Dark Flight Chapter Twenty-Seven

Disclaimer: I do not own the Carpathian Series.

Zane was secretly gladdened when he glanced around and noticed that both Vikirnoff and Nicolae looked rather shell-shocked, as well. He smirked. Of all the things he had expected to happen in this conversation between he and his cousins, their lifemates appearing had not been one of them. Zane's imagination was not even that great. The trio sat in silence for a great deal of time, even as they heard voices downstairs. As the women discussed whatever they were discussing, Zane felt a new emotion: Hope. No matter how incredibly angry Natalya and Destiny were at him, they would always do their best to help him. He fervently prayed that his cousins' lifemates could convince Sierra to give him another chance… along with agreeing to not harm herself.

Soon, Zane felt another feeling, but this one was familiar: Pain. His cheek suddenly burned, but the burn faded quickly as he looked down to see Natalya standing in front of him, hand raised as if ready to deliver another blow. In the blink of an eye, Vikirnoff was there, gathering up his lifemate, forcing her arms against her body and holding her against him. He spoke softly, close to her ear. Zane could hear that the words were comforting, but Natalya did not appear to be soothed.

Glaring at Zane, she burst out with, "How could you? You really were planning to keep her there indefinitely, weren't you? You managed to change a happy, confident young woman into a cowering girl. Do you know what she said while we were down there? She asked us, terrified, if we were going to leave her down there. Sierra's frightened, insecure, and she may never regain her former self! Is that what you wanted, a completely obedient lifemate? Congratulations, you're well on your way!" With that last snarled comment, Natalya transformed back into mist and sped out of the room. Vikirnoff looked at Zane, shrugged, and then transformed himself, following his lifemate.

Zane, still at a loss for words, looked askance at Destiny, hoping for an explanation. She gazed back at him for a moment, sighed, and said deliberately, "I want you to know that Natalya and I are in complete agreement about the way you treated your lifemate. You should be ashamed, and I would dearly love to sweep out of here as well, leaving you to guess what all happened. However, I promised Sierra that I would discuss our plan with you so that there are no questions. I say this only once, so listen carefully." She took a deep breath and stepped to a chair, sinking down. Nicolae moved to stand behind her, placing a hand on her shoulder. Guiltily, Zane remembered that Destiny found it awkward to be in the company of others for long periods of time.

However, Destiny continued, doing her best to look unruffled. "Sierra has agreed to give you a trial period of two weeks. In those two weeks, she will stay with you, in this house but unrestricted within it. After those two weeks, she will decide whether to leave or stay and you will fully abide by her decision. Understood?"

Cold to his toes from the thought of losing Sierra, Zane nodded fervently. When he spoke, his voice all but broke with gratitude. "I understand, and I will do everything in my power to make up for my behavior. Thank you so much, Destiny, for helping convince Sierra to give me another chance."

Destiny's eyes slid away from him slightly. "Well, as things stand right now, I'm not sure if Sierra's giving you another chance because she wants to, or because she's scared of what the alternative might have been. Now, I would offer to go and release her from that room you have her in, but I think seeing you willing to give her freedom will help her mental state much more than anything else will." She grinned suddenly. "Plus, I think you deserve to clean up your own mess. No matter how close she may have been to completely giving in and shutting down, I think Sierra will be much more than you bargained for." With that, Destiny turned and walked out of the door.

Nicolae clapped Zane on the shoulder. "Well, cousin, it sounds like things are going to be pretty interesting around here for a while. Let me know how it goes, all right?" He sobered. "And Zane, even though he did not say it, Vikirnoff and I are terribly sorry for urging you to this conclusion. It was not fair to you or your lifemate for us to barge in. I hope things work out. Also, you really need to continue to convince her to finish the conversion. I have heard it can be extremely difficult for human women to live normal, healthy lives after even one blood exchange. It will be harder for her to eat or go out into the sun. But on the plus side, she will feel the need to touch your mind more often. That should help you. Best of luck, cousin. Long may you stay in the light." Within seconds, Nicolae was gone, too.

Zane stood in the room for a few seconds. He knew he had to go release Sierra, but he felt it was best to have a plan before going. He sank down in an armchair and let the heat return to his extremities. He had been physically cold with the thought that Sierra was going to leave him and never return. She still could. If his last brilliant decision was an example of his care for her, she probably should be urged to leave him and never look back. But for all of his courteousness and self-sacrifice, Zane did not think he would ever have the courage or selflessness to let Sierra leave him. Her bravery was never in question. His, on the other hand, had never been depended on less.

Sierra sat downstairs, waiting for someone to come release her. Hopefully, it wouldn't be Zane, but at this point, she would take anyone she could get. Honestly, she didn't know how she was going to survive the next two weeks, trapped in a house with who she had to begun to think of as her arch enemy, but if it meant she would be rid of him forever… it was more than a fair trade.

She heard footsteps heading steadily down the stairs. Sierra resolutely turned her face away from the door, but peeked when it opened to admit Zane. She turned away again. Just the sight of his face was enough to make her shake with anger. The footsteps drew closer to the bed, but he still wasn't saying anything. A hand grabbed Sierra's leg and she jumped, trying to pull it back, but the grasp was like iron. She kept her head down, letting her hair form a shield for her face. She peeked again. Zane was bent close to her ankle, placing a key in the manacle. A second of turning… and there, it snapped open. Sierra tried again to pull her leg back, but Zane continued to grasp it, giving a light caress.

"Zane!" Sierra snapped as she yanked her leg back and tucked it under her body. She had been thinking that she would sprint out of the room as soon as she was unchained so Zane couldn't change his mind, but for some reason, she felt as though she couldn't move while he was still in the room. Was it that she was afraid he was going to change his mind if she moved enough to notice him? For some stupid reason, yes, but the other reason was even worse: she was afraid of hurting his feelings. She mentally cursed herself. Why did she care what he thought, or if she hurt his feelings? Surely it was purely the lifemate bond.

She jumped again as Zane began to speak in a low, hesitant voice. "Sierra, there will never be a way for me to make up for how I have treated you. There is no excuse, so I will simply tell you that I am sorrier than you will ever know." He sat in silence for a few moments. Another peek told Sierra that he was sitting at the end of her bed, not facing her, but staring off into space.

After a few more beats of silence, Zane said in that same hesitant voice, "Do you think you will ever be able to look at me again, or speak to me?" He left the question hanging, but when she didn't answer, he went on. "I would greatly miss your face and your voice, and just you, Sierra. I already miss you. Despite what I wrongly thought was best for you, I would never have been able to keep you down here for very long. I could not stand to feel so distant from you. Did you ever miss me on your many travels?" Once again, Sierra didn't answer.

Did he really think it was this simple? One short apology and she would give in and completely forgive him? Because, much as she hated it, he may have been right. She was slowly beginning to melt. Sierra had always been good at seeing both sides of a situation, and knowing that Zane truly had her best interests in mind did make her feel a little better. It was simply the idiotic way he had tried to keep her safe that had landed him in so much trouble. Part of her willingness to forgive him may have come from the lifemate bond, but in truth, Sierra had never been able to hold a grudge. She straightened her back and threw back her shoulders. Bad reasoning or not, Zane had no right to infringe upon her basic freedom.

"Zane, listen," she winced. Had her voice always been that flat and harsh, or was it just from the growing pressure of trying to hold herself separate from Zane? "I may be talking to you now, and I may be able to look at you, but it will never be with the same respect." Zane stiffened as though she had shot him, but she continued. "You took away my choices, my freedom, and a big chunk of my self-respect. You kept me in this room as a kind of closet blood supply and for that, I could easily never speak to you again. When we first met, I was on the verge of being raped by a boyfriend who wouldn't listen to my opinion. I hope that sounds familiar. I have my own mind, and my own ability to decide things for myself. Independence is important to me, and you violated that when you decided the only option for me was to be shut in a room with my life controlled for me."

Sierra stopped to take a deep breath and collect her thoughts. "In the spirit of being honest with you, yes, believe it or not, I did miss you when I was running from you, but I never got the chance to see if it was me truly liking you, or if it was all from the lifemate bond. You robbed me of the opportunity to see if we could have had something all on our own. That chance is gone now. I don't know what's going to happen after these two weeks are over, but if this conversation is your way of trying to get a guaranteed 'yes', you're horribly mistaken." She slid off of the bed and stormed up the stairs. Was she scared of her feelings for Zane? Yes. Was she scared that she was going to fall in love with him deeply enough to forgive him? Yes. In the back of her mind, the thought surfaced that she had thought she would never see these stairs again. And that thought scared her most of all.

Author's Note:

There you go! And in case it's some kind of secret, you have no idea how much it makes my day when you guys post a review. Thanks to those who have!