“Stay alive for our child,” Aric whispered just before the world spun and crashed around us.
We rolled at an astronomical rate, colliding against the hard and jagged terrain. Yet I failed to feel the force of the blows or any pain. Warm, cushioned softness slinked around me, enshrouding my form. It didn’t make sense. I’d seen enough of the pass to know death awaited us several hundred meters down. My skull should have been crushed against the bent frame. My bones should have shattered from the impact. They didn’t. Aric’s power cloaked me. His strength, love, security—all his emotions wrapped around me. The tension dissipated, transforming me into a rag doll, encompassed in the protective bubble his body had become.
I heard his grunts, the thunderous crashing, and the relentless smash of everything we struck. The sounds were muffled, occurring high above me while I remained safely ensconced in a tranquil wave of tepid water. All the while, soothing images of my intimate moments with Aric filled my mind. From our first kiss, to his kiss of my belly when he learned I carried his baby. Bliss was all I knew until one final blow brought everything to an abrupt halt. I screamed when my right ankle snapped.
My head continued to spin although we’d finally stopped spiraling. I forced open my eyes. Bad idea. My vision whirled in a dizzying blizzard of color. I tried to clear it. I had to. Sprawled beneath me was Aric…and he wasn’t moving.
His right arm lay at an odd angle and his forearm had separated at the joint. Pieces of his elbow punctured his skin. “Baby, can you hear me?” He didn’t answer. I rubbed my eyes hard, it took a few moments, but I was finally able to see him clearly. I bit back a sob. Blood trickled from his mouth, eyes, ears, and nose. Both legs twisted away from his knees. His ribs pierced through his chest like daggers. Somehow he was still breathing—and groaning with each anguished breath.
My human side responded with my nursing training. I straightened his limbs, yet that’s all my tigress would allow. I ripped off his T-shirt, removed mine, and instinctively crawled on top of him. He jerked and roared from my sudden weight. It was an asinine thing to do given the extent of his injuries, but my tigress insisted I follow her lead. I concentrated on surrounding him with my love, just as he’d done for me. At first, I couldn’t, so panicked I shook. But through my trembles I spoke.
“I hope our son looks like you. I love your eyes….Have I ever told you how striking they are?” Tears formed at the thought. “They would look adorable on our little one.” I could picture them vividly in my head—both of us with our arms wrapped around each other, staring at an infant with those same brown eyes I cherished. “Can’t you see it, wolf?”
Aric didn’t answer. I kept talking. “I was wondering about the baby’s room…about what colors to use. I thought maybe pale yellow and light green—just in case she’s a girl. I don’t want to know what we’re having ahead of time, do you?” His skin shivered beneath me, I thought he was cold and readjusted my position on top of him. Warm blood streaked across my cheek when I rubbed his jaw. “I want him to have your grin, too. How cute would that look on a little person with no teeth?” He rumbled beneath me. Fear befell me until I realized he’d chuckled. I lifted myself slightly and gasped at what I saw. His bones were mending. They slid below his skin like pieces of a puzzle trying to meet. He must have been in agony, the healing occurring too fast even for a were.
Aric’s jaw clenched from the pain. He groaned and arched his back. Every muscle around him rippled so tight I feared they’d snap from his bones. “Come back to me,” he grunted.
I practically threw myself on him. “Keep…talking,” he stammered.
My words and emotions had helped, though I wasn’t quite sure how nor did I care. I spoke in a rush, telling him what a great father he’d be and how I couldn’t wait to hold our baby against my skin. I admitted that I’d dreamed of having a family with him and that I knew our child would love him.
Aric’s pain subsided, his breathing relaxed, and he continued to mend at an accelerated rate. When his body finally stilled, I wiped his face and body with my sweatshirt. I met his eyes when they opened. “We have to get out of here, wolf.”
I helped him prop himself on his elbows when he nodded. Good God, there wasn’t much room. Only warped and twisted metal remained of the SUV. Light poked through the shattered windows, and strips of fabric dangled above us like icicles.
“Can you shift us out?”
I shook my head. “Not through the metal and fiberglass. We’ll have to climb.” I winced from the shooting pain in my leg when I tried to move.
Aric scrambled to examine my ankle. “Shit. How bad is it?”
“I think it’s broken.” I wasn’t were. No way could he heal me.
He swore again. “You wouldn’t have been hurt if I’d kept my protection around you.”
I stroked his face. “You saved me from death.” I motioned to my foot. “This is nothing.”
Aric pressed me to him, growling when a barrage of angry fists pounded above our heads. What remained of the door was wrenched off. Liam stared back at us, bruised and bleeding. “Anara aligned with the Tribe!”
Aric snarled. “What?”
Liam wiped the blood dripping into his eyes. “Koda and Gem were captured.” His head jerked behind him. “They’re coming for us—they’re coming for us now!”
Aric shoved the sweatshirt over my head and lifted me toward Liam. “Take Celia, she’s hurt.”
They carried me away, stumbling through the chunks of twisted metal and burning wreckage. Barreling down the ravine raced about twenty weres, in the form of rams and cougars. A witch holding a staff at her side rode the largest cougar like a stallion. That’s when I heard it—the echo of howling wolves.
Aric’s and Liam’s eyes fired to gold. I would have fallen from the shock if Aric hadn’t kept his hold. He yanked me to him, kissing me hard before shoving me into Liam’s arms. They locked eyes. “Protect her,” he said with quiet rage.
Liam nodded and lifted me into his arms.
He cracked his neck from side to side and changed, tearing across the ground toward the oncoming army. The ferocious sounds of beasts colliding shook the earth as Liam darted into the woods.