Chapter Fifteen: Answers, pt. 1

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Narcisa carried me on her back as she ran across the mountainous terrain. As the cold air whipped past me, I tried to rationalize everything I knew about the Winters against what Narcisa and Valentin had told me, but I kept coming up short. I did not want to consider the possibility that Everett had lied to me-not only about being a vampire, but about who he was at his core.

  A murderer.

  I may be self-destructive, but I had never harmed another creature. Despite all that had happened and all I had become, I was still just a girl born in a simpler era, who trusted God as the point of absolute truth. I might have been fuzzy on a few things-like how creatures like those around me existed in God's world-but I was not fuzzy on this: You don't take a life that God created. Murder made it to the Commandments.

  So much of what I had felt for Everett—love, I guess you could call it—was clouded by the stories I had heard and doubt I felt deep inside. I wanted to believe he was the man I had fallen in love with, but I wasn't sure. I couldn't forget that Anthony had put a blockade between us for a reason. Nor could I shake the image of Everett's predatory crouch and exposed teeth, to say nothing of Mark Winter ripping out a giant lynx's throat with his teeth.

    But still, part of me felt good running toward them. When I saw Ginny's flash of blonde hair before the fight, I instinctively felt safe. I had spent months wondering where they were, and even in such a terrifying situation, they were the ones I ran to. For reasons I could not explain, I thought of them as my family. I had felt hollow since Narcisa lied to me and told me they had gone. I was ready to be whole, and I was certain only the Winters could fill that void.

    The morbid part of me—the same part that got a rush every time someone from an obscure tribe in Central America tried to kill me—that part wanted proof that Everett and his family were vieczy, as Narcisa and Valentin had claimed. Unfortunately there was only a violent way to prove such a thing.

    We had reached the point where the hills sloped off toward flat plains when Narcisa slowed to a stop and let me off her back. Valentin was about to pick me up, but I stopped him.

    "Let me see if I can walk," I said.

    "Your side is very badly injured. Please let me carry you," he urged.

    "How far away are we?" I asked.

    "Not far. Just over that hill," he said.

    "I can make it," I said. "I want to be on my feet when I see them." This satisfied them.

    But each step I took jarred something inside of me. In the past, my wounds had only hurt while I was getting them, then the pain vanished. I couldn't imagine how bad this one was still to be hurting four days later.

    As we reached the top of the hill, the smaller lynx with the darker fur came quickly toward us. She spoke in her mind, but we could hear her. She had apparently been in charge of keeping track of the Winters.

    I could see them at the bottom of the hill. They had a big fire going, and they were circled around it. My mixed emotions flooded me. I wanted to run toward them yet at the same time run the other way screaming. I took a deep breath, the icy air stabbing at my lungs as I began my slow descent.

    Narcisa and Valentin remained in their human forms, so I knew they weren't here for a fight. Valentin wanted me not to believe anything they said. Narcisa urged me to hear them out. I was shocked at how they could face the Winters considering their huge losses in the battle. I felt certain that mortality alone would not make one's attitude toward death so casual, but never having that perspective myself, I couldn't be sure.

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