XXII | Mizpah

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That's Cole ^up there^. But again, imagine him as you want to. :)

What makes you think he's not just going to kill you?

Kaleb's question had wrapped its cold fingers around her heart and had been squeezing since she'd left him, still sleeping, in the woods. It felt like a tiny shard of glass was stuck in her foot; she could avoid it if she were careful, but she always knew it was there, was always thinking about it. Because, if she forgot, it would come back to hurt her.

She remembered so vividly how bloodthirsty this lycanthrope was, the one that she was practically going to waltz right up to like everything was normal. Walking through the woods felt like a death march. She felt as though she was slogging through thick mud, even if it was only the usual undergrowth. But she had one hope, one little glimmer of faith. She'd been thinking about what she could do as Kaleb slept, and one realization had sparked her entire plan.

This man, this murderer, had been obsessed with Kaia's mother. She'd been his weakness. Maybe Kaia could take advantage of that. The guy seemed just as obsessed with Kaia as he had been with her mother. When she'd touched that feather in her dream, she had seen a glimpse of his twisted mind: he wanted something from her and wouldn't kill her until he got it. If he needed something that she had, she had leverage. She could outsmart him and discover just what it was that he was hiding. 

Kaia was a mystery to herself. It was ironic that precisely what she didn't understand about herself--her visions--were also what might give her answers. Kaia had learned to accept that sometimes she just knew things, that her intuition was usually more than just a hunch. She knew which direction to walk in, that he wasn't far, but she wouldn't have been able to explain how she knew as much. 

Still, it felt strange to hang one's hopes on the whims of a murderer, her mother's murderer; there were so many maybes. The more she thought about it, the more she felt her nerves shift into anger, hatred. Perhaps it was because of everything she'd been through, having brushed closer to oblivion than she ever had before, but she was starting to see death as just a part of being alive. It was inconsequential. 

There were so many things more important than death.

Kaia's heart twisted painfully in her chest, both from anger and from longing, regret. The look on Kaleb's face when she'd told him she was leaving had practically killed her. You don't understand, Kaleb, her soul screamed, I have to do this for both of us.

Kaia hadn't known what to say to protect his heart. It was such a delicate thing, sheltered within his tough Alpha shell. Kaia felt as though she'd found a crack in his armor and taken advantage of it, found her way past it and then destroyed everything fragile inside with just a touch.

When she'd told him what his part was, he hadn't been happy. He'd looked at her like she was a little crazy. It was unfair that she'd ask so much of him. It didn't make sense what she was doing, but nothing ever made sense anymore. Despite everything, he'd accepted his role as Kaia had known he would. It was the only choice she'd given him.

Kaia loved Kaleb for the freedom he gave her. She knew he could have stopped her, could have convinced her to stay. But instead, he'd listened to her, understood how important this was to her, and let her go. 

It felt cruel to leave him. Maybe the stabbing pain in her heart was what she deserved. But at least she'd gotten her last kiss, her last look at him. She'd been able to steal that from him.

No, not last. Kaia couldn't think like that. She had to have faith. 

But even so, the possibility was there. That man could do anything to Kaia. Kaleb had been right; she was practically defenseless against a lycanthrope, especially one so insane. But she'd had to do something, and however slim the chances of success were, they still existed.

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