“Then what are you doing?” Thea asked, her voice trembling. “Why have you lain with me in my bed every day? Why have you stayed in my home for months?”
“Because I am a man, and you are a beautiful woman,” Bastian said. “I have no place to live, and you are wealthy. You have been with so many, many men, Thea. I thought you understood this arrangement.”
“No.” She shook her head and went back over to him. “This is different. We shared something. I know that you felt something for me.”
She grabbed his shirt again, clinging desperately to him, and when he tried to push her free, she refused to let go.
“Thea, let go of me. I’ve made a grave mistake with you, and it’s time that I’ve moved on. I’ve spent far too long in this house with you and your sisters.”
“You’re leaving?” Thea cried. “You cannot leave. I won’t let you throw everything away. I know that you love me!”
“Thea!” Bastian finally succeeded in getting her free and pushed her back so she fell to the floor. “I do not love you. I have never loved you, and I never will.”
“That’s not true, Bastian.” She sat at his feet, weeping openly. “I won’t believe that.”
“My wife Eurydice is the only person I have ever loved,” Bastian said. “When she died, I gave up singing, I took a new name, and I stopped loving. I gave up my heart, Thea. I cannot love you.”
He turned to step away, and Thea scrambled to her feet. She grabbed his arm to stop him, but he kept going. Her bare feet slipped on the cold floor, and she stumbled and fell. He stopped, staring down at the mess that Thea had become.
“Please, Bastian,” she begged. “I don’t care if you love me or not. But please, don’t leave me. I don’t think I can live without you.”
“Stop the hysterics,” Bastian said, sounding disgusted. “I had no idea you were such a weak-willed woman. To think, at one time, I preferred you to your sister.” He snorted.
“What do I have to do to make you stay?” Thea asked, oblivious to his insults. “Tell me what I need to do, and I shall do it.”
“There is nothing you can do!” Bastian stared down at her in exasperation. “You are a whore, Thea. That’s why I stayed here. That’s why I slept with you. You are nothing more to me than a whore, and I thought you understood that.”
He turned to walk away, and this time Thea didn’t grab on to him. She sat on the floor, watching the man she loved retreat, and something snapped inside her.
In all her years, she’d never really loved anyone before, but when she’d found it, she sacrificed everything. She’d given up her health, her beauty, her sanity. And now he’d told her he’d only been using her like a common concubine.
“I am not a whore,” Thea growled and got to her feet.
She didn’t feel the change. There was a blind rage seething through her that seemed to block out everything. The only way she was certain that something had happened was by the look on Bastian’s face when he turned back to her. His eyes widened, and he opened his mouth to scream.
Before he could, Thea dove at him. Her arm had transformed, so it was longer and more powerful, with sharp talons at the ends of her fingers. She tore through his chest easily. As she held his heart in her hands, and watched the blood dripping from his mouth, she savored the moment.
Then she opened her mouth wide and drove her jagged fangs into his flesh.
It wasn’t until later, after the frenzy had faded and she sat in the pool of Bastian’s blood with his corpse next to her, that she realized exactly what she’d done.
“Bastian,” she said, as tears slid down her cheeks. She crawled over to him and pulled his head onto her lap. It had been mostly left intact throughout her attack, and she cradled his face, brushing back his hair with her bloodstained fingers.
As she held him, she began to wail.
With her bags almost completely packed and sitting on her bed, Harper still couldn’t believe she was doing this. Her stomach was in knots, and she couldn’t shake the feeling that no matter what she did, she was doing the wrong thing.
She’d hardly slept the night before and woke up at the crack of dawn to begin packing. It wasn’t just her anxiety that made it hard for her to sleep. The heat was broaching on unbearable. The downstairs air conditioner did nothing up here, and her window fan only succeeded in blowing around hot air.
She pushed through it, though. There was a task at hand she needed to get done, so she just put her hair up in a ponytail and got to it. It was unlike Harper to put things off as long as she had this time, but the truth was that she hadn’t really made a decision about whether she would leave or not.
As soon as Gemma had gotten up, she’d come over to talk with Harper. They spoke some about their parents’ impending divorce, which Gemma was still having some trouble processing. But most of it was Gemma reassuring Harper that she was doing the right thing, and the world wouldn’t end if she went to school fifty miles away.
Harper put her hands on her hips and stared down at the bags. All the clothes she planned to bring were neatly folded in her duffel bag and a suitcase, with the clothes she’d decided against scattered across her bed. Her toiletries had been sealed up in a Ziploc bag so they wouldn’t leak, then were put in her duffel bag.
Her textbooks—all of which she’d ordered online because it was cheaper than getting them through the school—were stacked in a heavy tote next to her desk. Her computer, e-reader, and various chargers were tucked away in her laptop bag.
Everything was ready to go. Except for her.
“Hey, there.” Daniel knocked on her open bedroom door.
She smiled thinly at him as he stepped inside her room. “Hi.”
“You look about all packed.” Daniel surveyed her room. “Am I late? I thought you told me to come over at ten.”
He stood next to her, but he felt oddly distant. There was only a foot between them. When she moved, leaning a bit toward him, he moved away—as if trying to make sure she never got any closer.
The past few days, something strange had been going on with him. Harper couldn’t explain it exactly, because he’d been saying all the normal things and spending time with her. But something definitely felt off.
Then again, that could just be her projecting. Her anxiety and indecision about leaving for college had to have some effect on their relationship, especially since he was a part of the reason she wanted to stay behind.