Authors: Gabrielle Evans
Bless Kendall. He never made Aslan feel like he wasn’t capable of taking care of Wren, or that he wouldn’t be able to hold up to the challenge of raising a child. All of his friends were so supportive, and it made him realize that no matter what his past held, he was an incredibly lucky man.
“Thank you, Kendall,” Torren replied when Aslan didn’t say anything. “We shouldn’t be much longer.”
“No problem.” Kendall transferred Wren from Aslan’s chest to his own, gave them a little wave, and disappeared. Aslan was pleased to see that Kendall stopped on the way out of the clearing to grab his mate, though. Cassius would keep them safe.
“You worry too much.” Torren lifted him into his arms so that Aslan had to lock his legs around his mate’s waist or risk falling.
“Have a little fun tonight, because things are going to get freaking busy after this.”
He said it lightly, jokingly, but Aslan could feel the tension in Torren’s neck and shoulders. “What’s wrong?”
“It’s almost midnight. Nothing has happened yet, but I feel like we’re being watched.” It was a testament to the trust between them that Torren hadn’t lied or tried to redirect the conversation.
“Here’s what I don’t get.” Resting his hands on his hips, Galen stared out into the trees that surrounded the grassy area. “I understand that Becker was being controlled or cursed or whatever by Natalie, but that doesn’t answer how he got onto the estate in the first place.”
“Most likely a cloaking spell of some kind.” Torren followed Galen’s gaze, his eyes narrowed, his senses alert.
“Aslan, run! Leave now!”
Jerking in Torren’s arms, Aslan pressed a hand to his temple, trying to force the voice away. “Not now.”
“Tell Torren to go. Get everyone out. Get somewhere safe.
They’re coming. Hurry!”
Then voices exploded inside his head, making his ears ring and pain throb inside his temples.
“He can’t help you!”
“Stay with us. We’re the only ones who care about you.”
“Your mate will leave you. He doesn’t love you.”
“Let us help you. Let us in.”
“It’s them.” Aslan gasped as panic threatened to overwhelm him.
“The witches that came that night. The ones who took Addison. It’s them, Torren. They’re coming. They want the book.” He knew he wasn’t making sense, but he couldn’t corral his frantic thoughts. The voices he’d been hearing for months were those of long-dead witches who had kidnapped his child and murdered him and his mate.
“Hide, Aslan. Get away and hide.”
The voice, while urgent, didn’t frighten him like the others. If anything, it calmed him and gave him courage. “Who are you?” Torren looked at him like he’d lost his mind. “Baby, are you okay? What’s going on? What are you hearing?”
“Tell my stubborn-ass brother to go already, or I’ll bite him in the
“Your brother bit your balls?” Aslan wrinkled his nose. “Eww.”
“Not like that,” Torren said absently. “It was the first time he’d shifted. He was just scared. I tried to—” He cut off abruptly and shook his head. “Mikko.”
* * * *
Torren couldn’t breathe. He had no idea how Aslan was hearing Mikko. Or maybe he did and was just too afraid to face the truth. Just then was not the time to dwell on it, though. Something was coming.
He could feel it like a static charge in the air.
Setting Aslan to his feet, Torren gave him a little shove. “Find as many Enforcers as you can. Start getting people out of here.” He’d expected Aslan to argue with him, so when the little man just nodded and took off across the field, Torren was momentarily stumped on what to do next. Watching his mate go, he had a sense of foreboding that he couldn’t shake. Whatever was coming—it came for Aslan.
“What do you need from us?” Raith appeared at his side as though he’d teleported there.
“Tell us what to do,” Lynk added, determination blazing in his dark brown eyes.
Enforcers were running around the clearing, gathering people up and sending them on their way. Torren didn’t have a clue what story they’d come up with, but it must have been a good one, because so far, no one was panicking.
“Lynk, go to the main house. If you can’t put a protection spell on the whole thing, gather everyone in one room and lock it up tight. I don’t even want a breeze to get through that barrier. Got it?”
“I’m on it.” Lynk sprinted across the field, dodging stragglers as his feet flew over the dying grass.
“Raith, find Nicholas. He’s not strong, but we can use all the help we can get.”
His brother was gone before he’d even finished speaking.
“What can we do?” Xander and his pack moved in to surround Torren, though he noticed that the smaller mates were absent.
He’d give anything to have Aslan away from there.
“I need someone to find Aslan.”
“He’s by the bonfire,” Boston informed him. “I’ll be back in a blink.”
“Your mates are safe?”
“Malakai is takin’ the Trouble Twins to the house.” Flynn chuckled and shook his head. “A more difficult pair I’ve never met. They’ll be fittin’ right in around here.”
“Okay, we’re here,” Raith panted as he jogged up beside Torren, Nicholas and the vampire’s mate, Jonas, right behind him. “Protection spells?”
“Yes, and hurry.” Then they were off again.
The calmness of the clearing had dissipated, leaving behind a sense of urgency. “Just be ready,” he said, answering Xander’s earlier query. “I hope you don’t mind getting a little dirty.” He started walking toward the trees, chanting his own protection spells under his breath, when someone yelled his name.
Spinning around, his heart seized in his chest and the air burst from his lungs in a strangled moan. Boston jogged toward him with Aslan in his arms. Torren’s mate jerked and convulsed, his eyes rolling back in his head as heartbreaking whimpers emanated from him.
He couldn’t make his legs work, couldn’t see anything past the unbearable sight of his lover in such obvious pain. Before Boston reached him, the bonfire exploded, sending up twenty-foot flames that broke off and rained down, igniting a ring of fire, trapping them in its circle.
It was happening again. Just like all the times before, they were destined to have their time together cut short.
“Give us the Relegatis!” A hand fisted in Torren’s hair, jerking
his head back on his shoulders so that the rain splattered over his
face. “Give it to us or he dies.” The asshole gave him a meaningful
look and tilted his head toward Aslan.
Somewhere in the distance, Torren heard a baby cry. His baby.
His son. One of the two reasons that Torren lived and breathed. The
other reason was kneeling beside him, a steel blade pressed to his
throat hard enough to nick the skin and draw blood.
Rage and fury bubbled in his veins, but these witches were more
powerful than him. Without his circle, he was helpless against them.
His body was locked in place, held immobile by the invisible
restraints of his captor’s bewitchment.
Cutting his eyes to the side, he found Aslan staring back at him
with despair written in the lines of his face. His eyes begged, pleaded
for Torren to give these men what they wanted. Everything was
written there, laid raw for Torren to see. Though the situation was
bleak, Aslan still believed in him. He still had faith that Torren would
He had no idea where the Book of the Banished was, though. And
even if he did, they would never allow them to live after he revealed
the whereabouts. Unable to even move—weak, vulnerable, felled by
an unworthy adversary—Torren could do nothing but watch as the
life drained from Aslan’s eyes.
He welcomed death. Welcomed the end. Without his mate, without
his child, he had no joy, no sunlight, and no reason to draw his next
Shaking himself out of the depressing memory, Torren felt the moisture of one hot, salty tear as it trickled from the corner of his eye and off the tip off his nose. He growled as he wiped it away roughly.
He would not be weak again. This time, he would fight to protect what belonged to him. This time, he would win.
Suddenly, Boston was thrown off his feet, hurdling backward through the air with Aslan still clutched in his arms. He landed in a heap near the roaring fire, and Torren watched as his mate rolled across the grass and came to a stop several feet away.
He’d taken only two running steps when a mountain of a man appeared out of nowhere, scooping Aslan up in his arms and turning to face Torren with a devious grin. “It’s over, Braddock. You’ve failed again.”
His fear from moments before was overshadowed by a cold, dark rage, leaving him shaking from head to toe. Taking another measured step forward, he clenched his hands at his side, his gaze locked on the asshole, contemplating exactly how to end his worthless existence.
“Put him down,” he ordered in a low, dangerous tone.
“What will you do? You can’t stop me, just like you couldn’t stop my ancestors. Back off and maybe we’ll let you live this time.” All around him, Enforcers battled with the circle of witches, but Torren paid them no attention. The witches were outnumbered and even with their magic, they were no match for the Enforcers of Haven. Already he saw two on the ground, limp and unmoving. That left only three others, plus the fucker still holding his mate.
“What do you want with him?”
“I’m not stupid, Braddock. I know you’re more powerful than me.” He clutched Aslan closer, obviously aware that Torren wouldn’t do anything to risk harming his lover. “I want the Book of the Banished, and I want the original circle dead. I’m going to need a little help to accomplish both.”
“It doesn’t work that way.” Torren growled and took another step closer. “Only one soul can pass through the threshold.”
“Yes, but if it’s the right one, he can bring back the others.” It was true. Torren’s own brother, Thane, had such an ability.
Even if Aslan’s life wasn’t at stake, there was no way he could allow that to happen. “Put him down,” he repeated.
The witch shook his head and began backing away toward the circle of fire. Torren watched as the flames parted, leaving a small gap just big enough for his enemy to escape through. Fortunately for Torren, the idiot hadn’t counted on the enormous white tiger that catapulted through the air, hitting him in the back and crumpling him to the ground.
Once again, Aslan went rolling across the grass, still seizing as he curled in on himself. Damn, his baby was having a rough night.
Rushing across the field, he skidded to a halt, throwing himself on the ground and wrapping Aslan up in his arms. His mate’s would-be kidnapper wasn’t a threat to them any longer, would never be a threat to anyone else. The big tiger—Xander—had seen to that, and Torren could only be grateful.
There was still one battle left to win, and though it left his heart bleeding, it was one that Aslan would have to fight alone. “Aslan! Open your eyes. Fight for me, baby. You’re stronger than they are. You can do this.”
His entire body hurt like the ten shades of hell. The seizures continued to ride him hard, barrel rolling him beneath a wave of debilitating pain. His chest was on fire, burning hot like the blue flame within an inferno. His eyes, his temples, his skull—it all pounded like the bass blaring from a wall of speakers inside a techno club.
Time and reality warped into something resembling a carnival fun house. Nothing was real, yet everything was real. Darkness pressed in on the edges of his vision, calling his name, reaching for him. The tendrils of peace tickled at his senses, luring him closer into a place where nothing could hurt him.
Desperate to make the pain stop, Aslan followed the curling rings of fog that beckoned him into the unknown like a lover’s finger crooking invitingly, teasing him with the promise of sinful delights.
Something held him back, something warm, solid, and unmovable.
Though he tried to shrug off the hold, it wouldn’t relent, calling him back to where the pain seared through him like a nuclear blast.
“Aslan! Open your eyes. Fight for me, baby. You’re stronger than they are. You can do this.”
He knew that voice, responded to it by instinct. Struggling against the spasms that wracked his body, Aslan pried his eyelids back and stared up at the most beautiful angel he’d ever seen. A dark warrior angel, come to earth just for him.
. Right here. Keep looking right here.” If Torren was afraid, he didn’t show it. His hands were rock steady as they moved over Aslan’s face, stroking his cheeks and down the sides of his throat. His voice never wavered, never broke. As always, Torren was his rock.
“No, you can’t trust him.”
“Come with us. Let us take you away from the pain.”
“Let us in.”
“Let us in.”
“Let us in.”
Over and over the words chanted inside his head, almost lyrical in their rhythm and cadence. They called to him, coaxing him closer to the dark void once again.
“No, damn it!” Torren shook him roughly. “It will not end this way. Not this time. Open your goddamn eyes and see me!” His mate’s mouth crashed down on his, his tongue plunged between his lips, and he stroked the inside of Aslan’s mouth, leaving no crevice unexplored.
Hard, hungry, desperate, the kiss pushed away some of Aslan’s pain, replacing within him a new kind of scorching heat. “Torren,” he whimpered, clutching at his lover’s shirt, terrified of being dragged under again.
“I’m right here. I’m always going to be right here.” Torren took his mouth again, demanding that Aslan respond to him as he claimed what was his. “I love you.”
Those three little words that held the power of the world slammed into him like the first rays of sunlight peeking through the clouds after a violent storm. Something primal, instinctual, and almost savage rose up inside him, pushing a growl through his lips as he flipped their positions and pinned Torren beneath him on the ground.