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Tears Of Salvation: Chapter 22


When Isabella comes into the gym, I continue with the pull-ups I’m doing until I’ve completed the set.

Dropping to my feet, I glance to where she’s standing next to the sparring mat.

“Training with Demitri?” I ask.

“No, I’m waiting for you,” she says. “Thought we could spar today.”

My eyes meet hers as I walk toward the mat.

Since yesterday I’ve had a weird feeling in my gut. There’s something different in Isabella. The way she looks at me. The double-meaning in her words. The sex last night.

My gut instinct has never been wrong before.

Sweeping a hand over the mat, I say, “Let’s spar.”

I step into position, my muscles tense, just in case. I’m on edge from the shit with Sonia and St. Monarch’s, and could totally be reading this wrong.

Isabella lunges at me, and I block the kick. Then I have to fucking move and block as she goes into full attack mode.

This isn’t like any of the sparring sessions Isabella’s had with Demitri. Her movements are planned and on point.

Fuck. If her memory’s back…


My heartbeat speeds up as the thought that I can actually lose Isabella crosses my mind.

I begin to attack back, still careful not to hurt her, and a moment later, she tries to go for my throat. Grabbing hold of her arm, I turn into her, and then I send her flying over my shoulder. The second her back slams into the mat, I’m on top of her and locking my arms and legs around her, I force her to stop.

Our breaths explode into the air, and then Isabella lets out a dark chuckle. “Fucking bastard.”

She begins to wrestle, trying to free herself from my hold. I have to duck to the side when she slams her head back.

Letting go of her, I roll away and dart to my feet, ready for anything.

Just then, Demitri comes into the gym, and I shout, “Stay back. Isabella’s memory has returned.” Demitri stops, his eyes instantly locking on Isabella.

She lets out a burst of enraged laughter as her eyes lock on mine, cold and wild. “I’m going to fucking kill you.”

I hold up a hand. “Calm down. Let’s talk.”

“Talk?” she hisses. “TALK?”

Isabella lunges at me again, and I allow her to take a swing at my jaw to let her blow off some steam. She packs one hell of a punch, my head turning as the ache spreads into my ear.

The next swing, I block and grabbing hold of her arm, I twist it behind her back. I lock my other arm around her neck, and then I tighten my grip to ensure she can’t move.

“You fucking played me,” she grinds the words out, and when I hear the heartache, the humiliation, the rage, I let go of her again.

Stepping back, I hold a hand up as she turns to face me. “You can’t beat me, Isabella. Give me a chance to explain.”

Her hands fly to her hair, and she lets out a frustrated scream, and then she glares murderously at me. “You can be glad I don’t have a gun on me.”

“Not everything was a lie,” I say, wanting to get it out in the open.

My words only make her laugh, the sound filled with her need for vengeance.

“I. Love. You,” I enunciate every single word. “I didn’t lie about that.” She shakes her head, her hair falling wild around her shoulders.

“I could’ve left you for dead, but I didn’t. I could’ve taken what I wanted, but I gave you a choice. Don’t forget that. Don’t forget what I said to you on that cliff.”

Isabella stalks toward me, her features unforgiving. She stops right in front of me, and I can only see hatred in her eyes as she says, “You. Betrayed. Me.” She jabs a finger at my chest. “I was vulnerable, and you took advantage of the situation. You played me like a fucking puppet…” Her anger makes her eyes shimmer as if she’s about to cry, and her voice hitches, “until I trusted you.” Gasping, Isabella steps back as if she can’t stand to be near me.

And it fucking guts my heart.

I shake my head. “I didn’t play you. The only thing I lied about was how we met and that we were in a relationship. Everything else was real.” 

“Am I supposed to believe you?” she shouts, twin flames burning in her cheeks. “I’m the Princess of Terror, and you humiliated me as if I was… nothing.” Her voice hitches again, and unable to keep my distance, I dart forward and wrap my arms around her.

Isabella fights me with a frustrated growl.

“I love you,” I say as I tighten my hold on her. “I didn’t lie about my feelings.”

“I don’t care about your feelings,” she cries as she slams a fist against my neck. Before her other fist can connect with my face, I let go again, darting back.

Fuck. There’s no calming her down.

Isabella sucks in deep breaths, and somehow she actually manages to calm down. Her face goes blank, all emotion draining from her features. When she lifts her eyes to me, they’re empty. Even the rage is gone.

“I’ll help take down my mother. After the attack, we’ll meet, and only one of us will walk away alive because there is no way I’m honoring the alliance.”

When she turns around, I ask, “Where are you going?”

“None of your fucking business,” she bites out as she stalks toward the door.

My feet begin to move on their own, following after Isabella. When she walks into our bedroom, I watch as she changes into one of the leather outfits.

“For what it’s worth, I never meant to hurt you,” I say.

Isabella doesn’t respond as she pulls on a pair of boots. Then she comes toward me, and stopping a couple of inches from me, she demands, “I want the motorcycle and a credit card.”

Reaching into my pocket, I pull my wallet out and hand the black card over to her.

Isabella shoves it into her pocket, and for a moment, we stare at each other.

“Please be careful.” I swallow hard on the fact that the woman I love doesn’t love me back. If she did, she’d be able to forgive me. “If you need anything, let me know.”

“I won’t,” she mutters, and giving me a glare, she walks out of the room where I worshiped her body.

Something in my chest snaps, and swinging around, I run after her. I grab hold of her shoulder and yank her body to mine, my arms engulfing her.

“Don’t do this.”

“Let go.” Her voice is filled with warning.

Pulling back, I frame her face and look deep into her eyes. “Remember what I said on the cliff.” I press my mouth hard to hers, savoring her taste just in case it’s the last time I get to kiss her.

Let her go, Alexei. You can’t tame her wild spirit. It’s what you love most about her.

My hands fall away from her face, and I take a step back, and then I watch as Isabella walks away from me.





It’s late at night when I finally get to the rendezvous point, a house I purchased under Sofia Rojas, Ana’s second and last name.

Please let her be here.

Grabbing hold of the wall, I hoist myself over, and then I drop down in the backyard. I walk to the security door, but before I can verify my identity on the biometric scanner, the door’s yanked open.

“Isabella!” Ana cries, and then she throws her arms around my neck.

I engulf her in a tight hug, my soul sighing with relief.

Thank God.

Ana’s body begins to jerk, and then she cries, tightening her hold on me.

“I’m sorry I took so long,” I whisper as tears fill my eyes. When they fall, they’re filled with intense relief that Ana’s safe.

Overwhelmed, I lose control over the tight grip I had on my emotions, and I cry for the love I felt for Alexei and how he used it to humiliate me. The heartache threatens to eat me alive.

Somehow, I think to move us inside the house, so I can shut the security door. Then we sink to the floor, clinging to each other.

“I was… so worried,” Ana sputters. “I thought… I lost you.”

“I’m not that easy to kill.” I try to chuckle, but it’s smothered by a sob. “I got a little delayed.”

Ana pulls back and wiping her cheeks with the back of her hands, sobs shudder through her. Then she looks at me, and her face crumbles again as she reaches for the scar that disappears into my hairline. “What happened?”

“It’s a long story.” I climb to my feet and help Ana up, and then we walk into the living room. When my eyes fall on the shrine Ana made for me, I feel the punch in my soul. “God, Ana.” I pull her to me, not able to imagine the heartache she had to endure thinking I died.

“I never stopped praying.”

I close my burning eyes, and then I just hold the only person who’s ever given a damn about me. “I’m so glad you thought to come here.”

Ana pulls back. “Men came to the safe house right after the attack on the mansion. I grabbed the girls and used the underground tunnel to escape.”

A frown forms on my forehead. “What did the men look like?”

Ana begins to walk toward the basement. “I have them on the security footage.”

When I walk into the room, a smile tugs at my mouth because Ana set the security systems up exactly like I showed her.

She brings up the footage, and then I watch as Carson and Damien sniff around the house. I let out a breath, feeling relieved that it was them.

Ana glances at me. “Also, I have this.” She presses play, and I have to lean closer because the footage is grainy and dark. Suddenly the two older girls dart forward, and for a moment, Alexei steps into the light. He watches the girls, probably to make sure they reach me safely, and then he disappears back into the dark.

So it was him.

Alexei went after the older two girls.

Straightening up, my eyes meet Ana’s. “The two men came to the house to get the girls because I got hurt. I don’t think they knew about you and wanted to help the girls.”

There’s a stabbing ache in my heart, and I don’t want to think of Alexei doing something good. It will make me soften toward him, and he doesn’t deserve that.

“Are you okay?” Ana asks, getting up from the chair.

I nod. “Yes.” I gesture to the stairs. “Let’s go up to the living room and get rid of that shrine. Then I’ll tell you what happened.”

While I clear out the table with the candles, rosaries, flowers, and photo of me, Ana gets us something to drink.

When we’re comfortable on the couch, I take a sip of the water, then say, “Hugo shot me, and I fell from the helicopter. Alexei took me to LA.”

Ana’s eyes scour over me. “You must’ve been hurt badly if it took you this long to recover.”

I shake my head. “I had amnesia.”

Shock ripples over Ana’s face. “What?”

“I lost all my memories of the last four years.” I take a deep breath, my heart aching. “Alexei lied and said we were in a relationship. I didn’t know any better, so I stayed with him.”

Ana shakes her head, her features tightening as if she can feel my pain.

I lower my eyes to the glass in my hand. “He fooled me, Ana. I fell in love with the act and really thought he loved me back.”

“Isabella,” she murmurs, and then she takes the glass from me as I begin to fall apart.

I break down in my friend’s arms, knowing it’s a safe place. “I feel so humiliated,” I cry against her shoulder.

“I know,” she whispers, rubbing a hand over my back. “I’m sorry.”

“I really… loved him.” Sobs tear through me as I let the heartache bleed through me while admitting my true feelings out loud.

“Shh…” Ana gives me the comfort I need, and when the last tear falls, she pulls back and wipes the wetness from my cheeks. “This will only make you stronger. Okay?”

I nod as I let out a shuddering breath. “I just needed to let it out so I can put it behind me.”

She nods. “I know.”

We stare at each other for a moment, and then a breathtaking smile spreads over Ana’s face. “I’m so glad you’re back.”

Her smile revives my broken and trampled heart, and it shines a light through the darkness.

“Ana,” I whisper in total awe, “you’re smiling.”

She lets out a sputter and then hugs me again. “Of course. I have my friend back. You’re my only family, and I was so lost without you.”

Ana’s my family.

“From now on, we stick together,” she adds.

I nod. “Just the two of us. Always.”

I don’t need Alexei.


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