XXVII - Like A Demon's Kiss

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DIANA

Dead Man's River
Henbane River
That Afternoon...

Diana pressed the head of the rusty shovel into the ground with her boot, grasping firm to the handle while she waited patiently for her husband to finish digging the grave. Diana had helped in the shallower parts when he first started, but when he noticed that she began to waver and give in to the fatigue and pain from her earlier injuries, he practically begged her to stop.

Her gaze settled on the figure Jacob placed in the grave. It'd been neatly encased in a wrapping of white linens they found inside.

The sun was high, clearer skies gave way to for the sun to shine brighter upon them. Cool, crisp weather wouldn't last long, she knew, given the dark clouds moving in swiftly from the north. It must have been just after noon when Jacob finished digging through the soft earth near the ranch. The weather was clearer than it had been the last few days but still arid with humidity that made it uncomfortable to stand there for long. Her appearance was the last thing on Diana's mind now, having run the gamut of emotional and physical distress in a mere matter of hours. Never mind the things that had happened over the last month: her husband and in-law's kidnapping, secrets that were to be carried to the grave aired out in front of her, being tortured and interrogated, and the heaviest one of all: eliminating her former colleagues save one.

Aside from the success of removing Joey Hudson from her list of adversaries, Diana considered the raid of the Iron Fortress a failure; John and Ana were nowhere to be found. They weren't sure if they'd fled the premises or if they were extinguished by Hudson herself—though she found a subtle solace and hope in the fact that their bodies were not found on the compound grounds.

So, after a painful wake in the Whitetails to say her goodbyes to her faithful friend and confidant, Eli Palmer, she and Jacob found their way in the south once more, in the lowest part of the Henbane region. It was near the border to John's old territory and was considered Diana's old stomping grounds. They'd received word that Dead Man's River was somewhat of a wasteland; none of Whitehorse's remaining forces were anywhere near her family's estate, save a couple of patrols, which soon disappeared north.

This was the reprieve she'd needed, a break in the storm to recoup. The Elite were gone now, and with only one army and one figurehead to track, she hoped they made the right call to seclude themselves in an area they'd expected John would come to seek shelter.

They were quiet, aside from the crunch and swish of their shovels pulling the dirt from one place to the next. Jacob wanted to stop and ask if she was alright, but he hesitated... He knew how she would react, that she just wanted to get this shit over and done with, even though he didn't want her to over-exert herself beyond what her strength would allow.

No, Jacob didn't say a damn thing because he knew her.

They continued this until the entire grave was filled, leaving only a mound with a small pile of rocks at the head, to serve as a makeshift headstone.

Jacob had been beside her when she visited her other sibling's grave, and though this death was not at his hands, there was a pang of subconscious guilt that this was somehow his fault. His wife needed to take time to grieve. For that reason, he stood very still, standing there to offer comfort if she needed—a shoulder to cry on, someone to catch her if she would fall, but... this time it was different than before.

She left no parting words with her sister. Diana simply turned heel and headed away from the house.

Jacob watched her. He wouldn't follow her, at least not immediately, as he wanted to provide whatever space she needed to clear her head. He fetched the shovels and placed them in the dirt near the front porch. Slipping out of his jacket, he hung it over the railing—knowing he would likely wash it later—and he decided to search for her.

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