Maya stiffens with an involuntary fight or flight response at the mention of him. There is a man. Hyuk. Mihai doesn’t need to speak the name for her to know who he means. There was a man. She wants to correct him, to tell him that he’s mistaken. Hyuk was her nightmare, sadistic and brutal in ways that she still cannot voice to anyone. But he is gone. She made sure of it before she spit in his dead eyes and walked out to the street. I saw what he did. She hopes that he didn’t see it, that he doesn’t really know. Does he know that her family handed her over to strangers who allowed someone to take everything from her? Her grandmother would have never let them do that. Did he see the worst of what she became?
Mayahuel had endured. The word in her own language carries the fuller meaning—endurecer—to harden, to toughen. That is how she had survived it. She made herself a hateful stone in his presence, biting her tongue almost in two rather than giving him the satisfaction of a single sound from her. Where she’d once been soft, she became unyielding. The only thing she kept for herself through it all was the space she’d shared with Mihai, finally letting it go rather than risk having Hyuk take that from her.
She learned to sharpen herself on her own bitterness. She lived only to kill him one day. Her cruelty was what they had cultivated from her despair. Her kindness, her gentleness with others is now her own small personal insurrection. It is her way of rising above the shame and hurt he inflicted upon her for so long. It is how she faces the scars when she looks at her back in the mirror. It is how she remembers her heart still beats.
The thought of Hyuk somehow having returned to come at her again does not stir anything in her but a vicious determination. Maya gazes at the beautiful purring cat on the coffee table with her own green eyes for a long while, considering her options while the pressure from Mihai’s hands grows more urgent. I think you should stay with me. She knows the reasons for the words are practical ones but hearing them still makes her breath catch. She turns, flushed from instinctive longing for him that she makes no more effort to hide, and leans in closer. She can feel her own hand pulsing in his. Looking into those dark familiar eyes, Maya raises her free hand almost to his lips, letting her fingertips show just enough crimson to make her point. Blood magic. Something their very different tribes of people have in common. Something that makes her feel more naked with him than if she’d actually disrobed.
“I want you,” she says, her own eyes wide and hard as green flint. She pauses, trying to gather her thoughts. “I want you to teach me whatever it is I need to finish him for good.”