Chapter Nineteen- My Unconquerable Soul

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I stood in my kitchen staring at the door for a long time, locked in a thoughtful daze. Arsen had gone in a rush, leaving once again with no explanation, but this time, I wasn't crushed as I once might have been. Last night's confessions turned passions had filled the aching void he'd punched through my chest months ago, and even as he was sprinting out the door this morning, he left with the promise of return.

The only negative feeling lingering was that of worry. Whatever was going on with him and the rest of the circles was getting increasingly more dangerous. I wondered idly if the snakebite was from another shifter. Were the circles at war with themselves, or a different supernatural enemy I hadn't yet become aware of? I at least knew the Volkovs weren't on great terms with all the circles purely based on my kidnapping.

My thoughts continued to tumble, mixed in with flashes of heat when I would remember last night's-- and this morning's-- activities. I couldn't have imagined the intensity of our encounter in my wildest creative tangents. I had never believed in soulmates, but something about Arsen and I, and us together just felt inevitable and unstoppable. Like watching a tsunami looming in the sky knowing that eventually, it was going to come crashing down with the power to move earth. Maybe soulmates weren't real, but something like it was. The mate bond.

I shook my head then, realizing I'd just been staring at my back door, and treaded back to the bedroom. If I got to thinking too much in that direction, I would end up driving myself insane. My dress from the previous evening sat discarded on the floor, and I scooped it up to toss in the hamper before searching out an outfit for the day. I was already scheduled to go to work late, having planned in advance for my night appointment, so I didn't need to be ready. I chose a loose tank top and running shorts for the time being, and returned to my living room to lounge. I flipped on a documentary for background noise and pulled out my sketchbook to start working on client art.

I was just settling down, resolving to get some work done and keep my mind off worrying, when I heard the knock at my back door. I tossed my tablet and leapt up, my heart doing a summersault as I thought about Arsen returning. I didn't hesitate in the short trek to my back door, nor did I in unlocking it.

I only realized my carelessness when it began to open.

If the mere appearance of someone could cause a stroke, I would have had one. My brain went numb, my surroundings blurring into foreign objects, and it took me a few seconds to recognize the sight before me.

A few seconds where I should have been grabbing my knife.

"Charlotte," my father said, and my body betrayed me. I should have moved. I should have run. I was frozen.

Until he shifted to step in, and I tried to slam the door in his face.

But I had taken too much time processing his presence on my doorstep. He was ready.

His weight smashed into the door the second I tried to close it, and the wood shoved me back and onto my ass. I scrambled to my feet as he surged toward me and let out a sharp scream as I dashed for the knife I had thrown onto my kitchen island the night before. I grasped the handle just as he reached me, and lashed out with it as he gripped my shoulder and turned me around.

My first swing cut his cheek, sending bits of blood into his gingery stubble. My second slashed him in the arm, but he caught my wrist with his other hand and twisted.

I didn't play tough girl and stifle my scream. I wanted to be heard. I wanted the world to hear. I sucked in, and let out something worthy of a slasher as he bent my wrist in an unnatural direction, forcing me to drop the knife and fall to my knees.

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