Chapter 9

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My eyes closed as I felt Nicolae enter my mind, his warm soothing hands on my head. My lips parted on a silent sigh as my mind was no longer protected from his calming, reassuring gift. He was looking at my mind as a whole, probing for any mild flavor of Viktor's presence. The difficult part was that Viktor was a part of me in many ways. He had stolen me from my previous master, wanting me for himself. "Where would he hide the link, Sasha?" "I honestly don't know." Nicolae pressed into my mind toward my memories of Viktor. "Don't resist me, Sasha," Nicolae whispered. I had pulled back mentally from him, fearing what he might see.

I sighed and relaxed, giving in. The image of the first time I had seen Viktor came to the surface. I was transported back to the ball thrown by my master. Viktor crossed the ballroom, staring at me as I stood behind my master's throne. My master considered Viktor an ally at the time and reluctantly granted his request to dance with me. I waited until my master stood from his throne coming to unlock the chain connected to the collar around my neck. And then Viktor held out his hand as I descended the steps, his mind revealing his immediate decision to make me his. My hand slid into his and he twirled me away onto the floor. The memory faded as Nicolae moved further into my memories of Viktor, searching.

Another memory surfaced, transporting me to Viktor's home in Europe. "I can't Viktor! I won't go back to him. I can't do this to him!" Viktor's marble hand crashed into the side of my face sending me sprawling to the floor. "You will do as I say, Sasha. He is an important part of my business deal with Darius. The wolf was the price and you will return to set the trap, to finish making him care for you so he comes." "No." Viktor drug me up by my hair, snarling in anger. "You will never forget the price for telling me 'no,'" he promised as he sent me sprawling to the floor again and then he reached down and drug me from the room by the hair as I screamed. The memory faded as I gasped where I sat on the couch. "Hang with me, Sasha, we are getting close, I can feel the link just a little more in," Nicolae reassured me.

Another memory played; a more recent one. "If you will agree to my terms than we have a deal," Viktor said as he stood before me. "I have your word? You won't make me do that any more?" "Yes, you have my word but there is something I need you to take care of for me first." "Viktor," it was a frustrated tone, impatient. "It shouldn't be too hard for you. I want you to go to Mysteryspell and fix the problems going on there with my sons." "Can't you just call?" "No, I need the best on this. Go, fix things, and then come home to me and I promise you, I will make good on our bargain." "Alright. When do I leave?" "Tomorrow." I turned to leave his office but Viktor sopped me. "Take this with you, to remind you of our deal," he said handing me a small black velvet pouch.

I could feel Nicolae's concentration as he mentally gasped at finding the link in that moment. He reached out with his mind to the link and weakened it considerably, just as the memory faded with me dumping something from the pouch out into my waiting palm. I jerked my head out of Nicolae's grasp before the memory could complete itself. Nicolae opened his eyes to look at me sitting close to him, breathing heavy. I swallowed down the emotions but my eyes still turned glassy and I shivered from the dread the memories had brought out in me. Nicolae's reassuring calm wrapped me up in a blanket of comfort and for once I welcomed it. "Thank you, Nicolae," I whispered meeting his eyes. "You're welcome, Sasha. I'm sorry for Viktor's treatment of you," he whispered back, gently stroking my cheek with the back of a finger. He wanted to hold me; he was practically aching to take me into his arms and comfort me.

Oh no. Not again. I felt my walls beginning to crumble a little from his kindness. I stood suddenly, needing to get away from him, heading for the door. "Sasha." My back stiffened at him saying my name. "Yes?" I asked, not looking at him. "It's ok to let people in once in a while." "Only for people who are free to care, Nicolae." I looked at him then. "For those of us who drag around our invisible shackles with us, caring is like a poison; one that seeps in, debilitating our ability to deal with the reality of those shackles that we have to face. You and your brothers would seep into my life if I let you and then I would still have to return to Viktor. No, Nicolae, it's dangerous to let others in, especially you and your brothers." I turned on my heel and left him sitting there thinking about all that he had seen in my mind and my parting words.

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