|Home > Rebecca Zanetti > Dark Protectors > Shadowed (Page 5)|
|Shadowed(Dark Protectors #6) by Rebecca Zanetti|
She managed to maneuver her leg up and between them, but she couldn’t dislodge her attacker.
The world turned gray and fuzzy.
She was so weak. Weaker than a human, even. God. Was this it? Snow sprayed, and Jase grabbed Brenna’s attacker with one arm. The woman catapulted through the snow-filled air, slamming into a sprawling spruce.
Brenna sucked in freezing air. Jase hauled her up. “Get behind me.” He shoved her, not waiting for her to move.
Her lungs screamed as they filled again. She peered around him. The five remaining CRAP soldiers stalked forward in attack formation, brutal colors dancing on their skin as they formed deadly weapons of plasma. All were powerful witches. How could her own people hate her so much?
Jase’s body vibrated, sending out waves of heat. Blood dripped from a wound in the back of his head, and shards of bone stuck out from his shoulder and one arm.
Brenna gulped. He couldn’t beat all five of them with those wounds, and she wasn’t much help. “Let’s take the van,” she whispered.
“No.” His stance settled. “I want them. All of them.” His voice dropped to a low, guttural tone that spiked adrenaline through her veins.
The squad advanced, determination in their eyes.
Brenna grasped Jase’s uninjured arm. “Let’s go, Jase. Now.”
“Your CRAP group is well trained,” he said.
No bloomin’ shit. Using both her hands, she dug her fingers into his muscled arm and tugged. She might as well be trying to move the Liffey Bridge. Okay. Biting her lip, she released him. Shutting her eyes, she tried to alter oxygen molecules into plasma. A sputter erupted on her skin. Her eyes opened only to see the sputter snuff out. Her knees trembled, and she swayed.
Defeat hunched her shoulders. “We need to mate soon.”
Oops. She’d said that out loud. Fighting the urge to kick the back of his knee, she cleared her throat. “I’m going for the van.”
“Lock the doors.”
She wouldn’t leave him to fight alone. Shaking off fear, she angled to his side. “I guess we fight, then.”
Jase’s head jerked back. Good lord. Bravery, beauty, and kindness in such a small, delicate package. Unfortunately, in her current state, Brenna would only get hurt in a fight. He lowered his tone to the one he used when training the younger vampires. “Get your ass in the van, and lock the doors.”
“No.” Her thoughtful tone lacked heat.
What the hell? Most people jumped when he used that tone of voice. “Now, Brenna,” he barked.
She turned her head, surprise filling her pretty eyes. “No.”
His mouth dropped open. Irritation had him snapping it shut. He glared at her. She stood like an angel in the falling snow and stared back, a curious expression wandering across her smooth face. As if she truly didn’t understand why he was quickly getting more pissed off at her than at the advancing soldiers.
“I’m not leaving you to fight alone.” She patted his uninjured arm and turned back toward danger. “You’ve done enough of that. We’re in this together.”
Warmth flushed through him—so hard, so fast—he blinked. “Fine,” he growled and grabbed her arm, fully intending to get in the van.
Suddenly, a black SUV smashed into the far van, sending it spinning. Three more SUVs halted. Coven Nine soldiers leaped out, guns cocked, headed for the CRAP squad. Conn, Moira, and Kane burst out of the second SUV.
Moira already held an oscillating fireball in her hands.
“The cavalry,” Brenna murmured. “How?”
Jase pointed to the communicator still in his ear. “I called Kane.”
“Oh.” She waved at her sister, who immediately dropped her plasma ball and tackled one of the oncoming soldiers to the ground. A punch to the back of the neck, and the guy slumped unconscious. Brenna rubbed her chin. “Moira’s having fun.”
Jase frowned and mentally sent healing cells to his broken shoulder. “I need at least one of them able to talk.”
“Why?” Brenna asked, shoving her hands in her coat pockets. “We know they’re from CRAP and want to take me out.”
“I want to know what the next plan was in case this one failed.” He needed to get her out of the cold. His bones realigned with a loud pop.
“Oh.” She stomped her feet, and her teeth started to chatter. “They’re a pretty tough group. They won’t talk.”
He glanced down at the bluish tint of her lips. “They’ll talk.” Taking her arm, he led her toward the building. The gash in the back of his head mended with sharp stabs of pain. “I’ll meet you upstairs in a few moments.”
She nodded and slipped inside, quickly followed by her sister.
Jase stalked over to where the Coven Nine soldiers had the attackers facedown on the ground. He grabbed the biggest man and jerked him up by the hair. “I need a word with this guy.” Without waiting for an answer, he threw the CRAP member ass-first at the van. The guy rolled up the hood and shattered the windshield. He sprang to his feet, blood pouring down his cheek, hands out. “I don’t want any trouble.”
“I do.” Jase clasped the guy’s belt and tossed him into a parking meter. The metal bent with a lonely shriek.
The guy dropped to his knees, more blood squirting from a split lip. Clapping his hands together, he began forming an orange ball.
Jase kicked him under the chin.
The guy flew back, his head thunking on concrete.
Conn cleared his throat. “If he’s out, he can’t talk.”
True. Jase dropped to his haunches and slid his hand over the man’s throat. “There are four more of you. Give me answers, or I’ll kill you and move on to the next guy.” He let death show in his eyes, which was easy, because he spoke the truth.
The man’s dilating eyes widened. “Okay.”
“What’s the plan here?” Jase asked calmly.
The guy tried to swallow. “Ah, to take out Brenna Dunne.”
Jase’s hand tightened, and the guy started to flop like a beached fish. He loosened his grip. “What if you didn’t kill her today?”
“We’d come up with a new plan. The solstice is just three days away.” The guy blanched. “I’m sorry, but it’s necessary. She’s the plague—”
Jase crushed his larynx.
Standing up, he ignored the gasps around him and stalked toward the building.
“Jase?” Kane asked quietly.
Jase didn’t turn around when he answered his brother. “I’m fine—just want to check on Brenna.” He was already through the door when he heard Conn’s muttered statement. “He is not fine. Not even close.”
A quick shrug had Jase biting back an expletive. Damn shoulder. Sending more healing cells to the damaged tissue, he found the stairwell and jogged the many flights of stairs to reach Brenna’s penthouse. He paused outside the wide double door. They weren’t mated yet. He should probably knock.
He knocked, and Moira yanked open the door. “Everybody all right?”
“Yep.” He breezed by her and stopped. Brenna stood in a cozy living room, a full wall of windows behind her showcasing the River Liffey. The gray of the day matched her stunning eyes. “How many times have they tried to take you?”
She blinked and quickly recovered, edging closer to the fire crackling in the stone fireplace. “Excuse me?”
Moira whirled on her sister. “This wasn’t the first time? Are you kidding me?”
“This is the first time they’ve sent three squads of five,” Brenna said. She clasped her hands together. “Would you care to stay for supper, Jase?”
So she wanted a moment to think of a good story, did she? Fine. He needed to get rid of the blood, anyway. “I’d love to stay for supper.” He yanked off his destroyed sweatshirt. “May I use your shower first?”
She swallowed and pointed down a marble-lined hallway. “Of course. I’ll have Moira fetch some of Conn’s clothes from next door.”
“Fetch?” Moira sputtered. “Did you just say fetch?”
Jase nodded. “This is what’s going to happen, Brenna. I’m going to take a shower, and then we’re going to talk about the CRAP group and the warrior group. You’re going to tell me everything. Then, we’ll decide what to do.” He paused at the edge of the foyer, his mind finally settling. “We’ll also discuss this mating business and negotiate our own terms. Regardless of our societies.”
“Good plan,” she murmured.
Glorious oil paintings created by Brenna lined the hallway. Her unique scent of vanilla and woman smacked him in the face when he entered her bedroom. Vivid jewel tones made up the bedclothes, and a sensual oil painting of two entwined silhouettes hung above the bed. Classy and sexy as hell.
His mind instantly spiraled back to his captivity and a similar painting. One of Brenna’s paintings had been hung in the room of a female demoness determined to mate Jase. That painting had grounded him—maybe saved him.
He stood, bleeding and battered, in the feminine bedroom. Brenna Dunne had most certainly saved him.
Now he’d save her.
Brenna finished stirring the Crock-Pot stew. Steam rose and warmed her cheeks. Jase Kayrs was in her shower. Naked. Jase. Naked. She swallowed. He’d left the bathroom door open, so she’d taken a quick peek when placing the clothes on the bed. Steam had blocked her view. Darn it.
Okay. She was a grown-up and could handle a dinner with Jase. They were old friends. He’d be dressed for dinner, certainly.
As the good daughter, the dutiful daughter, she’d predictably had a thing for bad boys. And Jase Kayrs was the baddest of them all.
Figured she’d be attracted to him. She nodded. Acknowledging that fact would help her navigate the next couple of weeks. Attraction was good, considering they’d need to have sex to mate. She could handle this logically and with maturity.
A rustle sounded by the door, and she turned as he strode into the kitchen.
On all that was holy and strong. She gulped.
The man wore all black. Cargo pants, long-sleeved shirt, a talisman on a leather cord around his neck. His short hair was spiked, and a shadow covered his cut jaw. “Smells good.”
Since when did sex and danger go hand in hand? She needed to get a grip. “Thanks. Have a seat.” Turning back to the Crock-Pot, she ladled two bowls.
A chair scraped. “Where’s Moira?”
Brenna turned and delivered the dishes, sitting across from him at the round table. “I kicked her out.”
His cheek creased. “I don’t imagine that was easy.”
Pouring two glasses of cabernet, Brenna shrugged. “What is?”
“Good point.” Jase tasted the stew and both eyebrows rose. “You’re a good cook.”
Pleasure rippled through her. What a complete dork she’d become. “Thanks.” Her stomach fluttered, suddenly not hungry. At least, not hungry for stew.
They ate in silence for a while. Not exactly comfortable, but not horrible, either. Finally, Brenna placed her napkin over her bowl. “What’s the story of the talisman?” The iron-carved face showed a warrior with hard eyes.
Jase stilled and shifted his weight. “I traveled for a bit after I, ah, returned home. Met a shaman in Budapest who gave me the talisman, and I usually wear it under my shirt. It’s supposed to guard and protect warriors heading into battle.”
Now that was fitting. The man seemed so alone. “Are you heading into battle?”
His head rose along with his gaze. Dark, thoughtful, intense. “I never left it.”
Awareness chilled her skin. “Are you talking about the demons out there . . . or the ones in your head?” she asked softly, fighting the urge to touch him. To soothe him.
His short nod was filled with self-acknowledgment, and those copper eyes darkened. “Brenna, you’re a sweetheart, but don’t waste your time trying to save me.” He stood and took both empty bowls to the sink. “That last thing I want to do is hurt you—and I will.” He whispered the last.
She rolled her eyes even though a flutter cascaded through her abdomen. Condescension from the vampire was unnecessary. “I’m not as fragile as everyone thinks.”
He turned and leaned against the sink. Tall and broad, he dominated the small kitchen with the image of male. “You’re a nurturer, and a tempting one at that. But I don’t want to be saved.”
She stood and handed him his wineglass before turning for the living room to sit on the leather sofa. “We all want to be saved.”
His exhale sounded behind her before he followed and sat in the chair facing her. “Don’t read anything into this mating other than I want your skills. Any other thoughts or hopes are going to end badly for you.” He placed his wineglass on the sofa table and leaned forward. “I need to be honest with you, and you need to know what you’re getting into.”
Irritation heated her chest. “What I’m getting into? Don’t tell me. I’ll be mating an obsessed, wounded, scarred vampire who is damned determined to wipe out the demons and probably himself in the process.”
Jase chuckled. “Well, maybe you do know.”
She inhaled and then exhaled. “I understand your motivations.”
“What about yours?” He frowned. “You could mate any vampire and certainly don’t need to follow the Coven Nine’s dictates that it be me.”
“I need to mate to stay alive, and since it’s not for love, it might as well be for the good of my people.” She sipped her wine, allowing the taste of oak to soothe her nerves. “The treaty with your people will assure mine stay safe as the war continues.” Plus, even damaged, the vampire was male and hot. Though she’d die before she told him that. A tiny voice in the back of her head whispered that maybe she could save him. She could be the one to help the wounded warrior and actually find love. Aye, she was a moron.