Jon rubbed his face, bleary and tense, and looked over at the man lying beside him on the bed. He was startled to see that he was awake. Tiny pinpricks of light were reflected in Baltsaros’s dark eyes as he watched Jon silently.
“I’m sorry, did I wake you?” whispered Jon.
A deep crease appeared between Baltsaros’s brows. After a moment, he shook his head slowly.
“Are you in pain?” Jon said, turning onto his side. Another headshake. “Thirsty? No?” He sighed and reached out to check the man’s forehead for fever. He felt powerless and frustrated in the face of Baltsaros’s suffering.
At his touch, Baltsaros’s brow smoothed out, and he reached up to place his fingers against the back of Jon’s hand.
Jon smiled at the contact, but his heart sank at the dry heat that burned beneath his palm—he was getting worse. “We’ll get home to Madierus as soon as we can… I’m sure Abetha will be able to help you somehow.”
“Yes. It will be all right,” Baltsaros rasped, encircling Jon’s wrist with his long fingers.
Jon nodded quickly, made suddenly uneasy by the glittering gaze of the sick man. It was as if the only signs of life in his face were the coal-black eyes that watched him without expression. Baltsaros pulled Jon’s hand away from his forehead and pressed a soft kiss to the inside of his wrist before letting go. His lips were hot and parched, and Jon felt another pang of concern.
“Come here,” whispered Baltsaros. “I want to hold you in my arms. It will make me feel better like nothing else can.”
Something felt… off. However, Jon brushed aside the feeling and moved closer to him, placing his head on the man’s shoulder. Gingerly, he curled his arm around Baltsaros’s waist, bracing himself and trying not to put too much weight on the man beneath him. The position would quickly get uncomfortable, but he didn’t want to hurt him. A little sacrifice.
Baltsaros’s fingers came up to stroke his cheek, his jaw, down the bridge of his nose; when his fingertips brushed Jon’s bottom lip, Jon let out a little sigh.
“You’re such a soft creature,” murmured Baltsaros.
Jon frowned, none too happy to be called “soft”. He was not the weak thing he had once been. However, he forced himself to let the words run off of him like droplets down a duck’s glossy back. It was meant as a compliment, a way for Baltsaros to say how much he liked touching Jon. Nothing more. It should make him happy.
Then why do I feel like running?
The thought had barely touched his mind before Baltsaros’s hand closed over his mouth, his thumb and forefinger painfully pinching Jon’s nose shut as he rolled over on top of him. He froze for half an instant before he tried to push the man off, but Baltsaros wrapped his other hand around Jon’s throat and squeezed. Panic flooded Jon’s brain as he fought to free himself. For a man who was so wounded, Baltsaros bore down distressingly hard on Jon as he crushed his windpipe, slowly robbing him of breath. Nothing Jon did shifted his iron grip—not his nails clawing into flesh nor his feet battering at Baltsaros’s shins as he struggled desperately. It was like Baltsaros was made of senseless clay. A deadly golem.
“Min haeken,” murmured Baltsaros. “Stop struggling. Give in, my soft little thing. Give up. Hush now, Jon. It will only be a moment longer. Give in. That’s it, my love… You don’t need to suffer life any longer. Let me take this pain from you. I will never be able to hurt you again… Trust me, Jon. Trust me…” His voice continued to coo and whisper in Jon’s ear as he fought for his life. His vision swam with amorphous shapes that fled down a narrowing tunnel of darkness. With his last surge of strength, Jon reached up and beat against the headboard with his fist, nerveless to the carved figures that dug into his knuckles with every strike.
There was a strange, warm feeling in Jon’s chest, and the world went crazy with bright colours right before the blackness overtook him.
I’ve got a confession to make:
I dislike endings. Why, you ask? For various reasons.
One is that denouements often drive me to skim because all the energy of the story falls flat as the characters are given happy endings and things that don’t need to be explained are explained. I’m actually not a big fan of HEAs. Blame it on the fact that I’m Canadian and most of my favourite Canadian movies have either abrupt or sort of bittersweet/unresolved endings—the kind where sometimes the characters are happy enough, but only time will tell how long before that changes. Sound a little bleak? Yeah maybe. I just don’t find many HEAs to be realistic enough for me to really enjoy them. Don’t get me wrong… I do have a soft spot for some HEAs that are done well and not drawn out too much, but many don’t fall under that category. Some of my favourite books have endings that I don’t like. It’s really an “it’s me, not you” thing… Hell, I even avoid goodbyes if I can.
Then there’s the fact that I don’t agree or just plain don’t like some endings and would have ended them differently should I have been the writer (or director). I have friends who make fun of the fact that I rewatch/reread so many things without sticking through to the end. I don’t need those endings… the ones in my head are better.
That being said, I know that some people really like endings and denouements and HEAs.
So… then we come my books. I don’t mind so much ending the books themselves—I think I’ve done an ok job of that so far—but ending the trilogy? I have to say that it made me a little nervous. I needed to get it right. I really didn’t want to screw the pooch with Fated.
I’ve also known exactly how it was going to end since the very beginning. It was just a matter of getting there and writing it down… and I really dragged my heels because it meant that I had to say goodbye to the characters. It’s the end of the trilogy, after all.
But then someone asked me a question: does it have to be the end?
As it turns out… no.
Is it the end of the trilogy? Yes. But, no… I am definitely not done with the world of Baal’s Heart.
Bey currently lives in the wilds of Montréal with his best buddy, a spotty pit bull named Murphy.