The Rise

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Chapter Forty-Six

We posted Protectors by the school and throughout the town. A few select Protectors had taken an undercover position at the restaurant. Valerio and I had been scanning the areas, being extra careful with who we talked to and who we trusted. And, every night, we would visit the restaurant. Some nights we’d have dinner, others we’d just people-watch.

Since figuring out Luca’s clue, we had been so focused on this Hunter, now it was time to focus on Aeron. Hopefully, we’d be able to find him today with the help of Sun.

According to Ayodele, she had wanted to meet us in the forest behind our packhouse. I was willing to go somewhere else, but she had insisted.

I stood between two trees, watching her walk toward us, completely captivated. She wore a bright yellow dress that flowed in the wind behind her. Her skin was sun-kissed to perfection and a golden aura drifted around her.

“She sure does look like the sun,” Valerio said.

“Beautiful,” I said.

“Bright as hell…” He gazed down at me with a smile on his lips. “I prefer the moon.”

After playfully rolling my eyes, I walked toward her. She grasped my hand, burning it in hers. She was a star that could destroy anything that came too close. Maybe she could burn Aeron too. She did outshine him every morning.

“Luna.” She bowed her head. Her eyes were burning brown pits of pure beauty.

“Sun.” I smiled. “It’s nice to meet you, finally.”

She looked past Valerio. “Ayodele said he would be here with you.”

“Ayodele died a few nights ago.”

She pursed her lips together, her eyes burning a bit brighter. “How?”

“The Hunter has been after me. She paid my Protectors a visit.”

Her nostrils flared. She clenched and unclenched her fists, a ball of heat forming within them. “Are you doing anything about it?”

“I’m trying, but I have two powerful divinities against me.”

“The other?”

“The Night. Aeron.”

Her brown irises turned yellow. “I should’ve known. He’s always up to no good.”

“I need your help. I’m trying to find him - have been trying to find him for the past few months.”

She paused for a few moments. “What do you need me to do? I will do anything to avenge Ayodele. He was a great friend,” she said after taking a few deep breaths.

Valerio stepped forward. “We were given a riddle. We want to see what you make out of it.” Sun nodded and waited for Valerio to continue. “In the dark of night, he will be there. Far, far away from here, he’s nothing but a hare. Dark as day and Light as night, his storm will follow you with all its might.”

She rolled her eyes. “Why is he always talking in riddles?”

“Still trying to figure that out myself,” I said.

After placing her hand on her hip, she paced from one tree to the next, quietly speaking the riddle to herself. “Well, the first part of this is easy - he’s always around at night. The second part - he’s a hare, he’s cunning, he forms ideas and plans that are smarter than average. The third part is what’s stumping me.”

Valerio smiled. “I had an idea about what it means.”

Oh, goodness. Not this again.

“I think we should force an eclipse,” Valerio said.

Sun raised a brow at him. “An eclipse? It’ll be dark during the day and Aeron will just be everywhere.”

“Yes, but, think about it like this. Aeron will not be expecting the eclipse. Sure, once he realizes that it’s happening, his darkness will race through the sky. He will seek to be seen. An eclipse is watched by millions of people. I believe Aeron will take advantage of that.”

“And, if that whole thing doesn’t work?” Sun asked. “There are a lot of problems with that.”

Valerio looked at me. “Then, you lure him to you.”

I raised a sharp brow at him. “I lure him to me?”

“He’s obviously self-centered and he obviously wants to get with you. This is a chance to do both. During the eclipse, you’re at your weakest. Your moon is dark. You can’t outshine the sun behind you. Aeron will take the chance to become the darkness of the moon by lying with you.”

I flinched. Lying with Aeron, lying with my dad. Disgusting.

“It could work,” Sun said. “For as long as I knew him, he’s always wanted his daughters in some sick way. He wouldn’t pass this chance up, especially when you’re vulnerable.”

I closed my eyes and saw flashbacks to Brett, Brett lying on top of me, Brett doing disgusting things to me, and I hated it. I never wanted to be in that position again. But this was for my people. I had to try.

This time I wouldn’t let anything happen. I didn’t care if it killed me. I would do whatever it took to protect myself and my species.

“How will we stop him once we catch him? I won’t be as at my strongest.”

“I will be there,” Sun said. “I weaken him. When he gets close, when he tries to take you, we break the eclipse and I weaken him in my light. He won’t be able to use his powers.”

I rubbed my sweaty palms together.

“This is going to work,” Valerio said.

Was it? My stomach flipped. It could go very greatly or very poorly. I wasn’t nervous about Sun’s abilities, but I was nervous about my own. I would be weakened, but by how much? Would Aeron overpower me like Brett did? Would we be able to stop the eclipse before he had the chance to overpower me?

Valerio put his arm around my shoulders and pulled me in, placing his chin on my shoulder. “I will not let anything happen to you this time, Mae,” he whispered in my ear. “I promise.”

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