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I dropped to my bed as the tears threatened and Rynna’s voice faded into the background. I bit the inside of my lip, the metallic taste and the shot of pain stopping the onslaught of emotions. I was on my own. I’ve always been on my own, I reminded myself. Swallowing down emotions I didn’t want to acknowledge, I hung up the phone, not caring if Rynna was still on the other end.
After my conversation with Rynna, I tried and failed multiple times to focus on my homework. The longer I sat there, hearing her words inside my head, the more my power spun and built inside me. From the deepest corners of my heart, the hurt bubbled over and it was quick to respond. Ever my internal champion, it warred with the pain — pushing, shoving, and growing in response. I was a war-torn battlefield of emotion. My gut ached, my anxiety built, and the power vibrated through every cell. Something was going to have to give. There was only one place I could go, one person who would understand what I was dealing with.
As I pulled up to Cole’s gym, I felt ready to burst. All of the pain and anger my father’s words had stirred up inside me were snowballing into something near hysteria. My power and emotions were so closely tied that I couldn’t control either. I needed Cole and needed him quickly. I had to keep myself from running into the training room looking as frantic as I felt. Luckily, I didn’t even have to get all the way through the doors before Cole was pulling me into a hug.
In a split second, all of his strength and soothing emotion enveloped me and the swirling inferno slowed. This was Cole’s gift, his ability to calm the raging storm of my emotions, and thus my power. Before he left, from the time I was a baby until I was ten, he would be the one to pull me out of my nightmares and allow me to sleep. He was also the one to help me keep my power in check, to stop the surge before my father sensed it and locked me in my room again. Dad always claimed it was for my own protection, so they wouldn’t see. So they couldn’t know what I was. But, they had to know. The Hunters had arrived just after mom died and they knew I was an Elder. The Hunter knew exactly what he was doing when he demanded my betrothal to the prince.
Cole’s strained voice broke my train of thought. “Hey, there. It’s okay. Ame, what happened?” He had my head tucked under his chin and I had to turn it to the side to stop my voice from being muffled by his shirt.
“It’s Dad. Rynna says he took off. Since we’re gone, he can finally be free.” I punctuated those words with as much sarcasm as I could before tears filled my eyes and a sob filled my chest. Cole was the only other person in the world who understood what our father could do to a person’s self-esteem; what spending a childhood with him could do to you. It was why he left when I was ten and he was eighteen. At that point, I wanted to hate him for it. Now, I understood. Even then, I understood that it was because of me that he had to leave. I was born and mom died. Mom died and dad went crazy. It was all because of me.
I pulled away, furiously swiping at the tears on my cheeks and feeling even more ashamed for needing my brother, yet again, to save me from myself. “I’m sorry, Cole. I shouldn’t be here. I shouldn’t be putting this on you. I don’t know why he does this to me. Why I let him.”
Cole’s aura changed from soothing to angry. He wasn’t trying to help me anymore. He was pissed. “Damn it, Amelia. Don’t do this to yourself. How many times do I have to tell you this isn’t your fault? None of it is. If you need me, you come to me. That’s our agreement.”
Cole lightly gripped my chin between his finger and thumb and forced my head up to meet his eyes, his voice softening to a whisper. “Right, Ame? That’s our agreement. That’s why you’re here, so I can help you. You know that’s what I’ve been trying to do ever since I left.”