The Rise

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Chapter Forty-Two

“She’s here, Mae,” Valerio said through the mindlink. He jogged out of the kitchen and to the front door, leaving the food burning on the stove. After making sure that Aaisha would be okay without us, we hurried back to the Protectors’ house to make dinner for Ashur and his mother.

But since we had gotten back to the packhouse, nothing had been going right.

First, I was too drained to do much of anything. Transferring Ashur’s soul into Ayodele’s body depleted way more energy than I had originally thought. We had been in the middle of making dinner when I began getting dizzy from the heat and almost passed out.

Second, Valerio burned the burgers we were making when he made me sit down. He claimed it was because he was helping me, but I just think he hadn’t made dinner in such a long time. We had been eating the food that some of the Protectors had made for us these past weeks since we had been so busy.

Third, we lost Ashur. Yes. Lost him. When I went to sit down, that little sucker was gone. We had brought him back from the hospital, and he just took off. We checked the whole house, once, twice, three times. I swear, I nearly passed out again on that third sweep of the place.

I didn’t know how he could have so much energy after the rise of his soul. Shouldn’t he have been tired? Maybe he was too tired from sitting around inside of my arm and being stagnant for months. I didn’t know. But I sure as hell knew I was tired.

“Shit. Where is he? Where is he?” I muttered to myself. Protectors had been going through the property for the past twenty minutes trying to find him.

Great. I transfer his soul back into his body, tell his mother that he is alive and well, then I lose him. What if he was hurt? What if the other divine took him? What if Luca was here?

I’ll distract her for a bit,” Valerio said.

I shut off the grill, deciding that these burgers were done for. They were nearly bricks now.

“Walking him back to the pack house now,” a Protector linked me. “Luna, please stay indoors. You could be weakened out here. We will bring him to you.”

I took a deep breath, wanting to scold Ashur for stupidly walking out without letting any of us know. But I couldn’t. As much as I thought I did, I didn’t know the boy.

“Where was he?” I linked.

“By the Oak. He was just staring at it. I believe there was another clue hidden there. I’ll have a Protector preserve the area until you are strong enough to come back outside.”

“I can come now.”

“No,” Valerio said, voice final.

I rolled my eyes, but knew he was right. So I decided to stay at the door. A few moments later, Ashur appeared through the trees alongside a Protector. He had a huge smile on his face. He leaned down and plucked a Moon Flower right from the ground, then he picked another one. Before he could pick a third, the Protector urged him along.

When he reached me, he smiled. “Moon Goddess.”

I raised a brow at him. “Ashur, you can’t just walk off like that. I thought something happened to you!”

“Sorry. I just wanted to find the most perfect Moon Flower for Mom and for you.” He handed me one of the Moon Flowers.

I accepted it and stepped out of the way for him to walk through the door. We still hadn’t told Ashur what happened. I didn’t really know how to break it to him, and he honestly didn’t even seem like he remembered what happened. It was like he didn’t remember dying.

“Ashur,” I said, leading him to the kitchen. “Your mom and brothers might be a little emotional.”

He just nodded his head. “Okay.”

I took a deep breath and pushed the door to the kitchen open. Everyone was standing. Ashur’s mom was rubbing her hands together, pacing around. His older brother Henry was eyeing the kitchen door nervously. And the youngest pup just was bouncing up and down with a big smile on his face.

Honestly, I didn’t know if Ashur’s mom informed the little one that his brother wouldn’t be the same - at least he wouldn’t look the same. I hoped, for now, that the pup would just enjoy his brothers presence and ask questions later.

When I walked in, Ashur’s mom immediately stopped pacing and her head snapped up to me. Valerio was standing next to her and placed a hand on her shoulder.

Ashur walked in after me, a big smile stretching across his face at the sight of his mom. He held out a Moon Flower for her. “Mom, this is for you!”

Tears began rolling down her cheeks as she took it from him. “My boy,” she whispered, drawing him into a hug. “My boy…” Her head fell into his neck as she breathed him in. It was a new scent, of course, but it was one that she was going to get used to.

Her fingers laced themselves in his hair and she gently scratched the top of his head, trying to let this moment make up for the months that she had missed with him.

A stray tear fell from Henry’s eye, but he wiped it away quickly. Valerio noticed and placed a hand on his shoulder. “It’s okay to cry.”

My heart tightened at the sight. Unlike Damon, Valerio was good with expressing his emotions and didn’t mind telling me what he felt when he felt it.

The little pup was staring at Ashur with his jaw nearly dropped to the floor. His eyes were so wide I thought they might pop out of his head. Without moving, his gaze traveled from Ashur to his mom to Valerio and then to me. He pushed his hands into the air. “Whaaaat?”

I giggled at the little ball of cuteness and picked him up.

“What? How is this possible?” He kept shaking his head, not believing what he was seeing. “He looks so different! He looks like he could crush me!”

Valerio smiled at him. “He probably could. You’re so small.”

He squinted his eyes at Valerio. “Hey, don’t make me get Sammy on you. Sammy says I’m fun sized and that if anyone calls me tiny I have to make him kick their butt.”

I gently nudged Valerio with my hip. “Yeah, Sammy would destroy you.”

I gazed back over at Ashur and his mom who were still embracing each other and I pulled the pup closer and enjoyed this moment together.

Things were finally looking up.

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