FYI, if you haven’t read NIGHT BLADE, be warned.  This will have some info that is spoiler-rific.

~*~

 

You saw the warning right?

 

Okay.

You didn’t let anything else take you down…

Hard words.

Harsh words.

And as I made myself walk into the bathroom the next morning, I realized TJ wasn’t really wrong.

My grandmother’s voice, never far from my mind, rose up to haunt me. Useless waste. I’ll make a warrior out of you if it kills me…

Sometimes, I think she’d meant if it killed me.

And damn if she didn’t try. Try hard. But I’d run away from her, managed to build a life.

You face down everything that scares you.

But right now, everything scared me. Life. Leaving the safety of TJ’s bar. And facing the woman in the mirror. It was a damned hard thing to do and for the four months, I’d avoided it as much as I possibly could. As often as I could, because looking at myself was just too hard.

But today, I made myself look anyway.

It was almost a shock, the woman I saw staring back at me.

Leaner. Harder. Sadder.

The scars had paled. My neck was a mess of them. The ones on the left side of my neck were neat, a small circle of them, placed there back when I’d still mattered to somebody. When I’d still mattered, period.

No, we don’t think about that… Immediately my brain started to skitter away even as memories danced closer.

Did you really think I wasn’t coming for you?  Damon’s voice, raw and broken.

Tears burned inside me, but I swallowed them back. I couldn’t handle that and this. Not now. So instead of looking at the mark he’d given me, I looked at the uglier scars. The ones that marked my ruin. My destruction.

The mess on the right side of my neck was what bothered me, the ones that told the awful, sickening story of what had been done to me.

The vampire’s voice was a nasty mockery in the back of my mind. Every time one of my kind sees the marks on you, they will think, and wonder.

They’d see me as a toy.

It pissed me off because that was what I’d been.

I touched them, made myself do it even though I flinched. I memorized the feel of them.

Jude could have healed them after he’d fed, but he’d chosen not to.  He’d wanted to mark me and he hadn’t been neat about it. I’d fought, long and hard. Sometimes he’d almost let me get away, so there weren’t just puncture wounds. Some of them were long slices down my neck from where his fangs had torn me. They started just below my ear and disappeared under the collar of my shirt. There was no hiding them, not unless I just started walking around in hooded cloaks.

I needed to make them part of me, somehow.