Immortal Grave (The Dark Betrayal Trilogy), page 22
The blue glow spread out over his body, wrapping him in an embrace of light. Something shifted in his face, the cruel mask disappearing, replaced by the face of an exhausted teenager. He opened his eyes, all traces of black gone. Real tears ran down his face and blood poured from where the knife was lodged in his chest. He fell to his knees the moment Ree released her power and let him.
“TRISTAN!” Ree’s feet were moving by the time they hit the floor. She fell to her brother’s side and cradled his head in her lap.
“Ree.” He coughed, blood coming from his mouth which she quickly brushed away.
“Paden!” Ree didn’t look away from Tristan. For the first time in years, she was looking at her brother and she didn’t want to lose one second. “Please, Trist. Hang on. Hang on.”
Paden’s hands moved toward his friend’s chest, but Tristan batted him away with one hand. “No.”
“Tristan. You’re hurt. Paden can help you.” Ree’s tears ran down her face and she grabbed Tristan’s hand but he tried to pull away. “Stop it! I can’t lose you again. Not again, Tristan. I’ve missed you. Mom has missed you so much.”
“No.” Tristan stopped fighting Ree and squeezed her fingers instead. “I’m sorry. Tell mom and dad.”
“Please, Tristan.” Ree’s body shook with sobs, her words barely coming out.
“No crying, sis.” Tristan coughed, but smiled a little. “My choice.”
“Ree.” Paden touched her shoulder, but she shook him off.
“No! Heal him! He doesn’t understand!” Ree shook Tristan as his eyes drifted closed. “Wake up, Tristan.”
“It’s over, Ree.” Tristan’s words were a whisper. “Thank you.”
“I love you, Tristan!” Ree shook, her head bowed over her brother.
“Love you.” He never opened his eyes and his heart stuttered on the last word. The grief hit Ree so hard she lost control of the power and everyone was pushed away from where she sat, holding her brother. No one said a word while she sobbed, her body shaking as she unleashed every bit of pain she had locked up.
Finally, someone pulled Tristan’s body out of Ree’s hands. She fought them, pushing at his shoulders and smacking at his hands. Roland touched her face to get her attention. She looked up at him through blurry eyelashes, not sure what he wanted.
“Let go of the power, Ree.” Roland brushed the hair back from her face. “There are a lot of people here that want to hold you.”
Ree looked around her, surprised to see the rippling energy that had kept everyone else at bay. Taking a deep breath that ended on one of those awful hiccups, she let go of the power. Paden was beside her instantly. Sliding an arm under her legs and the other around her shoulders, he pulled her against his chest. Melanie slammed into them both, her arms wrapping around Ree as best she could.
“You did it, Ree.” Melanie’s strained voice reached Ree’s ears, but she didn’t really understand. Tristan had died. “You did it, Ree. I’m so sorry about Tristan, but you did it.”
Ree struggled in Paden’s arms so he would set her down. He put her on her feet but kept an arm wrapped around her waist. Ree hugged Melanie and absorbed what her friend was telling her. The war was over. Her eyes darted over her friends and knew tears were welling in her eyes. They had all made it. There was blood, and wounds that would heal with time, but they were all alive. They were the last ones standing.
The thunder claps announcing the arrival of gods made Ree jerk against Paden’s chest. Every nerve ending in her body felt raw, her heart and brain weak from overload. She looked over to where Athena stood with several gods Ree didn’t recognize, and then over to where Brigid stood next to Hecate.
“I told you they had been dealt with.” Athena kicked at the pile of ashes at her feet with disgust. “The evidence.”
“This was your doing?” Zeus’s voice made Ree’s heart rate accelerate. He was a tall man, wearing a business suit that hugged his muscular body.
“By my command.” Athena didn’t look remotely bothered. “I told you I would not suffer a traitor, Father.” She sniffed as she looked over to the other pile of ashes. “Much less two.”
“This is finally over then?” A man with bright yellow hair asked from where he stood next to Zeus.
“Yes, Apollo. The children have saved our planet.” Hecate’s voice rang through the auditorium.
Zeus looked over at them as if just realizing they were there. “Good job, then.”
Just as quickly as they came, they disappeared. Brigid and Hecate lingered just a moment longer. Hecate winked at them and Brigid offered a small smile, but they, too, left quickly and without any more words. Roland ripped off part of the curtain hanging from the rafters and placed it over Tristan’s body. He scooped up Ree’s brother’s body and nodded at her.
“I really want out of here.” Ree looked at Paden.
“I second that.” Weylin limped toward the stairs for the stage.
“What about the Dark Ones? Where did they all go?” Ree looked about the room, not sure if there was enough dust and ash to make up all of the monsters that had been trying to kill them.
“They ran the moment you broke through the shield.” Bryce squeezed Ree’s shoulder as they made their way down the hall. “We couldn’t leave you there to follow.”
“Don’t worry, we picked off some for you.” Niall was standing just outside of the broken doors to the school.
There, in the pink hues of the coming morning sky, the remaining Guardians who had come to Savannah with her friends waited on the stairs. They all looked tired, a little battle worn, but in far better shape than anyone who had been in the school.
“Thank you.” Ree shot Niall a half smile.
“I think we should be thinking you, Alastriana.” Met nodded her head at the school. “You sure did put on a hell of a light show.”
“What do you mean?” Ree looked at the Guardian in confusion.
“The night sky lit up like the aurora borealis when you did whatever you did in there.”
“Oh.” Ree blinked. The sound of sirens in the distance, made Ree sigh.
“I guess we’re still on the wanted list.” Weylin shook his head.
“Probably.” Bryce smiled.
“We kept them busy for as long as we could.” Magda said. She was sitting on the low wall next to the steps.
Some of the Guardians had commandeered vehicles and there was plenty of room for the ride back to the boats. Ree leaned against Paden, still too conflicted to feel relief at having finished the biggest task she had ever been given. Deep in her soul was an ache that nothing but time would heal.
When the boats made it to the island, Ree took Tristan’s body and carried him to the pyres that had been set up in their absence. Not all of the Guardians had been as lucky as Ree’s friends and there were two bodies to be laid to rest next to Tristan’s. The humans that were on the island had gathered a respectful distance away, but were there to show their support.
As the flames ate the bodies of the Guardians and devoured what remained of her brother, Ree did her best to let go of all the pain she felt. After a while, the others drifted away, but Ree refused to move until the flames had completely died away. Someone brought her a blanket and Paden wrapped it around her shoulders before pulling her into his lap.
Neither of them said anything until the last flame had gone out. The sun had risen hours ago, but Ree stayed in the exact same position as she watched her brother leave the world for real. Paden hadn’t complained once about the damp ground or the cold air. He sat there quietly, his love for Ree the only real warmth she could feel that morning. Finally, he shifted so he could see her face. Very gently he kissed her lips and touched his forehead to hers.
“I want to go somewhere warm.” Ree’s words were quiet, but she smiled softly at Paden.
“Where do you have in mind?” Paden kissed the tip of her nose, his relief for her washing over her.
“I don’t care. Somewhere with a lot of s
“You just want to see me in those little trunks.” Paden narrowed his eyes at Ree and she laughed. It warmed her from the pit of her stomach and flowed out to get lost in the sound of the crashing water.
Paden stood up and pulled her to her feet. “C’mon. There are a lot of people who want to talk to you.”
“Oh?” Ree let him pull her toward the house where she could hear people laughing. She wasn’t sure that she was ready to talk to anyone but Paden.
“I think there’s cake.” Paden smiled when she picked up her pace.
“Well, I can’t let good cake go to waste, can I?” Ree squeezed his fingers.
“Not you, little one.”
“I wonder where I can order some of those little shorts. Do you prefer a certain color or do you just want green to match your eyes?” She laughed when Paden made a grab for her and threw on the speed. His growl turned into a chuckle as they entered the house and were immersed in hugs from their friends and the people who knew just what they had gone through.
Ree looked back at Paden as Kay pulled her to the kitchen for cake and held out her hand. Lacing his fingers with hers, Paden stayed with Ree, just like she knew he always would.
Ree pushed her plate away and leaned back in her chair. Her friends were the only ones left in the kitchen. Everyone else had gone to bed, or disappeared to spend time with their families and friends. Paden and Weylin were arguing over the last piece of cake, which Bryce took without notice. Juliette and Melanie were watching them with amused eyes.
The humans had all been settled into the little houses in the center of the island, and the extra Guardians had been offered passage back to their own homes. Most of them had stayed though, to help clean up the mess that Savannah had been left in. There were still Dark Ones running around and darklings that needed to be healed. It would take a lot of work and time to rid the Earth of the alien disease.
Taking a deep breath, Ree closed her eyes and enjoyed the bickering that meant things were a little more normal. The chair next to her scraped against the floor and Roland sat down. She opened her eyes and smiled when he handed her a spoon and pointed at the carton of ice cream he had gotten out of the fridge.
“This was Sophie’s favorite.” Ree scooped a big spoonful out.
“Yep. There are four more containers in the freezer.” Roland laughed. "I’m going to miss her. She was my family.”
Ree reached over and squeezed his hand quickly. “We’re your family too.”
He smiled at her and touched his spoon to her nose. “You poor people.”
“Where the hell did the cake go?” Weylin stood up and looked around the room. “What the hell?”
“Sorry man, the cake looked so good and it was getting cold while you argued.” Bryce put the last forkful in his mouth and closed his eyes. “So good.”
Weylin dropped his fork on his plate and fell into his chair, utterly defeated. Ree shoved the ice cream in his direction and smiled. Sighing he took a big bite and shrugged.“It will do.”
“So, what’s the plan now?” Melanie asked.
“What do you mean?” Ree leaned forward and looked at her friend.
“I mean, do we go back to school? We missed weeks.”
“I don’t know.” Ree frowned. “I really didn’t think about much past the final battle.”
“Well, it’s over now.” Paden bumped her shoulder with his. “And there’s no telling when we’ll have to answer one of their favors.”
“Maybe we can just take online classes? I’m not sure I could go back to school and look at everyone. Besides, the news station said the school had been closed for repairs.” Ree frowned around the room. “Plus, last I talked to Mom and Dad they said that they’re not sure when they’re coming back. They’ve been in upstate New York and Mom loves it.”
“So what? They want to move?” Juliette leaned forward and frowned.
“No, but our house is destroyed. They want to wait until it’s fixed before they come home. I don’t really blame them. It doesn’t feel like home anymore.” Ree shrugged “And, I don’t know, but I think that knowing Tristan is really gone makes it even harder on them. They had just seen him again.” She hadn’t told them that he had been turned back to human in the end. She couldn’t bring herself to tell them that she had killed her own brother. Tears gathered in her eyes and she shoved another spoonful of ice cream in her mouth. Tristan had made his choices and she had done her best to live with the consequences.
“What about a vacation?” Paden looked at Ree, obviously wanting to draw her thoughts back to something happier. It worked. His eyes glowed with something that made her want to drag him back to their room.
“I’ve heard that Bora Bora is pretty nice.” Juliette smiled.
“You have got to be kidding me.” Paden’s voice drifted out of the bathroom in the small hut they were sharing next to the beach. “Ree! I’m not wearing these!”
Ree bit her lips to keep from laughing out loud. She tucked his swim trunks under the bed and tried to swallow her laughter. “What are you talking about?”
Paden stepped out of their bathroom, his towel hanging low on his hips. Obviously fighting a smile, he held up the tiny, green swim trunks Ree had switched out with his normal pair.
“What? They match your eyes.” Ree’s mouth twitched.
“I’m not wearing these, Ree. I would never hear the end of it.” Paden stretched them between his hands. “Roland would die from laughter. And Melanie and Jules! They would feel unsatisfied for the rest of their lives! Imagine knowing this much hotness was right next to them, but they could never have it?”
The laughter burst from Ree and she covered her mouth with both hands. Paden flung the shorts across the room, slingshot style. She ducked and let them hit the wall over her head. Paden was across the room in a second, pressing Ree down onto the bed. He kissed her until she thought her heart was going to explode.
When he finally leaned back, he nipped at her nose and smiled down at her. “I love this.”
“What?” Ree smiled up at Paden, enjoying the happiness that radiated from him and warmed her soul.
“Being with you, right now.Seeing you happy and relaxed.” Using the fingers on his left hand, he pushed Ree’s bangs out of her eyes.
“I’m happy too.” Ree wiggled under him, finding a more comfortable position.
“Good. Now tell me where my trunks are. They’re going to be waiting for us.” Paden narrowed his eyes sternly.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.” Ree grinned broadly.
“They’re under the bed, aren’t they?” Paden moved to look under the bed, but Ree grabbed his shoulders and yanked him back.
“Let them wait a little while. We have forever to go snorkeling.” Ree pulled his head down to hers and kissed him soundly.
“Hard to argue with that kind of logic.” Paden mumbled.
An hour late, Paden and Ree finally showed up on the beach where the others were waiting next to a small boat. Weylin was lying on his back in the surf. The water was making his growing hair lap around his head like octopus arms. He pushed his sunglasses down on his nose and glared at Paden.
“Not cool, dude.”
“We’re not that late.” Paden kicked some water at him and dropped their snorkeling gear into the boat.
“If you had been late because you had run into evil, blood sucking monsters it would be understandable.” Weylin sat up and glared at Ree and Paden. “But, noooooo. You were doing the pogo stick dance and there is no brain-bleach to be found anywhere on the island.”
Ree blushed, but couldn’t help the sputtering laugh that came out of her mouth. Paden shook his head and sat down on the edge of the small boat. Bryce walked over and high-fived Weylin before pulling him to his feet.
“It’s too late to go snorkeling now. We’ll
“Where are Melanie and Roland?” Ree helped Paden pull the boat closer to their little stand of houses.
“They went to go get snacks, because you guys were taking so long.” Weylin grabbed his towel from one of the white lounge chairs. He plopped down into his seat and glared at the water. “There was a really hot chick on the other boat. I was hoping she would lose her snorkel and I could offer her mine.” He wiggled his eyebrows and Ree groaned. Paden laughed and grabbed the soccer ball that was next to the chairs.
“C’mon. Maybe I can teach you how to look cool before she comes back.” Paden kicked the ball at Weylin’s chair.
“You wouldn’t know cool if it bit you on the ass.” Weylin stood up and dribbled the ball down the beach away from Paden.
A dark-haired blur sped past Weylin and took the ball. The sun glinted off of Roland’s bronzed skin, his mouth wide in a happy, carefree grin. “Did I hear you say you wanted me to bite you on the butt? That’s sick man.”
The boys started hollering, laughing, and posturing. Ree just shook her head and enjoyed the sight. When Melanie sat down in Weylin’s empty chair, she turned to smile at her friend. Melanie pulled out a soda from the picnic basket she had been carrying and handed it to Ree.
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