Continuing Tales

One Promise Kept: Book 2

A Alice in Wonderland Story
by Manniness

Part 15 of 17

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Alice doesn’t bother to knock.

In the wake of the absolutely wretched violation of her will, she doesn’t particularly think Leif deserves to have his privacy respected.

The door bangs open and rebounds off the wall with a thunderous boom! as Alice strides over the threshold. She lifts the leather cord – careful not to touch the claw any more than she already has – and demands, “What do you think you’re DOING?

“Alice,” Leif says from the middle of the room. “Please hear me out.”

“Of course. After you TAKE THIS BACK!

He shakes his head. “I can’t do that.”

“Why won’t you?” she growls. “Do you even care that I don’t WANT THIS?

He winces. “I’m doing this for you. Please, don’t make this any harder than it already is.”

“Any harder...” she muses in stunned disbelief. “You’re coming between a husband and wife and you ask me not to make this ANY HARDER?!

Leif dares to take a step toward her and Alice’s right hand reaches for her sword... right before she remembers that she’d charged out of the apartment without bothering to arm herself. “Alice,” he murmurs. “You’re not actually married to him.”

“I beg your pardon?!”

“The Thrice a-Vow, it’s not a marriage vow.”

Through gritted teeth, Alice manages, “I. Don’t. Care.”

“You don’t have to stay with him!”

“That doesn’t mean I should be with you!” she tosses back.

Leif winces. “I’ll never hurt you, Alice.”

“Neither would he,” she rebuts, for the moment deciding not to mention either the gross injustice Leif has done her – forcing a Soul Bond upon her by offering her his First Claw in such a slithy, underhanded manner! – or Tarrant’s well-meaning mistakes. But, of the two, there’s no doubt in her mind as to which she prefers.

The lion’s golden eyes narrow. “You’re wrong. He’s dangerous, Alice. You ought to keep away from him.”

“Whether or not I do is my choice! Release me from this vow!

Leif merely shakes his mane and says one word, “No.”

Alice’s fist clenches around the leather cord until her short nails dig into her palm. “Why?”

“I already—”

“No. You haven’t. Two days ago you couldn’t stand to look at me. And now – suddenly you’ve decided to save me?

He sighs. “You don’t understand. I didn’t understand. I thought you were stubbornly throwing your life away after Dale and I had given up everything to spare it!”

Although Alice hates repeating herself, she finds that, in this situation, the words still apply: “That would have been my CHOICE!

And sometimes the people who love you should take that choice AWAY!

Alice scoffs. “Are you saying you love me, Leif?”

“I am. I do. More than anything. Please, Alice,” he beckons.

Unbelievably, Alice feels herself sway toward him. No, no! She grits her teeth and keeps herself from taking the step closer to him that something within her yearns for.

“You don’t love me. You don’t even know me.

His eyes narrow. “I think I do.”

Alice glares. “The woman you met in Shuchland was half of herself! The entire time she was there, she was thinking of home and she was thinking of her Hatter!” She studies him for any signs of weakness. Quietly, she continues, “Every time you had to repeat a question, every time you had to restate an observation, every time you had to remind me of my duties... every single time, I was thinking of him. Missing him.

Leif shakes his head. “He’s a dangerous, jealous man, Alice. What you were feeling was from the heart line—”

In a frighteningly calm tone, Alice interrupts, “How dare you tell me what I was or wasn’t feeling. I spent three years in Upland waiting to see him again! I do know my own mind, Leif!”

And finally, there’s a flicker of doubt in his expression.

“Three years, I waited for him. Three years, I did my duty to my family and my father’s memory,” she elaborates, fisting her right hand as well and fighting against the magnetic pull that urges her closer to him. “Three years, of missing the man who’d endured capture and torture for me, who’d forfeited his own life to save mine, who’d stepped up against the Jabberwocky when I’d fallen, who’d asked me to stay in Underland rather than go back to the petty, superficial torture of my old life and do you have any idea how hard it was to LEAVE HIM?!” Alice forces herself to take a deep, cleansing breath.

Into the sudden silence, Leif says with quiet compassion, “I think I do. Alice...” He moves toward her and Alice makes herself take a step back toward the corridor. “Do you have any idea how hard it is for me to know you’re with him and wonder what his jealousy and madness could do to you?”

“You underestimate me. Again,” she informs him. “I have faced Tarrant’s madness before. He has never hurt me. I won’t allow him to hurt me.”

“You shouldn’t have to face that AT ALL! NOT FROM YOUR HUSBAND!”

“I shouldn’t have to face BETRAYAL FROM MY FRIEND!”

Alice takes another step back, away from him. “You claim to know me so well – or, well enough to love me, in any case – but how can that be when you misunderstand me so easily?” She shakes her head, frustrated almost beyond words.

Leif pauses. “What have I misunderstood?”

Alice inhales deeply, opens her mouth, and... “Ahhh!

She stumbles as the unmistakable acidic burn of Tarrant’s rage bursts and burns from the Heart Mark. Her hand rises, clutches at her shirt.

Oh, dear Fates... Tarrant knows!

“Alice? Alice?! Are you all right?”

She opens her eyes and, gasping, flinches away from Leif’s paw as he reaches for her. Separating herself from him makes her entire being ache, as if she’s trying to lift a weight too heavy for her body to bear. “Do. Not. Touch me.”

Alice pulls herself up with the help of the doorjamb and knows she has very little time left. Tarrant will be here any moment and – armed or not – she doubts he’ll be satisfied with simply removing her from Leif’s presence. No, she’s relatively sure Tarrant will kill him. Or at least give it his very best effort. And in a battle of brute strength, she doesn’t doubt who is most likely to be injured... or killed.

Brangergain i’tall!” she curses, her mind working furiously.

“Alice?” Leif queries.

From the end of the hall, running footsteps echo nearer, nearer, nearer still...!

She knows she’s out of time. And the only way clear of this mess she can see is unbearable, but at least Tarrant will be alive and safe and still innocent of the crimes of which Alice has learned she herself is undeniably capable.

Tarrant’s pounding steps are closer now. She only has a few moments left.

Alice looks up at Leif, who hovers over her, and glares.

“I don’t think I’m capable of ever forgiving you for this,” she informs him.

And then, standing, Alice places herself between the man she loves and the lion she cannot allow him to confront.


He still has absolutely no idea of what he’ll say – nor has he started caring in the last two seconds since Mally had asked – when he grasps the open doorjamb with his bandaged fingers and scrambles to a halt. On his shoulder, Mally’s small body bounces with the sudden stop and she squeaks in fright.

Tarrant can’t bring himself to care at the moment. For in front of him is Alice.


His Alice.

And around her neck is Leif’s First Claw.

For a moment, he simply stares, unable – unwilling! – to understand...

It’s Mally’s gasp that assures him what he’s seeing is real. This is not a nightmare, not a daymare, not an illusion, delusion, or mirage despite the fact that it illustrates – embodies, manifests! – his greatest fear, his most insurmountable terror, his deepest and darkest horror.

“Alice?” he hears himself ask, breathless with panic, physical exertion, and disbelief. His Alice would not have acquiesced to the Soul Bond! Never!

She closes her eyes and sighs. “I’m sorry.”

Tarrant regards her warily, his chin twitching to the side and his brows drawing together. “No...”

Alice opens her eyes and repeats those two words that defeat him: “I’m sorry.”

“No, no, no, NO, NO, NO, NO!”  Tarrant directs his attention to the bastard who had done this unforgivable thing, who had stolen away his Alice's soul! Ye slurvish slurking urpal SLACKUSH SCRUM!! he screams.

HATTER!” Mally hollers in his ear.

He doesn’t heed her.

Alice can make up her OWN MIND about who she is’r isnae married teh!” he quotes the lion. “YER WORDS, YE GUTLESS, SHRIFTY, GUDDLER’S SHUKM-LICKERING—!


This voice Tarrant responds to, can’t help but respond to. He blinks and notices he’d crossed the room, stalking closer and closer to that... that... that...!


He clenches his jaw, takes a deliberate breath, wrangles the rage, and looks down into calm, brown eyes.

“Alice,” he whispers. “Don’t... I can’t... Raven, please!

She stands close enough for him to embrace. So close. So very, very close. But her hands are braced against his shoulders, holding him back. Holding him back from attacking the creature who has taken her from him. Holding him back from the creature she stands with now.

“No, no...” He shakes his head and raises his hands, reaches for her wrists. But because he’s not sure what he’ll do when he grasps her, he stops himself, his fingers twitching and curling in the open air. “Alice, choose me,” he begs around the fist in his throat, choking him more effectively than Stayne had ever done. “I must keep you, Alice. Please let me...”

He asks for the impossible, he knows. But if anyone can fight the absolute power of a Soul Bond, it is his Alice! And, for a moment, it seems as if she might, she will, she is...!

And then Alice gently pushes him away.

“I’m sorry,” she says.

Just those two hateful words. That and no more.

Tarrant feels his jaw unhinge in shock. So quickly, so easily, he’s lost her.

Numb, he allows Alice to shove him backward toward the open door, over the threshold, and into the hall.

“Look after him, Mally,” he hears Alice whisper but the words don’t make any sense. Why would Mally take care of him? Why Mally when it’s Alice who will... who has always... who he’d prefer... who he needs...?

And then Alice steps back into the room and shuts the door.

The sound echoes in the hallway until silence returns.

Silence and nothingness.

Perhaps he ought to follow Mally’s insistent urging to go and see Mirana. Perhaps he ought to go back upstairs to the apartment and hide Alice’s things. Perhaps he ought to start breathing again. Perhaps he ought to allow his heart to start beating again. Perhaps, but what would be the point?

He pulls Mally from his shoulder, sets her down on the pale, gleaming floor, and does something he most definitely ought not to do:

He goes to the hat workshop to begin the task of destroying what is left of his life.


Gasping, Alice struggles with the pain, Tarrant’s pain, the pain she’d caused him, the pain Leif had made possible with his utterly stupid, heroically short-sighted rush to save her from the man she loves.


“Not. A. Word,” she demands, tearing the leather thong from around her neck and fighting with the self-disgust and nausea she knows has nothing to do with Tarrant and everything to do with the games of deception she’s gotten so very good at playing.

For long moments, Leif simply watches her. And when Alice finally manages to stand upright on her own, he asks, “Why did you do that if you don’t intent to accept—?”

Her laughter is cruel and humorless and she feels the darkness of her own brand of madness wrap its hot tentacles around her. “Why do you think?” she grates out. “To keep him safe.”

She looks at him, finally, and she can see that he still doesn’t understand. “Do you think I want Tarrant to live with the fact that he’d killed someone – even you – in a fit of madness? Do you think I’d allow you to injure him while defending yourself? Do you think I’d tolerate you touching him?”

Leif flinches.

“And now,” Alice continues, “that we have more time to spend on our discussion, I’ll tell you exactly what’s going to happen next. I’m going to walk out that door, find Tarrant, and beg him to forgive me for hurting him. I’m going back to him and there are one of two things you can choose to do about it.” Alice takes a menacing step toward him. Her entire being bursts with joy and delight at the shortened distance between them. Despite that, she persists, “You can do the right thing and release me by accepting your First Claw back. Or, you can try to stop me and find out exactly what sorts of things I’ve learned from those mercenaries, and I’ll warn you, mercy isn’t one of them.”

The lion gapes at her. “Alice, don’t you... The Soul Bond, don’t you feel it?” he asks, clearly stunned by her continuing resistance.

Hating it, but being unable to deny the truth, Alice acknowledges, “You can take my soul and there’s nothing I can do about it. But I’m not letting you take Tarrant away from me, too.”

And, with that, Leif finally sees her. She stares into his golden eyes and watches the understanding, resignation, and acceptance dull their color. His shoulders droop as he reaches out and accepts the claw and its leather string from Alice’s offered fist.

“Champion Alice,” he begins, “I...”

“Will stay here for the time being,” Alice instructs him. “Dale still needs you.”

He opens his mouth, closes it, looks away, and says, “Is there nothing I can do to make this right?”

“Perhaps,” Alice muses. “In a few days, you might consider giving Tarrant a heartfelt apology. At the very least.” And then, considering her husband’s temper, Alice adds, “I’ll let you know if I think that’s wise.”

He nods and, gaining control of his emotions, regards her once more. “I’d go with you if I thought it would help. Despite my... error in judgment, the last thing I want to see is you hurt.”

“If you’re worried about Tarrant hurting me, then you’re wasting your time.”

Alice doesn’t stay to debate the issue. She strides toward the door, relishing the fact that she can move away from the lion without feeling the strain of separation, and steps out into the hall.


Startled, Alice glances down at a frantic-looking Mally.

“What are you doing here?! I asked you to—!”

“I know!” Mally despairs. “He wouldn’t take me with him!”

“Where’s he gone?”

“He was mumbling about some fez or other...”

Alice closes her eyes and knows precisely where he is: in the hat workshop. She tells Mally to go and find him there. “Come and find me in the alchemy library if he’s not there or it sounds as if he’s hurting himself.”

The dormouse glowers up at her. “You’re not comin’ to set this right?!”

“I am. I will. But I can’t just rush in there blindly!

“Oh, yes, you can!”

Alice raises her left hand and fists it. “I need every weapon I have for sorting this out,” she tells her. “And I still don’t know how to use this one!”

The dormouse snorts. “What’s to know? You concentrate on what you feel then send it to him along your heart line and will it into his. Easy as pilgar pie!”

Alice narrows her eyes. “Are you sure?

“Yes,” Mally says.

And when Alice waits but the dormouse says nothing further, simply holds her ground and glares back, Alice nods. “All right. Then I’ll be in the hat workshop.”

“Wait!” Mally cries as Alice straightens. “I’m coming, too!”

Alice shakes her head. “No, Mally.” And then Alice sprints for the other side of the castle. She feels an instant of faint guilt at leaving her friend behind, but the fewer witnesses to Tarrant’s madness and the darkness within him, the better. Alice doesn’t expect she’ll get out of this coming confrontation unscathed, but she’ll be damned if she lets anyone else see what Tarrant is capable of.

The very thought of what those strong hands could do to her should frighten her, should made her pause and consider her actions, formulate a plan. But taking the cautious road has never been her style. And, by the time she maps out her strategy and rediscovers her courage it might be too late.

She will not allow it to be too late for Tarrant, for her, for them.

Alice passes frog footmen and fish butlers, courtiers and guards. If they call out to her, she does not notice. Her intent is focused on one place, one man. And when she arrives at her destination, winded from racing up the stairs, she pauses at the door and listens to the ruckus coming from within.

Tarrant is lost within the madness. The persistent burning emanating from the Heart Mark confirms it.

Alice takes a deep breath and reaches for the latch.

And, seeing her heart line, she pauses.

She presses her right hand over the Heart Mark, Tarrant’s mark. Krystoval had told her that she already knows the meaning of both this shape and the one marking Tarrant’s chest, caging his heart in her blood, but she thinks she understands far more than that now. In fact, she can no longer deny that she does understand it. The knowing comes from somewhere within her as if it has wrapped around her bones and drifted into her blood; she understands the Thrice a-Vow inexplicably, totally.

She remembers thinking Krystoval’s flower had been the very best gift she’d ever received, but now, looking at Tarrant’s heart line, sensing – knowing – what it truly means, she realizes she’d been wrong. Very wrong.

This mark... this evidence of absolute trust... this is the most precious of gifts.

Tarrant had, quite literally, given his heart into her keeping.

And she holds it in the palm of her hand.

Please do not let me break it, she begs of the Fates, of the gods, of the magic of Underland, of whatever power may be listening.

And then she opens the door.

She gasps at the utter, complete, and total ruin of the room: benches have been overturned; scattered bolts fabric lie torn and twisted; buttons, ribbons, and sewing implements litter the floor...

Tarrant leans over a table that had been carefully arranged with the hats he’d prepared for the celebration on the morrow and, with a reckless swipe of his arm, sends them flying across the room.

Knowing further hesitation will merely delay the inevitable, Alice steps forward and says his name.

He freezes and glares at the bare tabletop before him, his expression twitching with confusion, uncertainty, and something so frightening Alice very nearly makes for the door.

But no. No, she will not. Leave. Him. Again.

No matter what.

“Alice?” he growls, a terrifyingly toothy grin revealing itself from between his dark lips. Once again, his eyes are shadowed by the sooty hue that comes with deep madness.

“I’m here,” she replies, closing the door and moving forward. He doesn’t move, doesn’t twitch a muscle, as she approaches. Her instincts scream at her to keep the bare table between them, but in the end she can’t bring herself to force even that minuscule distance upon him. Stopping beside him, she places a hand on his arm and waits.

His gaze flickers briefly in her direction, too fast for her to catch the exact color of his eyes.

“Where is it?” he demands in a gruff, deep tone.

She shivers at the voice of this madness. This is a side of him she’s never seen or heard before. And it scares her.

“Where is what?” she asks, her voice barely a whisper of breath from a dry mouth and a tense throat.

His nostrils flare and Alice imagines he’s catching the scent of her fear...

His manic grin twitches and then...

... and then!

Alice gasps as she’s thrown bodily onto the bare tabletop. Her arms windmill for a moment before her palms connect with the wood behind her. Tarrant grasps her knees, pulls them wide, steps between them then reaches up to her tunic and tears the neckline open.

“Where is it?” he repeats on a snarl and looks into her eyes.

Alice can only stare at his irises – not red, not violet, but a frightening mix of both: magenta.

Sensing a single whisper, a single motion will result in something unavoidably disastrous, Alice remains perfectly still. Tarrant smiles again and lowers his nose to her throat. Snuffling, he works his way downward to the space just between her breasts.

“I smell it on you,” he rasps. “Where is it?”

Heart pounding, Alice searches for her voice. It evades her.

“Have you hidden it? Hidden that piece of him? Or has he marked you?” Tarrant leans back just enough to look into her eyes and inform her, “I’ve marked you. Marked you first. You’re mine, Alice. He won’t have you until I’m done with you.” He leans closer, closer until Alice can feel his chest pressing against hers. His teeth nip at her ear. He warns her, “I’m not done with you yet.”

She bites her lip to keep the shiver under control. It doesn’t work. He undoubtedly feels it as he’s pressed so tightly against her. He chuckles.

“You shouldn’t have come here, Alice,” he informs her in that deep tone, each word perfectly and properly enunciated. Alice does her best not to panic at the sound of those non-lisped, non-Outlandish-ized words. Who are you? she wants to ask, but doesn’t.

She knows who this is. This is Tarrant. Her husband. Pushed beyond all reason and even madness. She wishes she could feel relieved at finally meeting his Darkness face-to-face.

“Do you know why you should have stayed away?” he muses aloud.

Mute, she shakes her head.

His magenta eyes focus on her throat, on her pulse which must be shuddering wildly beneath her skin. He glances up at her through his brows. “Then I’ll show you...”

Oh, dear—!

Her silent plea remains unvoiced and incompletely conceived. Tarrant reaffirms his grip behind her knees and drags her toward him. His hips – still clothed – fit against her pelvis and Alice experiences a sudden and all-encompassing flash of heat at the feel of him, so hard against her softness. She has no delusions as to how the next few seconds might very well have played out had she been wearing naught but a skirt and flimsy underthings.

The idea nearly makes her eyes roll back in her head. The fear and uncertainty and his power and her need and his aggression and her want are a heady mixture in her mind, in her blood.

Yes...” she tells him. Yes, anything you want. Yes, everything I want. Even though it terrifies her. Yes, she tells him, accepts him: “Tarrant...

His mouth and hands are suddenly – roughly – moving over her: her neck, her breasts, her back, her hips, her thighs. She gasps at his strength. He has never been so dominating, so utterly intoxicating... She’d treasured his gentle-and-hesitant then frantic-and-impassioned lovemaking, but this... this... she has craved for far too long.

She has craved this ever since he’d pinned her down on the croquet pitch with his body and she’d wrapped her legs around his torso and had tried to compress his ribs painfully enough to force his surrender.

She has needed this from the moment he’d held her down in this very room when she’d dared to attempt an attack on him with a ridiculously inadequate cheese knife.

She has dreamed of this since that first glimpse of violet in his eyes after she’d administered ointment to his bruised side under the boughs of the trees beside the pitch.

She has wanted this after he’d knocked the fighting staff from her hands and had spun her around, trapping her against his chest, then had dared her to fight back.

She has desired this ever since he’d silently watched her drink that thrice-damned Jabberwocky blood instead of grabbing the vial from her hand then shaking her soundly before pulling her into his arms and forcing her lips open with his own and claiming her mouth!

No, that moment of possession – of ownership – hadn’t happened then.

It is happening now.

“Mine,” he growls against her Heart Mark, his teeth scraping over her breast.

Alice wraps her legs around his waist and pulls him closer.

Yours...” she agrees, her fingers curling against the table’s surface. She commands herself not to reach for him.

“I can do anything I want with you,” he murmurs darkly.

Alice opens her eyes and shivers at the look he gives her: that unsettlingly aggressive magenta stare through his brows.

“And you’ll let me, won’t you, my Alice?”

She nods.

“If I wanted you on your hands and knees on the croquet pitch...” he purrs.

Alice gasps her agreement.

“If I wanted you spread open for me over the queen’s throne with her courtiers looking on...”


“If I wanted you to crawl to me before opening your mouth and closing your soft lips around me–” He thrusts himself against the cradle of her hips and she cannot possibly misunderstand his meaning.

“I would,” she agrees, helplessly. “I would.

He grins. “I believe you.” His gaze rakes down her hungrily. “However, just at the moment, I’ve something else in mind.”

Alice isn’t sure how much more of this she can take – the fear, the desire, the unbelievable volatile heat-violence-virility of him – before she breaks.

“Yes,” she agrees blindly.

Tarrant raises his palm and gently cups her cheek. “Good girl, Alice. It’s best to accept these things, for no amount of protestations will stop me from having you however I like.”

She closes her eyes and leans into his hand, knowing what she’s doing is dangerous. She’s participating in the Darkness – welcoming it, prolonging it – instead of calling him back into the light, but she can’t stop herself. “Then take what you want,” she whispers, opening her eyes and giving in to him.

A flash of a smile is all she sees before his mouth is on her neck, biting and sucking the flesh with uncompromising hunger. She feels his hands on her, one on the small of her back, pressing, arcing her toward him and the other opening one thigh wider. Then, in a flurry of effort, he pulls her to the very edge of the table, raises her knees up, unbalances her so that she has to lean back on her elbows, helpless and open. He kneels between her thighs and with another of those meltingly intense gazes, opens his mouth and scrapes his teeth over her fabric-clad crotch.

Ahhh!” She spares a brief thought for passersby and the unlocked door... and that just so happens to be the last thought she is capable of sparing for some time.

His hands splay open over the junctures of her thighs and pelvis and she braces her feet on his shoulders, offering herself to his will. His thumbs press against her center and she can feel him just there. Just barely inside her – and he would have been if not for these damn trousers! – and it makes her mindless with need.

Please, please, please, please...” she begs. The litany trips off her tongue as necessary as her next breath. She surrenders over and over again with each rough swipe of his teeth over the fabric, with every wave of vibrations that tease and torment her and every hot breath she imagines she feels against her core.

Time stops, she’s sure. But no, Tarrant had. When no further stimulation is forthcoming, she opens her eyes and, panting, looks down the length of her body at him. Those striking eyes are watching her expression as he opens his mouth. His tongue appears and she stares as he applies it directly to the cloth over her most sensitive place.

He licks, breathes, bites, scrapes, nuzzles, and sucks viciously.

She comes.

She hears herself scream his name, feels her entire body flame, gives in to the white-star-studded blackness that erupts behind her closed eyelids. The pounding of her heart swallows her whole and some innumerable breaths later, Alice realizes that Tarrant has... stopped.

With the exception of her own panting exhalations and the ticking of the clock, the room is very, very silent.

“Tarrant?” she asks, dazed.

“A... Alice?”

She smiles at the sound of the familiar lisp. Forcing her rubbery limbs to obey, she sits up. Still kneeling, Tarrant’s expression oscillates between confusion, apprehension, and terror. She reaches for him, urging him to stand and then she leans her forehead against his shoulder and wraps her arms around his trembling body.

“Did I...? Did I...? Alice?”

“Hmmm...” she manages. “I’m considering things that begin with the letter M,” she muses against his jacket. “Marvelous. Magnificent. Monumental.” She rubs herself against the bulge still straining against his trouser front.

He gasps. “I don’t... understand. I... You are...”

Before Alice can attempt a reassuring response, he steps back and grasps Alice’s upper arms. “Alice? Are you really here?”

“Yes.” She presses her hand against his cheek and his eyes – now green – drift nearly closed in relief.

“I think I dreamed you here, but it was a nightmare because of the things I said and I did and I wanted so very badly to do such very bad things to you, but it wasn’t me, couldn’t be me because I would never want to do those sorts of things to you, to make you hurt and make you feel afraid of me... I don’t want you to be afraid of me, Alice.”

Again, she opens her mouth to reply but he rushes on.

“I couldn’t bear it if you were afraid of me! Please don’t be afraid. I’ll never think those things again. I promise, I swear, I vow, I... I...” He leans his forehead against her shoulder and shudders. “I need you to choose me, Alice. I shouldn’t ask you, but will you? Will you choose me? I don’t deserve it – I’ve hurt you in so many ways. Too many promises. No more promises! And madness, I gave you to the madness and you didn’t know me and I think dying would be easier than to see you look at me and yet not know me! And I need you, Alice, please!

Tarrant leans back, the mercury-stained skin surrounding his eyes glistening like bloody scrapes beneath his messy tears.

“Choose me, not him.

Before he can start again, Alice captures his jaw in her hands and brushes her thumbs over his lips. “I do. I choose you. I choose you, Tarrant Hightopp. My Hatter. My Mad Hatter. I choose you.”

A tremulous smile twitches his lips. His eyes, full of equal measures of anxiety and hope, mesmerize her. “Did you... Are you... The First Claw? Alice? Was that a nightmare, too?”

She shakes her head and puts his mind at ease, “I convinced him to release me. I’m yours now. Just yours.”

Ngh!” Tarrant wraps his arms around her and buries his face in her neck. Alice returns the unbreakable embrace and listens to his laughing sobs of relief. But long minutes later, when he lifts his head, he regards her with a worried expression.



“Someday, not today, but someday, I might ask you... might... might ask... about the Blackness and if it... if I frightened you... but I...”

Alice combs her fingers through his shoulder-length hair. She replies, “And someday, I’ll tell you that it frightened me in the most spectacularly thrilling way. And I’ll cherish the memory of it forever.”

And with that, she focuses on everything she feels for this passionate, caring, scarred, devoted madman. She thinks of their past and their future. She thinks of their passion and their friendship. She thinks of time spent in his arms and at his side with her knee pressed against his beneath a table set for afternoon tea. She thinks of everything they have been, everything they are, and everything they could be together...

And, consciously using the heart line for the first time, she then wills all that she feels along the twisting blue mark from her heart and into his.

This time, when Tarrant gasps, chokes on a sob, and clutches her tighter, she knows it’s not in response to crushing fear or overwhelming relief, but in total surrender. For now, there is no dark corner of his mind Alice has not seen.

And she has never loved him more.

One Promise Kept: Book 2

A Alice in Wonderland Story
by Manniness

Part 15 of 17

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