Hearts of Warriors Ch. 16byJazCullen©
Sorry for the long wait and the fact the chapter is shorter than usual. That's just down to the way the story is flowing at the moment and can't be helped.
To make up for it, I promise to post the next chapter soon, well as soon as I get it back from my editor :)
Hope the wait is worth it :)
As always, my thanks to mikothebaby for editing for me. Appreciate all you do for me very much :)
Lily knew her concentration was shot after Liam contacted her. The contest between her and Kal had been pretty even up to that point but the moment she knew Mac was in pain, her aggression level began to abate.
Ordinarily that wouldn't have been a bad thing but she'd pushed her brother to the edge of his self-control and that made him deadly. The slice of pain down her left arm was testament to that as the scent of her blood filled the air a second later.
The cut was deep, ripping through the tendons in her wrist and making her drop one of her swords. Lily dived forward into Kal, anticipating he would be expecting her to back off. It worked because his next move was to leap towards her which meant he effectively sailed over her.
She wasn't out of the woods yet though. She rolled to the right, willing her arm to heal quickly as Kal streaked back towards her. His wolf scented blood and was coming for the killing blow. Lily rolled again to avoid him, her arm still useless, her lone Katana halting her brother's blades though only just.
"Kallum." His name was said softly, the voice one he knew so well. His wolf snarled his denial, refusing to be denied its victory.
"Kallum." Again the lovely voice, a bit firmer this time, the hint of command in the single spoken word.
His Katanas stopped their downward swing and he was stunned to realise that they were aimed at Lily's neck.
Kallum blinked slowly, staring down at his blood and sweat soaked sister at his feet, stunned at how close he'd come to doing something so terrible it would have surely caused him to go insane. Horror filled him as he realised how close he'd come to taking Lily's head. If Lacey hadn't been here, would anyone have been able to stop him?
He'd lost control, allowed the wolf to dominate completely. Never in his life had he allowed that to happen. He knew how dangerous it was. Dear God, he'd almost killed Lily!
"Lila..." his voice shook as he threw the swords away and dropped to her side. Her left arm was coated in blood, the wound healing but obviously a crippling one to allow him to get so close to hurting her beyond repair. "Oh God, I'm sorry, Lila, so sorry."
Lily breathed out slowly pushing herself up into a sitting position, her eyes intent on her brother's face. She could read the horror and shame in his eyes and automatically reached out to comfort him. Wrapping her arms around him tightly she opened her mind to him, showing her instant forgiveness.
"It's okay, Kal," she whispered. "I'm fine. Healing just nicely as always." She laughed softly as she pulled back and showed him that she still had a blade in her hand. "And you didn't stand a chance of getting anywhere near my neck. I was ready for you."
The lack of concern on his sister's face told him she spoke the truth but he was still shaken by the loss of control and the potential tragedy that could have happened if Lily wasn't as skilled as she was and Lacey hadn't been watching the fight.
"Lila, if anything had happened to you...I can't believe I lost control like that."
Lily switched to their mental communication too as she watched Kal struggle with the fright he'd just received. It was disconcerting to see him so rattled when he was always so much in control.
"Emotions are heightened right now, Kal. There is so much happening, so many threats to those we love. It's understandable our wolves and also our vampires are on increased alert. We are still growing and though we talk about how our friends and families don't know what we're capable of, maybe we don't truly realise that either, brother mine."
It made sense. Since the word of the threat to everyone, Kal's wolf had been more restless and he knew Liam's had too because they'd talked about it. He could feel his friend's wolf in his head at that very moment.
Lily had her own stuff happening which was affecting the Vârcolac on an emotional level because of their empathy. Kal knew that Kothi's aggression levels were heightened too; he could sense it and that concerned him a lot.
Elina had lost control only the other night and even Dara and Cassia were starting to show signs of increased aggression though not as markedly as the rest of them. Maybe Lily was right. If she was, then they would all need to be careful to avoid some disaster happening.
Lacey knelt down beside them, her pale green eyes full of questions. "Are you both okay?"
Lily smiled and inclined her head in respect. "We're fine, Lacey. We just got a little carried away there. What we both need is a long, hot shower to get this blood and sweat off us."
Their Alpha gave them a shrewd look before nodding her head. She knew she could push for more information but wanted to talk with Rafe about what she'd witnessed first so he was fully informed.
The pack was coming to realise they'd underestimated the Vârcolac but not by how much. Watching Lily and Kal spar had been fascinating as well as terrifying. She'd never seen anyone move so fast or with such deadly precision as those two. She stepped back as Kal helped Lily to her feet and they headed off towards the house.
"You look concerned," Karn said as he came to stand beside her, also watching the departing duo.
"That little spectacle didn't concern you?"
"Hell yeah, but it's not my job to figure out what it all means. I'll leave that to you high honchos. It's just my job to keep them alive." With that he walked off, ordering the practice yard to be cleaned up by the watching Praetorians.
Kallum was waiting for Lily as she stepped out of her rooms to head back downstairs. She'd known he would be so she'd showered and changed quickly.
"We need to talk, Lila."
Sighing, she nodded and followed him downstairs to his room, jumping onto the bed and sitting cross-legged as he closed the door. She smiled as she watched her brother move. He truly was an awesome individual, so strong and handsome. He would make some woman very happy one day.
"What's so amusing?" Kal sat down beside his sister, running his eyes over her to appease himself that she was fully healed. He was still a little shaken by the turn of events but less so than before, now that he'd had time to think about things.
"I was just wondering who your mate is going to be," she answered with a light laugh. "She's going to be one lucky woman."
He quirked an eyebrow at her, his lips twitching in a smile. He hadn't considered mating. There were far too many other pulls on his attention right now, Lily being one of them. It was obvious she was trying to lead the conversation by distraction but he wasn't going to allow that.
"You want to tell me what's going on with Mackenzie?"
He watched her frown and a shadow pass before her eyes. She looked down at the comforter on the bed and started picking at an invisible thread.
"Liliana." His tone was gentle, full of warmth and love as he sensed her inner turmoil.
"Mac doesn't want children," she admitted on a shaky breath. "He lost a child when he was human. It almost destroyed him and he thinks the same thing will happen again."
Kallum immediately wrapped his arms around her, giving her a fierce hug. "Oh, Lila, I'm so sorry," he whispered into her hair. No wonder she'd been so feral before. "Doesn't he realise that any child of a Vârcolac would be so much stronger than a human child?"
"I don't think he's really thought about that." Lily snuggled closer as she talked, needing the comfort of someone she trusted implicitly. "He's so closed down to the idea, so full of pain over Sophia, that I find I can't argue with him about it. I can't hurt him by forcing the issue, Kal."
He held her close and gently rocked her, trying to imagine Mac's pain and knowing he would never be able to fully grasp it. He was angry that Mac was hurting his sister by refusing her the chance of being a mother, and yet, he was so proud of Lily for standing by her mate. His emotions were conflicted.
"Maybe he'll change his mind."
Lily pulled back to look up at him, an expression of hopelessness on her face. "I don't think that's ever going to happen," she answered, her tone so quiet he had to strain to hear her.
"Can you live with that?"
She shrugged and gave him a wan smile. "Annie and Mara do. They are two of the most remarkable women I know so if they can then I guess I can. All I know is that I don't want to lose him, Kal. I can't lose him."
He stroked her cheek gently, proud of the determination he saw in her eyes. He loved Lily so much and only ever wanted her to be happy. If he could make this right for her he would but it didn't appear that there would be anything he could do about it except be there when she needed him.
"I can talk to him if you want," he offered. Maybe if he spoke male to male with Mackenzie it would help to resolve things.
Lily's immediate shake of the head was what he'd expected so he didn't press the issue, simply gathered her back into his arms and tried to give comfort to the pain he could feel down their bond.
"Whatever happens I'm here, Lila," he whispered. "I'm always here."
Kal felt his T-shirt become wet and knew she was crying silent tears as he rocked her. He felt his anger spark again and wanted to go looking for Mac to pound some sense into him. However, right now his sister needed him more, so he held her close and whispered words of love and support as she worked through her pain.
Lily sensed Mac returning to the compound and opted to go for a walk until she got her emotions settled a bit more. Talking with Kal had helped a bit as had sparring with him.
She knew Mac was hurting and feeling guilty and she wanted to be fully in control before they came face to face again. The only way to soothe his pain was for him to believe she had come to terms with everything and was happy with her life. She was almost there emotionally but needed another hour or so to clear her head completely.
Walking slowly through the trees, she replayed her morning conversation with Mac, hearing the pain in his voice, her heart breaking once more for his tears. Her own cheeks were wet as she imagined what a wonderful father he must have been, what an amazing father he would have been to their children. She had no doubts that he would have loved and protected her babies unconditionally.
That was what hurt the most. Mac had so much love to give and he'd never have that opportunity because of his past. It was so unfair that he would be denied the joy of being a father again because he couldn't come to terms with the pain of losing Sophia.
Lily was resigned to never being a mother. There was so much new life in the pack and she was sure her fellow Vârcolac would one day have children. She could content herself with being the best aunt in the world, spoiling each little boy and girl with her love.
But she wanted more for Mac because she loved him so much. She wanted to give him beautiful babies and see his eyes glow with such love as he held them cradled in his arms.
She knew his memories of Sophia were tainted in blood and death. If she couldn't give him new memories then maybe there was some way she'd be able to return his memories of his daughter before she died. Maybe that was the gift she was meant to give him? However, she would have to convince him to talk more about his past family.
Lily sighed as she glanced to the left and spotted the chimney top of Dayton and Freya's secluded lodge. She was surprised at how far and at the direction she'd walked in. She was skirting the boundaries of the Praetorian Compound and a quick scan of the area told her there were no wolves or vampires around.
It was only then that she realised she'd shadowed as she'd walked, becoming invisible to everyone but Kal and Liam who weren't in the area. She couldn't recall ever having done that before, shadowing without being aware of it. It was mildly disconcerting to realise she had. The lack of control they were all starting to show was worrying and something they would probably have to talk about soon, if Kal wasn't already arranging a meeting of the Vârcolac.
Lily turned to head back and was suddenly overcome by a wave of dizziness. Surprised, she didn't even try to stay on her feet but allowed herself to sink to the dirt ground on her knees. Putting her hands out she leaned forward on all fours as a wave of nausea swept over her and she wretched up her lunch.
Staring in shock, she felt another wave overcome her as her body rebelled against the food she'd eaten earlier and more dizziness assaulted her. Moisture gathered in her eyes and she heaved again inelegantly.
What the hell was wrong with her? She hadn't vomited since she was about three and ate some unripe berries she'd come across in the forest. She hadn't liked the experience then and she sure as hell didn't like it now!
Her limbs felt weak as she sank backwards as the nausea passed, lying flat on her back in the dirt. Fear raced through her. Had she been poisoned like Pietro? She'd been shadowed for her walk so surely no one could have seen her and shot her with a poison dart or something? She knew she'd been deep in thought but she was sure she would have felt a projectile striking her.
Lily took a deep breath and forced her fear down. There was no way she could have been poisoned so this strange sickness had to be related to something else, though what that something else could be she had no idea.
A light sheen of sweat broke out over her body and she shivered slightly as the nausea returned. Maybe she should call Mac and ask him to come and get her? As soon as she had the thought, her heart skipped a beat.
One of the things she'd always loved about pack life was how they gathered together and told stories of their history. A story was coming back to her right now and it was enough to fill her with dread.
Her mom had been laughing as she'd told them about the day she'd called Andrei to come get her because she was too sick to move and her dad's panicked response. He had thought she was dying when all the time she was pregnant with Lily.
"No!" the word whispered out of Lily's mouth, her hands automatically going to her abdomen. Lord, she couldn't be pregnant! She'd only spent one night with Mac and after their conversation this morning...
"No, no, no, no!" She pulled herself up onto her knees, her entire body shaking with the effort as she delved inside her body, searching with her magic, looking for something that couldn't be possible.
Lily touched the tiny spark, felt her essence wrap around it as her wolf thrummed happily and surrounded the blossoming life within. A moan of despair issued from her lips.
Mac would think she had done this on purpose.
She tried to comprehend what her body and wolf were telling her and what it would mean to her relationship with Mac. Dear God, she was pregnant! They had made a baby, a child that Mac didn't want.
Another moan escaped as Lily bent over and threw up again; only this time it had nothing to do with her pregnancy and everything to do with the terror she was feeling inside. She had meant it when she'd told Kal she couldn't lose Mac. She knew that if she told him she was having a baby then she most probably would.
She gagged again, fighting the reflex and slamming up every barrier she could on all her bonds. A little voice inside warned her about Rafe's words but she ignored it. She needed time to work out what to do, how to fix this before she lost everything that mattered to her.
And deep down inside, battling the fear of losing Mac, was a slow seed of joy springing to life at the thought of the miracle that was beginning within her body. She was going to be a mother after all; nature had taken the decision out of both her's and Mac's hands.
Lily started to sob quietly, torn between the joy of being pregnant and the fear of losing Mac. She knew she couldn't have both; her mate had made that abundantly clear to her.
Why had this happened now, just when she'd resigned herself to what her life would be? What was she expected to do? Choose between Mac and her child? Like her mom had once had to choose all those years ago? She didn't think she was strong enough, not like her mother. She would never be able to live with the guilt of losing her child.
Lily sobbed and rocked back and forth on the ground, her arms protectively around her abdomen. She couldn't lose her baby and she couldn't endure to see the accusation and pain in Mac's eyes when she told him she was pregnant.
He would walk away without a backward glance. She knew it with every fibre of her being.
Lily felt as if her heart was splintering. It hurt to think, it hurt to breathe. Anguish raged through her as she threw her head back and screamed up into the air.
"Why?" she sobbed aloud. She had no idea who she was talking to and knew there would be no answer. "What did I ever do to deserve this? Am I such a bad person that this is all life has to offer me?" Silence greeted her words, just the sounds of her sobbing filling the evening air.
Lily cried for what felt like an eternity, her throat raw as her sobs finally subsided. Her wolf was anxious, pacing furiously around the spark of their child, protecting the unborn life within.
As she rose on shaky legs, Lily knew that the life of her child had to be protected at all cost. At some point since discovering she was pregnant, she had made a choice she never thought she would ever be able to make.
Mackenzie was her soul mate, the one male put on the planet just for her. She loved him intensely, had looked forward to spending her life with him, but children were not part of his world, of their life together. And she couldn't bear for him to hate her for destroying their life by choosing to keep her child and proving to him that his love wasn't enough for her.
Stroking her abdomen gently, Lily turned to gaze at the blanketed mountain range ahead. She was still shadowed and it didn't appear to have any effect on the burgeoning life within her body. A tear streaked down her cheek as she forced her legs to begin to move away from the Praetorian Compound.
"I'm sorry, Mac. Please forgive me."
"What do you mean nobody knows where she is?" Mackenzie's words were spoken softly to the assembled group but there was no mistaking the hard edge to his tone or the dangerous expression on his face.
Brandon shifted uncomfortably under his stare though Karn, Liam and Kallum didn't appear to be affected by it too much.
"Lily said she was going for a walk. She needed to clear her head," Kal replied. He could understand Mac's concern because he was concerned about his sister too but Lily was a grown woman and didn't need to be protected every second of the day.
"Yes, I got that bit, Kallum," Mac grated out, spearing him with an annoyed glare. "What I don't quite get is why my mate, and your sister, is out 'clearing her head' all alone when everyone knows of the threat from the European vampires!"
He yelled the last part of the sentence, a feeling of foreboding overcoming him as it had once so long ago. There was no reason for the feeling but it was there and it had his emotions at danger level.
"Don't you think you're over-reacting a bit?" Kal countered, his tone sounding tetchy. "You must be able to sense her through your bond. I can sense her through mine and she's just fine."