Adele exploded through the doors of the church, on fire with her fury. "Michael!” she screamed as she raced down the aisle.
Michael and Brenda both emerged from the confessional. Good, thought Adele. She could kill two birds with one stone.
“Addie, what's wrong?” Michael asked, and his concern made her sick. How could he pretend to be her friend all these years? She had trusted him… she had loved him… how could he have betrayed her so?
She bolted toward him, fists flying. "You son of a bitch!” she screamed as she swung at him.
Michael was so shocked he stood and absorbed her wrath wordlessly; it was Brenda who came immediately to tear them apart, holding Adele in her arms.
“Adele, what is wrong with you?” Brenda scolded, in shock herself. Violent episodes were not uncommon, but Adele had never attacked Michael. Ever.
“Why don't you ask him?” Adele cried out, struggling in her mother's firm grip. "How could you betray us this way? How could you, Michael?”
Michael was shocked. "I don't know what you're talking about,” he insisted.
“You told Isabel about my mother. How she was raped...how I was born!” Adele dissolved into angry sobs as she slid to the floor. She'd never spoken the words before and they had more power than she'd ever dreamed.
Michael fell into a chair under their weight and crossed himself, looking on helplessly as Brenda rocked Adele back and forth like a baby.
It reminded Brenda of the night when she'd finally confessed the truth to Adele. Adele had been fifteen, full of endless questions about her father that Brenda could not bring herself to answer. She'd tried her whole life to suppress that memory, that same horrifying memory she couldn't even bring herself to remember now. But she had told Adele what she could and Adele was never the same afterward.
That night Brenda found her in her room, bleeding from her wrists and unconscious. Adele was admitted to the hospital, then to a psychiatric unit, for months afterward. When Adele was finally released she was subdued, withdrawn, resolute. She would never date. She would never marry. She would never have children. In her mind she was contaminated and worthless. The product of a violation so vile Brenda could not even tell her the details.
She didn't then, she hadn't now. She knew Adele could not bear the truth.
And right now, Adele couldn't even bear being near the man who traded her dreaded past with a stranger. She pulled herself from her mother's grasp and charged from the church, running as always from who she was.
Who was left if she couldn't trust Michael? Although in truth she never trusted even Michael with her secret. No one knew. No one but Brenda and her alone.
But suddenly Adele knew exactly what Brenda had been repenting for all these years. For bringing the child of a monster into the world. Again, Adele wondered why her mother hadn't just had an abortion and be done with it.
That would have been so much easier, wouldn't it, she thought frantically. But Brenda had never punished her child for being born evil. In fact, Brenda almost acted blessed and thankful for Adele every moment Adele could remember.
She didn't understand it. Until she fell in love with the product of incest when she met and ultimately saved Danielle Spaulding.
Adele had fought to give Dani the kind of mother who didn't beat her because she was a constant reminder of her father's heinous act. She fought to correct the years of abuse her mother had inflicted on Dani, using her as a tool to bribe the old bastard for every dime he had so she could feed her addiction.
Truth be told Adam wasn't even her full blood brother, but instead a product of her mother's penchant for prostitution.
When Adele met Dani she was angry and lashing out at everyone, distrustful of everyone. Child protective services stepped in when Adam had been born addicted to drugs, but what they discovered was mortifying. Dani's mother had begun dressing Dani up to go into the family business for one of her clients with a perverse fetish.
It had started as a story and ended as a mission. Adele would die before she saw Dani go back to that crazy woman. She'd won awards for her expose on child abuse but ultimately lost her battle in court.
Child Protective Services decided Adele was too unfit to be a mother. She'd begged for a hysterectomy when she was only fifteen, they argued. She was a loner who wasn't even in a stable relationship. She had too many ailments, been diagnosed too many times with serious mental illnesses like schizophrenia. She was too unstable, they insisted, finally bringing out her stint in the hospital after her failed suicide attempt as proof.
She had screamed at them and ended up being drug from the court by a bailiff, crying out that they damned Dani to the same fate if they took away the one person she'd grown to trust. But inevitably she proved their point and the case was closed.
Tears filled her eyes as she remembered how angry Dani grew when she was denied the one person in her life who showed her love didn't have to hurt. She wanted to keep fighting. Michael wanted to keep fighting. Adele was just further convinced that she was a tragedy of nature who had no real purpose in life.
Nothing except for her career, where she tackled every injustice with ferocious passion. She could not be stopped. She may never mother a child, but she could seek the truth.
And that's what she did.
In the meantime she gave Dani all the love a mother would. She was there for her. No matter what.
The courts may have laid down the law they couldn't legally be a family but there wasn't one damn thing they could do to make Adele love that girl any less. It lived and breathed in her like a second heart.
Even when her instinct took over her consciousness, and she walked straight to where Dani was being fed on by a creature Adele had yet to expose. She thought she'd been dreaming. In truth her mind just fooled her in order to switch the control from the cynical fact finder to a mother intuitively going where her child needed her.
As Adele approached Dani in the hospital bed, she was so grateful she'd found her in time.
Dani was full of smiles to see her, although her mouth immediately set in a frown as she saw the expression on Adele's face. She'd been crying just as hard as she cried when the courts told them they'd never be a family.
“What's wrong?” Dani asked as Adele set a huge pink teddy bear in her bed.
“Nothing, sweetie,” Adele denied, not looking the girl in the eye. They couldn't lie to each other.
They loved each other too much. "Just worried about you.”
“I'll be okay,” Dani asserted, hugging her teddy bear tight. It was a special bear.
Adele sat and leaned over to put her elbows on the bed. "You want to tell me what happened?”
Dani shook her head, expression slipped from her face.
“It could help,” Adele said. "So it doesn't happen to anyone else.” Dani looked at Adele, so Adele argued her case harder. "If you could tell us who it was that attacked you, we could catch him.”
“It wasn't a who,” Dani whispered.
Adele sat up straight, taken aback. "What?”
At that moment the hospital door opened and Michael entered. Adele shot to her feet, unable to look at him. Even his voice made her skin crawl.
“Hey kiddo,” was his sunny greeting to Dani. Then, more subdued, "Hey, Addie.”
She just nodded and averted her eyes. She patted Dani on the hand and deliberately ignored the questioning look in her eyes. "We'll talk about it later.” Then she bent closer to kiss her cheek. She whispered in her ear, "You can trust me with your secret, Dani.”
Dani looked unsure as she watched Adele disappear without a backward glance or even a word to Michael.
Adele was restless as she returned to work. More wolf carcasses had been found, but it seemed so unimportant in the whole scheme of things. More allegations were made that Nicholas Sterling was somehow responsible, so it came as no surprise that he was fielding all his calls. She'd left several messages only to be told he was unavailable.
How could she tell the receptionist it wasn't about the stupid wolves? It was about her being alone in the world and needing to cling to this enigmatic stranger who had walked into her life and captured her heart in a way no one ever before had... seemingly when she would need him the most.
Tears hovered behind her eyelids. That wasn't entirely true. One man had always been there for her, though all her horrid past and all the ups and downs. Adele realized, for all her claims otherwise, she had been a woman of faith. It wasn't faith like her mother, in a God or a savior – but in a man, flesh and blood who had pledged his heart and soul to her in every way since the day they met in grade school.
All her life she had faith that Michael would never, ever let her down.
Now that faith had been shattered. Another illusion destroyed in her quest for the truth. Maybe everyone else had the right idea. Maybe it was best to cling to the fairy tales. Reality hurt way too much.
She had held onto truth and ended up alone, with absolutely no one she could count on.
It never dawned on her how much she depended on Michael to be there for her. Perhaps selfishly so. She wasn't blind to the fact he'd been in love with her for years. She would have fallen hard for him and reciprocated had she not realized who and what she truly was.
She was more than an unwanted pregnancy. She was a walking, talking product of evil, and she knew it. How could she tie Michael down to that? Especially when she decided there was no way she'd let her mother's rapist find immortality through her loins. She couldn't bear Michael children. She couldn't ask him to stay by her side her whole life as her psychosis ripped what was left of her soul to shreds. All she could do was love him enough to let him go.
Only she had been unable to do that. She couldn't imagine a life without him. He's the one who made everything make sense. He was levelheaded, he was unflappable. And no matter how much she tried to push him away, he never went anywhere.
When he joined the priesthood Adele was secretly glad. Though she couldn't love him the way he wanted, she didn't know if she could bear his loving anyone else. When he became a priest she knew he would be hers forever.
Little did she know he would reveal her greatest shame and betray her in the cruelest possible way possible.
It just didn't make sense. Why would he do that? She had no idea he even knew, God knew she wasn't going to tell anyone. Brenda must have told him in one of her confessions.
Was he angry she never trusted him with the truth? And how could she ever explain it to him that it wasn't that she didn't trust him, she just could never bring herself to say the words? Where is the right place in a conversation to casually mention that the only reason you existed was because some monstrosity of a human being violated her mother? And in such a way it had sequestered her mother into the sanctity of her four walls, unable to face the world, sentenced to her own self-imposed solitary confinement? It was so vile that Brenda could never even talk about it in all the years Adele had begged to know the truth.
But apparently she only had that problem with Adele. With Michael she spilled the beans and he had taken their secret and made it common knowledge to the community of kooks that called Old Darlington their home.
Adele was so angry she didn't answer either of their calls. She kept herself busy doing anything she could until night fell. She didn't want to go home. She didn't want to face anyone. She ordered delivery and sat alone in her quiet, darkened office, trying not to think.
Around midnight she finally decided to make the short trek home. The wind shrieked down the street as shadows brought the darkness of night into every corner and crevice of the sleeping city.
Wolves howled from their place in the forest. Everything seemed routine.
Everything except the hushed voices that contained themselves in the wind. A chorus of excited voices whispered all around her, saying something she could not understand. Her pace quickened.
Thankfully she wasn't that far away from her apartment.
As she rounded a block she could distinctly make out one sound louder than the other. It sounded like a child crying. Adele pulled her jacket closer around her and entered the darkened alley.
There at the far end was a little girl. She sat with her arms around her knees, her straggly hair cascading down her scruffy knees. She was barefoot, in a slip of a dress. Adele immediately assessed the girl was homeless. And she also realized this child was in grave danger. Darlington was no place for an unsupervised child in the dead of night.
Cautiously Adele made her approach. "Hello? Are you all right?”
A wail rose from the tiny child. She was so pale she was luminous in the low light. Dirt was caked on her skin.
“What are you doing here?” asked Adele as she came to kneel right in front of the girl. "You shouldn't be out here all alone.”
Adele noticed something out of the corner of her eye. Someone was nearby. It was an old man, laying out flat on the ground. Most probably a vagrant. Adele drew closer to discover that blood poured from his neck, a sizable chunk missing.
Behind her the wail of the child rose louder until Adele realized it wasn't a wail at all. It was laughter. The child was laughing.
Adele spun around to see the girl on her feet, her eyes glowing yellow as she stared hungrily at Adele. It was Lily, only her once sweet smile distorted with two large bloody fangs. Adele could almost see the old man's blood filling through Lily's empty veins, as though her skin was translucent. Each vein throbbed as it pumped dark red fluid to all the dead organs and blue tissue filling it with life.
Adele stumbled backward as the child advanced. With a screech the child flew straight at Adele with fangs bared. Right as Adele hit the ground and the Lily was poised to bite into her neck, Lily was wrenched backward, flung up high against a brick wall with a cry of pain.
Adele watched from the ground as the child hissed angrily and scurried across the face of the building like a spider, disappearing quickly out of sight.
The voices grew louder. More distinct. "Natasha,” she could now understand them to say. They repeated it and it grew from a low hum to a dull roar in her ears.
Adele scrambled to her feet as the wind that died down instantly. The voices grew louder, more distinct. "Natasha.”
She spun around looking in all directions. There was no one there. Hysterical sobs rose in her throat. Maybe it was just another nightmare, she thought to herself frantically. She closed her eyes tight and counted to ten, willing herself to wake up.
But it was useless. In the darkened alley she remained where voices taunted her from the shadows.
It was more than she could stand. "What do you want from me?” she cried.
An evil peal of laughter rose in the night. It seemed to come from all around her. She reached deep into her bag to grasp her pepper spray. She let her rage take her where her fear wouldn't. "Show your face, you coward!” she demanded.
The laughter stopped. The voices stopped. Her heart stopped.
Out of the shadows came a tall, thin figure, cloaked in black. Her hand shook as she aimed her pepper spray as the figure approached. It stopped a mere foot in front of her. The smell of decay assaulted her senses.
An overhead light cracked and popped, shining light on the face of the creature before her. A gaunt face, as old as the sun, and eyes that burned as bright.
Her pepper spray clattered to the ground. The creature reached out a bony hand with long sharp nails. An inhuman hand grasped her own, it felt stiff, like a corpse. The unnaturally smooth fingers made Adele's skin crawl as she snatched her hand away. One of the nails cut deep into her skin, like a knife piercing her flesh, drawing blood.
With a hellish grin the creature brought his claw to what should have been his lips, where two long fangs protruded. A snake-like tongue slithered along the fingernail and drops of her blood stained his mouth.
Adele wilted to the ground, her whole world faded to blissful black.