Embrace Me at Dawn

Page 14

“I don’t give a piss about Shock, only you.”

Anka looked torn, and Lucan wanted to stop her internal debate. They couldn’t heal until they hashed everything out. He gently brought her around to face him and cupped her cheek in his hand. She was still so soft, still looked so pure and small and lost. His chest buckled. “Anka, whatever is running through that pretty head of yours, tell me. Trust me to help you.”

She jerked away, tapped her toe, obviously thinking. Finally, she squared her shoulders and drew in a sharp breath. “Sabelle is my best friend, and you two…”

When her eyes teared up again, Lucan had endured enough of the distance between them. He reached across the empty space, locked his hands around her waist, and pulled her into his lap. “She kept me alive.”

Anka closed her eyes, hiding her pain from him. “I know.”

And she still didn’t like it. That was a very good sign. “Look at me, love.”

“Don’t call me that.”

“Anka?” He dropped his voice, giving it tender authority.

Her eyes flew open, and she focused on him. “Good. Love, I would have died without her. I’m sure she told you that.”

She nodded, dropping her gaze. Her dark lashes brushed her cheeks, and Lucan could see her fighting the hurt. “I have no right to care.”

“Logic doesn’t always ease the pain. You went to Shock when you didn’t remember me, yes? You left the safety of your cousin’s flat, desperate for energy to power your magic, weren’t you?”

Anka hesitated, then nodded.

Lucan tucked a finger under her chin and lifted her gaze to him. “Logically, I know you would likely have died without him. I should be grateful to him for keeping you well, giving you a roof, just like you should be appreciative of Sabelle’s efforts. But logic doesn’t always erase what our heart tells us. Can you forgive me?”

He held his breath. This answer was important, vitally so. He would find a way to move past everything that had happened between her and Shock if she could forgive him Sabelle’s well-meaning efforts. Even if she didn’t, he would climb that mountain somehow, too.

Anka drew in a shuddering breath, clearly thinking when the door to the training room burst open. Lucan shoved Anka’s smaller body behind him, ready to meet the intrusive threat head-on. Instead, he found his brother standing in the doorway, brow raised.

“Bram is calling everyone together. The ladies have found something in their research that he wants us all to hear.”

He shot Caden a glare that protested his brother’s terrible timing. “Five minutes, and we’ll be there.”

Caden shook his head. “Now. I think it has something to do with putting down Morganna for good.”

And if they could eliminate Morganna, the Doomsday Brethren and magickind would have one less worry on their plates. Perhaps then he could afford to focus more on Anka. And they might not need her to fight quite so soon.

Lucan sighed with regret. “We’ll be there in a tick.”

With a nod, his brother turned away. As Caden ducked out the door, Anka edged around him and tried to waltz past. Lucan grabbed her arm in a steely grip and turned her to face him.

“We’re not finished with this conversation.”

“We have to be.” She jerked her arm free. “I will extend you trust as my trainer. I know you will never hurt me and will do everything in your power to teach me what I need to know to stay alive. In return, I swear I will learn whatever you wish, practice in whatever way you desire, and do my utmost to be an asset to the Doomsday Brethren. But it doesn’t matter if you forgive me for Shock or I forgive you for Sabelle. That would only matter if we intended to mate again. And that will never happen.”

Lucan stared at her retreating back, mentally pulling out the figurative knife she’d just stabbed into his heart. The terrible words were part of her armor, the way she meant to keep distance between them so she could protect herself. But from what? Him? He knew she didn’t love Shock. When forced to choose between him and that Denzell wanker just over a century ago, Anka had chosen him. She’d been ready to leave the bloody berk a few days ago, from what Sabelle said.

Yet she’d gone back, surrendered her body and will to him again. Maybe she had more feelings for Shock than she had a century ago. Maybe she thought she needed him because Shock met her secret desires as no one had.

Lucan clenched a fist.

“What the devil are you doing?” Bram barreled toward him with a scowl. “We’re waiting for you two.”

When Anka disappeared into Bram’s office, Lucan snarled at his best friend. “There is no way I can train Anka without getting personal. I’m going to touch her.”

A smile creased the stressed lines of Bram’s face, making him look more like the carefree playboy Lucan had known for centuries. “You think you’re surprising me?”

Sly bastard. “She’ll complain.”

Bram shrugged. “I’m not coming between two former mates. Nor will I tell you how to train her.”

Finally, Lucan had something to smile about. “I’m going to wrest her away from Shock and make her mine again.”

“I hope so.” Bram slapped him on the back. “I’m bloody tired of seeing two people I care about so much being so sodding stubborn and walking around with long faces. Now let’s go.”

They walked into Bram’s office to find the rest of the warriors assembled, along with some of the mates. He spotted Anka by the window, alone, the morning sun glinting off her severe braid, staring straight ahead at some unknown point on the wall—and avoiding eye contact. Sabelle stood on the far side of the room, anchored to Ice’s massive body by his strong arm. Belle’s face broke his heart as she looked at Anka with hurt swimming in her eyes. Normally, the best friends would have gravitated together, and a hot flare of frustration rushed through him. Damn it, Anka was determined to close herself off from everything and everyone to shut out any possible hurt. That simply wasn’t like her. He was going to have to open her up and fill her heart with love once more.

With a determined sigh, he sauntered over to Anka and planted himself beside her. “You’re hurting Belle’s feelings.”

Anka looked away, focusing her attention on Bram, who now stood behind his ornate wooden desk at the front of the room, books spread out before him. “She has Ice.”

“She is your best friend.”

“She is from an impeccable family. She is the sort of mate you deserve.” Anka pushed away from the window to find an empty chair in the back corner of the room.

Where the devil had that come from? There were so many damn things wrong with Anka’s statement that Lucan didn’t know where to start. Definitely, they were going to sort this out. If she thought she could end the discussion by moving to a corner, she was sorely mistaken. But here and now wasn’t the time to make that clear.

“Thank you all for coming on short notice. Special thanks to Olivia, Sabelle, Sydney, and Felicia for tirelessly prowling through Merlin’s rambling tomes to find something—”

Duke burst through the door a moment later, interrupting Bram’s speech. He looked as if he’d like to tear off more than a few heads and ask questions later. Lucan frowned. Simon rarely lost his cool. His visible frustration didn’t bode well.

“Good of you to join us. Where the bloody hell have you been?” Bram asked.

“Dealing with some of the worst sort of scum. Television producers.” Simon shuddered. “The long and the short of it? All the murmurs I heard about exposing Morganna are true. We must act now!” He raked a hand through his hair, and Felicia came to his side with a concerned frown knitting her brow. “The BBC has planned an in-depth look at the tragedy at Stonehenge. They intended to publicly surmise that supernatural forces could be at work and even found people to interview about magickind specifically. Yes, us. They’re still airing the exposé, but after our ‘conversation,’ they are omitting the speculation. For now. As if that isn’t bad enough, an American cable show called Ghost Hunters is planning an episode about the spirit of Morganna le Fay haunting England and killing innocents. Not precisely true, since it’s the witch herself and not her spirit, but too close for comfort. I’m still seeing articles pop up in various newspapers and tabloids. Sydney, I’m going to buy up the paper and fire your former editor if Out of This Realm doesn’t stop speculating about the Stonehenge attack.”

Sydney sighed. “I’ve told Holly to shut it. She’s not exactly listening.”

“At all.” Displeasure made Simon growl, and Felicia tried to soothe him with a gentle brush to the shoulder.

“For fuck’s sake.” Bram paced. “Not what I wanted to hear. Can’t you stop them?”

“I have—for now. But I can’t hold them at bay forever. Money will only buy so much, and then…well, won’t they be asking why I’m willing to pay hundreds of thousands of pounds to silence them? Coupled with all the speculation about why I seemingly haven’t aged a day in the last decade, there are bound to be difficult questions. I don’t want to put too much spotlight on myself or any of us. But we’re running out of options.”

Lucan held in a curse. Duke had been raised human, but he understood magickind’s current problems perfectly.

“Before the humans look too deeply at you, before Morganna brings another inquisition down on magickind, before the death toll skyrockets, yes. Damn it all! We must rid ourselves of Morganna. Whilst you were gone this morning, we’ve found some new information that might help. Ladies?”

They all looked at one another, then Felicia nudged Olivia forward, who rolled her eyes and trudged over to Bram. Marrok looked on proudly.

“This morning, we stumbled across something that I believe will help us, but we need a bit more interpretation. I know some Arthurian folklore and legend, and I’ve asked Marrok what he knows from that period since he lived it. Anyway, we’ve managed to piece together a few facts. We’ve always known that Merlin created some way to ultimately destroy Morganna. He exiled her previously so that she would suffer the sorts of trials she forced on others, but he knew she was scary-strong and ultimately left a way to kill her for good. According to this passage, it’s a potion. The eyewitnesses of the Stonehenge attack said that she seemed to be frantically searching the relic bit by bit and killing anyone who got in her way. I can only guess this potion is what she sought.”

“How did she know about it?” Ice snarled.

Olivia frowned. “I don’t think Merlin made much secret that it existed.”

“Knowing my grandfather, he would have taunted Morganna with the knowledge,” Bram drawled.

“You’d do the same,” Lucan pointed out, and Bram nodded with a grin. “Even if we find this potion, she won’t drink it. She’s too happy being out of exile and terrorizing others again.”

“Precisely. I’m sure she wants to destroy it, which is why she’s hunting for it. That would make her almost invincible. Old age might get her eventually…but somehow she’s already lasted far beyond a normal magical lifespan, so I have to believe that she’s gathered dark forces to work for her and somehow keep her alive.”

“That’s possible?” Duke asked, wrapping his hand around his mate’s delicate fingers, as if he wanted to keep her closer.

Bram shrugged. “That’s the power of magic. It’s not as if the laws of nature and physics always apply. If you’re strong and crafty enough, you can even cheat death.”

“Looks like she’s learned. Fuck,” Ice grumbled on the other side of the room.

For once, Lucan perfectly agreed with Sabelle’s gruff mate.

“Where might we find this devil’s potion?” Marrok asked. “Does Merlin say? I’ve a yen to force it down her evil throat.”

Everyone turned to Olivia, who sighed, shoulders slumped. “We don’t know exactly where it is. You know Merlin would never have organized the information outlining where to find the potion with the instructions for actually retrieving it from its hiding spot. And that’s all we found, details about how to get our hands physically on the potion once it’s discovered. And it’s not going to be easy.”

Bram jumped in. “Indeed. The potion, wherever it is, is caged by a spell. Merlin wouldn’t have wanted to make it simple for Morganna to obtain and destroy it. The good news is that we know now what we need to snatch it up. The bad news? The order is a tall one.”

“Well, spit it out, then,” Lucan demanded. After his session with Anka had been cut short, he found his patience running thin.

Bram raised a brow at him, then his stare skidded over to Anka. She sat, back straight, chin raised, shoulders squared, staring straight ahead.

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