Forged by Fire Chapters 1-3

August 1, 2019     admin     Snippet

Hey Guys. If you’re in my Facebook group then you know I promised chapters 1-3 as a thank you for your patience so without further ado, I hope you enjoy.

 

ONE

 

If you had trouble of the magic variety, you had two options. One, you could call the Human and Paranormal Enforcement Division, also known as the HPED. The first problem with this was that in order to call the HPED, you needed to be human. They didn’t work for paranormals no matter how low on the food chain you might be. And if you were human but the job wasn’t entirely human-related, as soon as they got a whiff of supernatural, they were out.

Sure, if someone broke into your house, they were happy to assist. But if that someone was a vampire ex-boyfriend with boundary issues, you were on your own.

The second problem you’d face when calling the HPED was that your issue needed to be small enough that they felt comfortable handling it. The HPED prided themselves in being competent, so they would never outright say a job was out of their league. They would, however, tell you their case log was a mile long and unfortunately, they wouldn’t be able to assist in a timely manner.

If you were lucky, they referred you to a mercenary like me. If you were unlucky, they just hung up.

The HPED didn’t deal with murder or brutal assaults. They didn’t take jobs that actively put their lives in danger. And to be honest, I couldn’t blame them. They weren’t paid enough and unfortunately for them, tax dollars were a thing of the past.

Members of the HPED were paid by the job and upon completion. If it looked like an investigation would take several weeks—let alone months— they probably were going to pass when they could find a simple fender bender they could wrap up in an afternoon.

Option two was calling a mercenary like me in the first place. It’s like that children’s cartoon saying: “No job’s too big. No mercenary’s too small.” I’m pretty sure it had something to do with pups but this version worked for me so I rolled with it.

I wasn’t the only merc in town, but I was one of the best, and I didn’t charge an arm and a leg if I knew the client couldn’t afford it.

There was a time when I would have, but all that changed when a boy was murdered in my city and it was like a switch went off inside of me. Couple that with my boss-slash-surrogate-father being murdered and me inheriting his business and we’ll just say my priorities changed.

It could also have had something to do with being mate-bound to Declan Valkenaar—Alpha to the Pacific Northwest Pack—but I tried not to give him credit when I didn’t have to. It would just go to his head.

So with all that said, why the hell was I covered in sweat in an abandoned warehouse when I could have been sitting in my new shiny office or out in the streets taking down baddies?

I glared at the handsome asshole across the room. He smiled and blew me a kiss. Before I could respond, I was forced to jump over the table or risk getting run over by it.

I landed in a crouch as it sailed past me before slamming into the metal wall leaving a dent. What the hell had I gotten myself into?

Another object — this time a metal folding chair — zipped through the air, aiming for my face. “Motherfuc—”

My feet pounded through the warehouse as I sprinted through the wide-open space, zipping past more flying furniture in my haste to get away.

Chair, end table, lamp — They were all out to get me.

Think, Aria. Think.

Easier said than done. You try coming up with a plan when a full warehouse worth of furnishings is trying to kick your ass.

Soft afternoon light filtered in through the dirt-coated windows, lighting the space and illuminating Dia’s annoyed frown. What the hell did she have to be upset about? She wasn’t the one being pelted.

“Stop thinking like a merc and think like a psyker!” she shouted.

Easy for her to say. I flipped her the bird. Jerk.

A smile spread across her face. Oh, when I was done with this—

Chest heaving, I rounded a pillar and ran smack into a coffee table, falling to my knees.

Jumping to my feet automatically, I kicked the table in the center with my steel-toed boots. It split so I kicked it again, this time breaking it in half.

“Take that!” Stupid table. The karate kid in me jumped for joy.

“You can’t win by killing the furniture.” Jason Hoang’s voice rang through the open space.

I shifted my gaze and spied him across the room. He was leaning against a brick pillar with a bored expression on his face.

I wanted to punch him. What the hell kind of training exercise was this supposed to be anyway?

An idea formed in my mind and before I could second guess it, I launched to my feet and sprinted in his direction.

Jason’s dark brown, almond-shaped eyes narrowed. Of Korean and Chinese descent, Jason had dark brown hair that was shaved on the sides and longer on top. Today he wore ripped jeans and a quarter-sleeve, v-neck white shirt. If I didn’t know better, I’d be fooled into believing Jason was the boy next door type. But let me tell you — he was far from it and I sure as hell knew better.

He was the telekinetic mind behind the attacking furniture. Disable him and I’d disable the furniture. Sounded like a solid plan to me so I was going with it.

“What do you think you’re doing?”

Oh, wouldn’t he like to know.

I smirked and continued my forward charge.

I was five feet away now and closing in when all of a sudden, an invisible wall formed between us.

I ran headfirst into it and bounced back, falling on my ass.

“Shit.” I spit blood and glowered up at him.

“You can’t beat every opponent with brute force. You’re not a shifter.” He flicked his gaze toward Declan, who had so far been a quiet observer. The silent asshole. He was the reason I was here, training.

I threw my hands in the air. “What do you want from me? I’m trying here.”

Dia stomped over and helped me to my feet before giving me a small shove in the shoulder. “You’re not trying. You’re a telekinetic. Use it.”

I shook my head. They didn’t know what they were asking. “I fight better with my pyrokinetic powers —”

“Too bad. You’re never going to take down your mother if you don’t figure out how to master both and use them in conjunction with one another. And stop fighting like a street fighter. Look at you.” Jason waved a hand in my direction. “You’re covered in sweat, breathing heavy, and look like a strong wind could topple you over.” He shook his head and then turned to Declan. “Has no one been working with her?”

Declan’s emerald green eyes narrowed. “What exactly are you insinuating?” he asked and took a menacing step forward.

That’s right, baby! You tell him. I clamped my jaw shut before I could embarrass myself and say those words out loud.

Jason didn’t seem cowed. If anything, he was angrier.

“She isn’t a shifter, yet her first instinct is to run toward danger and try to beat it into submission. You’re handicapping her.”

Up until the past two weeks, Declan was my trainer. Before him, I’d trained with James — my werewolf best friend who had been conveniently unavailable ever since he went off on some hush hush Pack mission. So yeah, I could kinda see Jason’s point, not that I’d ever openly agree with him.

But I didn’t have a whole lot of options. Declan and James were two of the only people strong enough to train with me. Sure, both men could tear me in two if they wanted to, but between my pyrokinetic and telekinetic abilities, I could do permanent damage or accidentally kill someone.

I had been focusing on strength and hand-to-hand training. It was safer. But that was my choice. Not his.

Declan growled and every hair on my body stood on end. Rather than get involved, I decided to take this opportunity to catch my breath and took a seat on the floor.

It was nice down here.

“Why do you think you’re here? Help her or get out. Stop wasting our time.”

Jason sighed and turned back to me. “Whatever you learned during your time with the shifters, unlearn it. You need to create new instincts. You need to start reacting with your telekinetic powers first and physical force second. Understand?”

I nodded. Easier said than done but I was willing to give it a go.

“Okay then. Let’s go again.”

I heaved out a breath and rose to my feet. That break hadn’t lasted long.

This was my fifth training session with Jason and Dia. I was supposed to learn how to better manage my TK abilities. Instead, I tended to get my ass kicked and it was getting old.

“I can’t believe Inarus never went over any of this with you,” Dia mumbled as she strode back toward her seat.

Dia’s telekinetic abilities were still bound thanks to a spell-worked cuff the Evergreen witches had provided back when she was just one more in an endless line of people who wanted to kill me. It should have come off on its own by now, but it hadn’t and I wasn’t going to bring it up.

Dia might not be the enemy anymore, but she still wasn’t a friend.

Rather than responding, I chose to ignore her and rolled my eyes. Inarus had taught me a lot. She didn’t know the mess I was before his help.

My past wasn’t any of her business. And right now, Inarus was the last person I wanted to think about. That way led to nothing but anger and depression.

We still didn’t know if he’d survive his injuries.

It’d been over two weeks since my mother — the leader of the Northwest Human Alliance Corporation — had abducted and brutalized him.

We’d managed to get him out but not before he’d sustained life-threatening injuries.

He’d undergone surgery but the damage had been so severe the Pack healers had needed to put him into an induced coma to give him time to heal.

It’d been nearly three weeks.

Frankie and Annabeth checked on him daily and his vitals were stronger now than before, but we still didn’t know when, or if, he’d wake up. Most of his bones had fused back together thanks to advanced psyker healing abilities but his skin was still mottled with bruises and we didn’t know what other internal damage he may have sustained.

It was hard seeing him like that.

The stress of it all ate at my nerves.

If Inarus didn’t pull through, I would never forgive myself.

I shook the thoughts away and focused on my task at hand. He’d wake up. I just had to keep believing that and make sure when he did, I was ready.

The name of the game was to take out Jason. As my self-nominated trainer, he claimed he would whip me into shape and prepare me for the battle we all knew was coming.

The more I worked with him though, the more I thought he was trying to kill me. He didn’t pull his punches and I had the bruises to show for it.

A metal folding chair leaped through the air toward me.

“Don’t hit it!” Dia shouted. “Use your abilities.”

“I know,” I ground out.

On instinct, I called my fire to me but quickly realized that the stupid chair would just fly through whatever fire barrier I managed to erect.

Shit. I snuffed out my flames and raised both hands, trying to call on the telekinetic energy buried inside of me.

I didn’t use it often. Not with conscious thought.

It was volatile and I had no idea how to control it, so I’d worked at burying it deep inside me. Doing so made it slow to respond but when it did … I shivered.

The chair closed in and I pulled harder on the ball of energy I knew was buried deep inside of me.

“Come on. Come on.” Sweat dripped down my brow. A slow vibration started beneath the surface of my skin, increasing to create a roar in my ears.

I threw my hands up in front of my face as the chair zipped closer. It slammed into an invisible barrier only inches from my face and hovered there.

I looked up. Relief flooded through me. I did it. I stopped the chair.

And then it pulled back, charged forward, and broke through the invisible barrier I’d erected around myself, slamming into my face.

Ow!

I fell flat on my back. Blood dripped down my chin and my vision went black before it flickered in and out.

I groaned and rubbed my eyes. When my vision cleared, Dia’s face came into view above me. A shit-eating grin spread across her face.

“Well, you tried.”

I flipped her off and rolled to the side before pushing myself to my feet.

“Again.”

“Maybe it’s time for a break,” Dia suggested.

I waved her off. I didn’t need a break.

I leveled my gaze on Jason. “Again.”

“Fine by me.”

Declan remained quiet but I could feel disapproval radiating from him through our bond.

I shook my head to clear out the dark spots and took a few steps back.

“Okay. Go.”

A table screeched across the floor toward me. I dodged it and blasted it with fire.

“Wrong ability,” Dia shouted.

“I know that!” The table whirled and slammed into my back, knocking me off my feet. I careened forward but managed to stay upright.

“Think faster.”

Dia’s voice grated on my nerves.

The table came at me again. The sound of scraping metal had me looking over my shoulder to see another table coming in from the rear.

I pulled my TK power to me and melded it with my fire. Air stirred all around me. This wasn’t working. At this rate, I was going to be pulverized by furniture and wouldn’t that make for a hilarious headstone.

Here lies Aria Naveed. Pyrokinetic. Mercenary. Idiot killed by a coffee table. May she rest in peace.

I bit my lower lip. I was making too many mistakes. I needed a Plan B.

I stilled and closed my eyes for a moment as I racked my brain. The name of the game was to avoid being hit using only my TK abilities. Which meant I couldn’t rely on my fire or my speed.

I snapped my eyes open and my fire surged back inside of me. The two tables closed in.

“Here goes nothing.”

Opening the floodgates on my TK abilities, I wrapped both tables in an invisible shield and forced them to halt.

My knees shook. My skin vibrated and sweat dripped down my back between my shoulder blades. It itched but I ignored it.

Jason shoved against my hold. My teeth clattered and my head pounded. Black spots filled my vision but I held on.

“Not today, buddy. Not today.”

I pushed back but it wasn’t enough. I was barely hanging on. I could already feel the mental push back. I wasn’t going to be able to hold out much longer. Apprehension coursed through me. The blowback was going to hurt like a bitch.

I braced myself in anticipation.

A surge of warmth brushed along my subconscious and I reached for it.

The bond between Declan and I lit up like a neon sign at a strip club. I reached for it and a cascade of strength surged through my bloodstream.

Adrenaline consumed me and I shoved against Jason with everything I had.

The tables flew back, each slamming into the opposite wall with an audible thwack.

My knees buckled and I fell to the floor.

I did. I finally did.

Declan rushed toward me and pulled me to my feet. I smiled up with a wide grin and kissed him square on the lips.

“Thank you.” I was so happy I didn’t care that I was acting like a love-drunk idiot.

He scowled but pulled me close. “Next time, don’t wait so long to lean on me.”

I laughed. “Hell, if I knew the bond could do that, I’d have taken advantage of it earlier.”

Okay, so I might not have. The bond between Declan and I was still a scary thing, but I was happy for it at the moment.

Jason walked over, rubbing his forehead.

“The kickback’s a bitch, isn’t it?”

He scowled. “I think that’s enough for today. Get some rest and we’ll do this again soon.”

Hopefully not too soon because after today, I needed a nap. Preferably one that lasted several days. And one that maybe included a wine break or two.

 

TWO

 

Declan sat in a leather chair facing the fireplace in our bedroom. Yeah, I said it. Our bedroom.

I’d finally caved and moved in with him.

It seemed stupid not to. Either he was in my bed, or I was in his. It’d been that way every night since rescuing Inarus, so it onlymade sense to make it official, and since his closet was bigger than mine — I took it over.

Declan sighed deeply and I threw myself into the leather chair beside him, kicking off my steel-toed boots to feel the heat of the fire on my toes.

Mmm… this was nice.

Declan shook his head and reached for the glass of amber whiskey resting on the side table between us. His shoulders were tight with tension. His face etched with worry.

“That kind of day?” I asked.

A thread of guilt wormed through me. I knew Declan was under a massive amount of pressure. Running the largest shapeshifter Pack in the United States would run anyone ragged.

And I wasn’t helping the situation by epically failing in my training. I was just one more person on Declan’s endless list to worry about.

But really, if anyone should be drinking, it should be me.

James Shields — my werewolf best friend who also happened to be the Pack Hunter — was still MIA. He’d been gone a month now and it was starting to piss me off. Declan was being tight-lipped about where James had gone and when he’d be back. I had a feeling it had something to do with Noah Thorne, the South Atlantic Pack Alpha who’d kidnapped me and handed me over to my mother—the head of the H.A.C.— but I wasn’t certain and no one would tell me one way or the other.

Noah had visited our territory supposedly because he had business dealings in the area. Too late we realized his business was with the H.A.C. and he’d intended to hand me over to them on a nice shiny silver platter.

And he had.

But Declan and Inarus had rescued me. And I’d walked away with a few minor injuries and new telekinetic powers. Coupled with my pre-existing pyro abilities, I should be a force to be reckoned with. Instead, I was a disaster.

And now I understood Declan’s drinking. Not that it did him any good. I was pretty sure shifters couldn’t get drunk.

But I could.

I poured myself a glass and took a generous swallow, and then choked and coughed. Gah, did that burn.

But Declan didn’t say anything. He just sat there, stoic and silent, as though the weight of the world rested on his shoulders.

I really wanted to poke him. To pester him with questions until he finally gave in and gave me some answers. But I’d done that once before and knew from experience it wouldn’t get me anywhere.

James wasn’t answering any of my calls. All I would get were single sentence text responses letting me know he was unavailable and working on Pack business.

You would think as mate to the Alpha of said Pack, I’d get the low down on what was going on.

But no. I was being kept in the dark and until Declan changed his mind, it would stay that way.

I tucked my legs beneath me and waited as Declan took another drink. He was the silent broody type so if I gave him a few minutes, he’d eventually give voice to whatever was on his mind.

Patience had never been one of my virtues but I was learning. In a relationship, sometimes all the other person needed was time. He’d given it to me when I’d needed it. I guess it was my turn now to give it to him.

The fire crackled in the fireplace, calling to my own flames. I stared at the fire as it swayed almost as though it were dancing to silent music. Time passed. I didn’t know or care how long I sat there. I just watched the flames and every now and again, I would use my powers to push them this way and that. It was an easy exercise. One I’d done hundreds of times when I was first learning to focus my abilities. Now it came naturally. I hoped my new telekinesis would come easy to me someday too.

Declan rested his glass on his knee and leveled me with his emerald gaze. It looked like he was finally ready to talk.

“I know you’re under a lot of pressure but …” He ran his free hand through his white-blond hair. “We don’t have a lot of time. If we’re—”

A knock at the door had us both turning. Brock—the Pack’s head of security—peeked his head into the room. “Sorry but—” Before he could continue, Robert—Alpha of Clan Canidae—stepped into the room.

“Pardon the interruption, but there’s a situation that requires your attention.”

I narrowed my eyes. Pardon. Since when did the sneaky coyote develop manners? He had to be up to something.

Declan stood but Robert was already shaking his head. “Not yours. Hers.”

I lifted a brow. “Me?”

Robert rolled his eyes. “Yes, you. Now hurry up before someone gets hurt.”

Without waiting for me, Robert turned and left, leaving me to hastily follow in his wake.

Declan strode beside me, clearly as curious as I was to see whatever was going on.

We’d just cleared the end of the hallway and started to head down the staircase when raised voices reached my ears.

“What —”

Reaching the third level, I came to a stop. Shifters stood wild-eyed, their gazes aimed toward the door I knew led to the infirmary where Inarus was resting and recovering.

“What’s wrong?”

Robert didn’t bother stopping. He brushed passed the men in the hallway and stepped into Inarus’ room.

Almost instantly, he was shoved right back out, crashing into me.

“What the—” I nearly fell, but Declan’s firm grip held me upright as Robert righted himself.

“No one can get close to him. It’s like there’s an invisible force field surrounding him and he shoves away anyone who gets too close.”

“When did this start?”

Declan strode into the room next, only to slide back out, barely managing to maintain his footing.

Robert ran a hand through his close-cropped blonde hair. “Annabeth noticed only a few minutes ago. Dia tried to get in as well and had the same results.”

As though hearing her name, Dia descended the steps behind me. Her jet black hair fanned around her face as she jogged closer. “Good. You found her. Can you get through to him?

Dia was Inarus’s sister. She’d tried to kill me. Then helped me, and now she was working to train me. It was a strange relationship. One I tried not to look too closely at.

She and Robert had developed some sort of something between the two of them so I no longer stared wide-eyed whenever I noticed their hands touch briefly or their shoulders brush up against one another — like they did just now.

Their contact was always brief, careful. But I wasn’t stupid. Something was brewing between these two and I didn’t want to know about it.

Judging by the scowl on Declan’s face, he didn’t either.

“What are you talking about?”

Dia waved toward the open doorway. “Inarus is protecting himself. He’s created a telepathic net that keeps intruders away while his body heals. On some level, he doesn’t feel safe. You need to reassure him he isn’t in any danger.”

“Me? Why me?” I turned a wide-eyed look toward Declan, who only shrugged.

“I don’t know how any of this psyker stuff works.”

Some help he was.

“Why can’t you do it?” I asked.

Dia lifted her arm, displaying the spell-worked cuff that locked her telepathic powers. “Until this comes off, I’m a dud. You’re the only one who can get through to him when he’s like this.”

I looked to the doorway and then back to Dia. “Have you at least tried?”

She rolled her grey-blue eyes. “Repeatedly. I can’t get even a spark of my abilities to manifest thanks to this. And I have you to thank for that, by the way.” Her smile was far from friendly.

I couldn’t blame her for her hostility. If someone had locked up my abilities I’d be pissed too. But it’d been necessary at the time.

Dia had been our enemy. I wasn’t entirely sure what she was now but it would have been easier had she been able to help.

“Telekinesis and I aren’t great friends—” You’d think today’s earlier demonstration would have reaffirmed that.

“I know. You suck at using your abilities but you’re all we’ve got. Annabeth and Frankie need to be able to monitor him and the extra strain he’s putting on himself by erecting this shield is going to stymie his healing. He could kill himself if you don’t hurry up and do something.”

I swallowed. Great. No pressure.

Exhaustion pulled at the corners of my subconscious. I would have liked to recover before using my abilities but I wasn’t about to let Inarus hurt himself. He’d been through enough.

“Okay. Tell me what to do.”

 

THREE

 

“Hurry up!” Dia shouted for what seemed like the hundredth time.

I turned, looked over my shoulder, flipped her off, and then had to grit my teeth as Inarus battered into the thin shield I’d managed to erect around myself.

“Dammit. Ow. Fuck!” Rubbing a hand over my face did nothing to ease the throb in my skull.

“This is too mu—” Declan cut himself off.

That’s right. You can’t say I can’t handle this when we had a hallway full of people watching. I was his mate. That made me second in the Pack hierarchy and someone that close to the top couldn’t afford to be weak.

He turned in my direction, probably feeling my flash of irritation. We had an audience. It would be helpful if he would get rid of it.

As if hearing my thoughts, he turned to the onlookers and without raising his voice, ordered everyone to clear the floor. Not just the hallway. The entire floor.

Clearly, his confidence in me was failing.

I blinked hard to clear the black spots in my vision.

Come on, Inarus. I’m here to help.

My arms shook from the effort of holding myself in place as I crawled across the floor into Inarus’ room. This was no hands-and-knees crawl. No, the jerk was forcing me to army crawl across the cold concrete floor barefoot and in yoga pants. Not my best look. And yeah, I’d been on the floor before Declan had ordered everyone out.

Not that we were actually alone. Without looking, I knew at least Dia and our Pack healers — Frankie and Annabeth — had stayed behind.

For someone on his death bed, Inarus’s mental strength was a hell of a lot stronger than I could have anticipated.

“Stop trying to reach him physically. You don’t need physical contact to get through to him.”

What the hell did she know?

And then it dawned on me. I was such an idiot. She knew a hell of a lot more than I did when it came to this sort of thing. Why was I being so dense?

Probably because I really disliked her. Dammit, I hated when she was right. And she was probably right about this, but there was only one way to find out.

I took a deep breath and slid my back against the wall. Another psychic force rammed into my skull and forced the air from my lungs. I squeezed my eyes shut and fought furiously to hold my mental shields. His psychic energy waged war against me. It hurt. God, it hurt.

“He’s too strong!” I gritted my teeth and pressed my back against the smooth surface of the wall. Under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t have admitted he was stronger than I was but in this, he absolutely was. There was no denying it.

“He’s in a coma. Pull yourself together and reach out to him. He knows you. Trusts you—for some stupid reason.” The last was mumbled with clear annoyance.

My head throbbed. I wasn’t going to be able to stay here much longer. The strain was becoming too much and if Inarus knocked me unconscious, no one would be able to get to me.

Wouldn’t that be my luck?

“Come on. Come on. Think.” I needed to reach him on a psychic level. But that wasn’t something I’d ever tried to do before. I had no clue where to begin because this was not something we’d ever even considered covering in my training.

Eyes still closed, I focused on the telekinetic force battering against my skull and brushed my own mind against it. It was a fast and featherlight touch. The one you’d use when touching a pan that might still be hot.

For a split second, the pressure eased, but the moment of relief didn’t last. Inarus’s mind slammed into me full force. Air whooshed out my lungs. I couldn’t breathe.

“Aria?” Declan called to me.

It took a concentrated effort to turn my head toward his voice. Crouched in the doorway, he had lines of concern etched into his handsome face.

I tried to form words but my throat refused to cooperate. I opened and closed my mouth several times but nothing came out. My vision blurred. I struggled to keep my head up.

“Aria, focus on me. Listen to my voice. Do not pass out.” That was an order with the full weight of the Alpha behind it.

Declan’s words rattled my bones. He was my mate, not my Alpha, but whatever power he’d put into that order reverberated through me.

My head spun. How I’d managed to remain upright I didn’t know.

My connection to Declan through the mate bond was there, but it steadily became hazy. I needed to pull myself together, and fuck what Dia said because there was no way I was going to get through to Inarus without some sort of physical connection. My telekinetic abilities weren’t strong enough. Sitting here on the floor and staring at his bed wasn’t going to cut it. Not in this instance.

Sucking in a lungful of air, I pushed myself onto my hands and knees. I braced myself for the onslaught I knew would come and mentally knocked on the door to Inarus’ mind.

The storm surging around me paused. I knocked again and inched my way closer to the bed.

Questions I couldn’t grasp filled in my mind. Echoes of his voice swirled around me. I pushed closer but then the pressure doubled down, dropping me to my stomach.

“Come on—” I groaned and pressed my forehead to the cool stone floor.

I knocked again. Nothing.

Sweat dripped down my hairline. Taking a moment to catch my breath, I lifted myself back up and stared at his still form.

I could do this. I was almost there.

Using my forearms, I dragged my body forward, ignoring the burn on my arms as they scraped across the floor. Blood dripped down in front of me. I reached up and touched my face.

A nosebleed. Great.

A noise behind me had me turning my head around. Declan pushed his way into the room only to be slammed back out by an invisible force.

For a moment, Inarus’s focus was off me and I was able to gain another foot.

“Do that again,” I shouted and wiped the blood from my nose with the back of my hand.

Without any hesitation, Declan pushed his way back into the room only to be thrown back out but it earned me another foot.

I was right beside the bed now. I just needed to pull myself up.

“Again!”

I didn’t watch this time. Declan growled low and guttural behind me and as soon as the pressure ebbed, I pulled myself up and grabbed Inarus’s cool, stubble roughened cheeks between the palms of my hands, leaving streaks of blood across his skin.

I screamed into his unconscious face, “Let me in!”

Everything froze.

It was so sudden I wasn’t sure what to make of it. It was as if I were in the middle of a tornado. An invisible breeze swirled around the room, but where I sat beside Inarus on his bed, things were absolutely calm. A force field surrounded us. It shimmered and whirled and looked a lot like staring into water. I could see Declan and Dia in the doorway but they were unfocused. It was the strangest thing.

There was a mental knock on my mind. It felt like a request for telepathic contact but it had a “taste.” Something familiar but also unknown. I knew it was Inarus. Who else could it be? But still, I hesitated.

The knock sounded again.

I let instinct take over and opened my mind to form a connection.

“Aria—”

Relief flooded through me.

“Inarus? Hey! You’re okay. You’re safe.”

Emotions flooded through my mind. Uncertainty. Fear.

My heart ached for what he must be going through.

“Do you remember what happened?”

A mental shake of his head.

“I remember Viola … and then nothing.”

I released a breath I hadn’t realized I’d been holding.

“You were hurt. You’re safe now, in the Compound.”

There was a mental pause.

“Inarus?”

“My sister?”

“Also here. Safe. She’s worried about you. You won’t let any of the healers near you.”

The tension in the room eased and my blurred surroundings slowly came back into focus.

“Why can’t I wake up?”

“You were hurt. It was bad. Really bad. Frankie and Annabeth put you into an induced coma to give your body time to heal.”

“How long?”

“Almost three weeks.”

There was a shudder. “I need to wake up. I need Dia.”

I turned and located her in the crowded doorway. Frankie, Annabeth, Declan, Dia, Robert, and Brock all peered into the room with varying expressions but Dia’s was the easiest to decipher.

Worry.

“He needs you.”

She didn’t need to be told twice. She pushed past the others and took her place on the other side of Inarus’s prone body before resting a hand on his forearm.

“She’s here.”

He mentally nodded. I didn’t know how I knew that but I felt the movement almost as though I’d seen it.

“Tell her to wake me up.”

I did as he’d asked but as expected, she couldn’t help. Today wasn’t our day.

“As long as I have this on,” she lifted her hand to show the spelled cuff, “I can’t do anything with my telekinesis. I can’t help him.”

Frustration bracketed her mouth. “He needs time to heal. He’ll wake up. He just needs more time.”

I didn’t know who she was trying to convince. Me or herself.

Either way, I told Inarus what she’d said and he didn’t take it so well.

The room started doing that hazy tornado thing again and I was forced to cling to the bed or risk being thrown off.

Dia had to do the same. She gripped the headboard with all of her strength, her knuckles going bone white.

“You’re going to have to do it,” she shouted.

Wind whipped my face. “What?”

“Tell him you’ll do it. Tell him you’ll pull him out.”

I had no idea what she was talking about but the storm inside the room was getting worse and I didn’t know how much longer I could hold on, so I slammed my mind against his and mentally screamed that I would pull him out if he would just calm the fuck down!

And he did. I release a breath and told him to hold on one minute. And then I whirled on Dia because I had no clue what she was asking me to do. I only knew I would promise Inarus the sun right now if it would calm him down so he could heal properly and not kill himself.

“Me?”

“Of course you. Do you see another telekinetic in the room?”

“We can call—”

She shook her head before I could finish. “Inarus isn’t going to let anyone else into his mind. Pulling him into consciousness is an intimate act and it requires trust. He would kill Jason before he let him that close.”

Great. This was just freaking great.

Exhaustion, both physical and mental, tried to drag me down.

“What do I need to do?” I asked, because what choice did I have?

She looked over her shoulder and nodded her head toward Declan. “You need to make him leave. This won’t work with him here.”

Declan folded his arms over his chest and assumed a ‘try and make me’ stance.

I really didn’t have the energy for the verbal battle that would ensue if I tried to kick Declan out right now. Assuming that was even possible. He was the Alpha and this was his territory. I had a feeling no one could get Declan to leave if he didn’t want to. And he clearly didn’t want to.

“Why won’t it work with him here?” It wasn’t like he would interfere. At least I didn’t think he would. Declan might not be Inarus’s biggest fan but he wouldn’t prevent me from helping him either.

If Declan had wanted Inarus dead, he wouldn’t be in the Pack’s infirmary to begin with.

“As I said, it’s an intimate process. One your mate isn’t going to like.”

“All the more reason for me to stay.” There was no arguing when he used his Alpha voice.

“Just tell me what to do and we’ll go from there.”

Dia looked doubtful, but with one last glare directed toward Declan, she nodded and told me what had to be done.

And she was right. Declan wasn’t going to like this.

Leave a Reply