Hearts of Warriors Ch. 07


She twirled the blade in her hand expertly, tossing back her ponytail as she slowly started to circle him. "You haven't managed to yet," she quipped back. "Don't know why you think today will be any different."

"When you two have finished measuring the size of your cocks perhaps we can see some training?" Karn's harsh rebuke just made them both smile wider, Lily laughing happily at the coarseness of his words. This was the Karn she knew so well, the one who pushed her to be the very best.

She was flowing at Brandon before the laughter had stopped, her sword whistling through clear air as her opponent moved agilely out of the way. She spun and blocked his counterblow, the ring of metal meeting metal loud on the air.

They split apart, measured each other with shrewd eyes, slowly circling for a fraction of a second before they flowed together in attack once more. There was no more time for laughter or taunting words, they came together as lethal fighters each determined to be the winner of this little training session.

Kallum stood silently, just within the tree line, his eyes full of pride as he watched his sister match swords with the vampire almost four times her age. He'd been halfway towards pack lands when he realised he'd forgotten to ask the location of the Praetorian compound. Instead of turning back he used a skill not even Lily knew he was capable of.

He reached out with his senses as he dug deep within himself to find the spark of his magical powers. He let his mind fill with images of his sister, her scent, and the sounds of her laughter. His feet turned unerringly in the direction he knew he would find her.

Unlike the others, Kallum could track anyone he was bonded with as long as they weren't blocking that bond. Now he stood watching his sister fight, his heart swelling with pride.

Her opponent was no slouch with the sword, his movements graceful and well thought out. Kal could see that he pushed Lily to be alert, to try and predict his next four moves in advance.

His sister countered all attacks, her own strikes well thought out and choreographed. He could tell she was tired though, because she let her guard slip a couple of times and received shallow cuts to the same arm twice.

That annoyed her, and he could sense her anger spark, but she kept it in check and managed to bleed her sparring partner with her next attack. She pulled her stroke though, to ensure she didn't cut too deeply across the chest of the dark-haired male.

He realised they were both tired and that fighting with swords was dangerous when they were in that condition. His gaze swept to the male who must be Karn, trying to judge if the vampire was merely being foolish or if he had a reason to push them so hard.

Kallum was ready to intervene when Karn suddenly halted the match with one simple word spoken in a low voice.


Immediately Lily and her partner lowered their blades grinning at each other with obvious affection. Kal didn't know who the other male was but it was clear Lily liked him a lot. As he let his eyes quickly take in the position of all the Praetorians present, he opened up his senses to his sister's emotional state.

Piercing hunger filled him instantly and he smiled slowly and released his shadowing skills, allowing his true scent to permeate in the air. The reaction was instant.

As all eyes turned to look at him; Karn's expression, the usual blandness of an Elder, suffused in power. The other Praetorians began to fan out towards his position with no instruction being given. They didn't come at him in aggression; instead they circled him, three immediately behind him, another three on his left and right.

Of the groups of three, one faced into the compound and two faced out towards the area surrounding them. Kal couldn't help being impressed with how skilled they were, how they immediately adopted a protective position around him even though he didn't need it.

Lily's expression was priceless. The sword dropped from her hand and she stared at him in shock her mouth dropping open. Catching his sister off guard was no easy feat and he found himself laughing as he held up the paper bag he'd been holding down at his side.

"You forgot to pack your lunch," he laughed softly, delighting in teasing her as his keen gaze checked that she was okay.

Lily gaped at her brother, confusion and joy flooding through her at the same time. She knew the other Praetorians were aware that he was Vârcolac and wouldn't harm him; he'd released his true scent. But what was he doing here and why wasn't Karn going ape shit about his appearance?

Her eyes shifted to Karn to find him not watching Kallum but instead focused on her reaction to him turning up. There was no surprise in his pale blue eyes, which meant he'd known beforehand her brother knew about the Praetorians and where she was.

He raised an eyebrow at her and his lip actually twitched in a half smile. "At least my throat will be safe from now on," he drawled quietly.

It was his permission to reveal her true nature. Mac must have decided that the need for secrecy was past and informed his number two. It was the release she needed to give into the joy of having her brother close. She'd never been separated from him for so long and it had hurt unbearably to be apart from him.

Lily began to run, tears gathering in her eyes as she closed the distance and threw herself at Kallum. He caught her expertly, bracing for her body colliding with his, his arms strong and protective around her.

"I've missed you so much, Kal," she whispered through her tears, her arms tight around his neck as she buried her head against him to take in his scent. An immediate feeling of total safety surrounded her. It cut through the misery of being separated from her family to leave an overwhelming feeling of joy.

"Missed you too, Lila," he whispered back his own joy in each word as he hugged her close. He'd felt lost without his sister being near and frightened that one of his own was out there alone without his protection. He'd missed her on both levels and could only hold her tightly until his feelings of loss began to fade and he was once more secure in the knowledge that she was safe and well.

Finally Lily pulled back out of his embrace and reached for the paper bag still in his hand. "Burgers," she groaned, her mouth watering at the scent of the meat hidden from her gaze. "I'm starving! Seriously, Kal, we may be able to exist on blood for short periods of time but it sucks. I was about to go wolf and hunt some poor little rabbit, I was so hungry."

He pulled her ponytail playfully and let her have the bag. "Save some for me. I haven't had lunch either, little miss greedy guts," he teased though his gaze was shifting towards the sandy-haired vampire who was now walking towards them.

"You must be Karn," he greeted the vampire. "Mac said he'd called and let you know I was coming."

Karn appraised him for a long moment keeping his silence and then he nodded his head. "I'm well aware of the rules Mac set in place so don't think you can pull any shit on me, Kallum."

Lily bit into a burger and let her gaze travel up to her brother's face. It was clear there was male posturing going on and she was curious to see Kal's reaction to her mentor. She didn't realise she was actually holding her breath until she saw his lazy smile cross his face.

"You're the boss in all things, Karn, with the exception of Lily's safety, if I deem a different course of action. I'm more than happy with that arrangement if you are."

"Agreed," Karn answered immediately though his gaze didn't lose its penetrating stare. "The same applies for you or any other Vârcolac who may come to this compound. You do exactly what I say when I say it unless it will cause extreme danger to either yourself or one of the others. It's still our job to protect you and you'll let us do that. If you can't agree to it then you can fuck off back to the pack and take Lily with you."

Kallum felt respect for the vampire blossom deep within. This male was every bit as intelligent and lethal as Mac. He was also one dominant son of a bitch and wasn't about to let anyone as young as he was start trying to usurp his position.

He could understand that and also understand the cost to the vampire of having to concede that there may be a point when he would have to accede to a younger man he felt was still a Youngling in vampire terms.

Kallum conceded all the time to the dominant males in his pack even though he knew deep down he was stronger than all of them. He understood that sometimes the needs of those under his protection were more important than his own need to dominate. He had that in common with Karn and it was a good base for what he hoped would become a good friendship. He could see Lily thought highly of the vampire.

"That sounds fair to me," he finally agreed reaching to grab a burger before Lily ate them all. He'd brought plenty, sensing Lily's hunger in their brief contact earlier. "Now we've finished with the pissing contest, do you mind if we have lunch while you brief everyone else?"

For a moment Karn just blinked slowly at him then he threw back his head and laughed. A quick hand movement and his people were heading towards the big house, Lily and Kallum securely circled as they followed them.

Brandon waited until Lily came level with him and pierced her with a hard look. A frown marred his usually smiling face, disapproval wafting off him in waves. "You could have bloody told me," he snapped irritably. He was in shock at discovering the woman who was most probably his best friend in the whole world wasn't who he thought her to be.

"What would you have done if I had, Bran?" she asked softly, a sad expression crossing her face as she was once more the subject of displeasure from someone she classed as a friend.

He pondered the question searching deep within to come up with an honest answer. His frown melted away and his lips quirked. "I would have ratted you out in an instant to Karn like a good little Praetorian," he admitted looking slightly sheepish at the thought.

Lily shot him a tentative smile. "I would have forgiven you if you had," she sighed softly. "I would have been mad as hell at you, but I would have understood why you'd felt compelled to do so."

Brandon nodded his gaze turning slightly apprehensive. "Just how much of Andrea Ruminskey was the real Liliana Romanov?" He held his breath as he waited for the answer.

Lily knew what he was really asking and it hurt that her actions had caused him distress even unknowingly. "Everything apart from the name and the blood drinking," she reassured him nudging him slightly with her shoulder. "You're Lily's best friend just as much as you were Andrea's."

He was silent for a long moment and then he grinned widely at her, his eyes dancing with merriment and a hint of pride. "My best friend's a Vârcolac," he said smugly. "How many other people can claim that?"

Lily burst out laughing. "You're such a status whore, Bran. You're so bloody easy; it's a wonder no woman has managed to seduce you into mating them yet."

His laughter joined hers and he nudged her back, only he did it hard enough to bump her into her brother who automatically corrected her momentary imbalance. "Many have tried and all have failed," he laughed. "It'll be a cold day in hell before any woman clips my wings."

Kallum listened to the easy camaraderie between Lily and Brandon, keeping silent as they worked out just what the revelation of her true identity meant for their friendship. He was perturbed to realise just how stilted Lily's growth had been within the pack confines.

The woman he was witnessing was so much freer in spirit and obviously well thought of among her peers. Her relationship with the others was easy, full of mutual respect and loaded with trust when it came to Karn and Brandon. The two males obviously cared greatly for his sister and she returned their feelings with abandon.

It was like seeing Lily come alive watching her interact with the Praetorians. He could only guess at how Kothari and Liam would thrive in this environment, possibly Elina too.

He was more certain than ever that they all needed to spend time with the Praetorians. It was just getting Karn to agree with it that could pose a bit of a problem. He would need to spend some time with the vampire to find the right way to get his point across.

Lily turned to him then, an unspoken question in her eyes.

"Can we talk privately somewhere?" he asked with a smile on his face. He couldn't help reaching out to pull her against his side, relieved to have her under his protection once more.

"My room," she responded looping an arm around his waist. "You can tell me everything, where you met Mac, what you thought of him. Is Dad still furious with me? Is Mom okay?"

Kal kissed the top of her head, following her into the house and past the eyes of the Praetorians who watched them silently. Sometimes his sister sounded so much younger than her years. She wouldn't settle until he alleviated her fears. He had no idea if Karn expected them to stay or not but he didn't care. Soothing Lily was more important at the moment.

He laughed loudly as his sister ushered him into the room and closed the door. The riot of colour on the walls was so typically Lily he wasn't sure why he found it a bit startling to see the fabric there. He supposed it had something to do with the fact they were in the heart of an elite soldier's training ground.

Lily grabbed a can of soda out of the bag she was still clutching in her hand and hopped onto the bed with a grin on her face. "Mac thinks he's sending me home," she explained after taking a drink and searching for more food. "I'm letting him know I'm making myself at home."

Kallum joined her on the bed, opening his own can of soda and helping himself to another burger. "I wondered if he was fighting the mating pull. He kept going on about how you were going home once you'd learned control but his body language was saying the exact opposite. I think the only reason he agreed to let me come here was because he realised I was the best person to keep you safe while he was away."

Lily was devouring chips as if she hadn't eaten in a week. For all he knew maybe she hadn't. She met his gaze with a frown on her face. "He's being difficult. I think he doesn't believe he's good enough for me. The number of times he's told me he has no intention of mating with me. But I did get a kiss out of him last night before he left."

Her expression turned dreamy and a soft smile curved over her lips. Her face literally shone with radiance and for a moment Kallum could only stare at her in wonder. He'd never seen this side to his sister before, so soft and ethereal. Usually she was fierce or arguing with their father. Sometimes she was forlorn and prone to bouts of low self esteem. When she thought of Mac she was more alive than he'd ever seen her, even with having just witnessed her interaction with her new friends.

His heart melted and his smile was full of affection as he leaned over to touch her cheek gently. "You never forget your first kiss," he breathed softly, his love for her evident in his voice.

Lily laughed and tried to wipe the goofy look from her face. She knew she had to have one because of Kallum's reaction. "So, who was your first kiss, Kal?"

He grinned and eased back on the bed. "Wouldn't you like to know?" he teased before relenting. "My first kiss was Rowan."

His sister's eyes went wide with shock at finding out he'd dallied with the daughter of the pack's most senior Beta and second in command to their Alpha.

"Oh my God! Seriously, you and Rowan? Weren't you scared that Aaron would kick your ass?"

He shrugged nonchalantly. "She is older than I am and I was twenty at the time. Plus she's a Were as is Aaron. Unlike our vampires they don't have the same hang-ups about their grownup children indulging in their perfectly natural, healthy sexual appetites."

Lily was still shocked. Rowan and Kallum? They had such opposite personalities. Rowan was very quiet, studious almost to fault. Despite her being a Were, Lily had a hard time imagining the other woman having a romantic interest in anyone let alone her brother.

"You can close your mouth now, Lila," Kallum grinned. "It was fun while it lasted but it wasn't serious. We knew we weren't mates. There's a lot more to Rowan than meets the eye. You shouldn't be so blinkered." His tone was fond when he spoke of her, making it obvious that he still had warm feelings towards Rowan.

It wasn't that Lily didn't like her, because she did. She was fond of all of Jen and Aaron's children. She'd just never pictured her brother being intimate with anyone she knew very well. She'd always assumed he indulged his appetites with some of the less well known females in the pack.

She gave him a startled glance. "It was just Rowan wasn't it? I mean...you didn't do anything with Elina?" Dara and Cassia were their blood cousins so she knew Kallum wouldn't have been tempted in that direction. That only left Elina as being the sole other female she was close to.

Kallum shot her an incredulous look. "Lila, I love Elina to death you know that but seriously could you see the two of us together that way? She makes Freya appear warm and cuddly and that's saying something."

Lily bit her lip hard upset by Kallum's assessment even if it was accurate to a certain degree. "Elina's not cold," she reprimanded with a frown on her face. "You know why she's the way she is."

Her brother's expression sobered into something dark. "Yeah, we all do," he agreed, a hint of self-loathing in his voice. Lily had surprised him with her question and he had reacted without thinking. He felt a rush of guilt wash through him at his insensitivity.

Elina couldn't help the way she was. As a child she had been prone to laughter, a sweet little thing that raced around the compound squealing in joy. Until one day she had come across her cousin Liam hunched up in pain, his face a mask of agony. His empathic abilities had peaked out of nowhere, driving him to his knees and overwhelming him because he couldn't shield himself from all the emotions within the pack.

She'd hugged him instantly, her little face turning so smooth and calm in the blink of an eye. As the expression died on her face, the pain began to ease from Liam's as they'd connected on a level so deep no one could explain it. The little girl, barely seven years old, had stared solemnly into her older cousin's face and whispered an oath she had kept to this very day.

There was no more laughter from Elina, no more spontaneous hugs, no more smiles of such heart-tugging beauty people stopped in their tracks just to bathe in them. Elina's oath to always be at Liam's side and to buffer him with her own mental barriers had most probably saved his sanity. But the price had been all the joy and happiness that should have been hers.

Kallum swallowed hard and looked away from his sister. "If there was something I could do for her, anything, you know I would," he whispered. "But she won't let any of us in, Lily. She won't even let Annie try to find a way to buffer Liam. I want to help Elina, but I just don't know how to."

Lily could hear the heartbreak in his voice and she curled herself around him, snuggling into his chest and letting her wolf have a little bit more freedom. She knew it would call to his wolf; that it would ease him having their animals react to each other as only wolves could.

"I know, Kal and so does Elina. She knows we're all there for her. One day she'll get her chance to finally free all the emotions she's buried for so long. One day Liam will be happy too. I'm certain of it."

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