Subscriber Bonus Chapter
I know what it feels like to die.
To have the alveolus in my lungs fill with water instead of air. It burns like acid as the body fights the intrusion with everything it has.
I know what it’s like to see my best moments flash before my eyes, followed by my greatest regret. The deep pain of realizing I’ll never make things right, or keep the promises I sent into the universe. I can list over a dozen things I would have done differently if given the opportunity and they all begin with Wendy Darling.
I remember thinking, in my last moments of life, that I would give anything for a do over. I wished and prayed and hoped that something, somewhere in the cosmos would hear my plea.
Something heard me.
A monster I thought only existed in tales meant to scare children.
Maybe I had already died, or maybe I was a heartbeat away from my strand of life being cut when he found me. The Creature cloaked in shadow, darkness flowing off his coat like arms reaching for secrets in the night.
I remember sucking in a breath of air. It was the lightest breath I’d ever taken. I didn't cough and spit the water that had filled my lungs. Something had cleared them for me before I even opened my eyes.
I think I knew the moment I looked at the Shadow Man that I was doomed before I opened my mouth. It was an instinctual feeling, the last one I ever had, a warning that there was still a chance to undo what had been done.
But I also know that if I did I would die, and I wasn’t ready to give up my life.
Without knowing what I agreed to, I gave myself to the Shadow Man, bound to guard the souls that weren’t ready to cross over. The ones that needed time to process what was to come next. A day or two at the most because the longer they stayed in between the harder it was to transition.
What I got in return was Neverland and a taste of the Shadow Man’s magic. If I could make Wendy Darling fall in love with me, to the point that her soul could save mine, we would be free. We could choose to start a new life together in the next world or stay forever in mine.
I didn’t know that everyone who died with us would be bound to Neverland. I didn’t know my brother, her husband, would be a factor in the equation or that my nephews would move on without us. I didn’t know that there were other creatures who could wield magic, that would ruin everything.
Wendy nearly died two days after I struck a deal with the shadow man. I knew I couldn’t go back to him. I didn’t even know how to find him again, so I did something worse.
I found the monsters that hurt her and struck another deal, one I thought I was getting the upper hand on because it was the same as the first. With a twist.
I wish I had known what was to come, because every day I lived without Wendy hurt as bad as dying. The physical pain of waking up with the same burn in my veins, the crushing feeling of not being able to catch a breath, the struggle to move my limbs was all consuming every day that my heart beat.
Losing my shadow to the fae was a blessing, not a curse, because they didn’t just take the dark creature’s gift of magic, they took the pain of his curse too.
But all of that is nothing compared to the searing pain that shot through me while I stared up at the cloudless sky, reliving every bad decision I’ve made with Wednesday. I knew pushing her off Neverpeek was a risk, but I was willing to take it because acceptance comes in stages. Once she understood who she was, we could be together. Her soul is drawn to mine, that much I’m sure of. The magic binding the island weakens the closer she comes to falling in love with me.
And it’s that same magic filling me with fear.
I push off the ground and soar into the sky. The pain in my chest, head, bones only grows stronger. I fly higher, above the point anyone can see me and drift over the beach. My shadow seeps out of me like ink in water. I cry out, the sensation worse than death itself and fly in a different direction.
I near the other side of Neverpeek, closing in on the cove. My skin absorbs darkness that surrounds me like a mist and I can take a breath again. I realize my shadow is guiding me, pulling me toward Wednesday with fevered demand. Every mile I cross the pain in my veins lessons until I’m standing at the threshold of a crappy saloon.
I haven’t been on this side of the island since Wendy died. The falling out between James and I was too great. We needed a physical barrier between us and haven’t tried to bridge the gap since.
Being here could start a war, but I’d burn down the world for her.
Shadow’s fury burns like fire in my lungs. It’s good to feel him again, even if it means the wedge I’ve created between Wednesday and me is deep. He’s tied to the land in more ways than I could ever be. He’s my greatest ally.
I step through the doors, wood floors creaking under my worn boots. My eyes find Wednesday, they’re drawn to her the moment my soul realizes it’s near its mate again. I run to her and catch her as her legs give out.
“Help me,” she whispers, and then she’s out, her lifeless body in my arms, her head lax, falling backwards, her limbs limp.
“What happened?” I seethe. Rage pulsates off me in waves that rock the room. My vision tunnels. My arms shake.
I have too many questions, but it’s not my voice that rings out next. Hundreds of living years have passed, but for us it’s only been days. Days stuck in a never ending time warp, with no rhyme or reason. And hearing my brother’s voice still strikes a nerve.
“I see you’ve met my date.”