“Hey, sexy. You’re looking pretty good.” Cody grinned wide and looked me up and down. “You do have some luscious hips, don’t you?”
I snarled at the sack of shit. “Where’s my pack mate?”
His eyebrows lifted, “Oh, your pack mate? You’re in a pack now?” He laughed, “How cute.”
I walked towards him, “Give him back.”
He shrugged. “Fine.” From behind him, three men walked out, Chayton’s lifeless body being dragged between two of them. I wanted to cry at the sight but I fought back the emotion with anger. Bitterness. The need for revenge. “It’s you I wanted, anyway.”
I grinned wryly, “Yeah, well, you can’t have me, either.” My lips turned to a snarl. “Now give him back to me.” Cody smiled and all I could think about was smacking that smug look off his perfect little face.
The men came up to me, equally annoying expressions. I looked to Chayton and felt anger well up inside. No. It was more than anger. Hatred, raw and deep, for the man that had done this to him.
Patches of hair had been ripped from his head, his face beaten and bloodied. A steady stream of blood dripped from his mouth. Deep purple marks welled up on his throat where they had strangled him. His shirt had been removed and signs of bruising and severe swelling marred his skin.
How had no one else noticed this? How is it that, with all the security out here, there’s no one around that heard the commotion? I looked up to Cody with the question on my lips. He laughed, “Oh, are you curious about how we got away with this? I had help.”
“What kind of help?”
He grinned wider, “The kind that helps to ensure my deeds go unnoticed until I deem for them to be otherwise.”
I sucked in a deep breath and held my hands out to take him from them. The men stepped away and let Chayton’s limp body fall to the ground. A tear rimmed my eyes and it took everything in me not to let it out.
I fell to the ground and felt for his pulse. I could still see the lifeless tendril that blinked with only the faintest hint of hope. I ran my hand along his swollen cheek and thought. What was I going to do? Chayton needed me, but I knew that Cody wasn’t about to let me help him. He wanted me.
Yeah. He wanted me. He used Chayton. I looked up to Cody with unmitigated fury. “Why him?”
“Why not? He was easy. I wasn’t looking to get my ass handed to me by that fucking cat roaming around. I just wanted your attention.”
I had been too overwhelmed with pain and anger to realize that three more men had emerged from the trees and flanked my back. I passed a side-long glance to them then turned back to Cody. “What do you want from me?”
He grinned. “I need your help to get myself and my associates to our destination.”
I sent him a wicked glance. “Foten Kullarna.”
“You’ve been studying, haven’t you?” His eyes shot up with surprise. “What else do you know?”
I heard a man’s voice in the distance, calling my name, then Chayton’s. If he was right, they wouldn’t find us. I would be taken without a second thought and Chayton would be left here to die. So what do I do?
The sky above us grumbled. I looked up curiously. How much control did I have over these elements? I looked around and searched quickly for signs of magical markers, something that I could get rid of.
“I know you’re playing with vampires,” I stated with forced coolness.
He laughed. “Nice choice of words.” He sobered and I chanced a quick glance at a tree while testing Chayton’s heartbeat and my mental hold on him. “They think they’re playing me. Can you believe that?” A few trees behind him had what looked like hieroglyphs written with a sparkling blue substance. “I didn’t have to hurt the kid, you know.”
“Yeah?” I asked sarcastically, still holding Chayton’s spirit to his body. That was what I was doing, I realized, as I clung harder to the tendril that was so uniquely him. The men moved closer to me. “So, why did you? Why did you push this kid to the brink of death?”
He sighed, shaking is head as if I were a child that had a knack for disappointing him. “First off, if you hadn’t run off, we wouldn’t be in this predicament in the first place. Second,” He came to stand beside Chayton’s body and squatted to our level. I instinctively covered his body with my own. Cody put his hands up in defeat. “Point taken.”
He rested his arms on his knees as he continued. “Second, if he had just called you out here as I suggested, I wouldn’t have had to use quite so much force.” He looked down somberly. “I had a feeling you had integrated yourself into your pack. You wouldn’t be able to resist a fallen pack member.”
Thunder rumbled again. The lightning must not be that close, but was the storm close enough for it to rain? I tried to keep the conversation going, “he’s loyal.”
I began chanting in my mind for rain. Picturing hurricane-like rainfall that rushed through the trees and cleared the trees of the markings that had to be what kept the others from finding us. “He’s stupid.” Corey spat, snarling at the defiance. “You want him to live, then come with me.”
I laughed indignantly. “Are you fucking serious right now? I’m the only thing keeping him alive right now, and you think me leaving is going to help him?!” I felt a raindrop smack my cheek. Cody looked up and cursed. “What’s the matter? Did you not realize that you’d almost killed him, or are you just pissed that I’m not that stupid?”
“Shut the fuck up, Dakota.” His baby face was red with anger as he looked back up at the sky. That’s when it dawned on me. Sage thinks he’s a guardian, too. I breathed heavily, determination fueling my resistance. The way he looked up to the sky, I knew exactly what he was doing. If he, in fact, was a guardian that could control water, that is. But then, so can I.
But my powers, whatever the hell they were, were helping me to keep Chayton alive. Did I have the power to control the water and hold onto his spirit? I ignored the men around me, who seemed to have come closer in clear defensive stances, and tried to feel the magic inside of me. I knew there was something there. There had to be. How else had I been able to find Chayton? Fuck. Why did they have to come now?
Wait… why now? I looked to Cody. “How’d you know?”
Cody didn’t take his eyes from the ground. “An earthquake and a rush of guardian magic is a pretty fucking good way to tell some shit happened, Dakota. I’m not an idiot.”
He knew I’d be weak. How long had he hidden out here? And what kind of damn magic is this that keeps anyone from finding us? Cody grinned and I realized it was because he was controlling the rain to keep it from hitting us. I snarled. He was not about to win this.
Just as Cody turned to continue his ridiculous proposal, I dug my toes into the ground, having the innate need to be as close to the earth as I could possibly get. The free hand that didn’t hold the gaping wound on Chatyon’s ribs dug into the ground as well, and I focused. I imagined myself, using the anger and the bitterness that Cody elicited and used it as a slingshot, pulling the water from the sky as I continued to keep Chayton tethered to me.
Then a drop fell. Then twenty more drops. And before Cody realized that he had lost the battle of control, rain began to fall so fast and hard, it created a near whiteout. The rain fell as Cody yelled loudly for the men to grab me. I snarled my lips and dug my feet and hand in deeper, trying to solidify my hold. A guttural scream escaped my mouth as rain drenched me. And around me, I spotted three trees that had the markings. There was definitely more. I just knew it, but I was hoping that it would act like a salt barrier. If you break the circle, you break the magic.
I thought hard until my brain hurt. Until my throat grew more hoarse from the screams and the rain had no choice but to listen to me. Then the wind picked up, shoving the rain against the trees so hard that they stripped them of their bark, stripping them of the magic.
I stopped my mind. I stopped the fight with the rain as a man hauled me from the ground, and in every bone in my body, I pulled all the energy I could and screamed louder than I ever have before. “Sage!”
Because I knew he was out here. He was a protector. He was a protector, not just of me, but of Chayton. Another scream left my lips and the man holding me wrapped his arm around my mouth and nose. Fuck. I can’t fucking breath! Is he trying to kill me? I closed my eyes and checked on Chayton’s life force. It was still there, only weak. But if this guy didn’t let me breath soon, I would pass out and Chayton would die. I began to kick and swing my limbs. I really should have tried harder in those damn defense lessons Sage was trying to teach me.
Sage! Please Sage, Chayton’s dying! Hurry! I had forgotten about my psychic link to him and suddenly began to frantically scream out to him. Please! I swear I’ll do better in my lessons. I swear I’ll stop giving you attitude, just help him!
Get ready to run. It was the only warning I had before a large, red wolf flew through the air.