Friday, September 2, 2011

Pushing Boundaries Chapter 8 (full draft)

Hi all! So here's the long awaited Chapter 8. I'm really sorry for the long delay -brain's not cooperating and time's not been very kind but yay! I've managed to churn this chapter out nicely. 
So now it's off to the editor so *crosses fingers* it will be up on Lit by next week!

Eian held his daughter for as long as he could, taking in the sweet scent of her hair and… what the hell?

That damn pup had sunk his teeth into his daughter’s neck! How dare he mark her?
His eyes lifted to meet Alex’s gaze; his stare like a hot knife through butter. To his defense, Alex remained calm despite the threatening look his Alpha was giving him. Both men knew that when it came to Keona, it was always going to be a constant battle between them.
I will rip your throat out if she even drops a single tear.
Yes Alpha.
At the gentle kiss on his cheek, Eian softened a little as he pulled apart to look into the same malachite-green eyes as his but everything else was Fiona’s –his mate. From the stubborn tilt of her chin to the apple cheeks and pouty lips –Keona was almost a split image of her mother.
And he was fiercely protective of both of them. So, he ought to be excused if he decided to growl a little…
Okay, a lot.
“Daddy…” a gentle warning from his daughter muted the growls. Smiling, he let her slip out of his hands to stand beside Alex. But her eyes were no longer focused on either of them but on Alaron; guilt etched on her face. She didn’t know how to express her hurt, disappointment and failure.
“We don’t blame you sweetheart,” a feminine voice soothed her; a warm hand on her shoulder. Keona smiled at the petite figure of Erika and was grateful for that one ounce of forgiveness. She nuzzled closer to the female presence, suddenly aware of her longing for her own mother.
“I’ve figured out a way to work around this problem. Keona, keep quiet and think of empty walls,” said Alex firmly. When she turned around to look away, he began to share everything that he had learnt from Keona’s mind. The gasp and horrified roars echoed his own sentiments.
By the time he was done narrating, the room was brimming with males itching to draw blood.
“Keona cannot tell us anything about what she’s doing but I think she can talk about Marine because that’s not part of her operation.”
Turning back to face her mini audience, Keona nodded. “Marine’s being held at the same location as I am but her role is simply as bait.”
“Where’s this location?” Eian’s voice was calm but the undertones bore a controlled temper.
“I am not sure exactly…” Her eyes shut for a moment because the blinding pain of trying to reveal the location hurt. “But find my blouse and jeans…I… I folded them somewhere and hid them near the grass…”
Eian didn’t respond but looked straight at his two Beta Weres who were already on their way to the door.
“Hourly reports,” promised Dominic and the two left immediately.
However that much revelation had made Keona weak somehow and she leaned slightly against Alex.
“Keona, let me take a look at you,” said Alaron, coming closer. The young woman might be half Were but she also had Vampire blood and his healing senses was telling him that she needed something fixed. “Can you see where you’re hurting?”
She shook her head slightly –the pain was like needle pricks on her brain. As her Vampire uncle came closer, she noticed Alex and Eian moving in tandem, as though they were preparing for a sudden attack.
The gesture made her grin but then she grimaced the moment Alaron touched her arm. Her sudden squeal caused the two Weres to turn feral.
“No… I’m fine. Go away you two,” she hissed. Alaron just rolled his eyes at the two male Weres. He had enough experience with the pack to be bothered to defend himself when it came to their overprotective nature. There was just no way around it so the best is to shut up.
“Okay princess, I need you to watch how I do this. I know you can see me in your head.”
“Yes,” she nodded. She had done this a couple of times when they were younger but since he moved to America, their lessons have stopped. But Keona could still recall the familiar tingle of Alaron’s mind as he melded with hers; coordinating his ability with hers.
She watched as he ‘searched’ her blood vessels for ruptures before moving up her mind to see the actual damages.
Keona knew that he had seen something frightening when he gripped her hand tight enough that she was sure his nails pierced her skin. Yet, she didn’t move but allowed him to assess her cranial injuries, feeling the healing warmth flow through her veins and up her spinal cord.
Then he released her.
“Why’d you stop?” she asked in surprise. Alaron didn’t reply her but looked to his brother instead.
“You have got to see this. It is a freaking labyrinth…”
Draven nodded and came closer. He had been training both his own daughter, Naira and Keona since they were children so he would know best if anything happened to their minds. After all, it was him who had given them their mind reading abilities.
“Just relax.” Draven cradled her head gently between both his palms and tried to take a peek at her mind. He was expecting to see the usual grooves in her psyche as he had seen in the past years but the sight of a complicated layer of memory bank followed by an extensive compartmentalized brain pattern surprised him.
It was like looking into the mind of Elder Aiden who had been sentenced to a life of imprisonment many years ago. The Vampire not only had the ability to control the minds and decisions of others but was also eerily organized with self-made mental barriers to contain his memories.
Keona’s mind had none of the barriers that Aiden had but Draven was certain that her mind had an inventory of at least a hundred existing Vampiric abilities. It looked like a filing cabinet that was overstuffed with too many folders; on the brink of bursting. She either needed to expand her cranial capacity or she would explode each time she took a ‘file’ out of her mental cupboard.
Keona honey, I’m going to walk with you into your mind and… help you push the boundaries of your mental capacities. It’s going to hurt but I need you to trust me…
Keona opened her eyes slowly. Alaron was already holding onto her other hand as though he knew what Draven was about to do. Looking up, she saw the anxious expressions of her father and her mate… and knew that everything will be fine.
And then everything when black…
Keona was in a strange place.
It was extremely dark but she could see. It was as though she had the eyes of a nocturnal animal and could navigate in the inky blackness.
She took a step –wait, four steps… yes, on padded feet!
Keona tried to look down but she couldn’t see her feet and yet she felt it –one careful paw at a time. It was… exhilarating.
Was this her wolf?
No response.
Ah… perhaps she was dreaming of it. After all, Keona had been dreaming of shifting into her own wolf form for her entire life and yet she never managed to.
So this had to be a dream.
It doesn’t matter. Dream Wolf was happy but most importantly, she felt free.
At the back of her mind, Keona could feel something moving; being pushed and prodded but she seemed indifferent to it. The wolf liked being in this void and reveled in the endless space; leaping and bounding as it played to its heart’s content.
Her feet began to move and Keona soon found herself running; a cool breeze ruffling her pelt, something like solid earth warm beneath her paws.
She was running towards something –or at least her wolf was. But what?
Where are we going?
Keona wasn’t expecting an answer but then she received one. It wasn’t really a verbal reply but she simply knew what it was.
Just beyond the darkness was a horizon of sunlit skies and endless meadows. Keona needed to reach that place… because –because what?
Just a little more Keona. Push those boundaries.
The drive up to Lake Tahoe took the two Beta wolves about an hour and a half but neither of them complained about it. In fact, Mike was already in his wolf form even before he could slam the SUV door shut.
Rubbing noses with his other pack mate, the two dashed off in search of Keona’s scent –if there was one.
It has been gnawing at him as to why the Alpha’s daughter was missing a scent but then it occurred to him that perhaps they were searching for the wrong scent. Keona was Alex’s mate and the realization had hit him a few hours ago when he scented his own son on Keona.
Mates –whether or not they have completed the mating bond always smell like each other. It was a way for the pack to acknowledge the mated pair and for the unmated wolves to stay away from either of them.
We’ve searched this place at least five times in the past two days.
Mike looked up to Dominic’s blue wolfish eyes and nodded. Find Alex’s scent. There has to be traces of it on her clothes.
Dominic looked up and Mike caught the smile in those blue eyes. Mated to the Alpha’s daughter eh?
Mike let out a playful growl. He has the balls for it.
The wolves grinned at each other and began the search. Although Alex hadn’t been home for a long time, both Betas knew the pup’s scent intimately, having raised him together.
However, since Alex had been on the hunt with them, his scent was also heavy in the air; confusing them into taking double rounds at certain areas. But eventually, they found it –the neatly folded garments buried very close to the roots of a sycamore tree.
The smell of earth made it very difficult to uncover any of Keona’s scent but Alex’s was a warm and steady trace.
Did Keona say she buried this before she entered the facility?
Mike nodded.
But… there’s nothing here. There’s no door…
There’s that air vent.
It’s too small!
The two wolves stared at each other. Indeed, the vent was too small for a human or a wolf…
Keona can’t shift… right?
I don’t know…  Mike was about to continue when his ears perked up as though sensing movements. Someone’s coming!
Maintaining their wolf form, the two Betas hid in the shadow; eyes glowing watchfully for the intruder. The remained still as a young and handsome Vampire came into view. He appeared so frail and gentle that they registered no threat emanating from his scent.
They continued watched as the young Vampire got to his knees and began searching the ground for something –very likely for the clothes that Keona had hidden.
Do you think he’s looking for this?
Dominic tightened his grip over Keona’s clothes. They shouldn’t take chances when it came to Vampires. It had taken them years to trust the Culzeans and it was only because their Alpha was mated to one and the Pureblood Draven was mated to another in their pack. But to trust an outsider –another Vampire was beyond them.
I’m going to take this back to Alaron’s place. You stay here and watch that bloodsucker.
Mike blinked; his onyx eyes almost invisible in the dark of the night. As soon as Dominic left, he returned his gaze to the Vampire.
Frail was perhaps the right word for him. His skin looked like it had never seen sunlight and his eyes were almost glowing red in the night. Mike would have said the Vampire was an albino except that his hair was a lovely shade of sandy blonde.
Bloodsucker as he was, the Vampire was still a youngling –a non threatening one. His protective instincts told him that the child was harmless. Against his better judgement, Mike stepped away from the shadow into the moonlight and caught the Vampire’s gaze.
For a moment they just stood staring at each other. The Vampire youngling knew Mike was a Were but he made no attempt to attack or defend himself. Instead he just smiled and gave a slow nod as though acknowledging Mike’s presence.
The wolf approved. This was neutral forest and they both had the right to be in it.
“My name is Kendall.” He gave another nod and waited.
Mike hesitated for a moment. Vampires could not hear Werewolf thoughts unless they were mates and he didn’t think it was wise to bare his naked self in front of a child –Vampire or not.
Instead, he moved closer, nudging his snout into the Vampire’s palm. The youngling scented of much innocence and yet held knowledge way beyond his few decades of life.
Mike looked up into Kendall’s eyes –a beautiful sky blue with a tinge of red –and peered curiously, as though asking him what he was doing there.
Kendall turned his palm gently and patted Mike’s head. If he was afraid, he did a good job of hiding his fear. With his gentle smile, he shook his head as though saying that he couldn’t give the Were any answers.
Mike knew there was no reason to linger anymore. They would simply stare at each other; circling carefully. He intended to step back into the shadows when Kendall started to speak.
“Please tell Keona to be safe.”
Every fibre in his body tensed at the words. But before he could shift to his human form and demand answers, the youngling was gone.
Kendall knew it was a mistake the moment he said the words but he couldn’t help it. He liked Keona and wanted her to return safely. Connor’s blood oath had taken a toll on her and he wasn’t sure if she could make it back to the lab in time.
But Kendall had a plan. While his expressed ability was an avid memory, he had another ability set that was underused and therefore not picked up by Keona during their training. His ability to pick up memories of others through touch was something he had kept hidden even from his own brother.
That was why he had been adamant to help Keona with her task. He had been slowly gaining access to her memory banks to help figure out the pieces in case she was unable to see them for herself. He didn’t blame her. She was strong but she was still young and already had her limits pushed past her ability to cope.
It was in those memories that Kendall had seen her entire pack and knew the second he set eyes on the Were that he belonged to the MacFarlane clan; one of the top Betas. His presence here on American soil also meant that he was not alone. Kendall had scented another Beta with him and faint traces of another more dominant wolf mixed with a host of Vampiric scents.
Keona was getting help…
That was enough for him.
When Dominic returned to Alaron’s house with Keona’s clothes, he wasn’t precisely sure if he was ready to face her. He’d always known that the Alpha’s daughter was special –reserved and quiet –but she was the strong and silent type. However, he had been thinking about the small vent and racking his brains as to how she entered and his only conclusion had been that she could shift.
A pup would have been able to fit into that vent and if she had indeed shifted, why then had she kept the secret from the rest of the pack? Was she ashamed of her Were abilities?
The protective nature inherent of a Beta clenched at his heart. Dominic knew that whatever reason Keona had, it would soon be exposed –and he prayed that it wouldn’t break his Alpha’s heart. As one of the Betas, he knew how much it had disappointed Eian to know that his little girl wasn’t able to shift.
With a deep sigh, he knocked on the front door and waited for it to open.
It didn’t take long.
It took an even shorter time for the males in the room to pounce on him and demand for answers.
“What did you find out?”
“Was there a scent?”
“Where’s Mike?”
“Did you get in trouble?”
Dominic raised his hand to calm them all down and instead lifted the scraps of materials that belonged to Keona. Turning towards her, he gave her a serious look.
“Explain now.”
Keona’s eyes went wide but before she could reply Eian had spoken up.
“You raise your voice even before answering our questions?” His voice was gentle but everyone in the room could feel the threatening undertones. Eian was Alpha and even without making the effort, he exuded dominance.
The Beta understood that. “My apologies Eian… but I think there’s something Keona should tell you herself.” Shifting his gaze to her once more, he continued, “You know where we found this and we should all be told how you got into the facility. Marine’s inside there sweetheart and she’s not as strong as you.”
Dominic’s last sentence was delivered gently –to remind the youngling that he wasn’t reprimanding her but simply expressing his authority. Time was running out.
Keona blinked several times and nodded. She knew that this day would come.
“Perhaps it is better if I show you,” she whispered, flicking her eyes from her father to her mate and then to everyone else in the room. Finally, she closed her eyes and tried to focus on the image of Alex’s wolf form –black glossy pelt, strong and sturdy legs and a sharp pointed snout that was characteristic of his tracker breed.
And then she opened her eyes.
Everyone was staring at her –or at Alex’s wolf rather –but one look into her green eyes and they would recognize her. Furthermore, Keona’s new ability to mask her scent allowed her to cloak her own and take on the exact same scent as the animal she was shifting into.
She refused to look into her father’s eyes. No, I’m not done.
Focusing next on the short-haired cat she had imitated a few days earlier, Keona shifted into the next animal and then another and another –all the while without needing to return to her original human form before a shift. That and she was fully clothed.
In her final form, Keona stood straight as a giant grey wolf –an exact replica of the Alpha himself with stunning green eyes to match.
Eian was by now already seated on one of the chairs; speechless. He had watched his daughter shifting seamlessly into all those various forms and pain tugged at his heart. He had considered it his failure when Keona was unable to shift into a wolf unlike the other pups her age. He had accepted that it was his fault that his mating with a Vampire had caused some sort of loss of Were abilities –and now, his baby girl was showing him otherwise.
This is not mine Daddy… it is not the same.
Eian sighed and beckoned her wolf form to come close, allowing her to rub her snout tenderly against his palm.
Shifting isn’t about what you turn into my love… it’s about being pack, being one, communicating at a secret level with your family.
The grey wolf slowly shifted back into its human form and moved forward to hug the Alpha. “I love you,” she whispered before turning to face everyone else. “I don’t think they are aware that I can shift… and no I do not have a specific wolf to shift into. I have to touch and ‘see’ the animal’s DNA somewhat to try and replicate them. The vent that I entered through is big enough for a small wolf but its weight might alert the others within the facility.”
“Do you remember another way in?” asked Dominic. “We tried to look for it but nothing.”
“There was an exit that Marine was supposed to have taken. It was in the northeast corner of the place I think because the vent was definitely south. I remembered coming from the east because that’s where the shelter is.”
Dominic nodded and then turned to his Alpha, who was already on his feet.
“Where’s Mike?”
“There was someone else looking for your clothes Keona. It was a Vampire… but a very young one. Mike stayed behind to keep watch on him.”
“How young? What did he look like?”
“He… I’d say he was a good looking boy. Frail but had a gentle face that wasn’t threatening. However, looks can be deceiving because I am sure he was looking for your clothes Keona. And how could he know that?”
“I… I don’t know.” Keona was stumped. It sounded like Kendall but she couldn’t be sure. Had he picked up something during their trainings together and reported her to Connor?
Connor –shit! Time was running out.
“I think we should focus on the problem at hand. I have less than 24 hours right now.”
This time, Draven spoke up, “The blood oath is solid. Any attempt to go against the orders will result in immediate death. I’m sorry Eian.” At the Alpha’s forlorn face, Draven added slowly. “However, I think he forgot that the other half of Keona isn’t really Vampire so the effect gets diluted; in this case halved –which is why she’s able to detract from the mission for some time now.”
“Wait… so you’re saying that there might be a way to break out of this… problem?”asked Eian hopefully.
Draven’s lips twitched slightly. “I wouldn’t say it would be easy. Every time she tries to resist the instruction, a part of her brain will bleed –but Alaron will be able to heal her if we try to reverse the blood oath slowly.”
“It’s worth a try Daddy…”
Eian looked at his daughter then at the two Vampires he’d consider family. “I trust you with her life… but don’t make me regret it.” Turning to Alex, he continued, “Stay here with her. At the first sign of any problem, do not hesitate to call for me.”
Alex nodded. His bond with his Alpha would mean that even the faintest cry for help could reach Eian within seconds.
“But where will you be going?” he responded.
“I’m going to try and find the entrance to the facility. Following Key’s direction and the vent’s location, we will try to scent it out. Mike might have more information.”
“I want to go,” said Alaron immediately. “I want to rip out that bastard’s throat…”
Eian interjected, “No, you have to stay here and break the blood bond holding Keona back. I promise we won’t enter until everything’s settled here.” Putting one hand on Alaron’s shoulder, he whispered, “Don’t worry. You’ll have the honours of tearing off his head. I promise.”
When Kendall entered his shoebox of a room, he was immediately greeted by a familiar musky scent –
“Where have you been?” demanded the elder Vampire. “Don’t bother lying Kendall. I can tell.”
Kendall looked up; clear blue eyes staring into the deeper marine of his brother’s. “I was trying to keep her safe.”
Riley’s eyes widened immediately as he grabbed Kendal by the collar of his shirt. “What the hell are you talking about? You know that any attempt to jeopardize her mission will lead to her cousin’s death! How dare you!”
Instead of retorting, Kendall blinked and shifted his gaze away. “You like her.” At Riley’s silence, he smiled. “The other Vampire, I mean. She can run very fast… I’ve seen her and she’s beautiful.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Precisely. And I don’t know what you’re talking about either.”
The hand gripping Kendall’s shirt was released suddenly. It was then that Riley realise how cleverly his brother had lured him into a silent standoff.
“Very well Kendall Eos. I will not ask what I do not wish to know. Any consequences are to be faced by you alone.”
The younger Vampire nodded in silence as he watched his older brother storm out of his room. He already knew what Riley was going to do. The slight touch of Riley’s knuckles on his skin had told him much.
Riley was going to the surface to try and erase any prints that would prove he had been out of the facility. Kendall couldn’t help but smile for despite Riley’s brute words earlier, his brother was protective and caring.
Kendall couldn’t ask for more.
When Riley resurfaced from the facility’s main entrance, he was in too foul a mood to be on his guard. Kicking at an innocent stone on the ground, he began to mutter curses under his breath.
Even then, he knew what he was there for –to erase Kendall’s scent if there was any. The youngling was a prisoner of the facility and if there was an inkling of how he managed to escape undetected… well Riley didn’t want to think of the consequences. Useful or not, Connor and Helene wouldn’t hesitate to terminate him.
With a sigh, he began to track down the faint traces left behind by his brother; aware that the further away he was from the main entrance, the stronger was the scent, overlapped by another –no, three much stronger, more primal…
He didn’t have time to raise his scent shields for he was immediately tackled to the ground.
“Tell us Vampire! Do you work with them?” Riley wasn’t given a chance to answer. A paw – sharp claws already out –pinned his cheek to the ground.
Alpha, we are not to kill him.
Eian looked up at Mike who was shaking his head slowly; the onyx eyes gleaming in the moonlight.
He smells like the youngling…
Eian didn’t wait for Mike to finish. He growled; baring his teeth directly over Riley’s face. He could scent nothing now –not even the scent he had picked up earlier. No fear was registered on the Vampire’s face. He was trained for this.
Disgusted, he flung the Vampire to the side and shifted immediately –just a second before he held Riley by the throat; a vice of a grip around his neck.
“What is your name Vampire?” he asked coldly; embers burning in his eyes.
Riley simply looked defiantly into the Alpha’s eyes, wanting to ignore the question but the two feral growls beside him changed his mind.
“There are no known wolf packs in this region. This is not your land. You have no right to demand any answers from me.”
The beast within the Alpha was raging at the Vampire’s insolence but the human part of Eian kept calm as he repeated his question once more –gently, with a hint of ice in his voice. “What is your name, Vampire?”
Riley kept quiet, focusing instead on trying to free himself from the Were’s hold. He could scent the Alpha status of the man and knew that just one bite could potentially kill him. Riley didn’t want to die yet.
He did the only thing that a Were would react to: he lengthened his fangs.
As expected, the Were released his grip to avoid the venomous fangs piercing his skin. However, what he didn’t expect was the agility in which the Alpha moved –barely a millisecond passed and he was already in wolf form; a swift strike across Riley’s chest drawing blood.
Staggering backwards slightly, Riley raised his scent shields even higher –to mask even the blood scent –and worked at healing the minor wound. He was a trained Vanguard and these were just three wolves…
Even then, he knew they had better extrasensory perceptions and to give himself a better advantage, he slipped into the darkness of the night and jumped up to the nearest branch. It bought him a few minutes grace for the three wolves were already circling beneath the tree like vultures over carrion.
Turning his gaze away from them, Riley sharpened his senses; allowing his eyes to take in more light so he could see in the dark. Riley had no intention of fighting the three of them for it would be suicidal so he needed an escape plan.
Down below, Eian was getting impatient as he circled the tree, simply waiting for the Vampire to make his move. He was smart enough to hide his scent but Eian could feel every single vibration he made; his body’s warmth tingling the air surrounding them.
There was really no way to outrun a predator.
Dominic, I’m going to wait him out... I want the two of you to check out that location where he materialized. It could be an elevator shaft or something. I can scent lots of metal beneath the earth.
Eian waited until his two Betas had left before he stopped pacing and sat on his hind legs with his eyes staring up intently at the Vampire on the branch.
Riley knew that he had only a small window of opportunity to make his escape the moment two of the Weres left the area. But it was the remaining Were in his gigantic wolf form that caused fear and panic to ride down his spine. This was the Alpha and he made no attempt to hide his status or strength.
Worst of all, Riley could clearly scent the blood bonds that linked this Were to Keona. He wasn’t just the Alpha of her pack – there was no mistake –this was the Werewolf who sired Keona and gave her all the abilities that made her valuable to the facility.
Cross-matings were supposed to be a myth and Riley had been sure that Keona had been an anomaly that Vampire Councils refused to acknowledge. However, being face to face with the Werewolf that successfully mated with a Vampire made him curious enough to lower his guard for a second.
It was a mistake.
If he thought wolves could not climb trees, Riley was obviously mistaken. The grey wolf clawed its way up to the lowest branch; its green eyes shining like moonbeams in the dark. Instinct made him jump off from his hiding position with the intention of running.  
Riley might have been younger and faster but Eian was much more experienced and adapt at taking down his prey. The Vampire barely made it past a few feet when he was pinned down once again; his head slammed against the cold, hard, earth.
He tried to struggle but immediately felt sharp jaws clamping down the base of his neck and then a hard slash down his back… before everything turned black.
Back in Alaron’s home, the two Culzeans were working simultaneously to try and reverse Connor’s hold on Keona’s mind.
The youngling was unconscious, her head rested on Alex’s lap.
“How long more will this take?” he asked; worry etched on his face. Alex wasn’t one to feel incompetent but at the moment, there was nothing he could do but just sit and wait while the two older Vampires worked on his mate. They weren’t even saying anything –possibly communicating mentally and he hated that he wasn’t kept in the loop.
Thankfully, Erika kept vigil beside him, smiling now and then to soothe the wolf’s impatience.
“You can’t actually see it but Draven’s walking with Keona in her mind to put in layers of pseudo memories and facts to try and trick Connor into thinking she’s done her task,” said Erika gently.
Alex could only stare at her in disbelief. Was Keona really that powerful to be able to do whatever Erika had just said?
“Keona is able to mimic the expressed abilities of other Vampires,” said Alaron, as though he heard Alex’s thoughts. Lifting his eyes slowly, he held Alex’s gaze; brows knitted in a frown. “She’s scared Alex. Hold her hand and do whatever it is you wolf mates do to calm each other down.”
At last, Alex felt like he was useful for something. Taking her knuckles, he pressed them against his lips, feeling her heartbeat soft and steady at the pulse on her wrist. Alex knew that they hadn’t completed the mating bond fully yet but she already carried traces of his scent. It pleased his wolf to know that she had accepted him and he was going to do his best to make sure it stayed that way.
Closing his eyes, he tried to synchronize his heartbeat with hers, hoping that he could slip into that similar state where he could access into her mind. He hadn’t known mates who have experienced what they had but with Keona, everything seemed possible.
It made him treasure her even more.
Key, if you can hear me, I want you to know I’m here.
Then he heard it –
The soft growls that sounded nonhuman… almost like a wolf’s vocal chords ringing low at the back of its throat.
Keona, it’s Alex. Let me in Sweetheart…
Another growl. Only this time, Alex felt his body lunging forward until his chin slammed hard to the tile.
“Alex!” exclaimed Erika, helping the youngling to a sitting position. She was about to ask him if he was alright when she saw his eyes. It was all she could do but gasp and let him go.
The black irises in Alex’s eyes were gone; only white orbs stared back at her in the most eerily manner.
Alex wasn’t sure what just happened. One moment he heard a wolf growling and the next moment he was in this dark and cold place. Then he heard voices:
“But Uncle Draven! You can’t block that memory from him!”
“The less connections you have to anyone or anything, the better. I didn’t hear you complaining when I gave you another name.”
“That’s not the same as saying I am a lone wolf.” Keona’s voice was defiant and Alex could almost see the stubborn tilt of her chin as she’d argue with her uncle. It was a strange feeling to be able to hear their conversation and yet not see them physically or join them verbally. Alex wasn’t even sure where he was for it hadn’t a solid plane to it –like he was floating mid air without the ability to see, smell, speak or even feel anything.
But he could hear his mate very clearly as though she was walking right beside him.
“Keona, Connor has the same ability as I do. He can read minds and look through your memory like it’s an open book. You need to make sure that he sees what he needs to see.”
“Then why must I be mateless?”
Alex wanted to argue the same thing too. How could Draven suggest such a thing! Mates can die if the bond is denied by one party! Surely he would know? He is mated to a MacFarlane wolf!
“Keona… Alex is your target. You need to show Connor that you’ve killed him. And if you refuse to build this memory of you as an unmated lone wolf… then he’s not going to believe that you’ve done your job. Surely you cannot survive this long if you’ve killed your mate.”
Draven’s voice sounded calm but Alex could sense the tensed undertones. If the Pureblood could growl, he would sound just like Eian when he was reprimanding Keona.
Maybe it was a paternal thing.
However, Alex understood Draven’s rationale. It irked his wolf but the human part of his mind accepted the logic.
It’ll be fine Keona. A bond need not be physical or mental to be real.
He thought she hadn’t heard him but then…
Yes Key.
But… how?
I don’t know. I think you pulled me into this… space or whatever it is.
You’re here?
I’m here. And I won’t fault you if you need to do this.
Keona… you’re my mate and always will be.
There was no reply this time but the darkness surrounding him started to fade away, revealing a lone grey wolf standing a distance away.
Alex didn’t need to ask who it was. The green eyes staring at him told him all he needed to know.
With a nod, the wolf turned and walked away, leaving Alex engulfed in darkness once more.
Eian threw Riley’s body on the floor as soon as the three wolves got back to Alaron’s house. He didn’t seem to be bothered by the fact that the Vampire was bleeding from his neck down to his chest or that the wolf bite on his calves were slowly poisoning him.
The first thing he did was to bark. “Draven, read his goddamn mind.”
But it wasn’t the Pureblood who replied him but Keona.
“Daddy! Oh my god!” Despite Alex’s murderous look, she shook herself out of his hold and knelt down to try and stop Riley from essentially bleeding to death. Her fingers began to hastily work on his wounds, trying to stitch up the cuts but she wasn’t fast enough. He was losing too much blood and she could smell the metallic hint meshed with the lethal combination of wolf venom.
“Keona…” warned Alex. This was the Vampire who got her into trouble in the first place and yet she was trying to save his life. Take your goddamn hands off him.
He’s going to die!
In fact, Riley’s shields were already down so the room stank of an unfamiliar Vampire’s scent –one that immediately drew Alaron and Erika from the kitchen.
“You’ve brought me a gift, Werewolf?” The drawl in his voice was almost as playful as the hunger in his eyes –a look of a predator about to pounce on his prey.
Eian knitted his brows; understanding registering in his eyes. As per their agreement, he stepped back, allowing the Vampire all the room to… do whatever he wanted with his unwanted guest.
But Keona wouldn’t allow it.
She remained in her place; her body shielding Riley protectively even as Alaron came charging toward them both.
“Get out of the way!” he growled but she paid no heed.
“Eian for godsake! Take your child away!” said Draven impatiently. He had read Riley’s mind the moment the three Weres had returned and knew everything there was to know about the Vanguard.
If no one could make Keona move, he’d have to take her down himself.
Keona, we’ve already broken the oath. He doesn’t need to live!
No!  The mental scream was directed at all the Vampires in the room. He’s Marine’s mate.
Alaron immediately stopped and stared at her. “What? Why that son of a bitch!” All chance of reasoning with him were gone for he launched himself directly towards Riley; pushing Keona to the side.
“No!” Her scream rang sharp across the room, stopping everyone in their tracks. “I said no!” This time, she punctuated her words with a strong force-field enclosing Riley and herself inside. Keona tried not to look at the wounded expression of her family members; the sense of betrayal in their eyes at her actions. But this was necessary.
Confident that no one could break past the barrier, she turned her attention to the mortally wounded Vampire and began to synchronize his breathing with hers; her mind dipping into his slowly, trying to stabilize his heart rate.
I’m only doing this because I want Marine back alive.
Despite his deathly state, Riley heard her and responded. I know.
Is she safe?
I have to get back. They cannot know that I’ve left.
Keona didn’t reply him. At his current vulnerable state, Riley had dropped all his physical and mental shields, opening his mind for her taking. She didn’t need to ask anymore questions to know the reason why he had done what he had –it was something any of her pack members might have done and yet she didn’t want to feel any sympathy for him.
To feel sorry for someone was a weakness at times.
“Get up,” she said instead; the ice in her voice unmistakable. “Take me to Kendall. I want to know how to get in and out of that facility undetected.”
Fear and worry flashed across Riley’s face the instant she said that. “No! You have to leave him out of this. You know you cannot detract from the mission!”
Ignoring him, Keona grabbed his collar and snarled, “I just saved your life and I can take it away in a blink of an eye if I want to.”
You’ll die Keona if you go against Connor.
“Then you’ll die with me.” With that she pulled him to his feet and brought down the barrier around them. Everyone was still staring at her and she knew that they were waiting for her to say something.
“Meet me in an hour at the place where you found him earlier,” she instructed; jerking her thumb in Riley’s direction.
“No Keona. We go in together.” It was a clear command from Eian, both in his capacity as her father and the Alpha. He didn’t need his daughter to verbalize her intentions for he had already seen it in her eyes and read it in her body language.
“She needs to do this Alpha,” said Alex, his reaction startling Keona. She thought that he too would oppose to her decision. However knowing that her mate sided with her gave Keona a little more confidence to begin her seemingly impossible task.
Looking at her mate, she smiled and heard his gentle voice in her mind.
I love you. Be safe.
Blinking slightly, Keona tried not to look embarrass. Alex had never said he loved her before and to know that he did –especially at this crucial moment –made her all the more adamant to return everyone home safely.
“I’ll be safe. Trust me everyone.” With a nod, she opened the front door; Riley by her side. “One hour,” she reminded them all… and she was gone.

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