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Authors: Eden Fierce

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BOOK: Eyes of the Woods
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Finally, when my body began to tire, I sniffed and whimpered, but forming words was too much while trying to manage the anguish consuming me.

I awoke sometime in the afternoon. It was the longest I’d slept since Daniel had turned me. I was in Daniel’s hammock, and he was on the floor beside me, covering my hand with his.

He scrambled to his knees and watched me for a moment before speaking.

“I’m so sorry, Eris.”

I shook my head. There was nothing to say. My brother was dead, and my Father likely thought I had lured them into a trap.

“It’s over,” I whispered. “Evander will kill them.”

“We can fix this. There’s still hope.”

I looked away from him. “Does he know?”

“I don’t know. I’ve been here with you.”

I stood.

“Where are you going?” he asked.

“To find Ayana.”

I tried to walk around him, but he stepped in my way. “We should go to Evander, Eris. Explain to him about Ayana. This is her fault. He has to understand.”

“If I’m going to die,” I said, “I’m going to die protecting my family. But first I’m going to find Ayana.”

“Eris,” Daniel said, holding up his hands, “I know you’re grieving. But you have to think for a moment. Try not to do anything that will make this worse. Evander will have to punish her for this.”

“She took everything from me. She took my life. She took away my family when I had to be turned, and now she’s done it again. She is going to die. And I’m going to be the one who kills her.”

Daniel’s shoulders fell, and I started past him to leap from the doorway. He grabbed my arm and stared into my eyes, just a few inches from my face.

“Ayana is older than I am, Eris. She’s very strong. You have no idea the kind of danger you’re walking into.”

I pulled away from him. “She killed my brother!”

“She could kill you too!” He reached for me again, and when I pulled back, he sank his fingers into my shoulders and pulled me against him.

“I need you. That terrifies me, Eris. We’re in such an uncertain time, and you…I need you.”

I shook my head. “This isn’t about you. Or even me. We put everyone at risk.”

“It’s about you for me. Will you just wait? Let’s think about this for just a moment before you run off to try to get yourself killed. There is something more to this, and we have to figure out what it is.”

I looked into his eyes. “I don’t care what it is.”

“What if finding out means saving your family? What if finding out means stopping the inevitable war that is moments away?” His voice grew louder with every word.

“Is that why you don’t want me to go after her? For the war? For my family? You haven’t been honest with me from the moment we met! You’ve been grooming my father for decades for this!”

“For…
what
?”

“It’s too convenient, Daniel. Ireck! You! Ireck practically raising my father, and now I’m here! Like this! And I’ve fallen for it all because I wanted to believe that you…I thought that…”

Daniel watched me, deep hurt and pure hope in his eyes. “You thought what?”

“I thought I…that you…” My lips formed a hard line. I couldn’t say it out loud.

“You’re right.” Daniel pressed his lips to mine. At first I pushed him away, but he refused to let me go. When he finally relaxed his grip, his brows pulled together. “Say it. For God’s sake, Eris. Tell me how you feel.”

“No,” I said, and finally took the leap.

I RAN THROUGH THE GLADES AT TOP SPEED
, looking, smelling, using all my senses and everything my father had taught me to hunt down my killer, who was now also the one who had killed my little brother.

A smell that was both familiar and strange filled my nose. It was an immortal. I took a hard left and stopped abruptly, ready to pounce.

“It’s a good feeling, isn’t it? Purpose. Much better than sitting on your floor alone and miserable.”

It was Ilana. Her back leaned against the trunk of a tree, her arms crossed, one foot perched to expose her knee through her skirt.

“I would rather not need one. I would gladly be back there, sitting alone in my nest and knowing that Jonathan is alive.”

“Who is Jonathan?” she asked, a bit amused by my half-crazed state.

“My youngest brother. Ayana killed him. In front of me and my parents. He’s dead.” My voice broke. It caused actual pain to say the words, so I concentrated on imagining the look in Ayana’s eyes when I found her.

Ilana stood up and let her arms fall to her sides. “You’re here for revenge?”

“Yes,” I said simply and without guilt.

Ilana stepped to the side. “Then don’t let me keep you.”

I turned to leave but stopped. “He was just a boy.”

“Did he kill Ayana’s child?”

I shook my head.

“Lead the way.”

I frowned. I didn’t want to trust her willingness to let me hunt down her oldest friend. Or whatever they were to each other. “Did you come here to stop me?”

She dropped her chin. “You spared my life. I came here to help you. Whatever that may mean.”

“You’re going to help me kill Ayana?” I asked, unconvinced.

“Ayana is much older than you, Eris. I’m going to help you stay alive, whatever that may mean.”

After a short pause, I took off again. Ilana’s steps were just behind, but I could also hear another. It was Daniel.

I picked up a scent and knew immediately whom it belonged to. I stopped and looked up. Ilana stopped next to me and did the same.

“She’s close,” Ilana whispered.

Daniel stopped farther back and then kept his pace slower than ours the rest of the way, falling farther behind. “This is a bad id—”

Before he could get the words out, Ayana jumped from the treetops to the forest floor. She stood before us in front of a young sapling narrowing her eyes.

“You came to kill me?” she asked, half-entertained, half-insulted by the notion. Her question was more of an accusation.

I opened my mouth to speak but was knocked off my feet and into the closest tree. I scrambled to my hands and knees to see Efraim and Daniel grappling. Ayana lunged at Ilana, but I ran at Ayana, knocking her to the ground.

Efraim dealt a hard blow to Daniel, and he grunted. Ayana used my momentary distraction to wriggle free, and then she struck my face.

“You don’t belong with us, Prior!” she hissed. “My only regret will be that you couldn’t see what Heinrich has in store for your family! For them all!” She leaped from one tree to another and then tackled me to the ground. Ilana tried pulling her off me, but Ayana elbowed her in the face, sending her dozens of yards away.

Ayana took my head in her hands and pulled.

“No!” Daniel said, running toward me.

Efraim attacked again, watching with a smile on his face. “Do it, Ayana! End this!”

She pulled, and I struggled to get out of her grasp. Just as I felt my neck stretched to the brink, I reached down for the dagger, rolled, and plunged it into Ayana’s chest, pressing the button, allowing all of the Eitr to pour inside the wound.

She cried out, and I jumped back.

Ilana grabbed my arm. “Do you have wounds? Did it penetrate your skin?”

“No,” I said, looking to Ayana. She was jerking violently, and her eyes rolled back into her head.

“Ayana!” Efraim cried out.

We watched as she convulsed.

“Ayana!” her mate screamed again, running to her. When she stopped moving, Efraim laid over her body and sobbed.

“We didn’t want this!” Daniel said. “How many more have to die, Efraim? You decide!”

Efraim stood and turned to us. He was holding the dagger. “Only one.” He jabbed the dagger into his own neck and then fell to the ground next to his mate. He stiffened and then screeched in pain.

I watched in horror as he suffered the same death as Ayana, but the Eitr was nearly gone, and his was a much slower death.

Finally his body relaxed, and he lay still, his face frozen in a perpetual state of agony.

“So much for being immortal,” Ilana said.

Daniel and I both craned our necks at her.

Unaffected, she walked away, disappearing behind the pines.

“What did she mean?” I asked. “About Heinrich’s plans?”

Daniel shook his head. “I have a feeling we’re getting ready to find out.”

We returned to the spot where Jonathan had died. They had already taken his body away. I stood at the tree line, watching my home. Torches were burning every few yards along the stone wall.

“We have to do something,” I said. “Before Father brings my entire family into the woods. They’ll all be killed.”

“He’s too angry to listen to reason. We have to warn Evander.”

“Do you trust him?”

“Ayana only mentioned Heinrich. I don’t know. I’m not sure we have another choice.”

I picked up a scent, and I could see that Daniel could too. Footsteps crunched along the forest floor, but they were much quieter than the average villager. I gasped when Lukas came into view.

He crashed into me, and I wrapped my arms around him.

“Eris!” he said, his eyes red from crying.

“What are you doing here?” I cried.

“It’s Father. He’s mad with grief. He means to gather the cousins and raid the woods right after we bury Jonathan.”

“You have to talk him out of it, Lukas. The nightwalker who killed Jonathan is dead. I killed her.”

“You did?” he asked, surprised.

“Remember when we stumbled upon the young ones? Father killed her child. That is why she—”

“Her child?”

I shook my head and cupped my brother’s shoulders. “There is so much we didn’t know, Lukas. They have children. They love them as our parents love us. There is so much more, but we haven’t time. You have to convince him. The elder of this coven said if I couldn’t convince Father, he would have to die. They want a truce, Lukas, but Father has to stand down. Do you understand?”

Lukas frowned. “How do you know they’re not using you? How do you know they’re telling the truth?”

“Because I’m one of them now. I feel the strength they have. That is the only answer to why we’re not all dead. They could have easily wiped us out so many times.”

“But they do! What about Jergden?”

“Those were rogue nightwalkers who destroyed that village. They were punished for it! It’s not allowed. They have laws too. They want to live separate but in harmony. Please keep Father out of the woods! It wasn’t a trap. Ayana acted alone!”

Lukas glanced at Daniel, contemplating. He nodded. “I’ll try.”

“Thank you.”

Lukas ran back to our home, torch in hand. I let out a quick breath, looking down at my hand. It was covered by Daniel’s. He pulled my hand to his lips, kissing them softly. “And if doesn’t work?”

“It will work,” I said. “It has to.”

Daniel took my face in his hands, letting his eyes scan over my every feature. “I feel we’re in an impossible situation. If your father doesn’t die, I’ll lose you to Evander when he ends your life. If your father dies, I lose you to you.”

I frowned.

“I know you, Eris. The guilt will consume you. You won’t be the same. Not the woman I—”

“He’s not going to die,” I snapped.

“Evander will punish you if Dyre attacks the coven. I can’t let that happen. We’ll have to run.”

“That doesn’t sound like the worst scenario.”

“Will you let me take you somewhere safe?”

“Not until I know my family will be all right.”

“What if they’re not?”

I closed my eyes and pulled away from him. “They will be.”

“But what if they’re not, Eris? Will you come away with me?”

I turned to him. “Why? Why do you protect me? Why do you risk everything? I’m no one, Daniel. I’ve been trouble for you since we met.”

“You’re not like the others. You don’t fight for Priory. You don’t fight for immortals. You want peace like I do. Like my father did. I used to see hope when I looked at you. Now I just see everything I’ve been missing, and I don’t want to miss it anymore.”

He pulled me against him, and leaned down, his lips nearly touching mine. “Let me protect you. Let me take you away from here.”

“I can’t until I know they’re safe.”

Daniel’s arms fell to his side. He walked away from me and then back. “I love you. I love you, Eris. I can’t lose you.”

BOOK: Eyes of the Woods
4.13Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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