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Blaze
Author: L.H. Cosway

 


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“The path to paradise begins in hell.”

- Dante Alighieri.

 

 

1.

There was a brief period of quiet, just the sound of waves moving against the shore. Then, sirens.

In the blink of an eye the small beach we’d washed up on was surrounded by members of the Guard. My parents, Peter, Rebecca and Grace were there, too. Tears welled behind my eyes. A whack of emotion stole my breath. I’d missed them all like crazy.

Too much had happened in quick succession. Vasilios and Sven were gone. Red Armand took them back to Oreylia and the mark burned like an inferno inside me, raging to act. Now that Vas and I had bonded, the mark didn’t like that we were separated. I could feel it pulsating and rebelling as though it were a living, breathing entity.

“Are you okay?” Peter asked, picking me up and pulling me into his arms. “God, it’s so good to hold you.”

I choked up as his familiar warmth and energy surrounded me. I looked and felt like a drowned rat, and he was just so comforting and full of vitality that I latched onto him and didn’t want to let go. My emotions were being torn in different directions. I was relieved to be back in Peter’s arms, but there was another part of me that felt the urgency to rescue Vas.

Whatever route I took next, it was going to hurt.

Tears clogged my eyes but now wasn’t the time. I had to suck them back. My parents and Sergeant Davis were at my side then, eager for an explanation. Rebecca and Grace stood behind them, matching distraught expressions on their faces.

“Darya, where are the prisoners?” Sergeant Davis asked in a gentler voice than he normally used. He could obviously see that I’d been through a lot. Carrabelle still sat on the sand behind me and I recalled that she was injured. Was she able to stand? Not answering the sergeant’s question, I drew away from Peter and went to help her.

Carra was a slight woman and seemed to have some kind of leg injury that had been left untreated. What a monster Red Armand was to leave her like this. He used her for her magic and then abandoned her when he didn’t need her anymore.

Slowly, I helped her walk a few steps before introducing her to everyone. “This is Carrabelle. She’s a witch and she came here from Oreylia with the man you’ve all been chasing these past few weeks. The same man who murdered Belinda. His name is Red Armand.”

Carra nodded meekly to confirm what I said and Sergeant Davis stepped forward. “My apologies, Miss, but I’ll need to take you to the station to answer some questions.”

“You know she wasn’t an accomplice, right?” I interjected. “She was a hostage. And she can tell you all about Red Armand, but it might not be much use now that he’s portalled back to Oreylia and taken Vasilios and Sven with him.”

“Hold up a moment, Darya,” my father intervened. “He’s taken them to Oreylia?” I nodded. He sighed, running a hand down his face. “I think you’re going to have to start from the beginning and tell us everything you know.”

So, I did. I began with my entry into the prison, how I soon discovered Vas wasn’t behind Belinda’s murder and how Red Armand had come to take him and Sven back to their home dimension. I explained how he framed me because I possessed Vas’ mark, and he needed us close to make Vas stronger so that he could finally escape the wards surrounding the prison. I detailed how Red Armand didn’t have strong magic himself, which was why he’d taken Carrabelle with him so that she could be used to cast spells.

“But why did you escape with Vasilios?” Mum asked. “We were on our way to get you. All you had to do was wait—”

“There was another inmate who knew my real identity,” I explained. “Today she decided to tell the other prisoners about me. I had to leave, otherwise they were going to hurt me. Besides, this way you don’t have to pay that arsehole warden any money.”

“The money has already been transferred,” Dad said and my stomach plummeted. “But don’t worry about that. The main thing is that you’re safe.” He stepped close and drew me into his arms. “I’m afraid there’s a good chance I won’t let you out of my sight for the next century.”

“The next two centuries,” Mum corrected, relief in her voice, and my stomach plummeted even further because I was going to have to leave them again. And soon. If time really did move five times faster in Oreylia then that meant Vas and Sven had already been there for hours. A day here was the same as five days there. It made me even more anxious to get planning how to rescue them.

What was wrong with me? Never in a million years did I imagine I’d feel such a strong urge to save those two from their fates. A few weeks ago I wouldn’t have batted an eyelid if I heard they were in danger, but everything was different now. Things had changed.

I had changed. And my feelings for Vas, well, those were something I had yet to sort through. Those same feelings were stuck like a stray twig in my heart as everyone peppered me with more and more questions. I was exhausted trying to keep up, and when Dad noticed how weak I was he announced that the interrogation was over and he was taking me home.

Sergeant Davis and the other members of the Guard went to deal with the situation at the prison. Vas and Sven might be out of their reach but Serg was still on the loose somewhere. Although I imagined he’d be difficult to catch in his eagle form. I still felt a twinge of dismay about his escape but it couldn’t be helped.

Mum and Rebecca brought Carrabelle to see a doctor and have her injuries looked at, while Peter, Grace and I climbed into the back of my dad’s car. Peter tucked me under his arm and I closed my eyes, the rumble of the engine soothing my frayed nerves.

It was a bittersweet feeling to step inside my house. Grace hugged me for a long time at the bottom of the stairs before Dad told Peter to bring me to my room.

I was in a daze as my boyfriend quietly and carefully undressed me then helped me into the shower. I’d never been so tired in my life. It was a struggle to keep my eyes open while I washed.

I emerged from the bathroom wrapped in a soft, fluffy robe that felt sinfully luxurious after the harshness of the prison. Peter sat near the foot of my bed and I could see from the dark circles under his eyes that he hadn’t been sleeping well.

Stepping in front of him, I ran my fingers through his hair that had grown long and a little scruffy again. I liked it best this way. Affection and love filled my heart as I stared down at him and his hand came out to softly caress my hip.

“I missed you,” I whispered and Peter emitted a slow breath.

“I missed you more than words can express.” His hand slid up to my ribs and a shudder went through me. At the same time, Vas’ mark sizzled hot under my skin. I wasn’t quite sure what it meant but I had a fair idea.

Peter stilled, his eyes roaming to the spot where I felt the mark alive and beating within me. He frowned, his eyebrows wrinkling, and I suddenly feared he could sense it was there, so much stronger than before. I didn’t want to talk about it, and I definitely didn’t want him asking me questions, so I brought up a different subject.

“Belinda told me about your dad, and how your mother’s not been well.”

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