I stood in the middle of the now empty apartment and glanced around. When Isach and I had moved in here, we’d had so many hopes and dreams. We were supposed to live here temporarily, just until things with his coven had been sorted and he was free from their rule. Then, we were going to get married, build a house, fill it with kids, and then we were going to become vampires so we could be together for eternity.
Well, the living here temporarily part came true, but the rest of our plans… They died with Isach, and now I was alone. I had no idea what to do with my life anymore. Isach wanted me to move on, to find love again, but how was I supposed to do that? He was the love of my life. I couldn’t just get over that and move on.
“Okay, that’s the last box,” Chloe said as she walked back into the apartment. “You’re absolutely sure you want to do this? It’s not too late, you know. I can bring everything back in.”
I shook my head. “I can’t stay here. Everywhere I look, I see him. I see us and the life we were supposed to have.” Tears pooled in my eyes.
“Oh, Abby.” Chloe hugged me. “I’m so sorry. None of this is fair.”
“I just miss him so much,” I whispered, my voice cracking under the weight of my grief.
I pulled away and wiped my eyes. Taking a deep breath, my shoulders sagged. “C’mon, let’s go.”
Gathering all the courage I didn’t have, I walked out of my and Isach’s apartment and closed the door on every hope and dream we’d shared. He was gone, and dwelling on what we were supposed to do wasn’t helping. I needed to focus on what to do next.
I climbed into Chloe’s SUV, hooked my seat belt, and rested my head on the window. As Chloe pulled out of the parking lot, I closed my eyes, unable to watch everything I ever wanted disappear behind me.
“You can stay with us as long as you want, okay?” Chloe said.
I nodded. When I mentioned wanting to move out of the apartment, Chloe had generously offered to let me stay with her and Trent. At first, I’d refused, because seeing those two together all the time was going to be torture. Chloe had the life I wanted, and as hard as I tried not to blame her for what happened to Isach, it wasn’t always easy. But Isach begged me not to blame Chloe, to rely on her to help me through my grief, and for his sake, I buried whatever anger and resentment I might have toward my cousin.
Besides, if I hadn’t taken Chloe’s offer, my only other option was to move back home with Mom and Dad, and that was even worse. Mom had been more insufferable than usual since Isach’s death. She’d been calling and texting multiple times a day to check on me, ask how I was, and beg me to see a grief counselor. I knew she was just concerned about me, but enough was enough. If one more person asked me how I was doing, I was going to snap.
At least staying with Chloe meant I could focus on helping with Emma and Sarah. My nieces were the perfect distraction, and they were growing so fast. I didn’t want to miss a single moment with them.
“The guest room is all set up, but if you want the bedroom downstairs, we can fix that up for you,” Chloe said.
“Whatever is easiest.”
Chloe sighed and glanced at me with a frown. “I wish I could make this better for you, Abby.”
The only way to make this better was to bring Isach back to life, and that was impossible… I sat up straight. Was it impossible? I now lived in a world filled with vampires and witches. Isach’s father had summoned some really dark magic to be able to curse the Halsteads. If he could do that, then there must be someone who could summon enough magic to bring Isach back from the dead.
“What?” Chloe asked. “I know that look. What’s going on?”
“Nothing,” I said quickly. “I thought I’d forgotten something, but I didn’t.”
I wasn’t about to tell her what I was really thinking. She’d try to talk me out of it, tell me it wasn’t possible, that I needed to work through my grief and move on. But she had no idea how endless my grief was, how the loss had torn an irreparable hole in my chest.
“Okay.” Chloe’s tone that made it clear that she didn’t believe me.
Isach was born into a family of very powerful witches, and since the Zoya were wiped out, Ivy and the Rose Coven were now the most powerful witches. Could they help me? Would they? Ivy wasn’t exactly a fan of Isach’s. She had nothing to gain by helping me bring him back, and I had nothing to offer her.
But there were other covens all over the world. Surely, there had to be another coven that could help me, or at the very least, point me in the right direction. As soon as I got settled at Chloe’s, I’d get online and see what I could find. I had a feeling I was going to need a witch who specialized in darker magic.
Minutes later, Chloe pulled into the driveway and killed the engine. But she didn’t move to get out, and neither did I. Instead, I studied her. Right before Isach died, Chloe had become a vampire—her transformation was the event that had set off everything: breaking the curse, the war with the Zoya, Isach’s death…
I momentarily closed my eyes and blew out a breath. What happened to Isach wasn’t Chloe’s fault. I needed to remember that, or else living with her was going to get real uncomfortable real fast.
Since changing, Chloe had blossomed into an even more beautiful woman. Everything about her was enhanced—her hair was shinier, her complexion was flawless, her eyes were brighter and sharper, her mannerisms were more graceful. It hit me how badly I wanted everything she had. Now, more than ever, I was determined to find a way to bring Isach back.
“I know you dropped out of college after…” Chloe cringed. “And I don’t blame you, but what about work? Uncle Dean said you haven’t been showing up.”
I shrugged. “It’s kinda hard to concentrate on work when all I want to do is cry. Or scream at people.”
Chloe rested her hand on my shoulder. “Tell me what I can do to help you.”
“For starters, you can help me carry all my stuff inside.” I climbed out of the SUV before she could say anything else. I grabbed a box from the back and carried it inside. Trent and Jax were on the couch, and when they saw me, they both stood. Jax took the box I was carrying and gave me a sympathetic smile.
“Where are we putting these?” Jax asked.
“In the upstairs guest room.” Chloe walked in with another of my boxes.
Between the four of us, we managed to get all my stuff unloaded and upstairs in less than an hour. All the furniture Isach and I had purchased for the apartment was now in storage. I didn’t plan to live with Chloe forever, but until I figured out my next move, I had no use for all that furniture, and I couldn’t bear to part with it just yet.
“Do you want some help unpacking?” Chloe stood in the doorway, arms crossed.
“No, I can handle it. Thanks, though.” I forced a smile.
Chloe nodded, then left the room, closing the door softly behind her. I sat on the edge of the bed and dug Isach’s letter from my purse. Not that I needed to read it again—I had it memorized, but seeing his handwriting comforted me.
Gently, I unfolded the paper, careful not to rip it. I’d folded and unfolded the letter so many times the creases were starting to tear. As happened every time I read this, the words quickly blurred through my tears. I set the letter on the bed and covered my face with my hands, mostly so I could muffle my sobs. In a house full of vampires, one of them would undoubtedly hear me. The last thing I wanted was Chloe or anyone else to offer me condolences. I’d had enough of those to last me a lifetime.
I stood and headed to the bathroom to erase any evidence of my little cry-fest. My stomach grumbled, reminding me I hadn’t eaten anything today. I hadn’t eaten much at all since Isach died, just enough to keep my body functioning.
“Abby?” Chloe’s voice carried up the stairs. “We’re ordering food. Are you hungry?”
I stifled a groan. Had she heard my stomach rumbling all the way downstairs? Probably. “Yeah, I could eat something,” I said.
Time to face reality. I walked downstairs. Trent and Jax were once again on the couch, though now they had Emma and Sarah situated on the cushion between them. The sight of them brought a genuine smile to my face.
“How does Chinese sound?” Chloe asked.
My smile faded, and a sharp pain stabbed my chest. My breath hitched, and I leaned against the couch so I wouldn’t collapse to the floor. The last meal Isach and I had together was Chinese. Spicy shrimp lo Mein was his favorite. He’d ordered an extra-large helping of that for himself, and Sesame chicken for me. We’d spread a blanket on the living room floor and had a picnic among the couple dozen candles he’d lit with nothing more than a snap of his fingers.
We ate, talked, laughed, read our ridiculous fortunes while crunching on the terrible cookies. I’d admitted I was scared senseless that I would lose someone, him most of all. He assured me he’d be okay, that we’d have a million more nights together. Then, we made love.
I closed my eyes, trying—and failing—to block out the memory. My throat burned with the effort of holding back tears. “Abby?” Jax’s voice cut through my thoughts.
“Please don’t ask me if I’m okay,” I whispered.
“You’re very gray right now.” Jax tilted his head, studying me. “Grayer than you have been lately anyway.”
“What does that mean?” Chloe now stood right next to me. I hadn’t seen or heard her move from the kitchen. I’d never get used to that.
“Sadness. Depression,” Jax said.
“No shit I’m sad and depressed.” I glared at him. “My fiancé is dead, remember?”
“Abby…” Chloe rested her hand on my back, but I jerked away from her touch. She took a step back, hands in the air in surrender. “Sorry. What can we do to help?”
The urge to scream at her whipped through me. Didn’t she realize there was nothing she could do? There was nothing anyone could do to make this better.
“Nothing,” I said finally. “I think I’m just going to go to bed. I’m not really hungry anymore.”
I turned on my heel and marched back up the stairs before anyone said anything else. Though, if they wanted to stop me, they could. Thankfully, they didn’t, and I retreated to the privacy of the guest room.
As soon as the door was closed, I slid my back down it, tucked my knees to my chest, and sobbed. Isach had died two months ago, but the debilitating grief felt like I’d learned the truth only yesterday, like I’d just finished sitting by his lifeless body, his cold hand clasped in mine as I whispered goodbye to him, to our future. Would this hole in my chest ever heal?
“Abby?” Chloe knocked lightly. “Can I please come in?” I scooted away from the door. A second later, Chloe entered. She sat next to me, wrapped her arms around me in a suffocating hug, and we cried.