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|Shadowed(Dark Protectors #6) by Rebecca Zanetti|
She was more powerful than the earth, sharper than the truth. More everlasting than reality—stronger than death.
Her hands vibrated, a wild dark blue dancing along her fingers. Turning, she knelt and placed both hands across Janie’s throat.
Tendrils danced from Janie to tickle through the blue. Brenna tipped her head to the side but couldn’t see anything. Yet something, a presence of a sort, reached for her hand. Was it Janie’s soul?
“Stay in there,” Brenna whispered, pressing harder against ripped flesh and damaged tissue.
The earth trembled, rumbling deep with the hint of violence. Something unnatural was happening, and the earth would object. That was fine. Brenna could fight the planet if necessary. Potent power filled her, entranced her, drugged her.
She felt the exact second the comet drew close.
Forcing the energy into her hands, she pressed Janie’s soul back into her body. Blood squirted, the vessels quickly mending before flesh drew together.
Janie gasped, rearing up, her eyes wide.
Brenna fell back. Holy crap.
Janie clutched her neck, wheezing in air. “What . . . happened?”
“You died.” Brenna lurched to stand and waved the fire wall down.
Jase rushed forward to yank Janie up in a hug. Tears slid down his face. “I can’t believe it.”
Brenna’s lungs heated and compressed. Uh-oh. She backed toward the demolished doorway, struggling to breathe. The sky bellowed a warning loud enough to be felt as well as heard. The ground shook. Rocks fell from the ceiling in large chunks.
Her body filled with energy and insurmountable power. She tried to shove it out, but it was too late.
Way too late.
Jase settled Janie on the ground, her back to the rock. Faces morphed around him. Some familiar, some new. Had they missed him? He shook off the odd question, accepting the strangeness of his captivity. The faces had helped him to survive, to not be so alone. His brain had done what it could to keep him from going completely crazy.
Brenna backtracked to the far wall, her eyes wide and an unfathomable black. Her hair cascaded around her, curling as if she’d been electrocuted.
She was beautiful.
And dangerous as hell.
Flames danced on her skin, along her neck, even deep in her eyes. Panic lived there, as well. Then resignation.
Oh, hell no. The woman wasn’t giving up. He shook his head, fighting to be heard above the rumbling earth. “Dig deep, Bren. Fight the power. You used it, you owned the bitch. Now let it go.”
Crimson spread along her high cheekbones, and her eyelids half-closed. Ecstasy and pain raced across her face. “Caaan’t contain it,” she gasped.
“You can.” He dodged to the side to avoid a falling boulder. They needed to get out of the ground before the tunnels collapsed. “Find the ice.”
“There’s . . . no . . . ice,” she hissed out, grimacing. “Too much . . . too hot . . . step back. Now.”
“No.” He moved closer to her, heat singeing his arms and face. So much heat.
The fire wavered around her and crackled. She cried out, pain washing her face white.
Janie cried out from behind him, scrambling out of the way as rocks pummeled down.
Male voices echoed from the hallway as boulders were tossed aside. Talen and Conn shoved inside, bloody and bruised. But alive.
“We have to go,” Talen growled, running to help his daughter stand and half-carry her into the hall. “Now.”
“Go,” Brenna shouted above the shaking earth. Regret twisted her lips, and tears made steam rise on her face. “Get out. Now.”
Jase shoved Conn into the hallway after Talen and Janie. “Go. We’ll be all right.”
His brother turned and eyed Brenna. “I’ll stay with you.”
“No.” Jase shook his head. “I can’t worry about both of you.”
“But if she blows, you’ll both be buried.”
“I know. Go home to your witch, Conn. I’ll take care of mine.” Jase couldn’t be responsible for his older brother’s death if this went the wrong way. His only chance to save Brenna lay in total concentration. “You have to go and make sure our brothers don’t try to come back down here.” They would, and that would be disastrous. The Kayrs men needed to get clear.
“I’m not leaving you.”
“You are. I need you to trust me.” Jase fought to keep his face clear and confident. His older brother had always stood between him and danger, but that time had passed. “You have to help Talen get Janie out of here—it sounds like you’ll need to dig out, and time is running short. Janie is the only human, and she definitely won’t survive an explosion. The rest of us have a chance. Get going. Please.”
Conn studied him as debris rained around them. Finally, with a nod, he grabbed Jase in a hard hug.
Emotion choked Jase’s throat, and he clasped his brother tight. “I’ll see you topside.”
Conn levered back, his eyes glazed. “Topside.” Then he turned and followed the path Talen had taken.
Jase nodded and took a deep breath. Good.
Brenna’s eyes filled with more tears. She grabbed the pendant around her neck. “I can’t focus the energy into the virus. I’m trying, but—”
“Stop worrying about the virus. Concentrate so you don’t blow up.” Panic swept through his limbs along with a fierce determination.
She cried out, pain scenting the air. “Please, go. Now.”
He shook his head. “I won’t leave you. So you’d better control this.”
“I can’t.” She winced as fire cut into her jugular, highlighting her veins in bright red through her pale skin. “Too much.”
The fire was burning her. Jase stepped closer, his skin sizzling. Taking a deep breath of the heated air, he forced calmness through his nerves. The wall inside his mind had shattered, and he’d taken control. The last vestiges of his captivity, of his torture, had disappeared by his own effort. For years they’d tried to break him, but he was stronger than they’d imagined.
“You failed,” he bellowed to the morphing rocks.
Brenna tilted her head. “What?” she yelled through the smoke.
He settled his stance and opened his hands. “Hold on, baby.” He could do this. It was time to reclaim his life, to be who he wanted to be and not who the demons had tried to turn him into. He was Jase-fucking-Kayrs, and he controlled the elements.
Brenna’s mouth opened in a silent scream as the fire started to consume her.
Jase peered into the raining debris to individual oxygen molecules. Digging deep, he commanded them to alter their state.
Water dripped through the air.
Exhilaration swept him. It was as if a missing limb had suddenly been returned. Power rushed through his veins in an electric arc.
Brenna screamed, and he narrowed his focus. Water splashed over her, quickly turning to ice. Steam rose with a sharp hiss all around her. The fire fought him, and he pushed back with as much strength as he could without harming Brenna. The ice might sharpen and stab her, so he kept a tight rein on the power.
Life and power hummed in his blood. A feeling he’d missed.
The ice cracked, and he added another layer. More steam rose. The fire turned blue, fighting him. Brenna’s eyes widened and then closed.
He sent another layer. “Dig deep, Bren. Find calmness,” he yelled. Maybe she could hear him through the ice and fire, maybe not.
The fire burned brighter. With a crash, shards of ice shot out, one piercing his jaw.
Pain flashed down his neck.
The fire was snuffed out, having spent all its energy throwing off the ice.
Brenna dropped to the ground, her hand going to her chest. She gasped, swallowed, and opened her eyes. Panic flashed across her face, and she lunged for him, her hands pressing on his wound.
“I’m all right.” He grasped her bloody hands and tugged her in for a quick hug, while sending healing cells to his screaming neck. The skin began to stitch together with a painful pull. The room tilted and the floor split. Jase took Brenna’s hand, trying to shield her head, and yanked her into the hallway. “Run, baby. Time to run.”
He turned and smashed into Conn. “What the hell?” Behind Conn stood Talen, Kane, Dage, and Max, all dirty and bloody.
Conn smacked his shoulder. “We got Janie and the wounded to safety and came back for you.”
Dage gave him a look that said Duh.
The huge wave of emotion that engulfed him caught him up short. They were his brothers, and he should’ve known they’d never leave him underground. He nodded, his throat clogging. There weren’t words, really.
The rocks exploded, sending fire toward Conn. Jase waved his hand, and a wall of ice blocked the flames.
Conn grinned through grime and blood. “Awesome.”
Yeah. It was.
Dage growled. “Let’s go before this whole damn thing collapses.”
Jase yanked Brenna close and nodded. “Run.”
Brenna sat on a stone bench watching dawn begin to lighten the day. The ocean churned below, dark and mysterious. She’d been debriefed by the king and her people as soon as the helicopters had touched down. A medical examination showed that mating Jase as well as pulling in the comet’s power had cured her of the poisoning, which she’d already known. Still, it was nice to have medical confirmation. Oddly enough, she still needed to wear glasses. Apparently the damage to her eyes couldn’t be countered. However, for the first time in a long time, she knew she’d live a long life. Finally finished, she’d headed to Jase’s home for a quick shower. The house stood behind her lacking its windows.
It might’ve been a happy home for her. But some things weren’t meant to be.
Jase had stayed with her underground when she was sure to blow up. More than that, he’d risked his own life and sanity to save her. But when it had come down to it, he’d chosen revenge over helping her. A man in love didn’t make that choice. Although he was an honorable man and would fulfill his duties, she didn’t want to be a duty, and she didn’t want him to sacrifice for her. She owed him, and she’d make this easy on him.
Spreading out her fingers, she watched aqua flames dance on her skin. The comet had passed, as had the solstice, but some power remained. Much more vibrated through her veins than she’d ever had, even before she’d been poisoned. Unfortunately, she needed time to regain control.
She sensed Jase before he prowled into view. The early light flitted across his angled face, highlighting shadows and strength. Tucking his hands into faded jeans, he leaned against the trunk of a massive pine.
“How are you?” he asked, his voice a deep rumble.
A shiver wound down her spine from the husky tone. “I’m fine.”
“Good. Sorry we missed your birthday.”
“I’m glad it’s over.”
He eyed the ocean. “How’s your control?”
“Marginal, but I’ll get it.” This polite talk was giving her a headache. “I’m sorry I couldn’t cure the virus.”
He turned, his eyes cutting through the morning. “You did something better. What you did, saving Janie . . .”
“I know.” Sometimes life took odd twists.
“Thank you.” His hair was growing out, and she wondered if he’d let it go shaggy like when he was younger. The relaxed look worked on him. “Kane thinks the triggers are out of my brain for good now.”
“So you don’t need to worry any longer.”
“I’m leaving tomorrow.” She extended her legs, stretching the tendons. The Kayrs men were honorable to the core, and Jase would try to be a good mate. But they’d mated for convenience, and for survival, and she wouldn’t hold him to honor. “Maybe when a cure is found for Virus-27, we’ll also figure out a way to negate matings.” The idea of him mating somebody else cut deep.
“No.” His instant grin flashed white teeth.
“Don’t be difficult,” she sighed. “I don’t want to stay.”
He pushed off from the tree. “That’s unfortunate, because I’m not letting you go.”
Now that sounded like a Kayrs male, didn’t it? She shook her head. “You already let me go.”
“I was wrong.” He stood with his feet braced, tall and indomitable. “And I was coming to get you.”
She’d been treated like a duty her entire life. She deserved better. “I owe you for saving my life, but that’s all you get. You don’t get me.”
“Ah, Brenna. I already have you.” His voice dropped to a tone that licked along her spine and softened her sex. “Fight me all you want, but you won’t win. You’re not going anywhere.”
Anger tickled the base of her neck, and flames danced on her skin. She stood, trying to keep her voice level. “You might want to rethink that. Some of the comet’s power remained.” The need to challenge him rose hard and fast in her. He thought he could treat her like a duty and dictate her life? Not a chance in hell.
“You want to fight? We’ll fight. You throw fire, and I’ll throw ice.” He sounded like he was discussing the latest football scores. “But you’re staying here, and you’re staying with me.”
Panic flushed through her. She turned for the house. “I said, no.” A hard wind smacked into her chest, halting her progress. She flipped around, fury crackling over her skin. “You don’t want this.”
“Oh, but I do.” He angled closer to her, a predator on the prowl.
Fine. Extending her fingers, she shot three hard plasma balls at his face. One casual sweep of his hand sent the wind carrying them out to sea.