Vol. 1 - Caught | i

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Running. It was a way of life for her, a habit.

Staying in one place for too long was dangerous. Then again making friends was dangerous. She had done the first but the latter-

Every waking hour was one spent looking over her shoulders, searching the shadows for remnants of her past. A past that was never far enough behind no matter how far she ran to get away from it. How could she? Her past consumed her mind. It determined everything she did. Everything she allowed herself to feel. She could not stop running, could not allow herself to slow down. Could not allow herself peace.

That was her life. Her truth until she met these people. Until she met him.

Forever trapped in the body of a woman of eighteen she was unassuming and sweet. Innocence hid what she was and though sometimes it irked her, it provided a shelter. The DeMolay family took her in without a second's thought. They had no idea that taking her in meant inviting death into their fold. It had been more than a century but she knew it still followed her-she still followed her.

Nerina fell with eyes wide open into the trap set by human emotions despite knowing the consequences. She had seen it coming and she had failed to do anything about it. After decades of feeling empty and unwanted, it had been a happy reprieve to feel wanted again. To feel accepted. To have someone love her despite all the horrible things she had done. Those things were in a past life she had told herself. A lie since the whispers of them still haunted her. She carried the guilt around her neck like a noose.

The illusion of freedom would be the death of her. The death of all of them. If she knew that with such certainty, why was she still here? Why could she not leave? Because she craved normalcy. Craved for a family. Craved for a hope that she could get past it all. She craved, she ached, and she wanted more than she rightfully should have.

Nerina knew she was the mark of death for each face the glowing lights of the fire touched. These smiling faces and laughing hearts were marked for something worse than death-Eve. The beginning the middle and the end of all the sorrow she had to live with. The darkness from which she had barely escaped. The darkness that had made her.

As the three women danced around the fire lifting their layers of brightly coloured skirts, the men, fingers nimble, played their flutes, guitar, and a harmonica. It was a song of freedom and happiness. A song that reflected the joy on their faces. A song that echoed as they threw their heads back in laughter. She watched from the shadows in silent envy. She was with them but she was not one of them.

Every night she watched never joining in. To join was to taint further something that was pure. Her presence alone was a taint she could not seem to remove. Nerina had the strength to kill a thousand men but she did not have the strength to walk away from all this. To do what she knew to be the right thing.

Inside a tent not far from the merriment, the children slept. Their little hearts were beating steadily with slumber, their breathing light and even. Nerina looked away as a ball of grief tightened in her throat. Her eyes burnt with tears they could never see her shed. She pushed back the memories that threatened to surface. Taking a few calming breaths, she wrapped them in the silken dark velvet of her subconscious tucking them away.

A loud cheer had her looking back towards the fire. She wanted to belong but knew she did not. Knew she never would. There was no place for her anymore in this world. This world of frail flesh and beating hearts. A world that would hate her. A world that would sooner dance to her death than accept her. Would she have accepted herself? Eve had showed her the answer many times over. Nerina sighed.

She had to leave them. Once they were safely at their destination, she would vanish and they would never see or hear from her again. They would be safe.

Nerina had known all along that he had been watching her. She knew the intensity she would see there and was grateful her heart could not stutter. Grateful her cheeks could not flush with warmth when their eyes met over the fire. His feet were tapping to the music the only indication that he was aware of the sounds around him. It unnerved her how he could focus so intently on her that the world seemed to fall away. This was what kept her from walking away. Moments like this when she felt the love she so badly craved but did not think she deserved.

With the world swept to the background, there was only them. Only him. He was the only one who knew what she was. The others may have suspected she was different but it was not something that ever came up for discussion. No one treated her any differently than they did each other. They added to her illusion. Gave her an acceptance she knew she did not deserve. Not from them, not from him.

For five years, she had been travelling with them across Europe. Laughing with them. She knew their whispered secrets. She protected them from the shadows. Provided for them. They had become her family. Dmitri had not only given her love but a family. More than she would have dared to ask for. More than she deserved to have. More than she was willing to lose... More than she was willing to risk.

It was time for her to leave.


P.S. Seeking beta readers for the new version of Nerina in novel format. So if you're interested send me a PM and we can chat more about it.

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