Hearts of Warriors Ch. 18byJazCullen©
Sorry it took me a bit longer than anticipated to get the next chapter up. I didn't mean to leave you hanging (literally) for that long LOL.
So I have good news and bad news. The good news is I have the next two chapters written and will be doing a couple of minor tweaks before shipping them off to the ever delightful mikothebaby for editing. The bad news is Hearts is now complete and the last two chapters close out this part of the story, Lily and Mac's journey.
I know, I know, there are so many new threads woven into Hearts, so many teasers to other characters and their untold stories. They will come, I promise, but not in this tale.
I hope you enjoy the conclusion of Hearts :)
Across the area, the Vârcolac stopped, turning to face the direction of the mountains.
"LILY!" Kallum's cry was agonized, terror filling his soul as he opened his mind to connect with his sister.
He heard Liam cry out beside him, Karn swearing loudly and yelling something he couldn't understand. He was vaguely aware of Liam falling to the ground, clutching at his head. Karn was rushing to him as he rolled over to his side, three Praetorians following closely.
"Make it stop! Make it stop!" The redheaded Vârcolac writhed in agony as emotions cascaded over him, assaulting him from every direction. The sound of his cries was almost as heart breaking as the screaming going on inside Kallum's mind.
"Elina, help Liam now!" Kallum bit out the order, his mind focused on his sister, as one by one, the others joined him in their mental link, feeling Lily's terror as she fell. He spared a fraction of a second looking back at his friend, wishing he could help in some way but knowing Lily needed him more.
"Karn, get the others back from him. He's overloaded. Elina's on her way." He turned and began to speed away from the compound.
"Where the fuck are you going? What's going on?" Karn roared after the departing figure, signaling men to follow the Vârcolac though he knew they had no hope of keeping up with him. But Kallum was already out of earshot and it was Liam who answered him.
"Lily's dying," he sobbed, anguish in his voice. "Lily's dying..."
Karn's heart stopped for a handful of beats and then he was roaring at the other Praetorians. "Find her! Protect the Vârcolac!" He couldn't leave Liam unprotected to find out what had happened to Lily, and Kallum had said Elina was on her way to help her cousin, so he had to stay at the compound.
Kallum heard Liam's words resounding in his mind and denial raged through his soul. "No!" he screamed, speeding through the trees towards his sister's last known location, knowing he was too far away to do anything but refusing to believe he was losing her. Within his mind he heard his mother screaming and the roar his father let out as they realised what was happening.
"No! Save her, Kal. Save her!" His mother's pleas broke his heart and sent an added burst of speed pulsing through him.
"Lily. Lily." He sent to her repeatedly, willing her to respond as he raced up the mountainside. Resounding screams filled his mind as everyone cried out to his sister. It was too late, he knew it was, and yet he kept running, faster and faster.
Time seemed to move in slow motion, Lily's fall from the mountain taking an eternity. Mac was in her head, crying out to her. She could feel his grief; feel his heart breaking as she fell slowly through the air. Kallum called to her, Dara and Cassia, her parents, Elina, Rafe and Annie. They were all there in her mind, reaching out in terror but all she could hear clearly was Mac.
"Live!" One word called repeatedly. She wanted to live for him but surely even a Vârcolac couldn't survive a fall from this height. Even if she did, she would lose the baby.
"I'm sorry. So sorry."
Why was it taking so long to fall? Each second seemed to last an hour, drawing out the terror in her heart, the anguish of listening to all the emotions crowding her mind. Was it cowardly to want oblivion? Lily collided with an overhanging rock, banging her head hard. The impact hurt, blood beginning to flow from her head, blurring her vision as dizziness over took her. Her vision swam sickeningly then darkness descended.
"Lily! Stay with me, Lily, please, stay with me!" Mac's anguished cry was the last thing she heard.
Kothari snarled, rage suffusing him as he connected telepathically with Lily. He was with her as she plummeted down the mountain, so close and yet he felt as if he was so far away. He had been halfway up the mountain, still in panther form, when he heard her scream and looked up to see the disaster playing out above him.
Linked with his fellow Vârcolac, he could hear them screaming to their friend, the sound of Dara's agonised crying more than he could stand. If there was one thing on the planet that he just wouldn't tolerate, it was knowing she was hurting. He had a split second to act, to co-ordinate his timing. He would have done it for Lily regardless, but he was more motivated to succeed because his angel was weeping. He had to be in time. He just had to!
Lily's chaotic thoughts suddenly disappeared from his mind and fear pulsed through his body, his and everyone joined with him. He knew she hadn't reached the bottom yet because she hadn't passed him. He could still see her above him and a little to to the left.
Mac was screaming from above, his words echoing in the valley. Kothari had never heard such pain from someone before, couldn't begin to imagine how much Mackenzie's heart was breaking being powerless to save his mate. He put on a burst of speed, sighting an outcropping on the other side and just beneath him. If he timed this right...
Lily's form was limp as it neared, moving at incredible speed. Could he do it? He had no idea, but he was the closest so he had to try. He tensed, waited for a beat of five and then sprang forward. His body slammed hard into Lily, pushing her sideways with a speed almost as fast as her descent downwards. They both spun fast towards the outcropping. It looked like they might make it.
Kothari shifted in mid-air, wrapping one arm around Lily as soon as he did, the other reaching for the bushes on the small ledge. He caught them and twisted his body, slamming into the rock face with his back, dangling precariously. He was able to take the brunt of the impact as Lily groaned, consciousness beginning to return. Blood was pouring from a deep wound in her head, her face a mask of red.
She hung limp in his grasp, their combined weight too much for the feeble roots on the ledge. They began to come away, causing Kothari to hiss loudly. "Move, Lily! Grab the ledge. These bushes can't support both our weight."
The sound of his voice seemed to shake Lily further into consciousness. Her eyes fluttered open blindly, and then the roots snapped further, forcing them to drop a few inches.
"Lily, I can't hold us both!" Kothari yelled.
Lily scrambled in confusion, reaching up blindly and finding the hard edge of rock just as the bushes gave way. They rent from the rock in a sickening sound, sending Kothari downwards. "Kothi!"
Throwing out her free hand, Lily reached for him, catching his shoulder as he fell. For a moment, only Lily's grip on the rock was what held them suspended and then Kothi's hand snaked up and grabbed the ledge. He pulled himself up quickly, landing agilely in a crouch and grasping Lily's arms tightly to pull her up beside him. There was just enough room on the ledge for both of them. For a moment, they simply sat there leaning against the cold rock face, breathing hard, the sounds of their thumping hearts loud in their ears.
"Kothi. Oh God, Kothi." The words stammered out of Lily's mouth, fear and disbelief making her voice quiver. The sensation of falling was still surrounding her, Mac screaming her name as the ground gave way, everyone's screams resounding in her head.
"It's okay, Lily. You're okay." Kothari pulled her trembling body into his arms as shock kicked in and she began to shake and sob. He could sense Dara in his mind along with the others, she was still weeping for Lily. He had to reassure her.
"I've got her. She's fine. A little shaken up but she'll be okay." He sent the message down all mental bonds, feeling the collective sigh of relief that went up from everyone. "Give her a little time. She's a bit shocked right now."
Kallum reached Mac just as his message came through. The Praetorian was on his hands and knees screaming for Lily at the cliff's edge. He had never seen Mackenzie so out of control before, a wildness to him that was frightening. "Kothi has her, Mac," he called; afraid they'd lose the vampire over the edge of the cliff too he sounded so desperate.
"The black thing? I saw something black crash into her and then they were out of sight." Wild eyes met his, pleading in them. "She's okay, isn't she? Please say she's okay."
"Lily, please Lily, tell me you're okay." He sent the message down their mate bond. His heart wouldn't stop pounding, fear an acrid taste in his mouth. Lily had to be okay. Anything else was just unimaginable. His vision swam from the tears falling, the horror of watching her fall playing in vivid colour in his mind.
Kallum nodded, his own heart barely starting to beat normally at the scare they'd had. He couldn't begin to imagine how Mackenzie felt watching his mate fall. "She's fine, a little scared but unharmed. Just give her a moment. She took a knock to the head." He did his best to reassure Mac even though his protective instincts were now rearing up and his eyes turned hard as he regarded his sister's mate.
Now that Lily was safe, the adrenaline was fading and leaving endless questions in its place. His sister had almost lost her life and she'd been alone with her mate at the time. It was unheard of for mates to hurt each other but there was always a first time for everything. Lily had told him Mac didn't want to have any children. Had the vampire tried to get rid of the baby? He hated thinking like that but he had to know. "What the hell happened, Mac?"
Mackenzie shook his head, trying to calm his heart and shake the image of Lily falling from his mind. He'd never been so scared in his life watching the ledge crumble and his Lily vanish before him. He dragged a shaky hand through his hair as he stood up, not oblivious to the subtle accusation in Kallum's voice.
He didn't blame him. If Lily had been alone with someone else when she fell, he would be equally as suspicious and demand answers. "She was too close the edge. She was coming to me and then it just crumbled beneath her. I couldn't get to her in time, Kallum. I tried, but I just couldn't get to her."
There was so much guilt in his tone that Kallum softened. Everyone had just had the fright of their life and they needed to let everyone work through that. Mackenzie's expression, the anguish in his eyes and voice as he spoke told him all he needed to know. He hadn't tried to hurt his sister. It had been an accident and the main thing was Lily was safe.
He leaned over the ledge and looked down trying to sight his sister and his friend. "They're further down than up. I'll tell them to make their way down and we'll meet them at the bottom."
He turned to find Mac already heading for the trail down. Shooting a quick message off to Kothi, he followed him, jogging to catch up. "It'll take them a little while to get down. Lily needs to get herself together before they can start. Take your time, Mac. This has been a shock to all of us."
He reached down his bond to his parents. "Mom, Dad, Lily's fine. Let her have a bit of time to recover from the fright. I'm sure she'll be in touch soon."
"Who do I need to kill?" The cold determination in Andrei's tone was frightening.
"No one, Dad. The ledge crumbled, it was an accident. I'll ask Karn to get some of the Praetorians up here to check the place out and make sure no one gets too close to the edge again."
Kallum broke off contact with them, sending his mother a soothing kiss. That would hold them for a while and give Lily and Mac some space. It was plain the vampire needed to be alone with his mate judging from the speed that he was moving and the expression on his face. "Is now a good time to say congratulations?" He deliberately injected humour into his voice, trying to lighten the sombre mood.
Mac shot him a quick look and then stopped, taking a deep breath. "If I hadn't been such an ass none of this would have happened," he ground out.
"You need to stop that before we get to Lily, Mac. She needs you, her and the baby both. Wallowing in guilt will not help the issue. We can all look back and think if only we'd done something differently. The thing is we didn't and events happened. Let's all just be grateful Lily's safe."
He clapped him on the shoulder and walked past him, turning to look over his shoulder. "Though, if my sister throws herself off a cliff again to get away from you, I am going to rip you to pieces. Just thought I should let you know that."
"If Lily ever does anything like this again, I won't even put up a fight, Kal." Mac continued on down at his side, his thoughts solely on Lily, and how he could make this up to her. ~~~~~
The compound erupted into a hive of activity. One moment it was silent and then next vampires and Vârcolac alike were racing around. The tall, brown-haired hybrid took off into the trees with a trail of people following in his wake. Reasa watched them go, moving silently through the trees towards the back of the house where they'd come from.
Lying on the ground was the red-haired hybrid, a blond vampire standing protectively over him issuing instructions to more vampires. The men and women listened and then took off into the surrounding trees in formation, clearly protecting the outer perimeter of the compound.
What the hell was going on? The male on the ground didn't appear physically injured and there was nothing to indicate why the place had erupted into a panic. Reasa knew they hadn't found her. She was still alive and that wouldn't be the case if they had. No one was even coming in her direction but something was clearly wrong.
In the distance, wolves began to howl and the sound sent a shiver through her. The wolves would be immune to the poison, which meant she had to act now while everything was in disarray. If the Weres arrived too soon then she would fail in her mission.
There was only one vampire still within distance of her mark but he looked vicious. She would have to take him out first and that caused her a moment's pause, but it didn't last long. He was protecting the abominations. He was therefore collateral damage. Reasa pulled the gun from her waistband and sighted down the barrel at the blond vampire.
Liam struggled to close off the emotions assaulting him. The pressure in his head was mounting and he knew if he didn't stop it now something awful would happen, something much worse than Lily falling from the mountain. He slammed up mental barriers one at a time. It was slow and painful, closing each compartment in his mind, shutting down his own emotions as he did, but he had to do it to protect everyone.
Stray thoughts started to bleed into his head, no...not thoughts; emotions. They weren't coming from any mind he knew but there was something faintly familiar about it. Hadn't he sensed it earlier, that strange itch he'd had at the back of his head?
Intent. So powerful, so focused, so determined.
Liam stiffened, shock rippling through him. Kothari was calling out that he had Lily, but he couldn't stop to think about that. Evil was near and it had a specific target in mind and it wasn't him!
Karn tensed the instant he saw Liam go still. He started to turn, sensing danger close by somewhere on the left. "Brandon!" Even as he called telepathically, he knew that whoever was out there was already moving to hurt the Vârcolac. "The compound's under..."
He didn't get a chance to finish his warning. Liam suddenly rose so swiftly, he was a blur of movement. The air rippled as the man vanished and morphed into an enormous russet wolf. Something whistled through the air towards Karn, and then the wolf sprang, throwing him to the ground and covering his body like a shield.
Reasa fired the silenced gun. It should have taken the vampire down but the abomination changed into a wolf just as she pulled the trigger, barrelling into the blond. The bullet hit the wolf square in the back and it went down hard, pinning the vampire to the ground.
Heart pounding in her chest, she jumped from the tree running at full speed across the yard towards them. She still had to time to complete her mission; the vampire was helpless under the weight of the wolf. Talons bared, she raced for the wolf, screeching in denial as another wolf appeared from nowhere, sailing through the air to crash into her, spinning her away.
Reasa's talons sliced down the side of the attacking wolf but it was a glancing blow, the animal rolling and twisting on the ground to come back at her in a fury of teeth and fur. The sounds of more wolves and returning vampires told her she had failed, but she wasn't going out without a fight.
Her leg kicked out, catching the wolf in the stomach as it dived at her again. She used all of her strength to boost the animal as far away from her as possible, her sharp eyes searching for the dropped gun.
The multi-coloured animal attacking her had to be a Vârcolac. Reasa's talons were tipped in vampire venom and the animal was still coming at her. A normal Were would be dying in agony by now even from the shallow wounds inflicted. If she could reach her gun, she could poison this one as well before she died. She dived for the weapon as the wolf sprang again.
Liam felt fire racing through his back as the bullet struck home. He fell on Karn, effectively pinning him down but not being able to move as the shock of being shot stunned him.
"Liam, move. I can't get up." Karn pushed with all his strength but the wolf was too heavy even for him. "Liam, move!" He cursed loudly as he felt the other man's blood start to leak on him, fury exploding inside him. He'd failed! He was supposed to protect the Vârcolac and Liam was injured, possibly poisoned.
A startled yelp had him turning his head and he saw another wolf attacking the female vampire who'd breached their security. The wolf's exotic markings of red and golden streaks on brown fur told him who it was that had just been injured. Elina! More fury erupted, enough that Karn found the strength from somewhere to roll Liam from him and get to his feet just as Praetorians and wolves appeared in the practice yard. "Protect Liam!"
He was aware of Brandon and the others rushing to the fallen Vârcolac's side as he headed towards the battle taking place. The vampire had broken off and was heading towards the weapon she'd used on Liam. No way in hell was she going to use that weapon on Elina. It would be over his dead body. Karn leapt after the female, tackling her to the ground and driving his fist into her stomach as they rolled in the dirt. Talons wreaked havoc within her body as she shrieked in agony and the wolf joined the melee going for her throat.
"No!" Liam screamed, struggling to get to his feet. "Elle, save her! Please, save her."
Elina's head swung away from the assassin, wolf eyes blinking in disbelief as she watched her cousin in wolf form approach on shaky legs, falling and trying to drag himself forward. "She tried to kill you, Liam. Have you gone mad?" The fury within Elina needed an outlet. Someone had dared harm her cousin and that couldn't go unpunished. She could hear the woman screaming as Karn ripped at her flesh and the sound filled her with joy.