Jaded Jewels (The Coveted Saga #2)

By: C.M. Owens

Chapter 1

Burning Alive

Hurting the one you love is more painful than losing them.

Hot, hot, hot—everything was so hot. I couldn't move or scream. It felt as if I was literally burning alive from the inside out. I saw only black at first, but then it turned to a glowing red. Am I unconscious? I can't breathe, I can't... this is awful.

"Tell me anything I can do," Tallis said, sounding panicked and tormented.

Heavy pacing was all around me, and I could almost hear everyone's thudding hearts over mine. The last thing I remembered was him kissing me. We were in my room, and he had just saved my life. I had finally convinced him to quit fighting his feelings for me. We kissed, and everything was perfect until I felt the burning passion inside me turn into burning pain.

"There's nothing you can do, Tallis. Astrianna will be here soon. Aria will be fine. Her pulse is weak, but it's not gone," Iris murmured softly, doing what she could to soothe him.

Why can't I speak or open my eyes?

I felt paralyzed, but perfectly aware of everything going on around me. Frustrating doesn't begin to describe the torture of being trapped inside your own body.

I had to tell Tallis it was my fault. He was blaming himself. He didn't want to kiss me. I made him. I didn't know the severe repercussions. I know he didn't know either, but I knew he would never forgive himself. How could I tell him it wasn't his fault if my mouth refused to cooperate?

Hurry up, Aster.

"Where is she?" Aster's horrified voice was like a breath of relief.

"She's in her room. On the bed," Gear said. Every sound was amplified, almost painfully so. It would have been nice if I could have put my hands over my ears.

"I'm so stupid. I knew this was wrong, but I couldn't stop myself. I never should have stayed," Tallis groaned through ragged, guilty breaths.

"You couldn't have known. No one has ever heard of this happening. Immortals have kissed humans millions of times. There's no way anyone could have seen this coming. Don't do this to yourself. She's going to need you when she wakes up," Chris soothed, relaying everything I wanted to say.

"It's too dangerous. I'm too dangerous. There's something wrong with me. I can't be here when she wakes up. I won't risk it."

Every piece of my body stiffened from the inside, making the pain worse. I couldn't let him go. No.

Tingles of something powerful started cloaking me, easing the pain, offering me an easy breath. Aster's magic was settling in, digging deep, repairing the damage caused by a single kiss. I wanted to scream, please don't go! I wanted to scream anything at all.

Chris was my lifeline—fighting the battle for me—when he countered, "Everyone knows you wouldn't have done this on purpose. Had you known, you wouldn't have let it happen. I'm surprised this is the first time you two have kissed. The two of you have been nearly inseparable since the first day you met. Hell, she's in love with you."

"I love her, too," he murmured in a regretful breath.

He said it.

My struggle to free myself from the frozen state became imperative. I couldn't let him go. I was afraid if he left, I might not ever see him again.

Tallis continued blaming himself, despite the very admirable attempts Chris kept making to convince him otherwise. "I knew that it was a bad idea. I should have stopped it. I can't be here to hurt her. Tell her I'm sorry—so, so sorry."

"Tallis, man, don't leave. She'll be devastated. She's going to need you," Chris begged, repeating himself.

"She'll be safer if I'm not here. I'm the danger now. I can't do anything that could put her in jeopardy again. That means I have to put distance between us. I have to try to break the link that I have to her emotions. Maybe I can come back once I've done that. Then I can guard myself better from linking to her again. Right now that's impossible."

It's not a link!

I wanted to get up and throw my arms around him, force him to stay.

In what felt like a heartbreakingly drawn-out moment, a door slammed, a car started, and tires squealed out of the driveway. I knew who it was that just fled.

That was the jolt I needed to wake up. My eyes flew open seconds before I croaked out his name, but the fragile sound was lost amongst the heavy exhales of relief by the others. Surrounded by the worried faces of my family, I scoured the room for the one face missing.

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