The Rise

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Chapter Twenty-Three

Vihaan and Nakida sat on the couch, cuddled into each other. I gazed between them, pressing my lips together. It wasn’t that I disapproved of this relationship. I honestly didn’t have any room to talk. My relationships were pretty shitty and I did have bad taste at times, but they seemed too into each other.

Nakida grabbed a grape from the bowl in front of them and popped it into Vihaan’s mouth. He smiled down at her and bopped her on the nose with his index finger.

Maybe I was just jealous. Maybe I thought it was a bit rude to have Vihaan at the packhouse when Valerio was here.

I cleared my throat. Nakida looked back at me, grabbing Vihaan’s hand and wrapping it around hers. She didn’t move away like she did when she was with Valerio. Again, it wasn’t disrespectful, it was just not the Nakida that I knew.

Vihaan nodded at me like I was a long lost friend or something. He raised his brows. “Hey, did you get a chance to read over those files that I brought you?”

“Not yet.”

“Files of what?” Nakida’s eyes glowed darkly. Her wolf probably thought there was something going on between us and was jealous.

“Files that Damon had.” Vihaan kissed her forehead, then stroked her curls. She sunk into his chest, resting her head against it.

My goodness. This was too much. Nakida being with her mate was one thing, but this was… not what I was expecting from her.

“They’re important,” he continued. “Why haven’t you looked at them yet?”

Valerio walked in behind me. “That’s none of your concern.” He gazed at Vihaan for a few moments, his face completely emotionless.

Vihaan’s brows furrowed. “You don’t think it’s important to stop the pup-nappings?” He sat up. Nakida put a hand on his chest to calm him down as she gazed between the two men.

Valerio gazed in her direction for a moment. No emotion. Then he turned back to Vihaan. “I never said I didn’t think it wasn’t important. I said that it was none of your concern.”

Nakida swallowed. I glanced between her and Vihaan who looked tense. He pressed his lips together and clenched his jaw. Nakida placed both of her hands on his shoulders, but he was unaffected. He suddenly stood, his fists clenched. “My best friend and my mate is my concern. Damon died because of the people taking those pups. Nakida is working on this with you. All I need to know is that you - and you…” He pointed to me. “...are doing something about it.”

Nakida stood and grabbed his hand, trying to get him to sit back down. He gazed at her. “I just want to keep her safe, but I can’t do that if I don’t know if Mae is doing anything about this.”

Valerio stepped forward, in front of me, his hand extended toward Vihaan. “Nakida, calm him down or I will.”

She tugged on his hand. “Vihaan, stop.”

I pressed my lips together, gazing at the men in front of me and trying to figure them out, gazing at Nakida and trying to figure her out. Where was that strong-independent woman I had known? She seemed to disappear with him.

“No!” He shook his head, but then grabbed her hands. “You’re the one that told me how devastating these deaths are. Every single time you tell me about a new Protector who’s dead by the divine’s hands, I worry so much that you will be next. I can’t not.” He turned to me, still grasping Nakida’s hands. “Why haven’t you looked through those files? Damon was a smart man, you should trust him and what he has to offer you. That’s the least you could do if you want to be a good goddess to him and to your people.”

Valerio clenched his jaw. “Disrespect Mae again,” he dared Vihaan.

My brows raised. At first, I thought this was about Nakida and Valerio’s jealousy. But it wasn’t.

“Your goddess isn’t doing her job.”

Valerio’s eyes turned black. He charged at Vihaan. Before he could make contact, I teleported between the two, placing a hand on each of their chests. I gazed at Valerio, who was now staring at me. “Valerio, stop.” His eyes shifted back to their normal color, and he took a step away.

I turned my attention back to Vihaan. “I understand your concern. I understand your heartbreak for Damon. I understand your worry for Nakida. We are doing all we can to help at the moment. When I find the time, I will look over the files.”

Nakida placed her hands on Vihaan’s cheeks and made him look at her. “Vihaan, calm down.” She softened her voice. “Please, she is doing all that she can.”

He clenched his jaw, but then turned around to face her. She smiled brightly up at him. He rested his forehead against hers. “I’m sorry.”

She relaxed, her eyes closing. Then she pulled on his hand. “Let’s go out. Cool off a bit, okay?”

He nodded his head and gazed at me. “I apologize. I’m just scared.”

Once they left, Valerio gazed at me. “Don’t let him make you feel bad. I will help you look over the files later.”

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