"I won't," she told him. Tears streamed into her hair. It was a beautiful joining, despite the uncertainty that awaited them.
They reached their orgasm together with mutual cries and floated down. He held her as long as he could, then slipped out of her. Standing by the bed, he clothed himself again, then her, with a wave of his hand.
"I wish I could take you far away from here. Just run from the fight with you."
"But you're not made that way."
His smile was heartbreaking as he took her hand. "No. And you wouldn't love me if I were. Hold on. I'll take you back."
Before she could protest, the room disappeared. The same sense of flying shot a thrill through her, and it wasn't as nauseating as before. In moments, her feet touched solid ground and she found they were standing outside Sariel's room. Kalen knocked, and it took several seconds before the door opened and his brother stood gaping at them.
"Good gods!" The prince ushered them inside and glanced up and down the hallway before shutting and locking the door. He faced Kalen with worry. "Are you mad? If Nick finds you here, all hell is going to break loose. Again."
"He won't. I'm not staying long. I just brought Mackenzie back, and then I'm joining in the fight. On the Pack's side."
"That's not what Nick believes." Sariel eyed his brother.
"He'll believe it when he's faced with the proof. I can't do any more than that to convince him."
"You don't have to do this."
"Yes, I do. I told my mate and I'll tell you-I don't run from a fight."
"You seem in control of yourself. Nothing like what I saw earlier."
"It's a lot harder than it looks," Kalen said, his expression bleak. "Mackenzie grounds me, and it's worse when people or circumstances interfere with our harmony."
"She won't be with you in this fight. How will she ground you then?"
"I'll just have to keep her and the baby in my thoughts. And my real family-you and my Pack brothers. All I can give it is my best shot."
"I'm joining you. I'm not standing by this time and allowing all of you to fight my battles." He held up a hand to forestall Kalen's argument. "I am Malik's son as well, and this conflict started because of me."
"No. It started because of Malik's plot to create super-shifters. The Pack was already after him. They just didn't know who they were chasing for a long time, and you being related to him and on his hit list was pure coincidence. You're under their protection now and they don't resent that one bit."
"That's true," Mac put in. "Everyone adores you."
Sariel's face colored a bit. "Well, I think the world of everyone here and I'd hate to leave."
Kalen's expression hardened. "You won't have to. We're going to give that asshole a taste of what super-shifters really are-and he's not going to be able to handle the reality check we hand him."
"I think I'm going to enjoy having you for a brother," Sariel told him with a smile.
"Same here." Kalen glanced at Mac. "Give us a minute, baby?"
She nodded and the pair moved across the room, murmuring in hushed voices. Sariel seemed upset but eventually capitulated to whatever Kalen was speaking to him about. Apparently satisfied, Kalen pulled the prince into a brief embrace, then let him go. Kalen returned to Mac and gave her a hug as well, ending hers with another searing kiss.
"When this is over, we're taking a vacation in Fiji. Just so you can start packing."
She gave him a watery smile. "Sounds good to me."
"I love you, baby."
"Love you more," she choked out. Before she could say anything else, he vanished. She gazed at the spot where he'd been. "What did he say to you?"
Sariel just sighed heavily.
"He asked me to take care of you and the baby if he doesn't come home. But he will," the prince said fiercely. "We have to believe that."
She was trying. Really, really trying to keep the faith.
But it was getting harder with each passing second.
* * *
Nick was perched on the edge of the conference table, slurping as much coffee as he could to keep himself going, like many of his Pack.
They were all tense. Waiting. Jax and Zan were scouting the perimeter, using the cover of darkness to locate Malik and his Sluagh. A crack of lightning split the sky outside the window and thunder rolled again, the time in between shorter. Stronger. The storm was closer and moving in fast.
And out of the blue, the vision held him in its icy grip.
Nick was kneeling in the middle of a field, racked with pain as cold rain lashed down, stinging like needles. Lightning split the sky, took a jagged path to the soaked earth, scorching it in spite of the downpour.
All around him, his Pack battled the Sluagh. His brave men cutting a swath through Malik's batlike Unseelie minions, losing ground with every passing second. There were hundreds of the terrible beasts, swarming, screeching. Far too many for either fierce wolves or men with magical gifts to defeat.
They were all going to die.
High on a pinnacle stood the Sorcerer with his staff, holding it aloft. Screaming at the Unseelie enemy, at the heavens for help that would not come.
And then a bolt of lightning streaked from the boiling black clouds, making the night as day just before it hit the end of the Sorcerer's staff. A massive detonation shook the ground and the world fell away.
Fell and fell. Taking Nick and his men into the abyss.
"Nick!" Was that Ryon? "Nick!"
He blinked to find Ryon crouched over him, patting his cheek. "Shit."
"What did you see, boss?"
He took the hand up Ryon offered and met each of their worried stares. He'd never told his men about the vision before. But maybe it was time he did. They needed to know what they were facing. The dire odds.
So he told them in detail. And when he was finished, the pall in the room was palpable. Never had he seen such doubt and fear on their faces, and he almost regretted it.
"So Kalen's going to save us?" Ryon asked.
"Or destroy us all. I don't know which way it goes, so if any of you want out, now's the time to speak up. Anyone?"
No one moved. Or spoke.
Jax and Zan eased inside, Sariel after them. "What did you find?" Nick asked Jax.
"There's a huge army of Sluagh gathering a couple of miles west of here, in a clearing in the forest. There's way too many, even with Grant's forces meeting us and intercepting them."
Nick and Jarrod shared a look; then Nick repeated his question. "Could be we're all about to meet our deaths. In or out?"
Jax scoffed. "How could you even ask us that? In, dammit."
The rest echoed him, and the Pack took a few moments to center themselves. To contemplate the monumental task before them. Then they went to face their fate like the men of honor they were. Nick was the last out, but not before he took one more look around the room.
And he wondered, as they all did, whether they'd make it home alive.
Come to me, son. It's time we end the commander and his men.
"The shields are down," he lied. "Come and get them."
To me, boy. We fight together.
Kalen ignored the summons and waited. In the darkness, outside the compound, he knew Malik and his goons would start their way, and he'd gloat when he saw how very outnumbered the Pack was, even with the military black ops groups assisting them.
But he'd soon be in for a very big surprise.
The Pack filed out of the building, tense and battle-ready even though they must be exhausted. They'd already tackled the last research facility, and now they'd battle for their lives. They'd been up almost all night anticipating this, and still they showed. Ready to rumble.
His pride in them, in being a part of them even for a short time, nearly overwhelmed him. If it was the last thing he did, he'd prove to them that he'd been worthy all along. He could resist the lure of evil because of his brothers. Because of Mac and their child. He just had to hold out a little longer.
Kalen cloaked himself from their presence, though some of them sensed something off. He rode right next to Aric in the SUV on the way to the rendezvous point with Grant's men, and the redhead never knew it. That made Kalen smile. Aric would hate that he hadn't known.
Soon the vehicles pulled over near a clearing. The forest edged the open space, and behind that was an outcropping of rock that formed a peak. It wasn't high enough to be called a mountain like some in the distance, but was much more than a hill. Kalen thought that would make a fine vantage point for what he had planned.
Nick and Grant gathered the soldiers and their instructions were simple. Grant took the lead.
"Remember, heart and head. Those are the only two places to kill these bastards, and if you miss, you're dead. What you see here tonight, you didn't see it at all. You were never here. Correct?"
"Yes, sir!" they shouted.
"Excellent. Now, let's beat these fuckers so we can go home!"
More lightning and thunder followed his directive and heralded the beginning of the end. Rain was on the horizon, the scent of fresh earth rich in the air, when a horde of screeching Sluagh broke from the trees, came from every direction. Some men crossed themselves quickly-and then ran bravely toward the enemy.
Dropping his invisibility cloak, Kalen shifted to his panther form and ran with them into the fray. The attack had happened much more swiftly than he'd expected.
He didn't see Malik. As the opposing forces clashed, both men and Sluagh screaming, he took out the first of the creatures and tried to scan for the Unseelie. It would be so like him to hang back and avoid the real fight.
What are you doing, boy? Over here!
Where? His inattention nearly got him decapitated. He fought on, slashing one creature after another. Lightning and thunder clapped again, and then the rain started. Cold, it stung him like needles in spite of the temperate night. He could hardly see, but he kept fighting. And searching for the one he needed to destroy.
In the flashes of light, he could see the truth. His Pack was losing. They would all die if he didn't do something. They were being overrun, three Sluagh replacing every single one who died. This was hopeless. Victory was up to him.
Or horrible defeat.
* * *
Mac couldn't stand it any longer. She had to know what was happening. The site was close, she knew. Just a couple of miles, and there was only one good place close to the compound for a battle to take place.
She borrowed one of the SUVs from the hangar and took off, rubber squealing. Finding the other vehicles didn't take long. But she wasn't expecting the fierce, bloody battle to be taking place so very close to where they'd parked.
There were hundreds. The sight and sound of the conflict was terrible, unlike anything she'd ever witnessed. One Sluagh took notice of her vehicle and she ducked down, her heart in her throat. She waited, and when it didn't approach, she peered out the window. The fight raged on, the Sluagh oblivious to her presence, and she waited.
Please, keep him safe. Keep all of them safe.
She sent love through her bond with Kalen. And prayed.
* * *
Kalen spotted Malik beyond the fray, on the peak overlooking the fight, safely out of reach. Without a second thought, he transported himself from the middle of the battle to stand in front of the Unseelie.
"What did you think to accomplish down there?" Malik snarled. "You were supposed to lower the shields and instead you led them here!" Stepping close, he backhanded Kalen hard across the face.
"Fuck you!" Warmth filled his mouth and he spat blood over the edge of the cliff.
"You're mine and you will obey me! You fight with me. Is that clear?"