I groaned as I peeled my eyes open, my vision blurry. After a moment, my eyes adjusted, and I looked around to take in my surroundings.
Or at least, I tried to. My head felt too heavy to move, and my body felt like it was weighed down with bricks. I closed my eyes, allowing my other senses to tell me what I needed to know.
I smelled fire from a fireplace, slightly old furniture with a fine layer of dust on them. I could feel a soft current in the air, telling me that I was in a large room. Or a loft, like the one in the Belmonts’ cabin. I felt the sheets under and around me, and I realized I was propped up. I inhaled again, allowing the scent of campfire smoke, pine, and mountain air to fill me up.
“Riley,” Kai whispered.
I opened my eyes again, mustering up enough strength to turn my head just enough to see Kai. he was perched on the edge of a chair by the bed I was laying in, both of his hands tightly clasping my own. He looked exhausted, his skin sallow and pale, with bags under his eyes. His hair had grown, falling over his eyes limply.
“Where am I?” I croaked.
He grinned. “Belmont’s cabin,” he said. “It was the closest place that we could go to where you’d be safe.”
I opened my mouth and tried to say something, but my throat was too dry. He reached over to grab a glass of water from the bedside table, then leaned over to press the cup to my lips.
“Easy,” he murmured as I started sucking in as much water as I could. I was so thirsty… “We don’t want you trying to inhale the water and end up choking.”
Once the water was gone, I gasped for breath and leaned back against the pillows. I rolled my head over to look at him. “What happened?”
He bit his lip and said, “Jeremiah and Ariana. They took you, and then they tortured you…” His body started to tremble with rage, and I think the only thing keeping him from shifting was the tight grip he had on my hand.
I vaguely remembered being tied to a chair, with ropes soaked in wolfsbane encircling my wrists. I raised my other hand, nearly sobbing when I saw the wounds there, along with an IV tube and needle stuck in my arm. I had a flashing image of watching Ariana shove her hand into my chest, and I reached down to pull the blanket off my chest.
I stared with wide eyes at the bandages wrapped around my chest and torso. Blood had seeped through the bandages around my chest, and I dimly felt my heart beating, with just a hint of a stutter between beats.
Suddenly, I was flooded with images. Jeremiah and Ariana torturing me, Kai and Nadia barging into the room all of a sudden, the two of them fighting the werewolves… When I saw that Jeremiah was about to overpower Kai, I managed to break free from the ropes and killed him.
I groaned and shut my eyes against the memory, turning my head away from Kai. He gently rested a hand against my cheek, turning my face back to him.
“Riley,” he murmured in a fierce voice. “There’s nothing to be ashamed of. You killed Jeremiah, and the other Guardians are rehabilitating two-thirds of the pack.” He smiled. “We saved a lot of them.”
I nodded. “What about Ariana and the others?” I asked.
He sighed. “They ran,” he said. “As soon as you killed Jeremiah, Ariana shifted and booked it, taking as many wolves as she could with her. There’s probably only seven in her pack, but they’re insane.”
I nodded. “What about Koda’s friend?” I asked suddenly. “Did we save her, too?”
He smiled and nodded. “Yes,” he said. “They’re both back at my place right now.”
I sighed in relief. “Good,” I said. I glanced back at the IV, furious. “Who did this?” I asked.
He chuckled. “Kate, actually,” he said. “Nadia called her, and she rushed to get here as quickly as she could. Let me tell you, your aunt is a terrifying woman, even if she is human.”
I laughed, then groaned as my chest flared up with pain. I took in several slow, deep breaths before I continued. “That wasn’t exactly how I wanted to introduce my boyfriend to my parental figure.”
Kai stilled next to me, frozen in shock. I smirked and glanced over at him, laughing softly when I saw his eyes glowing. He grinned and said, “Boyfriend?”
I shrugged. “Why not?” I asked. “You and I have kissed several times by now, you’ve fought by my side, and I guess you’re my unofficial beta. Why shouldn’t we be a thing?”
He grinned and stood, moving closer to me. He bent over and gently pressed his lips against mine, and I sighed deeply as I kissed him back. He pulled away and shut his eyes, sighing deeply as he held my hand against my chest. He looked back at me, his eyes fierce as he said, “I probably shouldn’t say this, but… I love you, Riley Black.”
I grinned, my damaged heart fluttering in my chest. “I love you too, Kai Brennan.” suddenly exhausted, I leaned back against the pillows, closing my eyes. I felt him kiss my forehead and say, “Get some rest. I’ll be here when you wake up.”
I nodded softly, and within seconds, I had fallen asleep. Instead of having nice dreams, or even a dreamless sleep, I was haunted by images of Ariana laughing maniacally, her hand buried in my chest.