Caia held onto that hope and slid down beside Sebastian, shifting him as gently as possible so that his head was cushioned on her lap. The truck growled to a start and pulled away, Lucien driving as fast as he was able.

“I’m so sorry,” she whispered and a warm tear trickled off her face and onto his.

Sebastian looked up at her, still shuddering in her arms. “Don’t,” he coughed. “Don’t you do that.”

“Sebastian,” she moaned.

He smiled and winced at the effort it took, but his tawny eyes never left hers. “I wanted to do this. And you got Jae right. We got Jae.”

“We got Jae.”

“She’s alright?”

“Sebastian,” It was Jaeden’s voice and her slender, bruised arm slid through the partition from the cab to grasp a hold of Sebastian’s sleeve. He rolled his eyes enough to see the top of Jaeden’s head.

“Hey beautiful,” he croaked.

“Thank you,” she whispered and Caia couldn’t look at her for fear of falling apart at the sound of grief in Jae’s voice.


No. He is going to be OK. He is going to be OK. Marion will fix this.

“No...” he shuddered hard. “No problem mi amigo.”

See, he’s joking and teasing even now. He is going to be OK.

She clutched him tighter.

“Cy,” he whispered and her eyes got caught in his again. “I love you, Cy.”

“Don’t,” she choked on her tears. “You’re going to be OK.”

He smirked. “I love you anyway.”

“I love you, too,” she whispered.

“That’s good.”

A deep silence settled on the truck and Caia began to shake with exhaustion and fear.

“Like a friend, Cy?” Sebastian whispered suddenly, and then winced.


“Love me like a friend. You?”

She nodded, unable to lie to him even now. But his eyes never dimmed. “That’s enough for me.”

30 - Gone

Sebastian died in Caia’s arms ten minutes later. The grief thickened the air as they drove back to the pack, Lucien staring blankly ahead at the road, while Ryder soothed a crying Jaeden, who was mourning more the loss of her friend than her innocence. Caia hummed softly, stroking Sebastian’s hair, her throat thick and burning with unshed tears.

She had failed him. He loved her and she had failed him.

But she wouldn’t fail the rest of the pack.

31 - The Decision

“They’re all gone.”

Sitting on her bed, Caia twisted around at Marion’s words, watching as the witch walked slowly into the room. She stopped, grasping a post of the bed. Caia tucked the picture of her father beneath her bed covers so Marion wouldn’t realize the full extent of her maudlin musings.

Her mentor’s eyes were gentle with understanding and Caia wanted to turn away from that sympathy.

It had been a week since Sebastian’s death.

With the elation of having Jaeden home came the crashing disbelief that Seb was gone.

What was worse was that no one blamed her.

She was the hero who had led them to Jaeden in the first place. Who had taken down the ‘Head’ of the Midnight Coven.

No one blamed her but... it seemed like it was more out of fear of her than anything else.

Lucien’s home had been filled with members of the pack ever since their return and a suffocating mixture of awe and grief had wrapped around the home like a cloak. Having cried herself to sleep the night they arrived back, and then cried herself boneless the next day, Caia was numb. She had woken up every morning since, afraid to open her eyes, determined that if she lay there long enough with them closed tightly shut that it would all go away, it would all be a bad dream and that Sebastian would knock on her door any second.

But it wasn’t a bad dream.

And she would never see his smile again.

Somehow she had managed to go to Sebastian’s funeral but she hadn’t been able to meet Isaac or Imogen’s gaze... or anyone’s for that matter. The only person she had even looked at was Jae, and that was only to make sure she was OK. Her friend was a former shadow of herself. Caia had never understood that expression until now. Jae stood apart from everyone, following her family a few spaces behind, despite their determination to keep her close. But she was haunted by what had happened to her and by the looks of it, that wasn’t going to change any time soon.

And now everyone had gone home. Was it wrong she was relieved?

“I heard,” she managed.

Marion sighed and came around the bed to sit beside her, both of them staring out the window.

“Happy Birthday.”

Caia blinked. It wasn’t a cause for celebration today. So what? She was a year older and one friend down. She hated to think what the next months would bring.

Marion understood her silence and changed the subject. “Marita and Vanne have been told. Their spies tell them that the Midnight Coven is in chaos.”

Caia nodded numbly.

“I hate to ask but... do you feel anything?”

Every day. The hum of connection had been growing stronger and stronger, and, Caia believed, ironically, that her grief had been keeping it compressed and easy to handle.

“Yes. I already knew the Coven was in chaos. Attacks have stopped. The major players are convened at their headquarters in Moscow, trying to work out where Ethan is, if he’s dead or not. A few ambitious ones are pretending that they have the trace magik.”

“The headquarters are in Moscow? We thought they were in Minsk… sneaky…”

Caia smiled humorlessly.

Marion grinned back at her. “I can’t believe this. I can’t believe we have you. This... is the beginning of the end.”

Caia didn’t say anything but Marion must have detected her flinch.


The truth was Caia was sure something was wrong with her trace. For days now she had been sensing thoughts in her trace that baffled her. It would seem there were Midnights apathetic to the war, some oblivious, some afraid, others weary, and even those who had no such hatred for other Supernaturals as she had been brought up to believe. It couldn’t be right, could it?

“Caia?” Marion urged.

No, she wouldn’t reveal her worries to Marion or anyone, not until she had a handle on it herself. For now, she would carry on in the capacity of advisor to the Daylights, as Marita wished.

She shrugged. “The attacks will start again. They’re already panicking. Things will get out of control and I don’t know if I will be able to help everyone when they do.”

Marion laid a comforting hand on her shoulder. “You do what you can. That’s all anyone can ask. You have it in you, Caia. For Gaia’s sake, you obliterated Ethan.”

Caia snorted, “Any theories on how I did that yet?”

Marion shook her head. “No, but my sister is definitely going to be taking a more avid interest in you. She feels… well… responsible for what happened. I think she was testing you… but she admits that was a mistake. Someone more experienced from the Center should have been in there with you, considering you were dealing with Ethan. She wants to make up for that error.”

Silence. And then…

“I can’t leave them here unprotected.”

Caia knew when the magik understood what she meant because she stiffened and her hand dropped from her shoulder. “You’re not leaving the pack are you? You’re not coming to the Center with me.”

“I can’t.”

“Is this because of Sebastian?”

Heaving herself off the bed, Caia approached the window and looked up at the moon. “It’s about my father.”

“I don’t understand.”

“My father did everything he could think of to protect me, and so did Lucien’s. Since I came back I’ve caused the kidnapping and torture of one friend, the death of another, and the attack of the Pack Leader.”

“None of that was your fault.”

Caia shrugged, refusing to look at her. “It doesn’t matter if it is or isn’t. I can’t turn my back on them now. They have to come first. I have to be here in case anything happens. And I can do my job for your sister just as well from here as I would have at the Center.”

“But the Center will offer you training, and a chance to mingle with other supernaturals within Daylight.”

“It doesn’t matter. The pack matters. My father’s pack matters.”

“Your pack.”

Caia drew in a breath and whirled around to see Lucien standing in the doorway, his silver eyes as tired as they had been all week. Tired and sad and dishonored. That’s how he felt. As if he had failed in his duty somehow. She wanted to slap him across his thick head, and then hug him until he was the same old arrogant Lucien again.

Eventually Marion broke their tension-filled gaze. “Well, I can see your mind is made up. I’ll leave in the morning to let Marita know of the situation.”

“But you’ll be back?” Caia asked softly.

Marion nodded and smiled. “Of course. I’ll be your liaison.”

After a nod of understanding, Marion left the room as gracefully as she had entered it. Lucien closed the door behind her and took a few more steps inside.

“So you’re staying?”

“If that’s OK?”

Lucien nodded. “I heard what you said. I understand it. But, Caia, Christian was right before... back in the truck... after the motel. He was right about ending this war being more important. I was wrong.”

She knew it must have taken a lot for him to admit that, and she smiled gratefully. “I can still do that. From here.”

He nodded again and then looked away, seeming uncomfortable. He cleared his throat before looking back up at her, his silver gaze intense and unmoving. “What I said before... I meant it. I won’t interfere with your choices any longer.”

“Not mates?” she breathed, hating that her heart ached at the thought.

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