Mage's Fire

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Seventeen: Riley

I was furious.

Donovan has been tormenting and harassing me—my pack!—for five months. He’s lied to me, manipulated me, and now, now, he wanted to make peace? All because his fucking brother’s pack was in town looking for redemption? I knew this would go south in the end. I knew he’d turn on me, just as he did back in October.

When the time came, I was going to be ready.

I leaned back in my seat, my left knee bouncing furiously as we waited for Donovan and his wolves to show up. Kai sat on my left, Nadia on my right. Drew sat next to Nadia, and Eddie next to Kai. The other Guardians had gone to patrol our territory. After the encounter with the rogue pack last night, we had agreed to combine both of our territories. Whenever we ran patrols now, it would be together.

I glanced at the time on my phone. 3:29. The bouncing increased, nearly moving the table with the force of it. Last time, Donovan had been here first, having chosen a smaller table with the wolves he brought with him spread out. This time, I was here. I had snagged the longest table in the Hideout, set off to the side of the room, far away from the door. I had my back to the wall, with the door and giant window in my direct line of sight. I refused to let him have the upper hand here.

Underneath the table, I felt Kai place his hand gently on my knee. The small touch seemed to do what he intended, and the bouncing stopped. I exhaled slowly. I wasn’t calmed down, not in the slightest. But Kai’s presence there, right by my side… It felt right. I felt more prepared to handle what was coming.

Right as the time on my phone turned to three-thirty, Donovan walked through the door. He was trailed by his children, Simon and Sierra, as well as three of his wolves that I still had no names to put to. Catching sight of me and my pack, he approached the table, an amused smile on his face. He looked like his children, with the same blue-and-gold eyes. The only difference between them was the hair. While the twins had golden blonde hair, his was a dark chestnut brown.

“How the roles have reversed,” he said as he lowered himself into the seat across from me. Simon sat in front of Kai, while Sierra lowered herself into the seat across from Nadia. I didn’t like how we were outnumbered by one, but I figured that if things got hairy, I had a mage and a Guardian on my side. Literally.

“Except, like last time, you’re the one who called for a meeting.”

He nodded. “That I did,” he said. “But at the moment, you have the upper hand. A Guardian and a mage, as well as inside knowledge.”

Nadia frowned. “How’d you know I’m a mage?”

He grinned at her. “Sweet girl,” he said. “I know a lot of things.” He turned back to me and said, “So. How do you want to go about this?”

“For starters,” I said, reaching into my backpack to grab my notebook. I flipped it to a blank sheet and clicked my pen, giving him a hard stare. “I want the old terms of our previous treaty back in standing. We don’t cross each other’s territory, ever, unless we’ve happened to chase one of the pack members there.”

He nodded. “Agreed,” he said simply. I scribbled it out, detailing the exact terms. I didn’t want him to read through it and search for any loopholes he could get out of. After I had written it out, I looked back up and said, “And when this is over, there is no backing out. No broken promises like before, regardless of how it’ll reflect on your pack. I don’t give a rat’s ass about that. This is my life, my friend’s lives, that you’re destroying right now, and I’m sure that’ll reflect more poorly on you than it would if anything else happened.”

He nodded. “Very well,” he said. He grinned as I wrote it down, saying, “To make things a little easier for both of us, I’ll even let you borrow three members of my pack.”

I paused in mid-stroke. “Why?” I demanded. He hadn’t offered the same courtesy to me before, so why now?”

He shrugged. “Before, we were dealing with one rogue werewolf. Now, it’s an entire pack. That’s more bodies to hunt for, and more ground to cover. With your wolves, the Guardians, and a few of my own, that should help even out the playing field.”

“And who are you going to just give to me?” I asked.

He gestured to the twins on his right and left. “My children,” he said. “As well as Ethan Douglas. They’re skilled fighters, and excellent hunters.”

I looked to my pack for guidance. Drew and Eddie had their faces pinched, as if they were smelling something horrible. Nadia’s face was screwed up in both disgust and curiosity. When I looked at Kai, he met my eyes with grim determination. He nodded, so I faced Donovan again. “Very well,” I said, then I scribbled the notes down on paper.

We spent the better part of half an hour planning, rewriting, and revising the new treaty. Once we had reached a point that we could all agree on, I wrote a second copy. Donovan and I both signed, as well as each pack member we brought with us.

Kai was the last one to sign. As he handed Donovan’s copy back to him, I had the sudden feeling that he was about to do something. I wasn’t surprised when, after Donovan had taken his copy of the treaty, Kai’s hand flashed out and grabbed his wrist. Donovan tried to pull away, but Kai was stronger. He leaned across the table, eyes glowing as he said, “Do you swear on the moon, your life, and your pack that you will uphold your end of the treaty?”

Donovan’s eyes blazed with rage. Sierra gasped softly and looked at her father. Donovan snarled, “I swear on the moon, my life, and my pack that I will keep the peace detailed within the treaty.”

“Good,” Kai murmured. He applied pressure to Donovan’s wrist until it cracked. Only then did he release the alpha. As Donovan brought his broken wrist to his chest, Kai leaned back lazily in his chair and said, “If you so much as think about breaking the treaty, the entire rage of the Guardians will be on you. I will personally lead them into battle against your pack.”

Fear flashed through Donovan’s eyes just then and his face paled. He gulped and nodded to his pack members. They rose and, without giving any of us another look, he turned and left the Hideout.

“What was that about?” I demanded when we stepped outside. Drew and Eddie had driven off moments before, needing to get home to do homework on chores. Unlike my aunt, their parents still didn’t know what they were, so they had to keep up with appearances.

Nadia’s phone had apparently been blowing up with messages all throughout and after the meeting. After Kai assured her he would take me home, she left in a hurry.

“What?” Kai asked as we climbed into his car. I waited until we were on the road before I started drilling him.

“The whole moon, life, and pack thing,” I said. “What is that?”

“Another piece of our kind that’s been kept from you,” he said. “It’s a sacred oath to werewolves, much like warriors with their blood oaths back in the day. If it’s broken, well… let’s just say it’s not good.”

“What happens?” I asked. “Donovan looked like he’d seen a ghost.”

A grim look crossed his face as he said, “The last time an alpha broke an oath with a Guardian present, an entire army of fifty of them wiped out the entire pack, but left the alpha alive.”

I frowned. “Why?”

“For an alpha, the worst pain you can feel is the destruction of your pack. That bond you feel with the others, having them suddenly cut off… I hear it’s the worst kind of pain possible.” His expression grew distant, as if he was trying to imagine what that pain would be like.

I frowned. “Aren’t the Guardians a pack?” I asked.

He shook his head. “No,” he said. “We’re an organization, but we don’t form pack bonds. We’ll run with a pack now and then, but…” Longing crossed his face, causing strange emotions to stir in my chest. I couldn’t imagine being alone with that.

“How often are you given orders?” I asked.

He shook his head. “Not often,” he said. “We travel around the world, checking in on packs every now and then, make sure that our secret is kept. It could be minutes, or it could be years before I receive my next orders. There are too many Guardians for the work to be distributed evenly.”

I nodded. Then, surprising myself, I said, “Well… After we stop this pack, you and the others are more than welcome to run with me. If you want.”

His face brightened at the thought. He smiled over at me and said, “Thank you. I just might take you up on that offer.”

I grinned and leaned back in my seat. He and I both knew that he’d stay.

We finished the rest of the drive in silence. Before I stepped out of the car, Kai reached out and gently caught my wrist. My stomach flipped and he opened and closed his mouth several times, but no sound would come out. Finally, he growled softly to himself and said, “Be careful. I’ll see you later.”

I grinned. “I will,” I said. “You too.”

I left the car. As I was walking up to the front door, Kai rolled the window down and called out, “Oh, and by the way?”

I turned back to him. He had a mischievous smile on his face as he said, “Happy birthday.” And with that, he whooped and sped off down the street. I stared after him, completely surprised. How had I missed my birthday?

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