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HOENIX

— by Ted R. Blasingame

Chapter 17
 

On the fringes of a quiet section of Castelrosso, a flat-roofed, split-level house sat dark at the end of a gravel rock road. Its overgrown lawn was strewn with unread newspapers and junk mail cluttered the mailbox. Food had spoiled in the refrigerator and all the houseplants had long since died.

A swirl of dust stirred up when the front door swung open and a fresh breeze of ocean air came in. The footsteps that disturbed the quietness of the house were uneven as the sole intruder limped inside and closed the door.

“Aramis?” The single word echoed in the eerie stillness of the front room, but there was no reply. The house had been empty for some time. 

An oval mirror mounted to the wall of the entrance hall reflected a troubled face with sad amber eyes. The red wolf stared back at herself and swallowed hard, a task not easily done with an injured throat. She was dirty and dusty from a long trek through the mountains and was exhausted. Her injuries hadn't healed well, but she felt glad that she had finally reached her home. Had it not been for a pair of canine hikers who had found her up in the mountains and gifted her with water and some food, she might not have made it back home.

She limped further into the front room and looked around at all the archaeological artifacts that decorated the walls and shelves. A surge of anger erupted from her when her eyes fell upon books about the lost city of Hoenix, and she wanted nothing more than to knock them from the bookcase and toss them out the door. The city of frustration had caused her and her family nothing but trouble.

She didn't have the strength to do what she wanted, however, and merely turned her back on them. She limped up a short stairway to a hallway that led to the master bedroom and she called out again.  “Aramis?”

The bedroom was empty, left just as it had been over a month ago when she had last seen it. She allowed herself to collapse on the dusty mattress and she closed her eyes to keep the fresh tears from leaking.

There was no sign that Aramis had returned to their home. Had their son killed him as he'd tried to do to her?  Her injured throat constricted with that thought and she gritted her teeth in fear. She had escaped her death trap, barely alive and against all odds, but she had done it.

Cinjin hadn't successfully strangled her to death, although she had been very close, and it had been an incredible stroke of luck that she hadn't died from the drop through the funnel onto the sand dune far below. Despite a broken leg, wrist and torn ligaments, with deep bruises and a throttled throat working against her, she had bound up the broken limbs with splints made from the bones of other unfortunates who had preceded her, and bound them tight with remnants of their clothing.

The shaft of sunlight in the chamber had given her some light to see by, and with it she had managed to shuffle up the carved stone steps, one agonizing step at a time, and escape through the king's secret door behind the throne dais.

Scarlet Thorne had always possessed a strong will, and it had been that determination which had driven her to overcome death and pain to make her way home across the mountains to her mate.

She was home now, and knew that she needed medical attention. She might have gone too long to mend completely well, but at least she was alive. 

With the same determination she had used to survive, she would find her mate as soon as she was physically able.

She didn't know where he might be, whom he might have interacted with or what had happened in her absence, but she would find out, even if she had to return to that accursed city to look for him. If Cinjin attempted to return, she would deal with him as well. It would be a meeting neither of them would ever forget, and would likely end in tragedy.

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Unless otherwise noted, all material © Ted R. Blasingame. All rights reserved.