Only the first time I entered The Shift had filled me with this much fear. It wasn't the shadows or the dark this time, however. The gnawing feeling that Talon wouldn't even open the door for me kept forcing itself to the forefront of my mine. I pulled at my sleeve as I walked. I hardly noticed as the lights started appearing on the walls. Nothing was giving me comfort tonight apparently. I had waited until sunset for a number of reasons, including trying to avoid anyone who might give me trouble. Mallex hadn't been inviting himself over as much-clearly another ploy to get in my good graces-so I was able to move far more freely. Earlier I had changed into a thicker tunic and pants, bracing myself against the chilly breeze that always floated off the ocean at night. Eon had caught me last minute and draped a maroon cape over my shoulders. I felt like I was marching to my death. Eon had been quiet since our talk and I was fine with that. I had been overjoyed to finally have some kind of relationship with Eon. I had wanted it my entire life, but now it was almost tainted. I couldn't wrap my head around a person hurting someone else in that way.
I couldn't imagine all the pain and struggle Talon must've gone through. Eon had even mentioned that he was already alone at that point. How had he cared for himself with no hands? It must've taken months for them to heal. That brought another lingering question where was Talon's family? I gathered that they came here with him and stayed for at least a little while. He had been alone for as long as I could remember though. Did they have something to do with his scars as well? Before I knew it, I had arrived at the burgundy door. I fidgeted nervously and tried to force myself to knock. I hated this. I knew I had done this to myself, but having to face it made me squirm. Even if Talon refused to teach me I had an apology to make. I finally knocked and shifted from foot to foot. Even with thicker clothing I was freezing. The buildings around me were tall and blocked the wind, but the chill somehow still managed to sink into my bones.
I heard loud laughter on the other side of the door and frowned. I'd never heard the voice before. It was high and light. The laughter sounded like the sweetest, most delicate bells. I stepped back as the door swung inward. A woman I'd never seen before leaned against the door frame as she looked up at me with curiosity. Inky black hair fell down her back in thick, disheveled, long layers. Her eyes were bright red and her skin was the shade of warm honey. She held a carafe of a dark liquid on her hip. I quickly looked away when I realized she was completely nude. Her eyes devoured me, and I tracked them with disgust as they moved up and down my body. She grinned and her teeth were longer and sharper than even Talon's.
“Oh, this one is cute. He looks absolutely delicious.”
“What are you talking about?” Talon had stepped out of a hallway I hadn't seen before. He wore the same black pants from earlier in the day and they hung impossibly low on his hips. I moved my attention from the woman to him. I was grateful to look at something other than her perfect body. I instantly regretted it however. Scratches spread angrily over Talon's chest and shoulders. With horror I saw a perfect bite mark on his chest. The dark tree tattoo on his hip was on full display and I realized the branches of the tree spread over his abs around his left side, disappearing to his back. I think I had been so distracted earlier when he removed his shirt that I hadn't notice just how massive the tree was. A cluster of rough triangles sat on his right pec. Five in total, they pointed down in the same way the ones on his ring did. His hair was tousled and his mouth was smeared red. He saw me and the pretty flush behind his cheeks fell off his face. His eyes widened and he strode forward, pushing the girl toward the hallway he'd just appeared from.
“No fair Talon. I wanna play with your cute friend!”
“Amaris go put some clothes on.” The girl pouted but turned and slipped down the hallway. I noticed a large circle in the center of her back with markings just like the one on Talon's arm. I closed my eyes for a minute, forcing every feeling I'd ever had for Talon into a neat little box in the back of my mind. When I opened my eyes he was looking at me and I plastered a smile on my face.
“I wanted to apologize.”
“For again showing up at my door uninvited or for something else lordling?”
I sighed softly and shook my head, “All of it? What I said to you.”
“Nothing I haven't heard before.” He ran a hand over his face and sighed, “many things were said that came from anger. I wouldn't wish Mallex on anyone.”
“I talked to Eon about when you were younger.” Talon's expression twisted with discomfort. It was almost like he knew what was coming. I rushed forward, “He told me about your hands and I understand why you were so upset earlier.”
“Do you? You had a little talk with your brother so now you're an expert on my behavior? You found out your brother and his friend ruined my hands and now you're enlightened?”
“What exactly did you do with your hands Talon? They are ever so talented.” Amaris had reemerged wearing a slip of shimmery fabric over her breasts and flowing pants made of the same material that puffed out slightly at her ankles. It was all in vibrant fushia and deep purple. As she walked, she secured a veil of the same gorgeous fabric in her hair. Transfixed on how it drifted behind her for a moment, my eyes fell on golden combs that pinned back her wealth of hair. I felt myself deflate even further. This was easily the most beautiful woman I'd eve seen.
“Amaris find something to entertain yourself.”
“I'm trying to. Do you think your friend would join us?” hands slipped around Talon's sides and one slid down his abs and then lower. I looked away, but watched out of the corner of my eye. Talon intercepted her hands and lightly pushed her away.
“I'm talking to him. Not. Now.”
She blew out a breath and rolled her eyes at him, “You're no fun when you're like this. All moody and mean.” I had to agree with her there. This was not a side of Talon I enjoyed dealing with. Her lip stuck out in a pout as she dramatically threw herself onto one of the lush couches, humming a song unknown to me.
“Now, lordling, if this is some feeble attempt to get me to come back as your teacher, my answer is still no. That ship has sailed. With that being said I accept your apology. There now, you have no reason to come back here. Everything's tied up in a neat little bow.” My chest seized. He herded me to the door in a daze and I followed his movements as he began to shut it in my face. My mind was reeling. My calm finally broke. I shoved my foot in the small crack that remained. I gripped the door knob and wrenched it from his hands. Both Talon and the girl gaped at me as I marched myself into his house. It took me a few seconds to get over the fact that I'd over-powered Talon. I steeled myself before turning back to him.
“No? Is that your favorite word lately?”
“You're not going to write me off like that and pretend we never had any kind of bond.”
“I don't have-”
“No. Stop. I'm talking and you're going to listen for once. I didn't ask you to do this because I thought I was 'trapping' you in some way. I wholeheartedly recognize the fact that my father is capable of doing evil things to get what he wants. That's not me, however, and you know it. You know it! My family hasn't given me a spare thought for years. Do you really think he'd storm The Shift for me? For me?”
“I've spent my entire life just wanting someone to see me and you can't just erase the fact that you did. That for the short time you've know me you may have been rude but you made it seem like you really saw something in me. You don't want to teach me? That's fine. Do whatever you want. But don't lump me in with my family because for half of my life I wasn't part of it. Shit!” My hand flew to my mouth and I bit down on my palm as tears threatened. I expected Talon to shove me out, make a mean comment about my little speech, but he didn't. He looked down at me sadly, still standing by the door. I heard a sniffle and then fabric rustling. Then thin arms were suddenly thrown around my neck. Amaris was blubbering and holding me to her small frame with a surprisingly strong grip, her breasts smashed against my chest. I stiffened and pulled her arms from around my neck before stepping away.
“Talon I don't know what you did to this poor boy, but this is breaking my heart! Make him feel better! Right now!” She stomped her foot and I felt my face scrunch with disdain. I had rapidly decided that I didn't like this childish woman. It definitely had nothing to do with the fact that her and Talon had an obvious romantic relationship. He sighed and pulled his pants higher up on his hips, studying me. His features were still pulled down in residual sadness but were now also colored with exhaustion.
“I'll come back and teach you. Just don't cry or whatever you're planning. I can only handle one over-emotional being at the moment.”
“I...don't think you should.” Talon's head swiveled toward me and the girl gasped.
“Isn't that why you came here?”
“I told you. I came here to apologize. I did that, and if you really feel the way you did earlier in the clearing, I don't want you to come back. I'm not going to force you into it. I don't want you to think you have to.” I gathered my thoughts and made the decision I'd been dreading, “I'm going to Syrin in two days time.” I'd been making plans and organizing preparations all afternoon since our falling out.
Talon was doing a remarkably bad job at hiding his emotions right now, shock contorting his face, “I thought the plan was to avoid that at all costs? You told me that yourself. Wasn't that your entire reason for roping me in?”
“Originally that was the plan,” I swallowed around a lump in my throat, “but I have to complete my training in time for my wedding. Lex doesn't want to stay in the city for longer than he has to.”
Talon stared at me for what seemed like ages, his mouth hanging open. Then he systematically shut down every emotion that had been splayed across his face. It went blank and he crossed his arms over his chest, still remaining silent.
“I love weddings! Can I come?”
We both turned to Amiras, “No.”
She grumbled some words I didn't care to register and I stilled as Talon took a step toward me, “Are you doing this because of this afternoon?”
I tried one of his sardonic smirks and failed miserably, “Of course I am. I didn't know you felt like you had no other choice. That you were trapped. I thought...I don't know why you agreed to teach me but that never crossed my mind. I don't want to hurt you more than you already have been.”
I mustered up a small, sad smile, “I care too much about you for that.”
I didn't give him a chance to answer, just brushed passed him and out the door. This time felt more final and the ache in my chest had returned tenfold. I didn't stop though, I ran through the dark. I was numb to the cool air on my skin, the chill biting in the open air. I jogged all the way home and bypassed my brother who stepped out of my way, a deep frown on his mouth. Up until the last minute I wasn't sure what I was going to do, but releasing Talon seemed like the right thing. I couldn't bare to hear his response after my admission. He had just been with a woman who looked like she came directly from the gods. Why would he entertain little old me? The entire thing had been overly dramatic and as I curled up on my bed I almost laughed at myself. I kept seeing all the marks she'd left on his skin and honestly, that may have been a part of my decision. Eon had been wrong, the feelings were one sided and that was okay. He had an entire life that I'd forced myself into and it was only fair that he got to return to it. Or so the rational part of my brain insisted. He was happy, my family was happy, and Lex would be happy.
That was a problem, though, wasn't it? Everyone but me was happy again. The cycle of my life was repeating and it felt like I couldn't do anything to stop it. Talon deserved to live his life the way he wanted. He'd already been through so much. Eon had told me about the climax of their torturing him, but I felt like that was only the top of the iceberg. He'd said it grew more aggressive. What had they done to him? What had life done to him? It seemed as though Talon had plucked all the short straws from fate. Unknowingly I had added to his suffering. While it was true my intent was never to hurt him, I had been selfish. The only thing I could see was that I needed him for some reason. I barely knew him. The short time we'd been together had had a lasting affect and I wasn't sure that was healthy. Why had my infatuation with him bloomed so violently?
He was handsome of course, in a way I'd never before seen as attractive. His dark hair hitting his shoulders and hanging in his face wasn't what I was used to. Everyone I was exposed to had neat, admittedly boring, hairstyles. His gray and black eyes changed colors with his mood and if his Magik couldn't cut through something his stupid jawline probably could. He only wore black and his arms were bare most of the time despite his scars. My parents would have quickly turned their noses up at him and I wondered if perhaps this was a tiny act of rebellion on my part. Say anything happened between Talon and I? They would most definitely not approve. The thought of that filled me with joy. The thought of having a different kind of contact with Talon sent butterflies flapping around my stomach and I shifted on the bed, pulling my knees to my chest. Again, I was deluding myself. All I knew about him was hearsay or from a third party. None of the words I wanted to hear ever left his mouth. And I didn't deserve them. I wasn't a part of Talon's life in the way I wanted and that was fair. I didn't deserve all of his deepest secrets. I hadn't earned the right to make him relive his trauma.
My heart was trying it's best to convince my head that I was in love with this person but how? I knew next to nothing about him and the vast majority of our interactions weren't positive.
Selfish. The words kept bouncing around my head and I wondered why I thought I was entitled to any part of Talon Verloren. Those close to me had caused him insurmountable pain and he had still entertained me for far longer than he should have. A bitter note shifted into my train of thought and an image of a younger Lex, that bright boy with a stunning smile, filled my head. It warped into something darker. His face turned cruel and all I could see was his hands raising a rock above his head. What kind of monster was capable of an act so viscous and violent? My future husband was. The man that by the end of the year I would be officially tied to. It showed me further that I had been right in thinking I was unsafe. That his behavior was going to lead to an event that might permanently hurt me or even worse. Would I survive this marriage? Power or not? Even with learning, Lex had years of practice honing his skills. With all of my workouts the man could still overpower me easily. It was a sobering train of thought and I covered my face with my hands.
It seemed that no matter what path I chose in life I was stuck in an even worse situation. I had a taste of someone treating me like a real person and now I was unsure if I could go back. I may not love Talon, not really, but I loved the way he treated me. The way he listened when I spoke, even if it was just to tease or correct me. He looked me in the eyes, not through me like so many others had. Possibly his past is what made him treat others the way he did. He had an unmistakable edge to him, that was certain. Behind a sharp wit and quick smirk, he was in a constant state of suffering. We were similar in that way. We were both just trying to make it through each day without someone taking everything we’d worked so hard for away. I had been given this amazing gift which gave me worth in my family's eyes, but if anything ever jeopardized that I knew for certain I'd fall right back out of their good graces. I was just another tool for them in whatever agenda or angle they were working. People who went to court and had some kind of power didn't care about those who didn't. Hence why I had been practically kicked out of my own family when I didn't perform the way they expected.
Pressing my fingers against my temples, I tried to fight off the growing headache that had just begun rumbling through my skull. My thoughts were whipping around in circles. Once I dissected one thought or feeling, my brain presented the exact same one in a slightly different way. I analyzed my conversations with Talon. Trying desperately to narrow down what I could have done better. Nothing. Talon was so hurt by all the things done to him over his short life that he couldn't see anything I did without ulterior motives. Lex and Eon had been his friends and they tried to ruin his life. Why would Eon's little brother be any different?
I felt something nudge at the end of my power. A sweet note of despair just on the edge of my senses. I reached for it then pulled back mentally. I didn't know what it was from but I didn't need any more complex emotions at the moment. I was already struggling to keep my head above water. I pushed the strange nudging nuisance away and rolled onto my side in bed, closing my eyes and willing myself to sleep. If I could sleep maybe my head wouldn't be such a mess when I awoke. Was I making the right choice? I already regretted refusing Talon's offer and declaring that Syrin was my only path. Even more so I didn't know how I'd pull myself from the impending doom that was my marriage to Mallex. My allies had always been scarce and I still had a hard time putting all my faith in my older brother. Was he just waiting for me to fail again? Was he influencing my decisions for some end goal I couldn't see? Nothing was clear except that once again, it all was a mess.
I rolled almost violently the other way in bed, pulling up covers that I would soon kick off. Pushing my hair away from my face I sat up in bed before getting up the rest of the way. I held my thin blanket around my shoulders and shuffled myself to the only small window in my room. Pressing my forehead against the cold pane of glass, I closed my eyes. The odd foreign sensation again pushed at my mind but I shook my head. Instead opening my eyes and looking out over the back of our property, to the end of the immaculate lawns, the perfectly arranged flower beds, to the forest that stretched behind the house. The road to Syrin would take us farther into them than Talon and I had ever ventured. I'd never been that far in my life. I knew nothing of the world. I knew this house and I knew Krinn. I wondered what waited for me out there? Would I finally come into my own or would all my hope be once again met with pain?
I love hearing all your theories so please keep them coming!
Also, I promise that eventually we will get a more light-hearted Talon back. My boy's just going through it right now 🖤