The Rise

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Chapter Thirty-One

When we returned, Nakida was on the couch next to Vihaan. With her hand on his knee, she was rubbing it gently. “Poor thing. I can’t believe this happened.”

I gazed at her through the door and then walked in, gaze locking on Vihaan. They were too close. I didn’t like it.

Two Protectors followed Valerio and I into the room and stood near the windows. Vihaan and Nakida watched them. Nakida scratched behind her ear, shifting uncomfortably in her seat. When her eyes lifted to mine, she frowned. “Did you find it?”

I pressed my lips together. “No,” I said, gaze remaining on Vihaan. “The whole office was a mess like you said it was.”

Vihaan shook his head. “I couldn’t believe it.”

“Neither could I.” I gazed down, noticing that his arm was bandaged. “Did he do that to you?”

He gazed at his bandaged arm and nodded. “Oh, yeah.”

“You must’ve been terrified,” I said. “But you seem like a strong guy. You probably put up a fight against him.”

Vihaan nodded. “Yeah, I did.”

“There was no sign of struggle,” Valerio said.

“Of course there was,” Vihaan said. “Did you not see the table flipped? I fought him off as hard as I could.”

“You told us this morning that you found your office like that.”

Vihaan immediately stood, his eyes furious. “You think I did this?!”

I crossed my arms over my chest, done with his bullshit. How stupid did he think we were? “Sit,” I ordered. When he refused, Valerio grabbed him by the collar and dragged him out of the room.

Nakida stood up. “Vihaan!” Tears streamed down her face as she watched Valerio drag him out the door. “Did-did he really do that, Moon Goddess?” Her lips trembled, but I didn’t miss the way she was fiddling with the hem of her shirt. She was nervous.

I pressed my lips together. I hated - hated - what I did next, but I had to for the safety of this pack. I trusted Nakida to be strong and smart. She was a Protector for a reason, but that didn’t mean that she couldn’t try to outsmart me.

If she was in on this, I needed to find out. If she wasn’t, I needed to find out if he said anything to her that she blindly passed up. Was she too blind to his actions or was she too in love to care about his actions?

“Bring her to the interrogation room,” I said to the guard behind her. The guard grabbed her by her arm. She struggled against him. I gave her a sharp glare. “Don’t struggle, Nakida. It will only make you look guilty.”

We took the long way to the cells. The wind wiped extra loudly today, making Nakida’s hair fly all over the place. She was stumbling to try to keep up with the guard and with me.

I shook my head, wondering what had happened to her. If she was in on this, it would break my heart and my trust. I would never be able to put her on another mission, nor would I be able to keep her here. I would have to punish her in the worst way.

When we made it to the cells, the guard brought Nakida to an interrogation room. I followed Valerio’s scent to the cell that he chained Vihaan in. He stood by my side as I took a seat at the table.

“Where is it?”

“I don’t know. I told you that already.”

“Tell me your story then.”

“I’ll tell you the truth.” Vihaan clenched his fists on the table. “When I got into the office, it was already torn up. I was about to call the police when he showed up at the door. He grabbed me by the arm and forced me to tell him where the skull was hidden. He threatened to kill Nakida and me if I didn’t. He was too strong, I put up the best fight that I could.”

Lies. Lies. Lies.

And I knew how to prove it.

“Take off his bandage,” I ordered. Valerio walked around the table and tore the bandage off of him. There was a large cut on his arm, but it didn’t have any black streaks near it.

Aeron always left his mark on people, like the Woman on the Mountain. I highly doubted he would just grab Vihaan by the arm. Aeron was violent. He would go for the throat. He would demand that he tell him where the skull was. He would kill him right then and there.

“See,” Vihaan said, like his cut proved his point.

I placed my hands on my hips. “If Aeron did visit you, he would do much worse than give you a little cut on your arm. You don’t know how he fights or the types of power he has. He would wrap his hands around your throat and suck the life out of you in a second,” I said. “He’d leave his mark on you to taunt me… But you obviously wouldn’t know that because you’re lying.”

Vihaan’s nostrils flared. “Why would I lie to you? You are my best friend’s mate! I would nev-”

Was your best friend’s mate,” I clarified. “Damon is gone.”

It was hard to say, but I had to face the truth. The truth was that I couldn’t trust Damon at some points and I was extremely stupid for trusting his best friend.

“Did you give it to him?”

Vihaan tried to break out of the chains, wiggling the chair angrily underneath him. “Let me out. I didn’t do shit!”

“What did he give you for it?”

“Nothing! He gave me nothing!” Vihaan screamed. “I never even saw him! I didn’t do anything!”

I stood and gazed at Valerio. “Leave him until he decides to tell me the truth.”

After leaving him in the dark, we walked to the interrogation room to Nakida. She was sitting in chains at the table with her head in her hands. Tears stained her cheeks. “Moon Goddess,” she said between hiccups. She bowed.

I gently shut the door behind us and removed the chains from her for now. We sat opposite to her. “Nakida, did you know about this?”

She swallowed and shook her head. I was tired of the lying. She had guilty written all over her face.

“I know how it feels to be mates with someone Nakida. I know that you want to think they’re the best person in the world even after they hurt you time after time. I know how it feels to want to lie and protect them from the world.” I grabbed her hand. “But he’s already in trouble. You can’t protect him any longer.”

She wiped her tears with the back of her hand. “I’m so sorry.”

“You said it yourself, Nakida. Nothing is more important than this team. So, I’m going to ask you one time,” I started. “Did you know about this?”

She shook her head. “No,” she whispered. Tears ran down her cheeks.

“How can I continue to trust you to protect me Nakida if you lie to me, if you put your mate higher than this team?” I stood up getting tired of this all. “Nakida, look at me in my eye when you tell me you knew absolutely nothing about this.”

She shook her head and doubled over, leaning her forehead against the table. “I-I can’t.”

Valerio banged his fist against the table and angrily stood and walked out of the room. I glanced at the guards. “Chain her, but keep them separated.”

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