Grief was a debilitating and destructive emotion. Tearing through my soul, shredding it into unrecognizable pieces.
I had experienced a true grief with the death of my father, and back then I’d likened it to a temperamental ocean. One minute, I’d been calmly accepting the news of his demise, and the next, a cacophony of fear, anger and pain had engulfed me, until my emotions were a hurricane crashing against the sand.
Eventually, the storm of his betrayal and death had subsided, and I’d been able to mostly drift along. As more time passed, I’d even believed that I’d finally found my peace, only for some event to trigger another storm and send me back into the crashing waves of pain.
Dannie’s death was so new to me that I should have been in stage one: calm denial. But I appeared to have skipped that altogether, and we were in stage two: hurricane season.
I couldn’t bear to feel the pain, so I embraced the anger. Anger I was directing squarely at one person: Shadow Beast.
He stood before me, eight feet plus of ripped and gorgeous god… or more accurately, demon. His dark curls were a little tousled, like he’d been through hell to get to me. In all honesty, the disheveled look only made him sexier.
But that wasn’t going to save him today.
He had betrayed me in the worst kind of way—false promises that had gotten my friend killed. Or even worse, he’d had a direct hand in her death, explaining why he was always brushing off my concerns about her. Shadow hadn’t wanted to piss me off before he’d gotten what he needed from me. He’d kept me prisoner, forced me to touch the Shadow Realm, and stopped me from returning to Torma when I’d known Dannie had been in trouble.
Dannie The Wanderer, who had been more of a mother to me than my own in the last ten years. Ironic in a way that on the same day I’d learned Lucinda Callahan, my actual birth mother, was dead, I’d also found out about Dannie.
One I had mixed feelings about—my mom—and the other was the cause of my current raging state.
The pack had killed her because of me. Because of Shadow. Both of us really, and she had been our responsibility to save.
“You promised me!” I seethed, and the flames that had inexplicably sprung to life across my skin rose higher. My hair followed suit, flying around me in a wave just as red as the flames themselves, power seeping from my pores.
All of the shifters around us slammed into the ground, and I heard the breaking of bones. A pleasant sound in my current state of being.
If this was what rising from the ashes meant for a phoenix, then I was embracing it to the fullest degree. This power… it was mine, and I would destroy any who stood in my way.
Shadow seemed to be almost spellbound by my current appearance, his gold and fire-touched eyes locked on me in their usual manner of complete and total focus. He dissected me with a mere glance, and even though he didn’t speak, we were definitely communicating.
Both of us furious.
Both of us shocked as hell about this new development.
Neither willing to give an inch.
If an outsider was watching me now, they’d never believe that just a mere year ago, I’d been a normal wolf shifter. A year ago I’d never opened a doorway into the locked-away Shadow Realm. Or produced flames across my skin. Or controlled the creatures that I somehow drew from that realm into my world.
The last year had demonstrated that there was more to me than I’d ever known, and while most of the time it freaked me out, today… today I was embracing this change.
A change that had hopefully made me powerful enough to take on Shadow.
At this point the heat was almost pleasant, and I fanned the fire with more pain and anger. He reached out for me, and I waited to see if my flames would burn him.
His arm shot straight through, completely unscathed, and he wrapped one of his big hands around my throat. No doubt he thought that he had me in a vulnerable position, and even as the air was cut off in my lungs, I didn’t struggle. I just smiled, my eyes detailing in no uncertain terms exactly what I had planned.
“Sunshine,” he rumbled, warning in his voice.
What the fuck was he warning me about? Losing my shit? Guess he should have thought of that before he got my friend killed.
His hand flexed against my throat, but I had a sense that he knew the fire power I channeled was preventing him from actually hurting me. This reaction was merely a warning to match the rebuke in his voice, but still… His negotiation skills needed as much work as his people skills.
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