Dave entered their bedroom and sat on the bed.
Hank sat beside him. He took his lover’s hands and folded their fingers together. “I’m here, babe. Tell me what you need.”
“Hold me.” He pressed his forehead against Hank’s shoulder. “Just hold me as close and as tight as you can.”
“I can do that.”
The snake tightened its grip on Preyuna’s neck. She opened her mouth wide to gasp for breath, but her airway was completely constricted. Breath would not come.
It could not come.
She frantically grabbed at the snake’s scaled hide. But the scales were made of iron and Preyuna’s claws were too weak.
She looked to Isellta for help.
But he was too busy petting the nae bi sha’s shadowy body to even notice Preyuna’s distress.
“Hahahahahahaha!” the snake laughed in an awful, familiar laugh. “Hahahahahahaha!”
Preyuna woke with a gasp. She sat up and rubbed her throat.
But there was no snake curled around it.
And Mark Caten was gone.
She glanced around the room.
He isn’t here.
I can relax and get some good sleep without him hurting me.
Preyuna was about to lie down, but then she noticed that her vanity table’s lights were on. Crumped paper balls littered the floor.
She got out of bed and uncrumpled the ball closest to the bed.
It was a portrait of Olessa with red inked tears trailing down her uncolored face. She looked lost and scared.
She uncrinkled the next one.
Ambrose Smith stood next to Olessa’s bashed and bloodied body. He held a stained sledgehammer in his hands. His expression was cold triumph. Red splatters colored his skin and clothes.
Preyuna worked her way through the mess on the floor, opening paper ball after paper ball, uncovering crumpled horrors.
She unfolded the last one.
Mark Caten knelt before Ambrose in defeat. His hands were spread flat on the bloodied floor. His head was bowed.
Preyuna sat down on the chair at her vanity table. She studied that last drawing.
The expression in every line.
This is what I want to see.
I want to see him kneel before me just like this.
She ran her finger down his curved spine.
“Just like this, Mark. Just like this.”
Preyuna laid the stack of papers on her table and shut off the lights. She looked up at her shadowed reflection. “I will make him grovel. Just like that. I will make him see who he has hurt and messed around with and thwarted and insulted all of these past years. He will grovel before me and beg for forgiveness.”
And I will grant him none.
That snake deserves none.
She glanced at her bed.
It looked so cold and empty in the dark.
She thought about it in silence before leaving the room.