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The scorching heat did not let me step any closer, leaving me feeling helpless, desperate to get to her. I couldn't even get near enough to peer inside at the remnants of the building without the heat of the fire threatening to sear my skin off. What had caused this? Who had done this? I didn't even notice the tears streaming down my now dirty face as my legs gave in and I slid to the ground, onto my knees.

Rye's hand slid over me as he knelt down and pulled me into a fierce hug, letting me bury my tear-streaked face in his shredded shirt. It wasn't until then that I realized I was sobbing, my face drenched with dirty tears, streaking my face. I couldn't save her, I never could. The likelihood that she had caused this herself was so high that I wanted to bury this information into the crevices of my brain where things were shoved for the purpose of forgetting. I didn't want to know anything anymore. I didn't know if I could handle it much longer.

"Rye? Helena."

"I know, shhh," he whispered into my hair as I let the pain escape, shaking my body as I cried for everything I had lost. I was glad Jeremy wasn't there. He had stayed behind at the hive, enjoying the new people to challenge him on his video games. He would have run inside immediately the moment we had arrived. But he was safe, and that was the one thing that helped me as the pain ripped through me. She had done it while we were both still gone. But had I rushed in like I had wanted to when we'd arrived, I might not have been so lucky. Why had she waited until I returned to do this? Maybe seeing us pull up solidified her resolve to end it. I wish I knew. But now, I will never know.

Oh mom, why this? How did it come to this?



So I cried. I let the despair take me in its embrace, swallowing all of my senses and drowning my resolve. I felt it tear through my insides, pulverizing anything good I had ever felt, filling my world with pain, so much of it I wondered if I would ever know what it was like to feel no pain. Could I even remember such things? No, there was never no pain, there was always the hurt and disappointment waiting in the wings to take over when anything good ever came along, only to exit stage left just as fast. We must accept this, especially when that is all that is handed to us.

But I'd never see Helen again. I had been too late to save her. She had been doomed for so long, and in the end, nothing I could have done would have helped her. I knew that now. She had made this decision, probably ages ago. But it had been so sudden, so final. It had left me numb, unable to process it when it came.

Christian had pulled up right after the blast and jumped from the car after barely putting it in park. Running over, his eyes were wild and shocked as he looked at the blood seeping from my shirt, glancing over to the house and then back again. I could tell he immediately understood what had happened. He had come to help me, to help my mother. But now that purpose was lost forever in the all-consuming fire that had claimed her life.

There would be no atonement for him. There would be no absolution for any of us.

Kneeling down next to me, he waited patiently as Rye continued to hold onto me. I knew the ache that Christian must have felt, waiting there, unable to hold me, unable to take the pain away like he had done so before. It would be agonizing to him, like a different kind of starvation. I felt the ache in my own body as well with him so near. A strange subconscious longing betrayed my heart. It was easy to ignore these problems in the midst of devastation. It was easy to fall into Rye's arms when I wanted to feel nothing but numb.

I'd regret these thoughts later, when the smoke had died out and the embers were doused. I'd beat myself up for such things, for causing pain without ever meaning to hurt anyone. But I took what I needed, when I wanted it. I had left my mother to fend for herself in a fragile state. How selfish was that? I had done it without a second's thought, without concern for the consequences. I had to live with that now, no matter how much I didn't want to.

Epilogue.

I RAN AND RANa I ran as fast and as far as I could, letting the asphalt race under my shoes with endless yellow and white lines passing me by. I wanted to run forever, to the ends of the earth until it ran out or the ocean came to greet me and swallow me up. It wouldn't be far enough or vast enough to kill the pain inside or numb the ache. Nothing would be able to do that. There was nowhere I could go to escape the breaking of my heart. Only time could heal me, and even that would never heal the scars that were left behind.

When my legs and chest burned from the effort, and I felt like my muscles would spasm from the exertion, I searched the cars littering the highway until I found one with keys still hanging inside. Cranking the ignition, I prayed the engine would turn over. A soft, hesitant hum greeted me and I slammed the lever into drive. I let the soothing sway of the vehicle numb me as I dodged the endless hunks of metal and debris in my way, taking to the outskirts of the city opposite of my home in the mountains.

I didn't care if the sun was close to the horizon or that the light would be gone soon, bringing the stuff of nightmares out to roam alongside me on the streets. I didn't even notice the miles as I let the car continue on through the hills at the edge of the valley. Over the mountain, to the edge of my world I went, down a road I once knew, one my father had taken me on over and over. I had every turn memorized, every building and sign emblazoned into my mind. I remembered because that was all I had left. Memories. I hated them, loathed them, wanted to erase all of them and obliterate them from my head and yet, they were my only treasures.

Maybe it would be more merciful to be a feral vampire, to be oblivious of the way things used to be and were now, to be unable to register the devastation of the world. I envied them in a way. Envied the deterioration of their conscious minds. They didn't have to experience the pain of life and loss. Memory was a curse. It was a long and devastating torture that never leaves and never stops its endless rant inside our skulls. Try as I might, I couldn't make it go away.

I came to and found myself with my feet dangling over the edge of the Hoover Dam. I spied the murky water below, far beneath the pale waterline where it once stood. With no one to man the monstrous structure, it would inevitably fall into disrepair. Would it crumble to pieces? Would it shatter slowly, gently returning the flow to the Colorado River? Eventually it would, eventually the cement walls would buckle under the weight and the wear of time, giving in to the forces of nature and earth. I wondered if I would be alive to see it. I wondered if I wanted to be alive to see it.

I had never considered the fate my mother had chosen. I never would. It wasn't something I could ever want. Sitting here, contemplating her reasons, and trying to understand the complexity of everything. I let the tears slip out of my eyes and stream down my cheeks, dripping down into the still water below. I watched as the fish flipped over each other under the surface, breaking it with their sharp fins and slippery bodies. They squirmed as they grouped together, involved in some dance of their own. I wondered what it was like down there, with them. Dark and murky with filth and mud. Not that much different from up here.

I had not heard the slam of a car door or the tentative footsteps that closed in on me. I already knew who it was. I could feel it in the marrow of my bones. It was like static dancing over my skin and tingling in my fingertips. I pretended I hadn't felt it. The day had brought me nothing that I wanted. It had twisted my future and blurred the present so much, I wasn't sure my warped senses would ever recover. Especially not with Christian lingering around.

"Leave me alone," I muttered, hoping he'd get the message and leave me to dwell in my misery. Instead, he swung his black boots over the side and joined me on the ledge of the dam. I shifted to avoid touching his skin. He was too close. "How'd you find me?"

"I can always find you now."

I turned and glared at him. If I had known the dire consequences of binding myself to him, would I have preferred death over this? Studying his unusually colored eyes as they reflected my face, I felt utterly lost. I couldn't answer my own questions. It bothered me because I wasn't used to such confusion. I blamed myself for my mother's death, and I didn't loathe Christian's company like I thought I should.

The light darkened across the cloudy sky, and the sunset continued to fade. Knowing the wrath of night was upon us, we didn't get up, we didn't move. Eventually wiping the tears from my face, I retreated from the ledge. Without further words, I followed him to the car and let him take me back to my new homea"the hive. Back to Jeremy. Back to Rye and Miranda.

Nothing was the way it ought to have been. Would it ever be? It would probably all eventually come crashing down anyway, but no one had given up on me yet. I had to let that be enough. I had to let it fill the emptiness inside that my mother had left behind and pull myself out of its grip before I let the despair win.

Another night had arrived, like many more to come and many behind us. The darkness poured its inky black veil over the city while I let Rye's arms hold me close, listening to the silence of the concrete walls and the soft thumping of our hearts. For now, sleeping in his warm embrace was solace enough, even if it was only a temporary peace.

Acknowledgements.

Thank you to our Lord above for your gifts and love.

I want to say thanks to some friends I have met throughout this crazy adventure as a writer. Always to my writing family: Madison Daniel, Jenna Kay, Linna Drehmel and Kyani Swanigan. You guys are amazingly talented, and I am privileged to have you at my side.

A huge thank you to the following people. Without you, this couldn't happen. I hope I didn't miss any of you, if I have, please forgive me from the deepest parts of my heart. You are not forgotten: Michael K. Rose, Amy Conley, J.T. Lewis, Lori Parker, Jay Ellis, Katie Shelby, Wendy Lovetiggi Nielson, Carly Wallace, Tiffeny Moore, Lauren Reidy, Amber Garza, Jacquie Talento, Cherry Crawford, Julia Crane, Ella James, Jenny Phillips, Nikki Archer, Lavinia Urban, Annie Walls, Sheika Doctor, Cameo Renae, Merisha Abbot, Melissa T. Lee, Terri Dion, Monique O'Connor James, Alicia Battista, Emily Walker, Jenny Bynum, Candice Terry, Jaime Hutchison, Benjamin Daniels, Anne Nelson, Frankie Rose, Christy Weaver Kuykendall, and Emily Goodwin.

You all have been there for me, and I appreciate all the advice, chats and friendship you have given me. YOU ROCK!

About the Author.

Alexia currently lives in Las Vegas, Nevadaa"Sin City! She loves to spend every free moment writing or playing with her four rambunctious kids. Writing has always been her dream and she has been writing ever since she can remember. She loves writing paranormal fantasy and poetry and devours books daily. Alexia also enjoys watching movies, dancing, singing loudly in the car and Italian food.

ALSO BY ALEXIA PURDY:.

Novels:.

Reign of Blood.

Ever Shade (A Dark Faerie Tale #1).

Ever Fire (A Dark Faerie Tale) #2.

Short Stories:.

Evangeline.

The Faery Hunt.

Poetic Collections:.

Whispers of Dreams.

Five Fathoms.

Anthology:.

Beyond the Never.

AVAILABLE via Amazon.com.





CHAPTER DISCUSSION