I looked between the Alpha and Quinn, my eyes darting back and forth waiting for him to call Gretchen an idiot and refuse to let my mate go up against Magdalene by herself; but he said nothing. The stupid brick wall of a man just stood there. He couldn’t seriously be taking this into consideration, could he?
“Gretchen’s right” Quinn muttered.
“Excuse me? No. She’s not” I fumed whilst turning to Jayce, arms crossed in front of my chest, “Aren’t you going to say something? Or are you happy to send your mate to her death? Because I’m not”
“This is not my decision” the Alpha retorted, “whatever Quinn decides, I will support”
Fucking weak bastard!
I turned to Quinn, hoping to see some kind of doubt in her eyes, doubt that would give me a chance to talk her out of what I knew she was considering doing.
“Don’t look at me like that” she pleaded, “you know I can’t just stand here and do nothing. They have Moira, Dom, Cam. Kyanite, she has little Mika”
Damn Quinn and her self-righteous, holier-than-thou attitude. What was she going to do? Swoop in on her own, kill the witch, avoid hell and save the day? Not a chance, there was no way Magdalene would hold up her end of the bargain; Quinn would be stepping directly into a trap. We just needed more time. I’m sure if given a few hours that Cassius, Gretchen and that old fart from Eastern Ridge would be able to come up with a plan B. Anything was better than the plan we currently had.
But my mind didn’t even have time to tick over, a flash of light and a deafening buzz, that sounded almost like radio static, had us all standing to attention, eyes drawn to the front of the clinic.
“Don’t go out there!” I begged Quinn as she inched towards the door.
She didn’t even look at me as she straightened her shoulders and headed towards the light, closely followed by the Alpha, Cassius and Gretchen.
My panther growled, clawing at my head to get out. I clenched my jaw, forcing him to the back of my mind, and reluctantly headed outside.
A white blue light bathed the empty space in front of the clinic. The wind whipped around, sending dirt and dust into the air, creating mini tornados that peppered throughout the compound. The sound had everyone covering their ears, it was like a million bees buzzed in the sky around us. I walked out of the clinic behind Quinn, my forearm held in front of my face to keep the dust from my eyes.
It wasn’t hard to see where all of the apocalyptic red flags were coming from. Approximately fifteen metres from the front door of the clinic was a large portal, not unlike the one that we had seen in the forest. Blue lightning tendrils cracked around it. It was like looking into a fractured pane of glass, behind the glass being a blinding spiral of light that defied all laws of physics.
I observed Quinn take another step forward, as if she was being beckoned into the blue light, as if it called her name and no one else could hear. I reached for her, grabbing her arm to snap her out of whatever trance she found herself in.
I spoke through mind link, the buzz of the portal making it impossible to hear yourself scream let alone talk. Quinn turned slowly to face me and I knew the second I looked in her eyes that her decision was made. Quinn gave a tight smile, placing a hard, cold item in my hand. I nodded in silent understanding.
Give her hell babe.
With that I let go. There were no goodbyes, no lingering gazes or intimate embraces. I didn’t want anything to suggest I didn’t have complete and utter confidence that my Luna would destroy the witch and come back safely to me.
I heard a guttural and animalistic wail from behind me, Kyanite’s grief being heard over the top of the noise from the portal as Quinn ran towards the light.
I straightened out my arm, grabbing the panther as he shifted and lunged after Quinn. Cassius and Gretchen came to my aid and held him steady while I injected the animal sedative into his neck; a parting gift from Quinn, knowing the prince wouldn’t let her go without a fight.
We pinned him down and within seconds his panther was safely subdued.
“Get the fuck off me!” Kyanite thundered after he finished struggling against us.
I pushed myself away from him and turned to face the portal just in time to see it shrink away before completely vanishing in front my eyes. The wind died down and the buzzing faded out. I gazed around the compound, she was gone.
I spun around at Gretchen’s warning just in time to dodge a savage left hook from the prince. I kicked him in the back - not my proudest moment - and watched as he struggled to regain balance.
“Think very hard about your next move Kyanite” I warned, “I can still shift, unlike you, and I won’t hesitate to let my wolf tear you apart. The only reason you’re still standing is because my Luna will have me in the dog house upon returning if I kill you; pun intended”
The prince clenched his fists at his sides, no doubt weighing up his options. Luckily for him, he chose the safer option and turned around, heading back into the clinic.
“What are you doing?” Cassius asked.
“To see if Magdalene held up her end of the bargain”
My stomach heaved, threatening to expel its entire contents on the ground at my feet. Quinn was gone. She’d gone, without so much as a backwards glance. My mind was foggy as I neared the clinic, focusing on getting one foot in front of the other. Just walking seemed too difficult for my brain to comprehend. What had just happened? I couldn’t save her, I couldn’t reach her. This couldn’t be the end, that couldn’t have been the last time I saw my mate. The Panther God had fated her to me for a reason, there had to be more to our story.
I stepped inside the clinic and continued moving forward until I came to a stop at Moira’s office door. In my daze I managed to lift my arm, numbly watching my hand as I lowered it down slowly on to the metal door handle. I swear I heard a noise inside and I pushed the door open as I held my breath.
The strength I’d been mustering just to keep myself upright dissipated as my legs caved from underneath me, dropping me to my knees. The little boy with dark hair and green eyes jumped off the chair, spilling his cereal everywhere and ran over to me.
“Are you ok? What’s wrong?” Mika asked, his cold little fingers gripping my chin and lifting my head to look up at him.
She’d done it. I didn’t know if this made everything easier or harder to stomach. There was almost a justification to her death now, if that’s the way it was going to play out. I could just hear Jayce now - ‘My Luna died but in her death she saved my pack, she’s a hero blah blah blah’. No, none of this was ok.
I opened my eyes and looked into the innocent face of the panther cub. I knew that his life should be worth it but I was a selfish arsehole, I wanted my mate back.
“Prince, are you ok? Do your legs not work?” He asked, his sweet voice laced in genuine concern.
I channeled the prince within, the master of polite smiles and reassuring words. None of this was Mika’s fault. He was part of my mission, my father would be happy for his safe return.
“I’m ok, little buddy” I comforted, ruffling his hair playfully, “just happy to see you’re ok”
I could make out voices behind me in the clinic and I got to my feet. The shock was gradually starting to wear off. It had been a very long time since I’d had to manage such extreme emotions without my panther by my side. Thanks to Jayce, he was snoring heavily, curled up in the back of my mind in a heavily sedated state.
“Oh Mika. Thank goddess you’re ok” Moira gushed as she approached us from around the corner.
The older she-wolf stood next to me, giving my arm a gentle squeeze. She didn’t need to say anything, she knew I was struggling but that small gesture was enough to reassure me that I wasn’t alone.
Magdalene had kept her word; everyone that had disappeared from Fern Creek had been safely returned the moment Quinn stepped through the portal. Some of them had memories of what happened, others just had a blank space where they couldn’t account for the time they’d been gone.
“So now that everyone is back” I said to Cassius as we stood around outside the pack house, “I need you to figure out how to reopen that portal and get me to Quinn”
All heads snapped in my direction, Kyanite’s included. I was offended that my statement surprised them. Quinn was my Luna and my mate, I wasn’t just going to let her take on Magdalene by herself. Every minute that we stood around doing nothing was another minute that Quinn was on her own; I needed to get to her.
“I don’t know” Gretchen uttered, “I don’t think it’s as easy as just ‘re-opening’ the portal”
“Can it be done?” Kyanite asked.
“Then do it!”
Gretchen scoffed and shook her head.
“You have no idea—”
“We can do it”
I turned to Cassius and everyone fell silent. The wolf-mage hybrid stood there, one hand in his trouser pocket and the other rubbing the light dusting of stubble that coated his chin. He stared down at the ground but I could tell he was seeing something that none of us could - all of the theories, calculations, predictions and summations of how he could possibly open the portal - I noted the way his eyes widened, a half smile playing on his face and I knew he had found a way.
“How?” Moira asked.
“A spell as powerful as the one needed to open a portal will have left residual magic behind. If I can get a reading on the magic I might be able to duplicate it. There’s no way I’ll be able to keep the portal open long enough for everyone to get through it though; maybe just enough time for one, maybe two, that’s it”
I nodded. It was a plan and any plan was better than the one we currently had. If Cassius could re-open the portal then I could get to Quinn and help her defeat Magdalene.
“I’m going in” Kyanite demanded, “I didn’t want Quinn going in by herself to begin with. I’ll be damned if you’ll stop me going after her now”
I opened my mouth to argue but I knew it would be pointless. To me it made more sense to bring Cassius or Gretchen with me; they had skills as a mage that would prove more than useful taking on a witch than what ever abilities a panther could offer. I could argue with him later, my main concern right now was getting the portal open.
“What do you need?” I asked, turning to Cassius.
“I’ll need something of Quinn’s - some kind of personal item - and everything else I should already have in my kit”
I paced back and forth, watching as Cassius and Gretchen marked out the ground where the portal had been near the clinic. The Alpha had just returned from the pack house with an item of Quinn’s - her flick knife - and passed it to Cassius. I observed the two of them exchanging words, quietly enough that I couldn’t make out what they were saying. I knew from the way Jayce turned his body from me, so I couldn’t read his lips, that they were talking about me.
Did he think I was stupid? I knew he had no intention of letting me go through the portal with him. Which was fine, because I wasn’t exactly asking his permission.
“Alright. I believe we’re ready” Cassius announced.
He turned to his sister and passed the flick knife to her. I raised my brow as a silent exchange went on between the two, these wolves really needed to learn to be a bit more inconspicuous when they were trying to hide something. My guess was that Cassius was mind linking Gretchen to let her know she was opening the portal and he would be attempting to go through it with the Alpha. Not on my watch.
“Jayce, I need you to stand here” Gretchen started, then turned to me.
Here we go.
“I’m sorry Kyan. I’ll only be able to open the portal long enough for one person to pass through”
I faced Jayce, waiting to see what bullshit he had to say.
“I’ll bring her back. I promise” he uttered.
“If you don’t, I’ll kill you” I replied flatly.
Jayce’s eyes flashed black for a moment as he weighed up my threat. Unlike him, I wasn’t lying.
Gretchen knelt down on the ground and placed the flick knife in the centre of the marking. She closed her eyes and dug her fingers into the dirt.
I inched closer to where Jayce was standing, making sure not to draw any attention to myself. Gretchen began chanting in Latin and within seconds the wind started to pick up around us. I moved closer again as the loud buzzing drowned out the sound of my steps. Gretchen’s face was straining, her teeth clenched and eyes firmly closed. It was clear that this portal was sapping her energy very quickly and I knew the chances of two people being able to get through the portal when it opened was quite low.
A flicker of blue light erupted from the centre of the marking, directly above Quinn’s knife. The blue circle grew larger until I estimated that it was large enough for me to pass through.
I didn’t waste another second.
I lunged forward as Jayce and Cassius made a move for the portal. I shoved Jayce in the back, giving me the tiny advantage I needed and dove into the blue light. The buzzing was deafening but I could faintly make out Jayce’s choice curse words before everything went silent and black.