Chapter Twenty-Five

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Willow

Don't laugh, don't laugh, for the love of Satan, don't laugh.

I stop breathing as I attempt to hold in my hysterics. And it is hysterical. Alexander's as serious as ever, glowering down at me under the fluorescent lighting of the gym. His long sleeve shirt is taut across his shoulders, the cotton interspersed with sections of leather in more vulnerable places. He's leaner than his brothers, but the tight shirt highlights every muscle on his upper body.

He runs a hand through the short strands of his white-blond hair. "Attempting to kill yourself before we even begin? That's a weird strategy, angel."

Angel. It's a word packed with fondness in the human realm. But for demons? There's not really a worse thing you can be. Unless you're a demon named Kenneth, then you are the worst thing you can possibly be. At least, in the eyes of other demons.

My teeth indent on the skin of my lips as I bite down on them. I can't let it out, can't give away how funny it is to be called a human term of endearment with such animosity. I've been hard-pressed to find humor as of late, so I'll keep this for as long as I can.

"You're turning purple," Alexander observes.

Breath escapes me in a rush as my body forces me to exhale carbon dioxide and inhale oxygen. Can the same be true for less tangible things?

Exhale melancholy, inhale happiness.

It doesn't even have to be happiness. I'd settle for contentment.

"Hit me," he orders.

Don't have to tell me twice.

I amble toward him, closing the gap between us. Feigning left, I strike to the right. Before I can make contact, he grabs my fist.

"Too slow," he snarks.

And so it begins. I come up with new ways to hit him and he outmaneuvers me every time.

"Sloppy," he sneers.

Slow, fast, left, right, kick, punch. All blocked.

"Are you even trying?" he questions.

I'm dripping with sweat and my hair's sticking to my forehead, but he looks just as fresh as he did when we first began. It's been hours now, and he shows no sign of letting up or switching to a different exercise.

"When will the torture end?" I pant.

"You don't get to leave until you've hit me."

I readjust my ponytail. "Dodgeball tryouts are today."

"So?"

"So," I draw out. "I don't want to miss them."

"Then hit me."

"Believe me, I would if I could."

He huffs. "This is why I can't stand you—"

"You don't have to stand," I interrupt.

Alexander bristles.

"Alex," Aristotle warns.

"You're weak," Alexander finishes, disregarding both of us. "Physically and mentally, there's not a shred of strength in you. It's no wonder your parents wanted nothing to do with you. If I were them, I'd get rid of you, too."

My mind blanks. In one moment, I'm standing before Alexander, listening to his vitriol. In the next, I'm straddling his waist, my hands coated in black blood all the way to my wrists. His face makes a matching set, just as doused in the viscous liquid.

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