The look of devastation on Darcy's face as she faced a future without her soul mate broke my heart into a million tiny pieces and I stood outside her room, desperate to enter and ease her sorrow. The cowardly part of me kept me from even knocking.
Her cries, her pleas, and her rage-the sound pierced my bones and, for the first time since I woke as a vampire, I understood true helplessness.
It was why I hadn't flat out laughed at the Fates or accused them of madness when they confessed the price I must pay for them to restore balance.
In my long life, I'd seen many things that would strike horror in the hearts of the bravest of men and inflict carnage that would cripple the courage of many, yet nothing had moved me like the never ending grief of my beloved niece.
I'd sworn a blood oath to protect Darcy at all costs-willing to sacrifice my life to ensure she remained happy and safe.
And I had failed.
I'd failed to prevent the overwhelming devastation the battle at the Vortex wrought-a devastating fight between Julian and his forces, and Mason's wolves and our Enforcers. Many were killed, including my King and best friend, leaving nothing but anguish in its wake.
Were it any one else, I would have taken longer to respond. Not even for Zane, and I owed that vampire my life, would I ever contemplate returning to such a nightmarish time.
Relive your darkest moment.
Hell, there had been so many. Yet, in my heart of hearts, I knew the exact moment the Fates meant. It was one I'd buried deep in the recesses of my memories, the fraction of time when I'd ceased being Devlin Lockhart and submitted to the monster lurking within my chest. The bloodthirsty beast laid waste to my fragile humanity, shrieking with macabre delight when I set it free.
Only a fool would go to the Fates and offer himself in return for time to be rewritten, but that's exactly what I'd done. Desperation made a mockery out of everyone-the gut-wrenching sentiment was the driving force behind my frantic bargaining.
I'll do whatever you ask, just please . . . help Darcy. Bring back Mason. Bring back all those who perished because of my failings.
The responsibility to destroy Julian had been mine-no one else's. Time had made him weak, complacent, but not anymore. I would do whatever the Moirai asked.
No matter the difficulty.
It had been my darkest hour, one that defined me.
It was something for which I fought hard to atone, knowing there could never be enough breaths to completely find redemption.
Maybe that was another reason why I didn't hesitate-my belief that by agreeing and succeeding I might also save my soul.
Everything and everyone I held dear, what I'd fought so valiantly to protect, now hung in the balance. There would be no coming back should I fail this time.
It would break me.
Should I fail I had only one option-do what I should've done all those many years ago. I would end my life. Only then would those I loved most be safe from the consequences my actions inevitably brought.
With my dying breath I would beg for Darcy, that the Fates deliver mercy on her behalf and allow her life to resume as it was destined.
If all else failed and I discovered the bravery so many admired in me was merely a façade-a ruse-I would use my last shred of honor to correct my mistakes.
I would transform my weakness and cowardice into something greater.
I would march into Hell itself and surrender myself completely.
"So are we in agreement, vampire?"
I met Atropos's icy stare with one of my own. Standing before the three Fates was intimidating, but I'd faced bigger and badder opponents in the past. With so much at stake, I wouldn't let them see me cower-make me falter beneath the weight of their conditions.
"We are," I responded with steel in my voice. "In exchange for you altering the outcome of the battle with Julian, I will return to my darkest moment and face it."
"With your memories fully intact." It was Klothos who spoke up and, for the briefest of seconds, I caught something unexpected in her gaze. Uncertainty. The young Fate struggled to hide the emotion. I was tempted to ask if her reservations lay with my ability to complete the task or in her sisters' cruelty-their request a steep price to pay for correcting a damaged timeline.