The Savagery of Hell by Elizabeth N. Harris

Prologue.

September 2019.

Bear stood quietly, staring at the grave. Wind whipped through his hair, ruffling it like she used to. He whispered words that were lost in the wind and stepped forward. Bear laid a bunch of pink daisies on the grave and secured them with a few stones. Ellie once loved pink daisies and often nagged him for them. She’d have been twenty-three today; it was her birthday. Instead, she lay in the ground where she’d been for ten years. A precious young life snuffed out far too early.

The pain never eased fully. He could breathe, but the pain lurked deep in his heart, waiting for days like today. Days that should have been filled with light and laughter. Birthdays, Christmas, Easter, sneaky days that waited to sneak up and stab his heart. Bear accepted long ago he’d never heal, but time patched over the deep wound.

Bear’s gaze wandered around the graveyard, wondering how many of those laid to rest had been as innocent as Ellie. His angelic little sister. Not even Chance would intrude on his time today. Hellfire understood not to poach on his precious time with Ellie. They would have come yesterday or bring gifts tomorrow. But not today; today was his.

Ellie had been dainty to his huge, lumbering size. But she’d never feared her big brother. No, it was the opposite. Ellie had adored him and followed him whenever she could. She’d been her big brother’s shadow, and Bear had loved that. He stared at the picture on her headstone, a perfect rendering of Ellie forever immortalised at thirteen. Bear’s mouth twisted as a tear ran down his cheek, and he sat on the ground and pulled her favourite book from his cut. The Ordinary Princess by M.M. Kaye. Each special trip, he read a chapter, and when he reached the end of the book, Bear started again.

Coughing to clear his throat, Bear placed a cherry coke on the grave, made a small hole in the ground, and buried a gold charm. Ellie wore her charm bracelet with a pendant for each year she’d been alive. Bear had started at birth and kept it up now. Thirteen charms in her grave and ten buried in the cold ground. This charm was a little crown to link to the book. But Ellie had been no Ordinary Princess. Ellie had been a special little princess, one who’d left a gaping hole in his life.

Bear knew Chance held a lot of guilt over Ellie’s death, but he’d forgiven his brother a long time ago. Ellie would have scolded him if he’d held a grudge; she’d loved Chance as much as she’d loved Bear. Bear allowed a few memories of Ellie’s light laughter to trickle over him and settled down to read.

When he’d finished, Bear rose to his feet and touched his fingers to his lips and placed them on the black gravestone. Bear slowly ambled away, his heart buried in the cold ground with Ellie.