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Adrina Althaus-Valerio

Put you right back on your feet just so you could take advantage

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Adrina Althaus-Valerio

Truthfully, she’d expected him to follow her.  She’d hoped that he would because that might have slipped even a sliver of doubt into the horrible thoughts - terrible truths - that were clawing apart her heart with every footstep that she pounded down the stairs and as far away from the divination tower as she could get.  As fast as she could get.  But Jack’s voice never called out after her, and his guilty look burned into her brain every time she closed her eyes to wipe furiously at the tears that were falling out of them. 

 

His guilt ridden blue eyes that she adored, right next to a set of dark eyes that matched her own far too much and looked just as guilty and that fact alone drove a heavy sob from deep within her and Adrina almost tripped over her own feet.  Through cloudy vision she pushed open the nearest door to an empty classroom and slammed it shut behind her.  Against the wall she leaned, breathing heavy and pressing the heels of her palms against her eyes.  

 

It was only then that she realized she had left everything behind, all of her books and her bag; she hoped @Avery Potter would collect them for her because she couldn’t go back there.  Not now, maybe not ever.  The fourth year’s knees gave way along with another sob and she dropped to the floor, folding her face into her arms as they came to rest atop her knees, and there was where she stayed.

 

Through the afternoon classes; hopefully someone would share their notes.  She didn’t return to the dorm either, unable to brave the thought of facing @Jacqueline Frost and any remarks her brother’s friend might have.  She didn’t even leave for dinner, she wasn’t hungry anyway.  She only felt sick thinking of having to face the two people she cared most about and this secret they had kept.  She debated making this classroom her new home forever, would anyone even know?  Her transfiguration skills would manage well enough to turn an old book into a pillow and she was small enough to hide under the desk in the corner if anyone actually came looking.   

 

Embarrassment, from the eyes she was sure had turned in her direction, and a horrid feeling of betrayal twisted knots in her stomach while she sat in the quiet, hugging herself.  Questions raced through her mind as she sniffled and cried, and wiped her red rimmed eyes with her sleeve, but the biggest one of all repeated over and over, ’Why wasn't she good enough?’ 
 

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Jaxon Sinclair

He should have followed her.  It was the right thing to do, after all, considering what had happened in the classroom and what had happened over the summer.  If he went back to the heart of it, he should have told her from the start and avoided this whole mess.  It would have been, he thought, less painful in the long run if he'd just ripped the bandage off clean then.  Unfortunately for the both of them, Jack was a terminally poor decision maker and he was fifteen-years-old.  Any finesse he might have possessed at navigating such perilous situations would come much later in life.  

 

That afternoon, all he'd been able to do was blink at her.  Guilt riddled his stomach like rot in old wood, crumbling him to pieces while she stared back at the both of them.  It had been stupid, really, to allow it to go on so long and it had been stupid not to tell her from the very beginning that something was going on between himself and @Ryszard Althaus-Valerio.  When it was all said and done though, the only people that knew where Jack, Ry, and Frost and Jack had almost been hoping that Frost would spill this secret like she'd spilled the werewolf one so many months ago.  Nothing had happened, however, and so he was left with this.

 

This mess.

 

When Adrina left, he'd seriously considered following her.  He should have followed her.  He'd been glued to the chair instead, glaring down fiercely at his notes, thinking about how he'd like to find @Professor Chevalier on a full moon so that he could met out some kind of revenge on her for imploding his entire life.

 

Jack spent the rest of the day fluctuating between the two options he thought he had:  Venturing off to find her, taking the inevitable slap to the face that she delivered (he deserved it anyway) or letting her cool off and finding her the next day.  There would still likely be a slap, but there was potential that she'd already cried most of her tears somewhere else.  That was what would really tear him apart...the tears.

 

And Addy had a whole lot of tears.

 

Eventually, when he received no word via mirror from @Jacqueline Frost about Addy finally returning to the dormitory, he set off to find her.  It wasn't too difficult.  There weren't a lot of places a teenage girl that cried her weight every other day could go for some prolonged privacy to do just that.  He'd imagined from the start that she'd occupied an empty classroom and he wasn't wrong.  She was there, hugging herself tightly in one corner, knees drawn up to her chest, face still swollen from tears.

 

"Jesus, Addy," he started quietly, dropping the bag by the door.  "I'm not really worth all this.  You have to know that by now."

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Adrina Althaus-Valerio

The sound of the door opening after so many hours rang out like the crack of a lightning hex through the quiet room.  The only sound that had filled her ears had been her own cries and her first reaction was to cower farther into herself and hope whoever it was would see her there and just leave her to it.  Who wanted to be involved in a mess like her?  But, when the door didn't immediately open and close again and the sound of what she hoped for, retreating footsteps, turned out to only be the sounds of ones that came closer paired with a bag hitting the floor, Adrina pulled her face away from her folded arms.   

 

Her heart broke again at the sight of blond hair and blue eyes behind familiar black rims.  At the nerve of the face to show some concern now, as he approached her and Addy made every attempt to scoot further back into the corner where she sat.  She'd never once felt scared of Jack before - scared for him and scared for herself because of everything that surrounded them, together, yes - and it wasn't until now that she regretted it.  

 

She had so many questions.  She wanted to hear him deny it all above anything else but with the words already out of his mouth any hope of that was stomped into the ground underneath his unicorn adorned boot.  Her eyes drifted towards the sticker that still hung on there before looking upwards.  

 

But her questions remained caught in her throat while she willed the tears away, salty trails down her cheeks that she wiped with the back of her hand before she could find the strength to push against the floor and stand on shaking legs.  The ache inside was unlike anything she’d ever felt before and something she couldn’t describe.  She was struck with the conundrum of wanting him to hug her but at the very same time she wanting nothing more than to get as far away from him as humanly possible.  

 

In some small way she had still hoped he’d come looking for her but she’d also doubted he cared enough to do it.  Still, there he was looking guilty and having the nerve to say he wasn’t worth the way she felt.  She’d been wanting to ask him why, plead out some kind of apology until those words registered.  

 

The last emotion she had been feeling was anger.  But then... 

 

“It seems I’m the worthless one though doesn’t it?  The one who wasn’t even worth being faithful to after all of it?!” Her voice rose and even though she was still crying she walked towards him and her eyebrows furrowed down in fury.  It coursed through her and she didn’t let him down, he expected a slap and that was just what he got.  An adrenaline fueled open palm right to the cheek before she choked on another sob and drew her hand back just as quick as it had swung out.  It was sickeningly familiar in a way she hated to recall.     

 

Dramatics had always been her strong suit, at least this time they were well deserved.  She was shaking when she looked up at him again, catching his eyes briefly before focusing on the mark she’d left on his cheek.  She was quieter when she spoke again.  “You... you made me feel... you told me I mattered to you.  You made me feel like I was special.”  And in her world where even her own parents didn’t care enough to invest in her dreams that was no small feat.  As quickly as it had risen, her tone fell to almost a whisper, sad and small.  “Did you ever even care about me at all?”
 

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Jaxon Sinclair

Jack was a truly loathsome individual.

 

That was his main takeaway from the entire arch of what he'd done over the summer, how he'd hidden it all from her, and why he continued to act so...not quite indifferent, but as if the entire thing had truly been inevitable.  If anyone had told him before November of the previous year that he would be the person standing here, breaking her heart into little pieces and stepping on what was left, he would have laughed and called them a terrible liar.  Instead, he was standing in an empty classroom doing just that, looking down at the unicorn sticker that still stuck to his boot.

 

He supposed he should have taken that off.  He should have probably given her the gloves back, too, but at the very thought his leather-clad fingers tightened into fists at his sides.  He'd never appreciated a gift more than he'd appreciated those and he recalled quite vividly the way he'd marveled at the amount of thought she'd put into it and how much she truly cared for his well being.  

 

Jack deserved the slap that echoed in the empty room when she finally got to her feet.  He deserved the sting of it and the taste of copper on his bottom lip where his cursed teeth sliced into the tissue.  That would scar, he marveled to himself.  Inside of his mouth, of course, where nobody but him would ever be aware of it, but it would scar and every time his tongue slid over it, for the rest of his life, he would remember this moment.  He would remember the swollen state of Addy's face and the tear soaked neck of her shirt.  He would remember her boiling rage, frothing beneath the surface, evidence that she was, in fact, related to Ryszard.  He would remember the dull ringing in his left ear and the heartache that throbbed in  his chest.

 

Most importantly, he would remember that he was a truly loathsome individual—a wicked monster by all accounts, inside and out, and worthy of not only her scorn but her violent rage and enough hatred to sink a ship.

 

Jack licked at the corner of his mouth, bringing his fingers up to where he was bleeding, tips coming away scarlet.  It didn't hurt.  Maybe a year ago he might have thought it did, but compared to what he went through every lunar cycle, this was nothing.  It was the emotional aspect of it that hurt—and hurt it did, like someone was carving his heart out with a rusted corkscrew.

 

"You do matter," Jack insisted quietly.  "You are special.  I did—I do—care about you, Addy."  He wiped his red fingers off on his clothes and then ran them through his hair, readjusting his glasses following the slap a moment later.  "I don't have any excuse for you.  Not anything you want to hear, not anything that's going to make it better and I really doubt you want the details of me and..."  He stopped himself from saying the words, 'your brother' and instead settled on something less familiar.  "Me and him."

 

There was a lot he could have said—that he should have told her, that it shouldn't have happened, but it wouldn't fix anything.  Even if he'd told her, she would have felt just as terrible and there'd been no avoiding it.  The path had been set months before and despite how truly wretched it made him, he had no intentions of stopping.

 

Jack wiped his mouth again, his sleeve coming back stained pink at the edge.  "I told you," he repeated.  "I'm not worth the tears."

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Adrina Althaus-Valerio

The anger had risen, but there was no hate to sustain it.  Adrina might have been truly incapable of hating anyone, in truth.  And when the stain of red caught her eye on the tips of Jack’s fingers, perched upon the gloves that she’d gifted to him (and would never have taken back) and wave of guilt rolled through and washed away the anger with it.  A slow and uneven exhale escaped her as dark eyes focused first on the blood and then rose up to his lips.  

 

Lips she was very familiar with and she knew too what the sight of it all meant and what she’d done.  While she was hurting and broken inside there were no physical scars, nothing like the one she’d just put upon him.  As if he wasn’t marred enough already.  It almost had her sputtering out an apology to him

 

Addy moved her eyes upward as he started to speak.  “No, no, no.” Her head shook.  “This isn’t how you care about someone.  This isn’t what you do.  What happened to the boy who said I was stardust?  And the unicorns?“ He could say it all he wanted but she couldn’t trust it now.  “How could you?!” She peaked again, high pitched and frowning.  “My brother.  I was there through everything from the start when all he could do was call you a monster and try to tear us apart.” She stepped close to him now and sniffled.  

 

Frustration had drove the tears away but she wasn’t done yet.  “I never thought of you like that but this is...”. She stared straight ahead at his chest and spoke softly cutting herself off.  This felt worse then anything he could have done, it felt like he’d ripped out her heart anyway.  

 

”I guess you’re just done with me now.  That’s it then?”

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Jaxon Sinclair

At the mention of stardust, Jack thought he might actually puke.  The memory washed over him like an incoming tide and he recalled quite vividly how enamored she'd been with the concept, the little jar of 'stardust' in her hands.  In truth, Jack thought it was probably just glitter powder and wet sand, but she'd loved it anyway and he'd put so much thought into it.  He'd agonized over what to get her for days before he'd finally settled on that—not because of what it was, but because of the story that he could tell her with it and they had started with stories.  They had started with Alice in Wonderland, poetry, and silly, childish proclamations made on paper.  It had felt right to continue with a story.

 

He'd just never thought that their story would have such a wretched ending.

 

Jack sucked on the injury in his mouth, fully aware that he would need to go visit @Miss Lushia for silver powder and dittany to get the bleeding to stop.  It would taste miserable—having to put that stuff in his mouth, but it wasn't the first time and it was very likely not the last time either.  When he looked up from that thought, he noticed her and how she'd seen it, horror on her face that she'd been capable of such a thing.

 

It would have been funny if he hadn't felt like the world's most miserable excuse of a human (if he could even be called that)—Jack had put so much effort and so much care into making sure that his teeth and nails never caused her injury that would last her lifetime, because they would all last her lifetime if they came from him.  He'd wanted her memories of him to be soft and he'd gone into that knowing that someday they would only be memories.  She would outlive him by half of an entire life, maybe more if he were particularly unlucky or reckless (and he had a penchant for being both.)

 

Frustration bubbled up in Jack at her exclamations.  How could he?  He almost answered that it had been easy, but he doubted that would have given her any peace.  It had been easy—just leaning forward to kiss someone by a lake while a crescent moon reflected on the surface, a visible reminder that the boy whose heart was in his hands would always be human and Jack—

 

Well, Jack would always just be a monster.  Both to him and to her.

 

It was the question about the boy with the stardust that really got him though and he remembered @Kay Wickham reminding him in that meeting that he was still the boy that had saved a mouse from Transfiguration, given it a name, and kept it safe in a cage by his bed to this day.  It tasted like ashes in his mouth when he mulled the words over and Jack's fists tightened, brow furrowed in frustration.

 

"He died, Adrina!" he spat back eventually, his own eyes stinging then with the words that had been fighting against his teeth since the previous year.  "He died back in November when I became a monster and every month when all of my bones break, I forget a little bit more about who he was.  Is that what you want from me?  Is that what you want to know?"  He ran his fingers through his hair again and shook his head.  "You make all these claims that I'm still just Jack, that the werewolf isn't me, but Addy, it is me.  It's me!"  He paused and rubbed at his face then, eyes still burning behind his glasses.  

 

Eventually, with the frustration draining from his little burst of energy, Jack continued.  "You're still stardust.  I'm the one that changed."

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Adrina Althaus-Valerio

She was the one who’d been hurt, she was the one who’d been cheated on and so when his voice rose up and spat out in anger at her it was the last thing she expected.  

 

She pushed her hands against him, startled, and jumping to back away in rushed steps, nearly falling over a desk as she bumped into it.  A sound of fear and pain rushed out of her as she reached behind her to touch the edge of the desk and steady herself.  She refused to take her eyes off Jack now.  He wasn’t wrong and now she agreed with him.  “I guess you’re right about that.  But, it’s only because you let it.” She argued.  Maybe it was wrong to fight him on it, she couldn’t begin to understand what any of it was like for him, but that was only because he never let her no matter how much she fought to get him to. 

 

“It was never about what I wanted from you.  You didn’t let me ask for anything else.”  She’d tried, but aside from a few conversations during their walks to the wing he never really went into detail.  She had guessed it was because he wanted to spare her but now she suspected he must have been confiding in someone else.  It certainly stung to know that it was her own blood that he had deemed a better confidant.  Her parents had always thought him more worthy of their attention, at least when they had it to spare, and it seemed Jack had come to the same conclusion now too.  

 

“I just don’t understand what I did wrong.”

Edited by Adrina Althaus-Valerio

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Jaxon Sinclair

Jack stumbled backward at the touch, surprised by the press of her palms against his chest when she went reeling into the desk behind her, equally surprised by his outburst as he was by her touch.  She'd slapped him and he'd deserved it, but the push was unexpected.  Still, he would stomach it.  He was the one that had put them into this messy situation.  He was the one that deserved to suffer for it, not her, and if he'd been able to take the hurt from her entirely, he would have.

 

What he would not stand for was being blamed for letting it change him.

 

Addy was right.  He had tried valiantly to spare her the gritty, horrifying details of what happened down in the wing every month.  He let her in on the silly things—like how awkward it was to transform back and have to get redressed, adamantly ignoring the peers that stood around in the same position, but he'd never let on how much it hurt.  He never told her that he was too tired for something after the transformation.  He never told her that he was too sick, that his joints ached like he had arthritis at fifteen-years-old, that even the smell of food made him want to vomit the morning after when he still tasted blood in his teeth.

 

It hadn't been out of a desire to keep her out of his life but rather as an attempt to protect her from what was truly happening and how ugly and brutal his life actually was outside of the little relationship he had with her.  In that moment, however, when she told him that he'd allowed it to happen, all bets were off.  Something snapped in Jack, split like a fishing line pulled too taut by the morning catch, and the result would mean Addy was there in the water without any way of being reeled back in.

 

"Let it?" he repeated, practically spitting the words out, hissing furious.  "Let it?"  A string of unprintable curses exited his mouth next and Jack actually laughed, though it lacked any and all signs of actual joy.  It was empty, even sarcastic or irritated, and his gaze landed steadily on her.  "Yeah, Addy, I let it.  It wasn't inevitable with the way the entire wizarding world wants me quarantined to a reserve or bloody euthanized.  I could have avoided being miserable and wretched if I'd just learned to ignore the way that my bones break and my body aches for days and how I'm going to die fifty years before any of you are even considered old by the wizarding world's standards and that's assuming nobody just puts me down like a mad dog the way that they did to that werewolf in the Great Hall!"

 

It was hideous that he was okay exposing Ryszard to this but the idea of exposing Adrina to it was a deadly sin.  It wasn't fair to her and it wasn't fair to Ry, either.  

 

Jack made a noise, something like a frustrated groan while he rubbed his face again.  His mouth still tasted like copper.  "You didn't do anything wrong!" he finally shouted.  "People change, Addy.  Situations change.  Lives change.  I changed and he..."  Jack stopped and shook his head.  "Never mind.  I'm not done with you, okay?  If you ever need me, I will be there, but this—"  He gestured between the two of them and looked pointedly down at the floor.  "This is done."

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Adrina Althaus-Valerio

"That's not how I meant it!" She interrupted him, shouting too and wondering if anyone passing by could hear the horrible, tragic, disaster that was coming to a head inside the unsuspecting classroom.  "I knew some things would change, but that didn't mean everything had to.  You shut me out of it all, like I couldn't handle it."  She glared right back and felt her heart beat faster.  "That all right there is the most you've told me about how you felt since it happened.  How you really felt but I'm sure you've told Ryszard more.  That's not fair and you know it!  Not when I wanted to be there.  My name was on the those signs for you, I chose to stay with you.  Do you try to push him away too?!"  

 

For some reason she doubted it.  

 

She'd grown up her whole like feeling like the spare part of a set.  The one who'd just rode along for the ride and @Ryszard Althaus-Valerio had never let her forget it.  Maybe he hadn't meant to make her feel that way but at every chance he got he never spared the chance to remind her he was older, he'd arrived first and he got to make the rules.  When they were younger that sometimes meant he got to open his presents first, or he'd call start on their races and give himself the lead.  Somewhere along the line it had changed, the influence of their father coming along to get to him, and all she'd come to notice really was the attention; he had it and she craved it.   

 

A flood of those same mismatched, feelings of worthlessness rushed back through her when Jack delivered his final blow.  It was only the second time Jack had dared to mention Ryszard this whole time and maybe he understood how tense, how stressed, their relationship still was after everything that had transpired over the last year.  

 

"He what?!" She shouldn't have asked.  But she had to know.  What was it that made her brother so much more special to Jack then her, after all he seemed to stand out to almost everyone else in her life too.  Their parents, her roommate, @Jacqueline Frost, and he'd even managed to steal this one other bit of happiness from her too.   "He's smarter then me?  He's taller and older and a boy and somehow that all just makes him better right?" Her tone was thick with sarcasm and something else too, almost as if she was repeating words that she'd heard, mimicking them back from a record playing in her head. 

 

"If you're going to cheat on me, and break my heart... if you're going to break up with me for him, I deserve to know why." She stood up straighter.  "Everyone else trades me away for him, I just didn't expect that you would." The tears returned then, welling up in her eyes, but she wiped them away.  "I thought you..." She looked away and hung on for his answer.   

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Jaxon Sinclair

"Maybe because you couldn't handle all of it!" Jack shot back, eyes narrowed.  They'd passed beyond being civil with each other with that 'letting it happen' comment that had exited her lips and reached his ears.  He'd been much quicker to anger since the bite in November, and he wasn't sure if that was a side-effect of the curse or a relic of his own degrading mental and emotional state.  In that moment, Jack didn't care.  If he hadn't been wearing gloves, his nails would have bitten into his palms again and he was, quite frankly, grateful for the taste in his mouth that anchored him to the reality of the situation.  That, combined with the smarting hand-print on the side of his face, kept him well aware of how angry she was and how it would do no good to feed into it.

 

That didn't make it completely impossible for him to stop.  He was, after all, only about to be fifteen.  

 

Jack opened his clenched fists, fingers digging into the fabric of his pants instead.  It would do no good to ruin the leather, not in an argument with the girl who had thought to get him gloves in the first place.  "If I had told you everything that happened in November and everything that happens every full moon, you would have cried about it.  I would have felt guilty for telling you at all.  Then you would have proceeded to tell me that none of it makes me a monster, that I'm still just Jack and I'm still soft and sweet and I do things like give you bottles of stardust and tell you stories about how you're made of it.  You would have made it seem like nothing has to change because I didn't really change, but Addy, I did change and you...you were always just short of grasping that."

 

She'd done it because she wanted him to feel better and he knew that, so it wasn't entirely fair to blame her.  She'd wanted to assure him that his life wasn't over, that things could still work, that everything would be fine

 

Jack pinched the bridge of his nose as her words hung in the air between them.  It was a question she never should have asked.  It was a question she didn't really want the answer to and the answer was something he couldn't actually provide, not in the context that she required it.

 

So he repeated the same thing he'd said to Ryszard himself in class that day.  "It's not about better, Addy.  It's about different," he eventually explained, exhaling on the words.  "He's not better than you.  Yeah, he's taller and he's a boy, but that doesn't make him better."  The answer wasn't fair and it was going to shatter what he'd left of her heart, but she'd asked and it seemed caustic and wretched for him to lie to her again.

 

"I feel like me with him," he mumbled after a minute and bent to pick the satchel of his books up off the floor, wiping at his mouth again.  "Real me.  Not the version of me you're clinging to from last year."  Jack paused, fixing the strap on his shoulder before he spoke again.  "For what it's worth, Adrina, I am sorry that this hurt you.  I'm sorry I didn't handle it better.  I'm sorry I didn't tell you myself."  What he would not apologize for, however, was the fact that it was Ryszard.  

 

There was a long moment where he opened his mouth like he might keep talking but he shook his head.  "I have to...go get silver for this," he gestured to his mouth and then looked pointedly at the ground before he shuffled for the door.

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Adrina Althaus-Valerio

The part the stung the worst about the answer that came next wasn’t that he was right.   She probably couldn’t have handled it, at least not all of it and definitely not all at once but he’d never given her the chance to try and that made it all that much worse.  He’d stopped any chance they had at growing before water had ever hit the soil she’d tried to plant them in. 

 

She surveyed him thoroughly, taking in the way he stood and the tense stance in his shoulders, the tightness in his jaw and the flash of anger behind his eyes.  Rarely had it ever been directed towards her and for the first time the way her heartbeat picked up, it wasn’t in a good way.  Because the way he spoke and the words he used, while he didn’t actually say it and that probably wasn’t what he meant - what she heard was that she wasn’t smart enough to understand.  She wasn’t strong enough to be what he needed her to be.  

 

He hadn’t exactly been the shining example of something strong that she’d needed it out of him when all was said and done either.  

 

A broken sigh of a laugh fell out of her sadly.  “I’m sorry for trying to prove to you that the whole world wasn’t against you.  That not everyone thought of you as a monster.”  She uttered in a way that clearly meant she wasn’t sorry at all.  “I won’t make that mistake again.”  If he wanted her to see him as a monster, well she saw it now. 

 

Then finally the apologies began, but not before he plowed one final arrow into her heart and she turned away, unwilling to let him see anymore tears even if that wouldn’t stop him from hearing them.  Each utterance of the word ‘sorry’ forced another twist of the pointed blade deeper.  “It’s worth about as much as all the times he said he only wanted to protect me.  I suppose he was only keeping me safe enough so that he could destroy me himself.”  She said softly, her throat feeling tight with emotion.  

 

“He got what he wanted.  And you can tell him that too.” Adrina lifted her chin as Jack neared the door and muttered something about the cut in his mouth.  She didn’t really feel sorry about it anymore, now all she felt was numb.  “He didn’t want me in his life, he didn’t want his family.  I don’t want anything to do with him.”  

 

She gritted her jawand her fingers curled around the desk she was still leaning against as a dizzying feeling set in. “Now get out.” 
 

Edited by Adrina Althaus-Valerio

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