Tainted Saint, Chapter Eighty-OneMature

Cassandra was still weeping when Amadeo won the stare-down against Hadrian. She was still convulsing with tears when Amadeo knelt beside her and gently placed his hand on her shoulder.

"Cassandra."

She did not respond, only jerked away from Amadeo's touch. Her hair was mussed, her clothes were torn, and her eyes were closed tightly.

"Cassandra," Amadeo whispered, and it was then that he cried, too. He reached out and softly pulled Cassandra to him. At first, she resisted, but when she allowed herself to be embraced, Amadeo held her even more closely and whispered into her ear. "I'm not leaving you. I'm here to stay - I promise."

"And what if I keep running?" Cassandra whispered back, tears threatening to obscure her words.

"I'll keep pursuing you. Relentlessly. You're not getting rid of me so easily, you know." Amadeo tried to smile, but the pain in his heart was still so great that he closed his eyes. His fever had not broken; he was still sick from whatever it was that Cassandra had brought to the palace.

As though sensing Amadeo's thoughts, Cassandra pulled away. "You're getting sick, too," she sniffed, wiping her nose on her sleeve.

"Don't worry about me, Love."

"No, I will worry about you. You're getting the disease I have." Cassandra's voice rose. "I've infected you!"

Amadeo was about to speak, but Cassandra was not about to listen.

"I keep destroying you, Amadeo! I shred your love and refuse your care. I mock who you are and claim that I'm only pretending to love you. I reject your continual gifts, and as if all that isn't enough, I'm giving you my sickness, too! You don't want me around, Amadeo - I swear, you don't!"

Knowing that Cassandra's outburst was over, Amadeo caught her arm and held her. "Cass," he said, his voice low with passion for and belief in what he was saying. "I knew what I was getting into, when I chose you."

The End

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