Breaking the Habit | iii

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Nerina had her head on her knees when she heard the door open. She looked up to see Steele standing just inside the door. They remained as they were staring at each for a long time.

Nerina found herself blaming him for her predicament the more she thought about it. If he had not left her, would she have snapped? If he had not found her in the rainforest, would she have ever come to this place? The answer to the former she was not sure. The answer to the later was no. She did not even know this place existed until he told her at the beginning of this hapless journey.

The former was based on a matter he had nothing to do with. In seeking her freedom, she had tied herself to a dark fate. One that had her slated to become what Eve was destined to be. That did not sound right to Nerina at all. If the carnage she had brought on this place was any indication of what that fate was going to look like, she wanted no part of it. Sleeping for an eternity, however, was not going to get her away from fate.

"Are you going to release me?" Nerina asked. She could understand why he would have doubts about that. She had them too.

Steele came closer to the cell. "Bile said you didn't remember."

"Last thing I remember," Nerina said, getting to her feet, "is being left in some forest alone outnumbered one to a hundred." She shrugged. "Then I woke up here with a splitting headache. Something tells me though that you never came back to rescue me."

"No. I didn't."

Her laugh was bitter. "Not a damsel I guess."

"You didn't need saving."

"Of course not." Nerina folded her arms, walking around her small square cell. "I was told you would determine whether or not it was safe for me to be released."

Steele sighed. "After I left you—I don't know what happened. Bile saw you coming into the dungeon. You killed everything and everyone. You broke the gates of hell and now there are hellhounds, giants and invisible creatures tearing the place apart."

While he recounted the events that she had no memories of, Nerina tried to keep her reaction neutral. It had thrown her for a loop when Fionn had told her and it was no different every time after that.

"Bile and I found you. Brought you here."

"Everything and everyone?" She repeated, more to herself than to Steele.

"Not the people in the clan. We got them out before..." he trailed off.

"Before I sunk my teeth into them." Nerina ran her hand over her head before folding her arms. For some reason, she could not look at him anymore. Her original anger towards him pretty much withered up and died. Who was she to be angry or snippy with anyone at this point? "I get it."

"What happened Nerina?"

"If you haven't noticed you're the one filling in the blanks for me." To mention that she had been broken in her head by magic seemed like a long-winded story she did not want to tell. Her dark fate was another story best left untold. She had done what she had done. There was no taking it back. No atonement for the lives she had taken. "What about the gate?"

"Broken. We need magic to fix it."

Magic. Such a sticky trap. An easy fix that did not come with the dangers and side effects noted on the label. "That's the only thing that can fix it?"

Steele gave her a single nod in answer.

Bile came in at that same moment breathing heavily. He looked from Nerina to Steele. "The giants."

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