Mage's Fire

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Thirty: Nadia

I wrung my hands together nervously in my lap, waiting for Kate’s reaction. If I was any other normal teen, I’d worry that she would start hating me again, or start blaming me for what happened. I wouldn’t blame her. I felt like it was my fault that she had been captured. If I had pushed more, made Riley take me with her and the others, then maybe I would have been able to save her…

Instead, Kate looked up at me with tears in her eyes. We were sitting in her kitchen, the only thing between us being the table. She took a shuddering breath and said, “What now?’

I shrugged. “Dad and some of the deputies are getting together to look for her,” I said. “Kai and the others have gone out into the woods to search for her. Jack’s at his place, getting his parents and sister so they can go look for her, too.” If the wolves couldn’t catch any scent, which they couldn’t after Riley was taken, then the hunters could track her.

Kate nodded. She took a shuddering breath and said, “Okay, let’s get going.”

I jumped to my feet as she stood, a determined expression on her face. “Wait, what?” I stammered.

I stepped in front of her, blocking her way as she tried to leave the kitchen. She cast a dark look in my direction and said, “Nadia, get out of the way.”

I shook my head. “No,” I said, my voice firm. “No, you can’t go out there.”

She crossed her arms over her chest. “Excuse me?” She asked, her voice low and dangerous.

I cleared my throat. “Kate, there’s an entire pack, a huge pack, of rogue werewolves, some of them possibly rabid. They’ll shred you apart, and if you get bitten, then that’s it.”

She narrowed her eyes further. “Your point?” she growled.

I sighed. “My point,” I said, “is that if you’re bitten, you’ll die.”

Kate frowned. “Riley didn’t die,” she said.

“That was a one in a million chance,” I said.

“Drew didn’t die, either,” she said, a smug look crossing her face.

I narrowed my eyes. “Okay, two in a million.”

She fixed me with an intense stare and said, “You didn’t die. And you’re still human.”

I took a step back, my head jerking back as if I had been slapped. “I’m a mage,” I said, hoping to regain the upper hand. I still had nightmares about that night, about how weak and powerless I had felt. Even if the universe took pity on Kate in the event she was bitten, I didn’t think she could handle to nightmares, the self-doubt and low self-esteem that comes in the aftermath.

She smirked. “I spend time with your grandmother, Nadia,” she said. “Mages are just as susceptible to the bite as mortals are.”

I sighed. “I don’t know what happened to me,” I said. “But it’s not likely to happen again. I sincerely doubt it.”

She sighed. “Look, Nadia,” she said. “Riley’s my niece. She’s the only family I’ve got left. If I don’t go out there and do something, I’ll lose my mind.”

“And if you do go out there and do something,” I said, “then you’ll lose your life. Please tell me that you understand what I’m saying.”

She nodded. “I do,” she said. “And I don’t care.”

I shrieked in frustration, slamming my fists into my thighs. Small streams of fire trailed after my hands, heating up the room for a brief instant before disappearing again. I fixed Kate with a harsh look and decided to deal my final card, the lowest blow I could think of.

“How do you think Riley would feel if she found out that you went out there, knowing that you’d die?” I demanded. “She lost her parents less than a year ago, and you’re the only family she’s got left, too.”

Kate blinked and took a step back, a shocked expression crossing her face. “That was harsh,” she whispered.

I shrugged. “It’s the truth.”

She narrowed her eyes. “If you don’t want me out there, then why did you come here and tell me that she’s been captured?” As she spoke, she waved her arms wildly, as if to emphasize her point in how crazy this all seemed.

I sighed. “Because she promised to keep you in the loop about everything,” I said. “I’m keeping her promise for her.”

Kate sighed and sank heavily back down into her chair. “What do I do, then?” she asked.

I crouched beside her, resting a comforting hand on her shoulder. When I looked at her aura, I was unsurprised to see that it was a tangle of colors and emotions. “It’s going to be hard,” I said, “but you need to wait here. If Riley manages to escape and get here on her own, she’s going to need you there for her.”

I didn’t tell her about how she might be traumatized. Jeremiah had been running and fighting his way to get here for almost six months now, just to get to Riley. Now that he had her… I shuddered at the thought of what he might be doing to her.

Kate nodded. “Okay,” she said. “Make sure you keep me in the loop, okay? Please?”

I smiled and gave Kate a brief hug. “Of course,” I said. I stood and said, “I’ll be back later, okay?”

She nodded. After giving her one last look, I turned and left the kitchen.

Kai was pacing back and forth along the forest floor, his nose stuck to the ground as he tried to search for any signs of Riley. I leaned against a tree with Sierra, who was in human form. I glanced over at her and said, “Can’t you guys use the wolf’s eye or something?”

She shook her head. “No,” she said. “We tried. Every time we try to follow the connection to her, it’s abruptly cut off.”

I frowned. “That sucks,” I growled, turning away to glare into the forest.

She nodded. “Yeah, it does,” she said. We continued to watch Kai and the others search the woods for any sign of Riley when Sierra cleared her throat and looked over at me. “Nadia?” she asked.

“Hmm?” I peeked at her from the corner of my eye, my heart starting to race in my chest.

“I know it’s probably not the best time to ask,” she said. “But, if I don’t ask, I might regret it forever. If we find Riley, and if we manage to survive through this… would you be interested in going on a date with me?”

I laughed softly and turned my head to look at her. “When we find Riley, and when we survive through this, I’d love to go on a date with you.”

She grinned. She opened her mouth to say something, but just then Kai snarled in frustration and swiped his huge paw at a nearby small tree truck, knocking the tree to the ground. He raised his head and howled, and a second later, the other wolves all joined in.

Sierra’s head suddenly snapped around to the north, her eyes glowing softly. One by one, the other wolves fell silent and looked to the north as well. I had to strain my ears to listen, but after a moment, I heard it: Riley’s howl, full of pain and anger.

The other wolves howled in response, then took off. Sierra and I followed after them, sprinting through the woods and barely dodging trees. Within seconds, my legs burned from trying to keep up with the wolves’ relentless pace, but I refused to let myself fall behind.

I don’t know how long we ran through the forest for, but eventually, we came upon a wide clearing with a small, abandoned wooden hut set in the center. Wolves surrounded the hut, scattered around the clearing. We stopped at the top of the hill leading down into the clearing, meeting the gazes of the wolves down below. Sierra snarled and shifted into wolf form, her clothes shredding as she grew too big for them.

Riley’s scream echoed from the inside of the hut, and Kai howled in rage. He charged forward, followed closely by the others. I summoned fire to my hands, grinning wickedly as I followed them.

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