The Rise

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Chapter Thirty-Five

It was exactly where she said it was. That underground tunnel where Samuel was tied up with the pups. I couldn’t believe it.

I took the skull in my hand, feeling the power radiating off of it. Wave after wave soaked through my palms. The skull itself had gotten stronger since the last time I held it.

My finger grazed against its edges. I flipped it around, seeing the darkness on the inside. Nothing had changed. It was totally intact.

Nakida might’ve been telling the truth, but that didn’t mean I was going to put my trust back in her. She lied to me. She went behind my back. True Protectors didn’t do that. True Protectors were honest with me no matter the consequences.

Did she think that she could protect Vihaan? Maybe. Did that make it better? No.

Valerio looked over my shoulder. “We should get this somewhere safe.”

“We are bringing it back with us,” I said. I wouldn’t mind Aeron showing up at the pack house now, trying to take it back from me with the little strength he had left.

As long as it was with me or hidden extremely well, it was relatively safe.

“I know a place,” Valerio said.

I raised a brow and turned to face him. “A place at the house?”

The door leading out from the tunnel opened above us. “What the hell is going on here?” Aaisha’s voice sounded from above. She placed a hand on her back and walked down the stairs to the underground rooms.

She had grown so much since the last time I saw her. It looked like she would pop at any minute. Halfway down the stairs, I made her stop and walk back up them. No way was she coming all the way down here this pregnant. I didn’t need the baby popping out at a moment like this. That would be my luck.

Knowing Aaisha, her baby would want a grand entrance at the most inconvenient moment. And now was definitely that time.

She breathed heavily and walked back up. “Y’all better tell me what’s happenin’. Scarin’ my pups out here.”

Valerio took the skull from me and led me up the stairs. “How’s the baby?” Valerio asked Aaisha.

Aaisha narrowed her eyes at him. “I asked y’all a damn question. And…” She looked around. “Nakida down there?”

I gazed at Valerio and cursed under my breath. I didn’t want Aaisha to get stressed and purposely go into labor if I told her, but I knew I had to.

After a deep breath, I explained the situation to Aaisha. Her eyes were wide the whole time, and, for once, she was silent. When I was finished, her nostrils flared. “You mean to tell me, this chick brought that damn thing here?” I nodded. “Hold on a minute.” She walked away, slowly, her hand on her lower back.

She disappeared into the packhouse.

“What do you think she’s doing?” Valerio asked.

I raised a brow at him. “What she always does when someone messes with her friends.”

Aaisha walked out of her packhouse with a bat in her hand and a knife in the other. “Which one y’all think will hurt more?”

Valerio chuckled, a lightness in his eyes. “I should’ve known.”

I playfully nudged him. “Yeah, you should’ve.”

When Aaisha finally made her way to us, I grabbed the knife from her. “Not this.” I eyed the bat, trying to figure out how to take that away from her too. “Or that.”

She narrowed her eyes. “Don’t you think about takin’ this away from me. I’m ready to square up! Bring her to me.” She took the bat in her hand like any professional baseball player would.

Aaisha swung the bat. I just barely pulled Valerio out of the way before he could be hit.

“What’re you doing?” he asked.

“Y’all the one who is datin’ her!” Aaisha said. She continued to swing and Valerio actually took a few hard hits.

I fumbled with Aaisha, trying to get her to stop. “Aaisha-Aaisha! They broke up.”

She stopped swinging. “Good. You deserve better than her.” She, then, narrowed her eyes, staring between Valerio and me. “Mmhmm.” Her eyes lingered a little too much on our proximity, and they widened.

“Aaisha-”

“MMMHMMM. You do deserve someone better Valerio.” She directed her eyes on me. I took a deep breath and grabbed her arm. She yanked it away from me, holding the bat away. “Well, I’m still gonna beat the-”

Valerio snatched the bat from her. “No, you’re not.” He gazed down at her belly. “You have a little one.”

“That don’t mean I still can’t beat someone’s ass,” Aaisha said. After swearing under her breath, she looked like she had finally calmed down. She looked at Valerio. “Y’all want to feel her kick?”

Valerio gazed at me, smiled, and nodded. I raised my brow, knowing exactly what was coming next. He placed his hand on her belly. “I don’t feel anything.”

“Well, do you feel this?” She punched him in the chest, making him stumble back, then grabbed the bat from him. “That’s what ya get. Telling me I can’t fight just cuz I’m pregnant.” She shook her head. “Men. Always thinkin’ we weak.”

Valerio stood behind me, rubbing his shoulder. “Sheesh. I don’t think you’re weak. You could probably kill me.”

I chuckled. She probably could. There was no stopping Aaisha when she was angry. She raised her brow. “Mmhmm.” We listened to her stomach growl. “I need to go get me some hot wings.” She turned away and walked back to the packhouse, but not before winking in my direction.

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