Mage's Fire

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Twenty-One: Riley

“Come on, Kai, stay with me… Kai!”

He jerked in the passenger seat of the car, his eyes going wide for a moment. Then he groaned as he clutched his side, slumping further in the seat. I pressed harder on the gas, my knuckles tightening around the leather of the steering wheel, the skin white and speckled with Kai’s black and red blood.

After chasing the wolf off and shifting back into human form, I dug around for Kai’s shredded pants, searching for the keys. After pressing shredded bits of clothing onto his wounds, I struggled underneath his weight as we headed back to the car. I grabbed our clothes from the back seat, and once I had both of us dressed, I struggled to get him into the car. Once he was buckled and secure in his seat, I climbed in behind the wheel and took off.

“You have to tell me what to do,” I said, glancing over every few seconds to make sure he didn’t pass out on me. “You’re the expert werewolf here, and I’ve never seen anything like this before… Kai.”

He gasped as I woke him again. “Shelter,” he said. “Somewhere safe… and we need a first aid kit.” He groaned again, drawing his knees up to his chest.

The Belmont’s cabin, I thought. I sped down the mountain, my heart racing twice as fast. I looked over at him and said, “What’s happening?”

“When werewolves go mad, they can become rabid. This werewolf was young, and likely doesn’t know how to control himself…” he moaned as a wave of pain passed through him. He hissed out through gritted teeth, “When that happens, the rabid wolf can become, in lack of a better term, venomous. If not treated properly, the wounds can kill us…”

No, I thought furiously. He wasn’t going to die today… I wouldn’t let him.

I quickly turned when we reached the dirt road leading to the cabin, nearly drifting as my tires met a dirt road. The car bounced and rocked along the uneven ground, causing Kai to hiss and grit his teeth with every movement.

When we stopped in front of the cabin, I didn’t even bother to park properly. I hurried around to Kai’s side, throwing the door open and unbuckling his seat belt. When he swung his feet out and stood, he started to collapse. I quickly stopped him, catching him underneath the arms. I threw his arm over my shoulders, my knees buckling under the weight.

We struggled to the front door, and when I opened it, he nearly collapsed again, his eyes rolling into the back of his head. “No, no, no,” I murmured. “No, Kai, stay with me. Don’t you die on me, you hear? Kai!”

He didn’t respond. I cursed and hurried through the cabin. I was losing him fast, and I was terrified of what might happen if I was just a second too slow.

When we reached the couch, I nearly dropped him on top of it. Kai’s breathing was shallow and raspy, with sweat pouring down his face. His clothes were soaked with it, and his skin was sallow and pale. If it wasn’t for the small movements his chest made as he breathed, I would have thought he was dead.

First aid kit. I hurried to the hall closet, where I knew Sheriff Belmont had his supplies stored. I grabbed clean bandages, sheets, and the entire first aid kit, then I hurried back to the couch. Using the scissors in the kit, I cut Kai’s shirt off of him, pulling the fabric away. I grabbed the bottle of peroxide, my hands shaking violently.

I forced myself to stop and take several deep breaths. Breathe, I thought. I’d be of no use to him if I was a freaking mess.

Once I had calmed myself down enough, I went to work. I was still shaking, but it wasn’t nearly as bad. I opened the bottle of peroxide, pouring it onto a shredded piece of a bedsheet. I pressed the fabric to the wound in his side, and Kai screamed in pain. I kept the bandage pressed against his side while holding tightly onto his shoulder to keep him from moving.

“I’m sorry,” I sobbed. “I’m so sorry, I know this hurts, but you need to stay still…”

I removed the cloth. It was black with blood, but when I looked at the wound again, the fresh blood oozing from it was red. Sobbing with relief, I repeated the process. This time, I kept the bandages pressed against his side, adding more cloth soaked in peroxide until blood didn’t seep through anymore.

I moved on to the bite on his neck. This one was worse, and I ended up laying halfway on top of him to keep him from writhing in pain.

“I know it hurts,” I said, still sobbing. “But it’s almost over…”

Once the blood was red again, I added layers of bandages until blood no longer seeped through. Sighing in relief, I turned and slumped against the couch, using Kai’s thigh as a pillow. Within moments, I had fallen asleep.

When I woke up, it was starting to get dark outside. Something tugged gently on my hair, and when I looked up, I saw that it was Kai. He had taken the end of my braid and was playing with it, running his fingers over the ends. When he caught me looking, he smiled weakly and said, “Hey.”

“Hey,” I murmured. “You’re okay?”

He nodded. “I am now,” he said. He chuckled and said, “I’m glad I brought you with me. I may have been dead if I didn’t.”

His color had returned, as well as the light in his glowing eyes. My chest ached at the sight, but it was a good ache. I was so happy and relieved that he was okay, I didn’t realize what I was doing until I was doing it.

I rose to my knees, turning to face him. I placed a hand on his cheek, and his breathing hitched at my touch. I leaned over him and pressed my lips to his.

He didn’t kiss back at first. He was too shocked. Then he slid his fingers up into my hair, holding me closer. I sighed into him, my other hand drifting to his neck. My chest opened up, and he filled every space of me that I never realized was empty.

We didn’t stop until he pulled away, hissing in pain. I tried to pull back, but he held on, pressing my forehead to his. We were both gasping for breath, and when I looked at him, I wasn’t surprised to find his eyes were glowing brighter. I had no doubt mine were as well.

He grinned and said, “I’ve wanted to do that since I met you.”

I laughed. “Oh? What stopped you?”

He laughed and said, “Well, to be honest, I was afraid.”

I tilted my head, confused. “What do you mean?” Him, afraid? What did he have to be afraid of? He was a powerful Guardian. He had so much power, I was afraid sometimes. Not that he’d ever hurt me, I don’t think he was capable of intentionally doing that. I was afraid of how the power he had was a bridge between us.

“I kind of don’t want to tell,” he said.

I rolled my eyes. “Just tell me,” I snapped, my tone light and joking.

He laughed again. “Okay,” he said. “I never kissed you first because I was afraid you’d rip my face off.”

I just stared at him for a moment, completely shocked. Then I threw my head back and laughed. Honestly, if he had ever tried to kiss me before now, I probably would have. I never thought I’d be the one to kiss the guy first. I had always imagined going out on a romantic date, then the guy would hold onto me and kiss me first. Instead, I fought with him against a rabid, rogue werewolf, and then I kissed him after patching him up.

I blinked. Wow, I thought. I had just had my first kiss… I took a moment to process the thought. The last thing I had ever intended on doing was finding someone to trust like that, to trust and give in a soul-crushing way. I had been so focused on making it through junior year alive, and now here I was swapping spit with a powerful, mighty werewolf.

I was scared. That bridge between us didn’t separate us now. Instead, it seemed to connect us, holding us together. He was an arrogant ass sometimes, and I felt that he might joke around more often than he should, but when I thought about it, maybe that was a good thing. I was so serious now. Maybe I needed an arrogant, joking ass like Kai to help keep me fresh, to keep my soul from crushing under the weight it was under.

“How long until you heal?” I asked.

“An hour, two at the most,” he said. “I’ve already started to heal.”

“Good,” I said. I didn’t like him being hurt. If a rabid werewolf could hurt Kai, I was afraid to think of what it could do to the rest of us.

“Hey, Kai?”

“Hmm?” Kai had captured the end of my braid again, brushing it over his face. He held it over the tip of his nose, playing with it. The action reminded me of a bored kid trying to find some sort of entertainment.

“What causes a werewolf to turn rabid?” I asked.

He released my braid, resting his hand on his chest. “While werewolves love to be in wolf form, we can’t stay like that for too long.”

“Why not?” I asked, interrupting him.

“It’s all about balance,” he said. “If we’re human for too long, we grow miserable as we long for the wolf. If we’re a wolf for too long, then we start to lose ourselves.”

I straightened. “That explains it,” I murmured. I thought back to the first time I had seen Dominic, how he moved like a wolf, how he sounded like he hadn’t spoken in years.

He frowned. “Explains what?” he asked. I told him about the day Dominic came into the Hideout searching for us, how he looked ready to leap on anyone that moved.

Kai nodded when I finished. “He’d been a wolf too long,” he said. “And so are these guys. He was their first alpha, and traits of an alpha’s personality bleed out to the rest of the pack. His madness was contagious, which is why the entire pack is insane.” He frowned as he thought for a moment, then he said, “That wolf that attacked us… I think he might be younger than us.”

I frowned. “Why do you think that?”

“None of the others were rabid like he was,” he said. “The younger the werewolf, the more susceptible to their alpha’s call. He likely was the one that attacked the couple in the woods.”

I wanted to feel angry, but the only emotion I felt right then was sadness. I thought of a young, brand new teenager, someone who didn’t know what was going to happen when a wolf attacked and bit him. It broke my heart to think of the life he once had, how it was ruined because of one bite. Dominic gave my town two months of hell, but at least I had grown to be someone better because of the bite.

I rubbed my shoulder as I thought back to that night. Dominic’s fangs had buried deep into my skin, and the bite was the only scar I had, despite nearly dying as we fought to kill each other.

“Is that where you were bitten?” Kai asked.

I nodded. “It’s my only scar,” I said. “Why’s that?”

“It’s the last wound you had when you were human,” he said. “It’s going to stay with you forever, unfortunately.”

“Do we scar?” I asked.

He nodded. “Only if it’s a life-threatening wound,” he said. “Or if it’s something else. I know a Guardian who has a scar from magefire.”

I nodded, my head spinning. I sighed and stood, stretching my sore muscles. “We need to get back,” I said. “It’s getting late, and I need to tell the others what happened. Are you good to move?”

He nodded. “I should be fine,” he said. He slowly pushed himself up to a sitting position, his face twisted in a grimace. I whined softly, causing him to laugh.

“I’m fine,” he said. “Really.” To prove it, he rose to his feet. He swayed and my hands lashed out to catch him, holding onto his bare waist. He grinned cheekily. “Can’t keep your hands off of me, huh?”

I blushed and snapped my hands back, shoving them into my pockets. “I did feel bad for you,” I said. “But now you have to suffer and be cold while you go without a shirt or jacket.”

He laughed. “I don’t feel cold,” he said. “Especially when I’m with you.”

I blushed again while I rolled my eyes. “Let’s just go,” I said.

“After you,” he said, gesturing to the front door. “Silver Wolf.”

I laughed and made my way to the front door, Kai close at my back.

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