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|Shadowed(Dark Protectors #6) by Rebecca Zanetti|
“Asshole,” she muttered again. “Trust me, Brenna.” He’d whispered the words, and she’d believed them. Aye, her heart freakin’ ached. A real, deep-in-the-chest hurt. She’d known better than to fall for him. Two hours into the flight, and she wanted to cry, but Jase Kayrs didn’t deserve her tears.
Green danced along her arms, and she ruthlessly shoved it back. Setting the plane on fire would be disastrous.
Even now, as the solstice neared, energy heated her blood.
Power. Untapped and absolute.
She’d reach home just in time to watch night arrive. She fingered the pendant around her neck with its dangerous bug. Midnight was her hour, and she’d be ready. At that time, she’d cure Virus-27.
A scrape sounded from behind her. She stiffened. The two pilots were in the cockpit, and she was the only person on the plane.
Reaching for a knife in her laptop case, she slowly stood and turned.
Jane Kayrs slid outside the bedroom, one eyebrow raised. “You going to stab me?”
Brenna slid the knife back into the bag and eyed the young woman. “What are you doing here?”
Janie tugged down her sweater and moved to sit in the chair facing Brenna’s. “They took the guards off me since Garrett is home, and this was my only chance to get free.” Wise blue eyes twinkled. “I thought we’d make a break for it together.”
Brenna shook her head. “You’re in danger, and you know it.”
“I’m always in danger,” Janie said softly. “It’s my job to end this war, and I can’t do that under the heavy mantle of security. Surely you understand.”
Janie had the petite, fit frame of a normal twenty-four-year-old woman, and the stunning eyes of a centuries-old soul.
Brenna sighed. “What’s your plan?”
“I’ve been having constant visions regarding the Prophecies of Arias, and the current war. I need to read that book.” She paled even more. “Something is in there, but I don’t know what.”
Brenna patted her hand. “I’ll see what I can do, but if the book exists, no non-witch has ever seen it.”
“Understood. Plus, I need to meet Zane in person and try to talk him into ending this war. My visions have always shown the moment to come down to us and Kalin, and it’s time.” Janie slid her hands down her frayed jeans. “It is so time.”
Brenna recognized love when she saw it. Why did the sensation have to hurt so much? “You don’t even know who or what Zane is. What makes you think he’s one of the good guys?”
“He saved Garrett, didn’t he? That goes a long way to convincing me we’re on the same side.”
“Doesn’t mean you won’t get your heart broken.”
“Like you did?” Janie sighed. “Uncle Jase is confused, but I can tell he loves you.”
Brenna rolled her eyes. “He’s not confused, he’s just obsessed. So you think I should’ve stayed?”
“Hell, no.” Janie grinned. “You have to stand up to those vampires, or you’ll never get anywhere. You made the right move.”
“I didn’t leave for a move.” Brenna shook her head. “I left for good.”
“If you say so.” Janie leaned back. “You know he’ll come after you.”
Would he? If he did, what then? More empty promises? “I don’t think so, Jane.” Brenna glanced at her watch. “Great timing on revealing yourself. If we head back now, I won’t arrive home in time to prepare for the solstice.”
“That was the goal.” Janie reached to open the refrigerator and drew out a beer. “I’ll contact Zane when we’re closer to Ireland and come up with a plan.”
The woman was crazy. “You don’t think I’m going to let you meet with Zane, do you?”
Janie smiled again. “Yes, I do. By the way, happy birthday.”
Brenna snorted. “Thanks so much.”
Janie frowned, dropping the unopened can. “Something’s happening.”
The urgency in her tone made Brenna sit up straight. “What’s happening?”
An object clipped the left wing, and the plane rocked. Fire danced along the metal. Another explosion echoed from the right wing.
Panic curled Brenna’s hands around the armrest. “Secure your seat belt.” She slid her belt into the buckle as Janie did the same. An alarm blared through the cabin.
The pilot shoved open the cockpit door. “We’ve been hit. Brace yourselves for impact, because we’re going down.”
“When you call in, let them know Janet Kayrs is on board.” Brenna shoved down panic as the plane dropped several yards. Her stomach rose to her throat. She grabbed the knife from the bag and tossed it to Janie. “Be ready when we land.”
Janie caught the handle and nodded, her eyes wide.
Brenna opened another compartment and drew out a gun. The plane twisted, and she bashed into the window. “Where are we?” she yelled over the alarm.
“Over the Mexico desert,” the head pilot bellowed back.
Brenna clutched the gun, keeping the barrel pointed away from Janie. “Who’s in the desert?”
Janie’s hands turned white on her jeans. “Well, it’s probably too hot and sunny for Kurjans, and most shifters like the cold, same with vampires.”
Brenna nodded, her mind spinning. “That leaves witches and demons. Could be either.” Had she been stupid to disregard the CRAP group? They’d been organizing for years—maybe they had a presence all over the world. Of course, maybe the Kurjans did have a presence in the desert. She turned toward the front. “Are you two armed?”
“Of course,” the pilot yelled. “Get ready to hit.”
Outside the window, the red of the desert grew larger and closer.
“I’m going to put down as close to the rock formations as possible,” the pilot yelled over the alarm. “Head for shelter.” He slammed the door shut.
“If we survive,” Janie muttered, her face devoid of color. She reached out to hold Brenna’s hand. “Is the safety on the gun?”
“Yes.” Brenna tightened her hold.
The plane tilted, and she bit back a scream.
The refrigerator opened, and drinks spilled out. A beer bottle shattered, sending liquid spraying.
Brenna eyed Janie, her stomach tightening. The woman was human and wouldn’t survive most injuries a witch could heal from. “Janie, press your cheek against your knees.” Maybe there was some way Brenna could shield Janie from injury. At least she could block her niece from any projectiles.
Janie nodded and dropped into the crash position.
The alarm suddenly cut off. Instant silence filled the cabin. The first bump was gentle, and Brenna began to relax.
Then the plane slid sideways, spinning around. She screamed, dropping her face to her legs. Janie’s hand tightened on hers. Momentum slapped her cheek against the armrest.
Something exploded outside, and heat flared through the cabin. Oh God, Oh, God, Oh God.
Metal cracked, thundering in protest. The plane rocked, lifting up and slamming back down. A bottle hit Brenna in the arm, slicing her skin. Unfastening her seat belt, she moved to cover Janie from harm.
The plane pitched, and she flew into the woman. The chair ripped from the floor, sending them flying into the door of the cockpit. They hit the ground with a loud thump.
Then everything stopped. No sound, no movement . . . only the smell of smoke. Brenna lifted herself off Janie, running her hands along her niece’s limbs. “Are you all right?”
“No.” Janie shoved hair off her face. “Shit, no. You?”
“No.” At least they weren’t dead. Brenna unbuckled Janie’s belt. “We have to move fast.”
Gunfire echoed, and a cry of pain filtered under the cockpit door. Panic heated Brenna’s lungs. Her eyes met Janie’s wide ones. She tilted her head toward the knife, and Janie nodded.
Brenna released the safety on the gun and stood to face the door. Inching forward, she unhinged the lock. “Stay behind me.” Taking up a firing stance, she slowly toed the door open.
A full contingent of demon soldiers faced the doorway, guns out. Crap. “Hide in the bedroom, Janie.” Brenna grabbed for the door and slammed it shut. The metal was instantly ripped out of her hands to go spiraling into a series of red rocks.
The closest demon smiled. Power cascaded around him, but he held it in check. “Come out of the plane, please.”
Janie inched behind Brenna toward the bedroom.
“Both of you,” the demon said. “I’d rather not rip into your brains, but I will if you don’t move. Now.”
Brenna took a deep breath, eyeing the squad of five. She couldn’t take all of them. So her hands rose. “I’m the only one in here.”
Images of dead animals shot into her head followed by a slash of agony. She bit her lip. Janie hissed in pain behind her, the knife clattering to the ground. The images and pain dissipated.
The demon shook his head. “That was a warning. Come out, both of you, now.”
“Fine.” Brenna paused long enough for Janie to reclaim the knife and hide it. “We’re coming out.” She allowed the gun to rotate on her finger harmlessly, and the first demon took it.
The guy in charge quickly bound her hands along with Janie’s, leading them through a series of rock formations. Brenna yanked back. “Our pilots.”
The demon shoved her back into motion. “Your pilots didn’t make it.”
Nausea rose from her belly. She hadn’t even asked the names of the two witch pilots. Her people were dead because of her. “I’m going to cut off your head myself.”
The demon chuckled. “I’ve heard good things about witches in bed . . . that you’re hotter than feline tigresses.”
Yeah, but she’d been mated. If any other male touched her besides Jase, he’d blow up with a fierce allergic reaction. “Sounds like a date, handsome. Why don’t we get to it right now?”
He leaned in and smelled her. “Oh my. Mated a vampire, did we?” He tsked his tongue. “Now why would I keep you alive?”
“You tell me. You brought down my plane.” She glanced behind her to see Janie doggedly moving along.
“I’m following orders, witch. You mean less to me than the dirt over there.” The demon led them around another group of rocks to waiting helicopters. Brenna stopped short. The demon laughed. “You didn’t think we brought your plane down where we planned to keep you, right?” He grabbed her hair and dragged her to the closest bird, tossing her in.
Brenna scrambled over to the edge as Janie landed next to her. How in the hell were they going to get out of this one?
She eyed Janie, who glanced down at her boot. Okay. Their hands were tied, but they had a knife.
She nodded. Time to plan.
Jase winced as his rib snapped back into place. He sat, leaning against the wall of his training building, trying to heal.
Dage groaned as his nose re-formed. “Not the face.”
Jase grinned. “Your nose looks like a pancake.”
The cartilage slowly slid back into alignment. “Not now.”
Jase sucked air into his healing lungs. “I’m sorry about everything.”
“Me, too.” The king rolled his neck. “I fully plan on taking out the demons, just so you know. But when we go in, we go in fast and smart. No more losses.”
Jase nodded. His brother was right. “I understand.”
A bone cracked, and Dage winced. “Does Kane think he got the trigger in your brain?”
“Yes.” Well, Kane said he’d hoped—but hope was all they had.
“At least now I understand why they let me live.”
Dage nodded. “Yeah. Though there’s a lot of chatter that Willa wants you back. Sounds like a psycho bitch.”
“She is.” Jase grimaced as blood slid down his throat. “She killed humans to give me blood—making me think we were allies. I didn’t know about the human women until I’d been drinking for weeks.”
Dage shook his head. “That’s twisted.”
“Yeah. She tried to convince me that mating her would save us both.” He shivered and fought down nausea. “I considered it.” The confession almost made him puke.
“But you didn’t go through with it. Thank God.” Dage curled his lip. “I’d hate to have to kill one of my brothers’ mates.”
“She won’t stop coming.” Jase sent healing cells to the back of his left eyeball. “The woman is obsessed and pure evil. If Suri hadn’t nearly cut off my head and buried me, she would’ve hidden me forever.” And the woman had a very loyal set of guards. Maybe someday she’d take down her brother and lead the demons.
“The fact that the demons attacked the Kurjan boat the other night pleases me.” Dage cracked his knuckles. “I’m not pleased Garrett was the prize, but I like our enemies turning on each other.”
“That beats them becoming allies,” Jase said.
“The demons will never ally with the Kurjans.” Dage shook his head. “But they usually leave each other alone. Now, Kalin will retaliate against the demons—he has to.”
“So we sit it out and let them fight?” Jase frowned.
“No. But the weaker they are, the easier it’ll be to take them down.” Dage cleared his throat. “Have you discovered anything new about Brenna and the solstice?”
“No. Just that she’ll be infused with power. Kane wants her to figure out how to cure Virus-27. Maybe find a way to make the virus release its hold on individual chromosomes.”