The room is dark. But she can see her sire. More than that, she can feel him. His presence. It calls to her across the bond, blood to blood.

Numbness sweeps over her. Her heart ceases its useless beating. Her lungs empty in one long, shaking exhale. The ruse dies.

Safety does not exist. Relief yanks itself from her clutches. So close. So close to getting out on her own, so close to making him proud, so close when dealing with the hunters. But there he stands. Hunter, capital H, the city’s apex predator.

He has come to kill her.

The thought disquiets her. Her charm fades until just Celia remains. Celia, eight years old, watching her father shake his hand. Celia, fourteen years old, carried down the hall in his grasp. Celia, nineteen years old, in his arms high above the city lights.





He has come to finish the job. He has come to take her head from her shoulders. He has come to breathe the disappointment into her. He has come and she cannot run from him. She cannot talk her way out of this. She cannot beg, on her knees, for mercy. Ice has no mercy.

She is a fool to think that she could hold onto ice. The closer you hold it the faster it melts, slipping from your grasp, dancing away in the night, laughing at your paltry attempts to stumble after it. Hold it long enough and it burns.

She’ll burn.

For him, she’ll burn.

She wants it, welcomes it even, if it will save her from the knowledge that she failed him.

Perhaps her life will flash before her eyes in the minute before it is over. Perhaps she will be left with the memory of his arms around her thrice.

You’re my special little girl, he’d told her. Carried her. Kissed her. But the girl is gone, turned to woman. The woman to Beauty. And he the Beast.

Only fairytales aren’t real.

And he’d never said she was his princess.

She remembers now. The warmth. Not… warm. But not cold. Not like this. Not this frigid intensity that has permeated their every interaction. It is more than an aura or projection: it is him. Cold.

It wasn’t him. It was never him. It was the other one. The clone. The thing that can take her dad’s face. Take his face.

She’d been chasing a fantasy her whole life.

He had never loved her. He will never love her. He doesn’t love.

Her heart shatters into a thousand tiny pieces. She can’t breathe. She can’t — she can’t breathe, she doesn’t need to breathe, but her chest is tight, her muscles refuse to work, her diaphragm stutters to a halt. She’s drowning again.

That was real. That was the only real moment they’d had, when she was eight and he was there, stealing her father’s soul, taking the heat from her childish body. She remembers drowning. She remembers drowning then, in his eyes, and later when her body hit the water. Dying.

But he had never been in the hallway with her. He had never pulled her into his arms. Had never tucked her in.


Her father’s voice. His voice. Her voice.

Tears swim in her eyes. They color her world red.


Blood & Bourbon False_Epiphany False_Epiphany