"No. I can do small patch-up jobs and take away some pain, but that's all. My healing talent is nowhere near Zander's level, not even in the same ball park. And I can't patch up myself," he said, gesturing to his own bruised face.
Zander Cole, one of the wolf shifters, was the team's Healer, and a highly valuable one at that. He was capable of healing extensive, life-threatening injuries-though at great personal cost to himself.
"But they don't hurt anymore," she enthused, wiggling her fingers. "Thank you."
He shrugged. "Let's see what we can do about the cut on your shoulder. Turn around for me." She did, and he sucked in a breath. "This is a bit uglier than your hands. I need for you to take off your shirt. Is that okay?"
She nodded. He might be the new guy on the team, but she trusted him with her life. Hell, he'd already saved her butt, so what did she have to lose? She grabbed the hem of her red tank top, but when she tried to lift her arms, her left shoulder screamed in protest.
"Easy, honey," he said, his palm rubbing her back in a comforting gesture. "Let me do it."
Working carefully, he lifted the shirt and eased it over her right arm first, and then over her head. From there, it was simple enough to slide it off her left arm, where he let the material drop to the tiled floor.
"That shirt's a loss. So is the bra. The clasp is dangling by a thread back here, and the whole thing's in my way."
Face flushing, she shrugged her good shoulder. "Then take it off."
Doctors didn't embarrass easily when it came to other people baring skin in order to be examined or treated. It was quite another matter to be on the receiving end. She flinched as he flicked the clasp and the pressure of the elastic vanished. The scrap joined her top on the floor and she automatically covered her breasts.
She didn't consider herself overly modest, but right now someone could've fried an egg on her forehead. She stared at the wall, glad he was behind her where he couldn't see how flustered she was to be standing there topless in the same room with the man she'd lusted after for weeks.
As before, he cleaned the wound as gently as possible. It hurt, though, much worse than the scrapes on her hands. At one point she gave up trying to keep herself covered and gripped the edge of the sink, tears of pain pricking her eyes.
"I'm sorry, sweet thing. Just a bit more, okay?"
Five more agonizing minutes, and he was finished. Tossing the cloth on the back of the sink, he ordered her to remain still for another few seconds. A soft stream of Latin left his lips and the slash on her back began to tingle. The sensation lasted briefly and was gone.
"There. It's not perfect. Zan could've made it vanish altogether, but it's better than having it bleed all over."
Turning around, she examined her left shoulder in the mirror. The creature's claw had raked an ugly furrow about a half-inch wide from the top of her shoulder, over the shoulder blade, and a few inches below. A few more and it might've damaged the nerves in her spine, possibly severed them.
As it was, Kalen had closed the cut enough to form a scab that made it appear the wound had been healing for a week or so. "I'm impressed. And it feels a ton better, thank you."
"How's your arm?" she asked.
"It's not as bad as I thought. I'll clean the cut later." His gaze dropped to her chest and his eyes widened, body going tense. Lust etched itself on his face for a fleeting moment, and then he gave her a sheepish smile. "Christ, where are my manners?"
Exhaling a deep breath, she watched him exit the bathroom. In the bedroom, he removed his duster and laid it over the back of an old chair, and then pull off his black T-shirt. Walking back to her, he held it out. "Wear this. It's clean, except for a little bit of blood where his claw tore my sleeve."
She took the shirt, but damned if she could take her eyes off his toned chest, sprinkled with just the right amount of curly black hair and the silver pentagram pendant resting over his heart. Washboard abs, too. He'd filled out, gained some weight since he'd been with the Pack. And those few pounds had been shaped into muscle, and gone to all the right places.
Shit, those long legs, and that bulge between his thighs-
"Hmm? Oh! Thanks."
Turning around, she pulled on his shirt and was immediately assailed by his wonderful, spicy scent. Assuming they had to stay the night, how the hell was she supposed to sleep wearing clothing of his that smelled so damned good? Parking her rear on the bed, she watched as he dug out his cell phone and tried again to reach someone at the compound. Nothing. She did the same, with identical results.
"Must be a service outage somewhere," he muttered. "Looks like we're stuck here for the time being."
Stuck wasn't the word she would've chosen to describe being shut in with the sexy Sorcerer all night.
"Unless you want to just leave and make a run for it," she suggested. "Maybe whatever it was is gone?"
"No, he's still out there, waiting. I can feel him."
"Then I guess we're here for the duration. Want to watch TV?"
Alone with Kalen, and that was the last pastime on her list. But she wasn't going to make a fool of herself by making a play for him.
He's a coworker, Mac! And it's never smart to sleep with one. Remember that. Strength, girlfriend. You can handle this.
Kalen flipped on the television and they settled on the bed, propped on pillows, watching a standup comedian on a cable channel. The show was funny, but her eyelids soon grew heavy. Too sleepy, worn out from their stressful ordeal, she let herself fall into oblivion.
What a freakin' waste of a delicious Sorcerer.
Jax wasn't surprised when, at two in the morning, there was a knock on the door to the quarters he and Kira shared. Nor was he surprised to find Nick standing on the threshold, frowning in concern.
His commander got right to the point. "Did you loan Kalen your keys to one of the Escalades?"
No point in lying when the man clearly knew the answer already. "I did. Isn't he back yet?"
"No, and neither is Mac. I can't reach either one of them on their cell phones. In fact, I can't even contact Sheriff Deveraux. There seems to be an outage in the area-and not a normal one."
"Shit." A chill snaked down his spine. "We initiating a search?"
"Yeah. I'm not getting any premonitions except a vague sense that something bad has happened, and I don't fucking like it." The man sighed, raking a hand through short, dark hair a lot like Jax's own, except Nick's was beginning to turn silver at the temples. "Let's take Zan and Ryon with us. Hammer will stay here and keep watch."
"Good idea." Four was a more comfortable number when facing unknown odds. Five would've been better, and his gut churned at the thought. Aric should've been with them, and it was his fault their friend had been taken captive. They'd find him. Jax had to believe that or he'd go insane with the horrible guilt. "Let me throw on some jeans and I'll round up the others."
"Meet me at the hanger."
Then Nick was gone, leaving Jax to dress with warp speed. He stopped only long enough to give his sleepy mate a kiss and tell her not to worry.
As if. Their newest Pack member was out there somewhere, with Mac. Something was very wrong. Suddenly, Jax recalled the conversation he and Nick had about Kalen the very night they'd taken in the Sorcerer.
"Is the kid going to be okay?" Jax asked.
"Definitely not if he leaves, but even if he stays . . . I don't know. His storm is still a good ways off, but it's coming."
"And when it arrives?" He was almost afraid to learn the answer, with good reason.
"Kalen will either find it in his soul to do the right thing, make the hard choice. Or he'll destroy us all."
Whatever had happened tonight, Jax had a terrible feeling this was the beginning. The rolling thunder before the storm.
And he had a suspicion that Nick knew it, too.
God help them all.
The trees were dead.
They weren't supposed to be dead in the middle of the summer, but they were. Stripped of their leaves, skeletal branches touched the gray sky. Nothing moved. No sign of life anywhere, as though every living thing had perished along with their precious shelter.
Fish floated in the poisoned streams, eyes staring blankly at heavens, accusing. Who had let this happen? Why?
Studying the ground and the tree trunks, she saw that most everything was blackened, as though it had been . . . burned?
"Come with me and we'll rule together."
Glancing around, she wondered who'd spoken. A flash of black caught her eye, darting behind one of the barren trunks. A suit jacket?
"Who are you?" she called. "And rule what? This?" She spread out her arms to indicate the wasteland.
"What you see is merely a preview of what will happen if I'm refused. I enjoy getting my way."
The amusement in his tone grated. "Would you really do this to the land, the wildlife?"
"You don't know?" he asked, as though she was a small, confused child.
"Of course not," she snapped. Inching forward, she crept up on the tree she'd seen him, or something, hide behind. And jumped around it to find nothing there.
His laugh echoed through the branches. "Your Sorcerer, who else?"
"You're a liar." What an asshole. "Kalen would never do anything like this."
"Know him well, do you?"
He had here there. "No," she admitted reluctantly. "But in my heart, I know he wouldn't."
"Ah, your heart," he said softly, as though in great sympathy. "What do you know of matters of the heart, lovely one? What do you know of the Sorcerer's? He who has a soul nearly as dark as my own, and requires only the correct guidance to realize his potential."
Those words froze her to the bone. "What are you planning to do with Kalen?"
"Whatever I wish." He chuckled. "That doesn't answer your question, does it? Come with me and all will be revealed."
"And if I don't?"
From nowhere a bolt of light streaked from the sky, slammed her in the chest. Heat seared her heart, agony blasting through every cell in her body.
Writhing on the ground, she screamed. And screamed-
Screamed . . .
"God, Mackenzie! Wake up!"
A pair of hands were shaking her roughly. Mac jolted awake, heart pounding in terror. Someone was lying half on top of her, holding her down. A man.
"Don't hurt me anymore! Please!"
"Honey, it's me, Kalen!"
That penetrated her fright, and she paused in confusion. "Kalen?"
"Yes," he breathed, pulling her against his chest. "It's me. I'm here, and you're safe. It was just a bad dream."
"A dream? No! He was there and he was such a bastard, killing all the trees and animals, and blaming it on you! And he wanted me to join him and when I wouldn't-"
"Sweetheart, slow down," he soothed, stroking her hair. "You're not making any sense. Take a few deep breaths, there's my girl."
She did, and gradually her panic calmed. "It seemed so real."
"Nightmares usually do, but they're mostly harmless."
"But not always." She didn't like that qualifier. One bit.
"I won't lie. I've seen a ton of weird and dangerous shit. And yeah, there are beings that can actually invade your dreams, attempt to do any number of things."
She liked his strong arms around her. She burrowed into his chest, and the sense of his protection gave her the courage to continue. "I'm pretty sure this guy was real. He wanted me and you to join him. He wants to control you."READ MORE >>