It was her son’s, Chris, fifteenth birthday. The party was being held at the Llassar’s, ancestral home. Many generations had been raised in this small farmhouse located almost ten miles from the nearest town called, Bow. A very simple name for a planet in a galaxy far from her own. Brynn, Kara, their two-year-old daughter Jamie, Uncle Cas, who owned and lived in the house, along with Brynn’s cousins Gavin and Delia were all present to celebrate Chris’s birthday. They were a very close-knit family, never straying far from their country farm. They were the ones who had helped Brynn raised her son into the thoughtful, strong, confident young man he was today. A luxury Kara envied them.
Leaning her shoulder against the window sill, crossing her arms, Kara watched everyone laughing and telling stories, most of them taking place when she had not here to witness them. Even though at times it made her feel as if she were an outsider looking through the window of a stranger’s house, she knew that this was where she belonged. That this was her family, and the peace she felt here was something precious, not to be taken for granted. Even though that peace had cost her a large part of her soul.
Even as thoughts of peace and contentment crossed her mind, she knew them for the lie they were. There would never be any true peace for her. No contentment. Not when the restlessness she felt deep within her, that need to find him, to hold him, was an ever constant ache in her soul. There were also the chains of her slavery that lay dormant, quietly waiting for the one piece of the spell that would waken them to their full binding potential. A…gift from the man who called himself Emperor to remind her who she was, what she was, and that she was never truly free. That these last five years were an illusion. Where those chains had become a part of her as her own blood coursing through her veins were, something that you knew was there just not thought of until they gave that unpleasant pulse to remind her of their presence, it was nothing compared to the ache deep in her soul that was Aden.
Shaking herself from a pain that she could neither control or do anything to alleviate, she concentrated once more on the room and the people before her.
Even though there were many similarities on Kaladria to Kara’s home world of Earth, time on this planet ran differently. People aged slowly. Uncle Cas was upwards to six hundred years, yet he looked sixty to Kara’s eyes. The other adults around her varied in ages of one-hundred fifty to two hundred. When her daughter had hit the terrible twos, Kara asked if because she was from a different planet, which would mean Jamie’s DNA was a mix of two worlds, could it affect her maturity rate or would she age slowly like her husband. Where they did not know for sure, they had told her that the children’s aging slowed down when they reached puberty. Since Chris has aged and matured at his father’s rate, it was a good bet that Jamie would do the same. It was both a relief and a worry. It meant the terrible twos would last around a year but the angst of a female teenager would be much longer. The sheer horror of that almost sent Kara running, but Brynn reminded her that Chris had been a model child, so he did not think Jamie would be anything less. How little he knew of a female’s psyche when her hormones were in full chaos mode and suddenly boys were the most important thing in the universe. Just the thought of the look on Brynn’s face when he realized how wrong he was put a smile on Kara’s face. Just as quickly, the pain of loss at missing Chris at the tender age of two stabbed at her heart, tearing a little more from its already ragged edges. Chris had told her many times that it was okay she had not been here. That it wasn’t her fault, but no matter how many times he reassured her, she still felt as if she had failed him.
Where Kara herself was closing in on thirty-eight, the youngest here by far, she only looked twenty. It was a mystery why her aging had slowed. She had not been born here and only spent a short period of time here, so theoretically she should have aged at the rate of her own people. If Caius’s fanciful story of who she really was was true, then Kara knew why her aging had slowed, but that was a question for another day. Today was her son’s birthday and she was determined to make sure the past did not ruin what should be a happy occasion.
As she watched her son show his father his new remote-control hovercraft, to Kara, Chris seemed older than his fifteen years. There was something special about her children. Their existence was a piece of a puzzle that was ever changing as it was inevitable. But even on this planet where magic was common, their special abilities were different from the others and they had to be careful to keep their secret safe unless the wrong people found out, and in turn found Kara.
It wasn’t anything in particular that drew her attention away from the laughter around her. Just a feeling. A presence that filled her, starting in the pit of her stomach and slowly wound its way through her body, gently, lovingly intertwining with her heart, her soul. A feeling that set her blood boiling while at the same time making her knees weak. Her entire body exploded with a need that tightened things low in her body bringing a soft moan from her lips as she grabbed the window sill to keep herself from sliding to the floor. Yet that same feeling, that presence that felt like a warm blanket soothing the ache that would never quite go away, that set her body on fire, could only bode ill.
Gavin was sitting on a chair that was facing Kara when he saw the smile slip from her face and her eyes roll into the back of her head as she grabbed for the window sill, her long auburn hair shielding her face, her head fell forward. Gasping for air, her head snapped up as her hazel eyes darted around the room in confusion and what he could only call longing before dissolving into fear.
“Brynn,” Gavin warned quietly as Kara’s head snapped towards the window before her, desperately searching for something outside.
Brynn looked at Gavin then to where he nodded. Frowning, he put down the drink he was holding on the coffee table and rose to his feet. When Kara’s eyes moved to his, the terror in them confused him more. There was nothing on this planet that could harm her as long as she stayed within the wards Emperor Caius had placed around their farmland and the nearby town. Thirty miles in all. A big enough circle that Kara could have space to live without going stir crazy within her prison confines. Yes, he knew the reason for the wards, that they were meant to keep her safe from Colon and his bastard son, Anthony who wanted her for his own uses. But a prison was a prison, and this one kept her right where Caius could find her. Kara had assured him that she was free, that Caius promised he would not be returning for her, but Brynn feared that promise was a lie. From what she had told him, Caius was not one to easily give up something as important as Kara was to him. Dropping her at his feet one morning five years ago was too easy. There had to be a catch, and every day he woke wondering if this was the day Caius would prove him right. That he would be back, and he would rip their newly healed family apart once again. By the way Kara was acting Brynn feared today would be that day.
“Kara?” he asked walking towards her. “What is it?” Then she said the one thing that confirmed his worst fears.
“He promised,” she whispered grabbing his outstretched hands to steady herself. “He promised,” her faint whisper desperate.
The chaos inside her the moment Aden broke through the wards was too much. It was five years ago all over again, except instead of Aden being ripped from her, he was suddenly there, bombarding her with his emotions, his longing, his presence, just as he was being bombarded with hers. As if she was there in the shade of the five Oak trees, she saw him on his hands and knees, gasping for the same air she was having trouble drawing into her lungs. What was torn apart was suddenly whole and it sent the world upside down, inside out and sideways all at the same time. Digging the fingernails of the hand clinging onto Brynn’s arm into his flesh, drawing blood, and the others into the window sill, Kara closed her eyes trying to bring the world into focus, but it was useless.
Arms encircled her, holding her close, keeping her upright because her legs would not hold her. A voice whispered soothing words in her ear, trying to reassure her, but it wasn’t enough because it was not the arms she wanted to hold her. Not the voice she wanted to hear, and the part of her that loved Brynn knew that was wrong. He was her husband, the love of her life, her soulmate, yet the male that was coming towards the house to claim her held more of her soul than any living being in the known universe. She had to step away, had to separate herself from Brynn’s touch before Aden stepped into the house or she would surely be torn in two. At the same time, she needed to go to Aden, to feel his arms around her. To finally be able to take a full breath without pain, and yet she needed to run, to get away. She could not go back. She could not….
“No,” Kara whispered desperately trying to pull free of Brynn. She managed to put a few precious inches between them, but she could not stand on her own.
“Who promised? Kara,” Brynn asked sharply, grabbing her forearms as her knees buckled. The chaos and panic Kara was wrestling with poured through their contact into him and he needed to snap her out of it before it rendered both of them useless. Even though he had asked who, he knew who was coming and why, and he needed to be strong enough to fight or he would lose her again. That could not happen. He would not survive. “Kara!” Brynn snapped giving her a small shake. With a gasp her hazel eyes snapped to his light brown ones, the color of milk chocolate. That contact seemed to quiet her, if only for a moment.
“I won’t let him take you?” Brynn vowed pulling her back into his arms.
“You can’t stop him,” she whispered hoarsely.
A soft moan escaped Kara’s lips, her eyes closing as she felt Aden’s caress as if he hands touched things that no human hands could touch. It was his power, his longing to pull her from Brynn’s arms into his, to finally hold her, touch skin to skin, sink inside her along with his fear of what their master would do to her once he had her. What he would do to them if he gave into those feelings.
“Kara,” his unsteady voice called gently, as if her name were a sacred prayer only to be uttered in the darkness of the night.
Kara did not need to look into his sky blue eyes that could be as cold as ice and reveal nothing, yet warm and unguarded for her, or his see curly sandy-blonde hair that touched his shoulders and felt like silk when she ran her fingers through it. Did not need to look to know how full and soft his lips were, or how toned his muscular body was. A body she knew as intimately as she knew her own. Did not need to look because for the first time in five years she could finally take a full breath. Overwhelmed, Kara could not hold back a soft moan as she collapsed against Brynn, her legs refusing to hold her any longer.
Catching Kara against him, Brynn turned his glare to the imposing figure clad in black who had one hand on the wall, a fine tremor in his body giving away the knowledge that he too was having a hard time staying upright. Brynn knew Kara had not told him everything that had happened in those missing years, and he never pressed her for information, knowing she would tell him when she was ready. Now, as he glared at the unwanted visitor who was staring at Kara with an intensity of a man dying of thirst stared at a cool glass of water, Brynn wondered if he should have pressed harder.
“You are not welcome here,” Uncle Cas growled reaching for the gun that resided next to the window nearest him.
Delia grabbed Chris pulling him back as Gavin picked up Jamie, handing her to Delia before placing himself between the unwanted visitor and his family.
“It will do you no good to fight,” Aden sighed wearily as he slowly straightened.
Brynn thought it took more effort in that one small movement than it should have. What was going on that would weaken both him and Kara this much?
“There is nothing you nor I can do to stop what is about to happen.” The last was said so quietly Gavin was not so sure they were meant to hear it.
“You act as if you’ve given up,” Gavin observed, the confusion evident in his voice at the way Aden was acting. “You’re on their side. I would think coming here to take her would make you happy.”
“If the circumstances were different I would be, but I haven’t come to take her for myself.”
Brynn tightened his hold on Kara, taking a step away from Aden, who seemed to ignore the show of possessiveness. The only person in the room he was interested in was Kara. Locking his eyes with hers, he did something Brynn was sure was beneath Aden. He begged.
“Don’t fight him, Kara. You know what it will cost you if you do.”
“He promised,” she whispered. “He promised it was over.”
“He lied, to both of us. What is happening is bigger than either one of us. I’m as helpless as you are.”
Staring into those eyes that hid nothing from her, Kara saw the truth. While she did not know the how or why, the strong and extremely powerful sorcerer that stood before her was now terrified. That knowledge did nothing to help Kara’s panic, but she knew if she did not do as Aden asked, she would not be able to live with the consequences. Caius was nothing if not merciless in his punishments.
“Why should we believe you?” Uncle Cas spat. “You’ve lied to us before.”
Taking a deep shuddering breath, Kara gently pulled herself from Brynn’s arms. Her knees immediately buckled. Before Brynn could catch her, she was gone. Frantically looking around him, his eyes finally landed on Aden whose eyes were now looking out the door, his expression grim.
“Where is she?” Brynn demanded
Aden slowly turned his head so Brynn could see the rage that now simmered just below the surface of those eyes. Whatever he had seen outside, the male before him was not happy about it.
“She’s outside surrounded by the emperor’s guards. If she moves they will shoot her,” Aden answered his voice flat as he attempted to control that rage.
Delia gasped as Jamie began to cry. Chris pulled away from Delia to stare at Aden. Sensing he was being watched, sensing another’s power gently wash over him, through him, something that should have been impossible, Aden looked at Chris.
When their eyes met, Chris knew everything about this man. Who he was, how he came to be in Caius’s power, all the things Aden had done, the things he kept hidden. Everything was laid bare to the fifteen-year-old. Yet something was not right.
Carefully hidden behind Aden’s anger and frustration lay an emotion that Chris felt from his father every time he looked at his mother. This strange man was deeply in love with his mother and being apart from her was physically painful, and not in the metaphoric way. Actually, physically painful. So painful that at times it made breathing difficult. It would explain the times he caught his mother suddenly gasping for air when all she was doing was hanging the laundry or reading a book.
What confused Chris the most was that this man’s magic was intertwined with his mother’s somehow. Where his and his sister’s ability to do magic was linked to their mother’s, this powerful sorcerer’s magic was an integral part of her survival. Without him, his mother would cease to exist. This was not right. It wasn’t time.
Suddenly there was another presence, one far more potent and dangerous then this strange man in front of him. With one glimpse everything became clear.
“No!” Aden snarled slamming metaphorical steel doors down between himself and Chris.
But it was too late. Chris felt the intent of that power and it terrified the fifteen-year-old. Even more than the men who kept trying to break the protective barrier he had put around his mother’s mind to keep them out of her dreams.
Clutching his head with both hands, Aden cried out in pain, collapsing to his knees. Outside Kara screamed. Chris stumbled backwards into Gavin, shaking and white as a sheet.
“Chris!” Gavin called worriedly as he caught him.
“What the hell!” Brynn growled heading for the door.
“No!” Aden commanded lurching to his feet into Brynn’s way.
“She’s in pain,” Brynn snarled. “I will not allow you to….”
“It’s not me,” Aden gasped falling against the wall. Everything was blurry and doubled. The pain felt as if someone was taking an axe and trying to hack their way out of his head. Swearing vehemently, he tried to blink his eyes clear. Shutting the boy out had not been easy. The little bastard was strong, but that was not what was causing the excruciating pain that sliced through their collective heads. It was cutting out his master that was costing him and Kara. One did not stop the emperor from obtaining what he wanted without a cost. “I would never hurt her,” he whispered.
“Then who,” Brynn snapped moving so he was nose to nose with Aden. “You need to start answering our questions. Now!”
Suddenly Brynn found himself flying through the air. Crashing high up on the far wall, he landed on a small table which broke under his weight.
“Brynn!” Delia yelled.
“Daddy!” Jamie cried.
“Don’t assume just because I’m disorientated and in pain that I am weak,” Aden snarled pushing himself off the wall to stand as straight as he could. Where his vision was not fuzzy around the edges, he was still seeing double. “Your boy may have just jeopardized all of your safety by digging around where he was not wanted.”
“He doesn’t want me,” Chris responded as bravely as he could. “He has what he wants, or at least half of it. If he wants it to work he can’t touch us.”
“What are you talking about, Chris,” Uncle Cas asked. Delia and Gavin were next to Brynn who was still on the floor dazed. Jamie sat next to Brynn, clinging to him, sobbing.
“Chris, don’t,” Aden beseeched weakly.
“No,” Brynn said moving to a half sitting position with some help, his arms automatically encircling his daughter and pulling her to him. “Answer the question, Chris.”
Chris looked from his father to Aden, who suddenly was too tired and in too much pain to argue. Nodding and vaguely waving his hand at Chris to go ahead, he slumped against the wall and closed his eyes. The closer he and Kara were, the tighter the chains that bound them became. Once he put the final piece in place there would be no more peace, only pain.
Taking a moment to figure out what he should tell his family, Chris looked towards his father. Sometimes knowing what he knew and being trapped in a teenage body that no one outside his family took seriously was an inconvenience. Now he was about to reveal just how much he did know about his mother, Aden, and possibly the fate of the universe. Still, some little voice inside his head cautioned him about revealing too much.
“All I can tell you is that the balance of the universe is dependent on Mom and one other,” Chris finally answered. “Not Aden,” Chris added when is father’s eyes narrowed on Aden. “But he is an important piece of the puzzle.”
“How important?” Gavin asked.
Looking at Aden, who shook his head slightly, Chris sighed. “That I cannot tell you. Not yet.”
“Why not?” Delia asked taking Jamie, who was starting to quiet, so Gavin could help Brynn to his feet.
“When the time is right I promise will answer all your questions,” Aden answered before Chris could, his narrowed eyes telling the boy that he had revealed enough. Chris pursed his lips shut, clearly not happy with the request but heeding it. With a slight nod in thanks, Aden turned his attention to the others. “Only then will you truly understand. For now, just know that I will keep Kara as safe as I can.” Gritting his teeth, Aden pushed himself off the wall and started for the door.
“If you so much as touch her,” Brynn growled stepping forward.
Gavin stepped in front of him, barring his way. As much as he hated what was happening, he knew they could not stop it without losing both Brynn and Kara, and the children needed at least one of their parents to survive.
Aden paused in the doorway.
“Brynn don’t,” Gavin warned gently bring his cousins angry eyes to him. “The kids have already lost one parent today. Don’t make it two.”
Brynn glared at Gavin until Chris moved into his sightline.
“Aden won’t hurt, Mom,” Chris assured. “Even if he wanted to, he physically can’t.”
“What does that mean?”
Chris looked down, trying to figure out the best way to answer his father’s question without making things worse and realized only the truth would work, painful as it was. He looked his father in the eyes, face as neutral as he could make it. “There are reasons why that I can’t explain because I don’t totally understand them myself, but the most important one is because he loves her as much as you do. Maybe even more.”
Brynn looked at Aden to see if this was true. The look in the other man’s eyes said it all. Aden was in love with his wife. The thought of Kara in love with this man tore at Brynn’s heart.
“And Kara?” he whispered not really wanting to know yet needing to.
“You were the one destined to be her husband, Brynn. The one to help her bear her children, her mortal soulmate,” Aden answered wearily, as if his answer took the last of this strength. “She never stopped loving you, but like Chris said, what is between us is difficult to explain. All I can tell you is that the moment I looked into her eyes I was irrevocably hers. I am sure you understand.”
The thing that infuriated Brynn the most was that he did understand. The same thing happened to him all those years ago when Colin kidnapped them. Just one look into Kara’s eyes and something snapped into place. A missing piece of himself he never knew was missing. In that moment he would do anything, say anything, be anything to be hers.
“But that will soon change,” Aden added absently, looking once more out the doorway.
“What do you mean by that?” Uncle Cas asked.
Aden shook his head. He already angered his master, he was not about to pull the full force of his wrath down upon him and Kara. Plenty of time for stupidity later. He needed to finish what he was sent here for and return to the ship. Having to sit by knowing Kara was with Brynn was one thing. This new man…. Aden fisted his hands at his side in an attempt to control the sudden burst of intense jealousy. He didn’t even know who this person was, and he already wanted to rip his head off at the thought of him touching his Kara. “If he is successful….” Aden let that thought finish itself in their own heads.
Aden looked towards the door as if listening to something. He nodded then turned back to the Llassars.
“We have to leave.” He turned to step out the door.
“Wait,” Chris called stepping forward.
Dropping his head, Aden took a deep breath and prayed to the Gods for a few more moments of control. The last thing he wanted was to hurt Kara’s son, but the need to hold her, to breath her in, was taking a toll on him. There was also the fact he could feel his master’s thin grasp on his patience slipping.
“You need to know that Colin found her.”
It was the last thing Aden thought Chris would tell him. His eyes narrowed in anger, he looked at Brynn, who seemed to be just as in shock as he was by the news before turning back to the fifteen-year-old. “That should have been impossible? Unless she stepped outside the ward’s boundaries, she should have stayed hidden.”
“She never left,” Brynn assured. “If we could agree on one thing, it is that Colin and Anthony would never touch Kara again.”
“I don’t know how they found her,” Chris said looking from one man to the other. “I just know they did.” He stepped closer to Aden. “They kept haunting her nightmares. We…I wasn’t able to block them until recently. I just wanted you to know because she is more fragile than she lets on.”
Aden did not miss Chris’s slip and glanced at the now quiet two-two-year-old in Delia’s arms whose eyes were suddenly far wiser than they had been a moment before. What was more worrisome than the secrets the children were obviously keeping from their family was the fact he was taking Kara back to his master without the rest she so desperately needed. Covering his face with his hands, Aden rubbed it before burying his fingers in his hair, his eyes once again turning towards the door that led outside. If only they could escape what was to come.
Suddenly there was shouting and the sound of metal shifting.
“I have to go,” Aden announced, keenly aware of the rising tension outside. If any of those idiots harmed Kara, he was going to skin them alive, consequences be damned. Suddenly he was seeing through Kara’s eyes, hearing what she had heard, and he knew there was no force in the universe that would stop him this time. This time the bastard was going to die. With a growl and few choice obscenities, Aden raced out the door.
“Stay here,” Uncle Cas told Delia and Chris as he, Brynn and Gavin followed Aden.
Chris looked at his aunt for a moment, indecision warring inside him. He knew who could stop this, but he was not sure she would. Still, he had to try.
“Chris! Where are you going!” Delia yelled as he raced for the backdoor.
“To get help,” he yelled back. “I hope,” he added to himself.
Copyright © 2018 Heidi Barnes