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|Shadowed(Dark Protectors #6) by Rebecca Zanetti|
Taking advantage of his preoccupation, she slammed her heels into his hips and tossed him off, following to straddle him. “You know, there is something I’d like to try.” She untied her gloves with her teeth and yanked them off.
“What’s that?” he asked.
She slid her thumbs inside his waistband. Since the first time she’d seen him naked, she’d been curious. “I’ve wondered how much of you I can take in my mouth.”
His sweats instantly tented. He kicked off his shoes.
Power flushed through her as she slid his pants off his legs. His cock sprang free—large and ready to go.
She reached for her glasses.
“Leave the glasses on.” His voice thickened.
She smiled, taking him in her hand. One lick, and his body stiffened.
Power of a new sort sang in her blood. She stilled. Green danced on her arms. Oh God. Joy ripped through her. Her strength and powers were returning.
Fire lanced down her arms.
Jase yelped. His hands slapped the mat, and his legs kicked.
She frowned, tightening her hold. “What?”
“Fire. Fucking fire,” he bellowed, trying to twist away from her.
Shit. She was burning him. She dropped his cock.
He yowled like a burning cat and twisted. His knee smacked into her ribs, and she fell onto his thighs. He yelled. The smell of burnt flesh filled the room. With a growl, Jase grabbed her armpits and tossed her across the mat. Jumping to his feet, he hopped toward a water cooler set into the corner. Ripping off the huge container, he dumped it on his groin. Steam rose.
She scrambled to her feet. “Oh God. I’m so sorry—” Her arm swept out, and plasma balls shot for his head.
His eyes widened, and he dropped to the ground. The balls split the metal, raining shards down on him. They impacted his flesh with a sizzling echo. She gasped and started for him.
He held out a hand to stop her. “Jesus. Stay there.”
She stopped moving, her arms windmilling for balance. Green plasma balls flew in every direction, burning holes through the metal. One hit a dummy, and it erupted in flames. The fire spread from dummy to dummy. Wafting, flame-filled cotton hovered in the air.
Brenna stomped out a spark on the mat, only to drop another plasma ball. It popped on the mat, spreading fingers of fire.
Smoke billowed from every direction.
The outside door opened, and Moira leapt inside.
Brenna turned, shooting balls of fire.
Moira frowned, formed a blue ball, and threw it to waver around Brenna.
Brenna sighed, slowly relaxing. The flames on her skin died out. She grinned.
Moira glanced at Jase in the corner, the burning building, and then at her sister. “So. Guess you got your powers back, huh?”
Jase shifted on the leather chair, his testicles still on fire. The king’s battle room held a screen on one wall, a myriad of maps on another, and a full wall of windows on the third. The battle room underground was better equipped, but today they strategized in the lodge’s main conference room. So he didn’t have to go into the earth again.
Talen punched in keys on a laptop, and a region of the Pacific Northwest came into view. “We’ve been watching a Kurjan encampment located east of Seattle. There’s been additional activity in and out the last two weeks.”
“Any proof Garrett is on site?” Dage asked, shifting papers aside on the onyx table.
“No,” Talen said. Harsh lines cut into the sides of his mouth as he discussed his son like any other mission. “Another message came earlier today about the exchange for Brenna before the solstice.”
“That’s a smokescreen. They want Janie,” Jase said. He glanced at the wall and fought the urge to massage his healing balls. “Why don’t we take the Kurjans’ main headquarters in Canada and take the Kurjan leader? It’s time Franco came out of hiding. If Kalin has Garrett, and we think he does, then let’s exchange Franco, his—what the hell is he, anyway?”
“Cousin, I think. Maybe nephew?” Dage muttered. “I can never keep them straight.”
“The problem is, Kalin might let us keep Franco. Word has it Kalin is stepping up his game to rule the Kurjans.” Kane spoke up even as he kept reading a report.
“So he’d kill family to rule?” Jase frowned. “Are you sure?”
“Yes.” Dage nodded. “So the Kurjans think we’ll focus on Brenna and not notice Janie sneaking off to save her brother. We might be able to use that.” He focused on Talen. “Has Kalin contacted Janie with demands?”
“She says he hasn’t,” Talen said.
“Is she lying?” Dage asked.
“Yes.” Talen spread papers out on the table. “I have Max and another guard on her as well as five men she doesn’t know about. She’s not going anywhere.”
Dage nodded. “Good. Give me your three best plans.”
Talen grabbed a notebook. “One—we take Seattle and search for intel on Garrett. Two—we take Franco out of Canada and try for an exchange for Garrett. Three—we agree to the exchange, dress Moira up as Brenna, and set a trap for them here when they come for Janie.”
“I dislike the third option,” Conn said from where he leaned against the wall, arms crossed. “However, my witch is a badass, and it’s a good plan.”
Dage rubbed his chin. “Do we have the manpower to implement all three strikes at once?”
Kane leaned forward. “We do if we use our shifter allies near Seattle. Then we hit Canada and set the trap here.”
“Okay.” Dage pushed away from the table. “Talen? You have three hours to come up with complete battle plans. We’ll meet back here then.”
The men stood and headed for the door.
“Jase? Stay, please,” Dage said.
Jase’s gut lurched. He waited until his brothers had left and then shut the door. Turning around, he dropped back into a chair and winced.
Dage frowned. “You all right?”
Apparently Moira hadn’t reported back about his flaming balls yet. “Fine.”
“Good. I’m benching you for this one.”
Dage lifted one dark eyebrow. “That was a directive from the king, not your older brother.”
“No. That was from my older brother,” Jase said softly. “You need everybody you have for this strike. I’m strong, and I’m ready.”
“I screwed up, and I know it.” Jase leaned his elbows on the table. “It won’t happen again.”
Dage blew out air. “You don’t talk about it.”
Everything in Jase stilled. “About what?”
“You know what. Your time with the demons.” Dage shook his head. “I’ve given you years to deal . . . yet you never talk about the captivity.”
“There’s nothing to say.”
“Why didn’t they kill you?” Dage asked.
Jase blinked. Now that was the question that kept him up at night. “Honestly? I think they hoped I was so fucked up after five years of torture, I’d come back here and be a distraction.” Upon his rescue, his own doctors had probed him head to toe. There were no weapons, capsules, anything in his body that would harm his family. “I passed every psychological test Kane could come up with to make sure my brain wasn’t changed.”
But he’d been changed, and he had returned seriously fucked up. As a plan, it didn’t suck. “I’ve already screwed up—nearly getting Talen killed.” Jase leaned forward. “But I can beat this. You just need to trust me.” Yeah, it was a manipulative move that played on an older brother’s emotions. But Jase needed to be in the action. He needed to help save Garrett.
Dage eyed him. “Talen’s the strategic leader for the Realm and is creating this plan. It’s up to him if you go.”
Excellent. Talen was a much easier sell than Dage. Of course, Jase had almost gotten him blown up a couple of days ago. “Great.”
Dage stood. “When this is over and we have Garrett back, you and I are talking about your time in captivity. I want to know all of it.”
Jase lifted his chin and eyed his older brother. “You really don’t.” Without waiting for a reply, he pivoted and strode out of the room. He’d worked hard to bury the pain, and no matter how well-meaning Dage was, opening that wound would cause more damage than he could repair. He glanced at his watch. Crap. He was late.
Several corridors later, he knocked on the prophet’s door. Lily opened it and gestured him inside. The woman always smelled like strawberries.
He tried to step lightly over her Persian rug, but his boots left huge prints. The chair creaked when he lowered his bulk. He winced when his ass hit the cushion.
Lily frowned. “Are you all right?”
Heat climbed into his face. “Fine. Thanks.”
She sat on a tiny chair and leaned forward. “Did you harm yourself training?”
“No.” There was no way to explain.
Lily nodded. “All right. Tell me about the anger.”
Brenna took a deep breath and tried to control the power. Fire danced down her arms again.
“Shit.” Moira tossed a ball around her. Again. “Concentrate, Bren.”
“I am.” It was like being a teenager again and just coming in to power. “I can’t believe I’m failing to control plasma.”
Moira wrinkled her nose. “You have ten times the power of a newbie, and yet, no control.” She coughed back a laugh. “Did you see Jase’s face?”
Brenna snorted before she could stop herself. “His face? I don’t think his face was the problem.”
Moira erupted into laugher until tears glimmered in her eyes. She dropped to the mat in the quiet gym. “I’ll never get that sight out of my head.”
Brenna sobered. “So you felt my power return from across the subdivision?”
“Aye. I always feel when another witch is altering matter.” Moira sat up, losing her smile. “But, well, yours felt different.”
Brenna batted Moira’s plasma out of the way. “Different how?”
“Dunno.” Moira back-flipped to stand. “Here’s the deal. We’re the closest in age, and we’ve always shot straight with each other, right?”
Even though there was still a century of age between them,
Moira had always been Brenna’s closest confidant. Brenna steeled her shoulders. “Aye.”
“You know about the Pagurus Comet, right?”
Brenna stilled. “Yes. Why?”
“Well, it’s real. Maybe.” Moira scratched her elbow. “I remember when you were born. The very air felt different.”
A shiver racked Brenna. “Are you serious?” This was crazy. Even though Kane seemed to give credence to the legend, Brenna still hadn’t really believed it. She peered closer at her sister. Was Moira playing a joke?
Moira nodded. “I’m deadly serious. There’s something to the legend, and the fact that your power is back so suddenly makes me wonder.”
Brenna’s mind spun. “My power is coming back because I mated one of the strongest vampires on earth.”
“Maybe.” Moira slid a few feet away. “Maybe it’s a combination of the two.”
“So? What does that mean?”
“Dunno. Just that if the legends are true, or if the seers really know diddly, you’ll be one seriously strong badass on the solstice.”
The door opened, and Janie Kayrs eased inside, a longneck in her hand. “Hello, Auntie Witches.”
Moira flashed a grin. “Funny. Shouldn’t you be communing with the gods or something?”
Brenna frowned at her sister. “Leave her alone.” While Janie might be in her mid-twenties, an air of ancientness surrounded her. Most psychics seemed like old souls.
Janie took a sip of the beer. “That’s actually why I’m here.”
Moira stepped closer to their niece. “Did you have a vision?”
“About Garrett?” Brenna asked.
“No.” Janie twirled the beer bottle. “About you, Bren.”
Lovely. Brenna searched for calm. “Don’t tell me. I blow up the world on the winter solstice.”
Janie shifted her feet, her pretty blue eyes clouding. “Maybe.” Moira’s smile stopped halfway across her lips. “Wait a minute. Are you serious?”
Janie rubbed her mouth. “Yes.”
Moira cut a look at Brenna, instantly turning into the deadly enforcer she was. “Tell me what you saw.”
Janie leaned against the wall, fatigue darkening into circles under her eyes. “I saw Brenna and waves of liquid oxygen. Vibrating with power, unstable, and on the brink of exploding.”
Brenna swallowed, chills rippling through her spine. “Where was I?”
“Don’t know. But it felt hot—and scary. You were totally out of control.” Janie took another deep gulp of the beer, concern etched into her face. “I thought I should warn you.”
“Have your visions ever been wrong?” Brenna whispered, her mind searching for reason.
“No. But there are always many paths to the future, and this is just one. It may not happen.” Janie’s face lost all color and she swayed.
Moira instantly shot forward and helped her to the mat. “What in the world?”
Janie’s head dropped forward as she gave a low moan. “Oh God. I should never have let them take my blood.”
Moira shook her shoulder. “Who? Who did you give blood?”