if let loose on his own.

“I want to learn,” he answered, his expression turning serious. “I don’t want to hurt anyone. The newness of all this just overwhelmed me for a moment. I promise I will do everything you ask of me, exactly as you say. Please teach me, Reasa. Please help me ensure I never again inadvertently hurt someone else.”

“Close your eyes,” she answered, her tone business-like, as she once more slipped back into his thoughts. She gave him a moment to regain his inner balance, and then she was staring down the endless corridor again, with its pretty coloured doors that looked just a tad muter in colour than they had before.

“The duality of your nature is a precursor to your essence being split. You are wolf and you are vampire; however, there is also a part of you that is human. Vampires and Weres try so very hard to ignore that fact. Never the less it is true, even if the human portion is so minute it is barely detectable. We need to find your different personas behind these doors, Liam. Only you know where they are, so you will need to guide me. With what has happened twice already, I believe that your essence is too fragmented. We must find you and bring you more into harmony with yourself. Only then will we be able to begin your training in earnest. Will you help me?”

*****

Liam heard the words and felt a tremor run through his body. His mate was asking for his help, but what she was asking for terrified him. Up until this moment, everything had been fun and exciting. His agile mind grasped the concepts she explained easily, even if he had made a bit of a mess a little earlier. However, what Reasa was asking of him now…he didn’t know if he could do it.

He knew precisely where his wolf was, that was a given. He had been in tune with his animal all his life and didn’t even need to think twice about what door that part of his persona lived behind. He could also detect the miniscule part of himself that was human, now that its existence had been brought to his attention.

But his vampiric side…that was the part that terrified him the most. That side of him had hurt his aunt! It was full of rage and consumed by the need to destroy. Although his wolf also shared some of those basic urges when threatened, the intensity of them paled in comparison to what his inner monster was capable of.

“I’m afraid,” he whispered, still feeling Reasa in his mind, and reaching out to her psychic presence with his own. “What if I can’t control it? What if I hurt you?”

“You didn’t the last time, Liam You may have not been aware of it, but you were able to exert some control over your vampire. Your speed at learning is exceptional. Twice the vampire has arisen, and twice you have learned from the experience. It’s time to face it again with the new knowledge you have to guide you. It doesn’t have to be right this very moment. We can start with the easier doors until you’re more confident in your abilities. In fact, let’s start with a few memories first.”

Reasa’s reassuring words helped and he grasped at the chance to put off the inevitable. Liam strode towards a pale yellow door and threw it wide open without hesitation…

*****

Girlish giggles echoed through the forest, and the wolf pup’s head rose sharply from the damp earth, tilting to the side to listen. It gave an excited bark and raced off into the trees towards the sound, the breeze caressing its deep auburn pelt. 

“Elle! Elle! Elle!” the wolf projected telepathically as it barked again and scampered ahead at full speed.

“You’re not supposed to let me know you’re coming, Liam,” his cousin giggled, as she hung upside down from a low branch. Multi-coloured hair brushed the moss beneath the tree as she swung, her legs hooked around the branch the only thing that prevented her from falling.

The pup burst into the clearing, yapping excitedly and jumping up to lick the little girl’s face, which sent her into another flood of giggling.

“Ugh, that’s wet! Stop it, Liam.”

Elina’s laughter caused her to lose concentration when the wolf jumped at her again, her body swaying with the impact. She forgot to maintain her grip with her legs and shrieked loudly when she fell from the branch.

In a flash, the wolf pup vanished, to be replaced by a little boy a couple of years older. Elina landed on top of him, her face showing concern when his breath whooshed out and he made a funny noise.

“Are you okay? I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to hurt you.”

Liam grinned and rubbed his stomach before giving her a hug. “I’m fine. You’re too teeny to really hurt me, and it was my fault you fell anyway.” He had meant to reassure his cousin but from the expression on her face, his words had clearly had the opposite effect as she rose to her feet and planted her hands on her hips.

“I am not too teeny! Mother says I am as strong and fast as everyone else in this pack, and I’m not to let anyone tell me any different. That includes you, Liam Eriksson. You’re family and family are supposed to stick together.”

“Jeez Louise, Elle! I didn’t mean anything by it. I know you’re super-fast and super-strong. You’re better than all the other kids in the pack. You’ve got Eriksson blood and we’re the best!”

Her expression lightened instantly and she smiled happily. “Yes we are! We’re going to grow up and be Alphas like Rafe and Lacey.”

Liam laughed at her determined expression, happy his cousin was smiling again. He loved seeing her smile. He would do anything to hear her laughter and often goofed around so he could. “I’m not so sure about being Alphas. Maybe we might make betas.”

“Mother says I can be anything I want to be if I set my mind to it. I’ll be Alpha if I want to be,” Elina said grandly, her little nose tilting up in the air. “And who is Louise?”

Liam laughed, as he jumped up and grabbed her hand. “It’s just an expression, like when I call you Elina the ballerina. Aaron Junior said it the other day and it made everyone laugh. I wanted to make you laugh.”

“You do make me laugh, Liam. You always make me laugh. You’re the best cousin ever.”

“Good, my job is done then.” Liam pulled her hand and they began to jog out of the clearing. “Just so you know…if we’re both Alphas we would have to be in different packs…”

“Okay…betas it is, then.”

*****

The memory faded as Liam closed the door, a hint of moisture in his eyes as he relived that day playing with his cousin. She had been so happy as a child, with her infectious laughter, and her fierce determination to be the best in everything she did. It hurt him to experience the moment, knowing that his beautiful cousin was so different now.

“I was an only child and we lived in a secluded region. I never had anyone to play with when I was little. Thank you for sharing that memory with me.”

Reasa’s quiet words twisted his heart painfully. He wanted to reach out and soothe her, but knew it was much too soon and she wouldn’t accept any solace from him just yet. He felt hopeful that she had chosen to share something of her own past with him. It was a beginning.

He moved to another door, another memory from his past. He took a deep breath and opened the dark blue door.

*****

The room was dark, the compound silent in the early hours of the morning. Someone was crying; someone was hurting so badly inside that it felt as if shards of glass were scraping along his chest, gouging deeply. The weeping continued, anguish so intense it was overwhelming, and all he could do was weep with her.

He tried to reach out with his mind, tried to find a way inside—but he was too little and her mind was strong. “Don’t cry,” he sobbed softly. “Please don’t cry. It will be okay. Everything will be okay, I promise.”

Had she heard him? He didn’t know but the sounds vanished swiftly and he was left alone in his own mind as if she’d never been there. Liam scrubbed at the tears on his face, rolled over in his bed, and gently rocked himself back asleep.

It was light when he opened his eyes again and he could hear Mommy making breakfast. He headed into the kitchen quietly, so quietly she didn’t hear him. Looking at his mother, he saw she had a strange look on her face and the moment he saw her, he was flooded by unfamiliar emotions again.
His heart hurt, so much so, he started to cry.

“Liam, what’s wrong, sweetie?”

Mommy picked him up but it didn’t stop the pain. It didn’t stop the weeping that started again inside his head, a dull muted sound that wouldn’t go away.

“My heart hurts, Mommy,” he whispered into her neck. “It hurts so badly and it won’t stop.”

He could feel his mommy’s fear as she felt his head and ran her hands over his body. He knew she wouldn’t find anything because it wasn’t his pain he was feeling.

“Liam, tell me where it hurts, honey,” she asked, as she took him into the sitting room and sat on the sofa to cuddle him.

The sound of the front door made Mommy sigh with relief. Daddy was instantly at her side, his already weary expression turning to one of concern.

“What’s wrong with him?” he asked urgently, touching his son’s forehead but unable to find a fever.

Mommy bit her lip and shook her head. “I don’t know. He just keeps saying it hurts and pointing at his chest. I can’t find anything wrong with him though.”

“Liam, tell Daddy what’s wrong,” his father coaxed, cradling his face in his hands gently.

“Hurts here, Daddy,” Liam sniffed, his hand over his heart. “Always hurts here, but not this bad. Help her, Daddy. You have to help her.”

Mommy and Daddy shared puzzled looks as he tried to tell them what was wrong, his crying becoming stronger as the cutting feeling grew worse and worse.

“Help who, Liam?”  Mommy asked gently. “Who does Daddy need to help?”

Big tears rolled down his face, his eyes pleading with them as he looked up at his parents. “Aunt Freya,” he sobbed. “She hurts so bad, Mommy.”

*****

The memory was a hard one to re-live. Liam wasn’t surprised to find his cheeks wet as he closed the dark door. He had chosen that moment because he knew that Reasa related to his aunt on a level he couldn’t understand. He wanted her to see how important Freya was to him and just how overwhelmed he could become by others emotions.

“You were just a toddler at the time.” Reasa’s voice was barely audible and if he didn’t have enhanced hearing, he might have missed the words.

“My abilities were closely attuned to my family when I was younger. I always had a special affinity with my aunt, in particular, and that was why I sensed her pain so keenly at the time. It was as I grew older that everyone else’s emotions began to overwhelm me and it became unbearable.”

His hand touched another doorknob; this gateway a darker blue it was almost black. “My deepest shame,” he whispered, before throwing it wide open.

*****

He screamed over and over, as his young body thrashed wildly in the hospital bed. “Make them stop! Make them stop! Make them stop! Make them stop! Make them stop…!”

“Mallen, do something!” His mother screamed, as she held him down on the bed, nearly blinded by the tears running down her face. “Liam, I’m here, darling. Mommy’s here!”

“I gave him enough sedative to knock out a full grown Were,” the doctor said, his tone frantic. “Rafe, I don’t want to give him any more. It could put him into cardiac arrest!”

“Annie?” The deep baritone of his Alpha filled the room, followed by the musical lilt of his sister’s voice.

“I can’t reach him. His shields are too strong, but there’s also something wrong with them. He’s keeping me from psychically entering his mind and yet, he appears unable to construct a defence against pure emotion. I believe he’s feeling every emotion within the pack and most certainly the full impact of all of our emotions in this room. We need to get everyone out and as far away from him as we can.”

“I’m not leaving my son!”

Mommy was crying and her heart was hurting as badly as Aunt Freya’s had once hurt. He could feel his Aunt in the room and he reached out for her because she was the only one who felt cool, where everyone else was burning hot.

“Liam?”

“Make them stop, Aunt Freya. Make them stop!”

“Everyone leave the room…now!” His aunt bodily picked up his mother up from the bed as she fought against her. “Ashleigh, your terror is leaking all over him, you have to leave now. I will protect him, but you have to go!”

He curled up, and covered his ears with his hands in an attempt to make everything go away. The feelings subsided a little and he could think a bit more coherently. He could hear his aunt talking to the doctor, could distinguish their conversation.

“The safe room may be a better place to put Liam.”

“You think he’s going rogue?”

“No, Mallen, I was thinking there may be some benefit to the padded room being some kind of external buffer to the emotions he’s being subjected to. No nephew of mine will ever go rogue. Not as long as I live.”

“That may work. I’ll talk to Rafe.”

The emotions muted a bit more, and then lethargy overcame him. Now that he wasn’t being overloaded with emotions, the sedative the doctor gave him was finally able to take effect. Liam sank down into a deep oblivion.

When his eyes opened again, he was in the safe room. They’d all seen it before, their Alpha showed them every aspect of pack life, including the fact that sometimes Weres turned rogue and had to be locked away for both their own safety, and that of innocent people. Had he turned rogue? Was that why they’d moved his hospital bed into the safe room?

Liam rose slowly and surveyed his fifteen-year-old reflection in the two-way mirror. There was a wildness to his gaze that frightened him, but apart from that he felt as if he was sane enough. In the back of his mind, he could still feel the pack’s emotions but it wasn’t nearly as bad as it had been before, when he felt as if his head would burst.

The door to the room opened and Elina stepped inside. She was on the cusp of turning from child into a young woman, but the expression in her eyes made her appear much older. Her customary smile was missing, and in her eyes was a bleakness that he could see but couldn’t sense.

“Elle? What’s wrong?”

“You almost died, Liam,” she answered in a voice that was devoid of all emotion. “You were able to reach out to Mother and it was enough that the doctor was able to get you sedated and bring you here. It helped for a little while, but then you went wild again.”

He frowned at her, fear coursing through his body. “I don’t remember anything after the hospital room. What did I do?”

“It doesn’t matter. You didn’t hurt anyone apart from yourself and you have healed.” Elina moved to sit down on the side of the bed and he followed her. He reached out to sample her emotions as he sat down beside her. He knew it probably wasn’t a wise thing to do, but her lack of inflection was starting to concern him. He didn’t like seeing his cousin so serious.

“I’m shielded too tightly for you to feel anything,” she said quietly, turning her intent gaze on his. “Whatever help Mother was at the beginning quickly wore off, Liam. Everyone was certain we were losing you.  I snuck down one night to see you because I couldn’t bear to be apart from you any longer.” Her voice faltered and for a moment he thought she wouldn’t continue, then she took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “You were hurting yourself. You were in wolf form and you were biting at your own paws…you were trying to chew them off.”

Her voice had dropped to a whisper, and for a glimmer of a moment, he felt a strong surge of pain and then it vanished as quickly as it had come.

“I couldn’t let you do that. I couldn’t let you hurt yourself. I opened the door and came in, even though I’d been warned to stay outside and call an adult if you needed help. I did the only thing I could think of: I just threw my arms around you. I could feel you in my head, screaming relentlessly. It hurt my head, so I tried to push you out and something snapped into place. The adults think it may have been something to do with the fact that we connected before I was born. The shield I used protected me, but it also strengthened your own shield. When we are connected like this, I can help keep the overload at bay.”

Shock rippled through him, his astonishment so profound that for a moment he couldn’t quite grasp what she was telling him. Now that she’d mentioned the connection, he could feel her nestled quietly inside his head. Her presence wasn’t intrusive in any way; she wasn’t reading his thoughts or anything. She was just there, right where he imagined his mental barriers to be.

What he did notice was the utter calm she projected. He felt something similar around his aunt when she contained her emotions, but nothing nearly as strong as what he felt around his cousin. As his astonishment subsided, it was replaced by a dawning realisation….

“Elle, if you’re protecting me all of the time, then what about you?”

Big eyes met his and for another moment, the barriers she held wavered; he felt a shaft of pure love radiating outwards before it was cruelly extinguished in the next heartbeat.

“Aside from my parents, there is no one I love more than you, Liam. You are my family, my cousin, the brother I’ve never had. You have always protected me, always welcomed me into your life. You’ve never once chased me away because I’m younger than you or a girl, even now when you’ve started thinking about girls and what you can get up to with them. Now, I can finally do something for you, to repay everything you’ve ever done for me.”

“No! Elle! Not this!” Despite trying to hold them back, his eyes filled with tears as the full impact of what his beautiful cousin was willing to do crashed over him in a wave of despair. “You can’t sacrifice yourself for me, Elina. You just can’t.”

“It is only a sacrifice if I achieve nothing from it,” she smiled, but there was no warmth in the tilting of her lips. “I can’t lose you, Liam, I just couldn’t stand it if you were no longer in my life. This way I get to keep you and you get a chance at living a normal life.”

Liam was shaking his head, oblivious to his tears, and determined that she wouldn’t do this thing. “Your parents will never allow it. Rafe won’t allow it. When they find out what you’re doing…”

“They already know, Liam. There have been endless meetings about the subject. They’ve covered every possible angle and this is the only one that works. Mother said I am old enough to make my own decisions and Father has reluctantly agreed to it. I think they have realised my shields are too strong for them anyway, and they know there is nothing they can do to prevent it.”

“Elle...Elle, your beautiful smile…your laughter I love so much. You can’t give that up for me, not for anyone.” There was desperation in his voice as he gripped her hands hard, trying to get her to see sense.

“Then work on your shields, Liam. Work as hard as you can and one day you will hear my laughter again. For this moment though, keeping you sane is the most important thing and my mind will not be swayed from this course of action.”

He could see the truth in her eyes and knew there was nothing he could say that would dissuade her. Gathering his beautiful cousin in a bear-like hug, Liam wept...for both of them…

*****

“I should have argued more,” Liam sobbed, as he bowed his head to hide his shame. “I should have refused her, but the peace she brought to my soul was a balm I never thought I would ever experience. She gave up too much for me. I wasn’t worth that kind of sacrifice, not when I have gone on to do such terrible things.”

“A person’s worth is not how they perceive themselves but how others do. Elina clearly loves you, as do your parents and your pack.” There was a healthy dose of respect in Reasa quiet words, as well as a slight catch.

Liam turned his tear-stained face to look at her, but she was staring straight ahead, her eyes dry.

“I don’t want to do this anymore,” he ground out, leaving the psychic plane and opening his eyes. He was shocked to see his hands resting on top of the book, Reasa’s smaller hands wrapped around his.

She removed them, meeting his gaze with a neutral expression. “We need to continue what we’ve started. We need to heal the fragments of your soul before we can move on.”