scramble to get to my feet as the snow bank swallows me. Its icy grip numbs my
limbs. I stare into the blue eyes of my bear before he slices at
again with a mighty paw.
eyes penetrate my soul as the realization hits me. They belong to Marcus. With
trembling lips I force his name over my tongue.
spins around and lets out a roaring bray.
approaches him from behind in the distraction and it's my fault.
I scream, but it's too late.
drives a blow to his head with
his walking stick and a purple flash of light strikes him. Blood dribbles from
his face, pooling in the white snow where he lies unmoving.
I scream louder against the tears careening over my cheeks.
horizon swallows the sun and darkness falls upon us. A purple shimmer rolls
around the body of the bear. As it dissipates, Marcus lays naked, covered in a
wicked laughter pierces my
eardrums and I glare at him. Dropping to my knees, I cradle Marcus' head in my
eyes flutter through their swollen bruises. “Rose,” he chokes out, blood
drooling over his lips.
,” I whisper. “I'm here, my love.”
you don't want Snow to share the same fate as your lover, I suggest you take my
unsheathe the dagger from my between my breasts, and drag it through the blood
along Marcus' cheek.
do you even bother, Red. A simple man-made dagger cannot harm me. Don't anger
me further.” He leans on his stick harboring a smug grin.
. Which is why this is no man-made
dagger.” I bolt up from the ground in a spin, launching the dagger straight at
dagger lodges into his chest and he stares at me with hollow, black eyes.
was given to me by an angel.
The first one
you took from me. It's dipped in the blood of every one of your henchmen and
victims. I've waited a long time for this moment. And Marcus is the last person
you'll ever take away from me. Go to hell!” I spin around and slam the heel of
my boot against the hilt of the dagger, piercing his ribcage and embedding the
poisoned dagger into his heart.
force drops me to my knees and I crawl my way back to Marcus' body and curl
around him. Through the glassy sheen of my tears, I stare at
as his body trembles and shatters into a million
pieces of purple light before disappearing.
falls limp under me. The last of his labored breaths leaves his body and he
stills. Tears fall from my eyes and drop against his skin, meshing with the
blood streaking his face. My chest convulses, pouring forth a storm of tears
beyond my control.
everything in me, I beg the powers that be to give him breath once more, to
bring him back to me. Yet, their silence mocks me and only the
sounds of my choking sobs answers
me. From my left, clomping
hoofs ring in my ear. I ignore them as I cling to Marcus' body, willing him
back to life.
my name rides the chilling breeze attacking my body.
Snow cries out.
arms wrap around me and the sobs rip through me even harder.
Darien yells out behind her, dropping to his knees. “What happened, Rose?”
,” I force the name from my lips and curl my nails
into Marcus' skin, clinging to him for dear life.
now?” Darien asks.
killed him,” I whisper and place soft kisses over Marcus' face, brushing back a
lock of long hair falling into his closed eyes.
he...Is he dead?” Darien chokes out.
nod and force back the scream clawing its way up the back of my throat.
“Please, help me get him inside the cottage.”
Snow, and I hoist Marcus' large body up onto the back of Darien's horse. I lead
them through the barren forest through winding trees until we reach the
cottage. Blackness creeps in, blanketing us in darkness under the new moon. It
mirrors the color of my heart.
carries his brother's lifeless body into the cabin and lays him on the bed. He
swipes at a tear slipping over his cheek and clears his throat. “I will stay
with him until morning,
I'll bring his body back
to the castle for a proper burial.”
places a hand on Darien's shoulder and he curls her to his chest, burying his
grieving face into her neck. She slides a hand into his hair and lets him
release the heartache of his brother's death. The sight guts me even more and I
climb onto the bed, nestling my body around Marcus. I can't believe he's gone.
let me stay with him one last night, I beg of you,” I choke out, stroking the
back of his head.
pulls up from Snow's embrace and stares at me. “Do you love him?”
swallow hard over the ball of emotions wedged in my throat. “Yes.”
eyes widen. “So that's where you've been going these past few nights. You spent
them with him?”
nod and choke back another onslaught of tears. “He saved me.
from a watery grave at the bottom of the frozen river.
Then, from myself, releasing in me what I had buried so deep.
Fear of love. And I never even got to kiss him.”
swarm my head of the night I begged him to kiss me, now with knowledge of the
reasons why he wouldn't. He told me he was protecting me. I didn't know it was
from himself. But even in his bear form, he never hurt me. He didn't have it in
him. My heart hollows at the thought that I'll never have that last piece of
Though his mouth tasted my flesh, his
lips have never known mine.
tosses me a nod. “If it's all right with you Snow, may I spend the night in a
spare room of yours?”
A smile smoothes Snow's lips.
My home is yours.”
. And please, Snow, call me Darien.” He
curls his hand around hers and a blush reddens her cheeks.
heart warms as I watch them. Perhaps they may have a future together.
Snow deserves it.
At least one of us may end up happy.
come for his body in the morning,” Darien says as he turns to me.
nod as they shut the door behind them.
in death, his face remains handsome and I cup his cheek with my hand. “I love
you, Marcus.” I lean in, press my lips to his, and steal my kiss from him.
My first and my last.
shakes against my body. My eyes flutter awake and I glance around the pitch
black room. Cold air attacks my bare skin and a shudder claims me as I shake it
off. But something near me provides warmth against my chilled flesh. As my eyes
adjust to the darkness, her features come into focus.
in a gasping breath, and the cold air saws at my
lungs as if it's my first breath. My heart gives one heavy thump before
launching into quick erratic beats through my chest. I'm alive.
I work my way through panting breaths, my heart slows and I look around the
The tiny cottage that's been my home for two years.
I glance down at the woman who's been my life for two days. Her hands are
curled into my chest as if cleaving herself to me. Eyes closed, she slumbers,
but the sullen look on her face tells me it's not a peaceful one.
from her grasp, I slide myself off the bed and stumble my way to the fireplace.
I pat my body down and relish in the flesh and blood, enjoy the sting in my
lungs full of winter's breath, and the pain throbbing through my head from
blow. It all means I'm alive. Somehow, I survived.
light filters in from the small window across the room. I dart over to it,
pressing my hands flat against the cold glass. Though the pane is covered with
snow, the light making its way in comes from the dawn of sunrise, not of
moonlight. The sun paints the sky a brilliant pink and orange. Glancing down to
my hands, I flip them back and forth repeatedly, before I gaze back into the
light of day.
The light of day.
I am not a bear. I am
man. And it is day. I no longer suffer from the curse, which can only mean one
back to Rose and glance over her face.
My sleeping angel.
She who freed me from this prison and has given me
my life. And I will give back hers as well.
a fury, I get a fire blazing in the hearth and warmth swallows the cold from
the tiny room. I stare at myself in the mirror as I wash the dried blood from
my face and neck. Bruises already grace the side of my face, but I wear them
gladly if it means I still have breath in my lungs.
stirs on the bed as the warmth hits her, pulling her from her ragged sleep. I
play through various scenarios in my mind, and none of them end without scaring
her half to death. Leaning against the wall arms folded, I stare down at her on
the bed. My lips sweep into a smile.
rolls over and pats the empty bed next to her. Eyes wide, she leaps up,
tangling in the blankets tucked around her, and falls to the floor.
drop to my knees at her side. “Rose,” I whisper.
she stares at me.
me,” I say with a smile.
screams, just shy of shattering my eardrums. Leaping to her feet, Rose
scrambles to the edge of the room, pressing her back against the far wall. Her
heaving chest overwhelms her tiny frame and she drops to her knees, clamoring
sorry,” I say as soft as I can. “I didn't mean to scare you. I know it must be
already wide eyes double in size.
fucking ghost, Marcus. I watched
down. You took your last breath in my arms. I curled around your cold dead body
inch my way to her across the room. “I know.” Holding my hands out to her, I
soften my face, pleading for her to connect with my eyes. If she'll just look
into them, as she has over the last several nights, she'll reach my soul. For
that's where I keep her heart, and she'll know I'm real. “I don't know what
happened. Perhaps when you vanquished
, it not
only broke his curse but brought me back to life?”
shakes her head, clinging to the wall behind her with trembling limbs. “But
what took so long? You were dead, Marcus.
next to you dead! What kind of crazy person does that?”
Her chest convulses as tears streak her cheeks.
reach her and slide my hand over her cheek.
“One that, when
they find their other half, can't live without him.”
lock eyes and she crumbles into my arms like a broken doll. I pull her to me
and cling to her. She is my lifeline.
she chokes out through a barrage of tears.
run my hands through the tangled mass that is her hair.
I promise you, I will never leave you again. That is, if you'll
she whispers, pulling back to stare into my eyes. Though strained and
bloodshot, her glassy green eyes swallow me, plunging my heart through my
will give this woman forever.
is gone.” Her lips tremble as the words leave her
mouth, as if she's unsure they are truth, until she trails her gaze over the
length of my body. “Marcus,
daylight and you're
not a bear. You are finally free. My family is finally free.”
fight to find the right words, nothing seems fitting for this moment. “Thank you
for saving my life, Rose.”
even.” She gives me a sly wink. “How about you take me to your bed and show me
your appreciation. You died in my arms. I need you to fuck me, show me your
body is alive.”
shake my head. “No, Rose. Not tonight.”
lips part in shock and sadness clouds her eyes. She starts to speak, but I
place a finger over her lips. “I don't want to fuck you.
tonight, I want to make love to you.”
the back of her hair, I tilt her head up and splay my fingers along her cheek
as my thumb clutches her jaw line. I crush my mouth to hers. Salt from her
tear-slicked lips slides along my tongue and I kiss her harder, tasting the
tears she shed for me. She is mine. And tonight I give her all of me.