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By:Amy Miles

“You said a few hours, a day at the most. It has been nearly two days, Fane. Something should have happened by now.”

“She’s still alive,” Fane reminds him, with forced restraint. “Be thankful.”

“You call this alive?” Nicolae stabs a finger at Sadie’s still form. The sheets and mattress bear rusty streaks of dried blood, a reminder of just how long Sadie has remained in this catatonic state.

Fane sighs and rises from his position on the floor. His clothes are rumpled, stained from hours spent kneeling at Sadie’s bedside. He groans as he reaches toward the ceiling, his neck popping and cracking audibly as he stretches. Nicolae notices that Fane’s long hair, previously tied back by a leather thong, has fallen haphazardly about his shoulders, further evidence of the stress burdening the immortal.

He tosses his cloth back into a bowl of pink colored water on the side table as he approaches. “I warned you this might not work. It would appear that her body is fighting the changes. I can’t predict what will happen to her, but I do know what will happen to you if you keep refusing to eat or sleep. You are human, Nicolae. You can’t keep going like this.”

“I’m fine.” Nicolae’s shoulder bumps against Fane as he brushes past, refusing to leave Sadie’s side. He caught sight of himself in the mirror and knows how gaunt his cheeks have become, how purple the skin is under his eyes, but it doesn’t matter. “I won’t leave her. Not again.”

“Sadie is strong-willed. If anyone can pull through, it’ll be her.” Fane crosses the creaky wood floor and dumps the bowl of water out of the window. It splatters against the stone courtyard below. “If I were a betting man, I’d say Sadie will wake before morning.”

When Nicolae shivers at the frosty breeze that slips through the window, Fane locks the glass panes, sealing out the blustery night. When he turns back, he finds Nicolae with his head hanging dejectedly. “This isn’t your fault, you know? If you’d been here, you might have shared the same fate.”

Nicolae’s jaw clenches as he vigorously shakes his head. “It was my job to protect her. She needed me and I wasn’t there for her.”

“I feel the same way about Roseline. For so many years, I’ve felt like she was my responsibility. Not that she would have ever let me take care of her; she’s independent for that.” Fane sighs as he leans back against the wall, closing his eyes. “We should have known there was something wrong with Malachi.”

“We did.” Nicolae frowns. “We knew, but Roseline was too stubborn to listen.”

Fane’s lips twist into a pained smile. He opens his eyes and stares at the exposed wooden beams that run the length of the ceiling. “She has always been like that. From the first day I met her.”

Nicolae sinks down onto the bed beside Sadie, careful not to disturb her. He can’t stand to be apart from her, not when death seems to be hanging on her doorstep. He likes to think that, even in this coma-like state, she can hear his voice, sense his presence and maybe it will be enough for her to fight to survive.

When Nicolae clears away the strands of stray hair from her forehead, he tries not to notice the blood that still clings to her hair or the pallor of her skin. “What was Roseline like? In the beginning, I mean.”

For a moment, he thinks Fane might ignore his question, but instead Fane moves toward an oversized armchair near the window. The leather creaks as he sinks into it and his face is cast in shadow.

“She was sweet, innocent.” A wry smile crosses the immortal’s lips. “Her laugh was different then, more like the giggle of a girl with a childhood crush, but there was a buried pain within her as well. Seeing your entire family slaughtered before your eyes changes a person.”

Nicolae sinks down next to Sadie, resting his head atop hers.

“Roseline always feared the monster within her, always waiting for the savage desires to overtake her. She was too strong for that, too determined to prove Vladimir wrong.” Fane’s voice turns harsh as he crosses his arms over his chest, as if trying to repress years of anger.

“I wanted to kill him each time he touched her. I used to dream about it, plan it, but I couldn’t risk messing it up. I knew if I did, Vladimir or Lucien would make her suffer for my mistake.” He falls silent for a moment, his brow furrowed. “She always tried to hide her wounds from me. I’m not sure if it was her pride or for my own benefit, but I always knew.”

Pursing his lips at the raw pain in Fane’s tone, Nicolae wishes he’d never asked.

Fane leans his head back against the chair and stares up at the ceiling. “She saved me all those years ago. I was like her in many ways, horrified by what I’d become, desperate to end it all. I was contemplating suicide the day I met her.”