Authors: Stacy Kinlee
The night scared her now. The sounds tha
t she had grown accustomed to were foreign. It wasn’t that she couldn’t differentiate between the crickets and the nocturnal animals that roamed outside of Maddox’s father’s house. It was the shield that she had lost. The skin that was now inaccessible. The fur and the claws and the teeth that she could no longer use as a weapon now remained a memory from her death.
Had she lost a part of herself? Yes. Did it satisfy some wish that she made months ago when she was tricked into following the carefully laid path of her sadistic uncle? No.
Not anymore. Kera would give anything to be whole again. She wanted to be the woman Maddox fell in love with. She wanted nothing more than to be a strong shifter that could stand by his side and help him fight this ugly war that she brought on. Luke was her uncle and Rayland his. They had bound together to tear apart the shifter pack by using her.
Kera let the wheels turn in her mind without making a sound. She wasn’t ready to think about the possibility of her mother leaving her family and starting a life with her father to protect this pack. The possibility had been weighing on her for a better part of a week. The book her mother had taken, stashed and given to her for her birthday had been the key to this mess. Her stomach sickened as she thought about what could be inside the book. In just a few seconds of being in her hands she had overpowered Maddox and sealed her torture at the
hands of Andrew. There was still a dark gap in her memory from the events that lead her away from Maddox to waking up in that dirty cell.
The soft breathing beside her was the only comfort
in her madness. Kera wanted to cling to the man beside her and never let go. Something inside of her told her that if she did that it would bring them both down.
Kera turned slowly so she didn’t wake him. Her heart soared and her stomach sank into the depths of worry
at the same time. She knew Maddox started as an unobtainable prize she never thought she could win. He was everything she wasn’t. He had solid footing in a world she saw as quicksand. Even with the trouble that she brought into his life, he hadn’t sent her away.
Every time she closed
her eyes she saw the face of the man who fed her to the wolves. Then she saw the face of the man who held her captive.
No matter what she did she couldn’t forget.
Her phone buzzed by her head. Kera turned away from Maddox and reached over to grab it. His arm reached around her stomach and pulled her close.
Her eyes closed as warmth filled her belly.
“Hey.” She whispered.
“It’s not time to get up yet.” Maddox grumbled.
Kera sighed, content. In his arms, skin against skin, she was almost whole again. “My phone…”
“I heard it.” He kissed her shoulder. “I also heard the wheels in your mind turning for the past half hour. You want to talk about it?”
Kera shook her head.
You shouldn’t keep everything inside.” He murmured again for the hundredth time.
Kera cringed and pulled out of his embrace. She grabbed the pho
ne as she stood and walked out of the room. She knew he was right to a degree, but she wasn’t ready yet. She already saw the vengeance in his eyes every time he looked at her. She saw the pain she cause adding to the deep scars he had over the betrayal of his father. Kera wasn’t completely sure exactly what happened between them but he was barely putting up with it being in this house. The angles of his face were growing more pronounced. He spent hours in the gym working out and she could only assume it was to release the excess tension that he was dealing with. Truthfully, he wasn’t ready to talk about things either. He was trying to use her as a distraction from the ever building problems in their lives.
She walked down the hall
, following her nose to the smell of dark coffee brewing. She held her phone in her palm and was careful not to crush it as she found her thoughts of Maddox highly hypocritical. The other texts from her father she had deleted rushed into her mind all at once. Coincidental as it was, another vibrated against her hand. She quickly looked down and read.
I was only trying to help Kera. I contacted the army unit your grandfather was in and they want to meet you.
Kera deleted the message before she entered the kitchen. “Coffee?”
“Yup.” Daniel opened a cabinet and pulled out a mug. “Any plans for today?”
Kera walked over and took the mug from his hand and filled it with coffee. “Other than training, no.”
Daniel leaned against the counter. “
You’ve been determined since your father left. Since you and Maddox scared us all by disappearing for a night.”
Kera tried to control her reaction. Her cheeks heated anyway.
The memory of Maddox’s shocking proposal and her willing acceptance burned every fiber in her body. “We’ve done just as Jason said when we got back. Stay close to the house and let everyone know where we are at all times. I have to wonder if this is for my sake or for his. I know he can take care of himself so I’m leaning on me being the problem. I don’t know how I knocked him out the first time and I promise I won’t do it again.”
Daniel chuckled softly. “I’m sure that’s not the reason. Things are bad right now Kera. Wolves always stay with the pack. Jason has let Maddox break away for long enough. We can’t afford any more surprises.”
“Right.” Kera rasped sarcastically. “So what is your aversion to teaching me to fight then?”
“You need to rest.”
Anger poured through her and she willingly let it consume her and flood her mind. “No,
. I know you don’t believe me and that stupid doctor that keeps coming around uninvited shouldn’t get to say what I can and cannot do. She can’t find anything wrong with me and she can’t seem to get it through her head that I’m fine.” A chill crept up her spine as Maddox entered the kitchen.
His hair was in disarray and he only wore a pair of sweat pants. His chest was
perfectly sculpted with muscle and smooth skin. It never got old to look at. He ran a hand through his hair and pinned her with those ice blue eyes that stole her breath.
Kera shook it off and averted her eyes. There were some things she just couldn’t deal with yet. His magnetism was growing and the eyes were the center of it all. There was something about them that she couldn’t accept. Kera loved h
im with her whole heart but his eyes asked for more than that. More than she probably had to give. She was so new to this love thing that she felt she just wasn’t measuring up to what he needed from her. If she had, he wouldn’t be stuck on babysitting duty this week, he would be out finding Rayland and Luke before they learned how to control people’s minds like they had hers.
Maddox’s voice broke her out of her thoughts.
“Millicent did the same thing to me. Daniel’s just trying not to get in the way of the nice doctor just in case we needed someone on the outside to save one of our lives.” Maddox ran his hand across her back as he passed by to the refrigerator. “I could have made it without her.”
That wasn’t a risk your father was willing to take.”
Maddox pulled a piece of chicken out of the fridge and began to eat it cold. He glanced at Daniel for a moment then turned those eyes to
her. “We start training today.”
a smiled. “Yes.” She whispered excitedly.
Daniel started to protest but Maddox cut him off.
“I’ve been away from the pack for six years. I need to get back to fighting in sync with everyone and Kera will join me.” He took another bite and swallowed. “On one condition.”
Kera bit her lip and nodded. “I want this.”
“Then you’ll talk to me about what happened.”
She shook her head immediately. “That isn’t fair.” Her throat began to tighten as memories rushed her. Images and emotions surrounded her and made it harder to breath.
Anger pulsed through her veins that he would even ask such a thing.
Maddox pulled her to his chest and held her against his warm skin. “You
can’t learn to fight around fear. You have to face it. Defeat it.”
His voice rumbled against her ear. She closed her eyes and soaked in the warmth of his skin. The warmth of him bore into her and replenished her body and calmed her mind. There was something unexplained about his touch.
More so now that she knew it could bring her back from the dead.
Kera pulled away and didn’t meet Maddox’s eyes even though they were there waiting for her.
“Life never is.” He growled.
Her eyes shot to his and all she saw was the revenge he wanted. The pain that he shouldered. “You aren’t fate, Maddox, you’re a man. I can’t talk about it right now.”
He wound his arm around her back and leaned in to place a soft kiss on her forehead. “It’s the deal
, Kera. I will train with you and we will train with the pack later. I’ll show you how to fight as a group and how to defend yourself. I’ll do it only if you promise to tell me what that fucker Andrew did to you so I can stop wondering and decide what needs to be done.”
She shook her head against his neck. That isn’t what he needed. He didn’t need to be stuck on her torture or the details of what was done to her. He needed to find the book and get it back safely. “I can learn how to fight without telling you.
We need to find Andrew and get your car back. He should be punished for kidnapping me. Even without every detail of what happened, that should be enough. What about Luke, Rayland and the others? They have the book my mother gave me. Don’t you even wonder what they wanted it for?”
“That’s being handled.” Daniel spoke softly. “Maddox is responsible for you and your wellbeing. I understand you don’t know our inner workings but each one of us has a task. You are his. If you continue to worry about things being handled by the Alpha then you will never fulfill your duty as part of the pack.
Every moment you are here you must think about your place. Even in battle you have to consider what your role is in the final outcome. If you can’t grasp that then there is no reason to train you with the pack. You have to fall into step or you don’t participate.”
Kera looked over at Daniel with a scowl she hoped expressed how idiotic he sounded. The role she played in this was much bigger than just assigning someone to protect her
. And what of Maddox? Why was he singled out for only one small task of watching out for her? Is that why he wanted to pull the memories of her torture out of her so quickly? So he could move on to bigger and better things. Take over the mission to find Andrew so he could execute his vengeance?
Her heart pounded against Maddox’s chest. She could feel the energy bleeding into her from everywhere he touched her
skin. It was the longest they had held each other apart from sleeping since they had made love for the first time. She would never call her expectations insurmountable, but she didn’t believe that everything was happening like it should be. Not in her relationship – whatever it was right now – and definitely not in her future. She couldn’t see herself going back to school to study something she had relied on to cure her. She wasn’t crazy and though she doubted her sanity sometimes she knew she wasn’t hallucinating. She was twenty one now and didn’t have a clue how she would fit into the world in the long run. Jason had done it. Her mother had. She would find her way, but now… right now… she needed closure. She needed this brewing war to end. She wanted her space from this house surrounded by shifters she didn’t know who stopped by and stayed over at random times. Maybe it would be better if they were friendly, but the seemed more curious than anything. They watched her and she didn’t like it.
“I’ll tell you Maddox.” She told him softly; knowing if she lied he would know. “I want one lesson before I do.”
Maddox’s heart sped up with what she could only assume was anticipation and he tightened his hold on her before releasing her. A silent thank you she presumed.
She went to their room and dressed for the practice she
wanted desperately. Now that she didn’t have the fangs and the claws she had to know how to fight without. Her own form of anticipation grew as she walked out of the room she shared with Maddox and followed the path to the gym.
In all of her scenario’s she had built in her mind about practice and training what she actually got wasn’t fitting into the picture. She thought they would start with kicks and punches on a bag but instead Daniel pared them
together and told her to attack. All the emotions she had tied to Maddox made that incredibly difficult. She knew she wasn’t stronger than him but he wasn’t her punching bag.
“Again.” Daniel yelled.
Kera ground her teeth and faced Maddox in the ring. She realized that
training was the same as truly fighting someone. Maddox was taking it easy on her but he was still trying to take her down. He won each match with ease. Kera couldn’t seem to lift a finger against him.
She couldn’t. In her mind, she thought about how much she relied on him being a part of her life. This was all new. This thing she had with Maddox was an obsession that was drilled into her very heart.