Chapter 3: Giving Up Control
Sabine lay in her cot and thought of everything that had happened over the past few weeks. There was a lot to take in and she fingered her short hair, the symbol of everything she had lost. Her family, her friends, her army, her entire life as she had known it. When she had arrived at Celexus where her army was supposed to rendezvous in case of emergency, she had been faced with absolute destruction. Bertran had murdered nearly two thousand of her people, including her best friend Dilan. He had still been alive when she arrived, but died before she really had a chance to talk to him and say goodbye. He had begged for forgiveness but she still didn’t know; she was the one who had pushed him aside. She had lost everything when she came to Celexus. She didn’t know what was happening on Hotaru, the capital planet of Wendigo, but it had likely fallen and her father was almost certainly dead. There was almost nothing left of her previous life and she had cut her hair and vowed to be independent from that moment on. She had lost everything and she wouldn’t be a victim again. But she had gained something, too. She rolled over and looked at Damien, sound asleep on the cot across the small room. His face was relaxed in sleep and his hands stirred restlessly like a cat’s in deep slumber, and she marveled that he could sleep so easily next to someone who had once been his enemy.
But he was undoubtedly exhausted. She was responsible for most of his troubles, and she was thankful he was still at her side when his own nation needed him. Despite his deep ties to Lohen, his home nation where he led the army, he would stay with her until she was safe. He had promised her that, and he would keep his word. She owed him so much, and she trusted him, too.
He had rescued her from Bertran, the man she thought she loved but who had in reality been using her to get to her power. Now that she recognized Bertran’s true intentions, his goal was obvious – he had been playing her from the beginning. But she had been a young girl in love for the first time. Well, she wasn’t that innocent anymore and she wouldn’t fall for any more traps like that. Because of Bertran, she would steel her heart and bar the gates, but there was still something she had to do that involved trusting someone completely.
Bertran was dead and couldn’t hurt her unless she traveled to the other dimension, but Yashim was still alive and would stop at nothing to possess her. She could tell that whatever they were after, she still held. When Yashim had kidnapped and attacked her, and later when Bertran had attacked her in a similar manner, both of them had been trying to grab her heart, as if they wanted to tear it out. Even though Bertran had grabbed her heart after dying and before taking her into the other dimension, she hadn’t told him she belonged to him. That seemed to be key: telling him that, and then him taking her heart. Yashim had been after the same thing. Whatever they wanted, they hadn’t taken yet. The only way to stop both of them was to give her power to someone else, someone she trusted. And the only person she trusted was Damien, the man who had rescued her and her newly discovered brother. She couldn’t imagine giving her power to anyone else in the galaxy. The only problem was that she wasn’t entirely sure how to give it to him. She could say she belonged to him, but how would he take her heart? Bertran and Yashim had seemed to reach inside her, but Damien wouldn’t know how to do that.
She stared at Damien, sound asleep only a few feet from her. His hair looked black in the darkness but there were red streaks in his hair, signs of his mixed heritage. Both of them were half-Lithilien from their mother, but he was also half-Drakor, a race that Sabine was terrified of – Yashim’s race. But he was nothing like Yashim. She still remembered Yashim digging her nails into her chest as she lay there, helpless, until Damien barged in the room and threw the old man against the wall. He had been protecting her for a long time; perhaps he would be willing to take her power and continue to protect her in the future as well. She didn’t know when he would return to Lohen and this might not be a long-term solution if he did, but she needed to do something. She didn’t want to keep getting chased her whole life and maybe if she gave up her heart, Bertran’s curse would be broken and she could touch people and turn into Eve again.
“Damien,” she whispered.
His eyes flew open and he was instantly on alert. When he saw it was her and there was no emergency, he relaxed and she noticed that his hand was under his pillow, no doubt grasping a weapon. He was a fighter to his core and it reassured her in an odd way. He would fight to protect her; she was sure of it.
“I need you to do something for me,” she said, unsure how to broach the subject.
He held out his hand as if to take hers but she pulled away, not wanting the pain of contact. Bertran’s spell was cruel; she couldn’t touch anyone without excruciating pain. Sometimes the contact was worth the pain, but not often. He didn’t seem upset by her pulling away, instead he sat up in bed and faced her fully, giving her his complete attention. He was so different than Bertran had been in their relationship. Bertran had always been focused on her, but like a predator stalking its prey, not like a friend concerned about another. Of course, she hadn’t been able to recognize the difference before, because her mind had been muddled by the confusion of a first romance and the after effects of phennel, the mind-numbing drug he had been controlling her with. She still couldn’t believe he had used such an illegal substance against her. She had learned to handle her addiction over the past couple of weeks, since she had to take some every couple of days or go into withdrawal. It made her temporarily unable to fight or resist anything anyone said, so she had started locking herself in her room before taking it and waiting a full thirty minutes before leaving just to be safe. Adrian had grabbed a vial of the drug before fleeing Vega and she was grateful; there was a chance she would die without it.
“Yashim and Bertran are both after me,” she said. “They want to possess me. But I want to decide who controls me and I don’t want either of them. If someone else controlled me, someone I trusted, I don’t think they would be after me anymore.”
She didn’t know for sure if that was true but it felt right. After all, why would Yashim chase her if he couldn’t gain anything from her? And why would Bertran weave such a tight web around her and cripple her the way that he had if he couldn’t drive her back into his arms?
“You don’t have to give yourself to anyone,” Damien said. “You don’t belong to anyone.”
“No,” she said firmly. She had thought about this and for some reason, she knew that as long as she controlled her heart, they would be after her. Only by giving it to someone else would their chase stop. “I have to give up my control. But there’s only one person I trust enough.”
Damien’s brow creased and he looked around as if trying to see through the walls and find the person she trusted. She lowered her head a little.
“It’s you, Damien. I trust you. I want you to control my heart.”
His jaw dropped and he withdrew from her. “Sabine, I can’t do that. I want to protect you, not steal your heart.”
“You would be protecting me,” she insisted, wishing she could explain better. “If you hold the key to my heart, then Bertran and Yashim won’t be after me, because there’s nothing I have that they want. And I trust you, I know you won’t misuse me or hurt me or anything.”
“But we don’t even know what’s involved, or what happens. What if you’re hurt having your heart controlled by someone else? What if we do it wrong and Yashim or Bertran can take advantage of your weakness to control you again? We don’t know anything about this.”
“I know a little, and I know it’s safe,” she said, trying to sound confident. He was bringing up some good points, but she didn’t want to think about them. She wanted this to be simple and clear cut: she would give him her heart, and things would go back to normal. She brushed a strand of hair away from her face. She desperately wanted things to be normal again.
He was silent for a moment. He seemed ready to give more objections so she scooted onto the cot with him, ignoring the burning as their thighs brushed. He stopped her. His face was flushed in the darkness.
“Yes,” she said. “I want to get this done with. Just stay at my side and trust me.”
He seemed stunned, so she took advantage of his lack of response to place his hand on her chest. It stung and burned, but she ignored the pain. She had figured it out. She would say that she belonged to Damien, believed that she belonged to him, and that would be enough to transfer her power to him. At least she hoped it would be. She wasn’t sure what exactly would happen and there was no plan B. She took a deep breath. Damien’s hand was a brand on her chest and his fingers curled into her the same way Bertran’s had. She pushed away the thought.
“Damien,” she whispered. “I belong to you.”
Instantly, her body sparked, blood burning through her veins as she struggled not to scream in agony. The fire concentrated in her chest and Damien’s hand seemed to pierce her body, passing through her flesh to wrap around her heart. As the fire passed through her body, it left her cold and numb and her teeth chattered as everything inside her seemed to be sucked into Damien’s body. He stood, keeping his hand in her heart, and placed his other hand on her shoulder. The icy feeling intensified and she stared at Damien in shock.
His eyes were almost completely green and he looked different than usual, almost a different person. The red streaks in his hair stood out prominently even in the dim light and a sneer crossed his face as he forced Sabine flat on the cot, sucking her heat and energy through his hands. She whispered his name.
Abruptly he seemed to come back to himself and he let go of her, his hand leaving her chest without pain. Or if there was pain, she was too icy to feel it. As soon as his hands were gone, feeling returned to her numb body and she felt pins and needles in her limbs. Damien’s eyes were hazel again and his face looked familiar, and worried.
“I’m so sorry, Sabine,” he whispered. “I lost control for a second. I didn’t mean to hurt you.”
Her teeth were chattering too hard for her to reply, but she extended a hand and took his. There was less pain than before, but it might have been because she felt so numb. Damien went to get an extra blanket and soon had her covered properly. Warmth was returning quickly. She couldn’t tell if she felt different or not. Touches still pained her, she was disappointed to note. She had hoped that giving up control would break Bertran’s curse. Her body ached, but nothing else felt different. Still, she felt safer than she had before. If Yashim found her in this dimension or Bertran found her in the other, she would have nothing to fear from them. They couldn’t steal her heart, because Damien already controlled it.
She eyed him nervously as he tightened the blanket around her. He kept apologizing for losing control and she wondered what he had lost control of. Was there something inside him that longed for her heart? He was half-Drakor, after all, and the dragon tattoos of the Drakor filled her with terror. Maybe he had suffered an instinctive reaction because of his heritage. Whatever the cause, he was perfectly normal now. She wondered if he felt any different, if he could sense her somehow. She didn’t even know what it meant that he controlled her heart. Could he control her, or could he dictate when she could and couldn’t use her powers? And did it matter when she was trapped in a Lithilien body as she currently was? So many questions, and so few answers.
Adrian might know. He had been the one to discover that she and Damien were siblings, after all. Maybe he would be able to find out more about Drakor and Lithiliens. And Valeforans, too. It would help to know about her own heritage, although she found it hard to believe that she wasn’t human at all. If she was half-Valeforan from her father, then it meant that King Avar either wasn’t her father or he was Valeforan and had hidden it from her all her life, and both of those were unappealing options. She needed to find out which was true, if only to ease her conscience. Not that it mattered much. Sorrow overwhelmed her. It was likely her father was imprisoned or even dead. Dead like the rest of her people.
She closed her eyes and a tear slipped onto her cold cheek. She was regaining warmth, but not fast enough. Damien grabbed a tissue and carefully wiped her tear away without touching her.
“I’m sorry,” he said again. “Are you all right?”
“Yeah,” she said. “I was hoping something would change, things would go back to normal, but it’s all the same. Nothing’s changed.”
He was silent for a moment. “There are no magic cures, Sabine. There’s no way to go backwards in life. You can only go forwards.”
“I guess,” she said. A new thought struck her and she opened her eyes in alarm. “What will Mat think?”
“About me… about us.”
“We didn’t really do anything,” Damien said. “It shouldn’t matter that I control your heart. I mean, I don’t think it changes your feelings for him, does it?”
“No,” she said. She still felt the same overwhelming attraction to the other man, and the thought of his chiseled features and muscular body sent a pleasant thrill through her body. She loved the way his almond brown eyes seemed to understand her in a way no one except her friend Dilan ever had, and whe still remembered the feel of his lips on hers and wanted to repeat it. “But-”
“If he has a problem with what you’ve done, then he doesn’t deserve you and I will make sure he stays away from you. You just let me know, okay?”
Sabine smiled. Damien was her knight in shining armor, the noble protector who looked after his lady without a thought for himself. Even though he and Mat had become friends, he would stand up for her if she were hurt. It was strange having such an ally, especially an ally who used to be an enemy. She wondered what Mat would think, but it wouldn’t be a problem for a long time, not when she couldn’t even shake hands without being in agony. She would like nothing more than to kiss Mat like they had before, but it was next to impossible until Bertran’s curse was broken and physical contact became possible again.
Damien looked at the timepiece and sighed. “Look, we’re going to get to the planet in six hours and I want to be rested. Why don’t we both try to get a few more hours of sleep?”
She nodded and got off his cot, returning to hers and hugging her pillow tightly against her body. She ached, and not just from the cold. After a few minutes, she got up and went to the bathroom. She stared at herself in the mirror. With her short hair and hardened eyes, she looked like a woman. She looked like Eve, like she did when she transformed into her other body. The tattoos on her wrists were the only sign that she wasn’t Eve, that she was trapped in a weak body.
She stared at her tattoos and sighed. Her Lithilien body had its disadvantages, but it had to have advantages as well. She could heal, after all, and she could still plan battles as long as she acted on instinct and didn’t try to think too hard about it. She had managed to plan an attack earlier without much difficulty and that would continue. As long as she let her instincts take over when it came to fighting, she would be safe. But it was terrifying not having conscious knowledge of something yet watching her body do it like she had done it a thousand times before. It was like her brain was totally disconnected from her body, and she wasn’t eager to repeat the experience.
She returned to her bed. Damien was already asleep again, though it was a light, alert sleep this time. One of his hands was curled under his pillow and she was careful not to make any noise as she climbed into her bed. She didn’t want to get attacked. Who knew if she’d be able to defend herself or if her instincts would fail to kick in. She shut her eyes and hugged her pillow. Everything was different now; she was safe from Bertran and Yashim. Yet everything felt the same, and she could only pray that in time she would start to feel as safe as she now was.