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Jaxen’s on the edge of the bed with nothing but a pair of gunmetal gray sweatpants on, an empty glass in his hand, and a half-empty bottle resting by his feet.
He looks so tortured. Looks at me as if he wishes he were seeing someone else. Someone less distant and broken. It feels like ice is eating away at my bones. Like fire is scorching every one of my nerves.
“How did your meeting go?” His strangled words slur a little.
“Okay, I guess.”
I make my way over to him, but everything feels so unfamiliar and shaky—like walking into another plane of time. Like stepping on a spider web and finding myself caught as the truth makes its way across, ready to spin me and drain my blood.
He makes a haphazard gesture for me to sit next to him. “That good?”
“It was fine,” I lie, taking the empty glass from his hand. I grab the bottle by his feet, pour myself a shot, and toss it back, reveling in the fiery burn running down my throat that washes away the awful taste the Belladonna I took a few minutes ago left behind.
“So, this is what we’ve become then?”
I hate the desolation in his voice. There’s a desert between us without a hope for either one of us crossing it.
“What’s that?” I ask a little tersely, wiping my mouth with the back of my hand and downing another shot. I’m trying to pretend I don’t know where this is headed. That I don’t see and hear the heartache ripping our guts out right now, because I need to pretend. I need to fake that everything is okay. Need him to believe I’m fine because the moment I don’t… the moment he looks at me, knowing I’ll die and seeing that death reflected in his gaze, then it will all be over.
He tries to clear his throat, but the sound is painful. Like he’s swallowing tears. “I don’t know. Strangers? Two lovers who lie to one another? Who hide things from each other? Who can’t turn to each other whenever something bad is happening?”
I don’t recognize this Jaxen. This raw ache in his voice that scratches at the door of my heart, waiting for me to open it. I find myself missing the old him. The one who had his emotions under control. Who could take this pain and survive in it.
I set the glass down. Brace my hands on my knees as the alcohol sends my brain spinning. “I love you, Jaxen. More than I could ever explain to you.”
I need a breath of fresh air. Need a new body to hide in. One where I’m safe from his prodding. Safe from myself.
“Jaxen, what am I supposed to do?”
“Stop shutting me out.” His chest heaves, heart throbbing in his neck.
I find a shadow across the room. Feel my regret slip down my cheek.
“I can’t even feel your mind anymore. It’s like you’re… you’re purposefully pulling away from me. Like you’re a ghost haunting me.” His eyes are flashing with anger now. He’s two steps from falling off the edge. From losing it all. I want to tell him everything. Want to tell him about my impending death, and that it’s easier this way because he’s going to lose me, only, not because of his curse.
Because of my curse.
“There are things, Jaxen. Things we knew would happen one way or another,” I say, and I find myself surprised by how calm I sound when my heart rattles at the cage of my bones to be free from my irrevocable torture.
“Things,” he retorts, spitting out the word with heavy distaste. “No, Faye. Things are that dresser or this pillow. Things are not the secrets Mack, Weldon, and Seamus has asked you to keep from me. Things are not the way you’ve been handling everything lately. That’s called shutting down. That’s called knowing about something that’s going to happen… that’s going to affect both of us, and you deciding not to tell me.”
I can’t believe the anger radiating off him like heat waves. The fury raging in his eyes as his hands clench and unclench against his legs, like he’s trying to contain the outburst that’s been coming my way since we returned here to Ethryeal City.
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