The Beginning of The End
Ash fell down Kindle's throat. The bitter, smoky taste consumed her, coated her tongue and filled her mouth. The oppressive weight of cinders weighed her down as she spat and coughed. What happened, again? Where was she? Memory loss after regeneration was brief but always frightening. Through the haze of smoke and pain, She flapped her wings against the ash that held her down, raising dust clouds that stung her eyes. It was coming back to her slowly; bits and pieces of the hours before. The wretched screams and the intense consuming heat. Kindle shuddered, her heart slamming against her ribs as those screams echoed louder in her mind, gaze darting around for any sign of him.
Oh God, where was he lurking?
The barn was gone, replaced by charred skeletons of door frames and piles of smoldering straw. A few embers fizzled as a testament to her power. In a frenzy, Kindle tried to push herself up but was stuck fast. She craned her long neck to find a roof beam pressing down across her aching back still crackling with sparks.
Too weak like this! Change and run! Run!
Kindle shook the feathers from her body, gold and red plumes flying everywhere. Her limbs stretched and burned with golden light, forming into legs and arms, fingers and toes. With a strained grunt, she rolled onto her back, burying splinters into her now human flesh. After what felt like an eternity, shoved the beam aside. It landed beside her with a dull thump, raising another cloud that she could taste. Quickly, she staggered to her feet, scanning for Damien. She knew that wolf was hovering in the darkness, his eyes raking across her body, coveting it, needing to tear it apart all over again. And again. But there were no corners for him to hide in now. She had consumed every one of them in her flames yet she still spun in a frenzy, as if he'd materialize out of thin air. But he was nowhere, probably just a pile of ashes waiting to be scattered in the evening breeze.
Dead. She had killed him.
A wave of nausea punched Kindle in the gut and she stumbled, the acidic taste of vomit crawling up her throat. She fell to her knees, ash and puke pouring from her lips into a chunk filled puddle on the scorched ground. Her belly spasmed again and she was ready to unload more, but a faint moan forced the bile down. Slowly, she crawled towards the sound, the moans growing the closer she grew towards a smoldering pile of timber.
There he was. Damien. A glorious Adonis now charred and twisted. His once handsome was half blistered and raw, skin one eye seared to only a hollow socket, his lips gone. His luscious dark hair was burned away, clothes melted to his flesh, and one hand had been reduced to a deformed claw. The werewolf only lets out a pathetic cough and Kindle lept back, heart thundering as he trembled, then fell limp. The shallow rise and fall of his chest was the only sign that he still lived.
Kill him, Kindle. It’s the only way.
Kindle reached out, fingertips glimmering with heat. Just one touch would do the trick. Ignite him. If Damien survives, he’d come for her. And while no one could outright kill a phoenix, he could make her wish she could die. Gruesome scenarios swam through her mind. Torture. Captivity. First, he would take her. Then he would come for the two who mattered most to her. Reina was now the seneschal for the west coast vampire clans. Her status would keep her safe for now. But Piper…
Oh, God. Piper.
She had to destroy that disgusting creature so he couldn't hurt another again, couldn't hurt her again. Her belly knotted as her hand trembled a breath away from his face. Then her fingers curled and she cringed.
She didn't reach out again.
Do it, you coward!
Still, Kindle sat, staring at Damien, throat closing, body trembling. It would be the first time she would take a life and she wasn't sure if she could do it.
Coward, her thoughts roared. You're a coward. you deserve whatever you get after this.
“Dammit,” Kindle whispered then winced at the curse that slipped from her lips. If only she was more like Reina, or even Piper. If she only could muster their strength. They would have killed him without a second thought. Kindle almost puked again.
“Die! Please, just die!” Kindle sobbed. “You deserve it!”
But already his breath grew steadier, the blisters upon his skin fading. He'd never fully heal from her fire, but he'd live. Live and hunt her down.
Run away, bird, he had told her. Run as far as you can. I will always find you.
Tears pushed against the back of Kindle’s eyes, forcing their way out until clean, wet tracks trailed down her ash covered cheeks. This was all her fault. If only she had been more careful. If only she hadn’t met Damien. If only she didn't go out alone last night.
Kindle stumbled away, desperate for escape, keenly listening to the waking werewolf's noises of pain. Damien’s Porsche was still parked outside, its top down and the trunk still open. Every muscle stiffened.
Waking up in that tiny trunk. The stale heat. The darkness that surrounded her as she screamed and kicked, desperate to escape her tiny prison. Then him. Hovering over her, his hands snatching her up and carrying her away. Her heart lurched.
Kindle sprinted towards the car, finding her oversized purse still in the trunk. Thank God. She rummaged through it, finding money, makeup, and a change of clothes. She always had them packed when a male "came a-courtin'. " For a moment she was about to jump into the car and drive but there were no keys. She'd have to go back and fish them out of Damien's pocket. Damien's howl shook the ground and turned Kindle’s blood to ice. Not an option.
Kindle curled in on herself, her body shrinking. Shimmering red and gold feathers sprouted from her pores. In a flash, she transformed, flapping wings and leaping into the wind with her purse slung around her neck. Damien’s howls echoed from the ground behind her. No time for plans. Only running. Run for survival. Run and keep Piper and Reina safe.
She had nothing left now. Only, running, hiding, and praying to never be found.