Sucking in a deep breath to try and stop my shaking, I glared fiercely at Leon. 'Hand her over.' I demanded, but he just shot me a bemused look.
'Give. Her. To me.' I enunciated slowly, my voice hard as I continued staring at him. I was trying very hard not to think about the fact that Thea had fallen limp and silent after the slash, her eyes lidded and trained downwards. But even though I knew I shouldn't, should focus on saving her instead, I couldn't stop myself; the blood that was trailing down her stomach couldn't be ignored. It was fuelling a terror that was somehow, impossibly, increasing the already sky high rage within me, now so dominant and strong I knew I was just moments away from exploding.
Moments that disappeared in the blink of an eye at Leon's short reply.
'I don't think so.' He snarled. Again, I found myself lunging towards him – towards her – without even meaning to, a ferocious growl escaping me as he backed up.
'LET HER GO!' I roared, my whole body shaking violently as I fought to stay human. I could feel my control slipping though, and desperation made my next words an alpha order. 'Let. Her. Go.' I said, the power in my voice rolling over Leon in a wave. He shuddered slightly, stepping backwards, but kept Thea in his grasp.
'Your alpha tricks won't work on me; I'm not in your pack.' He said with hint of a smile, but I knew he was lying. Just then, he had felt the order; faintly, perhaps, but it was something. He was so close to Brady now; one more step would do it. And if I could catch him off guard with the order, that would make all the difference. And so I coated my voice with as much power as I could, slamming the words down on him as I moved forward.
'LET HER GO.'
This time, it wasn't a light shiver that ran through him, but a violent tremor. He wasn't stepping back, but rather stumbling, staggering under the words. As the shaking flowed through his arms, I saw his hold loosen just the slightest touch.
Brady and I moved at the same time, my fast hands pulling Thea from Leon's hold at the same time Brady's jaws sunk into him, jerking him to the ground. She whimpered at the movement, crying out softly as I pulled her close. The sound made my heart stutter, but it was worth it.
I had her back. I was finally, finally, touching her again, holding her again.
But she was hurt. I didn't know how to hold her, how to touch her, because even the slightest graze of my fingers against her skin made her cry out. She was lifeless against me, my body the only reason she wasn't crumpled on the ground.
And I didn't know what to do. Panic was setting in, because until now I had been focused on only one thing; saving her. Getting her away, getting her back. But now that I had, oh god, I couldn't think. She was hurt. She was hurt she was hurt she was hurt. And I didn't know how to stop it, how to help her, what to do, because the growling and fighting in the background was too distracting.
And then I realised what the problem was.
Him. Up until five seconds ago, all I could feel through the imprint was pain, nothing else. But now; now there was fear. Strong, powerful fear; her fear, because of him. And it needed to stop. I couldn't think, couldn't figure out how to help her, because Thea's fear was sending the wolf into a frenzy. The wolf that was thinking, thinking and panicking, because while he was alive, Thea wasn't safe. He needed to die, to die now.
Only then would she be mine, and mine alone.
And so though it killed me to do it, I ever so gently lowered Thea to the ground; before, in a roaring rush, I blasted apart, and threw myself into the fight.
I felt his words roll over me, the power yanking me back to consciousness and making me tremble. I didn't hear what he was asking, what he was saying, but I heard his voice; and then suddenly, he was there.
There was a moment of nothingness, a moment where Leon's hands were gone and I felt as if I would fall. But then Jake was there, Jake was catching me, pulling me close. And it hurt, his hands on my scars hurt. I couldn't hold back a cry, but I didn't want him to stop. The pain didn't matter; he couldn't leave again. Not now that he was here, sparking strength and life back into me just by touching me. No, he couldn't leave. Not again. Never again. Not with Leon roaring in the background, fighting with someone I couldn't see.
Leon. I shivered at the thought of him, fear rising up fast and strong.
He was still here. He was still here, still alive, and that terrified me, terror that could only be controlled by Jake's touch.
Jake's disappearing touch.
He couldn't go. He couldn't go he couldn't go he couldn't go. I would crumple if he left, I would lose the energy he'd given me, I would fall apart.
But it was too late; he was gone.
No. no no no.
I wanted to call for him. I wanted to yell at him to come back, to please, please, come back, but I couldn't. The loss was too staggering, too crippling.
He had left me.
Why? Why would he leave? How could he, how could he go? Didn't he know how much I needed him? And when Leon was just–
Oh. Realisation struck.
Of course. Of course he knew how much I needed him. But he also knew what I was feeling; there was no doubt that he could feel my fear, my pain, and he was so angry in response it was like the imprint had burst into flame. And that was why he had left; because Jake knew that right now I needed Leon dead just as much I needed him.
And he felt the exact same way.
He was going to kill Leon. He could be killing him right now. And while that should and did flood me with relief, another emotion flowed in too; anger.
He had done this. Leon had done this to me. He had hurt me, tortured me, killed Cass; and I hated him for it.
Eight times. He had kidnapped me, tried to kill me, had hurt me, eight times.
Never again. It would never happen again, Jake would make sure of it. I had no doubt that he would beat him. But Jake was going to kill him; without me.
No. No, he couldn't.
I hadn't spent the last entire day being tortured to let someone else get back at him for it; not even Jake.
Strength I hadn't known I had rose up, small but there as anger and need rushed through me. My eyes flew open, darting and racing around me as I tried to figure out what was going on. Despite my new energy, my brain was still a confused whirlwind, and even though I could see the trees and bushes around me, I couldn't make any sense of them. I could still hear the growls and snarls of the fight, which meant they had to be here somewhere, but I couldn't see where–
There. Almost out of my sight, they were battling, moving too fast for my dazed eyes to follow. I couldn't make out who was who, who was winning, or anything really; all I could see was the blur of russet that seemed to far outsize everything else.
Jake, who was killing Leon.
Remembrance struck, and once again my eyes roamed the trees, trying to figure out where we were. If I could do that, I wouldn't be so confused, and then maybe I'd stand a chance against him, but only if I found out where I was. I had lived here for years; if I looked hard enough, I could figure it out. We couldn't have gone far from the cave he'd been hiding me in–
For a moment, I was stunned, frozen on the ground. And then, in a rush, I was moving. I bit down hard on my lip to keep in a cry as pain tore through me, my whole body protesting the motion as I scrambled on to my knees, crawling across the ground. It didn't matter that it hurt, this was more important.
I had just had the most perfect idea.
The cave. It had had only been when he was dragging me out of the darkness and into the forest that I'd realised where he'd hidden me. But I hadn't realised, hadn't understood, quite which cave it was, until now.
Because I had been there before. Decades ago I had been in it, shown it by father; along with a second, secret cave, just metres next to it. And it was the second cave I was heading for, pulling myself, forcing myself across the ground towards it. My progress was agonising and slow, and almost impossible with my broken right arm, but too important to stop.
Because it was in the second cave that the sword Leon had so desperately wanted was hidden.
For years and years it had been concealed, kept secret, along with so many other important tribal relics and books. And despite Leon's efforts, it had stayed that way; stayed hidden.
If only he had known that what he was looking for was less than 10 metres away.
And now, I was going to go and get it; I was going to get the sword.
I knew I couldn't fight like this; I couldn't walk, I could barely move. I certainly couldn't help Jake kill him. But with the sword, one tiny touch was all I needed. And then, the venom would do the rest.
I just had to get the sword.
But even that small task was beginning to seem like too much.