The party hits a full stop once Byron, Carlos, and Poe leave. The Rooks make their exit, inviting us over to their place to complete the party properly after the Rains. The boys and my Darklings begin to disappear into the study once everyone is gone. I try to follow them, but Dickson stands at the doors as I walk over to the study, watching me for a moment before he shakes his head slightly as he shuts the doors. Shutting me out.
“I was going to bed anyway…” I mutter at the doors. I feel too tired to fight with him.
Men. I decide to just ask Dickson about it in the morning, and head upstairs with a sigh.
I lie in my bed staring at the shadows dancing on the ceiling. I feel exhausted both emotionally and physically, but sleep will not come. My mind won’t stop thinking about tonight, and my fervent plea to save Alice. Dickson remained so calm and level head, knowing exactly what to do, but I was ready to fall to pieces as if the girl that killed the Darkling never existed.
It was as if I had forgotten who I am…why I am here, and what we are trying to accomplish, because that girl is strong and a survivor. She suffered pain and almost two months in a Nod to rid herself of John’s Blood bond and the wards caging her gifts. I should be becoming stronger as we try to start this rebellion, but instead I am becoming weaker…softer. I’ve been stuck in the tower too long.
I sigh and push away those thoughts, not having the energy to figure it out right now. Not having the nerve to accept the blame that I allowed myself to lose myself again while living with Dickson and the boys, and the family we have formed. Instead, I attempt to fall asleep again.
Byron had poked his head in an hour ago to tell me that Alice was fine. Carlos was able to disable the link and they threw the body in the furnace at one of the funeral homes in the Rim. Poe volunteered to stay with Alice for the night just to be on the safe side. Byron then disappeared, saying something about an emergency man meeting downstairs.
I toss and turn for another hour, before I give up and head downstairs. It’s quiet, and most of the lights are off. When I get below the silence surrounds me as I make my way towards the study and notice that the door is cracked open. Their meeting must be over. I open the doors slowly and slip into the study, before shutting them behind me. Dickson is in his chair, feet propped up on the corner of his desk with his hands folded on his stomach. He’s fallen asleep.
I watch him for a moment, wanting to wake him, wanting his comfort, and more than anything, wanting to know what they are hiding now. Instead, I grab the blanket from the couch and quietly make my way over to him. I cover him with the blanket and kiss him softly on the forehead. As I turn to leave, he reaches for me and takes my hand.
“Kat,” he murmurs.
“I’m sorry, I thought you were asleep. Did I wake you?”
“I just dozed off for a few minutes.”
His voice has taken on the tired and husky sound that always makes me want to pull him to me. It usually sounds like that in the early morning hours when we are alone in bed and he has awoken me from another bad dream. I always feel guilty for pulling him out of sleep with my bad dreams, but he is always so understanding, comforting, and kind to me. He helps chase away fear that come with the phantoms and shadows in my dreams, and then we both ease back into sleep while in each other’s arms.
I look down at his hand; his thumb is rubbing my knuckles and is causing goosebumps to trail up my arms. “I couldn’t sleep and wanted to see if you’d be coming up soon,” I confess.
“In a few minutes.”
I nod and try to pull away so I can head back upstairs, but Dickson pulls me closer. “Kat, Darlin’,” he says in a low and deep voice.
“We need to talk.”My brow furrows, and I hesitate to answer. He’s voice sounds serious and it worries me. “O…kay.”
Dickson sits up then looks at me for a moment before he stands up and leads me to the couch; he sits down while pulling me to sit on his lap. We were in this same position only few hours ago, except this time he is holding me tightly in his arms, nuzzling my neck. After a moment, there is a change in him and he starts kissing my neck, sending shivers down my body. His hands start to wander, and then his lips find mine.
Breathlessly I pull away. “Dickson…”
“Hmm?” He pulls me back.
After several minutes, I pull away again and place my hand on his chest, firmly keeping him at bay. I can feel his heart pounding under my palm, and there’s an odd look in his eyes that makes me blush. I clear my throat, and then ask, “What did you want to talk to me about? Is this about what you were going to tell me before we were interrupted by Carlos?”
His face softens and a small smile rest on his lips. “No, unfortunately that will have to wait for another time.” The smile falls away and he kisses my shoulder before he continues, “This has more to do with what you asked me earlier. There is something that I have been keeping from you, but only because I wasn’t sure about it until tonight.” Dickson pauses, eyebrows furrowing, and he seems apprehensive with the information he is sharing with me.
“Some of the other Guardian groups have reported Seer disappearances within the last few months. Your Darklings have been kind enough to do some small jobs for me, which mostly involved gathering information about the disappearances that have been occurring. Unfortunately, they haven’t had much luck; it’s almost as if the Seers vanished into thin air. And the Guardians that had been paired are not able to track their missing Seer. There have been a little over two dozen Seers reported as missing so far.”
Dickson lets out a sigh, closes his eyes and pinches the bridge of his nose. After a moment, he places his hand over mine holding it firmly against his chest as he looks into my eyes once more. His eyes are intense, staring into mine, searching. “I thought that Ganix was behind it,” he continues. “After speaking to him tonight, and hearing his confession of trying to find a replacement for you but having no luck in that prospect…it confirmed my suspicions. The Seers have not been returned, so who knows what he’s done with them. The only thing we know is that they must still be alive, otherwise the Guardians would have felt their connection severed.”
“He’s taking other Seers…why? It’s not because of me is it? Those poor Seers...if it’s because of me, Dickson, I have to find them.” Just another chip to add to my guilt pile.
Dickson shakes his head. “It’s not your fault. This is something that has been happening for a few years, but it was only a Seer or two that would go missing a year. It’s just started to happen more frequently within the last few months.”
“Why would he take so many Seers…?” I ask, almost to myself.
“We have to assume that Ganix wants the Seers, and wants you, for some larger plan that we don’t know about. We will continue with our plan to destroy the Cielo next, and then move on to the Stronghold and the Shadowlords. But we are going to start reaching out to all the Guardians and warn them about Ganix. Hopefully they will join us and we can plan on rescuing the Seers once we find out what’s happened to them.” He completes his statement then shifts and drops his eyes as if there is more, but says nothing further. His eyebrows furrowing again, and he lets out a sad sigh.
There has to be more. “Tell me…” I place my hand on his cheek and he leans into it, placing his hand over it.
Dickson pulls my hand away and kisses my palm, before looking into my eyes once more. “I’ve decided, well...we decided, the boys, Darklings, and I, that it would be best if we send you away.”
“What? No!” I try to get up. I want to kick him.
“Kat, please…Be still.” He holds me firmly. He sounds so tired.
“You can’t send me away; I won’t let you. And you can’t make me go.” He doesn’t argue, but his eyes are focused on mine and his jaw is tight. I have no say in this decision. It’s no use arguing. I lean into him and nuzzle into his neck, my voice comes out as a whisper, “Dix, please don’t send me away…” I feel tears stinging my eyes. I am angry and hurt that they decided this without asking me what I wanted... and that he agreed to it.
Dickson wraps his arms around me and hugs me tightly for a few minutes before pulling me away so I can meet his eyes again. “Ganix may not know that you are here right now, but he knows that you will eventually come here. The image confirming you were in Timber was a blessing, since now he believes my lie about you being protected by the D’jinn in that area. If he manages to question them…and turns up nothing then he will come back here looking for you. He’s losing his patience with me, Kat...and he will not put up with it much longer.”
So he did see through the act John was putting on, and saw the change in him.
Dickson looks up at the ceiling for a second, and then back at me. “Next time we may not be lucky. Next time he may actually use some of that old magic that he is able to wield. Next time...he may take you,” his voice sounds strained with the last few words. “If he needs you for something else then we really can’t risk him getting you,” he states, and then looks lost in thought for a moment. Dickson may have agreed to send me away, but he seems to be struggling with that discussion.
I lean into him again and place my forehead on his as I feel my tears streaming down my cheeks, but I remain silent.
This decision feels wrong, there should be another way. They just assume that I am a delicate creature that needs to be protected all the time and that I have to hide from John. I am sick of it.
“Dickson, teach me magic and glamour.” I pull back to look into his eyes. “Allow me to be useful. To help. When I asked you to help me with this rebellion, I didn’t intend for you to do all the work and for me to just sit a home waiting on you guys to come home. I can help look into making more valuable allies and…”
He shakes his head stopping me short. “No, Darlin’.”
“But, Dickson, I can be of help if you only—”
“—Kat,” he snaps as he glowers at me, making me go still.
His reaction and his ability to not even consider that I can help wounds me. The finality of this decision makes my heart leaden. I do not want to leave Dickson. I do not want to leave my family. If they could only see me as someone capable of fighting alongside them rather than as someone that has to be shielded.
I can be much more than I appear to be. So much more…
Dickson places his hands on my face, leans back, and wipes my tears with his thumbs. He then looks down and takes my hands into his, giving them both a squeeze. “I’m sorry, Kat. I know this seems like we are just putting you on the back burner, but we all feel that you are in danger. I promise I’ll see you almost every day. I’m sure Danny will take you in. And there are some other Guardian groups that we can reach out to if we need to move you around more than once.”
He looks up at me, eyes full of misery. “Kat, I don’t like this anymore than you do, but it’s for the best. We need to protect you from Ganix.” He tugs on a lock of my hair. “I’ll visit, and stay as long as I can. I promise. It won’t be so bad. And we’ll keep you updated with the next part of our plan.” He smiles at me and I see all the dejection behind it, but I still feel a sting from his words, we’ll keep you updated; he did not say that they would keep me involved.
Dickson is right of course, John is dangerous, and he will do anything to get what he wants, which is me or at least my gifts. But I cannot ask anyone else to put their lives in danger because of me. It is bad enough I am doing that to Dickson, his pack, and my Darklings, but to add others to that list is out of the question. Especially now, after I almost got Alice killed. I don’t want to put anyone else at risk, and I don’t want to just be updated with the progression of our rebellion.
If John is planning something else by using my gifts, wouldn’t he be sorely disappointed if he captured me again and found out that I had severed those gifts with my attempt to rid myself of him? I might have had a vision and I saw the world in light, but I had no control over my gifts. They were different, stronger, and felt as if they were not mine anymore. I don’t know if they will return like before, or even if they will ever be fully functional.
I don’t sense them like before. I used to be able to feel them, like my heartbeat, steadily pulsating within me; or like my breathing, flowing and moving through me. All I had to do is call upon them to use them, at least until I met John. Then he started placing his wards, spells, and a Blood bond on me, which threw off my ability to use my gifts properly.
My wheels start turning, lightning firing as thoughts form. Maybe if John knew that my gifts were gone… What would he do then? He would be furious. He would rip me apart...But if I got away, again…He would hunt me down. He would more than likely stop taking Seers and do nothing but work on finding me. John becomes brittle when he is angry, when he is consumed with fury. He also becomes distracted, and sloppy. I’ve seen it before. Then…I could break him.
Maybe I can come up with a plan that will prove to Dickson and the guys that I am not a damsel in distress. I want to show them that I more than capable of fighting in this rebellion with them, rather than being set on a shelf. But more so, I want to prove to myself that I can free myself from the tower and slay the dragon. I want to prove that I am still the girl my father always saw me as; that I am still strong, smart, and a Vega. That I am stubborn as a mule and able to do anything my heart desires. That I can help protect the people I love and save the people of the Shadowlands. That I can atone for my part in stealing from them, and causing them harm. That I can fix this.
“When do I have to leave?” I whisper into Dickson’s ear as I hug him tightly, not wanting him to look at my face while I have thoughts running through my head. He’ll know.
“I haven’t decided,” he murmurs into my neck as his lips graze my skin. “Probably after the Rains. We’ll need to see if the neutralizer worked. And I’ll have to make sure the Rooks will take you in and arrange everything with Danny. I’d want to make sure they are ready for you before I just send you over there. Make sure they have proper safeguards and so forth.” His voice comes out deep and husky. Weary. I can picture his eyebrows furrowing in my mind, his mouth frowning. It makes me hug him tighter.
I nod. “Okay,” I reply as I pull away to get up. Dickson holds onto me. I look down at him, but avoid his eyes.
“Kat...” He pulls on my chin, until our eyes meet. “I will come back for you. I won’t let us be separated for long; it’s only temporary. You belong with me, Darlin’. We belong with one another. Always.” He pauses and searches my eyes. “I…I just want you safe.” Still searching.
I nod again in understanding. “I know,” I reply and close my eyes quickly before they give anything away then kiss him until everything melts away.
Dickson holds me tightly while he sleeps, whispering my name every so often, as if to ask an unspoken question. I lie still in his arms, working out my plan.
I have about two weeks to plan. Two weeks before I leave everyone behind. Two weeks before I break Dickson’s heart.