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Chapter 72 – The Gift – Raine's POV

Time didn't seem to exist in the black void under the earth's soil. I had no idea if 10 minutes or two hours had gone by as I held onto Teo for dear life, while he weaved through the underground tunnel.

Abruptly, he came to a halt. My anxiety spiked and I whispered, "Are we there?"

"We have gone as far as we can. Now we wait," he replied tightly.

"What are we waiting for?" I breathed.

"The sun to go down."

The sun to go down?! When I left, there were still several more hours before the sun would set! I gasped, "We are just going to sit here for hours?!"

I couldn't see his face, but heard his quiet reply, "Yes."

Oh. No!  I wasn't sure I was going to be able to make it for that extended timeframe. The deprivation to my senses and claustrophobia had already started to make me a little crazy. My chest began to ache, and I couldn't seem to fill my lungs completely.

It was obvious Teo sensed my growing neurosis because he began murmuring soft shushing noises of comfort, "Shhh...It's going to be okay. As soon as the sun goes down, they will be here to dig us out."

Dig us out?!!

What the hell did he mean by that?!

If he was trying to calm me down, telling me that we were effectively buried alive, was certainly not the way to do it! My voice rose an octave as I demanded shrilly, "Teo, what in the hell do you mean by dig us out?! Are you trying to tell me there is no door at this end of the tunnel?!"

He realized his mistake and stumbled over his words as he rushed, "You are perfectly okay! I promise! You are in the safest place possible right now. I'm going to sit down and hold you in my lap so that you can relax."

I had no idea what his definition of relax was, but I was fairly certain I would be doing none of it. I felt him slide down to the ground. Under normal circumstances, I wouldn't have held onto the chest of a random vampire like a spider monkey, however my normal behavioral protocol had to be adjusted to compensate for my need not to lose my sanity in the next couple of hours.

The clocked ticked by excruciatingly slowly.

Teo continued to speak softly to me; no words of real consequence, only soothing tones and the occasional encouragement for how well I was doing. I wasn't sure I agreed with his assessment. I still fought every few minutes to slow my frantic heart.

I gripped the necklace Alaric had given me as it hung around my neck. I was incredibly thankful I had been wearing it at the time of my departure, because it was at least one reminder of him. I traced the familiar stone with my fingertips as sadness washed over me. Before I arrived in Quinn's kingdom, I had expected to hate my life with Alaric, but together we had built a successful alliance; not one based in love, but functional nonetheless. I sighed heavily. All of that was over now.

Even more disheartening was the realization that I had nothing, no tangible item whatsoever, to remember my time with Cage. Maybe it wasn't really necessary, because he had engraved himself directly onto my heart. Devastating pain washed over me at the thought of never seeing him again. But once I secured my freedom, I could never risk reaching out to him.

It was strange to think I would never step foot back inside of this world. I shifted in Teo's arms, and attempted to redirect my thoughts, before the pain suffocated me. He suggested softly, "Why don't you try to get some sleep? It will make the time go by so much faster."

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