The Rise

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Chapter Sixteen

“And this woman had a green aura around her?” Valerio crossed his arms over his chest.

Aaisha swatted him in the back of the head, making him flinch. “How could you be talkin’ bout this woman? Did you not hear Mae say she was gon fuck her dad?” Aaisha flicked her yellow gel nails. “Talk about a daddy kink.”

I sunk down in the chair at the head of the table and ran my hands through my hair. “Aaisha, you aren’t helping.”

Once I had calmed down a bit from the new information that I received in my most recent vision, I called for an immediate meeting with everyone who I trusted. When I entered my office, everyone had been chatting quietly among themselves. But, as soon as I mentioned Aeron, the room fell silent.

I didn’t feel judged by them, but I was definitely judging myself.

Aeron was my dad. My Dad. The man who flirted with me nonstop – the man who I flirted with nonstop – was my father. The worst part of this whole situation was that he knew it. I felt like I needed to shower for months to get his disgusting touch off of me, but I knew that I would never erase the feeling of his fingers against me. It was burned into my memory and was ready to haunt me forever.

Nakida walked over to me, avoiding Valerio as she did, and placed a hand on my back, rubbing it gently.

Ayodele scribbled something down on a piece of paper across from me, then looked up. “Green aura with a bow?” He stared at the ceiling for a moment. “A hunter?” Suddenly, he jumped up and jogged toward the map we had drawn weeks ago of the Orion constellation, the constellation on Aeron’s neck.

His finger outlined it, slowly tracing every single point and every single star. “This is the Orion constellation, correct?” After I nodded, he smiled. “This constellation means Hunter, Strong Hunter.”

“So?” Valerio said. “We already know that Aeron is working with this woman. Of course, he would devote a whole constellation to her.”

I gnawed on the inside of my cheek. Yes, Aeron was working with this Hunter. But had that always been the case? In my vision he seemed to protect my mother. If he wanted to get rid of her, he had every opportunity to do so. The divine was ready to kill her.

I shook away the thought. The past didn’t matter anymore. He was working with her now, and we needed to get rid of both of them. “I think this constellation is key, but I’m not sure how we will make any progress trying to find them with it. We need to think about why. Why are they hunting us?”

“Predator and prey,” Nakida said.

“You either kill or get killed in the wild.”

“Basic survival,” I whispered. My eyes widened. “Do you think that this Divine and Aeron are doing this to survive?”

“Unless they have another motive that we don’t know about, that seems like it’s the most logical reason,” Ayodele said.

Samuel stood and walked over to the white-board. “Mae, tell us everything you know about her, from your mother’s journals to what you learned while the pup drainings were happening.”

I grabbed my mother’s journal from my desk and fingered through it, trying to remember what I’d read about her. When I came to the page that listed the names of people who tried to kill my mother throughout the years, I stopped.

There will always be someone new trying to kill you. If you stopped one person, the next would be waiting for you to slip up.

But why were these people - both friends and enemies - trying to kill her? If they really wanted to get rid of her, I would think that they’d try to kill her all at once, not take turns. Unless… they weren’t waiting for them to slip up. What if they all essentially embodied the same person - the Hunter?

“This Divine is using Luca’s body,” I said.

Valerio raised a brow. “I thought that was a bit apparent seeing that he killed our own.”

“No.” I stood and shook my head. It all made sense, finally. Luca was the wolf I had been seeing outside, it just wasn’t really him. Maybe a part of him was left, but those eyes were the same green eyes I saw in my vision. “She is Luca.”

Luca was dead. His soul, as far as we knew, was gone. If I could transfer souls into new bodies, she could possibly inhabit a soulless body. And when her body was destroyed, she just found a new one. She survives off of the bodies of wolves.

I yanked out my drawers, scrummaging through papers and trying to find anything about the people who had died just before Luca did.

“Do you think she jumps from body to body?” Valerio asked, picking up my mess.

After a curt nod, I stopped searching. I could barely think for myself at the moment. I was stunned with the information I had learned in the past four hours. I knew the records were somewhere, but it could take hours to find them. “Who died right before Luca?”

Nakida furrowed her brows. “Damon killed Alexandra…” She shook her head. “But that was a while before.”

I crumpled the piece of paper in my hand and clenched my jaw. “Alexandra.”

Valerio grimaced. “Mae, a soul can’t last that long without a body. You saw Luca’s soul. It was mere seconds before it departed.”

I shook my head. “You’re right. A werewolf’s soul can’t survive that long, but she’s a goddess.”

Ayodele interrupted us. “I believe it. A divine has enough power to survive for a lot longer.” He turned to me. “A week, maybe more.”

“So, we think that at one point Alexandra’s body was soulless and this Hunter resided in it until her body was destroyed?” Nakida asked.

“Possibly,” Ayodele said. “Did Alexandra’s soul rise when Damon killed her?”

I shook my head. “No. No, I don’t think so. I didn’t stay that long.”

Valerio gently took the paper from my hand, making my fist relax slightly. “Did Alexandra ever died before Damon killed her?” Valerio asked Samuel. “That’s the only way should could be soulless, right?”

Samuel thought for a moment. “No, she never died before then.”

“Was she ever in really bad shape, medically, nutritiously, physically?” I asked.

Samuel shrugged, awkwardly. “You know how it was when we were younger. Our whole pack was in bad shape with Damon’s father as our alpha.” He took a deep breath like he was reliving bad memories. “But, when we were younger, Alexandra, if I’m remembering correctly, her immune system was never good. She would get sick very easily. There was one time she was really sick. We kept asking Damon’s father to get her medication, but he refused. So, Damon stole some from somewhere and brought them to the hospital.

“When we got there, her mother was crying in front of her blocked door. We left the medicine with her, but she told us it wouldn’t help now. We didn’t know what she meant at the time.” He paused for a moment. “Then, when we saw her back at school, it was like everything was better. She was better than she ever had been and never had any more immune system problems.”

“Would this Hunter inhabit the body of a child?” Valerio asked. “It seems counterproductive to me, especially if she is trying to kill you – which still doesn’t make much sense.”

I waved my hand in his direction. “We can worry about that later. How old was she when this happened, Samuel?”

“Uhh… 13 or 14, I think. She could have been younger.”

I pressed my lips together. 13 or 14. She could’ve used this time to plan, to become stronger so she could finally try to successfully kill me. But why? She was hopping from body to body just to survive. And, in each body, her goal was to kill me for some reason.

“Breath, Mae,” Valerio mindlinked me. He placed a hand on my shoulder, immediately making me relax.

This was one giant mess, and it was about to get a whole lot messier. This Hunter was now using the body of my best friend and I needed to stop her for once and for all.

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