Unraveled, p.58

Unraveled, page 58

 part  #2 of  Intertwined Series

 

Unraveled
 



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Page 58

 

  “Because you were protected by the vampires and the weres, maybe?”

  “Maybe. ”

  “So…what are we going to do about that meeting?”

  I have an amazing idea, Caleb said. The best you’ll ever hear, if I do say so myself.

  Elijah groaned. I know what you’re going to say. Don’t listen to him, Aden.

  Now I’m nervous, Julian piped up.

  Caleb outlined his plan. Afterward, Aden was the one to groan. Of course Caleb thought his plan was a gold-star idea, because he liked those witches, but he wasn’t using his brain, merely his hormones. Still, Aden could think of nothing else to free his friends from their curse.

  “I’m going to give myself up,” he said flatly, and Caleb patted himself on the back.

  Told you it was the best.

  Victoria gasped, shook her head, strands of black hair hitting her cheeks. “No. That’s dangerous and foolish and—”

  “The only way. I’m the only one who has to make the meeting. If we pretend to set Jennifer free, she can—”

  “Jennifer?” Victoria interjected with a twinge of anger. “Who’s Jennifer?”

  “Our delightful hostage. ” He motioned to the doorway with a tilt of his chin. “Anyway, if we let her go, she’ll likely want to capture me and take me to her friends. I’ll be with them. They’ll ask me questions. That counts as a meeting, right?”

  Victoria chewed on her bottom lip. “They could decide to destroy you, despite your origins. ”

  That was a chance he was willing to take. For her. For the others. He reached out and cupped her jaw. As always, she was hot, so hot, and utterly soft. “We’ve run out of time. ”

  And the idea is made of awesome, but whatever.

  She leaned into the touch. “Well, I’m not willing to risk your life. I’ll let her capture me, too, and that way—”

  He shook his head before she could finish. “Witches and vampires are a bad mix, as you know. I’m sorry to say this, but they’re more likely to take me if you’re not there. And we need to do this before Riley returns. ” As protective as the wolf was of his king, he, too, would insist on going with Aden. If he “allowed” Aden to go at all, that is.

  But most of all, Aden recalled the conversation that had just taken place. The witches and the fairies wanted to destroy the vamps and the weres. He wasn’t going to let Victoria and Riley become their first victims.

  “You’re king,” Victoria said, fisting his shirt, “so I can’t stop you if you insist on doing this, but you have to—”

  “I’m not your king,” he said. “I’m your boyfriend. ”

  Her gaze pleaded with him to understand. “And I want my boyfriend to stay alive. ”

  He softened, inside and out. “I’m going to die soon. We both know that. ” He pried her fingers from his shirt and slid her palms underneath, above the scabs on the right side of his ribs. He’d possessed scars in the vision Elijah had shown him. Soon, these scabs would become scars. Soon after that, he would die.

  No fear, though. He wouldn’t let her see his fear at the thought of being stabbed in the heart again. Only his willingness to do what was necessary to protect his friends.

  “There’s a difference between knowing you might soon die and courting danger,” she cried.

  “Listen. These are scabs, not scars. Not yet. I’ve still got a little time. Which means the witches won’t kill me. ” A lie. They could keep him for weeks, months, enough time to turn the scabs to scars, and then kill him. But he didn’t want Victoria to worry the entire time he was gone.

  A sigh left her as she absorbed his words, and he knew the exact second she accepted his claim; hope brightened her irises, making them glow like twin sunrises over the ocean. “If you do this, you need more wards,” she said, scooting closer. “That is nonnegotiable. ”

  “If by nonnegotiable, you mean we should negotiate, then yes. I agree. There isn’t time for more wards, sweetheart. ”

  She scowled. “So I’m just supposed to let you leave with the witch and hope everything turns out okay?”

  Yes, but he didn’t say it aloud. “Will you make sure no one misses me at the ranch?”

  Her scowl deepened, but she nodded.

  “Thank you. And just in case you’ve forgotten, I love you. ” He kissed her then, tasting her, deep and thorough, as if this was the last time they’d ever be able to do this.

  Maybe it was.

  Her hands tangled in his hair, and she angled his head for even deeper contact. At some point, he thought he tasted blood—perhaps he’d accidentally swiped his tongue on her fangs—but even that didn’t slow him. In fact, they stayed like that, locked together, kissing, the souls quiet, until the front door creaked open and footsteps pounded.

  They sprang apart, and Aden noticed Riley’s brothers standing a few feet away, grinning.

  “Okay, well,” Aden said, and popped to his feet. He wavered, still weak, but didn’t fall.

  Victoria stood beside him and smoothed her pink shirt. “Hello, boys. ”

  “I never thought I’d see the day Victoria got her tonsils cleaned, did you?” Maxwell asked Nathan.

  Nathan barked out a laugh. “That wasn’t a cleaning. That was a full-on surgery. ”

  Aden’s cheeks heated. “Enough. ” He turned to Victoria, pulling her close for a final hug. “Distract them,” he whispered in her ear, “and I’ll take off with Jennifer. ”

  She kissed the side of his face before drawing away, her hand remaining on his arm as long as possible. When she was positioned in front of the wolves, who were still grinning like loons, she looked at Maxwell. “Take my hand. ”

  “What? You want to perform another surgery? Sure, I’m game. ” He clasped her outstretched fingers.

  They disappeared a second later. Nathan spun, frowning. Then Victoria reappeared, alone, and grabbed his arm before he could stop her. They, too, disappeared, this time leaving Aden alone.

  Now! Caleb commanded. You have to act now.

  Aden, Elijah began. Think about this.

  “Thinking time’s over. I’m doing it, and that’s that. ” Chin high, he stalked back down the hall to the witch’s door, drew in a breath and turned the knob.

  TWENTY-SEVEN

  MARY ANN CHEWED ON her bottom lip as she peered up at Riley. A fuming, steam-coming-out-of-his-nostrils Riley. She was once again in his bedroom at the vampire mansion, perched at the edge of his very soft bed, the door closed, footsteps echoing beyond it. She doubted anyone would barge in—even if she screamed, which she wouldn’t, he wouldn’t hurt her, but company would have been nice just then. Riley paced in front of her, an intimidating sight.

  “Let me get this straight,” he said, each word measured. “Tucker was in the woods. Outside the cabin. You saw him. He waved you over. And you. Actually. Went. ” The last was uttered with disbelief.

  “Correct. ”

  “You talked to him. ”

  “Yes. ”

  “You were within striking distance of him. ”

  “He wouldn’t hurt me. Not that way,” she added before Riley could remind her of the mental anguish Tucker had caused and the tears she had shed.

  “You don’t know what he’s capable of, Mary Ann. He’s a demon. ”

  “Part demon. ” And the father of her best friend’s baby. If he decided to help Penny and be a part of the baby’s life, then he was going to be a part of Mary Ann’s life, as well, because she planned to be there for her friend. Riley needed to learn that now. “And he’s calm around me. You know that. ”

  “Then,” Riley continued as if she hadn’t spoken, “you waited a few hours to tell me what had happened. ”

  “Yes, again. ” She’d given Tucker time to get away. Riley was a wolf, an expert tracker, and easily could have found him. They would have fought. There wasn’t time for a fight. So, once she was sure enough t
ime had elapsed, she’d made an excuse to Victoria about being hungry and dragged Riley out of the cabin to fill him in. He should have thanked her for telling him anything at all. Instead, he’d brought her here to yell at her.

  Riley scrubbed a hand down his face. “Why do I bother protecting you, if you’re just going to throw yourself into dangerous situations?”

  “Because you like me. ” Until this mess with the witches was over. Then they had some major issues to work out. Or not. She still planned to leave him. A knot formed in her throat.

  He stopped, sighed, the anger seeping from him. “You’re right. I do like you. Even though at times likes these, I’m not sure I like that I like you. So tell me again what Tucker said about Vlad. ”

  That, she could do. “He mentioned the former vampire king is alive and well and living in an underground crypt behind this house. That said former vampire king ordered him to watch us and report his findings. And that said former vampire king is mad as hell that someone else is commanding his people. ”

  “Yes, Vlad would be, but he couldn’t have survived total body je la nune poisoning. No one could have. ”

  “How do you know?”

  “I’ve seen others die that way. ”

  Was that…guilt darkening his green eyes? Had he killed others that way? The fact that she wasn’t disturbed by the possibility proved just how immersed she was becoming in this otherworld. “Maybe he healed. You once told me Vlad was the strongest among you, and that his people hoped he would somehow recover. I mean, seriously. That’s why Aden hasn’t been crowned officially. ”

  “First, if Vlad was alive, he would have come to us. ” Riley’s head tilted to the side. “Unless he was too weak, but then…no. No. He wouldn’t have sent a kid to spy. Second, Vlad was also staked. Maybe he could have healed from one injury, but not both. Not in such a weakened condition. ” A heartbeat later, he added, “God, I can’t believe I’m talking about this with a human. Vlad killed for less. ”

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