Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined (Page 132)

Even Royal took a turn. He told me about a life consumed with vanity, with material things, with ambition. He told me about the only daughter of a powerful man—exactly what kind of power this man wielded, Royal hadn’t entirely understood—and how Royal had planned to marry her and become heir to the dynasty. How the beautiful daughter pretended to love him to please her father, and then how she had watched when her lover from a rival criminal syndicate had Royal beaten to death, how she’d laughed aloud the whole time. He told me about the revenge he’d gotten. Royal was the least careful with his words. He told me about losing his family, and how none of this was worth what he’d lost.

Edythe had whispered Eleanor’s name; he’d growled once and left.

I think it must have been while Royal or Eleanor was talking that Archie watched Joss’s video from the dance studio. When Royal was gone, Archie took his spot. At first I wasn’t sure what they were talking about, because only Edythe was speaking out loud, but eventually I caught up. Archie was searching right there on his laptop, trying to narrow down the options of where he’d been kept in his human life. I was glad he didn’t seem to mention anything else about the tape—the focus was all on his past. I was trying to remember how to use my voice so that I could stop him if he tried to say anything about the rest of it. I hoped Archie was smart enough to have destroyed the tape before Edythe could watch.

The stories helped me think of other things, prepare myself, while the fire burned, but I was only able to pay partial attention. My mind was cataloguing the fire, experiencing it in new ways. It was amazing how each inch of my skin, each millimeter, was so distinct. It was like I could feel all my cells burning individually. I could feel the difference between the pain in the walls of my lungs, and the way the fire felt in the soles of my feet, inside my eyeballs, and down my spine. All the different agonies clearly separated.

I could hear my heart thudding—it seemed so loud. Like it had been hooked to an amp. I could hear other things, too. Mostly Edythe’s voice, sometimes the others talking—though I couldn’t see them. I heard music once, but I didn’t know where it was coming from.

It seemed like I was on the couch, my head in Edythe’s lap, for several years. The lights stayed bright, so I didn’t know if it was night or day. But Edythe’s eyes were always gold, so I guessed that the fire was lying about the time again.

I was so aware of every nerve ending in my body that I knew it immediately when something changed.

It started with my toes. I couldn’t feel them. It seemed like the fire had finally won, that it had started burning off pieces of me. Edythe had said I was changing, not dying, but in this moment of panic I thought she’d gotten it wrong. Maybe this vampire thing wouldn’t work on me. Maybe all this burning had been just a slow way to die. The worst way.

Edythe felt me freaking out again, and she started humming in my ear. I tried to look at the positives. If it was killing me, at least it would be over. And if it was going to end, at least I was in Edythe’s arms for the rest of my life.

And then I realized that my toes were still there, they just weren’t burning anymore. In fact, the fire was pulling out of the soles of my feet, too. I was glad I’d made sense of what was happening, because my fingertips were next. No need for more panic, maybe a reason for hope. The fire was leaving.

Only it seemed to be doing more than leaving—it was… moving. All the fire that receded from my extremities seemed to be draining into the center of my body, stoking the blaze there so that it was hotter than before.

I couldn’t believe there was such a thing as hotter.

My heart—already so loud—starting beating faster. The core of the fire seemed to be centered there. It was sucking the flames in from my hands and my ankles, leaving them pain-free, but multiplying the heat and pain in my heart.

“Carine,” Edythe called.

Carine walked into the room, and the amazing part about that was that I heard her. Edythe and her family never made any noise when they moved. But now, if I listened, I could hear the low sound of Carine’s lips brushing together as she spoke.

“Ah. It’s almost over.”

I wanted to be relieved, but the growing agony in my chest made it impossible to feel anything else. I stared up at Edythe’s face. She was more beautiful than she had ever been, because I could see her better than I ever had. But I couldn’t really appreciate her. So much pain.

“Edythe?” I gasped.

“You’re all right, Beau. It’s ending. I’m sorry, I know. I remember.”

The fire ripped hotter through my heart, dragging the flames up from my elbows and knees. I thought about Edythe going through this, suffering this way, and it put a different perspective on my pain. She didn’t even know Carine then. She didn’t know what was happening to her. She hadn’t been held the whole time in the arms of someone she loved.

The pain was almost gone from everywhere but my chest. The only leftover was my throat, but it was a different kind of burn now… drier… irritating.…

I heard more footsteps, and I was pretty sure I could tell the difference between them. The decisive, confident step was Eleanor, I was positive. Archie was the quicker, more rhythmic motion. Earnest was a little slower, thoughtful. Jessamine was the one who stopped by the door. I thought I heard Royal breathing behind her.

And then—


My heart took off, beating like helicopter blades, the sound almost a single sustained note. It felt like it would grind through my ribs. The fire flared up in the center of my chest, sucking all the flames from the rest of my body to fuel the most painful burn yet. It was enough to stun me. My body bowed like the fire was dragging me upward by my heart.

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