Aden stood in the same spot he had only a few months ago watching the peaceful farm. This time his mission was a much different one. To keep Kara’s family safe from a male intent on using every means to own her. Even threatening to kill her children. Aden smiled at that. Colin had no idea who he was dealing with now. Kara was not the frighten mortal who did not know her own power. If she had not been already weakened by that damn necklace, she would be here protecting her own children. Instead she had to rely on those who would give their lives for her. Those who protected her.
Something in the back of Aden’s mind nagged at him. Something important he needed to remember but kept eluding him. There were too many painful memories around the thought. Ones that the demon had forced on him when he had tried to kill him. Memories he had tried repressed but refused to stay buried. Assailing him when he least expected it. Bringing him to his knees at the most inopportune times, leaving him weak and vulnerable.
“Noooo,” he groaned through gritted teeth. “Not now.”
Using the tree as support, Aden slid to the ground as he lost the internal struggle. The world swimming before him, the day they found Kara in Malphas’s room resurfaced with a vengeance.
Rage overtaking his common sense, Aden had gone to kill Malphas. The fact that he would also kill Caius, the only father figure he had ever known, did not enter his mind. All he could think of was exacting revenge for the female that lay battered and bruised in her bed. Instead, the demon had shown his true strength. Within a blink of an eye, Aden was in one of the white rooms that Malphas had used to torture them time and time again. Hanging from chains in the middle of the room, Malphas had taken great pleasure in forcing Aden to relive every excruciating minute of pain it forced on Kara in vivid detail. The pleasure caused by that pain because that is what Malphas enjoyed. The utter humiliation because of her curse, the one where strong emotions of others overwhelmed her own, she had enjoyed every minute of what the demon had done to her. His powers bound, there was nothing Aden could do or say to stop the onslaught.
However, the demon was not satisfied with Aden reliving the horrors of the previous week. No. He forced Aden to relieve all the horrors Kara had endured over her existence, the most horrendous being that of this lifetime. Not just once, but over and over for three days without reprieve. Years of torture crammed into a few days, and there was nothing Aden could do to stop him. When Malphas was satisfied that Aden had been taught his place, he was left hanging limp in his chains broken, alone. It had been Selene who had gently released him from his prison, flashing him to his room where she stayed with him until he was able to at least pretend to be sane. In truth, he was barely hanging on.
Aden was not the same man when he finally emerged from his chambers. The tight hold he usually held over his power, his emotions, was brittle at best. Everyone could feel his anxiety and did their best to not draw Aden’s attention as he made his way to Kara’s chambers.
Paying them no heed, Aden had only one goal. To see with his own eyes Kara was all right, was still alive.
Tanis stood when the door slid open, his eyes narrowing as Aden walked into the room. He too looked as if he had had no sleep in the last few days. That added to the strain of being away from Kara for the week and Tanis did not look much better than Aden.
“She’s sleeping,” Tanis informed him coldly.
“Don’t lie to me,” Aden cautioned softly as the door hissed shut. Anything louder and he could not guarantee his fragile control would crack.
Tanis stiffen, his hand coming up as if he wanted to strangle Aden, but then he saw him. Really saw him. The pale complexion, black circles around Aden’s eyes, the haunted look of them. The normal pristine clothes rumpled as if he had slept in them, his hair looking as if he just ran his fingers through it in a vain attempt to control it before it dried. Then he had seen the slight tremor that ran through Aden’s body and his anger evaporated.
“What has he done to you?” Tanis whispered, a touch of fear showing in his voice, his hand slowly lowering.
“The question is, what hasn’t he done,” Aden answered unable to keep the small tremor out of his voice. His eyes slid to the closed bedroom door. “To either of us,” he whispered. Closing his eyes, Aden released a shuttering breath, his entire body following as it swayed.
Tanis’s eyes widen in horror. Aden had disappeared for five days. Had Caius been torturing him the entire time?
“Oh, my Gods,” Tanis breathed, his eyes darting to the closed door between them and Kara
Aden felt Tanis’s panic, knew why he felt it. What had Caius done to Kara? What could he still be doing? Unfortunately, those emotions fed into Aden’s and pushed at his already brittle control. Closing his eyes tightly, Aden struggling to regain control as his power breathed through the room, blanketing everything, making it hard to breathe.
“I need to see her,” Aden whispered desperately, his eyes pleading.
“I can’t allow you in there this out of control, Aden,” Tanis said softly, careful to keep his voice as neutral as possible.
Neither of them had the control or will to keep the other out completely, so Aden heard Tanis’s thoughts. That he considered him a bomb ready to explode, and Tanis was afraid he would take the entire ship with him.
“I would never hurt her!” Aden growled stepping forward, shocked that Tanis would even think such a thing. Again, his power filled the room, this time with a touch of anger that sent little electrical shocks over Tanis’s skin.
“I know,” Tanis assured calmly clearly not wanting to push Aden over that precarious ledge he was desperately clinging too. “I know you would never intentionally hurt her. But right now your emotions are out of control, and she is in no condition to protect herself.”
“What do you mean?” Aden asked, his anger draining away to concern.
Tanis hesitated before answering. As if gathering himself. “Ever since we rescued her from the demon’s room she has done nothing but lay on the bed staring at the wall. I’ve tried everything to reach her, but nothing works. It’s as if she’s shut down, hidden deep inside herself where nothing can touch her.”
Aden squeezed his eyes shut as he once again swayed on his feet, understanding all too well why she would hide.
“You know,” Tanis breathed his voice accusing. “You know what he did to her.”
When Aden opened his eyes to look at him, Tanis stepped back, the color draining from his face as his worst fears were confirmed. The evidence on Kara’s body that was so overwhelming of what Malphas had done to her that he could no longer ignore. Looking at the closed door that lead to their bedroom, the rage that consumed him pushed back Aden’s power and shoved him into the wall, pinning him there.
“I will kill him,” Tanis snarled, his voice low, echoing throughout the room with his power.
“I already tried,” Aden gritted, trying to push Tanis’s hold on him back enough so he could at least breathe.
Tanis looked at him, his eyes as black as the deepest pits of hell. A single thought and he was in Aden’s mind before Aden could stop him, shuffling through his memories. Gritting his teeth, Aden pulled what little reserved he had and pushed Tanis out before he could find what he was looking for. Growling Tanis stepped forward pushing harder.
“If she wanted you to see, she would have let you in,” Aden hissed, his eyes tightly shut with the effort it was taking to keep Tanis out.
After a few moments more of pushing, Tanis finally released Aden.
Aden dropped to his knees, falling forward onto his hands gasping, a fine sheen of sweat covering his body as it shook, black spots dancing before his eyes. Gods that hurt, and while Tanis may not have understood what he was seeing, Aden did. Going down memory lane was not what he needed right now. He was barely holding it together as it was. Using the wall for support, Aden climbed to his feet, waiting until Tanis’s eyes bled back to their normal color before he continued.
“You may not be able to reach her because she is trying to protect you. I already know what he did. She might let me in.” Hesitating, he swallowed hard, unused to showing vulnerability in front of anyone save Kara, he tried to make Tanis understand how desperate he was. “I just need to know she isn’t…,” Aden stopped, choking on his words.
“That she isn’t lying in there bleeding,” Tanis whispered. After a moment of silence, where Tanis studied Aden, he final took a deep breath and released it slowly, his body relaxing. The two of them fighting was not going to help Kara. Finally, Tanis stepped out of Aden’s way.
Hesitating only for a moment, Aden started for the door. Tanis grabbed his arm as he went by, stopping him. Aden stared into the other man’s pain filled eyes.
“Bring her back to me. To us,” he said quietly.
Tanis nodded and released Aden’s arm.
Once the door slid shut behind him, Aden leaned heavily against it. He was weak, very weak. The walk here while trying to keep his powers under control had taken its toll, as did that little power struggle with Tanis. They may have had their differences, but for the love of the woman lying in the bed before him, both men would do anything to protect her. Something they had failed miserably in. Clenching his fists, he closed his eyes willing the memories to go away. Wishing for the strength to put walls around them so he would not see them every time he thought of Kara. Taking a few deep breaths and releasing them slowly, Aden opened his eyes and looked at the bed.
Kara lay on her side, her knees slightly bent, facing the door. A sheet covered her from her breasts down, showing she wore nothing but that cursed necklace. Aden felt his body relax when he did not see any of the blood he feared. Her body was whole. Her mind was another story. Wishing Tanis had not tried his little mind rape that had weakened him further, Aden tentatively reached out once more, trying to connect with Kara. There was a flicker of recognition, but nothing more as Kara continued to stare vacantly. She was in there, somewhere. Now how to find her without losing them both.
Stumbling in his exhaustion, Aden went to the side of the bed, falling to his knees so he was level with her face.
“Kara?” he called softly as he gently stroked her hair. “Kara, can you hear me?” There were dark circles, almost purple, around her eyes. Her face was pale, drawn from lack of food and sleep. Taking one of her hands in his, feeling how frail it was, he brought it to his lips, gently kissing the back of it. “Kara, love, please look at me,” he begged softly, looking into her eyes. “Please see me.” The panic he was keeping at bay roared to the surface when she would not respond, threatening to overwhelm him.
She has gone deeper into herself than either of us realized, he thought. There is only one way I can reach her, but he will not like it.
With a wave of his free hand, his eyes never leaving hers, Aden locked the door. He did not want anyone entering the room and taking advantage of what he was about to do, because he would be helpless to defend either of them.
Removing his clothes, Aden carefully slipped under the sheet behind Kara, pulling her back against him so he touched as much of her as possible. Wrapping his arm around her waist holding her tightly to him as he curled around her, he closed his eyes and allowed his mind to go where it willed. All the excruciating pain he had been forced to endure assailed him at once. Tears sprang to his eyes as he buried his face in her hair. How long had it been since he held her this way? How long had it been since they had been able to make love? Yet they were both so broken neither one of them could finally give in to the need that tore at them every second of every day. A need to be together, to love each other as they wanted, to finish a ritual that would cement their bond for eternity.
Gritting his teeth, he allowed the pain wash over him until the tidal wave began to ebb and he was able to think coherently. This was not the time for wishful thinking. If he could not bring Kara back then they were lost. He was lost.
“Please Kara,” he whispered in her hair desperately. “I need you. I cannot live without you. Please come back to me.” Then, very carefully, he began to push gently at the walls Kara built around her mind.
Copyright © 2019 Heidi Barnes