“You want me to help you kill your sister, then run off with you and live out our existence in some kind of lovers’ dream?” Bastian asked, but there was coldness in his words, something that frightened Thea.
“Yes,” she said, but her smile had faltered.
“Why would I do such a thing?” Bastian asked, laughing darkly. “Why would I even want to?”
“Because we love each other.” Thea searched his eyes, trying to find the warmth she’d once felt in them before.
“You’ve mistaken my affection for something far more than it is.” He pushed his hands off her and took a step away. “I never said that I loved you, and with very good reason. I don’t love you, Thea.”
“Then what are you doing?” Thea asked, her voice trembling. “Why have you lain with me in my bed every day? Why have you stayed in my home for months?”
“Because I am a man, and you are a beautiful woman,” Bastian said. “I have no place to live, and you are wealthy. You have been with so many, many men, Thea. I thought you understood this arrangement.”
“No.” She shook her head and went back over to him. “This is different. We shared something. I know that you felt something for me.”
She grabbed his shirt again, clinging desperately to him, and when he tried to push her free, she refused to let go.
“Thea, let go of me. I’ve made a grave mistake with you, and it’s time that I’ve moved on. I’ve spent far too long in this house with you and your sisters.”
“You’re leaving?” Thea cried. “You cannot leave. I won’t let you throw everything away. I know that you love me!”
“Thea!” Bastian finally succeeded in getting her free and pushed her back so she fell to the floor. “I do not love you. I have never loved you, and I never will.”
“That’s not true, Bastian.” She sat at his feet, weeping openly. “I won’t believe that.”
“My wife Eurydice is the only person I have ever loved,” Bastian said. “When she died, I gave up singing, I took a new name, and I stopped loving. I gave up my heart, Thea. I cannot love you.”
He turned to step away, and Thea scrambled to her feet. She grabbed his arm to stop him, but he kept going. Her bare feet slipped on the cold floor, and she stumbled and fell. He stopped, staring down at the mess that Thea had become.
“Please, Bastian,” she begged. “I don’t care if you love me or not. But please, don’t leave me. I don’t think I can live without you.”
“Stop the hysterics,” Bastian said, sounding disgusted. “I had no idea you were such a weak-willed woman. To think, at one time, I preferred you to your sister.” He snorted.
“What do I have to do to make you stay?” Thea asked, oblivious to his insults. “Tell me what I need to do, and I shall do it.”
“There is nothing you can do!” Bastian stared down at her in exasperation. “You are a whore, Thea. That’s why I stayed here. That’s why I slept with you. You are nothing more to me than a whore, and I thought you understood that.”
He turned to walk away, and this time Thea didn’t grab on to him. She sat on the floor, watching the man she loved retreat, and something snapped inside her.
In all her years, she’d never really loved anyone before, but when she’d found it, she sacrificed everything. She’d given up her health, her beauty, her sanity. And now he’d told her he’d only been using her like a common concubine.
“I am not a whore,” Thea growled and got to her feet.
She didn’t feel the change. There was a blind rage seething through her that seemed to block out everything. The only way she was certain that something had happened was by the look on Bastian’s face when he turned back to her. His eyes widened, and he opened his mouth to scream.
Before he could, Thea dove at him. Her arm had transformed, so it was longer and more powerful, with sharp talons at the ends of her fingers. She tore through his chest easily. As she held his heart in her hands, and watched the blood dripping from his mouth, she savored the moment.
Then she opened her mouth wide and drove her jagged fangs into his flesh.
It wasn’t until later, after the frenzy had faded and she sat in the pool of Bastian’s blood with his corpse next to her, that she realized exactly what she’d done.
“Bastian,” she said, as tears slid down her cheeks. She crawled over to him and pulled his head onto her lap. It had been mostly left intact throughout her attack, and she cradled his face, brushing back his hair with her bloodstained fingers.
As she held him, she began to wail.
With her bags almost completely packed and sitting on her bed, Harper still couldn’t believe she was doing this. Her stomach was in knots, and she couldn’t shake the feeling that no matter what she did, she was doing the wrong thing.
She’d hardly slept the night before and woke up at the crack of dawn to begin packing. It wasn’t just her anxiety that made it hard for her to sleep. The heat was broaching on unbearable. The downstairs air conditioner did nothing up here, and her window fan only succeeded in blowing around hot air.
She pushed through it, though. There was a task at hand she needed to get done, so she just put her hair up in a ponytail and got to it. It was unlike Harper to put things off as long as she had this time, but the truth was that she hadn’t really made a decision about whether she would leave or not.