Reopening my eyes, I met Brady's tortured gaze with my own determined one. If he saw the knife, he didn't react, which I was glad for; even the slightest hint of surprise would give me away. He seemed frozen, his expression not changing as I silently mouthed the word 'go' to him.
Until, suddenly, we were all moving. Brady throwing himself towards what must have been the way out, Leon roaring furiously as he lurched towards him; and me shoving myself away from the wall and throwing myself as hard as I could into Leon's strong back.
We both grunted at the impact, my breath whooshing out of my lungs in a rush. In an instant he was thrashing, trying to shake me off, but I clutched at his arm and neck as he flung me to the side; if I went down, I would pull him down with me. Yet even as I moved, I could tell it wouldn't work; right now, he was about a thousand times stronger, easily resisting the pull of my weight. Already my grip was slipping, one of my hands sliding so that I was barely holding onto his wrist.
A wrist that I gripped with all my might, before suddenly yanking, the bones breaking with a crack that was dwarfed by Leon's bellow of pain. Seizing on to his moment of weakness, I threw my weight to the ground, jerking him down with all my strength and sending us both slamming into the hard floor. I barely even noticed the pain of the impact; the moment I hit, I was lunging for Leon, tightening my fingers around the dagger.
And without hesitation, I plunged it deep into his back. He growled with rage as I sank the blade in to the hilt, his whole body shaking furiously beneath me. Half sprawled on top of him, I moved to wrench the blade out of his body; except before I could, Leon was shoving me off him.
I hit the ground hard, my head crashing into the solid floor with a crack that made me groan. Before I could even blink, he was pinning me down, his gaze murderous as he snarled in my face. I barely even noticed that his hands were locking around my right arm; until, with a sadistic grin, he broke my arm with an awful crunch, tearing a blood-curdling scream from my lips.
Agony. Pain. Burning. My arm felt as if it was on fire, dead at my side as it burned with excruciating pain. Yet somehow, somehow, I managed to feel Leon's hands shifting position; just in time for me to let out a second terrible scream as he once again snapped the bone in half.
Oh god. It hurt. It was too much, way too much. All I could hear was the roaring rush of my blood thundering in my ears as I struggled to keep my eyes open. But despite my best efforts, I couldn't do it. I couldn't stop my eyes from fluttering, blackness creeping up fast on the edges of my vision.
Because in a crushing wave, the blackness was sweeping over me; and the last thing I saw was Leon's tall figure rapidly disappearing into the darkness.
I was still awake. I couldn't hear, couldn't see, couldn't feel my own body, but I was awake.
And it hurt. It hurt so, so badly, the slashes on my back and arms burning with pain from the movement I never should have made. The slashes that should have been almost healed by now, but were bleeding and hurting just as much as ever.
I guess that's what happens when you're broken.
Leon had gone too far, he had hurt me too much. I couldn't take it, not anymore.
I should be unconscious. I'd lost track of how many times I'd already fainted in the last day, because it had just been too much. And right now; right now, it was too much.
But I couldn't disappear. I wanted to, wanted it badly, but I couldn't do it.
My mind was too busy worrying and thinking to let me drift away.
Because Leon had rushed out of here ready to murder someone, and there was no doubt he was after Brady. I shuddered to think about what he would do if he found him; and what he would do to me if he didn't.
No. No, I couldn't think of that. Brady had to get away; he was my only chance. And if I had to pay the price for making it happen…
Another shudder rippled through me at the thought. God, I had to stop thinking. I had to stop. Or if not stop, think of anything, anything else.
Like Jake. Jake, who had remained in the back of my mind despite my fear; a tentative hope that if I could get Brady out, then he would find me. Which was something I wanted more than anything; I wanted Jake to find me. He was the only person I had ever trusted enough, had ever thought could find me. It was a hesitant trust, but it was more than I'd ever had before; because until now, I had only trusted myself to save me.
But now, I wanted, needed, Jake to save me instead.
And if he didn't, I felt as if that would be it for me. Not just because I couldn't save myself – not this time – but because losing him, losing the trust, would break everything I had left. And that… that I couldn't take.
I could not lose him.
It didn't matter that he wasn't here; I could still feel him. I could feel him, and I was clinging to him, clinging to him with all my strength; because a furious growl had suddenly echoed down the tunnel.
In just seconds he was storming into the room, materialising from the darkness with an angry snarl. His eyes were flashing with pure, uncontrolled rage, his expression of fury making my heart stutter; this was going to hurt.
But more important, even than the pain Leon was promising me his eyes found my limp form, was the fact that Brady wasn't with him.
Brady had gotten away. Oh, thank god he had gotten out. I almost let out a sigh of relief, the knowledge sparking life and strength into my body as my mind spun with a whirlwind of thoughts.
All of which vanished into a world of fear as Leon pulled me roughly off the ground... only to slam me right back into it, my pained groan drowned out by his angry yell.
'YOU! HE GOT AWAY, BECAUSE OF YOU!' He forced me harder into the ground, shoving the blood-covered knife roughly against my throat and slicing thinly through the skin.
'HOW DARE YOU ATTACK ME?! YOU SHOULD KNOW BETTER THAN TO MESS WITH ME! AND NOW, YOU'RE GOING TO PAY FOR IT!' His hand slapped me hard across the face, my head jerking back into the ground and flaring with pain. The blow made my head spin, and I was still reeling as Leon hauled me painfully upwards, his tight grip on my broken arm making me cry out.
'You think this hurts? This… this is NOTHING, NOTHING, compared to what's coming your way!' He spat at me, his face contorted with anger and just centimetres away from my own. And then he was dragging me through the darkness, one hand knotted painfully in my hair while the other continued pressing into my snapped bones. I was limp in his hold, unable to fight, my legs scraping against the ground as he hauled me along with him.
We were leaving. After hoping for nothing else but to just get out of here, my wish was coming true; but in all the wrong ways. Because he wasn't setting me free, but taking me somewhere even harder to escape from. I wasn't escaping, but was being forced to move.
And all I could think was that if Jake didn't find me in the next 30 seconds, he probably never would.
I'd been walking through the woods, trying and failing to take my mind of Thea, when her pain had blasted through me in a staggering wave. I'd been forced to lean against a tree to stop myself from stumbling, and then to keep myself upright; because almost instantaneously, I'd felt the bone in my right arm snap. And then snap again.
Oh god, it was broken. Her arm was broken. The shapeshifter had broken it.
I let out a tortured groan, my hands crushing through the tree trunk I was gripping with all my might. It sent searing pain through my now broken arm, but I didn't care; it didn't hurt nearly as much as the pain I was getting from her.
Thea. Her pain was worse, so much worse. It was harsher, stronger somehow; and above all, always accompanied by a sharp burst of fear that was like a punch in the face. I was trembling from the pressure of it all, a low rumble spilling from me against my will, as I slammed my forehead into the rough bark.
Dammit, I needed to find her.
I no longer thought I was going insane; I was going insane. The separation alone had the wolf on edge; we were too closely imprinted to be apart for this long. And then there was the pain and the fear and knowing she was trapped with him but not knowing where she was and–
My left hand slammed into the trunk, my clenched fist making the bark crunch and shiver. For a moment, I was sure the tree would collapse at the impact; I'd hit it hard enough. But the swaying quickly stopped, and I stared at the thing in surprise; until, with a loud creak, the tree bent over backwards and crashed to the ground. Again.
I'd lost track of how many trees I'd demolished today, in my vain attempt to stay calm. I couldn't phase, not if I wanted to stay sane, but the effort of staying human was growing by the minute. And destroying anything I could get my hands on; that was the only thing that could help.
Until, just as I swung my fist towards yet another solid trunk, I found myself freezing.
Because both at the same time, a loud howl had torn through the air and Thea's voice had spoken softly in my mind.
Jake! Thea's voice was full of fear and panic in my head, pain giving it a sharp edge. Oh god, please help me. She begged, her words fast and urgent. I growled involuntarily at her desperation, my entire being wanting to race straight to her side at the plea. The wolf was seconds from bursting out, my whole body shaking, but I forced myself to stay human.
Thea? Thea, what happened? I asked.
Brady was here, but now he's gone, and Leon's dragging me through the woods but I can't get away–
With a strangled snarl, I lost my grip on the wolf, and on Thea's voice in my head. And then I was exploding, my already healing arm protesting the shift, but I didn't care; I had too many thoughts, too many emotions, to pay attention. My paws were digging into the dirt, my long form leaping forward with a snarl as I ran towards Thea. Just as she'd said, she was moving, moving away, and I would not let that happen. Not again.
Because I wasn't the only one phased right now. Brady's wolf was a panicked mess, his thoughts flashing past so fast I almost couldn't follow them, but there was one recurring image that I locked on.
Thea. He had seen her. He had found her. And… he was running away from her?
Brady? What the hell happened? I thought forcefully, finally slowing the onslaught of his memories that was streaming into my brain.
Hell, Jake, I didn't want to leave her, I swear. But somehow she alpha order me, I didn't have a choice–
Brady, turn around, and show me where she is! Panic made my voice harsh as I cut through his rant, and I saw through his mind as he skidded to a stop, heading back towards her. I barely even registered what he'd mentioned about alpha orders; I couldn't focus on anything except for finding her.
He's had her in an underground cave the whole time, Jake. The imprint had it right all along, because she's right under that spot you've been stalking for hours. That's why we couldn't find her.
Underground. She had been under ground. Right underneath me, just metres away; and I hadn't noticed. Fury and guilt raged through me at the knowledge, and I increased my pace through the trees, all but flying as I threw myself towards her. Because as much as he tried, Brady couldn't hold back all of his memories; and the images of Thea that slipped through were like daggers to the heart.
Thea, sprawled on the floor, unconscious.
Thea, crying out at just a simple touch.
Thea, her arms and back coated with blood.
But worst of all was the last sound Brady had heard as he raced from the cave; Thea's piercing scream. A scream that had had rung through the cave, echoing and rebounding off the solid rock walls.
A scream that I could not, would not ever, get out of my mind.
With every flash of memory I felt my rage increase. It had grown to such incredible strength that I could myself trembling with it, the pressure of the fury making me feel like I would explode. An almost constant growl was rumbling from within me, my teeth snapping with anger. My vision had long since morphed into nothing but a red haze, all my chaotic thoughts condensing into just two all-important points.