Home > Torn (Demon Kissed #3)(7)

Torn (Demon Kissed #3)(7)
Author: H.M. Ward

As soon as I stepped outside the golden walls, I'd be a sitting duck for demons, Valefar, and other evil things. I kicked the ground with my toes, sending loose bits of rock skittering at the mouth of the Lorren. What was I supposed to do now? Pressing my eyes closed tight, I fell to my knees. I blinked hard, fighting back tears. When I looked up there was a familiar set of eyes watching me from the cavern walls. Up high between jagged spikes of black rocks was the dragon.

I regarded him and nodded. He swooped off his perch and landed in front of me. Ignoring him, I went back to my thoughts, sitting right outside the Lorren. The beast lowered his massive body to the cavern floor, laid next to me, and curled up like a really big cat.

The dragon. Why was this thing following me? And whose was he? Kreturus'? I looked at the beast and asked, "Why are you following me? You already destroyed me when you took Collin and gave him to Kreturus. Go away." I rose, brushed the dirt off my shredded jeans and walked away from the beast. A few moments later, I felt a massive gust at my back and the dragon was gone.

The bond was pulling at me hard as I backtracked further the way I had come into the Underworld. I had to get out of this place. The longer I stayed down here, the worse things became. I needed to feel sunshine on my face and breathe fresh air. I wanted the warmth of the sun to seep into my skin and get rid of the chill that invaded me since I arrived. Although the shadows were no longer shrouding me, it was still damp and cold. I could have effonated from the Lorren to the catacombs so I could leave again, but I felt so weak. I didn't think I had enough power to keep my attention focused the way I needed to so that I wouldn't hurt myself. Effonating wiped me out when I felt fine. No, I needed to wait a little longer until I felt I could hold my focus perfectly. Until then, I'd move about on foot.

Walking through the Underworld alone sucked. It reminded me of everything I lost. My best friend stabbed me in the back. Shannon. I'd hoped she would have believed me. I'd hoped she would have been on my side. But she wasn't. And the sad part was that I had no idea when she had changed her mind. It sounded like she lived the past year thinking I was destined for Hell, but said nothing to me. It didn't make any sense. Why would she help me, then? But I couldn't get over the rage on her face, and the words she spoke cut into me in a way that wouldn't heal. Her words were painfully wedged there in my mind, forever.

I shivered when I wondered if Eric killed her. The hatred in his eyes was burning bright when he'd asked me where she'd gone. And while I want her to pay for what she did to us, I wanted to deal with her myself - so I lied. I told Eric that Shannon was in Rome, when I knew that she was really in New York. The misinformation would also keep Eric away from me longer. I seriously doubted he'd come after me again without destroying her first. And the new deranged Eric was terrifying. Hopefully Shannon realized he'd be hunting her and stay alive for a while. That way Eric wouldn't bother me and I'd have time to find her myself.

The dragon followed me as I walked. I could hear him in the distance or feel the soft wind brush my cheeks when he flew by overhead, unseen. For something so large, he moved silently. I wouldn't have noticed it before, but there were telling signs that the beast was near; like the sound of grackles that filled the air constantly  - somewhere in the distance - but never too close. It was as if something was keeping them away from me. The same thing happened with the demons. None of them made a grab at me either. They were afraid of the dragon - that had to be it - because I was utterly vulnerable, weak, and completely lacking in ninja stealth. That beast was the pet of the ruler of the Underworld. No wonder they were all afraid of him.

As I was thinking about the enormous beast, he landed in front of me abruptly. I let out a shriek and clutched my chest. "What are you doing?"

The dragon looked at me, and then turned his head back toward the way we'd come. He repeated the movement several times before I realized what he wanted. It seemed like he was gesturing for me to go back. I was the kind of person who talked to dogs, so why not respond to a giant lizard - especially since he seemed intelligent? I could use all the help I could get- Kreturus' pet or not.

"Why would I go back? I have to get out of here. I have to talk to Al and decide what to do, and this is the way out. This is the way back to Al and sane people." I passed the dragon and continued on, but the beast lifted his huge paw and slapped it down in front of me. Startled, I jumped back, surprised. His paw made a loud thwack as his claws hit the stone ground and reverberated off the walls. "Cut it out!" I hissed. "Go away! Leave me alone."

The dragon shook his head and suddenly seemed way too lithe for his size. Panic made my heart race as the beast used his body to encircle me. His maw loomed right in front of my entire body. If he opened his mouth, he could snap me like a tooth pick. Standing perfectly still, I waited to see what he would do. He grunted softly and pushed my arm with his maw, careful to keep his lips closed so he wouldn't touch me with his razor sharp teeth. He repeated the movement and I found my feet moving towards his forearm.

"What are you doing?" I shook my head at him. I wasn't angry, just annoyed. Why this animal was following me was beyond me. And now he was herding me whether I liked it or not. He pushed me again with his maw, less gently this time, causing me to stumble. I grabbed hold of his hide to keep from falling, at which point he slid his muzzle under my butt and pushed me up to the depression between his shoulders. I rolled into the place between his shoulder blades, as he flapped down once. Then twice. And we rose into the inky sky.

I buried my face in his cold shimmering scales as the wind screeched past me. The dragon from my visions had forced me onto his back and kidnapped me. Terrified, I held on for my life, clinging to his rigid body. Every time he flapped his wings the depression that made my seat shifted. I dug my fingers around the side of a scale and held on. The wind whipped past us as we traveled a different direction than I had been coming from or going to. Within a matter of moments, the dragon landed as gracefully as a hippo, and I fell off his back. Anger and fear mingled too violently within me to say much. Instead, I just glared at him. The dragon rolled his eyes, and nodded his head towards something.

Agitated, I turned to see what he was gesturing at and felt my heart slide into my toes. There in the darkness I saw someone sitting on a large stone. Dread pooled within me as I recognized the curve of his back, and the slant of his shoulder. I knew who it was before stepping closer.



The bond tightened with proximity to him. Damn dragon. I glanced sharply at the huge beast, angry at it for bringing me here. He was Kreturus' dragon for sure. Why else would he do this to me?

Hesitation, anger, and terror were mixing in my veins as I stood behind Collin. I knew he could sense me, and I knew he was the one who told the dragon to grab me. Part of me was elated that Collin was sitting there, perfect and alive - like before. But so much had changed since he held me in his arms. And now things were screwed up beyond repair.

Slowly, I shifted my foot forward. Collin kept his back to me, not seeming to realize I was there, which was odd since I sensed him as soon as the dragon tossed me off his back. I would have sensed Collin sooner, but I was kind of overwhelmed by that whole flying thing. Damn dragon. I glanced back to see where the beast was, but there was no sign of him. It was just me and Collin alone in the dimly lit cavern. The noise of grackles screeched in the distance, but the area around us was still. We were the only ones here.

As I approached him, I wondered when Collin would sense me. When would he turn around and try to convince me that he wasn't Kreturus? Would he be different and change the way Eric changed? I couldn't bear that thought. Collin's lightness, his playful nature, and his intensity were the things that drew me to him. His loyalty was the reason we were friends - that and he made me feel like I could survive whatever life threw at me. In a sea of storms, Collin had been my rock. But now...what was he? There was only one way to find out.

Collin didn't turn as I moved slowly toward him. Tension built in my muscles, and I wondered if I was going insane. Why was I approaching him? He didn't see me. I could have run off without him noticing, but something made me hesitate. I couldn't say exactly what it was; something about the angle of his downcast gaze or the slump of his shoulders. Whatever the reason, something was wrong. Somehow he failed to notice his own dragon. That seemed impossible. How could he not see something the size of a truck? All the while, the bond was doing weird things inside of me - stirring, pulling, calming - and he sat there like he didn't notice. Surely it was doing all those things to him too. Surely he could feel my thoughts only a few paces behind him, but he never turned around.

Silently, I stood behind him. His silken brown hair shone in the dim rusty light. My fingers reached out to touch his shoulder, but I hesitated. Right then Collin gasped, and turned so fast that I didn't see exactly what happened. It was as if his senses were delayed. He had to know I was there. My scent wasn't shrouded, the bond wasn't silent, and any normal person would have noticed a chick standing an inch behind him - but Collin didn't. He didn't notice me until my finger was nearly on his shoulder. When he rounded on me, he had no idea who I was. Recognition didn't flash before his eyes as he grabbed my arm and threw me into the wall. I shrieked and tumbled back against the rock, nearly losing my footing.

If someone threw me like that a year ago, I would have cracked a rib, cried, and fallen to the floor. But not now. I staggered and regained my footing before springing at him. Arms extended I launched myself at him and shoved him hard while screaming. I was angry, so angry. My emotions erupted out of my mouth in screams. "What the hell did you do that for? You had your beast drag me here, so you can attack me!"  I shoved him again, but this time when my hands collided with his chest, Collin's fingers quickly wrapped around my wrists.

He jerked me toward him, and held me in his arms. I struggled to pull away, but stopped when I felt his confusion through the bond. Collin breathed in deeply, as if he couldn't catch my scent otherwise. "Ivy." It was like he just recognized me, but wasn't certain that it was really me. His eyes were strange, hazy like he was in a mental fog. Collin slowly pulled me into a hug, and pressed his cheek to the top of my head. When he released me, I staggered back in alarm. Something was definitely wrong. It was worse than before. Before he tried to convince me that Kreturus wasn't inside of him, and that I didn't see what I thought I saw. There was no way he would ever convince me of that. But now he wasn't acting like that any longer. I wasn't even sure if he knew where he was. He seemed so out of it.

Concern and suspicion mixed as I asked, "Collin? What happened?"

He shrugged. "Not sure. Everything is blurred. My memories are messed up." He looked at me, confused. "Some are like a dream - or a nightmare. You died. I saw you die in front of me. A fang from the Guardian slashed through your chest. I tried to reach you in time, but I didn't. You weren't yourself. You were screaming at me, and I couldn't save you." His eyes were glassy and his expression became increasingly vacant as he spoke, "It didn't matter what I did or what I said, you wouldn't let me near you. You were terrified of me." Collin's arms had folded tightly to his body. He didn't have his normal confident stance. He stood like a man shattered.

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