“That’s all we share, and I know this isn’t your real form.”
The smile turned coy as it raised one shoulder. “If you say so.”
I drew in a deep breath. “You’re a coward. You know that? You can’t even show me who you really are.”
“I am not a coward.” The smile slipped from its face.
Mimicking its earlier movements, I shrugged a shoulder. “No wonder you can’t show me what you actually look like. You don’t see yourself clearly.”
Cheeks flushing red, the pale eyes disappeared in a flood of black. The Lilin began to change form again. This time my mirror image was stretched like Gumby. As bones cracked, the icy-blond hair shortened to shoulders that were broader. The Lilin stopped trembling and what stood before me was something altogether familiar and yet different.
And I knew deep down this was really the Lilin.
The eyes were pools of black and the complexion pale. Cheekbones were high like mine, but broader and the tilt of the jaw was more masculine, the lips less full. The Lilin, in its true form was a male, was a head taller than me and a little broader, much slimmer than Roth or Zayne. It—he—was beautiful in a creepy sort of way, a fragile masculine sort of beauty that looked like it would shatter at any moment.
He looked like Lilith.
He looked like me.
If someone put the three of us in a room together, it would be obvious that we were related. Not until this very moment, staring at him, did I really see it. This creature...this thing truly was a part of me. We did share the same blood. It was my brother.
The knot from earlier returned to my throat and I wanted to cry. As stupid and useless as it would be, I wanted to flop down on the cold, snowy ground and cry, because I really was staring at something I was a part of—my own twisted flesh and bone.
“Are you happy now?” he asked, and his voice was deep.
I shook my head, blinking back tears. Roth’s face formed in my thoughts, and I hoped with every ounce of my being that he could forgive me for this. “No. Not at all.”
Confusion flickered across his face and then his expression evened out, turning bland. “I’m done with this foolishness.”
“So am I.”
Reaching behind me, I pulled the dagger out of my back pocket. I moved as fast as I could, faster than I ever had, and my brain was a vast, empty canvas as I moved. I didn’t think, didn’t register the return of bewilderment marking his features.
But then, in a split second, realization thundered through me as I stepped forward, thrusting the dagger into the Lilin’s chest with every ounce of my strength.
I was brave.
Shock splashed across his features at the same moment pain exploded in my chest. The intensity of it was so jarring that I let go of the dagger, jerking back. The pain was like fire, engulfing my chest and spreading into every limb. It was so much more powerful even than when the Wardens had stabbed me in the stomach, an intensity that was final. Wet warmth poured down my front. My heart beat, and then there was a sharp wrenching sensation from deep inside of me.
Black eyes were wide and his hands were pale as he gripped the end of the dagger. “What...what have you done?”
I wouldn’t answer even if I could.
Because it was happening.
The wound in his chest lit up, pulsing with a blue-tinged light that seemed to come from within and the light spread rapidly, as if his skin had been peeled back. The light burst in flares of different colors, soft pinks and blues, and buttery yellows, and those lights, almost like little balls, shot straight up, disappearing into the sky above us.
Not lights, I realized dumbly, but the souls—the souls of everyone the Lilin had consumed. I knew in my heart of hearts that Elijah was among them, and so was Sam. I could almost feel him, I thought, almost hear Sam’s chuckle and feel his hand brush over mine.
He was free.
I knew it.
There wasn’t another heartbeat.
Our legs folded at the very same second, and we crumpled, folding like a paper sack. I didn’t feel the ground stop my fall. I didn’t feel anything. All I saw, through the darkness creeping into my vision, was the snow beginning to fall again, a tiny flake coasting to the ground.
And then I saw nothing at all.
I DIDN’T REMEMBER closing my eyes, not even blinking. Yet somehow I was no longer lying on the cold ground in Rock Creek Park, but standing instead, and it was the park—but not during the night, or during the winter. Sunlight beat down through the leafy limbs and a warm breeze toyed with the hairs around my face.
What in the what?
My gaze dropped to the ground, and the Lilin wasn’t there. Confusion pounded through me as I stared at the empty spot before me and then down at the front of my sweater. It was bloodied, as expected, but there was no pain in my chest. And this was the park in DC, but it also wasn’t.
Something seemed wrong. Fragile. Thin. As I walked closer to a tree, I brushed my fingertips along its bark. Bits of it flecked off, turning to ash. I jerked my hand back.
“What have you done?”
Spinning toward the sound of the voice I’d only heard once before, I couldn’t suppress the weird shudder at the sight of her—of Lilith. Dressed in the same barely there white gown I’d seen her in last time, she looked different. Mainly because there was a splash of red coursing down the front of her dress, matching mine.
“How...how are you here?” I asked, glancing around. “Are you free?”
“Free?” Her pale eyes widened. “I will never be free because of you—because of what you’ve done. You’ve killed my son—you’ve killed me!”
Maybe dying made me a little slow on the uptake, but her response didn’t answer my question. “I don’t understand.”
“How can you not?” She drifted toward me, her bare feet snapping out from under the long gown. “You killed him, knowing that would be the death of you—the death of me.”
Okay. I had no idea that my actions would kill her. Nope. No one had filled me in on that. I’d assumed she was like a Twinkie, would survive a nuclear fallout.
“Where are we?”
Her blood-red lip curled up. “In the in-between.”
“Are you pleased with yourself?” she ranted, ignoring my question. Her cheeks leeched of all color. “You think killing him—killing me—will change anything? Evil will still be evil. Hell will not cease to exist. Dark deeds will still be carried out.”
“But it will...it will stop Armageddon,” I said, blinking.
She scoffed. “For a while, but, child, do you know how many times the world has come close to being obliterated? The end is inevitable.”
I closed my eyes, suddenly feeling woozy. “But it won’t happen now.”
“I’ve never been more disappointed in that which I created,” she seethed, and when I opened my eyes, she was directly in front of me, a tall and terrible, beautiful apparition. “Does any of my blood course through your veins?”
“Yes.” I swallowed, but it did nothing to easy the nausea.
Her eyes, the same color as mine, rolled. “Doubtful. I would have bred something more intelligent, with greater cunning and actual survival instincts.”
I stepped back from her, forcing air into my lungs, but it felt like I was only getting a sliver of what I needed.