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Thirty-Two

Ava

   The truth. Everyone always wants the truth. Well, at that moment, I wanted anything but the truth. I was absolutely horrified.

           I didn’t even know what to think. I didn’t want to go down there and see Jace- someone I had… feelings for… as an… an… animal! I thought I’d been okay with the whole Shift-into-a-whole-different-being thing, but I was dead wrong.

           I was kind of having a mini freak out. I could barely process what was going on. Had I not understood the implications of staying with Shifters? And what the **** was I anyway? Okay, okay. Don’t panic, Ava. Shhh it’ll all be alright. Do. Not. Panic. You can do it. Just go outside and check up on Jace. He needs you. He’s probably still hurt. Just go out and help him. 

           I took a deep breath, trying to ignore the shakiness of it, and stepped outside onto the wooden bench. Roman was peering over the edge.

           One more step and I’d be close enough to the edge to look down onto the sand- the sand onto which Jace had fallen. Another deep breath.

           Roman spun around as soon as I lifted my foot, his eyes wide and alert. “Roman-“ I whispered, wanting to tell him that I needed to check on Jace.

           His hand was on my mouth, and he had me pushed up against the wall to the little house in no time- literally, no time. Things were so much easier before, even if life did kinda suck.

           Roman spoke calmly and slowly, “Ava, I need you to go back into the cabin. I’ll come with you.”

           “Why-“

           “Shh!” I raised my eyebrows. He sighed. “Jace passed out from the intensity of an unexpected change. Ava, he’ll wake up as soon as he heals-“

           “When’s that?” I demanded, voice muffled against his hand.

           Roman pulled back his hand. He ran his fingers through his hair and sighed. “Soon. Very soon, considering his extremely quick healing abilities. But that’s not the point. He’ll be able to smell fear. He hasn’t hunted in so long, he’ll try to go after you. Being on the bridge above ground helps, but it isn’t very sturdy. Listen to me. Listen, Ava,” he growled, “you are very, very special. I can’t lose you- for a lot of reasons. Just cooperate, okay?”

           I dropped my gaze and nodded. He rested his hand on the small of my back and guided me back into the hut. Well, I guess I won’t have to face him. Wouldn’t be able to, anyway. But he’d never hurt me…Would he?

           My mind was jolted back to when he’d tried to throw his hand over my mouth to shut me up- putting a bit too much force behind it. He is strong. Isn’t that kind of a given when he’s a Shapeshifter? 

           But he’d never hurt me on purpose. The slap was an accident- an outcome of his uncontrollable abilities. But he’ll always have those abilities. And so will Roman. How can I deal with that? What if they hurt me? I liked to think I knew how to protect myself, but a year of karate when I was eight proved nothing. I sighed and plopped down on the couch, my mind deep in thought.

           I guess Alex and Roman understood that I needed some time to myself. They left me alone. But I knew they’d be there if I needed them. They’d all always be there for me.

Roman

   I didn’t know what to think. I plopped down onto the couch next to Ava, wanting to show her some comfort by hugging her, kissing her, holding her hand… something that involved physical contact. She was scared, and she was holding her arms and rocking back in forth in what seemed to be a fetal position. I sighed and leaned back. Maybe she’s scared of the how Jace might hurt her. I wanted to throw my fist through a wall.

           Deep breaths.

            If she runs because of him, I’ll never forgive Jace, I thought, cracking my knuckles, which were itching to ram into something. A thought snuck into my mind. But what if it’s just the fact that we can turn into giant dogs with huge teeth, perfect for ripping through her flesh?

           Yeah, that might be part of it, I thought, my head voicing the opinion with a humorless tone.

           I glanced over at her slightly trembling body. Her eyes were closed, and she was rubbing away the goose bumps on her arms. I pulled off my sweatshirt and touched her shoulder.

           A shock of electricity coursed through my bones, sending chills through my skin. She flinched, her head jolting up so her gaze met mine. She tried to force a smile.

           I chuckled softly. “Stop pretending to be alright. Put on the sweatshirt. It gets cold at night,” I said, nodding to the window, where we could see between the trees’ leaves that the sun had almost completely set over the ocean.

           I could see the exhaustion in her eyes. She pulled on the sweatshirt, which reached her knees. She grinned for a quick second before falling back onto the couch. I patted my thigh. “Rest, Ava. It’ll all be okay. I won’t let anything happen to you tonight- or ever.”

           Seemingly reassured, she gently rested her head on my leg. I stroked her cheek, absentmindedly playing with her soft brown hair. Her body became less and less tense until her breathing was even, and she’d drifted off into a slumber.

 Ava

            He promised to protect me. Well, he couldn’t fight off my own dreams. No, those were strictly my own battles.

            A wolf flew threw the air, paws falling onto the ground between each leap. His snow-white fur contrasted against the night sky.

           I giggled like a little girl, falling back onto the field of purple flowers. The leaves and plants tickled my face, keeping me laughing until I heard a slow growl. Grrrrl. Grrrl, grrl, grrr!

           I bolted upright in bed, gasping for air. My hands reached out for the comfort of Jace in bed next to me. When my fingers grasped empty air, I forced my eyelids- which seemed to be glued shut- open.

           Fear settled into my skin as I observed my unfamiliar surroundings. Then… My memories, followed by relief, came flooding back to me.

           The morning light stung my eyes, and I had to force them to remain open. I rubbed them before glancing around. I was sitting on the couch, and Roman was stirring something in a pot, resting the spoon on the counter, and whisking something in a bowl. I smiled.

           He spun around, whisk raised. Yellow-ish batter dripped off the aged silver thing. I laughed. His expression lightened, his eyes holding a smile.

           “Good morning, Ava.” I grinned. I loved the way he says my name, each syllable rolling off his tongue to make it sound exotic and beautiful.

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