She let out a breath and looked at Lucien who, to her surprise, was gazing back at her. His eyes were so unreadable. She wondered what he was thinking.

“One down,” she whispered and he nodded sharply, breaking from his daze. They moved silently into the backyard to meet the brothers with their muzzles glistening gorily, their ensanguined fangs still on display.

Caia waited with Lucien while the four wolves split into two and headed to either side of the building for their next attack. And then Caia and Lucien made their move. Caia opened the back porch door with magik so that it wouldn’t squeak and the two of them entered the house like professional thieves. Her heart pounded the entire time, her senses feeling constantly for any change in the air that would tell her of Ethan’s presence.

They heard a whine outside and Caia flinched, her wide eyes flying to Lucien. He looked worried but shook his head at her, indicating for her to continue to lead the way. And then they were in the pantry and she was opening the door that would take her to Jaeden.

The smell of Jaeden hit like a gale force wind and Lucien’s snarl erupted before he could stop it. Until then only Caia had really known the extent of Jaeden’s torture but her blood was thick in the air coming up from the basement, and her fear was like the stale scent of body odor.

Feeling no one of the Midnight variety down there in the dark, Caia gave up all pretense of quiet and rushed down into the blackness. Lucien was behind her. With the flashlight.

“Oh my gods... ” his voice trailed off hoarsely when the light came on.

The basement was nearly the entire size of the house, completely unfurnished except for the row of five cages that decorated the bottom end of it. In the first cage they saw Jaeden curled up on her side, recognizable for her long dark hair. And in the other four cages were the remains of other supernaturals. Caia gagged and turned into Lucien without thinking. He put a comforting hand on her shoulder and started leading her towards Jae.

Why hadn’t she seen this in her dreams? she thought, trying to rid herself of the images of these poor creatures and their mangled bodies. Now she was aware of their presence, the smell of death that she had always put down to Ethan’s energy, was because of them.

“Jaeden,” she managed not to whimper, going down on her knees and reaching through the bars to touch her friend. She got no response. “Jaeden.”


“Jaeden,” Lucien was saying urgently now.

Jae whimpered.

“Jaeden!” Caia cried and shook her a little.

With that her friend whimpered but turned, still curled into herself, her naked skin covered in dirt and blood and healing scar tissue. Her dead blue eyes blinked and blinked and then widened.

“Lucien? Caia?” Her voice was hoarse and cracked as if she hadn’t used it in a long time.

“Yes.” Caia smiled through tears, and then looked at the cage trying to find a way in. Like the dream there was no door and no lock.

“Are you really here?”

“Yes,” Lucien’s chocolate warm voice would have comforted anyone. “We’re here. We’re going to take you home.”

Jae began to cry silently.

Caia pulled back and pushed Lucien back, too. “Jae, I need you to slide to the back of the cage.”

The girl complied without a word.

And with all her fury and all the impotence she felt in this disgusting situation her uncle had put the people she loved in, Caia threw out an arm of energy that twisted and bent the steel of the cage until there was enough room for Jaeden to crawl out of. Lucien took his shirt off, still wearing a t-shirt underneath it, and Caia knelt down to draw it over Jaeden’s head.

“You’re really here.” Jae’s bottom lip trembled and the blankness began to recede from her eyes. “You’re really here.”

Caia forgot her friend’s injuries and pulled her into a tight hug, not caring that Jaeden was too dazed to return it.

“Come on.” Lucien bent down now and scooped Jaeden easily into his arms.

Caia really wished she hadn’t been so exultant, so cocky, as she quickly followed Lucien up the basement stairs and out into the kitchen. She was smiling, actually smiling, as he made his way to kitchen door. And then she felt it. Like ice crawling slowly through her veins, freezing her in her tracks and icing over her heart so that the next frightened beat of it shattered it and all of her hope. Caia had never felt such a malevolent trace before.

From behind her she felt the blast of power like a train chugging past her at full-speed, blowing her hair up around her shoulders and face. It knocked Jaeden out of Lucien’s arms and across the room, her head slamming against a cabinet. She slumped to the ground limply. Caia whirled and stood merely a few feet from her uncle.

“My goddess, you look like Adriana,” he breathed, momentarily stunned.

She was stunned too. She looked like him. Had the same blonde hair and slant to her eyes.

“Uncle,” she whispered. That brought him from his lapse and his dangerous blue gaze slid past her to Lucien. Without thought Caia threw up a shield around the Alpha as he took a menacing step towards her uncle. He banged against it and growled at Caia. He wasn’t in lykan form. He wouldn’t stand a chance against her uncle.

“Well.” Ethan smirked at her. “Seems your powers are indeed blossoming.”

Caia flinched as Lucien punched at the shield. “Drop it, Caia,” he snarled. “Now!”

She shook her head, refusing to look at him.

“I’ll let them go.” Ethan smiled evilly. “All I want is you.”

“Caia, don’t listen to him! Drop the shield!”

Her eyes swept past them to Jaeden who was a crumpled mess, and then back to Lucien, whose eyes blazed once more with emotion. Anger. He was furious with her. And more than that he was frightened for her.

Unflinching, she turned back to her uncle as calmly as she could, chanting at her heart to quit racing and stand strong for her.

“You’ll let them go? You won’t go near Lucien and the pack... if I let you... ”

“Kill you without a peep.” Ethan chuckled. “Of course.”

“Caia, NO!” Lucien bellowed, making her wince, but she steadfastly ignored him. Ethan smiled triumphantly at Lucien and a wave of his emotions hit Caia like a battering ram to the gut. She gasped and clutched her stomach, actually staggering back from the blow.

She could feel him.

Her uncle.

Her disgusting, soulless uncle.

He never planned to let anyone go. He wanted them all here. This had been his original plan before everything had gone wrong. He wanted Lucien and the others to care about her, to care so much that they would give into their volatile natures and come crashing in like stupid, easy targets. She dropped the shield protecting Lucien and Jaeden and raised her right hand, encasing Ethan in an invisible cage that circled around him with a power that travelled in golden light, before dissipating at completion.

Lucien’s sigh of relief met her ears.

“Caia,” he groaned and stumbled towards her just as Ethan also moved towards her, sneering at her display of power. He wasn’t sneering when he bounced back against the shield, a look of disbelief on his face when he punched it and nothing happened. Satisfied but still wary, Caia kept Lucien behind her.

“So,” Ethan grumbled, gazing incredulously around him. “You really do have some power.”

When he caught her eye and saw how carefully she watched him, he shrugged, pretending indifference. “It won’t hold for long.” And then he began muttering something that sounded an awful lot like a spell under his breath.

Caia turned around, grabbing onto Lucien in anger. “He planned all this! For us to come here like idiots, all guns blazing, our emotions clouding us,” she hissed feeling a torturous headache coming on. “I don’t know how long I can hold the shield. Get Jaeden-” she stopped abruptly, her heart slamming in her chest as she felt the tingling of another trace, their energy throbbing ten seconds away from them. “Lucien, get Jaeden quickly! There’s another one coming!”

He shook his head, his face twisted in anger. “I’m not leaving you.”

Caia swore. “You have to. That’s what he wants, for us to be stupid and emotional!”


But it was too late. The trace she had felt appeared in the kitchen in the form of a tall, rangy warlock. His wild eyes took in Ethan. “My lord...” he stumbled towards him.

“Stop them, Lars!” Ethan cried, piercing one hand through Caia’s wall.

Caia looked back at Lucien in a panic. “Lucien, change!”

The bolt of white heat hit him before he even had a chance to process her words and sent him soaring with incredible force straight through the pantry door, wood splintering everywhere as he collided with the floorboards.

“Lucien!” Her eyes burned with tears as he lay unconscious.

“Don’t worry, he’s not dead.” Ethan grunted as he punched another hand through the wall. “Yet.” He grinned as if they were friends, and then turned to Lars. “What are you waiting for? Kill the girl.” He pointed at Jaeden.

“No,” Caia whispered, and just as she felt her own building swell of white heat spring like a root from her tingling toes up her calves and over her thighs, the kitchen window flew apart and into the room as a large lykan burst through it and lunged straight for Lars’s jugular. His screamed was cut off by the sickening spurt of blood that shot up out of his neck and painted the ceiling above him.

“Ryder.” Caia breathed in relief as he mauled the magik to pieces within seconds.

Enraged, her uncle broke through her shield entirely and one of his own shot up around her and himself, immediately blocking Ryder out. He growled and snarled as he bounced up against the wall of energy enclosing her with her uncle.

“Not well done at all, Caia,” Ethan tutted, shaking his head and prowling around her like a tiger taunting its prey. “I must say I’m horrified to hear that you feel a Midnight’s trace. That you could feel my plans for you…” He chuckled but without humor, his eyes still as soulless as ever. “In fact, you’re my worst fear realized. I should make this quick.” He scratched his chin as if thinking, and then stopped, his gaze drifting over her body. “But I won’t.”

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