Chapter 3: Dark Secrets

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Darkness falls by the time we make it back to the house. The lights are off. No sound comes from within, whatsoever.

Certainty settles in my gut. Momma is gone. She'd probably taken everything she'd packed with her from the moment I'd turned my back and walked out of our home.

It saddens me to know that she's chosen this course of action. I might not have been her biological daughter, but she'd raised me as if I'd been her own flesh and bone. The past ties that bound us hadn't been enough to keep her around, however.

Peytr glances at me from the corner of his left eye. "You okay?"


"You don't look like it."

I shrug and slide my hands into the pockets of my leather brais. "It just . . . hurts, you know? First, Joren leaves, and now Momma's gone, too."

He reaches out and curls an arm around my shoulders, pulling me to him. "It sucks, but you've got me."

I smile and wrap my right arm around his waist. "Indeed, I do. Thank you for tonight."

"No problem," he says, pressing a soft kiss to my right cheek. "What do you plan to do now?"

"I'm going to do as the goddess has asked of me."

"Which is?"

I stop walking and turn to face him. "Put together my merry band of miscreants," I say with a straight face.

Peytr lets go of me. His eyes narrow, and his mouth thins to a tight line.

"That's so not funny!"

Holding the laughter back, I tilt my head to the left. "Yes, it is. Think about it, Peytr. Everyone in the village often labels me a troublemaker. In their eyes, I'm a miscreant. Whoever chooses to come with me, that's exactly what they'll be, too. A miscreant."

"I've never thought of you as anything other than who you are. Sure, every now and then, you'd get into trouble, but you're not a bad person, Helena. You never have been. All of our past shenanigans took place because we wanted to make them happen. The rest of the guys would agree to such a fact, too."

My face grows warm. "So you say."

He grins. "I do. And it's the truth."

Peytr steps forward and pulls me into a tight embrace.

I lean into him, enjoying the feel of his arms wrapped around me. From the moment he and I met, he's been my Rock of Gibraltar. Everything we've done, we've done together. When we'd get into trouble, he'd always be there beside me, sharing whatever punishments we'd been given. He meant the world to me. I don't know what I'd do or who'd I be if it hadn't been for him.

I let go of him and turn around, making my way into the house. The surrounding silence feels a tad too eerie. For a moment, I want to call out for Momma. My mind catches up with me, and I remember that she's no longer here.

Heading down the corridor, I walk past the table standing against the wall on the left and grab the vase. I then head into the kitchen. Despite the fact that we'd eaten a sandwich, I'm a little thirsty. With careful hands, I set the vase down on the sideboard and pull the refrigerator's door open.

"We've already eaten," Peytr says, setting the basket down on the table.

"I'm thirsty. Want some water? Or juice, maybe?"

He shrugs. "Water's fine.

I pull out the pitcher of water and let the door swing closed. I approach the counter and set the pitcher down, grabbing two wooden cups. Once they're filled, I return the pitcher to its original spot inside the refrigerator before handing Peytr a cup.

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