Chapter 23 - New Dynamic
She was magnificent. Pure and filled with this strength and loyalty that I could only admire. My entire life I have had a front-row seat to everyone else’s private and personal thoughts. Because of that, I knew just how selfish and power-hungry the majority of people were. Even Derik and the boys had their moments where they entertained self-centered and negative thoughts. Maybe it was because I couldn’t read her. Maybe I was developing such a high opinion of her because I could only observe Ray based on her actions. But I doubted it. I would put money on the fact that she really is exactly who she portrays herself to be.
A strong, confident, woman that was willing to take on the world for us.
I found myself once again on the top of the mountain that looked over the valley that housed the quiet village of Awenasa. I looked to my right, expecting to see Nahuel sitting cross-legged as he had the last time he visited me in his dreams but he was not there. Instead, he was pacing back and forth behind where I sat. I turned to get a better look at the wild man and noticed that he was visibly agitated. My movement must have drawn his attention because he was quick to stop pacing and fall to his knees before me.
“Tehya! Are you okay? I went to find you because I have the answers that you were looking for but you were not at Elijah’s house. Instead, the entire place was filled with powerful human-bound Valkyries. All of which were arguing about what to do with you next. After what I learned about the King of the South I feared that I was too late. Did he hurt you?” Nahuel said rather quickly and I was struggling to keep up with his faced paced words.
I averted my gaze and looked back at the peaceful village, feeling guilty and unable to meet his eye. Because of me, all of these people were in so much more danger than they were just days ago. I was going to be the spark that ignited an age-old war. I may have stopped things from coming to actual blows today, but I had no doubt that the tenuous peace that had been present these long years was now shattered. Valerie wanted a war and I gave them Eli. Florence would use Eli’s death as a reason to go to war when really they just wanted the cache of women that the Hidden had to offer.
“Things were simpler when I remained invisible to the world,” I told Nahuel and I felt him reach out and place a finger under my chin, turning my head so that he could see my eyes. “My life is so much more full and meaningful now that I have found my clan, but I wonder what the toll will be for my happiness. How many people will die because I simply exist?”
“I do not understand,” Nahuel told me, worry lacing his words. “Are you okay? Where are you right now? I will come and protect you.”
“I am fine, Nahuel. Perfectly safe, but Valerie found me today. She teleported Louka, Mariana, and Constance into our back yard where we were having dinner with the Royals of the Northeast. I did not tell any of your secrets to the human-bound Valkyries,” I told him because I hated the idea of betraying this man I barely knew. “But I did hold Valerie prisoner because I felt like she deserved to be held responsible for what she did to the Rabec Clan. Florence questioned her under Compulsion and I am afraid she told them a great deal about the Hidden, the Northern City, and even Awenasa. I am sorry Nahuel. I swear I do not wish any harm to come to your or your people.”
“She does deserve to be held responsible,” Nahuel said in a low voice and he used his thumb to wipe away a tear that cooly trailed down my cheek. “I do not believe that you are perfectly safe. Please tell me where you are. I want to see you.”
I leaned into his touch, drawn to the feral energy that seemed to emanate out of him. For a moment I allowed myself to wonder what it would have been like if I had never been taken away from the Northern City. Would my mother have succeeded in corrupting me where Samuel had failed? Would I be with Louka? Or would I have found my way to Nahuel and Awenasa?
“I met Mariana today,” I felt compelled to say but didn’t know why. “She seemed... timid,” I finally decided to say, not wanting to call her weak in front of Nahuel.
Nahuel swiped my cheek one last time and then sat back on his heels, creating space between us. “Yes, Mariana is softness and contentment. In the end, she proved to be too malleable and did not have the inner strength to walk her own path. I have frequently thought about how I failed her. I failed to protect her from someone I thought to be a friend.”
I understood that he was talking about Louka. “I met Louka today as well. He tried to manipulate my emotions,” I told him and his eyes turned hard. He clenched his fists that were braced on his thighs and all of sudden each hand was engulfed with flames. I watched in wide-eyed shock but clearly, the fire wasn’t hurting Nahuel. He also wasn’t as in control of his Gifts as I had originally thought.
“He should not have done that to you,” Nahuel growled out, sounding almost animalistic. “It is a similar Gift to the Compulsion that the human-bound Valkyries have. It is used to manipulate and force against one’s own will. I often wonder if he used that Gift on me. If that was one reason I was so blind to his hatred.” I was about to tell him about how Louka had been lied to. How he thought that the human-bound Valkyries attacked the daycare for no other reason other than hate, but right now didn’t seem like the right time.
“Can I do anything to help you try to protect your people?” I asked because I really was feeling guilty about everything that had happened.
“We need to talk,” Nahuel said, some of his anger dissipating.
“We are talking,” I countered, knowing what he really wanted.
“I have the information that you asked for and it is not good. You are not safe. You and your entire clan need the proof that we found. Tell me where you are and Pala and I will come to you. Then we can discuss what to do next. Elijah should be here for this conversation,” Nahuel said and I hated the twinge of jealousy that I was feeling. I wasn’t blind. I could tell that Nahuel and Elijah had a connection. The question was, was I jealous because of Elijah or because of Nahuel.
I knew the honest answer was a mixture of both.
“I am staying with friends. If I tell you where we are at, you have to swear to me that no harm will come to the Shifter pack that is allowing us to stay with them,” I said with conviction and Nahuel was quick to agree that no harm would come to my friends by his hand. I then told him where Pack Master Lopez’s house was and the world around me faded to black.
I came awake slowly and right away I knew that I was cuddled up to one of the guys. My head was on a firm chest that was slowly rising and falling with his breathing and I took a moment to simply listen to his heartbeat. I wasn’t sure I wanted to wake up. There was so much to decide. So much to answer for. So many questions to both face and answer. I would much rather just stay here wrapped up safely with the guys and pretend that the rest of the world simply didn’t exist.
“I know you are awake. You were much more restless in your sleep than you are now,” a cool and kind voice said and I realized that I was lying on Elijah’s chest of all people. I had expected one of the twins or maybe Max, but I hadn’t really gotten this close to Elijah. The one time we had slept near each other had been in Awenasa and then he had only held my feet. I took stock and noticed that I was basically plastered to his front.
I slowly opened my eyes and raised my head until I met Elijah’s unhidden vibrant green eyes. I was a lot closer to him than I originally thought I would be and I could feel his breath on my skin as I continued to look into his eyes. As the moments ticked by, his ubiquitous concern morphed into something more. Something with more depth and a lot more heat started to smolder in his weighted gaze and I felt my breathing pick up in response.
“You are breathtakingly beautiful,” Elijah said in a confident voice that had a core of steel. It was not just a compliment, but a statement of fact. I had never heard that particular tone of voice from him and for some reason, it zinged through my body and left a path of hot shivers in its wake. I couldn’t seem to either tear my eyes from his or force my lips to move enough to respond to his complement. It was like I was being held captive by the strength of Elijah’s gaze.
“I don’t think she has ever experienced this side of you,” Derik said from behind me and I nearly jumped out of my skin when he pressed up against my back, sandwiching me between him and Elijah and giving me nowhere to go. A clan bond sprang into place and it only intensified the one that I was already feeling between me and Elijah. Derik’s beard tickled the side of my neck as he leaned in and said in a husky voice, “Our fearless leader may be mild-mannered in everyday life, but behind closed doors, he prefers to be in control.”
I was still staring directly into Elijah’s eyes, so I saw the moment that they dilated further in response to Derik’s words. I felt overwhelmed with sensation and my breathing continued to increase until I felt my lips part. Elijah’s gaze darted down to my newly parted lips and I wondered how one took control in the bedroom. I wasn’t completely naive and had read Fifty Shades of Gray but I didn’t know how much of that type of relationship was fiction and how much was actually practical.
Elijah reached up and gently traced the edge of my bottom lip as Derik angled his head so that he had better access and then traced a similar line down my neck with his tongue. The two sensations combined and sent a shock of heat racing through me. I felt a responding wave of power crash over me and the Cloak I had trained myself to maintain over myself to dampen my allure fell away. Both Derik and Elijah moaned in unison in response to my power’s call to their own and both reacted. Derik snaked a hand around to my hip and pulled me closer to him while sucking the lobe of my ear into his mouth. Elijah leaned forward and claimed my mouth. I use the word claim because it is the only real way to describe the way that he took complete and instant ownership.
His tongue invaded my mouth with deft skill and instigated a rhythm of thrusts and retreats that my body instinctually responded to. He pushed up with his hips causing my body to press more firmly against Derik, creating a delicious friction that I couldn’t help but try to increase. I squirmed, searching for something but Elijah was quick to pin my other hip and lock my head in place with his other hand, effectively trapping me in place. He never once faltered in claiming my mouth and when Derik switched from my ear lobe to the sensitive skin of my neck I heard myself whimper with need.
My entire body was alight with sensation and I was feeling too many things to fully process any of it. But I did know that my body had never felt quite this good and that I never wanted it to stop.
I felt Derik shift behind me and the next thing I know I felt a gentle pressure pass over and circle my breast causing small fireworks of heat to explode there. I gasped and felt another wave of power crash over us, but this one must have been imbued with my Truth gift because both Elijah and Derik started talking in low, gruff, voices that did nothing to tamp down the neediness I was feeling for them.
“I think you are the best thing to ever happen to me or my clan,” Elijah said and I pulled away from his punishing kiss to look into his eyes.
“I am in love with you,” Derik said from behind me and I felt him still as the impact of his words hit all three of us. I took another heartbeat to see the truth of Elijah’s words shining through his eyes before I turned to look at Derik. I knew that Derik of all people wouldn’t give me a declaration of love without meaning it, but I was a little nervous that he would be upset that my power had forced him to tell me how he was feeling. But I didn’t see a single trace of trepidation or frustration in his eyes. They were filled with soft, liquid heat that was all-consuming. I didn’t need my Gift to know that he was telling me the truth.
Derik loved me.
That simple fact was surprisingly easy to believe. Like if I had somehow known that he would love me from the very first time he rudely barged into my life, making demands. I brought a hand up and placed it over his heart, feeling it beating widely under my scared palm. “I love you too,” I whispered and saw surprise weave its way through the many other emotions he was allowing me to see. However, that surprise didn’t last long and quickly turned into gentle awe that I felt honored to have inspired.
“Fuck, Wonder Girl,” Derik growled before slowly leaning forward and placing a gentle and sensual kiss on my lips. Derik kissed me in a way that made me feel precious and loved. I tried to respond in kind, letting him feel just how much he has come to mean to me. Derik’s tongue softly ran along the seam of my lips, causing a jolt of lighting-like sensation to emanate outward. In the next instant, I felt another, stronger wave of power pulse through me, and then Elijah noticeably tensed underneath me. I had been having such an in-depth moment with Derik that I had somehow forgotten that he was even there, watching every move we made and I tore away from Derik to see what was bothering him.
Elijah had his eyes locked on something over my shoulder and I turned my head to find Nahuel leaning against the dresser. He had a death grip on the dresser but was leaning towards us, as if he was physically keeping himself away from joining us in the bed. Seeing him caused a metaphorical bucket of cold water to dump over my head. I had been so wrapped up in everything that Elijah and Derik were making my body feel that I had not noticed that someone was watching from the void. Considering that Valerie and Constance knew that I was alive and where I was, that kind of oversight was not acceptable.
I pulled away from Eliah and Derik backed off enough to let me scramble off the bed so that I could stand between Nahuel and the bed. Standing that close to him might have been a mistake as I got caught in the cloud of wild energy that always seemed to engulf Nahuel. I swayed on my feet, my body wanting to go to him while my brain knew better than to trust someone I barely knew. In the next moment, Derik was behind me, steading me and providing both physical and metaphorical support.
“What are you doing here?” Derik growled and my over-excited body was really turned on by that voice. I bit my lower lip and forced myself not to whimper or start rubbing my needy body back against Derik’s.
Nahuel hadn’t moved a muscle, but I could tell his eyes were picking up every little thing between us. “I have the information you asked for,” he replied simply, his own voice thick with an unknown emotion.
“And that gives you the right to spy on us during an obviously intimate and private moment?” Derik spit back and I felt like his anger was well placed. I didn’t appreciate that Nahuel had been using the void to watch us. I would have thought he would have more respect and honor than to stoop to that.
Nahuel looked undisturbed over Derik’s accusation and instead looked over my shoulder to where Elijah was sitting on the side of the bed. “I am worried about your safety. I came as soon as Ray told me where you were staying to ensure you were safe and to share what I have learned. When I found you sleeping I decided to watch over you as you rested. I was only ensuring your safety. Things escalated rather quickly after she woke and I found I was unable to walk away,” Nahuel said simply and the lack of buzz in my head told me that he was telling the truth.
I looked between Nahuel and Elijah, once again wondering what was going on between those two. A familiar and slightly unpleasant possessiveness overcame me and I unconsciously stepped between Nahuel and Elijah thus drawing Nahuel’s attention back to me. He noticeably scanned the length of my body before meeting my eyes and saying, “This is not a smart thing to do so close to your transition. The more you feel the less you will have control over your Gifts. For example, you just shifted this entire house and all of its occupants into the Look-Through.”
I glanced around and noticed for the first time that we were in a room that I was completely unfamiliar with and had never been in before. I vaguely remember someone telling me that we were going to Pact Master Lopez’s house before I passed out and wondered where all of the wolves were. I blew out a breath and decided that I needed a moment before facing everyone. I closed my eyes and concentrated so that I could pull the house back into the physical plane. It was easier than it should have been. Especially since I was so drained just last night.
“I am going to guess because I am still experiencing waves of power that even though I completely exhausted my Gift last night and held off three Gatekeepers while locking two different barriers, that I haven’t completed my transition?” I muttered while glancing down to see what I was wearing. The shirt I had been wearing last night had been shredded by the whip and I could only assume had also been stained with blood. I was now wearing a large sweatshirt I didn’t recognize and when I pulled it up to my nose, I noticed that it didn’t smell anything like my guys.
“What do you mean you locked two barriers?” Nahuel wanted to know as someone knocked on the door before promptly opening it. Blake strode into the room and immediately pulled me into a hug while glaring at Nahuel.
“The female Valkyrie that knocked Elijah out at the palace is here too. She just appeared out of nowhere and when we tried to grab her, she slipped right past us. She seems freaked out that we can see her and she keeps blurring around the room. Maybe your friend can come out and calm her down because she is riling up the Shifters,” Blake said in a terse tone, clearly not liking the fact that Nahuel was here.
“What do you mean, blurring?” I asked and buried my head into his middle. I was still reeling from my encounter with Elijah and Derik and it felt almost too good to be this close to Blake.
“The Elementals blessed Paula with Speed,” Nahuel said and then walked out of the room to calm down his friend.
“Hey there Ray-Ray,” Blake said in a significantly warmer voice. “How are you feeling?”
I took stock of my body and realized that I felt perfectly fine. No residual pain or even soreness from my time on my knees the night before. It was almost like the whole thing didn’t really happen. Like if it was just some horrible nightmare. But I knew that Constance’s cruel glint to her eye and Eli’s sick interest were things that my mind couldn’t imagine.
“I am good. How are you? How are Connor and Max? How long have we been here? What happened to all of the royals at the house? Are they coming after us? Are we safe? Do we have to leave?” I asked in quick succession, each question that I asked opening up space for another one to pop up in my mind.
“Whoa, there Wonder Girl. Slow down. Let’s get something to eat and then we’ll talk. No one is breaking down the door. We have time for a little food before we do anything,” Derik said with a false lightness. Derik was the one person that I knew would always give it to me straight. I loved that about him. I didn’t want him to start coddling me now.
“Hey,” I said in a serious tone and stepped away from Blake to touch Derik’s arm. “Don’t do that. Don’t sugar coat things for me. Not you.”
Derik blew out a breath and ran his hand over his beard before saying, “I’m sorry. It’s not exactly sugar-coating, we just don’t know much. I am just as anxious to get some answers as you are and am trying not to stress you out. But I wasn’t lying. We have time. Ransom has been texting Connor. We know that everyone left the clan house last night, but we also suspect that a lot of the royals that were supposed to leave this morning because Regina’s matching has ended have postponed their trip. Mathis and Sean both reached out and told us that the Deveroe Royals are still here and want to talk to you. I am guessing they want to continue the conversation about us going to Boston.”
“Where are Sean and Mathis?” I asked, surprised that they weren’t here.
“They are staying at the clan house and monitoring the situation. They are acting as our front line. Fielding questions and keeping people away from us. They know where we are, but we all agreed that it was best for them to stay there for the time being. Our first priority was to take care of you. Now that you are back on your feet, we can move forward as a team,” Elijah said and I smiled over at him, feeling more connected to him than I had before. Nothing like a mind-altering kiss to change the dynamic between us. I now felt like he was on the same page as the rest of us and maybe this whole complicated relationship could really work.
I walked over to Blake and intertwined my hand with his as we made our way out of the room and into the living room. The house had an old feel to it, like if it had been decorated in the late eighties or early nineties and no one had bothered to change anything since then. Everything looked clean and well maintained, but far from the top of the line, new and modern stuff that I was getting used to living with at the clan house. The living room was a large space with a massive L-shaped sofa lining the corner of the room and a flat-screen TV hanging on the wall across from it.
Nahuel was standing in the corner with the girl I had first seen him with back in the palace before he had disappeared with Elijah. So much has changed since then. I have learned so much about not only myself but also the entire community of Hidden that made up a significant portion of my heritage. Sitting on the couch were Arlo, Lawerance, and Santiago while Connor and Max were at the very large dining room table. I walked over to the Shifters so that I could express my genuine gratitude that they welcomed us into their home when we could have a pack of angry royals on our tail.
“Pact Master Lopez,” I greeted Arlo and all three were quick to get to their feet. “I wanted to thank you for allowing us to stay here. Is it okay if we call upon your hospitality for a little while longer while we figure out our next move?”
“Please, call me Arlo,” he replied with friendliness to his tone, “and you are always welcome here. You and your clan can stay as long as you like. Renata and Tony are in the kitchen making up some breakfast. Law and I already ate and I think we have some yard work to do. You let us know if there is anything you need or if you need us for any reason.”
I felt a little bad about kicking him out of his own house, but I appreciated that he was giving us privacy to talk over everything that had happened. Not that I was actively keeping things from the wolves, it was just that I could only handle so much at one time. Not only did we have to deal with everything that happened last night, but I also knew that Nahuel had something he thought was very important to tell us. He seemed to think it concerned our safety.
I nodded to Arlo and Law as they left the house, but saw that Santiago was making his way over to the table and grabbing a plate of food. That boy had decided that he was a part of our family and was going to do everything in his power to be kept in the loop. While I loved that he was trying so hard, I knew that we were most likely going to have to leave here, at least for a little while. If Santiago came with us, he would have to leave his sister and I was under the impression that they were really close. I would have to talk with him later.
First things first though, we needed to get a handle on our current situation and come up with a plan.