“No one knows. He took off soon after Anara disappeared.” Danny’s voice grew soft. “He’s gone to find you, Celia, to bring you home and keep you safe.”
My ears heard what Danny said, but my heart warned against believing him. “But Aric hates me.”
“No, honey. He loves you.”
I choked back a sob and wiped my tears with the bottom of my tank top. “Are the others with him?”
“No. Makawee asked the Warriors to stay and protect your sisters.”
“But they’re Aric’s guards. How can they leave him by himself?”
“Celia, remember how angry Aric was when he found out I helped you break your bond?”
I shuddered at the thought. “Yes.”
Danny paused. “It doesn’t compare to what he’s like now. He doesn’t know Anara used the power of the Pack against you. All he knows is that Anara has been the one hurting you. He’s blind with rage. Martin thinks you’re the only one capable of settling him—once he knows you’re safe, I mean.”
I pictured Aric on a crowded airplane in his temperamental state. It wasn’t a pretty picture. “How is he traveling?”
“An old friend of his is flying him down on a private plane.”
“Okay.” I said it, although I didn’t know why. Everything was far from “okay.” I shook all thoughts of Aric away. He distracted me too easily and there was more I needed to know. “Does anyone know about our baby?”
“No one—and the Warriors don’t know they were used as vessels against you. I did tell Martin and Makawee since it was important. Both were furious. Makawee especially felt betrayed.”
My head hammered so hard my eyes hurt. Anara would come for me and wouldn’t stop until I was dead. I was sure of it.
Danny continued, completely oblivious to my terror. “The Warriors couldn’t understand why you didn’t come to them. I explained Anara had threatened to kill your sisters if you told anyone. Liam, who’s not even mated to Emme, freaked out. Gemini and Koda were incensed, only Taran and Shayna could calm them. That’s why I couldn’t bring myself to tell them what they’d done.”
“Where is everyone now?”
“I’m in Aric’s old quarters. They’ve moved Bren here, too. Since Anara was stripped of his power, Bren has started to heal.”
“Are you serious?”
“Yes, but he still has a way to go. Makawee says his body is literally rebuilding his brain and pushing out the magic Anara imprisoned him with. Emme’s tried to help, except Anara’s residual power blocked her efforts.”
My voice continued to tremble. “He’s going to be okay?”
“Both Elders believe so. They credit you with saving his life; we all do.”
Someone knocked in the background. I held my breath, half expecting Anara to arrive and kill him. I slumped to the ground when I heard my sisters’ voices. “Celia’s on the phone. It’s okay, it’s okay. She’s safe.”
My God, I clearly heard them sobbing. Taran hurried to the line. “Why didn’t you tell us that son of a bitch was hurting you? We could have stopped him together!”
“He would have killed you if I had.”
“Do you hate me, dude?” Shayna whimpered.
I buried my face in my hand. “Of course not. I could never hate you.”
Shayna could barely speak with how hard she wept. “But I’ve been awful to you. I even hit you! I’m so sorry, Ceel.”
“It’s okay, Shayna. Calm down, honey.” I was telling her to calm down, meanwhile I was battling my own fit of hysterics. They were safe. I’d succeeded in keeping everyone safe, and now because of Danny they all knew the truth.
Emme cried into the phone. “Please come home. We don’t want you in any more danger.”
I rose from the ground and swatted the dirt off my shorts. “Not until I find Misha.”
“Damnit, Celia!” Taran snapped. “Get your ass back here now!”
Shayna sniffed. “The Elders have promised to protect you. After what Anara’s done, they feel it’s the least they can do.”
I steadied myself. “It’s not just about me being safe. Misha protected me when no one else could. I have to help him now if I can.”
For a few moments, all I heard was their sniffling. Finally Taran pulled it together enough for all of them. “If anything happens to you, I’ll kill you myself.”
I smiled into the phone. “I love you, too.” I disconnected. The scent of the Serengeti and sensual musk made me turn toward the house. Tye stood with his arms crossed, a deep-set scowl darkening his electric blue eyes. Armando appeared confused and a little frightened by the last few tears to trickle down my cheeks. You’d think with a house full of women he’d be used to hysterical females.
“Is there something you’d like to tell me?” Tye asked.
I wiped my face. “We’ll talk in the car. It’s time to get Misha back.”
I shifted Armando and Tye through several backyards until we reached the vampires. Michael snatched Armando quickly while the others kept watch. Hank shut the car door. “Don’t worry, Celia. No one saw him.”
Armando directed us out and away from the town, into a forest laden mostly with dead trees and wringing vines. “The witch’s presence has choked our land,” he said quietly.
And hurt those you love.
I told the others about Anara. The vampires became unusually quiet. They seemed focused on finding their master. That is, except for Edith. Her eyes locked on Armando’s increasingly pulsating jugular. Vampires didn’t typically snack on children, because they provided only nourishment. Adults, however, afforded an orgasmic experience during a feed. They’d been ordered not to bite him, but that didn’t mean I’d trust them to babysit.
Tye drummed on the armrest. “If Anara’s smart he’ll take his own life. It’ll be more merciful than what we’ll do to him.” His eyes skimmed the length of my body. “How the hell did you survive all this shit? Liam went into detail about how badly you were hurt the day he found you.”
I didn’t like remembering and tried to shrug off his comment. “What other choice did I have?”
Tye curled his arm around me and played with my hair. When I tried to push his hand away, he instantly found a spot behind my ear that made me purr. My cheeks flushed from my unintentional reaction. He smirked, seemingly pleased with himself. “You’re going to make a hell of a wife, Celia. Damn shame you won’t be mine.”