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|Shadowed(Dark Protectors #6) by Rebecca Zanetti|
Damn it. He had to control this. Sweat broke out on his brow, and his shoulders shook. How the hell had Kane missed this trigger? Now he couldn’t even command his own body. There had to be away.
“Uncle Jase, don’t—” Janie’s voice stopped with a gasp of pain.
Jase turned his head to see Malco’s knife set a millimeter in Janie’s skin. Her eyes filled with tears. God, if Malco dug any deeper, he’d cut her jugular.
“Back to the witch.” Malco nodded toward Brenna.
Jase’s body obediently turned back to the task at hand. Brenna’s eyelids flew open. Her pretty brown eyes focused and then widened. “Jase?”
He loved her. He needed to tell her. But when he opened his mouth, no sound emerged.
She glanced down at the knife that had torn through her shirt. “Um, Jase?”
“Kill her, Kayrs,” Malco said.
Panic filtered across Brenna’s face, followed by calmness. She looked him right in the eye. “Don’t even think of following that asshat’s orders.”
Jase’s head jerked back. Asshat?
Brenna’s hand slid along Jase’s arm to reach the hand holding the knife handle. “You control your body, and you control your life. Let go of the knife.”
He tried to unfurl his fingers, but his entire body remained still.
Brenna smiled. “I love you, Jase. Always have and always will, no matter what happens.”
Love. He felt it, too. Alive, mysterious, and somewhere deeper than his body. A growl rumbled up from his gut. He had to let go of the knife before he shoved it through her breastbone.
“This is touching.” Malco sighed loudly. “Kill the bitch. Now.”
Wrong words to say. Brenna was as far from a bitch as possible. Jase fought his body, his instincts, his own muscles, and yanked away. Gasping for breath, he glared at the weapon still in his hand. They didn’t own him—they never had.
With a battle cry, he stood and threw the knife across the room. Keeping his muscles tense, he reached deep into his own mind and shattered a wall.
Blinding pain cascaded across his skull along with the sound of breaking glass.
Jumping up, he swirled around to face his enemy. “Trigger gone.”
Malco snarled. “Pity. Guess I’ll have to kill you all.” Lifting his chin, he sent out a brutal wave of agony and images to slam into their brains.
Brenna cried out behind Jase.
Jase drew in the pain, forming a shield around the images. “That all you got?”
“No.” Malco yanked the knife across Janie’s throat.
Jase froze, the world narrowing to that second in time. His niece’s head dropped back as her jugular sprayed blood. Way too much blood.
Malco tossed her across the room and lunged.
Jase registered the sound of Janie hitting the far wall before Malco plowed into his stomach, throwing them both against the rock. Shards ripped down, cutting into his face and neck. Rage he had no intention of controlling roared through him, tightening his hands into fists. The first punch shot into Malco’s solar plexus, and Jase aimed for the stone behind him.
Malco exhaled, slapping both hands against Jase’s ears.
Brenna yelled Janie’s name and scrambled to the prone woman.
It was too late. Everything in Jase knew it was way too late for Janie. His heart hurt. How was he going to tell Talen his daughter was dead? And Cara?
The demon grabbed Jase’s still ringing ears, pressing in while leaning down and keeping his gaze. The black eyes swirled to purple, and the demon chanted in Latin. Words Jase had never heard before.
Pressure compounded behind Jase’s eyes. His arms went slack. Nails poked holes in his brain, and a sucking sound filled his ears. Lights flashed, and his stomach revolted. Then blackness covered his vision.
The room tilted, and he dropped to his knees. Blind and helpless.
Brenna’s anguished cry filtered through the pain. “Janie,” Brenna yelled. “God, wake up.”
There was no waking up for Janie Belle Kayrs. Jase stopped fighting the pain and blindness. He’d trained for this moment, and if it was his last, he’d go out swinging. There was no way on earth he’d allow Janie’s killer to breathe for one more day.
Losing himself, losing any humanity he’d tried to keep, he allowed the pain to turn him into the creature they’d wanted. His eyes flashed open, and the nails in his mind slid away.
Malco’s eyes widened.
Jase smiled and punched straight up into the demon’s groin. Malco released him, leaning over with a pained oof. Jase sprang into the air to clamp his thighs around the demon’s head and twist. Vertebra popped, and they plunged to the hard ground.
Straddling his enemy, Jase punched both fists into Malco’s face. His breath centered, his mind cleared, and he battered bones and flesh almost rhythmically. Blood flew into his cheeks, burning like cigarette ashes. Malco tried to punch back, and Jase himself levered up, bringing his knees down on the demon’s biceps with a force that broke bones.
Malco cried out in pain, his skull shattering.
Jase grunted, panting with the effort, his torso straining as each punch landed harder. He’d been training for five years for this moment, and yet he felt nothing. The demon’s skull crushed into bits beneath his hands, the man losing consciousness.
“Damn it, Jase,” Brenna yelled.
He kept hitting, the sound of flesh hitting wet flesh surrounding him.
“Jase?” She yelled louder.
He slowly turned his head, not halting his motions. His witch held her hands over Janie’s throat, blood coating them.
She stretched and kicked his knife toward him. Green fire danced along her arms and through her hair. “Finish him and get over here.”
The knife tumbled end over end toward him, finally landing near his foot. Blood coated his palm, and the handle slipped from his grasp when he reached for it. Stopping his movements, he wiped his hand down his chest. Grabbing the knife, he lifted it over his head and plunged the blade into Malco’s throat. The demon didn’t even move. Jase twisted both ways until the head was severed. Staggering to his feet, he kicked Malco’s head across the room.
Then he turned and lurched toward Brenna.
She had both hands over Janie’s throat, but it was too late. Janie’s blue eyes stared sightlessly at the ceiling, her body lax in death.
Reaching Brenna, he placed a hand on her shoulder. “Let her go, Bren.” Fire burned his palm, and he released her.
She turned her head, tears in her eyes. “Jane can’t be dead.” “She is,” Jase said woodenly. “Now get up. We have to get out of here.”
Brenna slowly leaned back, her hands sliding to her knees. “Do something.”
“There’s nothing to do.” He ignored the burn and hauled Brenna to her feet. They had mere minutes until midnight. “There’s still fighting going on, and we have to get you topside before the solstice. Let’s go.”
Brenna pivoted and grabbed his shirt with both hands. “You don’t get to go numb. Not now and not here.” Her palms scorched through his bloody T-shirt to burn his chest.
He shrugged her off, his mind wanting to clear. With a low growl, he shoved all emotion back down. “Move.”
She stepped back, blood on her face, her eyes wide with tears. “No. Janie’s dead, but we’re not leaving her.”
They had to go. If Brenna would only leave with Janie, then he’d have to carry his niece out. He bent and slid both hands under Janie’s still body.
That one touch destroyed him.
Memories flashed through him so quickly, he dropped again to his knees. The first time he’d met her—she’d only been four years old. Big blue eyes, wild hair, so fragile and breakable, he’d been scared to death to touch her. Yet she hadn’t given him a choice. She’d launched her tiny body at him, fully expecting and trusting he’d catch her. And he did. Then she’d patted both small hands against his face and smiled, showing a gap in her front teeth.
From that second on, she’d been family. A girl he’d protected as she’d grown into a woman he’d trained.
But it hadn’t been enough. Not nearly enough.
Sorrow burst through him with a gale’s force, and tears welled in his eyes. They flowed unchecked down his face, mixing with blood and dirt. He hadn’t wanted to feel this—he hadn’t wanted to feel anything. As he looked down at her delicate bone structure, he finally broke.
The rock walls morphed into faces around him. Faces he’d spent so much time with years ago. They shook their heads, eyes sad and full of recriminations. He’d let the demons win. They’d killed Janie, and they’d won.
Brenna tried to cool the fire along her skin, reaching out to rub Jase’s shaking shoulders. His grief popped the oxygen and made the air too heavy to breathe. The rocks rumbled around them, pieces falling down. They really did have to get aboveground.
She could feel the moon rise.
The power of the comet as it careened by the earth.
Power undulated around her, through her, trying to get in. She held it at bay. Barely. “Jase?” she forced out.
He didn’t move. His head was down, his eyes slowly closing. Damn it. Allowing him to stay numb would’ve ruined him for all time—she knew that. But this? Maybe this was worse. Her heart broke for him. For the entire Kayrs family.
Flames danced on her skin in colors of aqua and green. She stepped away from Jase to keep him from being burned. Energy rippled through her veins, through her muscles, to vibrate along her flesh.
Entrancing and intriguing, the power tempted her.
God, it tempted her.
But she couldn’t contain so much by herself—not after a decade of weakness. Even so, she touched the pendant around her neck. Could she beat the virus?
An explosion rocked the world outside, tilting the room, and she fell back against the wall.
Jase stood with Janie in his arms, his shoulders slumping. “Follow me out.”
Sparks danced inside Brenna’s skin. God. It was too much. A fireball careened from her hand and slammed into the doorway, tumbling the door inward, and making rocks fall to block the way. Shit.
There was no way out now.
Taking a breath, Jase placed Janie back on the floor and prowled over to the mound of rocks. “We need to dig out.”
Power and the sense of life filtered through Brenna. She slowly turned to eye the dead woman on the ground. Wait a minute. Just how powerful could she become? Carefully, she made her way over to Janie, opening her senses on the way.
No filters, no shields, no safety.
It was a long shot, but Brenna was willing to take it. She turned her hands over, palms out, allowing the universe in. The virus would have to wait.
Jase chucked a rock aside, turning to glance her way. “What are you doing?”
“Nothing,” she murmured, trying to concentrate.
Jase bounded up. “Brenna, no. Stop it.”
She turned toward him as a myriad of different hues sprang up along her exposed skin. Tons of colors, all vibrant and alive. “I may be able to bring her back.”
Jase tucked his chin, grief filling his copper eyes. “No, sweetheart. You’ll just harm yourself. Stop. Now.”
“No.” She allowed a sad smile to lift her lips, the sensation hurting. “I have to try. It might work.”
Anger and regret flashed across his strong face. He stood and prowled toward her. “I can’t let you do this.”
“You can’t stop me.” Her voice deepened, the sound resonating and not completely her.
“I can.” His hand closed into a fist. “Don’t make me. Please.”
Energy and strength coursed through her from her head down to her toes. Energy she drew in and reshaped to make it her own. “Step back. I don’t want to burn you.” Fire crackled along her legs, sounding like a campfire deep in the woods. The sensation pricked her nerves, burning and stinging. Yet, she kept drawing it in.
“If I have to knock you out, I will.” His face was set, the expression hard. But emotion and pain swirled in his amazing eyes. “Stop it, now.”
“No.” God. The pull of power was too addictive, too necessary. She couldn’t stop now even if she wanted to—which she didn’t. She might actually gain enough power to bring Janie back. The woman had only been gone for minutes, and surely it was possible. Untold power felt like something too wonderful to name—even though it kind of hurt. But in a good, too tempting way. “Go dig us out.”
She stepped back and swept out an arm. Fire lanced out, forming a living wall between them. He lifted his chin, anger tightening his lips to a white line. “Drop the fire. Now.”
“No.” She spread her arms, and the wall surrounded her and Janie. Jase couldn’t get in unless she allowed him passage.
He growled and slid a hand into the fire. The scent of burning flesh filled the room.
“Burn all you want. I’m not stopping.” Brenna shook her head, the power fuzzing her brain, her emotions washing away. Knowing full well the risks, she allowed them to disappear. She allowed the power to turn her into somebody else—somebody who might be able to heal Janie. To bring a human back from the dead, Brenna had to turn into something new. Something dangerous and probably something that couldn’t last.
Sparks flew around the room. The earth rumbled below them, while thunder filled the night above them. Loud enough to be heard so deep in the earth.
The rhythm of the wind, the strength of the storm, the life of the earth filled her, surrounded her, lifted her higher than she could’ve imagined. A song erupted down her spine, a new song, a melody she could only feel. Too high and strong to be heard, it wove through her skin and flesh, tightening in a universal truth.