"Thank you, . . . Father."
Malik smiled, his expression one of triumph. "You will not let me down."
"Go, boy. Do what I told you. Kill Sariel and one other, and then wait for my command to lower the wards."
"Nick will execute me as soon as I make a move to harm anyone there."
"If he apprehends you, he'll have you locked up first. That will be his downfall-the hope that he can still save you. Remember, when the time comes, embrace the great Sorcerer you were meant to be. Now go."
The farther he got from Malik's cabin, the more his returning awareness weighted him down. The end was near. He knew the Pack would never allow him to go rogue. Any more than he could allow himself to follow through with his raw, bestial urge to destroy.
One way or another, very soon, Kalen was going to die.
Mac cried until her dad threatened to fetch Melina or Noah and give her something to make her sleep, pregnancy or not.
His anger over her blatant stupidity had lasted all of three minutes. Just long enough to discern that she hadn't intended to deceive Kalen at all. And she damned sure hadn't meant to endanger her baby-his grandbaby. But that wasn't the only issue.
The general paced while Mac watched him through swollen, bleary eyes. "He acted like you were keeping something else from him. That's what he said. Are you sure you don't know what the hell he was talking about?"
"No, I don't- Oh, no. The nightmare!"
Her dad stopped pacing. "What nightmare?"
"The one I had recently." She wrung her hands on her lap. "I thought-I hoped-it was just a bad dream. In it Malik told me that the baby I carried was his grandson. That Kalen was his son and that he had plans for us. I was so scared. But when I woke up, I couldn't imagine the dream was real."
"Or if it was, that it could possibly be true. Malik is such a goddamned mealymouthed liar," her dad surmised.
"Exactly! I actually planned on telling Kalen, but the creep must've beaten me to it. There just never seemed to be a good time."
"There never is, honey." Sitting next to her on the sofa, he took both her hands in his. "If there's one thing I learned from being married to your mother, it's that there is never a perfect time to deal with the unpleasant stuff. It's always best to get issues out in the open so they can be dealt with and healed."
"And here I am, the therapist with all the fancy college degrees, and my dad had to clue me in." She sniffled, and he handed her another tissue. "Thanks."
"That's what dads are for."
She heaved a shaky breath. "Malik's such an opportunist and a manipulator. I should've known he'd pull something like this. I shouldn't have waited to tell Kalen anything. And I won't from now on, if he gives me another chance."
"I don't think forgiveness is the worst trial either of you are facing right now. It's Malik and how he's going to use this rift to his advantage-and he will. It's just a question of how."
"Daddy, why did Nick bring you here? I know you didn't show up just to surprise me," she said quietly. She was afraid of the answer, but she had to know for sure.
His hesitation, the silence ticking away, was answer enough before he reluctantly shared some of what he knew. "Nick had a vision recently. A couple, actually, involving Kalen and the Pack. He saw that something terrible is going to happen, but he's not certain when or where. Just that it will be soon."
"And what he saw was so bad that he secretly called in the military?" Alarm shot through her at her father's grim nod. "Are your men in the area?"
"I'm afraid so. They're on standby. I had hoped never to have to involve them in the paranormal world, but we don't always get what we want, huh? At least they're good men, trustworthy. They won't breathe a word about their mission or anything they witness."
"Well, it's not like anyone would believe them if they did."
"True." He eyed his daughter. "Are you feeling better?"
"Physically, yes. I wish I knew where Kalen went exactly. And when he's coming back." If he was coming back. One thing was for sure: she couldn't sit here anymore feeling miserable and sorry for herself. She needed to get her mind off her troubles with Kalen. "I think I'm going to wash up, then head to the infirmary. What are your plans?"
"I'm going to head out for a while, meet with my units. I don't normally take such a hands-on role these days, but this isn't exactly a typical situation." Kissing her on the cheek, he stood. "You sure you'll be all right?"
"Don't worry." She forced a smile. "Go and take care of business. I'll see you later, maybe at dinner?"
"It's a date."
After seeing her dad out, she took a nice, hot shower, trying to wash away the stress of the morning. All the recent events kept running round in her mind, and it blew her away how fast things had gone from hopeful to hellacious in the span of a few minutes. She liked to think she and Kalen were stronger than the forces trying to drive a wedge between them.
But now she had her doubts.
She hated that, like she hated that he'd run instead of listening to her side of the story. He'd be back, but she wasn't going to make it easy for him. Now that she was over her crying jag, she was getting good and mad. Damned men! They were frequently a huge, collective pain in the ass. It was ironic that she'd taken a job that surrounded her with loads of testosterone on a daily basis.
She dressed quickly, then headed to the kitchen to pour the rest of the coffee down the sink and nibble some crackers. As excited as she was about the baby, the changes to her body made her feel like she'd been dropped into the wrong person. Certain smells made her sick, her breasts were tender, and she was sleepy all the time. She was also weepy, which was problem enough without the rest of the drama.
A few crackers and a cup of juice later, she headed to the infirmary and busied herself examining the latest round of test results on Sariel. He was doing much better and would likely be released, with the stipulation that he take care of himself. Everyone was concerned about the prince, and they would monitor his weight, but there really didn't seem to be a reason to keep him.
She was readying Sariel's release papers when her ink pen hit the desk with a clatter. "Oh my God."
Sariel. If Kalen was Malik's son then that meant . . .
Stunned, she sat back in her office chair and debated her next course of action. Talk to the prince? Or wait for Kalen? She decided on the latter. Waiting for him was not the same as keeping the news from the faery. It just wasn't her place to share what she knew without speaking with her mate first.
She looked up to see Melina standing in the doorway. "I'm sorry. I didn't see you there."
"You look a million miles away. You okay?"
"I'm fine." She waved the other woman inside. "I was thinking Sariel is about ready to get sprung. What do you say?"
Her friend took the test results from Mac and looked them over. After a few moments, she nodded. "Looks good. Or as good as it can be, considering we don't know what's making him sick. It took him a helluva long time to recover from the witch's attack, much longer than any of the shifters would have taken to heal. He didn't need the injury on top of that."
Mac managed to stifle a smile at her friend's protective tone. Someone was more than a little sweet on a certain Fae prince. Melina would deck her if she mentioned it, though.
"Shall I give him the good news or would you rather do it?" Mac asked innocently.
"I'll do it. I need to give him some instructions or he won't take care of himself," she muttered. Then she glanced up at Mac. "What?"
All too perceptive even on an "off" day, Melina peered at her face. "Have you been crying? Your eyes are puffy."
"What did that dickweed do now?"
"Don't call my mate names," she said in a low voice, bristling. "He's dealing with a lot of shit right now."
"Aren't we all? And if he hurts you, he's a dickweed. End of story."
"We had a misunderstanding, and of course it took place in front of my dad." She grimaced at the memory.
Melina's eyes widened and she sat in a chair across Mac's desk. "No way. How did the general take being in the middle of a spat between his daughter and her new mate?"
"About as well as you'd expect-he got royally pissed at both of us."
"Care to talk about it?"
She hesitated. Actually, it would be nice to have another woman to talk to, and Mac was closer to Melina than to Rowan or Kira, having known the other doctor a lot longer. So she spilled her guts about the nice reunion with her dad that had quickly soured when Kalen learned what she'd been holding back.
Melina listened to the end, her expression softening in sympathy. "Nearly six peaceful years working here at the compound, and then bam. When you fuck up, you really give it the old one-two knockout punch."
Mac threw the ballpoint pen at her friend, and it bounced harmlessly off her shoulder. "Bitch. I feel so much better now, thanks."
"What are friends for?" Melina studied her for a moment, then grew serious. "Sweetie, what are you going to do if he loses his fight against Malik?"
"I don't know," she admitted, a painful knot in her throat.
"Do you think he'd hurt you or the baby?"
Her gaze dropped to her desk and she studied the wood grain on the surface. "I'd like to think he wouldn't, but honestly? That's my greatest fear. That one day soon he won't be able to distinguish between right and wrong, and he'll do something that will hurt us, even if it's indirectly."
"Is that what you really believe?" Kalen's voice asked breathlessly from the doorway.
Mac froze. Then her eyes lifted and met her mate's. His breathing was coming harshly, as though he'd been running, and his pupils were too large again. She hoped he hadn't been where she suspected. "Have you been with Malik?"
"My question first," he countered. "Is that what you think of me? That I'd hurt you or our child, or that I'd allow anyone else to hurt you?"
"I wish I could say no," she whispered, agonized. "But it's impossible to be sure when you're consorting with the enemy."
Hurt flashed in his expression and his jaw ticced. "I had to ask him whether it was true that I'm his son."
"I think it's sad that you would look to him for the truth about anything."
"He is telling the truth, at least about this. I have a father and a half brother. I have family."
"Sariel might be your brother, but that thing is not and never will be any kind of a father," she said, her voice rising. "A real father wouldn't have left you starving on the streets while he watched and refused to lift a finger to help you."
"Don't you think I know that?" he rasped. "You have a great dad who loves you more than anything and I'll never experience that for myself. Don't you understand how much that hurts? How hard it is to resist any kindness that comes out of his lying mouth?"
"No. You don't. He wants me to-" Swaying, Kalen grabbed his head and hissed in pain. Mac stood and would've gone to him, but he waved her off with a laugh that sounded slightly crazed. "Don't touch me!"
"Don't dirty your hands with the likes of me," he snarled, eyes wild. "Oh, wait-too late for that. Too bad you're stuck with Malik's son for a mate."