"The battle. You killed Malik and all his Sluagh," she said gently. "You saved everyone in the Pack."
The storm. The fight. His friends had been losing badly.
Then he'd used the lightning against the enemy.
"I used the light to drive out the darkness." He smiled at his mate. "Sariel told me to."
She smiled back, though it was tired at the edges. "That you did. Do you feel any different? I mean, is there any darkness left?"
Though he was exhausted, he searched deep inside himself. Looked for that awful black thread that Malik had fostered and had wanted to grow into something horrid. "It's gone," he breathed. "For good, I think." He hoped and prayed.
"That's the best news I've had all day. Other than the man I love waking up, that is." Leaning over, she kissed him on the lips.
Something still worried him, though. "I didn't leave here on the best of terms. Last time I saw Nick, he was trying to kill me."
"Well, that changed when you almost killed yourself in the process of saving the world," she told him, love shining in her blue eyes. "The whole Pack has been in and out of here for over two weeks, willing you to get better. Your brother, too. They think you're pretty awesome, and so does my dad. And I happen to think you're fantastic, too."
Damn. His eyes burned.
"You're lucky to have a dad like him."
"He's yours now, too. You'll give him a chance to prove it, won't you?"
That choked him up, and he worked not to show it. "You bet, baby. Say, how are his soldiers?"
She looked sad. "They lost a few, but not as many as they should have, considering how outnumbered they were. There's something else, though." She hesitated.
"What is it?"
"Zan was hurt. Remember how I said he couldn't take another trauma to his head without risk?" Kalen nodded in dread. "He suffered another blow to the skull during the battle, and he was bleeding badly from his ears when we brought him in. When everything was over, he was deaf."
Kalen stared at her. "He can't hear? Is it permanent?"
"We don't know for sure. He's not human, so there's a chance that he'll hear again one day. But for now, nothing."
"Tell me it wasn't my fault," he pleaded. If he'd caused Zan to go deaf with the explosion, he'd never forgive himself.
"I'm not going to lie-we don't know how much the blow to his head factored in, versus the explosion. He's not saying much about it."
"Will he see me?"
"Soon. He needs time to heal and rest, same as you."
There was no arguing that, so his visit with Zan would have to wait. He needed to get well. He had a mate to care for and a baby to buy lots of cute baby things for, too.
"The baby," he rasped. "He's really okay?"
"I wouldn't lie to you, especially about that." She smiled at his use of "he" for their child. Taking his free hand, she scooted forward and let his palm rest on her tummy. "The baby's fine. See?"
Reaching out with a tendril of magic, he searched. And found the tiny life warm and safe in his nest. Tears pricked his eyes. "I don't know how to be a father. It's not like I've had a great example to follow."
"Oh, honey." She stroked his hair. "You're going be a great daddy, because you'll want to give him all the love and support you never had from your folks. If anything, I'll have to worry about you going overboard, doting too much and spoiling him rotten!" Now she'd said "he," too. Kalen's enthusiasm was rubbing off.
Grinning tiredly, he nodded. "I'm gonna buy him all kinds of boy stuff. Footballs, toy trucks, trains-"
"What if it's a girl?" she teased.
"Hmm. Then she'll be a tomboy. All us guys around here will make sure of that."
She laughed. "No doubt."
"I love you, Mac." He yawned.
"That's the second time you've called me that. Or is it the third?"
"Don't know, but it's growing on me. Doesn't make me think of a trucker anymore."
She laughed. "Well, that's flattering. Sleep, Sorcerer."
He drifted off, thinking he was a lucky man. A guy who'd never had a real family except his grandma, whom he'd lost way too soon, now had a compound full of brothers.
And several real brothers, including his and Sariel's half siblings, whom he couldn't wait to get to know better. Though it still wasn't fair that he had to wait a few thousand years to get his wings.
He guessed you couldn't have it all. But you could damned sure try.
* * *
Three days after Kalen woke up in the infirmary, the Pack threw him a party in the rec room. Everyone was there, including Sariel and Jarrod Grant. That really got to him. Because in all his life, nobody had ever done that. Just celebrated him being alive and loved. It was every missed, lonely birthday rolled into one.
All of them had trooped through his hospital room constantly, jabbering about this and that. But they'd all avoided any conversation that might be deemed mushy in any way. So now, in true guy form, they let him know how sorry they were and how much they cared.
Nick was the first one to speak to him, beer bottle in hand, loud enough that the whole group could hear him. Well, except for Zander. "These damned visions of mine don't always show the whole picture. Wish they did, but they don't. So I'm sorry I gave you such a hard time. And, oh yeah-sorry I shot you."
Kalen smiled. "Forgiven. Though A.J.'s rifle packs a helluva punch. Just sayin', so you'll feel worse."
"Thanks a bunch."
Aric took a turn next. "And I'm sorry I was such an asshole to you in the beginning. Mostly." A few of the guys snickered, and the redhead frowned. "What?"
"So where's our apology?" Jax goaded. "You're always an asshole to us."
"Hey, that's my mate, fur face," Rowan said, punching Jax in the arm.
That pretty much set the tone for the party, light-hearted and everyone poking fun at one another. Pointing out their own faults for Kalen's benefit, laughing at themselves. They needn't have bothered, but it was nice. He felt included, and that was a great feeling.
He endured careful hugs, but he didn't mind much. Especially the gesture from Sariel. His brother. He could hardly believe it as they stood regarding each other, the warmth filling his chest. Kalen cleared his throat. "I'm not used to having family that's worth a damn, and it's going to take some getting used to. But I'm glad you're my brother."
"So am I, Kalen." The prince's golden eyes were suspiciously moist. "One day I'll get to introduce you to the rest of our brothers, and you'll love them too."
The idea made him a little nervous, but he smiled anyway. "I'll look forward to it." They shared an embrace that healed one last hole in Kalen's battered heart. He had a feeling they were going to be close, and he welcomed that joy.
Zan moved from his corner at the fringes of the party and joined Kalen as Sariel released him. They stood awkwardly studying each other until Zan spoke with some difficulty.
"Not your fault," he said with an odd drawl, gesturing to his ears. "Sluagh knocked the shit out of me."
When Kalen replied, he made sure to speak slowly and clearly as Mackenzie had instructed him. "Still, I'm sorry. I wish there was something I could do."
Zan shook his head and tried to smile. "Thank you, but I'm okay." Waving to Aric, he changed the subject. "Presents for you."
"Oh yeah?" He looked to the smirking redhead with interest. "I love presents!"
"Well, you'll love mine, then. We got you something together, but first, this is something just from me." Winking, Aric waved a pink gift sack at him.
More snickers, and a few of them sounded like they knew what was inside. Kalen looked at Mac, who blinked at him innocently.
"Don't ask me. I have no clue what he got you."
Taking the sack, Kalen set it on a table at the front of the room, started pulling out items-and cracked up. He couldn't help it. "Shit! I'm so going to get you back for this!"
But he kept laughing, and so did everyone else when they saw what Aric had purchased for him: three colors of sparkly, pastel nail polish and a pack of six different colors of eyeliner. Plus a tube of hot pink lipstick.
"Black is so last week, Goth-boy." Aric winked. "Now you can look all pretty for your next battle."
"You fuckhead!" But it was so damned funny. And typical Aric. He set the sack aside and grabbed the wolf into a big hug. "Thanks, man."
He'd never felt happier or more accepted into a family than he did at that moment. It was just perfect. Couldn't get any better. Or so he thought, until he saw the big box Nick was holding. He let go of Aric and studied it curiously.
"Well, open it and find out."
He set it on the table next to the makeup and ripped at the paper to reveal a box with the label of a local leather shop in Cody. Glancing at the gang, he saw their excitement and anticipation. He had no clue what it could be.
Lifting the lid, he peered inside. "Is that . . ." Grabbing the leather garment, he lifted it from the box. His heart swelled to clog his throat. "Jesus, guys. You shouldn't have."
More lint in his eyes again, dammit.
The long coat was black, supple, expensive, and gorgeous. He put it on to find that it was fitted, unlike his old one, which had been made for someone else.
Nick cleared his throat. "Your old one got sort of charbroiled. So we got your measurements from Mac when you were on the mend and had it made just for you. If you don't like it, we can't exchange it, so tough shit."
This time his laugh came out a bit choked. "I love it. And I promise I won't wear this one out to fight monsters." He looked around the room. At his mate, Jarrod, Sariel, the Pack. A child on the way. His family. And he counted his blessings.
"Thank you, all of you. I'm a damned lucky man." He looked at Nick. "Just one more thing would make it perfect."
"What's that?" the commander asked.
"A vacation with my mate," he said, hugging her close to his side. "I've never had a real vacation in my life, and I think we've earned it."
Nick's lips curved upward. "I believe that can be arranged. Put your request on my desk and I'll approve it. In fact," he told the group, "anyone who wants time off, put your name in and I'll stagger weeks so we're not all gone at the same time. We've all earned it."
That idea was met with a ton of approval. Kalen couldn't wait to be completely alone with his baby.
Make that times two.
* * *
Kalen lounged on his towel, feet planted off the end so he could dig his toes into the gorgeous sand. "This is the life, huh? God, I never dreamed Fiji would be this beautiful."
His mate eyed his rum concoction with the little umbrella in it, with no little envy. "Some of us get to enjoy more than just the sights."
"Hey, I offered to go virgin! I'm a gentleman that way."
"You are a gentleman, but it's a little late to go virgin, I think."
Turning his head, he stared at her for a couple of seconds before he got it and laughed. "Oh, you're so bad. Nope, no virgins around here!"
"You would know."
"That I would." Sucking down the rest of the delicious drink, he removed the tiny umbrella and rolled toward Mackenzie. When she saw him reaching for her stomach, she tried to wiggle away.
"What are you doing?"