Embrace Me at Dawn

Page 34

In the hall outside the bedroom, Shock stood. “Well?”

With a single glance, he sent Ice and Caden away. They left down the stairs silently, Ice looking more than a little disappointed that he wouldn’t get to help kill Shock today.

“There’s nothing new,” Lucan told Shock. “She’s weak but fighting, so now we wait. Did you know that Anka was only allowed to join the Doomsday Brethren if she agreed to continue living with you?”

“Yes. That woman can’t have a single thought in my presence that I can’t read.” He smiled crookedly. “She’s really terrible at mental evasion. I knew she tried to leave, just as I knew Bram forced her back.”

Son of a bitch! “Why?”

Shock cocked his head. “Bram’s excuse was that she needed energy and protection.”

“But you don’t buy it?”

“Bram could have given her protection. Energy would have been trickier, but if Bram was going to dictate who gave it to her, he could have picked you, his best mate, just as easily. As it was, she thought of you constantly. Given all that, why do you suppose Bram ordered her to shack up with me?”

Betrayal burned Lucan all over again. “Because he wanted a spy.”

“That’s my guess. I don’t know for certain. He’s skilled enough to wipe his thoughts clean when I’m with him. He’s slick about hiding. There’s a wall there I can’t often get past…but I don’t need to be Einstein to know he doesn’t trust me. It stands to reason that he assumed that while she trained here, he could discreetly pump her for information about my actions. As long as he didn’t plant that ugly ‘spy’ word in her brain, I would be none the wiser.”

Lucan cocked his head. “You’ve known the whole time?”

“Of course.”

“And you played along?”

“It worked both ways. I could protect Anka and give her energy—or whatever she needed. But I could also read her thoughts about whatever Bram was up to.”

“To pass on to Mathias?”

Shock shot him a cutting glare that wasn’t hard to recognize even behind the sunglasses. “Fuck off.”

Right, then. Shock’s ultimate allegiance wasn’t the question of the hour. Bram’s was. And they were going to have it out. “Wait here for Anka. I’ll be back in less than five minutes.”

Lucan hated leaving Anka at all, but if she pulled through this mate breaking, he wanted her coming back to a world as perfect as he could make it for her. And he wanted to fix it for her right now.

Striding down the stairs two at a time, he walked through the foyer, down the hall, then to Bram’s office. He pushed the door open, sending it bouncing off the wall. “You low-down, wretched, motherfucking scumbag.”

Surprise twisted Bram’s face. “Pardon me? What the bloody hell is your problem?”

“You forced Anka to live with Shock when she no longer wanted to. So she could spy for you. You sent a damaged woman who needed love and rebuilding back to a man who isn’t her mate so she could do your fucking dirty work? You left me mateless—”

“I left her with someone who could protect and power her. Someone who had proven he could do it because he had for months.”

“I could have done that for her!” Lucan growled.

“Is that right? I was supposed to believe that based on what facts? She was your mate when she was taken. You didn’t recover her. You weren’t mentally stable for months. I’m still not sure you are now.”

“Oh, I know I wasn’t there for her as I should have been. I know the fault lies with me. But while she trained, she could have stayed here with you, if you were so concerned about her safety. She would have been out of harm's way in one of your fifty bedrooms or whatever. I could have energized her here whenever she wished.”

“She didn’t want you.”

That might have been true, at least at the time, and it hurt. “But she didn’t want Shock either, you bloody bastard.”

Bram stood and crossed the room, shut the doors. All hint of affability was gone. “Shock provided her with a…method to release her pain that, frankly, I didn’t think you had the backbone for. Can you really give her pain if she needs it to let go of her own?”


After his conversation with Thorpe, he understood Anka in a way he never had. He’d seen her needs from another perspective. The most important thing now was that he fulfill her however he could.

“All right, I’ll believe you.” But Bram’s tone said he didn’t. “Listen to me, Lucan. When she asked to join us, she wasn’t ready to live with you or be in love with you again. I gave you the opportunity to train her so that she could spend time with you. I suspected it would be the bridge you both needed to work through your issues so you could be together again. In the meantime, I saw no reason not to leave her in her current situation, where she seemed free of Mathias’s reach and relatively happy.”

“Even though you knew she wanted to leave Shock, you thought she was happy?” Lucan asked incredulously.

“All right. Maybe the word ‘happy’ is too strong. It is fair to say that she wasn’t any unhappier than you. But if having a warrior of the Doomsday Brethren under Shock’s roof made him more loyal or us better informed, then where’s the harm?” When Lucan’s jaw dropped, Bram crossed his arms over his chest. “All right, then. Since logic isn’t denting that look of betrayal on your face, let me try again. You undoubtedly assume that I value my machinations more than our friendship. You have the luxury of worrying mostly about your life and your heart and the lonely centuries in front of you. I’m not so fortunate. I’ve got magickind’s entire existence balanced on my back. One wrong step…” He shrugged, but clearly he found nothing trivial about it. “Before today, you questioned Shock’s motives every bit as much as I did. If Anka could stay safe, if he could force her to take the energy she’d been so dangerously refusing, and if he could unwittingly provide information, then so much the better.”

Lucan took in Bram’s little speech. Yes, from the other wizard’s point of view, that made perfectly logical sense. “You’re full of shit. If Emma had come to me, desperate for energy and protection, and I had to choose between you or…Sebastian Blackbourne, for instance, I would have assumed you wanted your mate. That you could take care of her. I would have given you the benefit of the doubt, war or no. I would never have stabbed you in the back.” He narrowed his eyes. “When Anka wakes from this mate breaking, I’m going to take her home with me, where she belongs. Tomorrow, we will return, and she will continue training. Despite no longer being able to fuck information out of Shock for you, she is still one of us. You won’t tell her otherwise.”

“A few days ago, you didn’t want her to be one of us at all. You wanted her nowhere near the fighting.”

“If anything pulls her through this mate breaking, it will be the fire of her revenge. She needs it, and I’m here to give her what she needs. Now fuck off.”

Pivoting around and wrenching the double doors open, he strode out.

“Lucan, don’t do this!” Bram shouted after him. “We’ve been friends for too long—”

“We were friends.” Lucan didn’t break stride, just headed for the stairs. “Now we just fight on the same side of the war.”

If Bram had anything else to say in his defense, Lucan didn’t want to hear it. Didn’t care. Only Anka mattered, and he ran up the stairs to find Shock pacing.

“Impressive,” the leather-clad wizard said. “‘Low-down, wretched, motherfucking scumbag’ has quite the ring to it.”

“I wanted to add ‘shitty, back-stabbing arsehole,’ but I ran out of breath.”

“You’re really furious.”

“Imagine being in my position.”

Shock pondered, then nodded. “I probably would have killed him.”

“Don’t think it didn’t cross my mind. He’s obsessed with this war, so I shouldn’t be surprised. Has he even put in any time looking for his own missing mate? I’m not aware that he has. I probably shouldn’t be surprised.”

“Actually, more than you think. He’s certain that he’s narrowed down her vicinity. Too bad for him he’s quite wrong.”

Lucan’s jaw dropped. “You know where Emma is?”

“A little mission for Mathias, yes. I’ve kept her out of harm’s way. But I’ve kept her under my thumb, too. Bram will never find her.”

Surprise rippled again and again through Lucan. Shock was smarter—and more dangerous—than anyone suspected. Lucan had a whole new level of respect for the chap.

Shock laughed. “I’m an equal opportunity bastard. Mathias doesn’t know where she is, either. I’ve stashed her someplace perfect. When the right moment comes…I’ll tell whoever needs to know most.”

That worried him. He might not consider Bram a friend anymore, but he didn’t want to see a human caught in the crossfire. “Mathias will kill her.”

“He might threaten to, but ending her accomplishes nothing for him. More likely that he’d use her to get to Bram.”

And the wizard would give his life to spare his mate’s. The instinct was innate.

“Exactly.” Shock crossed his arms over his chest with a superior grin.

Which reminded him that Shock had his own agenda in this war. Not that Lucan gave a shit right now.

He ripped his mobile free from his pocket. “How much longer?”

Shock’s smile fell. “I don’t bloody know, but it’s taking too damn long.”

Yes, and waiting to hear about Anka was killing him.

The thought barely crossed his mind before the bedroom door opened. He and Shock both snapped to attention and crowded around the portal as a shaken Sabelle appeared.

Chapter Fourteen

Lucan didn’t wait for Sabelle to speak. He pushed past her, ran into the bedroom, and skidded to a stop on his knees at the side of the bed. Anka looked ghostly and still as he took her icy hand in his. Her chest didn’t rise and fall. Her magical signature was devoid of Shock’s influence, except a tiny crack that proclaimed him her former mate. But all of her colors were fading so rapidly, his heart stopped.

Anka was slipping through his fingers. If he didn’t do something, she would soon be dead. God, no. No way would he let her go. He hadn’t come this far, discovered that he was the mate of her heart, only to lose her forever. Giving up was not an option.

He jumped on the bed beside Anka, wrapped her in his arms, and crushed her to his chest. She tumbled limply against him, a chilly, lifeless rag doll.

“What happened?” he asked Millie.

The old witch shook her head, a pained frown on her fey little face. “I tried. Once the mate bond was broken, she simply fell.”

“Fell? What does that mean?” Lucan gripped Anka tighter, willing her to warm, to breathe, to open her eyes and see how much he loved her.

“I…it’s a term healers use. When you’re performing intricate magic, it’s complicated. And it’s still magic, which is imperfect and…” Millie swallowed nervously. “It doesn’t always work the way you expect. I thought I’d been slow and gentle, that we’d done everything to make her warm and secure...”

“After you left and Millie began severing her mate bond to Shock, I sensed that Anka felt adrift. Cut loose,” Sabelle supplied, then shook her head. “No, that’s not it exactly. I felt her searching for an anchor. When she couldn’t find one, she floated away.”

She’d felt alone? She’d needed someone to lean on?

“I believe so,” Sabelle said, obviously scanning his thoughts.

He turned to Shock, whose hulking presence Lucan could feel behind him. “Read Anka’s mind. Anything?”

Shock bowed his head, paused. Finally, his head snapped up again, and he nodded. “She’s still alive. Only just. She’s hazardously low on energy. And she’s afraid.”

“Don’t fear, love. You will never be alone again. Ever,” Lucan whispered fiercely in her ear. “I’ve got you.” He stood, draping the sheet around her naked body, then carried her out of the room, down the stairs. “Thank you, Millie, Sabelle. I’ll take her.”

On his heels, Shock followed. “I hear her faint thoughts. She’s afraid of dragging you through the muck of her problems.”

“Our problems,” he growled to her as he headed for Bram’s front door. “They aren’t just yours, love. I’ll be there with you. Focus on coming back to me.”

“There you go, Anka,” Shock bantered. “And no, I won’t butt out. You don’t get to die on us. You know if I have to be underhanded to keep you alive, I will. I’ve done it before.”

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