Home > Ash Bear (Daughters of Beasts #3)(8)

Ash Bear (Daughters of Beasts #3)(8)
Author: T.S. Joyce

“Oh my God, Grim.”

“I didn’t see God when I died. I saw something much worse.”

“What?” she asked, but she was pretty sure she knew the answer.

“The Reaper. I woke up in a basement with a blanket over my body. Something was burning inside of me, something awful and dark. There was an incinerator going, heating up a dank room. That was the hell I’d been meant for, but hell was being born inside of me instead. I Changed over and over and over, just…body buckling in on itself. It was a glitch or something. My old body was still fighting, but the Reaper wanted complete control, so he took the body and gave it back and took the body and gave it back, just playing with it like a bored cat with an injured mouse. Every second that went by felt like an eternity, and I begged for the council to kill me. Anytime I heard them talking outside the door, I begged. Begged and begged and begged. Begged until my voice wouldn’t work anymore. I was an eighteen-year-old kid in more pain than anyone could imagine. I Changed like that for three days. Didn’t eat, didn’t sleep, just Changed until my body didn’t feel pain anymore. Until I was numb, lying there on that burial blanket, staring at a wall, dead enough. The council didn’t know what it meant. I felt so different to them, and I was. The lion inside of me that would’ve made a good Alpha for the Pride was almost snuffed out of existence. He was barely there, while the Reaper…well…he was the new king. Justin lived, and my rank couldn’t be recovered after a loss that bad, so the council came up with a new job for me.”

Ash wrapped her arms around him tighter. “What was it?”

“Enforcer. I was the bullet whenever the Tarian Pride went to war, had a territory dispute, or had a scuffle with a rogue, anything. I was the killer, and the Reaper loved it. He grew stronger and stronger until he destroyed all the good parts of me.”

“No,” Ash murmured. “Not all of them.”

Grim frowned and angled his face to the side. Mohawk, tattoos, so many scars.

She rested her cheek on his back. Pretty monster. “I’m not a smart girl, but I can feel good parts of a person. You don’t go by the Reaper because you are still Grim. I saw green eyes tonight. You’re still here. The Reaper just had to exist keep you alive. You gotta angel and a devil in you, Grim Reaper. That devil ain’t won yet. I don’t want you to be tired. I want you to stay.”

“In Damon’s Mountains?”

“No, I know your story isn’t meant for here. I mean, I want you to stay on this earth. If you exist, everything can be okay.”

Grim rubbed his hand over and over her clenched ones squeezing his stomach. He stared into the woods. “You really think so?”

“Well, you said I make sense. And I never did that for anyone before. I like that feeling. You’ll go home to your mountains, and I’ll be here in mine, but my heart can be happy if I know that somewhere out there you’re okay.” Ash kissed his tensed back gently. “If you’re okay, that means I’m okay, too. Grim?”

“Hmm?” he rumbled.

“I want to be your friend.”

“I can’t be friends, Ash. I’ll hurt you.”

“I accept.”

“What?”

“I accept that you’ll hurt me. But try not to, okay?”

There were a few loaded moments when she just sat there, hugging him tight to make sure all his pretty pieces stayed together. The clearing was silent, the wind was still, and the only thing she could hear or feel was the pounding of Grim’s heartbeat against his sternum, against her hand.

“I’ll try.”

And that’s the most she could ask for from a broken man—effort.

He was too smart and too good for her, but she was going to make sure he was safe, no matter what. Reaper or Grim, she didn’t care. She just wanted the good parts of him to keep going and keep fighting. She would be a proud friend and a secret cheerleader for the Alpha of Rogue Pride.

Chapter Seven

Kill her.

Grim sat up in a rush and nearly fell off the edge of Ash’s guest bed. It was dark as pitch. Not even moonlight filtered through the open window. Must’ve been covered by clouds. A memory of him lying in that field washed through his mind. He really hated clouds. He could feel the cold breeze on his skin. Always, always he had to sleep with the window open, no matter how cold it was. The Reaper needed fresh air. That part he understood. It was left over from the days in the basement in the dark, the birthplace of the Reaper. He couldn’t go back to feeling trapped.

Kill her, the Reaper whispered again.

Those words were so clear, the Reaper could’ve been sitting right beside him instead of in his mind. It used to give him chills, but he’d accepted the demon in him a long time ago.

Grim scrubbed his hands over his face. His skin was clammy, and he was uncomfortable from the inside out, but couldn’t decide if he was too cold or too hot.

Kill her.

“Shut the fuck up,” he murmured, but something curious happened. The same words were whispered softly in his mind at the same time. Shut the fuck up, Reaper.

Grim stumbled from the bed, his legs tangling in the bed sheets. He nearly went down, but caught himself on the edge of the mattress and then scrambled for the light switch. He flipped it on as soon as he could and looked around the room.

He was alone.

Kill her.

Shut the fuck up…Reaper… The old whisper rang with familiarity as it faded to nothing on Reaper’s name.

Couldn’t be.

Couldn’t.

Be.

Was that the old lion? The one he’d been born with? The one that had been stifled by the bad in him? It had been so long since he’d heard him, Grim couldn’t be certain. Maybe he was just going crazy as usual.

“Hello?” he murmured, desperate to prod The Good, as Ash had called him, to the surface of his mind again. But there was nothing there. Not anymore.

Kill her.

“Shut the fuck up, Reaper,” he gritted out again. This time it was only his voice.

His body pulsed with a sick, dark power. He shook his head and fought the nausea that threatened to double him over. Grim didn’t want to Change again. He wanted to keep Ash safe, and he couldn’t do that if he was The Reaper.

Kill her.

“Why?” he demanded through clenched teeth, gripping his hair, pulling it as his stomach churned and his skin tingled.

Because we don’t understand her. She’s different. Submissive. She makes me feel…

“Makes you feel what?” he choked out. The Reaper never talked, never seemed confused like this, and Grim had to know.

She makes me feel. I don’t like it. Make her stop. Kill her.

Grim groaned and stumbled out the door. His movements were jerky and forced as he made his way along the dim hallway, backlit by the bedroom light behind him. No, no, no. Reaper, stop!

He watched his hand push open the door. It creaked softly, and inside, Ash was laying on her bed, facing him. Her eyes were trained right on him, and she didn’t look surprised.

“The Bad is loud.”

Grim swallowed hard, but it felt like a lump of cement moving down his throat. “Ash?” He didn’t know what he wanted to say. Run? Help? Fucking use your magic and fix me?

“Come here,” she murmured.

“I shouldn’t, Ash. I’m not okay.”

Yes, the Reaper whispered. Go to her.

Creepy motherfucker.

Ash sat up in bed and pulled the covers back to make room for him. Didn’t she realize this was a bad idea? Didn’t her instincts scream that something was wrong? Couldn’t she sense the Reaper? Grim was nearly choking on him.

Chest heaving with shallow pants, he made his way to her. She was wearing a short purple nightdress with a V at the neck. The hem was riding up her thighs. Her legs looked so smooth and pale in the dim light coming from behind him. He bet if he touched them, they would feel like silk.

Carefully, he sat on the edge of the bed.

Ash shocked him to his bones by cupping his cheeks. “I see you.”

Grim frowned. “What do you mean?” Fuck, his voice was so scratchy. He sounded like a monster.

“You were talking to yourself. Your gold eyes—they’re pretty like the sun, but hard to look at like the sun.” She flipped her hand over and dragged the back of her knuckles down his beard. Felt so good, he almost, almost, purred. The fire in him was dimming, but the Reaper was still here watching her.

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