FRIENDS. This is it...the end of Beast + Beauty.
It's been a long, lovely ride of suspense and wonderful comments from you the readers. I am extremely excited for you to read the long-awaited ending of Adam + Alina's story...and there may or may not be that kiss you requested. We shall see. As always, if it's been a while since the last time you read, feel free to hop over and re-read Part I, II, III, IV + V , or VI!
Please, PLEASE leave a comment below with your final thoughts and what you thought of the ending...I am planning on expanding this into a full-length novel later this summer as A + A's story deserves a proper telling. Thank you again for reading.
Feet pounded behind her, Lee’s ragged panting sawing the air. He must have followed them home. "Alina, what are you doing? He told you to stay!"
She kept walking.
His hand grabbed her arm, yanking her back. "Are you crazy? There’s nothing good out there!" he shouted, his eyes wild with fear.
"He's out there!" Alina retorted fiercely, pulling against him.
Lee’s heaving chest slowed; he shook his head unwillingly. "We both know he's not good."
She looked at him with sudden disgust and almost pity. "No," she whispered, yanking her arm out of his grip. "That’s what you think." She lifted her chin. "I know better."
His face crumpled; she left him standing there as she ran - not for her life, not for her father's life.
I envy not the beast that takes
His license in the field of time,
Unfetter’d by the sense of crime,
To whom a conscience never wakes;
Adam bit back a particularly colorful curse; clearly Iain had been working on his right hook.
"Always a bloody hero for a girl....but not this time,” the younger man sneered, lowering his arm after the last blow. “She’s not Kristin. She won’t follow you."
Adam lifted his head, exhaustion and a strange determination humming through him. He ran his gaze over the swollen horizon, grey with early morning, to the stained corners of the warehouse roof where Iain had dragged him. Yes...NYPD would be here any second now, if they weren't already. He could almost imagine he heard the soft sound of footsteps, plastic shields clinking, guns locking.
They'd be here in a moment - he bit back a rueful grin. He'd always done his best to avoid them and now, at the very end, he'd been the one to call in the cavalry.
Iain’s men had searched him before taking him to the Barras, but thankfully hadn’t checked his call history after confiscating his phone
He lifted his gaze back to Iain and let the smile finally spread across his battered face. "I didn't do this so she'd come back."
Iain's eyes narrowed, distracted.
Adam continued, keeping his attention away from the now shifting corners by the stairs.
"I did it so she'd leave. And live.”
Adam closed his eyes as his final words slipped past his lips. It was done. Only one thing mattered. That he keep her safe. And he had.
Showtime, he thought wryly - and opened his eyes to meet his death head-on.
Iain's sudden gasp alerted him that they had moved forward.
Like a fool, the boy whirled frantically, pointing his gun at the growing NYPD team as if they would somehow feel threatened by a young gang member and the broken, battered leader at his feet.
"Back up!" Iain shrieked exactly at the same time that he was ordered in a deep voice to drop his weapon.
"No - I'll shoot, I swear I will!"
Stupid, stupid boy.
That was his last thought before gunfire rang out. A rattling, thundering storm of barks that warped the boy's yell into a high-pitched scream -
Adam contorted. Pain - shooting, sickening underneath the screaming...why was Iain still screaming?
Adam fought to keep his eyes open. No, not - couldn't be - not her voice.
His darkening vision swam and for the briefest moment lingered enough for him to see Alina’s slim form dart out of the stairs.
"N-" he tried to choke in a strangled voice, but only tasted the metallic tang of blood and sank back, feeling himself slip into darkness. God, not her death too - he could bear his own. But not...
Ragged brown hair against his face, gentle fingers wrapping around him - what was left of him - her voice, sobbing and beautiful and her, begging him to stay, to be okay. Her lips against his - warm and trembling and so very sweet -
His eyes fluttered. Had to...tell –
“Guess even a beast can be a hero,” he mumbled against her mouth, trying to smile; darkness roared up over him. Pity, he thought tiredly, with distant sadness as he slipped deeper. He would have liked to kiss her more.
But dead men can't kiss.
I hold it true, whate’er befall;
I feel it, when I sorrow most;
‘Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.
Alina couldn't breathe - couldn't hear, couldn't see...not the shouts of the police around her, the whirr of helicopters, or garnet red seeping against concrete.
The only thing real was Adam's body in her arms.
Hands grabbed at her, tugging her backwards. Trying to disentangle her from his bloody body, unwrap her arms from around his shoulders, pull her fingers from his hair, her face from his neck.
She screamed and fought and sobbed as slowly, excruciatingly, they succeeded. In one moment, he was there - solid, warm, and Adam - against her.
Then he was gone, replaced by cold emptiness.
Her arms faltered and fell through the air; sweet blackness closed over her.
Be near me when I fade away,
To point the term of human strife,
And on the low dark verge of life,
The twilight of eternal day.
Alina raised her gaze to the blank-faced nurse standing above her.
She gripped the plastic chair rim tighter and shut her eyes for a moment, escaping into blessed darkness to look for her sanity, her ability to speak.
“Ma’am?” the nurse droned again.
She opened her eyes. “Is he – what did they do with...” her voice faltered.
“They just took the body away. We’ve cleared you and the chief has your statement. You’re free to go.”
Alina staggered to her feet, ignoring the woman’s bored recitation...they just took the body.
“No,” she whispered and pushed past the startled nurse. She plunged into the hallway and paused.
Disorienting whispers, papers and fabric rustling as doctors and nurses in scrubs hurried past, a disembodied voice paging a doctor to the third floor, snatches of conversations, wheels squeaking –
She spun to the left and caught sight of an orderly disappearing around the corner with a gurney. Alina forced herself to move forward, panic seeping through the numbness.
“Watch where you’re going, young lady!”
An irate, middle-aged nurse jerked her large frame away from Alina with an affronted sniff.
“I’m sorry – so sorry,” Alina mumbled, breaking into a run. She turned the corner and froze.
An orderly’s skinny back was bent over the long gurney, wheeling it away from her. Motionless, white fabric covered the entire length – and the body on it.
Alina gasped, the hallway suddenly swaying.
The orderly turned at the sound and she blinked, trying to stay standing.
It was Lee.
To her shock, he winked, looking completely unsurprised to see her. He turned back, pushing the gurney to the side around the next corner. The sudden turn caused a pale hand to slip out from under the sheet, dangling.
Fingers twitched and curled into a fist.
She smiled, wild elation and triumph shooting through her.
He was alive.