Curlykisses: So, you guys probably think I'm the worst. I'm sorry for the wait I put you through. Long story short, I am now in a place where I can write. I felt like I lost my touch and couldn't give this story the love it deserves. Now, I kept you guys waiting long enough. Thank you to everyone still enthused by and sticking with this story and me. I love this tale and it's still only beginning. I'm so happy to share it with you and sincerely hope you enjoy.

"I dare you to tell me to walk through fire,

Wear my soul and call me a liar."

-I Dare You: Shinedown

Jane opened the doors to the gym for her and Eva hesitantly stepped inside. Gym…was an understatement. Eva had seen stadiums smaller than this. Seriously…how big was this damn castle? Inside was every type of equipment you could imagine, weights, punching bags, punching…mannequins-things, exercise equipment from bikes to treadmills, everything. It was astounding. Eva wasn't even sure why vampires would need such equipment but like the rest of the castle, it had a certain elegance to it from white and black marble floors and bone white walls with black and red accents here and there. Eva really was beginning to wonder if Caius painted every room in this castle because it just seemed…his style.

Eva was too busy absorbing the vast and exhausting looking gym equipment to notice the petite vampire standing in the middle of the gigantic room. So much so, as usual, when the immortal spoke, Eva was startled. Again.

"It's nice to meet you, my Queen." Her voice was soft and sweet sounding so fortunately Eva didn't jump as she normally did but instead she was intrigued. As Eva approached the female vampire bowed and when she was close enough she extended her hand to her.

"Nice to meet you too, I'm Eva," Eva introduced but she assumed the vampire already knew since she had already addressed her as "Queen". She doubted she'd ever get used to that.

"I'm Erica Shay, milady. The masters have asked me to return home so that I could teach you." Erica smiled. She was…adorable. That was the best word Eva could use to describe her. Her hair barely touched her shoulders in length and it was this beautiful strawberry blonde color. She had full red lips and high cheekbones. Eva was surprised that she had a cute accent too. European for sure and if she could guess; it was British. It could have been more distinct sounding because Eva was getting used to the slight Italian one her Kings and the vampires around spoke in.

Of course, all vampires were beautiful but whether it was her small voice or her style of wearing a short plaid print skirt and kitten faced earrings; something about her was just plain endearing. A nice change from all the black and expensive attire. Eva had to stop herself from staring and restrain the need for continued conversation (like where she got that sparkly pink eyeshadow that decorated her eyelids) so that she could focus on the task at hand.

"Teach me?" Eva questioned.

"Yes, milady. They've requested that you get a good idea of standard combat before you are turned. It will be easier for you to learn once you are one of us."

"Why you? Why can't they teach me?" Was that rude? It was probably rude sounding but she always imagined that one of her kings would teach her how to fight. Erica didn't seem to take offense.

"I uh, have a light touch, I guess?" Erica chuckled as if she wasn't entirely sure herself. Eva needed to remember that this was an oligarchy. The girl was probably just given an order and was meant to follow it without question. It was a little scary to think about. She knew they had power and authority, sure. Just witnessing it was a little intimidating. Eva wasn't used to much of anything in this world yet. It was hard to remember it all. From how her Kings could demand anything and get exactly what they wanted, or trivial things like how she was the only one in the room that had a heartbeat…

"The Masters are more than capable of teaching you, as you said. While they have more control over their immortal strength than I ever could, Master Aro complemented my reserve. I think it will simply be easier for them once they train you in combat if you have mastered the basics. I can help you with that. And I can do it without the worry of harming you." Erica smiled.

"For your sake, I hope so." Jane interjected while she glided behind Eva to take a comfortable seat in the corner. Jeez, Jane was far more intimidating than someone of her stature should be. Erica, like Jasper didn't seem shaken by it.

"I'm confident in my abilities. As are our Masters," Erica smiled again but even Eva caught the snarky hint to her voice. Instantly Jane was in front of Erica, staring up at her as if their difference in height didn't make a difference in the world.

"Remember your place, Shay. There is a reason I remain in this castle more often than you do. I'm valued here as a guard. You have yet to earn that place. Do well with our Queen and perhaps you can impress the masters enough to slide by. However, you will not have the opportunity to disappoint our Kings nor feel their wrath if you so much as leave a mark on her human skin. That's why I'm here. Therefore, I hope your confidence is not misplaced. Understood?" The end of Jane's sentence sounded chipper as if she was mocking Erica's cheery nature. Erica's smile never faltered and Eva wondered if she was somehow witnessing some weird…alpha female dance, Jane and Erica were currently engaged in. And from the way Erica took a single step backwards, it looked like Jane won. Damn. Jasper and even her Kings were super protective of her but Jane was downright bloodthirsty.

"Understood, Jane. Forgive me if I misspoke, but I assure you that the Queen will not be harmed." Erica nodded politely. Jane returned to where she was, apparently satisfied with Erica's apology. Now the new vampire's focus was on her.

"As I was saying, Queen Eva, I will be here to teach you a lot of the fundamentals to basic fighting. How to get the most out of your attack, how to protect yourself and things of the like. Have you ever been in a fight before?"

Um…she had been beat on a lot…She managed to stab Edward in the eye then…Run away. She had an idea of how to be in a normal fist fight from books, movies and even video games but had she been in one?

"Not really," Eva sighed at admitting this. If anything, she had just been pushed around her whole life. Physically and emotionally. She had to have a vampire escort her everywhere for crying out loud! What did that say about her? She knew her Kings cared, she knew it was the guards job but this was going to get old quick. She hated how powerless she felt. How powerless she was. She already had no control over her own stupid emotions, her own stupid past, her own stupid mind! No. She needed this. She wanted this. She had wanted this from the moment she got involved in this crazy, beautiful and wicked underworld the night she rushed to save Jasper when she thought he needed her. Even when she knew there was virtually nothing she could do to help him. If she was supposed to be a queen, like everyone insisted she was, she wasn't going to be a queen that needed to have a group of guards around her all the time. She wasn't going to scream and cry in the background while her Kings fought her battles for her. No, she couldn't hold her own against a vampire as she was. But maybe she would be ready, maybe she could have a chance if she did this training well. And she planned on taking it seriously. Perhaps more than anyone had realized she would.

Eva looked up from her purple converses and realized that Erica had been speaking to her but she had tuned her out. She wanted to be shown. Not have it explained to her. She got enough of that from her books.

"Alright, let's get started then," Eva stated and began to remove her jacket from her and hurl it behind her. She had forgotten that she was wearing a simple V neck black shirt that she had to adjust briefly so that her bra wasn't showing since she had been tossed around all day. Not exactly the badass vibe she was going for. Still Erica raised her brow in question and when Eva looked over to Jane she too looked disapproving.

"I hadn't planned for our first lesson to be today, milady," Erica responded with the slight gesture to her skirt which admittedly would be a hindrance. But she'd have to get over it. Her Kings were busy and she wanted to do more with her time than paint or wait around like a puppy until she could see one of them again. She wanted to feel like she was doing something.

"I understand that but you're here now and I want to learn. So, show me." Eva insisted and she was surprised to see Erica smirk. She unbuttoned the pretty pastel pink short sleeved blouse she had been wearing which made Eva a little uneasy until it was revealed that she was wearing what could be considered a man's tank-top considering the design underneath. It was gray and Eva could clearly see the black sports bra she was wearing from the opening on the sides of the garment. She even kicked off her skirt so that it showed a plain pair of shorts that had been barely shorter than the skirt but well hidden. From the long sigh that exuded from her red lips, Eva could tell she was happy to be rid of her somewhat formal attire. Eva liked her already.

"I admire your eagerness. I'll admit that I hoped for as much and you didn't disappoint."

"I can see that," Eva smirked. "Why so eager yourself?"

"Truthfully, my Queen, I love to fight. I spent the entirety of World War Two as a medic while my family was forced to live in bomb shelters. I valued my job but once it became necessary to take on a soldier's life, I found my real calling. Besides, especially to our race, gender means nothing when it comes to creating great warriors. I'm thrilled to bring another lady to the fold."

"Let's get started then."

At Eva's words Erica led her to the area of the gym where a good portion of the floor was covered in padding, the kind that reminded Eva of the ones her old gymnastics center had. She had taken classes as a kid, while her father was still alive. She was a little annoyed when she saw Erica reach for a couple boxing gloves hanging on a rack near them.

"What are those for?" Eva asked speculatively.

"For your protection. I thought we could forgo the punching bags and you could just strike my hands. I can judge how you punch and the power behind them more efficiently that way. These are training gloves, they are less bulky than the boxing gloves."

Still, it didn't feel as real anymore. Like she was a kid peddling with training wheels on. Were they afraid of hurting her? Did they not realize that Eva wasn't afraid of pain? Especially if it would help her learn better. At least this pain was something she could learn from. Not wallow in.

"I don't really need them," Eva grumbled and Erica smiled but continued to put the gloves on for her.

"Without these, were you sparring with a human you would likely break your hand. Against a vampire, there is no doubt that you will."

Yeah, yeah, tough skin, whatever Eva criticized in her head. Still that sweet voice and adorable accent made it difficult for Eva to stay frustrated. After her gloves were firmly but safely in place, Erica moved to stand in front of her. Already Eva felt too close to her for comfort but she tried her best to calm her anxiety and not step away. Nevertheless, knowing that the person that was within arm's reach would at some point hurt you; was a little difficult for Eva to shake. She felt that fiery sting of annoyance at how gun-shy she was after she had egged Erica on. It took too much will power alone not to let her hands shake in the anticipation of being struck. Her body hadn't had a long time to heal since…Well, ever. Eva doubted her body would ever have proper time to heal while she was still mortal. It just wasn't in the cards.

"Alright, my Queen," Erica said softly while raising her hands up. Palm open, one close to her torso and the other near her chin. For whatever reason…Now Eva felt a quick thrill ripple through her abdomen just seeing the English vamp's stance. "Strike my hands as hard and fast as you can."

Okay…No pressure…. Here we go.

The first punch felt awkward. Eva was embarrassed at how meek it seemed but she was nervous and felt like she was just bound to humiliate herself. How was she supposed to impress a vampire that not only had twice her strength, but had also been in an actual war? One she had read about in her history classes for heaven's sake!

"Again," Erica instructed. "Don't stop, just let me have it. Don't think too much, let it come naturally."

Eva tried to take her advice. She calmed her thoughts and while they were never silent,it seemed to relax her enough to concentrate. Truth was, Eva had a lot, a lot of fury inside of her. Erica was basically giving her an opportunity to unleash it without any repercussions. She quickly found out how tempting that was.

Once she forgot about Jane's presence, her newly found reputation as the Queen and how vastly inexperienced she was in fighting compared to everyone else in the castle it felt pretty good. Punch after punch, had a little more force behind it and before Eva knew it, she was using both of her arms and attacking each of Erica's hands randomly and the former solider seemed to know or guess where she would aim which allowed Eva to have a solid surface to connect with every time.

All her exhaustion was forgotten and all she could feel was a chunk of her frustration fade away. Like every punch she delivered made all the torment she was silently suffering under had leaked from her body and transferred into Erica's open hands. The very ache in her arms; her tired muscles and the burn from her damaged bones felt…vindicated. Satisfying. It was almost zen-like to her. And it was in this moment Eva really realized that there had to be something fundamentally wrong with her.

"That's better, atta girl," Erica smiled. "Relax for a moment."

Eva did as she was asked but bit her lip so that an annoyed grunt wouldn't escape. Her body was thankful because she was tired both physically and spiritually from the dreadful events of the day but while she was catching her breath, Eva could feel her mind fog over again with worry, fear and doubt. Back already? Really? Eva criticized in her head. She was used to it. She carried around negative emotions every day of her life. Only now it had been relieved almost entirely from her mind and she wanted that bliss back.

"Your stance needs some work," Erica stated and went so far as to tap her right leg which instantly threw Eva off balance. Had Erica not effortlessly appeared behind her to catch her by the arms, Eva would have toppled to the floor.

"I see that," Eva chuckled between breaths, something Erica picked up on.

"Do you need a moment, my Queen?"

"No, let's keep going, c'mon. We haven't done anything yet," Eva insisted and Erica nodded in understanding.

"Alright, now match my pose," Erica instructed. Eva's eyes followed her closely, paying strict attention to her legs. She did her best to mimic her stance and Erica nodded but had more notes.

"Plant your legs firmly on the floor. Adjust where you need to, to find your balance. Bring your dominant leg forward so that you can use it to block or move swiftly if you need to, meanwhile put all of your weight on your back leg. This too will help you move forward with greater ease and should assist you in finding your center."

Eva did everything Erica advised and the smile on the strawberry blonde's face made her hopeful that she didn't look like as big of a goofball as she did previously. Erica tapped on her legs once more but Eva was as still as a stone, her muscles tightening at her touch in refusal to be moved. Next she surprised her again by lightly touching her shoulder with one hand on her back, putting her into a surprisingly more comfortable position despite the insistent straightening of her spine.

"Good. Now, throw a punch again."

Eva punched with her dominant hand and Erica held onto her shoulder before she could retract her arm.

"A lot of your power comes from here," Erica pressed a little harder onto the flabby, embarrassing muscle in her arm. Maybe she did need to hit the gym a bit. "But remember: like a knight with their sword in hand, your fists are merely an extension of your body. If you twist your torso a bit in the direction you are aiming and focus all your weight into the pull back of your arm, it will have a much harder impact on your opponent."

She demonstrated in almost slow motion so that Eva could follow her meaning and without being prompted, Eva followed suit. She felt the difference in this punch now, it didn't feel as weak as her first one had and she wasn't even in the all but mad frenzy she had been in before. She could also tell that had she not followed Erica's advice in the stance she was in; she probably would have ended up face down on the floor. Alright…She could dig this.

"Excellent, Eva! Not so difficult, huh?"

"I guess not," Eva frowned. "But we haven't really done anything yet." Eva repeated. This was no more a fight than a cheap do it yourself DVD. Erica laughed at that.

"True but you must learn to walk before you run, right? Moving forward you will notice even the most experienced of warriors have a certain pattern they will fall back on. If you can predict their movements before they occur, it could give you a vital few seconds of advantage that can make all the difference. So being observant is just as much a tool as any strike."

"Show me," Eva stated impatiently. Erica seemed completely baffled by her once more.


"Fight me. I can read about theories on fighting and strategy all day long. Learning by doing is the only way I can ensure I'm getting it right."

"It is your first lesson my queen," Jane spoke up, reminding Eva of her presence. "And while she may have the ability to control her strength, you are still human. An all-out brawl is unwise."

"She's right. Accidents happen all the time while sparring but the chances of you getting injured is greater since you are still flesh and blood. Consider practicing on one of the mannequins first." Erica explained as gracefully as she could but Eva's stubbornness decided to rear it's ugly head. She had been through too much, had sat around and felt powerless for too long for her not to take this as seriously as possible. Was she going to be a world class fighter her first lesson? Hell no! In fact, she'd probably embarrass herself a hundred times before the first hour was even finished but she wanted to prove to herself and her Kings that she was committed. That Eva had no plans to become a Queen, or whatever, that stood around looking pretty all day while her Kings and subjects fought for her. She wasn't that girl. And she certainly wasn't the girl that had to be silent and take on physical abuse every day. Not anymore. Only she wanted to be the one to put an end to it for once. Not expect the men in her life to do it for her.

"If I wanted to do that, I could have one set up in my room and listen to one of those self-help commentaries blasting through my headphones in privacy. I've already had to play dirty just to break free from being a vampire's hostage. I get it, I'm human. I know how much stronger you are than me but if my Kings trusted you not to harm me, I think you should too. Now teach me as you would any student, not one you think you'll tear apart. I'm not made of glass, I assure you." Eva said confidentially but felt her left eye twitch as the memories rained down on her again. It was both pushing her towards the pit of despair she knew too well and a new, fiery fury she too had to keep contained for years.

"You escaped an immortal?" Erica asked curiously with an eyebrow raised but Jane didn't give her a chance to answer.

"You have nothing to prove my Queen," Jane said softly now appearing at her side but Eva kept her hazel eyes on Erica's. "I know you must feel the pressures of the throne but anyone who doubts your rule will learn their place one way or another. I advise that you don't over exert yourself while your health can be compromised."

"I understand your concern and while you are probably right: I'm not going to change my mind. I have nothing else to do today aside from reading or painting. If my time is limited as a human, I think now more than ever I should try this whole 'living life to the fullest' thing I've heard so much about. To some, maybe that means going skydiving or buying the expensive desert. To me, I guess that means getting my ass handed to me by a centuries-old-vampire. Either way, I don't want to be treated differently. Not because I'm a human, or a Queen or a woman, or whatever else I'm viewed as. I just want to better myself, for myself so that I can tackle the responsibilities of ruling an immortal race. I can't do that if everyone keeps giving me special treatment and allowing me to think I'm awesome when I'm mediocre. If I'm hurt or tired to the point I can't continue, we'll stop. Until then, I got a lot to learn and not a whole lot of time." Eva explained as rationally as she could without mentioning the storm raging inside that was threatening to drown her. She didn't want to think or worry, she wanted to move, progress and feel something again. Without her Kings around she was getting more and more numb by the second.

Now she was in a category. A stigma. She was a victim of abuse, she was mentally ill, she was fragile, she was delicate and that nonsense needed to end! If she stayed in Vero Beach, she would have been handled with kid gloves the rest of her life and that alone helped her make the decision to take up Charlie's offer to stay with him. Now she had to start over again. A third time. She wanted to just be Eva for a while without having a label slapped on her, whether it was complimentary or not. Was that so hard to achieve?

"I respect that, Queen Eva," Erica stated after giving her a cold long stare, like she was sizing her up or something. "Very well, let's begin."

"You can't be serious? I thought you to have better judgement, Shay. You know full and well this will not end well for her." Jane protested.

"All the more reason that I understand what I'm up against as a mortal. It will only help down the line." Eva stated.

"She's right, you know? And besides," Erica looked her up and down again before focusing on her eyes. "I'd never disobey my Queen."

Eva smiled and went back to the stance she had just learned. "Just don't do your super vampire speed bit, okay? Otherwise I promise I'll try to keep up."

"Fair enough."

Before Eva could react, Erica let out a series of strikes that Eva simply couldn't keep up with and before she could register the pain, she found herself flat on her back on top of the matts with Erica leaning over her.

"That wasn't even 'super vampire speed' and I just killed you three times." Erica smirked. "Block me next time. Me hitting your arm is going to do far less damage than me hitting your stomach or chest."

Sure enough, Eva could feel pain in her stomach neck and especially her chin and jaw which is where she assumed Erica had struck to cause her to fly backwards. Okay, next time she would probably ask for a mouth guard because she had clenched her jaw during some point of that whole onslaught and she was sure she now had a cracked tooth.

"Yeah, that didn't feel pleasant," Eva groaned but quickly rose to her feet despite feeling dizzy and her chin was throbbing. She just wanted more.

"I'll try again, watch my movements," Erica said and this time, Eva managed to somewhat block her punch but Erica effortlessly slapped her in the face with her free hand. This enraged Eva and while she was sure she was meant to focus on blocking and defense she started to attack Erica in return. Each punch she was blocked which added to Eva's frustration but again she found herself on her back after Erica maneuvered her leg behind hers and tripped her.

"Watch your footing, your legs are just as important as your arms."

Eva wasn't listening at this point. She could hear her heartbeat drumming in her ears and her thoughts were all scrambled into one massive jumble of words and memories which only added to her frustration. She was so aggravated; it felt like her body was reacting to it. She pushed herself back to her feet and any progress she could have learned from today was mute because any word that left Erica's lips were either immediately forgotten or ignored. She had to keep hitting her, she had to keep getting up and every strike Erica managed to land on her; cleared the painful mist that lived inside her mind. She felt her arms legs and her stomach even ached but it didn't matter. That felt sobering compared to the bullshit she had been carrying around emotionally.

Erica moved to trip her again but this time Eva was prepared. She lifted her leg up and stomped on Erica's foot, elbowed her incoming arm out of the way and managed to land a punch to her face. Her teacher took a few steps back from her and applauded but Eva only narrowed her eyes in return.

"Well done, bet that was all on instinct, eh?"

"You're holding back," Eva huffed trying to catch her breath. "I was wide open and you could have easily blocked me."

"Queen Eva, I must refrain. As an immortal-"

"That's not an excuse! Your strength has nothing to do with it, if I make a mistake, show me. Don't hold back because you're afraid you're going to hurt me. Don't allow me to think I'm doing well, then fight me again when I'm a vampire just to realize how far behind I am."

"You are the Queen of the vampire world, Eva. I cannot-"

"Then as your Queen, respect what I can do as I am now. Stopping yourself just says that you think I'm weak and fragile. I'm not."

Erica studied her again for a few moments before taking two quick strides towards her. Eva managed to block one of her attacks but it sent a wave of pain throughout her entire arm. She hissed and staggered backward but Erica continued her assault, forcing Eva to keep moving away from her. She tried to keep up with Erica's now fast and unforgiving pace but then she did something Eva wasn't expecting. Erica brought her knee up to meet Eva's stomach and the curly haired blonde barely brought her own knee up in time to block hers. Another ring of pain echoed through Eva's body, this time centering around her leg but she had little time to focus on it because now her left side was completely open and Erica delivered a quick kick to her side.

Eva screamed out in pain through gritted teeth and hit the mat. All she could think to do was curl up on her knees with her arms clenched around her stomach. All shame and dignity was forgotten once her sweaty forehead reached the mat. This was the most pain she had been in, in a long time. It hurt but once more…she could think. She could focus.

"Enough!" She heard Jane bellow and Eva was too struck with agony to see straight let alone pay attention. Not only did her ribs hurt now but the residual pain in her stomach had yet to release her. She was doing everything she could to save face after that speech but Lord, she didn't imagine it would hurt like this. She did not enjoy the pain no but she did like…the normalcy of it. She felt like herself again, as twisted and fucked up as that was.

"You may need medical attention my Queen, I beg you to stop this now and let me see you treated."

"I'm fine," Eva insisted after it felt like a lifetime just being able to stand on her feet again. "Let's keep going a bit longer."

"Milady, there is no need to continue, I doubt that my poor excuse of a coven-mate is teaching you a thing."

"I'm fine."

"Milady, please. I haven't seen you in this much pain before and I do not wish to see it continued."

"You think this is me at my worst, do you?" It was a pained whisper but she couldn't help the bit of humor she found in it. "Well, sadly you are mistaken. I've been beaten far worse and at least this time I have a chance to fight back. So let me keep going. It won't be much longer." Eva saw Jane's eyes widen. She looked stunned, that stone-like composure forgotten for a moment.

"My Queen, please reconsider. Your body isn't going to be able to keep up this pace much longer."

"Jane! I know what I'm doing! Don't tell me what I can handle! I am not going to be a Queen that can't protect herself! I don't have the time to take it easy when I have immortals out there right now that want me dead. Believe me, when I say daily pain isn't new to me but if I can get something out of this then at least I can sleep at night knowing I am a step closer to being the Queen I want to be. The woman I want to be. Now either stay or wait for me in the hall because I'm not stopping until I can't stand anymore!" Eva yelled and she heard her own voice escalate at every word she spoke. She was shaking. Whether it was from pain, adrenaline or anger, she wasn't sure. All she knew was that she wasn't backing down.

Jane looked at her for a moment then bowed her head slightly before retreating to her previous spot. When Eva looked back at Erica she looked just as concerned, realizing how badly she had hurt her which Eva knew wasn't her intention.

"You alright?"

"I'm fine," Eva repeated impatiently. "Now, show me how you did that."


If any of her time with Jane had been awkward before it was almost unbearable now. She was limping, her lip swollen and bleeding from her lip and knuckles. The pain in her side and stomach just wouldn't go away. Eva had managed to get a few lucky shots in and dodged or blocked a handful of attacks but the remainder of the training mostly consisted of her laying on the mat seeing stars and being indescribably frustrated at herself. She really was as weak and frail as they thought she was but maybe she convinced her new teacher she could go the distance. And that meant a lot to her.

Once they got to her bedroom door, she swung it open and walked inside. After a moment, she looked expectantly at Jane.

"I'll just be outside the door, milady." Came Jane's voice after an absurd amount of silence between the two of them. Eva did feel bad for the way she had spoken to her. She wasn't sure what had come over her back there but she couldn't deny she was being brash as well as unreasonable. Maybe just a bad day? Maybe too many bad days in the span of her life that led up to this? Still, she knew that the small blonde wanted only to protect her. Eva had to make things right.

With the crack of her neck, she peeled off her now sweat soaked jacket and whispered,

"You can come in, Jane."

The vampire didn't object nor show any form of reaction though she did close the door behind her to give the two of them privacy. As much as they could have in a castle filled with creatures that had extremely good hearing, anyway.

The only clothes hamper she remembered seeing was in the bathroom so she slowly walked there and tossed her jacket into it. She closed the door slightly before she stripped off the rest of her clothes and throwing them into the clothes hamper to join her jacket.

Cautiously, Eva examined herself, looking down on her torso. Sure enough, her sun-kissed skin had a green and blue bruise forming just by her ribcage. She couldn't keep herself from pressing her fingertips into it. Lightly at first before applying more pressure. A hiss escaped her swollen lips before she bit it back. No. She had definitely gotten far worse than this. Erica really must have incredible control over her strength. Or was taking it extremely easy on her.

Her mind was still clear, even now. After she gazed into the mirror and saw the rest of the damage she had received; she was unfazed. She could barely register the pain now. It felt nonexistent compared to what used to be her normal day to day life. All except her busted knuckles. In fact, the only thing she was thinking about; was how she could hide the new discolorations on her body. The lip was easy enough. Ice cubes wrapped up in a paper towel on and off for about forty minutes and it would be barely noticeable. Her clothes could hide the bruises easily but if she had to change in front of her Kings or…something, then some high coverage concealer and translucent powder should take care of it. Maybe she could wear gloves for her knuckles? Stupid vampires and their impenetrable skin. She doubted she'd even flinch from theses marks if one of them accidentally touched her however. Though her stomach was a little annoying. It felt different than before. Her adrenaline high was fading fast and new aches and pains were sure to come,

Eva physically shook herself from this train of thought and cursed her own warped mind. She wasn't sad. She was fairly content. The familiarity of it all felt…Comforting. It's something she knew. This is what she knew. She wasn't clueless or a bumbling idiot in this field. She had control. As insane as it was, the "normal" she wanted to run away from was now creeping back into her life to put her back on solid ground; where she had been a floating mess of emotion and uncertainty in every other aspect of her life.

She decided to leave her undergarments on but she did wipe off the sweat from her body with a towel and reached for a stick of deodorant that she couldn't read the label of since it was in Italian but from the purple lid and scent she assumed it was lavender. After a few swipes, Eva decided not to look for anything to change into but grabbed the robe that was hanging on the wall instead. The silk felt nice on the slight sting and ache she was riddled with. She'd shower before she went to bed. She was too tired to deal with it right now while she still had company.

When she reentered the bedroom she found Jane still waiting patiently for her but her eyes shifted once they caught a glimpse of her. This vampire was too difficult to read. After Eva stretched out and laid on the bed she looked over to Jane with a small smile. Somewhat in sincerity, somewhat in apology.

"You can sit next to me on the bed if you would like, Jane. Or you can use the computer chair, you don't have to stand." Eva insisted.

"I am well, my Queen." Jane replied in the same monotone way she always did.

"You don't seem well," Eva argued. When she was met with Jane's unblinking eyes and beloved silence Eva let out a long sigh.

"I'm sorry for my behavior, Jane. I know you were only looking out for me. I know it is your duty. You are an amazing guard. The Volturi are lucky to have you."

"My Queen?" Jane asked with the quickest quiver of her thin brow. She sounded terribly confused which in return made Eva just as bewildered.

"In the training room? I shouldn't have shouted at you like that. Shouldn't have been so demanding. I took a lot of my frustration out on you and on Erica a bit too. I'm sorry. I'll try not to act that way in the future."

Jane looked at her for a few seconds, really absorbing Eva's words to her. She looked away from her again but at least she responded this time.

"There is nothing to forgive my Queen. It is within your right to command me and I found nothing about your temperament offensive. You know your limits better than any of us."

Apology accepted? Eva was still too exhausted to think too much on the matter. She was afraid she would fall asleep before her Kings got to her. Perhaps she was spoiled now but she rather liked having at least one of them being the last thing she saw before she fell asleep. She missed it and hoped for it again after a day like today.

"May I speak freely, my Queen?" Jane asked after another long bout in the quiet of her bedroom while Eva caught herself dozing off.

"You can always speak freely with me, Jane." It was weak due to her sleepy state but she hoped it came out as earnest as it was intended.

Jane slowly turned to face her, where she had previously been facing the door. Her expression firm and voice lowered like she was whispering a horrible sin.

"Is it true what you said? In the training room? Has someone hurt you that badly before? Have you been hurt so often, it became natural for you?" There was no use in denying it now. Her secret was no longer as buried as she wanted it to be. She'd find out sooner or later anyway. Eva just didn't understand why that was the portion of her previous heated words that Jane retained the most.


"Who?" Jane said darkly. Her face somehow looked ferocious despite its porcelain doll appearance. "I want a name."

"What does it matter?" Eva asked. She was genuinely curious. Jane wasn't her mate, so it wasn't like she was going to run off and try to rip Rick apart like Caius was going to. She had no reason to. Eva had mild interactions with her, nothing long enough to form a real connection. If anything, there time together were either awkward or reflected a side of Eva she didn't want anyone to see. Jane had no reason to take personal interest in Eva's past.

"Because no one hurts my Queen." Jane stated with a tone that didn't sound robotic or a mantra that was taught to her to the point it was engrained. Eva shivered at how genuine she sounded. "Despite your wishes, myself and Shay are going to have a very in-depth conversation in private. If the Kings do not first, of course. Maybe afterward still." Ugh. Eva worried about that. Erica was only doing as she was told. And for once, Eva really felt like she earned a vampire's respect. Not from her title.

"I was not your queen at the time," Eva argued. "This happened long before I ever came to Forks or met the Kings."

"You've always been our Queen. From the second you were born and every day of your life since."

Eva laid her head back on her pillow and closed her eyes. It was all sinking in. This queen business. What did it mean for her? What did it mean to her. All she could really focus on was her mates, her heart and how she was certain it was beating solely for them. But there were dozens, hundreds even, in this castle alone that were looking to her. Vampire and human alike. She was meant to do something. To make a difference, an impact on this world. If she was destined for this role, why? She wasn't used to being in any position of power. All her life she felt powerless. How was she supposed to embrace being a zero to royalty?

Eva moved slightly on the bed and when she did, it made the bruise on her stomach catch the mattress and she couldn't help but laugh. It did hurt a little more than she thought it would. She must be pathetic.

"Do I look like a queen to you, Jane? Honestly? I'm laying here, bleeding and bruised after maybe an hour and half sparring with your kind. I know I never stood a chance but I couldn't even catch my breath through most of it. I jump at loud noises, I cannot defend myself and I get dizzy in crowded places. Does that sound like the traits of a queen to you?" She took a quick breath before continuing. All of this was just spilling out of her after everything that had happened today and unfortunately Jane was the one to take the brunt of it.

"I don't understand what is expected of me. I don't understand why creatures who are clearly superior to me in every way, wait around for my beck and call. I'm no one special. Any woman off the street could have been in my position and could probably perform a better job. I don't know what being the Queen of an entire race of supernatural people consists of. Am I meant to be a savior of some kind? Am I supposed to protect you, my people, my race; when I've spent most of my life raising my arms to block a drunkard's assault? I couldn't even save myself when I really needed to. Never have I been able to save myself when it mattered. Someone always came by because I wasn't good enough on my own. I wasn't strong enough. So tell me, is that what I am to you? A queen? A savior? Had you met me a year ago you'd find it just was laughable as I do."

Eva was startled when she felt movement at the end of the bed. When she looked over, she saw that Jane had decided to take the seat she was offered after all. The calm of the silence this time was comforting. As if Jane was choosing her words carefully which made Eva desperate to hear them. Whatever she had to say would be vastly different than what one of her Kings would tell her. Jane didn't have the same restrictions of love to influence how she spoke to her.

"Not a savior, no. You're not meant to rescue our kind from damnation or anything ridiculous like that. But you are a savior to three people that are very important to me. Perhaps that isn't the answer you're looking for but that doesn't make it any less true. You don't see it now; there is no way you could. Yet the masters have changed so much since they've found you. They may not smile more or exude other human traits of happiness but I have known them since I can remember. Their very presence has changed. It doesn't feel the same being around them. This castle feels like it has life inside its walls for the first time since I've stayed here. I can't imagine their joy, finding their mate at last. Just being around them, that completion and security seeps from their existence and I'm graced to feel and see it."

Jane stood from the bed and Eva sat up so that she could see her better. This wasn't the words she was expecting to hear. Not now, not from Jane. Yet there was something about the way Jane spoke that made Eva hang on her every word. Maybe it was purely the prospect of sage wisdom coming from someone that looked so youthful. Maybe she just enjoyed that Jane was speaking at such length since it seemed to be a struggle to get her to talk at all. Whatever it was, Eva was glued in her spot and was determined to do everything within her power to try and see from Jane's perspective. Even when she had that nagging, crippling doubt that was always just beneath the surface.

"I too have no idea what it truly means to be a queen. It's not something I ever aspired to be and honestly Eva, I do not envy you. In the ways of human rule, perhaps it wouldn't be as challenging. Yet we control and rule the immortal race. Something I know you know little of yet, but you will learn. I do however, know a thing or two about the fear and emotions you are struggling with. Often in life, the greatest opponent you'll ever face is yourself. However, once you reign supreme and conquer all those things that are trying to bring you down from the inside; you will be unstoppable. And if I may, my Queen, I can't wait to see it."

Eva observed the small smile on Jane's face and she tried not to let her astonishment show. She was …Routing for her. Wanting the best for her. Eva still didn't understand why, but she'd be damned if she didn't believe her.

Jane knelt on the floor next to the bed which made them perfectly on eye level with each other. Eva was a little uneasy about the closeness but stayed still out of respect. She didn't want Jane to think she was afraid of her though her instincts were demanding that she rush to the other side of the bed.

"There are many immortals here that doubted they would find their own happiness, you know? Our leaders, our Kings; the ones we've all admired for so long had been on this earth for thousands of years and they weren't so lucky. Why would any of the rest of us be? That's what you are, Eva. That's what you bring to this coven. Hope. Something cynical minds of vampires often forget about. Our masters would strive to perfect this coven tirelessly for centuries but seldom would spend a moment to think of anything else. Even themselves. They had didn't have their purpose. Now that they have you, I truly believe that we are capable of doing great things. In my lifetime, the Volturi have done questionable, damnable acts to keep their foothold in this world. Whether they will continue to be deplorable or not, isn't for me to say. All I know is that for centuries we had peaked. There is nowhere else to go if you're already comfortable at the top. Now it's like the world is bright again, there are still things to explore, tasks to do and it's fresh, it's exciting, it's new! We can do anything now. Perhaps we always could. But in all things if you lack the inspiration or motivation to do so, well, things will remain as they are. Is any of this making sense, my Queen? I'm trying to elaborate in ways you would understand."

Eva smiled though it felt painful. It was still a lot of weight to have on her shoulders. A lot to think about. But hearing it from Jane's lips and seeing actual excitement in her body language as well as the faith in her voice in comparison to how stiff and somber she had always seemed helped her keep it together. It made her feel strong.

"It makes sense, Jane. Thank you. I'll keep all of that in mind. Also thank you for spending the rest of the day with me. I've enjoyed your company." Eva's smile brightened when she saw Jane smile again though it quickly vanished to her comfortable state of stone. Jane stood back to her feet and clenched and unclenched her hands nervously as if Eva had thrown her for a loop just as she had her.

"Not at all, my Queen. I will always be by your side when you wish it of me."

Eva laid back down on the bed, knowing that she didn't need to further the conversation. The silence felt more like an understanding now. Despite her body aching she was still amazed at how relaxed she was. Maybe she really was sick in the head if pain brought her clarity. Then again, she already knew that. Hell, she was probably nuts, coocoo, straight jacket crazy if she spoke all the things she had rummaging around in her mind. One of the reasons she refused to. They'd just stay locked away.

She didn't know how long she had laid there before she drifted to sleep. The movement at the edge of the bed is what stirred her, helping her realize she had nodded off in her thoughts. Eva rubbed her eyes and mumbled out an apology as she sat up.

"Ima, surry, Jane, musta dozed off for a bit."

When her vision cleared, she saw that it wasn't Jane now accompanying her on her bed. Instead it was her raven-haired king whose crimson eyes were even more comforting than anything she had felt all day. And that made perfect sense to her.

Curlykisses: So I hope you guys enjoyed the chapter and I apologize once more for the wait. I'll update as frequently as I can, now that I'm in a better position to write. I missed it. It feels like coming home. Anyway, what did you think of Erica? Is Eva losing her grasp over her own emotions or is this the path to something else? What about Jane's sudden appearance and her views on Eva? Let me know if you have a moment and once again thank you guys for sticking with me. I'll never fall out of love with this story as long as I have someone reading.