The Rise

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Chapter Twelve

When Valerio and I returned home, Ayodele and Nakida were waiting by the front door. The moon was reflecting off of Ayodele’s dark eyes in a way that was both breathtaking and calming. His brows laced together when he saw me. “How is everything?”

I sighed and walked into the living room, needing to sit down. Nothing wasn’t great – ever, it seemed. We couldn’t catch a damn break. So much was going on, I could barely keep up with it myself.

But I was proud that we were on some kind of trail. We found the skull, kind of figured out the riddle, and knew that the symbols this mysterious wolf kept leaving were related to the divine.

All we needed to do now was not fuck up, which – honestly – was going to be the hardest part of this because we still didn’t know where the divine, Luca, or Aeron were hiding.

Valerio collapsed next to me on the couch and rubbed his face with his hand, groaning. Nakida sat next to him and gently rubbed his knee. “We’ll figure it out. We always do.”

“Not always,” Valerio snapped. His voice sounded angry, but that anger wasn’t compatible with the dark circles and bags under his tired eyes.

Nakida raised a sharp brow at him. “Boy, don’t you talk to me with that tone.”

Valerio wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her closer. He nuzzled his nose into the crook of her neck. “Sorry, Love. I’m just tired of this. I want to find him already.”

She brushed her fingers through his hair. “I know,” she said softly.

Someone knocked on the door and Valerio looked up from his moment with Nakida and sighed. “All I ask for is one moment of peace.”

I gave him a weak half-smile. That’s all we needed at this point.

After another knock, Ayodele answered it. A familiar man’s voice sounded from behind the door and I swore I heard someone suck in a breath from next to me. Ayodele opened the door wider. “It’s for you, Moon Goddess.”

Vihaan appeared at the door with a manila envelope in his hand. I stood as he entered and raised my brows. “Already?”

He smirked. “Of course,” he said with so much confidence – or maybe it was arrogance. I couldn’t tell, but I now knew exactly where Damon got his arrogance from.

A large stack of paper was organized in the folder. I quickly shuffled through it, examining all of the names. Damn. I interacted with all of these people?

I didn’t know if I was thankful that Damon kept these tabs on me or if I was creeped out. I think that I was a bit of both.

“I just printed out everything I could find. Most of this stuff is probably irrelevant,” he said. I shuffled through the papers again, looking for a name that stuck out at me, when I heard Valerio growl.

I gazed over at him, watching him clutch Nakida closer and glare at Vihaan. Nakida gazed at Vihaan for a moment longer, her eyes hinting at an emotion I never saw her express before but one that I was all too familiar with, then she looked at Valerio and quietly scolded him.

After a few moments of Valerio trying to hold back another grow, Vihaan stepped toward the door, his eyes lingering on Nakida. “I think I should go. If you need me, you know where to find me.”

When he left, Nakida pulled Valerio off of the couch and toward the hallway. His jaw was clenched as he just stared at the front door. “Do you want to come?” Nakida asked me.

I glanced down at the envelop in my hand. “I’m going to go look through this.”

Nakida frowned. “We’re going to watch a movie. A little R&R?”

Again, I shook my head. I wanted to, but I couldn’t. It seemed like Valerio and Nakida needed to talk through something and I needed to find Aeron before he found me.

Sure, we could force an eclipse – if that would really work – but I didn’t know the consequences of messing with nature. Nature was wild, feral, poisonous. The consequences could be drastic.

With the envelop in one hand and all the strength I had left in the other, I excused myself. “Moon Goddess,” Ayodele called after me. “Can I speak to you, privately?”

“Ayodele, you don’t want to watch with us? We’re going to watch your favorite.”

Ayodele gave his sister a small smile. “Of course, I do. I will be there in a few moments.”

Once Nakida and Valerio disappeared down the hall – Nakida basically dragging Valerio away from the living room – Ayodele turned to me. “May I make a request of you?”

“Don’t force an eclipse?” I joked.

Ayodele chuckled. “Well, I don’t know what Valerio is thinking, but I wouldn’t suggest forcing anything until we figure it out. But that’s not what I wanted to ask.” He paused and waited for me to nod. “I would like to meet Ashur’s family.”

My eyes widened. “You would?”

Ashur’s mother didn’t know that I could bring Ashur’s soul back, and I wanted to keep it that way for now in case I couldn’t successfully perform the Rise of the Soul.

“Would that be possible?” he asked.

I gnawed on the inside of my cheek. “Yes… but I need time. She cannot know who you will be to her.” I didn’t want to keep it from her, but I was afraid that it’ll mess with the future. If it did and, for some strange reason, I couldn’t perform the Rise, we would all be disappointed.

He nodded his head. “Thank you.” Then, he bowed and disappeared down the hall.

“What did Ayodele want?” Valerio calmly asked through the mind-link a few moments later.

“He wants to meet Ashur’s family.”

Pause. “Nakida still doesn’t know.”

“I know.” I rested my forehead against the nearest wall.

“She loves him so much. It’s going to break her when she finds out,” he said. “I wish he’d do it soon.”

“Nakida’s a strong woman. I don’t think it’ll break her,” I said. But, truthfully, I hoped it wouldn’t break her. I didn’t know how she would react. All I knew was that I would gladly take that pain from her – losing someone close is the worst feeling.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

Another long pause. “I love Nakida.”

I took a deep breath, unsure if I should ask him if he knew about Nakida and Vihaan. I did. I knew their history. I knew that look in Nakida’s eyes too well.

“If you need me Valerio, I’ll be in my room.”

“Goodnight, Mae. Get some rest.”


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