Fierce Obsessions

Page 69

"You're lying."
She was. Pain was blasting through her head, as if someone were taking a sledgehammer to it. If she had to guess, she'd say she had a fractured skull. Her stomach was heaving with nausea, her wounds burned like holy hell, and she was starting to feel a little dizzy. But he didn't need to know any of that.
"Taryn will come." Riley would just have to keep him alive until she did. Staring into his eyes, Riley pushed energy down the mating bond, strengthening it, strengthening him. Lights flashed behind her eyelids and wooziness racked her brain, but she sent him more. She couldn't let him die, not if she could help it. He had to live. He was too damn important to her. Hell, he was everything to her.
Energy pulsed down the bond right back to her, sharp as a slap. She scowled. "Take it."
"No. You're as weak as I am. You're trembling." It was worrying the shit out of Tao.
"I'm fine. Take it." She forced a strong pulse of energy down the bond-a pulse so strong he'd be too weak to reject it. A wave of nausea hit her hard. She was just so damn dizzy and disoriented . . . which was helped along by her head injury and just how exhausted she was.
He growled. "I don't want you to die for me." But that was what would happen. In trying to keep him alive, she was essentially giving her life for his.
"I get it now," she whispered. "I get why my dad couldn't hold on when she died. It wasn't that I wasn't enough-it wasn't about me at all. He just couldn't be without her. He couldn't. It was really just that simple." Her voice cracked. "I don't want to be without you."
She was breaking his fucking heart here. "You're wrong about your dad. It wasn't that simple. Yes, he didn't want to be without her. He still should have fought. He didn't, because he was selfish. I'm not him. I'm not leaving. Listen to me. You don't have to hold me here. I'm holding me here."
"No, I have to keep you here."
"And I have to keep you here, so let's do that."
With a nod she shoved energy up the bond, sending a brief surge of strength through his system. He sent a spurt of energy to her, giving her body that same boost. They each did it again and again, as if they were breathing for each other. It was working; it was also weakening her fast because the effects of her head injury were hazing her thoughts and leaving her feeling hollowed out. What's more, her natural urge to sleep while injured was trying to take over.
"Keep fighting." Tao could sense darkness pulling at her, threatening to take her from him, and it was freaking him the fuck out.
His wolf's ears pricked up at the sound of footsteps shuffling along the road. The van shook, as if something or someone was bracing their weight against it. Moments later Mathers stumbled into their vision, bloody and scratched to hell.
Riley hissed at the human. "You should be dead."
He sneered. "So should you." He lifted his gun, aimed it at them.
For Tao everything went quiet. Slow. Just as it had the last time death came calling for him. He wanted to push Riley out of harm's way, attack and maul the son of a bitch before shooting him with his own damn gun. But his energy level was simply too low.
"This is for Ramón." Mathers's grip tightened on the gun and-
A large gray wolf smashed into Mathers's side, sending him flying out of their sight. Tao knew that wolf. Dante.
Relief washed through Tao. "Just hold on for me, baby. Taryn's here." But it wasn't Taryn who climbed into the van. It was Ally, the Mercury Pack's Beta female . She also happened to be a Seer and had the gift of healing.
The brunette paled as her eyes danced from Tao to Riley. "Oh God, shit!"
Riley slurred, "Heal him first."
"No, heal her first," Tao ground out.
Riley shook her head. "He's been shot at least three times and he's lost a lot of blood; he needs you more."
"No, heal-" But Ally laid her hands over Tao, ignoring his protests. He felt Ally's healing energy buzz through him, tried to push it down the mating bond, but it wouldn't work. The energy wasn't his to direct; it was Ally's.
Riley rolled onto her back, releasing a pained hiss. "I'm gonna sleep now."
He squeezed her hand. "Not yet. I know it's hard, but you have to stay awake for me."
"Okay." But even as Riley said that, she could feel herself beginning to pass out. She felt as if she could just drift away . . . and that scared her. She didn't want to drift away; she wanted to be with Tao.
"Open your eyes, Riley."
She forced them open. "Sorry." It just felt like weights were hanging from her eyelids.
"Ally, go to her! You've healed me enough, now help her! Fucking now, Ally!"
Soft hands touched her head, but Riley was too tired to even flinch. A strange energy flowed through her like warm honey. It both soothed and healed, calming her raven. When Ally sat back, Riley slurred, "Thanks. Now I really have to sleep."
Feeling heavy and uncoordinated, Tao sat upright and gathered her to him. "That's okay, baby." He kissed her temple. "You can sleep now."
"Awesome," she breathed. Then it all went black.
"I can hear her breathing," Savannah whispered, standing beside the bed on which Riley was sprawled, hair fanned out all over the pillow.
Crouched beside Savannah and Dexter, Tao nodded. "See, she's just sleeping." But he understood why that didn't chase away their terror. He needed to look into her eyes, hear her voice, to truly believe she was fine. "We can't wake her, though. She needs the rest. The more sleep she has, the faster she'll get better."
Biting her lip, Savannah asked, "Can we come see her when she wakes up?"
"Of course you can. You two will be the first people she wants to see. What she needs most now, though, is for you to take care of each other while she sleeps. Can you do that?" At their nods, he smiled. "Good." Tao gently touched Dexter's hair. "How's your head, little man?"
"Better," said the toddler, sucking on his thumb.
Tao had expected to be dealing with a traumatized child, given that Shirley had burst into their bedroom and slung him at a fucking wall, but either Dexter was good at blocking out stressful events or he'd simply become extremely resilient after surviving alone on the streets. Then again, all cheetahs were physically and mentally tough like that.
"The bad lady's gone now," said Savannah. "Riley made her go away."
"She did," Tao confirmed. He looked up as Makenna poked her head through the partially open door.
"There you both are," she said. "Grace wants to know if you want to bake cookies with Kye and Lilah."
Both children looked at Riley, loath to leave her. Tao put his hands on their shoulders. "I'll come for you when she wakes up," he promised them. "Okay?"
"Okay," said Savannah. Taking Dexter's hand, she tugged him toward the door.
As they reluctantly left the room, Makenna walked in and peeked at Riley. "She's been asleep for quite a while now."
At least twelve hours, Tao estimated. He'd have panicked, but . . . "It's a healing sleep."

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